Tag Archives: Obama

Obamacare?

10 Nov

Everybody seems to be up in arms about it, either defending it or trying to destroy it.

Ideally, it would have provided something called universal health care. A basic level of health care for everyone, regardless of income. It doesn’t do that. But, that’s what conservatives were afraid it was going to deliver, since that smacks of “socialism” and they drag up old Cold War phobias to make us fear the concept.

So, what we really got was federally mandated health insurance.

Sort of.

From what I can find out, it isn’t universal. If you are low income, you are likely to still not have any health care coverage, so you are still regarded as one of the “leeches” on the system and the reason that health care costs keep rising.

From where I’m sitting, in Mississippi, it looks like business as usual, but great for insurance companies.

Okay, I went through the enrollment process.  The website everyone makes fun of worked just fine for me, and this was a couple of weeks ago when it was all new.  We were offered very limited choices to start off.  One company, that’s it, folks.  Reminds me of the electric company, we’ve got another monopoly going on.  Maybe we’d have had more options if we lived on the coast or in Jackson, but even so, we’re only 30 minutes from Hattiesburg now, and that’s one of the larger cities in Mississippi.  So it’s one company with two plans, and they don’t include the highest coverage, the platinum level.  (Not that it mattered, we couldn’t afford either one we were offered anyhow.)

The two lowest plans did not offer very good coverage, and it included a large deductible.  To add to the injury, the crappy plans cost roughly $850-950 per month for a couple.

The state of Mississippi, like a number of other states that have vocalized their dislike of the “Obamacare” Affordable Health Care Act, has refused to consider expanding their Medicaid program.  Likely it’s due to the impoverished state of the Mississippi economy to begin with.  After all, where would the money come from?

They are being generous.  They will not fine those below the income threshold, which I assume is the poverty line.  Whatever that line is, we’re below it.  So, it is status quo.  No fine, no health care, and nothing has changed at all for us.

But let’s do some math.  Let’s assume that a couple who is working 40 hours a week at minimum wage ($7.25 per hour).  That would mean that they got an annual gross income of $30,160.  They are paying an average of 26% of their income to taxes, Social Security, etc.  That’s $7841.60 leaving them with $22,318.40.   Let’s say that they select the lowest cost plan at $850 per month.  Their annual costs will be $10,200.  That leaves them with $12,118.40.

That sounds reasonable, right?  Surely they can live on that, right?

Well, let’s experiment.  The average rent is about $600 per month, totaling $7200.  Their annual income is now down to just $4918.40.

But, they have to get to work, and most of Mississippi doesn’t have mass transportation of any kind.  They don’t live close to work, but they are careful with managing their lone vehicle so they are both able to get to and from work.  Even so, they average 25 miles round trip each day, their vehicle is older so the annual cost of license and tags, combined with the inspection, totals to just $45 per year.  They carry the minimum insurance, but it still costs $90 per month.  Being an older  vehicle, it also does not get good gas mileage, coming in at only 20 mpg, at an average cost of $3.15 per gallon.  It also requires two annual oil changes, which cost $35 each, for another $70 per year.  On average, they have to buy tires every fourth year, which cost $400, adding another $100 to their annual expenses.  They pray it does not break down, as they are already spending a lot on their transportation, a grand total of $2732.19.  That leaves them with $2186.21.

But, remember, they are still left with bills to pay for utilities, clothing expenses, and their grocery bill.  The real problem is that after getting their affordable insurance, paying their rent, and getting to and from work, they are left to figure out how to survive on $182.18 per month.

That won’t even cover their utilities, let alone let them cover their deductible, pay a co-pay, or buy a prescription.  They won’t be able to eat either.

But, a couple earning minimum wage, in the eyes of many, is not below poverty level.

I’m not seeing anything affordable in this.  I’m not seeing anything resembling universal health care either.  I damn sure don’t see anything resembling socialism in it. The only ones who are actually going to have health insurance are the same ones that have it now, barring the ones who can afford it but are too cheap to pay their portion of the premium for their families through the plan offered by their employer.

I can remember those people well.  Back in the “good old days” when I had an employer that offered health insurance and treated their employees as though they were a company asset (like good companies do), we had a giant hike in our health insurance premiums.  They had a meeting with all of us, explained what was happening and why, as well as what their options were in terms of offering us health insurance plans.  They listened to us, then came back with an option.  The costs of extending insurance coverage to our families was going to have to be deducted from our paychecks, and we could elect to have coverage if we so desired.  I desired–I had a kid with a chronic health problem (she was a type 1 diabetic who was often in the hospital).  My co-workers, knowing that I paid about half of my paycheck to health insurance, asked me how I could afford it.  For me it was simple.  I could not afford to NOT have it.  There is a vast difference in the kind of health care one receives with health insurance versus without it, and I had witnessed it first hand.

I also had pretty good insurance.  I didn’t have a lot of out-of-pocket expenses.  Sure, I had a co-pay at the doctor’s office, as well as for prescriptions, but it was reasonable and affordable.  I didn’t have big bills for the hospital stays, and I had both dental and vision coverage as well.

Even if I could afford the insurance plans offered via the so-called Obamacare plan, neither of them included dental or vision insurance.  The co-pays were reasonable, but the deductible was a serious issue.  So was the percentage of coverage on procedures and hospitalization.  With only 60% coverage on these things, how is someone with $182.18 per month to pay utilities and groceries out of, going to pay even a $1000 procedure (far less than a single emergency room visit) which is going to cost $400 out-of-pocket.

The Affordable Health Care Act may have had some great intentions, but some how, along the way, it got left with loopholes and giant black holes that once again put insurance corporations into the drivers’ seat leaving the rest of us clinging to the bumper and terrified.  The worst part is, it hasn’t even gone into effect yet.  We have sticker shock, as well as discovering that we’re ordered to choose from models X, Y and maybe model Z for health insurance, but we’re standing here realizing that the other shoe hasn’t dropped yet.  What kind of problems are waiting to appear?

We, as a population, has little faith in the government in general and even less in the federal government.  It’s notorious for favoring those with mega-money and tromping on the little guy without regard for the welfare of the masses.  It’s all about special interest groups, with an ample seasoning of mismanagement and bureaucratic red tape.

It seems that there is only one escape from the tyranny of the Affordable Health Care Act.

Get elected to Congress.

Yep, they were smart.  They made sure none of them would ever have to deal with this monstrosity that is neither affordable nor healthy.

Writing to the White House, Representatives, or Senators

27 Aug

Do you need some highly delayed aggravation in your life?

I’ve discovered one in the  past year.  On two separate occasions, I wrote to the White House.  Months later, I believe about six of the them, I would receive a response.  Once I wrote to the President, and once to the First Lady.

Now I’m not naive enough to think that either one of them read either letter.  I know that they were read by a junior staff member who probably despises the chore.  It certainly takes long enough to get around to the task of responding.

The length of time makes you feel as though what you had to say fell on deaf ears and was essentially a wasted effort.  I can vent in a blog with more satisfaction and probably with equal ability of creating awareness with those who represent us in our government.  I’ll certainly feel as though I’ve done something.

Unlike the letter to the White House, or the ones I’ve written to our representative or Senators.  The senators never responded.  The representative responded slightly quicker than the White House, but committed the same grave error.

None of them apparently actually read & comprehended the letters.  A computer algorithm could have come up with a better response than the semi-human operated bot did.  It was as though the response looked for a few key words and then spat out a form letter that was supposed to address what you had said.

Wrong.

This morning, I received a letter from the First Lady (or rather her automated staff/email response team).  It went on about the Let’s Move campaign and childhood obesity.  Was that what I wrote about?

No.

I had written to her asking her to support gardening as a way to fight obesity, and specifically urban gardening’s need for her support.

I merely got a form letter thanking me for supporting Let’s Move and the usual propaganda about how wonderful it is.

I’m disgusted.  I wasted my time, and then…I wasted more time with reading the response. The White House also wasted time sending it.  I got the same sort of nonsense from my representative and senator, the same nonsense from the President.

I guess my complaint is that it is worse than a waste of time, it’s insulting.

Stupidity of Daylight Savings time and election mania?

4 Nov

I’ve ranted about it before, and I will rant about it again today…and twice a year for as long as the idiocy continues.  Daylight savings time is an idiotic concept, dreamed up and perpetuated by ridiculous propaganda that far too many people buy into.  If it saves so much energy…why don’t we just STAY on that time?  What do people really think they are saving?

But speaking about ridiculous propaganda, have  you paid much attention to the stuff circulating on the social media sites as people wave the figurative flag of their favored candidate?

It’s made me realize, with a two party system, we really are given a choice.

Between a rock and a hard place.

That’s about all the difference I really see between the parties.  The parties and their candidates are so far out of touch with what life is like for Average Joe and Average Jane that we may as well elect Brad Pitt for president.

