Thursday, October 29, 2015

Disaster Capitalism: Millionaire Congress Slashes Disabled Benefits to Fund War

Lawrence Zeegen

The other day we were informed that Barack Obama secretly met with John Boehner and agreed to slash benefits for disabled Americans to fund more war.  From New York Times:


Congress and White House Reach Tentative Budget Deal

WASHINGTON — After five years of bitter clashes, Republican congressional leaders and President Obama on Monday night appeared to settle their last budget fight by reaching a tentative deal that would modestly increase spending over the next two years, cut some social programs, and raise the federal borrowing limit.

The agreement would raise spending by $80 billion over two years, NOT INCLUDING a $32 BILLION INCREASE INCLUDED IN AN EMERGENCY WAR FUND. Those increases would be offset by CUTS in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits, as well as savings or revenue from an array of other programs, INCLUDING SELLING OIL FROM THE NATION’S STRATEGIC PETROLEUM RESERVES. 

The Medicare savings would come from cuts in payments to doctors and other health care providers….

Man, what kind of heartless bastards could do something like that? Obama and Boehner agreed on a budget that freezes increases for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to $40 billion per year and at the same time increased the off-the-books war slush fund by $32 billion.

Aides said that the Social Security Disability Insurance program would be amended, in part to tighten and STANDARDIZE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS that now vary by state. That change was projected to save the government $5 billion.

Hmmm, I wonder what it means to “standardize eligibility requirements” and how does that save $5 billion dollars?  From The Hill:


GOP leaders and the White House are pushing structural reforms to Social Security and Medicare that would avert the double-digit increases expected next year for many beneficiaries in both programs while saving billions in other areas.

A key piece of the budget deal — and one of its costliest provisions — staves off a 52 percent premium hike that would have hit 8 million Medicare Part B enrollees next year. That fix, which is THE RESULT OF A GLITCH in federal benefits law, is estimated to cost nearly $8 billion.

The deal would also prevent a 20 percent across-the-board cut in Social Security disability benefits for 11 million people next year, which was the result of a quickly drying-up trust fund.

In addition to averting those increases, the deal would enact a series of changes to both the disability and Medicare programs — some of which could be tough for Democrats to stomach….

But one of the key pay-fors in the deal is the extension of the 2 percent cut in Medicare payments, which was first passed under the sequester…

“This would be the first significant reform to Social Security since 1983 and would result in $168 billion long-term savings,” the source said.

The GOP had particularly pushed for reforms to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which would see stronger penalties for those charged with fraud and abuse, stronger oversight and reporting requirements.

Whoa, just a minute.  What the hell is that?  This deal between Obama and Boehner “staves off a 52 percent premium hike that would have hit 8 million Medicare Part B enrollees next year” and prevents a 20 percent across-the-board cut in Social Security disability benefits for 11 million people next year.”

Where did that 52 percent premium hike for 8 million seniors on Medicare Part B and the 20 percent across-the-board cuts in Social Security disability benefits for 11 million people come from?  Oh yeah, that was the deal Paul Ryan made with Patty Murray back in December 2013.  From Politichicks:


VIRAL: Military Veteran Shoots Down Ryan-Murray Budget Bomb

December 20, retired Chief Master Sergeant Chuck Wooten posted a letter to Congressman Paul Ryan that has now gone viral. His letter was written in response to a year-end fundraising request from Ryan that, not surprisingly, struck a sour note

Right after Wooten and other American veterans had their benefits cut by the Murray-Ryan budget, Wooten was being hit up to contribute his now reduced income to support Ryan, the very man who spearheaded that reduction….

The Murray-Ryan budget boondoggle, passed by the Senate on December 18, partnered Democrats with establishment Republicans in shameful betrayal of the trust of our military veterans. The ‘deal’ cuts all veteran’s retirement benefits to 1% below inflation until veterans reach age 62, providing an approximately $6 billion budget cut, meanwhile increasing federal spending elsewhere….

Here’s how The Nation described the Ryan-Murray “deal” that was made between Democratic Senator Murray and Republican Representative Paul Ryan:


A Cruel, Irresponsible and Dysfunctional Budget Deal

Budget negotiators are patting themselves on the back. But what they've agreed to is a lousy deal for jobless workers, federal employees, military personnel and the economy….

Murray and Ryan are excited that they had stopped fighting for long enough to agree to $63 billion in “sequester relief” – as opposed to an actual end to sequestration – and $23 billion in net deficit reduction. 

They're also glad that they have set the discretionary spending level for fiscal year 2014 at $1.012 trillion, while setting the level at $1.014 trillion for fiscal year 2015. That apparently qualifies – in the eyes of the budget negotiators – as a sufficient alternative to lurching from crisis to crisis.

But the agreement does not address the crises that matter. “This plan won't create jobs, get the economy back on track, or meaningfully cut the deficit,” explains Congressman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.

And that's not the worst of it.

What of the 1.3 million jobless Americans who – with a fully Dickensian twist – now stand to lose Federal unemployment benefits three days after Christmas?...

