Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement
When to Upgrade Your Level of Trust
How can you tell when you need to upgrade your level of emunah and bitochon?
Your nervous system gives you feedback. View anxiety and nervousness as a message, "Time to elevate your level of emunah and bitochon." Don't become upset about this. That's not very helpful. Rather, be appreciative of the feedback. The message you are receiving is immensely valuable.
Love Yehuda Lave
Jerusalem Court Sides With Ateret Cohanim Vs. Greek Church On 3 Major Purchases
The Jerusalem District Court on Monday ruled that the Ateret Cohanim association has legal rights over three large areas in strategic locations in the Old City of Jerusalem, currently populated by Arab residents, Maariv reported.
Three foreign real estate companies in 2004 signed under a veil of great secrecy three different contracts with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate which owned the assets.
In the first transaction, Berisford Investments Limited purchased a lease for the Petra Hotel, a four-story building located at Omar Ibn al-Hatab Square, between the Jaffa Gate and the Arab market. It is a 99-year lease, with an option for another 99 years.
The second transaction, under similar lease terms, Richards Marketing Corporation acquired the adjacent two-story Imperial Hotel, with the stores below.
In the third transaction, Gallow Global Limited acquired the rights to a structure called Beit Azmiya, in the Bab a-Khuta neighborhood of the Old City.
Ateret Cohanim, which deals with the redemption of land in Jerusalem, is credited with locating the assets and negotiating for their purchase.
Most of the buildings on the street, which stretches across the area between the entrance to the Old City at the Jaffa Gate and the Arab market, were owned for many years by the Greek Orthodox Church.
The Church, which was humiliated by the revelations of the three spectacular purchases, initially denied they had ever been signed by Patriarch Irenaios Skopelitis and that any monetary consideration was received in exchange for them.
Then the same church claimed the director of its finance department had acted without authorization when he made the sale.
Judge Gila Kanfi-Steinitz, deputy head of the Jerusalem district court, ruled that there is no dispute that Irenaios had the authority to enter into agreements on behalf of the Church, and that there is no doubt that the director of the church's finance department who signed the agreements acted as his proxy.
Judge Knafi-Steinitz rejected the claim that its saintly leader had received bribes, which the other side denied. She ruled that "the defendants did not provide sufficient proof on the required level to their claims of bribery or corruption that underlie the transactions. Therefore, the result is that it is necessary to determine that the three transactions are valid," she concluded.
The judge also ruled that "there is no disputing the fact that the plaintiffs were paid the full consideration for the transactions."
And so, starting this week, the three companies affiliated with the Ateret Cohanim association are the proud holders of a large portion of the entrance to the Old City from the direction of Jaffa Gate, as well as in another area in the Bab a-Khuta neighborhood.
The office of Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem (who replaced the deposed Irenaios in 2005), stated that he intended to appeal the ruling.
Phyllis Chesler writes: "I dare to say, at the risk of being shamed and shunned for telling the truth, that "Palestine" is a fiction, a concept that refers to an imaginary entity, not real but socially constructed.
By: Phyllis Chesler
I dare to say, at the risk of being shamed and shunned for telling the truth, that "Palestine" is a fiction, a concept that refers to an imaginary entity, not real but socially constructed.
Even as barbarians terrorize civilians everywhere, (if not, the UK and Australia would have granted Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi asylum), the world remains divinely diverted, even obsessed by the alleged "occupation" of a country that does not exist.
I am talking about "Palestine" aka the disputed territories. And yes, I dare to surround this word with quote marks because it is a fiction, a concept that refers to an imaginary entity, an entity desired by the world, the more so because it is not real but is, rather, socially constructed.
The world's honor is now bound up with this falsity. And why? Because this is an idea that allows Jew haters the world over to continue their genocidal lust towards Jews, both in Israel and around the world.
Although non-existent, "Palestine" is so sacred a concept that one risks being shamed and shunned for saying so. The world's honor is now bound up with this falsity. And why? Because this is an idea that allows Jew haters the world over to continue their genocidal lust towards Jews, both in Israel and around the world.
