Pat Choate's Blog

June 30, 2014

The Government of Germany just announced that it will be cancelling an information technology project with Verizon. The announcement makes clear Germany is doing this because they do not trust that Verizon will or even can safeguard Germany's data and telecommunications from spying by the National Security Administration (NSA).

The German suspicions are heightened because the NSA was discovered via the information released by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden that the US had tapped the cellphone of that nation's prime minister.

Indeed, the Snowden revelations included documentation that the NSA had been collecting and examining billions of emails and telephone calls by hundreds of millions of people in dozens of countries. So far, the remedy to this US mass data collection spying has been a promise from President Clinton that we will not listen in on the German Prime Minister's cell phone, a promise to put a consumer advocate before the secret Federal security court and another promise to move the warehousing of these data collections to the phone companies rather than keep them at the NSA. The latter move seems a distinction without a difference.

Many other nations are likely to follow Germany's lead and block telecommunications and Internet services from the big US IT companies.

From the Snowden revelations, other governments are surely taking into consideration the following issues .

1. The NSA is still actively seeking personal, government and corporate data from dozens of other nations. And NSA is deliberately breaking the cyber protections of others to get that data.

2. The NSA is not effectively supervised by the US Congress. Indeed, only a handful of elected yes-people serve on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the rest of Congress -- roughly 90 percent -- are denied key NSA information needed to provide oversight.

3. If anyone in the NSA, contractors, reporters, Members of Congress, Congressional staff or others release any information the NSA considers secret, they can be imprisoned for many years. The obsessive effort to imprison Edward Snowden is what awaits anyone who reveals any NSA materials labeled as secret -- even if the NSA is breaking US laws.

4. Judicial oversight of the NSA is handled by a secret federal court that is nothing but a NSA rubber stamp. It has approved 99.9 percent of NSA requests to monitor telephone and email communications of others.

5. If NSA issues an order to Verizon, Google, Yahoo, Cisco and other Big Tech companies to hand over their customers' data and access to their phone calls, the companies must comply.

6. Also, these US companies are prohibited under criminal penalty from informing their customers, the media or Congress about these orders. Even judicial appeals of these order are kept secret. And the judicial orders are secret. In short, NSA is the beneficiary of a star chamber judicial system.

7. NSA leaders are permitted to lie to the public and Congress. Several instances exist where NSA officials knowingly lied under oath in Congressional hearings, but neither the Congress nor the Justice Department will press perjury charges against these officials.

In short, other governments know that the NSA's widespread and global violation of privacy rights is not controlled by the US Judicial and Congressional Branches. They also know that any promises of reform made by the US telecommunications and Internet companies must be weighed against the fact that their role in this spying is compelled by the US Government, whose officials have repeatedly been caught lying to Congress and the American people about their actions. And they go unpunished.

The only safe prevention to NSA spying in individual countries is the German solution -- that is use national firms for sensitive data handling, and then restrict and closely regulate any US internet companies operating in that nation.

In the months and years ahead, US Big Tech IT and Internet companies face massive losses of market share and tens of billions of dollars of profit for their role in helping NSA violate the privacy of hundreds of millions of people here and in other companies. It does not matter in other nations that these acts were then considered legal by the US Justice Department.

These same US companies are close political supporters of the President and have regularly met with him individually and as a group. They should have used their access to strongly oppose, in private, the NSA's push to use their companies to spy on Americans and people in other nations.

Perhaps as these losses mount, these companies will learn a lesson and support legislation that will enable them to better protect the privacy of people, governments and companies here and abroad.
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Published on June 30, 2014 15:59 • 2 views

February 18, 2014

Washington has always loved a good war. Ronald Reagan revived the nation's War on Drugs, George W. Bush declared a War on Terror, and, more recently, some of the conservatives in Congress have even accused liberals of waging a War on Christmas. But there is one war that has failed to grab the headlines it deserves.

I'm speaking of the ongoing War on Inventors.

Our founding fathers understood that American innovation would lead to American jobs, so they created the U.S. Patent System to nurture and protect small inventors. Their strategy paid off, and our nation's economy grew into an international juggernaut because of independent innovators like Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Eli Whitney, and the Wright Brothers.

