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Hiltzik: GOP will use coronavirus to bypass Social Security



Hiltzik: GOP will use coronavirus to bypass Social Security

We must marvel at the admiration for determining the enemies of Social Security among Republicans and conservatives:

Not only do they refuse to let a global crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic divert them from a long-term campaign to undermine the program, they also use the crisis to justify cutting benefits.

The latest idea of ​​making a round of anti-Social Security caucuses is to pay for a coronavirus stimulus aid for Americans who need it most by forcing them to borrow from their future retirement benefits to keep themselves eating and living today.

Social Security is the insurance benefit obtained. That’s not a piggy bank.

Alex Lawson, executive director of the Social Security Jobs advocacy group

The news that the White House was eyeing the idea came from the Washington Post, which reported over the weekend that the government is concerned about the impact on the national debt battle against COVID-19.

It’s no secret that Republicans have begun to collect deficit arguments for further assistance to Americans who have lost work or work hours due to the virus.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Called for the brakes to be applied to further stimulus measures because of concerns about the federal budget soon after the passage of the $ 2 trillion CARES Act in April. Since then, they have strengthen their stance for further assistance.

Interestingly, in a frightening way, are options contemplated by Trump administration officials to maintain further stimulus assistance from burdening the richest taxpayers. The Post reports that they are “exploring” proposals submitted by two conservatives that allow workers to receive up to $ 10,000 today, but pay their money back by delaying their Social Security benefits once they retire.

Proposal comes from Andrew Biggs from the American Enterprise Institute and Joshua Rauh from the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. Biggs and Rauh closed their plan by calculating that a $ 5,000 loan would require a maximum defer in just under five months, for a worker with very low income to take out a loan at the age of 60.

For high-income and younger workers, the suspension will be shorter. But as Biggs and Rauh have shown, the burden is greater for those on the lowest incomes.

A worker who gets a maximum Social Security wage ($ 137,700 this year) who takes a $ 5,000 loan at the age of 25 must defer benefits after retirement for less than a month. The worker will receive a partial allowance check in the first month and full benefits afterward.

The Biggs and Rauh plans to charge interest every year from the time the money is borrowed to retirement. They suggest 1.6% a year, which means that a worker who borrows at age 25 will end up with a debt of around $ 9,700, or nearly double the loan amount, at retirement.

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That said, it is also true that scheduled benefits will also increase during one’s working life – if they increase by more than 1.6% a year on average, the relative costs of payments will shrink.

How seriously the Trump administration considers this kind of plan open to conjecture. Biggs told me via email that he had made contact with White House staff about the idea, but solely on technical issues such as “how changes in loan size or interest rates could affect months of delayed benefits in retirement.”

He said he had not yet had “a large-scale discussion that would tell me how seriously this policy was being considered.”

Such proposals are likely to get the spotlight from Democrats, who have moved generally towards a plan to increase, not reduce, Social Security benefits. Partly because they recognize that this program is the most important stronghold against poverty in old age, especially for working-class Americans with limited access to retirement savings or pensions.

Social Security benefits, in blue, represent most retirement resources for everyone, but the top 10% of Americans measured by wealth – far more than retirement accounts, pink, or liquid savings, green.

(Wharton Business School)

In essence, a proposal to use Social Security to fund stimulus benefits will effectively free the richest Americans from their responsibilities to society at large, while haunting 99% with more burdens. In the current case, they will force middle and low income workers to bear the costs of the struggle against COVID-19.

The Jamsostek advocate is quite right in the weaponry of this very concept.

“These ideas represent a huge abuse of Social Security for a purpose unrelated to its core goal: providing basic retirement security for American workers,” stressed the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare.

They are right. Proposals for Social Security prepaid provide false benefits about how the program was designed. As Alex Lawson, executive director of the Social Security Works advocacy group observed: “Social Security is the insurance benefit gained. That’s not a piggy bank. “

That’s because Social Security is not solely a retirement plan. This is a social insurance program that combines disability coverage and benefits of survivors with pensions, including inflation protection and lifetime benefits.

For decades, Social Security critics have faced this fact as a hindrance to the many proposals to “reform” the program.

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Defining Social Security as if it were just an individual retirement account is the key to the efforts under George W. Bush to privatize Social Security. (Biggs was a staff member of the Bush privatization task force, and later became an official in the Social Security Administration.)

The proposal to raid Social Security to provide a lump sum for individuals has taken steam in recent years. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joined Ivanka Trump in 2018 to apply for family leave benefits which will also be funded by parents who give up some of their Social Security benefits. They based their proposal on a plan previously floated by Biggs and libertarian lawyer Kristin Shapiro.

Earlier this month, a group of scholars at the Wharton School of Business attempted give academic credibility to rob Social Security, stressing that “giving workers initial access to only 1% of their future Social Security benefits” would allow “most households to maintain their current consumption for at least two months.”

All of these ideas seem to make superficial sense, especially since their arithmetic seems to work. What could be simpler than taking money now and paying it back 40 or 50 years from now? But as policies – especially Social Security and safety net policies – they don’t make sense.

The effect will damage Social Security by eroding the fundamental structure. The Wharton Team immediately discussed this.

“A lump-sum payment from Social Security benefits will accelerate the depletion of the Social Security trust fund by several years,” they wrote. “Thus policy makers will be forced to consider rights reforms, such as tax increases or deductions for beneficiaries, more quickly.”

