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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Weekend Madman

Friday-Sunday, September 15-17, 2006

 

How Much Can You Afford?

Well folks of a certain age and need, your health care costs are going up again. The Bush administration just announced that Medicare's rates are going up yet again. As the Los Angeles Times said: ..."retirees may be in for an unpleasant surprise this winter."

Congress, it appears, is trying to make up for some of the Bush administration's lying about the cost of the Medicare Modernization Act, which, of course, led to the enormously expensive prescription drug plan.

Are we happy yet?

This raise is, of course, on a sliding income scale, but will include such things as selling stocks or a rental property. In other words, if Grandma had a few items of memorabilia lying around the house that could earn her some heating oil money this winter, her rates will go up if she reported the sale on her tax return. So imagine what a stock that she sells, one that she might have been keeping for her grandchildren, might do to her rates,

"This is really a big deal. It's pretty easy to kick over the top of the threshold if you're not careful."
-Jill Allagood, a certified financial planner

 

Most communities revere their elderly... The Bushies revile them.

"Consider Susan, a hypothetical retiree with $49,000 in taxable income who converted a $100,000 traditional IRA into a Roth last year. This one-time event boosted her 2005 taxable income to $149,000. So, instead of paying $98 a month in premiums next year, as she would have if her 2005 income had remained at $49,000, she will pay $130 a month, about 30% more. If she instead converted the IRA in 2007, she would pay $245 in 2009, almost doubling her cost."
-
The LA Times, Medicare Part B Fees Head for a Sliding Scale by Kathy M. Kristof (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-perfin17sep17,1,1041658.column)

And consider this: Last year's rate hike was 13 percent. How much does Social Security payments go up for the elderly every year? I bet is isn't 13 percent.

"It's time for new leadership in Congress, to take on President Bush's bad plan and take the Medicare drug program in a new direction,"
"My opponent, Nancy Johnson, deserves part of the blame. She wrote the confusing Medicare law in 2003. She is also one of many Republicans who opposes allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices a Democratic idea, and more importantly, a good idea."
-Democratic Congressional Candidate Chris Murphy, who is running for the Connecticut seat of Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT)

It sounds like Rep. Johnson deserves more than her fair share of the blame. I wonder if she'll run with this campaign slogan: "Medicare - Yep, I'm Responsible for It."

If Medicare rates keep climbing the way they have under the Bushies, the only thing left for the elderly to eat will be "the donut hole".

-Noah Greenberg



Ask the White House

One of the little known areas of the White House website (www.whitehouse.gov) is a section called "Ask the White House". In this area, a discussion is held where regular citizens of these United States can ask the administration official on the "hot seat" penetrating and pertinent questions. You can either ask these questions live (through a screener, of course) or send them in prior to the scheduled discussion.

I, myself, have been on live and have sent in questions, all worded respectfully (I promise), but, surprisingly enough, have never received an answer. So, I'm forced to rely on the questions of others. Sometimes I feel that thee might be a government plant or two asking the questions.

"Secretary Chertoff it is an honor to speak with you, I would like to ask you after looking back five years since 911, Do you think the Department of Homeland Security has made a difference in making our nation safer from terrorism?"
-Jeff, from Ely, Nevada to secretary of Homeland Defense Michael Chertoff


Chertoff's answer began with this:
There is no question that the Department of Homeland Security has made a remarkable difference in our nation's security


"What are the extra measures you and the govt. are taking at the Mexican and Canadian borders to protect against terrorists?
-Alex, from Rockwall, Texas

Yep... Can't trust them Canadians.

Here's what Dr. Edward Lazear, the President's Chief Economic advisor's Q&A had to offer:

"James, from Indiana Wesleyan University writes:
"'What is the biggest threat to the U.S. Economy? '"

"Dr. Edward Lazear
"'Good question. Our economy is among the most flexible and resilient in the world. It's important we keep this flexibility so we can ensure high levels of economic growth that translate into higher standards of living for our workers.

'The biggest threat to our economy is that we will limit its flexibility, retreat to economic isolationism, or raise taxes -- all of which would stifle economic growth and impede rising living standards. Fortunately, the President understands these issues and will work hard to ensure he and Congress prevent any of these negative scenarios from becoming a reality.

'In the near term, a couple of factors that have received significant media attention are housing and energy prices. But there is good news on these fronts. Gasoline prices have declined the past few weeks, and moderation in housing construction has been offset by non-residential and business investment.'"


I feel better... Don't you?

But every once in awhile, you get to read something that is so outrageous it makes you head spin.

"I have heard over and over that the only Americans doing well in this economy are the millionaires, and they are the reason why the tax receipts are high, and that 'middle-class' Americans are hurting. What has been the wage growth for all incomes during the Bush Boom? Thanks for your time and service."
-Mike, from Wayne, PA


Lazear's response starts with the normal Bush response of "It isn't our fault". Like their response whenever something goes wrong (we're all still waiting for something to go right), the Bushies put blame squarely someplace else. This time, the fault lies some thirty some-odd years ago:

"There has been a long-term historic trend of increasing differences between the rich and the poor. This began in the late 1970s and has continued."
-Lazear


Actually, you'll really notice that it blossomed under the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Sure, if you want to start blaming Richard Nixon and his advisors, go right ahead. But it was Reagan and his people, many of them Bush's people as well, who perfected it. According to Lazear's statement, it appears that the Bushies have no plans on stopping the "millionaire trend" and, in fact, are helping it continue and strengthen.

