Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pedophile Enablers Continue to Enable Pedophiles

Last year I wrote a couple of posts about the Pedophile Enablers (aka the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts respectively.) Well there I was this morning, looking through the news sites as I do, when I saw this article at the Lexington Herald-Leader about a priest who had been removed because of sex abuse allegations yet was basically allowed to remain in place with no one actually monitoring him or his actions:

Five years after church officials ordered Carroll Howlin to stop functioning as a missionary priest in southeastern Kentucky, leaders of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill., received a letter from a suburban pastor that illuminated just how little the diocese had done to enforce its own protective measures amid a crippling sex abuse scandal.

Howlin, an avuncular-looking priest who moved here more than 30 years ago, had been suspended in 2002 after he was accused of molesting a teenage boy — the second of four such allegations he would face in his career. The Joliet diocese later substantiated claims involving two other victims, including one who committed suicide at 17.

Church officials removed Howlin from public ministry, but otherwise left him alone in Kentucky with a $1,100-a-month pension. He was allowed to continue living in this community where he once helped run the Good Shepherd Catholic Chapel, providing food, clothing and other social services.


Joliet Bishop R. Daniel Conlon believes the diocese has handled the Howlin issue correctly, Dwyer said. Conlon, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, has met the diocese's obligation to inform the public of Howlin's circumstances by issuing a press release in 2002 and listing his name among priests with substantiated allegations on its website, Dwyer said.
I checked a little further when I realized the article had originated with the Chicago Tribune.

They. Just. Don't. Get. It.

I did a quick check of der Google using "sex abuse Chicago archdiocese" and got a return of 349K items. The first few headlines:

1. From wiki: "Sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic archdiocese of Chicago"
2. From Huffington Post November 2011: " Daniel McCormack Sex Abuse: Chicago Archdiocese To Pay $3.2 Million To Another Victim"
3. From Catholic News September 2008: "Chicago Archdiocese to pay $12.6 million to 16 sex abuse survivors"
4. From Chicago Sun-Times April 2013: "2 men sue Chicago archdiocese, allege priest molested them in ’60s"
5. From Chicago Tribune March 2013: "Files detail decades of abuse in Joliet Diocese"

Yes, that would be the same Joliet Diocese whose Bishop Conlon in the first article of this post is said to believe "...the diocese has handled the Howlin issue correctly" (quote is of the article, not of Bishop Donlon.)

Bishop Donlon, I do beg to differ. The church removed Father Howlin in 2002. It is fairly obvious that removing him, placing his name on a list somewhere, and leaving him with no supervision is probably not sufficient in protecting children from abuse.

I guess the Chicago Archdiocese must have a printing press or mint somewhere that allows them to continue to pay million dollar settlements or buy survivors of victims who have committed suicide a car and a house. Even after the Vatican substantiates the abuse and the perpetrator is allowed to flaunt the Vatican rulings against contact with children.

They. Just. Don't. Get. It.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Corporate Welfare and the Case for Taxes and Regulation

Most everyone knows the most common use of welfare as helping those in danger of being left behind by society. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP although often still referred to as Food Stamps, and Medicaid are the most well known programs available to people. And no, Social Security and Medicare are not welfare programs.

But just as there are welfare programs for individuals and families, there are also welfare programs for corporations and the rich and powerful. These are just not given names to make them easily identifiable as welfare programs yet the end result is governments at all levels wind up subsidizing for profit industries at the expense of the taxpayer. Privatizing the profits, socializing the losses in other words.

Let me offer a few examples. WalMart is one of the easiest examples. They are a profitable business yet far too frequently, WalMart employees are forced to use public assistance, i.e., the pretty much textbook definition of the working poor (see here, here, here, here, here, and here). If you check der Google for "WalMart employees public assistance" there are over 900K hits in .34 seconds.

Privatizing the profits, socializing the losses.

