Two news stories caught my eye today.
-- In economic hard times, with unemployment at 9.6%, the unemployment benefits for many are due to run out. It's Christmas time, but that fact is unlikely to deter Congress from seriously considering not extending the benefits to those who paid to make those benefits available.
The Republicans argue that we simply cannot afford to be spending irresponsibly ... we must rein in giveaway programs. How it is irresponsible to help those in need is never quite explained.
The argument seems to be that by saving money and putting it in the hands of bankers and other businessmen, those captains of industry are in the best position to create jobs that will make unemployment benefits unnecessary. But the track record of this argument is abysmal: Rich people did not get rich by being nice and the thought that they have created or will create jobs because there is more money in the kitty has no concrete evidence to back it up. In fact, business reports suggest that businessmen are hoarding cash right now because times are so uncertain. Will providing more cash meet with a different fate ... it's ludicrous. The very people who created the wealth of the rich are somehow unworthy of a support system. The rich know best. It is shameful.
-- And, as government struggles to reduce a deficit that is slightly higher than 10% of gross domestic product (as compared with close to 30% during World War II), there is talk of reducing Social Security benefits to the elderly. News organizations have routinely fallen down and spread their legs for the argument that Social Security will somehow go broke, that it is a drag on government spending, that it needs to be trimmed before disaster strikes.
Social Security, as I understand it, is, like Medicare, one of the few government programs that was set up to work ... and does work. Far from being in or threatening to be in the red, Social Security is in the black ... big time ... or would be if the government would pay back the money it took from Social Security's kitty.
As I understand it, the treasury bonds in which SS invested under its charter were revised to something called special treasury bonds during the George W. Bush administration. This allowed the government to tap into a cash cow, if only by using accounting gimmicks. It is the tapping-in of government, not Social Security itself, that threatens to upend a program that actually works.
Why it is that 'news' organizations do not see fit to call out those who claim the elderly and would-be elderly deserve to make a deficit sacrifice I'm not sure. I suppose it would require some work and news organizations, in pursuit of their own bottom line, are less and less capable of actually doing the work.
The result is that deficit reduction falls on the shoulders of those least able to assume it. Slash unemployment benefits! Burn Social Security!
Is no one embarrassed by all of this?