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Breaking Tampa Bay, Florida and national news and weather from Tampa Bay Online and The Tampa Tribune | TBO.com
Thursday, Apr 17, 2014
Proposed ordinance rankles bar owners
The proposed ordinance would apply to about 20 of the 140 business that serve alcohol in Ybor City. TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

Tampa City Council members tried once again to get a handle on bad behavior at the city’s bars and restaurants today. And once again, they didn’t get very far.

Opinion: Medical pot push driven by profit
Dunkin' Donuts
Retailers, restaurants offer birthday deals, freebies
Jameis Winston attempts a pass during Florida State's spring game on Saturday in Tallahassee. A New York Times report was critical of Tallahassee police and FSU administrators over the investigation into a rape allegation against the quarterback. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FSU rips New York Times’ report on Winston case

Opinion

Fennelly: Time for Bolts to show more resiliency

Martin Fennelly TAMPA — Forget the playoff beards. Wednesday night, Game 1 at the Forum, was hairy all by itself.

Editorials:
Editorial: USF meets state’s challenge
Editorial: Gun law poses a dangerous gamble
Give us another run, Lightning
Letters:
Let us march for life
Letters to the editor: Wasted chances at plate
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Breaking Tampa Bay, Florida and national news and weather from Tampa Bay Online and The Tampa Tribune | TBO.com
Breaking Tampa Bay, Florida and national news and weather from Tampa Bay Online and The Tampa Tribune | TBO.com
Thursday, Apr 17, 2014
Proposed ordinance rankles bar owners
The proposed ordinance would apply to about 20 of the 140 business that serve alcohol in Ybor City. TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

Tampa City Council members tried once again to get a handle on bad behavior at the city’s bars and restaurants today. And once again, they didn’t get very far.

Opinion: Medical pot push driven by profit
Dunkin' Donuts
Retailers, restaurants offer birthday deals, freebies
Jameis Winston attempts a pass during Florida State's spring game on Saturday in Tallahassee. A New York Times report was critical of Tallahassee police and FSU administrators over the investigation into a rape allegation against the quarterback. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FSU rips New York Times’ report on Winston case

Opinion

Fennelly: Time for Bolts to show more resiliency

Martin Fennelly TAMPA — Forget the playoff beards. Wednesday night, Game 1 at the Forum, was hairy all by itself.

Editorials:
Editorial: USF meets state’s challenge
Editorial: Gun law poses a dangerous gamble
Give us another run, Lightning
Letters:
Let us march for life
Letters to the editor: Wasted chances at plate

ObamaCare update: Florida AG Bondi upbeat

Posted Mar 27, 2012 by Tom Jackson

Updated Mar 27, 2012 at 05:41 PM

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi likes the overall tilt of questioning—an indication of the justice’s leanings, say SCOTUS watchers—in the second day of oral arguments over ObamaCare.

“Today we defended Americans’ individual liberty by arguing that the federal government cannot force us to purchase private health insurance from cradle to grave. The health care act’s individual mandate far exceeds the limited and enumerated powers that the Constitution grants the federal government.

“I was encouraged by the justice’s questions, especially the ones that exposed the federal government’s inability to identify any meaningful limits on Congress’s power. As the states have argued all along, if the federal government can compel citizens to purchase health insurance they do not want, then it can force us to purchase anything.”

Even, as Antonin Scalia noted darkly, broccoli. Sheesh.

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Annoyed Nugent: Jobs bill way overdue

Posted Mar 27, 2012 by Tom Jackson

Updated Mar 27, 2012 at 05:36 PM

The mood of Congressman Rich Nugent (R-Brooksville) reflects relief, not joy, following Tuesday’s final passage of the so-called JOBS Act.

“It’s about time.  Months ago, the House passed, in a series of near-unanimous votes, a set of bills designed to help small businesses raise private capital.  The Senate never debated them, never voted to amend them, never sent them to the President’s desk. It took the House passing them twice to persuade the Senate to act.  I suppose it’s better late than never, but for the millions of families out there who are desperately looking for action from Washington, this should have been done months ago.

“This is the way the process is supposed to work – we find bipartisan solutions, pass them, work out the differences between the House and Senate, and send it to the President.  If it can work here, however late it may be, it ought to be able to work on the other major challenges facing OUR country.”

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Stripped Fasano unbowed by ‘schoolyard bully’

Posted Feb 1, 2012 by Tom Jackson

Updated Feb 1, 2012 at 05:56 PM

Fired twice from influential posts in the Republican-led state Senate today, Mike Fasano lashed back at trigger-pulling Senate President Mike Haridopolos, comparing him to a “schoolyard bully.”

