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Why So Many People Loathe Congress

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Why So Many People Loathe Congress


Uncle Sam wants you!

Not the symbolic Uncle Sam, but Sam Johnson. Although he’s been a member of Congress more than a quarter of a century, it’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of him. He’s a lawmaker who holds a congressional seat, but just sits in it, achieving so little that he’s unnoticeable.

But look out! Johnson has suddenly leapt into action. And we all need to take notice, because this Texas Republican has unveiled what he calls his “Plan to Permanently Save Social Security.”

To get you to support the plan, Uncle Sam wants you to believe that this successful and very popular retirement program is “going bankrupt.” He knows that’s a lie, but he hopes it’s a big enough lie to panic you into doing anything to save the program. Then to make his particular plan easy to swallow, he coats it with another lie, claiming that he’s merely “modernizing,” “updating,” and “ensuring” the benefits and solvency of Social Security, which a big majority of Americans count on to avoid living out their golden years in stark poverty.

In fact, conniving old Uncle Sam’s plan is to “save” Social Security by gutting it. The congressman’s press release announcing his “Reform Act” doesn’t even mention the key fact that it’s entirely a scam, based on making workers keep paying the same 12.4 percent tax on their wages, but getting drastically less paid back to them when they retire. How much less? It would range from about 20 percent less to 69 percent less, adding up to a total cut of 11.6 trillion in promised benefits to America’s workers.

It’s bad enough that a so-called public servant would slap the middle class with such a raw deal, but worse that he tries to do it so dishonestly. Maybe he just doesn’t care — after all, having been a congress critter for 28 years, not only can Johnson draw a big Social Security check, but he can also get more than $70,000 a year from his congressional pension. What a deal! For Uncle Sam, that is.

For nearly half a century now, America’s middle-class working families have been pummeled by corporate greedmeisters and their political henchmen. Haven’t they been punished enough?

No, says House Speaker Paul Ryan. Along with Uncle Sam and other top Republican leaders of Congress, Ryan intends to slash the little bit of retirement money that middle-class and low-income workers depend on. And ultimately, Speaker Ryan is out to kill our Social Security program altogether, piously preaching that dependence on such public “entitlements” weakens our nation’s morality.

Entitlements? Social Security isn’t a welfare program — regular working people pay a large percentage on every dime of their wages into the Social Security pension fund year after year. They earn their retirement!

Morality? Social Security embodies America’s core moral value of fairness and our society’s commitment to the common good. And it works — before it was enacted, half of all American’s spent their “golden years” in poverty. Social Security has saved the great majority of us from old-age penury. Where is the morality in taking this earned retirement and modicum of dignity from millions?

Besides, a sermon on the morality of entitlements should never come from a congress critter’s mouth. Speaker Ryan himself wallows in a mud pit of congressional entitlements that working stiffs couldn’t imagine: A $223,500 annual paycheck, free limousine and chauffeur, a maximum-coverage health plan, a tax-paid PR agent, lavish expense account, free travel… and, of course, a platinum-level congressional retirement program funded by the very taxpayers who’s Social Security he’s out to kill.

Yet, Ryan wonders why Congress’ public approval rating is plummeting toward single digits.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks about the House Democrats’ sit-in over gun-control laws, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a nationally syndicated columnist and one of America's most prominent progressive voices. His column carried by more than 75 publications across the country. Prior to becoming a writer, Hightower served as Texas Agricultural Commission from 1982 to 1991.

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  1. iamproteus January 26, 2017

    “……a sermon on the morality of entitlements should never come from a congress critter’s mouth. Speaker Ryan himself wallows in a mud pit of congressional entitlements that working stiffs couldn’t imagine: A $223,500 annual paycheck, free limousine and chauffeur, a maximum-coverage health plan, a tax-paid PR agent, lavish expense account, free travel… and, of course, a platinum-level congressional retirement program funded by the very taxpayers who’s Social Security he’s out to kill.”

    How much more needs to be said?

    1. mike January 26, 2017

      All done by Republicans, Right? Democrats are squeaky clean, Right? Pelosi never upgraded her govt plane so she could nonstop to CA, Right?

