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Campaign Manifesto #3: On The Road, Defending Social Security February 28, 2011

So it’s Day 3 of my fake campaign for Congress, and we’ve run into our first obstacle

The Fake Campaign, as you may recall, is fake headed for Wisconsin, to show solidarity, and we’ve fake hitched a ride on a delivery truck headed for Rush Limbaugh’s Florida broadcasting studios—but we fake found ourselves caught up in the all-too-real Giant Grip Of Winter that has seized the Midwest over the past week.

We’re back on the road now, but we were stuck for darn near a half-day there at Wall…and if you know anything about South Dakota, you know there are really only two things to do in the City of Wall: you can shuffle back and forth between Gold Diggers and the Badlands Bar, partaking of numerous intoxicating liquors along the way…or you can head on into Wall Drug (the same one that’s on all those bumper stickers and signs) and partake of the finest display of Giant Jackalopia on the planet.

The Campaign, naturally, chose Jackalopia—and that’s why today’s Manifesto is all about the fake impromptu 5-cent-coffee-fueled Social Security Town Hall that we held in the Wall Drug Mall for several hours while we waited for I-90 to reopen.

Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
Spring comes, grass grows by Itself.

–From the Zenrin Kushu, attributed to Toyo Eicho

I-90, the main route from West to East (if your fake trip begins in Seattle, as ours did), was closed at Wall, South Dakota for about 24 hours this week, but this particular delivery truck just absolutely has to be in Florida by Monday…and the delivery is so important that to get us back on the road we now have a special escort of two South Dakota Department of Transportation snowplows and two 2011 “new and improved” South Dakota Highway Patrol Dodge Charger Pursuits (now with longer lasting brakes!) to make sure we get to the Wisconsin line in the shortest time possible.

With the weather being what it is, Jenna and Tendei, our driving team, have been earning their money, in a big way, this trip, and for the moment Tendei is asleep, while Jenna and I mull over the conversations we had tonight, me and the caravan of Wall Drug customers who gathered, first by the snake-oil salesman (that’s not hyperbole, either: they actually have an anamatronic snake-oil salesman), then out in front of the Western bookstore, and finally over by one of the 5-cent coffee stations.

It was my fault: standing next to the snake-oil salesman got me thinking about all the lies we hear every day about Social Security…which I mentioned to the 30-something couple standing next to me, young son in tow.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d guess the next words out of his mouth are going to be: ‘I’ll never see a dollar of my Social Security anyway, so who cares how they fix it?’.”

He looked back at me, all surprised: “We’re not ever going to see any; they tell us that all the time.”

“Yeah, I know…but it’s a big ol’ load of hooey, and I’ll tell you why: Social Security is funded by payroll taxes that are, for the most part, paid out as they’re collected, that means there’ll always be money that we will use to pay benefits, unless we just quit collecting that money altogether, which is not likely.”

We were beginning to gather a few others around us (hey, we were all stuck there—nothing else to do…); that means my gestures were getting a bit bigger—but there’s a nice echo in there, and you can be heard.

“The way things work now, if nothing changes, there will be enough money to pay out all the benefits we expect to pay until 2037. After that, if the ‘pessimistic projection’ plays out, even if nothing else changes, we can still pay 75% of what we expect to pay for about 50 years after that. We only look out 75 years at a time, so we don’t have a projection that goes out past 2084…but, pretty much, as long as we keep collecting the money, we’ll still be able to pay the benefits.”

I looked over at a 40-ish couple that had come over to listen: “What about you two? Right now there’s a lot of talk about ‘fixing’ Social Security by making you wait longer to retire or by making sure cost-of-living increases don’t really keep up with inflation. Don’t y’all feel like if they do that, you’re just getting screwed?”

It was almost like Parliament and “Question Time” in there for a second (which is not a George Clinton reference) as the 15 or so folks listening began to “harrumph” in agreement.

“Well how about if I were to tell you that I could fix this problem, and that I could do it without raising the retirement age or messing with your cost-of-living…and that I could do this in a way that gives every person in this room a tax cut at the same time…and that, even though I’m running for Congress, I’m not a snake-oil salesman?”

About two lives ago I used to be a failed stand-up comic (true!), and it is possible to know when the crowd is turning—and this was one of those moments.

