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April 30, 2005

Social Security Scheduled Benefits

Posted by tunesmith at 08:07 PM

In my earlier review of Bush's SS plan, I made one point that is partially incorrect:

In 2041, he says that SS will be bankrupt.  However,  the amount of benefits we will get after 2041, after SS goes "bankrupt", will be greater than what we will get under Bush's SS plan, because his benefit cuts are so steep.

This is only true for most workers. For the poorer workers, they will get equal or less than the designed benefits, but they will get more than the currently scheduled benefits (which are reduced when the trust fund runs out). Middle-class and richer workers will get less than the scheduled benefits.

However, the only reason this is true is because Bush's plan mandates general fund transfers! What that means is that the trust fund becomes meaningless. Now, when the trust fund runs out, benefits get reduced. They're saying, "well, let's just make that not happen!" And then they pretend that the idea just doesn't occur to them for the existing system.

Also, note that this "advantage" for the poor is only true after 2041. Before that point, they get equal to or less than the scheduled benefits (since they aren't reduced).

April 28, 2005

Bush's Social Security Talking Points

Posted by tunesmith at 10:23 PM

Bush held his press conference tonight on Social Security and other matters.

I take Bush's words on means-testing to mean that he wants to convert the benefit formula, which currently uses wage indexing, to a formula that uses a blend of wage indexing and inflation indexing. This is a huge and unnecessary benefit cut.

To take apart some of his talking points:

  • He talked about how in three years SS will start heading towards the red.  This is meaningless - we'd still have a surplus that he would be stealing.  It would just be a slightly smaller amount he'd be stealing in that year.

  • The reason it is "stealing" is because it's taking money from a regressive tax and subsidizing the progressive tax system with it, when he has no intention to pay it back.  That's essentially stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

  • In 2017, he talked about the SS deficit becoming a drain on the federal budget.  He of course didn't talk at all about the need to restrain the already-existing federal budget deficit.  To see some perspective, see this graph of Bush's projected budget deficit, compared to how Social Security affects it:

    See that tiny sliver in 2017, where the line crosses?  That's the "deficit drain" that Bush is so concerned about here.  He's not concerned about the size of the budgetary deficit (which he created), but he's sure concerned about that little sliver - enough to cut our benefits. (By the way, it turns out that orange budgetary deficit projection is too kind to Bush.)

  • In 2041, he says that SS will be bankrupt.  However,  the amount of benefits we will get after 2041, after SS goes "bankrupt", will be greater than what we will get under Bush's SS plan, because his benefit cuts are so steep.

  • "Future generations will get benefits equal or greater than today's seniors".  This is some pretty good misdirection, as far as used-car sales techniques go.  But "equal" means inflation-indexed, when we are currently wage-indexed.  Benefits equal to today's seniors will mean your benefits would grow inflation-indexed, which is a huge cut.  Think of it this way.  Imagine if today's seniors got benefits that were equal (inflation-adjusted) to the seniors forty years ago.  You're basically forcing them to live to a 1960's standard of living.  But even today, more than half of our seniors would be in poverty if not for social security.

  • Bush mentioned that one of our investment options would be to invest in US Treasury Bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government.  But he says that our surplus is just a file cabinet full of IOUs, not a bank account.  He omitted that these IOUs are US Treasury Bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government.  At one point he made those two points within fifteen seconds.

  • Note that Bush did not say that his plan would keep Social Security from going "bankrupt" (insolvent). It does not guarantee that payroll tax income will exceed social security outflow in any sense, and I'm sure we'll find that it won't. His plan might "solve" it by mandating general fund transfers, but we could mandate that with our existing system without changing everything around.

  • Bush often said something along the lines of: "Social Security benefits should be adjusted so that low-income recipients receive more money." Again, this is dishonest. It's not "more money than they currently would receive", although that's the ambiguity he's trying to hide behind. It's "more money than other recipients will receive after I cut their benefits." He's saying that the low-income recipients would have their benefits cut the least. At best, they'd retain their current benefit level. Everyone else would have deep cuts.

  • Don't forget that the 2017 date depends on an economic projection so low that the performance of private accounts will not even come close to making up for the budget cuts. In turn, if the private accounts behave as Bush projects, the economy would be strong enough that Social Security as designed would not go bankrupt, which means we don't need to mess with it.

