Jim Terry
October 20, 2015
Government in action and government inaction
By Jim Terry

Two news items the past week brought to mind how our government works for us. Or, doesn't work for us.

First, the Social Security Administration announced that beneficiaries will not receive a cost of living adjustment (COLA) in 2016. This is the third such occurrence since Social Security benefits have been subject to cost of living adjustments which began in 1975. All three of these COLA denials have been during the Barack Hussein Obama presidency.

Second, according to a report in The Daily Caller, Congress is considering a change in digital copyright laws. It seems that Congress is consumed with the issue of copyright which protects a small percentage of the population, but may represent large revenues to copyright owners. Think of the value of the movie industry, the music industry, the publishing industry, the internet industry.

Congress passed fifteen laws concerning copyright, specifically piracy, from 1982 to 2008, according to a piece in 2012 by Mike Masnick on Techdirt.com.

From time-to-time, Congress' attempts to satisfy one group's interests has pitted those against interests of another group. An example is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) of 2011 which set the music, tv and movie industries against the tech and internet industries. Follow the money here:
    Since the beginning of the 2010 election cycle, the 32 sponsors of the bill have received almost 4 times as much in campaign contributions from the movie, music, and TV entertainment industries ($1,983,596), which support the bill, as they have received from the software and Internet industries ($524,977), which believe the language goes too far. (Jeffrey Ernst Friedman, December 19, 2011, http://maplight.org/content/72896).
So, what is the connection between the Social Security announcement and the news that Congress is licking its chops to pass another copyright law? Following the money is how Washington works. Two pieces of legislation, one affecting Social Security the other affecting copyright laws, and their route through our representational form of government is the connection. One is backed by moneyed interests, the other is not.

The winner is...

On January 25, 2005, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced S167, Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005. Senators Leahy, Cornyn, Feinstein, and Lamar were co-sponsors. The main thrust of the bill was to amend the federal criminal code to, "... prohibit the unauthorized, knowing use or attempted use of a video camera or similar device to transmit or make a copy of a motion picture or other copyrighted audiovisual work from a performance of such work in a movie theater." The House Committee on the Judiciary report stated the estimated annual loss to the movie industry was $3.5 billion because of this copyright infringement.

The bill, with one amendment, was passed in the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on February 1, 2005.

On April 19, 2005, the bill passed the U.S. House on a motion to suspend the rules. It passed on a voice vote.

The president received the legislation on April 22, 2005, signed it on April 27, 2005, and it became Public Law 109-9 on that date.

Both houses of Congress and the president created a new law in 92 days. A law which protects the pockets of the Hollywood elite.

Social Insecurity

For the 2014 tax year, the Congressional Budget office (CBO) estimated federal revenues from Social Security benefit taxes to be $51 billion, which is supposed to be credited to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. This amounts to about four percent of all revenue to those funds. The CBO also estimated that of the approximately sixty million Americans receiving Social Security about half owed income tax on their benefits.

The federal government promised the American people, when Social Security was created in 1935, that the benefits would never be taxed. Forty-eight years later, President Ronald Reagan broke the government's promise and signed legislation which made up to fifty percent of Social Security benefits taxable. The precedent having been set by Reagan, President Bill Clinton in 1993 added to the burden of the elderly by increasing the amount of Social Security benefits taxable up to eighty-five percent.

On January 16, 2014, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced HR 3894, Senior Citizens Tax Elimination Act. The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 "...to repeal the inclusion in gross income of Social Security benefits." In other words, Massie's bill would restore the government's promise to its people that their benefits from Social Security would not be taxed.

Massie's bill had no co-sponsors. The only actions taken on the bill were its introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives on January 16, 2014 and its referral to the House Committee on Ways and Means on that same date. It was never heard of again.

François-Marie Arouet, also known as Voltaire, said, "In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to another."

As a side note, two politicians who voted for the original legislation in 1983 to tax Social Security benefits are still in office: Senator John McCain and Vice President Joe Biden, who also voted against elimination of the marriage penalty in the taxation of Social Security benefits. And they both continue to say they are supportive of the middle class.

Follow the money.

© Jim Terry

 

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Jim Terry

Jim Terry has worked in Republican grassroots politics for 40 years. Terry was an administrative assistant to a Republican elected official in Dallas for twenty years. In 1996, he ran for and was elected to Justice Court 2 in Dallas County where he served eight years. Contact Jim at tr4guy@flash.net

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