People of Faith For Resistance..

There seems to be many opportunities cropping up on this first day of a new administration for resistance to draconian change they intend for our democracy in the upcoming years. I am particularly happy to see Christians in this mode. No, not all Christians are among the 81% of Evangelicals who pushed the current administration in office.  In reality they are a small percentage of that community.

One of those orgs on the forefront of resistance is Sojourners.  Here are some words in a recent email from them.

The GOP plans for a juggernaut of action very quickly to gut many of the social programs now in place including:

  • Affordable healthcare
  • Medicaid for the poor
  • Medicare for senior citizens
  • Social Security for present and future seniors

They say they are privatizing them to make them more efficient but the reality is quite different.  It will take a mammoth effort similar to what happened when they tried to eliminate the House Ethics Overlook.  Concerned citizens need to stay active to prevent them accomplishing their intent of undoing these and many other programs.

I am not particularly promoting Sojourners, but they are a good cause, in so much as encouraging you to join the resistance in whatever form you prefer.

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GOD SAVE OUR COUNTRY….

Fear # 4 – Social Security Will Disappear

2015-08-15_07-53-36Only 20 percent of Americans believe there will be enough money left when it’s time for them to retire. To fix the problem, some people believe Social Security should allow means testing, where benefits are based on a person’s income. Others think the tax should be raised, the retirement age should be raised or the benefits should be cut down.

Though there’s disagreement over how, Social Security is a program that almost everyone agrees needs to be fixed before the well starts to run dry. So as Social Security turns 80, when it comes to the future of the biggest and oldest benefits program in the United States, at least after watching this video you can say, “Now I get it.”

Source: Social Security explained.

QE BannerI frequently accuse the Republican party of being the party of “fear”. They seem to depend on it for their existence.

  • be afraid they will take away your guns
  • be afraid of those people coming across our borders
  • be afraid of those trying to take our morals away from us
  • be afraid of this, be afraid of that

But in reality the Democrats do their share of fear mongering. Maybe the biggest fear, at least for those seeing their elder years on the horizon is that Social Security will not be there for them!

The Republican answer to this problem is similar to many other problems.  “Lets get rid of it… you can save for yourself…” Yeah, right!!  That tactic seemed to work pretty well for defined pension plans. They are no longer around today. We are supposed to take care of ourselves instead of having the government do it for us.  The problem is most of us don’t really know how to do that and have done a terrible job of it in the past. Many are predicting a near catastrophic condition in about ten years where those who “managed their own accounts” find out what a miserable job they have done.

Social Security is, and will continue to be the safety net of retirement income. It is the baseline to keep our seniors out of poverty. Even if nothing is done, and I’m sure something will be done, they say it can continue to pay out 75% or more into the distant future. Don’t let the fear mongers lead you to believe otherwise. Until we deem it acceptable to allow people to die in the gutters, and I certainly hope that day never comes, there will be a safety net keeping all of us out of dire poverty.  We claim to be a Christian nation and I hope we continue in at least a minimal way to act like one…

 

The birth of Social Security..

2014-08-15_08-28-25 Aug. 14, 1935: President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, which guaranteed an income for the unemployed and retirees. Social Security was initially created to combat unemployment, but now functions as a safety net for retirees and the disabled. It has remained relatively unchanged for 75 years. Social Security is funded mostly through payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax FICA.When FDR launched Social Security, the United States was mired in the Great Depression, and poverty rates among senior citizens were estimated to be over 50 percent. Social Security was attacked by FDR’s critics, who called it “socialism.”SOURCE: Today in history: The birth of Social Security – The Week.