April 27, 2005

Political Valley In Rising Trend

Posted by tunesmith at 05:44 PM

Found some silver lining in this post:

Roll Call, on the other hand, finds "a major rift has developed within the House Democratic Caucus, as moderates and liberals wage a war over influence and questions mount over the leadership’s direction for the minority party." The article points to a contentious meeting last week where progressives accused moderates "of selling out to special interests on the bankruptcy bill." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi "expressed particular frustration" that some members vocally joined Republicans in pushing the bill. She made "clear it was inappropriate for Members, despite their support for the bill, to urge the Republicans to bring it up."

Both of these stories are positive. The first story shows that on some key issues, Democrats have been very effective. The second story shows that on other key issues where the party has fractured - bankruptcy, class-action reform, the estate tax and energy policy - progressives are finding their voice, and are increasingly willing to tell it like it is to their colleagues (big kudos to Pelosi). That's a major step forward in building the kind of durable, sturdy opposition party that will be necessary to defeat the GOP. Far from "hurting the party," these progressives are emboldening it for the long run, as they are moving Democrats back to their traditional position as defenders of middle and working class America.


April 21, 2005

Social Security Deficit

Posted by tunesmith at 02:58 AM

Bush makes a big stink about the date that Social Security will go into deficit. His point is that it will then be a huge drain on the government's budget.

Let's just see what that "drain" will look like, compared to Bush's other spending habits. Here's the projected budget deficit, with how the Social Security surplus/deficit affects it, as a percentage of GDP:

See where the line crosses in 2017, and that tiny little sliver that it creates? That's the "drain" that Bush is so concerned about. That's how dishonest he is. He not only ignores the size of the general budget deficit, but adds to it. Then he ignores the Social Security trust fund, and insists that its deficit, which is miniscule compared to the size of the budget deficit, requires that we cut Social Security benefits. He's nothing but a swindler.

The data uses:

  • Historical budget data from the CBO
  • Budget projections from the GAO, assuming the tax cuts are made permanent (a fair assumption given that the House just passed the estate tax bill)
  • SSA Trustee projections for 2005, intermediate projections

April 20, 2005

Bush Signs Bankruptcy Bill

Posted by tunesmith at 05:09 PM

Bush signed the bankruptcy bill today:

"Bankruptcy should always be a last resort in our legal system," he said. "If someone does not pay his or her debts, the rest of society ends up paying them."

In other news, here are the deficit figures for Clinton's last term and Bush's first term, plotted against Social Security, as a percentage of GDP:

Given Bush's policy choices, like making the estate tax cut permanent, the deficit is projected to increase...

So what was that Bush was saying about being responsible with one's debts...?

April 17, 2005

Mental Models in Politics

Posted by tunesmith at 02:34 PM

This is kind of an odd link - a google cache of an html representation of a word doc - but it's a pretty fascinating short article about the mental models we share in culture, and how to activate them in politics.

In brief, they are:

  • suffering/victimization, linked to compassion
  • reciprocity/fairness/rights/justice, linked to anger and indignation
  • ingroup-outgroup, linked to pride and belongingness
  • hierarchy/duty, linked to feelings of respect and contempt
  • purity/sacredness, linked to feelings of disgust

The contention in the article is that Democrats tend to only focus on a couple of them, while Republicans have frames for all five.

Seems like you could almost make a personality test out of it.

April 15, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill Counts

Posted by tunesmith at 03:22 AM

TechPolitics has a table of the Yea-voters, sortable by a number of different criteria - what caucus they are in, their district's median household income, etc.

Steve Soto has the list of which Dems voted for bankruptcy bill right after they voted to end the estate tax.

The news of that letter signed by DLC members certainly made the rounds in the blogosphere. But I completely missed that the Blue Dog Coalition had their own letter, and they were a lot more unified. 27 out of 35 Blue Dogs signed the letter. 32 out of the 35 Blue Dogs voted Yea. Interestingly, Barrow was one of the 27 letter-signers, but he voted Nay.

The DLC Dems were more fractured. 20 out of 39 New Democrats signed their letter. 25 out of 39 New Democrats voted Yea. And a few of the letter-signers actually voted Nay: Larson, Inslee, and Smith. Berkley signed the letter but abstained.

April 14, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill Press Release

Posted by tunesmith at 03:01 PM

This press release was just sent out by DebtSlavery.org. It looks like the online activism actually did result in some switched votes. There's a dkos diary about the aftermath where this can be discussed. Some recommendations would help give it visibility.

Progressive Leaders say Bankruptcy Bill Battle is Just the Beginning

Bankruptcy Bill Opponents Thank Congress Members Who Voted No, Promise to  Hold Accountable Those Who Voted Yea, and Prepare for Upcoming Battles

Following Senate passage of the bankruptcy bill on March 10, Democrats.com  and Progressive Democrats of America created a coalition at  www.DebtSlavery.org to work against passage in the House. 

Today that effort fell short by a vote of 302-126.  But compared to the 90  Democrats who voted for a nearly identical bill in 2003, only 73 Democrats  voted Yes this time.  Of the 22 Democrats who campaigned for the bill and  whom DebtSlavery.org targeted to change their votes, three reversed their  positions and voted No - John Larson (D-CT), Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Adam  Smith (D-WA) - while a fourth, Shelley Berkley (D-NV), did not vote.

When Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) proposed to return the bill to committee  to make it less horrendous, her motion failed narrowly by a vote of 200- 229.  The Democratic vote on that motion was 198 to 1, with only Rep. Rick  Boucher (D-VA) joining Republicans.

"Working Americans owe a debt of gratitude to Rep. John Conyers and Rep.  Barbara Lee for their leadership in this struggle," said Bob Fertik,  President of Democrats.com.  "We also thank Rep. Lynn Woolsey for speaking  against this bill in Wednesday's Democratic caucus, and Rep. Jim McDermott  for speaking so eloquently against this outrage on the floor of the House.   Those who rose to speak against the bill on Thursday deserve our thanks,  including Rep. Bill Pascarell, who said he was switching from a Yea vote  to a No, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi."

"But still we must ask: Where was Rep. Pelosi before today?  Why did  Minority Whip Steny Hoyer support this outrageous bill?  Why did Senate  Minority Leader Harry Reid even try to take credit for this Republican  bill?" Fertik said. 

"And why did 'New Democrats' Ellen Tauscher, Ron Kind, Artur Davis, and  Joe Crowley push this bill on their colleagues?  What party do they  imagine they belong to? Who do they think elected them to Congress?"  Fertik asked.

"DebtSlavery.org is just getting started. In three short weeks, we built a  broad and determined coalition of progressives who will fight for economic  justice and will fight against Republican class warfare from above. We  have served notice to 'New Democrats' in the House and Senate that we will  hold them accountable for selling their votes to Big Business and selling  out America's working families," Fertik said.

"We will move on to new bread-and-butter battles, including the Paris  Hilton Estate Tax Cut battle in the Senate, the Loan Shark Predatory  Lending Act in the House, and the Gasoline Price Gouging Energy Bill. We  will unite the Democratic base and reach out to grassroots Independents  and Republicans who want to end Republican class warfare from above. We  will give hardworking Americans a voice - and a choice," Fertik concluded.

"We will remember who voted against the Democratic base," said Tim  Carpenter, Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America.  "Those  73 House Democrats and 18 House Senators have a year in which to try to  make up for this.  It's hard to see how they'll be able to do it, but  we'll be watching and remembering, and we'll be ready to promote  challengers in 2006."

CONTACT:

David Swanson, Coordinator of www.DebtSlavery.org 202-329-7847,  david@davidswanson.org

Bob Fertik, President of www.Democrats.com 718-424-7772, bob@democrats.com

 Kevin Spidel, PDA Political Director, www.pdamerica.org 602-373-6990,  kevin@pdamerica.org

The DebtSlavery.org coalition includes:

Democrats.com, Progressive Democrats of America, AFL-CIO, The Nation,  National Organization for Women, American Progress Action Fund, National  Community Reinvestment Coalition, People's Email Network, Public Citizen,  Democracy Week, Black Commentator, Thom Hartmann Show, Milwaukee Labor  Press, Politology, Fly By News, Billionaires for Bush, Evans Media USA,  Take Back America, United Progressives for Democracy, Rapid Response  Network, Public Campaign Action Fund, Progressive Populist, ACORN, Drum  Major Institute, Campaign for America's Future.

Bankruptcy Bill Passes House

Posted by tunesmith at 01:59 PM

It's been reported that the bill has passed in the house. This entry will be updated with more details.

Here's the Roll Call. 302-126.

Republicans unanimous in passage, except for three not voting.

Democrats 73 - 125, four not voting. Sanders voted Nay.

There was an earlier Motion to Recommit With Instructions. I don't know what it means, but it sounds like it would have been a good thing. That failed on almost a straight party-line vote. Republicans voted No, 228-1, Johnson of IL breaking ranks. The Democrats voted Yea, 198-1, Boucher breaking ranks.

Boucher has been a real disappointment.

MSNBC's current front-page headline is "Tough Love For Debtors". That's just awful. It links to this article, which is more balanced than its headline.

Bankruptcy Bill: DLC Letters

Posted by tunesmith at 11:56 AM

I want to like the DLC and NDC. I really do. I read their philosophies and principles as they state them, and they sound good and work well with how I think. But they have a bunch of idiots in their membership right now.

MEMORANDUM

To: NDC Members

From: Reps. Ellen Tauscher, Ron Kind, Artur Davis and Adam Smith

Re: NDC Key Vote Alert!

Date: April 13, 2005

Tomorrow, the House will consider S. 256, The Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act. We write to let you know that final passage of the Bill will be a key vote for the NDC and to encourage you to support this common-sense, bipartisan legislation.

Encourages Personal Responsibility

This bill reflects the New Democrat principle of greater personal responsibility by ensuring that those who have the ability to pay off some of their debt do so, and reaffirming that bankruptcy should be a last resort instead of a first option. Requiring people to file under Chapter 7, rather than Chapter 13, and set up a payment plan to repay some or all of their debt is reasonable and fair.

Protects People Living Below Median Income

Only those living above the median income and who have ability to pay debt will be required to do so. Conversely, millionaires who use bankruptcy as a method of financial planning will no longer be allowed to buy extravagantly and subsequently have all debt written off.

Helps Consumers and Small Businesses

Bankruptcy costs are passed on to other consumers, and the average family pays hundreds of dollars a year in higher prices. Small businesses that might otherwise not be paid for their goods or services will have a better chance of gaining compensation as a result of this bill.

Ensures Help for Most Needy

S. 256 includes protections ensuring alimony and child support payments are made. We believe single parents and dependent children need our help far more than millionaires who benefit from current bankruptcy laws. All consideration will be given to factors including job security, medical bills, and other circumstances.

History:

New Democrats have long fought for common sense changes to our bankruptcy laws. Bankruptcy reform legislation has passed the House of Representatives numerous times. In the 108th Congress, it passed 315 to 113 with 90 Democrats voting for it and 70 percent of NDC members supporting it. Earlier this year, S. 256 passed the Senate with a vote of 74 to 25. It is past time that Congress pass sensible bankruptcy reform.

S. 256, The Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act

YES on Final Passage

KEY VOTE ALERT

Atrios has more, including an interview of Tauscher trying to defend herself. I've seen in a couple of places their justification: that they should support bad bills now now so that they can win with good bills later. It's just insane.

April 13, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: Closed Rule

Posted by tunesmith at 04:28 PM

The House voted today to limit debate and prevent any discussion of amendments to the bill. This effectively killed all debates to the bill that could have limited its negative effects. It was a 7-4 vote, with seven of the nine Republicans voting for it, and all four Democrats opposed. I still have no idea why the committee is 9-4 in favor of Republican membership, it seems like such an extreme ratio.

Here is an explanation of how the House works these days, from The Hammer, a biography of Tom DeLay:

"Only when a majority of the committee completes a draft is a bill brought to the full committee for a formal vote that usually divides along party lines. Gone are the floor debate and the long days of making law in the House chamber. Most Americans don't know that the House now meets only two days a week, doesn't debate, and disposes of legislation in rolling votes, in which long lines of unrelated bills are rolled for up and down votes with an efficiency rarely achieved by O'Hare Airport air traffic controllers. Bills are brought to the floor under closed rules, or amended closed rules, which allow no amendments and only an up or down vote. The committee system, floor debate, bipartisan collaboration, social relations across party lines--all are as dated as the brass spittoons that once graced the members' lounges."

