“Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott’s plan to “rescue America””
“Scott’s proposal would radically overhaul how the federal government operates, forcing Congress to re-pass every federal law or else let them lapse — a move that, in Democrats’ telling, would endanger much of what the government does, including beloved federal programs like Medicare and Social Security.
It’s a short proposal, with little detail to flesh it out. But on its face, its meaning is plain: Every five years, every federal law would need to be passed anew in order to stay on the books.”
““Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset,” Biden said in his State of the Union address. “It is being proposed by individuals. I’m politely not naming them, but it’s being proposed by some of you.”
It was a new twist on a familiar trope: Republican proposes cutting government benefits, Democrat attacks him for it. And it seems to have left a mark: After more than a week of uproar since the State of the Union, Scott formally revised his 12-point “rescue America” plan to specify that its provision requiring every federal law to be re-passed every five years would not, in fact, apply to Social Security and Medicare. And so, at least officially, the senator has papered over the main political weakness of his plan.”
“Greater reliance on green energy also requires a stupendous increase in mineral extraction to provide the needed materials. Even if the world unquestionably possessed the mineral capacity necessary for the global energy transformation envisioned by President Joe Biden, Democrats in practice are enemies of mining. The U.S. Mining Association estimates that the country has $6.2 trillion of recoverable mineral resources like copper and zinc available for mining on millions of acres of federal, state, and private lands. Unfortunately, our labor, health, and climate regulations often make it practically impossible to profitably mine. As a result, these precious resources stay in the ground, which explains why the United States went from being the world’s No. 1 producer of minerals in 1990 to seventh place today.
Democrats committed to a green energy transition should make it a priority to reform counterproductive regulations like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and to implement other permitting reforms. Yet for the most part they won’t do so, as we saw when they helped strike down the permitting deal cut last year between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.).”
“Social Security will be insolvent by 2034. One of the trust funds for Medicare will be insolvent even sooner. When insolvency hits, both programs will be subject to mandatory benefit cuts. The exact size of the cuts will depend on payroll tax collections in that year, but the current estimate is that Social Security will be able to pay only 80 percent of promised benefits in 2034.
As I wrote last month, when Republicans such as former President Donald Trump were making similar vows not to cut Social Security benefits: Promising to do nothing amounts to promising a roughly 20 percent benefit cut in a little more than a decade. There is no getting around that fact.”
“Standing up for seniors (and everyone else who has been paying into Social Security and Medicare for their entire working lives) requires acknowledging that there is no reality in which the politicians do nothing and the entitlement programs continue functioning normally. The choice is between making changes now or accepting mandatory cuts in about a decade.”
“Hey, remember the pandemic economy? How could you not, right? In early 2020, millions of people lost their jobs in the blink of an eye, through no fault of their own. In the United States, their subsequent attempts to get help from the government overwhelmed unemployment offices across the country, revealing the system to be fundamentally broken. The infrastructure was bad, the benefits insufficient, and the entire scheme next to impossible to navigate.
And then, something remarkable happened: The federal government stepped in to shore things up. It added extra dollars to state unemployment benefits to make sure people could get by and pay their bills. It expanded the pool of people who were eligible for benefits, so workers such as freelancers and contractors could access them, too. While far from perfect, the extra efforts to help the unemployed made a real difference in people’s lives and played a part in the country averting a deeper and longer recession.
It felt, for a while, like maybe there would be momentum to finally address the issues in America’s unemployment system. So many people had experienced first-hand just what a disaster it was on a massive scale, from outdated administrative systems to inadequate benefits. It seemed obvious that this hybrid state-federal program that had left so much discretion up to individual states just didn’t work.
And then … America’s UI setup didn’t really get fixed, because it never does.”
“As workers stare down the barrel of another potential recession — and the layoffs that would accompany it — the problems that dogged unemployment insurance before the pandemic, many of which have persisted for decades, remain. Most of the momentum to repair the system has dissipated.
Congress and the White House allocated $2 billion to the Department of Labor in 2021 to try to help states update their unemployment systems, combat fraud, and promote equitable access to benefits. But that funding and the accompanying efforts can only go so far, and they are aimed at administrative fixes, not policy fixes. The benefit amount a worker is entitled to, how long the benefits last, and the requirements to get them largely depend on which state that worker lives in. Many states are still digging themselves out from under the last crisis. Given the narrative that has taken hold around unemployment during this most recent economic recovery — that UI kept people out of the workforce, that too much government assistance contributed to inflation — it’s not clear what kind of appetite would exist in Congress to help workers if and when another recession hits.”
“The point of unemployment insurance is to replace income for people who have lost their jobs and keep them attached to the labor market. It’s meant to be a support for the broader economy in times of economic downturn, too, and keep consumer spending going. If I lose my job and can’t pay my rent, it is a problem for me and for my landlord and for the sandwich guy I no longer buy from down the street.”
“UI is financed through state and federal payroll taxes that are supposed to cover both administrative systems and the benefits themselves. Many states have kept those taxes quite low, leaving the system chronically underfunded and resulting in luck-of-the-draw situations for workers applying for UI, depending on where they live.
The average weekly benefit paid out in regular unemployment insurance nationwide was about $385 in the 12 months ending in September. But if you look at Mississippi, for example, the average benefit is in the low $200 range, while it’s now above $600 for Washington state.
These benefits do not move with inflation, either.”
“Many UI offices are understaffed, are still dealing with pandemic-era backlogs, and are using outdated technologies to administer benefits. Or, they’ve updated their technologies and they’re intentionally designed to make the whole thing harder for workers to navigate, or the update was just bad.”
“The housing-first model calls for providing individuals with permanent housing, but it doesn’t claim that housing alone is enough. Regular check-ins by trained case managers are required, as are making social and medical supports readily available.”
“under the current policy, the Social Security trust fund runs dry by 2034 and benefits will be automatically cut by at least 25 percent, leaving little room to shelter the most vulnerable seniors who truly depend on it for most of their retirement income. This inevitable scenario will happen even sooner now that inflation has jacked up benefits. In practice, by doing nothing, Democrats too want to cut benefits.
Yet you didn’t hear the Republicans make that point during the campaign. Nor did they make the case for reforming the program before its impending insolvency. They were completely silent on the need to reduce government debt policies. I understand that these are unpleasant topics of conversation—it is the proverbial “root canal” of policy, as the late Jack Kemp liked to say. But ignoring these realities will not change them.”
“If Congress isn’t willing to end energy subsidies entirely, it could still make energy technologies more competitive by simplifying all 44 energy tax provisions. For instance, it could offer tax credits to companies based on what their emissions are, without requiring that they use any specific technologies to hit those targets. Unlike targeted subsidies, such performance-based provisions have historically led to less greenhouse emissions.”