A lot of conservatives/Trump voters are confused as to why Liberals are saying that the tax bill Congress passed today will be bad for entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.  Below is a brief explanation as to why, but first let’s stop calling them “entitlements” because they aren’t.  It’s not like welfare, which you are “entitled to” if you meet certain criteria and into which you don’t have to contribute.  Call Social Security “deferred payments” or a “pension”.  For that matter call Medicare “pre-payed health insurance”.  But they’re not entitlements because you paid into them!  Okay, got that off my chest.

Social Security has always been a “partially reserved” fund.  In other words, like many pension funds, it was never “fully funded” 100%.  Simply put, every penny we have put in isn’t there for a lot of very complicated reasons I won’t get into here (see Note 1).  For the most part how much the fund contains at any given point depends on how well the economy has been doing and each generation pretty much pays for the next generation.  That’s why we hear stories like “Social Security only funded until 2034”.  That year could be later if the economy has a good run or it could come sooner if we have another recession/depression.  Medicare works similarly.

Since the health of those two “deferred payment” programs depends on the economy and the Deficit (see Note 2 at bottom) is one of the leading indicators and factors that affects the health of the economy, any increase in the Deficit forces the US to borrow more, which in turn increases our Debt.  The Tax Bill passed today (see Note 3) will decrease Revenue and Congress has not offset that decrease in Revenue by reducing how much we spend.  So the GOP, who used to accuse the Democratic party as being “Tax and Spend Liberals” has now officially become the party of “Taxes for Thee but not for Me and My Wealthy Friends”–a tried and true method to destroying any economy.

In the past one of the most important ways the GOP has tried to bring the deficit down is to make changes to Social Security and Medicare.  They can try to push back the age at which we can start receiving Social Security–this is called “full retirement age” (see Note 4).    The GOP will say they can save millions by just pushing back that age for you and I and it is true, it will save money.  But it will make our lives infinitely harder.  Maybe I won’t be able to continue working when I’m 67.  Last I heard they are talking about pushing it back to 70.  My grandparents died at 75. What if I pass away then?  That means I’ve been working since I was 14 and contributing to Social Security all those years and if I’m lucky I might get 5 years of benefits out of it.  That’s nuts and patently unfair.

Not only can they do that, they can change the formula for how much you can receive if you remain employed.  For now, if you try to get Social Security early, you can only collect a certain amount.  For example in 2015  your benefits would have been temporarily reduced by $1 for every $2 you earned above $15,720.   This “earning limit” gets changed every year.   So the GOP could say that your benefit is reduced by $1.50 for every $2 or say that the earning limit doesn’t increase (and therefore won’t help you keep up with Cost of Living Increases).

In regards to Medicare, they could start “means-testing” (again this is a GOP proposal that’s been around for a while).  This would mean the government would check to see how much you make and say that anyone making above a certain level must pay a greater percentage of Medicare costs.  On the surface this sounds fair.  But the fairness of it depends on what that “income level” is determined to be.  For example, the 2015 poverty threshold for a single individual was $12,082 / year.  Can you imagine living on that?  If you make more than that, the government doesn’t consider you poor.  The same principle will be applied to Medicare means-testing.  The GOP will push for a very low “means” and the already struggling Middle Class will be hit very hard.  If the Middle Class is dependent upon Social Security for retirement (and we have a good idea that they are, see Note 5 ) and the GOP plans on reducing those benefits along with Medicare benefits, then there is going to be a lot of elderly people really struggling.  In fact, an elderly care crisis has already begun.  The timing of this deficit increase, in order to give the wealthy more tax breaks, could not have been worse for the average American.

To sum it up, there are lots of ways that the GOP can affect these two programs that will hurt not only the Poor but the Middle Class, and they’ve been making noises for years that they can’t wait to get their grubby hands on them (Speaker Ryan has said he’s been dreaming of cutting them since college). By passing this tax bill they have essentially created a budgetary crisis for which they will now claim is the reason why they have to change the rules for these two programs. Anyone who voted for Trump and is happy about this Tax Bill better enjoy the pennies they get back in April because they’re not going to be happy further down the road when they have to resort to eating cat food.  Unfortunately it won’t be just Trump voters who will be eating kitty kibble–we all will.

