Happy birthday, Social Security

On August 14, 1935, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, thereby creating a “safety net” for retirees who may not have saved enough to get by on their own after they stopped working. Unemployment was close to the all-time 1933 high of 24% in 1935, still at about 20%, with over 10 million unemployed.

At the time of the enactment, there were 37 workers paying in to the system for every retiree drawing out of it. Life expectancy was 61 years in 1935, so fewer people ever got to the point of collecting, and those that did collected for a much shorter time than they would today.

Today, there are only three workers paying in to the system for every retiree receiving benefits, and this number is expected to shrink even further going forward. The average life expectancy is now about 85, so many more people will collect Social Security and for much much longer.

Something’s got to give. The main problem, as we have seen most recently in the A.C.A. Repeal/Replace effort, is that once an entitlement is put in place, it is very, very hard indeed to take it away.

The apparent solutions to the new SSA math would be to extend the age of retirement so that there would be fewer retirees collecting for shorter periods, and also to institute further means tests for benefits. But it isn’t that simple.

The problem is  compounded by pressures on corporate leadership to reduce all benefits to employees, which are the biggest drag on their profits, the poor job prospects for older workers in the digital age, the freedom of a poorly-regulated financial industry to siphon off large chunks of “retirement” savings in the form of fees,  and the inevitable migration of jobs to cheaper labor markets.

dil1

I suppose all this is one of the main causes of younger people’s resentment against the Baby Boomer generation. Their view of it is the Boomers are selfish, entitled, and want to get paid now, while flipping off their kids and grand-kids who will have to fend for themselves. Again, it’s not that simple.

boomer1

Speaking as a Boomer who paid in to this pyramid scheme for decades, I certainly do want to get paid now, and, yes, I feel entitled to it. If that makes me selfish in the bargain, then so be it.

I fully understand that when the revolution begins, they will be coming for me first. Keep your eye out for me on the bread line – I’ll be the one carrying the sign that says, “Will work for C.O.P.D. meds”.

 

Republicans rising

In recent weeks, Tweety has made something of a point of complaining that a simple majority of 51  senators is not enough to enact his agenda, and that the filibuster rule, which generally works to require 60 votes, needs to go.

fili

Like everything else that flies out of his Twitter, he got these ideas from watching “Fox & Friends”, where people like Sean Duffy, Republican representative from Wisconsin, are putting it forward.

duffy

For the moment, we have seen that even abandoning the filibuster rule wouldn’t be enough, as only 48 Republicans voted for repeal of the A.C.A., but you can be assured that the Republicans will do whatever they feel they need to, rules and tradition and bi-partisanship be damned, as was shown in the case of the Gorsuch vote (Tweety’s only “accomplishment” to date).

But they may not have to change the rules. Republican voters may give them what they need to get over 60 senators. Duffy pointed out that, since the passage of the A.C.A seven years ago, Republicans have gained “1000 seats” nationwide.  Politifact confirms the truth of this scary fact.

The big gains are mainly in state legislatures. Ballotpedia notes that the Republican Party held more seats in 82 of 99 state legislative chambers (82.3 percent) in January 2017 than it did in January 2009.

“During President Barack Obama’s two terms in office, Democrats experienced a net loss of 968 state legislative seats, the largest net loss of state legislative seats in this category since World War II. The second-largest loss occurred following Dwight D. Eisenhower’s two terms in office, when Republicans were handed a net loss of 843 state legislative seats.

In addition, Democrats have lost  their majority of seats in the Senate, as well as over 60 seats in the House. And 12 governorships, too.

I don’t know whether six months of Trump has done anything to stem this rising tide, but I doubt it. The “Lock Her Up – No Regerts” crowd is still firmly behind their man as far as I can tell, even while the reality-based voters are more and more sickened by the incompetence, recklessness, greed, vulgarity, mendacity, and willful ignorance of the current administration.

This article sums up our feelings well, but until it appears somewhere other than the eastern elite lying fake media, it just doesn’t matter.

fear

 

Healthcare in the good old days

Ron Johnson, Republican Senator from Wisconsin, pointed out the other day that,

“In the ‘40s, 68 cents of every health care dollar was actually paid for by the patient. Today it’s only 11 cents. So nobody cares really what they pay for anything, which is why costs run out of control.”

He was saying that we’ve become a nation of self-entitled sissies that needs to straighten up and take some personal responsibility, because Obamacare is ruining everything. (I’m paraphrasing here. Liberally, if you’ll pardon the pun).

But hearing his argument took me aback a little, until I started to reflect on what a specious, dishonest load of bull it really is. He’s getting his facts from this 46-year-old report, and, yes, they’re basically correct. But it’s not the whole story.

