Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
The brinksmanship of this 2012 election is for real. Take the time. Inform yourself.
What Voters Need to Know About America's Debt
This missive is just chock-full of good info that Americans should know. It's important. BUT, I'll bet a dollar to a doughnut that in this form Mr. and Mrs Sixpack will not lift a mouse to try and understand it. This phenomenon is just what Obama's Czar Cass Susstein desires and is counting on.
"Fat, dumb and happy" used to be desirable. However, Obama and company have replaced it with "Fat, stupid, and clueless" as the new mantra. Nero fiddled while Rome burned: Obama has the masses enthralled with Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, and a main-stream media that serves Pablum instead of facts. Alfred E. Neuman would be so proud! His axiom has now replaced "America the Brave" with "What, Me Worry?"!
S/F (Semper Fi)
Most of the time, it's perfectly logical to tune out the tomfoolery in Washington and focus on more immediate things, like your kids' homework, the price of gas, or the Charlie Sheen self-implosion tour. But the growing battle over America 's mounting debt is one matter worth paying attention to.
The debt debate has all the usual hallmarks of glaze-over politics: Indescribably large numbers in the trillions, overwrought scare tactics by Republicans and Democrats, and jargon that seems designed to obfuscate rather than enlighten. But the gargantuan U.S. debt will eventually become every American's problem, and understanding the issue now could help you prepare for a future when government is less generous and citizens need to contribute more. Here's a cheat sheet highlighting five things all citizens ought to know:
The debt is a real problem that won't solve itself. The national debt has been a big worry before, such as in 1992, when Ross Perot mounted an independent presidential bid based largely on his plan to get federal spending under control. The problem went away over the next eight years, mainly because of modest changes in spending and a booming economy, culminating in the dot-com boom. But the debt is far bigger now and will continue to get worse, even under the rosiest scenarios. In 1992, when Perot was mounting his crusade, the total national debt was about $4 trillion, which was about 64 percent of annual GDP. By 2001, the debt had shrunk to 56 percent of GDP. But it has mushroomed since then and is now more than $14 trillion—slightly more than 100 percent of GDP. Without action it will only get bigger, largely because of automatic spending increases for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Healthcare spending in particular is bankrupting the government, because the cost is rising far faster than overall inflation—or government revenue.
Ratings agency Standard & Poor's, which grades big borrowers' ability to pay back their loans, recently issued one of the strongest signals yet that America 's debt load is becoming unsustainable. While S&P still rates U.S. Treasury securities as AAA—its highest rating—the firm has now put the U.S. government on "negative watch," which means it may downgrade America 's debt rating in the future. If that happened, it would trigger a cascade of problems. The government would have to pay higher interest rates to borrow, which means more and more tax revenue would go not for government services, but for interest on the debt. That would probably force abrupt tax hikes and spending cuts, and roil global stock and bond markets.
The United States isn't broke. Not even close. The problem isn't that America is running out of money, it's that the government spends far more than it takes in. This year, tax receipts and other forms of revenue will only cover about 57 percent of what Washington spends. The government will borrow, by issuing Treasury securities, to cover the other 43 percent. America remains a wealthy country, and if a crisis required it, there would be plenty of ways to raise the money needed to balance the federal budget. The reason there's such a big battle over deficit spending is that nobody wants to be the one to pay more in taxes or give up benefits. We all want somebody else to pay.
There are plenty of solutions. The ugly battle in Washington makes it seem like reducing the debt is an intractable problem. It's not. The politics might be intractable, but there are plenty of well-understood ways to make Uncle Sam solvent again. The fiscal commission [http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/sites/fiscalcommission.gov/files/documents/TheMomentofTruth12_1_2010.pdf ] that President Obama set up last year proposed a mix of tax reforms and spending cuts that would do the trick, with about one-third of their solution consisting of tax increases and two-thirds coming from spending cuts. Another panel [http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/sites/default/files/BPCFINAL%20REPORT%20FOR%20PRINTER%2002%2028%2011.pdf ], led by budget experts Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici, came up with a different set of solutions comprised about equally of tax hikes and spending cuts. And for years the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has published detailed "spending and revenue options" [http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=12085 ] for solving the problem. Washington politicians have ignored virtually every sound idea for managing the debt, preferring to finance unsustainable spending with indefinite borrowing. The problem isn't a lack of solutions, it's craven politicians unwilling to do anything that might upset voters.