NOTES:

  1. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/08/18/5-facts-about-social-security/  Just Google history of social security and you can drown in the details if you so desire
  2. Do NOT conflate Debt and Deficit.  They are NOT the same thing.  In simple terms, a budget deficit is the difference between what the federal government spends (called outlays) and what it takes in (called revenue or receipts). The national debt, also known as the public debt, is the result of the federal government borrowing money to cover years and years of budget deficits.
  3. “The plan would permanently drop the corporate tax from 35 percent to 21 percent, while also rewriting the individual tax rules to lower rates and restructure deductions. The plan would cut taxes in 2018 for the vast majority of households, with by far the largest benefits going to the wealthy. Many of the tax breaks are set to expire at the end of 2025, leaving a large section of the middle class to pay more in taxes. But Republicans promise a future Congress will intervene to prevent that tax hike from happening.”  from the https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/gop-tax-bill-passes-congress-as-trump-prepares-to-sign-it-into-law/2017/12/20/0ba2fd98-e597-11e7-9ec2-518810e7d44d_story.html?utm_term=.7cfa59492113
  4. I was born in 1970 so right now that means I can’t start collecting until I’m 67 years old.    Follow the link to find out what your full retirement age is.   https://www.thebalance.com/when-can-i-start-receiving-social-security-benefits-2894602
  5. https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickwwatson/2017/10/12/boomers-are-not-saving-enough-for-retirement-neither-is-the-government/#5624b5d81a4d
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Photos of my latest project

Posted: December 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

A bowl I am making for my daughter.  The owl on the bottom inside in copper.

The vines and grapes around the inside.

The four elements on the outside:. Earth, Fire, Water and Air.

The sun on the lid and my daughter’s name on the inside.

My two cents on the political stories floating around each week.

  • Today Louis C.K., one of my favorite comedians, admitted to sexually harassing several women.
    –TAKEAWAY: Goshdangit, I just can’t even with this….
  • Former DNC Interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile has slightly modified her criticism of the 2016 primary and the DNC (‘it wasn’t rigged but it had cancer’) doesn’t matter now because her book has sold out on Amazon.
    –TAKEAWAY: She’s all about the Benjamins. Who wants to bet she ends up on Fox News as one of their token “liberal” pundits? 
  • While Congressional GOP members are dropping accused pedophile Roy Moore like hot potato, fellow Alabama GOP members think it’s not a problem.
    –TAKEAWAY: Alabama GOP thinks that ANY Democractic candidate is worse than a pedophile.
  • Enrollment on Healthcare.gov is surprisingly robust with new enrollment up 30%.
    –TAKEAWAY: Trump and his lackeys are so incompetent they aren’t even able to sabotage Obamacare effectively. 
  • Ret. General and Former NSA to Trump Michael Flynn is publicly worrying about the fate of his son regards the Russian Collusion investigation by Mueller.
    –TAKEAWAY: The pressure is getting to Flynn and he will flip soon, if he hasn’t already.
  • Trump has had his lips glued to the Chinese Leader’s ass for the last couple of days in complete opposition to his own positions on trade with China since forever and trade agreements like the TPP are moving forward without the US.
    –TAKEAWAY: If anyone doubted that the US has lost it’s preeminence on the world stage, this proves it conclusively. The world will now be led by China and Russia. 
  • Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn admitted in an interview that the current tax bill in Congress is based on “trickle down” economic theory–ya know, the kind that doesn’t exist and the GOP is openly admitting that their wealthy donors will stop donating if they don’t pass this tax bill.
    –TAKEAWAY: The GOP cares more about giving money to the wealthy than it does the actual welfare of the US economy.
  • Trump’s bodyguard for the past several decades said that Trump was offerred Russian escorts when he traveled there.
    –TAKEAWAY: Does anyone believe that Trump turned down EVERY Russian offer of escorts? The Pee Tape is real. 
  • GOP Congresscritters were getting really frustrated with Carter Page’s testimony before Congress because he was incapable of giving a yes or no answer, or really any answer that made any sense whatsoever.
    –TAKEAWAY: The guy that the Russians thought was too stupid to be turned and used was, in fact, that stupid and useless.

