Category Archives: Economy

Virus Control

The virus is out of control. People are dying every day. Hospital beds are being taken. Emergency rooms are dealing with death on a regular basis. Different state governors have different approaches. One state says, ” No problem”; another state says “Yikes, we have to do something.” There is no consensus as to what must be done.

The federal government has given up. Not my problem is the message from the White House. I take no responsibility. So says our commander -in-chief. The buck stops THERE, not here.

And, to make it worse, now there is a covid-19 pandemic to boot.

Oh, you thought I was talking about covid-19. Nope. I wasn’t.

I was talking about the never ending virus of gun violence. But I understand the confusion.

You see, the federal government at the very top is handling the covid-19 pandemic the same way they have handled the gun violence epidemic. The same mentality that has allowed the destruction of life in our cities by guns is now allowing the destruction of life by virus. Same game plan.

When you see the two crises side by side the parallels are stunning. In just one half of one year we have lost over 130,000 lives to the virus. And counting. Since 9/11 we have lost around 700,000 lives to gun violence. And counting. You remember 9/11? When 3,000 Americans lost their lives and the US government went into an emergency mode of WW2 proportions. Those 3,000 deaths became a battle cry for jailing thousands of innocent people, completely rethinking air travel and an excuse to go to war in Iraq.

But, as for guns and the virus? No problem. There are defined by the White House as a “state” issue. States must deal with them. Chicago is condemned as the center of gun violence. But most guns involved in crime in Chicago come from Indiana. Lax gun laws. Same with NY. Most guns come from the states where you can buy a gun as easy as you can a condom. (Well, you have to be 18 to buy a condom in Alabama, but if your daddy says it is ok, you can buy a gun at any age).

States cannot control their borders. If guns or a virus want to cross state lines they do so with impunity. Mississippi guns find their way into Massachusetts. Covid-19 infections from Florida will eventually find their way into New Jersey. Decisions made by governors and citizens with their heads up their asses end up destroying lives in states where governors are doing their best to keep people safe.

That is the fundamental failure of the Articles of Confederation. Because in reality, at this time in US history, we have reverted back to the Articles. You recall that from your 7th grade US history class? The failed system of colonial independence that sought to keep all power in the hands of the individual states . (Read that: In the hands of the elites who controlled the voting and finances of each state). It could not work. It did not work. That failure was the very reason for the adoption of the US Constitution in the first place. To have a central organizing body, especially in times of emergency. To coordinate responses to national problems.

So, there is only one solution to the covid-19 crisis. It is the same as the solution to the crisis of gun violence. It is a national attack on the problem. State borders cannot stop the viruses. Either of them. Only a national solution will work.

Until the same people who claim to venerate the flag understand what the flag stands for, a “United” States, we will never stamp out the deadly viruses. Only keep passing them on to our neighbors. And onto the next generation. Until and unless that happens, the buck will always stop THERE.

 

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Filed under Constitution, Economy, government, Politics, POTUS, Society, United States, US

You Bought What?

So, $600,000,000,000 (that’s $600 billion) has gone missing. Well, not really missing. Somebody has it. That’s the money that was earmarked for small businesses to help them get through the covid-19 pandemic.

The money Congress appropriated. Legal. Now, in order to get some of this money a business had to fill out an application. An application which made it clear that this money was not given in secret. No right to privacy. After all, its the taxpayers money you are getting.

Then something strange happened. My good friend, Stephen Mnuchin , Secretary of the Treasury, has decided the American people do not have the right to know what happened to those $600,000,000,000. (That’s billion).It’s secret. Hush. Hush money?

So, I called Steve and asked him about it.

Me: Hello Steve, how’s the trophy wife?

Steve: HA HA , you wish. She’s fine.

Me: What about this $600 billion dollars you gave away. Where did it go?

Steve: None of your business. Top secret. Private. No one needs to know. Trust me. It has all gone to a good cause.. or two.

Me: But shouldn’t the taxpayers know how their money is being spent? You know, oversight? Transparency?

Steve: Joe, Joe, Joe. You crack me up. I am the Secretary of the Treasury. It’s MY money, you silly guy…. (end of conversation)..

So, I say to myself, you know. Steve has the right idea. I think (and this is where I always get into trouble) I might try this in my own house. Not being as frugal as my better half, I have absolutely no savings. But, lucky spouse that I am, Betsy has a few bucks tucked away.

Being a rather charming and eloquent guy, I convinced Betsy to “loan” me $3,000 from her savings. She, of course, wanted to know why I needed the cash. I assured her that there are MANY things that need to be done around the house. And I was planning on putting the money to good use. It is probable that visions of painting rooms, fixing gutters and rewiring the basement flittered through her imagination. Who was I to dismiss such fantasies?

Anyhow. A week later.

Betsy: So, what have you bought with the money I gave you?

Me: Essentials. Things we needed. And I provided. I’m a provider.

Betsy: What, specifically.

Me: All kinds of good things. Things to make our household great again. Things you would approve of. Wonderful things.

Betsy: Look, Buster. I want specifics. What did you spend my 3,000 bucks on? And it better be good.

Me: Well, as my good friend Stephen Mnuchin says, you really don’t need to know. I consider it private . Let’s call it proprietary information. Need to know basis. None of your business, my dear. You are out of the loop, darling…… (end of conversation)…

An hour later, after I had time to staunch the bleeding in my nose and the ice pack on my left eye had melted, I hobbled out to the car. With tears in my eyes I drove back to Golfer’s World and reluctantly returned the $3,000 set of golf clubs and accoutrements.

As I was leaving the store I saw Steve and his wife exiting Alfredo’s Luxury Furs. Now, to be precise it was not his first wife, Kathyrn. Or his second wife, Heather. No. It was his third wife, Louise. And she was sporting a very fine Ocelot skin jacket. They made a very attractive couple.

Me: Hey, Steve, I was just wondering where…. (he interrupted, raising his hand)…

Steve: Don’t even ask. Proprietary information.

I wish Betsy had been with me.

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Filed under Debt, economics, Economy, GOP, government, Politics, Society, Taxes, United States

Forget About It

When I taught high school, like almost all high school teachers, I needed to supplement my income. Like many teachers I volunteered to coach a variety of sports. I say “volunteered” because often the hourly wage was pretty minimal. But, still, it helped pay the bills.

One of the key ideas I tried to impart to the kids was that we all make mistakes. You will hit the rim and miss the shot. You will take a third strike instead of swinging the bat. You will commit a foul in the penalty area. You will simply do the wrong thing. Sometimes physically. Sometimes mentally.

Micheal Jordan, perhaps the best basketball player ever to walk onto a court, missed about 50% of his shots. He seemed to make the shot at the crucial time, but he missed plenty as well. He failed half the time.

I saw the major icon of soccer, the great Pele, in person in Rochester, New York in the 1970s. He was playing for the New York Cosmos. Pele had his shot stopped by the Rochester Lancers keeper on the modified penalty kick. He walked up to the keeper and shook his hand.

Bottom line. Everyone fails sometimes. The point is not the failure, but what happens next.

I tried to impress on my teams that they needed to forget, immediately forget, any mistake they had made. Forget about it. Then go on and do what you are supposed to do. Get back on track. We can analyze later. In the middle of the game is no time to feel bad or become dislodged from the task at hand.

Maria Jones (not her real name) was my best goal scorer. On Tuesday she missed a penalty kick that would have tied the match. We lost. As fate would have it, on Friday, the next match, we were again awarded a penalty kick. The team looked over to the bench. Who should take the kick? I yelled out that Maria should. She put it in the back of the net and we won the game (I think we won 2 that year). I knew her mental state. I knew that she was able to forget about it and get the job done.

Which brings us to May 25, month number 5 of the Covid-19 pandemic. A lot of people have screwed up. Made mistakes. Done the wrong thing. Governor Cuomo waited too long to institute stay at home orders. Lives were lost. Mayor DeBlasio of New York city was even slower to respond. The Trump administration was unprepared and waited way too long to close borders. And coordinate a national response.

We could go on and on and second guess what SHOULD have happened. A recent study shows that over 30,000 lives could have been saved if the USA had just acted one week earlier to shut down non-essential services. Mistakes were made. Mistakes are always made.

As Judge Judy says: Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

It matters not. What does matter is the now. What are we doing now? It’s never too late to act. The game is hardly over.

We need a national response. We need states to coordinate. We have Texas and Florida and Georgia and California all going their own way. The team, which should be working together, is breaking apart. Where is the coach?We need national, enforceable guidelines for essential and non-essential services. We need help for the 40,000,000 plus unemployed. We need testing. The lack of focus is causing us to make the same mistakes again. And again.

We need to move on. Ignore what happened in January of March or early May. Where are we now? Where do we need to go. What comes next? What’s the plan?

Mr. Trump, you missed the penalty kick. But the game is not over. Place the ball carefully on the penalty spot. Take a deep breath. You missed it last time. Forget about it. Step up and blast it into the back of the net.

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Filed under Economy, government, governor, healthcare, NYC, Politics, president, Society, Trump, United States

Fake Numbers

News flash:

“A new report claims President Trump and members of his coronavirus task force are pushing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to modify its coronavirus death-toll methodology in a way that could lead to fewer deaths being counted.

The report from The Daily Beast Wednesday cited five anonymous administration officials working on the federal government’s response to the pandemic. The outlet reports Trump has privately questioned the number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States, which topped 80,000 this week, and suggested they may be incorrect or inflated by the current methodology. ”

Over the past weeks we see members of the “real news” (right wing ) questioning the reporting of Covid-19 deaths. On one hand, most experts are convinced that the numbers, as reported are low.  Probably a lot more than the 85,000 reported deaths. People have died at home or people died before the the virus deaths were being counted. Nebraska has solved this problem by refusing to release the actual numbers of deaths. A truly Trumpian solution.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/12/nebraska-coronavirus-case-numbers-meatpacking/

But the Trump position is that the numbers of deaths have been inflated. Trump’s political opponents have been using the death numbers to make him look bad. Many of these people who are reported as victims of Covid-19 are actually victims of other illnesses. It’s all a plot !