First, let me say that the 1940’s were not the good old days, especially if you weren’t a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and no one should be pining for them. But I’ll just confine today’s discussion to health-related things.

We didn’t know much about a lot of things back then, e.g. that if you worked in a watch factory making radium dials, you shouldn’t be painting your nails with the stuff for smiles. This picture is from a book review of, “The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women. The tagline is, “they literally glowed from their work- and then it started killing them.”

radium

Want to lose weight and have more energy? Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette!

Little kids played with the liquid mercury they took from old thermometers – so much fun! DDT was sprayed on everything until Rachel Carson started pointing out a few problems with it in the 1950’s.

Kids routinely suffered through all the childhood diseases back then, before immunologists figured out how to prevent them.

“Female troubles”? You’re in luck.

ultrasound

And you just might get polio and live the rest of your life with a serious disability, like President Franklin D. Roosevelt did. Or like Mitch McConnell.

In the 1940’s the life expectancy at birth for a man was 60 years. Now it’s 79.

Health care costs more today because we’ve made a lot of advances, and technology isn’t cheap. Think about all the stuff they can do for you today that didn’t exist back then: C/T scans, laser surgery, organ transplants. The list goes on and on. In those good old days, your GP came to your house if you were sick, and you didn’t have a lot of access to specialists.

The question boils down to whether we care about the health of our citizens as much as every other industrialized and “civilized” country on the planet. Or do we want a country where your health, good or bad, is an opportunity for an insurance or pharmaceutical CEO to pay himself even more obscenely.

To Ron Johnson, I would say: Why stop at the 1940’s if we’re looking for the ideal period in health care history?  Let’s go back to those glorious days of our nation’s beginnings, in the 1790’s. What did the founding fathers think? Back then, you were expected to pay 100% of your own “health care”.  None of this namby-pamby 11% nonsense. Freedom! You were a real American – self-sufficient, proud and strong.

And sick. If you had appendicitis, you were a goner. Toothache? Let me get my pliers out. Off your feed? Got some fresh leeches right here to give you a nice, healthy bleed.

But if we know one thing about Republican Senators, it’s that they practice what they preach. To prove it, the GOML Investigative Reporting Team has been able to acquire an actual photo of the contents of Ron Johnson’s medicine chest, and we now have evidence that he is NOT a hypocrite and he loves the Good Old Days.

snake

 

Kansas snapping out of it?

Republicans don’t like taxes. Or government. But they could tolerate government if it had no money to do anything, i..e. if taxes were cut.

Every Republican running at the state or national level in recent memory has repeated basically the same idea: if you cut taxes and reduce regulations, you will unlock the creativity and potential of America’s entrepreneurs and thus unleash the greatest job-creation engine the world has ever known.

And, yes, a few hard-working and visionary people will become incredibly rich, fulfilling the “American dream”, but the rising tide will lift all boats and the benefits of this unrestricted free-enterprise will be better living for all our citizens as the newly-created wealth “trickles down”.

This has been repeated so often that it has become accepted as actually true, at least to the people repeating it.  To them, the tax-and-spend Democrats are crippling the economy, killing jobs, and ruining America. Cut taxes on the rich and all will be well.

The problem is that there is absolutely no evidence that it works that way and plenty of evidence that it doesn’t. The only part that ever actually works as expected is that a few people become incredibly rich. The trickling down part has never happened, but that doesn’t seem to impact the message or the messengers.

Kansas elected Sam Brownback as governor in 2010, and he took office in 2011. He had represented Kansas’ second congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1994 to 1996, part of Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution, and then was elected to fill the Senate seat vacated by Bob Dole.

Brownback pursued deep reductions in tax rates early in his administration, calling them a “real live experiment” in conservative governance.

His Wikipedia entry sums him up this way:

He opposes same-sex marriage and describes himself as pro-life. As Governor, Brownback signed into law the largest income tax cut in Kansas’ history, eliminating state income taxes for business profits realized as non-wage income, affecting mainly IRS “S filers.” Brownback turned down a $31.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to set up an insurance exchange as part of the federal health care reform law, signed a bill that blocked tax breaks for abortion providers, banned sex-selection abortions, and declared that life begins at fertilization.

The income tax cut generated a substantial budget deficit, affecting core government service, particularly in education, and led many former and current Republican officials to criticize his leadership in the run-up to the 2014 gubernatorial election and endorse his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis. Polls taken in September 2016 gave Brownback an approval rating of 23%, the lowest rating of all 50 governors in the United States. Brownback was reelected in a close race with a plurality, a margin of 3.7%.

But life got better, right? Tons of new jobs were created by that entrepreneurial job-creation engine, right? The benefits trickled down as promised, didn’t they? The “real live experiment” showed that Republicans have been right all along, right?

No. Of course not.

From this WaPo article:

kansas economyThe legislature began this year’s session with the government in a deficit of $350 million, leaving lawmakers mulling more budget cuts. They have drained the state’s reserves of cash, diverting money meant for roads, delaying payments to pension funds and, in essence, forcing local agencies to make loans to the state government.

Last year, the governor pushed back the schedule for 25 construction projects planned around the state, the climax of delays intended to keep more cash on hand. In March, Kansas’s Supreme Court ruled that the lack of funding for public schools violated the state’s constitution, forcing lawmakers to act.

But Republican legislators in Kansas seem to be waking up a little bit.

In a decisive repudiation of conservative tax-cutting philosophy, Kansas Republicans voted this week to reverse deep tax cuts enacted by Gov. Sam Brownback (R), a move that lays bare the challenges of one-party control and the risks for Republicans in Washington pursuing a similar policy at the national level.

Kansas’s legislature is overwhelmingly Republican, but moderate GOP lawmakers joined with Democrats after it became clear that support for Brownback’s policies had become a major political liability. In last year’s election, a number of Brownback’s allies lost key races to Democrats or moderate Republicans opposed to the tax cuts. On Tuesday, 18 of the state’s 31 GOP senators and 49 of the 85 Republican members of the House voted against the governor.

If Republicans in Kansas are finally snapping out of this destructive trance, maybe there’s some hope for the rest of the country as well. Fingers crossed.

Trump women honor the fallen

The Trump women set an appropriately respectful tone over the Memorial Day weekend, honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. Each woman rose to the occasion in her own unique way.

Melania chose to set a somber example by donning a $51,000 jacket by Dolce & Gabbana in Sicily, where the average annual income is $23,400.

meljacket

I’m certain she was thinking of the Allied Invasion of Sicily the whole time, in which 2811 American soldiers lost their lives and 6471 were wounded. The loss of American life there exceeded the losses on D-Day, when the allies landed in Normandy. About 5000 Canadian and British troops were also killed in Sicily, or missing in action, and 6500 wounded.

I didn’t read anything about a visit to the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery where 7861 of our dead are buried, but she must have gone there, right?

sicily

To add a bit more perspective to Melania’s wardrobe choices, consider that the CBO scoring of the revised Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act mentions some interesting figures:

Older Americans who make little money and buy individual insurance would see their premiums climb far beyond what they would be under Obamacare. A 64-year-old making $26,500 would pay $1,700 in premiums annually under Obamacare. In a state making those “moderate” changes to its market, that 64-year-old would pay $13,600, and in a state with no waivers, the cost would be $16,100. That’s more than nine times that person’s premium under the Affordable Care Act.

Ivanka, too, got into the right spirit over the weekend. Her blog suggested these activities as a way to honor the fallen:

Pack your basket with summer noodles and watermelon coolers

Heed Jamie Oliver’s ten tips for grilling the perfect feast

Wear all white. If we’re following the rules, it’s the first day we can wear it

Blast some tunes with this road-trip playlist

Cap the night off with a champagne popsicle.

popsicle

The champagne popsicle is a Memorial Day tradition here at GOML, the perfect way to respect and remember.

Meanwhile, the ever-sincere and never-exploitive Kellyanne Conway just about broke the internet with this tweet:

tweet1

Lots of appropriate responses to this in the above link, including,

“Our brave @POTUS got 5 draft deferments, attacked a gold star family, took a vet’s Purple Heart, and sent men to die in Yemen over dinner.”

“Grossly grossly embarrassing and disrespectful hearing this from conway Disgusting.”

“No it isn’t, if that were true you and @Potus would feel some sense of shame when denigrating one of their ranks.”

“Gold Star families are very special & I will never forget how rude and disgusting @realDonaldTrump @POTUS was to Khizr Khan and wife.”

 

 

 

Bird in a gilded cage

I generally have no sympathy for Melania Trump. Like the other Trump wives, she’s made her choices and can now live with them. She actually seems to have things pretty much her way, though, so no tears for her in any case. Doesn’t have to go to that backwater, D.C., doesn’t have to live with the man-baby, shops and gets her hair done at will.

I’m not aware if she has any “interests” beyond that, but that’s probably because I pay as much attention to Melania as I do Pippa Middleton, whoever that is.  All I know about Pippa is that he or she is in today’s Google news feed, and has something to do with being “royal” or whatever. It’s therefore probably not fair for me to have too many opinions about either of them – though being on everyone’s radar does seem like part of their shtick.

