Saturday, November 16, 2013

Want Republican Healthcare? You Have It.

So, how is that Obamacare working out? Problems? And why are Republicans against it? It is, after all, in almost every respect, a Republican plan. There is essentially nothing socialist or progressive about it. It is a fee-based, means-tested, privatized and state-based healthcare insurance system. Instead of being a simple, universal program, it is overly complex. It requires far more information from enrollees, and uses subsidies and means-testing to vary those subsidies. It tries to match individuals with a myriad of private insurance companies with dozens of insurance plans each. It does not even have a public option.

And how about the levels of coverage offered. Do you want bronze, silver, gold or platinum coverage? Do you think you can avoid bankruptcy with a healthcare insurance plan covering only 60% of expenses should you have a devastating illness or accident? The less you can afford for coverage, the more you end up paying in healthcare expenses. Romneycare in Massachusetts has not eliminated bankruptcies due to medical expenses.

Contrast it with Social Security, which is a universal, federal, tax-based retirement and disability insurance program which has been proven to be the most successful program ever to come out of Washington, D.C. And this is in spite of Congress chipping away at benefits over the last 30 years. Congress has delayed cost-of-living increases, with those increases being less than the real inflation rate. The age at which full retirement benefits start has increased. Incomes above $113,700 have no payroll taxes applied, and the salary cap itself has not risen in step with inflation. All income from capital gains and dividends are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes.

And what are politicians proposing in order to fix deficits caused by unfunded wars, massive tax cuts for the wealthy, and an economy which tanked less than 10 years after massive deregulation of the banks and the financial industry? More cuts to Social Security.  

Do you like Obamacare? Then you will love the radical conservative plans to privatize Social Security and eliminate Medicare in favor of lifelong Obamacare.

The only thing worse than Obamacare is no plan at all. So until it is replaced by universal, single-payer, Medicare-for-all, the Republican healthcare plan for America will have to do.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Borrowing From Social Security

The U.S. borrows money by selling U.S. Treasury Bonds. As the Social Security Trust Fund contains only U.S. Treasury Bonds, it would make no sense to borrow from the trust. The only way for Congress to use the Trust Fund to make funds available for other purposes would be by defaulting on Treasury Bonds held by the trust. That would not be "borrowing", it would be theft of money paid by low and middle income workers (income over a certain amount, currently $113,700, is exempt from payroll taxes). Also, the only reason the Trust Fund contains bonds worth $2.6 trillion is that the trust fund was built up in anticipation of the retirement of baby boomers.

Reduction of Social Security retirement benefits is another oft touted solution to budget problems. But since Social Security has its own revenue stream, reducing benefits only affects the Social Security Trust Fund. Payroll taxes collected in excess of benefits paid out (a surplus) are put into the trust fund. Should there be more benefits paid than payroll taxes collected (a deficit), U.S. Treasury Bonds in the trust fund are redeemed in order to pay those benefits. The cash paid out by the treasury would most likely be obtained by the sale of U.S. Treasury Bonds to other investors. So with Social Security running either a surplus or a deficit, the national debt is not affected. Reducing benefits only affects the trust fund, and only affects the long term health of Social Security. Including Social Security figures as part of the regular budget's numbers is misleading and unethical, and people who propose reducing benefits as part of a deficit reduction plan are simply lying.

So the next time someone proposes using Social Security to help with deficit reduction, ask yourself what their real motivation is. It most certainly is not the national budget.

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Entitlements" At Risk From Radical Conservatives (Republicans)

Cut Social Security? When it has its own revenue stream and does not contribute to the national debt? That is just plain ignorance, stupidity and gall. It sounds like a step in the direction of dismantling Social Security. Apparently the party of "every man for himself" wants to get their hands on both the $2.5 trillion Social Security Trust Fund and the administrative fees financial service companies would demand if Social Security was privatized. And what percentage of their income do the 1% contribute to Social Security? At most, $14,099 a year (12.4% of $113,700) out of how ever many millions of dollars of income they have.

And what effect would cutting benefits have? Since benefits are paid out of Social Security's own revenue stream (payroll taxes) assisted perhaps by money from the Social Security Trust Fund, there would be absolutely no effect on the nation's deficits and debt (unless you are miscounting deficits by including Social Security surpluses or deficits which only affect the Trust Fund itself).

