Category Archives: politics

Where’s the “Care” in Tricare?

Logo of TRICARE, the health care plan for the ...

Logo of TRICARE, the health care plan for the United States military. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems that the Department of Defense is continually looking for new and improved ways of breaking its contract with Military Veterans. Starting during the Clinton administration, continued through the Democrat controlled Congress of the Bush administration, and blessed by the Obama administration, the Department of Defense has repeatedly attempted to undermine the healthcare benefits of military retirees and their families. Last year, the annual  fees for Tricare coverage were nearly doubled.  The copays for prescription drugs went up also, and will do so again soon.  The increases will be tied to any cost of living increases in retirement pay.  Effectively negating those raises.

Now, about a week ago, retirees in the Tricare South region were informed by email that as of October 1, 2013, those who live more than forty miles from a military medical facility will have their Tricare Prime coverage stripped from them.  This change will force Veterans and their families into the prohibitively more expensive Tricare Standard coverage.  Two groups of military retirees will be hit especially hard.  Those who still have young children, and those who live solely off of their military retirement pay and Social Security.

Most Veterans understand that in order to balance the Federal Budget cuts will have to be made somewhere. But as long as  waste, fraud, abuse, and redundancies remain a part of business as usual in Washington, balancing the budget on the backs of Veterans who have served with pride and honor, who have already sacrificed much, is simply unforgivable.  These changes flew under the radar.  There was no press coverage, no media outrage.  No, it’s as if the Obama administration purposely keeps anything from the general public that doesn’t support the narrative of “health care for all”.  Americans support and honor their Veterans. Even when the government they served under does not.  For President Obama to claim affordable healthcare as his legacy while allowing an  increase in the cost for those who served their Commander-in-Chief, is the height of hypocrisy.

Veterans and their families can’t fight this  battle alone.  We need all Americans to write their representatives, and the President.  Get involved and make some noise.  Compel Washington to keep its promise and right this wrong.

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The Ghost of Christmas “Forward”

My Parents Tree

My Parents Tree (Photo credit: steviep187)

Robert Colton stood in the dining room of his well-appointed home, gazing though the arched opening into the living-room. The Christmas tree sparkled. Its lights dancing off the shining, shredded wrapping paper strewn underneath, the aftermath of the opening of presents.  The scrumptious aroma of turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie drifted through the house, teasing the stomachs of its inhabitants. Robert’s mind was not on the scene before him.  He was reflecting on his current state of affairs. The last few years had been a roller-coaster ride for his pest-control business.  When the housing bubble was on the rise, his company was hard-pressed to keep up with the demand for new termite bonds. Then the bubble burst, and the steady stream of new houses, ready to be protected from wood destroying pests, slowed to a trickle, and then a drip.  As the economy worsened, and loyal customers had to tighten their belts, renewing those termite bonds, and keeping the roaches at bay kept getting pushed further down the list of priorities.  Still, with a good business sense, he had managed to keep the company, that he had inherited from his father, prosperous. He thought about the two young men, having a beer by the fireplace. He couldn’t be prouder of both of them.  Mark, his son, had followed him into the family business. Wade, his son-in-law, was a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He walked across the room and joined in the conversation. Mark, soon to be a dad for the first time, was expressing his anxiety about being able to provide for the baby he and his wife Jennifer, were expecting in March.  Wade, just home from his second tour in Afghanistan, was happy to be sharing the holiday with his wife Hannah, and their five-year-old daughter, Emma.  While he was glad that this was his last tour to the Middle East, he still harbored a tinge of bitterness at ending the war with the job unfinished.  He couldn’t help feeling that a tour in Iraq and two to Afghanistan, amounted to nothing more than missed birthdays, Christmases and anniversaries wasted.  Iraq wasn’t secure, the Taliban would regain control of Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda still posed a threat to world peace.

“Thank you for the Video Barbie, and the Razor chalk scooter, and the Nabi, Pawpaw.”  “You’re welcome sweetie.”  Emma bounced across the room, and twirled the skirt of her black velvet and plaid taffeta Christmas dress.  Her blond curls, tumbling around her head, gave her an angelic look.  As she danced around the living room playing with her new toys, she embodied all the innocence and hope that makes children her age so precious.  Robert loved doting on his granddaughter and in spite of the half-hearted objections from his daughter and son-in-law, he spoiled her shamelessly.  This year however, the satisfaction he got from generously giving to his children and grandchild was tinged with remorse.  Even through the recession, he was able to hang on to all of his employees.  By improving the efficiency of his business, he was able to maintain the salaries and benefits for his workers, and still provide a quality service at a decent price for his customers.   It had been a difficult balance to maintain.  Every ounce of fat had been cut.  Every waste eliminated.  But now, with the November elections, came a new hurdle to scale.  The impending repeal of the Bush Era tax cuts and the looming expenses of the Affordable Care Act would hit his company hard. He could water down his chemicals and double his prices, but his conscience told him that would drive away business instead of increasing revenue.  And in the process he would irreparably damage the sterling reputation that his father had earned and passed on to him.  He spent hours with his accountants desperately searching for another way, but it was clear he had no choice.  So on the first day of December, it was with a lead heavy heart and a lump in his throat that Robert called all sixty of his employees into his office one by one and told them that in January he would have to let eleven of them go.  “Damn” he though to himself, “these are good people and they don’t deserve this”.  Now he was left with the impossible task of  choosing who to fire.  Many of his employees had been with him for years.  He had been invited to their weddings, then their children’s weddings.  They came to him for advice.  He thought of them as family.