It is the way European Christian and non-Western Muslims can continue their gruesome history of pogroms, massacres, and the industrial-scale slaughter of Jews—and still virtue-signal their compassion for the other Semites: displaced Arab Muslims, a compassion they sadly lack for persecuted Arab and African Christians.
This imaginary Palestine is similar to other imagined and socially constructed realities. For example, Caucasian Rachel Dolezal believed she was an African-American. An increasing number of men believe they are, in truth, women trapped in men's bodies; as such, they are seen as both victim and hero for embracing this destiny. A smaller number of women believe that they are really men trapped in women's bodies. They, too, are seen as victim/heroes.
Arab "Palestinian" style Intifada and Jihad has gone global. Antifa activists in America are also face-masked, aggressive, verbally vulgar, and violent. They shout down anything and anyone with which they disagree and operate as a mob both on campuses and at demonstrations. No matter what their real issues are (Wall Street, police anti-Black racism, climate apocalypse, the prison system, women's rights), "Palestine" is often signaled by the wearing of checkered Arafat-style keffiyehs and Hamas-style face masks.
Often, they also chant "Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea" which is the same as saying "Let's ethnically cleanse all the Jews, not only those who live in the 'West Bank' but also those in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem." It is a call to genocide which has been misunderstood as a call to righteous resistance.
The above article by renowned scholar, author and human rights advocate Prof. Phyllis Chesler was posted last week on Fundies say the Darndest Things without permission or knowledge of the writer and received a slew of insults which we will not post here. Note the hashtags provided: #racist#wingnut#transphobia. Prof. Chesler commented only: 'I stand by what I wrote.'.
One of the talkbackers on Israel National News however, added these maps and wrote:
I am aware of Israel's stance that it's not an occupation strictly speaking, due to the Palestinian territories not being claimed by any sovereign state recognized by Israel as legitimate (like Jordan or Egypt), thus being "just" a disputed area. Regardless of that, just about the entire rest of the world considers the West Bank to be occupied territory, and Israel to be an occupying power with all the obligations that entails. I doubt you're saying this due to understanding the legal intricacies of the issue and wanting an educated discussion, though. Nah, more likely, you're just prejudiced and cheering for one side (Israel).
Another reader answered:
The leftmost, 1917 map – what does it show? Palestinian land? Not really… since the territory at that time belonged to the Ottoman Empire. There was no such thing as Palestinian sovereignty.
It doesn't even show private land, since Palestinian Arabs* at that time did not own all the land – privately or otherwise.
In other words, that map doesn't show any discernible reality.
The next map, from 1946, shows land privately owned by Jews, in green. What is the yellow land, though? It wasn't land that was privately owned by Palestinian Arabs. It wasn't state land, either – the territory of Mandate Palestine was under British management, not Palestinian Arab or Jewish. So how was all of that "Palestinian land"?
The king of Jordan handed it out to his friends.
The map compares privately owned Jewish land with… err… all the land, including uninhabited desert areas, that wasn't owned by Jews? How is this relevant for anything?
That said, I'll give kudos to the author of the image for mentioning that most of the Jewish-owned land back then was bought perfectly legally. That's true, and also not something pro-Palestinian people tend to admit or even seem to know.
I have no issues with the next three maps. The only problem is with the very last one and its accompanying text, which are… at best incomplete. What does it show?
Firstly, the stated year of the map is 2012. The IDF's Gaza disengagement and the evacuation of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip took place in 2005. Therefore, that green bit within the Gaza Strip and next to the Egyptian border had not existed for seven years by 2012.
Secondly, the distribution of areas in the West Bank is unexplained. The yellow areas here are a combination of Areas A and B of the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has civil control (but full security control only in Area A, and even that not fully since Israeli forces do enter it regularly in order to control terror but do nothing else). The green one is Area C, where Israeli authorities exercise full control and where nearly all of their settlements are. Thus, while perhaps not precise enough, the map does somewhat accurately depict the areas of Israeli or Palestinian civil control. A summary of these finer points should have been given in the accompanying text, though.
The actual text the author included below the image is problematic as well.
Other than not mentioning the year of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, it also gives almost nothing of the background of the Israeli operation in 2012. Nothing about thousands of Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, for instance. And while such a small text can't really do the job, I'd at least try to be a bit more informative (and, of course, avoid possible propaganda by omission).