The debt problem will affect most Americans. This is why people need to pay attention. Most politicians are still trying to tell their constituents that somebody else will bear the cost of paying down the debt. That's sophistry. The debt is so big that nearly everybody who gets some benefit from the government is going to have to give up something. There aren't nearly enough wealthy people to solve the problem, no matter how high taxes went on the rich. That means there will almost certainly be fewer deductions or even outright tax hikes for middle- and working-class Americans. Medicare and Medicaid recipients will have to bear more of the cost of their healthcare, because that's where a huge and growing chunk of federal spending goes. The official retirement age for Social Security benefits will probably go up faster than scheduled, with fewer benefits for wealthy enrollees. And many people dependent on grants or subsidies or other types of federal funding will get less.
The whole political battle is over who will pay to fix the debt. Tea Partiers and Republicans, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, want to slash spending with few or no new taxes, which would put the burden on practically everybody who receives some government benefit. President Obama and most Democrats favor a mix of new taxes and spending cuts. In the end, a compromise will probably require the pain to be spread widely, with most constituencies giving a little and some giving more. But that will only happen after a rancorous, high-stakes battle that could ignite years of class warfare.
It doesn't need to happen immediately. Spending cuts and tax hikes don't need to happen this year to prevent a crisis, and the coming fight over raising the "debt ceiling"—a self-imposed limit on how much the U.S. government is allowed to borrow—is merely a proxy for the much bigger brawl over spending and taxes. Here's what does need to happen: Policymakers need to develop a bipartisan debt-reduction plan with inviolable targets for reducing the debt over the next decade. A little bit at a time would work, as long as the plan were passed into law and inoculated against the usual lobbying efforts that generate special loopholes for favored groups.
Standard & Poor's, in its warning about U.S. debt levels, hinted that 2013 might be the make-or-break year that an alarming debt downgrade could happen, if there's no plan in place by then. Some budget experts are encouraged that Republicans, led by Ryan, have finally proposed a set of fixes [http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/flowchart/2011/04/05/how-life-would-change-under-the-gop-budget ] making it clear that Medicare and Medicaid, no matter how popular they are, are unaffordable. Obama countered with his own plan for protecting the most cherished benefits while asking for a bit more sacrifice from everybody. But nobody has yet asked voters to accept specific cutbacks, and it seems unlikely that Congress or the president will seriously consider any big changes before the 2012 elections. So voters should probably prepare for two years of brinksmanship and a tense down-to-the-wire drama. This time, it's for real.
Live Simply, Love Generously, Care Deeply, Speak Kindly, Leave the Rest to God.
Friday, April 15, 2011
by Ed Evans
This business of undermining society to please homosexual perverts, in both civil and military society, is really getting out of hand, and anyone who believed if we just gave in on one issue the homosexuals, et al., would be quiet is ignorant of just how much sexual mayhem is at work "out there." We must put new people into public office who will insist on ethics and morals in government, before we can ever expect such behavior in general society. Laws that promote perversion and put children and others at risk must be repealed.
Let me suggest, also, that we will never be able to "turn back the clock" to the America that used to be, to society that behaved itself and did no injury to others. That never really existed, anyway, even if it was less blatant than today. We must insist on ethics and morals in our own lives, stop poisoning the well of the next generation, and put ethical and moral people into office who will assist us in creating a new America. The old one is past and will never return. The present is our chance to make a new America we can all be proud of once again.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The following is something veterans want to pay attention to, so it doesn't slip through unnoticed, however, I frankly don't give this proposal much of a chance.
Every English speaking veterans organization is screaming at them, plus individual Moms and Dads of our active duty force under fire as we speak. If they manage to get it through, the responsibility party will end up walking around with a sign around their neck saying "I'm an unpatriotic idiot!" for a long time.
This is the sort of thing veterans organizations print on millions of bumper stickers and buttons and its not forgotten until the inventory is gone and the car wash brushes scrape it off
Budget panel eyes end to VA care for 1.3M vets
The House Budget Committee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has told a veterans' group it is studying a plan to save $6 billion annually in VA health-care costs by canceling enrollment of any veteran who doesn't have a service-related medical condition and is not poor.
Committee Republicans, searching for ways to curb federal deficits and rein in galloping VA costs, are targeting 1.3 million veterans who claim priority group 7 or 8 status and have access to VA care. -- Montgomery Advertiser, April 10, 2011
by Ed Evans, MGySgt., USMC (Ret.)
April 11, 2011
It was the first warm Monday of a late spring in Nashville, and I was scheduled for an early morning stress test at the VA Hospital. My new doctor, a very conscientious young man, was attempting to determine the cause of my shortness of breath and sometimes loss of equilibrium. I tried to tell him the cause was 'cause I'm 70 years old.