He cared about his employees and tried to help them out whenever he could. So when Mike, one of his technicians came to him a year ago, and asked him for help with his sister, Robert didn’t think twice about it.  Angie was twenty years old with three children. When she found herself pregnant at sixteen, she dropped out of high school and never completed her GED.  Her life was spent with various men who were happy to father children, but had no desire to be fathers to them. Her family had made it clear that they would be willing to help her find a job and get on her feet, but her dead-beat baby daddies were not welcome.  The thought of keeping a schedule and following someone else’s rules did not appeal to her, it was much easier to find a sugar-daddy to pay her bills.  When her last boyfriend was sent to jail for armed robbery, leaving her alone with no employable skills and three mouths to feed, she was finally willing to accept her family’s help.  She moved in with Mike and his wife and agreed to meet with Robert.  After an hour-long interview it was obvious that Angie lacked the skills to work in the office, but Robert wanted to help so he offered her a job as a housekeeper.  Though his wife, Kate, insisted that she didn’t need help around the house, she agreed to give Angie a chance.  Angie was to work from nine to four on weekdays, and have weekends and holidays off.  Her duties were basic housekeeping and laundry but no cooking.  Her pay would be twelve dollars an hour.  A little below the average salary for a housekeeper, but Angie could bring the baby with her to work, and Robert and Kate agreed to pay the daycare expenses for the other two.  Angie and Kate were a case study in personality contrasts. Kate had always taken pride in her home.  She liked things neat and orderly.  The beds were always made and you’d  never find a pile of dirty dishes in her kitchen.  Angie took no pride in her work.  Kate tried to instruct her in proper housekeeping techniques, but Angie insisted on taking shortcuts.  Kate would often find her watching TV in the rec-room while a basket of laundry needed folding in the wash room. Kate was more than happy to give Angie time off to be with her children when they were sick, but it was odd how a trip to the doctor usually included a side trip to the beauty parlor or nail salon.  Then there was the habit Angie had of dropping, not so subtle hints, for clothes and toys for her kids. It was not unusual for Robert to come home and find Kate mopping, vacuuming or finishing up something that Angie should have done.  So they were absolutely dumbfounded when in October, with all the righteous indignation she could muster, Angie approached them and demanded a raise. When Robert pointed out that with her work ethic and skills she would have a hard time finding a job anywhere else, let alone one that provided childcare, Angie announced, without a shred of shame, ” When Obama gets elected next month, I won’t have to worry about getting a job.  The government will pay for my food, rent, and medical care.”  Then she turned, stormed out the door and returned only to collect her last paycheck.

Country Christmas Tree

Country Christmas Tree (Photo credit: Ladycliff)

Arliss Jackson’s modest home sat on an acre of land on the perimeter of a National Forest.  The perfect place for a man who loved to hunt and fish.  Arliss and his wife, Nicole, had begun saving for a down payment as soon as they were married. Fifteen years ago, they bought the land and had a house built on it. Arliss had considered himself lucky.  He knew several men, many of whom were in construction or middle management positions, who had lost their jobs.  So far, thanks to the keen business sense of his boss, his company had managed to avoid layoffs, but now that was changing.  He had begun working during the summer for Colton Pest Control, back when he was still in high school.  Though he was grooming Robert to take over the business, Old Man Colton was still calling the shots and he liked to hire local teenagers to clean up the trucks and the yard, and do other odd jobs around the office.  The old man saw something he liked in Arliss’s attitude and work ethic, so he made him a deal.  If Arliss would keep his grades up, and work to obtain some scholarships, Old Man Colton would  pay the difference for his college degree.  So Arliss worked hard and studied hard, and when he graduated college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Entomology, Robert, who had now taken over the business, hired him as a manager. Robert knew it would be helpful to have someone in the office who could help him navigate the numerous and sometimes incomprehensible labyrinth of EPA regulations that governed the pest control business.  Arliss  enjoyed his job.  He felt a satisfaction in providing a beneficial service.  One that protected property and helped prevent the spread of disease.  He felt a loyalty to Colton Pest Control and to the Colton family who had been more than generous.  When Arliss’s son Levi was born, he had a congenital heart defect that required surgery and a lengthy hospital stay.  Robert told him to take all the time he needed to be with his son and Nicole. He even offered to cover any medical expenses the insurance didn’t.  And when they were finally able to bring Levi home from the hospital, Robert and Kate came to the house with a spaghetti dinner and casseroles for the freezer.  Arliss understood better than any of the other employees, just how heartbroken Robert was to have to let some people go.  Robert was sure to let everyone know how pleased he was with their work, and that who would stay and who would go would be determined purely by the economics of the situation.  Arliss couldn’t shake the foreboding feeling that because he was one of the highest paid employees and worked mostly in the office and not out in the field, that he would be one of the first to go.