Why You Shouldn’t Regret Taking Benefits at 62

2014-06-29_08-08-44Consider this headline from a recent survey of retirees: “Many Regret Decision to Take Social Security Early.” Sounds ominous, right? Well, the problem is that the title isn’t entirely supported by the survey’s actual results, which found that only 38% of respondents “say they wish they would have waited” longer before taking benefits. According to this, in other words, somewhere along the lines of 62% of respondents, or a large majority, evidently don’t regret the decision.And why should you? As Motley Fool contributor John Maxfield explains in the following video, the Social Security Administration has designed the benefit formula to pay the same amount of total benefits over the life of a typical person irrespective of when they elect to take them. Additionally, as John goes on to discuss, taking benefits sooner rather than later can facilitate an earlier retirement, which allows retirees to escape the physical and psychological wear and tear associated with many jobs. SOURCE: Social Security: Why You Shouldn’t Regret Taking Benefits at 62.

The source of this article is “Motley Fool”. I readily admit that they are on my daily read list. They, like me, have a somewhat contrarian philosophy. Maybe that is what draws me to them.  I don’t know why the topic of the article isn’t talked about much. Since I know that many of my readers are approaching or are in retirement, I thought I would talk about this again.

The fact is if you have a relatively normal or shorter life line in your genealogy then it makes good sense to take Social Security early. As the article mentions SSA has a formula that basically gives you the same overall amount independent of when you take it. I think the calculated age at death is currently 78. If you die before this age you will come out ahead if you take social security early. If you live longer than you may come out ahead if you wait.

The other thing that even this source article doesn’t mention is that if you take it early and  are able to invest the money profitably you will bank even more. Now I know in the age of almost zero percent bond rates and very fluctuating markets investing anything for a substantial profit takes work and some risk but even a small return will allow you to come out ahead.

In my case I look at the family tree and I see parents, grand parents, and great grand parents dying before the 78 year mark so I took it early and like usual I am not looking back on that decision.  I am among those 62% who don’t regret that early decision. It allowed me to bank about an additional $75,000 that is still growing today six years later.  If I live to be an old ornery fool of ninety I  would have been better to wait but at  ninety I probably won’t even be able to appreciate that fact. 🙂

The Irony Of It All…

Medicare CardI have been kind of watching the preliminaries for this latest “super committee” forming in Washington to come to some sort of budget deal and I am not impressed. On the one hand my Republican friends often scream that Medicare doesn’t pay enough for the services rendered. That doctors are dropping out of the system due to not making enough money. And then comes the first salvo of this latest round of budgeting. The first thing the GOP comes up with is cuts to Medicare??

I know that many on that side of the aisle are for a total defunding of Medicare and instead just giving seniors a small voucher and then put them out into the private insurance system to fend for themselves. So, maybe this all makes sense from a higher level than I realize. Cut Medicare so that it becomes so underfunded that no doctor will accept patients from that system. David Stockman who was Reagan’s budget director called that “Starving the beast”. That is continue to cut taxes (income) until the government is drowning in deficits. In that regard the GOP has been somewhat successful lately.

I am still on the fence as to whether the GOP will go the way of the Whig party. If they actually do attempt to “privatize” Social Security I think there will be enough of us seniors to insure that they disappear from the landscape. Those Tea Party folks just don’t seem to want anyone to have affordable healthcare; that is except those in the 1%.  Their latest hit against the Affordable Care Act is that with so many new people being able to see a doctor that some physician groups are saying they must limit their patient contact to no more than 15 minutes to keep up with the case loads. They say that is proof that Obamacare will wreck our healthcare in this country. It never seems to occur to them that they need to try to figure out a way to increase our doctors and nurses to meet the load. Maybe a good start would be to help medical students with the bone crushing debt many have when they finally become practicing doctors. These Tea Party folks are just “anti-” to the bone.

But getting back to the budgeting process, We have not actually had a budget from the folks in Washington in over five years. This year both the House and the Senate created bills but then failed to come together for the reconciliation process because the House GOP speaker would not allow it to happen.  With that in mind I don’t see much hope for this latest committee to accomplish much.

The Tea Party Pledge….