One can already imagine the argument coming from the Republican caucus: “We prefer to maintain Social Security, but the virus forces us to cut it.”

The truth is that a proposal to attack Social Security to pay for coronavirus assistance will hit the most vulnerable Americans – they are people who really need money now, and will pay relatively high fees to get it. As Wharton’s paper observes, “access to Social Security serves the needs of workers vulnerable to the crisis, but does not increase the obligations of the federal government as a whole.”

Because the overall obligations of the federal government are conventionally protected in large part by progressive taxation – that is, heavier tax principles on the rich – we can see who benefits most from making Social Security pay for freight.

As Richard Johnson of the Urban Institute said at the Rubio / Trump family leave proposal, lump-sum Social Security payments would add another channel to the pension system that has made millions of Americans vulnerable.

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“Already we have a lot of leaked pension systems,” he said. “People can use their 401 (k) savings or borrow it, so people cannot retire with as much savings as they should. One thing they have now is Social Security, but if we let people borrow Social Security, it adds to the vulnerability of the pension system. ”

Another subtle text of this proposal is that many recipients of the latest stimulus checks – up to $ 1,200 per adult in households earning up to $ 150,000 – are not feasible. Checks will not only be given to workers who have lost their jobs, but also retirees whose income is not affected by the corona virus locking or government workers and others who have not been laid off or experienced a reduction within a few hours.

Turning stimulus assistance into a voluntary program with costs at the end of Social Security benefits will limit government outflows and help ensure that it goes to those who need it, Biggs and Rauh argue.

But those goals can be achieved while leaving Social Security out of the process. Payments that don’t need to be recovered by taxing, for example. The 1040 tax form next year can ask: Have you been laid off in 2020? Decrease income? If not, add $ 1,200 to your tax bill.

Basically, the question raised by this proposal is why Social Security should be part of a stimulus program at all. Biggs and Rauh said that to avoid deficit financing, in this case “future taxpayers must pay off debts incurred by the federal government, either through direct taxation or inflation.”

A reasonable response to that concern is: So what? Until the coronavirus crisis hit, the biggest contributor to the federal deficit over the next decade is expected to be a tax cut imposed by the Republicans in 2017, which will add more than $ 1.5 trillion in red ink this decade.

The cuts are mainly for companies and rich people. But the recipients were not asked to submit their Social Security benefits, or actually sacrifice anything, in return for government contributions. Corporations do not even adhere to the rules that require them to invest their profits in wages or equipment, so that many give money to shareholders through billions through repurchases of shares and dividends.

And now, amazingly, Republicans cry poverty on behalf of the federal government which is systematically impoverished. As is almost always the case, they plan to take costs out of the neediest.

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Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.



Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.

Method Media Bermuda will present the documentary FABRIC: Portuguese History in Bermuda on Thursday, December 29 at the Underwater Research Institute of Bermuda.

A spokesperson said: “Method Media is proud to bring Bermuda Fabric: Portugal History to Bermuda for its 5th and 6th showing at the Bermuda Underwater Observatory. In November and December 2019, Cloth: A Portuguese Story in Bermuda had four sold-out screenings. Now that Bermuda has reopened after the pandemic, it’s time to bring the film back for at least two screenings.

“There are tickets For $ 20 – sessions at 15:30 and 18:00. Both screenings will be followed by a short Q&A session.

Director and producer Milton Raboso says, “FABRIC is a definitive account of the Portuguese community in Bermuda and its 151 years of history, but it also places Bermuda, Acors and Portugal in the world history and the events that have fueled those 151 years.

“It took more than 10 years to implement FABRIC. The film was supported by the Minister of Culture, the Government of the Azores and private donors.

Bermuda Media Method [MMB] Created in 2011 by producer Milton Raposo. MMB has created content for a wide range of clients: Bermuda’s new hospital renovation, reinsurance, travel campaigns, international sports and more. MMB pays special attention to artistic, cultural and historical content.

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Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.



Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.

Maestro Filipe Cunha, Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Braga, has been invited to conduct the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra, as announced today.

According to a statement sent by O MINHO, “he will be the first Portuguese conductor to conduct this orchestra in its entire history.”

In addition to this orchestra, the maestro will also work with the Lyceo Mozarteum de la Habana Symphony Orchestra.

The concerts will take place on 4 and 12 March 2023 at the National Theater of Cuba in Havana.

In the words of the maestro, quoted in the statement, “these will be very beautiful concerts with difficult but very complex pieces” and therefore he feels “very motivated”.

From the very beginning, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 will be performed by an Italian pianist (Luigi Borzillo), whom the maestro wants to bring to Portugal later this year. In the same concert, Mendelshon’s First Symphony will be performed.

Then, at the second concert, in the company of the Mexican clarinetist Angel Zedillo, he will perform the Louis Sfora Concerto No. 2. In this concert, the maestro also conducts Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

“This is an international recognition of my work. An invitation that I accept with humility and great responsibility. I was surprised to learn that I would be the first Portuguese member of the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. This is a very great honor,” the maestro said in a statement.

“I take with me the name of the city of Braga and Portugal with all the responsibility that goes with it, and I hope to do a good job there, leaving a good image and putting on great concerts. These will be very special concerts because, in addition to performing pieces that I love, especially Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, I will be directing two wonderful soloists who are also my friends. It will be very beautiful,” concludes Filipe Cunha.

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