Morning Reads for Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

 

Obviously the big story today is Tornadoes in Oklahoma, which I don’t have the capacity to rhyme (CNN)

the rest of the news after the jump:

National:

  • The rich can save Social Security, by giving up their checks (Washington Post)
  • Ray Bradbury discusses various subjects (The New Atlantis)
  • Mariano Rivera Breaking Bats (Fan Graphs)
  • Google Music wants to take Spotify, Rdio and Rhapsody to their respective mats (paidContent)
  • Ape and Monkey Divorce is 25 million years old (Science Daily)
  • Change has come to the secret and strange way jewels are sold (WSJ)
  • Dirty medicine: Selling drugs online for long-term criminal gain (Fortune)
  • The Possibilian: The mysteries of time and the brain.  (The New Yorker)
  • When everything around you became a data exchange (Wired)
  • The Internet caused a middle class rearrange (Salon)

Local:

  • On the problem of Small Town Rail (blockheadchronicles)
  • Dem Party Chair has, for him, a relatively minor fail  (AtlantaUnfiltered)
  • Downtown Atlanta is getting a ferris wheel (AP)
  • Georgia GOP reaches out to Hispanics with muted zeal (HispanicBusiness)
  • Atheists to provide books for Georgia lodges, (AJC)
  • providing a good chance to learn about maharajahs,
  • Deal signs waste bill, but says it violates the constitution (GPB)
  • (here’s an idea, go ahead and veto the resolution)
  • Georgia Water Negotiator has another date,
  • stands to profit at the expense of the state (AJC)
  • Macon Commissioners dealing with huge deficit that’s outstanding (Macontelegraph)
  • While their counterparts in Dougherty do some corporate pandering (AlbanyHerald)

61 comments

  1. Noway says:

    “If just the top 1 percent of wealthiest households gave up their Social Security income…” Those evil rich people. Class warfare strikes again! Why should they give it up? They worked. They paid in. If someone wants to give it back, fine. For instance, Kennedy didn’t take a salary as president. Thanks to his bootlegging and financially criminal father, he didn’t “need” the money. Don’t you just love the “unfortunate” telling the successful how to spend the money they’ve EARNED?

    • Stefan says:

      Norway,

      Yes, yes I do. Let’s pose the question another way. If the retired super rich were – through careful creation of ILIT – to becoming eligible for certain income determinant social welfare programs, do you think a rule should be passed to prevent them from taking part? Let’s use medicare and SNAP as those programs.

    • Rick Day says:

      Why should they give it up? I can not speak for the 1% but I can for the top 5%: because we don’t need it, that’s why.

      Those evil rich people. Class warfare strikes again! Why should they give it up? They worked. They paid in. If someone wants to give it back, fine.

      I could say the same thing about charity.

      Please stop speaking for people of wealth you have no right or authority to defend.

      • Ken says:

        Where property rights end, slavery begins.

        That includes incremental theft and theft of wealth through quantitative easing or any other type of purposeful inflation.

      • Noway says:

        That’s what you’re talking about, Rick. FORCED charity. Then it ain’t charity. I’m glad you’re in the top 5% that doesn’t need it. Why don’t you go ahead and give your extra money you don’t “need.”? Who defines “need” anyway? You? Let’s hope not. Like you say I have no right or authority to defend people of wealth. Again, who says? Apparently you. Take your meds, Rick.

        • Rick Day says:

          Why don’t you go ahead and give your extra money you don’t “need.”?

          heh, seeing as I probably won’t make 60, much less 65, that is exactly what will happen.

          Who defines “need” anyway? You? Let’s hope not Wait..what? If course I do in the context of distributing my own wealth! For instance, I think the drug policy reform movement ‘needs’ that money more than the church down the street from me. I can listen to someone in need, yet only I can determine if I will meet that need. Who is going to decided that for me, the mean ol’e lib’rels?

          Let’s hope not. Like you say I have no right or authority to defend people of wealth. Again, who says? Apparently you. Apparently, I do. If you can show me some sort of documentation that makes you spokespeople for your masters, I’ll certainly listen.

          Until then just be an obedient slave, like the rest of us.