So, to conclude: I'm sorry, Swede, but your post is a classic example of ignorant but well-meaning people parroting other (potentially malicious) people's talking points without really considering what they're about. And don't get me wrong, pro-Israel propagandists facilitate that as well, not just pro-Palestinian ones. Such arguments don't help resolve the conflict at all; they only muddy the waters. Please take a closer look at what you use in the future, lest you become an unwitting pawn in somebody's propaganda machine.
*I use the term "Palestinian Arabs" since 'Palestinians' as a term for a nation only became popular and commonly used by the Palestinians themselves in the 1960s. Using it for the previous period isn't really accurate, but I'll grant you that using it as a shorthand won't really cause confusion. Still, I prefer to make the distinction.
(Israel National News)
100 Greatest country songs of all time
You may not agree with the list, but here are some great songs.
My favorite, you have to know when to hold them, isn't on the list so I provide it below.
DRIVE THEM OUT!
Written: The Jewish Press 1981
(Rabbi Meir Kahane, may G-d avenge his blood, had the ONLY answer to exist in safety in our land. Thousands of Jews were killed, because we didn't do what had to be done. bg)
The Torah states clearly: "And you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you . . . but if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those whom you allow to remain will be like thorns in your eyes and thistles in your sides and will torment you in the land in which you dwell" (Numbers 33.52.55).
The Biblical commentators are explicit "And you shall drive out the inhabitants and then you shall inherit it and be able to exist in it. And if you do not, you will not be able to exist in it"
"When you shall eliminate the inhabitants of the land, then you shall be privileged to inherit the land and pass it down to your children But if you do not eliminate them, even though you will conquer the land, you will not be privileged to hand it down to your children" (Sforno).
"This verse refers to nations other than the seven nations found there . . . Not only will they hold that part of the land that you did not conquer, but even concerning that part which you did conquer and settle in, they will distress you and say, 'Rise and get out'" (Ohr HaChaim).
And so the Midrash tells us: "Joshua sent three messages to the inhabitants [of Canaan]. He who wishes to evacuate – let him evacuate; he who wishes to make peace – let him make peace, he who wishes to make war – let him make war" (Vayikra Rabba 17.6).
The choices are given. Either leave, or prepare for war, or make peace. The choice of "making peace" is explained by Rabbis as involving three things. To begin with, the non-Jew must agree to adopt the seven basic Noahide Laws, which include the prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, immorality, bloodshed, robbery, eating flesh cut from a living animal, and a positive action – adherence to social laws. Once he has done this, he has the status of a resident stranger (ger toshav) who is allowed to live in Eretz Yisrael (Avoda Zara 64b) if he also accepts the conditions of tribute and servitude.
The Biblical commentator, the Radak, explains (in his commentary to Joshua 9:7): "If they uproot idolatry and accept the seven Noahide laws, they must also pay tribute and serve Israel and be subject under them as it is written (Deuteronomy 20:11, 'All the people . . . shall be tributaries to you and shall serve you.'"
Maimonides (Hilchot Melachim 6:11) declares: "If they make peace and accept the seven Noahide laws, we do not kill them for they are tributary. If they agreed to pay tribute but did not accept servitude or accepted servitude but not tribute, we do not acquiesce until they have accepted both. And servitude means that they shall be humble and low and not raise their head in Israel. Rather, they shall be subjects under us and not be appointed to any position over Jews ever."
Far better than foolish humans did the Almighty understand the dangers inherent in allowing a people that believes the land belongs to it free and unfettered residence, let alone ownership, proprietorship, citizenship. What more natural thing than to ask to regain what it rightly believes to be its own land? And this over and above the need to create a unique and distinctly separate Torah culture that will shape the Jewish people into a holy nation. That uniqueness can only be guaranteed by the non-Jew having no sovereignty, ownership, or citizenship that could allow him to shape the state's destiny and character.