The budget agreement does not look like a “step in the right direction” for them. And unless Democrats succeed in renewing benefits in a distinct piece of legislation that apparently must pass this week – as Congress is moving rapidly toward recess – many of the most economically vulnerable Americans will be “lurching from crisis to crisis” very soon.

Their crisis is our crisis. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, extending benefits for the long-term unemployed would boost a still slow economy by two-tenths of a percent in the coming year – creating 200,000 needed jobs.

As the CBO explains: “Recipients of the additional benefits would increase their spending on consumer goods and services. That increase in aggregate demand would encourage businesses to boost production and hire more workers than they otherwise would, particularly given the expected slack in the capital and labor markets.”

Without providing for the extension, something that easily and appropriately could have been done in the budget agreement, Ryan and Murray failed in their most basic humanitarian and economic duties.

And what of the federal workers and members of the military who will be required to take what is effectively a pay cut in order to pay more for their retirement benefits?

“Federal workers have sacrificed over $113 billion for deficit reduction since 2011, including a three-year pay freeze and increased pension contributions for newly hired employees. 

This figure does not include the up to eight furlough days caused by sequestration this summer and a 16-day shutdown in October which resulted in financial hardship and profound anxiety for half the government’s workforce and their families,” noted unions that represent federal employees. “Given these contributions, we are dismayed to learn that increasing the pension contributions and/or changing the retirement formula for current federal employees is on the table. This is simply unacceptable.”

Members of House and Senate who are paid $174,000 annually, collect generous benefits and – thanks to redistricting and an incumbent-rewarding campaign finance system – enjoy no small measure of job security…

Crews break up homeless camp in Silicon Valley

That was the grand bargain cut by Paul Ryan and Patty Murray that has led to the current “budget ceiling” crisis.  Hey assholes, I have an idea why don’t you take that $34 billion dollar increase to the “emergency war fund” and shore up Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security.

The “debt ceiling” scam is just part of what Naomi Klein calls the Shock Doctrine, Disaster Capitalism.

“The Shock Doctrine” is Klein’s ambitious look at the economic history of the last 50 years and the rise of free-market fundamentalism around the world. “Disaster capitalism,” as she calls it, is a violent system that sometimes requires terror to do its job.

And what could be more terrorizing than having your Social Security Disability cut by 20% and having your Medicare Part B insurance premiums rise 52 percent?  That’s the Shock Doctrine American Style, baby.

Isn’t it amazing that our millionaire congress is lavishing another $34 billion into their off-the-books “emergency war” fund when the Pentagon can’t account for $8.5 trillion dollars.   From Global Research:


Report Reveals $8.5 Trillion Missing From Pentagon Budget

Yahoo Money’ The Daily Ticker  quoting a Reuters investigation that reveals that $8.5 trillion – that’s trillion with a “T” – in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996 that has never been accounted for….

While Republican politicians rush to slash food stamps for the 47 million Americans living in poverty – the highest amount in nearly two decades –  Republican U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has the audacity to complain that $20 billion dollars in automatic sequester cuts to the massive and secretive $565.8 billion Defense Department budget are “ too steep, too deep, and too abrupt,” all while the Pentagon and the Defense Department are overseeing massive fraud, waste, and abuse…

In an interview, Linda Woodford, an employee at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service – the Pentagon’s main accounting agency – reveals to Reuters that she spent the last 15 years of her career simply “plugging in” false numbers every month to balance the books;

Where's the select committee on waste, fraud and abuse.  When will Ms. Woodford testify under oath for 11 hours before a select committee?

“A lot of times there were issues of numbers being inaccurate. We didn’t have the detail … for a lot of it.”

In the REAL WORLD, that would be called MASSIVE FRAUD.

Woodford’s involvement in the fraud doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. The report also reveals that “a single DFAS office in Columbus, Ohio, MADE AT LEAST $1.59 TRILLION – YES, TRILLION – IN ERRORS, including $538 billion in plugs, in financial reports for the Air Force in 2009.”

God, who are these elected “public servants” in the House and Senate?  From Open Secrets:


For the first time in history, most members of Congress are millionaires, according to a new analysis of personal financial disclosure data by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Of 534 current members of Congress, at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012, according to disclosures filed last year by all members of Congress and candidates. The median net worth for the 530 current lawmakers who were in Congress as of the May filing deadline was $1,008,767 — an increase from the previous year when it was $966,000…

Members of Congress have long been far wealthier than the typical American, but the fact that now a majority of members — albeit just a hair over 50 percent — are millionaires represents a watershed moment at a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage, which affect people with far fewer resources ….

Really?  I mean, really? 

“Despite the fact that polls show how dissatisfied Americans are with Congress overall…. in our electoral system, candidates need access to wealth to run financially viable campaigns, and the most successful fundraisers are politicians who swim in those circles to begin with.”

I think George W. Bush summed up our politicians’ loyalty to their “constituents” when he said at a fundraiser, “these are my people, the haves and the have more’s. 