Their modern-day counterparts are in danger. For the last few years, a small handful of global high-tech corporations and their allies on Capitol Hill have been doing everything they can to put small inventors out of business. Ironically, many of these companies--Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others--were themselves started in inventors' garages, but now they live in constant fear that their business models will be disrupted by unpredictable technologies developed by little guys.

Since the late 1990s, these high-tech multinationals have been stripping garage inventors of their rights under the guise of "patent reform," doling out tens of millions of dollars to K Street lobbyists and pushing Congress to chip away at the system carefully laid out by Thomas Jefferson and his brethren. Their latest attempt to undercut innovation, the harmless-sounding "Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013," will be debated by the Senate later this year. If passed, this bill would make it all but impossible for small, cash-strapped patent holders to file perfectly legitimate claims against large companies that rip off their intellectual property, tilting the legal system in favor of corporate infringers. These new "Loser Pay" laws would encourage technological copycatting and greatly reduce the incentives that keep independent inventors tinkering in their garages.

The anti-innovation crowd is even proposing that the director of the patent office create a national database of the small inventors who are forced to defend their inventions in court most often--not to help them, mind you, but to monitor them and help big businesses beat them in the courtroom.

If this isn't an example of big government picking winners and losers in the marketplace, then I don't know what is.

Congress should instead focus on making the patent office more accessible to small inventors, who often run into bureaucratic problems that are difficult to solve without a large corporation's resources. The independent inventor Gilbert Hyatt is a prime example. Hyatt is one of the fathers of the microcomputer, and he recently had to take the patent office to court because the agency has apparently refused to decide appeals on patent applications that have been pending, unbelievably, for more than 40 years. Hyatt is now asking a federal court to order the patent office to stop delaying and issue decisions on the appeals.

Hyatt is not the only small inventor to have suffered problems like these.

Rather than enact legislation that encourages the patent office to discriminate against small inventors like Hyatt, Congress should consider creating some much-needed protections for them.

As it stands now, the patent office allows inventors over the age of 65 to petition the agency for an accelerated examination of their patent applications. The older an inventor is, the less likely he or she is able to wait years for an answer from the agency, and this measure encourages innovators to keep working on technologies that could one day provide thousands of other Americans with jobs. Why not do the same for small-scale applicants, such as companies with fewer than 10 employees, or organizations with few or no issued patents? Congress might also consider waiving the fees applicants like these pay in order to file application continuances, which are new claims that build upon existing patent applications. Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, and steps like these would help grow particularly inventive companies into engines of prosperity.

Whatever course it chooses to take, Congress should stop those that want to undercut American innovation, particularly in the midst of a fragile economic recovery. Small inventors made this country what it is today, and I shudder to think what its future would be like without them.
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Published on February 18, 2014 13:10 • 8 views

October 9, 2013

Wall Street and the punditry class seemly largely unconcerned about the Tea Party Republicans' threat to default on the national debt.

Yet, they should be concerned -- very concerned. Unlike in the past when threats to default were nothing more than a charade, the Tea Party radicals in Congress really do want to default on the national debt to both make a point about government spending and increase their political power. With astounding ignorance, many of these members are saying that a default will have little economic consequence. In fact, a default would make the 2008 Wall Street collapse look minuscule in comparison.

The risk of a U.S. default is heightened because the two principal players -- President Obama and House Speaker Boehner -- are weak men.

The president has repeatedly failed to stand up to the GOP's bullying and is not trusted by most Democrats in Congress to not collapse during any hard negotiations. Speaker Boehner has allowed the Tea Party Members to take control of the House, making him more of a spokesperson than a leader. The point is that both men have enormous powers, but repeatedly have chosen not to use them at critical moments.

By ineffective inaction, the president and speaker are allowing the debt crisis to reach a point of no return, which the Treasury Department says will be on October 17, 2013.

What goes unmentioned in most of these discussions is the fragility of the U.S. banking system. Five large banks now have outstanding obligations on more than $200 trillion of derivatives. Put into perspective, that is almost 13 times greater than the entire U.S. Gross Domestic Product and many times more than the capital these banks possess to honor these obligations.

