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11.18 How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet

11.18 Air pollution levels ‘forcing families to move out of cities’ [like from desertification, lack of drinkable water and rising oceans, there will also be pollution-caused immigration until humans fix things]

11.17 Policies of China, Russia and Canada threaten 5C climate change, study finds [Climate catastrophe is increasingly likely without worldwide organization, funding and commitment to winning THE WAR AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING.]

11.16 Scotland was first Industrialized Country to Run wholly on Wind in October

11.16 How pesticide bans can prevent tens of thousands of suicides a year [how many thousands more die early from eating pesticide-laced food?]

11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]

11.15  The long read:  The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]

11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]

11.15 Trump administration to cut air pollution from heavy-duty trucks

11.14 Backed by Ocasio-Cortez, Youth Climate Activists Arrested in Pelosi's Office Demanding Democrats Embrace 'Green New Deal'

11.13 What would a smog-free city look like?

11.13 Global report highlights Australia’s renewables potential amid mixed signals for coal

11.13 Interior department whistleblower: Ryan Zinke hollowed out the agency

11.12  This Land is Your Land:  The Zinke effect: how the US interior department became a tool of industry [behaving ignorantly again...]

11.12 Planned Parenthood's new president warns of 'state of emergency' for women's health

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11.19 The Biggest Threat to Free Speech No One Is Talking About

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11.19 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 11/18/2018 (HBO) [29:26 video]

11.19 Michael Bloomberg: Why I’m Giving $1.8 Billion for College Financial Aid

11.19 Trump’s Diminishing Power and Rising Rage

11.19 Trump Says He Was 'Fully Briefed' and Also 'Not Briefed Yet' But Either Way Saudi Crown Prince 'Absolutely' Not Involved Because Trump Knows 'Everything That Went On' Without Listening to Tape of Khashoggi Murder

11.19 'We Need New Leaders, Period': Progressive Newcomers Urge Democrats to Embrace Bold Agenda or Face Primary Challenges [Current Democrat leaders are highly compromised by corporate donations]

11.19 SNL explains Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s HQ2 strategy: trolling President Trump [2:55 SNL video]

11.18 Trump says Pelosi deserves speakership, offers Republican votes [An affirmation of Pelosi's unsuitability]

11.18 Khanna to Pelosi: Don't Just Create Green New Deal Select Committee, Make Ocasio-Cortez Its Chair [Will Pelosi earnestly change, or end her career in disgrace?]

11.18 Chuck Schumer, Feckless Hack [Neoliberal Democrats must go!]

11.18 What the State of the VA Tells Us About Trump’s War on Welfare [Privatizing often results in outright fraud and higher costs by private prisons, privatized health insurance and health care, privatized public schools and online "colleges" like Trump University]

11.17 What the State of the VA Tells Us About Trump’s War on Welfare

11.17 As Energy for Medicare for All Explodes, Steny Hoyer's Plan Includes Waiting for Trump to Help Make Obamacare Better [Another who is unfit to be Democrat leader]

11.17 'A Staggeringly Bad Idea': Outrage as Pelosi Pushes Tax Rule That Would 'Kneecap the Progressive Agenda' [Unfit to be Democrat leader]

11.17 Trump Is Starting to Panic

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11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]

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11.19 Bankrupt Sears wants to give executives $19 million in bonuses [blatantly immoral and sick to richly reward those who led the company into the bankruptcy]

11.18 Big Pharma Bankrolled Pro-Trump Group As Trump Pushed Pharma Tax Cut [Corruption Central!]

11.16 Amazon’s HQ2 Will Get a Tax Break Designed to Help the Poor [a Republican program that directly helps participating wealthy companies—but only helps workers if and when 'trickle-down' occurs.]

11.16 Trump doesn’t want to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi. His new sanctions prove it. [George W. Bush made a similar immoral decision for the same oily reasons after 9-11, protecting Saudi defense contracts while facilitating the slaughter of poorer Arab "terrorists" in the region.]

International & Futurism

11.18 New Evidence Emerges of Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica’s Role in Brexit

11.18 France demands UK climate pledge in return for Brexit trade deal [Excellent!]

11.17 Saudi crown prince's 'fit' delays UN resolution on war in Yemen

11.17 Thousands gather to block London bridges in climate rebellion [We're losing WWIII because the enemy is invisible while we're like frogs slowly cooking. We aren't informed enough to be alarmed, but must get organized and motivated to fight back. We need a War Plan to ruthlessly pursue the fight of our lives!]

11.17 CIA finds Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi killing – report

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  State of the Union: Obama's ''Automatic IRA'' Plan Could Make Bush's Wildest Dreams Come True

COMMENTARY:

State of the Union: Obama’s “Automatic IRA” Plan Could Make Bush’s Wildest Dreams Come True

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation earlier today, 27 January 2010

We could see Americans’ Social Security cut by a small percentage (remembering that raising the retirement age is, effectively, a cut), while simultaneously, a small percentage of their pay is deducted and invested in the private sector. And suddenly–presto–George W. Bush’s wildest dreams have come true.

In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama is expected to propose what’s generally being called an “automatic IRA.” Under this scheme, the government would help set up a system of individual retirement accounts in which workers would be automatically enrolled if their employers don’t offer their own 401Ks. A minimum amount of pre-tax earnings–under current proposals, 3 percent–would automatically be deducted from employees’ pay and direct-deposited into their accounts. Individuals could increase the amount of the automatic deposits, or they could opt-out altogether. They would also have some choice about where to place their investments; otherwise, it would automatically be placed in what planners are calling a “diversified portfolio.”