Arliss stood in his driveway watching the multicolored lights blinking cheerfully along the eaves of his house.  They almost seemed to be mocking his apprehensive feeling.  He walked through the front door and was greeted by the comforting, cinnamon smell of glazed ham, roasted asparagus and Nicole’s famous pecan pie.  He stepped into the living-room.  The lights from the Christmas tree danced on the shining tinsel, defying the mood that Arliss was in.  He looked across the room at Levi who was hooking up a two-year old X-box 360 to the new flat screen TV.  This year Nicole did something she swore she’d never do.  She got up at three o’clock in the morning to brave a Black Friday Doorbuster sale.  Her reward was an incredible deal on the TV.  It wasn’t supposed to be the only gift, but with the uncertainty of the new year, it seemed sensible to have one gift that everyone could enjoy, rather than spending twice as much on gifts for everybody.  “I’m sorry son about the lean Christmas. I know how much you wanted a new rifle.”  “That’s OK dad” replied Levi, “I can work this summer and buy one myself.”  Levi shared his father’s passion for the outdoors.  In the fourteen years since his heart surgery, Levi had grown into a healthy, handsome young man.  He was quarterback for the Freshman football team and was active in his church youth group.  He made good grades.  Kind and respectful, he was the kind of son that would make any father proud.  It’s why Arliss ached inside, that he couldn’t give his son more.

“Dinner’s ready!” Nicole called from the dinning room.  As they gathered around the table Arliss’s mood lightened.   The tempting spread on the table before him made him glad to be hungry.  As the family gathered hands to say grace, Arliss realized how grateful he was to have such a dutiful son and the love of his wife.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree (Photo credit: nathangibbs)

The smell of turkey, dressing and all the trimmings rose up from the kitchen to the small room of the homeless shelter that Angie shared with her three children.  The last two months hadn’t gone as she had hoped.  She had applied for food stamps and TANF and any other assistance she thought she could qualify for.  She was sure that the government would take care of her and her children so she wouldn’t have to worry about taking a job and finding childcare.  The assistance, that she was able to obtain, provided subsistence.  Not nearly the lifestyle she thought she should be provided, so she spent her days going to various charities to try to improve her position.  Mike was furious with her for walking away from the job that Robert Colton had given her.  She threw away a chance to gain some self-respect and be a good example for her children.  While her brother and his wife were ready to let Angie be responsible for herself, they were worried about what would become of the children, so after much deliberation they offered Angie and alternative.  They offered to adopt the three kids and raise them as their own.  Angie would have to sign over custody and though she would be allowed visitation, she would have no legal rights or responsibility to them.   Not wanting to believe that Mike was offering her a better life for her kids, she lashed out at him.  “Do you know how much they will cut my benefits without the kids?” she yelled.  “ I need those kids to get my money!”   And so, with all her desperation and wounded pride, she gathered up her children and their meager possessions and left without a thank you or good-bye.  She wandered the streets for a couple of days, finally winding up at the Our Savior’s Mercy homeless shelter.  She did not contact her brother or anyone else.  Mike searched for her, because he didn’t want Angie to be alone for Christmas, but he could not find her.

After Christmas dinner was served and the dishes put away, Arliss, Nicole and Levi gathered at Our Savior’s Mercy church as they had for the past ten years.  The church held a toy drive every year and the employees of Colton Pest Control were always one of their largest donors.  Robert liked to make a contest out of the annual event and agreed to match one to one every toy his employees brought in.  After the toys were sorted and bagged according to age and gender, the congregation would meet every Christmas evening and distribute the toys.  The church ran a large homeless shelter and provided toys for many needy families in the area.  The need this year was overwhelming, and with so many having to take lower paying jobs, the donations were down.  The group set out eager to bring a toy to a child that they knew would not otherwise have one.  After visiting house after house in the poorer parts of town, the group wound up at the homeless shelter.  They knocked on the door to Angie’s room.  She opened the door and the sight that greeted the church group was cheerless.  A picture of a Christmas tree that was colored by Angie’s four-year-old daughter was taped to the window.  It was the only decoration in the room.  The two pajamaed children sat on a bed, an eager look on their faces.  Nicole gave the girl a knock off Barbie doll, and gave the three-year-old boy a football.  She handed Angie an age appropriate stuffed animal for the baby.  The kids seemed somewhat disappointed in what they were given, and Angie was livid.  “I waited in line for six hours to register and this is all you have for my children?”  “I’m sorry,” Nicole, explained, “ times are hard and we had barely enough toys to go around this year.”

