Monthly Archives: May 2011

A Misstep on Medicare –

This was a good blog in the New York Times about the Republicans’ miscalculation in proposing the Ryan Medicare overhaul that was passed in the House.  Although it was last week, I’m just catching up and you may not have seen it either, so here it is:
May 16, 2011, 9:34 PM

The Need for Greed


Timothy EganTimothy Eganon American politics and life, as seen from the West.

The bet was audacious from the beginning, and given the miserable, low-down tenor of contemporary politics, not unfathomable: Could you divide the country between greedy geezers and everyone else as a way to radically alter the social contract?

But in order for the Republican plan to turn Medicare, one of most popular government programs in history, into a much-diminished voucher system, the greed card had to work.

The plan’s architect, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, drew a line in the actuarial sand: Anyone born before 1957 would not be affected. They could enjoy the single-payer, socialized medical care program that has allowed millions of people to live extended lives of dignity and decent health care.

And their kids and grandkids? Sorry, they would have to take their little voucher and pay some private insurer nearly twice as much as a senior pays for basic government coverage today. In essence, Republicans would break up the population between an I’ve Got Mine segment and The Left Behinds.

Again, not a bad political calculation. Altruism is a squishy notion, hard to sustain in an election. Ryan himself has made a naked play for greed in defending the plan. “Seniors, as soon as they realize this doesn’t affect them, they are not so opposed,” he has said.

Well, the early verdict is in, and it looks as though the better angels have prevailed: seniors are opposed. Republicans: Meet the Fockers. Already, there is considerable anxiety — and some guilt — among older folks about leaving their children worse off financially than they are. To burden them with a much costlier, privatized elderly health insurance program is a lead weight for the golden years.

This plan is toast. Newt Gingrich is in deep trouble with the Republican base for stating the obvious on Sunday, when he called the signature Medicare proposal of his party “right-wing social engineering.” But that’s exactly what it is: a blueprint for downward mobility.

Look at the special Congressional election of next Tuesday. What was supposed to be a shoo-in for Republicans in a very safe district of upstate New York is now a tossup. For that, you can blame the Medicare radicals now running the House.

And a raft of recent polls show that seniors, who voted overwhelmingly Republican in the 2010 elections, are retreating in droves. Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin says the Ryan plan is a “watershed event,” putting older voters in play for next year’s presidential election.

Beyond the political calculations, all of this is encouraging news because it shows that people are starting to think much harder about what kind of country they want to live in. Give the Republicans credit for honesty and showing their true colors. And their plan is at least a starting point compared with those Tea Party political illiterates who waved signs urging government to keep its hands off their government health care.

When the House of Representatives voted to end Medicare as we know it last month, it was sold as a way to save the program. Medicare now covers 47.5 million Americans, but it won’t have sufficient funds to pay full benefits by 2024, according to the most recent trustee report. Something has to be done.

Many Republicans want to kill it. They hate Medicare because it represents everything they are philosophically opposed to: a government-run program that works and is popular across the political board. It’s tough to shout about the dangers of universal health care when the two greatest protectors (if not creators) of the elderly middle class are those pillars of 20th-century progressive change, Social Security and Medicare.

For next year’s election, all but a handful of Republicans in the House are stuck with the Scarlet Letter of the Ryan Plan on their record. Soon, there will be a similar vote in the Senate. It will not pass, but it will show which side of the argument politicians are on.

There is a very simple way to make Medicare whole through the end of this century, far less complicated, and more of a bargain in the long run than the bizarre Ryan plan. Raise taxes. It hasn’t sunk in yet, but most American pay less taxes now than anytime in the last 50 years, according to a number of measurements. And a majority of the public now seems willing to pay a little extra (or force somebody else to pay a little extra) to keep a good thing going. Both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush raised taxes, by the way.

Given a choice between self-interest and the greater good, voters will usually watch out for themselves — unless that greater good is their own family. For Republicans intent on killing Medicare, it was a monumental miscalculation to miss that logical leap.

This column appeared in print on May 17, 2011.