Obama 4I must admit that I spent over an hour yesterday watching the president’s news conference.  Boy, does that guy like to talk. But being a former college professor that shouldn’t be surprising. I will admit that I bought into much of his logic about holding our nation hostage for political gain. Are my Republican friends actually considering that option??

But the thing that spurred this post was a Republican 1st term house member that was on CNN immediately after the conference was over. Wolf Blitzer basically let the guy hang himself with his own words.  Guess who this yahoo represented? No, not Texas but Florida. Now I don’t know what part of Florida he represented but he did give me an idea that might go a long way in reducing the deficits.  He said, and I am paraphrasing since I didn’t record the conversation, “Well for goodness sakes every dollar we take in taxes goes out to various welfare programs and we must borrow more to fund everything else”. He then went on to include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and a few other as examples.

This got me to thinking that all these Tea Party yahoos are always screaming that they can not give up their principles in negotiations with the “liberals”. If that is true then I propose that the Tea Party set down a pledge that all their members will not accept any Social Security payments, will go out on their own for the healthcare needs, and never accept any money from the other “entitlements”. If their principles are so powerful then that should be a pledge that they all will gladly take.  I don’t want to hear them say such things as “well I paid into the Social Security system all my working life” because their arguments are that Social Security is nothing more than welfare when all incoming money is spent on present recipients.

If the seniors of Florida truly believe that Social Security and Medicare are welfare programs then surely they will line up to take the pledge and promptly return this month’s check?. I wonder how many would actually do that? Dollars to donuts, not many if any at all I expect… I have given this same argument to some of my senior friends and not one has taken me up on it….

Disability: the ‘de facto welfare program’

 

Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government. The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. […]

[And] story of these programs — who goes on them, and why, and what happens after that — is, to a large extent, the story of the U.S. economy. It’s the story not only of an aging workforce, but also of a hidden, increasingly expensive safety net.

Source: Has disability become a ‘de facto welfare program’? – In Plain Sight.

I hate these kinds of reports. Even if they are based on facts they usually sensationalize the stories with a very slanted viewpoint.  I certainly agree that we should go after those who game the SSI system with an adamant zeal. They should be caught and punished for gaming the system.

But the problem is that these stories are fodder for those who want to deny benefits where they are actually needed. In other words they want to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Not surprising there were over seven-hundred comments attached to the article from which the quote above came. Most were screamer who talked about lazy people scamming the system. Many were very vitriol in their words. I usually intentionally avoid the comments now as they are almost always an extreme view by those who hate people who are not like them.  But one did shine through. Here it is:

I am a registered nurse and I collect SSID. I was severely injured, and flown away in the helicopter to the ICU where I used to work and put on a ventilator with my head smashed in and multiple fractures. Now I am no longer able to work so I get to collect my social security early. I hear this a lot about welfare moochers. It makes me feel bad about living on money I actually paid into the system. Please don’t think this is always about welfare moochers like some kind of knee jerk response.

All this being said I’m not sure that SSI, or disability payments for things like disabled kids should even be in the Social Security system? It seems to dilute the original purpose of the fund and give fodder to those who, like Congressman Ryan and that conservative bunch, as reasons to “privatize” (read eliminate) it.

 

Mr. 3.75 Percent

Source: Mr. 3.75 Percent – By Daniel Altman | Foreign Policy.

One political leader who likes to plan for the really long term is Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for U.S. vice president. By 2050, Ryan’s budget plan would reduce federal spending outside health-care programs and Social Security to 3.75 percent of GDP, down from 12.5 percent last year, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. So, what would it mean to chop away two-thirds of the federal government? According to the World Bank, government spending minus health care was already lower in the United States than in all of the European Union, Japan, China, and India in 2009, the latest year with comprehensive figures. At just 3.75 percent of GDP, the United States would be one of the world’s lowest spenders. The only countries that spent less in 2009 were Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the Central African Republic.

