Published on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
Reckless Administration May Reap Disastrous Consequences
> by US Senator Robert Byrd Senate Floor Speech - Wednesday, February 12, 2003
To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war.
Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent --ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.
We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events. Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war.
And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.
This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption -- the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our -- or some other nation's -- hit list. High level Administration figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where globalism has tied the vital economic and security interests of many nations so closely together? There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honored alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to damaging worldwide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11.
Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur. Family members are being called to active military duty, with no idea of the duration of their stay or what horrors they may face. Communities are being left with less than adequate police and fire protection. Other essential services are also short-staffed. The mood of the nation is grim. The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may soon spike higher.
This Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal.
In that scant two years, this Administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition, under funding scores of essential programs for our people. This Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth. This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health care for our elderly. This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long and porous borders.
ScatterShooting, why don't we just change the current requirement for employers to match employee borne social security payments. We could require employers to pay TWICE what their employees are paying. Then, when that no longer works, we could make it THREE TIMES. And so forth. Personally, I considered paying my income taxes with an IOU to the IRS, but someone told me that the government is more into "do as I say, and not as I do". It just amazes me that anyone with any education in finance, liberal or conservative, can accept the way this social security albatross has been conceived and subsequently handled.
Warbucks wrote, "what do you think the odds are that the Social Security IOU's to the general fund may at some point be 'forgiven'?"
Very little chance because there's no need. There's no cost (or accountability) to letting the IOUs keep pile up. In fact, voters seem to like the shell game if it means tax cuts today. Eventually, when the payroll tax is no longer able to cover costs, retirement age will creep up again. Monthly payments will be whittled down through taxation or inflation or changing the formula or some combination of all three. The last thing I expect to see is our children and grandchildren voting to raise their own income taxes to pay back all those IOUs our generation left them with.
"That's not in dispute. But the fact is, payroll taxes are well in surplus of what is needed at the present time. The surplus is being loaned to the general revenue fund and spent for the general operation of the government. The Social Security Trust Fund is left with IOUs. So, it is not strictly true that "the federal government runs on the income taxes it collects.""
ScatterShooting, if we have "forgiven loans" to top management for things like company stock option purchases, and other perks, what do you think the odds are that the Social Security IOU's to the general fund may at some point be "forgiven"? If corporate governance can be as bad as we have seen, my guess is that government governance could easily be even worse. What do you think?
"I'm talking about the payroll tax on earned income, you're talking about SS payments to retired people. The payroll tax is around 15% (half paid by employee, and half by employer). But only up to around $80K. So someone who makes less than $80K pays 7.5% of that income in payroll tax. But someone who makes $800K only pays 0.75% of that income in payroll tax. Isn't that regressive?"
I would be more inclined to normalize collections with payments, thus making social security actually progressive, given the greater tax burden on ss payments with increasing earned income. By your definition, which is fine, I guess the trick would be to make EVERYTHING regressive, as it's cost becomes less and less of a percentage of income as earned income increases.
boyce wrote, "Please don't confuse income taxes with payroll taxes. They are different and used for different purposes."
That's not in dispute. But the fact is, payroll taxes are well in surplus of what is needed at the present time. The surplus is being loaned to the general revenue fund and spent for the general operation of the government. The Social Security Trust Fund is left with IOUs. So, it is not strictly true that "the federal government runs on the income taxes it collects."
Oh, by the way, under the GW plan, you don't need to collect taxes, just print more money. In fact raise the spending bar and reduce the taxes collected.
I think that is what causes most of the bankrupt individuals to go bankrupt, don't you. Kind of like MU selling their chips for less than it costs to make them. How long can that last?
Interesting that the states must BALANCE their budget, while the Fed just keeps printing money. Perhaps GW is wanting his picture on a greenback!
The federal government runs on the income taxes it collects. The "payroll taxes" such as social security, if borrowed, must be paid back and is not the monies used to operate the government from day to day. States use income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes.
Payroll taxes consist of the social security and medicare tax matched by the employer, (and by the way, medicare has no ceiling, for instance if Bill Gates were to receive a salary of 3,000,000 in one year, his medicare withholding would be 43,500 and the match by the employer would be 43,500. The other payroll taxes are unemployment, used for unemployment compensation to workers without a job (both state and federal) and worker's compensation which is to benefit a worker in case of injury.
Please don't confuse income taxes with payroll taxes. They are different and used for different purposes.
I'm talking about the payroll tax on earned income, you're talking about SS payments to retired people. The payroll tax is around 15% (half paid by employee, and half by employer). But only up to around $80K. So someone who makes less than $80K pays 7.5% of that income in payroll tax. But someone who makes $800K only pays 0.75% of that income in payroll tax. Isn't that regressive?
"But there are taxes, and there are taxes. And the payroll tax is the most outrageously regressive of all taxes; the rate goes to zero as your income goes up!!! If there's a surplus in SS then THAT tax should be cut, and the revenues should be made up by increasing the more progressive (although less and less so all the time) income tax."
Since the social security payments are also taxed more and more (up to 85% of it, as I understand it) as earned income increases, how can you say that social security is a regressive tax?