Thursday, October 31, 2013

Politics on Halloween: True Fright Night

Well, I just can’t stay away for long. Let me begin with information I learned yesterday that I did not know and should have. It is a stunning bit of news to me. Did you know that there is a cap on the income subject to taxation by Social Security? The cap goes up next year to $117,000. This means that everyone pays Social Security tax on the first $117,000 they earn in a year. Anything above that amount is exempt from the social security tax. Once again, it looks to me like the rich don’t have to pay their share. Oddly enough, the base salary for a member of the House of Representatives is $174,000. Speaker John Boehner earns $223,500. Not CEO level, I admit, but I wonder how much someone like that will be entitled to draw when eligible. I no longer wonder why Social Security is struggling to make its ends meet, between the government borrowing from the program and an institutionalized lack of support from the wealthy. I have been watching the political scene in the United States in relative silence for six weeks now, as we shut down, then stood precariously at the edge of yet another fiscal cliff with one foot on a banana peel cheerfully deposited by the monkeys in Congress (meaning no disrespect to real monkeys and referring to the politically incorrect stereotype, so please, no letters. I like monkeys but I would never vote for one. Correction: I would never knowingly vote for one). The keynote issue remains Obamacare. The Republicans are trying to figure out how to withdraw funding and were willing to cripple the country and drive millions into poverty to attain this unattainable goal. Now with the website woes, Republicans call it the sign that the entire program is just wrong. There is much to say about their position, and not just by me. Number One: This is a big program. When Medicare was introduced, it took two years to work out all the kinks and make certain things ran smoothly. But we were more patient back then. Today’s citizenry suffers from the Baruka Syndrom, “Give it to me NOW.” Patience is supposed to be a virtue. Look at the country as a whole, how patient we have been with a do-nothing Congress about which your parents used to complain. Two: Much alarm has been raised that a million current policy holders face the possible suspension of their policies because the policies do not meet the minimum criterion of Obamacare. This is true. But consider, those policies are inadequate and substandard. This means that the policy holders are paying money for nothing right now. If the figures hold, most of them will be able to get better coverage for less money through the new exchange. Three: Obamacare is the law. The Supreme Court says so. Four: Even John Mc-Appeal-To-The-Base-Cain warned Ted Cruz and John Boehner that this is a lost cause. As much as McCain himself opposes Obamacare, the realist knows that the Senate would never pass a House bill withholding funds, and even if they did, the President would veto it and there are not 67 Republicans in the Senate to override a veto. Sounds like a lost cause to me. Republicans talk about Obamacare being their Rubicon. They liken themselves to the heroes of flight 93, the Alamo, and other great stands. But those were not lost causes. They were steps toward something bigger. The fight against the law of the land, particularly one that, in the long run, will help improve America’s embarrassingly poor rating in medical care, is a true lost cause. Lost causes are by definition not going to be won. They talk about being just like the 1960’s Democrats who stood up for their ideals against the war in Vietnam. Maybe so, but just what did the Democrats get in 1968? Another martyr or two, forty years dominated by the Republicans, soaring deficits, and the most expensive military the world has ever known. Wait a minute . . . Hmmm. Keep fighting, “Private” Ryan. Keep Cruzing down that river in Egypt, Mister Ted. Forty years dominated by the Democrats sounds pretty good to me right now.

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