Next up are oil and gas companies. Just for last year (2012) the Big Five oil companies (ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips) had combined profits of $117B (high of $45B for Exxon down to 'only' $8B for ConocoPhillips). These are just the biggest oil companies and does not cover the Koch Brothers Amerada Hess, T Boone Pickens, and many other "smaller" oil companies (smaller being a relative term). While the amount of subsidies varies depending on how they are defined, contrary to Forbes magazine's contention, they do exist. As even an earlier Forbes article concedes (although they paint it as "everybody loves them.") Christian Science Monitor places the subsidies at $41B a couple of years ago. The Atlantic in March discussed over $38B in Big Oil and gas subsidies identified by the Obama administration for deletion over the next 10 years. This chart shows the annual subsidies for Oil and gas at $10B to $52B per year. You will notice that all of these guesstimates on the amount of annual subsidies are well below the annual profits.

Just these past few weeks we have seen a few more examples of privatizing the profits and socializing the losses. Exxon's oil spill/pipeline break in Mayflower, AR. Due to a loophole in the law, Exxon will not have to pay into a federal cleanup fund after this disaster. The West, TX fertilizer plant explosion:

"This explosion, I think, surprised a lot of people," said Senator John Cornyn. "It is no surprise that ammonium nitrate is explosive under the right conditions."

No one could have anticipated - unless they did.

Tax breaks. Lack of regulations. No inspections. Ka-boom!

I wish I had the answers or the magic wand but I do not have the magic wand and elected officials at all levels do not have the will to find and implement the answers. It might hurt the (un)free market and cost a few cents of profit.

Privatize the profits. Socialize the losses. Avoid the taxes and regulations and let the tax payer pick up the pieces. John Galt would be so very proud.

And because I can:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013

The first Earth day was declared by the UN for March 21, 1970 but for the US, the date of April 22 was established by then Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. I do not really recall anything from either of the "Earth Days" from 1970. That was my senior year in high school at a military school and my guess is that date was right around the time when the school had its annual "Federal Inspection" where an active duty cadre of US Army officers (if I remember correctly, that year it was the ROTC staff from Penn State) would come in and inspect the physical plant, military education, and cadets. We must have done OK in the inspection as we were named an "Honor Military School" for that year (as well as the 3 previous years I attended.)

Portage Glacier Alaska, August 1997

Rachel Carson had written the book Silent Spring in 1962 which:

is widely credited with helping launch the contemporary American environmental movement.
I do know that starting the next spring when I was finishing my freshman year at Western Kentucky University, I participated in Earth Day activities. Over the years I have marched in support of Earth Day. I have picked up trash along the side of the road. I have planted trees. And I have attempted to reconcile my life as a consumer with my ideals of trying to work for the betterment of Mother Earth (albeit not always successfully.)

Today, April 22, 2013 is not only Earth Day, it is the last day to submit public comments on the Keystone XL pipeline. I find a lot of reasons to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline but probably the most important reason of all, is the idiocy of having a pipeline filled with poison go over one of the largest fresh water aquifers in the world.

Of course, we have people like the Chairman of Nestle proclaiming that access to water is and is not a human right:
"I am the first one to say water is a human right. This human right is the five litres of water we need for our daily hydration and the 25 litres we need for minimum hygiene.

"This amount of water is the primary responsibility of every government to make available to every citizen of this world, but this amount of water accounts for 1.5% of the total water which is for all human usage.

"Where I have an issue is that the 98.5% of the water we are using, which is for everything else, is not a human right and because we treat it as one, we are using it in an irresponsible manner, although it is the most precious resource we have. Why? Because we don't want to give any value to this water. And we know very well that if something doesn't have a value, it's human behaviour that we use it in an irresponsible manner.
Access to water has been a theme of many dystopian novels and films. I'm thinking here of Waterworld and Ice Pirates, both bad films but with a message we should probably heed.

Sunset along the Little Manatee River
I do not know how we can stop poisoning ourselves. We have the Arkansas pipeline spill as one of many pipeline leaks each year. Exxon has now admitted that the oil (which they go to great lengths to keep from calling oil) is the stuff that will flow through the Keystone XL if the pipeline is built. The pipeline in Arkansas carried 90K barrels of oil per day. Keystone XL is supposed to carry up to 800K barrels of oil per day.