Trying to make our government more efficient is a noble goal indeed. I’m sure there is lots of fraud and waste that can be thrashed out of many processes. But what Mr. Ryan is suggesting is draconian in nature. Especially when he and his running mate proudly proclaim that they want to spend much more on our military. We, five percent of the world’s population currently spend more on our war machine than the rest of the world combined. That is an enormous load on our governmental expenses that no other country in the world is faced with. The military alone accounts for almost half of our current discretionary spending.

So if you want to increase our military spending, which accounts for half of our discretionary budget, and still get the overall spending down from 12 percent to 3.75 percent that would actually mean literally eliminating everything else in our budgets. I’m just an ordinary guy with a $12 calculator but Mr. Ryan’s numbers just don’t add up.  To even come close to what he wants would mean no safety net at any for any of our citizens. It would mean the total dismantling of all our agencies that among many other things assure that we are safe. It would mean most social programs would have to be eliminated. Since Mr. Ryan has publicly stated that he wants to eventually eliminate Medicare and Social Security he is very aware of what he is actually proposing and that is anarchy. Maybe he thinks there is such a thing as controlled anarchy.

Anarchy has a lot of erroneous tags on it so let’s look at some definitions:

an·ar·chy —noun 1. a state of society without government or law. 2. political and social disorder due to the absence of governmental control 3. lack of obedience to an authority;insubordination 4. confusion and disorder:

If we were to continue to fund and actually increase a massive war machine and at the same time drop the safety net from our society I don’t see any logical alternative than anarchy.  I only pray that I don’t live long enough to actually see anything close to that happen.  I have confidence, maybe naively so, in the compassion our citizens to believe that they would allow that to happen. Given that less than 25% of our eligible voters actually select our president and other representatives we can never actually rule out possibility of a radical fringe takeover.

Since I am known for my quotes I need to end this post with some words of Bob Dylan in one of his first albums

Now, a very great man once said That some people rob you with a fountain pen It didn’t take too long to find out Just what he was talkin’ about

Mr. Ryan’s worldview that simply WRONG. He should listen less to his hero Ayn Rand and more to the Lord of his Catholic faith. Of all the politicians I have known in my lifetime Mr. Ryan is the one that probably scares me the most…

But what do I know.

Military Spending Cuts…….

Here is another poll that shows when it comes to making cuts in Medicare or Social Security a big percentage of people think we should cut our bloated defense spending instead.  If we could somehow manage to get our war machine budgets in line with the rest of the world, yes I mean the other 95% of the world, then most of our budget and deficit problems would be almost immediately solved.

Why don’t the politicians listen to us? I’m sure the answer like always is mainly politics and power struggles. God didn’t rule that somehow we are supposed to be the policemen of the world. When we get that into our heads we will be on their way to prosperity again. Let’s give some of that responsibility back to the rest of the world. We just can’t afford it anymore if we ever really could in the first place.

But what do I know……

Taste…..

Elections are a good deal like marriages, there’s no accounting for anyone’s taste. – May 10, 1925   Will Rogers

You did it again Will. You perfectly described an election eighty-seven years in the future. There is just no accounting for the taste of the people who will be voting Republican this year.  But then again we will have to wait to see just how many actually vote for that yahoo who will face Obama this year.  He does seem pretty good at accumulating wealth but doesn’t seem to have a clue of how people live on less than $1 million per year.

We know that over half the marriages now days end in divorce. I think the same thing will likely happen if by some remote change Mr. “Bain Capital” does get elected. It won’t be long before the one who voted for him are seeking a divorce. Looking at the statistics I know that about 25% of the population are die-hard Republicans. But that number seems to shrink daily so it might be lower than that now. Of course those guys, and for the most part they are guys, would vote for anyone on the Republican ticket so there is no accounting for their taste.