The pair are waging a prolonged feud over a leadership plan to privatize Florida’s prisons.  Minutes after Senate leaders called off a vote on the bill because they couldn’t muster the votes necessary to pass it, Haridopolos, in a private ceremony in his office, stripped Fasano of his chairmanship of the Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee. The panel oversees spending on state courts and Florida’s 19 prisons.

Adding insult to political injury, Haridopolos (R-Merrit Island) removed Fasano from the main budget committee.

Fasano, unbowed, released the following statement:

“In my 18 years of elective office I have always and will continue to vote my conscience I have stood up for the little guy and gal, those who otherwise would not have a voice in the legislative process.  I will always speak out when I see injustice, no matter what the consequences may be.

“No matter how big the bully in the schoolyard may be, if the loss of a chairmanship is the result of taking a stand for what is right, I wear that loss as a badge of honor.

“As the final days of the president’s tenure comes to a close I encourage him to stand up for taxpayers and consumers to ensure that each and every tax dollar is spent wisely.  The special interests should not prevail.  I hope that he will do what is right and remember why we were all sent to Tallahassee.”

Naturally, this episode merely adds to the rich texture of Fasano’s long-anticipated run for Congress, enhancing his reputation as a constituent-focused public servant willing to resist leadership when it seems misguided. That could be a useful arrow in his campaign quiver if Fasano does, indeed, challenge reliable Gus Bilirakis, the two-term congressman from Palm Harbor.

 

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Limbaugh pokes Weatherford; “desperate,” says Will

Posted Jan 30, 2012 by Tom Jackson

Updated Jan 30, 2012 at 03:06 PM

The Jax Files never thought it would see the day when Wesley Chapel’s Will Weatherford would be at the heart of a Rush Limbaugh diatribe, but that day has arrived. (We’re so proud!)
Closing out his first hour Monday, Limbaugh eviscerated the Republican state House Speaker-Designate for being a Mitt Romney/GOP establishment pawn in a reapportionment process that puts freshman Congressman Allen West, a prickly Tea Party favorite, at risk.
Limbaugh doesn’t ordinarily indulge conspiracy theories, but on this, he pushed all his kook-chips to the center of the table. Weatherford responds, calmly: “This is coming from groups who are trying to hurt Romney and are getting desperate. Has nothing to do with me but everything to do with the race tomorrow.”
We would add, furthermore, Limbaugh conveniently ignores the twin gorillas in the room: Simultaneously satisfying the Fair Districts and federal minority representation mandates.
We re-invoke our favorite 21st Century philosopher, E*Trade Baby: Why doncha try reading the rules, shankapotamus?

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We’d think this was just nutty ...

Posted Jan 23, 2012 by Tom Jackson

Updated Jan 23, 2012 at 06:55 PM

... if it weren’t downright onerous (from state Sen. Mike Fasano’s Tallahassee office):

Senator Mike Fasano’s Professional Sports Blackout Ban Was Adopted in the Senate Community Affairs Committee Today
State Senator Mike Fasano announces that his Senate Bill 836, which will fine professional sports teams that black out the broadcast of games played in publicly funded stadiums, was amended onto Senator Mike Bennett’s Senate Bill 816.  The bill was heard in the Senate Community Affairs Committee today.  Senator Bennett’s bill requires a professional sports facility, which has benefited from public dollars, to operate a homeless shelter to serve the community in which he stadium is located.

“I thank Senator Bennett for his desire to assist the fans of professional sports by offering to amend his bill with the blackout ban language,” Senator Fasano states.  “With the unanimous support of the committee I look forward to this good bill moving forward.”

Senator Fasano’s legislation requires that the fine paid by the professional sports teams, if they fail to meet the terms of the legislation, is to be utilized by a county’s sports authority to purchase tickets to a future game for foster children and their foster families, nonprofit youth organizations, and the United Service Organization, Inc. (which will provide the tickets to service members on leave from active duty in a combat zone and their families).

Look, almost nobody outside the immediate families of NFL owners imagines local TV blackouts are a good idea. But the senators’ populist, pandering bill is wrong on so many levels it’s breathtaking.

For openers, Fasano and Bennett would coerce Florida’s NFL teams into the awkward position of violating state statute or their league agreement. After all, the 72-hour sellout-or-blackout rule belongs to the NFL, and the Buccaneers, Dolphins and Jaguars are obliged to follow it.