OK, I admit it – I finally looked on Twitter

Andy Borowtiz is just as funny – if not more so, in his one-liners on Twitter.  I finally succumbed and looked at his Twitter feed.  Here are some of his one-liners.  I could hardly stay on my computer chair while reading them.

This makes for great pain relief – the great Paul Cousins used humor to alleviate the symptoms of his disease and I heartily recommend it – whether physical or other pain!  Here he is:

It’s been a week since the world was supposed to end, and I wasted most of it on Twitter.

Palin Urges Gaddafi to Quit: ‘Then You Can Get Your Own TV Show’

Maybe we wouldn’t need to Drill, Baby, Drill if Sarah Palin didn’t take so many bus tours.

Palin, on her 2012 chances: “Oprah proved this week that America loves people who quit stuff.”

I just saw the new Sarah Palin movie. Todd doesn’t have a speaking role.

The question isn’t “Will Sarah Palin run in 2012?”, it’s “Who will be President in 2014 when she quits?”

Bring back Bubonic Plague to reduce Medicare rolls.

In the Paul Ryan budget, Social Security is replaced by a program in which seniors are issued “Will Work 4 Food” signs.

I think I’m having such a hard time saying goodbye to Oprah because I never said hello to her.

My ability to tweet started improving once I stopped having complete thoughts.

FEMA surveys wreckage of Eric Cantor

Everyone on Twitter: We really should have written the works of Shakespeare by now. Type faster.

For the 2012 campaign, Obama is counting on all the key people who helped him win in 2008, including Sarah Palin.

Harold Camping just predicts the end of the world – people like Paul Ryan do the hard work of making it happen.

The Ryan budget calls for Medicare to be replaced by Predator drones shooting at old people.

The Republicans need to come up with a more appealing alternative to Medicare than death.

FEMA estimates the cost of rebuilding Eric Cantor’s soul

DC Comics Names Eric Cantor New Batman Villain

Eric Cantor’s official statement: “While I have never experienced a tornado per se, I do live in a moral vacuum.”

I rest my case.  Thank you, Andy.

Andy Borowitz does it again-

FEMA Declares Eric Cantor a Disaster Area

Congressman Denies Funds to Self

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – One day after Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) stirred controversy by withholding funds for tornado relief, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took the extraordinary step of declaring Rep. Cantor a disaster area.

Within hours of the declaration, FEMA officials were dispatched to assess the damage to Mr. Cantor’s status as a human being capable of empathy.

“I’ve seen a lot of hurricanes and tornados, but this is something new,” said FEMA spokesman Tracy Klugian.  “Rep. Cantor appears to have been caught up in a moral vacuum.”

While concerned FEMA officials looked on, the morally ravaged House Majority Leader took to the floor of the House to make the case for denying funds to repair himself.

The FEMA spokesman said that the agency was currently trying to estimate the cost of rebuilding Mr. Cantor’s soul.

“Quite frankly, I’ve never seen devastation like this,” Mr. Klugian said.  “It’s like there’s nothing there.”

How our debt happened

All the talk about the debt ceiling and where we are going to cut expenditures has my blood boiling.  There is a great explanation and graph of where we stand and how we got here from Ezra Klein and the bottom line is that it came from the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Add to that a little recession and bailout for Wall Street – minor in relation to the former insults, and we are where we are now.

Furthermore, the fact is that in 2001 Bush’s advisors told him there would be a 5 trillion dollar surplus over the next 10 years, whereas there was a 5 trillion dollar deficit – a 10 trillion dollar difference!!!

What really irks me is how the right has framed the argument – again – and all the left can do is try to rebut the argument already in play i.e. cut entitlements, or we will not raise the debt ceiling.  This blackmail has got to stop.

Barney Frank was so eloquent and pungent today when he said that cutting the defense of Europe against a non-existent Soviet Union, and cutting spending on the Iraq and Afghan wars was a much better place to be cutting than eliminating useful Medicare dollars that benefit Americans who need care and keeping those the dollars in this country!

But the Right wants to eliminate 80 years of the New Deal since Roosevelt and is willing to use any methods to do so. They tried to privatize Social Security under Bush, but the Great Recession killed that, so now they are on to Medicare. The Obama plan will save money and Medicare and help everyone, as it has done under Romneycare in Massachusetts, but they are trying every legal tactic to kill it, too.

And, by the way, every war in our history has caused our debt to rise.  See this graph from the Government Accounting Office!  Why should this time be different?

Where do I start? – Been away too long!!

Another case proves the point I made in March about testosterone levels and power!  The IMF chief, who is innocent until proven guilty, probably imploded his life the way many other high-powered men have, by leading with his zipper.  And the Californicator turned out to be just that.  My previous post, citing the research on the subject explains why this just keeps happening over and over again – Arnold Schwartzenegger, John Ensign, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Gary Hart, Jack Kennedy, and the list just goes on….  What surprises me is why we continue to be surprised.  Let’s just turn the positions of power over to women and be done with it!  We certainly couldn’t do a worse job.

Just sharing…

Another great read-  Joseph Stiglitz on Project Syndicate.  This particular column is called “Gambling with the Planet” – and covers everything from the too-big-to-fail banks to the Japan tsunami/earthquake/nuclear disaster to climate change and what we are risking.  Tough read but well worth it.

Thank you, Barry Ritholtz – His biweekly reading lists often lead to new finds

As ever, Barry’s list of readings intrigues and broadens the mind.  And look what I found now:

Brain Pickings  – This site just blew my mind with today’s list of :

5 Guides to Life from Cultural Luminaries

Read more:

Just reading the synopses of the books Kirstin recommends had me drooling and wishing I were washed up on a desert island with all of them.  Now, to choose just one or two…

Also an amazing read – • Apocalypse: What Disasters Reveal (Boston Review)

But first, Andy Borowitz had this to say…

2012 Election Cancelled

Obama Buoyed by 100 Percent Approval Rating

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – In what historians are calling an unprecedented development in American politics, both major parties decided today to cancel the 2012 election.

The decision to scrap the 2012 contest came on the heels of a new poll showing President Barack Obama with an approval rating of one hundred percent, believed to be a record high for an American president.

Mr. Obama even polled well among Republicans, with a majority of GOP voters agreeing with the statement, “I no longer care that he wasn’t born here.”

The new bipartisan spirit sweeping the nation was captured well by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who tearfully told reporters, “This is a great day for America… oh, leave me alone, goddamn it.”

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump made no official announcement, but sources said he was considering running for Prime Minister of Canada.

The cancellation of the election comes in the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, whose last words reportedly were, “I knew I shouldn’t have signed up for Foursquare.”

Of all the major news networks, Fox News did not report news of bin Laden’s death, saying that it would air cartoons “until further notice.”

In Libya, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi issued the following official statement: “Uh-oh.”

In North Korea, President Kim Jong-Il said this: “I have lost my last friend on Facebook.”

And in Wasilla, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said this: “We must find and kill Osama bin Laden.”

Be sure to go to the potty before reading this one from Andy Borowitz!

He just seems to be the funniest man in America right now!

Trump Undecided About What Stupid Shit to Say Next

Longest Period of Speechlessness on Record, Experts Say

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) – With the public’s attention focused on the death of Osama bin Laden, billionaire Donald Trump huddled with advisors for the second straight day to try to decide what stupid shit to say next.

“The bin Laden thing has definitely stolen the headlines from Donald,” said close associate and advisor Tracy Klugian.  “The only way he can grab them back is by doing what he does best: saying something really fucked up.”

Trump’s two-day hiatus from spewing messed up shit is the longest on record, experts say, adding to the pressure on the billionaire to break his silence with something truly craptastic.

To that end, he has closeted himself with a circle of advisors including the Rev. Pat Robertson, former NBA star Charles Barkley, and the former voice of the Aflac duck, Gilbert Gottfried.

Mr. Trump has drawn up a short list of verbal turds that have potential, including attacking President Obama for overdue library books during his grade school years, but so far he has failed to come up with a comment that is both objectionable and ill informed enough to meet his high standards.

“People don’t know how much work goes into saying the stupid shit Donald says,” Mr. Klugian said.  “He just makes it look easy.”

Elsewhere, in another setback for al-Qaeda, the terror network confirmed today that Osama bin Laden was the only person who knew the organization’s iTunes password.