“I don’t want to hear your sob story.” Angie shot back.  “Those rich bastards like that Robert Colton can surely afford to buy some decent toys for less fortunate kids like mine.”  “If he paid his fair share then maybe I could get more money and I could afford to buy my kids some toys myself.”  Nicole choked back the tears and stepped out into the hall where other members of the congregation were gathering after handing out their toys.   As they walked back to the van, she said to the pastor’s wife, “I used to get so much joy out of handing out the toys, but women like that just make me feel used.”  The pastor’s wife tried to cheer her up. “ I know it’s discouraging, but remember we do it to show others Christ’s love for us.”  The van pulled up to the church and the members of the congregation returned to their vehicles.  As the members bade each other good night Arliss called out “Merry Christmas!”  He got in the driver’s seat, started the truck and said to Nicole, “I try to say that to everyone.” Nicole replied, “You should, while you still can”

When Legal and Moral Collide

Anti abortion rally in Washington, D.C. Decemb...

Anti abortion rally in Washington, D.C. December 2004. My own work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have always disliked the “pro-choice”/ “pro-life” titles for the sides on the abortion debate. It simply would have been more truthful to say “pro-abortion”, or “anti-abortion”.  Abortion advocates would like us to believe that the moral determination as to whether or not the embryo or fetus inside is a living thing, is a personal decision that each woman must decide for herself.  This is scientifically incorrect.  Even from the earliest stages an embryo exhibits the basic criteria for being alive.  The real moral question that a woman considering abortion must decide, is at what stage and under what circumstances is the taking of that life justifiable?  When I ask myself that question it becomes obvious that an abortion should only, ever be considered as the last resort to a dire circumstance. A woman who has been raped is in a dire circumstance.  A woman who must choose between life saving cancer treatment that would kill her unborn child or leaving the children she already has motherless, is in a dire circumstance.  A woman who is carrying a child with birth defects so severe as to be incompatible with life is in a dire circumstance. Even as a Christian, I could not sit in judgement of a woman, who faced with such a gut wrenching decision, would terminate a pregnancy. Though I might not have made the same choice.  A woman who gets caught with her hand in the cookie jar? That’s a different story.  There is never a “perfect” time to have a baby. Pregnancies are always expensive, inconvenient and somewhat embarrassing.  Those are never good reasons to have an abortion.  If you feel that you are not mature enough to raise a child, or that now is not the “right” time for you be a mother, there are options available to you that do not require killing a baby.

I felt it was necessary to clarify my position on abortion, because now I am going to say something that many conservative, Christians will strongly disagree with.

It is time to take Abortion, as a political issue, off the table.

By making a willingness to overturn Roe vs. Wade the litmus test for Republican candidates, we have played right into the hands of our enemies  and given them a club to beat us over the head with.  This has never been more apparent than in the last election, with its fictitious “war on women”.  Even with no basis in fact, the liberal left was able to turn an erroneous perception into a political slogan that became a wave of misinformed women voters that turned the tide of the election. Moderate conservatives have shied away from candidates that they felt were too hard-core, while Evangelicals lambasted the same candidates for being too soft.  All the while, the left eagerly exploits the irony that a group that fights for less governmental control of our private lives, fights to give the government control of a very private women’s issue.  Our legal system allows many things that are immoral or at the very least bad for us.  We must acknowledge that in most cases where the federal government tries to legislate morality, it does a very poor job.  Prohibition, the “war on drugs”, “don’t ask don’t tell”, and affirmative action are just a few examples. Can we accept the difference between moral and legal without compromising our values? Absolutely. Unlike the contraception mandate in the affordable care act, that requires businesses run by religious organizations to provide birth control to their employees, even if it goes against their religious tenants, Roe vs. Wade does not compel us to have abortions.   The problem isn’t that abortions are legal, it’s that women choose to have abortions of convenience. The real battle isn’t about overturning a law, it’s about changing attitudes about the sanctity of life.  We can still continue to put up billboards, hand out literature, educate the public, and provide services and alternatives  for pregnant women. We can teach our daughters, granddaughters, and nieces that abortion is wrong in the eyes of God. The battle should continue to be fought on the street corners, our homes and from the pulpit. Just not in the halls of Congress.

Four More Years Part Three

South façade of the White House, the executive...

