Saturday, May 21, 2005

*A PLEA FOR ACTION FROM ONE OF OUR READERS

To my Blogger Friends: Please Pick this up on your blogs! We desperately need your help to not just get the word out but to get funds rolling in here to counter the HUGE war chest of the Religious Reich! Without EVERYONE'S help they will bury us! PLEASE! Pass this on to anyone who might post it and help us out!

To Molly and Steve: This old war horse may not be able to get in there and get her hands dirty like in the old days, but I’m doing what I can! You guys are really carrying things forward and going places! I would have never dreamed that we’d have come this far this fast when Michael, LJ, Andrea and I first put MECA together! You guys have made us proud! Keep up the good work and good luck with Dobson and the other monsters!

Julie & Andrea Johnson

1/2 Kracked Kup--This Time It Just Might
Break All The Way!


I REALLY Need YOUR Help!

As I wrote this,?the Assembly Appropriations Committee had just passed?AB 19 by a 6-3 vote?”The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act” , sponsored by Equality California and authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno .? The legislation will likely not be voted on soon but instead will go into suspense and be taken up again by the Committee during the last two weeks of May or even later. This is normal since the legislation will make a rather sizable economic impact on the state... it seems the the net will be a GAIN of some $30 MILLION a year (source http://www.law.ucla.edu/williamsproject )!

Then there is the crap our favorite outside agitator James Dobson is pulling! Not taking the hint for the humiliating defeat he suffered with his attempt to amend OUR California state constitution through legislative means, now that AB19 (The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act)** is pretty much a sure thing to pass into law Dear Dork Dobson is pulling the bigots favorite tactic, the “off year election initiative end-run” where the Religious Reich, banking on low voter turn out in off years and their ability to fire up the TRUE BELIEVERS (why do they always have to capitalize that when they write it? **sigh**) and turn them out in huge numbers to pass their unbelievably draconian and bigoted constitutional amendment, put forth an initiative hoping to slip it past the majority of apathetic voters. This piece of... Of... My gods, words fail me... I hesitate to call it legislation for it reads more like a Biblical pronouncement! Here’s what EQCA says about it:

"Bottomline:? This amendment would go to the fullest extremes to strip every legal protection from our families.?? From health insurance and hospital visitation, to inheritance and medical leave rights, tens of thousands of diverse California families would lose protections they now have and would be left with no legal protections.? The amendment would prohibit same-sex marriage and strip the courts, cities, and every government agency of any ability to protect California familes not headed by a husband and a wife."

I’m SICK AND TIRED of being a second class citizen! But I’m too physically broken up and ill to get out there in the trenches and do what needs to be done. I have to count on you, my friends to let the country and the world know the danger we face here in California, right here, right now, THIS WEEK! Write to your newspapers, ask them to cover the way the way the religious fanatic outsiders are trying to take away our rights! Tell your friends! Let them know that a small group of OUTSIDE AGITATORS, Religious FANATICS, are working with BIG money from organized out of state sources who are working day and night to strip us of the hard won gains we have made here! We are just WEEKS from making our marriage laws equal for EVERYONE in the state by LEGISLATIVE MEANS! That will be the VERY FIRST time that has happened ANYWHERE in the country! And the Religious Right will do ANYTHING to make sure that this does not happen. That sort of precedent is something that they absolutely cannot allow to be set! If it is, it puts the lie to all the years of propaganda they have drummed into the minds of the American people. DO NOT LET JAMES DOBSON AND THE RELIGIOUS REICH DERAIL THIS MONUMENTAL LEGISLATION WITH HIS HATE BASED INITIATIVE! PLEASE!

I'm pleading with you as a friend, as someone you know and hopefully care about and for. Contact your friends and family, ask them to write and call our California State Assemblymen and any of our Equal Marriage Organizations and pledge your support. Help us to turn the balance away from the forces of bigotry and hate!

Under normal circumstances I would never trouble you or the rest of my friends from out of state or out of the country, but these are not the "usual" circumstances at all! Dobson is bringing to bare all the power of his national organization and their international allies! I’m relying on YOU my friends to make my dream of legally marrying Andrea come true! Please, please, PLEASE don’t let me down!

Thank you.

Your friend,

Julie Johnson

juliedee@planetoutcast.net
Posted by JulieDee to The 1/2 Kracked Kup at 5/20/2005 05:39:00 PM

*YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOUDon't even consider it

k
By Julie Weiss

How else could I be spending a beautiful May Saturday but sorting through a 56-year collection of life's possessions not my own? In the midst of liquidating an uncle's household, I write to you from unusually sunny southwest Michigan. My uncle is 91 years old and running out of money. The current month's bill for assisted living and a few sundry services is $3553.50. There's enough cash for about another 10 months expenses at the current rate. His care tab so far is about $140,000.

During his working life he was a stock boy at a corner grocery, assisted in my grandfather's fruit and vegetable brokerage, joined the Army Aircorps during WWII, worked for war contractor Remington Rand, afterwards went to work as a bus driver for the local public transportation company and then became the chauffeur for executives at a very large manufacturing company. His private sector pension for all those years of toil is $336.63 per month. His 'shoshul shecurity' is $1089.

He and my aunt were very careful with their money, as was typical for all members of that generation in my family. They bought a brand new, solid brick ranch-style house in 1957 for around $18,000., made double mortgage payments whenever they could (Both worked, she for the State of Michigan as a social worker.), kept the place in excellent repair, never wasted a dime that I know of, paid their bills immediately upon receipt, never used credit cards, paid green money cash if at all possible. You all know the type.

My aunt died in April, 2000. Her mother had left her a quantity of AT&T stock, which then split into -what? seven? - baby bells, which then issued their own stock. The lollapalooza of these spin-offs was Lucent Technologies ("We make the things that make communications work." Ah, the good old days.) With a tad of coaxing on my part, she sold all of it by January, 2000 - who says market timing doesn't work? - and despite the threat she'd always use when she was irked with my uncle, "I'll just leave my money to someone else," all the money was held jointly with him when she died. Good thing she did.

Our President (I'm in a really generous mood today) would have us believe that stock market investing is the answer to all our troubles. When I sold Lucent stock in 1998 for another aunt whose affairs I handled, I believe it was around $60.00 per share. Yesterday, a mere seven years later, it closed at $2.92. So much for widows and orphans.

Perhaps a mini review of AT&T's and Lucent's sordid recent history would be helpful. Common stock of both companies benefited from the tech bubble. Selling high, as I did, is as much dumb luck - unless you're Martha Stewart - as anything. Lucent was a growth stock and therefore inappropriate, so I got rid of it. AT&T was still paying out decent dividends, but CD investing still made sense, and CD principle isn't subject to market fluctuation.

Shortly after I sold, it was revealed to the world that Lucent was schmoozing the books. Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Lucent Technologies' auditor, wouldn't certify all Lucent's fret work. This rarely happens, because the Price Waterhouses of the world didn't get to be Big Eight/Six/Four accountants by dissing their biggest clients. So, the news had to be pretty terrible.

AT&T couldn't stand the heated competition for telecommunications services where once it had been the bench mark. But the real dirt - what probably cost investors as much as the Enron crater - was Jack Grubman, an analyst, trumpeting AT&T stock, despite troubling fundamentals, in order to win AT&T investment banking business for his firm, Salomon Smith Barney. The human interest angle to the story is that Jack Grubman's twins were under review for admission to one of New York City's elite pre-schools run by the 92nd Street Y. Jack's boss at parent company Citigroup, Sandy Weill, was on the board of the 92nd St Y pre-school. AT&T bit. The kids got in. See how winning on Wall Street works? Nothing to it! (editor's note: I once belonged to that Y. It is the Ritz of YMCAs. The founder was the same guy that started the CIA...guess why I was admitted there? Heh.)

What happens if my uncle outlives his money? Well, I can sell the house, which under Michigan law he'd be allowed to keep and still qualify for Medicaid nursing care. If I sell it, all the proceeds would have to be applied to his care before he'd qualify for Medicaid under current rules.

The place he's living now, a very pleasant and well-run facility, does not accept Medicaid for its nursing care unit, and Medicaid, in any event, does not pay for assisted living, only nursing care. So, he'd have to move, take potluck as far as availability of decent quarters and suffer a lesser quality of services. And, of course, I'd have to explain to him that the reason for the move was that I'd decided to keep the house to liquidate after his death so we'd get a bigger inheritance. Do you know how nasty old people can get over the teensiest imagined slight? And THIS, the mother of all insults: Please die, so we can get our hands on your money.