Based on this new interpretation of data it is time to look at other statistics and see if they have also been misinterpreted by the so-called experts. To investigate this I called my good friend Barney Flopbottom. Barney is a self-educated statistician who has never been tainted by a college education. He does have a degree in Statistical Science from Trump University. It cost him $25,000. But Barney says it was money well spent. Where else can you get a degree without attending a class?

So, I called Barney to discuss the nature of statistical data.

Me: Hi ,Barney, how you doing?

Barney: Well, I have a temperature of 105 and have been coughing up blood for 3 days. But those are just numbers. I’m ok.

Me: So, Barney, you have said in the past that gun death statistics, put out by the federal government, are wrong. Can you explain?

Barney: Well, not only are they wrong, they do not exist. We have no gun deaths in the US.Never did, never will. Same is true of the coronavirus. No one has died form the virus. Zero.

Me: Well, what about the murders of little children at Sandy Hook, or the shootings at Columbine or the Las Vegas shootings?

Barney: What about them? None of these were caused by guns. It is a hoax. A Democratic hoax. A libtard hoax.

Me: Well, we saw pictures of the deaths. We saw the children being murdered. In fact about 30,000-35,000 Americans die each years from gun violence. That means since the terror attacks on 9/11, over 600,000 American men, women and children are now dead because they have been shot with a gun.

Barney: HA! What a bunch of nonsense. Just like the fake numbers of Covid-19 deaths. The fact is , not a single man, woman or child has been killed by a gun or by the virus. It’s all fake news. Put out by people who hate Trump.

Me: Are you saying that 600,000 Americans were not killed by guns? Or 85,000 Americans have not been killed by the virus?

Barney: Exactly. Let me explain. Let’s say you were a 7 year old at Sandy Hook. going to school. Happy to be with your friends and teachers. A sweet little 7 year old. Now, some guy comes in with an AR-15 and shoots a bunch of kids and one or maybe 17 of the bullets hits you. Did the gun kill you? NO Did the bullet kill you? NO. What happens is this. The bullet enters, let’s say, your little beating heart. Now, the heart stops pumping blood so you die. It was the HEART that killed you, not the bullet. Or if the bullet hits your brain it is the brain damage that kills you, not the bullet!

Same with the coronavirus. The virus does not kill anyone. Use grandma as an example. Let’s say the virus enters grandma’s lungs and she stops breathing. It is the ABSENCE of air in the lungs that kills grandma.  So, stop blaming guns and the virus. Stop blaming Trump.

Me: So all the data on coronavirus deaths is wrong?

Barney: Amen. We need to redo all the statistics. Not a single death of the 85,000 has been caused by the virus. The cause of death should be: “Lung disease” or “heart failure” or “unknown” or “act of God”.  It’s all a plot to make Trump look bad. Time for the CDC to put out new, accurate numbers. ZERO.

Me: Well, Barney, I have to admit. It is hard to argue with that type of logic. I guess the numbers are all wrong. So, does this mean, what I think it means? We need to go back and change some of our historical misconceptions? For example, does this mean that the Holocaust deniers are all correct? That the Nazis did not kill 6,000,000 people?

Barney: Yep. Exactly. We need to rewrite the history books. The Nazis did not kill millions of Jews. That is just another example of fake news. It was a lack of food that killed some of them. Starvation. For others it was because they were breathing Zyklon B gas. Lung failure. Others died from exposure to the cold. Hypothermia. Isn’t it time we stopped trying to make Hitler look bad?

https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/longevity/497602-trump-administration-pushing-cdc-to-change-how-it

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Filed under Democrats, Economy, GOP, healthcare, logic, nazi, news, Politics, Society, Trump, Trump University, United States

The Cryin’ Shutdown

We hear from the right wing media and our mentally ill president that the country must “reopen”. The shutdown of the states must end. Based on that we see hair-brained gun toting “patriots” take to the Michigan capital because their “freedoms” have been taken away. We see protests in other states because people are asked to wear masks or do social distancing. Open up America !!

On my planet, called Earth, there has never been a “shutdown”of America. There has been a “Stay at Home Please” order by New York and other states. Stay at home except for essential travel. But not a complete shutdown. Not even close.

You want to see a “shutdown’? I refer you to the Warsaw Ghetto. Or the London blitz. Or the concentration camps of Pol Pot. Those were shutdowns.

Since early March life has changed drastically. But we have never been deprived of essential services. Only the extras. we have never been completely “shutdown” as some might suggest.

We go to Aldis once every couple weeks and stock up on groceries. We wear our masks and Aldis practices social distancing in their store. We buy 2 weeks worth of food and go on our merry way. No shutdown.

This week I had to have my snow tires taken off and summer tires put on my car, along with an oil change.  Made an appointment. Wore my mask, as did MOST, but not all of the dealership personnel. No shutdown.

Next week I am taking another car in for the annual state mandated inspection. No shutdown.

The local grocer is open. As is the liquor store. Garbage pick up continues.  No shutdown.

When we are too lazy to cook Luigis  pizza and the Main Moon restaurants are open for take outs. No shutdown.

Need a prescription filled or some Pepcid AC? The Naples pharmacy is open. No shutdown.

If the weather ever warms up I can golf. As long as I maintain social distancing.  When I golf alone I notice my scores improve. No one to correct memory . No shutdown.

Next month my annual urology appointment with Dr. Joseph is going to be by phone. OK, I admit having a large finger stuck up my ass may be the highlight of my year, but I can do that myself at home. So, nothing missed there. No shutdown.

And even many non-essentials are readily available, delivered efficiently by our Postal Service, which for some reason, the GOP is trying to destroy. No shutdown.

So, what IS shutdown? Nail salons. Tattoo parlors. Seating in restaurants. Bars. Gun shops.  Beaches. And parades. No Memorial Day parades. And sporting events. And visiting relatives in nursing homes.

All essential and many non-essential services are and always have been available.

So, why the whining?  Because I am supposed to wear a mask to help prevent the spread of Covid-19? Because my “freedom” to sit at the end of the bar and drunkenly philosophize about the liberals trying to take away my freedom has been curtailed? Because I can’t add another AR-15 to my collection of manly toys? Because I need a new “Live Free or Die” tattoo?

Much of our economy, it seems, is based on non-essentials. On extras. Toys.

Feed a three year old and she is happy. Wash her. Take care of her and she will be healthy. But take away her favorite toy and she will whine and cry and blubber.

Welcome to the “shutdown” in America. A few children can’t have their toys. WAAAAHHHH.

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Filed under Economy, entertainment, GOP, government, Politics, Society, United States

Herd Immunity

“What is herd immunity?

When most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides indirect protection—or herd immunity (also called herd protection)—to those who are not immune to the disease.

For example, if 80% of a population is immune to a virus, four out of every five people who encounter someone with the disease won’t get sick (and won’t spread the disease any further). In this way, the spread of infectious diseases is kept under control. Depending how contagious an infection is, usually 70% to 90% of a population needs immunity to achieve herd immunity.” (from the John Hopkins School of Public Health website).

So, being exposed to a virus and surviving tends to give a person immunity from further problems caused by that same virus. And when enough people are immune, they stay immune. The population is no longer affected by the disease. That is the key point. They can be exposed over and over and the disease will have no effect on them.

Now, let’s take that principle and apply it to evidence and facts.

I was struck by the few hundred Michiganders who intimidated the Michigan legislature this week. They were carrying guns and screaming. Some had masks. Most did not. They were mad because the Michigan governor told them to engage in reasonable behavior in the midst of a pandemic.

It was a herd. A herd of ignorance. A herd threatening violence. A herd immune from reason.

We have seen over the past 20 years or so a development of herd immunity in the area of facts and evidence. Fox news  and right wing websites, along with help from Russian agents, have spread the idea that evidence and facts are not evidence and facts. Real evidence is “fake news”.

I have relatives who have inoculated themselves from facts and evidence. They watch a steady stream of Fox news, filled with distortion and misinformation. Over time, this steady stream of distortion has made them immune from contracting the “virus” of evidence and facts. It has made them immune from reality.

Like immunity from smallpox or the flu, Fox news has prevented real facts or evidence from taking hold in their bodies. If some real news does seep through it is quickly attacked by anti-bodies. So, we can quantify the evidence  that the US government has failed miserably to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, but that evidence is quickly dispelled. Since the facts cannot be refuted, the information is attacked  as fake and sent out of the body. The anti-bodies do their job. They destroy reality.

So, according to Fox news, the crisis is the fault of the Democrats, the press, the Chinese, the liberals. And when that does not work, the claim is made that it’s not so bad, etc.  While over 1,000,000 Americans are infected with the virus, that fact is attacked and minimized. So what? What is a 1,000,000 compared to the need to keep our economy going. We have 325,000,0000 people, we can afford to  lose a few million. Etc.

Looking at the few hundred gun toting imbeciles attacking the Michigan governor, it is clear that they are immune from reality. Herd immunity. In their herd facts and evidence are attacked and destroyed. The inoculation of Fox news and other right wing media has destroyed the capacity of evidence and facts to enter their worldview.

Which is why no amount of facts, evidence or common sense will ever get through to these folks. They are beyond facing reality. They have constructed a safe place in which to live. In their minds. Try as much as you want to use reason or facts. It will do you no good. These people are beyond hope.  They will continue to reject evidence and facts from their bodies. They are immune. They have joined the Fox herd and from that herd there is no return.

