Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Gift!

As far back as I can remember, in my family, Christmas Gift! was the traditional Christmas Day greeting. My sister, Cissy, was the family master at this and usually "got" us all (i.e., she would say it before I could say it). It was how we answered the phone in those pre-caller ID days, just in case it was my grandmother or first cousins on the line. It is also one of the family traditions that has carried on to this day as I received an email just after midnight last night from my brother with "Christmas Gift!" as the subject. Since he had sent it to me and our first cousin Mary, I replied all so that I could say I "got" someone. Then I went to Facebook and left it as a message on the pages of Mary, her daughters and her niece and nephew (since her brother is not on Facebook, I guess I'll miss him).

Christmas Day 1959 just after the measles broke and I decided I finally wanted to play with my Christmas presents

This was just one of the many and varied traditions we had for Christmas Day. Another tradition that I have managed to sustain all these years is a Christmas Day breakfast of steak and eggs. This year is no exception as I have already eaten the breakfast a bit ago. I think the only year I have missed having steak and eggs on Christmas Day was 1976 when I was in Basic Training at Lackland AFB.

While my mother and sister were both always doing the heavy Christmas decorations, I have tended to not continue that tradition. I have plenty of ornaments for those occasional years where I do put up a tree. One year, one of my cousins made and gave me an "angel" for the top of the tree. She told me the angels tended not to last as they were made out of sugar and the mice would eat them. I used the angel that year then wrapped it in plastic from the dry cleaners. I passed this angel on to the daughter of this cousin earlier this year as a remembrance of her mother who died suddenly 20 years ago. Then as I went through my sister's things after her death, I made sure I saved the tree top angel she had made in kindergarten and had set on top of our family trees as we grew up then on her trees over the years.

Christmas Day 1962 with my new bike

Some traditions last decades, others only for two or three years but all make Christmas unique for our individual families. Sometimes, it is life intruding that breaks the traditions. Many of us can recall Christmases where a family member is lost right in the middle of the season. In my family, it was the year a first cousin died in a car accident a week before Christmas. He would have been 21 on Christmas Eve that year. Remembering the pain of that Christmas, we can get some sense of the anguish being felt by the families of folks in Newtown, CT and Webster, NY today.

Pictures were always a big tradition in my family. This picture from 1980 is the last year we were all together on Christmas. I have been scanning in a lot of Christmas pictures from over the years and have uploaded them to Facebook. They do make a good record for the family.

And because I can:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Let's Play With Some Numbers, Social Security Edition

Boy howdy, but did I make a mistake this morning. I made the mistake of allowing myself to become distracted while I was "multi-tasking" and surfing the cable channels at the same time I was checking my emails AND getting a phone call. All of a sudden, I realized I was on MSNBC and listening to Moanin' Joe where the topic of the day appeared to be whining about how those dastardly libruls just wouldn't get with the program and worship at the altar of Pete Peterson (as Joe declared he does.)

Then I saw someone by the name of Rick Stengel talking about how "entitlements" needed to be cut in order for everyone to show how "serious" they are with the "fiscal cliff."

Of course, everyone that was on that show this morning (it included Harold Ford, Steven Rattner, Michael Steele, Disco Dave, Tweety, and Chuck Todd) as well as everyone on all the various talking head shows watched by the Beltway Village Idiots Courtiers are people who will never have to worry about living on Social Security as the only thing keeping them from poverty and homelessness, so they are all fine with most any and all changes being discussed. After all, they are all Very Serious People, often wrong but never in doubt. Why, we could almost call them all "economists" they are wrong so often.

A couple of years ago, I wrote this post, "Let's Play With Some Numbers" as a "what-if" about the mythical person working the mythical full time, minimum wage job and what that person might be able to afford as far as a place to live, and associated costs.

Why is this pertinent?

Well, the current average monthly Social Security payment (for October 2012) is $1,237 per month which works out to be $14,844 per year. This will go up to $1,261 in 2013. Where I had my mythical full time minimum wage earner paying FICA/Medicare taxes, other taxes (and some healthcare costs) and missing work on the "Big 6" holidays (New Years Day, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) before getting into the actual available funds to pay bills (lowering the income from $15,080 by $2,570 to $12,510), the mythical average Social Security recipient pays $99.90 per month for Medicare Part B starting at age 65, going up to $104.90 for 2013.

The point of all this is that a mythical person collecting average Social Security benefits is in roughly the same position financially as the mythical person who works a mythical full time minimum wage job. My WAG is that for every person who is collecting Social Security and also has the benefits of a defined pension, 401K, or robust savings, there is another person who is relying solely and completely on Social Security and Medicare to stay alive. With the Great Recession having taken its toll these past few years, I imagine there are many people just trying to hold on until they reach age 62 and can start collecting something. I imagine there are many more, like myself, who have had to cash in their 401k/IRAs early just to try to stay alive for these past few years.

So let's remind the Beltway Village Idiots Politicians, Pundits, and Courtiers that there are real world consequences when they so blithely toss around "cut entitlement spending" as a "solution to the deficit." As Mr Pierce puts it so eloquently, "Fck the deficit. People got no jobs. People got no money."

And because I can: