Monthly Archives: September 2011

Barack Obama: President Delivers Debt Reduction Plan to Joint Congressional Deficit Committee

As I suspected, in part, President Barack Obama delivered his deficit reduction plan to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction.

I have yet to read all of the contents, but one thing I did notice is that the proposal for federal employees to “contribute” more to their pensions is really a giveback of salary (because of the operation of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund). I guess “Third Way” got its way in part (1.2% rather than 5.8%). But knowing how this town works another time that the media whips up the public about federal employees, watch for the so-called contribution to increase. [With all of the givebacks and pay freezes, federal salaries may never keep up with the cost of living in this expensive country.]

Will the plan get a majority vote and get a expedited vote in Congress? I do not know. Maybe some of the very bitter provisions can be tolerated if  (very big “if”) every income class participates in addressing the lack of revenue problem.

Barack Obama: Obama Administration Releases its American Jobs Act Proposal

The Obama Administration provides a statement to Congress, section-by-section analysis, and text of the bill at the White House website.(http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/12/message-president-congress-sectional-analysis-and-text-american-jobs-act)

September 11, 2001: Hard to Believe Ten Years Has Passed; Still Remember the Events of the Day

A decade ago, September 11, 2001, the day was at first a very beautiful late-summer day. I was downtown in an office. As I started to work (about 8:45), I noticed that I could not get on the Internet. The management of the business did not inform the employees of any external problems, and so I figured something was wrong with the company’s Internet connection. It was not until mid-morning that a colleague had said planes had hit the World Trade Center in New York City. I later found out that the Pentagon was struck by an airplane as well. There were rumors that another plane was in the air heading for another target, rumors of other places that were hit, and other confusing rumors.

It was an unusual feeling; the workday was over. I was able to get in touch with family (some of whom lived in the New York City metropolitan area), and I e-mailed friends who had just moved to the New York City area (they were fine).

Later in the morning, I was able to get on the Internet and was able to see the terrible extent of the damage done by the airplane hijackers that day—people jumping out of the top floors of the burning World Trade Center towers to certain death, damage to the Pentagon, a plane crash in Pennsylvania, workers at the Capitol running out of its buildings. Rumors lessened and facts increased. I was dismissed from work at about 1:00 p.m.

When I left the office, the roads were tranquil. (I had missed the earlier traffic jams as people sought to leave the city at the same time.) As I took the subway (basically empty), I was able to see the smoke from the Pentagon from the windows of the subway car.

Ten years on, many things have happened, yet I still remember the events of that day relatively clearly.

FICA: President Barack Obama Seemingly Is Using the Payroll Tax Cut as a Way to Weaken Support for FICA-Funded Programs; President Should Use General Funds to Provide Needed Economic-Crisis Assistance

President Barack Obama’s proposal to extend the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax cut harms the idea that FICA is a special-purpose tax to fund Social Security and Medicare. I feared the President’s proposal last year, knowing that his further proposals to extend would happen. Currently, the Congress requires the Treasury to arrange for an equivalent amount of cash to go to FICA-funded programs, which makes up for the “loss” due to the FICA tax cut. [P.L. 111-312, sec. 601(e)]. This tax cut seems to be a neat way of having the increase (not much ($934 on yearly average)) of cash to the citizenry, while having the Treasury ensure that the contributions to the FICA-funded programs are not reduced.

However, what the President has done is introduce the idea that the FICA tax is not a special-purpose tax for Medicare and Social Security, but rather the notion that FICA can be used for general current-revenue purposes. This change is subtle but very dangerous. While the current President can be said to support Social Security and Medicare, this very same FICA tax cut could be used to force cuts or substantially change both programs (by a future President who can be said to be opposed to FICA-funded programs). Therefore, I became seriously concerned when the so-called Democratic President used a GOP talking point to attempt to shame GOP congressional members to support an extension of the FICA tax cut (emphasis below mine).

Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will get a $1,500 tax cut next year.  Fifteen hundred dollars that would have been taken out of your pocket will go into your pocket.  This expands on the tax cut that Democrats and Republicans already passed for this year.  If we allow that tax cut to expire — if we refuse to act — middle-class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time.  We can’t let that happen.  I know that some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live.  Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away.  (Applause.)

The President is seemingly using the economic crisis as a way to begin the process of breaking the overwhelming popular support of the FICA-funded programs. The issue that some wealthy politicians face is the enduring support of FICA-funded programs. Because of how the U.S. manages its cash–using FICA funds in general revenues and issuing a nonmarketable Treasury bond (a promise to repay) in exchange for the cash–general revenues that are artificially low (due to the FICA borrowing) will have to be increased in order to pay the bonds redeemed by FICA-funded programs when the number of beneficiaries exceeds the proceeds collected from the FICA tax.

