Archive for the ‘ Social Issues ’ Category

SpectrumTalk

ARE WE SMARTER THAN 5TH GRADERS?

ARE WE SMARTER THAN 5TH GRADERS?
By Helen L. Burleson, Doctor of Public Administration

Some suppositions were posed to me by a friend from St. Lucia in the eastern area of the Caribbean Sea.

Here are the suppositions:

“A nation that rejects Health Care for all,
Rejects plans for sustained development for the future,
Rejects educational advancement for its youth and retraining for its workers,
Rejects sustainable and renewable energy,
Rejects the most balanced President in History,
Fights against its own people;
And, a list too long to continue, can never be as smart as 5th graders.”

Looking at this nonintrospective look from an outsider made me pause to think about the answers to his theory.

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You can read more of Dr. Burleson’s work at: SpectrumTalk.

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Entitlement programs: A Glossary of Political Economy Terms – Dr. Paul M. Johnson

 

 

The kind of government program that provides individuals with personal financial benefits (or sometimes special government-provided goods or services) to which an indefinite (but usually rather large) number of potential beneficiaries have a legal right(enforceable in court, if necessary) whenever they meet eligibility conditions that are specified by the standing law that authorizes the program. The beneficiaries of entitlement programs are normally individual citizens or residents, but sometimes organizations such as business corporations, local governments, or even political parties may have similar special “entitlements” under certain programs. The most important examples of entitlement programs at the federal level in the United States would include Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, most Veterans’ Administration programs, federal employee and military retirement plans, unemployment compensation, food stamps, and agricultural price support programs.

The existence of entitlement programs is mainly significant from a political economy standpoint because of the very difficult problems they create for Congress’s efforts to control the exact size of the budget deficit or surplus through the annual appropriations process. It is often very hard to predict in advance just how many individuals will meet the various entitlement criteria during any given year, so it is therefore difficult to predict what the total costs to the government will be at the time the appropriation bills for the coming fiscal year are being drafted. This makes it even harder for government to smooth out the business cycle or pursue other macroeconomic objectives through an active fiscal policy — because these objectives require careful pre-planning of the size of the budget deficit or surplus to be run. In the first place, the amount of money that will be required in the coming year to fund an entitlement program is often extremely difficult to predict in advance because the number of people with an entitlement may depend upon the overall condition of the economy at the time. For example, the total amount of unemployment benefits to be paid out will depend upon the changing level of unemployment in the economy as the year wears on. Some very large entitlement programs (including Social Security pensions and government employee retirement programs) have been “indexed” to inflation, so that the size of the benefit is periodically adjusted according to a fixed formula based on unpredictable changes in the Consumers’ Price Index. Perhaps more significantly, the amount of spending on entitlement programs is impossible for the Senate and House Appropriations committees to even attempt to adjust or to control because those committees do not have the jurisdiction to rewrite the laws that specify who gets how much and under what conditions. The various specialized standing committees who do have the jurisdiction to rewrite authorizing legislation each tend to be dominated by members whose political interests lie in expanding their particular entitlement program, not in cutting it back, and the political influence of the organized special interest groups that support the programs tends to be overwhelming on the specialized committees when such proposals arise.

Since the middle 1980s, entitlement programs have accounted for more than half of all federal spending. Taken together with such other almost uncontrollable (in the short run, that is) expenses as interest payments on the national debt and the payment obligations arising from long-term contracts already entered into by the government in past years, entitlement programs leave Congress with no more than about 25% of the annual budget to be scrutinized for possible cutbacks through the regular appropriations process. This very substantially reduces the practicality of trying to counteract the ups and downs of the overall economy through a “discretionary” fiscal policy because so very little of the budget is available for meaningful alteration by the Appropriations and Budget committees on short notice.

Entitlement program: A Glossary of Political Economy Terms – Dr. Paul M. Johnson.

Social Security and the Federal Debt: Why You Should Be Worried – CBS MoneyWatch.com

But the fact of the matter is, I am worried, and I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Richtman. Somebody has to pay back the interest and principal on these government bonds, and who will that be? You guessed it — that’s us, through our taxes. Another way to express the value of the Social Security trust fund is that it’s invested in $2.5 trillion of future tax collections. Now I don’t feel so secure.

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Social Security should divest itself from U.S Treasury Bond investments… but how can it be done with some measure of  reducing the risk?

via Social Security and the Federal Debt: Why You Should Be Worried – CBS MoneyWatch.com.