Derivatives are bets. Supposedly, these bets are covered, but as we learned in 2008, trillions of dollars of these bets were uncovered, leading to financial collapse.

Because Wall Street has succeeded in keeping derivative trades unregulated, no one has an overview of the quality of the derivates that now hang over the world economy.

To the extent that any of these bets depend on the U.S. not defaulting on its debt, which many surely do, therein lies an enormous risk. As happened in 2008, once the dominoes begin to fall, stopping the collapse becomes very difficult.

And a debt default is likely to knock down some of the dominoes.

What both the president and the speaker seem not to grasp is that we are in a fiscal and Constitutional crisis. The fiscal crisis is obvious. Less so is the Constitutional clash.

The Tea Party Republicans are trying to legislatively veto a settled law -- the Affordable Care Act -- by holding hostage the funding for the entire rest of the U.S. government. This defies constitutional governance and borders on sedition. Speaker Boehner has joined in these acts which he should have stopped the moment he learned that such was even contemplated. But he did not because he feared losing his position.

The president unintentionally encouraged such hostage taking by negotiating and making deals with the House Tea Party Republicans in 2011. Thus, his proclamations of "never again" have a certain hollow ring.

But if he surrenders to such blackmail again, our constitutional democracy will be deeply damaged, for we can be certain that Senator Cruz, the most visible advocate of these extra constitutional actions, and his House followers will use the threat of national default again and again and again to thwart majority rule.

As for Speaker Boehner, he must now choose between a craven clinging onto his position or serving the best interests of the nation. All that he need do is allow a vote on a funding and debt limit bill that has no political strings attached. That bill would easily pass and both crises would immediately end.

Mr. Boehner's leadership role would surely be challenged, but he would have done his duty.

As for Barack Obama, this is the crisis moment of his presidency. He has three choices. First, succumb to the political blackmail as he did in 2011. Second, remain passive and allow the nation to slip into national bankruptcy on October 17th. Third, use his constitutional authority to pay the legal debts of the United States and avert a default.

Inevitably, paying the debt will lead to calls for impeachment by the radical House members. The benefit is that defaulting on the national debt would never again be a credible political threat.

In sum, the actions by the president and speaker over the next several days will largely determine their place in U.S. history.
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Published on October 09, 2013 13:25 • 20 views

October 7, 2013

Earlier, I wrote on this blog site that President Obama is rope-a-doping the GOP on the fiscal crisis with a three-step strategy.

Step one is completed. The House Republicans have shut down the U.S. government and the public is coming to realize that the GOP is using political blackmail to nullify the Affordable Car Act (Obamacare) -- a law that was democratically enacted in 2010, ruled Constitutional by the Supreme Court in 2012 and politically ratified by voters when they reelected President Obama by a 5 million vote majority.

Legislating by closing the government is unacceptable to most Americans by a 3 to 1 margin according to virtually every poll on the topic, even though half the population dislikes Obamacare.

And as anticipated, the president's refusal to nullify his signature piece of legislation has been met by a GOP threat to default on the national debt in mid-October, which takes us to the second stage of the rope-a-dope strategy.

To underline how dire the situation is, the president is warning business and media leaders that the Tea Party Republicans are serious about defaulting on the national debt and that Speaker Boehner may be unable to stop them.

As that prospect sinks in, warnings about a default from many sources will become sharper and panic will begin to emerge in the financial markets. The American people are coming to realize that a debt default means that the federal government could only pay bills with the cash that was coming in from taxes and other revenues, which is less than what is needed. Payments for social security, medicare, pensions, federal workers and contractors would have to be made slowly or as partial amounts or as promissory notes. Even more federal services would have to be cut. A repeat of the 2008 global financial meltdown would be likely.

Former President Clinton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, among many other political leaders are calling upon the President to use his authority under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to pay for the lawful debts the federal government has made.

