Archive for the 'Economy' Category



Muscle bound

Dick Shawn, who died on-stage in 1987, was one of my favorite actors and comedians.  His role in The Producers as the flower-power-hippie cast as the lead in Springtime for Hitler was classic.

Perhaps less well-known was Dick’s stand-up routine as a muscle-bound weight lifter.  Proud of his bigger than life physique, he was asked by his mother “So what good are big muscles?”  Stumped for an answer, he stumbled around giving inane responses to this simple question.

I was reminded of Dick’s routine as I watched the debate last night.  The first question posed by a young college student was “So, how are you going to create more jobs?”  Smiling as he stared into the young man’s eyes, Mitt attempted to lay out the specifics of his job creation plan.  Only there were none.  Dick Shawn had risen.

Next came a question from a motherly middle-aged woman.  “I understand that you want to simplify the tax code and give everyone a 20% tax cut.  And that you want to balance that cut by limiting deductions.  How will your plan impact my home mortgage deduction, charitable contributions and the deduction for  my kids’ college tuition.”  Mitt smiled and flexed his big muscles.  Dick Shawn was having a hell of a night.

When the debate took on the issue of women in the workplace, the two contenders tried their best to become the champion of the fairer sex.  Obama cited his signature support for the Lilly Ledbetter equal pay for equal work legislation and for Planned Parenthood’s myriad of services.  Mitt muted his promise to de-fund Planned Parenthood and chose to ignore his running mate’s vote against the Ledbetter legislation.  He instead cited his search for qualified women while Governor of Massachusetts.

When his closest advisers were incapable of identifying women for his cabinet, he said “Well, gosh, can’t we find some women that are also qualified?”  He was then presented with “whole binders full of women.”  With big muscles, I’m sure.

Another questioner asked “How will Mr. Romney’s presidency differ from that of George W. Bush?”  Mitt lamented Mr. Bush’s budget busting wars, crossed his heart and promised never to do that again.  Obama noting that in spite of his other failings Mr. Bush had never proposed Medicare vouchers, proceeded to chastise Mitt’s vaporous health plan, a scheme that according to a new study by the Kaiser Foundation would cause six in ten Medicare recipients to pay higher premiums.

And so it went.  In the end we were treated to interviews with ten undecided voters who had been gathered together in the studio to observe the debate.  The moderator asked  “So, now that you’ve seen the debate, which of you will be voting for Mr. Romney?”  One hand went up.  “And which of you will be voting for Mr. Obama?”  One hand went up.

The other eight were obviously living in some alternative universe.  Maybe looking for some guy with bigger muscles.

In a nutshell

Many of you were probably watching the baseball playoffs, the football game or some porno movie.  So being a public-spirited, non-partisan guy, here are the highlights of the VP debate.

You can guess what Joe Biden had to say since you watched him four years ago when he fenced with the Snow Queen.  So to save time, I’ll just tell you what Paul Ryan said.

About Iran.  We need to get the Ayatollahs’ attention. I’m personally going to send them an e-mail or something equally harsh.

About Afghanistan.  We’re going to get out in the middle of 2014…unless we don’t.

About Libya.  We can say anything we want about that attack on our embassy.  Even if we haven’t got a clue about what happened.

About Syria.  We should have already given lots of guns and missiles to the good guys over there.  Even if we don’t know who they are.

About Israel.  The President was on The View while Mitt was at the Wailing Wall looking for Jewish votes.  And forget about what Mitt said about kicking the Palestinian ball down the field and hoping for the best.  He misspoke, again.

About the military.  We’re going to give them another trillion dollars even if we have to shove it down their throats.  Don’t fuck with us.

About our budget balancing plan.  We’re going to lower taxes, especially for rich people, and cut the crap out of spending.  Keep tuned for details.

About jobs.  The black guy hasn’t done nearly enough.  We will do much better by taking money from the middle class and give it to rich people so they can hire poor people.

About abortion.  Life begins at erection.  And if you don’t want a kid, don’t screw.  And if you want to screw you can’t have a contraceptive.

About war.  We’re not going to have any unless it’s in our best interests.  And, by the way, the hell with the U.N. and the rest of the world.

