Deficit Committee: Co-Chairs Patty Murray and Jeb Hensarling Select Chief of Staff, Senate Tax Counsel Mark Prater

The co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction (JCDF) have selected Mark Prater, Republican Senate Finance Committee Counsel, as the JCDF’s chief of staff.

Miscellaneous information on Mr. Prater is available at Legistorm.com (www.legistorm.com/person/Mark_A_Prater/8071.html).

Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

Chief of Staff:  Mark Prater

Selections of Senator Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader

Nominee

Net Worth (2009)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) $13,013 to $204,000
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) $182,755,534 to $294,869,059
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) $449,017 to $1,185,000

Source: www.opensecrets.org.

Selections of Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader

Nominee

Net Worth (2009)

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) $519,090 to $746,082
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) $5,544,075 to $17,468,999
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) $1,770,062 to $4,900,999

Source:  http://www.opensecrets.org.

Selections of House Speaker John Boehner

Nominee

Net Worth (2009)

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) $2,966,100 to $10,515,000
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) $928,025 to $2,270,000
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) $7,010,173 to $25,651,000

Source:  http://www.opensecrets.org.

Selections of Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader

Nominee

Net Worth (2009)

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) $100,054 to $1,424,999
Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) $212,010 to $582,000
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) $148,007 to $445,000

Source:  http://www.opensecrets.org.

DC Earthquake 2011: First Instance of Earthquake Felt Weird, Scary; Post-Earthquake, Questions Arose

I experienced my first earthquake during the afternoon of August 23, 2011. I saw my house move back and forth a little bit. I had thought that a heavy construction truck was moving through the area. A few seconds after that sensation, the movement increased noticeably. At this point, I became concerned, but I did not know what to do in such a situation.

After the movement reached its high point, the movement stopped. I thought that the movement was isolated to my own residence. But when I saw the perplexed look on my neighbors’ faces, I knew we had all experienced the same thing. It was about this time that I realized that the event was an earthquake.

Being a resident of the East Coast for my entire life, I had never really experienced an earthquake (the last-reported one occurred during the early morning hours, when I was asleep. I checked around the residence for damage. The only thing damaged was a lamp that fell off a shelf. As for me, my heart was racing, but it settled down after about 30 minutes or so.

As this earthquake occurred during the day (and was noticeable), I had a several questions.

  • Are buildings on the East Coast constructed to withstand a strong earthquake (greater than or equal to 6.0 magnitude)?
  • What are the steps to take when an earthquake occurs? It may be a practice in other areas of the United States to do earthquake drills, but none of those programs exist (as far as I know) in the D.C metropolitan area.
  • Are people properly insured to cover damage caused by earthquakes? (For example, here is text from the Farmers Insurance website).

I am not sure how to answer how to answer these questions now, but I will have to research them.

Third Way: Evaluating Group’s Document “Saving Social Security”; Proposal to Raise Retirement Age Ultimately Denies the Fact of Mortality

Continuing on with the evaluation of the Third Way document “Saving Social Security”, I think that Third Way’s proposal about increasing the retirement age fails to recognize that mortality is reality; no amount of work will avoid this fact. The retirement age was already increased to 67; that age should be the maximum age.

After a lifetime of work, who would want to continue working full time until 70 (or older)? Some judges and members of congress do, but they have lots of staff assistance to complete their jobs.

I think it is reasonable for people to take advantage of their remaining good health to enjoy activities they could not get to do at a younger age.

Third Way: Evaluating Group’s Document “Saving Social Security”; Chain-Weighted CPI has Cumulative Negative Effect in the Future

Continuing on with the evaluation of the Third Way document “Saving Social Security”, I’ll begin with more-accurate cost of living increases. Third Way proposes that Social Security use a chain-weighted consumer price index.

  • I’m not so sure that I agree with this change because of the cumulative negative effect. In addition, if a change is overly complicated, the safest way of dealing with the issue is to reject the proposition.
  • None of this would have been needed if the FICA surplus was kept as cash on the government’s books. As the FICA funds were borrowed (as represented by the nonmarketable Treasury securities in the “trust fund”, those funds were known to be obligations to be repaid. I call them a patriotic citizen’s loan. Should the political elite decide not to repay that loan, only horrible consequences will follow.