Herd immunity.

 

https://www.jhsph.edu/covid-19/articles/achieving-herd-immunity-with-covid19.html

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Filed under Economy, government, governor, healthcare, Politics, Republicans, Rubio, Society, Trump, United States

A Sh*thole Country

In January, 2018 Mr Trump complained about the “sh*thole countries” of Africa and the Caribbean. He didn’t like people coming from those countries. And he did not like the way those countries were being run.  Furthermore, there was no way Mr Trump was going to help these countries. They are on their own.

Now, no one really identified the characteristics of a sh*thole country. Of course they are all black, but the administration would deny that. Nothing to do with skin color, everything to do with how a country is governed.

So, in that sense what Mr Trump was really talking about was sh*thole governments.

I did some research and discovered some universally agreed on characteristics of a sh*thole country.

First, a sh*thole country has a government not elected by the people. The leaders come to power with support of a minority, usually a violent minority. And once in power they use that power to expand their power. They pack the courts so any actions they take will have a veneer of “legality”. They harass or jail or murder their political enemies. They manipulate the process so it seems democratic but actually seeks to minimize the voices of people.

Second, in a sh*thole country the leadership tends to be family-based. In other words, family members and close personal friends of the leader are placed in power. As a result, the economic interests of a small group of people become the main focus of the national government. Any person of integrity is weeded out and a chorus of sycophants sings in the choir.

Third, in a sh*thole country any crisis or potential crisis is politicized. Any crisis is the fault of the enemy. The enemy could be any opposing political groups. Different ethnic groups. Outside groups. No crisis is ever the responsibility of the ruling family. The ruling family always is able to identify the “other” and then take actions accordingly. Never at fault. And to criticize the ruling family is considered anti-patriotic.

Fourth, in a sh*thole country there are systemic failures in a number of areas. Since the wealth of the nation is controlled for the benefit of the few, it is inevitable that there will be shortages in key areas. For example, many people rely on private charity for food. Many people do not have access to quality health care or insurance. Unions are crushed or criminalized so workers cannot get good wages or benefits. In a sh*thole country working people live hand to mouth, if at all.

Fifth, in a sh*thole country there comes a time when it is laid bare. A real crisis hits. Something the government cannot control by propaganda. Something outside the ruling family’s ability to control. An invasion. A terror attack. A pandemic.

When that happens the people of the sh*thole country are left to their own devices. There is no planning or attempts to help them. The ruling family and friends blame the people themselves. In a sh*thole country the government takes no responsibility for the welfare of the people. Because the ruling family is there only to raid the treasury, not govern for the common good.

So, when Mr Trump says he will not help any sh*thole country he is telling the truth. For once. If you live in a sh*thole country you are on your own. Get used to it.

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Filed under Constitution, Economy, government, healthcare, Politics, POTUS, Society, Trump, United States

Lemons to Lemonade

Evolution of viruses and the susceptibility of the human body to the same has given us lemons. Kind of sour. But, that’s what we are stuck with. So, here are some ideas on how to make lemonade. Things you never had “time” for. Before the virus slowed us all down.

1.Plant a victory garden. If you have the room, plant your vegetables. If you never planted vegetables it is not hard to do. You can find all kinds of information about soil and weather and pests and watering and all that stuff on line. Or. You can throw some seeds in some halfway decent soil and get pretty much the same results. Plants are tough. Notice how those cracks in your sidewalk get quickly filled with green growing things?

If you are lucky enough to have land, dig it up. All you need is a couple inches of topsoil. Potatoes will grown anywhere. I have grown them in straw. Radishes are easy and fast. Nothing like a fresh radish plopped into your salad. Lettuce. Pole beans (got a fence?). Peas. Carrots (need good loamy soil for those) . All easily grown from seed . And seeds last for years, no matter what the packing date says on the package.

If you don’t have a lot of land, hell, dig up some lawn. A nice little victory garden will keep you busy a few hours a week and reap some tasty rewards.

2. Bills. Bills. Bills. How many years have you been promising yourself to organize those bills. Find the folders of old papers and revenue sheets. Pile em on the kitchen table . And sort. Now, what do you really need? Time to throw out the receipt from the microwave you bought in 2009. How many old automobile insurance proofs do you need? Those 1999 bank statements are useless, everything is on line now. Tax returns? Do you really think the IRS is going to audit you for the $33.46 you claimed for your mother-in-law’s soft toilet seat ? What about the IRA and pension statements. A waste of space. Now is the time to sweep out the paperwork. Join the e-age.

3. OK, set aside two days and let’s look into your closet. Begin with the two hole on the underwear rule. Any underwear with more than two holes ( I am not talking about your waist and legs) goes into the bin. Are you somehow emotionally attached to those thread bare heels in half of your socks? Dump ’em. And really, how many sweatshirts can you wear at once? Two is plenty. Now, about those shirts. The flowery ones. It’s not 1973 any longer. And the turtle necks? Send them Moscow Mitch. Well, if you really want to feel bad, try on ALL those pants you’ve been saving. Notice how 90% of them have shrunk in the waist over the past 8 years. I guess they don’t make em like they used to! Oh, you are waiting until you diet kicks in and you can wear them again? Note to self: Buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

4. Collections. Somewhere in the attic or garage or at the bottom of a closet is one of your prized collections. Dust it off. Peruse it. Enjoy it. I have an old coin collection I started in 1959. With one folder for pennies. Over the years I have added nickels, dimes and quarters. Time to catch up with all those years of blank holes to be filled. Maybe you have stamps. Old newspaper clippings. Photographs. Toys. National Geographics. Snails. Stones. Whatever. Time to sit down, handle the merchandise and enjoy it. Who knows, you might be re-inspired to take up the hobby again.

5. Reading. All those unread books on the shelf. Or the half read ones. The classics that you always wanted to read. Ulysses (I got through 20 pages and was so confused I gave up). How about a really great translation of the Iliad or Odyssey (I recommend Fagles, it’s pure poetry). The Federalist Papers. Or maybe some light science fiction. Any MAD magazines collecting dust? Escape fiction. Serious non-fiction. You have been saying you haven’t the time. Well, now’s your chance.

6. Baking. Cooking. All of a sudden I smell fresh bread in the house. And chocolate chip cookies. And new recipes. Spicy Indian food. Chinese stir frys in the wok. Homemade pizza. Rediscover what it was like before you got addicted to convenience foods. Stews. Stroganoffs. Potato pancakes. Never had time before. Now, no rush.

6. Quiet. Just quiet. Meditation if you want to call it that. A little yoga. Make up your own moves. A little chanting. OOOOOMMMMMM…OOOOOMMMMMM. Try not to rile up the dogs. Or the spouse. Just 10 minutes of quiet time. Every day. Just for you. You’ve got the time.

The virus has given us lemons. Make lemonade. Add sugar. Sweeten to taste.

 

 

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Filed under Economy, news, Politics, Society, United States

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid

When Bill Clinton was running for president against George Bush 1 the economy was not in great shape. Now Clinton and Bush had divergent ideas about the role of government, voting rights, social issues, etc. But Clinton’s key adviser told him to minimize those issues.

He had one phrase that he reminded Clinton of every day.

“It’s the Economy, Stupid”.

Talk about the economy. The failure of the Reagan-Bush supply side economics. Emphasize the economy. The economy. The economy.

It was good advice. Clinton won and by the end of his second term the US was actually paying DOWN the national debt. That ended, of course, when the Supreme Court told Florida to stop counting votes and installed Bush 2 as POTUS. He went right back to supply side and, well, you know the rest.

Now, we are engaged in a real crisis, not just an economic downturn. In fact, The MIPOTUS (Mentally Ill President of the United States) inherited the best economy since the end of World War 2. The crisis we face is a pandemic, not an economic crash.

Our current person in charge (I cannot force myself to call him a “leader”) has spent the last 3 months concerned about one thing and one thing only. The economy. No, I take that back. He has been concerned with the Stock Market. Period. Which is part of the economy, but hardly the entire economy. He has identified himself as the man behind the Obama boom he inherited. As the man who created a great economy from nothing. A legend in his own mind.

To such an extent that he and his sycophants have all but ignored the pandemic. We can easily go back to his various statements about how it was a hoax or a plot or was being overblown by the “fake news”. As long as the stock market looked good, he was unconcerned.

February . We have it under control. It will disappear. It will be like a miracle.

Now, due to the inaction and hubris of those in charge, we see the economy on the verge of a major shutdown. It is temporary, of course, because it is caused by a medical emergency, not an economic one.

But still, every chance he gets, the man in the bubble talks about how we had the greatest economy on Earth, until this pandemic hit.  There will be plenty of time to dissect all the incompetency and corruption that has led us to this point. And there is plenty.

But what needs to be done now (actually 2 months ago) is an honest, open explanation of what the government is actually doing to help the states and cities fight this war. Instead of vague comments about how he is doing a great job, perhaps listing specific, reliable actions he is taking at the national level would help ease some of the fear. Of course, the problem is that the federal government is doing very little. The anti-big government mentality still holds sway. Let the states worry about it, not our problem.

To Mr. Trump and his cadre of ass kissers: It’s not the economy, stupid.

It’s a pandemic. It’s a national emergency. If you cannot handle it perhaps now is the time to announce you will not seek re-election. Then, perhaps, you can sit quietly in Mar-a-Lago and let the experts take over. The “best of your ability” is not good enough. It’s killing people.