  2. Noway says:

    What is ILIT? And if you are saying that they qualify and are legally eligible for this benefit, then yes, they should be eligible to receive it. Whether they choose to take the benefit, with their being wealthy, is up to them.

    • Stefan says:

      sorry, Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust. It’s a way to exclude income from the calculation to avoid certain taxes and become eligible for income limited programs.

      Social security was created as a safety net. But if you don’t need it, and your having it will likely deprive future generations of that same safety net, doesn’t it make sense to give it up?

      • Noway says:

        You or I would do so gladly. If I had amassed enough to get me to the grave, I would, but I don’t think I should be forced to via a law. Basically I’m saying that through the fruits of your efforts and smarts, you’ve gotten more than the next guy and/or are still eligible for gov’t pension structures that you’ve contributed to, I find it obscene for folks to TELL you to give them up.

        • Stefan says:

          Social Security isn’t a pension. You aren’t contributing into a unique retirement fund. You are funding a giant risk pool with all of your fellow Americans to provide for a minimum of living expenses and basic medical care upon retirement or disability.

          If we are going to pose unfair questions, here’s mine. Should we care at all about the world after we die? Are actual elderly people and their living conditions more important that the theoretical principle of removing a monthly check from someone who doesn’t even come close to needing it?

      • seenbetrdayz says:

        Don’t worry too much about the next generation and SS. We pretty much know it won’t be there when we’re due to collect.

          • seenbetrdayz says:

            That’s pretty much what you get back, your first quarter.

            You’re talking about 70 year olds who have been paying in their whole lives and getting a paycheck that hasn’t kept pace with cost-of-living.

            They’d have been better off just stuffing their mattresses a little bit every day until they were ready to quit. Instead they gave it to a bunch of politicians whose vision for the future spans about 2 years.

    • Stefan says:

      So if you change the rules regarding eligibility for the benefit and make rich people no longer entitled to them, legally, you’d be okay with it. Because that’s what they above says.

  3. Noway says:

    An example: Warren Buffett is over 65 and is eligible for Medicare. Does he take it? I have no idea. Is he legally able to take it? Of course. Because he’s the smartest guy in the room, financially-wise, don’t punish him.

    • Stefan says:

      1) suggestion: why don’t you reply to my comment rather than starting a brand new comment tree?
      2) In what sense are you punishing Buffett? By making him pay for his own health insurance? The question is whether denying Buffett Medicare, which you call a punishment, is worth depriving someone who actually needs it ten years later from receiving it.

      • Noway says:

        I’ll try and answer you, Stefan, chill out.
        I do not think changing the rules to deny any person a gov’t benefit for which they have contributed, just because they are rich, is warranted, Buffett or Rich Joe Blow.
        In other words, I am not for means testing.
        Let me see if I have the facts correct.
        Is anyone over 65 eligible for Medicare? If they are, then Buffett should be able to get it just like Uncle Joe who retired from the local department store.
        You are the one punishing Buffett, for denying him the same rights as any other 65 year old who is eligible for Medicare.
        If you want Buffett to pay for his own health insurance then make everyone else do it too.
        Hope I answered you.

        • Stefan says:

          But that’s not the question. The question is choosing who, under the current economic projections, you are going to deny Social Security and Medicare benefits to. It is either, rich people in the next few years who do not need it, or the people the few years after them, who also paid in but do need it. You can deny one of the two groups, pick one.

          • Noway says:

            Not deny anyone anything they are legally entitled/qualified for. Raise the retirement age to 70 over the next ten years and cut benefits if the pool of recipients gets too big. That’s what will end up happening anyway.

            • Ghost of William F Buckley says:

              It really doesn’t have to be that way…it really doesn’t.

              The neat thing about SSI is that small changes made to the system now, will preserve it’s value for many years to come.

              How about discussing the 800# elephant that nobody has shone light upon?

              – The US Federal government’s flagrante’ use of the SSI Trust Fund for every purpose from paying for Vietnam to golly-gosh-knows-what today?

              • Stefan says:

                If you are concerned about money going to where it was designated, I recommend the story above about Deal signing a bill designating such with a signing statement indicating he will not abide by the direction.

                • Ghost of William F Buckley says:

                  Slippery deferral, but I am a Deal man, through and through.

                  WE should ALL be concerned, Stefan.