And so, concerning any non-Jew, Maimonides writes: "'You shall not place over yourself a stranger who is not of your brethren' (Deuteronomy 17:15). Not only a king, but the prohibition is for any authority in Israel. Not an officer in the armed forces. . .not even a public official in charge of the distribution of water to the fields . And there is no need to mention that a judge or chieftain shall only be from the people of Israel. . . Any authority that you appoint shall only be from the midst of your people" (Hilchot Melachim 1:4).
The purpose is clear. The non-Jew has no share in the land. He has no ownership, citizenship or destiny in it. The non-Jew who wishes to live in Israel must accept basic human obligations. Then he may live in Israel as a resident stranger, but never as a citizen with any proprietary interest in the land or with any political say; never as one who can hold any public office which will give him domination over a Jew or a share in the authority of the country. Accepting these conditions, he admits that the land is not his and therefore he may live in Israel quietly, separately, observing his own private life, with all religious, economic social and cultural rights. Refusing this, he cannot remain.
This is Torah. This is Jewishness. Not the dishonest pseudo-"Judaism" chanted by liberal secularists who pick and choose that "Judaism" that finds favor in their eyes and who reject that which their own gentilized concepts find unacceptable
Who's ruining the planet?
China has 19% of the world's population, but consumes ...
· 53% of the world's cement
· 48% of the world's iron ore
· 47% of the world's coal
· ... and the majority of just about every other major commodity.
· In 2010, China produced 11 times more steel than the United States.
· New World Record: China made and sold 18 million vehicles in 2010.
· There are more pigs in China than in the next 43 pork producing nations combined
· China currently has the world's fastest train and the world's largest high-speed rail network. China is currently the number one producer in the world of wind and solar power.
· While they manufacture 80% of the world's solar panels, they install less than 5% and build a new coal fired power station every week.
· In one year they turn on more new coal powered electricity than Australia's total output.
· China currently controls more than 90% of the total global supply of rare earth elements.
· In the past 15 years, China has moved from 14th place to 2nd place in the world in published scientific research articles.-
· China now possesses the fastest supercomputer on the entire globe.
· At the end of March 2011 China accumulated US $3.04 trillion in foreign currency reserves - the largest stockpile on the entire globe.
· Chinese people consume 50,000 cigarettes every second.
· They are already the largest carbon dioxide emitter and their output will rise 70% by 2020.
And we think we can save the planet?!
It will not make one iota of difference what we do in Australia, Canada, the United States or anywhere else in the world; for that matter, all the politicians are doing is increasing our cost of living and making our manufacturers uncompetitive in the world market, with the carbon tax, when China is growing and consuming at these extraordinary rates. And we are paying a carbon tax to save the World! What a joke !!!
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement
A Lack In Perspective
Some people make themselves sad over trivial matters. Any objective observer will look on in amazement.
This person had the ability to live his life with feelings of happiness, since he truly does have what he needs.
Yet he feels miserable because of minor and unimportant things. He views what he is missing as extremely important -- and what he does have pales in comparison! He even thinks that life is not worth living without what he's presently missing!
Love Yehuda Lave
TZITZIT - Buy One, Get 613 by Rabbi Ephriam Sprecher
"When You see the TZITZIT, you will remember all the Mitzvot of G-d, in order to perform them" (Bamidbar 15:39).
Rashi comments on this verse that the GEMATRIA of the word TZITZIT equals 600, and eight strings of the TZITZIT and five knots, all together equaling 613, corresponding to the 613 Mitzvot of the Torah. But why do we need the garment to which the TZITZIT are attached? Why not just carry the TZITZIT themselves?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the answer lies in the significance of garments. The difference between food and clothing, our two main necessities is that food becomes a part of us when we eat it, while clothing always remains outside of us. Food therefore alludes to the aspects of the Torah that we can comprehend and "digest", while clothing alludes to that part of the Torah which remains beyond our grasp.
The Mitzvah to attach the TZITZIT to our garments indicates that it is not simply sufficient just to remember the Mitzvot. Wearing a garment with TZITZIT helps us remember that the Torah and all of its Mitzvot are G-d's Own Wisdom, which transcends the limitations of our human intellect.