 

 

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The Ten New Things

As the three people who read my blog know, I am pretty good at predicting things. I predicted that Jeb Bush would win the presidency in 2016, that Medicare for all would be enacted and that all Republican gun owners would turn in their weapons as a show of support for children murdered every day in America. OK, so maybe no so good. HOWEVER, here is part of my end of the year prediction from December , 2017, when the GOP controlled both houses…

“Finally. Congress votes itself a 50% pay raise for a “job well done”. The legislative branch passed a total of three bills. They were: 1. “The Amazing Trump is the Best President Ever” bill awarding the Trump Medal of MAGA to the best person in America. This year’s recipient? Donald Trump. 2. “The FBI Traitor” law. Which labels all members of the FBI, former and current, official “enemies of the people” and subject to immediate permanent detention and prosecution for doing “bad stuff”. Mueller is the first to be perp walked. 3. “Congressional Vacation Act” which allows Congress to take a vacation for a period including January 2 through December 30, with pay and expenses for fact finding travel.  Mr Trump signed all three bills and praised Congress for their services… which will no longer be necessary.”

I was watching the pundits on Morning Joe this morning talking about the demise of the Democratic Party because of the APP problems in counting the Iowa Democratic caucus votes. Their main theme was the incompetency of the Democratic Party. And by extension any Democratic administration. Okey Dokey.

This was similar to another Democratic government run debacle with the roll out of the Affordable Care Act. We all remember how Obama and the Dems screwed that up. Big government at its worse. Except.

Except both the ACA roll out and the Iowa caucus problems were not caused by “big government” at all. Both were major technical  problems made by private contractors, not the government. In a nation where the prevailing narrative remains that business is more efficient than government, we see the opposite. It is the private contractors that screw things up. Regularly.

Now, let’s look at really BIG government, the Social Security administration and Veterans administration. These are the government folks who send out your Social Security and Veterans benefit checks. And have been doing so for decades. Ever miss a payment? Ever have a check bounce. Ever have a failure to deliver? I rest my case.

But, back to the pundits who are already predicting the end of the Democratic Party. It is February 4, 2020. Between now and Election day there will be at least 10 new things that will once again give the pundits something new to predict. And they will be just as certain of themselves and just as wrong as they always are. As a self-made pundit, here are my 10 new things.

1. One of the Democratic candidates will be physically assaulted, by weapon or by fist. And she will punch back.

2. A major US corporation will file for bankruptcy. And be given tax dollars as compensation.

3. Kim Jung Un will announce that he has a nuclear weapon and the ability to reach the US with it. Also announces a contract for new Trump Tower in Pyongyang.

4. Donald Trump, Jr will announce the best trade deal ever with China, and the details will be forthcoming. The details never come forth.

5. A number of global warming catastrophes around the globe will prompt the UN to hold a global warming summit, which the US will refuse to support.

6. The GNP will continue to hover around 2.3% but no one knows what that means. Although 76% of the population is certain it has something to do with the Super Bowl.

7. Photos will emerge of Mike Pence leaving a room with a woman. She looks scared. So does he.

8. Israel will announce that they accept the Kushner peace plan which allows Palestinians to look at their former homes on the West Bank during Ramadan. For 2 minutes.

9. Mike Bloomberg will buy North Dakota, Mississippi and Arkansas, giving him enough votes to win the election. He complains that he has used up all his pocket change for the week.

10. Vlad Putin will make a surprise appearance at the Republican convention and will graciously accept the nomination for president by acclimation of the party. Why not eliminate the middle man? Vlad  will then appoint Ivanka Trump as his running mate.

So, those are my predictions. And after each event the pundits will all-knowingly tell us what it means. Again.

I know what you are thinking. Most of these are WAY OUT THERE and probably not going to happen. But  number 10 is just obvious.

https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2017/12/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/techonomy/2013/11/10/the-unhealthy-truth-about-obamacares-contractors/#1a8f06bf644f

 

 

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The Chinese Finger Trap

Remember the Chinese finger traps? Those bamboo tubes that you would stick your finger in one end, then the other end. And when you tried to pull out the “trap” closed on your fingers. The harder you pulled, the tighter the trap. You can still get those things at Amazon. Made in China, of course.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_finger_trap

Seems to me as though Mr Trump, in his dealings with China, has fallen prey to this old Chinese trick. Like the 4 year old pulling frantically to get loose, Mr Trump has stuck his tiny fingers of “tariffs” into the Chinese trap of “retaliation”.

There is an old saying : “When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. It seems as though Mr Trump has only one tool in his arsenal. Tariffs. And when tariffs don’t work, pull harder. More tariffs. Harder. More tariffs.

As in his dealings with China, Mr Trump just announced more tariffs with our second most important trading partner, Mexico. Unless they somehow stop immigration he will ratchet up tariffs. Keep in mind that about 40% of Mexico imports are actually dependent on US parts sent to Mexico for final assembly.  Tariffs will impact negatively on US industries .

Back to China. China has a long history of hardship and conflict with the West. The communists took over precisely because of the failure of the nationalist government to deal with foreigners. China is the “Middle Kingdom”. The two characters in the written Chinese language stand for those two words. China has always seen itself as the center of the universe.  Americans are tribal , but compared to Chinese ethnocentrism, Americans are downright globalists. The Chinese will not submit to humiliation. Never.

So, China can and will survive any hardships. After all, the leadership of China does not need to worry about elections. They can dictate  and absorb any economic downturn.

US trade with China accounts for about 13% of China’s trade with the rest of the world. A big chunk. But over the last 20 years China has been expanding markets to the rest of the world. Today, China has a higher percentage of trade with Australia than it does with the US. More trade with the EU. More trade, by far, with the rest of Asia. More trade with Africa and Latin America. In fact, China has focused on Africa and Latin America and has rapidly expanded into those markets. China can withstand a 13% trade hit. Can the US withstand a 16% hit on the other side?

So, Trump’s tariffs will not work. He is caught in the Chinese finger trap with no way out. He just pulls harder and harder.

Trump will not take advice. But on this one, he should. He should find a 5 year old. Because, as any 5 year old can tell you, getting out of the Chinese finger trap is easy. Just give in a little bit. Loosen the grip. Stop pulling so hard. Relax.

You would think the world’s greatest “deal maker” would know by now. Or maybe Trump never played with a Chinese finger trap. Or maybe he got stuck and could not extricate himself.  Perhaps he had to be cut out of the trap by his daddy? At any rate, he is stuck now with no way out.

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National Emergency 101 Quiz

If the following IS a national emergency answer YEPPER. If not, answer, NOPER.

1. Russia actively interferes with the 2016 election and helps Donald Trump get elected?

2. The Trump administration cuts funding for the FBI task force investigating and trying to prevent Russian election interference in 2020?

3.At the World Trade Center catastrophe of 9/11/2001,  3,000 Americans were killed. Since then, an average of 3,000 Americans each month have been killed by guns . That is a total of over 612,000 Americans killed by guns. National emergency?

4. The hottest, driest years on record due to global climate change have lead to extensive fires and droughts?

5. The US and Russia pulling out of the arms reduction agreements?

6. Over 25,000,000 Americans without quality health insurance due to the recent erosion of the ACA?

7. A record 22 trillion dollar debt, built up largely due to the 2 trillion dollar tax giveaway to the wealthiest 1%?

8. Growing and eventual insolvency of Social Security unless action is taken immediately?

9. Selling off of national parks, created long ago by Teddy Roosevelt,  to the fossil fuel industry for the short term economic gain of a dying industry?

10. A family of Guatemalans, including a 5 year old and a 3 year old,  fleeing death in their homeland, are posing a major threat to US safety and security?

If you answered YEPPER to # 10, you are an idiot.

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The Party’s Over

“The party’s over
It’s time to call it a day
They’ve burst your pretty balloon
And taken the moon away

It’s time to wind up the masquerade
Just make your mind up
The piper must be paid…”

http://www.songlyrics.com/bobby-darin/the-party-s-over-lyrics/

The Congress just passed a massive budget, increasing the deficit by a trillion dollars. And, over time, increasing the debt (with interest payments) by much more. The military and domestic spending were both increased. Disaster relief for the hurricanes was finally passed. Mr Trump, thankfully relegated to  the sidelines during the process , signed the bill into law.

This was an example of compromise. The House of Representatives needed over 60 Democrats to work across the aisle and vote for this. Why? Because even though they “control” the House, the GOP does not control the “Tea Party”. And the Tea Party radicals insisted that this bill spent too much on citizens. They voted “No”.

My own representative, Tom Reed of NY 23, voted “No”. He claims to be a member of the “Problem Solvers” caucus. You know, the guys who reach across the aisle to compromise. But one thing Tom will not compromise on is spending money on “entitlements”. Spending money on citizens. Like the poor. Or elderly. According to Tom, this budget is bad because it raises the debt! It spends too much on people.

Keep in mind, this is the same Tom Reed who bragged about passing the massive tax cuts for corporations. That law drove up the debt AT LEAST $1.5 trillion over 10 years. No platitudes about fiscal responsibilty when to comes to tax breaks for the top 1 %. No crocodile tears about the future of our children. What, me worry?

This is the same Tom Reed who has bragged about the renewed funding for rural hospitals. Taking credit for bringing the pork into the district. The same Tom Reed who voted over and over and over and over to defund the ACA. A vote which, if passed,  would have destroyed so much of our rural medical infrastructure. The same clinics he brags about saving. The same guy. The guy who cares about women’s health care  so much he voted to end funding for Planned Parenthood. Thank god Tom was born with both sides of his mouth intact.

Which brings me to the party. The Tea Party. The young guns who won their places in the House and Senate based on fantasy economics, throwning in a dollop of homophobia, a dash of racism and sprinkling of xenophobia. With a cherry of misogyny on the top.