"Most economists, myself included, believe the main reason is that the returns to investing in skills has gone up. We should be happy that our investments in skills are paying off. However, we worry if some in our society are unable to acquire the skills necessary to allow them to compete in our technologically advanced economy. Much of this can be remedied by improvements in K-12 education. This has been a central focus for the President, and indeed, he began his term by passing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to improve disadvantaged schools."
-Lazear, continuing


So much for the three "R"'s I guess. Today's new textbooks will be The Wall Street Journal and Businessweek. Is the Bush plan really to get all American children to learn to invest in the stock market? Have they gone absolutely off the deep edge and just assume that all Americans can even afford to purchase stock? The average American looks to put gas in their cars and food in their children's stomachs, not commissions in their portfolio manager's bank account.

 

By the way, if everyone's making money, who's losing?

This is particularly infuriating on so many levels, but not the least of which is that this administration must either truly believe that every American has "disposable income" to invest; or that they just don't care. It might even be possible that both are true.

Well, at least we know the true thinking behind No Child Left Behind now.

Finishing the "answer" to Mike from Wayne, PA's question, Lazear stated:
"More recently, wages of production workers have begun to grow at rates consistent with past economic expansions. Much of the growth has been devoted to high energy prices, but rapidly falling gasoline prices the past few weeks should mean that the typical worker enjoys more buying power."

In fact rates have not gone up in relation to the CPI and productivity. While the average American worker has been producing more for their employer, it has been their employer that's been reaping the benefit. And about those "falling" gas prices: They're still more than double what they were when the Bushies took office. I don't know about you, but my salary hasn't gone up two-fold, or at all, since then.

I recommend reading the Lazear archive at http://www.whitehouse.gov/ask/20060914.html. It's better than anything on TV.

Lazear is one of the University of Chicago's "Chicago Boys" whose "survival of the fiscally fittest" philosophy is directly ruining the middle class of this nation. He is a fitting replacement for the former Council of Presidential Economic Advisors chief Dr. N. Gregory Minkow who said" Outsourcing... is a good thing."

I looked, and much like Dr. Mankiw, I couldn't find a job Dr. Lazear has performed that occurred outside of academia, "think tanks" or the government. You'd think that one of these guys telling businesses how to operate would have operated a business somewhere along the line.

I recommend that we all meet at http://www.whitehouse.gov/ask/question.html to ask questions of Monday's guest at 2 PM, Steve Bradbury, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice. It might be worth a laugh or two.

-Noah Greenberg



Pope Benedict Arnold

I don't know what devil possessed Pope Benedict to quote horrendous remarks from some ancient king about Muslims but he has drawn the wrath of the Muslim community onto the Catholics now. Even the moderates are bound to be offended by the insult made to the Prophet Mohammed. I'm not a Muslim and I am aghast.

It is so vital to understand that, while extremists get the press coverage, there are so many normal moderate people going about their lives and practicing their religions quietly. These people have no desire to offend anyone else. They have no desire to dominate the world or to force anyone to believe what they believe in. And these are the people we have to remember when we speak!

We live in such dangerous times. A cartoon can initiate riots and killings. A curse can cause bombs to go off. On this blog I have said repeatedly--and I will say it again--we need to curb hate speech. We need to understand the effect that such remarks have on other people. We need to have a sense of cultural safety when dealing with other people.

It is a pity that in the Year 2006, religion can still spark such fierce hatreds. It just shows how unevolved the human race is spiritually. If we are to save ourselves from disaster, we need to advance our ways of thinking--rid ourselves of stereotyping and generalizations. We need to look at history to understand it but not to repeat it or use it as a means of reviving old conflicts that should remain dead and buried.

I was born a Catholic but left the religion. I am deeply ashamed of what this Pope has done. Indeed he is well-named after another traitor to humanity--Benedict Arnold.


-Billie M. Spaight



Karl Rove & Tom Kean Jr. - Perfect Together

So far, George W. Bush has sent up some of his most important assets from Washington DC for Tom Kean Jr. First it was his right-hand man, Dick Cheney. Then it was his better half, Laura Bush. And this time, he's sending in the most important asset of them all.

His brain.

On Monday night, none other than Bush's Brain, Karl Rove, will be headlining a high dollar fundraiser at the posh 21 Club in New York City. Also on hand will be right-wing Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Conrad Burns of Montana.

Newly-crowned 'King of the Blogosphere' David Chen of the New York Times has more at the Times' Empire Zone:

Mr. Menendez, naturally, expressed stupefaction -- especially since Mr. Kean has been increasingly critical of the Bush Administration in recent weeks.

"No matter what he says a few weeks before the election, his record shows he stands with George Bush and his fundraising just seals the deal," he said. "Kean Jr. is running up quite the tab with the Bush administration, and if it ever came time to pay the bill, it's New Jersey that would pay the price."

Couldn't have said it better myself.


-Forwarded by Robert Scardapane from a post by Scott Shields



Media Madman
Horizon gave $13,300 on day of a big vote
Junior (Kean) Is Filthy


The same day state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. voted twice to let Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey keep a $40 million tax exemption, he collected $13,300 in contributions for his U.S. Senate race from 17 company executives and their family members.

Kean (R-Union) cast the votes in the final, frenetic day of the fight over the 2005 state budget. Democrats, trying to close a $500 million budget gap, put up a last-minute bill to close what they called a loophole in the tax that health care insurers pay on premiums. Republicans called it a tax increase aimed only at Horizon, the largest health insurer in the state, and said it would cost the company as much as $40 million. http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-4/115829883967690.xml&coll=1
****


So, what does the mudslinger Kean Junior have to say about this? I think it's way more relevant than some rent Menendez collected years ago.


-Forwarded, suggested and commented by Robert Scardapane



A Quick Question

I had a student, (college level), ask about me about the motives of suicide bombers.

I suggested that he Google international terrorism and begin reading some of the research published by various institutes that study terrorism.

Have I now set him up for a dossier by the NSA?


-Robert Chapman


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-Noah Greenberg