Thursday, June 9, 2011
We hear a lot about entitlements these days in relation to our national deficits and debt.
"If we don't do something about Medicare and Social Security, they're going to sink our whole economy," is the mantra of the conservatives. According to Webster, entitle: to furnish with proper grounds for seeking or claiming.
So, what are the proper grounds for claiming Medicare and Social Security retirement payments? Simple, according to the Social Security Administration (with very few exceptions), one must be a citizen at least 62 years old, have earned a minimum number of work credits (based on work history) and paid required payroll taxes.
Some are insisting that many large corporations (like Exxon Mobil, GE, Goldman Sachs and others) are claiming and getting huge government payments even though they pay little or no U.S. taxes.
On top of these payments, there are also agricultural and other subsidies to protect small businesses and family farmers like ConAgra, Archer Daniels Midland and Monsanto. Are these also entitlements? It's clear that these payments are neither earned nor justified.
Where is the indignation over these budget leaks? Heard any from Washington? There's no question. We have serious budget issues that require serious, nonpartisan debate, action, and shared commitment and sacrifice.
Everything must be on the table - no sacred cows - if we are to be successful in our effort to achieve balance in budget and trade. Balance, of course applies to income as well as outgo.
Can members of Congress continue to protect the ones who benefited most from the excesses that created our financial crisis at the expense of the rest of us and still keep their jobs? Only if we let them.
Simple fix nixed
Greg Walden and his Republican cronies supposedly representing their Congressional districts would like to create "spending-cap" kill switches allowing cuts to Medicare when it cannot do its life-saving function on the shrinking per-capita budget they (and many Democrats) would allot it.
We who are human beings do not accept this; it is a cutting off of lives to "save" the federal budget to enable full budgeting for ... for what, exactly? More wars? More bank bailouts for the super-financial-experts who brought on the so-called recession (actually Depression) of 2007-09 (and continuing)?
Health costs are going up for both good reasons - new ways to save lives and health - and bad reasons - increased insurance company profits/dividends. Cut out the "middleman" of health insurance as a profit industry and medical costs - and Medicare - stay within bounds.
But the right wing in the federal legislature and administration prevented this simple fix, preparing the way for, now, the vultures of so-called conservatism to swoop in to feed on our old people.
And not just on the old. On the poor - in this case, through turning Medicaid to a block-grant program with too-limited resources. And on you, if you're a working person, whether working-class or middle-class, who hasn't hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on medical care when, say, Granny gets ill.
Or when you, a few years from now, get ill. Or when your kids do, since cutting out Medicare will mean cutting away what cost limits its example helps to set (very slightly, but still to some degree) on health insurance charges.
But possibly Congressperson Walden lacks these monetary limits. We constituents, however, do. And we vote.
Lift SS tax cap
Social Security is alleged to run out of money in 2036 - that's a quarter century from now - there is a tax cap on salary contributions of $106,800; after that you get a free ride.
Congress gets paid $174,000 per annum and party leaders receive $193,400. Is it any wonder that you almost never hear lifting the tax cap being discussed by members of the Congress?
It would be much easier on them to lower benefits to the elderly, or have you work to 70 years of age, or better yet, privatize Social Security and let you put your retirement money into the Wall Street casino where the rules are constantly broken or changed - and not in your favor.
Congress is considering raising the debt ceiling on the general fund but will refuse to make a slight correction to fix Social Security by simply lifting the tax ceiling; it's easy to see why: They have a conflict of interest; they'd all pay taxes at the same rate you would - in fact anyone making over $106,000 a year would and they can't have that.
Do you know of any other fund in any other government entity that is going to be solvent for the next quarter century? I don't. Only Social Security; please call your congressional delegation and tell them to lift the tax cap on Social Security.
You can reach Rep. Greg Walden's Medford office at 541-776-4646; you can reach Sen. Ron Wyden's D.C. office at 202-224-5244; and Sen. Jeff Merkley's in D.C. at 202-224-3753.
Please do not let Congress force you and your children to work until you're 70 or play in the Wall Street casino; it's not necessary.
This past week, the Senate rejected an effort to eliminate $2 billion in federal tax subsidies for the five biggest oil companies in America. This despite the fact that these five companies are projected to make $144 billion in profits this year.
Three Senate Democrats sided with all but two of the 41 Senate Republicans in rejecting the measure, ostensibly on the grounds that it would do nothing to offset high gas prices.
This may be true; but then neither do cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, education and health services, all proposals vigorously supported by conservatives.
It's obvious whose interests this group has in mind. What is a lot less obvious is why middle class America keeps voting them in?
The recent front page article "Task Force forms for Cascade Locks youth" (May 18) describes an opportunity for community involvement in a 10-year federal grant with $1.25 million available for drug and alcohol prevention IF a June application deadline can be met.
County school districts and community task forces typically respond very slowly. We would be well advised to turn this over to private sector businesses with a track record of successfully meeting financial challenges in a timely manner.
There is no doubt the Full Sail Brewing Company can be trusted as a fiscal agent to receive funds. The all-ages, family-friendly lounge at the Naked Winery would make a great venue for classes. Who in our community would know more about alcohol prevention efforts than the people who produce, market and serve it?
Learn about library
In regards to Sara Stone's letter published May 18:
I think that you wrote a very good letter, especially concerning your problems in gaining an education.
I do have a couple of points that I disagree with:
You are correct in stating that many schools have libraries. These libraries are for the students. In most cases the public is not allowed to visit. In almost all cases these visits, if allowed, would be limited to specific times.
I do not know of any school that has a librarian. Few have computers available. The lack of a librarian means no help if help is needed.
If you are utilizing volunteers to help with a library, then there has to be someone in charge. It would not be possible to run IF there were only volunteers. There was a statement about utilizing volunteers, and this is being done. There was never a statement that there would not be paid workers. A librarian makes the library truly a library; not just a holding place for books!
I do not have the exact figures, but I think that the average cost per taxpayer is $39 per YEAR. That works out to around 10 cents per day, or enough per month to buy a couple of cups of coffee. That should not be enough to force people to give up eating.
I urge you to utilize the library and help further your education. It is never too late to learn. I think that, if nothing else, the computers should prove interesting to a person with your abilities.
'Sins of the father'
Dr. Toy's letter (May 11) gives us some historical context for the Grange's contribution to rural and farming life. We at Rockford Grange thank him for enlightening us further and hope that he will perhaps share more of that history with us at one or more of our meetings. We would benefit greatly, I am sure.
Learning from him that there was a darker side both to the Grange in the Northwest states and specifically in Hood River was a shock to our members and rightly so. I think I can speak for all of us in Rockford Grange that we condemn the racial discrimination of some past grangers and disassociate ourselves most emphatically from their stance on people of Japanese descent as well as African-Americans. I hope we have moved far beyond those sad days.
The Rockford Grange, along with many others, can demonstrate the usefulness and importance of an organization that supports small farmers and their interests, works to provide education in skills that increase our independence from failing systems, supports sustainable farm and food practices, works for a stronger local economy and a greater sense of community for all people.
The "sins of the father" notwithstanding.
These are the concerns we wish to worry about, along with the color of our tomatoes, of course. Everybody has that worry around here!
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge