How Raising The Retirement Age Screws the Poor

From Mother Jones:

By Kevin Drum
Fri May. 13, 2011

I’ve never been a fan of raising the Social Security retirement age. It’s a blunt instrument mainly favored by journalists and policymakers who don’t plan to retire at age 65 anyway and figure that asking people to work a little bit longer than they used to is no big deal. But people who don’t have white collar jobs quite plainly don’t feel the same way about it, as the skyrocketing number of people who retire early at age 62 demonstrates. We’ve already raised the full retirement age to 67 (this was part of the 1983 Social Security deal put in place by the Greenspan Commission), and I think there are plenty of better ways of bringing Social Security into balance than by raising it yet again.

Aaron Carroll demonstrates this dramatically with the chart below, taken from a paper by Hilary Waldren. As you can see, life expectancy in the top half of the income distribution has indeed risen dramatically over the past few decades. But in the bottom half of the income distribution, it’s barely risen at all.

I want to make it crystal clear what this means, using further data from Waldren’s paper combined with the increase in retirement age that’s already scheduled to take effect. This is for workers in the bottom half of the income distribution:

  • If you retired in 1977 at age 65, your life expectancy was 14.8 years.
  • If you retired in 2006 at age 65 years and 8 months, your life expectancy was 15.4 years.
  • Using a simple linear extrapolation, if you retire in 2025 at age 67, your life expectancy will be 14.9 years.

So that’s it. Over the course of half a century, thanks to the increase in retirement age already scheduled by law1, the poor and the working class will have seen the length of their retirements increase by a grand total of one month. Yippee!

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Tax Payers Dollars Funneled into Funding “Christian” “Emergency Pregnancy Resource Centers” that Disseminate Anti-choice Propaganda

From The Columbia Missourian:

BY Jessica Pupovac
Thursday, May 12, 2011

COLUMBIA — Pregnancy resource centers are faith-based organizations that promote abstinence before marriage, direct pregnant women and teens to the resources they might need to carry their pregnancies to term and talk to them about their options. Their primary objective is to prevent abortions.

“It is our mission to defend the right of every pregnant woman to give birth and the right of every child to be born,” says Lori Shultz, director of Birthright of Columbia, which opened its doors in 1983.

Since 2007, Missouri’s Pregnancy Resource Center tax credits have diverted $4.4 million of state revenue to 52 centers. The state has given another $2.5 million of taxpayer funds to several of the organizations during that same time period through the state’s Alternatives to Abortion grant program.

Both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly are deciding whether to extend the pregnancy resource tax credit or force it to sunset in 2015. On Tuesday, the House passed a resolution applauding the organizations’ efforts to “encourage pregnant women to make positive life choices by equipping them with complete and accurate information regarding their pregnancy options and the development of their unborn children.”

But critics say the information they distribute is riddled with inaccuracies and falsehoods and is intended to scare women and teens away from accessing options to which they are legally entitled.

“We don’t think taxpayers should be forced to support organizations that distribute medically inaccurate information,” Paige Sweet, a representative of abortion rights organization NARAL Missouri, told the House Committee on Economic Development at a March hearing on extending the tax credit program. “We just really want women in Missouri to have access to comprehensive, medically accurate information, especially when they are in the very vulnerable position of facing an unwanted pregnancy.”

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Friday Night Fun and Culture Potpourri Edition

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Friday Zinnea Fix

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UK Hit By Same Astro-Turf type Protests as US: Pro-cuts activists to rally against debt

From The Guardian UK:

Hundreds of right wing and libertarian activists expected to gather in London to press for deeper cuts to public spending

Robert Booth and Matthew Taylor, Friday 13 May 2011

Hundreds of pro-cuts activists are expected to descend on Westminster on Saturday to “rally against debt”, in the first sign of a radical Tea Party-style mass movement to challenge the anti-cuts lobby.

The protest will be attended by an alliance of rightwing and libertarian activists including members of the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA), the anti-Europe UK Independence party and the Freedom Association, a libertarian pressure group set up by Norris McWhirter, better known for co-founding the Guinness Book of Records.