The President, when he deals with FICA-funded programs, must be carefully observed.

Deficit Committee: Sunlight Foundation, Half in Ten Publish Information about Members of Deficit Panel

I think that it is beneficial to get as much information about the politicians elected to represent the citizens of the United States. I have used information from the Open Secrets website to see the net worth of the members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction (JCDR)  and other members of Congressional leadership.

Now the Sunlight Foundation has added another piece of information on fundraisers; the website, www.halfinten.org, has published demographic information about the congressional districts of the individual members of the JCDR.

Third Way: Evaluating Group’s Document “Saving Social Security”; Proposal for Benefit Taxes on Higher-Income Seniors, Means-Testing Benefits Unacceptable

Having completed posting on the Third Way benefit-change proposals, I will now begin to evaluate the revenue-increase proposals.

First on the list is the idea to impose benefit taxes on higher-income seniors. Third Way proposes to reduce benefits on this group and then turns around and taxes the all benefits above $50,000. I don’t see anything wrong with the current system.

Social Security is not a welfare program should not be adjusted to become one. The same response is true for the “idea” of means testing benefits—no. This move would be a sure way to diminish confidence in the program and turn it into a welfare program, which it is not. If a person pays into the Social Security program, they should receive proceeds from the program. If outside income exceeds $34,000 (or $44,000 for couples), that amount would be taxable under the current system.

Third Way: Evaluating Group’s Document “Saving Social Security”; Proposal to Raise Retirement Age Also Denies the Fact of Aging

As I wrote in the previous post, Third Way advocates working up to 70. I stated previously that people should enjoy life activities before the hardships of aging set in.

In the Washington Post today, yet another reason why additional years of work should not be so forcefully advocated.

Many industries find themselves in a quandary. They often need older workers for their expertise, yet they also may need to accommodate their physical disabilities and their desire for more flexible schedules. And as workers stay on the job longer, they may need training in new technologies or work procedures.

In addition, the whole idea is to transfer the knowledge of the present working generation to the generations behind them. This article indicates that that effort is not happening, and only bad results can occur because of it.

Third Way: Evaluating Group’s Document “Saving Social Security”; Proposal for Work Rewards for Seniors Provides for an Unacceptable FICA Exemption

Continuing with the evaluation of the Third Way proposal for Social Security (with the awareness that the Joint Commission on Deficit Reduction is set to begin work soon), this post evaluates the Work Rewards for Seniors plan. Third Way proposes that senior citizens who work beyond a certain age should stop paying Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes. Third Way acknowledges a reduction of FICA revenue but assert that the proposal would produce savings sufficient to make up for the revenue loss.

  • I think that there should not be a cutoff for FICA. As long as you earn income, you pay into the Social Security system. That expectation began at the person’s first wage-earning job and continues that way until a person stops working for wages.
  • In addition, Third Way’s proposal causes problems when Social Security beneficiaries are not contributing to the Social Security system (from which the beneficiary is receiving funds).

On the Journey of Learning Spanish as a Second Language; Telenovelas on Telemundo

In an attempt to become comfortable speaking in Spanish, I watch several programs on Telemundo, a Spanish-language television network. I have found that it is difficult to learn a new language without hearing it spoken regularly. Also, I would like to develop the ability to think in a second language. Right now, I think and speak English primarily, But I would like to become more proficient in Spanish. As I speak very beginner Spanish right now, my thinking in English hinders me in speaking Spanish. However, I can write Spanish with a little more ease (though with more of an English sentence order).

As I am in the mode of learning a second language, I think it is a great idea that Telemundo has placed English translations of its evening shows during the week on CC3. Some of the programs I enjoy most are “Caso Cerrado”, “Decisiones Extremas”, and a fair number of the telenovelas (previously “La Reina del Sur” and now “La Casa de al Lado”).

After watching the network for several months, I can pick up on the high points of the dialogue without having to look at the screen sometimes. Sometimes I understand the spoken words better with my own literal translation than the English translation. Other times I learn something (for example, there’s a saying in Spanish “poner sus pantalones”, which literally means “to put on your pants”, but it really means something like “take responsibility” or “man up” (this CC3 translation made me chuckle as I read it.)).

But overall, as a learner of Spanish as a second language, I am still very much a novice because if asked something in Spanish my immediate reaction would be something in English. If I had time to think about it, I would be able to respond. I want to learn the Spanish verb conjugations and more vocabulary, but I am realizing that there may be no substitute for just speaking Spanish more often. I have found that people who speak Spanish have been very patient (and pleased) with my beginning, heavily American-accented Spanish (which encourages me to keep learning)).

I would hope that at some time in the future I would be able to travel to a Spanish-speaking country (just for the experience); the thought is intriguing.