Sources:
HT http://www.bobcesca.com/
HT https://www.balloon-juice.com/
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/07/us/politics/document-carter-page-russia-investigation-transcript.html
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/11/carter-page-international-man-of-mystery/545159/
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/trump-bodyguard-testifies-russian-offered-trump-women-was-turned-down-n819386
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/09/gary-cohn-trickle-down-is-good-for-the-economy.html
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gary-cohn-tax-cut-ceos-donors_us_5a049571e4b0f76b05c4249e
http://www.newsweek.com/brazile-clinton-steal-2016-election-sanders-706766
http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/donna-brazile-dnc-not-rigged-but-there-was-a-cancer-1091141187992
https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/woman-says-roy-moore-initiated-sexual-encounter-when-she-was-14-he-was-32/2017/11/09/1f495878-c293-11e7-afe9-4f60b5a6c4a0_story.html
https://twitter.com/ddale8/status/928756267425943553
https://twitter.com/Dpugel/status/928673017143676928
http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/08/politics/michael-flynn-son-special-counsel-russia-investigation/index.html
https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexcapri/2017/05/22/the-tpp-moves-forward-without-trumps-america/
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/10/arts/television/louis-ck-statement.html

Updated:  To correct mistake on date, see text below in red.

This summarizes the information I have seen on an excellent Twitter thread by Seth Abramson, Attorney and Professor at that University of New Hampshire.

In the Papadopoulos indictment, it says he met with Russian national to set up Kremlin channel for Trump on 3/24/2016.  He told Trump about it and the ongoing DNC hack by the Russians on 3/31/2016—note the DNC did not know they were being hacked yet (hacked emails were dated from Jan 2015-May 2016).   Also note that Papadopoulos is saying that EVERY attendee of the 3/31/2016 meeting lied about it.  This includes Jeff Sessions, which means there is a good chance that he will face perjury charges soon.

According to J.D. Gordon, Trump campaign’s national-security policy rep for the RNC, told CNN that he and others advocated for watering down the language regarding support for Ukraine because Trump told them to do so back in March 2016–the infamous 3/31 meeting.  This is a change from what Gordon said earlier this year when he said Trump had nothing to do with the change.  He’s probably scared the FBI is coming after him next.

Papdopolous, per the indictment, notified Trump and others about the ongoing DNC hack in April 2016 —note the DNC did not know they were being hacked yet (hacked emails were dated from Jan 2015-May 2016).  Anyway, the DNC emails were released to the world by Wikileaks on July 22, 2016.

So it seems that DNC emails in July 2016 were “quid pro quo” for Trump changing the GOP platform on 3/31/2016.  Basically Trump knew the Russians wanted to collude (per Papdopoulos), that they had info that would help his campaign (also per Papdopoulos) and he took a direct act in furtherance to benefit Russia (per Gordon and others, probably Manafort once he flips, which venal guy that he is is expected, otherwise he’ll rot in Federal prison for the rest of his life).  That is collusion.   Mueller has Trump by short hairs and he’s just getting started with indictments.

Now let’s see what a Narcissist like Trump will do.  If he fires Mueller, a crisis might occur if Congress does nothing to protect Mueller.  The investigation won’t go away but Congress MUST protect Mueller in order to protect Rule of Law and the Balance of Powers.  Will they do it though?  I honestly don’t think they will, sadly.  For the GOP in control of Congress now, staying in power seems to be more important than supporting the foundations of our democracy.  Good Lord, I hope they prove me wrong and do the right thing.

No matter what though……Wow, just wow.

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Democratic_National_Committee_email_leak

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/30/trump-russia-indictment-george-papadopoulos

http://www.businessinsider.com/jd-gordon-trump-adviser-ukraine-rnc-2017-3

Our Glorious 5th Estate is so focused on Trump’s insults to the grieving families of our soldiers that they’re ignoring why those soldiers died in the first place.

What REALLY Happened in Niger

An explanation of what really happened to American soldiers in Niger and why Congress should investigate. To read this in Storify or just read my transcript below.  All content below from the Twitter feed of @laurasessions10 laurasessions10

THREAD 1. What happened in Niger.
2/ While everyone is so busy talking about the president’s handling of his call to the widow of the soldier killed in Niger….

tp://

3.you ‘re all missing the important part of that story…the part about what happened that night in Niger.