                  Clever rhetoric, aside, the issue of the Trust Fund depletion as 10,000 new recipients are coming on board will lead to a catastrophic situation when the US Federal Green machine quits spitting checks.

                  • John Konop says:

                    All should read your comments, it is a wake up call! I agree SS can be ok with minor tweaks, if done soon, but Medicare is the one that needs a complete overhaul……it alone will bk all of us…..

  4. Noway says:

    Stefan, is ILIT an irrevocable trust? Explain to me, school me if you will, on the significance of that financial instrument in what we’re discussing and how a rich person may somehow qualify for SNAP.

    • Stefan says:

      well, let’s take the example of medicaid because it is easier to explain. Just assume that everything I am saying is true for this example, but don’t actually base your tax planning on it as it is glossing over a lot of details.

      Medicaid has an income and asset limit for eligibility. You, Norway, have assets well in excess of the limit. Congratulations, you are rich. And the government wants to punish you by depriving you of medicaid. Not so fast, gummint. You put all your assets in a Irrevocable Trust, but giving a life estate to yourself, etc, and then after the lookback period, you enter assisted living on the seashore for your super golden years, when expenses tend to kick up a notch. You stack medicaid, medicare, and the rent from your life estate on top and now all your healthcare and living expenses are paid for without any penalty. Or as you call it, punishment.

  5. sockpuppet says:

    @Noway:

    Before you continue with your ideological freakout, consider that the idea of means-testing entitlement programs is not a new one. Indeed, lots of entitlement programs are means tested. Social Security is already means tested to a degree, but not entirely. Many conservatives have long advocated means-testing Social Security as a cost reduction measure, but back then it was the left that opposed it. Don’t reflexively take the other side just because it is the left proposing it now.

    This switching ideological positions based on who proposes the idea really is getting old.
    The left opposed welfare reform until Clinton was for it.
    The right opposed the Patriot Act under Clinton (originally proposed after the Oklahoma City bombing) but supported it under Bush.
    The left opposed the war on terror until Obama got in office and actually in some ways expanded it.
    The right opposed international forces and nation-building until Bush.
    The right supported exchanges to shop for insurance until Obama.

    And so on, so on, so on … if means – testing Social Security, or again more accurately means – testing Social Security beyond the partial extent that it is already so – is a good idea then back it no matter who proposes it.

  6. Noway says:

    No freakout, Sock. Stefan’s original link was to a story that said the rich could save SS by not accepting benefits for which they are entitled. I’m saying if the rich choose to do so as a form of charity, it’s their choice, not some envious demand by someone who thinks Mr. Moneybags has too much money and doesn’t neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed anymore.

    • Rick Day says:

      You know that really is easy to do. You can have all your government issued checks forwarded to help payoff the National Debt. But there is still a check..even though it theoretically goes back from whence it came.

      • Noway says:

        Great! No better thing to do than lead by example, Rick. You go ahead and begin to give away your excess funds, since by your own admission, you already occupy that privileged 5%. Tell us how to do it, the forms we all need to fill out and then we can follow you example.

  7. Ghost of William F Buckley says:

    All very enlightening, really; ILIT’s SNAP’s, bourgeoisie angles on wealth and poverty. If Uber-rich want to make their statement by refusing SSI, so be it.

    Some in the GOP endorse means testing. That will translate to folks in the middle getting less, so those on the bottom get more; preserving the rich from the indignity of ‘unwashed masses’ taking their pie.

    Back to actuarial science.

    How about making Social Security a full benefit after 60 or 80 contributing quarters, instead of only 40? The life span continues to increase, so instead of increasing the eligibility age, raise the contributing quarters.

    • Stefan says:

      I see your point and I think overall it is a good one. The problem is for those long time employees of companies that opted-out of SS in order to fund pensions, but those pensions are no longer available. Many of those workers would not be able to amass 20 years (80 quarters) of qualifying work if they gave a number of them to an above described company. The other issue is Norway is going to get very angry after working for 17 years and then finding out he isn’t entitled to his money.

      • Ghost of William F Buckley says:

        If somebody opts out of SSI and then someone Madoff with their pension, well…isn’t that risk/reward? Not just or right, but is was their choice.

        Increase the quarterly minimum up to 80 can be phased in, with provisions to protect those approaching their 40 quarter minimum.