I'm not going to get into the explosion in West, TX other than to (rhetorically) wonder how many other fertilizer plants and other facilities around the country are bombs waiting to go off in small communities.

And because I can:

Monday, April 15, 2013

McJobs: Bad and Getting Worse

A couple of years ago, you might remember that McDonalds got a lot of publicity out of a one day hiring binge. I wrote about it here with a follow-up about the Washington Post noticing that it was a "McJobs" economic recovery a couple of weeks later. So here we are, two years later and where exactly are we?

At best, we are treading water. At best.

Today, NBC News' web site had this article titled In tough economy, fast food workers grow old discussing the reality of older workers working in the fast food world. They had a companion article on fast food jobs as portrayed in the movies over the past couple of years (presumably in an attempt to off-set the negative implications of the original) but the stories in the first article should be heeded:

In many ways, she is a typical fast-food worker: She's older than you'd expect, has more years of schooling and works in the industry not for entry-level experience, but to try to keep her head above the financial storm that threatens to swamp her.

Due to the lingering effects of the Great Recession, the Hollywood image of the care-free, freckle-faced, teenage hamburger flipper is no longer the norm. Only 16 percent of fast food industry jobs now go to teens, down from 25 percent a decade ago.

And many of the older workers are educated. More than 42 percent of restaurant and fast-food employees over the age of 25 have at least some college education, including 753,000 with a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Yes, fast food jobs are not just for teenagers anymore.

I've actually noticed a few articles these past few months discussing working poor, low wage jobs, and the on-going unemployment crisis. First up is this from the Washington Post in January on the growing ranks of working poor:
Nearly a third of the nation’s working families earn salaries so low that they struggle to pay for their necessities, according to a new report.

The ranks of the so-called working poor have grown even as the nation has created new jobs for 27 consecutive months and is showing other signs of shaking off the worst effects of the recession.
As I discussed a couple of years ago, minimum wage is not a salary where someone is going to get ahead.

At the end of March, NBC News had an article looking at the growing ranks of poor families in the suburbs:
The number of suburban residents living in poverty rose by nearly 64 percent between 2000 and 2011, to about 16.4 million people, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of 95 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. That’s more than double the rate of growth for urban poverty in those areas.
At the end of this article, there were links to some further articles including, 'By the grace of God': How workers survive on $7.25 per hour and Media coverage of poverty: Why 'so little'? (coverage of a Dan Froomkin essay.)

On April 1 (and not an April Fools Day joke) CNN had an article on the lousy pay at the 10 most common jobs in the US:
Food prep workers are the third most-common job in the U.S., but have the lowest pay, at a mere $18,720 a year for 2012. Cashiers and waiters are also popular professions, but the average pay at these jobs tallies up to less than $21,000 annually. There are 4.3 million retail sales workers out there, making them the most common job, but the position pays only $25,310 for the year.
As a companion to the incredibly shrinking pay checks and the increase in the working poor, there are also the stresses put on workers by the jobs. First up here is this article from NBC News in early January, Temp employees more likely to succumb to workplace hazards:
The use of contingent workers by U.S. employers has soared over the past two decades. In 1990, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 1.1 million such workers; as of August 2012, the number was 2.54 million, down slightly from pre-recession levels but climbing.


A study published this year of nearly 4,000 amputations among workers in Illinois found that five of the 10 employers with the highest number of incidents were temp agencies. Each of the 10 employers had between six and 12 amputations from 2000 through 2007. Most of the victims lost fingertips, but some lost legs, arms or hands.


Another study, published in 2010, found that temp workers in Washington State had higher injury rates than permanent workers, based on a review of workers’ compensation claims. In particular, temp workers were far more likely to be struck by or caught in machinery in the construction and manufacturing industries.
Just last week NBC News had an article on work related stress:
So what did workers say is causing them the most agita? Everyone act surprised, it was a tie for No. 1: Low pay and unreasonable workload (14 percent each).
Lindsay Beyerstein at the Hillman Foundation had a post today on an LA Times article from last week on workers being ground down by the daily grind.