Now I’m not saying that the Democrat who now holds the White House is much better. He has been a major disappointment to me. But at least we know what he might be up to for another four years. We have no idea what the damage that the other guy might do. He, and all the super rich guys in the super pacs , and I do mean guys (ha)) who run all the commercials for him seem to want to put the final screw to us retired folks by taking away our Medicare and Social Security among many other “handouts” as they call them. But they are an equal opportunity screwer as they want to take food stamps and the likes away from poor folks. The only thing they seem to be for is more tax breaks for themselves. They claim they are the job producers and need every cent to accomplish that. What they don’t want you to remember is that they have had their big tax breaks for eight years now and have produced little in the way of jobs but lots in the way of personal income.

There is a saying that “their is power in numbers”. There are a lot more of us folks who are getting screwed than there are those who are doing the job on us. When will we realize that we can dump these guys, yes in both parties, anytime we want to. We just have to realize that in a democracy there is power in numbers.

But what do I know…..

Get Rid of It!!!

It was 1965 when Medicare was enacted. I was just entering college so I still have some vivid memories of what went on around it.  I remember the conservatives in congress were saying such things as:

We’ve got to repeal this law, it is bad for the country.
Its Socialism.
It takes away choice.
It will bankrupt the country

And the most typical comment that also goes with increasing the minimum wage

Businesses will fail because of this law.

Now almost a half a century later the same thing is being said about the Affordable Care Act that recently got a pass from the Supreme Court. For some reason they want to take the meager advances given to lower-income folks in this, like many other areas, away from them.  Maybe if they put out a comprehensive plan of their own their “get rid of it all” rants might get some traction. Without that they just seem to be against helping others less fortunate than they are, and that is almost everybody.

They seem to say that everything is fine the way it is in healthcare. They also seem to say if we got those 30+ million people any form of healthcare they would overwhelm our system. While that was true to an extent when Mitt Romney instituted universal healthcare in his State it looks like that is working its way out. I can remember pre-candidate Governor Romney bragging that his model of healthcare should be implemented across the country. When did it become so bad even for him??

It’s ironic that the conservatives in congress over the years have been against what most of us consider  many of our biggest successes. First it was Social Security in the 1930s, then civil rights in the 1950s and 60s, Medicare in 1965, and of course every time that we raised the minimum wage almost always in democrat administrations. They seems to be on the wrong side of so much I can’t understand why they have lasted as a viable party as long as they have?

I know those guys in congress are anti-socialism to their core and anything that has even a slight smell of socialism brings up their ire and their “get rid of it” mantra.  They need to get over that 😉 We are first a diversified nation but our second biggest success is that we in the past have also be a pragmatic nation. We find out what works and then go about implementing it. We seem to have lost that ability in the last couple of decades. We desperately need to get that back.

But what do I know…

Gaming The System……

Source: Get personalized help to max out Social Security.

Social Security Solutions’ optimization plan calls for my wife to file for her own benefits at age 67 but immediately suspend her payments — a perfectly legal strategy known as a file-and-suspend.

We start getting some Social Security benefits immediately when I apply (at age 66) to receive a spousal benefit based on her earnings record, half of what she could receive.

At age 70, my wife starts her own benefits; a year later, I switch to my own benefit when I turn 70. Both of our benefits are now at the maximum monthly level possible for the rest of our lives. Later on, after I (gulp) die first, my wife switches to a survivor benefit, which is 100 percent of my benefit…..

I’m sure all this stuff above is legal but, come on,  finding all the loop holes to get the most possible is carrying it too far in my mind.  Of course this article came from a large financial company.  They are used to gaming the system. These guys I’m sure have a large lobbying group in D.C. and make sure that these sort of loop holes are written into our laws.

Our government needs to adopt my current mantra in life and that is Simplify. If we could somehow get rid of all those lawyers around and put this stuff back into common folk’s hands I’m sure our laws would be simpler and with many less loop holes. But maybe the world has just gotten too complicated for simplicity?

Putting the level of social security benefits that you get related to what you paid in makes sense but it seems that the system has just spurned too may other conditions. I know that about one-third of those collecting benefits are not the seniors who paid into them. If the Republicans insist of changing the system then let’s put those folks in a different payout pool and take social security back to the insurance it was meant to be.  But I’m sure this would do little to placate my conservative friends who would be very happy to see social security go the way of the horse and buggy. In their minds if government is involved then it must be wrong.