Moreover, while arguably counterproductive—how would you like to be an advertiser cut out of the Tampa Bay market eight prime-time Sundays every fall?—is not new. All the tax-collecting entities involved with the construction and maintenance of the various stadia knew precisely what they were getting into—as did voters who marched to the polls to approve the necessary tax-hikes—so attempting to change the rules after the fact plainly amounts to nothing but a foot-stamping, whiny tantrum.

But the worst part of this bad, awful, terrible, no good legislation is its righteous attempt to robe itself in public benefit. Homeless shelters? Tickets set aside for designated groups? Talk about right-wing social engineering. Astonishing.

The veneer looks shiny and noble, and lord knows we’d love to smack the Glazers for violating the pact between owners and fans, overseeing the decline of the Bucs even as the team’s profitability has soared. But the Legislature needs to keep its nose out of arrangements made by local governments to lure private-sector industry. What’s next? If Raymond James doesn’t meet its advertised hiring ambitions at its Wiregrass Ranch campus—which is pretty much the point of the deal made by Pasco County commissioners—shall we expect Tallahassee to wade in with a demand that the financial services giant issue iTunes gift cards or certificates for sneakers or movie tickets to Pasco residents earning below a certain income? Set up a soup kitchen? Fund a cell-phone giveaway?

It’s bad enough to think about the NFL blowback if this package of pandering nonsense becomes law: Hey, Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville—you best think again about those Super Bowl committees y’all are organizing ... turns out the sun shines just as bright from New Orleans to Palo Alto.  And there are plenty of snowbelt domes to choose from, too.  Heck, we’re even crazy enough to schedule Super Sunday in the New Jersey Meadowlands.  But come to Florida after your Legislature tries to mess in our partnerships? There’ll be downhill skiing in Key West before you even sniff another championship game.

But imagine you’re another private sector industry interested in Florida opportunities. If fired, the cannon Fasano and Bennett are loading won’t be just a shot across the NFL’s bow. It’ll be a warning salvo to any CEO that gets the wrong idea about moving to, or expanding in, the Sunshine State expecting a business-friendly atmosphere and respect for contracts.

 

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Obama rejects Keystone pipeline

Posted Jan 18, 2012 by Tom Jackson

Updated Jan 18, 2012 at 06:44 PM

... and U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Brooksville) is not amused.

Following the President’s rejection of the Keystone pipeline application, Rep. Rich Nugent (FL-05) issued the following statement:

“It is one thing to promise the American people that your stimulus programs will create millions of jobs and then fail to deliver.  It is something else entirely to make an affirmative decision that you know will destroy thousands of jobs.  It’s that simple. 

“As Tampa Bay Times correspondent Jim Fox reported in his Canada Report on Sunday, the Canadian Prime Minister has made it clear, again and again, that if this pipeline isn’t built to deliver Canadian energy to American homes and businesses, it will be built elsewhere to fill up Chinese oil tankers for their families and businesses.  Washington has been saying for years that they want to break our dependence on oil from countries that hate us, but actions speak a lot louder than words.  This was as plain an opportunity to help break our dependence as any we’re going to get. 

“This was pandering to environmental special interests, plain and simple.  It wasn’t about anything else.  The labor unions, one of the President’s biggest allies, have been supporting this project because they knew it would create good-paying jobs from the Canadian border all the way down to Houston.  And for a president who talks so much about jobs, there just isn’t any excuse.”

What Nugent said.

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Fasano’s end game: No more NFL in Florida

Posted Nov 4, 2011 by Tom Jackson

Updated Nov 4, 2011 at 06:07 PM

Taking aim at the National Football League while pushing his gift for populist grandstanding to new heights, Mike Fasano files a feel-good bill he knows will never get out of committee.

I mean, his heart is in the right place.  It’s infuriating that the NFL orders local TV blackouts for games—often played in taxpayer-financed stadiums—that aren’t sold out 72 hours ahead of kickoff.  But it’s a seller’s market, and if the Legislature attempts to enforce the will of their couch potato constituents on the league, the reason bay-area Buccaneers fans will never be blacked out again is because they’ll be playing in Los Angeles.  Say hello, also, to the San Antonio Dolphins and the Portland Jaguars. And goodbye to ever hosting another Super Bowl.