On the surface, it sounds like a sensible plan. AARP is supporting it, and says it could help some 50 million of the 75 million Americans whose employers offer no retirement plan. It’s being touted as a “third way” or “common sense” approach to the retirement crisis–a rare bipartisan initiative, developed through a rapprochement between left and right. The idea emanates from a group called the Retirement Security Project (RSP), led by David John of the Heritage Foundation, who hammered out a joint scheme with William Gale of the Brookings Institution. It’s supported by the White House, and expected to breeze through Congress. The publication Life and Pensions reported earlier this week:

John, who is a senior research fellow with Washington, DC-based think-tank the Heritage Foundation, as well as holding a position on the RSP, said he welcomed the initiative’s inclusion in the state of the union address. Having the President speak about it on Wednesday will give it a far higher profile than it would otherwise get,” he said.

John said he expected the bill to have a fairly easy passage, given the lack of opposition. It was included in the 2009 budget, but the time taken over the controversial healthcare reform bill meant it slipped off the legislative agenda.

The presence of David John as the proposal’s spokesperson and primary architect ought to be enough to make progressives take a closer look at a proposal that’s promoted as an obvious no-brainer. With the exception of the automatic IRA, John is a sharp critic of Obama’s economic approach, including all of the other proposals the president is expected to outline tonight. “He’s basically giving tax money to people regardless [if] they have actually paid any taxes or not,” John said yesterday. “And many of these [proposals] sound much better as they’re intended to than they would actually work in practice — so I think that some of those are going to have some severe handicaps.”

In addition–as a quick glance at his writing on the Heritage Foundation web site reveals–John was a huge booster of privatizing Social Security. The idea of privatizing this New Deal program, and turning over its billions to Wall Street, has been the fondest hope of the right since the days of the Reagan administration. Remember that it was just five years ago, in 2005, that George W. Bush made privatizing a portion of Social Security a centerpiece of his State of the Union address. Conservatives fought hard for this initiative, which would have diverted 2.5 % of Social Security withholdings into individual retirement accounts similar to those now proposed, and invested the funds in a similar ”diversified portfolio” of Wall Street products. But the pubic, wisely, distrusted Bush’s motives, and by the end of the year, it was clear that he would never win broad support for the privatization plan. In the early months of 2006, the Retirement Security Project, under John’s leadership, began actively promoting the automatic IRA scheme.

Is it paranoid to see the automatic IRA as a back door attack on Social Security–a foot in the door in the quest to cut entitlements? Maybe not. Unlike Bush’s plan, the automatic IRA would not take funds out of Social Security, but rather directly out of workers’ paychecks. But imagine, if you will, that at the same time, cuts are made to Social Security. Tonight Obama is expected to pitch his version of the fast-track “deficit reduction commission” recently proposed (and defeated) in the Senate, which clearly would set its sights largely on entitlements, including Social Security. So we could see Americans’ Social Security cut by a small percentage (remembering that raising the retirement age is, effectively, a cut), while simultaneously, a small percentage of their pay is deducted and invested in the private sector. And suddenly–presto–George W. Bush’s wildest dreams have come true.

There’s yet another facet to the automatic IRA plan, which would effectively channel not only worker earnings but also government funds into private retirement accounts. On Monday, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden addressed the Middle Class Task Force set up a year ago. Biden pitched the automatic IRA proposal, saying “It’s a simple proposition, but it’s a big deal,” and then outlined the plan for a government “match” of individual savings:

It also means simplifying and expanding the saver’s credit, which helped working families save for retirement by providing a 50 percent match on the first $1,000 of retirement savings. So if you put a thousand bucks into a retirement account, your government is going to add even more — another $500. It’s an incentive, but long term it saves the government a lot more money than the 500 hundred bucks put in if in fact we find we have a generation that’s able to care for themselves and not have to look to the government to provide some basic needs they need. This will not only help build up a nest egg for existing savers, but it’s going to encourage workers who currently have no retirement accounts to start to save.

The matching tax credit, too, might sound like a nice plan, until you think about what it actually means: Instead of going into the U.S. Treasury, this money, too, will go straight to Wall Street, in the form of IRA investments in private retirement funds. And suddenly–presto–it’s yet another government handout to Wall Street. Even without the tax credit, there’s no doubt that the automatic IRA could be the best thing to happen to Wall Street since the creation of the pre-tax 401K.

It’s hard to fathom why Americans would want to dump more money into an IRA that will end up in unguaranteed mutual funds, so soon after seeing our private retirement investments take a beating in the recession. Just a year ago, we were all kicking ourselves for trusting Wall Street with our nest egss, and thanking our lucky stars that at least we hadn’t privatized Social Security.

Nonetheless, the automatic IRA plan seems destined to forge ahead, steamrolling over other, more secure options. One such proposal was made by pension expert Teresa Ghilarducci, who suggested setting up accounts that would have a guaranteed government return and be run by the Social Security administration. (I outline her plan in my recent Mother Jones article on 401Ks.) But once again, the American government prefers to skirt direct responsibility for looking after its elders, and instead pass us off into the greedy, grasping hands of Wall Street–which will no doubt be laughing all the way to the bank.


Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found at JamesRidgeway.net and at his newest web site, Solitary Watch.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on January 27, 2010.
 

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