Tom is not a member of the Tea Party. Tom knows that in New York, even rural New York, being labeled as a Freedom Caucus or Tea Party member will not win him any votes. (The Tea Party has really morphed into the “Freedom Caucus”) So Tom is a member of the “Problem Solvers” caucus, except that he votes like a true believer of Tea Party ideals. He is just too clever to call himself that.

But this last budget deal shows that the Tea Party is over. Their radical ideas and non-solutions certainly live on in a minority of the GOP, like Mr Reed. But, for the most part, the party is over.

We can thank the Democrats for this budget deal. When Mr Obama was POTUS the GOP refused just about any compromise. Lead by McConnell. Supported by Reed. And the forces of the far right are still alive in Congress, make no mistake. Be clear, the Democrats COULD have stopped this budget from passing. They could have given Ryan no votes and the bill woudl be dead. The government shut down. But they didn’t. They decided to compromise.

A glimmer of good news for the country. But for the more radical fringe, not so much. The Tea Party is over.

“The party’s over
It’s all over, my friend
Now you must wake up
All dreams must end

Take off your makeup
The party’s over
It’s all over, my friend”

 

 

 

 

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Time to Do Nothing

In 1949 Mao Zedong and the communists took over China. They instituted communist policies . In response the US cut off all relations with the People’s Republic of China for many years. Mao was a dictator. Harsh. Ruthless. The US would have nothing to do with him. He was an enemy.

Then, in 1972 , Richard Nixon did what was necessary. Mao did what his subordinates did not want him to do. Nixon visited China, met with Mao and started the opening up of trade and cultural relationships. The rightwing in China and the US were outraged by this betrayal of ideals. They wanted conflict, not reproachment.

The world did not end. The US was not defeated. In fact, over time, China has become a major world player and dominant economic force. A major trading partner with the US.

In 1986 the Russian leader, Gorbachev, met with the US leader, Ronald Reagan. Gorbachev had opened up Russia and the Russian people to the possibilities of democracy. Perestroika and glasnost . Reagan, a fervent anti-communists, saw an opportunity to cooperate on arms control. Both men signed the arms reduction deal which helped defuse the 40 years of hostility and tension between the two superpowers. Both men were criticized as “weak” by hardliners at home.

While Russia has fallen back into a dictatorship, the arms deals have held. Billions that could have been wasted by both nations on military spending has been saved. Not to say that both countries still spend way too much on the military. More than either needs for its defense. It was a bold, unpopular move for Reagan and Gorbachev to make.

But Reagan took a step toward an enemy and helped change the world.

Vietnam was a communist nation. The US fought a long war before ultimately admitting defeat. The hatred of many toward the North Vietnamese (and to some extent the South Vietnamese) was overwhelming. They were ruthless. They were despicable. The hatred of Americans by the millions of Vietnamese who had family killed by the “invaders” was also overwhelming.

In 1994, almost 20 years after the US left Vietnam, Bill Clinton lifted the trade embargo. Once again US companies could do business in Vietnam. Vietnam could be brought fully into the world trading system. Trade between the two nations now has reached billions of dollars a year. Former enemies have become trading partners.

Which brings us to Kim Jung -Un. The dictator of North Korea. Yesterday Mr Kim called for talks with his neighbor, South Korea. And South Korea responded positively. Both sides see no reason for increased hostility and increased fear. The president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, has asked the US to postpone joint military operations as a gesture of good will. He wants to open up talks with his enemy to the north.

Would it not be nice if North and South Korea opened up more and more trade relations? Would it not be nice if these two nations could tone down the rhetoric and begin more cultural and economic interactions? Hasn’t history taught us that even the most hated  enemies can, over time, become trading partners? And once nations forge strong trade partnerships they both have a stake in keeping the peace and developing economically.

Nixon taught us that. Reagan taught us that. Clinton taught us that. Have we learned?

Let us hope that the US encourages this new interaction between the 2 Koreas. Or at least does not do anything to undermine the possibility of peace. Then, 20 years from now the people of North and South Korea may be able to freely visit each other and take advantage of increased trade and wealth.

If the US just lets it happen. Sometmes just doing nothing is enough.

 

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Mr Reed on the Backs of our Children

My Congressman is Tom Reed of NY-23. A staunch Trump supporter and one of the key members of the Ways and Means Committee responsible for the GOP tax bill. I called his office at 10:30 this morning and spoke with one of his staff members for 15 minutes. Here are the questions I asked and the answers I received.

Q. How many expert Congressional hearings has Mr Reed attended?

A. Don’t know exactly. There have been a few. Also he is on Ways and Means which had some hearings.

Q. Has Mr Reed read the entire bill, all 1000 pages ?

A. Yes. He has read the entire bill.

Q. Does Mr Reed gain financially from this bill, in the sense of the “Corker Kickback”? Any specific provisions which help him?

A. Do not know. Thinks not, however.

Q. According to some analyses, over the next 10 years 83% of the tax benefits go to the top 5% of people and corporations. Why does Mr Reed think the top earners need a break more than the bottom 95%?

A. Not familair with that analysis so can’t speak to it. The idea is to be pro-growth which will create jobs.

My follow up: Isn’t that what George Bush tried and it did not create jobs, called supply side?

A. Would not characterize it. Not familiar enough with the Bush plan to respond.

Q. The tax law keeps in place giving tax credits for taxes paid abroad. Doesn’t this discourage companies from creating jobs in the US if they can continue to take an overseas tax credit?

A. Is not familar with this provision. Can’t answer.

My follow up: If you want job creation at home wouldn’t it be better to tie any tax breaks to spending on jobs in the USA? Make job creation in the US a requirement for getting the tax break?

A. Will pass on my idea to the Congressman.

Q. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculated that 10,000,000 lower income  families would get an increase in the child tax care credit of $75 a year. That amounts to an increase of 50 cents a day. Is this a good increase for poor people raising children?

A. The child credit remains and has been increased so poor families get a $2,000 tax credit, which in an increase. And they can get $1,400 in taxes returned.  

Q. On April 15, 2011 when Mr Obama was president, Mr Reed released this statement: “We are borrowing $58,000 per second on the backs of our children and grandchildren… Reducing spending and getting the national debt under control in the single most important issue…. Trillions of private dollars sit on the sidelines waiting to see if we are serious about reducing the deficit and paying down our debt….” Has Mr Reed changed his mind abut the deficit?

A. We are concerned about the deficit and debt. We are pro-growth and Mr Reed is concerned about spending.

Follow up: What specific spending does he want to cut?

A. Can’t answer.

The staff member, who was very polite and patient with me said he would try to contact others who could answer my questions.

Mr Reed used to be concerned about expanding deficits. Evidently he has concluded that our children have strong backs. They are going to need them.

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Turkey Tax Theory

For over 30 years I have insisted on cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. I say “insisted”. It is my right as the head of the family. As a man. I decide these things. I know better than anyone else how to cook a turkey, so I take control. End of discussion. (Right, dear?)

I have a very sound theory of turkey cooking. First, you buy a turkey.  Then you cook it. Simple. Common sense.

Of course some folks might look to socalled “experts” when it comes to cooking turkey, but not me. They look in cook books and on line videos and some even ask grandma. But not me. I have a theory and I am sticking to it.

Now, the cookbook “experts” will tell you to cook a turkey at 325 degrees for a certain length of time, depending on the size of the bird. So much for experts. I have been using my own theory for 30 years. Ignoring the experts.

Here’s my theory.  I get a 15 pound turkey. Now, the “experts” say that you should cook a 15 pound turkey at 325 degrees for 3-3 1/2 hours. Balderdash. My common sense theory says  this is a waste of time. I don’t want to wait 3 1/2 hours for a turkey.  So, using common sense and math (Well, a calculator) my theory says this.

Cooking a turkey at 650 degrees will shorten the cooking time by exactly one-half. So, my turkey will be ready at 1 1/2 hours or so. No reason to wait for 3 hours. Simple. To the point. Common sense. A theory any idiot can understand.

I have been cooking Thanksgiving birds like this for 30 years and EVERY year, I mean EVERY year, the turkey ends up charred on the outside, partially cooked on the inside and a smoking mess. There is always a problem with the smoke filling the kitchen and the smoke alarm going off. I solve that easily by opening windows and disabling the smoke alarm ahead of time. Clever. The volunteer fire department is on retainer.

Why does the turkey always burn? For the first 20 years I figured it was a bad batch of turkeys. Not my fault. So I tried every turkey under the sun. I cooked each of the following , in order:

Honeysuckle, Butterball, Jennie-O, Norbest, Shay Brook, Riverside, Foster Farms, Boar’s Head, Plainville Farms, Trader Joe’s , Nature’s Promise, Perdue, Smithfield, Organic Prairie, Carolina, Pilgrim’s Pride, Applegate, Private Selection, O Organics, Cooper Farms.

As fate would have it, every one of these turkeys ended up being defective. They all burned.  They all filled my kitchen with smoke. Sad. Very sad. I thought maybe you just can’t get a decent turkey nowadays.

But then I thought. Wait. Maybe it’s the oven. So, I bought a new oven. Nope. Same problem. No matter what turkey I tried or oven I tried the end product was the same. I know that if only I had the right turkey and right oven my theory would be proven. It is just a matter of time. No amount of evidence can dissuade me from my theory.

Which brings us to the latest Tax Plan.

In 1980 Ronald Reagan had a great theory. A SPLENDID theory. Increase spending on the military. Give money to the rich by lowering taxes and they will create jobs. The economy will BOOM and unemployment will disapper. So, he put the theory into practice.  George H W Bush called it “voodoo economics” and said it would not work. By 1982 the US economy had experienced a recession and unemployment had RISEN to 10.8%. The GDP declined 2.7%. Opposite of the growth expected. Still, despite the evidence, it was a good theory.