In February, The Wall Street Journal published a piece entitled "Medicaid for Millionaires" in its Review and Outlook section. Pretty provocative stuff, eh? At last the beleaguered millionaires get their Lucky Ducky moment? If we believe the twaddle in the editorial, they do. But we know better.

It's pretending to be a screed about amoral millionaires and their lawyers and financial planners.

"There's a whole "elderlaw" industry out there dedicated to the children of seniors who want to make sure that other taxpayers [ big assumption there, other taxpayers. I thought the ownership society was a place where millionaires and their children are never referred to as taxpayers], not they, pay for nursing-home care via Medicaid should mom or dad ever need it."

(snip)

"Such asset shifting may be morally questionable, but in most cases it is entirely legal." [ I'm glad they got that off their chest. Confession is good for the soul. As a rule the Wall Street journal loves asset shifting, such as selling the country off to Canadian mining companies for two cents an acre and using your tax dollars to fund Dick Cheney's deferred compensation payments from Halliburton.]

(snip)

"Medicaid "planners" often counsel well-to-do clients to save enough money to pay for a year of care at a private, high-quality nursing home, which under federal law can't kick you out if you then switch over to Medicaid." (from The Wall Street Journal, 2/24/05; Page A14)

Oh, enough of this. I have way more experienced in schlepping people into and out of nursing homes than anyone at the Wall Street Journal, apparently. The "high-quality" nursing homes have lawyers, too, and require prospective residents to file a financial statement showing that the resident or guarantor has enough ready assets to pay for three years in their high-falutin' place. So much for that clever financial planning tool.

The editorial goes on to recommend, among other things that people like my uncle be required to take out a reverse mortgage - the Chinese connection is never far away these days, is it? - if they want to keep their house, or allowing a state to claim title to a senior's assets, giving him a zero interest loan against Medicaid payments and offering tiered services: those choosing less expensive services would retain more residue for their heirs. Isn't that cool? There are some pretty substantial ice floes on Lake Michigan in the winter. Wonder what the charge would be for that?

I have only my sense of humor and plucky pioneer spirit to keep me company. The bills pile up. The government gets quirkier and quirkier. And this situation is one of the fortunate ones.

At least he has something to sell!

(Editor's note: in Medieval times, the Church and King would take the same amount from everyone if they could; the best bed, the best horse etc. So the longer you lived, the more stuff you could accumulate and the more you could retain after the others were done taking stuff. Today, it is the reverse. How interesting is that?)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Richard, One of Our Readers, Makes the Big Time Big Time!

w
Wolcott

Empty Suit Politician Walks into Propellor
Posted by James Wolcott
Based on what I saw on MSNBC (and congrats to them for going live), I would modestly venture that Norm Coleman and the Senate committee picked on the wrong guy when they picked on George Galloway (scroll down for "This Old Brit's"'s take). His rebuttal so exfoliated Coleman's short hairs that Fox News had to step in afterwards and downplay Galloway's rousing anti-Iraq war broadside as a rhetorical gambit.

God, does Galloway make our own representatives look mushmouthed and gutless.

05.17.05 11:48AM · LINK


Ok, everyone, congratulations, Richard!

You just made the big time here! Across the pond we savages salute ya! Tipple a stout for us, buddy! You richly deserve the recognition.

We hope everyone reads your blog. It is a great window into the people who speak English like us not like W.

Friday, May 13, 2005

How THIS Old Brit Sees Things

(Editor--The Republicans in America are attacking a host of people for various reasons. Blair hates Galloway for running against the war in Iraq so Galloway is being attacked by Bush allies. What a mess!)

George Galloway ...

How many times can one man be crucified? By how many different, baying mobs? In how many different ways? And, how many times can such man come back?

The story of George Galloway, ex-New Labour MP and serial thorn in Bush & Blair's sides, may well provide the answers. Though not before this extraordinary political maverick's saga reaches it's final chapter -- which remains, as yet, unwritten. Let's hope when it is, the last word goes to Galloway -- NOT to Bush nor Blair. Long may their [self-inflicted] worst nightmare continue.

In today's 'Guardian' is what's possibly the least 'agenderised' and 'fairest' article on Galloway, I've seen. Penned by media commentator, Roy Greenslade -- amongst may other things -- this genuinely honest journalist freely admits the following.

