Archive for the ‘Ugliness American Style’ Category

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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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

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.

 

cheesypoof

Herr Drumpf is at it again.  He said yesterday he wants to punch Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and bona fide self-made billionaire (worth about 8x’s more than Trump), because Bloomberg had the nerve to criticize him at the DNC this week.  I mean, who would expect criticism during a Presidential election?  /snark

Seriously though, my five year old has more restraint both physically and verbally than this crusty old cheesy poof. I think this video nails the reason down as to why so many people do support him. He is a mostly unrestrained Id. Something very wrong probably happened to him as a child and his development is seriously arrested. Either he was very abused and his maturity is stuck at the age of trauma OR his parents were so lenient that he never suffered repercussions to his behavior and as a result he did not mature past a certain point. This kind of person doesn’t spring wholly formed into adulthood like this–this kind of sociopath is made. But either way, whether he is rebelling and reacting against some inner demon created by abuse or acting out because he has so little self-control, there is very little pause between his emotions, his thoughts and his actions. And that appeals to people who are afraid and frustrated. They WISH they could just let their crazy flag fly but they’re too scared–they’re scared because their parents taught them better and they know if they acted this way there would be serious consequences for them.

And since they can’t express themselves and this dried goop of semi-rancid orange marmalade can, they support him. He is their Id made manifest. Furthermore, they see his behavior as being honest and genuine. While it may be genuine, it isn’t honest. True honesty involves self-reflection and actually does incorporate filtering, and by filtering I mean expressing that honesty in a way that is constructive. People who spew truth without couching it in a way that people can hear, either through humor or through simple courtesy and humility, are being insulting, childish and basically assholes. Mature people recognize Herr Cheesy Poof (TM!) as the latter.

It comes down to this. I think we as liberals have to accept that voters, particularly American voters are not rational. Call me elitist if you want but the fact that hundreds of millions of people support this sad excuse for a human being is absolute proof of that irrationality. The Left’s failure to truly accept this is hurting us and it will continue to hurt us. People don’t vote rationally so we can’t appeal to their rationality alone. We MUST get better at appealing to their emotions and their deep seated needs along with presenting a rational, logic based case for our solutions and candidates. But for right now, we’re stuck with half the country hoping Herr Cheesy Poof, the Id from New York, will become the next leader of the most powerful country on Earth.

I don’t talk about my faith very much.  I tend to be privately spiritual, more so than the “go to church” and “let me witness to others” type of person.  But there are times when I am seriously worried and when the only thing left to do is to appeal to a higher power.  Now is one of those times.  God help us all.

So the young lady who told me she would send my case to the Regional office lied.   I called the Marketplace up today and they informed me that no such thing exists.  They said that the coverage I bought in 2015 was Catastrophic and when I insisted it was a Bronze Plan, they said it must have changed at some point to a Catastrophic plan.  I did remember that Healthnet sent me some info about the plan changing but nowhere in that information did it tell me that the plan would no longer be ACA compliant or that it was being changed to a catastrophic plan.  Furthermore when Healthnet made the change they did not and are not required to tell the Marketplace of the change.  The Marketplace only finds out if a consumer calls them up and complains.  So unless you are a healthcare expert and can read the 100 or so pages of medical and legalese language and can figure out that your plan has changed in some way to make it non-ACA compliant there is no way to know.  In fact, my current plan, a Silver plan, could change at any moment and become non-compliant and I might not know about it.  Until, that is, I have to pay my taxes.

My only option now is to file an appeal with the Marketplace.  It will take them another 90 days to resolve that and the odds are not good that they’ll change their minds.  In the meantime I have to file my taxes without a 1095 and I will owe several thousand dollars as a result.   I need to have surgery for something (not life threatening but necessary).  I needed that refund to pay for it.  I have to wonder how many other tens of thousands of people got screwed like I did.  I wish to hell there was someone I could sue over this.  I wish Arizona had set up it’s own exchange because it would have been better run (but this is a state full of Freedumb and they don’t give a crap about anyone who isn’t rich and connected).  Better yet, I wish we had gone with single payer as country.  If wishes were fishes…

shaft This November the American people will once again select our next leader. It is now apparent that we will be choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We should choose a candidate that reflects the best qualities in ourselves and our great nation. We should expect that person to not only lead us but to inspire us.

Great leaders, on the other hand, appeal to our better angels, inspiring us to improve — intellectually, spiritually and, in many cases, physically. Great leaders serve as a touchstone for human potential. The really great ones are disciplined, curious, benevolent and merciful. And they motivate us by example to become more disciplined, curious, benevolent and merciful.