I guess we shouldn't worry too much though. Early in March, Forbes reported the results of a survey of US Management types:
Competitiveness at the Crossroads (2012) is an alarming report with far-reaching implications. Forget the U.S. budget sequester. Set aside the financial bubbles on which the economy currently rests. Pay attention to something much more fundamental: America has lost the ability to compete in the international marketplace.


In the survey, Harvard’s MBA alumni were asked how American business stacks up against its competition on a variety of issues. The quality of management is obviously one of the most important of those issues: if there are disastrous shortfalls in the ability to compete, then surely the quality of management itself—the art and science of getting things done—must have a lot to do with it. Indeed if there are widespread failures in competitiveness across the whole economy, then it is likely that we have something even more serious: a generic problem with the strategies being pursued.


American business is unable to compete internationally. But management—relative to competitors—is both strong and improving?
Bold in original. Forbes at least had enough sense to ask WTF?

Happy Tax Day everyone!

And because I can:

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Concern Trolls Very Serious People Are Out

Damn but just when I reach a point where I think things can't get any stoopider inside the Beltway, we have a week like this one with the release of President Obama's "budget" and once again the reality of stoopid is even worse than imagined.

Word leaked last Friday (April 5) that Chained CPI was going to be part of President Obama's budget, prompting me to point out a simple truth, "A Bad Idea Is a Bad Idea, No Matter Who Proposes It." Of course, starting Monday, all the usual suspects and even a few somewhat surprising suspects started pushing the idea as a wonderful thing, maybe even as good as sliced bread.

The first cheers I saw, came from the Wall Street Journal. It is difficult to detail all the errors in this piece but it starts with the idea that Social Security has any bearing on the Budget in the first place the goes on to "explain" why Chained CPI is just such a good idea:

The chain-weighted CPI registers slower inflation than the usual CPI because it allows for the substitution effect of price changes. When the cost of one item rises, consumers switch to a similar product that has not risen in price (or not increased as much). The substitution can occur intra-item (whole wheat bread instead of white bread) and inter-item (beer versus wine). The chained CPI takes the shifts into its calculation; the traditional CPI does not.
Of course, these types of discussions never point out how the folks who are already "substituting" are supposed to pay for price increases, just as it fails to recognize the basic facts of Social Security, including the fact that the average monthly benefit is $1,264 per month, which is barely more than a minimum wage job pays and we all know how richly you can live on minimum wage. (Yes, that's snark.)

The Washington Post also is on the bandwagon and loving them some Chained CPI, once again pretending that Social Security is a part of the overall Federal Budget:
Most important, the president committed himself in writing to more than $100 billion in Social Security spending restraint over the next decade, along with $400 billion in health program reductions.
Ruth Marcus yesterday earned her WaPo0 money by being oh so very concerned with how the Republicans react to the President:
The conundrum of President Obama’s budget is that he has produced a “come let us reason together” proposal aimed at a Republican Party that has demonstrated no interest in being reasonable.
On Tuesday, Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote a blog post comparing Paul Ryan's "budget" with the President's by stating that if Ryan's budget is (self-described) as visionary, then the president's is "strategic." Bernstein quotes his colleague, Robert Greenstein (President of CBPP) who produced a statement in favor of President Obama's budget, and specifically, in favor of Chained CPI.

I can't begin to detail all the errors in Greenstein's statement but will try to address the most egregious ones. First off:
As it stands, the package makes tough policy choices while largely adhering to the principle, as enunciated by the Bowles-Simpson commission, that deficit reduction should not increase poverty or inequality. Nevertheless, the budget’s substantial spending cuts, both in entitlements and discretionary programs, would have real-world consequences for millions of individuals and families.
While there was a Bowles-Simpson commission, there was nothing "enunciated" by the commission as there was no report since the recommendations could not achieve the necessary vote count to be accepted as official. And once again, we have someone who should know better (and most likely does) trying to conflate Social Security as part of the overall Federal Budget.