Interestingly, the White House staff are arguing that such authority is doubtful and thus only the Congress can raise the debt ceiling. By that, the president is deflecting attention back to Speaker Boehner, Senator Ted Cruz and the majority of Republican House Members behind this double-barrel financial crisis.

The public clamor for the president to save the U.S. from default will increase in the days ahead.

I conclude that the president will use his constitutional authorities and pay the national debt and do so with the gratitude of the American people. With that, step two will be completed.

Step three will come when an outraged tea party realizes that the president has outwitted them politically. They are likely to double down once more and try to impeach President Obama.

What matters politically is that the tea party Republicans will be trying to impeach Barack Obama for not defaulting on the national debt, regardless of how they try to justify their actions.

With that, the tea party Republicans in the House are likely both to destroy their own reputations and tarnish moderate Republican officials and candidates ahead of the 2014 mid-term elections.

More important, the president will establish the precedent that laws will not be nullified because of political blackmail and the debt ceiling will become whatever level the Congress appropriates, thus removing its use as a tool of coercion.

In sum, the nation is facing a constitutional and fiscal crisis. The President has a strategy and an end game. The Congressional Republicans do not and are likely to pay a steep price for many years to come.
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Published on October 07, 2013 05:51 • 16 views

September 30, 2013

President Obama is using the same "rope a dope" strategy on the GOP that the great Muhammad Ali used to defeat George Foreman in their famous 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle."

Ali taunted Foreman, folded into a clutch, leaned against the ropes and allowed himself to be beaten on his arms and shoulders for seven rounds. Ali was tough and the ropes helped absorb the blows. After Foreman tired, a still-strong Ali knocked him out in the eighth round.

Here is how President Obama's three-step strategy works.

Step one: The President is taunting Tea Party Republicans by refusing to even negotiate their demand to delay Obamacare as a condition of financing the government and raising the debt ceiling.

A giddy House GOP is not only closing much of the federal government as of October 1, they are threatening to default on the national debt in mid-October. Their ransom demand includes:

Delay Obamacare for one year;

Authorize building the Keystone pipeline;

Suspend coal ash regulations;

Allow more offshore drilling;

Open federal lands to energy development;

Suspend EPA carbon regulations

Require all federal regulations to be approved by Congress;

Cut federal retirement benefits

Cut the child tax credit benefits and eligibility;

Repeal social service block grants to the states;

Means test Medicare;

Prohibit various types of lawsuits against corporations;

Authorize fast track tax reform which means more tax cuts for corporations and the rich;

Repeal the Public Health trust fund;

The GOP's ransom list would especially benefit Wall Street, transnational corporations and the rich, a point that is sure to be pointed out by Democrats.

By making their demand, the House Republicans have fallen into the president's political trap. They will be creating a global crisis that only Mr. Obama can prevent, which leads us to the second step in his strategy.

Second step: President Obama will wait until the last moment before a federal default, make a national speech about the irresponsibility of the Republicans and then pay the debts of the United States government using his authority under Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which provides:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

Step Three: The House Tea Party Republicans have been frothing to impeach President Obama since they got there in 2011. After the President springs his trap, they are sure to file an article of impeachment and threaten to "primary" any House Republican who opposes them.

Thus, President Obama is likely to be impeached (that is, indicted) in early 2014 for preventing a default on the national debt.

The trial for removal from Office will take place in the Senate, as happened with President Bill Clinton a decade and a half ago. Chief Justice Roberts will preside and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) will surely want to lead the prosecution.

A Democratically controlled Senate, backed up with votes of centrist Republicans, such as John McCain, will never convict the President. But the drama will sear into the public's mind just before the 2014 mid-term elections that today's Republican Party is unable to govern responsibly.

In turn, the Democrats are likely to make a massive sweep in the 2014 mid-term elections. With a strong majority in both the Senate and House, President Obama will then be able to complete his agenda in the 114th Congress and also put another Democrat into the White House in the 2016 election, thereby preserving Obamacare and the rest of his legacy.

Democratic victories in 2016 will also allow President Obama and his Democrat successor to create a more liberal Supreme Court over the next 7 to 11 years, which can reverse some of that Court's worse recent decisions, such as allowing corporations to contribute to political campaigns.