The 40-ish husband looked at me and said, basically, that I did sound like a Congressman—and not in a good way.

“I know you don’t believe me, but listen to this: if you turn a wrench or carry a tray or do anything that makes under, basically, $105,000 a year in wages, all your income is taxed for Social Security…but if you make a million a year, you don’t pay any tax at all on the last $890,000…and if that income was taxed, we wouldn’t have a Social Security problem.

Now you don’t hear much about this back in Washington, and there’s a couple of reasons why: right off the bat, this President and this Congress don’t want to be accused of ‘raising anyone’s taxes’; beyond that, 2012 is coming fast, and both the President and the Grim Weeper are trying to be the one who can look at the voters and say: ‘I’m The Slasher, and I will cut the deficit and balance the budget faster than the other guy’.

Lots of people think cutting Social Security will somehow cut the deficit and reduce the debt, even though it has nothing to do with it at all, and some of them figure that if they campaign around cutting everything that government does it’s gonna help their political future, and that includes cutting benefits for people just like you, instead of just funding Social Security with a flat tax for everyone…even the rich.”

This argument, I might add, was starting to gain traction.

“Look at where we are right this very second: standing in front of a Western bookstore…and if you go in there you’ll see stories of how people died of starvation and how land barons ruled counties with an iron fist and how we fought range wars with imported hired guns and shootouts in the streets.

Is that what we want to go back to?

It’s not what they wanted. The pioneers didn’t just build isolated ranches, they built towns, and towns with a schoolhouse, so that the kids on those ranches didn’t have to rely on a home school education. They had a Sheriff or a Marshal and a Town Council and a Judge, because they knew that they had to create some rules and establish some government.

Some towns in the Wild West, and you know I’m telling the truth about this, didn’t even allow guns inside the town limits…just like when Wyatt Earp was the Marshal in Dodge City and you had to check your guns if you were going north of the railroad tracks.”

You know what? This was working: the crowd began to nod with me, and I figured while I had the advantage I’d press the thing home:

“Now a lot of people probably think the fix is in, and what’s the point…but I don’t agree. There was an effort at the beginning of this Congress to force these cuts by threatening to stop providing any money for the Government at the beginning of March if the ‘Wrecking Crew” didn’t get their way, and the Tea Party folks came in here with a big ol’ war cry about ‘shut it all down’ and all that…but now that March 4th is actually drawing close, and the public is starting to figure out what’s up, the message is suddenly all about ‘maybe we can extend the funding after all’.

That tells me that the people who think cutting everything in sight because it looks good are finding out it doesn’t always look good to just go around cutting everything in sight.

Tell ya something else. A lot of the people who want to change Social Security want to change it into a system that rewards people who manage Social Security accounts, not the people who own the accounts, and if you look at what ‘privatizing’ the system is all about, that’s what it is: it’s just a plan to get more money out of you in the form of fees and charges, which is going to be a great big reward to great big political donors who have been trying to make this happen since the 1980s.

So here’s the reality: there is enough money in the system to pay for you and your kids to have benefits, even if no changes are made, and if you just make Social Security a flat tax, even for the rich, we are pretty much guaranteed to have every dollar we need until at least 2084, and we don’t have to cut benefits or raise the retirement age, or do any of that crazy stuff…and we don’t have to give up our hard-earned money to big banks and Wall Street in the form of new fees and charges on your Social Security accounts.

So I came here in a truck, and it has to be in Florida in a couple days, and my driver friend is walking over here, and that means I gotta go, but I hope I told you something about Social Security you didn’t know a while ago…and if any of you are fake voting for a fake Congressional candidate in 2012, I hope you’ll keep me in mind.”

And with that, I fake shook a few hands, jumped in our fake truck, and headed off to Wisconsin.

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Campaign Manifesto #2: In Which We Travel To Wisconsin February 21, 2011

So when we were last together, as you all know, I announced that I’m fake running for Congress in Washington State’s 8th District—and that I’m doing it because, so far as I know, the best way to get a candidate to truly “come out Liberal” is to be a fake candidate…and to make good and sure The Campaign isn’t out chasing money when it’s being done.