Rav Soloveitchik explains that the blue Techelet of TZITZIT is a symbol that all events in life are as profound and mysterious as the deep blue sky. The Talmud in Menachot states that the blue techelet of TZITZIT reminds us to look up at the blue heavens and admire the incredible, vast expanse of endless space, leading to its Source which is the Ein Sof – G-d Himself!
As Tehillim 19 states, "The Heavens tell the glory of G-d's Incredible Greatness." By admiring and appreciating G-d's Greatness, we can achieve and attain our own greatness as well!
1...The official Israeli flag is 220 cms long, and 160 cms wide.
The proportions must be 8:11.It can only be flow - from a pole and only horizontally
2...The two blue stripes of Sky-blue color can only be 25 cms wide and must be 220 cms long.
3...The Magen David Star-officially called a hexagram-is in the exact center between the two horizontal blue stripes. The point of one of the triangles must be upwards -when the flag is flown horizontally.
4...The Magen David must be made up of 6 sections each 60 cms long and 5 cms wide. All the 6 sections must touch and must be symmetrical. Thus the Magen David is 69 cms high when the flag is flow horizontally.
5...The area of the flag is 35200 sq cms.The area of the two stripes -together is 11000 sq cms.The area of the Magen David is 1800 sq cms.The two blue stripes make up 31.25% of the flag area.The Magen David makes up 5.113% of the flag's area.
6...All the blue colors must be the same.The Blue on the flag is 36.363% of the whole surface area.
7...Any other addition to the flag as a color, a shape, a symbol or eve graffiti is illegal;-it makes the flag illegal in Israel.
8...There is a suggest that the rope holding the flag to the pole be white. This official flag was adopted by the Israel Knesset on 28th October 1948- 188 days after Israel was born.
9...Notes: The blue colour is described as "dark sky-blue", and unofficially !!! varies from flag to flag, ranging from a hue of pure blue, sometimes shaded almost as dark as navy blue, to hues about 75% toward pure cyan and shades as light as very light blue. The flag was designed for the Zionist Movement in 1891. The basic design recalls the Tallit (טַלִּית), the Jewish prayer shawl, which is white with black or blue stripes. The symbol in the center represents the Star of David (Magen David, מָגֵן דָּוִד), a Jewish symbol dating from late medieval Prague, which was adopted by the First Zionist Congress in 1897.
In 2007, an Israeli flag measuring 660 m × 100 m and weighing 5.2 tonnes was unfurled near the ancient Jewish fortress of Masada, breaking the world record for the largest flag. Since then this record has since been surpassed several times.
Politics, and Islam:-
10..."Nile to Euphrates"A traditional tallit with the blue stripes
A popular myth in the Islamic world is that the blue stripes on the Israeli flag actually represent the rivers Nile and Euphrates as the boundaries of Eretz Yisra'el, the land promised to the Jews by God according to the Bible. Those making this allegation insist that the flag "secretly" represents the desire of Jews to conquer all of the land between the Nile and Euphrates rivers, which would involve conquering and ruling over much of Egypt, all of Jordan and Lebanon, most of Syria, and part of Iraq. Yasser Arafat, Iran and Hamas also made the allegation, and repeatedly tied this notion to the stripes on the Israeli flag.
Both Zionist and anti-Zionist authors have debunked the claim that the stripes on the flag represent territorial ambitions. Daniel Pipes notes "In fact, the blue lines derive from the design on the traditional Jewish prayer shawl", and Danny Rubinstein points out that "Arafat ... added, in interviews that he gave in the past, that the two blue stripes on the Israeli flag represent the Nile and the Euphrates .... No Israeli, even those who demonstrate understanding for Palestinian distress, will accept the ... nonsense about the blue stripes on the flag, which was designed according to the colours of the traditional tallit (prayer shawl)". Israel and Zionism critic Israel Shahak states in his The Zionist Plan for the Middle East he states:
...the persistent, and completely false declarations, which were made by some of the most important Arab leaders, that the two blue stripes of the Israeli flag symbolize the Nile and the Euphrates, while in fact they are taken from the stripes of the Jewish praying shawl (Talit).
Saqr Abu Fakhr, an Arab writer, has also spoken out against this idea. He writes that the "Nile to Euphrates" claim regarding the flag is one of seven popular misconceptions and/or myths about Jews which, despite being unfounded and having abundant evidence refuting them, continue to circulate in the Arab world.