Heck, he might even do a better job.  If not, well, at least he’d make interesting photo ops, right?

Neither party represents what we’ll call the “working man” of American society.  They don’t have a clue what our lives are like.

Like Mitt Romney’s wife, featured in an article about how she went shopping at Sam’s Club.  She was immensely proud of her ability to feed a large gathering of family for only $4.50 per person for the meal.  I don’t think she’d be too happy with my food budget, capped at $5 per person per day.  Some months, if there are extra bills to pay, well…the food budget gives up a portion of it’s funding to cover the deficit.  She’d even be more horrified to discover that if I’m serving guests, it comes out of the monthly budget, not an extra slush fund.  So does holiday cooking, as a matter of fact.  While the Romneys might not be concerned at the reports of higher prices for serving up the traditional turkey dinner later this month, for the rest of us, that IS a concern.  We can’t spend what we’re not earning, and there are still not enough jobs to get everyone back to work that has been looking for work since this recession started.  It’s unfortunate that with each passing year, we’ve seen more jobs going overseas too.

For those of us struggling to make ends meet, to pay our bills, and to just get by, while family members are unemployed or underemployed…having to deal with an English-is-a-second-language customer service rep in some foreign country is really a slap in the face.  It’s another reminder of how many jobs we’ve lost to countries with lower standards of living and more relaxed workplace laws.

In the stores, it’s hard to buy American made goods.  It’s harder yet to buy from companies that have American based customer service.  I don’t think it’s an unrealistic expectation that if I buy an item or service with American money while I am in the United States, that customer service will be provided in the United States as well.

Then, there is health care.  I’ll admit, I am not thrilled with the Obamacare package, but…I wasn’t thrilled with nothing either.  Do I think that it’s the best that our government could come up with?  No…and it shouldn’t be so long that nobody can possibly read it and understand what it says either.  That’s the problem with these bills–they are excessively complicated and too often contain unrelated stuff.  Each bill should be one thing, written in a manner that any average person can understand it, but they aren’t.  Washington has become a place of bureaucrats worried about perpetuating their own existence, whether elected or appointed or hired.

The part that I think stinks is the idea that people are to be forced to buy health insurance.  Seriously, I don’t know anyone who can afford health insurance and opts to just not buy it for some reason.  I’ve priced it, long before Obama was ever heard of, and there was no way I could afford it, even just major medical was about 30% of my monthly take home pay, and there wasn’t any way I could give up that much of my monthly income and survive.  Utilities, rent, and automobile insurance already took care of about 80% of my net pay!  That left very little for luxuries such as food, gasoline, clothing, medical expenses, and assorted sundries.  Taking a second job wasn’t an option, really–my job required extensive overtime already, and while I was paid for it…that extra overtime is what was used for those “luxuries” I bought.

So I read the things that the candidates say, I read the things that their opponents say about them.  I read the things their supporters say about them.  I read the “fact checker” articles.

I’ve concluded that I was right.  We do have a choice between a rock and a hard place.  It then comes down to specific issues that are…or are not…supported by the two parties.

What concerns me?

  1. Women’s rights, including reproductive rights.  I’m pro-choice, and before anyone gets their underwear in a wad over that…let me clarify that statement.  I am pro-choice, not pro-abortion.  There is a very clear difference.  While I don’t think that abortion is the right choice for me, in any circumstances that I have actually faced, I also don’t think that it is the government’s job to make that decision for me…or any other woman.   I don’t think my boss should be able to decide if my insurance is going to cover birth control either.  There are many reasons and many circumstances for a woman’s choice, and few women are going to choose to use abortion as birth control if they have any conscience or concept of right and wrong.  If they don’t have those things, well, do we really want her reproducing anyhow?  Morality cannot be legislated, and there should not be an attempt to do so.  Laws are to protect society as a whole, and allow individuals to not have their personal rights infringed upon by others.  While that includes freedom of religion, it does not give anyone the right to impose their religious standards and expectations on others.  Period.
  2. Right to bear arms.  Okay, these mass murders we’ve had at schools and theaters have been horrific and shouldn’t have happened.  Yes, I know many other civilized countries have banned weapons of all kinds.  That doesn’t mean I support weapons being banned in this country.  Regulated and restricted perhaps, but not banned.  Assault rifles aren’t needed for hunting or self-protection.  Automatic rifles and handguns aren’t either.  Armor penetrating ammunition and weapons are also not particularly appealing to think of my neighbor having and using for target practice.  I think we need to address the underlying causes of these incredible acts of violence more than act on restricting gun ownership excessively.  Do we ban bathtubs for the accidents they cause?  Have pools been banned due to the high numbers of children that have drowned in them?  Do we still allow downhill skiing after people die in skiing accidents?  How about cars and car accidents and their fatalities?
  3. Same sex marriage.  I’m not gay, and I never was.  I’m not even bi-sexual.  I am in a traditional marriage, even if our wedding was far from traditional.  My parents weren’t gay, neither is my daughter.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t support the concept of equality among all Americans.  While I don’t deny that states can allow or forbid same sex marriage according to their citizens’ wishes, I don’t think that the federal government should be able to override those states’ rights to choose either.  Currently, federal law does not allow federal employees in a legal same sex marriage to enjoy the same benefits for their spouses that someone in a so-called traditional marriage enjoys.  I think this is wrong.  I have little hope of Mississippi, my current home state, is going to legalize same sex marriages anytime soon.  It’s got far too high of a percentage of ultra conservative citizens for that to happen.  But, if it was allowed…I don’t think the federal government should deny benefits to those people’s spouses because they don’t agree with it.
  4. Education.  It wasn’t working, so they tried “No Child Left Behind.”  That’s working about as well as new math did.  It’s absolutely not working, instead of educating kids and preparing them for the real world, whether that includes college or a job, kids are spending the year prepping for their standardized test.  Something else needs to be done, and this ineffective method of measuring both school and teacher performance needs replaced with something a bit more effective.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you went to a fast food restaurant, local store, or other location with staff that needs nothing beyond high school to get a job…and they actually could SPEAK American Standard English?  How many high school students can actually write down a coherent telephone message that anyone could read and understand, let alone write an essay for a college class?
  5. Jobs/Industry.  Face it.  We lack an industrial base and we’re importing too many goods.  We need jobs, we have willing workers.  We need to figure out how to get people back to work, back to creating the things that made America into what it was.  We need factories running, producing goods that are high quality and reliable.  We’ve all had enough of cheap, shoddy, imported garbage.
  6. National Transit System.  We rebuilt Europe’s trains after World War II, or so I’m told, but we can’t get trains to cover the USA in anything resembling efficient and cost effective.  It costs more to ride a train than it does to take a plane or even drive, and Amtrak is subsidized by the federal government.  Few cities have train stations where passengers and small freight can be economically transported to the next city, county, state, or anywhere.  In addition, the transit times when trains are used are utterly ridiculous.  We need efficient mass transportation beyond the urban bus and subway systems.  We need it both within states and to other cities and states, providing efficient and low cost transportation coast to coast.  Putting such a rail system into place would employ thousands of people, from creating the infrastructure to service jobs when it is up and running.  It would appeal to foreign tourists as well, especially since most industrialized countries have train systems already.
  7. Legalization of hemp & medical marijuana.  Hemp is a good crop, and it’s good for a lot of applications.  It can be used for making rope, paper, and clothing, as well as a host of other things.  It’s a good fiber, and more durable than cotton.  Medical marijuana is a good product too, when properly used.  Even recreational marijuana is less of a problem with the users than those people using alcohol.  Taxed and regulated, it would remove marijuana from the hands of drug cartels, reducing their income and clout not only in the United States, but in the countries where their supplies of marijuana are grown and prepared for smuggling into the United States.  The tax revenue would enhance the American budget, maybe even bringing the annual deficit down a notch, especially if recreational use was legalized.
  8. Energy.  We’re going to have to bite the bullet and come up with alternative energy plans.  We’ve seen the disasters nuclear reactors can deliver.  We’re seeing the disaster of the oil industry, each and every day.  We need inexpensive and efficient energy to recreate a strong economy.  We don’t have it, therefore, we need to figure out how to get it.  If we got a man to the moon, not once, but several times, and did it with computers that had less power than the old Nintendo 64…surely we can figure this problem out.  Quit subsidizing the oil industry and let them struggle on their own, they’ve been milking America too long.  Devote attention to alternative energy that is less costly, both to the consumer and the environment, and put America at the forefront again.
  9. Taxes.  Corporations.  Okay, taxes are something nobody wants to pay.  We’re all a bit tired of corporate entities making huge profits while paying little in terms of taxes, and then adding to the insult by outsourcing portions of their business to foreign countries.  We’re sick of them lobbying Congress for favoritism.  We’re tired of paying the bill, you might say.  It’s time to start taking a good hard look at how corporations are affecting the way we elect politicians, and how they affect the bills that go through Congress to become laws.  It’s a form of corruption, folks.  Plain and simple.  These corporations are doing nothing more than paying politicians for favors, no matter how it is sugar coated.
  10. Foreign aid.  I really do not understand why we are borrowing money only to give it away to other countries.  That makes no sense to me.  If I am unable to pay my bills without borrowing money, it would be foolish to give my money to other people after I borrowed it.  Why is the federal government continuing to do something that any of us would look askance at a private individual doing?  I think it’s time that foreign aid is cut back, if not eliminated, and there should be more accountability as to why we’re giving it to anyone.