About bi-partisanship.  We’re going to reach across the aisle and be as cooperative as we were when we filibustered to death every plan that might have improved the lot of the American public.

About social safety nets.  We don’t need them.  Mitt and I will personally visit everyone who needs help.  Or maybe we’ll send Billy Graham or Pat Robertson.

About Social Security.  Trust us.  Old folks who vote Republican don’t need to worry.  Youngsters can invest their money with Bernie Madoff.

About healthcare.  Trust us.  Old folks can have anything they want as long as they vote for Mitt and me.  Youngsters can have a voucher good for about half the cost of their care…maybe.

About Mitt’s remarks.  He doesn’t mean what he says.  And that goes double for his bonehead remark about 47% of the country being deadbeats.  So don’t pay any attention.

About my remarks.  I spent a lot of time memorizing stuff for this debate, especially the names of the Pakistani tribes that I repeated twice so you would say “Wow, what a foreign relations expert he is.”

I feel so much better about Paul Ryan.  At least he’s no Sarah Palin.

What would President Romney do?

—A president would be sure of the facts before broadcasting his story.

—A president would strongly condemn the murder of innocents.

—A president would avoid language that further incites violence against his citizens.

—A president would assure other nations that he does not condone the repellent actions of bigots, racists  and troublemakers.

—A president would insist on the cooperation of other nations to control violence against our citizens.

—A president would inform those nations of the consequences of their inaction.

—A president would  instill the confidence of the nation in his judgment.

—A president would calm the nation and the world.

—A president would not seek political gain at the expense of doing the right thing.

Some folks, like that self-proclaimed foreign policy guru Paul Ryan, don’t think that my formula for handling things like riots precipitated by morons whose sole objective is to create a riot, is a fitting prescription for a president.

Speaking in De Pere, Wisconsin, the Bernard Baruch of the 21st century said…“It is very important that a president speak with a singular voice representing our principles and our values.  If you show weakness, if you show moral equivocation, then foreign policy adventurism among our adversaries will increase.”  He promised that a Romney administration would lead with “peace through strength.”  He might have added the watchword of his faith…shoot first, think later.

It reminded me of Ryan’s running mate, the ever ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, Mitt Romney.  The Washington Post chronicled the Mitter’s all too frequent politics comes first approach to crises.  The Post said…there have been too many cheap shots and miscues that have only called attention to Mr. Romney’s inexperience in foreign affairs.  The Post included Mitt’s knee jerk attacks on the administration while in the midst of delicate negotiations over the fate of the Chinese human rights lawyer, and his blatantly political accusation that Obama sympathizes with rioters.

The Post continued by labeling his jeering at Russia as “unbecoming a great power “ and his threats of a trade war with China as “both unconvincing and unproductive.”  The paper concluded  with  “He appealed to the worst in the American people when he failed to stand up for religious tolerance by condemning the bigoted anti-Muslim movie trailer that incited riots this week, even as he rightly condemned the violence itself.”

Perhaps secretly embracing  the riots in the Middle East as a welcome respite from being roundly criticized for failing to offer up his tax returns or, for that matter, anything else of substance to public scrutiny, the Mitt began to prepare a methodical, high-minded approach to the upcoming debates with the President.  In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopolous, he revealed the secret weapon that he will use in dealing with Mr. Obama…“I think the challenge that I’ll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren’t true,” Romney said. “I’ve looked at prior debates. And in that kind of case, it’s difficult to say, ‘Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren’t quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?”

Oh, that Mitt.  What a guy.  Confronting Obama with the schoolyard liar, liar, pants are on fire approach will give him the cover he needs when falsely disputing any facts offered by Mr. Obama during the debates.  It will also let him focus on the things he knows best, like foreign policy and, uh…

Mitt continued regaling George…” I believe that when the final decisions are being made by the American people, they’re going to ask themselves, “Who do I have confidence in to keep America safe? And who do I believe can get our economy doing what it needs to do?”  No shit.

