Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Special - Ponzi Scheme

I'm taking a break from my review of various political parties to discuss current events. We will continue after the new year.

If you haven't heard the news yet, read the story at the following link.
Basically speaking Bernard L. Madoff was arrested in $50 Billion scam he was running that came to a head. He was offering people high returns and then paying them off with future investors. Apparently he ran out of investors to keep up with the returns he was promising and the SEC finally caught him. He said he was basically running a Ponzi Scheme.

For those of you that don't know what a Ponzi Scheme is, the SEC actually defines it for you.

"Ponzi schemes are a type of illegal pyramid scheme named for Charles Ponzi, who duped thousands of New England residents into investing in a postage stamp speculation scheme back in the 1920s. Ponzi thought he could take advantage of differences between U.S. and foreign currencies used to buy and sell international mail coupons. Ponzi told investors that he could provide a 40% return in just 90 days compared with 5% for bank savings accounts. Ponzi was deluged with funds from investors, taking in $1 million during one three-hour period—and this was 1921! Though a few early investors were paid off to make the scheme look legitimate, an investigation found that Ponzi had only purchased about $30 worth of the international mail coupons.
Decades later, the Ponzi scheme continues to work on the "rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul" principle, as money from new investors is used to pay off earlier investors until the whole scheme collapses. For more information, please read pyramid schemes in our Fast Answers databank."

The point of this post is not to discuss this case. The point of this is to open your eyes to a Ponzi Scheme that the government is running that we are all victims of. Many of us willing victims. It's called Social Security. The system depends on population growth and productive members of society to take social security tax from in order to pay out the current recipients of the payments. I guess the only difference is that the government just doesn't promise outrageously great returns. But the government does keep promising to take care of you in retirement with social security and Medicare benefits that keep getting bigger and bigger. Most of my generation assumes the system will go bust before we reach retirement, so in essence, they are promising bigger returns than they can deliver in the long run.

But the American people don't want to privatize the system, they'd like to keep it going as is in hopes that they'll still get theirs. Because the government has always been dependable.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Political Parties - Democratic

Welcome to Part 2 in our series exploring the various positions of the political parties and what I agree with and disagree with. This week we will explore the platform of the Democratic party as found in their platform on their website
I will do my best to abbreviate the positions listed as this is a 59 page document. Feel free to read it in it's entirety if you so desire.

Excerpt from their Preamble
"We believe that every American, whatever their background or station in life, should have the chance to get a good education, to work at a good job with good wages, to raise and provide for a family, to live in safe surroundings, and to retire with dignity and security. We believe that quality and affordable health care is a basic right. We believe that each succeeding generation should have the opportunity, through hard work, service and sacrifice, to enjoy a brighter future than the last."

"Today, we pledge a return to core moral principles like stewardship, service to others, personal responsibility, shared sacrifice and a fair shot for all –values that emanate from the integrity and optimism of our Founders and generations of Americans since."

Jumpstart the Economy and Provide Middle Class Americans Immediate Relief "We will provide an immediate energy rebate to American families struggling with the record price of gasoline and the skyrocketing cost of other necessities – to spend on those basic needs and energy efficient measures. We will devote $50 billion to jumpstarting the economy, helping economic growth, and preventing another one million jobs from being lost."

I'm going to sound really redundant after awhile, especially when you consider all their talk of reducing taxes for 95% of Americans. How are they going to pay for this? How does $50 Billion prevent one million jobs from being lost?

Affordable, Quality Health Care Coverage for All Americans "If one thing came through in the platform hearings, it was that Democrats are united around a commitment that every American man, woman, and child be guaranteed affordable, comprehensive healthcare."

"Ensuring quality, affordable health care for every single American is essential to children’s education, workers’ productivity and businesses’ competitiveness. We believe that covering all is not just a moral imperative, but is necessary to making our health system workable and affordable. Doing so would end cost-shifting from the uninsured, promote prevention and wellness, stop insurance discrimination, help eliminate health care disparities, and achieve savings through competition, choice, innovation, and higher quality care."

I like the idea of affordable health care for everyone, but only in the context of personal responsibility and free market competition. My theory is that the insurance companies have become and overwhelming middleman in the health care business. Providers have to pay large staff to bill insurance companies and are also subject to contract rates with insurance companies. The insurance companies have the leverage in negotiating these rates since they are the ones essentially providing the clientele. The insurance companies in turn have to make enough and pay out little enough to pay their employees and make a profit. Think about the cost of health care when you eliminate this kind of overhead created by a middleman.

