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Who Benefits From Social Programs?

2008 popular vote by county. Brighter red repr...

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 Despite right-wing rhetoric, it isn’t  lazy freeloaders in blue states.

The Center for American Progress site has an overlooked piece from December that demolishes those GOP talking points:

The Facts About Americans Who Receive Public Benefits

As it turns out, the majority of the folks who receive benefits from these programs are elderly, blind or disabled and have paid into the programs when they were working:

Within these social insurance programs, most of the participants have paid into them, through payroll taxes taken out of their own paychecks and through contributions paid on their behalf by their employers. Like private life or property insurance, everyone makes regular contributions with the expectation that when a certain event occurs (in the case of public benefits, that event could be retirement, disability, or temporary job loss), they will be protected and able to collect benefits they have paid for.

Conservatives focus on how the costs of these programs have grown over the past several decades, but so too have the public’s payments into them. Currently payments into social insurance programs represent an estimated 37 percent (or $807 billion) of federal receipts in 2011, compared to 17 percent (or $124 billion) in 1961 and 31 percent (or $455 billion) in 1981, including federal employees’ payments into their retirement accounts (the historical numbers are adjusted for inflation).

So, clearly the deadbeat able-bodied city-dweller on the dole is mostly a strawman.

When you look at the recent piece in Mother Jones, you should see why Republican politicians are so eager to direct fire away from the real culprits — the denizens of Red States:

Most Red States Take More Money From Washington Than They Put In

As a recent New York Times article documents, even as fiscally conservative lawmakers complain about deficit spending, their constituents don’t want to give up the Social Security checks, Medicare benefits, and earned income tax credits that provide a safety net for the struggling middle class.

This gap between political perception and fiscal reality is also reflected in the distribution of tax dollars at the state level: Most politically “red” states are financially in the red when it comes to how much money they receive from Washington compared with what their residents pay in taxes.

Here is the list of the states receiving the most federal tax money versus their tax payments:

1. New Mexico: $2.63
2. West Virginia: $2.57
3. Mississippi: $2.47
4. District of Colombia: $2.41
5. Hawaii: $2.38
6. Alabama: $2.03
7. Alaska: $1.93
8. Montana: $1.92
9. South Carolina: $1.92
10. Maine: $1.78

I bolded and underlined the blue states above.

Of all of the red states, only three paid more than they took in: Arkansas, Nebraska and Texas.

On the blue side, 14 blue states paid more than they received.

Take a look at the interactive map on the Mother Jones page. Keep in mind that they defined “blue state” as any state that went for Obama in 2008 and “red states” are those that went for McCain/Palin.

For example, taxpayers in the “blue states” of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada and New Mexico each took more than they paid in federal taxes.

So clearly there is an inequality here — but if there are freeloaders, they aren’t the ones being targeted by the GOP frontrunners and propaganda machines.

It seems that the people who most resentful about government waste and overspending on social programs are those who are receiving the largess.

In other words, the real “blue states” like New York and California foot the bill for the Tea Party crybabies in Missouri, Arizona, Utah and Alaska.

Maybe we should limit federal payments to states to what they actually pay into the system. That might take care of some of the burgeoning deficit that Republicans suddenly became concerned with when they lost the White House in 2008.



February 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who Caused The Deficit?

English: Former President George W. Bush looks...

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Here’s a nice, handy reminder at Visualizing Economics.

Originally published in July of 2009 in the New York Times, the graphic is a great illustration of how laissez-faire and trickle-down economics led to catastrophe yet again.

In summary, for policies alone, and not owing to economic downturns ($770 billion) and not even including Bush on policies he implemented but Obama later supported ($417 billion):

George W. Bush: $673 Billion
Barack Obama: $201 Billion


January 12, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Continues Trampling On Civil Rights

English: White House from Constitution Avenue

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If you aren’t regularly reading Glenn Greenwald over at, you should be.

He consistently hold’s our president’s feet to the fire over his seeming disregard or unwillingness to fight for our civil rights.

The latest atrocity is Obama‘s announcement that he will sign the detention bill — despite claiming for months that he would veto it.

Obama to sign indefinite detention bill into law

The bill is, according to the ACLU and Human Rights Watch:

the first time indefinite detention has been enshrined in law since the McCarthy era of the 1950s, when — as the ACLU put it — “President Truman had the courage to veto” the Internal Security Act of 1950 on the ground that it “would make a mockery of our Bill of Rights” and then watched Congress override the veto. That Act authorized the imprisonment of Communists and other “subversives” without the necessity of full trials or due process (many of the most egregious provisions of that bill were repealed by the 1971 Non-Detention Act, and are now being rejuvenated by these War on Terror policies of indefinite detention).

Like Greenwald, I have detected a pattern in Obama’s decisions that show he is no defender of Civil Rights, and has done everything in his power to seize on and bolster the executive powers of the presidency:

Obama, as I documented last week and again below, is not an opponent of indefinite detention; he’s a vigorous proponent of it, as evidenced by his continuous, multi-faceted embrace of that policy.