Pressed on his plan to continue the Bush tax cuts while balancing the budget by closing as yet unspecified loopholes, our aspiring tax expert pointed to several studies including one by Harvard’s Martin Feldstein.  But Stephanopolous noted that Feldstein’s study said balancing was only possible if tax deductions for home mortgage interest, charitable deductions and state/local taxes were eliminated for everyone earning at least $100,000.  Romney sheepishly admitted that he actually hadn’t read the Feldstein report that he and his Pancho Sanza  traveling companion prominently cite on the campaign trail.  Big surprise.

Even reliable Republican pundits seemed on the verge of tears.  George Will lamented “If the Republican Party cannot win in this environment, it has to get out of politics and find another business.” Laura Ingraham said “If you can’t beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party, shut it down.”  Good idea.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal offered…”The GOP candidate might try explaining his policies.  Just a thought.”   As a fresh start in that direction, I give Mitt permission to use the list at the top of this blog.

Just the facts

It started a few days ago.  That nagging feeling that nobody cares about the truth.  Or worse yet, simply insist that the truth is merely a fiction.

My friend Ralph sent me, for the second time, a regurgitated missive blasted to his friends in cyberspace intended to terrorize the mindless among us.  Warning us that Obamacare would tax the sale of our home, he ignored the actual law and chose to sensationalize and grossly overstate.  No matter that I had previously told him, accompanied by references and facts, that he was seriously off base.  Better to spread the falsehood in the sacred effort to rid us of Obama and that awful healthcare abomination so mindlessly upheld by that liberal pinko, Justice Roberts.

Jay Ambrose, a regular columnist in the Ventura Star, spent the better part of his Wednesday message telling us that fact checkers were predominantly leftists pushing the liberal point of view.  Better to ignore them.  Better to accept the lies than to trust anyone who might be armed with the truth.

In response to the twisted logic applied by Paul Ryan as he endeared himself to the Tampa convention goers, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse turned the challenge back on the fact checkers, saying they bring their own “thoughts and beliefs” to the process.  “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” Newhouse said.  Better to accept everything the candidate says.  After all, he’s cute and his mother loves him.

The long dead John Sununu arose, as he tends to do every four years, to defend the Romney ad that accuses Obama of gutting welfare reform by illegally granting waivers to states that ask for them. The TV ad claims the Obama administration has adopted “a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.”  The plan does neither of those things.  Abetting this, some would say racist, claim that folks could avoid looking for work, stay home, drink beer, fart a lot and get checks for doing so, Sununu almost had a cerebral explosion defending his right to call Obama a liar.  Substantiating his claim to veracity, he invoked the names of Rick Santorum (there is no global warming and conception begins at the moment of erection) and Newt Gingrich (the earth is flat and I didn’t inhale when I was cheating on my wives.)

I thought I had escaped from this onslaught of slime to the sanctity of the Cinemark Theater in downtown Ventura to watch Robot and Frank (don’t bother, it’s still searching for a plot).  As part of the now ubiquitous pre-feature film advertising deluge, Glenn Beck’s face appeared on the screen inviting me to spend time with him while he made unbiased fun of himself, both political parties and the election.  The very same Glenn Beck who just recently promoted the lie that the Democratic convention will host a Muslim “Jumah” prayer service while rejecting a Catholic cardinal’s offer to lead a prayer.  Glenn has it almost right, except that the Muslim service is in a city park and is sponsored by a non-profit claiming no allegiance to either party.

Much as it hurts me, I admit that both parties own a significant share of fibs, distortions and big, fat lies.  It is informative, however, to gauge the relative veracity of both of them.  Simply put, who’s the biggest liar?  To that end PolitiFact.com, a Pulitzer (Commie bastard) winning organization, has a list of Pants on Fire awards for lies that haven’t even a Captain Crunch grain of truth.  Check it out.

Does it matter? Is anyone paying attention?  More importantly, are those undecided voters (aka wimps) swayed by the barrage and complexity of the falsehoods?   For to every lie there is also the claim of truth.  To those who think we need to do something about global warming, there are those who cite the doubts voiced by the miniscule minority who have their heads in their ass.  To those who say there is a growing and unfair disparity between the 1% and the 99%, there are those tricksters who say that jobs will trickle down from more tax cuts for the wealthy.  And to those who say trust us, there are those who remember George, Dick, Donald and Condoleeza.