When They Came for Me

When the Nazis came for the Communists, I remained silent; I was not a Communist.

When they locked up the Social Democrats, I remained silent; I was not a Social Democrat.

When they came for the Trade Unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a Trade Unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I was not a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller (14 January 1892 – 6 March 1984) was a Protestant pastor and social activist.

I want to bring your attention to this passage as written by Martin Niemöller for reasons that will become obvious to you as time goes forward in this period of social and economic evolution within the United States, as well as the global arena. The author is summarizing the events that led to Nazi Germany’s ability to unite an entire country under a common belief, a philosophy that was froth with inconsistencies.  Everyone should have, to some degree, a working knowledge of that era, so I won’t go into details.

Let’s change the names to protect the innocent… so to speak, and see how these writings fit present day America:

When the Right came for the Senior citizens, I remained silent; I was not a Senior citizen.

When they locked up the Social Democrats, I remained silent; I was not a Social Democrat.

When they came for the Trade Unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a Trade Unionist.

When they came for the Lower Classes, I remained silent; I wasn’t in the Lower Classes.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

It has been said that America was as close to being a dictatorship under the Bush Administration as ever before – The Patriot Act set the stage for what we see today – in a broader sense; .  I have enclosed a copy of the summary of what the PATRIOT Act does… USA PATRIOT Act.

“The Act dramatically reduced restrictions on law enforcement agencies’ ability to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records; eased restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering within the United States; expanded the Secretary of the Treasury’s authority to regulate financial transactions, particularly those involving foreign individuals and entities; and broadened the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities in detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism-related acts. The act also expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism, thus enlarging the number of activities to which the USA PATRIOT Act’s expanded law enforcement powers can be applied.” 

Before someone goes off on a tangent, I am sighting the Patriot Act here to put emphasis on the discreet way in which laws are passed which can enhances the capability to do other things that are even more bizarre in nature – the Patriot Act has its validity in the grand scheme of protecting America, but there were other entities encompassed in the Patriot Act that were in place before the Patriot Act was passed that did the same job.  So why did we need a ‘new’ law to do what was already a law?

The Military Commission Act of 2006 as originally signed by President Bush took aim at the rights of an accused as granted under the Habeas Corpus Act… you simply have to be declared a ‘domestic terrorist’ and you lose your right to representation, time you can be held without charges, and the right to an attorney – furthermore, your trial, if you are granted one will, be at the discretion of the entity that had you arrested and detained.

The Military Commission Act was revised in 2009 to appease its critics, but the controversy remains as to whether a U.S citizen can be tried under this Act.  Consider that the Combatant Status Review Tribunal decides whether you will be tried as an ‘alien’ or U. S. citizen – the new changes, that to some degree set guidelines for the Combatant Status Review Tribunal were requested by President Obama.  Based upon the new determination, you have a three step process that must include ‘substantial’ evidence to classify you as a hostile or unlawful enemy combatant.   You will have the right to Habeas Corpus and a trial by your ‘peers’, or a military tribunal if you do not qualify or meet all three of the steps of determination!

The text of the law states that its “purpose” is to “establish procedures governing the use of military commissions to try alien unlawful enemy combatants engaged in hostilities against the United States for violations of the law of war and other offenses triable by military commission.” While the most controversial provisions in the law refer to “alien unlawful enemy combatants”, section 948a refers to “unlawful enemy combatants” (not explicitly excluding US citizens).

What I am saying is this:

Changes are being made to the laws in many States and at the Federal Congressional level by the 2010 wave of Republicans that were ushered into our State and Federal Congresses with a mandate the Right foolishly believes is validated by the 2010 election results, this may be so, but surely no one envisioned what is currently taking place.  No one envisioned that ‘entitlements’ were going to be cut, degraded; no one believed that our Unions were going to be pushed to the curb like new fallen snow with hopes that they would melt and fade away in the Spring; no one believed that laws that have been on the books… having passed challenge after challenge are now being changed – precedence is a mainstay of Judicial law, and yet, we see clearly that these changes are being made.  No one believed that controversial laws, having been struck down by the courts, would be enacted in spite of the rulings by our courts!

No citizen is standing to voice concern… we are silent – until it is our turn to be subjected to the new order!  Therein lays the dilemma… the crack in the wall that will release a flood of laws systematically taking away your rights – all under the pretense of prosecuting terrorist.