I do think it’s strange that on the one or two occasions that Trump has returned to New York since inauguration, he has actually stayed at his golf club in New Jersey, rather than Trump Tower with his lovely wife. Saving the taxpayers money, he explains. By creating yet another security nightmare at yet another location. Well, I guess he knows what he’s doing.

This picture is a bit sad, though. Even I have to admit that.

bird in a gilded cage

We’re used to seeing The First Lady walking dutifully behind The First Man-Baby, but Jesus Christ! Can’t these effing Saudis find one person who will talk to her? Or walk next to her? Or look at her? Isn’t there some American diplomat somewhere that could make this a little easier on her? How about a little dab of multiculturalism for the visiting dignitaries?

No. The women must remain as invisible as possible in the Kingdom. This is achieved in part by refusing to look at them when the infidels bring them along.

For the evening’s entertainment, the man-baby took part in a male-only traditional sword dance. So much fun.

sword

I’m not clear on where Melania spent the evening. Comparing nail polish with some of the wives somewhere out of sight? Couldn’t say.

Melania seems to me to be a bird in a gilded cage. I don’t know why anyone would aspire to this life or envy anyone in her position. Unlike the Saudi wives, however, it’s a role she chose for herself.

Mazel tov, fegelah.

Why no one is reading this

Spoiler Alert: it’s not because the content is less than brilliant 😉

Yesterday, I had an errand to do which required me to take a short subway ride on the Red Line during the morning rush. I went from Harvard to Charles/M.G.H. – in other words from one of the world’s most elite institutions to another, stopping at a third (M.I.T.) on the way.

I started thinking that more than a few people in the car were certainly involved in solving the problems of the present, and also predicting and solving the problems of the future. And then I thought about what a lousy job of predicting things the “futurists” have done in the past.

The futurists of the 1950’s completely whiffed on so many of the things they figured we’d have by now: flying cars made out of Saran-Wrap, elegant dinners consisting of a steak pill and a potato pill and a vintage wine pill, jet-packs we’d strap on for a short trip, a geodesic dome over the city ensuring clean air and perfect climate for all, and a million other things. But, OK, it was the 1950’s – of course they were wrong. Everyone then thought DDT, radium-dial watches, and a carton of Lucky Strikes would make life better for everyone, so you couldn’t really expect much accuracy from their predictions.

But the people who were predicting how the future would be just ten years ago completely missed the most important, pervasive, and life changing development of all: the “smart phone”.  On my brief subway ride, there were, I don’t know, maybe 150-200 people in the car I rode in, give or take.  Not one was reading a book or (gasp!) a newspaper, and not one was just looking blankly at nothing or taking a nap. Every one of them was absorbed in viewing a 5″ screen one foot from  their face.  Every. Single. Person.

phones

Get Off My Lawn is not very phone-friendly. Yes, you can read it on your phone and I know some of you do – but the format is different from what you’d see on a laptop or desktop. You may not see the “categories” links and you may not see the list of day-by day entries. There’s not much opportunity to select another article if you want to keep reading.

It’s rare for anyone to follow any of the links included in many GOML pieces. Clicking on links while using a phone is more cumbersome, and would take you to a different site from which it might not be that easy to return, rather just opening another tab or window as would happen on a desktop screen. And if you like what you’re reading, you are much less likely to email someone a link or forward it using the phone – cutting and pasting is out of the question, and even the usual “share” options are too much trouble. The “comments” that the regulars leave may not be seen on a phone without some determined effort, and you might not even think of leaving your own comment when using the phone.

But the real problem is the “long-form” nature of GOML. The reason people prefer Twitter to anything longer is partly that their attention span has been eroded by all the stimuli of our connected world, and partly because they’re busy and only read stuff on their phone while on the go. Long form + smart phone = meh.

Hell, I get bored just writing this stuff half the time – I totally understand why someone wouldn’t take the time to read it on a larger screen, much less a hand-held.

I had lunch the other day with an old friend from school days who said he’d been reading the blog and enjoyed it (Hey, Mouse, that’s you!).  I asked him if he shared any of it with his wife and he said she was so busy that she hardly had time even to talk to him, and that something like GOML just wouldn’t fit in. It’s too much of a commitment for most people.

I’ve had people tell me “I don’t read much any more” when I’ve tried to interest them in GOML. I suppose that could just be a polite way of saying they don’t really care about my particular take on things, but I’d rather blame smartphones.

Anyway, I’m sick of writing this now – I think I’ll go flip through Twitter for five minutes.