The coming collapse to Social Security as we know it

foxbusiness.com
By Rebecca Walser

Border wall funding, a government shutdown (or a government showdown!), trade relations and tariffs between the U.S. and China, the Fed continuing to raise rates with a teetering stock market — there has been plenty to fret over this holiday season. But something else is happening quietly that is nevertheless one of the most important issues in the history of America.

I am referring to, what I label as, the coming disenfranchisement of our Social Security system, at least as we know it.

Disenfranchisement, quite a stark word, is defined as the state of being deprived of a right or privilege. As a lawyer, I should know better than to use this word in relation to Social Security, since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1960 case Flemming v. Nestor that the receipt of payments from the program was not a“right,” even where a participant had paid into the system for years.

Even so, the reality is that most Americans count on and expect that “their” Social Security, in its present form, will be there for them. But it will not – at least that is what the current math unfortunately tells us.

Make no mistake, Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system. Even though there is an estimated nearly $3 trillion in the trust fund, this simply reflects accounting entries of the net surpluses the fund has been credited with, plus interest earned, since inception. There is no actual money in the fund, just the special-issue Treasury bonds, which are in fact government IOUs. The real surpluses have been used by the federal government as a funding source of many things.

But no more – the days of surplus payments are over now and under the current system will be for the coming 75 years. For the first time since 1982, this year more benefits will be paid than revenues collected. This is no surprise to the government, as they have projected and forecasted these figures based on our demographics in the annual Trustee Report since 1941.
Retirement boom

But as difficult as that is to swallow, that is not the issue I focus on. What consumes me is the much larger problem of what is coming. When you break down the birth rates between 1946 – 1964, you see that births peaked in 1957, followed closely through 1964. This means that about 70 percent of the Boomers have not even begun to retire yet, and beginning in 2022 the bulk of the generation will retire in a five to seven-year succession, one year after the next.

In other words, our system is now approximately 2 full time equivalent payors for every 1 recipient receiving Social Security benefits, 2-to-1, costing us more than we are taking in, and 70 percent of this great generation has yet to even be a recipient in the system. (2018 Trustee report showing 2.8-to-1 includes all workers who worked at all during the year, and is not reflective of true contributors to system.)

Keep in mind that every time a Boomer retires, they are a double negative to the federal budget as they go from being a positive contributor through payroll taxes to no contribution with their retirement (the 1st negative impact) and then they move onto the system as a recipient (the 2nd negative budget impact). The lower birth rates of Gen X and Millennials, comparatively, not including surplus immigration, does not help.

Before he was Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan asked the CBO to analyze these future problems back in 2008. The resulting report was unequivocal. If the benefits paid via Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid remained (at 2008 levels) with the retirement of the Baby Boomers, benefits would have to be cut, taxes would have to go up, or more likely BOTH.
Rock and a hard place

If you are one of those in the camp of “no politician will ever be elected that will cut our Social Security benefits,” as I so frequently hear in my work across the country, let me introduce you to another harsh reality. The timing of the mass retirement of our Boomer generation is colliding with the reality of our federal debt reaching an unsustainable critical mass.

At around $22 trillion and climbing, we will not be able to debt finance these benefits for a sustained time period. Once we hit $30 trillion in total debt, which as forecasted could happen in less than 8 years with the projected $1 trillion annual deficits, interest servicing alone will cost us more per year than we spend on Medicare and the military combined – a simple impossibility for the United States.

Thus, it is clear that the proverbial can cannot be kicked down the road any longer. The road is ending, and the cliff lies dead ahead just like the iceberg did for the Titanic.

We cannot borrow our way out. As I see it, it is a mathematical certainty that benefits will be cut (I believe on some kind of aggressive means tested basis) and taxes will go up (also likely dramatically, according to the math).

And hence the word… the coming “disenfranchisement” of Social Security – Americans being deprived of the privilege of the full benefit payments upon which they were counting. It is no wonder that Congress has expressly reserved the right to alter, amend, or repeal any provision of the Act and the U.S. Supreme Court has established that it is not a right. We must wake up and prepare accordingly.

