August 17, 2015

Social Security Still Strong at 80. . . Despite such a strong record, Social Security is under attack from profiteers and their political allies who claim it will not be around when people retire and is in need of drastic reform. A myth, says the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) since “Social Security is fully funded through 2033. Even if nothing is done to shore up the system, Social Security can continue to pay three-fourths of promised benefits after the trust fund runs out. Though this would be far from ideal, it’s certainly no reason to preemptively cut benefits.” A decrease in Social Security benefits would leave over half of elderly Americans in poverty, hitting African Americans, Latinos and women the hardest. . . Because Social Security is such a large public sector program, with almost $3 trillion in reserves, Wall Street has long wanted to get its hands on it. Various proposals to privatize or partially privatize the program would allow investment firms to run up fees for every transaction, profiting off of retirees and making the program vulnerable to economic crashes.  PR Watch

Jeb Bush Doesn’t Support Privatizing Social Security, But Wants To Cut It In Other Ways. Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said on Friday that he does not want to privatize Social Security the way his brother unsuccessfully attempted to do in 2005, but does support raising the retirement age. . . . Bush has previously expressed interest in raising the age for Social Security eligibility to 68 or 70 — something for which Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, has pounced on him. The former Florida governor has also expressed an openness to “means-testing,” which would reduce benefits for high-income seniors. Critics say such an approach would lead to poor retirement planning and discourage people from working past the age when they are eligible for benefits. Huffington Post

EPA’s Colorado Mine Spill is all about Privatizing Profits and Socializing Cleanup. . . . By now you’ve heard the basics – there was a gold mine loaded with toxic water, it was leaking thousands of gallons a day (already creating a deadzone downstream), the Environmental Protection Agency went in to try and clean things up and inadvertently sent a flood of ugly brown sludge down the Animas River into Colorado and Utah. But what was the EPA doing there in the first place? The reason the EPA has to go in and inspect and regulate and fine and oversee is because deadbeat companies are perfectly happy sucking the profits out of mines and factories and power plants, but when it comes time to clean up the mess they made… they’re perfectly happy to walk away. Wipe their hands, send out one last round of bonuses and dividends, then declare bankruptcy and evaporate into thin air, leaving YOU AND ME holding the bag of the cleanup costs. Privatize profits, socialize the cleanup. Great if you’re a shareholder or owner. Sucks for the rest of us. Red, Green, and Blue

NY: The Politics of Road Pricing: Andrew Cuomo vs. Actual Polls. Andrew Cuomo styles himself as a guy who gets stuff done. That’s what muscling through the Tappan Zee Bridge double-span boondoggle and the multi-billion dollar LaGuardia renovation is all about. But when reporters ask Cuomo about funding transit by putting a price on NYC’s free bridges, he likes to portray himself as a helpless bystander, stymied by politics. Quinnipiac poll results released this morning again show that public resistance to a toll swap as envisioned in the Move NY plan (higher tolls on East River bridges, lower ones on outlying MTA crossings) is not nearly as deep as Cuomo makes it out to be. The survey of 1,108 NYC voters found 44 support Move NY-style toll reform to fund transit, while 49 percent oppose, replicating the findings of a poll this May. Streetsblog New York (blog)

KS: Kansas launches advertising campaign in effort to boost child support collections. The Department for Children and Families hopes to bring in millions of dollars in new child support collections through an advertising campaign that will urge businesses to report new hires for collection purposes. . . . The advertising campaign comes after Kansas privatized its child support collection system in 2013. After the first year of privatization, Kansas did a worse job collecting current child support than before privatization — and the percentage of current support collected stood at a 14-year low. Topeka Capital Journal

SC: State moves to privatize its home health services. The state plans to privatize its 50-year-old home health program, saying it’s been losing money for the past three years. The service provides skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, medical social services, home health aides, and care and education for respiratory and other diseases to people who’ve been in the hospitalized or have temporary or chronic health problems. Greenville News

MA: Deal to privatize MBTA station debuts with shortfalls. Just months after signing a $32 million deal to have the real estate giant Boston Properties upgrade the station, the Department of Transportation has agreed to cover six-figure shortfalls in rent from vendors and pay potentially big sums for structural repairs. . . . In June, as Boston Properties prepared to take over the station, it told the MBTA it had found “deficiencies” in expansion joints in the concourse, according to an amended lease the parties signed Aug. 1. Boston Properties said it would cover the gaps in the expansion joints, which could be a hazard to pedestrians. . . .In the amended lease, the state agreed to pay Boston Properties $100,000 within 10 days for the rent shortfall, with additional payments following each month. The parties also agreed to set aside $1 million from Boston Properties’ $32 million budget to fix the expansion joints, with the MBTA covering any costs beyond that. Boston Globe

TX: Private toll road picks up speed south of Austin. A rural Texas toll road run by a private company is adding traffic faster than a companion segment operated by the state Department of Transportation. . .. But a critic of the private-toll venture says a lack of financial data leaves a murky picture. “This does not show revenue, nor does it show what is owed to the (toll road’s) lender so that we can determine if this number of transactions is sufficient to keep them in the black. That’s the true bottom line — how much revenue do they owe versus how much are they collecting?” said Terri Hall, president of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom. “Solvency, not transactions, is the key evaluator.”

TX: Study: Time to rethink truckers’ use, non-use of Texas toll road. Texas officials have for years tried to get more trucks off of I-35 and on to the SH 130 toll road in the Austin area. Their theory is that trucks play a significant role in the congestion problems on the interstate. A new study of truckers’ reasons for avoiding the toll road, however, reveals that trucks are just 1 percent of the through traffic in the region. . . . A breakdown of the numbers shows what they’re talking about, and it shows something else – that maybe it’s the cars the officials need to be incentivizing to use the toll road. Land Line Magazine