Monthly Archives: April 2011

Fixing Entitlements

It’s difficult to concentrate on a downer like our country’s budget and our country’s debt; on what we will be able to fund and what will have to be cut; on what America will look like after all is done with weddings and tsunamis and tornadoes claiming our immediate attention. We know, however, that at some point we will get back to hashing out some kind of a plan. It can be a plan we can tolerate or one we can’t depending on how much attention we pay to what our apparently out-of-touch representatives come up with and how much we insist that our input be considered. I keep coming back to Medicare because Paul Ryan has a plan for it. I think his plan is awful and I think we need to think carefully about how we can save Medicare for ourselves and future generations.

If we want to cut the cost of Medicare perhaps we need to find a separate way to cover chronic or catastrophic conditions. Regular health care, even for seniors, is not the most expensive part of our health care system. Even routine hospital events that are of relatively short duration, although expensive, do not break the bank. It is long term care that is really expensive; treatments for things like diabetes, kidney failure, some heart disorders, cancers that require long-term care, Parkinson’s, ALS, Alzheimer’s, and long-term nursing home stays.

Perhaps we need a separate fund for catastrophic care to which everyone contributes. To keep the red tape down this fund could be run by a foundation of some sort. This might also help with some of the trust problems which will be the legacy of our government’s willingness to wiggle out of promises made to the American people.

Another idea might be to put three new spaces on tax forms which would allow taxpayers to voluntarily contribute up to $20 each to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

There must be some good ideas out there. Send them to your newspaper. Send them to your Congressperson. Everyone agrees that we need to address the national debt and we need to do it very soon.

Life’s Ups and Downs

This morning I feel like I am watching one of those movies that juxtaposes the best and the worst parts of our lives and that has our feelings moving up to down the emotional continuum as if we were on a serotonin roller coaster ride.

On the one hand we were treated to a very lovely wedding that managed to be royal and to maintain a certain sweetness at the same time. Kate and William had such down-to-earth demeanors; their smiles were so genuine; they managed to look like two young, but quite mature people setting off on a great partnership. Her dress was just right I thought, smooth and stylish, satiny and trained, with a lacy neckline and sleeves, the simple veil with the small tiara, perfect. No meringues were in sight. Commentators were shocked that she and William kissed on the lips, but the kiss was also so like the kiss of any loving couple at their wedding that it added to the graceful and gracious quality of the whole event.

On the other hand we wake up to 300 people dead in southern America from tornadoes. CNN bounces back and forth from covering the wedding to talking to tearful people who have lost everything. They are covering the President’s tour of the terrible destruction. Parts of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi look like war zones. People are losing some of their resilience. They are not sure where they will go or what they will do. In moments their life, as they knew it, is gone. All their possessions will not be available when they start over. They will have to start from scratch. Our hearts understand their sadness, and we look to our agencies and our government to start them on the road to their new lives. We hope if or when this happens to us we will also have these same resources to depend on.

Back we go to Kate and William leaving Westminster Abbey in their little convertible car and the streamers flying off the back. But we worry about whether true love can survive in a fishbowl. Will these two learn how to fly under the radar of the media and the paparazzi? I hope we don’t hear about every move they make every day of their lives. I wish them every happiness.

We also have the second to the last space flight beginning, with the shuttle on the launch pad. We have the fears that some other nation will get to space before us because we can no longer afford a space program. We have the poignant pleasure that Gabby Giffords will be recovered enough to go and watch her husband leave for space. We have Elton John’s “Rocket Man”, a perfect soundtrack for the occasion.

Our lives on this day are torn between beauty and sorrow, between hope and fear, between optimism and suspense.

My Royal Wedding Preparations

I’ve been shopping for what I will wear to the royal wedding (perhaps I should use caps – Royal Wedding). Of course I have not been invited to the actual in-person event but I can put on my fancy duds and go sit in my living room at 4 am and immerse myself in illusion.
 
 

The exhibits above is the fascinator (hat) I have chosen to wear. Since I will not have access to a hair dresser for my preparations I will wear my usual Buster Brown do (also known as a China chop) and will arrange the fascinator to best effect.

