Enjoy good journalism?
… then let us make a small request. The COVID crisis has slashed advertising rates, and we need your help. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.
Raw Story is independent. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.
We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.
Value Raw Story?
… then let us make a small request. The COVID crisis has slashed advertising rates, and we need your help. Like you, we believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We need your support to do what we do.
Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.
Out of sight from most Americans, powerful, organized, and determined moneyed interests have waged a more than three-decade-long, billionaire-funded campaign to dismantle Social Security. That campaign has enjoyed some success. And it is with us still.
It is not hard to see the successes of that campaign. Many Americans have been persuaded that Social Security is unaffordable, in crisis and must, at the very least, be scaled back. But while the campaign has succeeded in undermining confidence in the future of Social Security, it has failed to scale back Social Security's modest, but vital benefits, or, worse, radically transform Social Security, ending it as we know it. The good news is that over the last few years, the movement to expand, not cut, Social Security has been growing.
It is no accident that so many in the news media and political elite have bought the lies. The campaign is backed by hundreds of millions of dollars and a cottage industry of academics who have built their careers on criticizing Social Security. Together, those forces brought a veneer of respectability to claims that Social Security is unaffordable, in crisis, and spawning competition and conflict between generations.
Trudy Lieberman, a noted media critic and former New York University journalism professor, has observed that most media outlets have been reporting "only one side of this story using 'facts' that are misleading or flat-out wrong while ignoring others."
The machinations of the anti-Social Security campaign largely explain why media elites and both political parties lost an understanding of the conceptual underpinnings that have led to Social Security's popularity. Indeed, Social Security is often described as a problem rather than the solution that it is.
An Earned Right
Rather than define Social Security as an earned right to insurance purchased with our work and contributions, the critics imply that it is a government handout. The media and politicians use words and phrases like "entitlement," "makers versus takers," "deficit crisis" and "safety net" to spread and reinforce the message. The campaign's messaging, repeated over and over again, falsely asserts that Social Security was and remains a cause of federal deficits, even though Social Security does not add even a penny to the federal debt.
The truth is that Social Security has a $2.9 trillion surplus, which it invests. By law, it can only invest in Treasury bonds and other federal instruments backed by the full faith and credit of our government. It is a creditor to our federal government. That means Social Security has loaned our federal government $2.9 trillion. In turn, that means that our government has to borrow less from foreign governments and other investors to finance budget shortfalls. Even so, the false claim that Social Security is a government giveaway and a drain on the nation's resources has become a standard talking point of those who would dismantle the program.
The winds are shifting, however. President Joe Biden explicitly ran on expanding Social Security, as did Hillary Clinton in 2016. Expanding Social Security was a plank in both the 2016 and 2020 Democratic platforms.
That position is in line with what surveys show the overwhelming majority of voters support—Republicans, independents, and Democrats alike. But that doesn't mean that any of us who want to see Social Security expanded, not cut, can let down our guard. Quite the opposite. The anti-Social Security campaigners know how to adjust their tactics to changing situations, how to fade away, how to blend in, and how and when to attack. If those of us who favor expanding, not cutting, Social Security are to be successful, we must remain vigilant and active. The billionaire campaign remains well-funded, well-organized, active, and strategic.
Going forward, we can expand Social Security, even in the face of distortions, misunderstandings, and outright lies promoted by moneyed interests. All of us who care about the economic security of our families have a stake in this cause. Everyone who cares about what kind of nation we leave for our children and grandchildren has a stake.
How to Win
How do we successfully build on the legacy that has been bequeathed to us, leaving it even better for the generations that follow? In short, how do we get our elected officials—who, after all, work for us—to vote to expand Social Security?
We already have some very dedicated leaders championing the cause of expansion, but we need more of them if expansion is to pass the Senate and get signed into law. Getting those now in office who disagree with us to change their minds and getting people elected who already do agree is tricky. All politicians these days claim to support Social Security. All say that their goal is to strengthen or save it. We cannot be satisfied with platitudes. We must demand clear support for expansion, with no cuts whatsoever.
Electing more champions and convincing others to change their minds won't be done without knowledge, commitment, perseverance and action. It won't be done without a vision backed by values that we all share.
It won't be done behind closed doors, without politics and policies that involve the American people and puts us first.
