Today's Note From a Madman

Thursday, February 17, 2005


It's the Stupid, Economy


"If you're going to move to private accounts, which I approve of, I think you have to do it in a cautious, gradual way,"
-Alan Greenspan

Thanks for nothing Mr. Greenspan. At least you did say we should be more cautious about phasing private accounts in. But, I don't like of private accounts for these reasons:

1. Ideology - okay, I admit I have ideology on this issue. I think social security is "social", a shared risk, and it's "security", insurance, not investment.
2. Costs - there is no way around the fact that money will be lost on fees. The financial community wouldn't be pouring millions into a campaign for privatization if there wasn't a gain for them. (By the way, the Chilean Social Security Model of 1981 that the President and his followers laud has an overhead of 30 percent. Additionally, people who had kept their money in the government system fared much better thn those who "took the risk.")
3. Complexity - such a system will be harder to manage.
4. Risks - there are no guarantees in the stock market. If we have a very bad stretch of years, young people will be hurting down the road.
5. No successful model in other nations. Britain, Chile, Argentina, Sweden all have bad experiences with similar systems.

-Robert Scardapane

In a Very Red State, a Little Blue Must Fall

Utah is taking a big step. They are no longer going to put GW Bush's "No Child Left (I left out the behind because we have too many of those to begin with)" as their priorities. Instead, they are going to stress state goals over the federally mandated ones. The 75-member Utah House voted 72 to 0 in favor of the bill, with three lawmakers absent. The House has 57 Republicans and 18 Democrats, and is led by State Representative Margaret Dayton.

Ms. Dayton is a Conservative Republican and a supporter of President Bush (but I have a feeling she is no longer on his Christmas Card List).

"We are strong supporters of President Bush, but that doesn't mean that No Child Left Behind isn't seriously flawed."
-Utah State Representative Stephen Urquhart, the majority whip

Hey Stephen, you might want to take a look at some of the other "ideas" the president has. You might not be as strong a supporter as you thought.

Dayton was ticked off at the cost of required federal reports, costing a grand total of $400,000! Of course, GW and his cronies could spend that over a good prayer breakfast.

"No Child Left Behind is one of the most important issues of federal intrusion in state affairs that we've faced. This is a message bill. We want to send a message to the federal government that Utah has a great education system and we know best how to manage it."
-State Representative Kory M. Holdaway

Not only does the bill have bi-partisan support, but it has also been endorsed by the state superintendent of public instruction; the teachers' union; the Utah School Boards Association and the conservative Eagle Forum.

Utah's new governor, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., ran partly on a platform opposing "No Child Left Behind."

If we take this a step further, and we put our "conspiracy glasses on" you'll see a Bush program that is so bad that its design might have actually been to have individual states run away from it all along! By not following federal guidelines, Utah runs the risk of losing federal dollars from "No Child Left Behind" and will have to fund their education programs themselves. This will lead to higher property and income taxes in Utah because, as all of us know, with the exception of President Bush, the money has to come from somewhere.

Or maybe Utah could just forget about ever having a "balanced budget amendment."

-Noah Greenberg and Robert Scardapane

Another thought after talking to my bro

My brother pays child support for my nephew. That's a good thing. Theoretically he pays the amount of money he would have paid if my nephew lived with him. Again a good thing. Since my nephew lives with his mom, my brother cannot use him as a deduction. My problem, if you need to pay child support in the amount you would have paid to support the child if you lived with them, why not get a deduction as if you lived with the child. I believe the mom should get a deduction as well.

Maybe give the mom a full deduction and create a half deduction for Dad?

-Mitchell Weiss

"Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people's lives. It's about advancing the cause of peace and the justice in our country and in our world. Politics is about doing well for people."

-Senator Paul Wellstone (1944-2002)


Thanks to Eddie Konczal

Social Security Trust Fund Is Not Worthless

My response to Michael Smith who responded to my letter in the Courier News (NJ).

Michael A. Smith writes in response to my letter that social security is nothing but worthless IOU's that earn no interest. In fact, this is not correct and is a dangerous signal to the financial world about the safety of investing in American bonds. The so-called IOU's are special bonds:

. They do earn interest - 1.75 percent.

. They have been converted to cash eleven times in the past. There was no crisis in doing so.

. They are the full faith of our government similar to any other bond. A default on these special bonds would be as lethal as on any other government bond.

I have never argued against strengthening Social Security. I maintain that privatization will not change it's solvency and therefore can't strengthen it. Drastic changes such as privatization may really create a crisis. There are simple measures that should be examined such as raising the salary limit faster and means testing.

In addition, I am a supporter of the lock-box concept. I think that the government should not be able to issue these special bonds. Instead, the total trust fund should be invested in a variety of financial vehicles such as insured corporate bonds and agencies.

Recently, the social security trustees have moved the date at which the trust pays out more than it takes in to 2020 (from 2018). This is a consistent pattern with the trustees - every two years they move this date back two years.

Nations such as Britain, Chile, Argentina, Sweden have tried privatization. Their experience has not been very good. In fact, Britain wants to reform it's system and use The United States Social Security system as a model. I wonder why are we in a rush to emulate systems that don't work?

-Robert Scardapane

John Dimitri Negroponte

John Dimitri Negroponte was the US ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985. Violations of human rights and international law were among his many accomplishments in those years. . He supervised the training of Nicaraguan Contras at the El Aguacate air base, which he helped create. El Aguacate was used as a secret detention and torture center. Excavations at the base discovered the corpses of the 185 people, including two Americans.

Did John Dimitri Negroponte know about these human rights violations?

Did John Dimitri Negroponte ignore these human rights violations?

Did John Dimitri Negroponte not care about these human rights violations?

Or was John Dimitri Negroponte just asleep at the wheel as US ambassador to Honduras in President Ronald Reagan's first term in office?

It's so hard to tell whether these guys are evil or just incompetent.

In case you didn't know, John Dimitri Negroponte has been nominated by "G"lobal "W"arming Bush as head of all intelligence agencies.

This is the newest version of, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

-Noah Greenberg

Stupid Quote of the Day


The administration is committed to reforming and modernizing Social Security, health care, public education and the tax code. ``Those who oppose this agenda are in a difficult position. They're attempting to block reforms to systems that almost every serious-minded person concedes need reform''
-Karl Rove


Got it?

-Noah Greenberg

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-Noah Greenberg