 

This exhibit is, of course, my dress that I have chosen from the spring dress collection at J C Penney.

 

My last exhibit is the shoes I have selected from Macys.

I did not get as far as jewelry because I got tired of downloading jpegs and I don’t know how to put that many pictures in my blog yet, so please be assured that I will be wearing a bewitching necklace and earrings with a bit of sparkle and a touch of dangle, nothing extreme, with a ring on each hand.

I too loved Cinderella when I was a young girl and I do appreciate a good royal love match. I definitely wish the royal couple all the best and I sincerely believe that this time all the pomp and ceremony are justified.

I believe the British term for this behavior, if I really intended to go ahead with it, is “barking mad”, but I do want to show that my spirit is in the right place and I will dream the wedding before I get up and see it at a much more reasonable hour in my somewhat shabby pajamas.

Who Will Be Number One

This week we are hearing that in five years we will no longer be first by the economic measure known as GDP or gross daily product. News readers on CNN seemed both surprised and appalled by the news.

How could we be surprised by this? All our businesses have gone to China, except the ones which have gone to India. Capitalism could not be expected to ignore cheap labor, low overhead, and an endless supply of workers and consumers forever.

We believe that we are number one, that we should always be number one. Even on this one measure we don’t want to lose our ascendancy. But if you saw the Olympics in Beijing and if you saw the opening ceremony then you are aware of the enormous population of people who live in China, who are loyal to China, and who currently can be harnessed to work for China and to work to improve their own standard of living. If you read about China then you know that the Chinese people have never lived under a democracy. (Calling a country the Democratic Republic of whatever does not make a country a democracy.) Read Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang (nonfiction) or Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress byDai Sijie and Ina Rilke (fiction) to learn how difficult it was to thread your way through the “Cultural Revolution”. If life is a bit easier for the Chinese people these days it is difficult to feel badly about it. In spite of China’s GDP it will be many years before everyone in China enjoys a standard of living anything like ours. They may never enjoy the freedoms we enjoy. Perhaps we haven’t learned our sharing as well as we should have.

I’m an American. I love being number one. I hope our economy gets a second wind and “rocks” again. If it doesn’t get there right away, I think we will still be number one in a number of other areas.

All countries have jets now, all countries have tourism, TV, the internet. People want what others have. It is natural for prosperity to spread. However we don’t want prosperity to leave us behind. Unless we find the next new thing fast and keep it to ourselves we may have to learn to celebrate our primacy in areas other than economics.

My Spirea Hunt

I was not able to find Bridal Veil Spirea. I looked for it on line. There were photos but nurseries didn’t have it. I went to the giant local plant nursery near my home. They have almost everything. They didn’t have it. What I settled on was a Spirea called Renaissance which has the same explosive tendrils full of white blossoms as the traditional Bridal Veil variety but is said to be hardier.

My yard looks like a swamp however, since it has been raining here almost nonstop. I wonder if it will stay dry long enough to dig the holes and get the plants in the ground. It is supposed to rain everyday this week. I may have to do “digging in the rain”, the sequel to “Singing in the Rain.”

April – A Cruel Month

I was trying to remember an anti-establishment movie I once saw which was only memorable because it ended with a long sequence of an exploding house along with all the consumer goods contained therein – blown up, artifact after artifact, all to an arrangement of “Careful With that Axe Eugene” from Pink Floyd. The movie, Zabriski Point, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, was a terrible movie, but the final scene stayed with me, probably because of the combination of the music and the visual imagery.

What made me think of this movie was all the film footage this week of town after town lying splintered and broken after a seemingly endless line of tornadoes which keeps arriving across Middle America.

People are so amazing. They have lost everything, have lived through dark and fearful moments, when perhaps they believed they were in mortal danger and, while they might cry, they usually say that they will rebuild. And even though I realize they probably have no choice as the property is not worth much without the house, it seems so brave to start over. I guess there is the belief that “lightening doesn’t strike twice.” With our current tendency towards more violent storms (just cyclical? Global warming?) I don’t know that I would trust the ancient wisdom which in any event has its exceptions.

Town after town we have felt your pain this spring and we will keep you in our thoughts.