And, it won't be done without a fight. Nor will the fight be an easy one. There is too much money on the side of those who want to dismantle our Social Security system.
Fortunately, the American people—across demographics and the political spectrum—are unified in their opposition to cutting benefits and favor benefit expansions. They appropriately have a sense of contributing toward their own retirement and feel good about receiving Social Security benefits. They understand the importance of providing disability protection for themselves and their families, and the importance of protecting children and other family members if they die. Having witnessed losses in their extended families from unforeseen events—for example, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the devastation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and now today's pandemic—they understand how quickly and efficiently Social Security responds to community and personal crises. They understand that benefits are not based on need, but rather have been earned through labor and contributions from salaries and wages. They understand how important Social Security is to their own and their family's economic security.
It is imperative to recognize that Social Security didn't just happen. Past generations of politicians and citizens created, improved, fought for and defended our Social Security system. They protected it, safeguarded it, expanded it and passed it forward, stronger than before, as a legacy to all of us, young and old alike. Now it is our turn.
The debate over the future of Social Security is most fundamentally a debate about decency and fairness. It is a debate about our values. In the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, it's not about "the creation of new and strange values," but, as he explained 86 years ago: "It is rather the finding of the way once more to known, but to some degree forgotten, ideals and values. If the means and details are in some instances new, the objectives are as permanent as human nature. Among our objectives I place the security of the men, women, and children of the Nation first."
Among these values that now underlie the fight over Social Security is compassion for and responsibility to care for our families, our neighbors and ourselves. The recognition that Social Security is part of our compensation for our hard work and contributions is another value this fight over Social Security is about.
Still another value the fight is about is recognition of Social Security's conservative, prudent management of our money. Of all federal programs, Social Security and Medicare are the most closely monitored. Social Security is extremely conservatively financed and must balance its budget without any borrowing whatsoever. Yet this important value is disregarded by our politicians, who tend to lump it together with all other federal spending.
This is not a time for compromising the economic well-being of the middle class and poor, not when income and wealth inequality are higher than they have ever been in the past 50 years. Not when the worldwide pandemic has exacerbated that income and wealth inequality.
This is not a time to accept cuts to our Social Security as "reasonable compromise," as little "tweaks" that will do no lasting harm. Rather, this is the time for our elected leaders to expand Social Security, as the overwhelming majority of Americans who elected them want.
It is a time to successfully build on the legacy that has been bequeathed to us, leaving it even better for the generations that follow. At base, this is about the kind of nation we want for ourselves, our children, and their children. Although couched largely in terms of economics, the debate over the future of Social Security is most fundamentally a debate about the role of government, about all of us working together, and about the societal values the nation seeks to achieve through Social Security for today's and tomorrow's generations.
Nancy Altman, a lawyer, and Eric Kingson, a Syracuse University professor of social work, co-founded Social Security Works, a non-profit organization working to protect and expand Social Security. This article is adapted from their new book Social Security Works for Everyone!, published by The New Press, with a foreword by David Cay Johnston, DCReport editor-in-chief.
NASA has made history by successfully flying the mini helicopter Ingenuity on Mars, the first powered flight on another planet.
Here are some key things to know.
- Proof of concept -
The rotorcraft's first flight lasted 39.1 seconds as Ingenuity lifted itself to a height of 10 feet (three meters) and then returned to the Martian surface.
While it does have the capacity to fly for 90 seconds and cover a distance of up to 980 feet (300 meters), its test runs are intentionally of limited scope as they are meant to prove only that the technology works.
Ingenuity is not gathering scientific data about Mars or aiding in the search for past microbial life.
Previous technology demonstrations include the Mars Pathfinder rover, Sojourner, which was the first ever rover to explore another planet in 1997.
It is hoped that one day, future aircraft can help revolutionize exploration of celestial bodies by going further and faster than rovers, and reaching areas hard to access by land.
NASA is already preparing to send Dragonfly, a much larger rotorcraft-lander, to Saturn's icy moon Titan where it will fly multiple sorties in search of extraterrestrial life.
Dragonfly launches in 2026 and should reach its destination by 2034.
- Engineering marvel -
Tucked under the belly of the Perseverance rover, Ingenuity's first goal was to withstand launch from Earth, the cruise through space, and landing on Mars.
