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What’s going on

Marvin Gaye:

Sitting on the dock of the bay

Monte Montgomery with Daryl Hall:

I will survive

Is there life after the Democratic party? Give that some thought.

Cake:

Success story

Republican style! How is this different from slavery?

While Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) law dismantling collective bargaining rights has harmed teachers, nurses, and other civil servants, it’s helping a different group in Wisconsinites — inmates. Prisoners are now taking up jobs that used to be held by unionized workers in some parts of the state.

As the Madison Capital Times reports, “Besides losing their right to negotiate over the percentage of their paycheck that will go toward health care and retirement, unions also lost the ability to claim work as a ‘union-only’ job, opening the door for private workers and evidently even inmates to step in and take their place.” Inmates are not paid for their work, but may receive time off of their sentences.

The law went into effect last week, and Racine County is already using inmates to do landscaping, painting, and another basic maintenance around the county that was previously done by county workers. The union had successfully sued to stop the country from using prison labor for these jobs last year, but with Walker’s new law, they have no recourse. Watch a report from Fox6 in Green Bay:

The Washington Examiner called Racine’s move “another success story” and “all great news for Wisconsin taxpayers. Hopefully, we’ll see more of it.” So far, it appears no other jurisdiction has followed Racine’s example — for now. It may just be a matter of time to allow existing union contracts to expire. The spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office of Dane County, which includes Milwaukee, said, “Nobody in our jail will be benefiting…at this time” from the new law, but the left the door open for future changes.

The war on Social Security

Just as I’ve always predicted, Obama is going to go after Social Security:

Two weeks ago, that first assumption proved true: Democrats proposed a few hundred billion in new tax revenues (a small fraction of the trillions of dollars in spending cuts Republicans are demanding) so GOP principals threw up their hands and abandoned the discussions. But the second assumption isn’t built on bedrock. And in recent weeks, congressional aides, strategists, and advocates have been floating, or warning of, a stealth change to the Social Security benefit structure that has quietly been placed on the negotiating table.

The proposal wouldn’t just impact Social Security benefits. It would also shave off yearly increases in federal pension payouts, and result in somewhat higher tax revenues. But the ratio would be skewed toward benefit cuts by a factor of about 2-to-1 and would represent a financial hit to even the poorest retirees unless they were exempted.

The idea is to change the way Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) are calculated across the federal government. Currently, the COLAs for tax brackets, pensions, and Social Security are tied to different measures of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Because spending habits change when living costs increase, some experts think these measures are too generous, and want to change all of the COLAs to a different, smaller measure of inflation: the so-called “chained-CPI.”

On the tax side, this would likely draw more revenue: Tax brackets would rise more slowly than incomes, so people would get kicked into higher brackets more quickly and, voila, more income subject to taxation.

But on the benefits side, this means money out of people’s pockets, even current retirees and pensioners. Responding to a letter of concern from House Democrats’ top Social Security guy the program’s chief actuary explained that moving to “chained-CPI” would constitute an immediate 0.3 percent benefit cut. That may sound small, but the effects would compound, and “[a]dditional annual COLAs thereafter would accumulate to larger total reductions in expected scheduled benefit levels of about 3.7 percent, 6.5 percent, and 9.2 percent for retirees at ages 75, 85, and 95, respectively.”

Oy

I’m still not clear on why Democrats are validating Republican deficit hysteria. As Dick Cheney said, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” Unless there’s a Democrat in the White House, of course:

Washington, DC — Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future commented on reports that Senate Democratic Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) will present a “50-50” plan for deficit reduction; according to The Hill, the Conrad plan would “balance the burden of reducing the deficit roughly 50-50 between increasing tax revenues and cutting government spending.”

Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future said:
“The Conrad proposal is the first strong Democratic proposal that has come out of these negotiations. Of course the devil is in the details, but 50-50 could be a fair deal for Americans. Let me be clear about what a fair deal would include: No deal without the rich and big corporations sharing in the sacrifice. No deal that would harm the essential programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. No deal that takes more out of the programs for middle income and poor Americans than it takes from tax breaks, loopholes and havens for the rich and the big corporations, and no deal that undermines the economic recovery.

“We encourage Senator Conrad, the President and all the negotiators to stand up for the American people and not shift the burden of the deficit down to the people who need government help the most including sick, elderly and disabled people.”

And children. But apparently our president only cares about his own kids.

Sad

That this is happening to enough soldiers that it’s even necessary:

(CBS News) NEW YORK – Most families who lose a loved one in the war zones receive a letter of condolence from the President of the United States. But there are a few who do not receive this honor. It’s long standing policy – going back many years – that troops who commit suicide in war do not get the president’s acknowledgment.

The CBS Evening News first reported on this last week, and tonight we have learned the White House is changing the policy. CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano brings us up to date with the father who led the fight to change the rules.
Continue Reading »

Oil spill

About that oil spill in the Yellowstone River? Here’s something Montana’s Gov. Brian Schweitzer said last year:

“After church and at the bar, and in coffee shops people are watching what’s happening in the Gulf and they’re wondering if that could happen in Montana,” Schweitzer said.

According to Tom Richmond, administrator for the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation, the well that’s gushing oil into the Gulf is about 100 times bigger than even the largest wells in Montana. Richmond said all of Montana’s oil wells combined don’t produce as much oil per day as what’s flowing into the Gulf of Mexico daily.

“Montana has a complex geologic environment, and some of that environment actually helps reduce our risk,” Richmond said.

He said most of Montana’s oil reservoirs are low-pressure, making the possibility of a catastrophic oil well blowout unlikely. In addition, multiple safeguards are in place at every well to prevent blowouts or contain spills if they occur, Richmond said.

The most likely cause of a worst-case scenario spill would come from oil pipelines, state officials said. If a pipeline were to leak near a body of water such as the Yellowstone River, which flows through the heart of oil and gas country in eastern Montana, all bets are off.

Schweitzer said pipeline officials recently told him that safeguards were in place to ensure that leaks would be found quickly and that there is little danger to Montana’s waterways. However, Schweitzer pointed to a recent incident in Utah where a leaking pipeline spilled an estimated 33,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek that flows into the Great Salt Lake.

“How did that happen?” Schweitzer asked.

Gee, you don’t suppose they decided to save money by not doing maintenance and upgrades, do you? Because oil companies are usually so careful about that kind of thing!

Yay for me

It’s been difficult to stay away from excess carbs (especially in Minnesota, where almost everything was either on a giant roll or deep-fried with breadcrumbs). And of course, airports, bridal showers, cookouts, etc.

But thanks to my dear friend Mary Beth, who reminds me this is a marathon and not a sprint, I don’t get bent out of shape when I’ve had a bad week. I simply get back on the low-carb wagon.

And as a result, I’ve now lost 25 pounds. I’ll let you know when I reach the next 25!

Ah yes

The swishy Dr. Bachmann!

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