                                     April is the cruelest month, breeding
                                     Lilacs out of dead land, mixing
                                     Memory and desire, stirring
                                     Dull roots with spring rain.

                                                       from “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot

Baby Names Five – Girls

Girl’s Names – February to April, 2011

Laila Macy * Caitlyn Mae * Anya Rose * Mylah Lynn * Mila Claire * Molly Katherine * Taryn Marcella * Kierra Mae * Kennedy Grace * Eden Lurae * Savannah Gail * Alexandra Nicole * Piper Louise * Jayanna * Juliet Louise * Brooklynn Jade * Gianna Reese * Olivia Athena * Olivia Micael * Kayteannah Renee * Jocelyn Jarielix * Miraja * Lia Kate Victoria * Katherine Debra * Linden Rose * Leilani * Grace Kamryn * Jillian Marie * Aislinn * Haylee Alana-Mae * Quinn Lee * Amariana La Niva * Elia Marie * Ella Marie * Laila Rose * Lily Grace * Claire Elise * Gabrielle Claire * Sloan Michelle * Annabelle Rose * Ikraan Kahir * Elizabeth Anne * Aleah Jean * Leandra Kate * Piper Noelle * Alexis Shareese * BrookLynn Cecelia * Kierra Mae * Elliana Christine * McKayla * Ava Carol * Meghan Rose * Aria Rose * Ty’Liyah * Kayleigh Alexis * Eve Mary * Brynly shea * Lylah Lee * Abigail Rose * October Sky * Stefania Jo * Madeline Ruth * Lyleah Susan * Daisy Adeline * Nola Ann * Emma Veronica * Madelyn Elizabeth * Jazmine Marie-Rose * Camilla Clair * Vivian Jane * Eliana Rose * Quincey Alaina * Rylan Quinn * Percaias * Charley Lynn * Chloe Elizabeth * Teagan Lee * Alyssa Lynn * Brigid Kathleen * Maliha Jolei * Amore Sarai * McKenna Gabrielle * Irie Phoenix * Katherine Julianne * Maya Alison * Renaya LeShonda * Tahje Kamani Lee * Taniya * Missy Ann * Lyla Morgan *

Baby Names Five – Boys

Boy Names – February to April, 2011

Cellighan Christopher Casey * Myles Jackson * William Edward * Benjamin Christopher * Nelson Michael * Brayden Michael * Carter Lee * Kai Danger * Lenox Scott * Allen Richard * Nicholas Michael * Michael John * Damon Alfred * Dylan Thomas * Jacob Riley * Sye’ier Neshont * Nathaniel Luis * Daemon Michael * Cameron Thomas * Aden Dafydd’Martreau * Reilly Jackson * Connor Jacob * Parker Metthew * Miguel James * Craig Jameson * Thomas Keith * Vincent Pasqualo * Ethan James * Antonio Andrew * Andrew Jacob * Alexander * Ryan Scott * Perry Camdyn Lee * Eric Thomas * Rian Cary * Ethan * Colin Maxwell * Amar’e Ryan * Ethan Paul * Christian Scott * Kylan Kenneth * Gaitano Giovanni * Anthony J. * Khamari Jayvaun * Nevin Peter * Michael Paul * Gavin Jeffrey * Wesleigh Michael * Ashton John * Logan Garrett * Omari’ Lee * Che Yu * Evan Porter * Mason Leonard * Louis Andrew * Daniel John * Kemper Anatolio * Lovey Williams * Raymond Deuce * Bryson Joseph * Gavin Carl * Noah Michael * Marcel Harris * Ryan Joseph * Matthew Richard * Rylan Konner * Mason Robert * Nicholas Daniel * Kaden Alexander * Joseph Henry * D’Vonte Amir * Zander X * Aaron Franklin * Logan John * Colton Peter * Ryland Giovanni * Zyl’zon * Logan Alan * Remiel L. H. P. * Rocco E. * Halden James * Kieran Andrew * Zachery David * Joshua Kenneth * Gavin Joseph * Alexander William Stephan Mybola * Noah Lee * Jonathan Joseph * Julian Horatio * Dexter Wild * Isiah Joseph * Mason Michael

Defining Who’s Rich

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York CityImage via Wikipedia

John Avlon of The Daily Beast suggests that it is unfair to compare people making $250,000 a year to Warren Buffet. I agree.

