Friday, April 15, 2005

Moving

I've moved our blog over to http://josquin.us/dfa. Check us out there!

Cheers!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Ed Fallon Set to Announce Gubernatorial Run This Saturday

A message from Rep. Ed Fallon (D-Polk):

Dear Friends,

I will announce my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor at a rally on Saturday, April 9th, from noon - 2:00 p.m. at the Iowa State Capitol building, first floor rotunda. Because the 9th is a Saturday, only the east entrance will be open, and it is handicapped accessible. Please park in the Lucas Building parking lot just east of the Capitol.


The response I have received from friends, allies and others has been consistently positive and encouraging. All across this state I am encountering a growing understanding that conventional politics - dominated and funded by corporate interests - cannot be trusted to address the issues important to the vast majority of Iowans. Iowans are frustrated with "politics as usual" and are genuinely searching for a progressive and winning alternative.

Campaign finance reform is critical to creating a political environment where real issues are addressed. Because of this, I am relying only on donations from individuals - no money from PACs, paid lobbyists or corporate interests. This means I will most certainly be outspent, although the response from individuals has been excellent (to date over $100,000 raised and over $250,000 pledged!).

The great resource of this campaign is people power. Our effort is based on the small, monthly pledges of support from individuals and the significant time invested by hundreds - eventually thousands - of volunteers. In order to defeat big-money politics, I have had to start early, work hard and gradually build support neighborhood by neighborhood, county by county and region by region. With the help of a great staff - part paid, part volunteer - we've been doing that, and it's beginning to show.

In order to demonstrate the true grassroots power of this campaign, we are setting a goal of 500 people for the April 9th announcement rally. With a turnout of this size I hope to establish increased credibility with the media and, most importantly, to send a powerful message to the people of Iowa that a campaign based on principle, determination and people-power can win.

Our success at turning out 500 people for the announcement event rests with you. We ask you to commit to getting five to ten of your friends, neighbors and co-workers to join us on April 9th. If you can help in this way, please call our headquarters at (515) 244-3113 and let us know how many people you can bring to the rally. This information is important so we can have a baseline estimate of numbers for logistics and with our communications with media.

Entertainment at the event will be provided by The Good Time Band from Davenport, a union band belonging to Local 67 of the American Federation of Musicians, and Joe Hynek from Rinngold County.

Confirmed speakers are Mark Johns (Republican perspective for endorsing Fallon), Dave O'Connor (education), Lynn Heuss (issues of poverty & social justice) and Carter Woodruff (personal endorsement). My speech will follow these speakers, probably around 1:15 p.m.

Following the announcement event, there will be a reception at campaign headquarters, 1135 10th St. from 2:00 - 4:00.

Thanks so much for all of your support and I'll see you on April 9th!!

Rep. Ed Fallon
http://www.fallonforgovernor.org

Saturday, April 02, 2005

2004 Presidential Election Exit Poll Discrepancy Update

THE BRAD BLOG: "SCIENTIFIC REPORT: Evidence Strongly Suggests 2004 Presidential Election Results -- Not the Exit Polls! -- Were Biased and/or Flawed!"

USCountVotes.org has produced a scientific statistical analysis of the discrepancies between the exit polls and the announced vote totals. Summarize with the following:

"Our conclusion is that the data appear to be more consistent with the hypothesis of bias in the official count, rather than bias in the exit poll sampling. No data in the report supports the [Edison/Mitofsky] hypothesis that Kerry voters were more likely than Bush voters to cooperate with pollsters and, in fact, there is some indication that the opposite may have been the case."

Visit the BRAD BLOG for more information.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

James Baker Must Resign from Blue-Ribbon Election Reform Commission!

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Paper Chase

Blogs, news sites team up to bring underreported news to those beyond the Web

Someone have a lot of paper and feel like printing? This project aims to get the news out -- rather than relying on the traditional media to get the news out, maybe we're going to have to print out the stories and leave them everywhere.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Latham's Nevada Fiasco

I made it to Tom Latham's forum today in Nevada. He got an earful from the 40 to 50 or so people who were there. The crowd was over 50% seniors, and they were clearly against privatization of Social Security. Latham is not well informed on the subject and tried to regurgitate Republican talking points, but I do not think many in the room were buying it. About half of the forum was on Social Security, which was the stated subject. But a number of other issues came up, including the bankruptcy bill, benefits for reservists, the budget deficit, and the war. He had some signs for the dog and pony SS show that the White House and Tom Delay are making him give, but he never even got a chance to go through them. Many people asked good, pointed questions, and Latham was clearly on the spot. It was great!