In reality Walmart's push to start the prescription drug plan for $4 generics is the right idea. Other pharmacies followed suit. Drug companies aren't going to participate if they aren't making money, and neither will the pharmacies. This type of push ought to be made in provider care as well. In reality, it is available. Patients without insurance can negotiate self-pay rates for procedures with the doctor and the facility. Places like Walmart and other superstores are opening up preventative care clinics in their stores that offer low cost preventative screenings.
Main stream providers could move this direction by essentially running "cash only" businesses and listing their prices for various services. I've also heard of a doctor charging one yearly fee that will cover all visits for the year regardless. It's ideas like this that will revolutionize health care and help to eliminate the bloated middleman system.

That said there is a need for catastrophic insurances for accidents, or a buffet type, choose your insurance coverage. For example, if you know cancer runs in your family, you might opt into a cancer policy for life or at a certain age. But the providers that need to take them are generally specialty providers.

"We must fight HIV/AIDS in our country and around the world. We support increased funding into research, care and prevention of HIV/AIDS."

I disagree with government funding of HIV/AIDS research. I also disagree with government funding of Cancer research and stem cell research. I do, on the other hand, support privatized funding for research of all of these. St. Jude's successfully raises money every year from private donors like you and I. I am not opposed to government funds being used to educate and prevent any disease, but within reason.

"Fiscal Responsibility. As we improve and strengthen our health care system, we must do so in a fiscally responsible way that ensures that we get value for the dollars that are invested."

I would agree, however I think we have to come to an agreement on the definition of "fiscal responsibility."

Retirement and Social Security "We will make it a priority to secure for hardworking families the part of the American Dream that includes a secure and healthy retirement. Individuals, employers, and government must all play a role. We will adopt measures to preserve and protect existing public and private pension plans. In the 21st century, Americans also need better ways to save for retirement. We will automatically enroll every worker in a workplace pension plan that can be carried from job to job and we will match savings for working families who need the help."

How can you possibly pay to match savings for working families who need help? how do you define "needing help." Is there incentive for them to rise above "needing help." This sounds like income redistribution which I am vehemently opposed to. I do support private entities and churches providing help to those who "need help."

"We reject the notion of the presumptive Republican nominee that Social Security is a disgrace; we believe that it is indispensable. We will fulfill our obligation to strengthen Social Security and to make sure that it provides guaranteed benefits Americans can count on, now and in future generations. We will not privatize it."

I would privatize Social Security. I think Social Security is great for everyone if they get to keep what they put in. But they should own each and every penny that they put into it. When you get a chance look at Galveston County's model. This is a link to one of many articles discussing it.

Good Jobs with Good Pay "Democrats are committed to an economic policy that produces good jobs with good pay and benefits. That is why we support the right to organize. We know that when unions are allowed to do their job of making sure that workers get their fair share, they pull people out of poverty and create a stronger middle class. We will strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions and fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. We will restore pro-worker voices to the National Labor Relations Board and the National Mediation Board and we support overturning the NLRB’s and NMB’s many harmful decisions that undermine the collective bargaining rights of millions of workers. We will ensure that federal employees, including public safety officers who put their lives on the line every day, have the right to bargain collectively, and we will fix the broken bargaining process at the Federal Aviation Administration. We will fight to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers, so that workers can stand up for themselves without worrying about losing their livelihoods."

I support the right to organize, but I also support the right of any company to refuse to negotiate with unions at any time. Look at the auto bail out now. It is a bailout to support the unions not the auto companies themselves. Unions are a bureaucratic hierarchy that suck money out of the company in the form of dues from the employees. Companies have to be able to cut the fat out of their business to succeed.

"In America, if someone is willing to work, he or she should be able to make ends meet and have the opportunity to prosper. To that end, we will raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation, and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit so that workers can support themselves and their families. We will modernize the unemployment insurance program to close gaps and extend benefits to the workers who now fall outside it."

I disagree with raising the minimum wage. The majority of the people making minimum wage are high school students. If you can't rise above minimum wage, then you probably aren't worth more. Raising minimum wage unnecessarily puts a strain on businesses and subsequently consumers in the from of increased prices for goods and services. Even people working in many of the fast food restaurants are making more than minimum wage. When you raise minimum wage the above unions talk their workers into going on strike because they need to have their wages adjusted to follow suit with minimum wage. So any company dealing with unions are also affected drastically by raising the minimum wage.

