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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Who caused the global fiscal crisis?

I'm still neck deep in dialog with my conservative Republican friend who is continuing to carry the Republican mantra that the global fiscal crisis is solely due to the actions (pressure) from Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.

I have been debating this issue for a couple of days now. As a former politician I fail to see how two pols could have had this kind of power and influence left unchecked by the other side. If Barney Frank pressured the lender to make predatory loans to those who could not afford them, why did the Republicans not expose what was going on?

As I said to my friend, the directive to the bankers to cease red lining and not making loans to low to moderate income areas of the country was good policy. No one directed the bankers to make faulty, and in some cases illegal, loans.

You have any thoughts on who might be responsible?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Regulations and regulators

I'm giving some thought to doing a column on regulations and regulators. I'm one who believes that keeping track of entities and corporations is probably not a bad idea, because arguaby, left to their own device some corporations and corporate executives will gladly do wrong.

These guys bear watching. That said, should they all be treated as guilty until proven innocent? I have some first hand knowledge on the subject and would welcome your thoughts on the matter.

I expect to write the column on Sunday and publish it in the Bennington Banner a week from Saturday.

Stay tuned

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas in America

Good morning folks,

It's Christmas in America.  For most of us it is the most joyous time of the year. For others less fortunate that may not be the case.

So take just a few minutes out of your day today to ponder on what it might be like to be someone else on this Christmas. Then, think about what you might be able to do to make a difference. After all, isn't that why we're all here?

Enjoy the day and Happy New Year to all of you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Welfare - who needs it?

I'm way deep in an email conversation with a dear Republican friend of mine (no that's not an oxymoron) and I'm not sure I'm making any headway in converting him.  (He's desperately trying to convert me as well; to no avail).

I think in my next round to "talks" with him I'm going to agree with him on his stand on welfare and social programs (he hates them - big surprise).  I'm going to suggest that we make the tax cuts for the rich permanent and that we abolish any and all social welfare programs.  All those deadbeat moms out there who are having more and more kids just so they can get a raise on their welfare checks are going to be in for a big surprise.  Those new mothers counting on a little help from the W.I.C. will now have to compete at the dumpster right along with the rest of the poor.  Medicare???  Nope, that'll be gone so your parents and grandparents who are just barely hanging on as it is, will just have to suck it up and go without their meds; or maybe they could sell the last remaining family heirlooms and give their last few bucks to the big pharmacuticals.  Hey, those companies have a high overhead and need the money.

Cutting back on these programs will save a lot of money.  Sure, people will be out in the street and we'll be able to see a real-life Tiny Tim gimping around the streets of your town, but too bad.  The rich need their tax cuts.  But there'll be a catch.

When George Bush wants a new stadium for his Texas Rangers baseball team, he's going to have to dig into his pocket to pay for it.  No more government money for that stuff.  Tit for tat.  When the oil companies say that they cannot possible exist (along with their record-breaking profits) without a government handout for exploration, bummer.  Go to your rich banker friends and see if they'll give you a loan.  Oh, and speaking of loans, no more loan guarantees for the 70 year old nuclear industry.  If you can't stand on your own two feet by now, then you'll have to fall right along with those unwed mothers.

Think of the money we're going to save.  We'll be on a roll.  We can privatize our schools, which will save us even more.  Fire all those old, union teachers and bring in the young, not-quite-certified teachers.  You won't need to worry about how dismal these private schools are because if you're rich it won't matter.  You'll be sending your little Johnny to a great private school, just like you were going to do anyway.

Now you workin' people who are going to save a bundle can go right out and spend your $5 or $10 grand on a new motorcycle or snowmobile.  You'll never have enough to by the much needed medication for your parents, so what the hell, you might as well go blow it.  Those old people are going to check out anyway.

You rich folks, well here's a different story.  You're going to have to struggle and it's not going to be easy.  You may end up with an additional $400,000 or $500,000.  It might even be a couple of million if you're wicked rich.  You already have a ton of money and every single thing you've ever wanted.  Think of the burden that comes with this money.  You'll be up late at night drinking a glass of imported Cognac fretting away on how best to invest this money so you don't lose it.

Of course, you could always consider giving it to the poor who could use a little help.  Oh, sorry, what was I think.  That ain't gonna happen.

Merry Christmas

The Morning After

Good morning.  As we get ready to celebrate Christmas in America we should take a moment to ponder on what just happened in Congress over the past couple of weeks.

Many of us had just about counted Obama out of the game.  He's not been quite as impressive as many of us thought during the campaign.  All that changed as of yesterday.  This president has ended his first two years in office with arguably as one of the most accomplished presidents of all times.  Miraculously he has done almost everything that he set out to do and the one or two things he didn't complete he has now vowed to come back next year and fight for.

And that's what many had hoped to see; a little more fight from this man.  But he's smart.  He knows not to push too soon.  He has been resoundingly underestimated by friends and foes.  The Republicans were even opining yesterday that Obama was getting everything he wanted. 

To get what he wanted, though, he had to hand over 100's of billions of dollars to the nation's most wealthy.  That's a big trade and hopefully one that the American people will not stand for.  If people firmly grasp the implications of shelling out China's money to pay billionaires and leaving the middle class with a huge debt, they may not be quite so happy about it.  They may just start calling their Reps & Senators and shouting "No Way".

Should that happen, Obama would win it all.  He'll be in great position at the end of the next two years and we'll look forward to having him as our president for another four years.  But a lot could happen between now and then.