The irony of the President's rope a doping of the Tea Party is that it is likely to enable Democratic control of the Presidency and Congress for a generation or longer, just as myopic and mean spirited Hoover Republicans did so for FDR and the New Deal in the early 1930s.
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Published on September 30, 2013 05:47 • 20 views

December 3, 2012

One of the goals of the Republican party since 1935 has been to kill Social Security. Since 1965, they have also wanted to kill off Medicare. The faux and GOP-created "Fiscal Cliff" crisis was largely created by those opponents as a means to partially accomplish those two goals.

Unfortunately, President Obama has been lured into a political discussion on balancing the federal budget largely framed by the GOP as a combination of cutting tax breaks to raise revenues and cutting so-called "entitlements" to reduce federal expenditures. In response, the president has focused on tax increases for those making more than $250,000 annually and is quietly negotiating cuts in these two key elements of the national social net.

Missing in this conversation is the fact that Social Security and Medicare are insurance programs into which all workers have made regulator contributions for decades -- they are not entitlements. Workers have paid for the benefits they receive. Also missing is the fact that both Social Security and Medicare have large paid in surpluses that along with regular and present contribution levels guarantee the solvency of the Social Security System for more than 20 years and Medicare for another 12 years. In sum, these programs are not the source of the fiscal crisis.

The source of that crisis are the Bush tax cuts of 2001, which cut federal revenues sharply, military spending which increased by 180 plus percent in constant dollars between FY 2000 and 2010, and massive tax breaks for various special interests.

If Congress and the president were not beholden to various special interests, the budget could be balanced in three easy steps.

First, military spending needs to be cut. The Cold War with the Soviet Union ended more than two decades ago and the Mideast Wars are nearly over. While the U.S. is now spending almost $700 billion annually (constant dollar terms) on defense -- a $300 billion increase over defense spending in 2000 -- major cutbacks to levels of a decade ago would both keep U.S. defenses strong and provide almost $300 billion annually for deficit reduction.

Second, the existing and corrupt federal corporate income tax needs to be repealed and replaced with a consumption tax. A consumption tax can be made equitable with exemptions or reduced rates for food, clothing, housing and medicines. The advantages of such a tax is that it eliminates special interest loopholes, is easy to administer, is difficult to game and cheat, promotes exports and new job creation, and provides vast amounts of loophole free revenues. If the U.S. had the consumption tax system used by 151 other nations and only a 7 percent rate, it would have had more than $800 billion of revenues in 2011 versus the less than $200 billion produced by the present loophole-ridden, 35-percent-rate corporate income tax. The $600 billion of additional revenue would be a major contributor to deficit reduction.

Finally, the president's proposal to keep the Bush tax rates for all persons making less than $250,000 annually and apply the Clinton tax rates for all those making $250,000 or more would produce additional annual revenues of roughly $70 billion.

Together, reduced military expenditures, the replacement of corporate income taxes with a consumption tax, and the president's targeted tax increase would create almost $1 trillion of additional new revenues and with that balance the federal budget instantly -- not 20 years from now as proposed by both the president and the Republican House leadership.

The present discussions shift most of the fiscal burden to the middle class and maintain needless defense expenditures and tax breaks for special interests.

Hopefully, the president will remember that it was the middle class that brought him to office two times in the expectation that he would do them no harm.
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Published on December 03, 2012 16:21 • 42 views

November 12, 2012

Republicans are trying to figure out why they did so poorly in the 2012 presidential and Congressional elections. I have a few tips that they may find useful in forthcoming elections.

1. Avoid any Presidential candidate whose slogan is "Believe in America," but keeps much of their money in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

2. Do not allow Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity to appear at any Republican event, anywhere, anytime -- even a fundraiser.

3. Reject any presidential candidate who will not publicly release at least 10 years of prior IRS filings, particularly if they are very rich and secretive about how they made their money.

4. Discourage explanations about how a woman's reproductive system works, particularly if the candidate is an older, overweight, sweaty male.

5. Encourage Presidential candidates to never say that 47 percent of the American public are "takers" and thus are burdens on the other "53" percent -- particularly if done in a private meeting with rich donors where there may be waiters with smartphones.

6. Do not allow the radical wing of your party to pick the vice presidential running mate. You may get someone whose views on abortion, privatizing Social Security and "voucherizing" Medicare is opposed by about 2/3 of the voters.

7. Do not announce that on the first day of your Administration you will cancel national health care for more than 40 million Americans, which is a really big block of voters to make angry.

8. Have your presidential candidate take only one position on any issue and then stick with it. Moreover, doubling down on a lie, for instance, that Jeep will be shifting jobs overseas, should be avoided.

9. Do not try to suppress the votes of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and others who may vote against your candidates. Voters may not vote when urged, but they will surge to the polls if you try to stop them.

10. Finally, never select a presidential candidate who takes a vacation trip with the family dog strapped in a cage on the car's roof. America is a nation of dog lovers.

All in all, the amazing aspect of the 2012 election is not that Governor Romney and the GOP were defeated so badly, but that they did as well as they did.
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Published on November 12, 2012 10:36 • 31 views

October 2, 2012

Governor Mitt Romney's economic plan has gained the enthusiastic public endorsement of more than 600 professional economists, including six Nobel laureates.

These economists particularly like that Governor Romney's plan would (1) reduce marginal tax rates (2) control (reduce) the growth of government spending to 20 percent of the GDP (3) reduce government regulation (4) restructure Social Security and Medicare (5) use market forces instead of federal bureaucracy to reduce the costs and improve the quality of health care and (6) promote energy policies that increase domestic production.

In sum, these economists endorse a return to the economic policies employed by the administration of George W. Bush -- a lower tax rate for the rich, privatizing the social safety network, and limited federal regulation of the financial and energy sectors.

This public support of Governor Romney's candidacy, however, is diminished by the fact that most of these economists are urging voters to do as they say instead of doing as most of them have structured their own lives. By my count, some 90 plus percent of these economists work as academics, many in public universities, where many of them have lifetime job tenure and well paying jobs from which it is almost impossible to be fired. They have institution-provided health care and generous pensions. At most universities, they have light workloads and many opportunities to moonlight as consultants.

Should not free market economists who urge people to live and die by market forces also subject themselves to those same forces?

Their endorsement would have been so more significant had each signer simultaneously announced that they were surrendering their academic job tenure and subjecting themselves to the market forces that they so admire and so ardently want the federal government to impose on the rest of America's workers.

If younger or poorer economists with comparable skills were willing to teach for less pay and fewer benefits, then so be it. If academic administrators could find equally qualified foreign economists willing to work for less, then they should be in-sourced as replacements. If 401(k)s rather than defined benefit pensions are good enough for the general work force, why not for academic economists? This would be the market at work in academe. And where better to begin such a stimulating process in academe than in free market economics departments?

Fortunately, the election is still weeks away. These economists still have time to make their private lives congruent with their public endorsement of Governor Romney and share fully in the exciting economy that they apparently believe that he would create as president.
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Published on October 02, 2012 14:00 • 24 views

August 16, 2012

The Presidential campaign now seems to hinge on whether the financing of Medicare and Social Security is going to kill the American economy. It is not. This is a faux issue being pushed by radical Republicans who want to eliminate these two programs altogether.

The financial reality is that the Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance Program (OASDI), the Disability Insurance Program (DI) -- what we call Social Security -- and the Medicare Program have huge trust funds paid for by workers over the past 40 years and both Social Security and Medicare are solvent well into the future.

The Social Security trust fund has more than $2.7 trillion of assets and Medicare's trust fun has $244 billion. No other federal programs have such large reserves to finance future operations.

In their 2012 Annual Report, the Social Security System's Board of Trustees reported that the "dollar level of the combined trust funds (OASDA and DI) declines beginning in 2021 until assets are exhausted in 2033."

Yes, the Social Security System is fully funded for another 21 years. Even if no changes are made between now and then, the System will provide 75 percent of benefits to recipients for an additional 50 years. This is hardly a financial crisis.

The Trustees also reported that Medicare is fully funded until 2024 -- that is another 12 years.