      1. BDD1951 January 26, 2017

        She never requested a specific plane. She flew back and forth to CA on whatever plane the Air Force had available. Usually small jets. They tried to have one that would fly all the way without having to refuel. Only once did they not have a small plane available that she flew in a larger plane. Also, she never requested a larger plane. Look it up.

        1. Lynda Groom January 26, 2017

          Exactly, but don’t expect the ill informed to let go of their fantasies.

        2. mike January 26, 2017

          She said she wanted one that flew nonstop. The plane the previous speaker used after 911 was not capable of that distance. What an inconvenience to have to refuel. Poor rich bitch Nancy!
          In a 68 week period she flew 85 trips at an average cost of $28,000. Cost of over 2 million. One helluva perk.

          1. I Am Helpy January 26, 2017

            Sounds truthy!

          2. Sand_Cat January 26, 2017

            Pathetic. That the best you got?

          3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 26, 2017

            Mighty bigly of you to always take the flack for your beloved Donald. This man-crush thing you have going is stale and news to be aired out.

      2. Stuart January 26, 2017

        ” . . . Has been using general revenue to meet obligations.”

        So what?

        1. mike January 26, 2017

          SS can’t meet its promised obligation without taking from general funds, therefore less money for other programs. Duh!
          Fewer paying in and more receiving, ergo unsustainable.

          1. Daniel Jones January 26, 2017

            mike, the only reason that the money’s IN the general fund is previous Congressthings putting SS revenue INTO the general fund.

            We want our money back after we retire, PERIOD.

          2. iamproteus January 27, 2017

            Daniel, please don’t confuse Mike with facts. He’s having enough trouble as it is.

          3. mike January 28, 2017

            You must be brain dead. SS is spending more than it is taking it. How are they making up the difference? Where is the treasury getting the money? SS trust fund that is made up govt IOU’s? Right! What assets make up these IOU’s?

          4. dtgraham January 26, 2017

            It doesn’t matter where the money is coming from because 8o year olds can’t be expected to go back to work. 67 year old’s whose bodies are breaking down from a life time of manual labour also need help. Duh!

          5. mike January 26, 2017

            Yes it does matter!
            SS is spending more than they are taking in. To make up the difference they are taking from the general revenue since 2010. In 2015 SS needed 75 billion from General Revenue to make up spending difference.
            SS is not sustainable. Changes are necessary.
            No one said anything about 80 year olds.

          6. FireBaron January 27, 2017

            Currently, $0 comes out of the general revenue to pay social security. The cost of running the offices DOES come out of general funds, just like the cost of running the White House, Congress, etc.
            Maybe if Cheney hadn’t made Congress kill the bill that would have removed the cap on payments, then folks with incomes greater than $500K per year and higher wouldn’t be paying the exact same dollar amount. Once you hit that magic number, your payments into the system never increase, even though the recipients will continue to receive COLAs that they will never need once they hit 65.
            So, remove the damn caps and tell Congress to keep their hands out of the fund and it will have no problem paying.

          7. mike January 28, 2017

            Wrong again.
            SS was short 75 billion 2015 since 2010 SS has run a deficit.

          8. dtgraham January 27, 2017

            Your changes mean that the poor 80 year old has to lose a significant amount of that pension. That’s unacceptable. Just fund the spending properly. As Sean Spicer would say…period!

          9. mike January 28, 2017

            “Your changes” what the heck are you talking about.
            There is not a final bill. Do you really believe any politician would include those already on SS would put up with a reduction. Anyone with a brain understands that present participants would not be affected but once passed would only affect new recipients. That has been said many times.

          10. dtgraham January 28, 2017

            Oh, it’s only future 80 year olds. Well, how charitable. No, they want to raise the retirement age (which reduces benefits) and reduce payments now.

            Look, we all know the game here. Republicans have spent years demonizing Social Security and spreading lies about its sustainability. They want to scare Americans and build support for making drastic cuts to the program or privatizing it entirely. Their long-term goal is to end Social Security as we know it, and convert it into a private account system which will enable Wall Street to make hundreds of billions in profits.

            Sam Johnson (R-Texas) Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee on Social Security has introduced legislation that would slash Social Security benefits. It would do this by raising the age of full retirement to 69 and by lowering social security payouts to beneficiaries at all but the lowest levels.

            The cuts in the bill lean more heavily on high income-earners, but most people would see cuts — some of them drastic — if Johnson’s bill became law. Additionally Johnson’s bill makes some notable cuts to spousal benefits, while introducing some additional means-testing provisions.

            The thing here is that Social Security is solvent and able to pay out 100 percent of promised benefits until the year 2034 or beyond. Just a modest increase in the earnings limit subject to the FICA tax would solve the problem forever, but Republicans refuse to even consider that solution.

            So here’s the catch to this deal: In order to avert a 22-percent shortfall 20 years from now, the Republicans want to reduce benefits by MORE than that beginning right now.

            At the same time, Paul Ryan is preparing legislation that would end Medicare as it’s structured now and turn it into a voucher program. So, if the value of the voucher doesn’t keep up with the cost of private insurance, which it assuredly will not, who do you think is going to make up the difference? The 80 year old, that’s who. Suck it up 80 year old, you’re on your own now.

            Since the days of Reagan, $2.8 trillion of the SS trust fund has been lent to the federal government to partially pay for tax cuts to the affluent and make the deficit look lower than it was. The wealthy don’t want to pay this money back, naturally. So the Republican solution is to reduce SS benefits so that yearly payout equals yearly income. Then the money never has to be paid back. Extremely painful for the 80 year old, but that’s the plan.

          11. mike January 28, 2017

            I guess you were to lazy to read the SS Trustees Report that said IF NOTHING DONE at a later date the payments will be cut by 25%.

          12. dtgraham January 29, 2017

            Exactly like I said. The program is sustainable forever. The only question is, at exactly what benefit level.

          13. mike January 29, 2017

            You’re a typical left wing nut cake. Keep paying in but expect to get less back. Typical leftist totally lacking any common sense.
            It’s insolvent in 2034. Douche bag!

          14. dtgraham January 29, 2017

            I know you’re not this stupid. Insolvency means that you can’t pay all of your debts. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make any payments at all. There’s a constant inflow of payroll tax revenue, and even if nothing is done at all, SS would still continue paying benefits without increasing the debt. Just reduced benefits if you don’t want to borrow.

            The program only faces a 72 year shortfall of about 2.7 percent of payroll, averaged out. Providing full benefits in the future without increasing the deficit isn’t a hard fix at all. Yet, you continue your past pattern of denying the undeniable, and then melting down with anger when somebody points that out.

            I don’t know why you have such a hard-on of hate at the idea of looking after senior citizens by providing them with a liveable pension and health care. How are other rich countries successfully doing that? Ask yourself that.

            “Insolvency” of pensions and health care is never, ever, a topic in Canadian politics. Just trust me on that. I never, ever, argue with Canadian Conservatives about this. We all agree that you finance these things properly and say no more. Canadian Conservatives are never anxious to cut granny’s pension and health care. I don’t get this attitude.

      3. I Am Helpy January 26, 2017

        I’m sure you thought you made some sort of point, there. Reminder, though – you’re so stupid you think there’s no such word as “median”; you really don’t get to have an opinion.

      4. Sand_Cat January 26, 2017

        So of course, holier-than-thou Republicans have nothing to fall backl on than unsubstantiated claims the Dems are as bad or worse.

        1. mike January 26, 2017

          Missing your catnip?

          1. Sand_Cat January 26, 2017

            Missing the point?

          2. mike January 26, 2017

            So Dems are squeaky clean?

          3. Daniel Jones January 26, 2017

            Shut. Up.

            The plan stinks.

            The plan is what the article is about.

            FUGGHEDABOUT party politics.

            The Plan Stinks.

          4. mike January 26, 2017

            LOL! Fuhgettaboutit
            So SS is sustainable? Yes?