Obama’s objections to this bill had nothing to do with civil liberties, due process or the Constitution. It had everything to do with Executive power. The White House’s complaint was that Congress had no business tying the hands of the President when deciding who should go into military detention, who should be denied a trial, which agencies should interrogate suspects (the FBI or the CIA). Such decisions, insisted the White House, are for the President, not Congress, to make. In other words, his veto threat was not grounded in the premise that indefinite military detention is wrong; it was grounded in the premise that it should be the President who decides who goes into military detention and why, not Congress.

This is indeed a dark time in America, and as I warned my Republican friends when George W. Bush launched the notion of the “unitary executive”, a dangerous one for democracy.


December 15, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Low Expectations for State of the Union

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I don’t have any great expectations for the State of the Union address tomorrow night.
Paul Krugman has been critical of the signalling coming out of the White House:
The Competition Myth

Robert Reich has a blog summarizing how our country got to it’s current state and what the president should do about it:
The State of the Union: What the Presideny Should Say

There’s much truth in what both of these economists say.

But Obama has spent much of his time trying to appease business interests and surrounding himself with the movers and shakers from the very corporate enclave that helped create our current economy.

It’s not clear exactly what helpful policies will be allowed to see sunlight in a setting in which the president is bending over backwards to satisfy big business.


January 24, 2011 Posted by | Deficit, Democrats, Economics, Obama, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Evidence Of Stimulus Effectiveness

Lawn in front of the White House, Washington, DC.

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The White House is releasing a report today that shows that the stimulus package was under budget, had few reported cases of abuse or fraud, and was able to fund more projects than expected.

The Washington Post reports today: “Report gives stimulus package high marks”

In addition to assessing how the stimulus program has been carried out, the study restates the administration’s case that the package has been effective economically, arguing that it staunched the worst bleeding in employment and led the economy to rebound late last year.

Many prominent economists agree with that assessment. The CBO has forecast that the package may be on track to meet the administration’s goal of preserving 3.5 million jobs by the end of the year.

The number of complaints and fraud and abuse investigations were attributed to the oversight the Administration implemented from the outset:

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, which represents government contractors, said the unprecedented focus on oversight clearly paid off and should be analyzed for lessons that could be applied throughout the government.

Compare and contrast that with the way money was handled in Iraq and Afghanistan ( “Audit: U.S. lost track of $9 billion in Iraq funds” and “Corruption Suspected in Airlift of Billions in Cash From Kabul” ).

It seems clear that there is a difference when people who think government can be an effective tool to reach our collective goals are in charge — and when people who think government is a problem run things.


October 1, 2010 Posted by | Democrats, Obama, Politics, Republicans, Stimulus | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let Them Try To Repeal Healthcare Reform

Supporter of a single-payer health care plan d...

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Gene Lyons has a post up at Salon that captures what I have been thinking about the upcoming mid-terms and the “Obamacare” scare tactics.

In “Don’t be fooled by the GOP’s sick healthcare rhetoric” Lyons makes some good points about the right’s plan to run on a distortion of Democratic accomplishments.

For example:

Is there anybody capable of filling out Form 1040 EZ who buys this latest Republican fantasy? Alas, yes. A clamorous minority remains captive to the GOP’s decades-long War on Arithmetic. The more dramatically “conservative” economic dogma fails — there’s nothing conservative about believing in magic — the greater their cultlike need to believe it.

But Lyons makes an important observation in the next graph:

Obamacare’s problems, however, are somewhat of the White House’s own making. Polls have shown that while the law’s unpopular in the abstract, its constituent parts earn wide approval. That’s partly because GOP propaganda, “government takeover,” “death panels,” etc., scared low-information voters; partly because the bill’s so complex that few really understand how it works.

It is simply not a believable argument that Republicans are going to repeal Healthcare Reform. The logistics aren’t there for them to win a veto-proof majority, and if the Democrats would merely make the Republicans answer exactly what popular provision they would like to cut (or, not answer, as the case may be) there is little chance this meme will remain potent.

The article also outlines exactly what is wrong with the Republican position. They treat healthcare as a commodity, and of necessity eliminate people who have preexisting conditions from having access to treatment. To save money.

“Obamacare” addresses this by mandating insurance to increase the pool, and lower the costs for everyone.

The Republican plan tackles costs by — oh, wait. They don’t have one. Except for the red herring of tort reform (which does not lower costs in any way according to studies in states where it has been enacted).

In any case, the county isn’t going to go backward.

Lyons cites a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study that shows that 4 in 10 respondents don’t think there is enough reform in the legislation.

In order to tackle the nation’s problems, we need a serious discussion about how to fix things and be honest about what sacrifices we need to make.

Eventually, some form of single payer will have to be enacted. It presents the most cost controls, the least complex administration and the most benefits.

If the Democrats were smart, they would run on trying to pass that. The tide is turning.


September 30, 2010 Posted by | Democrats, Health Care, Health Care Reform, Politics, Republicans, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Warren To Help Create Post She Won’t Get

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The Huffington Post is reporting that Elizabeth Warren will be tapped by the White House to head up the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This is bad news, judging by the vehement opposition to her being anywhere near the proposed oversight of Wall Street Shenanigans.

It means that they are trying to appease the liberal base while keeping her out of the running to actually head the newly formed body.

Update: Okay, maybe I was reflexively cynical about this initially. It’s possible that Obama is just trying to avoid a fight with the Republicans and will eventually install her as the permanent director. We’ll see.


September 15, 2010 Posted by | Politics, Uncategorized, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment