Sunday, September 29, 2013

Some quick comments about the 2013 debt ceiling, federal budget issues

When looking at the 2013 debt ceiling debate (as well as the 2011 one too), as well as federal budget issues in general, it's important to remember a few things.
First, most modern presidents have raised the debt ceiling and fought with Congress about it too. But, that doesn't - or didn't - make it right. In fact, actually, it makes it wrong, especially where there are MANY things that could be done to solve the deficit and debt problems, as I have written and talked about for decades now.
Second, when watching all the bemoaning about the Republicans in Congress, etc., it's also important to remember that in 2006, when then-Sen. Obama, a Democrat, didn't support the policies of then-President Bush, a Republican, he also voted against the debt ceiling.
Here's a quote from his comments at the time:
"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better." 
Sound familiar? Yup, that's what the Republicans in Congress are saying right now, while opposing the Democratic president.
So, to all my political friends, if you believe that the Republicans in Congress are WRONG now, so was Sen. Obama then; if you believe Sen. Obama was correct in 2006, to take a stand and vote against the debt ceiling on principle, then what the Republicans are doing now is correct as well.

It's also important to add that instead of showing symbolic action by just speaking against the debt ceiling and voting, the Republicans in Congress are actually trying to 1) negotiate spending cuts in order to fix what they believe are major problems, and 2) cut spending so that the debt ceiling increase isn't needed.
The American people, from all walks of life, may not agree with what the Republicans are proposing to be cut (I certainly don't support everything they are proposing); but at least they are proposing something.
It's a far cry from Obama in 2006, or when he became a presidential candidate in 2007, or when he campaigned in 2008, or even after he became the president-elect and said the following:
"We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politicians, lobbyists, or interest groups. We simply cannot afford it. This isn’t about big government or small government. It’s about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. That is why I will ask my new team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges.... We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way." 
That was four years, 10 months, and five days ago. How much longer do we all have to wait for the president to fulfill his promises of proposing "smarter" government while going "line by line" to eliminate wasteful government spending that we don't need and shouldn't have to pay for?

As a reminder, three years ago, the New York Times posted this interactive budget puzzle. You too can solve the federal budget problems in about 15 minutes. And this doesn't include all kinds of other ideas like bringing back tariffs, a transaction tax on Wall Street trading, etc.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

'Pay no attention to that (policy) behind the curtain ...'

An amazing economic story here ... see anything missing? "U.S. disability rolls swell in a rough economy" ...
Yup, not a peep about globalization or the fact that the free trade deals approved by both Democrats and Republicans in the early-to-mid-1990s have put our nation in a race to the bottom for wages.
It's great to do these stories and kudos to Fletcher and The Washington Post for sending a journalist to Maine to eye this issue. But if you don't look at the root cause of the reasons for why things are happening, then you are doing a disservice to everyone.
Check out this section of the story:
Benefits are hardly generous. They average $1,130 a month, and recipients are eligible for Medicare after two years. But with workers without a high school diploma earning a median wage of $471 per week, disability benefits are increasingly attractive for the large share of American workers who have seen both their pay and job options constricted.
So "disability" benefits are now better than some work even though it isn't that generous. That's nearly $13,500 a year, tax free, as well as other benefits since this is just above the poverty level. This is an average, BTW, meaning it could be more and could be less too.
Why post this, you might ask?
I'm in the process of digitizing (transferring audio from cassette to mp3) many of my old radio programs, music, local bands, records, and things like that in an effort to clear out my office while at the same time holding onto as much audio as I can. It runs in real time and I often let it roll in the background while I'm working or doing other things.
What's been so astounding about this process is the countless hours I spent talking about the trade deals and globalization with a myriad of experts during the 1990s (first broadcasting on the air in 1993 and off and on throughout the last 20 years).
One of the themes I struck at over and over again was the fact that the government would be brought to a point where if it eliminated tariffs (import taxes), we, the taxpayers, would be paying much more through taxes via various forms of welfare benefits. Program after program after program, I hammered away at the same thing - NAFTA, WTO/GATT, PMFN to China, etc. - would eliminate low skill, decent wage work and would put Americans who are in those jobs in direct competition with overseas workers who will do the job for pennies on the dollar.
Twenty years later, we've arrived (emphasis mine):
The fast expansion of disability here is part of a national trend that has seen the number of former workers receiving benefits soar from just over 5 million to 8.8 million between 2000 and 2012. An additional 2.1 million dependent children and spouses also receive benefits.The crush of new recipients is putting unsustainable financial pressure on the program. Federal officials project that the program will exhaust its trust fund by 201620 years before the trust fund that supports Social Security’s old-age benefits is projected to run dry.
Instead of that guy working at a plant in the article, making paper, you know, something important, he's riding his Harley around and we're giving him money to do it. He and millions more like him.
Now don't get me wrong - it's not an easy life to be on the fringes like this but which is better, people working productively in factories or the taxpayers footing the bill for people, essentially, hanging around? Yes, people working is better.
How bad is it? It's so bad, we're exporting the apples en masse to China, they create the juice there, and then ship it back here! Don't believe me? Read the label on the back of a $1 bottle of concentrated juice at Market Basket. The country moves the wood there too, they make furniture and paper and everything else, and then ship it all back here for sale. Over and over and over again, on every level of the economy.
And what about the climate change issues? Ships don't run on solar panels; they run on fossil fuels! Al Gore and others never talk about globalization's role in the climate crisis. As we've expanded globalization in the last 20 years, natural resources have been shipped out while goods have been shipped back in. That transportation has added all kinds of pollution to the planet that didn't exist before the 1980s. Instead, they continue to embrace free trade while not saying word one about the carbon footprint of such policies.
This isn't a "Tony pats himself on the back for predicting the future" post. I just saw this article and while thinking about all the programs I'm digitizing, I went, "Wow," in my head. I'm simply stunned that it's all come true, just like I predicted it would about 20 years ago. And in less than a generation, Social Security is going to be brought to the brink and folks like me aren't probably going to get a dime of what we've paid into the system - meaning taxes are going to go up.
So, what is everyone going to do about it?
The solutions are pretty simple - get out of the trade deals, bring the tariffs back, turn the country's business and economic focus onto localism and micro and not globalism and militarism. But at this point, it will never happen unless catastrophe, of some sort, occurs.

Tonight's moon ...

Here's another shot, this time using the tripod. Much better detail. Here's also a quick video clip.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Looking to sell used CDs and LPs ...

Got an idea of where I can sell stuff? I'm looking to sell a bunch of used CDs and some leftover LPs, after I get done digitizing everything. Let me know if you have any ideas of where I can sell my CDs. Has anyone used for some of your rare stuff?