Here's a daily kos diary from Rep. Louise Slaughter, one of the members of the Rules Committee, with more information about the vote and the bill.

Time's running out to call your rep. Please do so, even just to protest.

Bankruptcy Bill: Update

Posted by tunesmith at 11:42 AM

It appears the press conference this morning went over well, with coverage from several press organizations.

This blog over at democrats.com is good to read up on to find more information and status about the bill.

The vote in the House is now expected to happen on Thursday instead of Wednesday, so there is that much more time to make phone calls and talk to your reps.

April 12, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: Oregon Reps

Posted by tunesmith at 01:40 PM

If you're living here in Oregon, there's definite reason to make some calls today. I just contacted my own Rep, Blumenauer, and confirmed he will be voting against the bill. But I called Wu and he still supports it. There's probably mileage to be had in pestering Wu's office about this. His local phone is (503) 326-2901, or you can find his other contact information here.

Hooley from Salem is a cosponsor and I'd love to hear of some people giving her grief. I haven't checked with Walden (our only Republican). DiFazio is almost certainly voting against it.

Bankruptcy Bill: Today Is The Day

Posted by tunesmith at 01:00 PM

Today is really the last full day to call and pressure your representative to oppose the bankruptcy bill. There are plenty of easy things you can do to oppose this bill - the Action Kit over at debtslavery.org is a good one-stop resource.

You can check the sidebar for lists of representatives to target - clicking on their names will give you their contact information.

If you do not feel educated to be able to be able to argue about the finer points of the bankruptcy bill, don't worry about it - you don't have to justify yourself. If it determines whether or not you will call, you can simply call them, tell them you are opposed to the bill, and angry about it, and that will be better than nothing.

The vote will be tomorrow and we'll have them on record.

Bankruptcy Bill: Congress Members Speak Out

Posted by tunesmith at 12:53 PM

There will be a press conference on Wednesday. 9:30 AM EST at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2237. Here are the details:

Participants will speak briefly and be available after 10 a.m. to answer questions.  Representatives of many organizations not speaking will also be introduced, will hand out statements, and will be available to talk after the event.

 

SPEAKERS:

A number of Congress Members will speak.  They will be joined by:

Travis Plunkett, Legislative Director of the Consumers Federation of America, moderating and speaking on behalf of consumers.

Patricia Friend, President of the Association of Flight Attendants, CWA, AFL-CIO, speaking on behalf of workers.

Robert Gordon, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress.

Joan Entmacher, Vice President of National Women’s Law Center, speaking for women and children.

David Swanson, Coordinator of DebtSlavery.org, PDA Board Member, speaking for grassroots activists.

And a speaker from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

 

ALSO PRESENT:

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)

American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)

Center for Responsible Lending

Consumers Union

Demos

National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys

National Consumer Law Center

National Community Reinvestment Coalition

National Organization for Women (NOW)

Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)

Public Citizen

United Auto Workers (UAW)

United States Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG)

 

BACKGROUND:

Many of the organizations represented at this event have worked for several years against this bill.  Many of them have recently formed a coalition at www.debtslavery.org , a website that contains a wealth of information about the bankruptcy bill.  Below are comments from a few of the organizations involved:

 

Association of Flight Attendants President Patricia Friend:

"At a time when over half of our members are working for an airline in bankruptcy, having their wages, their health care and their retirement benefits slashed and being pushed toward bankruptcy themselves, this Congress is preparing to vote to cut off their avenue of personal financial relief."

 

Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook:

"The bankruptcy bill is emblematic of what this Republican Congress is all about: coddle big business and the wealthy at every turn, even when the least fortunate are trampled in the process. Many, many people who land in bankruptcy court end up there because they or a family member got sick and lost their job and medical insurance. A better way to end bankruptcies is to ensure that every person in this country, rich or poor, has access to health care."

 

NOW Action Vice President Olga Vives:

“The federal bankruptcy bill is a gift to the U.S. credit card industry at the expense of women and their families.  Unless we defeat this bill, Congress will simply become the policy arm of Visa and MasterCard – who will soon want their logos on the Capitol Dome in return for all the money they have spent.  In truth, this bill should be called the Credit Card Protection Act, because it downgrades or ignores the economic anguish that overwhelms people – mainly the elderly, our service members, parents receiving child support and families facing ruinous medical emergencies."

