The Social Security Administration has saved $72 million a year since it stopped mailing paper earnings statements, but it’s about to start mailing again. Under pressure from Consumers for Paper Options, Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) inserted a line in last month’s budget deal to resume paper statements. A lobbying group dedicated to “closing the digital divide” for the elderly and those without internet access, Consumers for Paper Options just happens to be funded by the Envelope Manufacturers Association. Props to Jacek for the link.
Just in time for tax season, the Senate has blocked the so-called Buffett Rule, which would have required households earning more than $1 million annually to pay an effective tax rate of 30%. The vote went off at 51 for and 45 against, which means it’s dead in the new, everything-will-be-filibustered Senate. Meanwhile, the party whose ideology naturally aligns with stalemate pushed its own bill to allow business owners to deduct 20% of their income next year—a plan whose benefits would go overwhelmingly to high-income households, according to the Tax Policy Center. Also meanwhile, I paid my taxes. I gave back 29% of my income from 2011, as compared with the Obamas’ 20.5% and the Romneys’ estimated 15.4%. I am the only person in this paragraph who is not a millionaire.
Last night’s Republican debate was the ninth of 53 such events between now and November 2012, so maybe it didn’t seem totally important to watch it. You can probably close your eyes and see Herman Cain railing against the reading comprehension level of US policy right now. Much like the individual Republican candidates, the Republican debates have a sameness that prevents each of them from seeming strictly necessary. Any one is like the cracker that falls out of the box of Triscuits. It’s therefore understandable if you missed last night’s debate, but it’s also a shame, because it turned out to be the Triscuit with a vague image of Jesus on it. The CNN Tea Party Express Republican Debate tells you everything you need to know about the Tea/Republican Party in three easy juxtapositions. Or one juxtaposition of three elements, which also yields three juxtapositions. Let’s just let the math/usage wash over us and watch videos.
It’s a new year, and that means we’re incrementally closer to a terrifying future only imaginable to our grandchildren, whose brains will have much more highly-evolved nightmare centers. Or not—it depends on how the economy shakes out. In Europe, where the economy has been shaking out into a fine dust since the Marshall Plan, things are not looking so good. A few weeks ago, we discussed student riots in Britain over proposed hikes in university tuition. Yesterday, the New York Times ran this story containing the quote in our headline, in which Italy’s Francesca Esposito—who totally knows where to get ecstasy, by the way, but does not want to meet you at your hostel—laments her position as a 29 year-old penta-ligual with master’s and law degrees who can’t find a paying job. Instead, she works as an unpaid “legal trainee” for the Italian government—in their social security administration, no less. Like a lot of young people in southern Europe, Esposito gets paid in irony, and she’s pissed.
In the wake of last week’s report from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform—and the cascade of agreements with all the fiscal responsibility proposed therein, except for cuts to defense, social security, Medicare and most tax exemptions—the New York Times has produced this fun puzzle. It invites readers to construct their own balanced federal budgets by adopting or declining a series of cuts, including to foreign and state aid, federal workforces and defense. You can see my own personal Keynesian, soak-the-rich plan here. It balances the budget mostly by returning tax rates to Clinton-era levels and getting the fudge out of Central Asia/space, and it preserves Medicare and farm subsidies. Apparently I am some sort of secret communist, which is why I encourage you to make a budget of your own. Either that or you could rail passionately against every spending cut you can think of, plus tax increases of any sort, while simultaneously demanding a balanced budget immediately. Just put on your American flag shirt and yell directly at the numbers.