South façade of the White House, the executive mansion of the President of the United States, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He walked over and sat down at the Resolute desk. He glanced at the pile of papers and noticed the security briefing that had been placed there hours ago. He didn’t bother to look, he knew what was in it. Israel was gone. All but the city of Jerusalem anyway. It was leveled six months ago by Iranian nukes that he had believed in spite of credible intelligence reports, were sill years away from development.  It served BiBi right he had said to himself, the Prime Minister insisted on striking Iran’s main nuclear facility.  Unfortunately Iran had more secret sites than they knew of.  Within three months of the Israeli action, Iran was pounding them with fully functional bombs leaving the entire country a smoldering, desolate, uninhabitable  landscape.  Its people scattered once again over Europe and the United States.  At the insistence of the Ayatollah Khamenei, the new Iranian President, Saeed Jalili, left the Dome of the Rock and surrounding Jerusalem intact as a slap in the fact to the West.  He shook his head as he remember the day, Netanyahu desperately pleading for military help from the US. Help that he was unable to give.  Unbeknownst to its citizens he had ordered the American nuclear arsenal destroyed as a good faith gesture to encourage Russia and China to do the same.  It was the keeping of a promise that he had made to Vladimir Putin though Dmitry Medvedev in the spring of 2012. Then in a cost cutting measure necessary to keep his programs afloat a few more months, he pared down the Navel fleet to handful of  warships, four nuclear submarines and two aircraft carriers.  Aging fighters and bombers were not replaced, affectively grounding the Air Force, and the manpower of the Army and Marines were cut in half.  Now, thanks to Netanyahu’s impatience (the sanctions would have worked, eventually) the whole world knew that the United States is militarily weak and vulnerable.  Putin, that double-crossing bastard didn’t live up to his side of the bargain.  Russia retained its nukes and now was aiding Iran.  India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the other smaller Middle Eastern nations were marshalling their forces, ready to join a coalition against the West, or to dig in a defend their own borders, whichever would suit them best when the time came.  Al Qaeda, made quick work of the power vacuum and over ran Afghanistan, almost overnight.  Then it set its sights on Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal.  He knew the report would tell him that any day now missiles would be headed toward the United States, as the Russian Army and Al Qaeda terrorists, strange bedfellows indeed, had joined forces and built up arms across the Bering Strait.

Alaska, well at least that will get rid of Sarah Palin and her inbred, white-trash, red neck family.  He half smirked to himself.  The thought amused him for only a second.  Alaska was vital.   Two years ago he reluctantly caved on his own policies and opened up ANWR to drilling.  He then agreed to finishing the Keystone Pipeline.  He had hoped that these moves would provide much need jobs. But as the oil flowed South into Texas, the hope that flowed along with it waned.  The refineries that were to  turn the thick smelly crude into much needed gasoline, were crumbling and inadequate for the task.  Long standing environmental regulations, ones that he in all good conscience would not overturn, made the building of new refineries impossible. The oil that was supposed to bring relief from eight dollar a gallon gas, was instead stockpiled in huge, hard to secure tank yards. Unsaleable to other countries because of an OPEC strangle hold on the petroleum market. A terrorist’s dream or an environmental disaster just waiting to happen.

He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.  He thought back to four years ago. Then he was unstoppable.  If Congress wouldn’t act on his agenda, he could enact it by executive order. He was a rock star and everywhere he went he was surrounded by awestruck, adoring crowds.  He was a media darling, the toast of Hollywood.  Letterman, Oprah, The View they just couldn’t get enough of him.  But those days were gone. Now whenever he made a rare appearance outside the gates, he could feel the loathing of a disperate people.  His once cheerful and stalwart wife, his outspoken defender, was now sullen and bitter and rarely spoke in public anymore.  His daughters could no longer  romp through the grounds with their dog, or spend afternoons with their mother, tending their vegtable garden.  Now they spent their days shut up inside for their own safety.  No more sleepovers with friends or attending school.  The prestige he so craved as a young Senator, the power of the Presidency that stirred the passionate fire within, now wore him down like a cumbersome weight around his neck.  The toll it took on him, on his family, on the nation, was just too much to bear.  He stood and again walked over to the window.  He watched as the sun sat behind the Washington Monument and longed for November.

Golly! Another Reason to Vote Romney/Ryan

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/21/us/politics/romneys-throwback-language-his-mittisms.html?smid=pl-share

Mitt Romney has already shown that he can bring much-needed leadership to the Oval Office.  He can restore the class, dignity and respect, that has been stripped away from the office by the celebrity seeking, rock-star that inhabits it now.  This New York times story shows how Mitt, excuse me, Mr. Romney can restore something else to Capitol Hill, civility.  What a great role model this man will be for our children.  Let’s all “Chick-fil-A” the polls on November 6th and put Mitt Romney in the White House.

Four More Years Part Two

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few weeks ago I started a series on how the next four years would look under another Obama administration.  I had intended to write four posts, one for each year.  Instead I have skipped ahead to the eighth year of Obama’s Presidency.

