Wednesday, December 5, 2012

'Living' on Social Security

I live on Social Security.  Well, live isn't exactly the word.
I am attempting to survive on Social Security.  Not very successfully.
So, when I see Republicans, and especially John Boehner, talk about the necessity to cut entitlements like Social Security and Medicare I get angry.  I would laugh if it wasn't so tragic.
I know we have problems economically.  The Republicans ignore the fact these problems developed on their watch.  George Bush came into office with a surplus in the Federal Government.  When he left we were deep in debt, fighting two wars on a credit card and the financial community (under his regulations and oversight) was on the edge of collapse.
Boehner’s latest proposal to cut back on the cost of living increases for Social Security recipients is just plain offensive.  In the business world Boehner is so fond of championing the average yearly salary increase is 3%.  The increase in Social Security benefits for 2013 is just 1.7%.  Somehow I don’t see that as excessive, though Boehner seems to think it is.
In real numbers, in 2012 I received $906.80 per month after deductions for Part B of Medicare and a Part D drug plan.  Next year I will receive approximately $925.34 a month with my ‘generous’ cost of living increase.  And I say approximately because I don’t know the exact amount of the Part B deduction the government will take in 2013.

(NOTE: Just an update.  I got my notice of Social Security benefits for 2013.  I was wrong.  Medicare part B is taking more of a deduction.  In 2013 I will get $919.10 per month.)
The national poverty level for a single person in the United States in 2012 was $11,170 (that works out to $930.84 a month).  Which means I was about $24.04 a month above the poverty level this year.
I know there are people who have it way worse off than I do living on Social Security; and I'm not doing that well.  Sp, how can the Republicans justify calling for these people to take a cut in income and abandon them like they were so much refuse?
When I see Boehner crying great crocodile tears over the state of the economy and the growing Federal debt just doesn't move me.
I might even be able to stomach all this irritating rhetoric if it wasn't for the fact that all of Congress opted out of the Social Security system years ago in favor of a much more lucrative retirement plan.
OK, John, you want me to struggle along on even less than I'm getting now?  Fine.  Just as soon as you and all the other members of Congress make yourselves subject to the Social Security system, then we can talk about cuts in the program.
You want me to live on less money because I’m a drain on the economy and increasing the national debt?  I will make you a deal.  I will try to tighten my belt a little more.  I will do this just as soon as you try living on less than $1,000 a month for a while.  You spend no more than that on things like food, gas, electricity, water, gasoline, telephone service and garbage pickup for say three months.  After that, if you still believe the people living on Social Security have it so easy, we can talk about cuts in things like Medicare and Social Security.
I suspect if Congressmen had to survive under a retirement system like Social Security all the talk of cuts would be a whole lot quieter than it is now.  It all depends on whose Ox is being gored, and this Congress doesn't have an Ox in the system.
I also am not buying all this crap about "we can't harm the job creators."  History shows during the Bush Administration years, which gave all kinds of benefits to these 'job creators', there were actually fewer jobs created than in the previous ten years.  Businesses shipped jobs overseas to maximize profits, held wages stagnate and eliminated positions to make the workers they kept work harder.
The 'job creators' also have flourished in the compensation area far beyond what the common worker has gained.  In 1980 the average CEO of a company (assuming the CEO is the job creator) was compensated 42 times more than the average worker.  By 2011 the average CEO was making 380 times more than the average worker.
Forgive me if I don't cry any tears for these poor, oppressed 'job creators.'
Recent news stories have pointed out American businesses are sitting on trillions of dollars in cash instead of creating new jobs or investing in their businesses.  I can only assume they are sitting on this money in the hopes Republicans can push through some plan to let them keep more of those dollars.
So, as we rush toward the "fiscal cliff" I just can't work up any sympathy for plans to screw old people in favor of benefiting 'job creators' or people who are doing just fine in these tough economic times.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wall Street Sucks

I hate the stock market.
There are a number of reasons, but I'll just dwell on the personal.
Let's set aside the fact the stock market (and the people who work there) helped precipatate the financial crisis we are living through right now.
Let's put aside the fact no one connected with Wall Street has been prosecuted in all this.
I'll even ignore the fact my 401K lost a lot of its' value just at the time I needed it.
Let's just talk about my recent dealings with the money men in their temple.
I used to own stock.
I say used to because the company cashed it out.  I owned ten shares of Rohr Industries. It was because I worked there at one time.
But Rohr became B.F. Goodrich Aerospace, which became Enpro Industries, which was bought out by United Technologies.  I had no say in further participation in any of it.  I just got a check for partial shares I held in a retirement rollover account. I also got a notice I had to surrender the ten shares I had a certificate for.
Unfortunately, I put the certificate away in a box in garage a number of years ago. A stock broker doesn't want to deal with anything less than 100 shares of anything. So, my ten shares would be a pain in the butt for any broker and cost me some unknown fee for his services.
Still, I had been thinking of cashing in the stock anyway because I needed the money.
The buyout just happened before I could make any arrangements of my own.
I searched for the certificate, but had no success. My garage was neater than it had been before my family rebuilt my house while I was sick, but it still yeilded nothing after a fairly exhaustive search.
So, I had to choose the option where I told them I had lost the certificate. Real pain in my butt.
First I had to have the form notorized where I swore I had lost the certificate.
Next I had to provide a fee for a replacement certificate. This even though noone would ever see a certificate because it was being surrendered and cashed out. (Cost=$50)
Next I had to send them money in the amount of 3 percent of  the value of the stock I was surrendering. This went into an impound account as a hedge against fruad. (Cost=$38.25)
Next I had to send the funds in a certified check. (Cost=$5)
Finally I had to send the whole mess to the broker by registered mail, return receipt requested. (Cost=$19.10)
So I was surrendering ten shares at a value of $127.50 each; total $1,275.
Now I needed every penny of the money for that stock, but it cost me $122.35 to get my funds. And I get a net of $1,152.65.
I suspect a stock broker won't even pass gas unless someone pays him a fee to do it.
So I have to laugh every time I see one of those television advertisements for something like e-Trade.  Why in the world would I participate in a system that nearly destroyed this country financially and got a fee for doing it?