The other night, Barrel 33 hosted my buddy Jim and I to happy hour martinis.  We come from opposites ends of the political spectrum yet find some way, maybe an even invigorating way, to argue politics.  Somewhere in the conversation, Jim said “I think I’ll just stick my head under the covers until the election is over.  It’s giving me a headache.”

I know that Jim won’t do that.  And neither should you.  Stay focused on the clear choice broadcast  by the parties.  You can be an America-firster dedicated to lower taxes, dramatically reduced support for those less fortunate, a larger military budget, decimated school budgets, growing intrusion of religion in our lives, and a one-size-fits-all definition of morality.  Or you can be the exact opposite.

And that’s a fact.

Let ’em eat cake…

The annual Ojai Playwrights Conference is in town.  That’s where a bunch of writers take money from locals like me to watch a half-finished play performed by people wearing t-shirts, jeans and sandals, reading from three-ring notebooks on a stage that has no scenery, no props, no music.  And it only costs $25 a performance.  What’s that all about?

Well it’s pretty damn good entertainment.  Even on a sweltering day like yesterday when we drove over to the Zalk Theater in the Makows’ still new electric hybrid Ford Focus.  I can’t get used to sitting in the back seat while the car pulls out of the driveway without a sound.  I want to yell “Hey Yoram, switch on the engine before you lose control of this thing.”

You say, how hot was it Saturday?   It was one of those days where all of the oxygen seems to have been squeezed out of the air.  You breathe but nothing happens.  You compare it to what it must be like on the surface of Mars where the bazillion dollar space oddity Curiosity is currently taking pictures of rocks and confirming their existence on a planet that just screams for a Starbucks iced coffee.

The heat of the day was preceded by the announcement of Mitt’s selection of straight man Paul Ryan.  In turn it was accompanied by a slew of pundits predicting the Ryan impact on the polling numbers.   These ranged from “it’s an early Christmas gift to the Obama campaign” to “Obama might as well pack it in and return to where he came from…Kenya.”

Try as I might, I could not make a legitimate case for believing that Ryan was simply a re-run of Sarah Palin after a sex change operation.  On the other hand, I thought back to that night four years ago when I went to Tony’s house right after the who-the-hell-is-she Snow Queen had made her acceptance speech at the Republican convention.  “She’s something else” Tony said.  “Going to be tough to deal with and a real boost for McCain.”  Gloom.  Doom.  Pack it in.  Fuggetaboudit.

My own carefully researched conclusion is that Ryan was picked because he’s got a one track mind and is not easily confused by the facts.  His track is straight and narrow…squeeze the little guy and give the juice to the big guy.  Or as lovely Marie is reputed to have said so succinctly, “What, no bread? Let ’em eat cake.”

Rather than plaguing poor Mitt with insisting on the redundant disclosure of his we-already-know-what’s-in-them tax returns, we can focus our attention on the likely impact of the much publicized Ryan Budget.  You surely have heard of it.  It’s the only thing that the Republicans deal with in the House when they’re not voting for the repeal of Obamacare, or finding new ways to return women to second class status in accordance with biblical law.

In order to free you up from watching anything until November 5th other than reruns of Have Gun Will Travel, here’s just a few things that you need to remember about Mr. Ryan’s philosophy.  Pay close attention because this is what Mitt, Paul and the Tea Party congress have pledged themselves to begin working on next January.

—You will have the pleasure of getting a healthcare voucher that you can use to pay for an unstipulated set of benefits  from the friendly  insurer of your choice.  If the voucher doesn’t cover your needs, tough.  Ryan insists that this will bring competition to the marketplace, something that we have tried and failed at for the last hundred years and that no other civilized country would even dream of.  If you find yourself in an alley dragging your non-covered hernia behind you, eat cake.

—States will receive Medicaid block grants and can stipulate who gets what benefits and how much.  An estimated fifteen million people will lose their current healthcare coverage, especially in Texas.  Let ’em eat cake.