          5. FireBaron January 27, 2017

            Yes, as long as Congress keeps their hands out of the trust fund – something they seem to have no problem raiding.

          6. browninghipower January 27, 2017

            No it’s not, you idiot. The one simple plan to ensure SS’s long term strength and survivability is to remove the dumb ass cap on wages over $140,000. But the GOP has so brainwashed you and your ilk about the evils of taxation that that one simple step is rarely discussed in the halls of Congress. I shake my head at your collective stupidity and fart in your general direction.

          7. mike January 27, 2017

            Hey douche bag for once you got it right. It isn’t sustainable.
            At least the right is trying. Now how often did Obama or the left address this https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/opinions/obamas-social-security-failure/2016/06/12/84082af0-2d9d-11e6-9b37-42985f6a265c_story.html

          8. browninghipower January 27, 2017

            Because we on the Left refuse to destroy SS. I just never can understand you and your ilk’s drooling passion to want tear down and abolish SS and Medicare and anything that has helped seniors. And the only answer I come up with that you all are just plain cruel. Why didn’t you respond to my comment about raising the cap? It’s simple and certainly affordable.

          9. dtgraham January 28, 2017

            It’s sustainable forever because it’s payroll based. The question is, at exactly what level of benefits.

            You talk like the United states is some poor country.

          10. mike January 28, 2017

            Go read the SS Trustees report and see how asinine your remark it is.

          11. dtgraham January 29, 2017

            I have. The program is sustainable forever and the fix is easy without screwing poor seniors.

            As a result of changes to Social Security enacted in 1983, benefits are now expected to be payable in full on a timely basis until 2034, when the trust fund reserves are projected to become exhausted. At the point where the reserves are used up, continuing payroll taxes are expected to be enough to pay 79 percent of scheduled benefits. Thus, the Congress will need to make changes to the scheduled benefits or revenue sources for the program in the future.

            The Social Security Board of Trustees project that changes equivalent to an IMMEDIATE reduction in benefits of about 13 percent, or an immediate increase in the across the board combined payroll tax rate from 12.4 percent to 14.4 percent, or some combination of these changes, would be sufficient to allow full payment of the scheduled benefits for the next 75 years. Or, they could engage only in a modest increase of the earnings limit subject to the FICA tax. Any of the above.

            See how easy this is, mike…if you were truly interested in saving that poor 80 year old? However, I know that you and your party are not.

          12. Sand_Cat January 29, 2017

            They don’t squeak like GOP rats.:>)
            No, they’re far from perfect. But most of them aren’t on an obsessive crusade to abuse the rights and dignity of as many groups of people as they can, interfere in the personal lives of individuals, impose religious dogma on those of other faiths or none at all, nor – as in the case of the new “president” – psychologically compelled to invent elaborate lies and plans to use government powers to harass and punish those who expressed the slightest disagreement with their ideas.
            But, as more and more people say “both parties are the same” and stay home, the fewer the differences there are likely to be. The much-maligned Hillary was far more a moderate Republican than “Lenin in a pantsuit” as one well-known GOP lunatic described her.

          13. mike January 29, 2017

            Bravo Sierra!

          14. Sand_Cat January 30, 2017

            Very clever.
            Your cleverness doesn’t change facts in the least.

      5. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 26, 2017

        Rather than acknowledge the egregious plan of the Republican senator, in your customary Trumpian fashion, you shift attention from the author of the harebrained idea for SSN proposed, and say….”Hey look over there—The Dems are up to something”.

        Sorry mikey, you’re fooling yourself and others like you who can’t be bothered to think objectively. Vladimir is calling you back to give you a new approach to try in the US.

        1. mike January 26, 2017

          Is SS revenue covering its payout obligation without general revenue funds. Yes or No?

          1. FireBaron January 27, 2017

            Barely, but that’s because Congress (both sides bear the blame on this) keep grabbing the interest that is supposed to cover payments to take care of deficits so they don’t look as bad. If the Trust Fund had been a private bank, and Congress been private lenders, they would have had their houses, cars, boats and TVs repossessed and their wages garnished to cover their non-payment of the “loan”.

