Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gun Control Can't Fix Everything - But It Can't Hurt

Twenty children, little children, first grade children, the same age of the children that I taught many years ago.  Killed.  Gone.  

Six adults whose life work was educating and caring for children, little children; work that I did a decade ago.  Killed.  Gone.

One young man, social problems most of his life, the same age as a young man in our extended family who committed a crime and took his own life several years ago.  Dead through suicide.  Gone.

One mother who undoubtedly loved her son, agonized over his problems, probably tried to figure out how she could help him, the same way that the parents of the young man in my family agonized for years and tried to help.  The mother of the young man in Connecticut was killed and is gone.  The parents of the young man in our family still live, still deal with depression, often anxiety;  even though several years have passed, they are still trying to understand what happened to their beloved son.

Newtown, Connecticut. 

Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Adam Lanza.   Two days ago these names were meaningless.  Now they are not.  We all know where these places are.  We all know who Adam Lanza is.  

We know the names of many of the victims, both the victims who lived and the victims who died.  We know of the first grade teacher, Kaitlin Roig, who herded her children into a bathroom and managed to keep them quiet.   They all lived.  We know of another first grade teacher, Vicki Soto, who herded her children into cupboards and cabinets, somehow keeping them safe but not herself.  We know of the principal, Dawn Hochsprung,  and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, who instinctively tried to run to the gunman to physically make him stop.... but he got them first.  We know of the teacher,  Ann Marie Murphy, who threw her body on her little ones.. but her body didn't stop the bullets.  She died as did her young charges.

We saw television news personalities tearing up, some actually cutting their schticks short due to imminent emotional breakdown.  We saw the President of the United States in tears as he talked about these little children, six and seven years old, who died.

The cacophony of minutiae

And now the cacophony of minutiae, opinions, accusations, counter-opinions,  and counter-accusations.  The noise has been too loud for me, and I have barely posted or written in the past 48 hours as I deal with the conflicting feelings and memories; too many of the details are too close to things I have lived through as a teacher and as a human being in my extended family.    

  • Lack of gun control is the problem, many cry out.
  • Carry and conceal in schools is the answer!, others claim.
  • Armed guards in every school!, say some.
  • This is what happens when you take God out of schools, shout a few.
  • The President is weak, say others.. He needs to seek some kind of gun ban!
  • More mental health help!, others yell.
  • What's with that mother?  Why did she have guns around if the kid was mentally ill?
  • The media got everything wrong!  And interviewing kids?  That was horrible!
  • Mental illness, personality disorder, autism spectrum, Aspberger's.  People throw these terms around as if they know what they mean.

Look, people, I know a young man who stole his father's guns and held up a convenience store and then shot himself when he was about to be apprehended.   I know the family;  I knew the young man since he was very tiny.   

Gun control would not have saved him.

More mental health resources would not have saved him.   

We do not have the details of what happened to Adam Lanza.  Was he violent?  Did he threaten his mother.. or anybody, for that matter?  Had he ever so much as hurt a fly before December 14th?  Was he getting mental health help?  Was he diagnosed with anything? 

We don't know the answer to any of these questions... yet.  And even when we do get the answers to these questions, they may not help us to understand what was in Adam Lanza's head Friday morning, and they may not help us to understand how to prevent another Newtown, Connecticut, massacre.        

The Mother's Obsession With Guns

The mother's obsession with guns was profiled here at the New York Times.

Here's a comment:  

I hate guns and I do not understand why people would buy them. 
Until now, I have always blamed the NRA and have been somewhat optimistic that we only need people to get a bit more organized in order to improve legislation. 
Today, the statistic cited in one of the other articles was a real eye opener. 
Apparently 60% of Americans are happy with the current gun laws and do not want any additional restrictions.  
I do not see how the tragic situation in Newton could have been prevented. Mrs. Lanza bought the guns legally and had even trained on how to use them. 
I haven't read anything about her son having demonstrated any violence earlier, so I have to assume that is the reason she did not take any additional precautions. 
Obviously, in this country we have serious violence issues, which get compounded by loose legislation on guns. We also have serious mental health issues, but apparently the killer's condition had not raised concern. 
Most people in the NYT forums are vociferous about the need for gun control. I am with you, but I am also realistic and very pessimistic about any possible changes.

I do not see any need for those multiple clips that allow people to shoot a hundred rounds in a few seconds or a minute.  I don't know why that kind of firepower should be protected.

