Friday, February 04, 2005

The Morning Roundup

File Under "The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend" Two countries that hated each other for years will now finally be able to make peace. Good, right? Ummmm- maybe not. Despite the heartfelt embrace between a dead soldier's mother and an Iraqi human rights activist who cast a vote in her nation's first "free" election in half a century, things in Iraq remain messy. The lead story in the Times today reveals that the early returns show a Shiite party with strong links to Iran in the lead.

Should this party retain its lead and ascend to power, these two historically warring nations can resolve their differences and unite in their hatred of the United States. Just in time for the invasion of Iran, which Condi says is "not on the agenda at this point"(emphasis added). Meaning that it will be as soon as we've cleaned up our present quagmire.

George Dubya's Rolling Misinformation Tour 2005 The Pres hit the road yesterday, to hype up his Social Insecurity Fiasco. Oddly, he only seemed to visit Red States with Democratic Senators who have vowed to stop him. Coincidence? I think not. And despite the oft stated assertion that young people generally support the plan, the Times found many who did not (note- they conducted man on the street styles interviews in the bluest of Blue States, Boston, Mass).

More media outlets are analyzing the plan in detail, and are finding what the Post found yesterday- it's just a loan to government, immediately paid for with massive new Federal borrowing, followed by benefit cuts on the back end. This plan will not save Social Security as much as cripple it for good, and Progressives need to keep the pressure on the President and the Congress to dump it.

All parties agree- doing nothing is not an option, but the system can be saved with good ideas in more or less its present form with a minimum of difficulty. Despite the President's assertion in teh SOTU that he will listen to all ideas, he immediately stated that he would not consider raising the payroll tax. That's too bad, because Salon notes in the above piece that raising a two percent increase would keep the system afloat.

What would two percent mean? The payroll tax is split 50/50 between employer and employee, so two percent would actually be borne by the worker as a one percent raise. For a worker making $50K (simply to keep the math easy), 1% equals an extra $500 per year. Assuming that the worker receives 26 paychecks per year, he would pay an extra $19.24 per check.

And that's without benefit cuts. How much more could be saved if we also raised the retirement age? If we means tested benefits? If we invested the Trust Fund in something other than Treasury bonds? Fix the system- don't dismantle it.

How Hard Could It Be? That is the slogan for Kinky Friedman's campaign to become the Governor of Texas. Kinky, one of my favorite people in the universe, is the writer/humorist/musician who rose to marginal obscurity in the 1970s with his country band The Texas Jewboys, and went on to write a series of hysterical mystery novels in 1990s. Kinky draws his inspiration from former pro wrestler and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, who the Kinkster notes, " didn't realize that wrestling is real and politics is fixed."

The Times writes, To get on the ballot he needs 45,000 signatures, none from anyone voting in a Republican or Democratic primary. But he voiced confidence, saying, "There's so much apathy; that leaves me a lot of people."

Two Passings Of Note Max Schmeling passed away at 99, prompting me to ask, was Max Schmeling still alive? Seriously, Max Schmeling was a true giant- even though the Nazis touted him as the pinnacle of Aryan supremacy, he fought them every step of the way. He refused to join the party, he saved some Jews from the camps, and when the Nazis ordered him to divorce his Czech wife, he refused that as well.

And Ossie Davis, the actor and activist, has passed away at 87- he will be missed.

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