He stood gazing out of the window, somber and thoughtful. His closely cropped,  once salt and pepper hair, now completely white. His brow deeply furrowed and the lines around his mouth gave him a permanent scowl. At fifty-five he had the countenance of a man twenty years older. He surveyed the scene before him. Razor wire now covered the wrought iron fences. The once beautifully manicured lawns and gardens were now an encampment. Just inside the fences the patrols stepped purposefully, forming a human barrier between the man at the window and the angry mob outside. The patrols, and the men at the command tent were all wearing the sky blue berets of UN Peacekeepers.

The man at the window pondered over how it could have come to this. It all seemed like such a perfect plan. Since childhood he had anguished over the inequities of society. Why did some people have plenty to eat while others starved? Why did rich people receive top-notch care at state of the art hospitals, while the poor were dying of preventable disease? Why were some countries prosperous and others still wallowing in the Dark Ages? Convinced that wealthy nations and people became that way at the expense of poor ones, he vowed that if he were ever elected to a high office, he would set it right. The plan was brilliant in it’s simplicity. Those who were blessed with the talent of creating wealth would be compelled by taxation into handing over their riches to the government, which would then distribute the wealth to those who were not so blessed. Once the poor had their basic needs taken care of, they would then be free to pursue their dreams becoming wealthy themselves and thereby contributing more to the coffers. As the vast circle of “givers” grew, more and more would flow into the government well. The government could then wisely distribute the largess, providing better and better services to the people. No one would ever again have to worry about food, or rent, or utilities. Everyone would be prosperous and happy. Health care could be distributed in much the same way. Medical funds would be equally distributed between doctors and hospitals and all would be required to provide basic healthcare services to everyone. The money saved from the equalization of medical expenses, could then be used for research and providing even better care. He would reduce America’s arsenal as a good faith gesture to the rest of the world. He would turn America into the perfect neighbor, generous, peaceful, and non-threatening.

How, he wondered did it all go so terribly wrong? He had underestimated how ingrained in the American psyche the concept of the individual was. So determined were those lucky enough to own property and businesses to keep what they had earned, that they would rather close up shop and divide their assets with their own families, than allow it to be taxed. Selfish bastards, they just didn’t get it. So blinded by their perceived right to self-determination, they couldn’t grasp that the government could do a better job of utilizing the wealth. And all they had to do was give their “fair share”. Their greed had forced him to borrow extensively from other nations, some not so friendly. The Federal Reserve continued to print money, flooding the markets with near worthless paper and driving up prices. As business owners closed their doors unemployment rose until nearly half of country were without jobs. More and more came into the fold, the government their sole source of survival.

His plan to provide healthcare to the nation wasn’t going exactly as planned either. The insurance co-ops that were supposed to make healthcare affordable, were a failure. With no way to make a profit one by one the companies dropped out or went out of business. Leaving only the government option available. With prices capped by the government, doctors were finding it difficult to maintain profitable practices. Many simply closed their doors. With no guarantee that one could make a living after eight-plus years of grueling study, fewer and fewer young men and women entered medical school. The small number of doctors that were left were forced to find ways to stretch their time and resources. Doctor’s appointments and hospital beds were precious. Stories such as the elderly woman who was denied cancer treatment to make room for someone younger, and the middle-aged man who bled to death in a hospital emergency department waiting room in full view of sick children, were becoming common.

It was obvious to him a year ago, that the nation was broke. A third credit downgrade took it down to a B and no more countries would lend him money. Tax revenues were drying up and his financial advisers were running out of ways to “cook the books”. There was no other choice than to cut services. Pell grants and college loan guarantees were the first to go, then Social Security and what was left of Medicare. Schools were privatized leaving a haphazard mixture of private and quasi-public institutions. Only those who were homeschooled could be guaranteed to receive an adequate education. Subsidies for cell phones and other utilities were cut, followed by WIC, TANF, and finally food stamps. His grand plan to care for everyone in the nation had come crashing down around him. The governmental safety net that so many had come to depend on was no longer there. What foods and goods were left, in the few stores still open, was so expensive almost no one could afford them. As hunger and desperation set in, the people took to rioting in the streets. Angry mobs demanded to know what had happened to the “hope and change”, to the promise of prosperity. In an audacious act of defiance the National Guard, Active Duty Military, and local police squads refused to fire on the crowds of U S citizens. So he sought the help of the UN to restore order. For the first time in the nation’s history, a foreign army was taking action against American citizens, on American soil.

To be continued:

Four More Years

Blindfolded Forward

Blindfolded Forward (Photo credit: BlueRobot)

Instead of asking ourselves if we are better off today than we were four years ago, maybe we should be asking if we will be better off four years from now? Without the need to woo skittish voters, and appease wealthy donors, President Obama would no longer have to carry on the ruse of upholding The Constitution. He would have the power, through executive order if need be, to continue his war on capitalist prosperity. Even without the blessing of Congress, he would assume the authority to appease our enemies while snubbing our allies. What would four years look like if President Obama is elected to another term?  In the first of a four-part series, I’ll describe the America, Obama’s America, that is yet to come.