Nevertheless, the Hamas Covenant states "After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates," and as recently as January 29, 2006, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar issued a demand for Israel to change its flag, citing the "Nile to Euphrates" argument.
Social Security Is Staring at Its First Real Shortfall in Decades
President Ronald Reagan signing 1983 legislation that he negotiated with the House's top Democrat, Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., behind his left shoulder, to preserve Social Security
A slow-moving crisis is approaching for Social Security, threatening to undermine a central pillar in the retirement of tens of millions of Americans.
Next year, for the first time since 1982, the program must start drawing down its assets in order to pay retirees all of the benefits they have been promised, according to the latest government projections.
Unless a political solution is reached, Social Security's so-called trust funds are expected to be depleted within about 15 years. Then, something that has been unimaginable for decades would be required under current law: Benefit checks for retirees would be cut by about 20 percent across the board.
"Old people not getting the Social Security checks they have been promised? That has been unthinkable in America — and I don't think it will really happen in the end this time, because it's just too horrible," said Alicia Munnell, the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. "But action has to be taken to prevent it."
While the issue is certain to be politically contentious, it is barely being talked about in Washington and at 2020 campaign events. The last time Social Security faced a crisis of this kind, in the early 1980s, a high-level bipartisan effort was needed to keep retirees' checks whole. Since that episode, the program has often been called "the third rail of American politics" — an entitlement too dangerous to touch — and it's possible that another compromise could be reached in the current era.
Benefit cuts would be devastating for about half of retired Americans, who rely on Social Security for most of their retirement income. A survey released in May by the Federal Reserve found that a quarter of working Americans had saved nothing for retirement.
The shrinking of Social Security's assets expected in 2020 would mark a significant change in the program's cash flow, one that could complicate Americans' retirement planning — even for the many relatively affluent citizens for whom Social Security is still a major source of income in old age.
"Fifteen years is really just around the corner for people planning their retirements," said John B. Shoven, a Stanford economist who is also affiliated with the Hoover Institution and the National Bureau of Economic Research.
"The cuts that are being projected would be terrible for a lot of people," he said. "This needn't happen and it shouldn't happen, but we've known about these problems for a long time and they haven't been solved. They're getting closer."
Social Security has a long-known basic math problem: more money will be going out than coming in. Roughly 10,000 baby boomers are retiring each day, with insufficient numbers of younger people entering the work force to pay into the system and support them.
And life expectancy is increasing. By 2035, Social Security estimates, the number of Americans 65 or older will increase to more than 79 million, from about 49 million now. If the program has not been repaired, they will encounter a much poorer Social Security than the one seniors rely on today.
Representative John Larson and Senator Richard Blumenthal discussing their Social Security legislation at a senior center in Bristol, Connecticut.CreditMonica Jorge for The New York TimesImageRepresentative John Larson and Senator Richard Blumenthal discussing their Social Security legislation at a senior center in Bristol, Connecticut.CreditMonica Jorge for The New York TimesHow cuts would affect a typical person
Under current law, cuts would start in 2034, when the main trust fund is expected to be depleted, or in 2035, if Congress authorizes Social Security to pay old-age benefits through the Disability Insurance Trust Fund.
Consider a woman with average annual earnings of $51,795 (in current dollars) over the course of her career, who retires at age 67 in 2037. The latest Social Security study indicates that she will be entitled to $27,366 in inflation-adjusted benefits. But if the trust fund shortfall has not been remedied, Social Security would be permitted to pay her only $21,669 — a 21 percent cut.
Nearly every older American would be affected, but those at the lowest income levels would be hurt the most. Social Security benefits are progressive, providing greater assistance for those with greater need. A worker with average career earnings of $12,949 until 2037 is entitled to receive the equivalent of 75.6 percent of that income, but with mandatory cuts, this person would have to survive on just 59.9 percent, the Social Security report says.
According to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 9 percent of all retirees lived in poverty in 2017 — but the figure would have been 39 percent if not for Social Security.
