Saturday, July 16, 2011

Comparing government spending and earnings to typical households. Or am I being obtuse?

A friend over at Facebook posted the following, after listening to Dave Ramsey on Thursday, July 14.

If our government was a household that makes 56,000 dollars per year, it's spends 92,000 dollars per year and owes just over 300,000 dollars in credit cards. Now I don't care what side of the aisle you are on, that is one f'd up household! The worst part is instead of reducing our spending we want to raise our credit limits. seriously???

I couldn't help but add the following:

It has a single source of income, even with two wage earners in the household. The single income is for a middle-manager at a small company. The other could make over $100K with their masters degree but chooses to stay home and schemes how to get more money out of the small understaffed company.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sarah Palin encouraging to flaunt Osama bin Laden's photo does nothing to convince me she should run for office

I just had to repost this comment from a gentleman named Mark regarding Sarah Palin's (not so) brilliant tweet demanding to show Bin Laden's photo.

Mark says:

I am so impressed by Sarah Palin. Failed as a VP candidate. Never completed her term as Governor. Never been in the House or the Senate. Her international resume includes the ability to see Russia from her front porch. And she can't remember any national publication she has read on a regular basis because she got rattled during an interview. And SHE has decided that not publishing graphic photos is pussy-footing? She knows what constitutes "part of the mission?" She hasn't completed a mission, so how would she know. Ms. Palin, instead of shooting animals, take that shotgun and go defend our country and then you will know what constitutes "part of the mission."

May 4, 2011 03:09 pm at 3:09pm

(reprinted with minor corrections)

Considering Palin's "experience" I cannot wrap my mind around the notion that people are interested in seeing this individual take office!?! WTF??

Thursday, March 10, 2011

An objective list of what the budget repair bill changes minus opinions and name calling #wiunion

Regrettable to see all the mudslinging, name calling, Recall Mania, hyperbole, you name it happening in the Wisconsin Assembly and beyond. Below you will see an overview of the legislation passed by the Assembly, opinion-free and minus name calling. What follows is virtually a complete reprint from the Crooks and Liars web site.

Day Care Providers
Eliminates all authority for collective bargaining units, and rescinds authority for the Milwaukee County child care provider services unit to negotiate with union representatives to modify hours or conditions of employment as part of a state takeover of that program.

University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority Board
Eliminates all collective bargaining rights terminates contracts with UWHCB, transfers all employees to the UWHC Authority, who will negotiate all compensation and benefits as existing contracts expire.

Medical Assistance (BadgerCare)
Orders a study of:

  • Ways to increase cost-effectiveness, efficiency of care, and care delivery system for existing programs
  • Fiscal impact of limiting switches from private health insurance to Medical Assistance

After the study:
  • Require cost-sharing from recipients
  • Authorize providers to deny care or services if recipient cannot pay cost-sharing
  • Modify (reduce) existing benefits or establish tiered benefits
  • Mandate enrollment in managed care
  • Restrict or eliminate presumptive eligibility (allowing participants to be excluded via arbitrary definition)
  • Restrict benefits to individuals who are not US citizens (note there is no distinction for documented vs. undocumented)
  • Reduce income levels for purposes of determining eligibility (currently 185% of Federal Poverty Level)

Reduce funding for Aging and Disability Resource Centers.

Repeal all statutes relating to Wisconsin Quality Home Care Authority. Such a repeal would also repeal authority to establish a process for WQHCA to establish a single statewide collective bargaining unit to bargain for wages and benefits. (Note: In May, 2010, independent home care workers voted to make SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin their representative. In December an agreement was reached for wages of $9 per hour, effective 7/1/2012. The legislature has not ratified the agreement, and repeal will nullify them.)

Note on BadgerCare changes
According to this document, programs affected would be
  • BadgerCare Plus for childless adults and the family planning waiver program
  • Medicaid for elderly, blind and disabled people
  • Medicare premium assistance programs
  • Wisconsin Well-Woman Medicaid
  • SeniorCare
(I believe all to the extent permitted under the Affordable Care Act)

State Employees
Rearrange employment structure to replace department administrator "classified" positions with unclassified positions, and delegate authority to the Office of State Employment Relations to appoint a deputy director or executive assistant from outside the group of classified employees.

Allows the director to arbitrarily reassign anyone in a career executive position to a different agency provided the receiving agency approves the assignment.

Allows the Governor to terminate any state employee during a state emergency if the employee:
  • fails to report to work for 3 working days without approval
  • participates in a strike, work stoppage, sit-down, stay-in, slowdown or "other concerted activities", including sick calls and/or mass resignations.

Retirement and Health Insurance Contributions
Employee pays any required contribution in excess of 5% of earnings. Executives and elected officials will not be required to make any additional contribution. Employees who are entitled to additional contributions for negotiated benefit increases, will have to contribute an additional amount.

Repeal authority for state and local employers to pay all or part of employees' contributions unless the employees are police, firefighters, state troopers or state inspectors.

Employees required to make contributions would begin making them on the first payday after March 13, 2011. If the withholding can't be implemented in time, employees will be subject to make-up withholding until all amounts are caught up.

No local government can establish a Defined Benefit Plan unless employees are required to pay one-half of the actuarial cost.

Requires employees to contribute 12% of the cost of health insurance.

Require feasibility study to require employees to shift to a "low-cost health care coverage plan" or a high deductible plan with HSA, or via a state exchange as established in the PPACA.

Lower pension accruals for elected officials and state executive.

Increase co-payments and re-design benefits in existing health plans.

Collective Bargaining Agreements
Consistent with what has been reported as to requirement that unions be recertified annually, prohibits local governments from entering into agreements with unions, ties wage increases to the CPI, repeals and terminates all agreements with University of Wisconsin employees, prohibits payment of union dues via payroll deduction, and much much more.

Gives tax preference to municipalities who convert existing wetlands to non-wetland parcels. In addition, such areas would also be exempt from water quality standards applicable to wetlands, provided that area is used for business.

Click here to see the full text.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On America’s Enduring Strength, Blood Libel, and Good Ol' Fashioned Blame

Hmm. So, Sarah Palin has addressed the nation regarding the rhetoric spewed since the tragedy in Tucson, AZ. I watched a video of this address online and listened to it in awe and wonder. Given the never-ending political rhetoric -- which is something you can count on much like death and taxes -- I just had to exercise my rights under our freedom of expression to express my individual opinion.

I'm trying not to imagine what would've happened had some of the circumstances been different. And in all fairness, there is no one person to blame.

Sarah Palin, January 12, 2011

Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for victim’s families as we express our sympathy. I agreed with the sentiments shared yesterday at the beautiful Catholic Mass held in honor of the victims. The mass will hopefully, begin the healing process for the families touched by this tragedy, and, for our country. (Surely any services held by other religions are unimportant.)

Our exceptional country, so vibrant with ideas and passionate exchange of ideas, it’s a light to the rest of the world. (You betcha.. no way that light is dimmed by all those United States citizens who travel abroad and express surprise when they don't encounter English in their travels.) Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange their ideas that day. To celebrate our republic’s core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It’s inexcusable, and incomprehensible, why a single, evil (white) man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day.

There’s a bittersweet irony that the strength of the American spirit shines brightest in times of tragedy. We saw that in Arizona. We saw the tenacity of those clinging to life, the compassion of those who kept the victims alive and the heroism of those who overpowered a deranged gunman.

Like many, I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on what happened, praying for guidance. After the shocking tragedy I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now, with sadness to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event. President Reagan said we must reject the idea that every time a law is broken society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions. Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own (because it is oh so easy for those of us in power to ignore how much influence we have over individuals). They begin and end with the criminals who commit them. Not collectively, with all the citizens of the state. Not with those who listen to talk radio (which spews hateful rhetoric about people who simply disagree with them or are different than them). Not those with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle. Not with law abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies. (And certainly not with citizens who break out in fights at certain politicized gatherings, especially those sensationalized by a certain party.) Not with those who proudly voted in the last election (who were solely informed by sound bites).

The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country’s future. Now President Obama and I may not agree on everything but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our republic. Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and we get back to work. (And then, after the emotions subside, we resume the mudslinging.) And often both sides find some common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere (but when we don't like the outcome of something, we'll keep changing our opinion and show our true colors especially with regards to discrimination in the military). If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country (you know, like those activist judges out there) you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas (especially when you are a rich, white heterosexual who spews rhetoric about politically unpopular groups) But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That, is reprehensible (because quite a bit of was directed at me, I have absolutely no role in all this!).

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged apparently apolitical criminal (because it is oh so easy to ignore our role in society and our indirect influence on it, and some of our meddlesome citizens surely had no role in the way gays are treated in Uganda). And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those clam days when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world, all discourse would be civil and all disagreements, cordial. But our founding fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels (do angels exist in all religions?) there would be no need for government. Our founders’ genius was to design a system that helped the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways (you know, that system which allows us to come up with confusing rules and allows us to add all this wonderful pork to legislation.. who the hell cares about the needs of the many). So we must condemn violence if our republic is to endure (except when it affects a politically unpopular group). As I said, while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, I said we know violence isn’t the answer, when we take up our arms, we’re talking about our vote. Yes, our debates are full of passion (and sometimes fights do break out, but we won't talk about that) but we settle our political differences respectfully, at the ballot box, as we did just two months ago and as our republic enables us to do again in the next election. And the next. (and yes, both parties sometimes use tactics to keep people from ever reaching the polls.) That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis but of our enduring strength, it is part of why America is exceptional. No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent. And we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. (Except when it is directed at politically unpopular groups.) And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differring opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults. (Oh yes - we'll continue to be intolerant of certain politically unpopular groups, you know who you are, you don't deserve the right to the civil contract portion of marriage.)

Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House, and it was a beautiful moment and more than simply symbolic as some claim to have our Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just symbolic. But just less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech that he found offensive. It is in the hour when our values our challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 911 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security, and so it is today. Let us honor those precious lives cut short in Tucson by praying for them and their families and by cherishing their memories. Let us pray for the full recovery of the wounded and let us pray for our country (but who cares about those of you who don't pray because you don't practice religion). In times like these we need God’s guidance and the peace he provides (because don't cha know, the Catholic god is the one true god.. who care about all those other religions..). We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves or weaken our solid foundation. (Besides, we do a good enough job doing so with all this political rhetoric anyway.) Or, provide a pretext to stifle debate (hey! what was all that ruckus about supermajorities and filibusters!). America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week, we are better than the mindless finger pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country (especially if you are a rich, white, heterosexual). Yes, may God bless America.

Tornado Rainbow Triangle