Donald Trump is exactly none of these things.

Bob Cesca

I think Hillary will make a fine President but even setting my personal feelings aside, it would seem that the two candidates are nowhere near alike. Any rational person should be able to see that there is a HUGE, or as Trump would say YUGE, difference between the two candidates. Hillary is a policy wonk, a politician and someone with very specific ideas on what she would like to do as President. Trump is nothing but sound and fury tapping into blue-collar working class discontent. He has no workable ideas, no coherency and no maturity. He’s an opportunistic con artist who has been grifting the American people for quite some time as a celebrity.  In the end, you may not like Hillary Clinton but she’s the only grown up in the race. Still I find Trump’s popularity irksome.  Why exactly is Herr Drumpf1, aka Fuck Face Von Clownstick2, aka Il Douche, aka Donald Trump so popular with tens of millions of Americans?

1) Americans equate wealth with moral superiority. It’s a major failing on our part because in reality the majority of wealthy people a) inherited it so they simply won the birth lottery, b) they got lucky to be in the right place at the right time or knew the right people at the right time, or c) they shafted people left and right to make money. None of these types of wealthy people deserve our respect or our vote. The final and smallest group of wealthy people are those who worked their asses off and deserve every hard-earned penny. And that one fact still doesn’t make them a decent person. Trump is NOT in this last, small category and clearly he is not a decent person.

2) We forgive celebrities things we would never tolerate in our own personal lives. Because we secretly want to be as famous and wealthy as those celebrities. We want to be able to tell others exactly what we think of them like Trump does. They support him because they want to be him, with all his property, influence, freedom and string of model spouses who are essentially interchangeable Barbie Dolls.

bully 3) There is always a certain percentage of every group that hangs out around the bully. You know who I’m talking about, the hangers-on who root for the bully, the sycophants who pat the bully on the back and tell him what he wants to hear. Let’s just call them the Bully Entourage. Why would someone want to be in that group? Because they’re hoping they will be protected by his power. That the bullying will be directed outward at the others, people who they don’t like. They want Trump to bully the people they are blaming for all of the country’s problems because they don’t have the balls to stand up and do it themselves. It goes back to that idea that “He speaks for me, says what I want to say.”
And there is strength in numbers–in a mob with a bully to lead them, they feel powerful. And they are. The only problem with this kind of thinking is that the Bully doesn’t always just focus on “the others” — Bullies and mobs can be terribly fickle. Once the Bully has cowed “the Others” they often turn on those who are close to them because a Bully has to continue to bully to feed that deep empty hole in the center of their being. Look at the things that Trump has said about people who were once his friends. Look at the movies.  How well does the Bully treat his supposed friends? He treats them like servants. But let’s deal with reality instead. Let’s look at history. How many people supported Hitler who were then executed? Or Stalin? Or Mao or Pol Pot?  The list goes on and on and on.  They always end up eating their own eventually.

Ultimately I don’t know what created Trump the narcissist. Was it overindulging parents? Who cares. I only care about the fact that this man could potentially end up in the Oval Office and millions of people actually think he is qualified. If Americans truly want a President who thinks and speaks like us, then they must think that any average American can be President (although one could argue that Trump’s behavior indicates he is below the average). Are Americans so arrogant as to think that the average American is qualified to be President?

Every modern President has aged faster and dramatically while in the office before our very eyes, even the ones who took more vacations than any other President before or since3 , and there is a reason for it. It is one of the hardest jobs on the Planet.  In reality, they are NEVER on vacation.  The work hours about 14-16 on a typical, non-crisis filled day.  The stress and the responsibility are harrowing. We don’t need someone with the mindset of the average American in the White House.  The average American is cracking under the burdens of a 40 hour work week and a family. Americans work harder than most other people on the planet. And that still doesn’t compare to how much the President has to work. How the heck could he or she deal with the behemoth that our country has become.  Not only do we not need the average American, we also don’t need a bully.  We wield very big sticks and we need someone who knows when to use it and when not to. We need someone who won’t provoke our unstable enemies, of which there is no shortage. Do you want a hair-trigger man-baby wielding those big sticks and making childish comments about the size of an enemy’s penis?  

We need someone who knows what the hell they are doing because our country and potentially even the entire world will be affected by what the next President does. It is arrogant and dangerous to think that Trump is up to the task.   “Pride goeth before the fall” has never rang so true.

NOTES:

1. Thank you John Oliver
2. Thank you Jon Stewart
3. G.W. Bush actually

I’ve posted this on Twitter and other sites but for you non-Tweeters out there:

from http://www.gocomics.com/bloom-county