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Something to look forward to:

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley on Thursday said he will introduce legislation calling for a higher cost-of-living increase for Social Security recipients, which would be paid for by a tax increase on those earning wages of more than $250,000 a year.

Merkley, appearing at the Hollwyood Senior Center in Northeast Portland, began to flesh out the details of how he would increase Social Security benefits -- something he said earlier this year was necessary because a growing number of seniors don't have much in the way of pensions or retirement savings.

Merkley said he thought his plan was politically viable because "the number of people having the blessing of earning more than $250,000 is relatively small," meaning that most voters would not face a tax increase.

Merkley also said he is promoting the plan now because of growing evidence that many seniors are financially hurting and as a way to push back against proposals to trim cost-of-living increases to help ensure the health of the Social Security trust fund.

"It's time that we stop talking about reducing Social Security benefits and instead focus on giving our seniors a raise," Merkley said. I hear too many stories in Oregon about seniors who are struggling to stay afloat on their Social Security benefits."

Merkley said that imposing Social Security taxes on wages above $250,000 would also generate enough revenue to keep the trust fund solvent for 35 to 40 years -- roughly twice what it is under current law. - The Oregonian, 4/24/14

Very happy Merkley joined his colleagues, Senators Mark Begich (D. AK), Tom Harkin (D. IA), Sherrod Brown (D. OH), Brian Schatz (D. HI), Elizabeth Warren (D. MA) and Bernie Sanders (I. VT) in pushing to expand Social Security.  It may not get passed this year with this congress but Merkley is helping to keep this debate going and this message alive.  I can't say I'm worried about Merkley's re-election chances.  But Republicans are hoping to pull off an upset victory in this race:

Republicans believe 2014 might represent their best shot to unseat Merkley, in large part because it just gets harder and harder to dislodge an incumbent with each successive election.

The GOP field of five candidates essentially boils down to two: Jason Conger, a state representative from Bend, was the front-runner until Portland pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby entered the race. ...

The Conger-Wehby showdown is interesting — and has captured some national attention as well — because it might suggest a future direction for the Oregon Republican Party, which has struggled in recent years in statewide races. ...

(T)he truly interesting angle here is that Wehby appears to be to Conger’s left on certain social issues. For example, Wehby is pro-choice on abortion and is sympathetic to same-sex marriage. These positions have raised eyebrows nationally, and have led at least some pundits to proclaim that Wehby is more electable than Conger in a statewide race against a Democrat.

The New York Times, for example, breathlessly reported that Wehby is a “moderate who could resonate with Oregonians suffering from Obama fatigue.”

Not so fast, said Conger, who pointed to recent polls by a national Republican pollster indicating that he fares better than Wehby in head-to-head matchups against Merkley. - Statesman Journal, 4/23/14

Right now both Republican candidates are duking it for the nominee:

Both candidates want to talk about the campaign’s pivotal issue, health care. Or, more specifically, who opposes Obamacare more?

Conger, a second-term legislator from Bend, insists he has always opposed the Affordable Care Act and voted for bills that established the Cover Oregon insurance exchange only because they represented the lesser or two evils.

He and some Republicans joined most Democrats out of a sense of states' rights, Conger said. Oregon’s failure to establish its own insurance exchange would only have prompted the federal government to take that step on its own.

Wehby, a Portland pediatric neurosurgeon, told a gathering of conservatives recently that Conger has voted "five times to aid and abet Oregon’s Obamacare.” A billboard carrying the same message also appeared in recent weeks. - The Oregonian, 4/23/14

But Merkley's internal polling shows him with double digit leads over both Republican frontrunners:

Merkley leads Monica Wehby, 52 percent to 32 percent, among likely voters, according to a survey Benenson Strategy Group conducted on his campaign’s behalf.

D.C. Republicans have touted Wehby, a brain surgeon, as the kind of candidate who could put blue Oregon in play against Merkley. She was the subject of a weekend Associated Press feature outlining factors that could bolster her, including Obamacare’s rocky debut in Oregon; traditionally lower Democratic turnout in many states in midterms; and Wehby’s fundraising potential.

But there’s no guarantee Wehby will qualify for the November ballot. Among likely voters in the state’s all-mail Republican primary next month, Wehby (22 percent) and state Rep. Jason Conger (24 percent) run neck-and-neck, according to the poll.

More than half of likely GOP voters said they were undecided.

Merkley leads Conger by a similar margin in the general, 50 percent to 34 percent, according to the survey. - Politico, 4/22/14

Lets make sure Merkley's campaign is ready to win in November.  Click here to donate and get involved with Merkley's re-election bid:

Originally posted to pdc on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 07:34 AM PDT.

Also republished by Pushing back at the Grand Bargain, Social Security Defenders, Koscadia, PDX Metro, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, Daily Kos Oregon, and Income Inequality Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That's a good political move for Merkley (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but I wish the Oregonian article was a little clearer on how the bill's details are supposed to work.  It sounds to me like they would take the cap off of FICA taxes but create a "donut hole" between (currently) 117k and 250k.  Presumably those two numbers would adjust every year based on inflation or however the current cap is calculated.

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 07:57:18 AM PDT

    •  Merkley does not make "political moves", (3+ / 0-)

      he works for the people and the people love him for it. He represents US which is why he looks so very different from the others.

      Old fashioned but effective!