More than 1,000 people have indicated online that they plan to attend and many said they believed the government was not cutting public spending deeply enough. The Conservative MPs Priti Patel and Bill Cash and the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, are due to make speeches, and Toby Young, the broadcaster and free school pioneer, said he would attend.

The action comes amid a growing interest among rightwing groups in learning from the US Tea Party movement, which has mobilised hundreds of thousands of activists to march against Barack Obama’s policies. Electoral Commission records show that in March Ukip activists registered the name Tea Party as a political party. It is not yet active but they said they could field candidates in general elections, byelection or local elections.

“We have seen the Tea Party in the States and although I am not sure if it would take off here … we have set it up so we feel we can use it any time we want to get it off the ground,” said Michael McGough, national executive committee member of Ukip, who will attend the rally. “If we have to bail out Greece then there may be potential in the longer term, so we have got it in reserve for when we need it.”

Last year it emerged that the TPA was being advised by Freedom Works, a powerful Washington organisation credited with helping to destabilise the Obama administration through its mobilisation of 800,000 grassroots activists under the Tea Party banner.

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The Great Corporate Tax Swindle

From Common Dreams:

by Richard Wolff
Published on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

More and more, we hear that nothing can be done to tax major corporations because of the threat of how they would respond. Likewise, we cannot stop their price-gouging or even the government subsidies and tax loopholes they enjoy.

For example, as the oil majors reap stunning profits from high oil and gas prices, we are told it is impossible to tax their windfall profits or stop the billions they get in government subsidies and tax loopholes. There appears to be no way for the government to secure lower energy prices or seriously impose and enforce environmental protection laws. Likewise, despite high and fast-rising drug and medicine prices, we are told that it is impossible to raise taxes on pharmaceutical companies or have the government secure lower pharmaceutical prices. And so on.

Such steps by “our” government are said to be impossible or inadvisable. The reason: corporations would then relocate production abroad or reduce their activities in the US or both. And that would deprive the US of taxes and lose more jobs. In plain English, major corporations are threatening us. We are to knuckle under and cut social programmes that benefit millions of people (such as college loan programmes, Medicaid, Medicare, social security, nutrition programmes, etc). We are not to demand higher taxes or reduced subsidies and tax loopholes for corporations. We are not to demand government action to lower their soaring prices. If we do, corporations will punish us.

Three groups deliver these business threats to us. First, corporate spokespersons, their paid public relations flunkies, hand down the word from on high (corporate board rooms). Second, politicians afraid to offend their corporate sponsors repeat publicly what corporate spokespersons have emailed to them. Finally, various commentators explain the threats to us. These include the journalists lost in that ideological fog that always translates what corporations want into “common sense”. Commentators also include the professors who translate what corporations want into “economic science”.

Of course, there are always two possible responses to any and all threats. One is to cave in, to be intimidated. That has often been the dominant “policy choice” of the US government. That’s why so many corporate tax loopholes exist, why the government does so little to limit price increases, why government does not constrain corporate relocation decisions, etc. No surprise there, since corporations have spent lavishly to support the political careers of so many current leaders. They expect those politicians to do what their corporate sponsors want. Just as important, they also expect those politicians to persuade people that its “best for us all” to cave in when corporations threaten us.

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Study: Transgender Discrimination Costs Mass. Millions

From The Edge Providence RI:

by Peter Cassels
EDGE Contributor
Wednesday May 11, 2011

Excluding transgender citizens from its employment non-discrimination laws costs Massachusetts millions of dollars a year, according to a new study.

Trans workers suffering underemployment or loss of employment often result in lost wages and health insurance coverage and housing instability. A study the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law released on Wednesday, May 11, found that the Commonwealth experiences lost tax revenues and higher public assistance costs as a result.

Advocates will likely use the impact on the state’s budget as ammunition in pushing for passage of a trans rights bill that is now pending in the Massachusetts Legislature. “The added cost to Massachusetts for public health insurance coverage alone is $3 million annually,” Jody Herman, a public policy fellow at the Williams Institute and the report’s author, told EDGE.

She added the state also loses millions in income tax revenues.

Herman believes the study is the first of its kind in the United States.

She extrapolated the figures by examining input from Massachusetts respondents who participated in the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey that the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force conducted.

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