There are a lot more issues too, more than I could possibly put in here, but those are the top ten ones.  Neither party is very concerned about all of them.  None of the candidates are either.  So who do I vote for?

I’ll cast a vote in less than forty eight hours now.

I have no idea who I’m going to vote for right now.  Just when I think one candidate or another has trumped finally, they show signs of obviously reneging.  I was never a fan of Obama, so I have to admit that he has done better than I thought he would.  At the same time, the Romney/Ryan ticket isn’t exactly thrilling either.  I’m not a Romney fan, and the idea of something happening that would catapult Ryan into the Oval Office makes me gag.  Biden’s not a rocket scientist either though, and I actually had someone crack a joke about Biden being Obama’s “insurance policy” so that no one would assassinate him–they were afraid that Biden would then become president.

Once again, it seems that I’m faced with a choice of who I am going to vote against rather than who I am going to go vote for.  Which candidate has the most potential to cause harm?  Are we better off with the devil we know…or a new devil?

Oh will I be glad when Tuesday is over.  I’ll have my mind back, as well as cease to see the endless parade of pro-this candidate or anti-that candidate on my Facebook wall!

Ron Paul–a real media black out or just a lot of whining?

23 Feb

I’ll confess.  We don’t have a television in our house.  We own one, technically, but after over a year in our storage unit, it was “loaned” to our granddaughter.  Therefore, I have to confess, I have no clue what is available on television.  I do read the local paper several times a week, but most of my news is found online, via Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

That means I find out about things in a haphazard manner, I suppose, and see the world through slightly distorted glasses as a result.  I don’t really know what the big networks are putting out in their news programs.  I also don’t think I’m missing much.  I was disgusted by television programming a long time ago.  I’m equally disgusted at the packaging of channels by cable and satellite companies.  I deeply resent being forced to buy channels that I will never watch just to obtain a handful that I may watch sometimes.  So…we opted out, a very long time ago.  Contrary to what some people think, I’m not a television snob…I’m just not interested in a non-stop parade of pseudo-news, sports, soap operas, silly sit coms, and game shows.  I don’t have the attention for “night time drama” either.  I refuse to schedule my life around television programs.  But…there are some programs I love…when I have the chance to see them.  Like “River Monsters”…or “Swamp People”…and even a lot of the cooking shows.  I think Ellen Degeneres is hilarious, and I like her talk/variety show.  I liked Oprah too, and I think she is an amazing woman.  There is a lot of great stuff on television…I just can’t be bothered with remembering when and where to find it.  On the other hand, the trashy stuff…is just trashy.  It encourages people who lean that way to indulge in progressively trashier behavior in my opinion, but they’d likely find an excuse anyhow.

But enough on the whole television thing.  What has come across my screen in a gazillion posts, blogs, websites, etc. is how poor Ron Paul is being blacked out from the media.  Now I’ll admit, I have a bad taste in my mouth over Ron Paul courtesy of one fanatical supporter who spammed me to death last week with garbage about him.  That chip on my shoulder has already got me glaring at his name.  But I can’t help but wonder…

Is all of this hype about how he’s being shut out by the media and “powers that be” of GOP more publicity to gather attention than reality?  It’s starting to look like that perpetually tattling 5 year old on the kindergarten playground running to the teacher with 101 offenses by his classmates to get attention for himself.  I see something about Ron Paul on the average of once every five minutes.  How in the hell is that a media black out?

I will admit…fanatics also scare the dickens out of me.  Fanatics are the kind of people that make car bombs, that shoot doctors outside of abortion clinics, that try to hire a hit man to shoot someone wearing fur, or do any of the other 1001 acts of terrorism that occur each year.  Ron Paul has what seems like an inordinate number of fanatical supporters.

I wonder if these are the same kinds of supporters who think that same sex marriages are a hazard to our society, that think that personhood laws should protect fetuses and embryos even at the cost of the mother’s life, who think that those who think or act differently from them should be punished for the offense…or any one of the other really scary right-wing bills we’ve seen floating around the nation are good ideas.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not a true liberal.  I’m a conservative liberal on even days, and odd days, I’m a liberal conservative.  I believe in balance and common sense.  I don’t like a government that is invasive into normal, law-abiding citizens’ daily lives.  I also don’t think the government has any business deciding whether or not I will have a baby, get my tubes tied, take birth control pills, who I should or should not marry, etc.  (I’m done on the marrying front, by the way…Greg and I did tie the legal knot last fall.)  I do think we should have universal health care, but I’m also not convinced that the current Obamacare plan is going to do anyone a favor, let alone make universal health care available to everyone.  I think our government is too big, that corporations and big business have gone too far in terms of our politics and their ability to influence laws and politicians too.  I believe in our constitution too.   I think we need some serious house cleaning in terms of Washington D.C.

But I’m questioning whether I want someone like Ron Paul doing it.

I’ll admit, I like some of the things he says, but I’m also old enough to know that a lot of what is said will never happen after the oath of office is taken.  His supporters are what scares me, as I wonder…how much of their ideology does he really support?  How many of these people will follow him into Washington if he is elected?  How many of these people are going to have the ability to influence how I live my life?

That is what scares me.

That and the whining about how he’s being picked on.  Is it real…or just an attention grabbing ploy?

I don’t know, and it’s still months until ballot time, but this upcoming race is depressing.  We have few choices, and most of it looks like a choice between a rock and a hard place.  Sometimes, I think that the GOP offerings are designed to ensure that President Obama has another four years in office.  They are doing their best to make him look good, middle-of-the-road, and far less frightening than what they are intending to see happen in the Oval Office.

What do you think?  Which of the Republicans do you see making the grade and ending up on the ballot?  My best guess is that it will be Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, or Newt Gingrich.  I can’t see any of them choosing their competition as their running mate either, so the VP candidate could be interesting too.

November doesn’t seem far away enough right now to suit me.

A real presidential candidate

14 Jan

I look at the upcoming presidential election and just sigh.  Once again, we don’t have anyone to vote FOR–they are all wolves in sheep’s clothing.  How can we seriously believe that the president or any federal politician is going to represent us, the 99%, the common man?  They are all wealthy people, far wealthier than the average, and they are all elected after using vast sums of money donated by their corporate sponsors.  Is it any wonder that they are primarily concerned about protecting corporations and the wealthy when that’s who funds their campaigns?

So…I have a fantasy solution, probably no more viable than fantasy football, but nonetheless, it’s a great fantasy.

First, it would be a woman, and a former single parent at that.  Who else is going to be able to balance this incredibly out of whack federal budget than someone who is used to taking practically nothing and making it stretch to cover all of the essentials?

That former single mom is used to wearing a lot of hats and being efficient at managing time too.  She’s got years of experience at figuring out how to cope with a sick kid, a job, shopping, laundry, doctor appointments, school activities, and everything else that a single mother has to juggle.  She’s also skilled at preserving peace, because the Congress acts a lot like a bunch of kids who all want the same piece of cake.

She’d have to be firm and decisive, with a streak of pure iron.  For that reason, we’d be looking for a menopausal former single mom.  Nobody has the kind of decisive ability to just make things happen with a sheer fury than a menopausal woman.  Wars would last a single day, because nothing can stop the fury of a menopausal woman either, and she won’t play namby pamby games about it once its deemed necessary.  Don’t mess with Uncle Sam when it’s Aunt Sam in the suit, ya know?

All those bureaucrats with their cushy jobs that don’t do anything?  They’ll be booted out of their offices so fast they won’t even remember their own names.  Our dysfunctional departments?  Gone…with the wind.  Forget Obama Care–she’ll have a decent and workable health care plan ready for Congress to sign so fast that they won’t be able to call their corporate sponsors in time to get advice.

The ridiculous “No Child Left Behind” program will be dumped in the trash where it belongs, and real education will start to be readily available, nation wide, as she put a workable and modern system into practice.  No more spending all year preparing for that single test that determines a school’s fate at the detriment of educating children.  For the first time, real interactive educations could be obtained using the internet, letting kids from rural Minnesota participate in classes taught in sunny Florida, and kids in rural Alaska taking classes alongside kids from New York City.  Any adult who wished to get an education would be able to get a grant to cover tuition and books at a government supported college or university, as long as their grade point average was high enough.  Community colleges would offer community education classes again, allowing everyone to learn local arts, crafts, and skills that would entertain and interest them again for low fees.

The FDA would be reined in, no longer at the beck and call of pharmaceutical companies.  Rules and regulations would be revamped and made both understandable and reasonable.  Medications for the average person would be made more affordable, lowering health care costs, without discouraging the development of new medications.

A new program encouraging the consumption of local foods would be put into place, and farmers markets would be doing a booming business too.  People would be able to buy these locally produced foods directly from the growers, including things such as meat, raw milk, and eggs, without a long list of regulations making it impossible for small producers to meet them, and allowing the consumer to make an educated choice about who they purchased these potentially risky foods from without Uncle Sam interfering.

Oh, and the war on drugs?

President Menopausal Mom may not be crazy about drugs, but she isn’t stupid.  We’re dropping, as a nation, an immense amount of money down a rat hole with no end in sight.  In the meantime, drug gangs and other organized criminal elements are collecting huge paychecks, just like they did in the days of Prohibition.  This isn’t rocket science–this is pure economics and actual American history here.  If we make it legal, we can regulate it and tax it, turning it into a source of revenue and reducing the strain on our states’ correctional systems as they deal with the aftermath of this war on drugs.  After all, we have the largest prison population IN THE WORLD!  Let’s let some totalitarian nation have that title, it’s not one we need anymore and we sure can’t afford it.  Besides, raising hemp and cannabis (the same plants, but with different end purposes, sort of like comparing sweet corn and flint corn) will give farmers another crop, and processing plants can employ other people, as the products are turned from their raw state to their marketable state.  We could quit fighting in Afghanistan if we produced our own opium too.  Why not?  We import a substantial amoun t in terms of pharmaceutical products, and a much larger amount as illegal drugs.  All of those so-called “FEMA Camps” can become “Addict Camps” where addicts can live and work, sparing the rest of us the crime we see today, and allowing their families to quit worrying about them as much.  If they want to get “clean” and resume their lives…well, we are already paying for that to happen in jails and institutions around the country, we could have a program to allow them to do that too.

Just spend a little bit of time imagining what Menopausal Mom would do for this country, and then compare it with the politicians of the past and present.  We haven’t seen this much action in office since the days of the “New Deal,” and maybe not even then.  Each politician that has taken the oath and filled the Oval Office has failed to live up to their campaign promises, and they also always have an excuse.  She wouldn’t take excuses, she’d be busy DOING something because that’s what a single mom has always had to do.

Fantasies…

But, if something is never imagined, it will never happen.  From our cell phones to space travel and even to the political machine of today, they are all born from someone’s imagination.  If we all imagine a better world, with real change instead of lip service change, then we’ll get it.  If we just sit around and whine, or stand on street corners shouting angry words and waving signs, nothing real happens.

We need to quit demanding politicians who can produce the illusion of having lived a perfect life without error and start looking for people to elect who have lived real lives, made real mistakes, and really learned from them.  We need someone to believe in, not a story to believe in.

Right now, neither the Democrats or the Republicans are delivering that.  Instead, they are delivering more rhetoric and illusions.  I don’t want the man behind the curtain anymore, he has not done us any good.  Give me Dorothy instead!

Confessions of a middle aged American

18 Aug

I’m sick and tired.

I’m sick and tired of a lot of things.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the United States is a pretty darned good thing.  I have no desire to move to somewhere else, and don’t perceive the situation as “better” in other countries.  Apparently, I’m not alone.  There are an awful lot of people trying to cheat the system and bribe, lie, and sneak their way into the country.

I don’t feel that I should be apologetic about being an American either.  Not to anyone.  Granted, some of our foreign policies have been downright awful, but I also don’t expect every Japanese person to be apologetic over Pearl Harbor, or everyone that follows the Islamic religion to be apologetic over 9/11.  We’re not alone in the guilt thing in terms of genocide, persecution, colonialism, etc., and individual citizens can’t do much about official policies at the international level anyhow.

All any one individual can do is take care of their own little patch of the world.

The problem is…I feel like my patch is getting stomped on, run over, sprayed, and dumped on by a whole lot of outside influences, and its already so small that I grow tomatoes in recycled plastic pails.  I don’t have room for this stomping, dumping and spraying!

So the logical next step is to look for who is responsible, which means determining essentially who my enemies really are.  That’s what starts getting scary.

Our government should feel like our protector, not like our enemy.  Instead, I am regarding it as a growing monster, a Godzilla of epic proportions, out of control and running amok in our world.  The American government is supposed to be of the people, by the people and for the people.  The last few decades, the perception has shifted however.  It has become a cancerous growth that all too often is not for the people, but for that other “citizen” that has no face.

So who is this faceless “citizen”?

The Corporation.

And we seem to have an awful lot of them these days, doing things that certainly don’t put the health, wealth, and well being of our society in general at the top of their priorities.  They have a single priority.

Maximum profit.

Our government’s alphabet soup of agencies seems to have come under the control of the corporations that they are supposed to be regulating, supposed to be monitoring, and supposed to be taxing.

So consumers are faced with hormone laced meats and milk, contaminated with antibiotics to boot.  We are faced with GMOs entering the food chain without regulation or even labeling to allow consumers to choose whether they wish to be part of the biggest genetic experiment this planet has ever seen.  Drugs are released onto the market with minimal testing, while familiar herbal products are jerked off the market because of lack of testing.

We’re told that same sex marriages just can’t be, because of the sanctity of marriage.  Huh?  Over 50% of marriages today end in divorce.  How much sanctity is there in that?  Or can’t we call it something else, like civil union?  We’ve got way too many people spending way too much time worrying about other people’s sex lives.  Maybe there would be fewer divorces if less attention was given to other people and more attention paid to their own relationship?  Just a thought there…

Then, we have that good old national debt thing.  It seems to have gotten way out of control, and the government’s spending consistently exceeds what its income is.  Now as a person who’s worked for a living, I’m pretty certain that is a sure fire route to economic disaster.   Our interest payments are already exceeding what we’re actually spending on very important programs, and there is no paying down on the debt happening, but rather it is steadily increasing.  Something has to give, right?  As a citizen, if we do that with our personal budget, before long, we’re in really deep and hot water, and to prevent that, expenses have to be cut.  Just like in our personal budgets, we don’t cut essentials and keep the discretionary spending.  So why are we sending foreign aid, which we have had to borrow and we will be paying interest on for eternity, to over 150 countries, most of whom don’t even LIKE the United States to begin with?  The foreign aid is like a “donation” to a cause.  When I’m broke, I can’t donate to anything.  I have to take care of essentials before I can do the donation thing.  Why should our government be any different?  It’s time to cut off the aid, and quit giving away money we don’t even have to give.  Okay, so we have to help out some of these places…but do we need to be helping almost every single country?  Do we have to help as much as we’re helping?

Then there’s the real core of the problem.  Congress.  The White House.  The Supreme Court.  What is wrong with these people?  Have they lost touch with reality?  We have professional law makers there, men (mostly men anyhow) who have spent decades in Washington, buddying up with the lobbyists and the corporate retrievers who ensure that Big Corporations remain faceless “citizens” exempt from the restraints that are put upon those of us who were born of flesh and blood and not pen and ink.  They appoint more bureaucrats to run agencies and offices, perpetuating their evil deeds and further muddying the waters of responsibility.  I’m not sure what the best method of cleaning out those houses, but it sure needs to happen.  Maybe a good old fashioned lesson in “civics” will do the trick, as they memorize documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution.  It would be a good start, since they seem to have forgotten what it says.

Since 9/11, we’ve been regularly innoculated with propoganda ensuring that as a society, we’re afraid and insecure.  We need to live in terror of the terrorists who just might crop up anywhere, any time.  We have Homeland Security, we have FEMA…

But we don’t have any security at all.  Conspiracy theories abound about how we are potential victims of Homeland Security and their secret alliance with some faceless entity that controls the government behind the scenes.  Rather than the Bilderbergers and some secret royalty…our real faceless entity is one that was created and born right here in America–the Big Corporation.

And still, mainstream society sleeps on, lulled into complacency by empty promises and low interest rates.

Yeah, I guess I’m mad.  I’m also sad.  I look at our country, and see the increasing apathy seasoned by growing separate factions, and each group is pointing its finger at the others to cast the blame.  I don’t want to see America go the way of ancient Rome or the Incas or the Mayas…or any of the other societies that grew, became dominant cultures, and then…died an agonizing death.  I want to see this country become vibrant and alive again.  I want to see industry return, and people turning out to vote on election days.

I don’t want to see a re-make of the burning of Rome as the fall of Washington.  We’ve worked too hard to make a great society, we now need to fix it and get it back on track.

Will we?

