Friday, July 15, 2011

Medicare In As Much Trouble As GOP Says?

Posted at Jobsanger by Ted McLaughlin: I think all of us can agree that Medicare is in need of some help.
The program works as well as any government program in that it gives all of America's elderly citizens health care coverage. This is what the program was designed to do, and it does it very well.

... The Republicans want us to think the program is in such bad trouble that it cannot be fixed, and if we don't make substantial changes it will soon be bankrupt and won't be able to cover any elderly citizens. And by substantial changes they mean the program must be abolished for everyone now under 55 years of age.

... Let me put this as gently as I can -- what an outrageous load of horse manure! Does Medicare need more funding? Yes. Is it about to implode? No, not at all -- at least not unless the Congress fails to do its duty and adequately fund it. The truth is that the Republicans have never liked Medicare. They believe health care is not a right, but a commodity which should only go to the people who have the money to pay for it. And they, with the cooperation of too many Democrats, have been underfunding the program for many years now.

... According to the Center for Economic Policy and Research, the Medicare system could be fixed for at least the next 75 years with a cash infusion amounting to less than 0.4% of GDP. And how much is that? About one quarter of the money we have spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan!

... Isn't it amazing that the Republicans can't find the money to fix Medicare to protect ALL of America's elderly citizens, but they have no trouble coming up with the money [to not only continue Pres Bush's massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, but give them even more tax cuts?

Read the full post at Jobsanger Blog...

Krugman: Getting to Crazy

NYT Op-Ed Column, "Getting to Crazy," By Paul Krugman:

... President Obama has made it clear that he’s willing to sign on to a deficit-reduction deal that consists overwhelmingly of spending cuts, and includes draconian cuts in key social programs, up to and including a rise in the age of Medicare eligibility. These are extraordinary concessions. As The Times’s Nate Silver points out, the president has offered deals that are far to the right of what the average American voter prefers — in fact, if anything, they’re a bit to the right of what the average Republican voter prefers!

... If a Republican president had managed to extract the kind of concessions on Medicare and Social Security that Mr. Obama is offering, it would have been considered a conservative triumph. But when those concessions come attached to minor increases in revenue, and more important, when they come from a Democratic president, the proposals become unacceptable plans to tax the life out of the U.S. economy.

... Yet, Republicans are saying no. Indeed, they’re threatening to force a U.S. default, and create an economic crisis, unless they get a completely one-sided deal - [Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan's proposed a supposed deficit-reduction plan that includes huge tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy and converting Medicare from guaranteed coverage to a private health insurance voucher coupon program.]

... Beyond that, voodoo economics has taken over the G.O.P. Supply-side voodoo — which claims that tax cuts pay for themselves and/or that any rise in taxes would lead to economic collapse — has been a powerful force within the G.O.P. ever since Ronald Reagan embraced the concept of the Laffer curve. But the voodoo used to be contained. Reagan himself enacted significant tax increases, offsetting to a considerable extent his initial cuts.

Read the full column at the NYTimes...

Dems' Concessions On Debt Debate Are 'Very Troubling'

Huffington Post -- A resolution to raise the nation's debt ceiling may remain far off. But the long-term framing of the debate over spending and debt is becoming slightly clearer, and it's causing philosophical fissures among Democrats.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland (D) aired his concern that the fiscal "belt-tightening" President Obama and many Democrats have pursued has effectively diminished the party's brand. Democrats, he argued, have "allowed the center of the political debate to be shifted so far to the right that we find ourselves debating on their territory and using Republican language ... It's very troubling".

Removed from office after a bruising re-election campaign, Strickland has largely avoided the political spotlight, choosing, instead, to help to build Democratic infrastructure in Ohio. But the debt ceiling debate has piqued his interest and drawn him back into the national conversation -- in large part, he said, because he's worried that his party is unnecessarily folding its superior hand.

Instead of conceding philosophical points to fiscal hawks, he said, the president should being using his bully pulpit to reframe the debate. Congressional Democrats, he added, should be forcing regular votes on "jobs bills" that would create an effective contrast between themselves and Republicans.

"You've got to create conflict, but it's got to be the right kind of conflict," he said. "The thing that bothers me is we allow ourselves to debate issues using their frame and we're doing it with this deficit issue. Everyone now, with the exception of maybe [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi, begins their first statement with, 'Oh, we've got to deal with the deficit.' Yes! But not in 2011. We've got to deal with job losses in 2011."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Natural Shields Against Climate Change Weaker Than Anticipated

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore plans to hit the climate crisis
hard with a day of organized global action on Sept. 14. Gore
announced his
Climate Reality Project in this video. The day
of action aims to use 24 speakers to broadcast 24 straight hours
of climate activism, encouraging others to get up and undertake
climate mitigation efforts as well.
The soil and the ocean are being weakened as buffers against global warming, in a vicious circle with long-term implications for the climate system, say two new investigations.

If the seas and the land are less able to soak up or store greenhouse gases, more of these carbon emissions will enter the atmosphere, holding in even more heat from the sun.

A study published in Nature [and ScienceDaily] says a gradual increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) over the last half-century has accelerated the release of methane and nitrous oxide in the soil.

These gases are respectively 25 and 300 times more effective at trapping radiation than CO2, the principal greenhouse gas by volume.

"This feedback to our changing atmosphere means that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought," said Kees Jan van Groenigen, a professor at Trinity College Dublin and the paper's lead author.

Texas’ Debt and Deficit Spending Growing Faster Than The Nation’s

Think Progress: [...Texas] is racking up debt at a faster rate than the national government and in greater amounts than most other states.

Perry regularly attacks President Obama for engaging in “too much spending” and running up too much debt, but as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Mitchell Schnurman writes today, Texas’ refusal to raise taxes has led to its own debt ballooning faster than Washington’s:

From 2001 to 2010, state debt alone grew from $13.4 billion to $37.8 billion, according to the Texas Bond Review Board. That’s an increase of 281 percent. Over the same time, the national debt rose almost 234 percent. [...]

Still, the trend is undeniable. While Texas lawmakers have refused to raise taxes — and often criticize Washington for borrowing and spending — the state has been paying for much of its expansion with borrowed money.

While the state has had to borrow for infrastructure building to keep up with rapid population growth, as Schnurman points out, Texas didn’t have two wars, the budget-busting Bush tax cuts, recession-combating measurs, and other big-ticket national expenditures. And Texas’ “borrowing isn’t slowing.”

The state’s debt belies Perry’s boisterous rhetoric on his economic stewardship. While conservatives boast of Perry’s “Texas miracle,” California, which Perry often bashes as the antithesis of his approach, has seen faster GDP per capita growth than Texas under Perry. Meanwhile, Texas’ obstinate refusal to raise taxes helped create the largest budget shortfall in the state’s history, leading to devastating cuts to government services — one town had to lay off its entire police force — and Perry using budget gimmicks and federal stimulus dollars to balance his budget.

At his appearance before the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans on June 18th , Texas Gov. Rick Perry crowed that the Republican Super Majority 2011 legislative session balanced the 2011-13 state budget while leaving billions in reserve. Perry told the Republican Leadership Conference:

"To preserve our job-friendly climate, the Texas Legislature didn’t raises taxes this last legislative session while balancing their budget and maintaining essential services. And I might add, that new budget leaves $6 billion in a rainy day fund."
In January, state Comptroller Susan Combs predicted the rainy day fund would have a balance of $9.7 billion by the end of August 2013. That figure was later whittled to $6.4 billion after legislators took $3.2 billion from the rainy day fund in April to cover a deficit in the current 2009-2011 budget that runs through August 31, 2011.

In January 2011 Texas Comptroller Susan Combs projected a $27 billion deficit for fiscal 2012-2013. State lawmakers then proposed an austere budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal years that cut $31 billion in spending from public schools, colleges, collage students, Medicaid and social services, public safety (police and prisons) and transportation. That austerity budget cut $7.8 billion from health and human services and $8 billion for K-12 public schools.

On June 28, 2011 Gov. Perry signed a $172 billion budget passed by the super Republican majority Texas House and Senate. The budget signed by Gov. Perry cuts $15 billion from the level of spending last authorized in the 2009-11 state budget. The largest individual cut was to public education, which lost over $4 billion over the biennium.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Smartphones Rapidly Replacing Computers For Internet Access

Pew Internet & American Life Project highlight the breakneck speed consumers are adopting smartphones as their preferred Internet access device — faster than just about any high-tech product in history. The Pew Internet Project research survey finds that one third of American adults – 35% – have adopted smartphones in the last four years, an adoption trend that shows no sign of slowing! The Project’s May survey found that 83% of US adults have a cell phone of some kind, and that 42% of them own a smartphone. That translates into 35% of all adults.

