Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tuesday December 31, 2013...Last day of this year

For those of you who have lost their jobs or lost their homes or lost their food stamps or lost their unemployment you will be glad to know:

Fueled by the Fed's easy money policies and an improving economy, U.S. stocks are poised to close their best year since 1995. Prior to the final day of trading for 2013, the Dow was up 29% when dividends are included and the S&P 500 32%.
Private-equity firms are set to return over $120B to their investors for this year, surpassing the 2012 record of $115B, Cambridge Associates estimates. The P-E sector has been assisted by low interest rates, which have helped P-E backed companies sell $66.2B worth of debt in 2013 to fund dividends to their owners, up from $64.2B a year earlier.

The rich DO get richer while the poor get poorer. The inequality of our system is showing quite well.

Now all you have to do is survive until it trickles down. But, don't hold your breath!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday December 15, 2013...The "benefits" of Austerity


Greece is the latest example.

This was written by Representative Alan Grayson

From a recent 188-page report by the World Health Organization come these ghastly and appalling factoids:
  • Suicide rates rose 40% in the first six months of 2011 alone.
  • Murder has doubled.
  • 9,100 doctors in Greece, roughly one out of every seven, have been laid off.

Joining those doctors in joblessness are 27.6% of the entire Greek labor force. By comparison, in the depths of the Great Depression, unemployment in the United States peaked at a lower percentage than that. Among Greek young adults under 25 years old, unemployment reached an abominable 64.9% in May. (Yet the unemployment rate in Greece was as low as 7% as recently as 2008.) 

I'm sure that my Tea Party friends will blame universal healthcare, paid sick leave and "generous" unemployment benefits for this catastrophe. "If we simply stopped helping people, then they wouldn't need our help," they would say. You can see where that "logic" leads. The dead need no help whatsoever, except possibly burial. Sort of like this: "The Republican healthcare plan: Don't Get Sick. And if you do get sick, Die Quickly."]

Maybe you think that I'm kidding about what my Tea Party friends would do. I'm not. A few years ago here in Florida, we had a children's health insurance program called KidCare, with a waiting list of over 100,000. The Tea Party Republicans didn't like that. So they eliminated the waiting list.

But back to Greece. A lot of people blame Greek government debt for the current suffering. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, that most authoritative of all conceivable sources, Greek government debt stands at 160% of GDP, which seems like a lot. But Japanese government debt stands at 215% of GDP, and the unemployment rate in Japan is only 4%.

Moreover, Spain's unemployment rate is virtually as high as Greece's, but Spain's government debt stands at only 85% of GDP. That's less debt than Singapore's, and Singapore's unemployment rate is 1.8%.

So we cannot properly attribute the catastrophe in Greece to labor protection, nor can we attribute it to government borrowing. What is the cause, then? The World Health Organization has the answer: austerity. "Austerity" is a bloodless term for gross economic mismanagement, animated by heartlessness. That robotic cut-cut-cut mentality that deprives us of jobs, of public services, of safety, of health, of infrastructure, of help for the needy, and -- ultimately -- of our economic equilibrium and the ability to survive. The mentality that ushers in, and welcomes, a vicious war of all against all. Austerity is destroying an entire country, right before our eyes.

Or, as the World Health Organization put it: "These adverse trends in Greece pose a warning to other countries undergoing significant fiscal austerity, including Spain, Ireland and Italy. It also suggests that ways need to be found for cash-strapped governments to consolidate finances without undermining much-needed investments in health."

In America, we have a rich and powerful lobby that has the same prescription for every economic malady: austerity. Cut-cut-cut. Cut Social Security and Medicare. Cut teacher and police and firefighter jobs. Cut health care. Cut pay and cut pensions. It all boils down to that one ugly word: austerity. And austerity always brings disarray, disaster, decay and death.

People often ask me my position on various issues. Well, I'm for certain things, and I'm against others. But on one issue, I'm very consistent. I'm against pain and suffering. Especially avoidable pain and suffering. And therefore, I'm against austerity. It begins with seemingly innocuous budget cuts. It then leads inexorably to the destruction of countless lives.

Why am I telling you about Greece? In 1935, Sinclair Lewis wrote a book called "It Can't Happen Here." But it can. And it's up to us to prevent it.


Rep. Alan Grayson

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday December 14, 2013...GROWN-DOWNS

All those younger years I looked forward to the day when I would be "grown up".  We were all small when we were young and we always looked up to the older folks.  We anticipated the future when we would be "grown-up"and be able to do the things we wanted to do without anybody else's approval.  We went to school and studied and eventually got jobs where we learned more duties, all part of "growing up".

I did my part, I studied, I worked, I tried to fit the part of a grown up.  The years flew by and here I sit in front of my computer looking back.  I grew up.  But somewhere along the line, things changed and I started growing down.  For some inexplicable reason, my stature has diminished – my spine has compressed, and I'm shorter than I was.  I have grown down instead of up.  I don't know how to act as a grown-down.  All my life I wanted to be a grown-up and worked hard to become one.  Now that I'm a grown-down, I'm not sure how to act or what to do.

I'm pretty sure that a grown-down walks a little slower, and keeps his eye on the ground in front of him.  He walks a little more stoop-shouldered but has a pretty good idea of where he's going.  A grown-down doesn't have to put on airs.  He's satisfied with who he is and what he has done.  He has thought through his philosophy of life and knows what he knows and you can't change his mind.  Clothes hang a little different on his grown-down body, but he's not as worried about his appearance as he was when he was younger.  He doesn't have to impress people any longer.

I tried to find some books and reference materials about grown-downs, but there isn't much out there.  I think the grown-downs have figured it out and don't want to share the answers.  They just want to be left alone to live comfortably now that they've reached this point in their lives.  I know I'm more content with what I've got, and I'm quite comfortable looking back over the memories I've created during my lifetime.  I think most grown downs have a tendency to look back about as much as they look forward.  Pleasant memories that reside in your brain are like a good book that you can come back to and reread any time you wish – complete with sounds and picture.

My daughter tells me that I'm really not a grown-down.  I'm more of a worn-down.  Perhaps she's right.  I've had a lot of my rough edges smoothed over, and I'm not as frisky as I used to be.  I don't take as many chances as I did once, and I don't recover quite as quickly as I did when I was younger.  My mind still seems to be pretty sharp, but parts of my body have retired before some of the others.  My mind tells me to do something, but my body says "no way".  So I suppose I'm more of a worn-down-grown-down, which is still perhaps a bit better than being an up-and-coming grown-up.  So all of you grown downs out there, just sit back and relax and go with the flow.  There is no hurry and there is nowhere you have to go – just be.