** He [ Galloway ] has regularly sued for libel and, worse still in the eyes of journalists, has always won, sometimes handsomely. I must declare an interest here: I have also lost to him in a libel action; but, unlike many who have suffered similarly, I bear him no grudge. **


Oh, that I had either the time or the journalistic ability to write as well as Greenslade. Oh, that I had just one miniscule, milli-per-cent of Greenslade's readership. No matter; nowadays there's not that much need. Thanks to the modern miracle of the web and the bite of the blog, I can bring to an even wider readership, his every relevant word. To further whet your appetite, here's another clip & paste -- this time, his opening paragraphs .

** I come not to praise George Galloway but - unlike almost the entire media - not to bury him either. There will be many who snort contemptuously when I say that Galloway is now more sinned against than sinning because he has become so unpopular with both the media and political elites that they regard him as outside the normal rules of the game.

Indeed, to defend him places the defender beyond the pale too. But the victim of what has all the hallmarks of a media feeding frenzy deserves a fair hearing, not only for his personal benefit, but for those he now represents - and in order to confront journalists with their own misguided agendas.

In quick succession since his election victory last week in Bethnal Green and Bow, Galloway has been subjected to a television mauling by Jeremy Paxman, a radio sandbagging by the MP he defeated and a raft of newspaper headlines about a set of reheated allegations which he has not only strenuously denied but which ended with him winning a major libel action.

In spite of Galloway's court victory and the accumulated evidence in his favour, the BBC saw fit to lead its news bulletins yesterday with the story of supposedly "new" accusations that he received money from Saddam Hussein's Iraq through its oil-for-food programme. Yet the only difference between the claims made against Galloway by the Daily Telegraph in April 2003 and a US Senate subcommittee this week was that they were based on (already published) documents allegedly retrieved from Iraq's oil ministry rather than its foreign ministry - and not, as wrongly claimed, that they covered different periods.

In all other essentials, the allegations made by the Senate committee are the same as those originally outlined in the Telegraph articles that resulted in Galloway being awarded £150,000 in libel damages and £1.2m in costs, though an appeal against the high court ruling in his favour is still outstanding.

During the case Galloway successfully rebutted every point in the Telegraph story that led its journalists to conclude that he had profited from Saddam's government. So it's hardly any wonder that Galloway has found himself repeating his former denials. **


To read this full, 'fair and balanced' article, which I can't recommend highly enough, click on the link at the bottom. Then, if you're genuinely interested in helping a much maligned man like Galloway, please email links to this blog, to as many friends as possible.

If certain vested interests still think they'll always have things their own way, they're wrong. When we all work together, ordinary/regular people like ourselves can give them a short, sharp shock.

So, if you're as sick of the slimy 'spinners' as "This Old Brit" is -- please pass this on. If you're sincere in your search for truth; if you're tired of our lousy leaders' lies; if you're determined to ditch both them and their dirt; if you're positively puking at all their propaganda; if your blood is boiling; if your convictions are matched by your courage -- please, act today.

Get those emails out, now! The Galloway-U.S. Senate, charade looms large. It's only days away. Please, let everyone know, in time. Forewarned is forearmed.

In anticipation, I thank you for your help. I'm sure many others do/will, too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

More Mixer

I feel like the little red hen. Busy in the kitchen and I pop all the loaves of bread into my oven and then get an email telling me I left some out of the oven!

This blog is just starting off and it seems every day we spend significant time toying with the code and other invisible things and my son trying to teach mom HTML tricks and then everything goes wrong and I have to drive 30 miles to fetch him and get him to FIX THAT NOW!

Whew.

But I promise, the Guest Blog will continue! Thanks for the patience!

Mixer's Political analysis, responding to this question:

“Not to mention that the idea of the "great divide" between red and blue states is a fallacy. There was a separation of 3 million votes between winner and loser... the narrowest margin in any modern election. There are far better maps out there, that show gradations of color. Shockingly, most of the country is purple! I think the entire op-ed is a straw man just waiting to be blown down.”


I'd throw another red-blue distinction out there - one that the author doesn't touch on:

Red/blue might as well be uneducated/educated, pays least of the taxes/pays most of the taxes or contributes least to the GDP/contributes most to the GDP.