      We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

      by occupystephanie on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 08:23:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  BS (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        occupystephanie, RiveroftheWest

        Everyone makes political moves, whether it's content, timing or PR.  That doesn't mean that the proposals conflict with what he really wants to put forward.

        Embrace the kabuki.  That's politics.

        I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

        by Satya1 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 09:23:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Still, Merkley is unlikely to make a purely (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          political move that is against the good of the people. He just represents. He is an effective politician so he is political for sure but no panderer.

          We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

          by occupystephanie on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 10:30:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Many of us are so used to using the word (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            occupystephanie, HeyMikey

            "politics" as purely a negative thing that our conversations sometimes become quite muddied.

            Politics is what politicians do.  That's all I'm saying.  They can employ political skills for good purposes or bad.

            Maybe it's a zen thing.  First there is "politics" (in the negative sense).  Then we dismiss the "politics" because it is so offensive.  They we learn a bit more about how the business is run and get into that and accept the whole reality.

            I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

            by Satya1 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 12:47:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sure. I am a devotee myself. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Was in Model Arab League and Model UN for years. Conferences went by so quickly as we caucused.

              So yes, I agree with you! Merkley must love it as well to be so good at it.

              Thanks for the Donavan tune!

              We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

              by occupystephanie on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 02:30:50 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Merkley never lets up! (7+ / 0-)

    He goes from tackling one big issue straight to another. He is incredibly effective also and has been named the Legislator of the Year for 2013. As a first termer, he is absolutely astounding! No wonder the GOP wants him out!

    Conger is a longtime ALEC associate who always supports the ALEC model bills. He needs to be asked by his constituents if he is still an active ALEC.

    Wehby's BF is this ultraconservative guy who has been trying to dislodge US Rep DeFazio for decades now.

    Things are getting pretty weird when an ALEC ASSociate is an underdog...

    We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

    by occupystephanie on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 08:19:52 AM PDT

  •  i think it easier just to raise the cap to 90 (0+ / 0-)

    as it was supposed to be when SS reform was passed. 90% of wages would be somewhere around 185K, a raise of 68 thousand from its current number.  so basically, if you make more than 185K a year, you stop paying in. that would extend the solvency period likely several years if not decades.

    •  I like that idea (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      That 90% was always a kind of goal that they would supposedly adjust to from time to time.  But why not just embed the 90% into the law?

      Here's Robert Ball on the topic back in 2007:

      We can shore up Social Security for the future without cutting benefits -- or raising contribution rates. The program can be brought into close actuarial balance over the long run with just three revenue-enhancing changes that are desirable in any case:

      * Gradually increase the maximum amount of earnings covered by Social Security so that the traditional goal -- covering 90 percent of all earnings -- is once again achieved. This change would affect only the 6 percent of earners who make more than the maximum covered amount (now just under $100,000), and implementing the change gradually over the next 20 to 30 years would have only a minimal impact on them.

      * Allow Social Security to improve earnings by investing some of its assets -- up to 20 percent, say -- in equities, as just about all other public and private pension plans do.

      * Provide a new source of income by retaining a residual estate tax and dedicating it to Social Security. By 2010, the estate tax will affect only individuals with estates worth more than $3.5 million ($7 million for couples). Dedicating the income from the tax to Social Security would considerably improve the progressivity of Social Security financing as well as increasing revenue.

      I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

      by Satya1 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 09:36:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  CPI-E(lder). Why raise taxes? (0+ / 0-)

    (A) Matt Yglesias:

    the BLS also calculates the Experimental Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) for reference purposes weighted to the basket of goods consumed by the elderly and finds that these prices generally rise faster than the regular index. Grandma buys a lot of health care services and isn’t so interested in the falling price of an iPad 2.

    (B) Why raise taxes?

    Recall that part of the 2009 stimulus was a Social Security payroll-tax "holiday," which temporarily (for a couple years?) reduced the Social Security payroll tax. Yet it did not reduce revenue inflows to the Social Security trust fund by one cent. How can that be? Because the stimulus law simply directed the Treasury to credit the SS Trust Fund with receipts at the old, unreduced, payroll tax rate. The stimulus law was creating money from nothing.

    Which happened to be an excellent idea, as it injected some good old Keynesian stimulus into the economy. That money-from-nothing ended up in the pockets of everybody who gets a paycheck, meaning most of it got spent on good old Keynesian Demand Creation.

    (Shhhh! Quiet! Or Rush Limbaugh will hear us.)

    So here's the HeyMikey SSA COLA plan:

    (1) Raise the COLA to the CPI-E.

    (2) Don't raise taxes to pay for it (yet). Instead have the law require the Treasury to credit the Social Security Trust Fund with the necessary receipts--money from nothing.

    (3) Pat ourselves on back for both benefiting seniors and engaging in Good Old Fashioned Keynesian Demand Creation--most of that money from nothing will end up spent, creating demand for everything seniors (and the disabled) buy. OK, that's a lot of doctors. But it's also nurses, home healthcare aides, lab techs, medical office workers, etc. And of course the folks who prepare the 4:00pm senior early-bird discount supper buffet.

    (4) Insert a clause into the law that if unemployment ever gets below 5%, then payroll taxes will go up to pay for it, but only on high earners. That tax increase will then stay in effect only as long as unemployment remains below 5%. This kind of clause will keep money-from-nothing from driving inflation too high, defusing the inevitable "Greece/Zimbabwe/Weimar!" shouts of the right.


    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 04:46:50 PM PDT

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