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Thursday, October 20, 2005

What Molly Ivins Doesn't Know, And Why You Should Care

Yesterday Carl at No Oil For Pacifists wrote about the fringe left that simply doesn't care what dictators do as long as they are willing to insult the US. Today he writes about Chavez and Mugabe having a good time together in the Rome UN Food and Agriculture meeting, and being cheered by UN delegates for their anti-American statements.

Both Hammorabi and Iraq The Model place great importance upon Saddam Hussein's trial. In 2003 Iraq The Model posted the story of a survivor of one of Saddam Hussein's atrocities, writing:
This story is dedicated to all those who oppose what's happening in Iraq, that's to say; the Arab and Muslim world and the (peace activists) in the hope that it will make them pause for a while and reconsider their (noble stand).
This is one example that may help them imagine the (peace) we lived in.
Hammorabi wrote yesterday:
Saddam and his regime committed crimes against humanity not only by killing millions of people but by creating a cascade of evil events which will stay with us for long time to come. The scars that this regime left will never ever heal by a trial or even the most sever (sic) punishments they deserve. However it is good to see the criminals behind the bar after so long time.
Far too many people in the west don't want to hear about any such stories. We don't want to hear about Venezuela, Zimbabwe or Iraq. If we listened to these stories, or even the ones from Darfur, we'd have to confront the fact that the UN has become a corrupt organization lending legitimacy to such regimes rather than working against them, and we'd lie uneasy in our beds wondering what responsibility we might have to work against such regimes.

The UN has become the memory hole of our times. In its hallowed halls, facts and law mean nothing; reality is rewritten and the lawless are cheered as humanitarians. If Fukayama's End of History ever arrives, it will be because the UN will own history. We often read that history belongs to the victors; the truth is that the west has reached such a pass that it has ceded history to the dictators through the pen of the UN.

And this is the organization that wants to take control of the internet. We should never concede. All these regimes try to block the swelling of political dissent and discussion taking place on the internet.

But is the US press much better? No matter how much they protest that they are objective, they don't seem to be able to find facts or report them. They write contextless stories that ignore even the events of the recent past. It's Orwellian in the extreme - so Orwellian that someone like Molly Ivins, who opines for a living, didn't even know that Saddam Hussein had been a mass murderer. She wrote a column asserting that the invasion of Iraq had killed more people than Saddam Hussein ever had. She apologized when readers confronted her with the truth, but concluded with this:
There have been estimates as high as 1 million civilians killed by Saddam, though most agree on the 300,000 to 400,000 range, making my comparison to 20,000 civilian dead in this war pathetically wrong.

I was certainly under no illusions regarding Saddam Hussein, whom I have opposed through human rights work for decades. My sincere apologies. It is unforgivable of me not have checked. I am so sorry.
Clearly, she was under an illusion regarding Saddam Hussein. How much do you want to bet that she is still deluded about Zimbabwe? There is a huge engine in the press that makes reality up anew each day, and Molly Ivins evidently has a conscience but was deluded by reading the news. Her sentiments are not uncommon.

Molly Ivins appears to be a nice woman who is also a credulous sap. She believes what she reads in the press. For instance, she appears to believe that the Christian Dominionists (a movement that is about as significant as the Raelians) run the Bush administration. Why? She read it in Harper's. Poor woman. She believes that Social Security will be solvent until 2042. She read that everywhere. It never occurred to her to read the Social Security Administration's reports. Try 2005's:
Annual cost will exceed tax income starting in 2017 at which time the annual gap will be covered with cash from redeeming special obligations of the Treasury, until these assets are exhausted in 2041. Separately, the DI fund is projected to be exhausted in 2027 and the OASI fund in 2043. For the 75-year projection period, the actuarial deficit is 1.92 percent of taxable payroll, 0.04 percentage point larger than in last year's report. The open group unfunded obligation for OASDI over the 75-year period is $4.0 trillion in present value, $0.3 trillion more than the unfunded obligation estimated a year ago.