Opportunity for Women "We will pass the “Lilly Ledbetter” Act, which will make it easier to combat pay discrimination; we will pass the Fair Pay Act; and we will modernize the Equal Pay Act. We will invest in women-owned small businesses and remove the capital gains tax on start-up small businesses. We will support women in math and science, increasing American competitiveness by retaining the best workers in these fields, regardless of gender. We recognize that women still carry the majority of childrearing responsibilities, so we have created a comprehensive work and family agenda."

Notice the statement "remove capital gains tax on start-up small businesses." Small businesses don't pay capital gains taxes woman owned or not. They pay income taxes. So don't buy into this rhetoric. Next, I believe we are already at a point where men and women are equal in the work place. If women are making less, is it possible it has to do with them leaving the work force for a few years to raise their children? Or if their children are in daycare, are they leaving work more often than men to go pick up their sick kids? I think any kind of absenteeism is fair to consider with men or women.

"We will work to combat violence against women."

I'd revise this to violence against people, not just women. What happened to the mantra, "we are all created equal?"

A World Class Education for Every Child "We must set high standards for our children, but we must also hold ourselves accountable–our schools, our teachers, our parents, business leaders, our community and our elected leaders."

I agree with holding oursleves accountable.

"We will make quality, affordable early childhood care and education available to every American child from the day he or she is born. Our Children’s First Agenda, including increases in Head Start and Early Head Start, and investments in high-quality Pre-K, will improve quality and provide learning and support to families with children ages zero to five. Our Presidential Early Learning Council will coordinate these efforts."

This is essentially free daycare in the form of "education." I oppose funding daycare because when you choose to take on the responsibility of children, you should be responsible for caring for them or paying for their care. And remember free daycare isn't free. So how are they going to pay for this one?

Support Small Business and Entrepreneurship "Encouraging new industry and creating jobs means giving more support to American entrepreneurs. We will exempt all start-up companies from capital gains taxes and provide them a tax credit for health insurance. We will provide a new tax credit for small businesses that offer quality health insurance to their employees. We will help small businesses facing high energy costs. We will work to remove bureaucratic barriers for small and start-up businesses–for example, by making the patent process more efficient and reliable."

Again with the capital gains taxes for start-up companies. They don't pay capital gains taxes so this is an empty statement. However I like the tax credit idea for offering health insurance to their employees. I also agree with removing the bureaucratic barriers, but for more than just the patent process. For all of it.

Real Leadership for Rural America "Rural America is home to 60 million Americans. The agricultural sector is critical to the rural economy and to all Americans. We depend on those in agriculture to produce the food, feed, fiber, and fuel that support our society. Thankfully, American farmers possess an unrivaled capacity to produce an abundance of these high-quality products. In return, we will provide a strong safety net for family farms, a permanent disaster relief program, expansion of agriculture research, and an emphasis on agricultural trade. We will promote economic development in rural and tribal communities by investing in renewable energy, which will transform the rural economy and create millions of new jobs, by upgrading technological and physical infrastructure, by addressing the challenges faced by public schools in rural areas, including forest county schools, supporting higher education opportunities and by attracting quality teachers, doctors and nurses through loan forgiveness programs and other incentive programs. All Americans, urban and rural, hold a shared interest in preserving and increasing the economic vitality of family farms. We will continue to develop and advance policies that promote sustainable and local agriculture, including funding for soil and water conservation programs."

This is fancy talk for farm subsidies which I stated last week that I vehemently oppose. If people can't support themselves on farms and in rural areas, they should go somewhere that they can support themselves.

Restoring Fairness to Our Tax Code "We must reform our tax code."

I agree with restoring fairness to our tax code and reforming it. Nothing that followed supported these statements. I suppose there might just be a fundamental disagreement on what "fair" means. The Fair Tax is the fairest method I've discovered so far.

Revitalizing and Supporting the Military, Keeping Faith With Veterans "To renew American leadership in the world, we must revitalize our military. A strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace."

I agree with a strong military being necessary to sustain peace.

Allow All Americans to Serve "We will also put national security above divisive politics.... We support the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the implementation of policies to allow qualified men and women to serve openly regardless of sexual orientation"

I agree. Qualified people who perform and act professional in their jobs should be able to serve in the military as they are in every other job in the country.

Stewardship of Our Planet and Natural Resources "Global climate change is the planet’s greatest threat, and our response will determine the very future of life on this earth. Despite the efforts of our current Administration to deny the science of climate change and the need to act, we still believe that America can be earth’s best hope."

I find it interesting that this party denies science that disproves man made climate change. That said I agree with stewardship of our planet and natural resources.

Children and Families Fatherhood "Too many fathers are missing–missing from too many lives and too many homes. Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and are more likely to commit crime, drop out of school, abuse drugs, and end up in prison. We need more fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to understand that what makes a man is not the ability to have a child–it’s the courage to raise one."

I agree whole-heartedly with this statement and the need to work towards correcting this. I have a theory that mandatory birth control would fix this, but it generally goes against my strong belief in liberty as well. I don't have a solution but I highly respect the efforts of high-profile people like Bill Cosby and others in this area.

Open, Accountable, and Ethical Government "In Barack Obama’s Administration, we will open up the doors of democracy. We will use technology to make government more transparent, accountable, and inclusive."

"We will lift the veil of secret deals in Washington by publishing searchable, online information about federal grants, contracts, earmarks, loans, and lobbyist contacts with government officials."

"We will put all non-emergency bills that Congress has passed online for five days, to allow the American public to review and comment on them before they are signed into law."

I want you all to watch in the new administration and see just how transparent and accountable they become in these areas. Because I agree with every one of them, but on the last one, if the representatives and senators don't listen to the public before casting their votes, why would we expect the President to? I suppose, if he cares about getting reelected, he'd care. So watch out for this and utilize it if they truly follow through on this.

I leave you with one final thought, with all the ideals they want and without explanation on how they will fund these programs, how do they plan to pay for it and still give 95% of Americans tax cuts?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Political Parties - Republican

I intend to do a series of posts covering various political parties and where they generally stand on the issues as related to their various websites or perhaps previous candidates. The point of this exercise is to help educate you on the various beliefs of the parties as well as where I stand in comparison to those beliefs. I intend to discuss what I agree with and what I disagree with in an effort identify myself with a party, even if that means creating a new one. This is because independent candidates for president rarely if ever get taken seriously. I will start with the Republican party as that is the party that just lost in a big way. I don't consider myself a Republican, which may come as a surprise to many of you. That doesn't mean I don't agree with some of their philosophies.

In an effort to abbreviate this, I'm going to reference the McCain's presidential website.
However for the official Republican party platform for 2008, feel free to read this.

"Our nation's future security and prosperity depends on the next President making the hard choices that will break our nation's strategic dependence on foreign sources of energy and will ensure our economic prosperity by meeting tomorrow's demands for a clean portfolio." I agree that we have to break our dependence on foreign sources of energy, which means utilizing our own resources. Oil comes from the earth, it's part of the earth. It's natural. It's not going to hurt our earth to utilize this oil. Nuclear war will hurt our earth way more than drilling.

National Security/Homeland Security
"the highest priority for any President is protecting the lives of American citizens, defending their personal freedom, and securing our land and resources." - I agree with this, however I believe National Security and Homeland Security is redundant and has been unnecessarily bloated. The department of defense is sufficient to coordinate this effort. Maybe money saved could be redirected towards the care of our veterans and towards enforcing immigration laws.

Health Care
"the rapidly rising cost of U.S. health care. Bringing costs under control is the only way to stop the erosion of affordable health insurance, save Medicare and Medicaid, protect private health benefits for retirees, and allow our companies to effectively compete around the world. " I'm not really sure what this says. What I believe is that the government is not the answer to health care. People need to understand that health care isn't a right, they need to make it a priority if they don't want to go bankrupt by it. The problem is that people don't want to take responsibility for it because it's expensive. So they moan that they can't afford it, but they sure can afford cable, cell phones, and that new car, etc. It's about priorities. At the very least everyone needs to make a priority for some kind of catastrophic policy and save enough to preventatively see the doctor every other year or so. They have self pay rates. Find out what they are, it might not be as expensive as you think. Find a clinic to go to that offers low cost care. Most pharmacies now have a low cost prescription plan for generic drugs. Companies making big moves like this will help to bring affordable health care to everyone. But people have to make it their priority over cable, cell phones, new clothes, new cars, etc.

To sum it up, his site says "excellence, choice, and competition in American education."
I agree with that but have seen no effort in my state, a traditionally republican state, to make a move towards this. And I haven't seen a federal push for it either. The department of education should go. Education should be left to the states. Perhaps the cost would go down if there wasn't a bloated department of education sucking up valuable dollars that could actually go towards education rather than wasteful administration of it.

Agricultural Policies
"America's agricultural industry is the best in the world. John McCain will expand access for U.S. agricultural producers to foreign markets, providing a great and lasting benefit to American farmers. He will work tirelessly to ensure our farmers receive fair prices for their products. "
I don't believe it is the responsibility of the government to get involved with "fair prices" for corn or any other agriculture. It should be left up to the free market. If a someone can't make money as a farmer, it means he wasn't meant to be a farmer and should look for a new career. I can't make money as an actress, it doesn't mean the government should pay me money because I declare myself an actress if I can't make a sufficient living at it. I vehemently oppose farm subsidies.

"our border must be secure and that the federal government has utterly failed in its responsibility to ensure that it is secure." I agree with this statement, and quite honestly I feel this falls under the realm of national security. Enforcing the laws and rules we have now will take care of much of this problem.

Environment/Climate Change
"John McCain will establish a market-based system to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, mobilize innovative technologies, and strengthen the economy. He will work with our international partners to secure our energy future, to create opportunities for American industry, and to leave a better future for our children." The republicans fail to effectively turn the climate change discussion into something we can all agree on, clean air, clean water, a clean world. McCain took the position that climate change is within our control and backed policies that took on man-made global warming.

My position is that it is arrogant to sell that mere humans can control the global climate. Sure there are temperature cycles, but we ourselves are not big enough collectively to control that. Policies that unnecessarily attempt to control this by taxation, or carbon credits are useless and wasteful. What I do believe is that we been given a responsibility to care for this earth. I believe that it is not our right to tell Brazil they can't cut down trees that are creating jobs in that country. But we should offer to teach them our methods of replanting, if in fact they are not already replanting what they cut down. It is not our right to tell people in 3rd world countries living in the bush that they can't build fires to boil water and cook their food any more than we can tell cows to stop pooing.

Getting in the way of progress in 3rd world countries is doing more to harm the environment than butting out and letting them handle it and offering assistance. For example, malaria is non existent in this country and most other industrialized nations, but it's killing hundreds of thousands of people every year. The U.S. was sprayed long before I was born to get rid of the mosquitoes that were passing it around. Why can't the same be done for them? Just give them all masks to wear during this time. They didn't cover their faces here and people lived.

Home Ownership
"America's families are bearing a heavy burden from falling housing prices, mortgage delinquencies, foreclosures, and a weak economy. It is important that those families who have worked hard enough to finance home ownership not have that dream crushed under the weight of the wrong mortgage." I believe personal responsibility is the right of every family who has worked hard enough to finance a home, meaning it is their responsibility not to get in over their head. It is also their responsibility to work with their lenders if they are in trouble. The banks often made bad lending choices and they should also make efforts to keep to work with clients to avoid bad loans. Neither should come running to the government for pay for their mistakes, they should work towards a solution without government dollars.

The Economy
Generally the republican position has been keep taxes low, small government. They haven't practiced this in years that I no longer believe that they really believe this. I think they use this as a talking point to convince their base to "trust them" to get reelected. Here's the problem I have; take a look at your local state government. What are your republicans doing? Here in Texas they actually passed a steroid testing program for public schools. Are you kidding me?? They are behind much of the "nanny state" legislation that gets passed or at the very least are supporting it. The thing is it's about making sure someone else's kid isn't doing steroids, giving them and "unfair" advantage. Is it really necessary to waste state dollars on this to find a few kids? So I have a problem with "small government" belonging to the republicans because they don't practice this at all. So I'm taking it for my own. I really mean it when I say small or limited government intervention.

Let me sum up a couple of other beliefs that I share with the republicans. Right to carry and constitutional judges. I believe you have a right to bear arms. I think if we all assumed every one we met was also carrying a weapon, we'd think twice about how we treated each other. Criminals would think twice about robbing a place if they assumed that every house and convenience store had a gun to protect them. They don't even want to deal with someone who will fight back which is why they look for weak victims.

Judges should not legislate from the bench, it is their duty to uphold the constitution.

There were a few other topics covered that I chose not to go into, but if you have questions about where I stand on an issue, feel free to ask. Next week I'll attempt to cover the Democratic party.

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