The VA Hospital here in Nashville, Tennessee, is much improved -- from services to attitudes -- from what it was 20 years ago when I first began going there for treatment of my Graves Disease related lack of adrenaline and the after affects of a Vietnam-era gunshot wound to my lower left leg. And it should be one of the best in the nation, since an agreement with Vanderbilt Hospital makes it part of Vandy's teaching experience for new doctors. But to be truthful, at my elder age I'm skeptical of all doctors. My experiences lead me to remind everyone that doctor's are only guessing when they diagnose, and that's why they call it a medical "practice."
When I was in VA Hospital a few weeks ago, I had four doctors attempting to determine why I came into the hospital emergency ward on a Friday night in extreme pain and sickness. My symptoms were a feeling that something was eating my gut, with a steel band of pain across my upper chest. When I had left the house so my wife could drive me to the hospital, I had dry heaved in the bushes, a reaction to the pain in my gut.
When I got to the emergency ward, they determined my blood pressure and temperature was up, they needed to keep me in the hospital, but no diagnosis as to why the pain. It stayed that way all Friday night until Saturday afternoon when I passed the gall stone that I had said I thought was the source of my pain. Meanwhile they had taken x-rays, CAT scans, poked, prodded, taken blood, given me intravenous solutions and even insulin shots in the stomach since my aggravated pancreas had stopped making insulin. I don't know that they ever actually agreed on a diagnosis, after all, where was the evidence? But I'm satisfied that what they could not determine, the Divine Healer handled. For, being a retired preacher as well as a retired Marine, I was surrounded in prayer by a great company of prayer warriors.
Thirty years ago, when my Graves Disease first attacked my thyroid, dropping me in weight from my customary 160-lbs to 95-lbs, and robbing me of any ability to think ahead, the medical community told me I was depressed about my pending military retirement. It was only when I insisted they at least do a simple blood test that I was diagnosed with Graves Disease.
So you can see why I approach the medical craft as a necessity in our lives, but I tend to take their assurances and sureties with a smile and a wink. I feel certain they are well-trained and serious about their craft, but I probably know my body better than they do, and I know the Great Healer.
Now, I will admit to being a bit sensitive about my age. I hate when the young girls at the grocery store insist they should help me carry my groceries to the car. And I guess I should be pleased when clerks want to give me a senior discount. After all, this old face does show its age, a fact I'm not unhappy about. It's been a rough ride, and some of those roads weren't paved.
But getting back to my Stress Test this past Monday, once again my age led them to treat me with concern. And that was understandable. I have no complaints there. But I had my own agenda.
The doctor was a young lady of about 25, the friendly technician was about the same age. They probably each asked me at least five times, "Do you have any questions?" They were so thorough in their explanations about what was to happen there was no need of further questions.
They had given me some sort of intravenous radioactive material, then performed a 15-minute CAT scan of my upper torso, then I was to perform the treadmill exercise, then they would follow up immediately with another CAT scan. Actually, I had a choice of the treadmill physical event, or they would give me an intravenous medication that would artificially stress my heart. Perhaps you can understand why I chose the treadmill. I wasn't sure they could. They kept asking me if I was sure that's what I wanted to do. I assured them it was.
The technician fitted my left arm with an intravenous device into which he could fit a syringe that would be used during the treadmill test. He explained that when I reached the right heart rate, and when I was about at the end of my ability to keep on, they would pump a certain liquid into me that would help them determine the condition of my heart.
They told me my resting heart rate was around 80, and they would need to get it up to 128 beats per minute for a good test. Could I do that? At least three times I assured them I felt I could. As they rigged me with heart monitors and other wires and connections, the technician talked about the good weather we were having and how he looked forward to getting into the great outdoors. He had not heard about Tennessee's best kept secret, Big South Fork, a National Park in middle Tennessee near Jamestown, and I shared with him the joys of having such a wonderful wild area so near Nashville, full of natural arches, hiking and riding paths, and the abundance of wild deer, birds and other animals along the trails by spring-fed waterways. It was once a private hunting preserve, but now the beautiful ridges and waterfalls are open to everyone, and much closer and less crowded than the Great Smoky Mountains.
Finally they were ready. The treadmill had a bar across the front with which to steady yourself, and bars on either side to keep one from falling off. The technician told me how some people had never used a treadmill and what some of the dangers were. I assured him I was familiar with the equipment.
They started out with a gentle walk, the doctor and the technician watching a bank of blinking monitors, glancing at me now and then. She pushed a button and the speed increased. I walked faster and fell into a rhythmic breathing pattern. My heart rate increased dramatically as the speed increased again, reaching 128 and continuing to climb. Now they glanced at me more often. I was enjoying the exercise.
"When you feel you can only go for one more minute," the doctor advised, "let us know so we can put this liquid into your blood stream."
"Okay," I said as I huffed and puffed. I was almost running now.
A few more minutes and my heart rate was at 154. Now it was the technician telling me to let them know when I was about out of steam.