As I mentioned above, I knew a young man, close to the age of the Lanza young man, who had a lot of issues but no history of physically aggressive or violent behavior, who broke into his father's locked gun cabinet at the family's vacation home.  He and a friend took those hunting rifles and held up a convenience store.  As the police closed in, he shot himself.  Nobody was hurt except the young man.

I'm sure people would say the same thing about him... Why did his father have hunting rifles?  But there was no reason for the father NOT to have hunting rifles in a locked closet.  The son was not aggressive or violent.  He hadn't threatened anybody; he was just snotty and rebellious.  He'd been in various kinds of therapies, various special schools, various treatments for various addictions for years.  

Would this young man still be alive with stronger gun control laws?  I can't imagine that.  These were registered hunting rifles in a locked closet in a vacation home.  I will say that the family felt a sense of relief that the young man didn't take anyone with him as he checked out, unlike Adam Lanza.

I do think we need stronger gun control laws, and I welcome efforts to introduce legislation to outlaw assault weapons.  And we certainly need to eliminate the gun show loophhole.  But not all of these tragedies are going to be prevented unless all guns are outlawed.. and that will never happen.

Other articles and comments: 

I am Adam Lanza's Mother:  A great article about what it is like to deal with a seriously mentally ill adolescent, but I don't think we can say that the problems of this mother and her son are equivalent to the problems of Adam Lanza.  But a must-read article nonetheless.  My comment:

I completely understand the author's pain and I empathize with her son.. and with her love for her son. 
But we don't really know that Adam Lanza was like her Michael. We haven't heard of any hospitalizations, any other episodes of violence, any diagnoses that might shed some light on his actions. 
Adam was in public or private schools for about 10 years. He was pulled out when he was a sophomore or junior in high school, but, while people who knew him talked about how "strange" he was; nobody has mentioned out of control or aggressive behaviors. 
I don't think we can read this very heartfelt, very moving article and assume that Adam Lanza had the same issues. 
Now.. I do know children who had similar problems to those described by Michael's mother. I agree that mental health understanding and treatment of these children is not very solid. I taught elementary school for many years and I can remember two children who exhibited these kinds of completely out of control behaviors. Both were placed into specialized settings for children with behavioral disorders. Both had siblings who were completely "normal".  
These children are being lost, and that is so, so sad. 
And, no, the solution is NOT a slap or a spank as some (comments) here have suggested.”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Don't We Have the Right To Earn and Keep Unlimited Wealth?

The Greatest Thing About America is the Right To Earn (and Keep)
Unlimited Wealth.  (Yes, sarcasm.)
From "Achieve Unlimited Wealth"

Posted by Facebook friend John L:

I read recently that the tax rate on the wealthiest Americans in the 1950's was 75%. Interesting. I didn't know that we were a Socialist country back then. In grade school at about that time they taught us we had the strongest and fastest growing economy in the world. Just won WWII, too. Hard to imagine we could do all that without any billionaires in our population.
Now any real patriot will tell you that the greatest thing about America is the right of any citizen to earn unlimited wealth. It's pretty obvious that if a person can earn a billion or so in this economy he, or she, really deserves to keep it. Imagine anyone thinking that such wealth should be shared. How unAmerican! Our best collective hope is that the billionaires have a good New Year so that some of the profits will finally start to trickle down to those of us relegated to the lower 99%. 
When you're doing that last minute shopping this Christmas, please don't forget the billionaires.

My reply, dripping with sarcasm at two in the morning: 

Of course, John! Those guys earned every dime! They "worked hard", "made good choices", and "planned ahead". And the rest of us are just low-life slackers. 

We could all be billionaires living off the slave labor of the workers who died in the fire of the garment building in Bangladesh. Oops.. sorry, my fingers went a little wild there... I meant to say that we all could have been billionaires if only we had "worked hard", "made good choices", and "planned ahead"...  like the Walmart kids .... Oops.. sorry again, well, those fingers.. It's just late at night and they just take off on their own... That's right, the Walmart executives and the Walmart kids claim they had nothing to do with that fire in Bangladesh! Somebody was scamming them! They only want their slaves to work in SAFE buildings... Oops, not slaves, actually; they make $38 a month. You can't be a slave if they PAY you $38 bucks a month.