In a democracy, silence is not golden; it is condonance in the face of injustices; it is fear, where the thought of reprisal fosters control – Rodney A. Davis

Michele Bachmann: Let’s repeal clean air and clean water for our children | ThinkProgress

By Joe Romm on Jun 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Last night at the GOP debate in New Hampshire, Michele Bachmann R-MN said of the Environmental Protection Agency:What we need to do is pass the mother of all repeal bills, but it’s the repeal bill that will get a job killing regulations. And I would begin with the EPA, because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America.

It may not be a big surprise that a tea party extremist like Bachmann wants to undo the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, exposing our children to countless toxic pollutants.

What is a little more surprising is that the video shows the other presidential contenders start nodding in agreement with this radical attack on public health… More

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Where is the sanity in repealing the EPA, an agency that is responsible for safe-guarding the water we drink and the air we breathe?

After Voting To Slash Funding For The EPA, Rep. Barletta Now Outraged It’s Not Doing More In His District

Three months after voting to eliminate fundingfor the Environmental Protection Agency, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) now says he’s outragedthat the EPA isn’t doing more to protect the health of residents in his district. Barletta is insisting that the agency pay special attention to an area in Pittson, PA, after one resident alleged that a tunnel near a Superfund site gave him cancer. The EPA held an open house and information session to address the concerns of residents in the area, but said it did not plan to conduct further testing. This outraged Barletta, who called their decision “unacceptable”:

On Wednesday, Barletta sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson asking the agency to perform additional testing in the Carroll/Mill Street neighborhood.[…]“Frankly, this is unacceptable. The EPA’s own Web site indicates that one of the agency’s primary reasons for existence is to ensure that ‘all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work.’”[…]

“I was surprised to hear an EPA official basically tell the residents of the Carroll/Mill neighborhood that they would not conduct soil and water testing to find answers. It is absolutely the EPA’s job, and I’m going to make sure that job is done. The residents are scared, and they deserve answers and peace of mind.”

That’s an ironic position for Barletta, considering how often he’s tried to prevent the EPA from doing its job. In February, Barletta voted with the rest of the Republican-controlled House for an amendment that slashed funding for the EPA. Republicans were retaliating against the agency for its efforts to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), one of the authors of the amendment, said, “The era of EPA overstepping its authority by imposing over-burdensome and unnecessary regulations at the expense of American businesses is over.”

Barletta’s vote to gut funding for the EPA flew in the face of popular opinion in his own district. A survey by Public Policy Polling found that 70 percent of voters in Barletta’s 11th Congressional District opposed Barletta’s vote to block the EPA from setting limits for carbon dioxide pollution. Those opposed included 58 percent of independents and 53 percent of Republicans. Voters also opposed Barletta’s votes to “prevent the EPA from reducing arsenic, mercury and other toxic pollution from cement kilns, or from collecting any data about carbon and other pollutants.”

It’s pretty audacious to attack an agency for not doing enough mere months after attacking them for doing too much. Barletta should hope his constituents have short memories and forget his attempts to stop the EPA from upholding health standards that Republicans insisted were a “burden” to business.

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Congressman Barletta, as is characteristic of all Republicans, does not think before he commits to something that he eventually regrets.  Following the cutting of funding to an agency that affects the well-being of your constituents and then complaining that they are not doing anything is ‘poetic justice’ Congressman!

First Read – Fact Check: Ryan on the Ryan plan

What Ryan Paul won’t tell you could kill you…

Would Medicare continue to exist?

It’s true that anyone 55 and older would not be affected under Ryan’s plan, so a video depicting someone currently older than 55 being thrown off a cliff is misleading.

But Ryan claimed that Medicare would continue to exist. The more important question, however, is in what form?

When asked by one of the Morning Joe panelists, “For people who are 54 years of age or younger, when they’re 70 years of age, are they dealing and negotiating with an insurance company?”

“No,” Ryan responded.

“Or are they dealing with Medicare?”

“It’s Medicare.”

But as the Congressional Budget Office wrote in its analysis of Ryan’s plan:

“People who turn 65 in 2022 or later years and Disability Insurance beneficiaries who become eligible for Medicare in 2022 or later would not enroll in the current Medicare program but instead would be entitled to a premium support payment to help them purchase private health insurance.”

In other words, traditional Medicare would, in fact, be phased out for those 54 and younger. They would be significantly impacted. Lost in the back and forth of the exchange with Ryan was that in the same answer, he went on to outline just how much Medicare would change – albeit not explicitly.