Then there's:
Experts widely regard the chained CPI as a more accurate measure of inflation for the population as a whole. It may well be, however, less accurate for elderly individuals and many low-income people and, thus, understate the inflation that they face.
What experts are saying this? The best I have found is that the NY Times had an article claiming this that they would later correct as Dean Baker points out here.

Reuters presents it as The Grand Bargain while the Christian Science Monitor presents it as a great idea because liberals are angry so that must mean it is bi-partisnay or something.

Tiger Beat On the Potomac (h/t Mr Pierce) of all people, actually gets to the nut in their lede:
President Barack Obama says he’ll protect the most vulnerable seniors from his “chained CPI” proposal – but he’s not going to protect everyone. Not even all seniors.

The White House, fighting back against liberal critics who say he’s giving away too much, released details Wednesday of the protections Obama would include to make sure older seniors and low-income people don’t get hurt by lower benefits.
There it is. As I said the other day and will say many more times I'm sure, IF YOU HAVE TO MAKE SPECIAL PROVISIONS TO ASSURE PEOPLE ARE NOT HURT, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.

Such a simple damn concept. But of course, with all the people doing the cheerleading, none of them are people who actually have to live on Social Security so for them, it is only an intellectual exercise, not reality.

And because I can:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Year of Life After a Death

Dear Cissy,
Last night I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook when I saw this note that Beth had left on your page:

Tomorrow will be one year ago that we lost you. There are so many times I reach for the phone to call you because I know you're up for everything. While it makes me sad, it makes me glad we were friends for so many wonderful years. I love you, Kissy Cissy. Me and so many others. xo
I guess it has been a year. It's still four days from being a year since I had the Tampa cops show up at the door on Friday afternoon to tell me. After the cops left, I called the Manchester PD, gave them my information then waited for the cop on the scene to give me a call. We spoke for a bit, then he passed the phone over to Kathie who told me all that had transpired and who was around. After we hung up, I got online to track down Win's phone number and saw that Paula had sent me a message on Facebook. As I thought on it, I'm kinda glad things worked out as they did, otherwise it would have been Paula giving me the information about what had happened

I got to Manchester on Monday and Dana and Debbie picked me up. O'Leary came over and let me into the condo. As I'm sure you knew would happen, all of your friends pitched in to help me over the next few months. Kathie and Paula both took me out to lunch or dinner a few times. Sharon and Iain had me over, Thanksgiving with Dana and Debbie. We were all each others' connection to you and I've seen this over and over this past year. I have a lot more friends now than I did a year ago because of you. One afternoon Susan had come over to pick up a few things and we were chatting as she got ready to leave. She remarked about the diversity of your friends and how you had been the common link between all these people who would not have known each other except for you.

That first week in Manchester things were just a bit of a blur. Trying to deal with the funeral home, the credit union, and everything was just a tad irritating to say the least. But then, there were the positives. My jaw dropped when the funeral home director told me Doris had died just a few days after you. Her funeral was earlier in the afternoon of your Memorial service but Joe, Signe, Katie, Brendan, and Signe's sisters all came to your memorial. Joe made sure to send me a copy of the wonderful column he wrote for you and Doris. The whole Memorial that afternoon was a tribute to the many people you had known and affected over your 40 years in New Hampshire. Friends from your Sandown days through Derry and Londonderry to Manchester. People you had worked with from the Derry News, Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, and the Union-Leader then others you had worked with at the Palace Theater and the Statehouse. Cops and firefighters extolling your coverage of them and your empathy. The Manchester Police Athletic League was already missing your support. The future governor and the once and future Speaker came and stood in line for an hour just to honor you. And speaking of the line, I had a couple of folks trying to push me along on greeting people but I told them, "I have friends and I'm going to speak with them and share a memory or two. Other folks are people I know of because Cissy has spoken of them over the years and I want to hear their memories. And there are people I don't know at all and I want to hear their memories as well." So I stood up and talked to folks for four hours (for a "3 hour" Memorial!) Wiley and Phil had come out from Syracuse and Wiley spoke with people in the line as well then we all went down to the Wild Rover and had a late dinner and talked some more (though I'm not sure how coherent I was by this time as I was emotionally exhausted.)