And the Walmart kids say that if only those workers had just "worked hard", "made good choices", and "planned ahead", well, they started working for $38 bucks a month just like the Bangladeshi workers... Oops... I have to stop this; my fingers are just not getting things right. No, the Walmart kids did not start working for $38/month: The Walmart kids got their money from Daddy! Well, that's a different story then. DADDY was the one who "worked hard", "planned ahead", and "made good choices", so of course, it's perfectly O.K. for the kiddos to drive around drunk... Oh, sorry, it was only Alice who drove around drunk, not the other ones, and she has been such a wonderful philanthropist! I wonder how much she "donated" to the family of the woman she killed back in the early 90's.

But that fire was in Bangladesh! If you have the misfortune of being born in Bangladesh, you are royally screwed.  The billionaires know that and they don't care.  This is the US!  If only people here in this wonderful land of opportunity would "plan ahead", "make good choices", and "work hard" for $38 a month right here in the good old US of A, then we wouldn't have all of these unemployed people and factories relocating overseas... and those Bangladesh workers would not have died in that fire! 
If only the governments and the workers themselves hadn't insisted on safer working conditions, fire and building codes, well, then those 112 garment workers could have been working... and could have died right here and not in Bangladesh... just the way they did back in 1911 in the Triangle factory fire.

Lower tax rates help the economy?

The rich guys and their Republican friends keep trying to tell us that lower tax rates, particularly lower tax rates paid by the richest among us are going to help the economy!  Yeah, just the way that such low tax rates helped the economy in 1928 and now, since the early 2000's.  We've all seen how many millions of jobs those tax cuts have created!  The only thing that correlates with low tax rates is the recessions that follow a few years of tax cuts for the rich.  It happened in the late 1920's and it happened just a few years ago.  

I don't know what that Grover Norquist character smokes, but his knowledge of basic economics and basic history is sadly lacking.

Low taxes lead to rampant income inequality, bubbles, and ultimate recessions... and not that many jobs.    

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nobody Raided the Social Security Trust Fund

No, nobody, neither Republican nor Democrat, has "raided" the Social Security Trust Fund.  It is NOT full of worthless IOU's.

Photo found at CBS Money Watch.  Link in article.

When you put money in your bank or credit union, do you assume that the money you have deposited sits in a file somewhere with your name on it?  Is it somehow converted into gold or silver bars with your name impressed on them?  No, of course not.  You assume that the bank or credit union, while crediting your account with the amount of your deposit, has used your money by lending it out to other customers.  If you need it you can withdraw it.

So, in effect, do you have money sitting in a file somewhere?  No, you have an IOU.  The bank owes you whatever you have deposited into it on demand.  (Which is why checking accounts are traditionally called "demand deposit" accounts.)    

Likewise with Social Security.  

You don't have a file with a bunch of dollars (IOU's from the federal reserve, actually) sitting somewhere.  You never had.  Nobody ever had.

The value of the Social Security Trust Fund equals:

  1. The amount that workers and employers have put into the Trust Fund since it started.  PLUS:  
  2. Interest accrued since it started.  MINUS:  
  3. Funds paid out to beneficiaries.  (I do assume that the money to administer the fund comes out of the trust fund, but perhaps I am wrong about that.)  
But NO SOCIAL SECURITY MONEY HAS BEEN BORROWED OR STOLEN by the government, not when Republicans or Democrats have been in power, for anything else.  The value of the trust fund, now about 2.7 trillion dollars, is and always has been the full value of what has been put into the trust fund, PLUS interest, MINUS payments to people.

Worthless IOU's?

The IOU'S that make up the trust fund are only "worthless" if the whole economic system is worthless.  Likewise, the IOU's that make up your checking account are only "worthless" if the bank goes belly up and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation somehow ceases to exist.  If you think the "IOU's" in the social security trust fund are "worthless", then the cash "Federal Reserve Notes" that you might have in your wallet are also worthless.  For they are just pieces of paper that say they are worth something:  They are IOU's as well.

Our whole economy is run on trust, for that matter.  

You assume when you get paid that the automatic deposit into your checking account or the check you receive from your employer is worth something.  The retailers, landlords, utility companies, mortgage companies that take your money, whether via check, cash (those federal reserve IOU's), or electronic transfer, also assume that it is worth something.  Online banking and buying is nothing but the transfer of promises, the transfer of trust. NOTHING actually changes hands in terms of stacks of dollar bills, gold, silver, or any other precious commodity.