The privatization of Social Security came up several times, and that is what I asked about, too. I pointed out that the Republicans earlier (Bush just a few months ago during the campaign) used the word privatization to describe their plan to divert the payroll tax from the SS insurance program to personal retirement accounts. Now with the current Republican doublespeak, they say their plan is not privatization. I pointed out to Latham that his web site and the pamphlet he mailed out stated he is adamantly opposed to privatization, and I was glad to see that. But is he really opposed to Bush's privatization plan? He then tried to redefine privatization, and he would not say one way or another if he supported Bush's privatization plan. Others pointed out to him how misleading he is with his stated opposition to privatization. I think he is very vulnerable on this issue, and he came off to many as quite evasive and deceiving on this and other issues. I hope he gets the same response at his other forums.

His two biggest mistakes were in answering why eliminating or raising the cap on the SS payroll tax wouldn’t fly and on the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. To the first question, he said that if the rich paid more SS payroll tax, that they would more than get it back in increased SS benefits when they retired, and there would be even less money available for other people’s benefits - this is absolutely the dumbest response to a SS question that I ever heard, and I later explained to him that benefits are not in a 1:1 ration to the amount of tax put in. He did not argue with me on that, and I think he realized he made a very stupid statement.

On the second to last question, a woman asked if he remembered a forum at the North Grand Mall when Latham told her that the war in Iraq was worth the cost and that we will eventually find those weapons of mass destruction. Did he still feel that way today? He made a joke that they were out of time and they should end it there, and he and some of the audience laughed. She said soberly that she did not think it was funny. Latham was then embarrassed and agreed that it was a serious matter, and he gave the White House talking points that everyone thought Sadam had WMDs (a chorus rang out that “I didn’t”) and how democracy is spreading in the Middle East. What an ass!

The very last question was from a senior who said “If the majority of your constituents feel one way about the SS issue and Tom Delay feels the other way, then who are you going to side with?” Latham said he would take the side of his friends, them realized that that was ambiguous and added “you are my friends.” We’ll see. I think most of those in room knew that Tom Delay is a much bigger friend and that Latham will sell us out.

I strongly encourage you all to go to any of the upcoming forums that Latham has planned over the next month. You can tell he is uncomfortable selling the Republican bullshit on SS and other issues. And I think a lot of people have a much more negative impression of him now.

Please attend the other forums and ask tough questions.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

talking points for congress members on SS

I wanted to share this with you; it came from my benefits provider

Cap Would Aid Greatest Portion of Workers March, 2005Employee Benefit Research Institute

WASHINGTON—A far greater portion of all current and future Americans would have a higher initial retiree benefit from the current Social Security program than from an individual account plan if the existing $90,000 wage cap was eliminated and all local, state, and federal workers were brought into the program to fill the projected funding deficit, a new analysis of various Social Security options shows.

However, the study also shows that more of today’s younger workers would have a higher initial retiree benefit from an individual account plan than if nothing is done to reform the currently projected underfunded program.

The new analysis, by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), examines in detail how Americans in different age groups would fare under different Social Security reform options. It examines the complete distribution of possible earnings histories and job patterns Americans have during their careers. It also demonstrates that the percentage of Americans within various birth cohorts that have higher initial benefits and ratios of retiree benefits to taxes under any Social Security reform will depend on how old you are, how much you earn, your investment risk and returns, administrative costs in an individual account, and other factors. The EBRI report, available on EBRI’s Web site at www.ebri.org, underlines the dangers of taking no action to reform Social Security.

“There is no easy answer to ‘winners and losers’ in Social Security reform: The current system is unsustainable under current assumptions without either benefit or tax changes, and whatever is done—including nothing at all—will affect different people in different ways,” said Dallas Salisbury, EBRI president. “This new analysis from EBRI underlines the advantages of moving sooner rather than later on reform, while at the same time shedding light on how Americans would fare in terms of benefits under an individual account plan versus three alternative options for addressing the projected Social Security program deficit.”

Using a unique computer model similar to that used by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, EBRI looked at the “Model 2” individual account reform option that was presented in the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security (PCSSS) report in 2001, which is the closest to what President Bush has been discussing for a framework for an individual account plan (Model 2 is actually more generous than the administration’s most recent suggestion, as its offset rate is a 2% real rate of return compared with the recently mentioned 3% real rate of return on investments in order for individual account holders to get a greater benefit than the underlying Social Security defined benefit). EBRI’s analysis assumes that everyone would opt for the individual account and is able to simulate a full range of random investment outcomes for the
accounts.

EBRI looked at three options and compared the benefit outcomes to Model 2’s benefits:

“Tax All Earnings”—This option is used as a proxy for maintaining the current level of
promised benefits, and would do so by increasing revenue (specifically, by removing the current $90,000 annual income cap on taxable Social Security wages) and by including all currently exempt local, state, and federal government employees in the Social Security system. EBRI found that for those born between 1955 and 2015, between 67% and 84% would get higher benefits from this approach (“Tax All Earnings”) than from the Model 2 individual account plan.

