WP Comments on Social Security, Susan Rice, Military Budgets, and End-of-Life Planning

Here are some of Winning Progressive’s recent comments at the New York Times on Social Security and the payroll tax, the GOP’s misguided witch hunt against Susan Rice, public support for cuts in military spending, and the “pro-life” movement’s harmful attacks on advanced planning for end-of-life care.

Last Sunday, Ross Douthat argued in Our Enemy, the Payroll Tax that we should make permanent the temporary payroll tax cut that the Obama Administration pushed to stimulate the  economy.   Mr. Douthat claimed that the payroll tax no longer makes sense in today’s economy.  But Winning Progressive thinks this trial balloon is being floated as part of the right wing’s desire to undermine Social Security:

No, Mr. Douthat, “how do we make the payroll tax cut permanent” is not the only question that should be asked. In fact, rather than make that cut permanent, we should be eliminating the wage cap on Social Security taxes, which would keep the system fully solvent for at least 75 years.

The reality, of course, is that you’d like to see Social Security disappear, but you don’t want to just come out and say it. That’s why you are looking to raise the retirement age yet again (it was already raised by the deal struck by President Reagan in 1983), means testing, and playing with inflation numbers.

If you doubt that Mr. Douthat is trying to provide cover for the conservative desire to eliminate Social Security, then ask yourself whether you think he’d support any taxes to replace the payroll tax. How about treating capital gains the same as ordinary income? A financial transactions tax? A carbon tax? The Buffett Rule? Restoring the estate tax? All of those would be good things, but I assume Mr. Douthat would oppose them all given that Republicans have always been about cutting taxes for the wealthy without ensuring those cuts won’t increase the deficit.

Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society. And the payroll tax to fund Social Security and Medicais a sensible version of such tax. Let’s restore it so we can preserve Social Security.

On Monday, Stanley Fish had a column titled “Damned If He Does: The Susan Rice Dilemma,” which argued that President Obama had worked himself into a trap by defending Susan Rice so publicly.  According to Fish, President Obama is stuck between either backing down and looking weak, or nominating Susan Rice for Secretary of State and ending up in a distracting fight the Administration might not win.  We respectfully disagree:

Mr. Fish, I think you are viewing this far too pessimistically. In reality, the GOP is continuing to play into Obama’s hands by targeting Susan Rice.

There are two important factors that contributed to President Obama’s re-election that are at play here. The first is that the GOP spent much of the past four years showing the American public just how unreasonable they are. They obstructed just about everything, had a pathological unwillingness to compromise, and catered to the wild-eyed conspiracy theories of the crazies in their party. Then, right after losing this past election, the GOP continues the same strategy of unreasonableness by launching baseless attacks about Benghazi against a well-qualified and reasonable Administration official who had essentially nothing to do with the entire incident.

The second factor that contributed to the GOP’s loss is that many female voters and African American voters were repulsed by how the GOP approached issues of gender equality and disrespected our nation’s first African American President. So, what does the GOP do as one of its first high profile acts after losing the elections? They go after a well-qualified and reasonable African American woman on the grounds of baseless attacks about Benghazi.

It seems that today’s GOP is having a hard time learning the lessons of the 2012 Elections.

Winning Progressive recently echoed the sentiments of Bill Keller in our comment on Honey, I Shrunk the Pentagon:

I would add a reminder that the public is widely supportive of far larger reductions in military spending than are being proposed in Washington.

A comprehensive survey earlier this year by the Center for Public Integrity presented respondents with information about the size of the military budget and arguments for and against cuts. People were then asked how they would change the budget and the majority proposed cutting it by at least $83 billion, with the average proposed cut being $103 billion.

The key to achieving the kinds of reductions in the military budget that are needed is for us to stop treating military spending as somehow sacrosanct. Instead, military expenditures should be subject to the same sort of cost benefit analysis and prioritization that other types of spending and revenue decisions are guided by.

Certainly the core security and defense of our nation must receive top priority, But our current military activities and spending go far, far beyond such core. As such, we should be asking whether we still should account for 40% of total world military spending, whether we still need to prepare to fight two wars, simultaneously in different parts of the world, or whether we need the latest “high-tech” weapon developed by some military contractor. At times of high deficits and harsh budget cuts elsewhere, the answer to those questions is no.

In a recent editorial titled Care at the End of Life, the NY Times explained how in the wake of the GOP’s shamelessly false attacks about “death panels,” it has been left up to individual health care providers and systems to encourage people to engage in advanced planning for end-of-life care. Winning Progressive commented on just how much unnecessary pain and suffering the “pro-life” movement’s opposition to such advanced planning is.

The opposition to advanced planning for end-of-life care by both the so-called “pro-life” movement and the Republicans who are willing to demagogue on that movement’s behalf is one of the most disgusting spectacles I have seen.

Having recently lost my Dad to dementia, I understand well the terrible pain and anguish that debilitating diseases inflict on individuals and their loved ones at the end of life. Some people respond to such circumstances by seeking the most aggressive medical care that they can find to extend life as long as possible. That is their choice and should always remain so.

But many other people would prefer to pursue other approaches, such as foregoing invasive medical procedures, using palliative and hospice care, and pursing patient directed dying. For such people, those approaches means less pain and suffering for themselves and their families, even if it means a somewhat shorter life.

The key is to establish procedures that allow as many people as possible to have their wishes recognized and implemented without undue influence from third parties. By opposing procedures to encourage advanced planning on end-of-life issues, scapegoating hospice care, and opposing patient directed dying, today’s “pro-life” movement is condemning far too many individuals and their loved ones to end-of-life circumstances that are unnecessarily painful.

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