Third Way: Evaluating Group’s Document “Saving Social Security”; Proposed Increase to Low-Income Seniors Not Worth the Effort (Net Increase Low)

It’s galling to hear all of the ideas coming forward about the Social Security and Medicare programs as these are not appropriated programs. These programs are funded by the people of the United States through the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax.

The people’s problem is not with the programs but with their politicians who have diverted the “trust fund” monies (take the cash from the tax assessment into the general funds, then Treasury issues a nonmarketable bond for that amount and puts it into the Social Security trust fund). When the Baby Boomer generation was in their active working years, there was a lot of money in the Treasury. Given the composition of the U.S. government revenues, the amount of money that was seen as excess may have been from FICA monies. If that were the case, the money should not have funded “tax cuts” or any other programs unless a method of repaying the funds was known.

The government did not preserve the excess funds to provide for the inevitable cash-in period occurring now, and so now there are calls to address the need for cash as the nonmarketable bonds are being reached to fund Social Security beneficiaries. One way is to raise revenues on those who received cuts based on the excess FICA monies. The group Third Way proposes another confusing, complex, and ultimately unhelpful solution geared to undermine confidence in the programs while using magnificent words to describe the program. I hope to evaluate each major point the Third Way group identifies in its documents over future posts. I’ll start with their first point.

  • Change formula to increase benefits for low income seniors (that is, to change primary insurance amount from 90% to 95%, decrease it from 32% to 31% in the middle bend point, and from 15% to 12% in the third bend point). This solution is complicated and does not net much money to be worth the change. The increase provided by 95% of $749 is not that much more (0.9 x 749 = 674.1; 0.95 x 749 = $711.55. The result:  711.55 – 674.1 = 37.45 (increase). Thirty seven dollars and some change would not go very far with today’s cost of living.

Deficit Committee: House Minority Leader Selects Members for the Panel; Possible the Leadership Will Work Secretly to Drop Plan for Final Consideration

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi selected Reps. Xavier Becerra, James Clyburn, and Chris Van Hollen for the congressional Deficit Committee.

I think given the composition of the committee (the leadership selected their representatives to the panel), if it is to work the leadership will have to continue their talks with the President in secret. This way they could work on a “fait accompli” plan for consideration of the so-called super-committee. The last thing any leader would want is for their subordinates to come up with a passable plan when the leadership could not.

I further think the leadership will develop the plan and drop it to the committees as stipulated in the Budget Control Act.

Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

Selections of Senator Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader

Nominee

Net Worth (2009)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) $13,013 to $204,000
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) $182,755,534 to $294,869,059
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) $449,017 to $1,185,000

Source: www.opensecrets.org.

Selections of Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader

Nominee

Net Worth (2009)

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) $519,090 to $746,082
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) $5,544,075 to $17,468,999
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) $1,770,062 to $4,900,999

Source:  www.opensecrets.org.

Selections of House Speaker John Boehner

Nominee

Net Worth (2009)

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) $2,966,100 to $10,515,000
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) $928,025 to $2,270,000
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) $7,010,173 to $25,651,000

Source:  www.opensecrets.org.

Selections of Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader

Nominee

Net Worth (2009)

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) $100,054 to $1,424,999
Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) $212,010 to $582,000
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) $148,007 to $445,000

Source:  www.opensecrets.org.

Deficit Committee: Senator Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner Select Additional Members for the Committee

The principals (Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Speaker John Boehner, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi) could not reach an agreement with their discussions with the President. I do not expect their selectees will find one (unless proposed, approved, and submitted to the so-called super-committee (maybe on 10/14/11? (see BCA section 401(a)(3)(A)(ii)).

The number of millionaires who are on the congressional committee and would be subject to tax increases make me skeptical about the results of this super-committee.

Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

Selections of Senator Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader

Nominee

Net Worth (2009)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) $13,013 to $204,000
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) $182,755,534 to $294,869,059
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) $449,017 to $1,185,000

Source: www.opensecrets.org.

Selections of Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader

Nominee

Net Worth (2009)

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) $519,090 to $746,082
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) $5,544,075 to $17,468,999
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) $1,770,062 to $4,900,999

Source:  www.opensecrets.org.

Selections of House Speaker John Boehner

Nominee

Net Worth (2009)

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) $2,966,100 to $10,515,000
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) $928,025 to $2,270,000
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) $7,010,173 to $25,651,000

Source:  www.opensecrets.org.