The Affordable Care Act is a capitulation giving in to Republican demands (a Democrat super-majority in the Senate in 2009 and 2010 is a myth). So now they think it won't work? Even though it is a Republican plan? Progressives and sane people would have preferred a single-payer government run plan which would have kept health care costs low and administrative fees negligible while guaranteeing access for all Americans. We are the richest nation in the world, yet our health care system costs twice as much and is less accessible than that of all other Western industrialized nations. But hey, we are exceptional.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Collin Peterson Enabled Republicans To Shut Down The Government

On Sept. 30, 2013, on the eve of the shutdown of the federal government, the House Rules Committee voted for a rules change to prevent House Democrats from calling for a motion to vote on the Senate's clean continuing resolution. The rules bill, as passed by the full House on October 1st as H.R. 368, forbid anyone except “the Majority Leader or his designee” from bringing a clean continuing resolution to the floor for vote.

Seven Democrats crossed party lines to vote for that resolution which gave Eric Cantor, and only Eric Cantor, the ability to bring forth a vote on a clear CR to get the government working again.

The Republican's motivation for the rule change was that with no clear CR vote possible, House Republicans could then "insist" on their latest spending bill, including the anti-Obamacare provision, and request a conference with the Senate to resolve the two chambers' differences (House Republicans had for months refused to confer with the Senate). And unless those anti-Obamacare provisions were included in the final bill, Republicans, as they had threatened for months, would shut down the government.

Under normal House rules, according to House Democrats, once the House bill with its amendments had been rejected again by the Senate, then any member of the House could have made a motion to vote on the Senate's clean continuing resolution bill. Such a motion would have been what is called "privileged" and therefore entitled to an immediate vote of the full House. At that point, Democrats say, they could have joined with moderate Republicans in approving the motion and then in passing the clean Senate bill, averting or ending a shutdown.

Here's the rule in question, House Rule 22, clause 4 (page 910 of Rules of the House of Representatives):
"When the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution with House or Senate amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendment shall be privileged."
The House Rules Committee voted the night of Sept. 30 to change that rule. Collin Peterson (MN-7) was one of the members on the House Rules Committee who voted yes.

Not only was that a vote to retain House amendments to the CR bill, but language was included dictating that the privileged motion formerly available to any House member under House Rule 22, when made in relation to H.J. 59 (the continuing resolution bill), "may be offered only by the Majority Leader or his designee." So unless House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wanted the clean Senate spending bill to come to the floor, it wasn't going to happen. And it didn't.

On Oct. 1st, 2013, at 1:10 a.m., the full House of Representatives voted to implement H.R. 368. Collin Peterson was one of only a handful of Democrats to vote yes. With that vote, Collin Peterson not only was agreeing to the one year delay in implementing certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act, he was also voting to prevent a clean continuing resolution bill from even being voted on by the House without the approval of Eric Cantor. He was voting with Republicans for a government shutdown.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Message to my Senators

House Republicans have gone off the deep end. Their philosophy is every man for himself, which is that of Mr. Potter in "It's a Wonderful Life", the meanest man in town.

I don't see any sense of social responsibility from these radical conservatives.

Don't give in to these bullies. They don't understand the meaning of compromise, and despite their rhetoric have no interest in anyone except the 1% who fund their re-elections.

Please do not compromise with these plutocratic idiots who are doing their best to return us to the age of robber barons and to 1890.

Stand firm on the budget and the Continuing Resolution. Our healthcare should not be held hostage!

Grover Norquist Doesn't Know History

Written comment in response to Grover Norquist's Huffington Post article of 10/1/2013, "How We Got to 'Shutdown'":

Do people even know that Democrats never had a super majority in the Senate in 2009 and 2010 due to Al Franken (D-MN) not being able to take his seat for six months due to a contested election, along with the illness of another Senator and the death of Ted Kennedy?

Don't talk to us about Dems being able to pass whatever they wanted in 2009 and 2010. It didn't happen.

The ACA is a compromise bill. It is a Republican plan with no public option, and is a give-away to insurance companies. You want real health care reform? Try single payer health care funded by taxes, not insurance funded primarily by private businesses and corporations (how does that make us competitive on a global scale?).

Do we really want the Republican version of every man for himself? Think of Mr. Potter in "It's a Wonderful Life", the meanest man in town. We don't want freedom from healthcare. We would rather be healthy enough to work.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Monsanto Wins Again

Letter to my lawmakers:

I am dismayed to learn that President Obama apparently did nothing to get section 735 of H.R. 933 removed before it was sent to his desk and signed. That provision has been referred to as the Monsanto Protection Act, and is a rider which is unrelated to the bill that it is attached to.

From a petition on the site:

"This provision is a ploy to continue to sell genetically engineered (GMO) seeds even after a court of law has found they have been illegally approved by the USDA.

"The judicial review process is an essential element of U.S law and serves as a vital check on any federal agency decision that may negatively impact human health, the environment, or the livelihood of farmers, yet this provision seeks an immunity to such judicial review by preemptively deciding that the industry can set its own rules.

"This provision forces the USDA to immediately approve any permits at the industry's request, putting industry completely in charge by allowing for a 'back door approval' mechanism."

On 5/16/2012, I wrote a blog concluding with, "...[I]t is way past time for regulations and policies to be put into place to protect our health and our food from both unregulated GMOs and Monsanto in particular. Products which are genetically modified must not be allowed on the market without testing. With its equivalence policy, the FDA is subjecting us to essentially unregulated and untested genetically modified food and animal products. Monsanto, a company which now has a 70% share of our food market with its GM products, must be dealt with. Its ruthless and illegal practices must be stopped. At the very least, anti-trust and anti-monopoly legislation should be brought to bear against this morally bankrupt company."

Because of petitions, letter, phone calls, and e-mails to the White House, staffers were surely aware of the issues concerning Monsanto and the environment. I would have thought that the White House would have fought against the "Monsanto Protection Act." But apparently citizens' concerns were once again trumped by Monsanto's lobbyists and campaign contributions, the President's indifference to corruption in Congress, and the revolving door between Monsanto and the FDA with the willing assistance of Mr. Obama.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Send a Message - Not On Our Backs!

From Bernie Sanders:

Send a Message to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid and House Speaker Boehner:  No Budget Deal on Backs of the Elderly, the Children, the Sick and the Poor.
At a time when the middle class is disappearing, poverty is increasing and the gap between the rich and everyone else is growing wider, we demand that the federal budget not be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our country. 
A federal budget that reduces the deficit by cutting cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and disabled veterans, raising the Medicare eligibility age and lowering tax rates for the most profitable corporations in this country is not a grand bargain.  It is a bad bargain.
We oppose the chained-CPI, a new way to measure inflation and consumer prices designed to cut benefits for Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and their survivors.
We are strongly opposed to benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the needs of our veterans.
We demand a budget that puts millions of Americans back to work in decent paying jobs.
We demand a budget that makes sure that the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations pay their fair share.

Note: The above button will redirect you to Bernie Sanders Website.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Amazon Closed Captioning Non-compliance

E-mail query to customer service:

The continued lack of closed captioning (or, alternatively, subtitles) for video programming which requires it per FCC rules is baffling.

One of the reasons I subscribe to Amazon Prime is access to Amazon Instant Video. Non-compliance with FCC rules by Amazon as the distributor and/or by the content owners impacts my ability to view videos on your site.

I can only assume that non-compliance is not a monetary issue, as a modest investment in this area should or will provide sufficient returns to cover expenses.

Your contractual agreements with content owners are modified because of FCC requirements such that they are now legally obligated to provide your company with available closed captioning for inclusion with redistributed video programming. The issue then becomes the pass-through by you to the end user of included closed captioning content.

As there is some programming on your site which does include closed captioning, the question then becomes not one of hardware or software, but of effort. As your company could not have been ignorant of future FCC requirements, compliance efforts should have begun long ago. Your lack of progress apparently shows either disregard for your customers interests and needs, or lack of interest in complying with federal laws, or a surprising lack of competence by the Amazon Instant Video team employees or supervisors. The continuation of that lack of progress speaks more to a problem at the upper levels of your corporation.

I look forward to a reply.

See IPR Files Report on Compliance with FCC’s IP Captioning Rules, Complaint against Amazon..

Amazon's reply:

Your Account
Message From Customer Service


I'm sorry for the inconvenience caused.

I understand your concern about Closed Captions for Amazon Instant Videos.

Amazon Instant Video titles that include closed captioning can be accessed on the website. You can find a list of compatible devices that also include closed captioning on our Help pages:

Support for additional devices is coming soon.

While browsing or searching the Amazon Instant Video store in your web browser, you can filter your view so that only those videos that include closed captions appear. You can also see the "CC" symbol on the video detail pages for supported videos.