Having made the announcement, we’re already making our first campaign trip—and oddly enough, our first trip as a Congressional candidate will take us to Madison, Wisconsin, where we’ll link up with a few folks who, apparently inspired by me, have taken to the streets in a very big way.

When we get there I’ll need a parka, a nice hat, a thermos of coffee, and a big fat Sharpie—so let me go get it all together, and then we’ll be on our way.

All sober enquiries after truth, ancient and modern, Pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity consists in virtue. Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates, Mahomet, not to mention authorities really sacred, have agreed in this.

If there is a form of government then, whose principle and foundation is virtue, will not every sober man acknowledge it better calculated to promote the general happiness than any other form?

Fear is the foundation of most governments; but is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men, in whose breasts it predominates, so stupid, and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.

–From Thoughts on Government, by John Adams, 1776

Now for those who did not know, I am personally responsible for the marches and demonstrations that have been taking place in Madison, Wisconsin for the past several days.

What happened was that, just about two weeks ago, I posted a story at Uppity Wisconsin asking, literally, “Where’s Our Tahrir Square?”—and obviously, inspired by my posting and Scott Walker’s mad rush to power, the citizens of Wisconsin have responded to the call, and now the fight is on.

I need to get over there immediately and see what else I can get going—and if I can have this kind of impact in a State where I don’t even live, obviously my fake candidacy is off to a very, very, good start.

So the first thing I had to do was to arrange transit to Madison—as you’ll recall the campaign does not accept donations, so no private jet for this fake candidate—but lucky for me I have a few connections in “low places”.

As it happens, there’s a full shipping container of Oxycodone that arrives at the Port of Seattle every week from a certain Asian gray-market supplier, and that shipping container has to be in the back parking lot of Excellence In Broadcasting’s Network Broadcast Origination Center in Palm Beach, Florida by 6:13 AM the following Monday morning…and if it doesn’t make it, The Rush Limbaugh Show cannot go on the air that week.

I know the two drivers of that truck, and before 10 PM we were already passing through George, Washington (and, of course, the Martha Inn Cafe) and getting ready to cross the Columbia River on I-90.

It’s a late night driving across Eastern Washington, Idaho, and Western Montana, and before long the talk turned to bribery.

Tendei and Jenna (the truck drivers) wanted to know how I would get along in “the other” Washington, what with all the corruption and all, and that’s when we got to talking about my revolutionary new “corruption policy”.

“Well I’ll tell ya what” I said over the pretty much constant sound of Jenna playing “Bejeweled” from the desk in the sleeper (there’s a satellite internet connection…and I think Jenna may have stolen a few of those Oxycodones for herself) “the way I see it we already have bribery…we just call it campaign donations or soft money or corporate free speech or whatever, so what I propose to do is just make it all open and transparent.

Here’s what I mean: in the 112th Congress, Republicans are supposedly going to add statements to bills that explain where the Constitutional foundation for the bill comes from; what I’m going to do is add a statement to every bill that I introduce that explains just who paid for the bill, and how much.”

“No more moves!” Jenna started yelling from the back. “That…sucks!”

“Anyway” I said to Tendei, ignoring the sound of Jenna’s mouse smacking against the desk “in my bills, it would say something like ‘Platinum Contributors for this bill ($1,000,000) are the US Chamber of Commerce, Lockheed Martin, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Gold Contributors ($500,000) are Boeing, Xe, and the EG&G Division of the URS Corporation.’

So we’d list everyone, and that way you’d know who was paying for whatever hustle was about to be put on you.

I’m also thinking about ‘Bill Sponsorships’, which would allow naming rights for bills to be purchased by either interested corporations, private individuals, or groups.

For example, if we decided to lower the blood alcohol count for drunk driving in National Parks and other Federal Lands, we might end up with something like the…uh…the ‘Jack Daniels Cares About Drunk Driving Act of 2011”—but we’d be taking bids from all interested parties, and we’d probably need to get a least a million for something like that.

Tendei looked over from the driver’s seat: “But what about the bribes that get paid where no bill ever gets written?”

“Great question. What I’m thinking is that we set up a page on my Congressional website that works as a ‘Bribe Tracker’. When we get approached by a lobbyist who is looking to give us something, we put up a listing, and then if the bribe—sorry, ‘legal donation’—actually gets paid, we update the listing, so everyone knows who is paying what.