Rebecca Walser is a licensed tax attorney and certified financial planner and author of the book Wealth Unbroken, who specializes in the strategic planning of maximizing lifetime wealth while minimizing tax through her practice, Walser Wealth Management . She earned her juris doctor degree from the University of Florida and her Master of Law degree in taxation from New York University. She is a frequent national media contributor.

https://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/the-coming-collapse-to-social-security-as-we-know-it

Environmental organizations see an outpouring of support post-election | Grist


Environmental organizations see an outpouring of support post-election
By Emma Foehringer Merchant on Nov 28, 2016

Since Election Day, human-rights organizations like Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP have seen their donations spike. “This is the greatest outpouring of support for the ACLU in our nearly 100-year history,” its executive director announced. “Greater than the days after 9/11.”

That goodwill has also spilled over into the coffers — and membership lists — of environmental organizations. While it’s too soon to tell how much green groups will collect in the wake of the election, this month’s flood of support could come as a boon to organizations that usually receive a small portion of philanthropic giving. Environmental and animal welfare groups traditionally rank low on the list of causes Americans donate to. In 2015, they received just 3 percent of total donations, far less than churches, schools, hospitals, even arts and culture.

It seems that President-elect Donald Trump’s promises to overturn Obama-era environmental regulations and ditch an international climate agreement have spurred those angered by election results to vote with their wallets.

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“The incoming administration threatens to roll back environmental protections across the board,” said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen in a statement. With renewed support, Van Noppen said, Earthjustice plans to provide a line of defense against these rollbacks, by deepening its legal team and increasing the number of clients it represents — already more than 600 — in legal battles.

Many other environmental organizations are making similar pleas, seeking financial support to fight the Trump administration’s damaging environmental agenda. Every environmental organization Grist contacted said it had seen an increased level of engagement in some way.

The climate action group 350.org has gained tens of thousands of new supporters since Election Day, spokesman Jamie Henn said, and has seen donations surge. The organization’s petition to stop climate denier Myron Ebell from running the Environmental Protection Agency gained over 20,000 signatures in a few days.

Friends of the Earth, too, is raking in money at an unprecedented level: four times faster than before the election, according to development director Peter Stocker. The Sierra Club said it has gained more than 15,000 new monthly donors since the election, double the number that joined during the rest of the calendar year. Earthjustice has seen a 711 percent increase in online donors over last month, and during the week of Nov. 7, the group saw a 707 percent increase in new online donors compared to the same week in 2015.

The Environmental Defense Fund has seen similar upticks. “Without any special prompting from us, people are energized about protecting the progress we’ve made,” membership director Sam Parry said in a statement. “Apparently the sixth stage of grief is activism.”

Those numbers will mean big green groups can widen their campaigns and increase their digital outreach — one Grist editor has received up to four Sierra Club fundraising emails a day since the election — but not everyone in the climate movement is convinced that more money alone will make a difference.

“We need a surge of people into the streets, and the jails,” says Wen Stephenson, author of What We’re Fighting For Now Is Each Other, a book on climate activism. “We need more resistance camps like at Standing Rock, only everywhere.”

Others in the movement agree that Trump-era environmentalism will need to be an on-the-ground battle, because it will be difficult, if not impossible, to make progress in Washington with a Trump administration and GOP-dominated Congress. “Now that the inside game is so difficult, the outside game is even more important,” said 350.org’s Henn. (Note: 350.org founder Bill McKibben is a member of the Grist board of directors.)

Other green groups are seeing a surge of interest in organizing and direct action, too. Greenpeace cites a boost in calls and emails from people asking what they can do, as well as more people signing up for training.

Stocker, at Friends of the Earth, expects an increase in activists and volunteers at the community level as people reach out to friends, family, and anyone else looking to get involved and work across movements.

“People are telling us that this election shook them to the core,” Stocker said. “Those who had never been to a rally or protest are itching to get out and make their voices heard.”