...but social conservatives tend to avoid such comparisons.

There was a laughable article written by someone after the election that proposed that the US "kick out" all of the blue states. Aside from the above bullets, the author failed to mention that 8 of the 13 original colonies fell under the "blue state" umbrella - so, it makes more sense for the "US" to "kick out" all of the "red states."

For reference, see:

Morganquitno.com

Janegalt.net
(click on the "handy table" link to see a state-by-state breakdown)
and humaneventsonline

I, for one, am getting really tired of the "Free Lunch"/"Bread and Circuses" attitude of the Right. It's no secret that I've been very concerned with our financial status of late. But, every party comes with a bill to pay eventually; I'll bet anyone here a bottle wine that the catalyst economic event that will end US supremacy is the implementation of privatized social security (as the Administration is proposing it.)

Taking a conservative estimate of the amount Bush wishes to borrow to implement privatization, he needs about $1.5 trillion (the ranges being quoted go up to $5 trillion.) Since this appears to be one of the main priorities for the Administration this year, there is a good chance that it'll be submitted in the next session. [A side note - you'll probably see the National Sales Tax as a rider to this bill, being lauded as a precursor to the replacement of the Income Tax.] If it's submitted, and enough press is generated, it'll probably pass this session to be implemented next year, or retroactive for this year.

Our government tends to spend the money first, then look for a means to pay the bill later. $1.5 trillion comes out to roughly $500 million per day in additional foreign investment we'll need to cover the tab. The world already invests $2.5 billion per day to cover our deficits and debt, which, by the way, is roughly 85% of the world's savings. The world is already pretty skittish about the US, with many of our creditors (including China) telling us to start showing some spending restraint and fiscal responsibility or the party is over. I doubt they will look kindly on us asking them to not only plop the rest of their savings into us, but also put themselves into debt to allow us to continue our standard of living. It's a good bet that us assuming the world will do it will be enough to cause the bond markets to retreat - and we can't afford to even have a small retreat, since we're "living" on those "credit cards." Once that happens, it's all downhill from there - and fast, too.

This is why I'm upset at the "Free Lunch" attitude of the Right; the Republicans have been in charge for a while now, and have managed to spend more (and grow the government larger) than any Democrat had ever dreamed: 34% in 4 years (during Clinton, it was 8%.) It doesn't matter if it was necessary that it happened, because rather than offsetting the increase with restraint someplace else, they decided to just borrow more. The Democrats may be the party of "Tax and Spend," but the Republicans are the party of "Borrow and Spend" - which is much, much worse.

I was reading an article from an analyst who was trying to imagine how the party would end, and I think he did a pretty good job of it. He referenced the turning of the earth and the domino effect of asset transfers:

Baltimore Chronicle

That's probably how it'll happen.. first Asia, then the ME, then Europe and we wake up in the morning to the world having decided we're no longer in charge. Consider what we did to Britain in 1956, if you don't think it's possible.

"If anyone is at fault then why is nobody dumping on Clinton for year after year cutting the defense budget? It should at least kept up with inflation."

Because Clinton kept his deployment level in line with the cuts - nobody was wanting in the military, pay was stable, folks had the equipment they needed, etc. Granted, he did that by working with the rest of the world to share the burden of policing. Bush over-deploys while cutting salaries, benefits and equipment - and give the big “Screw You” to the rest of the world. Yep, those Republicans sure do "take care" of the military - "take care" of it right into the ground. One of my co-workers was an inactive reservist who was activated, was sent to Iraq for a year and just recently came back for some training before going back for *another year.* He was telling me that equipment situation is so bad that soldiers are purchasing equipment - with their own money - on the black market because they can't get what they need.

"But your right about Bush's friends spending so much on his celebratory party. We all know Kerry's friends would not want to celebrate if Kerry had won. They would rather sit at home and read a book or watch TV."

I doubt Kerry would have had the taxpayers foot the bill for the rest, too. Why do you Republicans keep putting your hand in my pocket?

"Look at what Clinton put our military through in Somalia. Sending them there without armor in order to save a few bucks on the deployment and so their bodies end up getting drug through the streets by lightly armed mobs that would never have even fired a shot had American Armor been present."