4. The story that is emerging is so much worse than anything that happened in Benghazi

 5. but the same GOP Congress that investigated Benghazi with a fury seems to have little or no interest in this story.

6. Here’s what we know so far…These soldiers went to a meeting in an area near the border with Mali a well known hot spot for ISIS

7 Our soldiers were not backed up by US Military air support- backed up by the French, who were not authorized to intervene or even fire

8. Our soldiers were given faulty intel… that said

9 “it was unlikely that they would meet any hostile forces.” Of course, they walked into an ISIS ambush-chaotic and they took three lives

10 It took the French 30 minutes to arrive. When they did they were not authorized to help.

 11. So, a dozen of our Green Berets fought a battle with more than 50 Isis fighters, without help, for 30 minutes.

12 Finally, a rescue helicopter arrived, but it was not a US military helicopter.

13 No, we apparently outsourced that job to “private contractors.”

14 So, these contractors landed and loaded the remaining troops, the injured and the dead.  Here’s where this gets really bad…

15 Because they were not military, they never did a head count. That is how Sgt. La David Johnson was left behind.
16 That’s right…they left him behind.
17 According to the Pentagon, his locator beacon was activated on battlefield, which indicates that he was alive when they left him there

18 They recovered his body 48 hours later but are refusing to say where.

19 According to his widow, she could not have an open casket. This means that he was mutilated after being left behind on the battlefield.

20 This is what led to the nonsense we’re obsessing over. This is the real story.

21 As usual, you’re allowing it to be about Trump’s distraction, but this is Benghazi on steroids

22 The Trump Pentagon gave these men bad intel, no support, outsourced rescue people and then,,,

24 He tweeted attacks on many but never mentioned this Only after pressure from the media did he acknowledge these men and their service.

 

                                                           Image from CNN 7-7-2017

Lately I’ve been incredibly puzzled by how little most Americans know or even care about Russia meddling in our elections. The news has been trickling in for some time and as an IT professional and former computer programmer professor with 20 years of experience in computer programming, I can tell you that it is probably worse than you know.  If you want to stay updated on the Russian story, the BEST site I’ve found to date is https://investigaterussia.org/, aka, the Committee to Investigate Russia.  Created by a bipartisan group consisting of experts and advocates (a couple of names you are probably already familiar with like James Clapper and Rob Reiner are on the advisory board), this site catalogs news articles from reputable sources, lists all of the key players (who are easy to get confused, especially with the long hard to pronounce Russian names), explains the various public investigations that are ongoing, and keeps track of timelines in the investigations.  I found the site by listening to Jacki Schechner on the Bob Cesca Show.  Jacki has a long history in the news business and her latest project has been to launch this news aggregation site launched.  It’s finally online and I STRONGLY encourage you to check it out.

Here’s a BRIEF summary of what we know.  The Russians attempted to hack 39 states and in at least one instance, tried to delete and alter voter data.  We know during the Democratic primaries that many Bernie voters complained that their change in registration from Independent to Democratic parties did not occur properly and so they were unable to vote in the closed primary.  In other instances many longtime Democratic voters were inexplicably given provisional ballots.  This led Bernie Sanders to file complaints, which in turn led to Hillary supporters becoming defensive and voila the damage was done.  The Left continues to argue among itself to this day and Putin is loving every moment of it.

We know that Putin engaged in a disinformation campaign and that it has been an unprecedented success on many levels.