The time in Cynthiana was more of the same. Medearis had family over on Friday night then we had the Memorial at the church on Saturday. Doug and Cindy flew down to Dayton together and rented a car and came in for the Cynthiana Memorial. At the memorial on Saturday, Cindy was standing with me and a couple of folks asked if she was my wife so we made sure to introduce her and Doug as cousins. They got to meet some of their other cousins for the first time and everyone was able to put a name and a face together. Sara came up before the memorial and asked if she could speak. She had been inspired by Kathie's blog post and the story about the bubbles and had gone out and bought a bunch of bottles of bubbles and after the service, we all stood out by the church and blew bubbles on a Saturday morning. Our cousin Katherine came in from Roanoke and Sara, Linda, Annie, and Gwen helped me direct her to the St Edwards cemetery where she went and visited our great-grandparents. Sara was the one who noticed how much Katherine looked like you and when I mentioned this to Katherine, she told me she had noticed it the first time she saw your picture.

Through your emails and folks' Facebook posts, I wound up notifying a few people individually. I talked to Bettie the day your body was discovered and gave her all the info I had at the time. I traded emails with your friend Hans in the Netherlands. He was just another of the folks you impacted over the years. He told me how the two of you had met as seatmates on a flight to Amsterdam. I figured that was the start of your African trip. He said that was the only time you had met yet here he was over 20 years later, mourning his friend.

Bebe is doing fine with Paula and family. Paula had researched and discovered you had a few days credit at the kennel in Hooksett so we took Bebe out there the day before I took off for Kentucky then went on to dinner. She picked him up while I was in Cynthiana and I guess he settled right in. I saw him in September at "CISSYFest" and he was doing fine. Paula says even the cats have come to accept him now.

I'm writing a 'report' on how I sold and distributed the condo and contents. I made all the distribution of items specified in the Trust. There were a few items you had specified in the Trust for people but I guess you had disposed of them after the Trust was drawn up. I wound up substituting some small things in those cases so everyone remembered in the Trust got personal remembrances of you, even if the original item was no longer available. I let Dana help me pick things out for his Mother, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and sons. I sorted through the pictures and passed them on to the people who were with you when they were taken.

The condo sold and we closed at the end of November and I came back down to Florida. I imagine you'd like the woman who bought it - she told me that she felt like she was half-way home as soon as she first walked in the door. O'Leary and I made 8 to 10 trips to Goodwill in the last week or so before the closing as we finished cleaning things out of items that didn't sell. A few things didn't sell but I still made sure got good homes like the Captain's chair that had been Dub's. I asked Dana to take that one and it is in his living room now. I made sure to keep your Christmas Tree Angel.

So there it is. It's been a long year with a lot of good to go with the bad. But as Beth mentioned in the note from last night, I still make a note that I need to tell you something or share something with you then, "oh, yeah, I can't do that anymore."

I miss you Cissy and I love you,

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Bad Idea Is a Bad Idea, No Matter Who Proposes It

Let me state this right up front - Chained CPI is a bad idea. A very bad idea. Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains why here:

Even Social Security’s current inflation adjustment understates the true impact of inflation on the elderly. That’s because they spend 20 to 40 percent of their incomes on health care, and health-care costs have been rising faster than inflation. So why adopt a new inflation adjustment that’s even stingier than the current one?

Social Security benefits are already meager for most recipients. The median income of Americans over 65 is less than $20,000 a year. Nearly 70 percent of them depend on Social Security for more than half of this. The average Social Security benefit is less than $15,000 a year.
Dean Baker also explains why here (from The Nation 12/18/2012):
While this is a reasonable way to construct a price index, it may not be reasonable to apply the consumption patterns and the substitution patterns among the population as a whole to the elderly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has constructed an experimental elderly index (CPI-E) which reflects the consumption patterns of people over age 62. This index has shown a rate of inflation that averages 0.2-0.3 percentage points higher than the CPI-W.

