Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Divisiveness Of Politics

It is amazing how much an election or political campaign can divide the American people. First we break down into Republicans, Democrats, Independents and a few other parties. The we have the "black vote", the "white vote", the "latino vote", the "Christian vote", the "Jewish vote", the "gay vote", the "soccer mom vote", even the "NASCAR vote" (please forgive me if I didn't mention YOUR offense was intended). It seems to me that one function of a leader is to unite the populace behind a common cause, that cause perhaps being the betterment of this country. But all we ever do is break down into groups...this group voting for this and the other for that. Many people vote based on one issue alone (abortion for example, or the death penalty, or gun control) and don't look at the overall big picture. The last time this whole country was united behind a cause was during World War II. Oh we might have briefly united after the 9-1-1 attacks but that didn't last long. So is there anyone who can get elected and actually unite the people of this country and take us forward.

By the way, my group is the bitter moneyless white middle class living paycheck to paycheck and getting shit upon by the likes of the oil companies and other big businesses (not to mention the government itself).

So Sayeth The Shack

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ecomonic Disaster Fast Approaching

From CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Let's say a giant asteroid was headed toward Earth right now and experts say it has a good chance of ending civilization as we know it. Let's also say that we've known about this asteroid for years but even as it gets closer and closer our leaders do nothing.

"Don't worry," they tell us, "The next administration will figure something out."

With the future of our country at stake, would Americans really sit back and tolerate that kind of inaction? Of course not -- we'd be sharpening our pitchforks and demanding answers.

Well there may not be a space asteroid heading toward us, but there is an economic one -- and the threat to our future is just as severe.

You might think that I'm talking about the recession (sorry: potential recession) or credit crisis, but I'm thinking bigger. Much, much bigger.

Let me give you three numbers that will put this economic asteroid into perspective: $200 billion, $14.1 trillion, and $53 trillion.

  • $200 billion is the approximate total amount of write-downs announced so far as a result of the current credit crisis.
  • $14.1 trillion is the size of the entire U.S. economy
  • And $53 trillion is (drum roll please) the approximate size of this country's bill for the Social Security and Medicare promises we've made.
  • While no one will ever mistake me for Alan Greenspan, it seems to me that the third number is quite a bit larger than the other two. It also seems very few people care.

    According to the latest Social Security and Medicare Trustees report (and I use that term loosely since it has the word "trust" in it) released earlier this week, the economic asteroid will first make impact in the year 2019 when the Medicaid trust fund becomes insolvent.

    Only an immediate 122 percent increase in Medicare taxes and a 26 percent increase in Social Security taxes can prevent (or more likely, delay) its impact.

    Realizing that Americans have become pretty much numb to these kinds of ridiculous sounding proposals, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson tried to up the ante this week. "Without change," he said, "Rising costs will drive government spending to unprecedented levels, consume nearly all projected federal revenues, and threaten America's future prosperity."

    Now, I know we're all worried about important sounding things that none of us understand, like CDO's, SIV's, and Credit Default Swaps, but did you hear what our Treasury Secretary just said?

    "Rising costs will ... consume nearly all projected federal revenues ..."

    Translation: Every single tax dollar that is sent to Washington will be used to pay for just these two programs.

    That means no money is left for anything else. Nothing. No Department of Defense or Homeland Security, no Department of Energy, no Department of Justice, no Environmental Protection Agency, no Internal Revenue Service. Actually, knowing our government, they'd probably keep the IRS going somehow.

    Of course, none of this is exactly breaking news. Our leaders have known about this rapidly approaching asteroid for years now and they've done nothing but debate it. At the same time, I'm a realist. I understand that this stuff is "the third rail of politics," but our leaders' negligence on this issue is damn near criminal. No, correction, it is criminal.

    Americans aren't afraid of the truth. In fact, we crave the truth only slightly more than we crave a leader who will actually give it to us. But part of the problem with this issue is that numbers followed by 12 zeroes aren't very relatable to the average American. Instead, try this on for size.

    A million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds is 32 years. A trillion seconds is 32,000 years. And 53 trillion seconds? 1.7 million years.

    In an article that will appear in an upcoming issue of my magazine, Fusion, former Comptroller General of the United States David Walker tries a different tactic. He writes that our unfunded promises translate into "an IOU of around $455,000 per American household."