Worse, the state senator’s vision—team owners should buy up or give away tickets to achieve a sellout—plays season-ticket holders for chumps.  Yes, there is cache in seeing the games live and in person, but it radically devalues ticket-holders’ investment when foot-draggers know they can score freebies just by procrastinating.  Fasano’s bill represents a disastrous meddling in a public-private partnership that threatens every future arrangement of a remotely similar nature.

By the way, my column on the topic, available here, still applies.

The days of the blackout are numbered, but it will be brought down by television advertisers demanding not to be cut out of local markets over the matter of a few thousand tickets, not the misguided hubris of a politician sticking up for the best interests of the “little guy” who doesn’t understand what his best interests are.  You want the blackout policy to end?  Call, email or write the marketing departments of the NFL’s official sponsors, national and local.  But on this wrong-headed confrontation, Sen. Fasano should stand down.

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The silence of the NLRB

Posted Oct 31, 2011 by Tom Jackson

Updated Oct 31, 2011 at 04:24 PM

While I join the Obama administration in applauding Boeing’s decision to open a space-venture operation on Florida’s east coast, in hangers recently vacated by NASA, the cynic in me wonders where the National Labor Relations Board is in all this.

After all, Florida—like South Carolina—is a right-to-work state.  That is, membership in a union cannot be mandated as a condition of employment.  The same cannot be said for Washington state, in which Boeing is headquartered.  The spirit of that arrangement was behind the NLRB’s decision to file an injunction blocking the opening of a new plant north of Charleston.

Never mind that the South Carolina location meant new jobs (not transfers), new production and easier access to East Coast and Atlantic-region suppliers.  NLRB regulators raised their collective eyebrow over Boeing’s silly notion that it could expand anywhere except where it would benefit organized labor.  And their boss—that fellow issuing executive orders by the handful from the Oval Office—has been silent on the matter.

Now a similar arrangement—Boeing expands into a right-to-work state—is announced, and there’s President Obama, applauding to beat the band, along with Florida’s senior senator, Bill Nelson.  One presumes from all this racket the NLRB will be (hypocritically) muzzled.

The difference, at a glance, may be no more than this: South Carolina is solidly Republican, solidly red. If Obama ordered the NLRB to stand down yesterday, he would have no better chance of carrying the state in next year’s election than if he allows the process to continue on its grindingly slow course. And if South Carolina replaces a senator next year, it will be only to elect a more conservative model.

Meanwhile, Florida appears to be a battleground state. Again. And nowhere are voters more swingable than on the industry-starved Space Coast. Reminding Sunshine State voters that the Obama White House likes to meddle in employment-suppression would be an unwise strategy that would have down-ticket ramifications for the vulnerable Nelson.

Just another demonstration that the only consistency emerging from the Obama White House is—from Affordable Care waivers to declarations of emergency to national security to who gets muscled by the NLRB—inconsistency.  Well, that, and playing the most expedient political angle available.

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Another lefty talking point bites the dust

Posted Oct 23, 2011 by Tom Jackson

Updated Oct 23, 2011 at 08:45 AM

So, about that addition to the national debt linked to the war in Iraq (the animating trigger for the Arab Spring that may yet extend to Syria and the mischief-making Persians in Iran, but never mind—Bush lied, blah-blah-blah).

Anyway, enough already about how much it cost in terms of borrowed dollars (if not in the lives and limbs of precious American heroes, of course).  It seems the Obama stimulus (at several hundred-thousand dollars per job saved/created) tops out at substantially more than nine years of our adventure in the Cradle of Civilization. h/t Nancy Jean Burkholder, Minneapolis, via Power Line.

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On Rubio, Washington Post earns three Pinnochios

Posted Oct 21, 2011 by Tom Jackson

Updated Oct 21, 2011 at 05:48 PM

This just in: The Washington Post needs to fact-check its fact-checkers.  Or so says the Miami Herald, which offers a thoroughgoing takedown of Manuel Roig-Franzia’s front-page piece disputing a key portion of the Marco Rubio legend—that he is the son of Cuban exiles.

Citing a swift response in the Miami Herald, RedState’s Erick Erickson says the conclusion relies on a willful manipulation of the facts by Roig-Franzia, a noted Cuban-communist apologist.  Ace of Spades Gabriel Malor notes the risible “birther” origins of Roig-Franzia’s complaint here.  (Avoid Ace’s R-rated comments section, unless you have a strong stomach for slow-witted vulgarities.)

Bottom line: No matter how widespread the revisionists’ myth-busting is today, Rubio’s heritage is not in question.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.

