The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School made anything else I could blog about seem trivial by comparison. One of life’s harder lessons is that even after such horrendous tragedies life does go on and so I am finally putting virtual pen to paper to tie up some loose ends that have been begging for my attention and have been neglected.
The Paradox of the Fiscal Cliff
The so-called fiscal cliff is a time bomb that Congress created to force itself to come up with a “grand bargain” that would cut spending and lower the debt. The notion was that this time-triggered legislation would be so abhorrent to all involved that there would be bipartisan enthusiasm for coming up with a good alternative. As we know, the deadline is midnight, the night of December 31. But very simply folks, here is what I don’t get. Why would any true deficit hawk NOT want to go over the cliff? Without intervention, effective January 1, everyone’s taxes will go up. If we assume the new revenue will go toward paying off debt, bravo! Draconian cuts to defense and entitlement programs will take effect. Again, aren’t those the very savings we supposedly are looking for to stop the deficit spending and lower the debt? Isn’t this the austerity that many conservatives are calling for? So please explain to me why everyone in Washington, Democrat and Republican are wringing their hands over the fiscal cliff when the fiscal cliff is just what the conservative doctor ordered.
Could it be we’re really not as serious about debt reduction as we claim to be?
Time to Rethink the Elderly
There is an AARP commercial currently airing on TV in my market that goes roughly like this: youthful woman (actress) claims to be 65 years old and announces that she has “a long life ahead of her”, after which we are told about an AARP supplement to Medicare. Now I’m not an elderly-basher but I took one look at this woman and asked myself, why in heaven’s name is she on Medicare? She looks perfectly fit. In fact, she says she is perfectly fit and looking forward to many more years on this Earth. So why doesn’t she have a job and buy insurance like the rest of us (who are fortunate enough to have jobs with health benefits)? The truth is that “elderly” ain’t what it used to be. Many of the very vital actors, celebrities and even rock stars we see daily are 65 or older. People are working and living longer. So why is it such a third rail to discuss changing Social Security and Medicare eligibility?
One example that has me irked at present is the collective vomit that greeted Barack Obama’s “grand bargain” compromise where he was willing to use what is called a “chained CPI” calculation to determine cost of living increases to Social Security. I won’t pretend to be an expert on chained CPI. All I know is it makes annual increases to Social Security payments less than they might otherwise have been, thereby saving costs and extending the life of the program. Seems perfectly legit to me. I know lots of working people who haven’t seen a raise in years, cost of living be damned. The elderly get to gripe that what is essentially a raise will be a bit smaller in future years? How about no raise at all, like the rest of us?
I probably won’t win any “be kind to old people” awards with this but from my perspective along with enhanced health and longer life comes longer obligation to society and a delayed reliance on government assistance. And for those who want to remind me that folks pay into Social Security and Medicare, I will remind them that folks take out of it way more than they paid in if we’re talking real dollars. In the famous words of the 99%, it’s time for the elderly to pay their fair share.
What is More American Than Right to Work?
Recently Michigan implemented “right to work”, a policy stating that no one has to pay union dues (and therefore belong to a union) as a condition of employment. My fellow liberals have gone bat crap crazy about this. I don’t get this. It seems fundamentally American to me that no one can be compelled to join any organization they do not want to join. Right to work antagonists say this is a union killer. How so? If the union makes itself attractive, they will get members. If they don’t, they don’t deserve members.
Let’s take it a step further. The argument further goes that it is unfair for non-union members to reap the benefits fought for by the unions. This also puzzles me. If unions exist for the reasons we assume (to fight for worker equity), then why don’t they fight for all workers, not just “members”? Workers have to pay dues for protection? That makes unions a protection racket. Sounds a bit like the Mafia to me.
Happy New Year
This is the last post of 2012. I leave you with a twist on the typical New Year’s Eve tradition. Many years ago on New Year’s Eve I went to the home of a former colleague and current friend. As the New Year approached, he did not play “Auld Lang Syne”. Instead, he played “Imagine” by John Lennon. While there is no doubt that Lennon, the vessel, was greatly flawed, the message he carried stands the test of time. What do we fight over? We fight over national boundaries, money and religion. Money, in particular, drives so many agendas around the world. So many look for the profit angle to whatever woes we suffer as human beings. If you don’t believe in global warming, you want to make big bucks off the fossil fuel companies. If you do believe in global warming, you want to profit off new industries. No one trusts that the other guy just wants what is best for the planet. This is only one example. The list goes on and on.
What I love about “Imagine” is that it pictures a world in which we cast aside the differences that divide us and we live in peace in a shared world. It may just be a dream but no matter what they take from us, they can’t take away our dreams. In the words of another popular musician, Dream On … and Happy New Year.
Photo taken from Thappa1 video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jrtty7pCCc