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Thursday, April 28, 2011

How About a Fair Deal Instead of a New Deal?

Social Security is not a fair deal, nor is it some sort of retirement savings account; it's a Ponzi scheme at best and a socialist program at worst that threatens to implode in exactly the same way that Bernie Madoff and the U.S.S.R., imploded. The problem with Social Security―as any actuary could easily explain―is that it is essentially an insurance program. However, it is a incredibly foolish one that gives exactly zero thought to actuarial tables and the accounting that keeps insurance companies from going bankrupt. Anyone who's ever purchased life-insurance is well aware that age, gender, race, lifestyle, as well as physical condition and family history all play a major role in setting the price of the insurance premium. None of these incredibly important considerations were ever considered when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act of 1935 into law, nor were these crucial concerns of any concern to President Lyndon Baines Johnson when he signed into law the Social Security Amendments of 1965 which became known as Medicare and Medicaid.

When I purchase life insurance, I'm making a bet with an insurance company that I'll die young. If I do happen to die at a younger age than the insurance company wagers that I will, then I win a big payout. When Uncle Sam confiscates Social Security out of my paycheck, I'm forced to make the bet that I'll live a long time, while Uncle Sam is betting that I'll die young. Once I reach my retirement age I begin to collect Social Security, and continue collecting every month for as long as I live. At some point if I live long enough, I become the winner of the wager when I begin to collect more than I paid in. If I die before the break-even point then Uncle Sam wins and keeps all the money left-over. The major problem with this Ponzi scheme, is that the first investors―[some taxpayers began receiving benefits after paying Social Security for only a single month]―got all the money while those of us who came later are going to end up getting the shaft.

Additionally, not enough thought was given to advances in medical treatments that extend lives, nor was any sort of consideration given to the fact that some people are quite obviously not going to live as long as others. Why do men have to pay for their Social Security at the same rate as women, when we know that women live on average seven years longer? That difference of seven years―which will pay the average women as much as $100,000.00 more than the average man―should equate to substantially lower Social Security premiums for men than for women. Similar concerns for race are true. There is a five year shortfall in life expectancy for blacks; which translates to $75,000.00. Shouldn't black people have a lower Social Security Premium? What about smokers? What about people with a family history of congestive heart failure? Since proper odds-making―actuarial―data is ignored, many of us are being forced to make a sucker's bet.

A fair Social Security program would either be a true insurance program with all of the actuarial data built in and premiums set accordingly, or it would be a true retirement account with payments allotted over a set time period and once completely paid out, that would be that. Any funds remaining because of an earlier than expected death would be paid to family survivors as planned for within a will or similar instrument.

Friday, April 22, 2011

By Hook or by Crook

A Comedic Tragedy


Introduction
Wisconsin passed the Budget Repair Bill which stripped some of the collective bargaining rights from public service labor unions. The events and the controversy leading up to its passing are detailed and involved. In case you've been lost at sea since February 2011, the state legislature of Wisconsin passed a bill which will require government employees to finally begin to pay a small portion of their income towards their health insurance, and another small portion towards their retirement pension. Ominously―for labor unions―the bill will also prohibit labor unions from practicing some types of collective bargaining, and in addition will also require labor union members to vote yearly on whether their labor unions will continue to exist. Most insidious of all, this bill will prohibit the long-standing practice of letting labor unions take their dues directly out of member paychecks.

Act 1
Even though Democrats were in the minority in both the House and the Senate, these good old boys didn't let their numerical disadvantage get in the way of making sure that their constituency―I.E. Labor Unions―kept a stranglehold on the Wisconsin budget in the form of lavish salaries and extravagant benefits for its public sector union members.

In a nutshell here's the way it all works: Public Sector Labor Unions negotiate with Democrats for higher pay and ever more generous benefits. In return for granting these ruinous wages and bankrupting benefits, the Democrats in power accept bribes from these unions in the form of campaign contributions. This egregious corruption and crooked double-dealing is so entrenched within the Democratic Party leadership that it has become the status quo. If Democrats and Unions were unable to continue pillaging the state's treasury the way they have grown accustomed to, they could all end up out of a job! The Senate Democrats had to stop this bill, it was just that simple. So they fled. They used a procedural technicality to flout the will of the people. Since the bill was a budgetary matter, without a quorum of 3/5 of the members present the vote on the budget repair bill could not proceed. The Democrats fled across state lines and there they were prepared to stay.

Act 2
Thousands of angry and destructive union members—along with their families and friends—descended on Madison Wisconsin. They attempted to thwart the will of the people through thuggery and vandalism and violent threat. This circumstance dragged on for weeks, until in a surprise move the Senate passed an amended and pared down version of the bill which had no budgetary matters contained within it anymore. It retained all of the sections which curtail collective bargaining and which require annual votes by union members to allow public sector labor unions to continue existing.