Lo and Behold as I was writing this post, Roll Call just came out with their latest tally of congressional wealth, and here’s a little tid bit from the article that caught my attention.


The median net worth among all 535 members is more than five times that for all U.S. households, $81,400 in 2013. Half the senators and 140 House members are paper millionaires, but just 5 percent of all adults are, in the estimate of Credit Suisse Research.

And the richest 50 lawmakers were worth at least $7.3 million at the start of the year. The current threshold for being a member of “the one percent” is a net worth of about $7.9 million, according to the most recent Federal Reserve study of census data….

There are several real estate success stories, trial lawyers, oil and gas entrepreneurs and online innovators among the 50 richest. But it’s the car business that’s produced the most members on the list: five auto dealership magnates and the former CEO of a parts manufacturer.

Gee, wasn’t the Obama/Biden  2014 campaign slogan “Bin laden is dead GM is alive?”

The only Democrat among the auto millionaires, Rep. Don Beyer Jr., the onetime Volvo kingpin of Northern Virginia, is also the only Democrat among the six Hill freshmen who joined the 50 richest based on their net worth as candidates in 2014.

The Republicans are Sen. David Perdue of Georgia (a corporate turnaround expert), Rep. Dave Trott of Michigan (home foreclosures), Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey (insurance claims processing), Rep. Rod Blum of Iowa (software development) and Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter of Georgia (a chain of pharmacies).

My, my my.  New members of the “people’s house” truly do represent the people.  How did that Disaster Capitalism work out for the American people?  From The Guardian:


Disaster capitalism is a permanent state of life for too many Americans
By Steven W Thrasher

In the United States, disaster has become our most common mode of life. Proof that our daily existence was something other than a simmering, smoldering disaster has been historically held somewhat at bay by the myth that hard work equals some kind of subsistence living. For the more deluded amongst us, this ‘American dream’ even got us to believe we could be something called ‘middle class’. We were deceived.

For those not yet woke, I don’t see how y’all can stay asleep when story after story proves how screwed we are.

The New York Post, no bastion of bleeding heart liberalism, reported on Monday that “Hundreds of full-time city workers are homeless”. These are people who clean our trash and make our city, the heart of American capitalism, safe and livable, including for those who plunder the globe from Wall Street. 

These are men and women, living in shelters and out of their cars, who have government jobs – the kind of workers CONSERVATIVES LOVE TO PAINT AS GREEDY, GLUTTONOUS PIGS.

When a full time government worker can’t “find four walls and a roof to call his own” in the city he serves, we are living in a perpetual state of disaster capitalism….

This, too, is perpetual disaster capitalism, creating havoc and inflicting disaster upon individual souls for corporate greed without even needing the pretense of a crisis for an excuse.

So what happened to Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan?  Where are they today?  Well Paul’s going to be the next Speaker of the House, just so long as it doesn’t interfere with his family time.  Isn’t that touching?  From Salon:


“I cannot and will not give up my family time,” Ryan told reporters following the House GOP meeting.

That statement set off a firestorm of criticism, from the left and right.

As the heir-apparent to Speaker Boehner, Paul Ryan made his need for work-life balance clear. As the father of three children, he’s right—Americans work too hard, for too long, and for too little (and inequitable) pay.

Every weekend, Paul Ryan, who’s worth an estimated $7.7 million, flies home to Wisconsin to care for his three children. That’s admirable, and a huge luxury that most Americans could only ever dream of. 

Unfortunately, Ryan has also been at the forefront of a conservative policy movement to deny Americans who lack that luxury the same privilege, particularly through vicious cuts to SNAP, Medicare, and Social Security.

And, Senator Patty Murray?  She’s up for reelection and surprise, surprise, she’s likely to easily win her 5th term.  President Obama is in Washington State to make sure Patty is rewarded for the great “deal” she made, for the rich it’s been a gift that keeps on giving.   


SEATTLE (AP) — President Barack Obama is looking toward the 2016 elections, stumping for Democratic Sen. Patty Murray with a fundraiser in her home state.

The seat is considered a safe one for Democrats. But Murray is leaving nothing to chance, particularly after her narrow victory with just 52 percent of the vote in 2010, her closest Senate contest yet.

Obama describes the four-term senator as a lawmaker who gets things done without a lot of drama and fuss…

Yep, Patty Murray is “the lawmaker who gets things done”, no drama, no fuss, no heart, no soul.  She’s the whole package alright.

In the article from The Hill, entitled GOP Eying Social Security Reforms, I was taken back by this quote:

“The White House, every Democrat running for president, and every Democrat in Congress should make clear that any deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits would be unacceptable policy — and politically, would be wildly unpopular with voters,” Adam Green, co-founder of the progressive group, wrote in a statement late Monday.

Hey Adam, fat chance.  Everything congress has done since 2000 has been “wildly unpopular with voters.”  Why isn’t your progressive group picketing the Patty Murray reelection campaign?

This is disaster capitalism, a millionaire congress cuts everything necessary to sustain life in order to fund the violent destruction of life across the world.  Kind of like killing two birds with one stone.

By Patricia Baeten

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