Several demographic groups have high levels of smartphone adoption, including the financially well-off and well-educated, non-whites, and those under the age of 45.

Some 87% of smartphone owners access the internet or email on their handheld, including two-thirds (68%) who do so on a typical day. When asked what device they normally use to access the internet, 25% of smartphone owners say that they mostly go online using their phone, rather than with a computer. While many of these individuals have other sources of online access at home, roughly one third of these “cell mostly” internet users lack a high-speed home broadband connection.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why Social Security Cannot Go Bankrupt

It is a logical impossibility for Social Security to go bankrupt. We can voluntarily choose to suspend or eliminate the program, but it could never fail because it “ran out of money,”says an article in Forbes:

This belief is the result of a common error: conceptualizing Social Security from the micro (individual) rather than the macro (economy-wide) perspective. It’s not a pension fund into which you put your money when you are young and from which you draw when you are old. It’s an immediate transfer from workers today to retirees today. That’s what it has always been and that’s what it has to be–there is no other possible way for it to work.

There appears to be every indication that productivity increases should be sufficient for the Baby Boomers to retire AND allow the rest of us enjoy even higher standards of living (assuming the compression of wages ends). That’s good news. In fact, it’s the only news that’s important./

I’m not telling you whether you should be for or against Social Security, but the argument that it is going bankrupt is a non-starter. It is much ado about nothing.

Read the full article @ Forbes

President Barack Obama used the August 14, 2010 anniversary of Social Security to trumpet Democrats’ support for the popular program and accuse Republicans of trying to destroy it.

President Obama promises to protect Social Security [3:15]
Seventy-five years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Social Security into law, Obama said in his August 14, 2010 weekly radio and Internet address: “We have an obligation to keep that promise, to safeguard Social Security for our seniors, people with disabilities and all Americans — today, tomorrow and forever.” [Text of speech]

Sen. Bernie Sanders Cutting Medicare Is NOT the Answer

Some Republican leaders in Congress are “pushing to make privatizing Social Security a key part of their legislative agenda if they win a majority in Congress this fall,” Obama said.

He contended that such privatization was “an ill-conceived idea that would add trillions of dollars to our budget deficit while tying your benefits to the whims of Wall Street traders and the ups and downs of the stock market.”

Democrats adamantly oppose any cut in benefits to reduce costs and some won’t accept a gradual increase in the retirement age, something that was done in the last overhaul in 1983. Republicans say an increase in Social Security taxes is out of the question, even for the wealthy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

State Budget Cuts Force Texas Town To Lay Off Entire Police Force

Texas is well known for its harsh handling of criminals given Texas has been the most active in carrying out executions, among the states where the death penalty is permitted. But, in one small Texas town the Mayor has warned residents to "Bolt Your Doors" as they are left to defend their own homes against criminals after State budget cuts passed by the 2011 Legislature forced Alto, Texas to lay off its entire police force:

Alto, Texas is preparing for a crime wave, after the small East Texas town put its entire police force on furlough…

In an effort to save money, the city has laid off its police chief and four police officers for six months — longer if Alto’s finances don’t improve.

Alto residents have every reason to fear a rise in crime will follow the police force’s departure. The town’s per-capita crime rate is already above the state average. There were 66 crimes in Alto last year, compared to 51 the previous year.

“Everybody’s talking about ‘bolt your doors, buy a gun,’ ” said Monty Collins, Alto’s mayor, who opposed the City Council vote to furlough police officers.

Kelly Curry, the manager of an off-road-vehicle park, now carries two guns for self-defense. “The thought that we could be 35 or 40 minutes from getting the sheriff’s deputy here, depending on where they are in the county, is scary,” she says.

To close a historic $27 billion budget deficit, Gov. Rick Perry (R) and the Republican-controlled legislature have made draconian cuts to state services and have passed the buck to city governments across the state to make impossible decisions about which essential expenditures to cut. Alto, for instances, faces a $185,000 budget deficit.

The Wall Street Journal notes that the closure of small-town police forces “is part of a broader consolidation of services in communities across the U.S.” It’s a problem because like fire departments and other essential services, “keeping the peace is rarely a revenue-making operation.”

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

15-Year-Old Girl Faces Life in Prison for a Miscarriage

Alternet: Why Conservatives Are Criminalizing Pregnant Women - Rennie Gibbs is accused of murder, but the crime she is alleged to have committed does not sound like an ordinary killing. Yet she faces life in prison in Mississippi over the death of her unborn child.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776


The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.