Valuing the Truth
by Paul Craig Roberts/ paulcraigroberts.org/ March 9, 2016
Consider the taxation of Social Security benefits. Social Security existed for 49 years — from 1935 to 1984 — without the benefits being taxed. Wall Street, David Stockman, Alan Greenspan, and the Republican establishment are responsible for breaking the promise to the American people and subjecting Social Security benefits to income taxation. When the Supply-Side economic policy led to the collapse of inflation far quicker than Stockman’s budget prediction had taken into account, federal budget deficits appeared that Stockman and Wall Street blamed on Reagan’s economic program. In those days the only economics the Republican establishment knew was fear of budget deficits. The fools actually thought that a budget deficit caused by the unanticipated collapse in inflation was going to cause inflation.
To please Wall Street, Stockman and Greenspan went to work to turn Social Security into a cash cow for the government. Two things happened. Future increases in the payroll tax rate that had been legislated during the Carter administration were accelerated and brought into effect sooner than needed in order to collect a surplus of Social Security tax revenues with which to fund other government spending. The other “reform” was to subject Social Security benefits to income taxation. In 1984 50% of Social Security benefits were subject to income taxation for retirees with incomes above $25,000. In 1993 the Clinton regime made 85% of Social Security benefits subject to income taxation.
Taxing Social Security benefits is a way of cutting the benefits, long a Republican goal. I remember Democratic Senator Russell Long, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, telling me that to tax benefits that working people had paid for over the course of their working life via the payroll tax was a tax on a tax and an unconscionable violation of the compact that the government had made with the American people. My office in the Treasury had prepared a different solution to the hyped “Social Security revenue shortfall.” We showed that the best solution was to adjust the formula that governed the growth of Social Security benefits, not to accelerate the payroll tax increases and subject benefits to taxation. But Wall Street and the banks wanted revenues to reduce the budget deficit, which they claimed would reduce interest rates, thus allowing the issuance of more loans with which to financialize the economy.
Now Wall Street’s plan is to get rid of Social Security altogether by privatizing it and turning it into another financial scam.
I often document the economic crimes committed against the American people, indeed the peoples of the entire world, and could go on about this forever. But let’s shift gears and observe the murder of justice. Who gets punished, government officials who spy without warrants, torture, commit war crimes, and financial executives guilty of fraud, or whistleblowers who reveal their crimes? You know the answer. The justice system is focused on ruining heros and the innocent.
Recently the US Appeals Court for DC blocked newly issued FCC regulations that prevent phone companies from charging prisoners $14 per minute for conversations with family members. In other words, a five-minute conversation with a spouse or child currently costs $70, as if prisoners are among the One Percent. There are both humane and cost reasons for the FCC regulations. The high cost of communication with families breaks down family ties and results in more recidivism. The federal appeals court took the side of profits and sacrificed the public’s interest.
Where is the justice in what just happened to the most prominent sportswoman in the world, five-time grand slam tennis champion Maria Sharapova. For health reasons she has been given mildronate by her doctor for 10 years. Mildronate is used to treat diabetes, low magnesium, and poor blood flow. On January 1 of this year meldonium, another name for mildronate, was added to the prohibited drug list. Not being a pharmacist, Sharapova did not know the newly added drug was the same as her medical prescription, and a few days after her medical prescription of a decade was declared a prohibited drug, she failed the drug test for the January Australian Open.
I have spoken to drug testers and have been told that it takes more than a few days between the January 1 announcement of meldonium’s prohibition and the January Australian Open for drugs to clear the body. There was nothing Sharapova could have done even if she had known. So what was the response of the authorities? Right, the International Tennis Federation has suspended her, and Nike, Tag Heuer, and Porsche have suspended their contracts with her.
Isn’t this amazing. We have war criminals, torturers, and former bank executives guilty of massive frauds running Western economic and foreign policy free of any accountability for their offenses, but a tennis star’s prescription medicine runs afoul of a newly introduced drug policy, and she is suspended! Is this because she is Russian? Is this part of demonizing Russia and presenting the country in a bad light? Or is it just the senseless mindlessness of the Western world in which only the innocent are punished?
We have to ask ourselves how it can be that the world’s worse criminals — people responsible for the death and displacement of millions of peoples — occupy high office while a tennis star is disciplined because her medical prescription, legal for a decade, suddenly runs afoul of a new prohibited drug regulation. What kind of a world does the West run?
We all know the answer. Western governments, a collection of criminals, run the world for the “One Percent.”
To tell the truth these days is extremely costly. That is why there are so few of us willing to tell you the truth.