—Ryan is a staunch supporter of the privatization of Social Security.  That’s where you, as a highly qualified financial analyst, will decide where to invest your retirement funds.  And, if you should put all your beans into a Lehman Brothers clone or a Bernie Madoff look-alike, eat cake.

—Ryan’s stance on abortion equals or exceeds that of Michele Bachman.  No abortions, period.  Even if the life of the mother is in danger.  He co-sponsored a bill defining fertilized eggs as human beings, even though they can’t eat cake.

—His most recent budget would shrink government spending on everything but entitlements and defense by two-thirds.  That includes silly things like education, law enforcement, highways, job training for displaced people, Pell grants for students, and food stamps for the hungry.  Cake for everyone.

—The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities had this to say about the boon that will accrue to the wealthy based on Ryan’s tax cuts…In essence, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids. It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).

—Catholic Bishops responding to Ryan’s proposed cuts in the safety net  said in an April letter to the House that this proposed budget will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment. These cuts are unjustified and wrong.  Mr. Ryan responded by saying that he was helping the poor by eliminating their dependence on government.

He really meant to say let ’em eat cake.  And if that doesn’t work, squeeze all the oxygen out of the air.

Leave us alone…We’re doing just great

Bobby Jindal.  There’s a name that rolls off the tongue.  Governor of Louisiana and one-time Republican vice-presidential prospect.  Champion of the free market, conservative philosophy, Tea Parties, and Cajun food.  The leader of the only state that still refers to the Napoleonic Code in its state law.

With 25% of Louisiana’s population living in poverty, Governor Jindal vowed on Fox and Friends to forego any federal funds that might, god forbid, improve their lives.

Smarting from the Supremes’ decision to give the Affordable Care Act a free ride and urged on by Republicans on Capitol Hill, Bobby and other NRA supported governors vowed to retain their purity by spitting on the additional federal funds available through ACA (aka Obamacare) to expand Medicaid.  Starting in 2014, the Feds will provide 100% of the funding to add millions of people to Medicaid.  Rich lazy people earning less than $14,000 a year (about $6.50 an hour) are eligible. Three years later, the states gotta  pick up 10% of the cost.  Financially ruinous if not downright Socialistic.

But, more importantly, he rails against the intrusion on his prerogative to handle these poor folks as he sees fit.  Appearing on Fox… It seems to me like the president measures success by how many people are on food stamp rolls and government-run health care. That’s not the American dream.  We’re going to do everything we can to elect Mitt Romney; to repeal this bad law and then replace it with a more patient-centered health care reform that puts patients, not the government, in control — not the government.

Right.  After all, for a century we’ve allowed the free market relatively unfettered access to everyone but us old folks and we’ve enjoyed the results that health care capitalism and unlimited consumer choice has brought us.  Like these…

 …CNN says that during the past year, 41 percent of young adults have forgone health care and treatments because of rising costs.

…The US spends more than two-and-a-half times on health care than the average of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

…We rank 50th in the world for life expectancy (Bosnia and Herzegovina are 45th.)

…Per Amnesty International, the US spends more than any other country on health care, and more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care. Despite this, women in the US have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than those in 49 other countries, including Kuwait, Bulgaria, and South Korea.  In 2009, the US had one of the highest infant mortality rates of any developed country.

…Depending who’s counting, up to 50,000,000 people in this country have no health care coverage.  A fact that just doesn’t exist in every other developed country.

But Bobby would rather continue this impressive record of achievement by doing it himself without interference from Washington carpetbaggers.  Reinforcing this macho stance, he and other like-minded neanderthals are raising the drawbridge and refusing to implement the health care exchanges, a key feature  of the ACA.

The Exchange is a simple way for those seeking health care insurance to find the best fit.  And the Act allows each of the states to set up their own version of the Exchange.  Alas, Bobby’s xenophobic attitude compelled him to offer the following warning to those of who just might find the Exchange beneficial…

I’m determined to stand up and say no. It makes no sense. This is a bad law. Obamacare, it doesn’t do what the president promised. Governors have the right, now with the Supreme Court ruling. They should stand up. We’re not expanding Medicaid. We’re not implementing the health exchange.