Why do you folks always bring up Somalia? Yes, a mistake was made. You conveniently forget that:

a) Pres. George Bush actually did the deployment (called "Operation Restore Hope" in Dec 1992,)

and

b) that the Rangers who didn't have armor support were scheduled to be extricated a month later, which is why it was denied.

The mistake that was made was the Pentagon ordering those troops in for that rescue mission knowing full well they didn't have the support they needed; the October Raid was a mistake and shouldn't have happened. The big difference here is that the support that was denied to the troops in Somalia was heavy armor, but the support we're talking about in Iraq is both heavy armor and *body armor* - kevlar vests and such. Sending troops into combat without the basic necessities to begin with.. well, that's a mistake too, but you Republicans think it's okay this time, because it's not a Democrat that's doing it.

"The reason the military is viable at all these days is because of the dedication of the individuals that are serving combined with the high tech weaponry developed as a result of the much maligned military spending during the Reagan-Bush era..."


I'll agree with the first part of your statement - unless you've been in, you have no idea of the dedication these folks have. Most understand full well that they are meat shields protecting the rest of us from harm.

I have issues with Reagan - another fiscal liberal and social conservative - and I could argue that the money spent back then has not benefited us as much as you'd like to imagine (20 year old technology developed for a different kind of war than we're fighting these days,) but the point is that we're not supplying our troops with what they need now (and haven't for nearly two years,) and I don't care if your a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Green - it's a disgrace, and we should all be sending that message to the White House. But, it seems that Republicans don't mind this time, since Clinton isn't involved.

"Maybe the best way to judge the affect of the different presidents on the military is to allow the vote of the military to speak for itself. I can't say which way they went but I would guess that Kerry's "I voted for funding the War in Iraq right before I voted against it" (or whatever he said) convinced those fighting for us to vote for Bush so that they didn't get hung out to dry so some politician could make a point with their lives...."


As someone who's served, I can tell you that Joe Grunt cares little about politics; Joe Grunt wants more pay and better living conditions, and rightly so. There is a myth out there, re-enforced by the career military, that the Republicans pay better and treat the military better then the Democrats. Anyone willing to do the research can discover that isn't true, but most don't. However, I have not spoken to one active duty service member that likes Bush; almost all voted for him, but because they were afraid that Kerry would pull out, which would make their sacrifice, the death and the personal loss senseless. Now that he's back in office, they are pinning their hopes on Congress to do something, and really hoping the Pentagon will pull its head out of their asses and start running Iraq like they are interested in finishing the campaign. As a side note, a couple of the folks would also like to meet Don Rumsfeld in a dark alley one night and show him exactly how they feel about the way he's running this show.

"Make some point with their lives?" That's the third time I've heard that this week - must be the new buzz-phrase from Rush (I caught him once whining about Carter and the Egypt Grain Embargo as if a 30-year old event was the cause of all the listeners woes. How can you people take him so seriously, if he has to mine the past to get some Democrat-bashing material today?) From the beginning, I've disliked Bush's handling of Iraq on many levels (the primary point is that we're the US and we don't start wars - we end them,) but I've always seen this fiasco as him "making a point with their lives." I've seen Rumsfeld denying supplies as him trying to "save face" because he didn't plan ahead and it's costing us a lot more than we had been told. I see Colin stepping down because he tried to do the right thing, but was overruled by these 4F'ers who have an "agenda" and he's no longer willing to tarnish his honor by being associated with it. But, hey, for the Republicans, it's all about their boy winning; calling them on their mistakes is just "hating America."

General Economic Welfare

Observation:

Pimco.com

This is one of those dry economics white papers that everyone hates reading. In general, it's a discussion of how the US cannot sustain it's current position in the world and offers suggestions on how to ease the transition. While I disagree with some of the author's positions (he hammers the Fed too much and he seems to think that we're rulers of the world and subject to the worlds' whim at the same time,) he's validated many of the points I've been talking about these last few months, including some of his projections and recommendations he has for government intervention. I'll post his suggestions here, for folks who don't care to read the whole thing:

-----

VII. Summary of Policy Recommendations

There is a need to immediately implement a number of important structural measures affecting the global participants. Included in this Category I list of critical adjustments to increase savings, reduce debt and improve current account deficit are:

1. Cut by 15% across the board all U.S. social spending programs.
2. Increase U.S. tax rates.
3. Increase incentives to save in U.S. - consumption taxes.
4. Devise capital controls such that capital cannot be exported out of the U.S.
5. Debt renegotiation/forgiveness by countries with cumulative high trade surplus with the U.S.
6. Change the Federal Reserve Bank objective function to include a constraint on the size of the trade deficit.
7. Prohibit sale of highly sensitive technology and defense to any and all foreign countries.
8. Revalue Chinese currency to U.S. dollar by 40 percent.
9. Targeted protective tariffs if needed.
10. Renegotiate WTO.
11. Prohibit the Fed from purchasing bonds from foreign holders of U.S. debt.