EBRI also reported on the differing effects by lifetime earnings. Contrary to what one might think (that the highest earners would always have higher benefits with individual accounts), the higher one’s earnings, the higher one’s benefits would be from the tax-all-earnings approach relative to the benefits from Model 2 individual accounts. This is primarily because of the $1,000 per year contribution limit in Model 2 and the higher benefits for higher earners when the age cap is removed.

“Do Nothing”—This option would make no change in the Social Security system until
2042, when the Social Security Trust Fund is projected to be exhausted, and then cut benefits by 38% to bring the program into balance with available revenue. (EBRI assumes a higher level of cuts than in the Social Security Trustees Report, since the EBRI model assumes prospective benefit cuts after 2042 while the Trustees report assumes across the board cuts.) On the one hand, this approach underlines that the program will not actually stop paying benefits in 2042; on the other, it underlines that either more money is needed or future cohorts will be faced with reduced benefits.

Under this option, beneficiaries born in 1955, 1965, and 1975 would have a similar likelihood of having higher benefits than under Model 2 as those in the “Tax All Earnings” scenario, but the percentage would plunge to less than 3 percent for those born in 1985—a vivid demonstration of the impact on this age group of not addressing the projected deficit sooner. Under this scenario, benefits in relation to Model 2 would begin to rebound in future years, but under Model 2 those in these cohorts would be likely to do better assuming equity market rates comparable to historical returns: Just over 30 percent of those born in 2015 would receive higher benefits under the “Do Nothing” scenario, compared with Model 2 benefits. However, when accounting for risk, the youngest cohorts are not as likely to have higher benefits under Model 2. A key underlying point made by these results is acting sooner rather than later, whatever is done, will be better for today’s young workers.

“Gradual Reduction”—This option would gradually cut Social Security benefits
between now and 2042 to provide a smoother result; nevertheless, of those born in 1985, only
27.5% would have a higher initial retiree benefit than under Model 2, when assuming historical equity market returns. Those born after 1955 would see a lower likelihood of having higher benefits under this option, with more than half of all those born after 1975 having higher benefits under Model 2, when assuming historical equity returns, than a gradual reduction approach.

The EBRI analysis finds that under the Model 2 plan, middle-income earners would receive a larger portion of their Social Security benefit from the individual account (as opposed to the defined benefit formula), whether accounting for the risk of equity investments or not; both higher- and lower-lifetime earners would receive about the same percentage of their total benefit from the defined benefit portion of Social Security, with the middle lifetime earners receiving the highest percentage. This is because higher-income individuals would be limited by the $1,000
annual contribution limit, and lower-income individuals would be limited by their earnings.

The EBRI research also showed the impact that management fees and administrative costs would have on beneficiaries’ monthly checks if they elected to participate in a system of individual accounts. Not surprisingly, plans with higher fees would take a bigger bite out of benefits than would lower fees. Looking at the 2015 birth cohort (which would be past the transition period for individual accounts), those receiving the highest level of benefits would see their payments cut by roughly 8% and 14% under two higher-cost assumptions, compared with the base cost assumption. Salisbury noted these findings underscore the importance of minimizing administrative costs, either by “riding” the current payroll tax collection process and/or by “mirroring” the federal Thrift Savings Plan’s limited investment options and processes.

As a nonpartisan research institute, EBRI does not take a policy position on any Social Security reform proposal, and used the three options only for illustrative purposes. Salisbury said the EBRI research is unique because it looks at the full population, examines age groups that are not yet born, considers wide swings in investment returns that are likely to take place, and includes all possibilities of anticipated work and earnings patterns for current and future workers.

Craig Copeland, Ph.D., director of EBRI’s Social Security Reform Evaluation Research Program, is the chief author of the study. His work was based on assumptions contained in the 2004 Social Security Trustees report, the final report of the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security (issued in December 2001), and through the use of GEMINI, a computer-based dynamic microsimulation model designed to analyze the lifetime implications of Social Security policies for a large sample of the population born in any one year that was developed by the Policy Simulation Group.

The new analysis builds on extensive work done by EBRI modeling earlier individual account proposals, including the so-called “Gregg-Breaux-Kolbe-Stenholm,” “Archer-Shaw” and other legislative plans. In addition, EBRI has published an extensive analysis of the administrative issues involved in adding individual accounts to Social Security, as well as how various economic and demographic factors affect the program’s actuarial balance. EBRI’s complete list of Social Security program work is available on the Internet at www.ebri.org/SSProject/index.htm