By Dave Lindorff
Needed: a 'rout' of wolves to drive a 'stench' of skunks from DC by ThisCantBeHappening
The US Congress is such a craven bunch that you really have to turn to Olde English to aptly describe them.
Consider that yesterday, by a vote of 93-7, the Senate approved a National Defense Authorization Bill that effectively defines the US "homeland" as a war zone, and that allows for the indefinite incarceration without trial of anyone, including US citizens and Green Card holders, without trial, in blatant violation of the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution and of fundamental international judicial standards.
These elected representatives, so ready to sell out the people and the nation's heritage, can be best described, using Olde English usage, as a "congress" of baboons, or a "cowardice" of curs, a "sneak" of weasels" or perhaps just a "stench" of skunks.
And it's not over. Both houses of Congress are also considering a proposal by President Obama of a measure that will seriously undermine Social Security -- a further cut in the Social Security 12.4% payroll tax by 3.1% for workers and a matching 3.1% cut in the 40% share of that tax paid by employers--measures which taken together would gut the Social Security Trust Fund by more than $350 billion in one year.
This theft from the public is being deceitfully presented as a tax break, as if Social Security "taxes" were just like the income tax we pay. It's not at all that. First of all, the employer's share of the payroll tax is just like the employer contribution to a worker's pension or 401(k). It's your money they are contributing, because it is used to calculate your retirement benefit amount. The same is true of the payroll tax you see deducted from your paycheck. It might hurt just as much as the income tax that is withheld, but while the income tax mostly ends up to pay for endless wars, for tax giveaways to corporations, and for things like oil-depletion allowance subsidies to the oil companies, the payroll tax is your money and is put into the Trust Fund to calculate your retirement benefit! Cutting the amount deducted from your check may or may not reduce the amount of your benefit (that's unclear), but if Congress does this without compensating for the cut by taking money from some other tax, such as a supplemental tax on the rich, to compensate for the loss of funds in the Trust Fund--and that is what the Republicans in Congress are demanding with their refusal to pass any new taxes on the wealthy--then it just strengthens the hand of those who are claiming that Social Security is going "bankrupt," and that the system needs to be "reformed" by reducing benefits or delaying the retirement age.
This is supposed to be our Congress, but it is close to passing legislation that is a huge preparatory step towards fascism, turning the military into a domestic police force within the country's borders, and returning the US to a pre-Revolutionary era when police and soldiers could grab people, charge them with treason, sedition or terrorism, and just lock them up or even execute them without trial. Indeed, that kind of behavior is why we had a revolution back in 1776!
And this same Congress is stealthily undermining Social Security and Medicare, the two most important legacies of the New Deal and the Great Society eras, and unarguably the two most popular programs run by the federal government.
And it's not just Congress. President Obama started this problem off when he reneged, once elected, on his campaign promise to close the military prison camps at Guantanamo and to run a government that respected the Constitution. He did neither, continuing to endorse detention without trial, and actually expanding on the Constitutional crimes of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, by ordering the summary extra-judicial execution of at least two American citizens, who are assured the right to a trial by a jury of their peers under the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution.
He also came up with the truly lousy idea, passed by Congress last year, of cutting the Social Security payroll tax by 2% from it's normal 6.2% level. Now he's tripled down on the same scam by proposing increasing that cut to 3.1% for workers and another 3.1% for employers!
This wrecking ball aimed at the Social Security program is being sold as an "economic stimulus" program, when almost any economist will readily explain that it won't work. First of all, since the payroll tax reduction goes to every person who pays the FICA tax, it means not just low income workers will get it, but also wealthy "workers." And while the savings for a person earning minimum wage would be just $500, and would certainly be spent on something, the savings for a wealthy person earning above the Social Security taxable maximum of $106,000 would be $3300, and would likely not be spent, but rather saved, doing nothing to boost economic activity. Furthermore, the 3.1% reduction in payroll taxes paid by employers would not likely lead to any additional hiring -- the supposed justification for giving them the same reduction -- but would just be used to increase profits and dividends to wealthy investors. In fact, this scheme was tried once back in the 1970s during the Carter administration, and has been heavily researched, with economists finding no evidence that the payroll tax "holiday" led to any new jobs.
Clearly, on the evidence of these two measures working their way through Congress now, we have a federal government that has run amok, that is responding not to the people but to narrow corporate interests that seek to both impoverish the citizens and to prepare for greater levels of public unrest and rebellion by putting into place the tools of a police state.
Anyone who doubts this need only look at the coordinated attacks on the Occupy Movement, with SWAT-style paramilitary police sweeping through encampments in cities across the country, tearing down tents and brutally arresting the young activists bold enough to challenge the corporatist federal government's policies and to frontally criticize the workings of America's vaunted capitalist system.
The 2012 election is going to be a watershed, but it is not much of a choice on offer. We have two corporatist parties vying for the spoils of government, neither of which is remotely trying to resist the burgeoning power of the corporate oligarchy, and both of which are moving ahead to create a police state and to vitiate two key social programs.
Where to turn? Perhaps the candidacy of Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, who has announced the formation of a new Justice Party, and who has said he intends to run for president on its ticket. Anderson is quoted in Utah's Deseret News as forthrightly saying that the American people "want to see an alternative party. They recognize that these two militarist, corporatist parties have brought us to this disastrous place to where we are today."