  • He has succeeded in undermining our confidence in our democratic institutions.   If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times.  The hackers didn’t need to hack our voting machines to mess with vote tallies, they only needed to mess with our voter registrations.  There is mounting evidence that they did just that.  Now many people, including myself, don’t trust our election process.
  • He has succeeded in suborning the Executive Branch.  Herr Orangenfuhrerhas shown a pattern of letting Russia get away with far too much** (see Sources 4-7 at bottom).  The Executive Branch is being lead by a man who is, for all practical purposes, Putin’s “poleznyje idiot” or “useful idiot”.
  • He has succeeded in subverting the Legislative Branch.  Congress, under the control of the GOP, has been blocking progress into the investigation while mouthing crap about “being concerned”.  I don’t want to hear about how my Senator, John McCain is concerned.  I want to hear about how he and his colleagues are doing something to 1) stop the current collusion with Russia and 2) to stop it from happening again in the future.  Neither of which is happening.
  • He has succeeded in taking advantage of our ignorance and our openness.  Part of the problem is that the information has been trickling in and from so many different sources.  Another part of the problem is that it involves technology that most people don’t understand.  And yet another problem is our short attention span.  The final part of the problem is that far too many on both the Right and the Left are knowingly and unknowingly carrying Putin’s water.  The Right is repeating Trump’s BS rhetoric about “Fake News”.  It also doesn’t help that some on the left (like Jill Stein, Bernie Bros, and Russian plants pretending to be Bernie Bros) not only pushed anti-Hillary news but are now pushing the “Fake News” line of thinking as well.   As a result, unfortunately, too many Americans in the middle are throwing up their hands and saying, “We don’t know who to trust!”  All this confusion is EXACTLY what Putin wants.

Is it any wonder that the American people are too distracted and confused?!  Unfortunately, we need to pay attention to this story.  I honestly believe that this is the beginning of the end for our Democracy IF we don’t respond appropriately to this crisis.

Make no mistake about it–Russia attacked us.  They have attacked and are continuing to attack our democracy and we all need to wake up and pay attention.  We need to stay on top of this story and push Congress to do something about it.   Check out the “Committee to Investigate Russia“.

Notes:
*I refuse now and forever to give Trump the title of President.
**Too many articles to cite in that one sentence but a few are listed below (see sources 4-7)…I could go on and on
***These sources are listed in no particular order.  I have been trying to avoid any sources that might be of Russian origin but it is very hard to know who to trust.  For instance, I know that RT.com is basically Russian propaganda but there are many bloggers who seem to have a Russian/Wikileaks slant to them who might be reporting real news but they also might be knowingly and unknowingly repeating crap stories from Russia.  For that reason I’ve tried to avoid using links to other “unknown” bloggers and tried to stick to well known news sources.

Sources:***

  1. https://www.vox.com/world/2017/6/13/15791744/russia-election-39-states-hack-putin-trump-sessions
  2. http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-voting-problems-20160607-snap-htmlstory.html
  3. http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/19/politics/new-york-primary-voter-problem-polls-sanders-de-blasio/index.html
  4. http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/07/09/trump-has-picked-americas-enemies-in-russia-over-its-friends-in-europe/
  5. http://www.weeklystandard.com/trump-caves-to-putin/article/2008751
  6. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-administration-moves-to-return-russian-compounds-in-maryland-and-new-york/2017/05/31/3c4778d2-4616-11e7-98cd-af64b4fe2dfc_story.html?utm_term=.916898cc623e
  7. http://www.newsweek.com/trump-collusion-russia-what-we-know-so-far-630053
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Reiner
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Clapper
  10. https://investigaterussia.org/
  11. http://www.bobcesca.com/the-bob-cesca-show-presented-by-bubblegenius-com-9717/
  12. http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/05/politics/house-intelligence-committee-subpoena-fbi-justice/index.html
  13. http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/if-only-john-mccains-actions-matched-john-mccains-rhetoric
  14. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/08/10/are-u-s-voters-confident-in-their-electoral-system-yes-and-no/?utm_term=.8acf19b0f164
  15. http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/343292-jill-stein-looped-into-widening-investigation-of-russia-and-trump-jr
  16. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bernie-sanders-fake-news-russia_us_58c34d97e4b0ed71826cdb36

 

I haven’t posted in a VERY long time.   A combination of struggling with my ongoing depression (Herr Hair became President, need I say more?) and having moved into a house that needs renovation.  Without regaling you in the detailed horrors of renovation (Maybe I’ll do that later with bonus photos) suffice it to say that I lived with three kids in a house without a kitchen for two and a half months.  If I ever have to look at another delivery pizza, I think I just might vomit.

Anyway, like I said, I’ll share details of my recent drama later.  For now, I just wanted to share a link to a heartfelt and touching story of someone who was the victim of a hate crime.

So I’m here, sort of.  How about you?