"Full Faith and Credit" of the United States Government

But all of these transactions, all of these IOU's, are backed by the "full faith and trust of the United States Government".  If these IOU's are worthless, whether dollar bills, funds in the Social Security Trust Fund, or money in banks and credit unions, then the United States is in really deep doo--- All of us, from the richest CEO with money deposited in the United States  to the poorest person receiving General Assistance (if that even still exists.) 

Social Security started to have (future) problems because the number of employed people paying into the Trust Fund started to go down relative to the number of beneficiaries.  This was supposed to have been fixed with the change to Social Security in the 1980's, but the main event that was unforeseen was the Great Recession of 2008.  Fewer and fewer people were working and contributing to the Trust Fund and more people were taking benefits early because they had no other income. 

Don't believe everything you read in one of those mass emails: 

I wrote this post as part of a reply to the following comment which apparently has been spreading via emails all over the Internet:
My Social Security payments, and those of millions of other Americans, were safely tucked away in an interest bearing account for decades until you political pukes decided to raid the account and give OUR money to a bunch of zero ambition losers in return for votes, thus bankrupting the system and turning Social Security into a Ponzi scheme that would have made Bernie Madoff proud.
My reply to this comment:
The Social Security Trust Fund is INTACT.  Your payments are STILL tucked away in that interest bearing account which is called the Social Security Trust Fund.  No, you don't have a specific account with your specific payments in it, but you never did and neither did anybody else. 

Now, when you deposit your money into a bank account, do you think the bank keeps your dollars sitting in a drawer somewhere? No, of course not. It loans them out to people and corporations. If everybody came in and tried to claim their deposits at one time and wanted currency, the bank would not be able to do it. THEY DON'T HAVE CURRENCY SITTING IN A DRAWER.

Likewise, when you pay your FICA tax, it doesn't sit in a drawer, and it never has. The government does not put a stack of currency in some kind of drawer for you. That money goes into the government's accounts, and the trust fund is credited the amount of whatever you put in.  

Right now there are 2.7 trillion bucks in the Social Security Trust Fund and it is earning about 3.9% interest. That 2.7 trillion includes ALL of the money ever deposited to the trust fund, ALL of the interest ever credited to the trust fund, MINUS all benefits ever paid out. NOTHING has been stolen or "raided".  Check out the value of the Social Security Trust Fund yourself HERE. 

It is unclear who the "zero ambition losers" are that you refer to:  People receiving other benefits? Defense contractors? I would assume, from the context, that whoever wrote this thinks that his/her social security funds are going to pay for "welfare queens". Anyone else want to take a guess?
Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.


Ponzi schemes are fraudulent schemes in which investors think they are getting an increase in their investments, but the money is actually coming from newer investors.  Eventually the whole thing blows up, as it requires a constant influx of new investors.

Social Security is NOT fraudulent.

Everybody KNOWS that we need new workers to help to pay for the benefits of older retirees.  With all of the Baby Boomers retiring, we can certainly use those DREAM workers, working legally, paying money into Social Security legally, can't we?      

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Raising the Medicare Age: Who Benefits? Follow the Money!

Just published on Think Progress:  

Obama suggests raising the Medicare eligibility age is NOT off the table.

Obama was quoted saying:

When you look at the evidence, it’s not clear that it actually saves a lot of money,” he said. “But what I’ve said is let’s look at every avenue, because what is true is we need to strengthen Social Security, we need to strengthen Medicare for future generations, the current path is not sustainable because we’ve got an aging population and health care costs are shooting up so quickly.

There are so many good reasons to NOT raise the age for Medicare eligibility; check THIS LINK with many reasons why we should NOT raise the age for Medicare eligibility.  

Not only will it not save the government that much money, but it will hurt Medicare long term, as the youngest and healthiest Medicare beneficiaries will no longer be in the program.  For any kind of insurance program to be successful, you need people who are going to be paying in and not using the service.. or not using the service very much.

Who might benefit if the eligibility age for Medicare is raised?

Hmmm.....   Private insurers.  

Could this be the biggest reason why the Republicans are pushing for this?  How much are the private insurers lobbying the Democrats as well on this one?

Monday, December 3, 2012

"Entitlements" Debunked

Social Security and Medicare are "Entitlements"?

I worked for them!   

(Note: This article was written in 2012, but the principles are the same.)

I wince whenever I hear the word "entitlements" used to describe Social Security and Medicare.  I started putting money into those funds when I was 14!  