In 1990 there was another smaller recession. This time George HW Bush was president. He had run on the slogan of “No New Taxes”. A great theory. Unfortunately circumstances beyond his control led him to abandon that theory and call for “revenue increases” to stabilize spending.  But he still had a good theory.

In 2001 George Bush had a theory. If we cut taxes on the wealthy they will invest in US jobs. GREAT! Wonderful theory. So, Congress cut corporate and individual taxes to stimulate the economy.  And he theorized that we needed to de-regulate big business. Too many restrictions were just strangling these major corporate and financial institutions. So, de-regulate we did. Excellent theory. Of course, it would take a few years for the effects to be felt. But the theory was sound.

And the effects were the biggest recession since 1945. Growth tanked to a negative 5.1%. Unemployment rose to 10%. Big money investors with all that extra capital did not create jobs in the US. Deregulated financial institutions simply made bad loans with investors money and went bust. (Well, they didn’t go bust, they got bailed out. Another theory. Too big to fail… even when they do).

When President  Obama left office unemployment was about 4%. A relatively stable rate. And there were no Obama-era recessions.So, the economy is back on track and continues to chug along. No reason to tamper with it.

BUT, we need to follow theories, not evidence. So, Congress is proposing the biggest tax breaks ever while proposing a massive increase in military spending . In 2015 the USA spent more on the military ($ 597,000,000,000 that’s billion) than the next 10 nations combined. The US spent more than the total spent by China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, UK, India, France, Germany, Japan, S Korea and Brazil…COMBINED). This is not to suggest the US does not need a strong military, but this seems a bit excessive. Spend more, take in less. Voodoo economics, anyone?

So, once again we are following a theory that has been shown to have no evidence supporting it, IF the goal is a stable , fair economic system. But the theory sounds pretty good.

For my part, I continued to use my theory to cook my Thanksgiving turkey. Despite the naysayers. OK, so it got burned again this year. No turkey for Thanksgiving. On the positive side, my wife has made a standing reservation for Thanksgiving at Hop Sing’s Chinese Restaurant.  She is  no theoretician. And I am developing a taste for Mu Shu Pork.

http://www.butterball.com/how-tos/roast-a-turkey

https://www.ranker.com/list/best-turkey-brands/ranker-shopping

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_recessions_in_the_United_States

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Read_my_lips:_no_new_taxes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

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Booze and Women

Regarding the new GOP tax plan which shuffles billions of dollars from working Americans to the top one-half of one per cent.

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley told the Register. “As opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

I am not sure if this is true so I interviewed 2 people. One is a billionaire heiress to a real estate fortune who shall remain anonymous. I shall call her Ivania. The other is a shmuck who worked in factories, sweat shops and as a teacher for over 30 years. I will call him Joe the Shmuck.

Me: Hello, Ivania. Congratulations on receiving a massive inheritance allowance and other tax breaks in the new tax bill.

Ivania: Thank you. No one deserves it more than me.

Me: So, how many jobs do you intend to create with this new found wealth ? Do you feel that you that have earned this windfall?

Ivania: Oh, yes. I have had to work very hard being born into just the right family. It is not easy being wealthy. For example, do we cater in Lobster Newberg or Filet Mignon tonight? Do we open the bottle of “Moet and Chandon Dom Perignon” or the “Boerl and Kroff Brut Rose” ? Would you have any idea which to serve? Commoners just don’t understand the intense pressure I am under.

Me: I see. Back to my question. What do you intend to do with this multi-million dollar windfall? Will you invest it in new jobs in America?

Ivania: Of course. My investment advisor has already begun adding to my investments. I have created thousands of jobs already in my tote bag and high heel shoe factories.

Me: But aren’t those factories in China? And Vietnam?

Ivania: Well, yes. But there is a trickle down effect. Eventually, as we create jobs in China and depress wages in the US, we will be able to bring back jobs to this nation I love so dearly. American commoners must be able to compete with the wages we pay in China. We hope to someday get those wages on par with each other. Right now it is those unions that prevent us from creating more good jobs in the nation I love.

Me: OK. So, you won’t be investing in the USA, is that the bottom line.

Ivania: (chuckling)  I got mine. That is the bottom line. Did I mention how much I love America?

So, after this rather unsatisfying interview I found Joe the Shmuck, retired factory worker and teacher.

Me: Hello, Joe the Shmuck. Can I call you Joe?

Joe the Shmuck: I have spent my entire adult life working for a living and paying my taxes. You can call me Shmuck.

Me: OK, Shmuck. Senator Grassley has made the comment that people like you will just take any tax break and spend it on women and booze. What is your response?

Shmuck: DUH. Of course we will. He is correct.

Me: WOW! So you admit that you will spend any tax breaks on women and booze? Really?

Shmuck: I have in the past, why change now? What choice do I have?

Me: Explain to me then why you should get a tax break if you will just spend it on women and booze?

Shmuck: Look, I worked two jobs most of my life. At least 8 hours a day. Some days 12 hours or more. I have worked in factories, day labor, teaching and coaching and advising students. All for pretty meager wages. So, what do you think? I am not going to come home and have a beer? Of course I spend my money on booze. Wouldn’t you?

Me: Well, ok. but what about spending all your money on women?

Shmuck: I have a wonderful wife and a wonderful daughter. Unfortunately they are money pits. I mean, who needs more than 2 pair of underwear? Women, that’s who. Who needs to get their hair done? Women, that’s who. Not to mention quality food, clothes and  thousands of other items the uses of which completely escape me.

Let’s talk about dental bills and braces, shall we? And schools class trips? And second cars? And dogs and all those expenses? And Xmas gifts? And tuition and fees?

Me: I am not sure that was what Grassley was referring to…

Shmuck: Well, anyone who has a wife and daughter (or husband and son for that mattter) knows what I am talking about. So Grassley is right. All I will do with any tax break is invest in goods and services right here in the US…wait…does that make me an investor?

Me: Sorry. Investors only invest in China. You worked . You supported your family. You drink beer. You are what we call…uh… shmuck.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/12/04/grassley-explains-why-people-dont-invest-booze-or-women-or-

https://financesonline.com/top-10-most-expensive-champagne-bottles-in-the-world/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2015/08/17/trump-the-hypocrite-investing-overseas-fine-for-him/#4d5a62aa1dc8

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A Deal at Any Price

Tom Price, the Health and Human Services Secretary, has been criticized for flying on charter jets. He spent about $ 60,000 of HHS money on 5 flights in just one weekend.  The one that has gotten the most publicity was his round trip flight from DC to Philly and back. For $25,000. That is about 150 miles each way or 3 hours by car.

Now, this is the same Tom Price who had the best luck in the world when he was on the Senate committee responsible for Health issues. Just by chance, his broker bought him a ton of stocks in a company called Zimmer Biomet. This happened just two weeks after Tom introduced a bill called the HIP act.

Now for those of you with all your appendages intact that may not mean much. But the HIP Act (which should have been called the SLIP Act) deregulated the the hip and knee joint replacement industry. I mean, really, should an artificial limb replacement need regulations? I guess they are warranted for the life (good luck) of the owner!

Well, it so happens that Zimmer Biomet  is a supplier of….(drum roll)… hip and knee joint replacements. Like I said, when it comes to investments Tom is one lucky guy.

(To be fair, the HIP Act was so bad that even the GOP Congress has not yet taken it up).

But, back to charter flights. This must be a different Tom Price than the Georgia Senator who castigated the Democrats for proposing buying 8 passenger planes. Wasteful. That Tom Price said the US government should not buy any. Zero. Government employees should be flying on commercial flights. Tighten those belts you spendthrifts.

Senator Tom Price meet HHS Secretary Tom Price.

So, some perspective. Perhaps it is worth it to keep Tom flying hither and yon. Keep him out of DC where he can only do more damage. Perhaps his broker has recently bought some stock in the charter plane industry. Gee. I wonder if he wants to deregulate safety inspections on charter planes. It would streamline the industry.

A final note: Tom landed and spent the day in Pennsylvania. Minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $ 7.25 per hour. A full time worker in PA who decided to treat Tom to this round trip airfare would have to work 86 weeks to earn that much. Before taxes.

If he or she started working now and took no vacations they could pay off Tom’s airfare bill by the end of May, 2019. Unless he or she got sick. Because Tom doesn’t believe in the working poor getting coverage under Obamacare. Too costly!

 

 

 

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/20/hhs-sec-tom-price-once-slammed-congress-private-jets.html

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/tom-price-healthcare-stock-conflicts-233823

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The Trump Doctrine

We have now seen Mr Trump in action  (or inaction) for almost 3 months. Since he came into office with no real life experience it would be unfair to expect him to know what he was doing. Few of us made that mistake.  So we must look to his actions to discover  what his philosophy of governance is.

Now, we could pause and wait for him to clearly articulate the “Trump  Doctrine”.  But I  fear  that waiting for a well-reasoned, organized and concise explanation of that particular set of priorities and actions may be well  beyond the time frame allotted us in the current age of this universe. After all, there is a Black Hole at the center of the galaxy which will eventually devour us all. (Stupid scientists)

So, I will help.

The Trump Doctrine seems to be based on a few fundamental principles.