 

Other people’s predictions, assembled without credits

28 Jul

These are all other people’s prophecies and predictions, just to clarify that.  I’m not going to try and pass on credit as to who says what, if you really want to know, you might try Google and see what you find.  I’m not so worried about who said it first, I guess.

It seems that we’re in for a busy year or so, as we have a LOT of stuff happening.

The Rapture from May was rescheduled to October, I forget the exact date, but I doubt anyone is holding their breath on this one either.  Now IF you are planning on attending this Rapture, you obviously won’t need your worldly goods any more.  Please donate them to me, and I’ll see that they are used wisely.

The economy is supposed to collapse at the end of the October, so don’t put your money in the bank then, or keep it in a cash form.  Put all of your money into pork bellies, gasoline in 5 gallon jerry cans, dehydrated food, coffee in 1 lb. cans or sugar.  These should be hot products on the black market after the complete crash.  I’m a little bit more worried about this issue, as our wedding date is the very last Saturday in October, and that could mean our guests are stranded in Mississippi, if they are from other parts of the country.  Maybe I should tell them to skip the clothes and bring bacon and coffee in their suitcases for bartering purposes?

Also scheduled for late October or November is an alien invasion in the American Southwest.  I’m not sure why only that part of the country, so maybe I should tell my family that lives there to come to the wedding early and hang out a while in the Southeastern USA?  Maybe caliche clay is highly valuable on Planet Zarnek 5?  Or the javalina is a hot second for their favored deity on Jujube 27?  Oh, I know…they wanna see a live performance of the Coyote vs. the Roadrunner!

The Planet/Comet/Space ship Elenin is also due to arrive in October, providing us with ample end-of-the-world apocolyptic possibilities.  There are an amazing number of creative results from Elenin, ranging from the total destruction of the planet as it is torn apart by tidal forces to large meteoric impacts resulting in a nuclear winter, acid rain, and certain death.  There is also the possibility of alien intervention or invasion, as well as vague disasters from which only a select few shall survive.  From the way things are going, you might do well to tattoo “Select Few” on your back–it might work!

Also scheduled for November is a mass round up of selected citizens of the United States for incarceration in FEMA camps for some unknown reason.  Enemies of the State?  Protective custody?  Just who these selected citizens are is yet undisclosed.  Theories have anyone with connections to environmental issues, conservation issues, anti-government concerns, pro individual rights, membership in certain churches or religions, the unemployed, the homeless, the old, the young, women, political activists, religious right wingers, liberal leaders, conservative advocates, homosexuals, heterosexuals, non-conformists, low income, middle income, well educated, handicapped, mentally impaired, chronically ill, etc. groups would be among those selected.  From the suppositions of who will be among the selected few, it appears that almost everyone will qualify for the free housing program in FEMA concentration camps.

December is the deadline for stepping up the genocide programs to reduce the population of the United States.  That means that from October through the end of the year, there will be an increased death rate, targeting primarily the uneducated, unemployed, low income, youth, elders, young adults, and middle aged segments of our population.  Check to make sure your will is in order–your worldly goods might be enough to help your loved ones from also being targeted.

January through March appears to be a period of relative quiet as the only scheduled activities is the round up of all citizens who disagree or oppose any of Obama’s political plans, bills, etc.  At that point, I’m not sure there is anyone left to round up anyone, let alone anyone to round up.  Even so, our government proceeds with its devious and evil plans, despite a derelict planet with most inhabitants locked up in concentration camps.

In spring, renewed efforts from HAARP will begin the near destruction of many coastal regions as efforts to cause severe typhoons and hurricanes are stepped up.  With earthquake research also being conducted, tsunamis will be hitting in locations previously thought immune.  Japan is practically destroyed, as are the coastal regions of Chile, Ecuador, Korea, China, and India.

An unexpected tsunami strikes Europe, killing millions.  Another strikes Florida, sweeping entirely across the southern tip of the state and carrying everything in its path along with it as it enters the Gulf of Mexico.  Hours later, thousands of victims are flung onto the coasts of Texas, man and beast.  Many alligators are still alive.  On the East Coast, one massive tsunami manages to strike from Boston to New York, killing millions with thousands missing and entire city blocks flattened.

A flu epidemic strikes in early April, attacking primarily young adults ages 23-40.  Out of those that contract it, it is universally fatal.  Some regions see as high as a 95% infection rate, and an entire generation dies in a few weeks.  Millions of orphans are transported to orphanage farms alongside the FEMA concentration camps, where these youth are trained by the government, ensuring cooperative citizens in the future.

May seems to be quiet, unless there is to be another Rapture event.  The following summer is a season plagued with Mother Nature’s retaliation against HAARP and government meddling, as one storm after another batters the US coast lines.  The storms continue all through the summer and September as well.

October sees another shift, as icy cold weather grasps the nation.  Early blizzards start marching across the nation, having swept southward from the polar regions.  They dump feet of snow on the few survivors left in the interior of the country, battering them with winds that drive snowflakes as though they were daggers.  Temperatures plummet to record lows and stay there for days at a time, and no sooner do citizens dig their way out of their buried homes, and another storm comes, bringing even more snow and cold along with them.  Powerlines are snapped, rescue efforts impossible, supplies can’t move, railroads and highways are closed.

By the time that November and Thanksgiving roll around, those who have survived are truly thankful.  Even so, the worst has not yet passed, as more winter weather and lack of supplies must still be faced before spring’s arrival.

December means the end of the world prediction of the Mayans.  Will their alien gods return?  Will there be some great calamity?  Does it really matter?  Only about 10% of the population is still alive.

Okay, I’ll admit it…I took some of these predictions and sort of ran with them, using poetic license to paint the picture.  It’s definitely a worst case scenario. At the same time, we are being inundated with disaster predictions.  Does that mean that they are true…or are they a reflection of our fears?  Will our fears and thoughts manifest themselves and actually CREATE events such as this?

Think.  Be real.  Be HONEST most of all, with both yourself and the outside world.

Politics, change and the economy too

23 Jul

This is a long post, with a lot of ideas.  What I hope is to make people think about what we need, as a nation, as well as what we need on the Gulf Coast, the State of Mississippi, etc.  We elected President Obama with his simple slogan of “Change,” but did we get change or just a new flavor of the same old BS?  What programs do you think will provide us with real “bail out” power from the current economic situation?  Can we avoid the same kinds of turmoil that has plagued countries such as Egypt and Greece?

Think.  Make a comment.  Eventually, some of these ideas will get packaged up and sent off to my representatives to Congress.  Apathy today is our worst enemy, and it is passed the time when we all need to get in touch with Washington DC…they have obviously lost touch with us!

I’m making that effort to get more involved, by telling my representatives what I want and sending them ideas.  They may ignore them…and they may not, but I’ll never know if I never speak up.  The same goes for each and every one of you.

What do you think we need to happen?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look around and say that things have got to change in the United States and fast.  Even if you are educated, willing to work, have an agreeable personality, and are willing to relocate…jobs are virtually impossible to find.

We left New Orleans in 2010, stuck in a cycle of unemployment and rising cost of living.  It was impossible to continue.  We relocated to coastal Mississippi, which may seem like jumping from the frying pan to the fire, as there were few jobs there either.  The differences were simple–we had friends & family willing to help us as we tried to get a new start, and the lower cost of living meant that we might succeed.

In the meantime, job interviews have been scarce.  Inflation has eaten away at our budget too.  Help also implies a temporary status, and cannot continue indefinitely or you wind up being someone’s dependent.  We like being independent and paying our own way.

How much longer before our money runs out?  Six months?  A year?  Two years?  Will we survive until there is a job, even if it is a menial job with below poverty level income?  It’s tough as an older worker with a job history to watch youngsters still in school or fresh out of school getting the jobs at the fast food restaurants that you also applied for…and didn’t even get an interview for.  It is very hard to stay motivated to apply for one job after another, when only one application in a hundred results in an interview, and none of those interviews in the last three years have resulted in anything more than temporary employment of a few days or weeks.

We’re looking at the end of the long term unemployment benefits that many people qualified for coming to an end in less than six months from now.  At the same time, Food Stamp recipients have climbed 40%, there is talk of cutting back on the program, food prices continue to climb in the grocery store, and nothing from Washington results in anyone’s confidence that they have figured out a way out of this Depression.

It IS a Depression.  It’s gone from the Great Recession to an actual full blown depression, whether the economists want to admit it or it meets any technical definition of that dubious economic state.  It’s worldwide, it’s without an end in sight, and the numbers the government is reporting have no grasp of the real issue.

Out of the unemployed people I know, only about one in five is receiving an unemployment check, for whatever reason.  If that is true nationwide, we’re looking at unemployment numbers five times higher than those being reported by the Feds, even if their numbers are unaltered and represented correctly.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the current unemployment levels at 9.2%.  If the real figures differ as dramatically as my personally observed percentages do, we could actually have unemployment as high as 46%.  Even that figure does not count those who have opted to remove themselves from the job market due to early retirement, etc. either, which would undoubtedly add even more people to the actual number of those without a job.

