Bad Deeds for 8-17-2010

 

Anti-tax, Anti-Spending Republican Takes Tax Money for Himself – A Republican north Texas state representative who rails against the evils of runaway government spending admitted Monday that he has pocketed thousands of dollars in taxpayer money for travel expenses that his campaign had already funded.

Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, faced with findings from an investigation by The Associated Press, acknowledged in an interview that for years he has been submitting the same receipts – for luxury hotels, airline tickets, meals, fees and incidentals – to both his campaign and to the Texas House of Representatives. He has also been collecting thousands of dollars in state mileage reimbursements for travel in vehicles for which his campaign has shelled out more than $100,000 since 2000.

Driver, an anti-tax conservative on the powerful House Appropriations Committee – which oversee how state dollars are spent – said he thought it was OK to bill two entities for the same expenses. He said he routinely pays hotels and airlines with donated political funds and then submits the same expenses to the state – taking the taxpayer money for himself.

 

Conservatives Using Bad-Faith Accounting in Social Security Tactics – Social Security’s attackers claim that they’re concerned about the program’s financial future. But their math doesn’t add up, and their hostility isn’t really about dollars and cents. Instead, it’s about ideology and posturing. And underneath it all is ignorance of or indifference to the realities of life for many Americans.

Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund. The program won’t have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program’s actuaries don’t expect to happen until 2037 – and there’s a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come.
So where do claims of crisis come from? To a large extent they rely on bad-faith accounting. In particular, they rely on an exercise in three-card monte in which the surpluses Social Security has been running for a quarter-century don’t count – because hey, the program doesn’t have any independent existence; it’s just part of the general federal budget – while future Social Security deficits are unacceptable – because hey, the program has to stand on its own.

It would be easy to dismiss this bait-and-switch as obvious nonsense, except for one thing: many influential people – including Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the president’s deficit commission – are peddling this nonsense. Conservatives hate Social Security for ideological reasons: its success undermines their claim that government is always the problem, never the solution.

 

Republicans Have Been Lying About Public vs. Private Workers’ Compensation – In contrast to what you have been hearing from Republicans, a study by economists Keith Bender and John Heywood concluded that compensation for local and state workers was, on average, 6.8 to 7.4 percent lower than compensation for comparable private sector workers. Also, as Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research points out, many public employees don’t get Social Security. Overall, he says, “most public sector pensions do not provide retirees with an especially high standard of living.” Exceptions to this rule frequently include firefighters and police, particularly in New York. Then again, they risk their lives to protect the rest of us from lethal threats, which is more than you can say for CEOs like the former telecom executive who in 2007 retired with a $159 million benefit package.

Republicans are asking: To what extent is the problem that the retirement benefits for unionized public sector workers have become too generous? The question you should be asking is: To what extent is the problem that retirement benefits for everybody else have become too stingy?

I would suggest it’s more the latter than the former. The promise of stable retirement–one not overly dependent on the ups and downs of the stock market–used to be part of the social contract. If you got an education and worked a steady job, then you got to live out the rest of your life comfortably. You might not be rich, but you wouldn’t be poor, either.

Unions, whatever their flaws, have delivered on that for their members. (In theory, retirement was supposed to rest on a “three-legged stool” of Social Security, pensions, and private benefits.) But unions have not been able to secure similar benefits for everybody else. In the long term, though, it seems like we should be looking for ways make sure that all workers have a decent living and a stable retirement, rather than taking away the security that some, albeit too few, have already.

 

The Moral Cowardice of Harry Reid – Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid says, via his spokesman Jim Manley, that he respects religious rights. Then came the “but.” But the Muslim Community Center in New York City should be built “someplace else.”

Reid’s cringing performance, too cowardly even to make the statement personally, leaving it instead to a flack, is particularly shameful coming hard on the heels of Newt Gingrich’s likening of building a mosque to the Holocaust. But his actions do provide a kind of crystallization of what’s gone wrong with the Democratic party, or, to put it more precisely, has been wrong with it for decades. Republicans seize upon an issue, whip up a firestorm of indignation, and, rather than seek to douse it, or, heaven forbid, turn it around, Democrats, more often than not, cower abjectly. This has pretty much been the Obama strategy over the past year, as the GOP has, by and large, set the terms of debate.

 

So Much for Unbiased News – Fox News and Wall Street Journal parent company News Corp donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association in June. The media conglomerate, controlled by Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, took advantage of the unlimited donations corporations can give to governors’ associations.

Regards,

Jim

 

 

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About Jim Vogas

Texas A&M Aggie, Retired aerospace engineer, former union member, Vietnam vet, Demcratic Party organizer, husband and father.

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