FROM Fred Lynch
Zero-Sum Politics in an Age of Austerity It's no surprise that older Americans have accumulated more wealth and earn more income than their children and grandchildren. But a recent study shows the gap is growing much faster than previously reported. The growing federal deficit and demands for spending cuts create a sense of scarcity that's pitting Americans against one another. We look at the impact of that and other "fault lines" between Americans in this election year.
The Politics of Austerity It's no surprise that older Americans have accumulated more wealth and earn more income than their children and grandchildren. But a recent study shows the gap is growing much faster than previously reported, leading to age-based competition for federal benefits. Older conservatives who see the pie shrinking view programs to help younger people, and even the poor, as threats to Medicare and Social Security. That fear has energized the Tea Partiers, and Occupy Wall Street is the first sign of youthful resistance as the struggle for scarce resources turns nasty. Meantime, well-off elites face a middle class plagued with unemployment and a sense of deprivation. What are the implications for this year's campaigns?
Is AARP Leading the Way to Cuts in Social Security? Last week, the Wall Street Journal quoted John Rother, policy director of the AARP saying, "The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens." What he was talking about was AARP's decision that cuts in Social Security might be necessary. In Washington, and around the country, the reaction was deafening. Had AARP changed its position? Should Social Security become part of deficit reduction? We hear an argument directly affecting America's most reliable voting bloc.
Social Security, the AARP and the Deficit With 37 million members and a massive budget, AARP claims it's the voice in Washington for senior citizens, America's most reliable voting bloc. But last week, AARP created a firestorm by saying it would consider "modest" cuts in Social Security benefits. The Wall Street Journal quoted AARP Policy Director John Rother saying, "The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens." In Washington, and around the country, the reaction was deafening. Deficit hawks said it's about time, but other defenders of Social Security accused the organization of selling out the very people it claims to represent. Has AARP provided an opening for America's most popular social program to be put on the deficit chopping block?
In Janesville, WI, Middle America meets the new American dream Janesville, Wisconsin is the hometown of Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. But he couldn't prevent the closing of the General Motors factory after 100 years. We hear what's happened to what once was a model of American middle-class unity.
Is Venezuela becoming a dictatorship? Venezuela may have the world's largest oil reserves, but it's a nation in trouble… economically and politically. Is a populist promise to rescue democracy turning out to be a prelude to dictatorship?
Why Don't Facts Matter? "Fake News" may have a long history, but social media and 21st Century politics have brought it front and center. One reason for its appeal and its power is the tendency of so many people to cling to their beliefs — even when confronted with contradictory evidence. Today, another look at the Emotional States of America.