All of the above measures are of great and equal importance and need to be implemented as a package. Piecemeal implementation violates the requirement that all participants must contribute to the readjustment of the global economy.

Category I initiatives need to be followed by a second set of policy measures that we will call Category II. These initiatives are crucial to the long run political-economic stability of the U.S. economy.

1. Increase U.S. defense spending.
2. Develop incentive-based programs for youth, education and health. Take funds from programs for elderly.
3. Reduce minimum wage in U.S. by 50%.
4. Repeal regressive Prop 13 in California.
5. Tax prosperous countries that have benefited from prior IMF bailout recipient
6. Proceeds disbursed to IMF "equity" holders.
7. Tax holders of Iraqi debt for invasion "appreciation" and ultimate "occupation" appreciation value.
8. U.S. Treasury needs to extend average maturity of the debt issued.


Finally, a few additional measures are necessary to help safeguard U.S. national interests. These measures include:

1. Conflict of interest disclosure by any person providing policy advice.
2. Prohibit consulting contracts for any public official leaving office for two-year period.


Pretty radical recommendations, huh?

Now, I doubt that there is a single person reading this that will agree with every bullet he recommends. Hell, even *I* don't agree with everything he says (minimum wage reduction and increased defense spending are two notable ones) even though I think he's got the general idea right (especially slashing social programs, raising taxes and devising capital export controls.) Can you imagine the current Administration taking these steps? Can you imagine the country allowing it to happen?

“What was that one? – ‘Develop incentive-based programs for youth, education and health. Take funds from programs for elderly’"


Say what? Over my dead and rotting body! Fu*k 'em in the a*s for that one!!”

See, I don't disagree with that one. If you look at the last 50 years (especially the last 35,) you'll see that it's been going downhill steadily - financially speaking. There were big spikes during Clinton (for current account deficit,) Reagan (for budget deficit and wealth exportation) and Bush Jr. (for all the above.) Our political system allows for the election of representatives to serve at our behest in the government. In essence, we elected the people who destroyed our financial situation. Sometimes, we re-elected them. Well, I shouldn't say "we" - mostly it was those folks who are currently being catered to by the government.. the elderly. They either created the mess we're in or allowed it to happen, and I don't see a problem with them helping to try and fix it.

Now, before I get labeled as some sort of geriatrophobe (is that a word?), I'd like to say that I do believe that one of duties of society is to care for the old and infirm. However, I also think that people ought to be responsible for their actions; this happened under their stewardship, they should contribute to it's repair. I feel the same way about some of the folks with strong Republican leanings; you elect someone like Bush, then don't start crying (or try and blame the Democrats when the Republicans are doing the damage) when things start going to hell. Actually take some responsibility for once. Concessions could be given for his first term - we didn't know. But this time around, we knew better. That's why I said what I said way back in November; if the American people want to run this country into the ground, then so be it - but I'm not letting them take me with it.

You may not like what I've said here, but listen to what I'm saying. I firmly believe that our children and grandchildren are going to HATE us in the next 20-30 years; either hate us for making it happen, or hate us for letting it happen.

"As a basis for future discussions, how long do you think the lag is between some fiscal action being taken and it's affect on the economy occurring? For instance, how long did it take the cuts in the Fed rate that occurred at the start of Bush's first term to have a noticeable affect on the overall economy?"


That's a tough one. There are a lot of variables that come into play when you are talking about macroeconomic changes; that old adage about a "butterfly flapping its wings raises the price of rice in China" applies. The best economists out there just try and track the chain as far as they can and hope that they are right. But, I'll give you my general feeling towards fiscal actions and the effect on our economy.