To browse for videos with closed captioning:

1. From your web browser, go to the Amazon Instant Video store.
2. Go to the Movies or TV Shows storefronts.
3. Set the "Subtitles & Closed Captioning" filter in the left-hand column, and then browse the results.

To search for videos with closed captioning:

1. From your web browser, go to the Amazon Instant Video store.
2. Search for a video title or keyword, and then set the "Subtitles & Closed Captioning" filter to display only those videos that both match your search term and include closed captions.

Some foreign language videos are available in both dubbed and subtitled versions. You can find these by searching on "subtitle" in the Amazon Instant Video store.

If closed captions are supported for your device, you can turn them on by launching a video that has closed captions, selecting the "CC" option in the player controls, turning on closed captions, and then selecting the display options you want. To turn closed captions off again, select the "CC" option in the player controls, and then turn off closed captions.

If you still need more information on Closed Captions, then please contact us via phone/chat Amazon Instant Video specialists can be reached by 24 hours a day, seven days a week using the following link:

I hope this helps. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Best regards,
Did I solve your problem?
Your feedback is helping us build Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company.
Thank you.

My answer to their reply:

Re: Inquiry reply ref A2QFA5SL5XRV75

I'm not sure if you read anything in my inquiry other than the words "closed captioning". I do not have any questions about what devices support CC, or how to turn CC on or off, or how to find videos with CC or subtitles. Your reply answers only questions I did not ask. Please re-read my inquiry.

Thank you.

Keith Wilson

Amazon's response to my request to re-read my inquiry:

Your Account
Message From Customer Service

I've reviewed our previous correspondence with you, and I'm very sorry about the incorrect information you received.

Please understand that the content provided on our website is purely depended on our content providers/publishers

Also, I'm not a legal representative of, I can't answer/justify the question. To reach our legal representative for this issue, please contact:

Michael Callahan
PO Box 81226
Seattle, WA 98108

I hope this information helps you to reach the right department to receive the answer you expect.

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Best regards,
Santhosh P
Did I solve your problem?
Your feedback is helping us build Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company.
Thank you.

In other words, they are saying that what we get is what they get from their content providers/ publishers; they are not responsible. Any other answer would have to come from their legal department.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Social Security and Chained CPI

I am entirely dependent upon Social Security. I barely have enough each month to get by. I cannot afford a MediGap policy, so I have to pay Medicare deductibles and co-payments, as well as the full cost for vision and dental. Cutting my benefits hurts me while not decreasing national deficits or the National Debt in any way. Social Security has its own revenue stream, and is the most successful retirement and disability insurance program ever. Decreasing current benefits instead of raising the payroll taxable salary cap to extend Social Security's 100% benefit payout capability beyond 2033 is making a choice to hurt those who can least afford it, versus having a few more well-off people spend the same percentage of their income on payroll taxes as do people making less than $100,000. I would ask those who are considering this proposal to think of how people who's benefits are cut are going to get the help they need, and how much that help will have to be subsidized in other ways by governments and charities. The question becomes, do we really want to in effect subsidize the incomes of the wealthy?

Note: This is in response to a request to add my name as a citizen supporter of the Grayson-Takano letter (from Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano) against benefit cuts, so that "other congressional offices see the broad public support", and a request that "If cutting Social Security benefits would impact you, tell us how."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Filibuster Reform Dead

"The Senate filibuster -- in which a single lawmaker can hold up a bill unless 60 senators vote to end debate on the matter -- has become the favored tactic for stalling Senate action over the last three sessions, with nearly 400 instances." - Tom Harkin

Republicans have clearly demonstrated over the last four years that bipartisanship is dead, and that dirty politics is the order of the day. They have also shown that american citizens don't matter to them, that corporations and the financial sector should be unregulated, untaxed, and held unaccountable for fraud, mismanagement, pollution, corruption, and criminal behavior.

With Democrats unwilling or unable to stand up to radical conservatives, why should we the people have any faith that there will someday be a return to democratic values?

With the Democrats in the Senate unwilling to make meaningful changes to the rules, and with the President caving in every time there are negotiations because of threats by the radicals to shut down the government, there will be no progress.

All we have to look forward to now is four more years of gridlock, and more politicians bought and paid for by moneyed interests. Corruption, deceit, immorality, and increased inequality. Welcome to the future.

Copies of this were sent to President Obama and my representatives in Congress.