Day one.

Though we don’t see the exuberance of four years ago, there is much celebration in the nation today.  Seniors who feared cuts to Social Security and Medicare are now looking forward to the hope of a decent retirement.   People who were previously uninsurable, or had children with catastrophic illnesses, who were already enjoying the benefits of the Affordable Healthcare Act are resting comfortably.  Students who only a year ago, were protesting in the streets, now feel they have a future.

There is caution in the celebrating though, an almost palpable feeling that maybe, just maybe everything isn’t as it seems.  Tentative hope has now been replaced by fear and uncertainty. For many in this country this is not a day to celebrate, it is a day filled with a sense of dread.  The campaign slogans of “Hope and Change”, of “Forward”, of “Believe in America”, have been replaced by a new slogan, “Oh my God what have we done”.

The fifth year:

Obama wastes no time in pushing though his campaign promise of making rich people pay “their fare share”.  At first, the extension of the Bush era tax cuts for the middle class, along with the Fed’s new policy of printing and circulating large sums of money has a small positive effect on the economy.  Middle class wage earners, while not gaining any true increase in wealth, are feeling better about the future so they are starting slowly and cautiously to spend more.

Employment however, has not increased as much as expected.  Small business owners who were waiting on the outcome of the election, before deciding whether to expand or hire, have decided to put it off.  Even with the small increase in consumer spending, they are waiting to see just how much the  Affordable Healthcare Act and the new wealth taxes will cost them.   A few small business owners are eager to utilize the Obama administration’s new programs to reward “insourcing” and “green” business.  The program has little success however, as the program’s stipulations, along with all the government’s restrictions, make it impossible for these businesses to be profitable.

The upper tier rich begin to look for ways to divest their income to avoid paying the new wealth taxes.  Many are placing most of their funds in overseas bank accounts. Wealthy businessmen, concerned about maintaining the profitability of their companies, many of whom would never have considered it before, are moving overseas.  Many wealthy individuals are starting to consider the wisdom of leaving the United States entirely and taking up residence in a foreign country.  A policy that was supposed to generate more revenue for the government has the unexpected result of prolonging the employment crisis.

In spite of another drop in interest rates, the housing market has also remained flat.  As the year progresses, the Fed’s influx of cash has led to inflation.  The increase in the cost of living, coupled with the lack of well-paying jobs has people reluctant to buy a home. What was a slow and cautious economic recovery has now become stagnant.

Obama Care has given many people who worried about the cost of healthcare, a reason to be hopeful.  Adult children can now be carried on their parent’s insurance, and a person can’t be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition.  The trade-off is that now individuals are forced to carry health insurance or pay a penalty tax.  In spite of subsidies, many small business owners cannot afford to cover their employees.  This forced those employees to turn to the state insurance pools.  While low-income people are given a tax incentive to cover the cost of this insurance, many mid level earners do not qualify. This leaves them with an added expense that they did not count on. Just one more item to juggle into an already tight budget.

In spite of continued attacks against American interests in the Middle East, President Obama expands his policy of acceptance and understanding of the Muslim culture. He meets regularly with the heads of radical Islamic groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.  He maintains his stance that Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to stop the development of settlements on the West Bank. Meanwhile, Iran continues its so-called “peaceful” nuclear program.  Even though this presents a clear danger to one of our most important allies, Obama is reluctant to call for stronger measures against them.  He prefers to rely on the economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations, despite their lack of success………

As we see, during Obama’s fifth year in office, the world continues to be a dangerous and unstable place, both economically and culturally. While most Americans may not be worse off, very,very, few can say things are better. In my next post, we will see what it might look like  during his sixth year.

Mr. Eastwood, You Made My Day

English: Clint Eastwood at the 2008 Cannes Fil...

“I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen.
Something that I think is very important. It is that, you, we
We own this country.
We — we own it. It is not you owning it, and not
politicians owning it. Politicians are employees of ours.
And — so — they are just going to come around and beg
for votes every few years. It is the same old deal. But I just
think it is important that you realize , that you’re the best in
the world. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican or whether
you’re libertarian or whatever, you are the best. And we should
not ever forget that. And when somebody does not do the job, we
got to let them go.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/08/30/transcript-clint-eastwood-speech-at-rnc/#ixzz25YST6Llk

Quote by Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention, Aug 30, 2012 (Emphasis mine)

This is something that all of those who are elected to an office, from the school boards, to the city councils, to the state legislatures, to the White House need to be reminded of.  You work for us, we the people.  We vote you in or out of office. We pay your salary.  You are beholden to us.  Not the other way around.  Thank you Mr. Eastwood for throwing that out on a national stage.