In the meantime, best to you and yours for the Holidays.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I will admit that I was one of those people who was pretty down on our president.  I voted for him, but have not been real happy with his performance.  We're getting more involved with Afghanistan and its corrupt leader.  We're getting out of Iraq, but we're still there.  He caved on tax cuts for the rich.  He compromises way too soon for my liking.  It hasn't seemed like he's had a lot of fight in him.

That's all changed in the last two weeks.  I have watched him achieve more in the past two weeks than some presidents in their entire presidency.  Yes, I'm still unhappy about extending tax cuts for people who don't need any help, but the trade was definately a good one.  He got a lot, which shows just how committed the Republicans are to the mega-rich and just how much they could care less about you and me.

He got "Don't ask; don't tell" repealed.  He got a nuclear arms treaty with Russia.  Neither of these wins were imaginable three weeks ago.

Obama's performance of the past couple of weeks reminds me of the Martial Artist about to be attacked.  He stands there, cool, calm, collected, showing no fear.  He waits patiently for his opponent to strike.  He stands still as he watches his opponent throw the first strike.  He waits as the punch comes directly towards his face.  He slows it all down still not moving or showing any emotion.

Just as the fist is about to hit his face he faints his head to one, just slightly while bringing up his hand and lightly perrying the punch off center; not a lot, just enough to miss the target.  The attacking opponent's momentum causes him to fall forward, off balance.  It is at this precise moment that Obama strikes landing devastating blows to his opponent knocking him out.  The opponent never knew what hit him.

Success of this nature can only be achieved by maintaining calm and control; two qualities we all know that President Obama possesses.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Let 'em eat cake

I'm still into a protracted email conversation with my conservative Republican friend.  As I was about to type this I just saw Sen. Mitch McConnell on TV saying that Americans want him to cut spending.  That may be true, but which spending is he talking about?

I would be thrilled if we cut back on our military spending and the spending on subsidies for huge corporations and industries such as the oil companies, the coal companies, the nuclear industry, and the unnecessary wars we have going on.

But somehow I don't think that's what McConnell has in mind.  He's looking at Social Security, Medicare, the new health care bill and any/all programs that help people.  In the perfect world for these folks who are very well off, there would be no such thing as a social program.  If you can't make do, tough luck.  These guys are the Scrooges and we are the Tiny Tim's, except that there's no happy ending to our story.

Look at this AP story and ask yourself if it makes sense to borrow money from China (or cutting programs for the poor, sick and aged) to give huge tax breaks to people making millions of dollars.  Mitch McConnell has no problem with this and he's now standing up and saying that the American people are on his side.

Are we?

CHICAGO - In Illinois, a pharmacist closes his business because of late Medicaid payments. In Arizona, a young father's liver transplant is canceled because Medicaid suddenly won't pay for it. In California, dentists pull teeth that could be saved because Medicaid doesn't pay for root canals.

Across the country, state lawmakers have taken harsh actions to try to rein in the budget-busting costs of the health care program that serves 58 million poor and disabled Americans. Some states have cut payments to doctors, paid bills late and trimmed benefits such as insulin pumps, obesity surgery and hospice care.
Lawmakers are bracing for more work when they reconvene in January. Some states face multibillion-dollar deficits. Federal stimulus money for Medicaid is soon to evaporate, and Medicaid enrollment has never been higher because of job losses.

In the view of some lawmakers, Medicaid has become a monster, and it's eating the budget. In Illinois, Medicaid sucks up more money than elementary, secondary and higher education combined.
Medicaid costs are shared by the federal and state governments. It's not just the poor and disabled who benefit. Wealthier people do, too, such as when middle-class families with elderly parents in nursing homes are relieved of financial pressure after Medicaid starts picking up the bills.

Contrary to stereotype, it's the elderly and disabled who cost nearly 70 cents of every Medicaid dollar, not the single mother and her children.

In California, Medicaid no longer pays for many adult dental services. But it still pays for extractions, that is, tooth-pulling. The unintended consequence: Medicaid patients tell dentists to pull teeth that could be saved.
"The roots are fine. The tooth could be saved with a root canal," said dentist Nagaraj Murthy, who practices in Compton, Calif. "I had a patient yesterday. I said we could do a root canal. He said, 'No, it's hurting. Go ahead and pull it. I don't have the money.' "

Murthy recently pulled an elderly woman's last tooth, but Medicaid no longer pays for dentures.
States can decide which optional services Medicaid covers, and dental care is among cutbacks in some places. Last year's economic stimulus package increased the federal share of Medicaid money temporarily. But that money runs out at the end of June, when the federal government will go back to paying half the costs rather than 60 to 70 percent. So more cuts could be ahead.

In Arizona, lawmakers stopped paying for some kinds of transplants, including livers for people with hepatitis C. When the cuts took effect Oct. 1, Medicaid patient Francisco Felix, who needs a liver, suddenly had to raise $500,000 to get a transplant.

The 32-year-old's case took a dramatic turn in November when a friend's wife died, and her liver became available. Felix was prepped for surgery in hopes financial donations would come in. When the money didn't materialize, the liver went to someone else, and Felix went home. His doctor told him he has a year before he'll be too sick for a transplant.

"They are taking away his opportunity to live," said his wife, Flor Felix. "It's impossible for us or any family to get that much money."

Prescription drug coverage in states is an optional benefit, another possible place to cut, Rowland said. "But if you cut back on people's psychotropic drugs, is that penny-wise and pound-foolish? Do they end up in institutions where Medicaid pays more for their care?"

In Illinois, late payments became the rule.  Tom Miller closed his pharmacy in rural southern Illinois this summer and is going through bankruptcy, largely because the state was chronically late making Medicaid payments to him. Most of his former customers are in the program.