We could also add an EBay-like function, again, so that we can take bids on some bills when an auction looks like the best way to bump the price.

But all that only accounts for the incoming money. My voters want to know where the money is going to go after it comes in—and that’s where I’m really gonna get crazy.

I have two ideas for where the money could go. The first, of course, is right into the Federal Treasury, to lower the Federal deficit each fiscal year we run the program.

But the other idea is to let charities ‘bid’ for the money. In other words, charities would submit an explanation of what they would do with the money and how many private dollars they could ‘match’ for each one of ours…and the best bids win the money.

So what I’m going to do is let my voters decide what to do; The Campaign is setting up a poll and, as your fake humble public servant, I’m gonna let the decision be yours.”

Tendei looked impressed…but it was getting pretty late for both of us, with pretty much all of Montana yet to cross and Jenna looking to take the wheel for a few hundred more miles…so today’s Campaign Manifesto ends with Tendei taking the bottom bunk and the fake candidate taking the top.

 

Campaign Manifesto #1: In A World Of Phonies, It’s Time For A Fake Candidate February 18, 2011

We have spent the past two years watching as insanity has gripped Congress, and even more so with Republicans now running the House.

We have a wavering President, far too many feckless Democrats, and Republicans that have decided to dive headfirst into total “insane mode” in a full-blown effort to destroy this country just as fast as possible.

To give but one example, in my own District, WA-08, we are represented by the absolutely useless Republican Dave Reichert, whose best-known legislative achievement is that he has virtually no record of any legislative achievement whatever.

Now we’ve had a very interesting relationship, you and I, over these past few years; in my efforts to “bring you the story” I’ve been a fake political consultant, a fake lobbyist, even a fake historian…and now, I think it’s time to try to bring our relationship to a new level.

And that’s why, America, I’m announcing my fake candidacy for Congress.

It was almost too good to be true. Richard Milhous Nixon, the main villain of my political consciousness for as long as I can remember, was finally biting that bullet that he’s been talking about all these years. The man that not even Goldwater or Eisenhower could tolerate had finally gone too far—and now he was walking the plank, on national TV, six hours a day—with The Whole World Watching, as it were.

That phrase is permanently etched on some grey rim on the back of my brain. Nobody who was at the corner of Michigan and Balboa on that Wednesday night in August of 1968 will ever forget it.

Richard Nixon is living in the White House today because of what happened that night in Chicago. Hubert Humphrey lost that election by a handful of votes—mine among them—and I had it to do again I would still vote for Dick Gregory.

–From Fear and Loathing in the Bunker, by Hunter S. Thompson

So let’s start with the obvious question: why a fake candidacy?

Well…why not?

Obviously, I can be just as fake as any real politician, and, as we discussed before, we have years of history together to prove it.

Can I be more useful to the District than Reichert?
Hey…even a fake me can do that.

After all, it’s not like there’s a high bar to jump over or anything.

It was four years in office before he actually got anything passed…and according to Congress.org, by 2008 he was ranked number 401 out of 435 in terms of how much power he exerts in the House…and that’s 9th out of 9 for the Washington State delegation. (Reichert’s own Congressional website reports he was ranked 166th out of 435 in 2006—and that means he fell more than 250 spots in a single term.)

So basically, all I have to do is take the Oath of Office…and we’re pretty much tied.

Now Dave tries to some extent to “ straddle the middle ”, as a result he supports environmental legislation but he’s against “card check”; he also voted to extend children’s health care coverage. He supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

His stance on Social Security?

Do a search for Social Security on his Congressional website, and you get “No documents matched your query”. Look for Social Security as an issue on his site and you can find this:

Congressman Reichert has fought to protect seniors’ Medicare and Social Security benefits, preserve their access to needed health care services, and make prescription drugs more affordable

(You have to look under “ Seniors ” to find it…but at least it’s there.)

According to FreedomWorks, Reichert had no position worth reporting on Social Security when they attended his April ’05 Social Security workshop…although another attendee reports he had this to say about removing that “tax cap” that represents a giant tax dodge for the richest among us:

Raising the cap was portrayed by all three as a tax hike, which they oppose because “the government shouldn’t be taking any more out of families’ hard earned budgets.”