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Is your bank funding the Dakota Access Pipeline? Here’s how to find a new bank. | Grist

Is your bank funding the Dakota Access Pipeline? Here’s how to find a new bank.
By Ask Umbra® 
Q. Dear Umbra,

I’ve been looking to switch banks for some time and the recent events in North Dakota have made my desire to fire Bank of America all the more urgent. I’m having a hard time finding information about banking institutions that are financially supportive of environmentally sustainable and socially responsible projects — or even banks that aren’t bankrolling dirty energy projects. For someone who is interested in changing banks, but who still needs some of the perks a big bank can offer, what are the best options?

Meredith
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A. Dearest Meredith,

When it comes to banks, we tend to pay the most attention to the stuff that directly affects us: interest rates, overdraft fees, whether or not our local branch gives away free lollipops (or is that just me?). It’s easy to overlook the fact that banks do a lot more than just babysit our hard-earned dollars. They also get their fingers in all kinds of investments and deals, including those that support energy projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline — a 1,172-mile pipeline that would carry oil from North Dakota across four states, and carry a whole lotta polluting and racist baggage too. This controversial project would not be possible without cash from a number of big banks.

So welcome to the latest episode of Big Banks Behaving Badly! You’re right that Bank of America is one of the institutions funding the company that’s building the Dakota Access Pipeline — along with dozens of other banks, including Citibank, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase. Environmentalists are targeting those banks and calling on them to halt the funding, and one Norwegian bank is now considering pulling out of the project.

You’re also right that plenty of the biggies support other fossil fuel development projects, from coal mining to deep-water oil drilling. This 2016 report card from the Rainforest Action Network grades the major banks on exactly this, and finds that many of them — including Bank of America — deserve to be sent to summer school.

So if we want our banks to better represent our green values, we know who not to patronize. But who is worthy of handling our stacks? Here are a few options:

Big banks that support renewable energy
The megabanks aren’t exclusively funding fossil fuels; many are also backing solar and wind power projects. Bloomberg has checked into which institutions have been supporting renewables and cutting their own carbon emissions. European banks are leading the way, but JPMorgan Chase cracked the top 10 in 2014. Still, even as Chase and other banks put money into renewables, they continue to show up as bad actors on RAN’s fossil-fuel report card. If money talks, these banks are talking out of both sides of their mouths — so read on for alternatives.

Credit unions
I’m a huge fan of credit unions: They’re nonprofits, they usually offer excellent interest rates and low fees, and they invest in local projects rather than dirty international dealings. I’m not sure what perks you’re looking for, Meredith, but credit unions offer plenty of services just like the Wall Street outfits do — so I encourage you to check out what’s available in your area.

Community development banks
You say “socially responsible projects,” I think “community development bank.” These institutions (which can also be credit unions) might not focus specifically on eco-friendly investments, but they do make a point of serving the financially underserved: local people, institutions, businesses, and nonprofits that might not qualify for loans elsewhere. These aren’t available everywhere (though I did find one in Philly); search here to see if there are options near you.

Best of luck in your quest for a new home for your money! Switching banks takes a little bit of logistical wrangling, but it’s well worth the, er, investment (here are tips and step-by-step directions). And make sure to tell your current institution exactly why you’re bailing. How will things ever get better if the big guys don’t know what they’re doing wrong?

Capitally,
Umbra
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A Monster Trojan Is Taking Over The Banking World And Cleaning Your Bank Accounts

Nwo Report

A Monster Trojan Is Taking Over The Banking World And Cleaning Your Bank AccountsSource: Softpedia News, Security Intelligence

Two powerful Trojan viruses, identified as Gozi ISFB and Nymaim, have been blended together to produce a monster known as GozNym. The program has stolen more than 3 million dollars since it was initially spotted fourteen days ago.

Researchers at IBM’s security division were able to identify the hybrid Trojan, and stated that the Trojan program is presently installed or is working its way through the banking system. The virus can be found in more than 50 percent of the machines present in commercial financial institutions, credit unions, and microfinance banks. As for GozNym, it is—without a doubt—an extremely stealthy Trojan that incorporates the very best of both the Trojans previously mentioned.

Image Source: Security Intelligence – A figure showing the Trojan’s target market, mainly in the United States.

Furthermore, GozNym is primarily being distributed through electronic mails with so-called infected macros that are using…

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An Email I Got….Makes Sense

Running out of time: Will the US attack the US again?