Our current president, Barrack Obama, with the assistance of his cabinet, doesn’t seem to be able to come up with a viable plan for real economic recovery.  The Great Bail Out didn’t seem to help Joe Average or Jane Hardworker one iota.  Families are still losing their homes and jobs, along with their health care and retirement.  The numbers of homeless rise regularly and are nearly impossible to accurately report because of the inherent nature of that state.  People are not going to admit to being homeless for fear of losing their children, their pets, their pride, and their hope.

So what kinds of things WOULD work to help our economy recover, buy the time we need for an actual recovery, and initiate the kind of economic growth that we need to occur in this nation?  We don’t have an industrial base anymore–most of those jobs went overseas in search of fewer regulations and cheaper labor.

Here on the Gulf Coast, we have the shipyards, primarily building giant ships for the Navy and some industrial sized tankers, oil rigs, etc. for the oil industry.  The problem there is…how many war ships do we need?  Should we, as a nation, invest more in shipbuilding?  Is it going to produce something with a market?  Can we do it better, faster, cheaper than foreign shipyards?

We also have the tourist industry and the casinos.  Should we invest more in this?  Who would our market be?  Is it going to produce jobs that are going to exist a decade from now?  Is it going to stimulate economic growth over the long term, no matter what Mother Nature and the oil industry delivers to the coastal region?

Mississippi has agriculture too.  Agriculture isn’t exactly a big job producer, but it is imperative that we have an adequate food supply in the country.  Should we be investing more here?  Which types of agriculture should we invest in?

Mississippi also is blessed with a myriad of natural resources like timber, wildlife, lakes, rivers, creeks, bayous, bays, marshes, and coastal waterways.  These too can be a source of revenue when properly managed, but what kind of investment would maximize these in terms of jobs and economic recovery?  Can these be managed in a way to ensure that it is sustainable in the long term?  These assets are also connected to a system of county, state, and federal parks and forests, and their facilities.  How can these provide both jobs and an economic asset for the state as a whole?  What opportunities lay there?

There is also the oil industry, traditionally a source of high paying jobs with fantastic benefits.  States complain that they receive little tax benefit for offshore rigs in their region, yet when the unthinkable happens, as in the case of the BP Oil Spill, many states suffer both in terms of their environment, industry, recreation, and financially.  Can more investment in the oil industry help with the economic recovery of the regions that it has often both blessed and cursed?

We can look to history for inspiration and advice.  We had an excellent example in the New Deal programs of the Great Depression.  What worked best and provided the most long term solutions and benefits to the nation as a whole?

With a historical perspective, the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) probably had the biggest impact on the economy besides Social Security.  Both of these programs, with updates to suit the current era, could be potentially viable solutions to the long term unemployment of today.

The CCC was a popular program, specifically geared for young single men from 18-25 years of age.  They received $30 per month in pay, and $22-25 of their pay was sent home to their parents.  They also received food, clothing, housing, and medical care.  Participants had to apply and then pass a physical exam ensuring that they were physically capable of performing the manual labor the camps were designed to do.  Each participant had to complete one term of six months, however up to four terms could be completed if employment was still unlikely in their home area.

Today, that program would have to include both young men and women from 18-25 years of age, and instead of sending their pay home to their parents, a substantial portion would need to be held in a “future fund” for their use after their term in the new CCC was completed.  This would provide the young worker with a nest egg to start their life in the private sector after their term in the new CCC was complete, providing for things such as a car, deposit on an apartment, etc. to ensure their full time private sector employment could be achieved.  Those who completed one or more terms in the new CCC would not be eligible for unemployment benefits, and would be encouraged to find a job prior to departing from the CCC.

This new CCC would not be geared towards training participants in new skills as much as training them in work ethics and providing them with a job history. It would also provide evening classes to allow participants to obtain a high school diploma to increase their chances of employment in the private sector after completing their term with the new CCC.  Manual labor skills would be taught as needed to accomplish the tasks given to their division of the new CCC, much like the tasks addressed by the original CCC.  Like the original, participants would live in barracks and work similar schedules.  Their pay would be the equivalent of a minimum wage job in the area, with 75% of their pay being withheld for their “future fund.”  Failure to complete their term would result in economic sanctions of losing 50% of their future fund, which would provide performance incentive.

For those who found the hard physical labor to be out of their range of abilities due to lack of strength or preferences, support staff positions would exist, performing tasks such as camp sanitation, meal preparation, record keeping, distribution, clerical positions, and other administrative tasks.  To qualify for these positions, some prior experience or training would have to exist.  Their pay would remain the same, and they would be supervised by the administrative team for that particular camp.

In addition to the jobs provided to the participants, support positions to those with both an education and work history would be created, as teachers, administrators, managers, and crew bosses would all find positions available with the new CCC in particular camps.  These jobs would be filled by applicants according to their job skills and education, with reasonable pay schedules that match area jobs, as well as typical benefits such as medical, dental, etc.

The CCC camps would be either in a barracks type situation, utilizing old military bases and camps, or temporary in nature and using tents in the camp, not unlike a temporary military camp.  All camps would provide the same basic services, although permanent camps may have more extensive “recreational” facilities, such as libraries, game rooms, etc.

The new WPA would focus on providing jobs in a variety of areas, allowing their participants to remain with their families.  These jobs would hire more skilled participants, often older workers.  Like the original WPA jobs, it would address community and regional needs, ranging from school construction to natural resource management.  Only one member of a household would be eligible for participation, and the wages would be consistent with local wages for similar positions, along with benefits such as medical and dental insurance.  Participants could leave the program at any time, as long as they had obtained other employment, and unemployment benefits would not be available to participants for a period of six to twelve months after leaving the program. After completion of a project, if no further projects were requiring that participant’s skills in the immediate area, participants would be offered a position in another project outside of their area or be certified as eligible for unemployment benefits again, if all other requirements for unemployment are met.

In addition to the positions provided by participating in the WPA, there would be additional administrative and supervisory positions within the WPA that were of a permanent/long term nature for the duration of the program.  These positions would include supervisors and administrative employees.  Support employees such as secretaries, clerks, etc. would be participants.

The expenses of these programs could be held within check by allocating positions to various camps (CCC) and projects (WPA).  Funding would originate with the federal government, and the pay off in the local communities would be felt within seven months of the initiation, as the first term of the CCC participants were finished with their terms.  Initial benefits to the communities would be noticed sooner with the arrival of a WPA project in their immediate area, as the participants use their health and dental care policies, pay bills, and make purchases in the community.

Imagine a CCC project along the Gulf Coast, even a relatively “small” one as removal of trash from the coastal estuaries, destruction of derelict Katrina-damaged homes, and completion of various public parks  that have been slowly repaired post Katrina.  Even 100 young men and women, under the supervision of experienced supervisors and managers, combing the rivers, beaches, marshes, etc. for the debris, tearing down the many derelict houses in the area, and removal of the debris over a period of a year would take 100 young men and women off of the streets and put them in positions where they learned about having a job and preparing for responsible adulthood.

WPA projects could include things like bicycle paths, public community education courses in art and creative writing, wetland rehabilitation, establishment of parks and construction of facilities along the coastal rivers and beaches, revitalizing our school systems with extra teachers in areas such as art, literature, industrial skills, etc.  For the city of Pascagoula, adding 100 jobs may not sound like much compared to the number employed in the shipyards, but that 100 diversified jobs can be a beginning to private industry and endeavor.  Public assets such as bicycle paths, parks, education, adult community education, and other community facilities increase an area’s attractiveness to both employers and employees.

In addition, one advantage held by European industrialized nations compared to America is the existence of a viable passenger train system.  In today’s situation of rising energy costs and increasing need for enviromentally sensible solutions to transportation issues, the establishment of a national passenger train system of a usable nature is increasingly obvious in the nation’s need.

Currently, there are NO stations available between any Mississippi to Alabama, and even the Florida Panhandle.  Even choosing an option with the current provider, Amtrak, to travel between Albuquerque and Austin, the trip takes three days ONE WAY and costs $415 one way compared to taking a flight between the two cities, which takes about four hours, and costs less than $600 round trip.  Obviously, American train travel is both expensive and inconvenient, unlike other industrialized nations’ offerings that focus on convenience, efficiency, and reasonable rates.  This would be an ideal project to focus WPA efforts on, and would result in increased ability for Americans to travel for both leisure and work, nationwide.  It doesn’t need to be “high speed” so much as made into an efficient method of transportation–three days for covering the number of miles that can be reasonably achieved via the highways in a single day is ridiculous.  The complete lack of transportation on the Gulf Coast, with the sole stations being located in St. Petersburg/Clearwater, New Orleans and Galveston.  I did not find ANY Amtrak stations in Mississippi, although surrounding states did have stations.

