Say It Ain’t So, Joe

Joe Lieberman, a Democrat from Connecticut, is a former US Senator and Vice Presidential nominee.  He tells an interesting story in the WSJ:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise primary victory over Rep. Joe Crowley seems likely to hurt Congress, America and the Democratic Party. It doesn’t have to.

Because the policies Ms. Ocasio-Cortez advocates are so far from the mainstream, her election in November would make it harder for Congress to stop fighting and start fixing problems. [Emphasis added].

Joe’s statement in bold is an amazing thing in this day and age.  It is extraordinary for a party leader to say such a thing about a member of his own party.  We would like to see more of it.

Of course, Joe did a similar thing that he suggests the other Joe do now.  Joe L. ran as an independent in 2006 to continue as senator.  Joe C. has the nod of one of the minor parties and could be on the ballot in November.  We are not sure if Joe will take Joe’s advice.

More important is what the other Democratic leadership does.  Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are pretty old news.  We would like for folks like Hillary, the 44th president, Nancy Pelosi to stand up for Joe C. and with Joe L.

We agree that both parties lack leadership.  The Democrats have a great opportunity to take action now.  If we develop a scale with Winston Churchill as a thousand then the Democrats would score five (with Joe L giving them the lead), the GOP four, and the legacy press one.

Sidebar: Yes it is a silly scale and we can’t defend the precision it suggests.  It is possible we should put the GOP in the lead because the impact the leadership had on The Donald about his recent behavior in Europe.  It also is important to remember that strong leaders, even Churchill, are not always right.  LBJ is an example of a strong leader that made big changes that left, at best, a mixed impact on our country.  End Sidebar.

Of course, the major parties and the press have very different problems.  The Democrats have skidded far to the left.  The GOP has confused pugnacity with principle, and the press has become Democratic operatives.  Leadership support for both Joes would make us more optimistic about the future.

Democrat Strategy For 2018

We don’t follow the Democrats much because they rarely have much to offer us.  Lily Geismer and Matthew D. Lassiter, two history professors, are in the NYT suggesting that they are going too far to the center.  Really.  We are not making this up.  You should really read the whole thing before you vote.  Clearly, Lily and Matt are not speaking for their party but they are speaking for their block in the NYT.

We think the most interesting part of Lily and Matt’s article is what they want and don’t want for Democrat priorities.  This seems to be their list and rationale:

Democrats cannot cater to white swing voters in affluent suburbs and also promote policies that fundamentally challenge income inequality, exclusionary zoning, housing segregation, school inequality, police brutality and mass incarceration.

The political culture of upscale suburbs revolves around resource hoarding of children’s educational advantages, pervasive opposition to economic integration and affordable housing, and the consistent defense of homeowner privileges and taxpayer rights.

In their first paragraph they identify what they want to challenge.  We are not sure what kind of policies would provide the challenge and we don’t know why they would appeal to racial groups and folks without a college education that they want to attract.  Their opposition to “homeowner privilege” and “taxpayer rights” seems like a loser when two-thirds of Americans own their own home and, if we include FICA (payroll taxes), we have another substantial majority.  Here is evidence that paying federal income taxes is still a majority.

We would love to see the Democrat Party come back to the center.  Lily and Matt are telling us that it is unlikely to happen even if they happen to nominate some less extreme folks for a few Congressional seats.  It is a scary thing because eventually they are going to win.

A Little News On Entitlements

Charles Blahous, a former public trustee for Social Security and Medicare, has a WSJ update on the financial position of these entitlements.  The title is The Social Security Trust Fund Goes Bust.  He says:

The downward spirals have accelerated. The combined Social Security trust funds—one for disability, one for retirement—as well as Medicare’s hospital-insurance trust fund, will begin eating into their reserves this year, according to reports released this week by the programs’ trustees.

It seems to us like an attempt to use the most recent data to galvanize the people to spur the Congress and the President into action.  It really should not be necessary and if the data was slightly more favorable it should not change the situation.  Charles gives us the important message near the end:

The annual press focus on the projected insolvency dates has always been somewhat misplaced. What’s really important is the magnitude of the shortfalls and the difficulty of correcting them, which grows every year.

We agree.  What is amazing is when you Google “Social Security Trustee Report 2018” is how little news it generated.  It mostly shows up on opinion sites.  The one in a news publication, US News And World Report is by Mark Miller and entitled, Repeat After Me: Social Security And Medicare Are Not Insolvent.  And why is an insolvent program not insolvent?

In other words, retirees – and future retirees – would lose nearly a quarter of their benefits. But that is not insolvency, and solutions are readily available to avoid that unacceptable outcome.

Here is an experiment.  Try paying 77% of your bills.  Are you insolvent?  Affirmative.  The outcome of insolvency depends on your creditors.  And if you have no chance, as with entitlements, of ever paying more than 77% then you are absolutely insolvent.  The only question is whether it will be solved before or after bankruptcy court.  Then Mark gives us a summary of the options:

Conservatives favor benefit cuts via higher retirement ages, more means-testing and a less generous annual cost-of-living adjustment. Progressives advocate gradually increasing payroll taxes and lifting the cap on taxable benefits. Considering that middle-class households depend mainly on Social Security for support in retirement, it would be wiser to follow the progressive agenda.

The first and second sentences need a close reading to reveal the bias.  We might convert Mark’s first two sentences into:

Conservatives favor solutions like means testing, more accurate cost-of-living adjustments, higher payments to lower classes, and higher retirement ages.  Progressive advocate higher taxes through increasing tax rates and the amounts subject to Social Security taxation.  Many conservatives and progressives seem to support ignoring the problem.

The last sentence in our quote of Mark is very curious.  Does it mean that the lower class doesn’t depend on Social Security (SS) for retirement?  We would like to see that data.  Our priors are that lower classes rely most heavily on SS of any class.  We, along with many conservatives, would support an increase in SS payments to them.  Middle class depends  on SS between the upper and lower, and the upper class depends the least on SS.  As we see it, the wiser course is the conservative agenda of means testing because it will reduce the payments to the upper class that is less likely to need it.

Fixing Social Security today is relatively easy because there are many politically viable solutions.  None of these solutions have happened because of the political opportunity in opposing any changes.  Fixing Medicare is going to be much harder because of the difficulty in creating a market for medical services.  We know we are not going to start today but let’s start soon for the kids and grandkids because, as Charles says, it gets harder to fix every day.  Start with SS.




We can’t resist.  We saw a Nancy Pelosi tweet.

Too many Americans are struggling with a rigged economy. Democrats are committed to giving them [hashtag]

We think the correct punctuation moves the period:

Too many Americans are struggling with a rigged economy Democrats are committed to giving them.

Our excuse is that it was fun.  We doubt 2018 will be fun with the old, dismal Democrats versus grumbling GOP.  It is possible the choices in 2018 will be even less inspiring than the presidential ones in 2016.  The good news is that the stakes are lower without a president to elect.