        The big enchilada is that BOTH Parties use the SSI Trust Fund as a piggy bank, so until that issue solves itself – It will, we cannot rebuild the system. 10,000 boomers are retiring EVERY DAY now.

        We shan’t go hungry and are we hugely entitled; as we are the original ME Generation. (~:>)

    • Rick Day says:

      raising the 100% entitlement to 68 and starting the partial at 63 will do even better. I know such things because my wife is an actuary. 🙂

  8. Three Jack says:

    The government setup the ‘trust’ fund with the promise that those who have been forced to contribute will receive some amount of return. If the government cannot fund the trust fund due to financial malfeasance (spent the money on non SSI expenses), then why should the government be able to punish those it forced to contribute?

    My suggestion, offer a one-time buyout for anybody who has contributed over a certain amount to SSI. 10%, 20%, 30%…pick a number and those who sign on get that amount in lieu of ongoing monthly payments. Then reform SSI to make it a public-private entity with investment options for workers of all ages instead of being forced to contribute to a bloated, crooked bureaucracy doomed to bankruptcy.

    • Ed says:

      You really think adding a whole set of people who could opt out from a major financial trust would decrease the size of the bureaucracy?

    • Rick Day says:

      Like a trust fund?

      It’s not a trust fund.

      My wife and I cap the max around June, $52k each. I wonder if any of you have even hit the cap in a year?

      And we gladly pay it. Not because we expect a ROI. We expect it to contribute to the Common Good. We look at it as just another charity.

      Poor people living check to check qualifies as piety in this home.

  9. sockpuppet says:

    This is a very important link for a great deal of public policy reasons. I want the more right-leaning folks – as well as folks who are predisposed against public transportation for people who cannot afford cars – to weigh in on this.

    http://www.atlantamagazine.com/agenda/2013/05/21/atlanta-no-4-for-suburban-poverty-growth

    As an aside, I will say that this is powerful evidence that Fulton County is probably spending too much money. But the other counties may need to spend more than they are.

  10. Harry says:

    Comment from Chris Hedges:
    “What has taken place in these sacrifice zones—in postindustrial cities such as Camden, N.J., and Detroit, in coalfields of southern West Virginia where mining companies blast off mountaintops, in Indian reservations where the demented project of limitless economic expansion and exploitation worked some of its earliest evil, and in produce fields where laborers often endure conditions that replicate slavery—is now happening to much of the rest of the country. These sacrifice zones succumbed first. You and I are next.
    Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information. They manage the political theater of electoral politics and impose our educational curriculum. They have turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. They have decimated labor unions and other independent mass organizations, as well as having bought off the Democratic Party, which once defended the rights of workers. With the evisceration of piecemeal and incremental reform—the primary role of liberal, democratic institutions—we are left defenseless against corporate power.”

  11. Harry says:

    Social security rules and regulations encourage and support double-dipping by retired government workers who already draw pensions. These rules punish thrift and reward incompetence and gaming of the system. Then add disability fraud to the mix. This will not stand.

    • Ghost of William F Buckley says:

      Curiously, when a State worker retires and get BOTH a State and SSI benefit is that double dipping? What is it when a Union guy retires and gets his pension and SSI? When a Coroporate person does the same thing?

      To me double dipping is a non argument, unless you can show me supporting rationale.

      If you work for the Federal government don’t you have a FICA deduction?

    • Ellynn says:

      It depends on the state and how it writes the pension provisions, plus any agreements made by past or current unions (if the state allows public unions). My mother (retired Wisconsin public school teacher) has a “value” pension or set dollar a year she is allowed, which the state fully paid out until 62, and then it was reduced based on her social security amount wheither she took it or not. If she held out to 65, when she would have gotten more SS, she would have lost that amount out of her monthly package then. She lost all health care from her pension at 65. She can pay for a very reasonable insurance add on along with a part D from the WEA trust (which she does), but the pension nolonger funded her health care. This was how her state pension was written.

      And I can assure you my mother can teach you a course on thrift…

      • Harry says:

        The fact remains that the great majority of government workers are receiving far more from society in the form of current and deferred benefits than they have contributed or deserve.

        • Ellynn says:

          Cite us the fact that they are the majority. I would gues some do – ever system has a few who play the system, but where does it state they are the “great majority”?

          My uncle pulls a Railroad pension, a military pension and SS. Is this dipping into the system or does it apply only when goverment workers are involved? He’s blind now too (it’s that getting older thing), so he can have medicare, medicaid, and use the little tax line item about being blind when he files every year. He gets lower insure rates too, and his children, and his grandchild, from what that commericals tell us… AND on top of that he gets an AARP discount.

          • Harry says:

            I have several friends who are retired government workers at various levels, but they are benefiting from a system that is not fair to the rest of us who work and pay the taxes. The game has been rigged by government unions and politicians to line the pockets of their people at the expense of the rest of us.

  12. Three Jack says:

    More from the ‘rich aren’t paying enough’ party — http://www.politico.com/story/2013/05/apple-taxes-senate-hearing-91667_Page2.html — senate hearing where Apple is blasted for having offshore accounts to avoid paying 35% corporate tax rate.

    Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) — ““No company, no company, should be able to determine how much it’s going to pay in taxes.” He says as his tax return shows he pays about 17% after deductions on $236,000 in income. “No man, no man, should be able to determine how much he’s going to pay in taxes” Mr. Levin you snobby hypocrite.

    Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) — “If anyone should be on trial here, it should be Congress,” after suggesting the committee should apologize to Apple. Rand Paul for President!

    Simple solution that dems and many GOPers will never accept, reform the tax code. Apple did nothing illegal by finding tax havens for $100B in cash offshore, they responded to an extremely flawed system. Fix the system instead of wasting time attacking innovative, successful American companies (Apple paid $6B in taxes last year, how much did Solyndra contribute?) and the offshore money will come home.

    • saltycracker says:

      Exactly, the system is flawed. Perhaps the Senators would like to post their returns to see how many “loopholes” they advantaged themselves with.

      The game plan of “compromise” is to allow each side to legislate in their favorite “loopholes”. Neither side will say, let’s level the playing board, no exemptions, no deductions, no deals, everybody pays x% of income over $1,000.

      But no worries, politicians will never allow it. OK by me, I prefer the way it is, “loopholes” aka legit deductions/tax frees.

  13. saltycracker says:

    Stefan,

    Another excellent job by your staff in gleaning interesting articles.

    Social Security is an insurance program paid into by employees & employers which is administered by the Government. The rich giving up their checks will not address the problems and as time passes SS, as most public offerings, will come up short of funding.

    The payments should have been invested in treasuries earning interest, not spent or looted.
    A private insurance company would have been shut down & the officers thrown in jail.

    Fraud and deceit, especially in the disability portion is rampant while bureaucratic administration fails and enforcement is overwhelmed.
    Also, perhaps the actuarial formulas (age, time, contribution %, income caps, qualifications) need to be readdressed.

    On the flip side of dealing out a section of those that paid in it would just as strange to cut withholding 2% for a year or so (reducing funding) or make the program optional where we’d see many able bodied workers living for the here and now (not saving).

    Too often the first response to a mega-government program is, we need more money.

    You have posted an excellent alternative to SS, searching for colored gems in our golden years.

  14. Noway says:

    “Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, won’t answer questions about what she knew about the improper screening – or why she didn’t reveal it to Congress, according to a letter from her defense lawyer, William W. Taylor 3rd.”

    Wow!!

    The plot thickens…

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      I wonder how things would pan out next year if I just plead the 5th when it comes to filing my taxes? Why should I have to prove whether or not I paid enough? Isn’t the burden of proof on them?

  15. Noway says:

    Actually, Seen, you’d think so, huh? You know, the old tired cliche, “Innocent until proven guilty.” Not in tax matters. Maybe this whole issue will result in a change in the way they operate but I’m not holding my breath.

  16. Noway says:

    One option would be to give her limited use immunity ala Ollie North. Then she’ll testify.

  17. Harry says:

    According to Brookings, Atlanta suburban poverty rose 159% to 780,078 from 2000 to 2011 – by far the fastest growth in suburban poverty in the nation.

    • Stefan says:

      A number of factors there, including Atlanta’s destruction of its housing projects. Nobody is exactly sure where all those people went but the suburbs are a good bet.

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