The existence of a viable and efficient passenger train system in the United States could also be utilized in emergencies, allowing efficient transportation of large numbers of citizens from an area that needs to be evacuated due to incoming hurricanes or other states of emergency.  It would also allow for efficient transportation of large quantities of emergency supplies and emergency personnel to the vicinity of an area effected by an emergency, as the railroad is going to provide more efficient transportation of these than highway convoys.  Today, the creation of this effective passenger rail system would be as much of a national asset as the interstate highway system was when it was created, in addition to creating numerous long term employment opportunities, as well as short term construction and development employment opportunities.  It is also a very worthy federal project because of its interstate nature and the fact that the only possible “competition” is an inefficient, expensive monopoly that fails to provide service in all fifty states.

Another project of note that would be a worthy federal project would be similar in nature to the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 in its scope and importance to rural and small town areas.  At this time, rather than providing electricity, the purpose would be to provide high speed internet access nationwide through wireless, cable or dsl connections.  Internet access is increasingly important in today’s society, and by ensuring that all Americans have access, increased sales of computer related goods will occur, as well as general access to information, shopping, job searches, and other uses of the internet would be possible in every corner of America.  The monthly service itself would be provided by local companies, at reasonable rates, with grants and low interest loans to ensure that even the more remote communities can be connected to the internet.

All of these projects would be conducted with the goal of directly benefiting the citizens of the country, rather than benefiting specific corporations.  It would increase morale and confidence in the government’s management of a difficult economic situation with short term benefits, and the long term benefits would ensure that confidence in the government would continue.

This increase in confidence and morale is essential to providing the private sector impetus towards economic growth.  In the current situation, with a lack of faith in the government’s ability to manage the situation becoming more prevalent, compounded by the public unrest in Europe and Egypt, few are willing to embark on new and innovative business development that would spur economic growth, whether in the primary employment sector of small business or in the large corporation world.  Spending by the citizens is also minimal, due to the lack of confidence in the future, which further inhibits economic growth.

Because of this, it is imperative that any federal programs targeting the economy have a number of considerations put into them prior to public announcement.  These considerations include things like:

  • Some kind of historical precedence where the program was effective
  • Public figure (such as sports figures, television and movie industry figures, etc.) endorsement of the programs in a PR campaign to increase awareness and counteract rumors and incorrect information being circulated via news, television and internet sources.
  • Short term benefits being apparent to the average citizen
  • Long term benefits being easily anticipated by the average citizen
  • Efficient management of the programs to prevent scandals
  • Efficient hiring systems to maximize benefits to the greatest number of households.

In addition, certain other actions by the federal government to increase public confidence are necessary and should include things like:

  • Reduction in aid to foreign countries.
  • Plans for grants to encourage new and innovative industry at the small business level
  • Reduction in aid to the United Nations
  • Tax breaks offered to individuals making less than $24,000 annually, regardless of marital status.
  • Small house grants and tax credits for new sole residence housing under 800 square feet with two or more bedrooms and energy efficient construction.
  • Tax credits for sole residence purchases with less than $50,000 of financed debt for the home and land purchase.
  • Grants for purchase of “distressed property” renovation as a sole residence.
  • Establishment of “community markets” where local produced goods, agricultural products, used items, etc. could be sold by local residents.  (Such as farmer’s markets or flea markets) in all county seats and other towns with more than 10,000 population in the 2010 census.
  • Tax credits available to all persons who have a gym membership, exercise class, or some other form of regular exercise that can be documented as regularly attended and participated in, including use of a bicycle for regular transportation as part of a “Healthy America” program to reduce the frequency of obesity.
  • Establishment of community fitness programs for seniors with multiple offerings such as walking, yoga, tai chi, weight training, etc. with trained instructor supervision.
  • Establishment of a grant system to create “community gardens” where participants can rent spaces ranging from 10×10′ on up of prepared garden space to grow vegetables for their families as an incentive to local farmers to offer space.
  • Creation of grants to benefit local non-profits who provide services to people, promoting local charities for local needs and reducing the strain on public assistance agencies.
  • Small farm and family farm grants and tax credits to promote agricultural diversity.

This is a diverse list of potential areas of attention, but the problem that faces America today is not a single problem that can be cured with a single shot in the arm, so to speak.  It is a problem that has developed over decades, in many areas of the economy, and not only within the United States itself. It’s not the fault of a single political party or administration, but it is the concern of every American.  Each and every citizen needs to seriously examine their representatives to Washington and determine what changes really need to happen, especially as we approach an election year.

  • What changes need to occur now?
  • What has our current representatives accomplished in the past?
  • What have they put noticeable effort into causing change?
  • What are their chances of succeeding in causing change?
  • Have they done what they promised they would do?

When we look at new candidates, we need to ask questions too.

  • Can they do a  better job?
  • What are they promising to do?
  • Do the things that they stand for agree with what I want to happen in Washington?
  • Are they going to represent the majority of their constituents or are they going to do what they want to do?
  • Is this person capable of pushing for the things that their constituency wants?
  • Do you think they’ll follow through on their promises?

Sometimes, we may choose “better the devil we know” as our candidate of choice, sometimes, we believe that “any change is better than no change.”  What do you think?

The government, the economy, the public, and us

14 Jul

Our government is supposed to be “of the people, for the people, and by the people” or something close to that.

The economy is also driven by guess who?  Us.

The public…once again, that’s us folks.

So essentially, it’s all “us” with different labels.

Or is it?

Talking with “Joe Average” these days will soon let you know that Joe Average feels a distinct difference between his life and the government, and that his perceptions are that the government definitely does not have his best interests at heart.  The government has become an institution of its own, a place ruled by politicians and bureaucrats who have a goal of getting as much as they can while prohibiting as much as possible in terms of protest from the public.

“G-men” have not been so loathed since the days of Prohibition.

The economy has become a monster on its own count, a monster that swallows up friends, neighbors and even our jobs.  It raises prices, cuts benefits, and creates stress and anxiety.  While we are being repeatedly TOLD it is improving, the reality we’re seeing tells us otherwise.  There are no jobs, and what few that are available, even for menial labor at minimum wage, will have a long line of applicants, including those with college degrees and years of experience in their chosen fields.  People are desperate for those jobs, any jobs, and terrified of losing the one that they may have, no matter how miserable and poorly paid they are.

Lies from official voices don’t make the lies any easier to swallow.  Lies originating from governmental spokespersons in public forums don’t increase public confidence in the government either.

We are now looking at a number of things that are coming up before the end of 2012.  Some may seem silly or unimportant, but they are factors affecting the masses and their potential actions.  These things include:

  1. Mayan prophecy supposedly ending the world on December 21, 2012
  2. Extended unemployment benefits ending beginning in January of 2012
  3. Potential for American default on national debt in late 2011
  4. Cuts in social programs for the indigent such as Food Stamps, medical care, child care, education, etc.
  5. Cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits.
  6. Increasing numbers of homeless individuals and families
  7. Increased numbers of suicides and mental health impaired persons
  8. Rise in crime committed by desperate people trying to survive
  9. Increase in domestic violence and child abuse/abandonment
  10. Increased substance abuse
  11. Increase in organized crime & trafficking of controlled substances
  12. Reductions in local police departments and other services by communities due to reduced tax revenue
  13. Increase in foreclosures and evictions due to non-payment
  14. Progressively more violent protests regarding situation
  15. Homelessness being treated as a crime, resulting in round ups of thousands of people for interment in “poverty camps”

What kind of a picture is getting painted for you now?  Is it one you ever thought you’d see painted in America?

We see our government continuing to indulge in practices we can no longer afford, such as foreign aid and war, while here in our own country, we’re facing the possibility of progressive civil unrest that could lead to a civil war itself.  We’ve long been the “sugar daddy” of the world, but right now, if we don’t take care of this country, there won’t be any more sugar getting passed out.  It’s time to stop the pay outs and take care of business…the business of America.  Let the UN worry about getting its money from somewhere like France.

Endangered List: Help Wanted and New Job Listings

21 Jun

Looked at the classified ads lately?

It will show you that the official reports being released about an economic rebound are less accurate than a manufacturer’s glowing description of a sub-standard product.

It’s an endangered species, those “help wanted” and “new job listings” columns in the classified section.  You’ll find plenty of used items for sale, notices of “moving” sales, yard sales, home sales, etc. but jobs?  There are more likely to be dubious “work at home” and “sales opportunity” ads  than advertisements for any real jobs.  Even the simplest of entry level jobs will have ten or more applicants for a single position.  Employers rarely need to advertise a position or list it with the state employment agency–they have a fat file of applicants that were willing to invest their time filling out an application for a job that didn’t exist…in hopes of a future opening.