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Election Circus

We have a totally dysfunctional election system in this country.
A person who wants to run for office has to have certain skills in order to be successful during an election.  The problem is that skill set is not the same one needed to actually be successful in carrying out the duties of the office.  So while someone might be a great campaigner he or she is not necessarily the one best suited to perform the duties of the office once the election is finished.
I have been watching the circus the national election process has become.  And I have developed an ever-increasing disgust with politics and the political process as it is currently structured.
An example of why I call it a circus can be found in the Iowa caucuses.  Here is a small state in the middle of the county which has been raised into prominence just because it has the earliest date for picking candidates.  The demographic makeup of the state does not reflect that of the country as a whole.  The population of Iowa is 3,022,555, but only 121,000 people were expected to participate in the Republican caucuses.  That’s roughly 4% of the state population.
So what you have is a small percentage of the population of a state that doesn’t demographically represent the country as a whole picking a candidate for office.
I thought one of the most telling remarks about the Iowa caucuses provided by a television reporter covering the whole process was the winner of the caucuses has never gone on to be the nominee of the party.
To make the whole thing seem even more like a waste of time the ‘final’ results weren’t announced for 17 days and then the Republican party in Iowa refused to name an official winner.  Initial reports gave the victory to Mitt Romney man by eight votes.  Then the ‘final’ count says Rick Santorum won by 34 votes, but the GOP officials said the true results might never be known because there were typos in the vote counts from 131 precincts and eight precincts failed to turn in their paperwork at all.  So the ‘final’ results weren’t exactly final after all, but after pressure from the state central committee Santorum was finally declared the ‘winner’ of the Iowa caucuses.
The Republican Party, to date, has held a staggering number of candidate debates.  And this is just to pick the person who will eventually have to debate President Obama in the run up to the general election.
It is little wonder we get a dismal turnout on the actual Election Day.
By the time November rolls around the American public will have witnessed something like a full year of campaigning by candidates.  One candidate, Newt Gingrich, began officially running for president on May 11, 2011.  That’s roughly 17 months of campaigning before the November election.  We will have witnessed primaries and caucuses in 50 states and the District of Columbia, two party conventions, incalculable television ads and a mind numbing amount of television news reports, opinion polls and analyses.
Adding to the mind numbing rhetoric and interminable news coverage, the massive expense of the election almost defies description.  One Super PAC just received its’ second $5 million check to promote the candidacy of Newt Gingrich.  Through January 26, 2012 Super PACs backing Republican candidates and causes had spent approximately $35,283,865.  This doesn’t include what the candidates themselves may have spent or what the Democratic Party and PACs may have spent in promoting the eventual candidacy of President Obama.
Roll that number around in your head for a minute.  Then, think of what that amount of money could do in your community or your schools.  And this is just the beginning of what will be spent until a Republican nominee is chosen and a fraction of what will be spent by both parties before the national election in November.  Can’t your think of some better uses for all that money?
And as if the election process isn’t expensive and messy enough, once these people get elected to national office they spend a great deal of their time in political maneuvering instead of actually governing.  Congress has become nothing but a pit of political bickering and not a legislative body.
The actual election is now 10 months away and I can hardly wait for it to be over.  I’m already weary of television reports about sniping candidates, opinion polls, television ads and the latest debate.  And the thing that makes it even worse is all the action so far has been one party fighting among itself.  By the time we get around to having a representative for each party campaigning, the entire nation may be totally numb and unresponsive.
With such a vested interested in the current system I doubt either party would be willing to change the campaigning process, but something is needed that would cut down on the clutter and the expense.  I suspect nothing will cut down on the negative rhetoric which has proved so useful in beating an opponent.
Most likely it will be up to the general public to say “enough” to the negative campaigning, the length of campaigning and to the massive amounts of money spent on campaigns.  This isn’t a call to arms, but a suggestion maybe you should do something to make your thoughts known on the “election season” and make it shorter and cheaper if not more civil.