I told them to go ahead and choose when they wanted to put the syringe in, because I could keep going.
The technician looked at the doctor, she looked at him, he said, "Well, okay, you've impressed us!"
At that he leaned over me, attached the syringe and emptied the liquid into my vein. After a few more minutes of them watching the monitors, they began to slow the treadmill until it finally stopped and I stepped off. Since they had not slowed it to a walk for a few minutes, but stopped it rather quickly, I was still breathing heavily. They asked if I was okay.
I replied, "I don't recover as fast as I used to, but I'll be fine in a few moments," and even as I spoke my breathing began to return to normal.
That exercise was then followed by another CAT scan of my upper torso, then I was finished. They told me I would hear from my doctor at some later date concerning the results. As I walked down the halls of the VA toward the garage where I had parked my green van, covered with Marine Corps stickers, I almost felt like I was walking a little taller, even with my customary left leg limp. The words were echoing in my ears, "Well, okay, you've impressed us!"
Small victory, but a great moment when you're 70 years old. Now, if I can only still do that when I'm 80!
Postscript.....How It's Done
I'll share a secret that I learned in the Marine Corps for going beyond "what you can do." First, this "secret" is fifty years old, and it's not all that secret. It is simply "continuing to march" when you think you can't. How? You change your thinking.
It's a fact of life that when faith leads, courage will follow. And sometimes, even in something as simple as pushing your body beyond what you think you can do, it takes an element of courage. But if faith leads, courage will follow.
It's something I have practiced all my life. There was a time when three of my four sons were teenagers, while I was still in the Marine Corps, and they would go running with me. Obviously, being younger, they challenged me. My number two son, Michael, used to taunt me on the run by running backwards in front of me. "C'mon, old man, is that the best you can do?"
Michael seemed to be a natural athlete, and he could always outrun me. He told me one day he had learned the secret to running. "You just run until it hurts, Dad," Michael explained, "then you keep going." True. Different people have different ways for making that happen. Some concentrate on their breathing, some repeat a mantra in their mind, some pick out a target in the distance and run to it, then select another target ahead.
For me, it was always the story of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. When I was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C., about the time my boys would run with me, we had a base commander who was a spirited runner. He liked to go on runs, would do that every noon hour, and he wanted his Marines to be as enthusiastic about running and staying in shape as he was. So he arranged to have a formal three-mile cinder track built on the base. I was about 35 at the time, and my left leg gunshot wound from Vietnam was only about five years old. Running was difficult for me at that point in my life, but I had been promoted to the highest enlisted rank, Master Gunnery Sergeant, and led of team of about 20 enlisted Marines. Marines always lead from the front, so I had to make running work for me.
When I would go running, I would often see GySgt. Hartman out there. He always looked like he was in deep physical distress, but he kept on running. Always. He never fell out, never slowed, never walked. He ran.
One day I had the opportunity to sit and talk with him, and I asked him point blank, "You look like you're about to fall over out there. How do you keep going?"
That's when he told me about Hue, South Vietnam. I was in Vietnam when the enemy attacked the beautiful city of Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive, and I knew the Marines sent a relief column of tanks and infantry to help the outnumbered Vietnamese soldiers.
Hartman told me he was in one of those relief columns to Hue, about an hour's drive north from the 3rd Marine Division headquarters at Phu Bai Combat Base.
"We knew the best warriors in the city, the Hoc Bao (Black Panthers) had left the city and come south to assist our Marines along Highway One, our small teams of Marines within the villages who were being overrun by the North Vietnamese Army. So while they had a few South Vietnamese Army troops there, still the Hoc Bao's families and all of the Catholics there would be at the mercy of a merciless enemy. Other Marines were there ahead of us, and they needed our support. We had to get there.
"But our unit," he continued," had to go by shanks mare (by foot). All the mechanized traffic was busy elsewhere. We started out marching, then, as the Battalion Commander began to get updates on Hue, we realized the situation was desperate. At some point the command was given, "Double time, march!", and we began to run, still in ranks, our weapons before us at port arms, we ran toward Hue.
As Hartman paused, I thought I saw a misty look in his eyes.
"It was too far to run," he said. "But we ran. Women and children, the families of the Hoc Bao were being slaughtered. They were finding mass graves of priests and villagers. We had to get there. So we ran."
"Now," he said, "when I'm out here running, and there's just nothing left, I start running for Hue. I run to Hue. And I don't stop."
It's been about 21 years since I've seen Gunny Hartman, but I can remember every word. And like him, when the body wants to quit, when you just run out of gas, I run to Hue, the adrenalin flows, I run to Hue, and I don't stop.
That's the Marine Corps way ... improvise, adapt and overcome. Semper Fidelis.