And there you have it.  No to helping more poor folks and no to giving anyone else a way to be more intelligent about their options.   A succinct expression of why, as Bobby says, we need to dump Obama in November and replace him with someone more like Bobby, more like Mitch, more like John,…maybe more like Mitt.

     

Where have our priorities gone?

We subscribe to the Ventura County Star.  Since they refuse to deliver the NY Times, the LA Times or even the Bakersfield Herald to my mailbox, I have by default come to call the Star The World’s Greatest Newspaper.

If the Star didn’t have the NY Times Crossword and their own Letters to the Editor, I’d probably cancel the paper and save a lot of trees.  I might even survive the loss of the Crossword, but Letters to the Editor…never.  Some of the funniest lines ever written find their way to the Letters page.  I’m fairly sure the writers never intended that their carefully thought out and meticulously researched letters be laughed at, but it’s something that can be depended on in nearly every issue.

So I start with the Star’s Section B cause that’s where the fun is.  It also has local news, something that you can’t get on CNN, FOX or MSNBC.  Saturday’s edition was no exception and it even showcased a story close to home.  “Ojai Girl Fights Rare Condition” the masthead screamed.  And a very cute picture of adorable four-year old Aubrey smiled at me from the center of the page.  I wondered if I knew the family so I began to read the story.  A not yet fully diagnosed illness has plagued Aubrey since she was born.  Compounded by a number of medical mis-steps, little Audrey has been in and out of the hospital and now suffers the added burden of a feeding tube attached to a backpack full of nutrients.  Poor baby.

Five hospital stays in the last four months have compounded the family’s problems and depleted their financial resources.  The There but for the grace of God go I story ended with the promise that a fundraiser would soon be held.

Starved for something funny to counterbalance this tale of woe, I turned to the Letters page, skimmed an indecipherable Bill O’Reilly opinion piece and scanned the Letters.  I unanimously voted Lois of Oxnard the Bozo of the Day award.  Using the documented evidence always present as the cornerstone of Republican thinking, Lois reminded us that George Bush brought down gas prices in the first few days of his tenure and then concluded her Harvard thesis by imploring God to dump Obama in November.  But even this hilarity wasn’t enough to soften the heartache of the Aubrey story.

So I did something I rarely do.  I turned to the front page of the newspaper.  Taxes and school deficits were nicely counterbalanced by the chance to win a bazillion dollars in the Mega Millions jackpot.  Not bad.  I went on to page two and was amply rewarded with the picture of a smiling couple who had just engineered a double suicide.  Sa-weet.

Page three chronicled the story of the state Democratic campaign treasurer who embezzled $7 million from the party coffers, showing I suppose that Democrats can’t be trusted either.

And finally there was a photo of Leon Panetta quoted as saying “military cuts are rash.”  You may remember that these cuts are part of the absence of an agreement between the Democrats and Republicans on how to save $1.2 trillion buckeroos.  Since the twelve disciples on the special committee couldn’t come up with a plan, the default position was to cut the funding half from Defense and, putting a local face on things, half from little Aubrey.  Secretary Panetta concluded his remarks with this sage statement about Congress…What they essentially did is put a gun to their heads and the heads of the country.  Or to put a local face on it, little Aubrey’s head.

I’m a big supporter of our armed forces.  I don’t want to slash their budget to the point where Fidel Castro can easily maneuver his walker into my bedroom and suffocate me with a super burrito.  We even went to see Act of Valor where we patriotically joined seven other bewildered people on a Saturday evening.  The other three hundred people were next door watching Hunger Games, a story about little kids killing other little kids.  Inspiring.  No, I don’t want to slash the military budget but maybe a surface abrasion or even a painful papercut would be in order.

I’m sure little Aubrey is a big fan of the armed forces too.  Maybe she even understands why her parents need to have a fund-raiser so she can get the medical care she needs and rid herself of that backpack.  Maybe she even appreciates why Congressman Ryan wants to slash medical benefits while giving even larger tax breaks to those folks who might then be more inclined to attend her fundraiser.  But I doubt that even little Aubrey can understand how Justice Scalia can equate her medical disaster to broccoli.


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