For African Americans, the study found, the anti-poverty effect has been even greater: 19 percent lived in poverty, but 52 percent would have done so if they had not received Social Security payments. For Hispanics, the numbers were 17 percent and 46 percent.
The reductions of roughly 20 percent on average are just a starting point. If current laws are unchanged and current economic projections remain intact, the cuts would rise to 25 percent in later years, a New York Times analysis of Social Security data indicates.
Unless Congress and the White House reach an agreement before the trust funds are emptied, most Americans will face hard choices: delaying retirement and working longer if they can, or simply surviving on less.
The Social Security mess already complicates some commonly accepted retirement-planning wisdom — such as the advice to delay claiming benefits until age 70.
People who do so are entitled to an 8 percent annual increase in benefits. That makes Social Security "the best annuity that money could buy," said Wade Pfau, a professor of retirement income at the American College of Financial Services, in a 2015 report. But he redid his calculations at the request of The Times, and for workers who are 55 now, statutory benefit cuts just when they turn 70 could make that approach far less attractive, Professor Pfau said.
The 'third rail'
Cutting the Social Security checks of people in retirement is, to say the least, politically dangerous.
David Stockman, President Ronald Reagan's budget director, tried to do just that in 1981. What happened in that episode gives some clues for a possible solution today.
Like other conservatives of that era, Mr. Stockman viewed Social Security as a form of "closet socialism" that needed to be scaled back. With the program facing a solvency crisis, he proposed immediate reductions in retirees' benefits.
Older Americans rebelled, and members of Congress listened to them. "I just hadn't thought through the impact of making it effective immediately," Mr. Stockman observed ruefully in his 1986 book, "The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed."
Rosly Ray in a Social Security Administration video kiosk room at a public library in Quincy, Florida, last year.CreditMark Wallheiser for The New York TimesImageRosly Ray in a Social Security Administration video kiosk room at a public library in Quincy, Florida, last year.CreditMark Wallheiser for The New York Times
A nimble politician, Reagan rejected Mr. Stockman's recommendations and formed a bipartisan commission to study the issue. Ultimately, Reagan reached a long-term agreement with the Democratic speaker of the House, Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., who viewed the preservation of Social Security as essential.
While they made no immediate cuts in Social Security checks, they reduced benefits in more subtle ways, using measures that are still being used, like gradually delaying the standard retirement age from 65 to 66, where it stands today, and eventually to 67.
Taxes increased, too — bolstering cash flows and creating the trust fund surpluses that have given retirees and current politicians some breathing room.
But in ways large and small, the Reagan-O'Neill Social Security fix is coming undone. Notably, the hefty balances in those trust fund accounts today — some $2.9 trillion — may be having an unintended consequence.
"The trust fund surpluses were intended to provide a buffer that would give politicians enough time to show some fiscal responsibility," said Robert D. Reischauer, a former Social Security trustee who was also head of the Congressional Budget Office and is now president emeritus of the Urban Institute. "But the problem is that without an immediate crisis, the politicians don't have to act. And really, they would rather sleep. So when the crisis eventually comes, as it will, it is likely to be much, much worse because of the delay."
John Cogan, a professor of public policy at Stanford, said Social Security's fundamental problem was that benefits had been rising faster than revenue. Cuts, he said, will be unpalatable but inevitable.
"The solution, I think, is to slow the growth in real benefits promised to future recipients," he said.
Democrats in Congress have suggested an increase in Social Security benefits, accompanied by higher taxes for the wealthy. In combination, the bill's various measures would eliminate the program's financial shortfall, according to projections by Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary of Social Security.
Conservatives continue to push for sharp reductions in the size of Social Security as well as Medicare, saying the United States can't afford the growing burden of the two "entitlement programs."
"Entitlement programs in the United States have expanded more than tenfold since their inception, but workers are nowhere near 10 times better off as a result," the Heritage Foundation said in a May 20 policy proposal. The conservative think tank favors cuts to benefits and siphoning money from payroll taxes into individual investment accounts. That echoes an initiative that President George W. Bush once embraced but Democrats blocked.
There are no signs of an imminent breakthrough, though Professor Cogan said that, as in the past, the impending prospect of benefit cuts "is likely to change the political atmosphere and make it possible to find a compromise."