  1. DRAMA. Mr Trump must always be at the center of attention, whether positive or negative. This is consistent with the old adage that there is no such thing as “bad publicity”. PR is PR. Mr Trump must always be the focal point of any discussion of domestic, foreign, athletic, entertainment, government,  or any other human , vegetable or animal related policies.  As opposed to “No Drama Obama”, Mr Trump demands drama as the key element of his doctrine. Whenever the discussion veers from him personally he does a midnight tweet to bring himself back into the center of the public discussion. The more outrageous, the better the drama.
  2. CARPE DIEM. (For those of you deprived of a parochial  school education, this means “Seize the Day”). No matter the original meaning of Horace, the term today refers to enjoying the present. Doing what feels good now. Latin scholars may disagree, but Horace is dead! The Trump Doctrine involves saying or doing anything in the short term without regard, or perhaps understanding, of long term consequences. Example: Tweet that Obama tapped my phone. It felt good to tweet that. No evidence.  Who cares. I just accused the former president of a felony? Without evidence? Who cares. See principle #1. Drama. Another example: Bomb Assad. Feels good. I look presidential. Looks good on TV (See principle # 1). Tomorrow? Who cares.
  3. CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT. No matter what the Trump Doctrine is today, the good news is that it will definitely change tomorrow. No matter what the firm position on any topic is today, we can be sure that the alternate or in some cases opposite position will be held tomorrow. Example #1: Obamacare will be repealed and replaced on day one. Easy. OK. Now on day 35. Congress will act.  I demand it. It will happen. OK, maybe we will do it later. Who knew healthcare could be hard?  Example # 2: The wall will be built by Mexico. OK. Not Mexico. OK. Maybe not a “wall”. Maybe just better border security (Like Hillary said?). I never said a “wall”. Who said a wall? Not me. Example # 3: Do not get involved in Syria. Never. OK. Maybe bomb an airfield. Why? I saw a picture on TV (See principle # 1). The Syrian people can have Assad. He is their problem. We must take Assad out of power. Example #4: Flynn is fantastic. Great American. Flynn who ? Who hired this stranger? Never met him. … We can be certain of one thing. No matter what Trump says or does today we can rest assured that tomorrow will bring a reversal. Or denial.
  4. FAMILY BUSINESS BEFORE PLEASURE, ON WEEKDAYS. The Trump Doctrine puts the family business interests at the dead center of any decision making. He has never divested himself of his multiple business interests. Nor has his family. He funnels tax dollars his Mar Lago Resort and Trump Towers as he now has 3 residences.  (Can you even IMAGINE the outcry had No Drama Obama done anything close to this?)  His daughter and son-in-law, while running the Trump empire, are also now involved in public policy decisions. To those who claim they are not qualified by intellect or experience to be at the locus of political power I answer thus: They have the same qualifications as Mr Trump himself. They have no formal education in government, the hard sciences or the social sciences. They are deeply involved in selling stuff to unwitting buyers. They have never exhibited normal human curiosity about life outside the realm of accumulating wealth. (I use the term “accumulating wealth” so as not to insult the millions of honest Americans who actually work  to “make money”). And they have achieved their great wealth the old-fashioned way… by inheritance. All three, Donald and his two offspring or offspring-in-law,  are cut from the same Chinese imported silk. The fact that Donald golfs every weekend does not bother me.  But he did say he would not golf if elected president (See Principle #2).

So, there we have my suggestion as to  the principles of the Trump Doctrine.

Drama. Carpe Diem. Consistently Inconsistent. Family Business Before Pleasure,  On Weekdays.

The warhawks, especially the chickenhawks, got all tingly in their nether regions this week when Trump bombed Assad. Oh Boy. Let’s go to war. Refer to the Trump  Doctrine.

The Obama haters got all tingly with the idea that they could take away health care from 24,000,000 working class Americans. Refer to the Trump Doctrine.

The Mexican haters were flushed with joy at the idea of the “Big Wall” and massive deportations. Refer to the Trump  Doctrine.

The Muslim haters were ecstatic that Mr Trump was going to ban those potential terrorists and their children from entering the US. Refer to the Trump  Doctrine.

So, don’t look for any well articulated formal policy from this man or his family. Look  to the Trump  Doctrine for answers.

 

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Filed under ACA, Economy, Foreign policy, Hillary, Politics, POTUS, Republicans, Trump, Trump University, twitter, United States, workers

The Great Health Insurance Lie

The ongoing debate about about health care continues. Is the ACA better than Trumpcare? Is Trumpcare better because it includes more free market choices? Is Obamacare better because it covers 24,000,000 more people? What about the deficit.

And so forth.

But there is one fact, one truth, one absolute “know” that all sides of the debate seem to accept at face value. If you can disabuse yourself of this “truth” the health care issue can be solved.  There is one “given” that no one  from Sanders to Clinton to Trump to Cruz or any of their associates seems to challenge. That given is the following fallacy

Companies provide health insurance to employees. The government supplies health insurance to employees. Health insurance costs “job creators” billions of dollars a year.

False. Absolutely false.

There is not now, never has been and never will be any company or school district or government that provides health insurance to the employee.  Every employee from the highest to the lowest paid. In every industry. In every business. In every time period. Every employee has always paid and will always pay their own health insurance costs. Period.

Health insurance costs are not taken out of profits. They are not taken out of investors’ dividends. They are taken out of the employee’s salary. Every time.

Anyone who has ever been involved in negotiating contracts should understand this. As should anyone who has an understanding of basic economic theory. Every employer , whether public or private, has  an amount  of money that it sets aside for the “cost of labor”. Part of that “cost of labor” is benefits. One of those costly benefits is health insurance.

Does anyone think, really, that health insurance is some “gift” from an employer? Really? Never. The cost of health insurance is simply deducted from the employee’s salary as part of the “cost of labor”. The employee takes a lower salary and pays for his own insurance.

Does anyone really think that a business negotiates  a contract and then, out of the goodness of its heart, just adds on health insurance? Really?

Once you understand that you, as an employee pay for your own insurance you realize how vile the CEOs of companies like Hobby Lobby truly are. Hobby Lobby employees pay for their own insurance, yet the Supreme Court has decreed that the CEO of Hobby Lobby can dictate the kind of coverage the employee has paid for. Ludicrous.

So, next time someone tells you that their employer is “providing health insurance” and so the employer should be able to dictate what coverage they can have. Set them straight. Tell them they pay for their own insurance. And will continue to do so. Even though their boss may dictate what kind of coverage they get.

Your employer “gives” you health insurance. The big fat heath insurance lie. And another reason why we should have a single payer option. After all, the workers are paying for health insurance, shouldn’t they decide what option they want?

 

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Good News is No News

It seems as though the news emphasizes almost nothing but catastrophe and encourages negativity. This is not new, but it seems to be overwhelming sometimes. And it leaves the impression that we live in a constant state of terror, unhappiness, fear and anger. Things are getting worse and worse. Danger around every corner. The end is near! That is the narrative.

Good news does not sell papers or drive “clicks”. Good news is boring.

Some good news.

In 2015, a total of 322,761,000 Americans were NOT killed by the police.

.https://www.rt.com/usa/326724-police-killings-usa-report/

The murder rate in Chicago is 1/2 of what it was in 1990. The murder rate in Washington DC is 1/4 of what it was in 1990.

Click to access Crime_in_2015_A_Final_Analysis.pdf

Since the ACA (Obamacare) was enacted uninsured rates fell in every state in the union.Now only about 10%-12%  of the population remains uninsured.

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/blog/2015/sept/us-census-data-shows-uninsured-americans-drop

At long last all US citizens, including homosexuals, can  marry and serve openly in the military.

Gays in the U.S. Military Are Now Protected Against ‘Witch Hunts’

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/06/26/417717613/supreme-court-rules-all-states-must-allow-same-sex-marriages

The US is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time since the 1990s.

http://www.eia.gov/petroleum/weekly/archive/2011/110525/twipprint.html

Americans demonstrated their generosity by giving more money to charity than ever before. , over $358 billion dollars in 2014.

Giving USA: Americans Donated an Estimated $358.38 Billion to Charity in 2014; Highest Total in Report’s 60-year History

US teen pregnancy rates are 50% LESS than they were in 1991, and have been falling.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/02/health/teen-birth-rates/

In July of 2009 the rate of inflation was 5.6%. In July of 2016 the rate of inflation was 0.8%. The trend has been steady.

Historical Inflation Rates: 1914-2016

The unemployment rate in January, 2016, is down to 4.9% from a high of 9.8 % in January of 2010.

http://www.multpl.com/unemployment/table

Since 9/11 you are 15 times more likely to be killed by a deer, than by a foreign terrorist. And your chance of being killed by a deer are less than 1 in 15,000,000.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deer%E2%80%93vehicle_collisions

http://www.vox.com/2015/11/23/9765718/domestic-terrorism-threat

And, the biggest good news surprise of all time. The Chicago Cubs, currently in 1st place, were predicted to win the World Series by the gambling establishment. (I wouldn’t bet on that one)

http://www.csnchicago.com/chicago-cubs/big-surprise-cubs-favorite-win-2016-world-series

So. Good news will not make headlines. Not as exciting as disasters. But cheer up. Things are not nearly as bad as some would like us to believe.

 

 

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The Reagan Babies

When I was a tyke going to school in a medieval Catholic dungeon I learned about the Pagan Babies.

We would bring in our pennies on Friday and Sister Attila of the Holy Order of Terror would collect the coin. Our little coppers were going to be sent to some missionary in Africa to help convert the “pagan babies”. These little babies evidently had not gotten the word about the all-merciful god. Our job, as little Catholic babies, was to save them.

Whether the money actually went to Africa or to the Vatican I don’t know. Our second grade class did not hire a CPA to check the books. Maybe the load of coppers  went to fund  Sister Attila’s  “Bloody Mary” stash. Perhaps the pennies fed the local liquor economy. Either way, a good cause.

The thing about these Pagan Babies living in Africa was this.

They were ignorant. They were hapless and hopeless. They did not know the truth. They were condemned to a life of squalor and prejudice and stupidity. We pitied them. We felt sorry for them. They knew only what they had been taught. Narrow minded . Ignorant. In the dark. What would  happen when they reached adulthood? How would this ignorance manifest itself?