Is the Republican Party Insuring Its Own Demise??

Is the Republican Party insuring its own demise by it continuing to focus on a narrower and narrower core group.  I want to believe this is the case as the alternative is that we as a country are now dominated by exclusion.  Being against things, particularly different groups of people, is what has been driving the Republican primaries lately. It has pushed their final candidate over to the extreme right of the political spectrum. Can the Republicans maintain a party that far off the center of American Politics?

It seems like everyday the Republican party members alienate yet another group of voters.

  • They are for rounding up all the people in this country without the proper papers and shipping them out of the country.  They seem to have no compassion for those who are just trying to provide for their families. This is alienating most Spanish-speaking voters.
  • They are against birth control. This is alienating many women voters.
  • They are against continuing to fund Medicare. They want to turn it over to the private insurance companies. This is alienating many senior citizen voters (and they are the most active voters around)
  • They are against providing medical care via Medicaid to the poorest of the poor.  Even though this group is not a strong voting block there are those who do vote and have compassion for this group.
  • They are against religious diversity. They say this is a “Christian” nation. By this they are alienating Muslims, Hindi, Buddhists, and other non-Christian religious groups.
  • They are against Social Security. They want to make each person entirely on their own during their senior years. This is a double whammy for us seniors.

The Republicans seem to be against so much and for so little how can they maintain a Republican base? It seems that one of the only groups they are not alienating are white evangelical Christians , particularly those ironically who lack compassion for their fellow-man. Someday this group might even take to heart the commands of Jesus, their founder, and at least some a minimal amount of compassion for the “least of these”.

Another group who they are not presently alienating are those that see governments only role in society is to provide for our war machine.  Everything else to this particular group is deemed unconstitutional. We have a female who is running for congress in my district who proudly announces that she is home schooled on the constitution. She basically says after her self study she has determined that the federal government’s only role is to provide for defense. Everything else, according to her, is unconstitutional!

The last and maybe the biggest group of supporters to the current Republican party are those that just want the government out of their pocket books.  Today they are known as the “Tea Party” but have had many other names through the years. They don’t see  “providing for the general welfare”, as a necessary role for their government to be involved in. They seem to care little about anyone but themselves.

Where will future Republicans come from? If they end up having no core support can they even exist?

Betting against death

Source: https://news.fidelity.com/news/article.jhtml?guid=/FidelityNewsPage/pages/secrets-of-social-security-2&topic=living-in-retirement

On the other hand, some people advocate drawing Social Security benefits at the first opportunity. Doug Carey, who founded the financial planning software firm WealthTrace, says Social Security doesn’t see itself as an odds maker, but it does require you to bet on your longevity. He offers this chart as proof. It graphs the break-even point for a person who earned the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $70,000 per year for 35 years. If this person waits until 70 to claim Social Security and lives until at least age 90, he’ll accumulate almost $162,000 more in benefits than he would if he had claimed at 62. But there’s a possibility of losing the bet and getting nothing.

Retired law professor and Social Security expert Merton Bernstein says the longevity bet odds are bad, so claim early. “You never know when the bell will ring. I subscribe to the Woody Allen principal: ‘Take the money and run.'”

The above info doesn’t seem to be offered by many financial planners but it is a fact that sometimes taking social security at 70 is a losing proposition.  It seems like social security, like so much else in the world, is a betting game. The break-even point between taking it at 62 verses waiting till 70 is around 80 years old.  If you die before 80 you are actually losing money if you didn’t take it early.  I took it early and here is why.

My dad died at 77 and his dad died at 76 so I expect to croak about the same time.  One thing the graph above doesn’t take into account is if you save the money that you collect early you are actually extending the age out a little further. That is the case for “normal times” but of course these are not normal times. Interest rates are at practically 0% so if you want to make money on saved social security today you must gamble yet again, this time on the stock market!