The main reason for the higher rate of inflation is that the elderly devote a larger share of their income to health care, which has generally risen more rapidly in price than other items. It is also likely that the elderly are less able to substitute between goods, both due to the nature of the items they consume and their limited mobility, so the substitutions assumed in the chained CPI might be especially inappropriate for the elderly population.
CNN Money seems to be in favor of Chained CPI but they add a significant caveat near the end:
By contrast, other liberal economists do see chained CPI as a more accurate inflation measure but say adjustments should be made to protect the most vulnerable from any hardships caused by the smaller benefit increases under chained CPI.

Obama has indicated he would support such adjustments, although he hasn't specified what they would be.

One option could be a one-time increase to Social Security benefits for seniors once they're in their 80s, said Goldwein, senior policy director at the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Another option: Exempting Supplemental Security Income, which pays benefits to poor seniors and the disabled, from chained CPI.


The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities has a list of 10 basic facts about Social Security here. Facts #4, #6, and #7 are especially pertinent (though all are important):
Fact #4: Social Security benefits are modest.

Fact #6: Almost half of the elderly would be poor without Social Security. Social Security lifts 14 million elderly Americans out of poverty.

Fact #7: Most elderly beneficiaries rely on Social Security for the majority of their income.
This is a link to the Social Security Administration's "Monthly Statistical Snapshot" (as of February 2013). As of February 2013, the average Social Security Retirement benefit is $1,264.88. This works out to be $15,221.28 per year. A mythical (non-existent) full-time minimum wage job ($7.25 x 40 hrs per week x 52 weeks) receives $15,080 per year. This is a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago showing how far the minimum wage goes these days. Short answer? Not very far at all. I tried to find the median Social Security benefit but was not able but given that the highest Social Security monthly benefit today is $2,513 for a person who retired at age 66 in 2012. In order to receive the highest monthly benefit, a person has to have earned maximum Social Security wages for their entire work life.

Once again, the people who will least need the use of Social Security are the ones most in favor of the cuts. For those who offer the cliche of "Everyone most have skin in the game" I will reply, "My skin in the game is all the years I have worked and earned Social Security and I will not see it destroyed so the 1% can avoid paying the bill that is now due from their "borrowing" of FICA wages to fund tax breaks.

I have not even mentioned the Veterans who will also be affected by Chained CPI. Their "skin" is the blank check they wrote when they signed their name and swore the oath of enlistment.

And because I can:

Monday, April 1, 2013

Today Is Opening Day


DoG but I think those two sets of words, Play Ball and Opening Day, are among the best two word combinations available to us in English. Even as we have to endure so much ongoing bad news from so many directions:

    Victim blaming for the crime of being poor (oh yes, it is such a stress free life to wonder how you are going to stay alive while you determine which creditors/bills you can skip for a month);

And on and on it goes.

Yet for all the bad things happening here and around the world, for me, just knowing that the Major League Baseball season is back in swing puts things back in focus somehow and even lessens some of the pain. It may all be in my head but Opening Day allows me to believe that somehow things can be made right once again. Innocence or naivete? Of course. Yet it matters. Baseball still manages to overcome bad owners be they Charley Comiskey, George Steinbrenner, Marge Schott, or Jeffrey Loria. Baseball overcame segregation and racism. It has overcome betting scandals and performance enhancing drugs. It easily 'overcame' the revelations in Ball Four! that players were voyeurs, drunks, cheats (some on the field, some on their wives), and drug users.

Baseball doesn't have the set time to complete like basketball or football. Those nine innings might be completed in under two hours or might take four hours or more (with the latter more the norm these days.) It takes as long as it takes. A final score of 1 - 0 or 12 - 11 or 24 - 2. Each day is a new day, each season is abundant with hope.

So today, I have The Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees on TV, Cincinnati has their parade and traditions, the game is on and GO REDS!


And because I can: