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The official blog of the National Center for Public Policy Research, covering news, current events and public policy from a conservative, free-market and pro-Constitution perspective.

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Rep. Robert Wexler on Social Security: The System is Sound, But Insolvent

Speaking of Rep. Robert Wexler, he seems to be of two minds about the soundness of the Social Security system.

From Rep. Wexler's website's Social Security page, paragraph one:

First, let me assure you that Social Security is a sound program.
From paragraph two:
Any attempt to create separate individual accounts for Social Security will only drain the current system, thereby bankrupting the system sooner than expected.
Note to Congressman Wexler: If a system is expected to become bankrupt, it is not sound.


Be Fair to New York Plan

A Democratic Congressman is following Dan Rostenkowski's advice and proposing a Social Security rescue plan.

The Congressman is Robert Wexler, who represents the 19th District of Florida, containing parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties. According to the Population Research Center, Palm Beach County has on a percentage basis more residents over 64, 23.2%, than any other county in America. Broward County is fifth, with 16.1% of its residents over 64.

So I guess it isn't hard to figure out why Rep. Wexler is interested in Social Security, and apparently isn't buying into the "Social Security isn't in crisis" rhetoric so popular among other liberals.

It might also lead you to think Wexler might be tempted to avoid proposals suggesting reductions in future Social Security benefit increases, and grasp instead for tax increases on the non-retired.

In this supposition, you would not be surprised.

Wexler's plan consists of a tax increase for workers earning over $90,000 per year. Specifically, Wexler would have the government take 3 percent of income over $90,000 directly from the employee and "tax the employer" 3 percent of the employee's earnings over $90,000.

Other merits of the plan (if any) notwithstanding, so-called "taxes on the employer" are a scam. It is a trick played by the government on the people. Employers hire an employee only if they believe that employee's workplace contribution is worth what it costs to pay him. Whether the employer pays the employee first, and then the government takes the money, or the government takes the money before the employee even sees it, doesn't matter much to the employer. Money is money. But many employees think their taxes are less because they never see the money they earn that is paid to the government directly in so-called "employer's" taxes.

As I said, a government trick designed to deceive taxpayers.

(Next time you visit the website of a liberal "ethics in government" group, see if they have any documents advocating elimination of deceitful "tax on employer' scams. If you find any, email me, please.)

While I'm on the topic of unfairness, here's another thing I think is unfair: The value of a dollar is not the same everywhere in America. $90,000 does not go very far in Manhattan, compared to how far it goes in Kansas (and pretty much everywhere else). So Congressman Wexler's proposal, generally speaking, would hit Manhattanites harder than nearly every other American.

I'm not a New Yorker, never have been a New Yorker, and probably will go to my grave never having lived in New York, so I have no conflict of interest when I ask you, dear readers: Is this fair to New Yorkers?

So with all due respect to Rep. Wexler, who at least -- nearly alone among national Democrats -- is willing to offer suggestions for solving the Social Security crisis, I suggest the rest of America stand shoulder-to-shoulder with New York and tell Rep. Wexler: Thanks -- but no thanks.

Instead, let's be fair. Let's enact a flat rate federal income tax and solve the Social Security crisis with personal retirement accounts.

We could call it the "Be Fair to New York Plan." I presume Hillary will love it.


School Bus Driver Strands Children

This story no doubt sends chills through many parents.

Fortunately, no children were hurt -- or lost.


Filibusters: A History

Blog readers might find this document, being distributed today by the Senate Republican Conference, of interest:

Dates Democrats Want to Forget


The year the U.S. Constitution was ratified without the filibuster as part of it


The year the Senate was originally constituted with rules that permitted a majority vote to end debate


The year that the filibuster became theoretically possible through an inadvertent rules change


The year that a filibuster was used for the first time to block legislation


The year that a "cloture" rule was adopted to control legislative filibusters


The year that the Senate rules were changed to extend cloture to all debatable matters, including nominations


The first time a bipartisan filibuster was used to deny a judicial nominee an up-or-down vote. But the nominee, Abe Fortas to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, did not have majority support, and was opposed by one-third of his own party. He withdrew his nomination shortly after the failed cloture vote. In contrast, every one of the filibustered judicial nominees in 2003 and 2004 had majority support.

1977, 1979, 1980, 1987

The years in which then Senate Majority-Leader Robert Byrd employed the constitutional option in order to limit minority and individual Senators' rights

2003, 2004

The years in which partisan filibusters were used for the first time to deny confirmation to a judicial nominee with majority support. Ten nominees were blocked from getting up-or-down votes due to the filibuster


The year the Senate will restore the 214-year tradition of up-or-down votes on every judicial nominee with majority support
Thanks to Barbara Ledeen of the SRC for sharing it.


Senate Judicial Filibuster Showdown Nears

The Senate showdown on judicial nominations draws ever closer. Majority Leader Bill Frist's office released the following statement today:


Upon completion of action on the pending highway bill, the Senate will begin debate on fair up or down votes on judicial nominations. As is the regular order, the Leader will move to act on judge nominations sent to the full Senate by the Judiciary Committee in the past several weeks. Priscilla Owen, to serve as a judge for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Janice Rogers Brown, to serve as a judge for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, will be the nominees of focus.

The Majority Leader will continue to discuss an appropriate resolution of the need for fair up or down votes with the Minority Leader. If they can not find a way for the Senate to decide on fair up or down votes on judicial nominations, the Majority Leader will seek a ruling from the Presiding Officer regarding the appropriate length of time for debate on such nominees. After the ruling, he will ensure that every Senator has the opportunity to decide whether to restore the 214-year practice of fair up or down votes on judicial nominees; or, to enshrine a new veto by filibuster that both denies all Senators the opportunity to advise and consent and fundamentally disturbs the separation of powers between the branches.

There will be a full and vigorous Senate floor debate that is too important for parliamentary tactics to speed it up or slow it down until all members who wish have had their say. All members are encouraged to ensure that rhetoric in this debate follows the rules, and best traditions, of the Senate.

It is time for 100 Senators to decide the issue of fair up or down votes for judicial nominees after over two years of unprecedented obstructionism. The Minority has made public threats that much of the Senate's work will be shut down. Such threats are unfortunate.

The Majority Leader has proposed his Fairness Rule: up to 100 hours of debate, and then an up or down vote on circuit and Supreme Court nominations. Further, the Fairness Rule would eliminate the opportunity for blockade of such nominees at the Judiciary Committee. And finally, it will make no changes to the legislative filibuster.

If Senators believe a nominee is qualified, they should have the opportunity to vote for her. If they believe she is unqualified, they should have the opportunity to vote against her.

Members must decide if their legacy to the Senate is to eliminate the filibuster's barrier to the Constitutional responsibility of all Senators to advise and consent with fair, up or down votes.



FBI Files: Confidential

Allow me to add my voice to those condemning the action of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid when he made allegations that the FBI file on Judge Harry Saad contains damaging information about the judge.

Senator Reid must be aware that FBI files contain raw material (unconfirmed allegations) and that Judge Saad himself is not in a position to defend himself, as he would not know what is in the file nor who made the allegations. In short, Reid has made an unanswerable smear.

I have no idea what is in Judge Saad's FBI file, but it would take a lot more than knowing there is uncomplimentary information in it for me to draw a negative conclusion about the judge's character.

Like many people who live and work in the D.C. area, I have been interviewed by the FBI when people I know, or neighbors, have been appointed to governmental positions or sought to acquire security clearances. On at least two occasions within the last few years I have been interviewed about people I have never met and who I would not recognize on the street because they live in our neighborhood. On both occasions, as part of the interview process, the individual was described to me so that I might have some idea if I had ever seen or talked with them. I had nothing negative to say about these people, but what if I had, based on a physical description, misidentified someone and honestly confused them with a person I know something negative about? In an honest attempt to be helpful, I would have shared that information with the FBI. And, presumably, that information would be in their file forever afterward. They would not even know it, and they could never defend themselves against it. Yet the allegation would not be fair, even though I would have meant no harm in sharing it.

Senator Reid owes Judge Saad an apology.


Claudia Rosett Peels an Onion

This Claudia Rosett article on NRO begins...

When Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) last year compared the United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal to "an onion," he had just one thing wrong: The more you peel, the bigger it gets.
It has more good lines, but read it for the facts on how Saddam Hussein targeted his bribes to officials of nations with seats on the U.N. Security Council.


Huffington's Toast

I know the rest of the blogosphere already is recommending Huffington's Toast, but I want to add my kudos anyway. Whomever is writing these parodies is very talented.


Shoes for Iraqi Kids Update

Blonde Sagacity is updating progress on shoes and more for Iraqi kids.

7,000 donated pairs of shoes -- wow.

Go here for photos of soldiers giving the donated supplies to kids, and here to help.

Here's a copy of a thank-you letter I received from the U.S. soldier in Iraq who started it all, just for sending over some of my kids' gently used shoes. I still find it amazing -- this soldier, Lt. Eric Sloan, is not only defending our freedom abroad, and organizing a kids' charity in his spare time, he's even sending handwritten thank-you notes to people who helped his project in only a small way. We should be sending him the thank-you notes.


Yalta Revisited

I love this Yalta post by Professor Bainbridge.

Dittos on this one from the Paragraph Farmer.


On Mother's Day

Jeff Harrell shares a Mother's Day confession on his Shape of Days blog.

Nobody's perfect, Jeff. Nobody.


Leon Aron: 2008 Presidential Election Will Be Key how we judge Russia.

In this op-ed in USA Today, Leon Aron puts the Putin presidency, pluses and minuses, in perspective. Aron's conclusion: The 2008 presidential election in Russia will be key: "Any underhanded efforts to secure the outcome contrary to the will of the people -- such as the actions taken in neighboring Ukraine -- will not only mean the end of U.S. partnership, but will also turn Russia into an international pariah."


Europe to Moscow: Apologize

From the Boston Globe:

Reuters - Baltic nations urged Moscow on Friday to apologize for five decades of Soviet occupation, hours before the arrival of President Bush on a trip to fete new democracies and the 1945 victory over the Nazis.

In Brussels, the European Union sided with the three Baltic countries against the Kremlin by saying that the collapse of the Berlin Wall, rather than the defeat of Nazi Germany, marked the "end of dictatorship" in Europe...
Fat chance Putin would have this kind of integrity, but it is nice to see the truth spoken -- with the EU chiming in on the right side, no less.


Army Pay: AWOL

My niece's husband is serving his second tour of duty with the U.S. Army (3rd ACR) in Iraq. I thought I'd share with blog readers an e-mail she sent to her Congressman, Rep. Joel Hefley, on Thursday about a little difficulty he is having: The Army isn't paying him.

I'm not usually one to criticize the U.S. Army (no doubt this is in part because I have never been in it), but I do think it is not too much to ask that we actually pay our combat soldiers.

Our niece is doing fine. She has income from her own job and she and her husband, married just one year (long-distance first anniversary), have no children. But, as she told me on the phone tonight, she's worried about the Army wives who have small children and no income except their Army pay.

Dear Sir:

My husband is currently serving our country in Iraq as of the beginning of March 05. We were due to get out in Feb but we were "stop-lossed." I am not sure if you are aware of this but the system that they have is so unorganized that they somehow OUT processed him at the end of April and back dated it for February 28th and took back all the money they had paid us in March and mid-month April, and gave us a "no pay due" for the end of April.

So my husband is in Iraq not getting paid and from what I hear from him, unable to get anything accomplished over there to resolve this, and it all has to be taken care of over here, which I am trying to do.

Although they've been willing to give me the money in advance until this is resolved, I still feel that someone should be aware of this since half of our troop has ETS dates for this summer. I can't imagine how much more of a hardship this would be for a family with kids or already in financial distress.

I cannot express how disappointed I am in our "system." If you are unable help us, please help the other servicemen who are over there putting their lives at stake.

Please feel free to contact me at the provided telephone number...

My niece says Rep. Hefley's staff was quite sympathetic on the phone today, but it is too soon to say if they can/will help. She also was similarly complimentary of Senator Harry Reid's staff (her husband is a Nevadan).

I know we don't pay our soldiers much, but we surely could do better at making sure they actually get their money. Maybe this is one problem that actually could be solved in a bi-partisan manner.


Labor Unions, Social Security and the Law

UPI's Peter Roff is reporting that the Bush Administration isn't taking a certain type of labor union intimidation lying down:

The AFL-CIO has been at the forefront of the effort to derail President George W. Bush's plan to add personal retirement accounts to Social Security. In fact, the country's preeminent labor group has gone so far as to organize -- not workers, but demonstrations -- outside the offices of financial-services companies and brokers like Edward Jones and Charles Schwab to pressure them to drop out of business groups and coalitions working toward reform of Social Security.

Now, in a counterstrike, the Bush administration has issued a letter warning that unions that use the financial power of their pension funds to influence corporate decisions on reform may be violating the law.

Responding to what it called reports that union officials have suggested "plan trustees could make decisions on the hiring and firing of plans' service providers based upon their opinions on Social Security reform," the U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration reminded the labor group in a May 3 letter that the use of pension-plan assets for political purposes likely violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act...


Bad Guys Won World War II?

From today's Washington Post:

As troops march past and planes streak overhead, President Bush will assume his place in the reviewing stand on Red Square in front of Lenin's tomb, marking the 60th anniversary of the Soviet victory (emphasis added) over Nazi Germany...
Nice of the Soviets to win that war for the rest of us, no?

To be fair, the sentence above quoted above ends with this: event that also ushered in decades of totalitarianism for half of Europe.
So I guess the Post, while crediting the Soviets with the victory in World War II, isn't happy they won it.

Or something.

Strangely, the rest of the piece is pretty good. (Maybe writer Peter Baker's simply been listening to too many Russians. Some of them tend to underestimate the contribution of the western allies in defeating the Nazis in World War II.) The article notes, for instance, that the Bush Administration has tried to convince Putin to denounce the Stalin-Hitler Pact, but Putin has declined. Baker writes: "Putin described [the Stalin-Hitler Pact] this year as merely an effort by Moscow 'to ensure its interests and its security on its western borders,' and the Kremlin told the Americans he saw no need to renounce it."

I bet the Poles just love Putin.

Appropos of nothing, I'm wondering how many Czechs liked Hitler in September, 1938.

Addendum: If the topic of this post interests you, check out Peter Baker's follow-up report in the May 6 Washington Post, which begins: "Russia issued a testy rebuke of President Bush yesterday on the eve of his departure for Europe, denying that Moscow had forcibly occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in 1940..."


Congress' Top Ten Bills Since 1955

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call compiled a panel of Congressional scholars and asked them to name the ten most significant bills approved by Congress over the last fifty years.

The newspaper says the scholars, who included Joel Aberbach of UCLA, Scott Adler of the University of Colorado, David Boaz of the Cato Institute, David Brady and Morris Fiorina of the Hoover Institution, Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation, Allan Lichtman of American University, Burdett Loomis of the University of Kansas, David Mayhew of Yale, Bert Rockman of Ohio State, Steven Smith of Washington University, Rick Striner of Washington College, James Thurber of American University and Eric Uslaner of the University of Maryland, "reached a clear consensus" on the top five bills, but then diverged wildly.

The top ten (with parenthetical notes from me to identify a few of the bills younger readers might not recognize):

1. Civil Rights Act (1964).

2. Voting Rights Act (1965). (Roll Call opines that this legislation "made possible America's turn to the right on economic, social and foreign policy since the 1980s." Really?)

3. Medicare and Medicaid Acts (1965).

4. Federal-Aid Highway Act (1956). (Creation of the Interstate Highway System.)

5. Economic Recovery Tax Act (1981). (President Reagan's signature tax cuts.)

6. National Defense Education Act (1958). (Federal education aid bill sold on the notion that it would help the U.S. best the Soviets.)

7. Tonkin Gulf Resolution (1964).

8. Amendments to Immigration and Nationality Act (1965). (Removed national-origins quotas for immigrants, boosting legal immigration.)

9. Clean Air Act Amendments (1970). (The feds claim authority over states on environmental policy; era of command-and-control environmental rulemaking begins in earnest.)

10. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (1996). (Welfare reform. It took three tries by Congress to get President Clinton to sign it. Change of heart or election year politics? Few wonder.)

The Roll Call piece also notes that Congress has approved approximately 28,000 bills since 1955. It does not estimate how many of them we really needed.


The FEC and Bloggers

The Washington Post brings us this objective article on "crack[ing] down on bloggers who write about politics."

I counted 11 paragraphs in favor of a federal government crackdown on those nasty bloggers who apparently still believe in the First Amendment (naughty, naughty bloggers) and six opposed.

The six paragraphs citing arguments opposed to the crackdown, of course, were the last six paragraphs of the article.

Meanwhile, an article expressing concern (by "some observers," natch) that the Washington Post does not carry a disclaimer citing its political affiliations was nowhere to be found...


Global Warming Censorship?

Pejmanesque is on the case.


Cupertino Teacher Update

The Cupertino public school teacher who was banned from distributing documents written by America's Founding Fathers because of their religious content has won a round in federal court.

A federal judge has dismissed the school district's attempt to get a dismissal of the central claim to the teacher's case, in which he states he was treated differently because he is a Christian.