          2. mike January 27, 2017

            “Barely”! Not even close. 2015 SS was short 75 billion dollars. Since 2010 SS has ran a deficit.
            Deficits will continue to accelerate over the years.

      6. iamproteus January 27, 2017

        Mike, please get a grip. I did not say “only republicans”, did I?

  2. Dominick Vila January 26, 2017

    Social Security is, by far, the best and most cost effective social program in the USA. The only thing that needs to be done to keep it solvent for future generations is to raise the contribution cap from the current $106K to $200K. Why is this not being proposed? Because those that don’t have a problem with a waitress paying FICA 52 weeks out of the year, don’t want to give up paying off their annual contribution before Summer starts.
    Before we jump up and down condemning proposals such as Uncle Sam’s, consider the benefits of Republicans over reaching. If there is one thing senior citizens will not tolerate is Congress or the WH messing with SS or MEDICARE. Let them over reach. That would make the 2018 mid term election something to watch.

  3. Lynda Groom January 26, 2017

    The voters continue to send the same folks back to Washington and yet ‘so many loathe Congress.’ Now whose fault is that? We’ve got just the government that shoud be expected with the majority of the eligible voters don’t bother to take part in our system.

  4. Stuart January 26, 2017

    My gut feeling is that Medicare and Social Security can be abolished without political price. After they’re gone, Trump supporters will still vote for him — and any other Republican. The most important thing for white Trump supporters is that they will continue to have higher social status than black folk. Nothing else matters.

    Maybe Russian troops will hand out chocolate bars to the kiddies from their new U.S. bases. They’ll work cheaper than our own troops, who won’t be needed any more. Think of the budget savings. I’m sure Russian troops get paid less than ours.

    1. I Am Helpy January 26, 2017

      You’re even more cynical than me. I didn’t think that was possible.

    2. Thoughtopsy January 26, 2017

      I both agree and disagree.
      According to exit polls and research Pres F**kface Von Clownstick’s “coalition” appears to have been made up of:
      – 50% Racist, bigoted, misogynist and/or stupid Republican base voters.
      – 25% Smart/Elite Republicans voting for their “team” while holding their noses.
      – 25% Moderate/Independent mainly white people in economic distress who may have some racial biases but are mainly concerned about money.

      This was barely enough to win him a squeaker of an election by 70K total votes in exactly the right places… and lost him the popular vote by ~3 million people.

      I agree with you that that 50% of Deplorables who are too willfully ignorant (thanks Fox News)…. and too racially/religiously/chauvinistically motivated… to disbelieve their fatuous demagogue will do whatever he tells them.

      He could lie them on a Russian Mattress, have Prostitutes pee on their faces, and tell them it was rain and they’d lap it up as long as the blacks, LGBTQs and the women are kept in their places.

      The other 50% are already losing faith with Cheeto Jesus. I think roughly half of each remaining group will bail on him if their pet issues are not addressed… whether or not Trump lies about it. Especially Healthcare. It’s easy to know whether you have it or not. And it’s easy and very personal to understand whether you are paying more or less for what you have… or dying because of the lack of it.

      Here’s the kicker though:
      Trump only has to lose 0.1% of his coalition to lose the next Presidency… (If that loss is even across the board, or just concentrated in the right states)…
      Or just 1% if it’s concentrated in mostly the wrong places.

      Personally I think he’s already lost about 5% just purely on his threat to Healthcare and his swamp filling cabinet picks. His approval is 40%.

      He’s a minority President. He exists through a weird confluence of events including luck, racism, Hillary missteps, Comey interference, and Russian espionage… and even that only JUST got him in.

      He’s now heavily underwater for the next Presidential election.
      However we want him to drag the rest of the Republicans down with him before 2018.

  5. I Am Helpy January 26, 2017

    The whole article could have been replaced with the words “Anti-intellectualism”.

  6. ray January 27, 2017

    The reason I think most people hate congress is Ryan’s sh-t eating grin.


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