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Steve Jobs’ David Mamet moment (whiffed)

Posted Oct 21, 2011 by Tom Jackson

Updated Oct 21, 2011 at 05:21 PM

Like playwright David Mamet, Steve Jobs grew up cocooned in a left-liberal environment; unlike Mamet, neither his profession (as an engineer) or his real-life experiences convinced him that the ideology he embraced was at odds with his intellect or instincts.

Unlike Jobs, Mamet was able to recognize his folly, and switch courses, bringing his mind and heart into harmony.  He has written extensively about his epiphany, most recently in his nonfiction bestseller, “The Secret Knowledge.”

Alas, Jobs, the brains and inspiration behind Apple and its iRevolution, died in ideological conflict, as a leak from Walter Isaacson’s pending biography reveals.  Jobs generally supported liberal Democrats and rooted for Barack Obama, but when he met the President, Jobs chewed him out over White House policies that were anathema to business expansion and job-building.  Steve Hayward has more about Jobs’ close brush with economic conservatism here.

Astonishing, how a man of such vision in one area can be so confoundingly blinkered in another.

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Dopiness of Occupy Wall Street revealed, er, confirmed

Posted Oct 19, 2011 by Tom Jackson

Updated Oct 19, 2011 at 10:19 AM

It turns out the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are essentially clueless. Anybody shocked by this?

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Curious case of the curious little blue heron

Posted Sep 26, 2011 by Tom Jackson

Updated Sep 26, 2011 at 08:35 PM

Do not be misled by the pictures included with this modest offering. Our little photo essay scarcely illustrates another of those precious unlikely-pals-of-the-wild-kingdom stories. It is, instead, a tale of deliciously unfathomable curiosity. The now-adolescent alligator that inhabits—presumably high atop the local food chain—the wetlands and pond by the Tribune’s newsroom/distribution center in Wesley Chapel, and whose progress toward adulthood we have been following for a couple of years, attracted the attention of what by anyone’s reckoning could only be described as great risk-taking by a little blue heron.

The bird in question broke from its wading and fishing chores not long after the gator emerged and thumped down on the bank of its personal swimming hole.  Head constantly bobbing and swiveling, and moving on reedy legs, the heron crept—for reasons known only to

birds of a similar feather—one careful, slow-motion step at a time ever closer to the reptile as it basked on the bank. It closed, ultimately, to inside 10 feet, where it paused to scratch a literal itch. Whether the heron meant to creep any farther we shall never know.

Flushed by the howl of a single-engine turbo-prop passenger airplane taking off from the adjacent air strip at Tampa North Flight Center, the gator splashed into the pond and the heron, too, took flight, ending the suspense and making it possible for us to report that no animals were harmed in the production of this blog entry.  

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Democrats: Nugent won’t spend other people’s money (waa!)

Posted Sep 1, 2011 by Tom Jackson

Updated Sep 1, 2011 at 06:34 PM

Just so you don’t get the impression Nature Coast Democrats are satisfied with the status quo on Capitol Hill, the Jax Files is in receipt of a letter excoriating rookie U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent for a variety of perceived failures, slights and outright dereliction of duty.

The upshot is, Nugent – the Brooksville Republican – voted every chance he got against spending additional gobs of someone else’s money, which, in the eyes of Democrats, means he is a compassionless reptile “slavishly serv(ing)” “special interests” bent on a “radical agenda.”

This marvelous screech, delivered over the signature of Hernando County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Steven J. Zeledon, must be read in full to be properly appreciated.  Here goes:

Congressman Richard Nugent, our area’s contribution to our dysfunctional congress, has demonstrated in eight short months, his willingness to go along lock step with a radical agenda by voting to replace Medicare with a voucher program, voting to slash support for Medicaid and Social Security, voting to eliminate funding for National Public Radio, voting to eliminate the funding for School-Based Health Centers, and voting to terminate programs that are vital for the poor and working class, specifically the Home Affordable Modification Program, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the Emergency Mortgage Relief Program and the Federal Housing Administration Refinance Program.

In sharp contrast, he voted to cripple the effectiveness of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and voted to abolish The Federal Financing of Presidential Election Campaigns, both items that would work to reduce the stranglehold that the banks, corporations and Koch brothers funded groups have on our government. And of course, his work as part of the team that inflicted the cuts artificially tied to the increase in the debt level will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, many of them right here in Hernando County.

In just eight months, Congressman Nugent has clearly demonstrated why it is critical that the citizens of this district identify and elect a qualified, progressive leader who will represent his or her constituents and not the special interests that Mr. Nugent slavishly serves.