Next, it had to be unlocked and deployed on the Martian surface while Perseverance drove away fast enough to ensure it didn't cast a shadow over Ingenuity that would have prevented the aircraft's solar panels charging up.
That was necessary so Ingenuity could run its internal heaters to survive in the chilling Martian night.
Temperatures at the Jezero Crater, just north of the equator, plunge to minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius), which would have cracked the chopper's exposed electronics.
Achieving lift in Mars' rarefied atmosphere -- which is just one percent the density of Earth's, was a major technological challenge.
Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory spent six years developing a craft that is ultra light yet still powerful enough to accomplish the feat.
Its rotors, which span four feet (1.2 meters), spin at 2,400 rpm -- about five times more than a helicopter on Earth. The structure stands 19 inches (0.49 meters) high and weighs just four pounds (1.8 kilograms).
Ingenuity does get a helping hand from Mars' weak gravity, which is just one-third of Earth's.
- Software glitch -
Ingenuity's first flight was planned for April 11, however, it was postponed after the chopper failed to successfully execute a planned high-speed spin-up test of the rotors on April 9.
NASA identified a software issue -- namely a problem with the aircraft's "watchdog timer" which alerts Ingenuity to potential problems and pauses its processes if it thinks it has detected an error.
Engineers made a coding tweak that allowed Ingenuity to overcome the problem and transition to "flight mode" correctly.
But the Ingenuity team, led by Burmese-American engineer MiMi Aung, were only 85 percent sure this solution would work.
They had another idea -- familiar to IT managers everywhere -- in case it did not: reinstalling the flight software and rebooting.
Since it is so far from Earth and cannot be piloted by a human, Ingenuity is pre-programmed with certain parameters, and then it also makes key decisions by itself during the flight, using sensor and camera data.
- A (literal) piece of history -
More than a month after Ingenuity reached Mars, NASA announced a surprise: wrapped around a cable under the helicopter's solar panel is a small swatch of fabric that was once part of the wing of the Wright brothers' 1903 flyer.
This aircraft traveled 120 feet (36 meters) in a 12 second hop over the sand-covered Outer Banks of North Carolina, ushering in the era of powered flight on Earth.
"As an homage to the two innovative bicycle makers from Dayton, this first of many airfields on other worlds will now be known as Wright Brothers Field," announced NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen after Ingenuity's maiden voyage.
© 2021 AFP
Senior Justice Department official refused to appear for inspector general investigation — then abruptly quit
A Justice Department Inspector General investigation had a strange moment when a senior official refused to speak to the IG and then abruptly resigned.
According to the report, a "non-career member of the Senior Executive Service" refused to appear for a compelled interview with the IG, which then triggered a misconduct finding.
"During the course of an ongoing administrative misconduct investigation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) informed a then senior DOJ official ... that the senior DOJ official was a subject in the investigation and that the OIG sought to interview the senior DOJ official in connection with the investigation," said a statement on the incident.
The report describes "several unsuccessful attempts to schedule a voluntary interview" and specifically told the official that "neither the answers the senior DOJ official provided nor any evidence gained by reason of those answers could be used against the senior DOJ official in a criminal proceeding."
Still, however, the official refused to appear before abruptly resigning.
"The OIG concluded that the senior DOJ official violated both federal regulations and DOJ policy by failing to appear for a compelled OIG interview while still a DOJ employee," the statement also explained. "The OIG offered the senior DOJ official the opportunity to cure that violation by participating in a voluntary interview after leaving the Department, but the senior DOJ official, through counsel, declined to do so. The OIG has the authority to compel testimony from current Department employees upon informing them that their statements will not be used to incriminate them in a criminal proceeding."
The office of the inspector general doesn't have the power to subpoena former staffers from the DOJ for internal investigations. So the resignation of the staffer made the attempts at an interview moot.
Legal expert Marcy Wheeler speculated that the investigation possibly had to do with Andrew McCabe or Peter Strzok and inside officials attempting to attack the two men who ultimately were forced out of the FBI.
The chances this person had a role in beating up on Andrew McCabe or Peter Strzok are non-zero. https://t.co/WeLJKkFUQz— emptywheel (@emptywheel)1618842273.0
Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Raw Story Investigates and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.
$95 / year — Just $7.91/month
I want to Support More
$14.99 per month