Having failed to win their elections, and having failed to stop the vote by a cynical exploitation of procedural rules, Democrats were left with their usual method of getting their way—lawsuits. It's no surprise that they found a politically friendly judge to temporarily halt implementation of the collective bargaining law. Lawyers and judges are overwhelmingly liberal in their political views. Meanwhile, Labor Unions tried and finally abandoned a statewide scheme to blackmail and extort local businesses into putting up “We support Labor Union” signs on their property. This entire sordid and controversial mess looked like it must eventually all wind up at the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.

Act 3
A Wisconsin Supreme Court Election was held on April 15, 2011. This election between conservative incumbent David Prosser and Progressive challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg was a last ditch effort to kill the collective bargaining law. A statewide drive to “Get out the Vote” and defeat Prosser was rolled out by the Democratic Party. There is little doubt that if Kloppenburg had won it would have guaranteed that when the time came for the Supreme Court to rule on the “constitutionality” of the law, they would have―in a narrow 4-3 split decision and through some mealy-mouthed distortion of the plain words of the Wisconsin State Constitution―decided to rule it unconstitutional. Unfortunately for the Democrats and their Unions, Kloppenburg lost the election.

Act 4
The win by Prosser was a narrow one, but a very decisive one. Few people believe that Kloppenburg has a prayer of overturning the more than 7000 vote lead by Prosser. But she sure is going to try! I am not quite so sanguine about that virtually assured recount win by Prosser. I vividly remember how Al Gore's recounts in 2000 garnered him more and more votes as they recounted and recounted. It was almost like magic the way each recount found more and more votes for Al Gore. And let us not forget Al Franken, who ended up overturning the victory of Norm Colemen in Minnesota. Almost without variance, whenever a recount occurs, the Democrats mysteriously gain votes while the Republicans lose votes.

I'm not saying that Democrats are dishonest―the record of Public Sector Labor Union donations to Democrats who then pay them back with taxpayer money notwithstanding. I'm not saying that Democrats will stop at absolutely nothing to win—no matter how much they have to cheat to do it. Ok, that's exactly what I'm saying. They are dishonest and they will stop at absolutely nothing. When it comes to corruption and gaming the system, the Democrats are peerless masters.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Donald for President?

In Donald Trump we have the possibility of a real spoiler since he's already threatened to run as an independant if he does not win the Republican primary. This would split the conservative ticket giving Obama a free ride back to the Whitehouse in 2012. Donald Trump will run as a Republican even though he is politically left of center. When I read some of the things he's said and written over the years, it's clear that he's decidedly left of center. He supports abortion, which is the single hotbutton issue which defines a true liberal.
I support a woman’s right to choose, but I am uncomfortable with the procedures. When Tim Russert asked me on Meet the Press if I would ban partial-birth abortion, my pro-choice instincts led me to say no. After the show, I consulted two doctors I respect and, upon learning more about this procedure, I have concluded that I would support a ban.
Source: The America We Deserve, by Donald Trump, p. 31-32 Jul 2, 2000
Donald Trump also wants to raise taxes on the rich. Are we supposed to be supportive of a person who's willing to raise his own taxes?not if he's raising the taxes of other people as well. Trump is free to give as much money as he wants to Uncle Sam. What he is not free to do, is give Uncle Sam other people's money. Like most conservatives, I'm morally against stealing money from some Americans to help out some other Americans.
Trump proposed a 14.25% tax on the net worth of wealthy Americans. People and trusts valued at more than $10 million would be subject to the new tax. The original plan called for collection in a single year but, in a last-minute change, Trump said he would allow more time for people having trouble liquefying their assets. “Let’s say 10 years,” he said.
Source: Boston Globe, p. A19 Nov 10, 1999

Perhaps most telling, are his views on universal healthcare. Before the debacle of Obamacare ever reared its ugly head, The Donald Trumpeted his support of a universal healthcare system here in America.
I’m a conservative on most issues but a liberal on health. It is an unacceptable but accurate fact that the number of uninsured Americans has risen to 42 million. Working out detailed plans will take time. But the goal should be clear: Our people are our greatest asset. We must take care of our own. We must have universal healthcare.
Source: The America We Deserve, by Donald Trump, p.206-208 & 218 Jul 2, 2000

If I was to say one thing about the Donald that almost nobody would contradict it's that his number one concern is money. His focus is wealth. So if you want to know what he really thinks, just look at where he spent his money. Where does The Donald put his money? Since 1978 it has been special interests who get the lion's share of Trump's largesse or $376,083.00, followed closely by Democrats at $252,900.00. Last and certainly least are his donations given to Republicans at $184,650.

There you have it. He's for abortion, for Obamacare and wants higher taxes on the “rich.” His supporters might believe that his business success and wheel and deal acumen would help him to finally get America back on track with a balanced budget, but Trump filed for corporate bankruptcy in 1991, 1992, 2004, and 2009. Four Times! That does not exactly inspire my confidence in this man to save this country from bankruptcy. In my opinion, this presidential run by the Donald sounds like another cynical attempt to pad his own bank account with another billion or two.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Budget Deal That No One Liked...