Which brings me to their American counterparts. The Reagan Babies.

The Reagan Babies were brought up in the 1980s. They were brought up on the mantra that “government is evil” and “greed is good”.  They were told that poor people are poor because they are lazy. And the rich are wealthy because they deserve to be wealthy. They were told that labor should be cheap. Black people are criminals. Most of all, that working people should not have rights.

They were brought up to worship a god that demands obedience and fear. An intolerant, political god who builds hells here on earth for the “fallen” called prisons. And builds “wealth” by buying out real businessmen who actually build real businesses. Then stripping them and selling off the parts. A god that tells us that society is bad. People should not care for each other. The god of the Old Testament.

These Reagan babies have now become politicians. Roughly in their forties . They have achieved power. They want to destroy Social Security. They want to destroy the Civil Rights Act. They want to destroy unions. They want to destroy the concept of a public education for all. Most of all, they want to destroy the very idea of a “social contract”. And they have had some degree of success. The Rubios. The Cruzes. The Ryans. The Brownbacks. The Scott Walkers. The “young studs” of the Republican Party. The Reagan Babies.

We donated out pennies to save the Pagan Babies from ignorance . The Reagan Babies cannot be saved. They have been been taught a narrow view of life. They have been taught to embrace authoritarianism of “supply side” economics and an intolerance for the non-believer. They have been taught that the very concept of “society” is bad. No one is his brother’s keeper. They have come of age and now we are reaping the rewards of Reaganism.

The irony, of course, is that the Reagan Babies are supported by many of the very people they hold in contempt. Working Americans. Older Americans. True believers who  keep sending their hard earned pennies  (and votes) to the Reagan Babies.

Even as 2nd graders we would not have fallen for that scam.

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Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Any More

(In 2012 GOP Governor Brownback of Kansas pushed through the “Great Conservative Experiment”. Bringing the architect of the “supply-side” economics theory, Laffer, he proposed and got massive tax cuts for business and the wealthy, coupled with reduced public  support for the poor along with cuts to education. A conservative’s dream state. It was the experiment that would prove, once and for all, that “supply side ” policies were destined to be a great success…. They have been a massive fiscal disaster)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-kansas-gov-brownbacks-reelection-race-is-case-study-in-republican-party-shift/2014/07/30/3192d86c-1420-11e4-8936-26932bcfd6ed_story.html

http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article62557137.html

Aunt Em: I think she is finally waking up ! Dorothy, get up,  dear. Time to go to work.

Dorothy: Oh, Aunt Em. I had the strangest dream.

Aunt Em: Well, dear, time to get up and go to work in  the poultry plant. Those chicken wings don’t detach themselves.

Dorothy: Work? Chicken wings? Aunt Em, I don’t remember. I had the strangest dream that I visited a new land,  the land of Oz.

Aunt Em: Now, Dorothy.  You simply overslept. Now get your butt out of bed. We need the extra income.

Dorothy: But, Aunt Em. My dream. I dreamed I found myself surrounded by little men with little minds  and squeeky voices.  They were singing about “following the supply-side road” to wealth and fortune. But I kept going in circles. The road lead to nowhere.

Aunt Em: Oh,  that was no dream. That was the Knsas State Legislature, dear. Don’t you recall? They had to close all the roads except the ones leading directly to the chicken processing plant.

Dorothy: Then I dreamed I met a man who had straw in his head instead of a brain. He was silly and stupid. He flopped around and made no sense at all.

Aunt Em: Oh, Dorothy. That was the head of the Department of Education. Don’t you remember? The schools all had to close early because the state ran out of money for silly things like books and teachers. It is all part of the “great experiment”. It will be fine.

Dorothy: But Aunt Em, he didn’t even know what evolution was! And then I met a man who looked like a lion but was scared of everything. He cowered at the mention of the Wizard of Oz. Pathetic.

Aunt Em: You must mean the old Democratic Party. Oh dear, they certainly lost their courage.

Dorothy: Well, what about the man I met without a heart. It mean, he must have been part of a dream. A heartless man. No man can live without a heart, can he?

Aunt Em: Well, Governor Brownback came to town last week to proclaim “Cowboy Day” in honor of the ranchers who avoid paying federal grazing fees. There is no evidence that he has a heart.

Dorothy.: Then, in my dream,  we  walked all the way to the capital and saw this massive building. Covered with emeralds. And I went inside and saw the Wizard of Supply Side. He told me everything would be OK. Just keep working and don’t worry about the budget deficit. Don’t worry about school. Don’t worry about health care. It was final. He had spoken.

Aunt Em: Don’t you remember, Dorothy? We were going to take you on an ocean cruise across Kansas but the Lollipop Guild had taken away our lavish food stamp allowance. So, we went to see the Wizard for help. We DID go see the wonderful Wizard.

Dorothy: Well, what did the Wizard do?

Aunt Em: He told us to drop you out of 9th grade and get you a job. He told us that if you get sick you should “suck it up”. He said never ever use dirty words like”unions” or “climate change”. The great and powerful Koch had spoken.

Dorothy: Aunt Em, I am sick. My brain hurts. I need to see a doctor.

Aunt Em: Sorry, dear. We lost our health care when your uncle got fired for supporting abortion rights. You’ll just have to hope for the best. I am sure the Great Experiment will work itself out. Now, get on your bike and head for work. Those chicken parts are waiting to be sorted.

Dorothy: Look, Aunt Em !! A twister is coming right at us. A big one!

Aunt Em: Quick, Dorothy, into the storm cellar. … Dorothy! Where are you going?!

Dorothy hops on her bike with Toto in her basket and starts peddling frantically. Directly TOWARD the massive tornado.

Dorothy: Good bye , Aunt Em. I have my future to think about. Between living a decent life in Kansas and the twister, I like my chances with the tornado.

 

 

 

 

 

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Contestant #5: Sanders the Socialist

5th in a series of biased analysis of announced candidates for the office of President of the US.

From Bernie Sanders Issues website: https://berniesanders.com/issues/

The senator from Vermont, a native of Brooklyn, is a self-proclaimed socialist and independent.  Since everyone knows what a socialist is, there is almost no need to go into detail. A socialist is one who hates America, wants to eat babies and tries to destroy all that is good in the world. Someone from, let’s say, Sweden.

That said, Bernie’s website has the usual vague generalities on some topics, specifics on other topics and simply ignores other topics.

For example, he pretty much ignores social issues like gay rights, abortion, etc.

He opposes Wall Street bailouts. He wants to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure. He wants women to have equal pay as men for equal work. He wants tax reform. He thinks the middle class has been screwed. All noble concepts. But the devil is in the details, and he is short on details.

His main area of concern is for working families. He is very specific on raising the minimum wage (to $ 15.00). He wants a one payer health care system. And he wants to make it easier for workers who want unions to unionize. These are areas where he has been consistent throughout his long career.

Most telling, he has opposed all the free trade agreements, going back to NAFTA. That is one area where he differs from most other candidates. He has a record of fighting to keep jobs in the USA. Unique among the candidates. Ever.

He does not seem to have used his political office for personal gain and has no outstanding scandals. But I am sure Fox News is working to create something as we speak.

All in all, a tried and true socialist. Can he win a major election with those credentials? Is it possible ? Does  a socialist have a chance of winning the highest office in the land?

About as likely as a socialist being elected to the US Senate. Or a black guy winning the presidency. Twice. We shall see.

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I’m Entitled…A Deal’s A Deal

Some states, New Jersey and Michigan come to mind, have decided that pensions for teachers and other public employees are too costly. So, they have cut back. Changed the rules. Old people have become too expensive. People retired, thinking they had a deal. Then the rules were changed. After the game was over.

First, a true story. A guy who delivers my firewood also takes down trees. I’ll call him Luke. I asked Luke to look at a massive cherry tree in my yard and he said he could take it down for 50 bucks. That was a good deal. A 30 minute job. Luke came back in his coveralls with his chain saw and well, it wasn’t as easy as we thought. The tree got caught up. He had to take down another maple next to it. Then he cut up the trunk into usable pieces for me. Took about 2 hours.

Now, it comes time to pay Luke. I give him the $50 and try to give him more. No. He won’t take it. I said, look, you took down two trees, cut them up, the job was much bigger than we thought. Take some more money. No. Luke would have none of it. His exact words. “A deal’s a deal”. End of discussion.

I taught in NY schools for over 30 years. Put money into the retirement system. Every check. My wages were so low that, as a professional teacher there were years when my family was eligible for welfare. WIC. A college degree, graduate school, a teaching certificate all lead to welfare subsidy. Which is okay. I knew what I wanted. Worked every summer to make ends meet. But I paid into the retirement system. Every check. Social security. Every check. Medicare. Every check. Just like public employees in Michigan and New Jersey and Wisconsin and Kansas and every other state in the union.

Am I ENTITLED to my retirement check? You bethcha. I paid in and took lower wages for a reason. A deal’s a deal.

I started working at 16. Paid Social Security. Paid Medicare. Paid federal taxes. Paid state taxes.
Now I am retired and I get free money from Uncle Sam. Social security every month. Now I am on Medicare. Am I one of Mitt Romney’s 47% ? ENTITLED? You betcha. I deserve it. A deal’s a deal.

I get more than a little irritated at the “young gun” GOP governors who are trying to balance their budgets by stripping pensions and retirement plans. Cutting taxes on the better off citizens and taking dollars out of the pockets of retirees. They have no clue. They have no understanding of what people in the past gave up to get those guaranteed pensions. They have no shame. They have no integrity.

They are deaf to the basic contract. They do not believe that “A deal’s a deal”.

Maybe I should order them some firewood. And have Luke deliver it. Maybe, just maybe, a little bit of Luke would rub off . But I doubt it.

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