OnTheIssues has this to say about his Social Security record:

No issue stance yet recorded by OnTheIssues.org.

By the way…did I mention that Reichert is currently serving on the House Subcommittee on Social Security ?

That’s a pretty high level of useless, and it’s exactly this kind of “get up and go” that explains how Reichert managed to fight his way right on up to number 401 in effectiveness among those 435 Members of Congress.

Me, I support the “Rich People Pay, Too” approach: no matter what your wage income might be, you gotta pay Social Security tax. No more “once you get rich, it’s a free ride”.

And guess what? If we just made all wage income taxable for Social Security purposes…the problem is actually solved…and it might not even require that much reform.

Law and order?

Reichert is a former Sheriff, and a man who cultivates the image that he personally caught the Green River Killer. When a bill came up to get the Justice Department off the backs of medical marijuana users, Reichert voted “ no ”.

I am most assuredly not a former Sheriff…and as a fake candidate, I would propose a different approach:

If you elect me, and we can get the bill passed, once a week I will personally dose up Members like Louie Gohmert and Michelle Bachmann and Joe Barton with large amounts of LSD…and I will then transport them right back to the House floor…and then one hour a day we’ll set up something like the obstacle course on MXC and then have them run it…and I will introduce a bill to set up a special “Premium Content” partnership with C-SPAN that charges $14.95 a month so that you can see the uncensored “GoDaddy” version of the video, with the money to be used to lower the Federal deficit.

I support medical marijuana—but I would limit the co-pay, by law, to $10.

Civil rights?

Reichert opposes same-sex marriage, and only gets a 50% rating from the NAACP…and I’m one of the only people you’ll ever meet who was officially notified he was gay by email…and if one of my family members had a “homosexual relationship”, unlike some Members, I wouldn’t keep it on the “ down low ”.

I’m more or less broke, just like you—and they tell me that, if you win, there’s pretty good health insurance —but I’m not looking for donations, from any source…with one exception:

At the moment this is a fake candidacy, but I’m thinking about asking a group to consider underwriting this as a comedic art project—and if they do, that would be the only money the “fake campaign” would accept.

So there you go: from here on out, there will be more “Manifestos” from the fake campaign—and in the next one, we’ll be talking, once again, about how you can support a candidate like Reichert, who’s basically a joke…or you can support a candidate like me, who really is one.

 

Oklahoma Shari’a Law Controversy: The Secret Plot Is Finally Uncovered February 9, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY (FNS)—After an exhaustive 18-month investigation, FNS is able to exclusively report that, contrary to popular opinion, Oklahoma’s controversial State Question 755, which is intended to prevent State courts from considering Shari’a law when making legal decisions, was intended to counter an effort already underway to impose such a legal code on the citizens of the State, perhaps as soon as this fall.

Amazingly, the effort to impose Islamic law involves some of Oklahoma’s most prominent business leaders, the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones, Jr. Museum of Art.

Here’s the story, as it can now be reported:

Clay Bennett, the Chair of the ownership group which owns the Oklahoma City (OKC) Thunder, was a student at Cairo University during the early 1980s. At that time he was introduced into the community by his father’s business associate (real estate has been at the core of the family business), Tendei El-Furlough, who had been helping to steer Mideast money to the Oklahoma real estate investment group.

Even though membership was illegal at the time, El-Furlough was a senior representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, and over the family dinner table Bennett and another Oklahoma exchange student, Brook “Boots” Hall, Jr., who would later serve as an executive in his family business, the Fred Jones Companies, Inc., would hear tales of the Caliphate and how such a political arrangement would help the plight of those in the country where Bennett was living, and across the Arab world.

(Hall’s presence in the country was related to the family’s, and El-Furlough’s, multi-decade association with Braniff Airways)

In the dark days of the late 1990s and the early 2000s, it was very difficult to be a part of the Brotherhood, and as Mubarak’s Government clamped down on any potential political opposition, Bennett’s friend El-Furlough, along with other Muslim Brotherhood leaders such as Hari Al-Paratestes, began to reach out to see if a safe place could be found where the Muslim Brotherhood leadership could escape, lay low for some length of time, and then either return to Egypt when things were more hospitable, or begin the creation of the Caliphate from a new, safer, location.