The OASDI annual cost rate is projected to increase from 11.13 percent of taxable payroll in 2005, to 16.74 percent in 2030, and to 19.08 percent in 2079, or to a level that is 5.70 percent of taxable payroll more than the projected income rate for 2079. Expressed in relation to the projected gross domestic product (GDP), OASDI cost is estimated to rise from the current level of 4.3 percent of GDP, to 6.1 percent in 2030, and to 6.4 percent in 2079.
Starting in 2017 (and this will probably creep back to 2016 or or 2015), you the taxpayer are going to have to start paying extra to fund each year's checks to retirees. By 2030 that will be another 4% of payroll. Molly Ivins literally doesn't even know this, because she reads the press coverage on this issue. Oh - by the way - Medicare is already running a deficit. In 2004 tax receipts fell short of payouts and those deficits are projected to rise every year.

Molly Ivins also doesn't know that the trust funds have no assets, so that each year the deficit must be paid out of general revenue. That means the taxpayers pay it. That means you pay it. You are already paying for part of Medicare with your income taxes. In 10 to 12 years, you will be paying for part of Social Security with your income taxes. How much is this going to cost you if we don't start saving? Look at the reports. The red lines are the costs and the blue lines are the receipts charted against GDP, and NOT ONE PENNY has been saved to take care of the shortfall. You pay each year in the form of increased taxes or in the form of increased debt.

In other words, both programs are busted. But the US press doesn't know that, so it doesn't report that. The media can't add, can't subtract, can't multiply and can't read. It often operates as a laughably stupid engine of disinformation. I am dedicated to fisking them until I drop, because they are doing our society a terrible disservice.

Just to make this very clear, Howard of Oraculations has accurately pointed out the significance of the UAW deal. We are going to have to do the same with regard to our retirement programs, because the entire country is in the same fix as GM. In the meantime, no one in the government has an interest in telling you this, because an austerity program would inevitably hurt their pensions, which are also underfunded. The press apparently can't understand numbers, so it takes Democratic party handouts as gospel and simply retails their nonsense. So this leaves the American taxpayer up the creek without a paddle and without a compass.

Molly Ivins gets so much attention because she is a clear partisan liberal in a very conservative state. I think she honestly gives them the feeling that they could win the state without addressing any issues and they like that.

I'd ignore her except they keep insisting she's some sort of spokesperson for my state.
Except that she does have a conscience. What I mean by this post is that the press coverage of a lot of issues is so very poor that it deludes people.

If Molly Ivins understood what was happening with these programs (stealing money, esp. from the lowest income people), she wouldn't advocate it.
You can't fault the MSM coverage of Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton, though!
Mover Mike
Excellent post.

Ivins has a long history of backing down after error laden columns- especially in regard to middle east politics.

Her take on social security, too, has been crafted to represent a political agenda. While, as you say, she has a conscience, she is also less of a journalist or even columnist. She will to easily accept as gospel those things she needs to question.

It's a matter of credibility. A shill- even one that apologizes, has a limited credibility shelf life.
Great post, great chart. I'm surprised pro-SS-reform advocates rarely mention their best arguments:

1) It Ain't Yours: No one has any vested "right" to Social Security, no matter the notice of expected benefits the SSA mails out each year. Flemming v. Nestor, 363 U.S. 603, 610-11 (1960).

2) It Ain't Your Kids' Either: Social Security payments (for the most part) terminate on death. Not so for private retirement accounts--including, of course, a fully privatized Social Security. Contrary to the current system, money put in private accounts is vested, inheritable and can be bequeathed to heirs.
Good points, everyone!

Personally, when I look at the numbers I get very worried. We need to start saving, and private accounts are a good way to do that.
Excellent Carl- Thanks for the education. I had no idea about the estate issue. You know, if they really wanted to push private accounts, pushing that AND a tax exemption for monies passed on, would be a helluva boost.
Carl - those are indeed good arguments for private accounts, but the real obstacle to reform is that the US public does not realize that it is absolutely necessary.

If we can get the point across that the current system is unsustainable, then we can have a debate on the details of reform. But we will never have that debate until the American public realizes that each year they send in money, supposedly to provide for their retirement, and that money is spent on bridges to nowhere. Simply not spending it would do a lot for their futures.

The American public believes that the money they send for Social Security is either spent to pay benefits or saved, and that is not true.
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