Hard or Hardship Government Economics vs the Household Budget

quora.com

quora.com

I sat at my desk today, doing what I do every Thursday. Juggling bills. As I pondered how much I would have left for groceries, after paying the phone bill, and gassing up the old “Silver Toilet”( my very thirsty pickup truck), a thought occurred to me. How is it that so many people have no real understanding of our national debt? We hear about it all the time, ” our grandchildren will be faced with the burden of our national debt”. But do we ever really think about what that means to us as individuals?  Household economics is really pretty straightforward.  If there is no money left after paying the bills, then you don’t eat.  Skip out on your power bill, you sit in the dark, decide you’d rather go on vacation than pay your mortgage, bye-bye home.  Real life teaches us that if you continue to spend more than you make, eventually it will all come crashing down around you.

It works the same way with the government.  It doesn’t matter what kind of fancy economic theory you adhere to, the simple fact is that our country is broke. I know, you’ve heard that before, so what?  Well, what that means to me is that I’ll have to depend on myself more, and government less.  It means that the Pell grant my daughter depended on for college isn’t going to be there, my Tricare premiums are increasing, and Social Security isn’t even a factor in my retirement planning.  It doesn’t matter what the politicians promise, we have two choices, realize that we are going to have to accept cuts to government programs now, or wait until the government defaults and then completely lose that safety net while the economy implodes on itself sucking us in with it.  Either way we will have to become less dependent on to government.

Given that cuts are inevitable, what makes more sense, to have a president that aims to control more of the population by increasing their dependency on government programs? Or a president who can make the tough cuts necessary to balance the budget?  We have to ask ourselves, do we want to suffer the controlled hardships of a government learning to live within its means? The way the rest of us do.  Or do we want to live through the devastation of a complete economic meltdown?

Americans have a noble tradition of  pulling on our boots, rolling up our sleeves, and shouldering the work.  We don’t run from hardship, we face it head on, grit our teeth and gut it out.  It will be interesting to see, if this new voting generation will rise to the challenge, or if they will just curl up in the fetal position, consoling themselves with You Tube and reality TV, while waiting for a savior to come and bail them out.

For the Want of Reagan

Vote

Vote (Photo credit: Vaguely Artistic)

The other day I was watching TV with my daughter when a commercial from one of Mitt Romney‘s Super Pacs came on. She sat shaking her head then stated. “I don’t like Mitt Romney”. This started a discussion on the comparison of the negativity of political campaigns. Her rather discouraging reply was, “don’t get me wrong, I don’t like Obama either. I don’t think either candidate is any good. I makes me not even want to bother voting.”  This is her first time getting to vote in a Presidential election and she’s already so disgusted by the campaign crap that she’s just done with it all. I felt so disappointed for her, and so afraid for our future.  I can still remember the pride I felt the first time I got to vote. Even after four years of Ronald Reagan, we could still feel the hopelessness of the demoralizing presidency of Jimmy Carter. Proud once again to call ourselves Americans, we young rural Texans were going to make sure we didn’t go there again. I was excited about going to that tin shed out behind the Old Rock Church, to mark my poster sized ballot and put it into the lock-box. I felt as though I were really making a difference. Not in any election since, have I felt that way.

No longer do we have the pleasure of electing a hero who will bravely lead our country to a place of honor and respect in the world. Now we have to settle for trying to discern who will do the least amount of damage. Gone are the grand designs for peace and prosperity, boldly put forth by men like President Reagan. We are left with mud-slinging salesmen and morally bankrupt hypocrites. We no longer go to the polls to elect a leader, we go instead to choose between the lesser of two evils. No wonder, that our young adults are so disillusioned.

Right now the America that has become the most prosperous nation on earth, the country the rest of the world looked up to as an example of leadership, and decency is in grave danger of perishing.  Sitting in the Oval Office is a man whose personal philosophy is the polar opposite of that of our Founding Fathers.  Someone who has no real understanding of an American culture, and no respect for the “separation of powers” established by our Constitution.  Through deceit and subterfuge he bypasses the “checks and balances” of our system of government in order to push through his own agenda.  A vision of America where those who live by their own hard work and ingenuity have to share the fruits of their labors with those who choose to do nothing.  Where charity and compassion are no longer the way that men of integrity separate themselves from the lazy and selfish, but are government mandates instead.  Where peace is bought by placating our enemies and abandoning our allies.

This may be the most critical election in our nation’s history.  Made even more so by those who have been beguiled by Obama’s charismatic presence, into believing that his vision for America really will make their lives better.  Those individuals are lost to us.  Our only hope is to convince those who are undecided and especially those who feel that their vote doesn’t matter that an absent vote is the same as a vote for Obama.  The only way to save our nation is for everyone who is tired of “politics as usual” to understand the disaster that four more years of Obama will bring. Mitt Romney needs your vote.  The country needs your vote.  Even if the choices aren’t great.

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