Bennett and Hall were interested, but he knew it would take several years before his plan could come to fruition.

They knew if they were going to create such a haven in Oklahoma that there would have to be some presence in the State that would serve as a focal point for creating cultural change, and they later determined that a sports team could be such a vehicle.

This was most likely going to be a professional basketball team, and as it happens the NBA has been looking to expand their international presence. Conversations were held with Commissioner David Stern, and he was induced to consider making a deal that might lead to the Muslim Brotherhood moving to Oklahoma—and the NBA expanding to several cities in the oil-rich Middle East.

The OKC ownership group first attempted contacts with the Charlotte Hornets, with whom a relationship was established. After two seasons, it was determined that the team was unwilling to be controlled by the OKC ownership group, and the relationship was terminated. (There are rumors that the Charlotte ownership group and numerous players threatened to “spill the beans” regarding the “cultural change” element of the deal, and that payments were made to keep them quiet; this has not been fully confirmed.)

Stern next suggested a team from a “liberal” city: Seattle.

Contacts were made, a deal was struck, and certain Seattle players were “brought in” on the deal with certain cash payments and ownership rights. The new team is known as the “OKC Thunder”.

Bennett began using the team as a “vehicle for change” from the very beginning. For example, before each game, a member of he clergy comes to the floor and leads a prayer; plans are afoot to have more Islamic Imams leading those prayers as this year ends and next year begins.

The changes in the team rosters also reflect the new cultural focus: gone are players like Wally Szczerbiak, Eddie Gill, and Ronald Dupree. Now the Thunder sports players such as Thabo El-Sefolosha, Nenad Al-Krstic, and there are persistent rumors that they’re trying to acquire Lewis Al-Rashad (his birth name) from the Washington Wizards. Serge Ibaka, of course, is the only Chechen in the NBA, and he was brought on board fairly easily.

The Fred Jones Museum (where “Boots” Hall is a Board member) is assisting in the process of “acculturating” Oklahoma residents with their “Mediterranea” exhibit, which will run on the Sooner campus from March to May of 2011, just as the Thunder begins rolling out their Islamic pre-game prayers.

The exhibit will highlight how American artists such as Max Kuehne, William Stanley Haseltine, and Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow were influenced by “the legacy of the Greco-Roman past and the influence of Christianity and Islam”, to quote the exhibit’s website.

More than four dozen similar events have been organized during the next few months throughout the State in an effort to prepare the way for a bill to be introduced in the Oklahoma Legislature in early 2012 that would allow the use of Shari’a law for disputes between Islamic persons; this is one of the preconditions for Muslim Brotherhood leaders to be able to move to the State.

Efforts have been made to “smooth the way” with Oklahoma’s new Governor, Mary Fallin; one example was the group’s substantial donation to the Governor-elect’s transition/inauguration committee, augmented by other donations from groups with energy interests, including The Williams Companies and Devon Energy. Avalon Staffing, the private prison operator who would like to operate in Egypt one day, is also associated with the group and donated $26,000 to the committee.

All of this—the purchase of the team, arranging the change in prayers, the NBA expansion to the Middle East, the Headquarters-in-exile of the Caliphate itself—was put at risk when Rex Duncan came to the table with his State Question (SQ) 755, which will, to quote Duncan directly “constitute a pre-emptive strike against Shari’a law coming to Oklahoma.”

The Question (officially known as the “Oklahoma International Law Amendment”), which would, if passed, become an Amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution, passed in November of 2010, with a 70%-30% “yes” vote.

Despite the efforts of Duncan and others across the State, the Bennett/Hall “Muslim Brotherhood Alliance” group was able to quickly obtain a court order barring enforcement of the law; that order remains in effect today.

As a result, the effort to bring Shari’a law to Oklahoma is again moving forward, unless Duncan and his allies can again stop the process and save the Sooner State from this previously undisclosed international plot.

Sources in Egypt indicate that the Brotherhood is anxious for the new legal code to be adopted as quickly as possible, just in case President Mubarak begins a sudden crackdown and plans and people associated with the Caliphate have to be brought out of the country.

FNS was unable to obtain a comment by press time from any of the involved parties; we are continuing to seek any available statement from press sources.