Long story short, sometimes there is good reason to as the article says “take the money and run”. I am 65 years old now and my health has been significantly deteriorating for the last few years. I expect that by the time I am 70 I will have some pretty significant health issues to battle. I would rather have the money now and spend it while I can appreciate it than gambling that I can joyfully use it later. 🙂

Taking Money Out of Social Security

Source: Obama Strikes Populist Chord With Speech in Heartland – NYTimes.com.

The most recent proposal by Senate Democrats calls for reducing the share of Social Security payroll tax paid by employees to 3.1 percent from the already reduced level of 4.2 percent. If Congress takes no action, the tax is to revert to 6.2 percent next month. The cut, under the proposal, would be offset by a 1.9 percent surtax on modified adjusted gross income in excess of $1 million, which would take effect in 2013.

Everyone is saying that the Social Security Trust Fund is on the road to bankruptcy by the year 2030 but they continue to rob it of income. This time it is a Democratic congress withdrawal with the backing of their president!! I know we are in difficult times but this tactic just seems to be making it worse, at least in the future. Politics, and I include both parties in this, has just become a very short term thing.  Those yahoos never look beyond the next election for any of their actions.

What we need now is someone who is a forward looker. I had hoped that Obama was going to be that person but he has utterly let me down in that regard. This current tactic deserves the old label of “Robbing Peter to Pay Paul”. Since there seems to be too many against putting taxes on the super-wealthy back to where they were before Mr. Bush it seems the only way to tackle this is with a complete overhaul of our tax system.  Tax codes have become a giant hairball. They are filled with special exemptions for the favored ones. There are thousands of pages of tax code that single out one small group of people for special treatment. The only way to completely gut these things is a complete re-write and simplification. But the trouble with this approach is that I don’t trust any of the current leadership in congress to do this without a hand out to those who pay their re-election bills and of course that mean some more “special treatment”.

But I do know that it is not common sense to pull money out of the one place that needs it to pay future obligations.

But what do I know….

You Live Longer If You Are Happy….

Source article:  Happy? You May live 35% Longer, Tracking Study Suggests | digtriad.com.

Here is an interesting article about happiness. It seems if you are generally happy in life you live longer.

We do know that happiness is associated with an extended life span,” she says. If we can get people to be happier, would that extend the lifespan? We don’t know that yet. Future research can definitely try to show that.”

So happy people live longer. Maybe that is why all the politicians and such are in the business lately of making sure that we are as gloomy as possible. The gloomier we are the less time we will spend collecting Social Security.  I think I have come up with the conspiracy theory of all conspiracy theories!!!

Are Commitments to Social Contracts Dead??

I worked over forty years of my life. During that time I paid social security taxes on almost all my income. Of course I realized that much of those taxes were used to pay my father and grandfather’s social security income and medical expenses. That was fine; that was the way it was supposed to be. After all there is a social contract in our country that says we will take care of elderly who have helped give us our many years of prosperity. That was the way it was. But is that social contract about to be aborted? Are the people trying to find ways to break it?

There are those in Washington today who want to throw this contract out the window and they seem to have a base of support for that among at least some our population. Why after almost a century of commitments kept are we now ready to throw them aside and make it every man for themselves? Why? I think these are some of the answers:

  • There are those who once had well-paying middle class jobs who are now working a couple of minimum wage jobs just to get along. They are bitter because they have seen better times and they are now in our past. Now sadly they only want to think of themselves.
  • And then at the other end is greed. There are just too many who worship at the altar of money. That is their god.The more they have the more they want. They are not about to willingly give up any of it for anyone else.
  • We have wedged ourselves in a viewpoint of “Us” vs “Them”. Them being anyone who appears to be different from us.
  • Some are also ready to throw aside their social obligations to their mothers and fathers. They feel no moral obligation beyond themselves.
So many of us proudly boast that we are a Christian nation but we don’t seem to want to live up to the values taught us by Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us that, first and foremost, we are to be our brother’s keeper. That we are responsible for each other and if needed we should give the shirt off our backs to our neighbors in need.  How can we propose to throw away the safety net under the “least of these” and then call ourselves Christian? I just can’t understand that!
It is not as if the problems with our social security system and our means of giving medical care to the poor and elderly are in imminent peril. Even the most conservative pundits admit that it will be years down the road before we actually face any difficulties in this area and even those difficulties can be ameliorated by some rather minimal fixes. We don’t need to gut our commitments to stay afloat. Will we allow that one percent of our population who control almost half of our country’s wealth and are presently pulling the levers of our government to break this country’s moral  commitments? I am not optimistic about the answer to that question.
I am just a simple guy; what do I know…

Do you need a little help President Obama??

Dear Mr. President

I know you are pretty busy creating your State of the Union address for next Tuesday so I thought you could use some free advice from someone outside of the beltway.  No, I don’t have an MBA degree from Harvard or other Ivy league college although I did manage to graduate from Purdue University about more than forty years ago but that hardly counts now.

Up front I must say I actively supported you in your run for office in 2008 but to my disappointment  you seem to have gotten off message quite a bit since then. I can certainly understand that as you are now surrounded by the most powerful political elitists in the world.  Maybe they have convinced you that the promises you made to guys like me are just not achievable. But that is another story.

I am offering this advice as just a simple guy who worked as an engineer for more than thirty years and is about to enter into the Medicare system that is so trashed today.  I am at the front of the Boomer generation so over the years I paid for my grandfathers and my father’s health care via my Social Security taxes. Every year those taxes seemed to go up a little more but I didn’t complain much as I just assumed that those following me would return the favor. But if things keep going it looks like that may not be the case.

Let’s get on to my advice to you.  I know you are looking for places to reduce spending and that is a very noble and necessary duty.  The healthcare bill passed last year was a good start but please only consider it a start. The next logical step will be to look around the world to see how to reduce the costs.  No, I am not one of those who think that we in the U.S. are the only ones who have a brain between their ears. It seems almost the opposite to me when I look at how much we spend keeping ourselves well compared to them.  I know that Washington is a place that particularly likes graphs and such so I am going to include some in this advise.

Healthcare Costs I know the graph is kind of hard to see but I don’t have the staff of 200 to do it the right way so I will have to explain some of it.  It seems to me, being a simple person that I am, that a good way to judge how well your healthcare works is would be to look how long we live.  The graph here shows that among all the countries listed that Japanese citizens live the longest; almost ten years more than we do. Japan’s healthcare costs per citizen is a little over $2500/year. Our corresponding costs are shown on the graph. You have to look all the way to the very top to see it. It comes out as about three times what the Japanese pay and Japanese cover a much higher percentage of people!

I admit that I have been a Chevy guy all of my life but it seems that a lot of people in this country think Japanese cars are superior to ours. Having to bail out GM last year seems to reinforce that fact.  So, if so many of us think the Japanese are better car builders shouldn’t they be good at other things too?  Maybe you can convince us on Tuesday that  that we should be looking at how they spend three times less than we do and live a lot longer. Isn’t here something to learn here? If for some reason people won’t look to the Japanese, we did go to war with them just before I was born,  maybe you can convince them to look at any of the the other nations who seem to be doing it better then we do. There are scores of them. How about New Zealand? I don’t think we have anything against them?

Isn’t it just possible that we can learn from others on how to control our medical costs? Our current system seems almost unfixable so lets look at how others do it.

That is enough for this idea. I will let you think about it some and tomorrow I will give you a sure fire idea on how to control our runaway deficits.  My solution tomorrow really seems to be a no brainer. But what do I know I don’t have that big time college diploma that so many around you have.

(except for the graph from National Geographic this post is totally me so there are no sources here)