 

Public Campaign Action Fund Political Director David Donnelly:

"This bill is nothing but a pay back for the $43 million the credit card, finance and banking industry has poured into the campaign coffers of this Congress.  Leaders in this Congress, like Tom DeLay, have used the credit industry to obtain personal campaign cash advances. And now we're stuck with the debt. Instead of 'reforming' the bankruptcy laws for the rest of us, they should reform the politician-for-hire campaign finance system."

 

ACORN President Maude Hurd:

"The bankruptcy bill is nothing but another giveaway to corporate interests.  The bill will devastate thousands of people who are forced to file for bankruptcy by circumstances beyond their control, like medical emergencies or predatory loans.  We stand firmly against this bill.  But this debate is just one battle in the fight for economic fairness.  We will continue the fight as we take on the Ney bill, which would eliminate laws against predatory lending."

 

RALLIES PLANNED AROUND COUNTRY:

Members of DebtSlavery.org, led by Progressive Democrats of America, plan to hold rallies against the bankruptcy bill at noon local time on Wednesday in at least 14 cities around the country.  For more information, see www.debtslavery.org.

 

CONTACT:

David Swanson, Coordinator of www.DebtSlavery.org 202-329-7847, david@davidswanson.org

Bob Fertik, President of www.Democrats.com 718-424-7772, bob@democrats.com

Kevin Spidel, PDA Political Director, www.pdamerica.org 602-373-6990, kevin@pdamerica.org

 

The DebtSlavery.org coalition includes:

Democrats.com, Progressive Democrats of America, AFL-CIO, The Nation, National Organization for Women, American Progress Action Fund, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, People's Email Network, Public Citizen, Democracy Week, Black Commentator, Thom Hartmann Show, Milwaukee Labor Press, Politology, Fly By News, Billionaires for Bush, Evans Media USA, Take Back America, United Progressives for Democracy, Rapid Response Network, Public Campaign Action Fund, Progressive Populist, ACORN, Drum Major Institute, Campaign for America's Future.


April 11, 2005

Bankruptcy: MoveOn Finally On Board

Posted by tunesmith at 01:35 PM

A few weeks ago, MoveOn was unapologetic about ignoring the bankruptcy bill. They said there were more important things to focus on, blah blah blah. Evidently they've reconsidered - this is a testament to the grassroots activism against this bill and the attention we've paid to it. MoveOn is organizing a pledge to finance radio ads against those who vote for the bankruptcy bill. Check it out.

The vote is evidently going to be on Wednesday.

IBM Calls For Patent Reform

Posted by tunesmith at 12:02 PM

This isn't a subject that gets a lot of play in the political world, but it's definitely something that needs more attention if we care about America's ability to quickly innovate and reward talent in the future. IBM, one of the largest patent-holders in the U.S., has called for patent reform. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have made much noise about this subject, and in fact, those with more lobbying connections are probably on the wrong side of the issue.

April 08, 2005

Social Security: Make Your Own Graph

Posted by tunesmith at 12:24 AM

If politology goes a bit quiet from time to time, it's usually going to be because I am working on some software to make politology cooler. I'm going to be doing that often on this site.

I've just finished a nice little tool to help everyone with their social security arguments, or perhaps just to help a little bit with education. It's a graphing tool to explore the social security budget. Right now it handles the history back through 1970, and projections up through 2080. It also allows you to see what past projections looked like so you can see how inaccurate they were. Here's an example graph:

But, that's just an example. You can go here to make your own graph - any year range, other projections, etc. You can then bookmark or link to the page for the graph you create, just by using the url in the url bar. For instance, here's 1970 through 2010.

The tool will be expanded over time. Soon there will also be a trust fund graphing tool. I'm hoping to show the "Low" and "High" projections as well. And over time I'll add other budgetary figures.

It creates a flash, so you can't simply copy the graph. You can always take a cropped screenshot, though. But I'm hoping to soon create code to allow you to embed the resulting flash into your own weblogs using javascript.

If you know of any cool data sources I could use, let me know - I'm interested in Bush's prior-year budget projections, for one thing. Those could be some entertaining graphs.

(The software utilizes a php software package that lets you create any number of cool looking graphs. But the data wrangling, formatting, and dynamic functionality is the part that I did.)

April 06, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: New Schedule

Posted by tunesmith at 02:37 AM

The Rules Committee Meeting was postponed at the last minute, with no date set for rescheduling.

Also, the vote on the bankruptcy bill was put off from this week because of representatives traveling to the Vatican. It will happen next week.

Keep calling.

April 05, 2005

Bush: Trust Fund Does Not Exist

Posted by tunesmith at 05:29 PM

Bush again claimed there was no trust fund today:

"A lot of people in America think there's a trust," Bush told a forum here, shortly after he stopped off at the Bureau of Public Debt, the agency that keeps records on the nation's debt.

"But that's not the way it works," he said. "There is no trust fund -- just IOUs."

Evidently it exists enough for him to spend it, but not to pay it back.

His implication is that it would put America at dangerous risk to pay it back.

Here are graphs of the surplus/deficit of Social Security, and the size of the trust fund, from 1970 to 1990:

Obviously, we've been able to redeem from the trust fund in the past. America is still here.

April 04, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: Rules Committee

Posted by tunesmith at 10:43 AM

This Tuesday, April 5, at 5 p.m., the House Rules Committee will decide whether to  allow any amendments to the Bankruptcy Bill that was passed by the Senate (S. 256).

The House currently has an awful record at allowing debate on bills. As this editorial from Louise Slaughter (D-NY) explains:

The "closed rule" became standard fare when DeLay took control of the House leadership from House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., seven years ago. Gingrich promised two-thirds of the bills would be considered under an "open rule" that allowed amendments and plenty of debate.

Now only a handful of bills reach the floor under the "open rule," sometimes as low as 7 percent, the report says.

When the Senate passed this bill, it rejected a dozen crucial changes to make the bill humane - such as exemptions for serious medical problems, exemptions for those in the military, an interest rate limit of 30%, protecting the homes of the elderly, and comparably strict treatment of those who are rich.

A "closed rule" would not give anyone a chance to offer crucial amendments like these.

It is urgent that everyone call the Republican Members of the House Rules Committee to demand an "Open Rule" on S. 256, the Bankruptcy Bill.

DAVID DREIER, CA – CHAIRMAN (202)-225-2305
LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART, FL (202)-225-4211
DOC HASTINGS, WA (202)-225-5816
PETE SESSIONS, TX (202)-225-2231
ADAM PUTNAM, FL (202)-225-1252
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, WV (202)-225-2711
TOM COLE, OK (202)-225-6165
ROB BISHOP, UT (202)-225-0453
PHIL GINGREY, GA (202)-225-2931

There are only four Democratic members of the House Rules committee (anyone know why the ratio is only 9-4 in this committee?) and they're expected to vote for "Open Rule" already.

April 02, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: Week Zero Action Items

Posted by tunesmith at 10:52 PM

This week is the week when the bankruptcy bill (H.R. 685 or S.256) could be voted on in the House.

To put it simply, this bill illustrates our broken Congress. A representative government exists so we can empower our representatives to make the decisions that we don't have to think about. They are to make decisions on behalf of the public, on behalf of the people.

But the people did not lobby for this bill. Furthermore, this bill is not a necessary sacrifice, like taxes for defense, or laws for the public good.

Congress will pass this bill, and it will only pass for one reason - they are able to sneak it by us and reward their lobbyists. The only way to oppose a bill like this is to attain critical mass in public opposition. But the bill is not sexy. It is politically boring. It hurts the public, but quietly. And therefore, it doesn't capture the public imagination, and the public gets abused by Congress.

It proves that our representative government does not function as it should. To abuse a public, all you need is a sleeping public, and a government that does not act in the interests of the public and cannot be held strictly accountable. We have all that.

This will continue to happen, more often and more intensely. The Schiavo affair just underscores that reality. The upcoming judicial appointment battles could drive it to an even greater extreme.

Call your representative to tell them to oppose the bill.

Call the cosponsors to get them to unsponsor.

Call the Democratic Letter Signers to educate them and tell them to vote No.

And think about the greater issues. Think about how we can make ourselves heard more clearly, how we can hold our Congress to greater accountability, and how we can force the government to represent us instead of them. On this weblog, we'll continue to explore ways to make it easier for the grassroots to engage and replace the dysfunctional.

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