We also were all enlightened when we heard former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney talk about the irresponsible 47% who felt that they were "entitled" to food, shelter, and medicine. (No way should we give any of those low-life veterans, seniors, disabled people, working poor, and students "food"!  Let them starve!)

Sarcasm aside, I found this great explanation of the use and the misuse of the word "entitlements".  No matter, I still wish the Democrats didn't go along with the Republicans in the defined use of this word.  It's still infuriating, and the Republicans and other conservatives have managed to get the upper hand in rhetoric, as they managed to do with the phrase "pro-life".  


Entitlements debunked:
Entitlement is actually a technical accounting term that refers to fixed payments that must be honored. Republicans and their spinmeisters have taken this accounting term and used it in a vernacular form which suggests that an entitlement is, "something you feel you are entitled to." 
It's a linguistics trick which has worked well in influencing the minds of conservatives that our society is full of 'takers' who are getting something for nothing.

Posted HERE at Huffington Post by Jazzman in reply to this article on Obama's response to the Fiscal Cliff entitled "Better Late Than Never" by Robert Kuttner. 

Other readings on those mind-numbing, government-dependency-producing "entitlements":

Important Links and Recent News:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Whiny Liberals Are Merely Envious! (Or not?)

Are Whiny Liberals Merely Envious?  

A federal bankruptcy judge finalized the liquidation of Hostess Brands on Thursday and approved a bonus plan for senior executives involved in the wind-down of the company.

You can imagine the range of comments to this story.  Read them yourself at the link above.

Here's a good one:
Lots of class envy posts from the whiny liberals. I guess Obama winning didn't make them rich or get rid of their jealousy.

"Class Envy" 

This particular story, the ongoing saga of the Hostess liquidation, doesn't directly have anything to do with who lost or won the election.  But it does emphasize the whole issue of the state of American workers vs. corporate owners in this country.  It highlights issues of income and wealth inequality and the increasing problems of people in the middle class.  And it demonstrates one of the biggest right wing talking points:  That the only reason those nasty "liberals" complain about the low taxes and excesses of the rich is just "envy".

I guess people who write those kinds of comments assume that everybody is as selfish, greedy, and as utterly lacking in humanity or compassion as they are.  But no, not true.  So my reply to Mr. "Govtcheese" above:

I'm really, really sorry that you just don't plain get it.
It's really sad that people who think as you do exist in this country.

Photo of homeless girl from Rock Center by Ann Curry

I read a story yesterday (many of these same kinds of stories day after day, year after year) about a working American middle-class family who is now homeless. Health problems, loss of pay, and a period of unemployment caused them to lose their home.

Papa John's CEO's castle. More here 

I also saw a few pictures of some mega homes that were built by an uber-rich working family. Moats, multiple wings, massive garages and swimming pools, "coach houses" that are twice as big as the average home. 

Bangladesh workers march after deadly fire.

Then there were the stories and related pictures of thousands of  workers marching in Bangladesh in protest after 112 garment workers met their fiery deaths making cheap clothing for Americans while earning a whopping $38 a month. 

These various images are seared into my consciousness tonight, juxtaposed into a very disturbing medley of thoughts. 
It's not envy, Mr. Cheese. It's disgust, frustration, anger. My question to you:  Why aren't YOU disgusted, frustrated, and angered? Why do you think that this kind of disparity is just fine? What's wrong with YOU?

Something Wrong Here

I can't help but feel that something is seriously, deadly WRONG with our country when people defend the mega-rich and chastise the working poor and middle class people who are down on their luck.

How do we fix this? 

  • Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    Republicans Complaining About the National Debt Are Like Pigeons Complaining.......

    As the news is completely taken over by debates about the Fiscal Cliff, the National Debt, and Tax Rates, the Republicans try to portray themselves as the champions of fiscal conservatism and frugality.

    But we really know better.

    We know that the deficit was going down, the national debt was also starting to decrease, when Bush took office.  But two unfunded unending wars, tax cuts for the rich, and the unfunded Medicare Part D was then topped off by a recession that started when the housing bubble, fueled by an unregulated financial industry high on exotic new financial instruments, burst.  Gone was the balanced budget, gone were the minimal annual deficit, gone was the decreasing national debt, gone was financial security for millions of Americans.

    Then the Republicans have done whatever they could to blame this stinking mess on the Democrats, in particular, on President Obama.  