There are more homeless than ever before, but they aren’t the homeless alcoholics, drug addicts, drifters, and former psychiatric patients that are the stereotypical homeless.  This is a more invisible kind of homelessness, as families that were formerly middle class are left with no jobs and no homes, living with friends or family, drifting through temporary housing situations, etc. as they try to stay out of the radar of “homelessness” that will send up red flags that make life even more difficult and prevent jobs from being found at all.  Adult children living with their aging parents, bringing along their own children, as they struggle to figure out how to cope in a world where jobs aren’t there, unemployment is running out, and food stamps don’t have the answers either.

Something has to happen, because in the coming year, more people are going to lose what little income they have, whether or not there is a job to replace it.  What then?

It isn’t a simple answer either.  Those same unemployed people who either have or are in danger of losing their homes are also not paying taxes or social security.  Governments are losing their tax base even as more demands are being put on them to help with the homeless, jobless, insurance-less, and food-less population.

Prices are rising too.  The price of fuel has been steadily increasing, taking a skyhop for a while, then dropping a bit…without ever coming down to its previous levels.  Grocery store prices are rising too.  Prices of other goods goes up.  In the meantime, few have seen an increase in their income, and nearly all have seen their income stagnate or drop.

Who is going to save America?

Small businesses are struggling, corporations don’t seem to have much concern about anything but their bottom line, and the government seems to have grown into a monster that prefers terrorizing its citizens rather than listening to their cries for help.  There is no “Big Daddy” that’s going to come and administer discipline, provide aid, and promote industry.  Education, once the answer, is now out of reach of the majority of the population beyond the publicly mandated levels.  There isn’t even any subsidy to help those kids who reach 18 but are still in high school to finish school without parental assistance, let alone go to any kind of technical or secondary school, no matter how dedicated they are.  If you are 18 and your parents turn you out, or you were a ward of the state…your only option is joining the military.  Guess you better be in good physical health.

The scenario doesn’t improve much with age, especially if you are over age 50 and unemployed.  No one wants to hire this age group, perceiving them as being “over qualified” or “apt to get sick” or “near retiring” or “old fashioned.”  There are a hundred and one excuses in a society that is in love with the illusion of youth…because most people these days need to work until age 68 or older, unless they have a fat retirement fund they’ve saved on their own.

Our industrial jobs are gone, outsourced to countries like China, Mexico, Eastern Europe, and other countries with lower wages and standards.  There, the factories don’t have to meet clean air standards, treat their employees well, or even pay a fair wage often.  Corporations enjoy fatter profits, and sell the goods to Americans who accept poor quality in the name of low price all too often.

Even call centers for customer service, technical support, etc. are now outsourced to countries like Malaysia, India, Eastern Europe, etc. where they hire English speaking residents far cheaper than they can hire Americans, even while they are providing services to Americans who pay with American money.   Once again, it’s done in the name of profit, and Americans are accepting sub-standard customer service for that great “low price”.  How many times have you had to wait on hold only to speak to someone who has an accent so thick that you could barely understand them…only to get hung up on because you challenged their “solution” to your problem?  It’s a common joke among my friends that a certain software company with a very familiar name in the United States must have a rule with its customer service representatives in India…”If you are ever wrong, and admit it, we will fire you.”  Their solution to being potentially wrong is to just hang up, therefore avoiding the problem, at least on their end.

American consumers are letting corporations do this to them, with a double hit on the economy, by not insisting on customer support being provided by call centers located in the United States.  Not only are the jobs gone from the USA, but American dollars are being pumped into these foreign countries at incredible rates, further extracting money from flowing through the USA.

It seems our only export anymore is jobs.  Our imports?  Almost everything from customer service to products.

One example is a story that I personally experienced.  After hearing so many negative comments about “cheap Chinese bicycles” I decided to look at which bicycles were American made.  It seems that we had a LOT of different brands that were American up until the 1980s, with the number dwindling steadily since then.  The amazing thing is that while there were LOTS of companies in the USA manufacturing bicycles in the middle of the 20th century, do you know how many manufacture bicycles in typical mass production facilities today?

None.

Not one is left.  All of them were forced to move their production to China or other foreign countries, mostly because of the need to cut costs and stay competitive in the market.  Those expensive bike shop brands, or the cheap discount mart brand…all of them come from China.  Granted, if you buy an American made bicycle today, you will get the finest quality, but it won’t be a mass produced factory product.  It will be hand made as a custom order, just as much personal attention as the Wright Brothers gave to their bicycles way back when, although there will be more power equipment and high tech products used to make it.  Even on that hand made bicycle, there will be a number of imported products put on it before its finished, simply because they are not made in the USA at all.  By anyone.

That American made bicycle was going to cost me a very pretty penny, probably more than the used mini van I bought several years ago.  For casual riding, I absolutely cannot justify spending that kind of money, American made or not, whether I had it to spend or not.

Wake up, America.  Smell the coffee, before its too late.

Something has to change, and it better change very quickly or we might not like the results very much.  Maybe that “End-of-the-World” stuff for December 21, 2012 isn’t about the world  as in the planet ending, but rather more about an end to our current society and way of life.

We can’t continue down this road or there will be social unrest the likes of which we have never seen in this country, as the majority of people are jobless, homeless, and hopeless…and have nothing to lose anymore.

I’ve read comments on stories and blogs from untold numbers of people who calmly state that when it gets to that point they intend to commit suicide…which is bad enough, but what about the ones who decide that suicide isn’t the answer, but going out in a blaze of glory is more their style?

I’m not an economist, I have no idea what the fix is, all I can see is looming disaster as this problem grows like a form of cancer.  Just like any other patient with cancer, I look elsewhere for the answers, and I’m not seeing any.  The majority of people no longer trust our government or corporations, we don’t trust the media, and often we’re being told to not trust our neighbor either.  We hear stories of how Janet Napolitano has been telling the media, etc. how people should report anything unusual to Walmart (This doesn’t make sense to me, but I haven’t dug to the bottom of THAT story) and we have a growing distrust of the Patriot Act, stories of FEMA mass concentration camps designed to inter people for some unknown reason…the list of conspiracies goes on, creating even more distrust and suspicion.  Do we report our weird neighbor, or find out if he might be an asset if the “G-men” come to take us away?  Do we stockpile ammunition and food…or pay our bills?

As Americans, we need a game plan, to know what our goals as a country are, and a plan on how to get there that makes sense.  We don’t need more wars to siphon even more money out of the country and into foreign pockets.  We need jobs and industry again, we need to find a way to provide adequate housing that people can afford and pay the bills on, we need alternative energy that is affordable and clean, we need…real change, not political rhetorical change.

I don’t care who is in office, what racial background they have, or who their great-granddaddy was.  I’m not thrilled with Obama, but I’m certainly not seeing any sign of any candidate that presents better chances of real change either.  I’m disgusted with both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  I’m horrified by the long list of alphabet soup agencies that seem to promote governmental waste and red tape, while not providing any sign of economic recovery.  I’m equally disgusted with the amount of money that was wasted in the name of recovery, and did nothing more than line corporate pockets, without ever trickling down to jobs or any other benefit of the common man.  I think our current system of taxation provides too many with loopholes and unfairly taxes the remainder.  Our current health care system sucks, and the new Obamacare isn’t any better.

The change we need to see is in the form of jobs.  We need to figure out what products we can market to the world and create a better trade balance than we have now, and it doesn’t matter if its bicycles, computers, medical supplies, tourism, or educations…but we have to find it, develop it, and start marketing it pretty quickly or it will be too late.  Maybe we need the WPA to be re-created and put a mass transit system of trains that is comparable to the European system, enabling us to move people and goods inexpensively and efficiently around the country.  There was a lot of talk a while back about a fast transit system using trains for high speed travel.  We can’t even use trains for reasonable speed travel currently–it’s too expensive and too limited in scope.  An efficient train system would go a long ways towards real change, and if crazy man Hitler could manage it in Germany…surely Obama, the man of Change, can master such a concept in modern America!  (Have you checked into using the train for a vacation?  Your entire vacation, both time and money,  would be spent on the train!)  Another national project to put people to work could be a national bike trail system, allowing people to use cheap and clean bicycle transit to cross the country from one end to another, promoting exercise and clean transport in one single job-creating project!  America could use workers to increase the current national park and forest system, building campgrounds that can do dual duty as potential locations for refugees from national disasters such as fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes, and by scattering them across the country, there would always be facilities available that could be converted to housing refugees temporarily.  We’d also have nicer parks available for recreational use during the majority of the time when the facilities are not needed for refugees.  There are thousands of potential projects for an agency like the WPA of old, and the many unemployed would find jobs that would allow them to send money to their families and save to improve their own futures.  Most of all, a project like that would provide a tangible form of change and hope, and create an environment more conducive to the creation of the small businesses that are the backbone of the American economy.

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