The urge to destroy dwells deep down within us. I don't know what causes it―maybe it's the Devil!―but I know it's real. The destructive impulse is what causes children to break their toys. It's what causes bullies and murderers to hurt and kill. It causes wars and cruelty; it's what led Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Hitler to conquer the known world. I can only see one purpose for our destructive natures. It's a bit of a stretch but I can vaguely imagine a Darwinian rationale explaining our innate desire for destruction. Destruction tends to weed out the weak and undesirable; those unable to adapt to a changed world will not be around to compete with the rest of us.

Well whether you admit to your own destructive nature or not, I believe it exists in all of us and is fully evident to anyone who really looks at the state of our nation as it exists today. We are more than 14 trillion dollars in debt and the politicians who we elected on the promise of drastic spending cuts have gone to the table and come back with 38 billion in cuts. The deficit will be 1.4 trillion this year, so that 38,000,000,000 is just 3%[three percent!]. We need to cut another 97% before we start paying down the national debt. The spin out there in liberal land is that both sides are unhappy with this deal. Well, I'm so...just so pleased that the liberals are unhappy with this deal that it almost makes my own slice of this shit pie nearly palatable...no not really.

I'm talking end of the world destruction here, and apparently, we're all waiting with bated breath to see it. When someone comes up with a plan to avert the nationwide cataclysm about to crash down on us, immediately millions of voices cry out in fury and soon the protest buses are rolling. When we finally go bankrupt―and all signs point that way, when we lose our Aaa credit rating, when the rest of the world decides that the American Dollar is no longer going to be the world’s reserve currency, when "the rich" finally decide they've had enough and just move to some other country, the rest of us will be scrambling. We'll be scrambling to hold on to fewer jobs. We'll be scrambling to pay for gasoline north of seven dollars per gallon. We'll be scrambling to find a doctor, to find medicine, to find health insurance. Most of us will be scrambling our way to the front of the bread-line before the limited supply runs out for the day.

I think there are people here in the USA who will be happy if we go bankrupt. Maybe they have a stockpile of food and a cache of guns to protect it with, and they think all the myriad sorts of people that they hate will die off and their own world will thereby improve. They want to play a game of Russian roulette with their neighbors in the hopelessly misguided belief that they are invincible.

I think there are people living in America who truly hate this country and want to see it fall, people who are politically active and vote for whoever is the worst. It wouldn't surprise me to discover that many of these "agents of chaos" run for office themselves. It wouldn't surprise me to find one of these agents in the highest office of them all. Some people hate us. Some people are jealous of our prosperity. Some people have parents who taught them rage and racism, dependency and fear, from their first day in the cradle. Some people just like to watch things burn.

While hundreds of modern day Cassandras have been screaming their heads off, not very many people seem to be listening. We just keep piling on that debt like there's no tomorrow...exactly like there’s no tomorrow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Freedom Fading

I'm not as free as I once was. Doesn't every adult look back with fond nostalgia on what they lost when youthful freedom turned into adult responsibility? Perhaps the same thing is true of America. We once had the freedom to say what we pleased, just so long as those words caused no harm. We no longer have that freedom of speech. In our litigious grown-up world, anything we do or say can cause harm because someone else may hear us or see us and might react violently. It is apparently the case that our simple words and nonthreatening actions can unhinge others and cause them to lash out in a violent rampage.

Today, before we speak we must stop and parse our words carefully lest we cause offense. Before we act we must stop and consider carefully whether our actions might possibly be offensive―to some highly umbrageous religious fanatic for instance. Such was the case with Sir Salman Rushdie. His book The Satanic Verses caused international controversy and inflamed the Muslim world. Recently he was knighted and this action once again inflamed the Muslim world.

It doesn't take much to inflame the Muslim world, which is why it's so hard to understand why Pastor Terry Jones decided to go through with his threats to set a book on fire. He could have burned the Bible. No one would have been upset by that. He could have burned the Torah or the Shruti or the Tipitaka. He might have set fire to the Zend-Avesta or the Dao De jing, the Ginza Rba or the Book of Mormon. He might even have torched Dianetics. There is one book however that is sacrosanct, and that book is the Koran. You can set an American Flag on fire in protest of homosexuals at the funeral of an American Soldier killed in combat―that is protected speech according to the Supreme Court, but don't you dare strike a match near the “Holy Koran.
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan — Stirred up by three angry mullahs who urged them to avenge the burning of a Koran at a Florida church, thousands of protesters on Friday overran the compound of the United Nations in this northern Afghan city, killing at least 12 people, Afghan and United Nations officials said.
The followers of the religion of peace are gradually teaching us―one painful lesson at a time―that our freedom of speech stops where their religion starts. Some people―like Terry Jones―are just really hard-headed and have to be taught the hard way. Well, we are all going to be taught one way or another that American rights are secondary to Islamic beliefs. There is already a word for this concept of appeasement towards followers of Islam. That word is Dhimmitude. It is a critical tenet of Sharia rule. Once we American Dhimmis have fully learned the lesson to always be respectful of the Koran there will be further lessons.