    But, as I said above, we really know better:

    Republicans Complaining About the National Debt, now at a sorry 16 trillion (that's 12 zeroes:  16,000,000,000,000), are like cackling flocks of pigeons complaining about bird droppings.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    Don't Raise the Eligibility Age for Medicare or Social Security!

    Don't Raise the Retirement Age for Social Security and Medicare!    

    *Update April 2015:  Actually, I'm not going to change one thing.  The whole issue is being raised again as Republicans have now taken over the Senate.  We do NOT NEED to raise the age for Social Security.  We need to raise the cap!
    From   (This pic doesn't quite fit, but I love it.)

    Gather around, those of you in  your 20's and 30's and 40's:  Let me tell you a story about life.

    Way back in the 1980's, yes, way back when that guy Reagan was the President, they started telling us that there was a real crisis in Social Security.  "We're going to run out of Social Security for you yung'uns", they said, "unless we raise the age for retirement.  And we've got to boost the FICA payroll tax too!"

    Well..  Did we protest?  Did we Occupy anything?  Did we write our CongressCritters?  Did we pile onto Facebook in great numbers to complain?  (Oops.. no Facebook back then, no Occupy back then ... but we did have CongressCritters, and we could write to them via a typewriter, an envelope, and a stamp.)  

    No, we didn't.    

    And why didn't we complain, protest, or take to our typewriters? I'll tell you why:

    We were Strong, Young, and Healthy.

    Many people had gotten new jobs, many people were benefiting from the fast advances in technology, and we were foolish enough to think that we could keep our strength, our youth, and those high paying jobs forever.  We were also plowing money into IRA's and 401K's, and companies were actually engaging in profit-sharing and stock programs. Many companies still offered pensions.  Why would we ever need Social Security, we thought?  A mere thousand or two a month?  Peanuts!  So... who cared?

    Not only that, but some of us were foolish enough to think that the increasing standard of living would continue to.. increase!  We didn't see the caustic and deadly effects of offshoring, outsourcing, and rampant income and wealth inequality.  We didn't see the increasing greed on the part of mega-corporations and the uber-rich.  We watched the movie Wall Street and were disturbed by the Gordon Gekko character who espoused "Greed is Good".  We thought that we'd turned away from that.   

    So... listen my children, and you will hear that many Baby Boomers, perhaps even your parents, have been hit hard by the recession.  

    Some are among the saddest victims of this recession.  Some of these older people in their 50's and 60's have been tossed out of work after decades of fruitful labor.  Many are experiencing long-term unemployme­nt; many have gone through their savings and 401K's and don't have health insurance.   Even though the economy is picking up, somebody who is 62 and hasn't had a full time job for 2 or 3 years is going to be at the bottom of the heap when employers start adding staff.  How are these people, people 55 or 58 or 60 or 62 supposed to survive until they are 69 or 70?  It's tough now for people who are 59 to hold on until early social security at age 62. 

    Those extra years until full retirement are weighing heavily on many of us. Retiring with full benefits at 65 is now just a dream, and a dream that we let drift away.

    Again... listen my children:

    Don't believe people who tell you that Social Security and Medicare won't be there for you.  We heard the same thing 30 years ago.

    Realize that you will not be young and healthy forever and you can't see the future.  Realize that, even if you do manage to stash away a nice chunk of change, your neighbor, your friend, your cousin may not be so lucky.  He/she may really need that Social Security check or that Medicare.  We aren't a good or a strong country if we can't take care of our old and sick; if we can't take care of who are the least fortunate among us.  

    But life expectancy has increased since Social Security was set up!  Shouldn't the retirement age go up as well? 

    I really and truly hope that you, dear reader, aren't thinking this way.  If so, first of all, you need a lesson on life expectancy at birth and life expectancy at any given age.  I would suggest that you read right here to get that information.  Fundamentally, the life expectancy remaining for those who have managed to survive to age 65 has only increased 3 to 5 years (depending on sex and race) since Social Security was implemented, and about 2 to 3 years since Medicare was implemented.  And we have already used up two of those extra 3 to 5 Social Security years when the Social Security age was raised in the 80's.  More about life expectancy (with a chart) HERE.

    Finally, remember that increased life expectancy for those who managed to survive into their 60's does not mean that they can work.  Many chronic disesases are now managed and people actually live, but they may not be able to work; they may be taking medications with serious side effects, even if they don't meet the criteria to be labeled "disabled".   

    Remember also that there is no guarantee that life expectancy will continue to go up.  The harder we work, the more difficult our jobs are; the more stressed out we are, the less likely we will be to live those extra years.  I have also heard, but have not seen the statistics, that people who are poorer have a much lower life expectancy after attaining age 60 than people who are well off.  If that is true, that would mean that raising the retirement age would be a death sentence for people who are poorer:  Those among the working poor  would NEVER attain the new improved retirement age.

    And let's be honest here:  Who is going to hire someone 65 or 66 for a responsible, high-level job?  If you lose your job at age 65 or 66, You will be struggling as a Walmart greeter until you can collect Social Security.

    The Republicans have been talking and talking and talking about raising the age... Talking so much that people are starting to take it for granted.  If you repeat a story often enough, people accept it as the Truth or as a fait accomplis.  

    We are a rich country, not a poor country. 

    We've got people out there who earn millions and billions (Yes, there are people out there who earn a billion plus a year).  Don't buy this "we're going broke" business.  It's pure folly.  (And don't believe those billionaires earned every penny and are therefore somehow superior to you.)

    Don't let them move your retirement age back.  Don't let them move back your age for Medicare eligibility.  You will regret it if you don't fight this now.

    Update 12/4/2012:  I submitted this comment to on raising the Medicare eligibility age:

    "Seniors themselves would end up spending $3.7 billion more as the benefits on the exchange would be less robust than those currently covered through Medicare. Employers would end up footing part of the bill, too, continuing to sponsor an additional two years of coverage." 
    Another reason for employers to dump or refuse to employ people as they get older.  (Not to mention that many people in that 65-66 age bracket will simply not be able to afford insurance on the exchanges.)   
    As it is, the employment participation rate of people 65-69 went down quite a bit after Medicare was implemented and as Social Security started to kick into high gear in the 60's and 70's.  It bottomed out in the mid 80's with only about 10% of people 65+ working. It stayed in the 11-12% range until the recession of 2000.  And then it started to go up and it has continued to go up even as the economy has improved.  It is now up to 17.5%, the highest it has been since 1964.  
    When old people HAVE to work, something is really wrong.  This is NOT a good trend.  The number of people 65+ who are unemployed is now around 500,000, the largest number of unemployed people EVER in that age range, even as the number of unemployed people in other age ranges has decreased (though some of this is due to Baby Boomers passing into that 65+ age bracket.) 

    Other articles about Social Security and Medicare:

    Important Links and Recent News:

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    Right Wing Blogosphere Still Going Nuts

    Almonds, walnuts, cashews, even a few peanuts thrown in for good measure.

    Picture of nuts from No More Dirty Looks

    It's been fun to read right-wing blogs and websites that I have never perused before.  In particular, I was reading at Breitbart over the past couple of days.  Fascinating.  (Yes, Breitbart is gone, but his website lives on.)

    Two things are apparent:  First of all, the haters are still hating.  Secondly, the Republicans have a big, big problem.

    As many of us know, the Republicans were soundly trounced two weeks ago, and some of the more moderate Republicans have begun denouncing the extremists while others have been denouncing the Romney camp.  They've generally been urging a more moderate Republican stance in several arenas.  From an article at the Huffington Post: 

    * Jindal, Walker, Graham aim to broaden party's appeal

    * Republicans must stop insulting voters, Jindal says 

    WASHINGTON, Nov 18 (Reuters) - The Republican Party needs to stop insulting voters and broaden its appeal after Democratic President Barack Obama won re-election this month over Mitt Romney with overwhelming support from Hispanics, blacks and single women, top Republicans said on Sunday. 

    Comments made by two leading Republican governors and an influential U.S. senator on Sunday reflected the soul-searching taking place in the party after Obama's victory over Republican challenger Romney on Nov. 6.

    Carlos Guiterrez, for instance, the Romney advisor on Hispanic issues, was on Candy Crowley's State of the Nation yesterday, Sunday, November 18th:

    Carlos Gutierrez, a top Hispanic American surrogate and adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign, on Sunday expressed outrage over the former presidential candidate’s comment that minorities voted for Obama because he bribed them with “gifts.” 
    “I was shocked. And frankly I don’t think that’s why Republicans lost the election," Gutierrez said during an appearance on CNN’s "State of the Union." "I think we lost the election because the far right of this party has taken the party to a place that it doesn’t belong."
    I have never read much at Breitbart, but I have entertained myself a bit since the election by comparing Breitbart's take on things with that of the more mainstream and/or the more "liberal" press.   the record, Breitbart appears to consistently edit articles, videos, and information to give its readers less information than other media outlets reporting on the same thing.  Examples HERE and HERE.)

    The Republicans Are Moving Away from the Tea Party and to the Center?
    So.. It's a good thing that the Republicans want to moderate themselves, right?  Thank heavens that some Republicans are opening their eyes?

    To those of us who have some sense, yes, of course.  But not to the uber-righties at Breitbart, as expressed below and in dozens of similar comments  (Emphasis added by me):

    This is such crap. We haven't moved Right at all. The fact is that we've moved so far Left that we ended up nominating Mitt Romney-- the ultimate Establishment , Liberal, Rockefeller Republican candidate We nominated the guy who invented RomneyCare (the prototype for ObamaCare), the guy who donated to Planned Parenthood, the guy who had a program to use taxpayer money to pay for abortions, the guy who kicked the boy scouts out of the Olympics to appease gay rights groups, the guy who said he would always defend a "woman's right to choose", the guy who bragged about having tough control laws in Massachusetts... we nominated THE MOST LIBERAL REPUBLICAN IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY and they still say we need to move further to the Left. How much further to the Left can we move?!!
    332 likes for that comment.
    we are infiltrated by marxist evil pigs- and they are trying to make us think we must be like them to win.NO WE MUST NOT
    117 likes on that one.  Spelling and grammar unedited.
    It seems like everyone, our own leaders included, are buying this false narrative that the "far right" in this country are trying to legislate morality.  That simply isn't true.  Are they out there trying to outlaw contraception?  Make it illegal to have sex out of wedlock?  Obviously not.  Where they are making a stand are on legitimate issues of life and liberty, and we're allowing the left to cast us as religious zealots out to impose our religion on others.  And our own leaders won't even stand up for us!  This is such a caricature, that the "far right" wants to make this country into a theocracy.  I'm sick of it.  The positions we take are perfectly consistent with our founding principles.  It is demeaning to pass us off as bible-thumping wackos just because our positions happen to be consistent with biblical teaching.  We can argue every position from founding principles, without every resorting to the bible for justification.  And the reason that's true is because the founding principles are inspired by and perfectly consistent with God's laws, as stated in the Declaration of Independence.  It is the left that has strayed from the course set forth in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and, ironically, they often justify these deviations as biblically inspired, as being necessary in order to satisfy biblical social justice.  So it is the left, in fact, that is forcing their religious beliefs on us.  But the media never mentions this.  It doesn't fit the narrative.
    These guys (referring to Republicans who aren't as right as the reader feels that they should be) need to be put back in their cage for good!.....they only tolerated Reagan and couldn't wait til his time was up. Bush played the good Conservative VP for 8 years then pulled the rug out from under Graham Rudman. The "thousand points of lights" was the beginning of the end for the short lived Conservative era. Daddy Bush gave us Clinton, Baby Bush gave us Obama, what more can I say?  Until we run another true Conservative a la  Reagan we will never win another election. We may have already lost the WH for good. .....and THIS is what progressive Republicans do. When we run as Conservatives on Conservative principles we win......anything else and we lose.  A TRUE Conservative would have wiped the floor up with Obama. Romney with this aholes help couldn't even bring in as many votes as McCain. 
    Time to purge the party or leave this one to rot.
    Try winning any election without the conservative / Tea Party vote.  Good luck with that.  Here's a new concept.  Try running a conservative next time, you idiots.
    So... the Republicans have problems.

    To be fair, I don't how representative Breitbart readers are of the right wing base of the Republican party.  But it is clear that Republicans have the same problem that brought the Tea Party people to prominence in late 2008:  The uber-righties are not interested in moderating their ideas nor are they interested in supporting Republicans who are more moderate.  If the Republican party moves to the center and refuses to condemn "illegals", refuses to condemn people who are pro-choice, refuses to trash people who are unemployed, struggling, or just poor , the Republican party may just alienate the right wing of their party and continue to lose national and state-wide elections.  The last comment above makes the issue for the Republicans very clear:

    Try winning any election without the conservative / Tea Party vote. 

    But can the Republicans win any election without the votes of moderates, women, and minorities?

    How do they become more moderate when millions, of people who might be "the Republican base" are still racist, hateful, judgmental, and often without knowledge or common sense?

    Grab some popcorn.. or perhaps a bowl of nuts.. and let's see what happens to the Republican party.

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