Action comes in the form of "short term" and "long term" - bearing in mind that neither “short” nor "long" is exactly predictable. Most "short term" actions (i.e. - Fed rate adjustments, tax cuts, trade adjustments, etc,) tend to take as little as 3-4 months, up to about a year for the effect to be noticed. Much beyond a year and you can assume the action had no effect. Case in point - the anticipated effect of the tax cuts of 2001 never realized and we can assume they won't be; however, they may very well have, in conjunction with plummeting interest rates and an unanticipated willingness of the consumer base to spend till their eyes bled, helped stave off a worse recession than what we had. The problem with short term action is that it usually has unintended long-term consequences - that's one of the reasons Alan has been watching the global market *very* carefully these last couple of years; he's afraid that the tax cuts, soft dollar and low rates will further decrease the foreign investment, which would start the dominoes falling. As it stands now, we're suffering from our short-term cures with the decrease; while no longer in recession, the US certainly hasn't recovered from the recession.

"Long term" actions (i.e. - Fed rate adjustments, policy change that effect trade, permanent tax cuts; yes, they are practically the same,) generally take a little as a year on up before any effect is noticed. The big problem with long-term actions lies in the fact that as time goes on, it becomes difficult to see if economic changes one way or the other are truly being effected by that action. It's usually much easier to see what short-term effect they have; a good example is the tax cuts again - while it certainly did something to the economy in 2001, whether or not it will help in the future is uncertain. Some say that we can't afford permanent tax cuts until the savings rate increases and we pay down our debt; others say that permanent tax cuts *are* the solution to the savings rate problem and debt reduction. As a side note - I agree with the former; until the US gets it's fiscal act together, about the worst thing we can do is decrease our revenue. The second worst thing we can do is keep spending like we have, regardless of tax cuts.

The situation also comes into play; there are some "long term" actions that have an immediate impact on the economy - bond rates are a good example; bonds are long-term investments that encourage foreign capital that can have an immediate impact to the economy. If we need foreign investment, then it's used as a short-term tool for internal stability; if we don't, then it becomes a long-term tool for global stability and growth. And, sometimes the impact isn't seen at all, because the action taken is meant to stave off something - if nothing happens, it's sometimes hard to see what caused the "not happened." Currency value is a good example here; if the US decided to buy back a lot of the dollars floating around out there at the same time the EU suffered a recession and we developed a new technology the world needed - and the dollar stopped dropping in value - it'd be hard to say exactly what impact the buyback alone had. It could be that butterfly flapping its wings, after all.

So, I guess that my answer would be it depends. With your example, the markets reacted immediately to the first cut announcement - so it was instant. But, over the next few weeks, nothing. The next few cuts were met with indifference; the investment flow went into bonds versus stocks. Roughly 6 months after the first rate decrease, we see some small trends moving back into stocks. Mortgage rates fell (while there is no direct connection with the Fed rate, they do tend to follow each other with about a 2-month lag,) which boosted the housing market in 2002. Then we started talking about invading Iraq, and the Middle East pulled it's money out of the US - which caused the crash in 2002 and overrode any further rate cut benefit. From that point on, it's hard to say what effect it's had since rate cuts had become "normal" and somewhat predictable and the ME hasn't put any of its money back into the US. Layers upon layers, cause and effect.

I'll wrap up with an analogy I came up with talking to a rabid Republican co-worker who was spouting the party lines of "deficits don't matter" and "we're too strong to fail:"

The deficits are like an engine revving. When you're driving along and you have all your gears available, everything runs the way it should to get you where you're going and you have enough spare power to pass that slow bastard up ahead (surplus wealth.) However, if you lose a gear or two (deficits) your ability to get power is limited - sometimes you can do it by red-lining your engine at a lower gear, but you can't sustain it. It makes matters worse when you put cheap gas in the tank (have a heavy credit/debt commitment.) But, you have to get where you are going, so you keep red-lining the engine. There are only three outcomes to this:

1) the engine overheats and you start damaging parts of it, but you get where you're going - this time (we continue at pace, but continue to bleed our wealth dry while weakening our overall world position.)

2) you slow down and get there late (we lose our position of power and standard of living, but keep our fundamentals in place.)

or

3) the engine burns out and you stop (economic collapse and another Great Depression.)

Any way you look at it, deficits matter, and nobody is too strong to fail.

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- Rod/Mixer