He suggests that when raising taxes on the rich we make the split at $500,000 per year or even $1 million. I also agree. I think a lot of people agree, except the rich who feel like we are stealing their money. We are all people who will work hard if given the chance, but our chances for remunerative work are dwindling through no fault of our own. You were happy to “subsidize” us when you needed us. We helped you get where you are. We can’t help believing that you should contribute a bit more since your business shenanigans could be seen as the causes of America’s current financial condition.

It would definitely be easier to talk about raising taxes on the rich if we made decisions about what “rich” means. I do not think having an income of $250,000 per year can be considered rich in 2011.

I did a little number crunching:

Given a 15% flat tax rate the numbers look like this:
$30,000 pays 4500 which leaves 25,500
$50,000 pays 7500 which leaves 42,500
$100,000 pays 15,000 which leaves 85,000
$250,000 pays 37,500 which leaves 212,500
$1,000,000 pays 150,000 which leaves 850,000
$1,000,000,000 pays 150,000,000 which leaves 850,000,000

Given a 25% flat tax rate the numbers look like this:
$30.000 pays 7500 which leaves 23,500
$50,000 pays 12,500 which leaves 37,500
$100,000 pays 25,000 which leaves 75,000
$250,000 pays 62,500 which leaves 187,500
$1,000,000 pays 250,000 which leaves 750,000
$1,000,000,000 pays 250,000,000 which leaves 750,000,000

Given a 35% flat tax rate the numbers look like this:
$30,000 pays 10,500 which leaves 19,500
$50,000 pays 17,500 which leaves 32,000
$100,000 pays 35,000 which leaves 65,000
$250,000 pays 87,500 which leaves 162,500
$1,000,000 pays 350,000 which leaves 650,000
$1,000,000,000 pays 350,000,000 which leaves 650,000,000

Given a 39% flat tax rate the numbers look like this:
$30,000 pays 11,700 which leaves 18,300
$50,000 pays 19,500 which leaves 30,500
$100,000 pays 39,000 which leaves 61,000
$250,000 pays 97,500 which leaves 152,500
$1,000,000 pays 390,000 which leaves 610,000
$1,000,000,000 pays 390,000,000 which leaves 610,000,000

One thing that is clear is that we are not at all used to a flat tax. Another is to ask yourself, can I have a comfortable or even affluent life with what I have left? Can I really spend  this amount of money in a year? I remember reading the Kurt Vonnegut book God Bless You Mr. Rosewater in which the main character inherits an obscene sum of money and tries to get rid of it. No matter what he does at the end of each year he has more money left than before.

I have no way to figure out how much money these various tax levels would give the federal government.

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Find the Middle Road – Feeling Extraneous

Seniors are really getting a lot of hate these days. There are too many of us. We are costing our government too much. Our health care is too good and we are not paying for enough of it. We are staying at our jobs so long that young people have to wait to enter the job market. We are not working long enough and are collecting our Social Security payments too early. If we just stick to the health care concerns this is one side of the story, that Medicare is too expensive and represents too large a percentage of the federal budget. This argument says that seniors are making our government go broke.

Well, we all, I am sure, feel really badly about this. So we listen to the plan from the Republicans which would end Medicare for people under 55, hand seniors vouchers and let them buy what they could get in the insurance market place. Supposedly this would make our health insurance more competitive and bring down prices. We know it doesn’t work this way. Insurance companies who are smart copy each other’s prices and rules. They advertise tiny differences to make one plan appear more appealing than another, but their core offers are basically the same.

I have made it clear that I do not believe we will still be living up to our American values if we don’t make arrangements for our poor and our seniors. However if we “old farts” are so expensive I can’t help but wonder if there might be some middle ground between “full-on” Medicare as we know it and being sent on our way with vouchers in hand. We are still patriots and we don’t want to bankrupt our government. We just find it hard to believe that we are responsible for the national debt.

It could be worse. If your health care provider implants a tiny light bulb in the palm of your hand and tells you that when it lights up it is your turn to go to the “Celebration”; don’t go.