 

Social Security: Where’s Our Tahrir Square? February 3, 2011

We have seen some amazing days in Egypt, and it’s provided a better lesson than anyone could have ever wanted for how taking action, against long odds, can really get something done.

A secret police mechanism has been pushed aside, an Army has chosen not to attack The People, and a President who was backed by the “full faith and credit” of the US Government on Friday was being told by that same US Government on Tuesday that it’s time to go.

The People, in fact, spoke so loudly that Mr. Mubarak has informed Egyptians that he’s going to “pursue corruption”, which, if taken literally, could eventually look like a puppy chasing its own tail.

The People, however, are unhappy with his answer, and they’re speaking even louder yet…even to the point of being willing to take beatings, gunfire, and, believe it or not…camel charges…to make their voices heard.

And that got me to thinking about Social Security.

You know, we are facing the potential for a great big Social Security fight for pretty much the entire term of the 112th Congress—and it seems to me that a series of great big “Cairo-style” marches might be the way to make our voices heard, so that this Congress understands that great big benefit cuts are something that we will not tolerate.

Oh, Vanity of vanities!
How wayward the decrees of Fate are;
How very weak the very wise,
How very small the very great are!

–William Makepeace Thackeray, from the Vanitas Vanitatum

It’s a simple point I make today: we want a Social Security program that’s in fiscal balance, and raising the income tax cap can do that without changing the retirement age, or means testing, or anything else…so let’s just do it, already.

(Raising the tax cap? If you make over $107,000 a year, that income is tax-exempt when it comes to Social Security. Taxing that income would fix the entire financing problem, with money left over, which means you could actually cut payroll tax rates for all workers at the same time.)

On the other side are those who seek to cut benefits for future recipients, and there is no logical reason why, when we have a simple fix in hand—but there is still such a community of folks, and they have considerable influence in all the right places.

But as we have learned this week, even when the other side has considerable influence—even in the wrong places—people can beat the odds and change the political dynamic, and they can do it in a way that can’t be turned back, even if the other side is willing to kill you where you stand…and the women and children you brought with you as well.

And if pro-democracy demonstrators in Liberation Square can do it…why can’t we, who want to make Social Security work for everyone, do the same?

Now I’m not suggesting that we gather up our camels and bottles and gasoline and head for the barricades—but I am suggesting that if we do not make the same kind of assertive showing the “Tea Party” folks did during the runup to the health care debate, then we are missing a huge opportunity, and if we fail we’ll have to wonder if not acting on this kind of strategy cost us support we badly need.

And we can even do it in an alternative way: let’s schedule friendly Town Halls with members of Congress who would like to help, and let’s hear from constituents—of all persuasions—about how they would absolutely not like to see their Social Security cut.

And who, exactly, is going to show up to demand they get their benefits cut?

My guess, it’ll be just the opposite: I would expect to see lots of folks, of all ages, who are tired of getting screwed, and who don’t want to get screwed again—and how much you wanna bet they’ll be nice and enthusiastic about expressing that point of view?

Get it on the TV, build a bit of momentum, and by summer you could be scheduling a nice “Social Security Flat Tax Now!” march on the National Mall, kinda like what Stewart and Colbert did last year.

Once you do that…as we learned during the health care debate…Democrats and Republicans alike can be “managed” more effectively, and those “paid for by Pete Peterson” deficit commission staff members end up being a less profitable investment than a credit default swap denominated in Icelandic krona and executed with the Central Bank of Greece as a counterparty and a consortium of the Central Banks of Portugal and Iceland as guarantors.

It may be snowing today, but the blossoms will be on the cherry trees in just a few weeks, and if we’re going to get this together, we better get started right away.

So…my Social Security friends and allies…anyone know some cooperative Members of Congress?

Author’s Note: We spent some time in December working to help Betsie Gallardo, who was trying to have her Florida prison sentence commuted so that she could end her life at home with a bit of dignity.

That effort was successful, and we now know that she did pass away January 31st, surrounded by friends and family, and we wish her adoptive mother, Jessica Bussert, and all those friends and family all our warmest thoughts.

It will soon be spring, and the flowers will again bloom, and when they do perhaps we’ll see in them, as we did with Betsie, a reminder of the beauty that life can bring—and just how fragile that beauty can be.