(signed) Steven J. Zeledon Chairman,
Hernando County Democratic Executive Committee

Demagoguery, hyperbole, rejection of the free market and individual responsibility, plus a Fantasyland interpretation of the national debt and a shot at the Koch Brothers, all squeezed into a single three-paragraph letter.  Nicely done.

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Obama’s unintended argument for an ‘ownership society’

Posted Jul 25, 2011 by Tom Jackson

Updated Jul 25, 2011 at 05:36 PM

Long before the showdown over America’s sovereign debt, Power Line’s John Hinderaker had had it up to his earlobes with President Obama.  But when Obama (wrongly – spectacularly) suggested Social Security payments might be sacrificed to the default demigod, well, let’s let him tell it in his post, “Obama’s Lying Demagoguery About Social Security”:

Of course, it might not be lying demagoguery, it could be ignorance; with Obama that question is always present. Obama says that if August 2 arrives without raising the debt ceiling, Social Security checks may not go out. Law professor Michael McConnell, a former federal appellate judge, explains why Obama is wrong:

The Social Security trust fund holds about $2.4 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds, which its trustees are legally entitled to redeem whenever Social Security is running a current account deficit. Thus, if we reach the debt ceiling (which I continue to think is a remote prospect, even if less remote than it seemed a week ago), this is what will happen. The Social Security trust fund will go to Treasury and cash in some of its securities, using the proceeds to send checks to recipients. Each dollar of debt that is redeemed will lower the outstanding public debt by a dollar. That enables the Treasury to borrow another dollar, without violating the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is not a prohibition on borrowing new money; it is a prohibition on increasing the total level of public indebtedness. If Social Security cashes in some of its bonds, the Treasury can borrow that same amount of money from someone else. …

President Obama is therefore wrong when he says that failure to raise the debt ceiling might result in not sending out Social Security checks.

What do you think the chances are that, having been corrected, Obama will retract his contemptible effort to scare the elderly?  I know, just kidding.

Of course, the judge overlooks other practical matters. Such as, if the United States goes into “technical” default, who’s going to want to buy the newly issued debt instruments?  And if there are buyers, what sort of interest rate are they going to command?  Even if the president is guilty of demagoguery, this remains a scenario that ends poorly for seniors in particular, and Americans in general.

And so, as we ponder Obama’s renewed shamelessness – The only adult in the room? Seriously? – we note the elephant on the couch.

Missed in this energetic dispute is a crucial teaching opportunity: Whatever the President and his treasury secretary can or will do (remember how they threatened to withhold eminently fundable paychecks to active military a few months back, precipitating a GOP fold on current-year budget cuts), access to Social Security payments would not be an issue if – ages ago – Washington had converted SS to some failsafe hybrid that stressed ... wait for it ... private accounts.

Yes, that’s right.  He said it.

Panicky seniors and present-form Social Security activists threatening to take the nation’s capital with pitchforks if the program is trimmed or amended and not “strengthened” (tax all income, they helpfully suggest, turning Social Security, at last, into a welfare program) must, at last, rely on the generous nature of federal lawmakers.

Those annual notices you get from the Social Security Administration projecting your “benefit”?  It turns out those are for entertainment purposes only.  Threatened recipients are learning the hard way their accounts are theirs in name only.  Pity.

Worse, as long as the prevailing arrangement persists, Social Security will continue to perform two connected functions, both of them ruinous.  As ever, an unsupportable number of Americans will lean on the promise of a government stipend (those fictional annual notices) as an excuse to underfund their personal retirement accounts; but because their claim on Social Security depends utterly on Washington’s whim, certain politicians – for whom a beholden, exploitable electorate is their symbiont – will continue to employ cynical tactics designed to stampede seniors whenever it’s convenient.

A long time ago, in times seemingly more bleak than these (and in hopes of easing seniors out of the work force), America decided it would eradicate the financial fear associated with aging.  Alas, what was embraced as a moral imperative has been turned into a never-ending teat of political opportunism.  The real scandal is how cheaply we can be bought off.

The moral imperative remains, but shamelessness coming out of the White House demonstrates how the argument has been reframed.  A phase-in of personal accounts – similar to the wildly popular and enormously successful Chilean plan – would shrink and ultimately eliminate any possibility that retirees (and those on the cusp) could be used as pawns in games of political chess.

Speaking of moral imperatives. ...

 

 

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