Small painless steps, such as increasing the cap on wages taxed to fund Social Security, can extend its surpluses until the last part of the 21st Century -- for us, our children and children's children.

Shifting U.S. health care to a single pay medical system, such as Israel's, which Mitt Romney found so outstanding during his recent trip there, could cut medical costs from the present 16 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product to 8 percent and provide even better care. That would create more than $1 trillion of annual savings alone.

What is particularly striking about all this is that even as the GOP ticket and their surrogates are making these specious arguments, our infrastructure is falling apart because of underinvestment. Cities and states are firing hundreds of thousands of teachers, firemen and police, because they have too little money. More than 25 million American workers who want a job remain out of work. Apparently, these are not crises that merit the candidates' or the nation's immediate attention.

The real crisis, according to Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the Republican Party is the financing of Social Security and Medicare. To "save" Medicare, Ryan's plan advocates creating a voucher program for those 55 years old and under. To "save" Social Security, they want to privatize it. Subtly, they are even implying that these two programs are the source of the present federal budget deficit of $1 trillion annually.

The true goal of these Republicans is to use the current fiscal crisis as a Trojan horse to gut both these programs. Our federal budget deficits exist because of lost revenues created by the Bush tax cuts, the two wars that are being financed by more debt, and the economic collapse created by federal deregulation of banks and Wall Street. Therein lies the real solution.

Simply put, both the Republicans and Democrats are filling the presidential and Congressional campaigns with noxious lies.

But of all these lies, the Ryan Budget's attack on Medicare and Social Security is the greatest and of the most consequence.
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Published on August 16, 2012 15:37 • 32 views

August 6, 2012

The London Olympics is thrilling. As do most Americans, I take a reflective pride as my fellow citizens perform so brilliantly.

But the joy of these events is being spoiled by the drumbeat of negative Romney campaign ads that seem to be aired every 20 minutes or so. The president seems to have only one ad in which he speaks, with dignity, of the choice that voters have. I wish his ads were not running during the Olympics, but it is no worse than the car or other ads.

Yet, virtually all the GOP's ads are attacks on President Obama. They come at a moment when we should be celebrating our athletes' victories without having to endure these slimy interruptions. Moreover, many of these ads, with their washed out colors and creepy music, are simply untrue.

• The government, for example, will not be getting between patients and their doctors.

• The economy has improved greatly from when President Obama took over in the midst of a banking collapse.

• Our national security has never been stronger.

• The Social Security system is solvent and will be for at least another two decades, even if nothing is done.

• If we are at a fiscal cliff, it is because the Republicans in Congress helped create a sequester bill in 2011 to solve a faux debt crisis that they created.

I was at a dinner on Saturday evening where most of the other guests were equally appalled by this drumbeat of negative Romney ads. But as one person noted, most of these ads are not coming from the Romney campaign. Rather, they are being created and funded by GOP Super PACs that are spending literally hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat the president. And since there is supposed to be no coordination between candidate Romney and these big money supporters, Mitt Romney has no control of what the ads say or when and where they are run.

When it comes to politics, moreover, many of these billionaires are not too bright and thus are instant marks for slick political operatives who can make 5 percent or more on what they spend on these ads. Making $5 million or more for putting out $100 million of ads is a nice payday. Of course, these politicos are urging the rich suckers to contribute ever more and are assuring them that the ads are making a difference.

Regardless of the dynamics of this political entrepreneurship, the Romney supporters seem to realize that most voters have already made up their minds as to which candidate gets their vote. They also know that as of early August the president is ahead in the polls and slowly pulling further ahead in key states with valued voting groups. Thus, the Romney supporters are desperate to pick up any undecided voters, and negative ads are almost always the GOP's weapon of choice.

However, in the closing days of this election, the awful negativity of these ads, during what should be a national celebration of our athletes, just may be driving away the undecided voters that the GOP needs to win in November.

The great irony in all this, of course, is that the GOP billionaires and their Super PACS may be financing the deciding factor that will re-elect Barack Obama.
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Published on August 06, 2012 13:42 • 25 views

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