    Wow. Does the size of our debt hit home now?

    The America that I know doesn't sit around waiting for someone to rescue it from disaster. Besides, who do we expect to swoop in and save the day? Congress? The president? Please -- they're not only the ones who put the asteroid into space, they've also been making it bigger with irresponsible spending on everything from prescription drugs to billions in rebate checks and bailouts.

    Bruce Willis and Tommy Lee Jones? They're more likely to be on Social Security than to save it.

    And that leaves only us: We the People. Like every other crisis we face, it's up to us to save ourselves.

    But how?

    Be honest, no matter what side of the political aisle you're on, it's obvious that our financial deficit is dwarfed only by the deficit of trust we have in our leaders.

    I'm willing to do the right thing for our future, I'm willing to sacrifice, but not when I believe that our leaders will do nothing but make the asteroid even larger.


    None of us want to see our taxes go up, especially with our budgets being squeezed by inflation. But as I have said before, there is a crash coming, and drastic action must be taking to save our country and our economy. My guess is that rather coming from the top (our so-called "leaders") it may actually come from the bottom by way of some kinds of grass roots revolution. That is if we can get our minds away from Britney Spears, NASCAR and March Madness and focus on what is really important.

    So Sayeth The Shack

    Spring in Pennsylvania

    The season of Spring in Pennsylvania is, in fact, one day. It is the day that, in the morning, you turn off the heat (which has been running steadily for the past 6 months) and, in the afternoon, turn on the air conditioning (which will run steadily for the next six months).

    For more weather check out Weather16801

    So Sayeth The Shack

    Saturday, March 22, 2008

    I Don't Get March Madness

    I don't really care much for basketball and I really don't get the whole "March Madness" playoff thing. It seems like every team is in the playoffs, so why even bother having the regular season? Plus everyone and their brother is running around with their brackets, trying to predict who the ultimate winner will be. I say, who cares? Certainly not me. Many people bet on them, and large amounts of work time is lost talking about the outcome of the latest round of games. I really don't care who is in the playoffs, or who wins. This goes for both the college and professional levels.

    For more stuff I don't get, click here

    So Sayeth The Shack

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    Colorectal Cancer

    So this is supposed to be "colorectal cancer awareness month". I am supposed to want to go to my doctor (he won't remember me; I haven't been there in a few years) and have something shoved up my rear end to see if there might be cancer up there. No thanks. Yeah I know it might prolong my life, but I really don't want to live to my 80s or 90s like many of my relatives. Life just isn't that great, especially the way this country is headed. So if I have cancer, fine...I'll die young. That's OK with me. And since my suck-shit health insurance probably won't pay for the exam, I can't afford it anyway.

    So Sayeth The Shack

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    More Government Waste

    Two more examples of our government wasting our tax money have caught my eye recently . One is the congressional hearings concerning baseball players using steroids. What business is this of congress? Steroid use is illegal right? So just deal with this the way you would deal with any crime. Why does it have to go through congress? Personally I don't care whether or not baseball players, or any athletes, use steroids. We pay these people millions of dollars a year and in return expect perfection. So it is no wonder they turn to steroids and other methods to enhance their performance and stay on top of their game. Basically they are doing it to give us what we expect of them for the money they are making. But congress should keep their noses out of it. They have more important things to do for the money we are paying them...not that they ever do it.

    The other thing I recently heard that the IRS is going to spend millions of dollars...I forget the exact mail out notices to people to let them know they will be getting tax rebate checks. Hello? Does no one already know this? Do they really have to send out these notices? How about they at least save some of that money by sending e-mail notices to taxpayers who have e-filed, instead of using the postal service.

    So Sayeth The Shack

    Sunday, March 02, 2008

    "State" Patty's Day

    The students at the local university will be on spring break when Saint Patrick's Day rolls around later this month. What a pity! They'll be in Cancun, Daytona Beach or some other exotic place having a great time and no doubt drunk off their asses and getting laid every 5 minutes. They'll miss some of the crappy, cold and often snowy weather that March often brings to central PA. But they'll also miss Saint Patrick's Day, another opportunity to get drunk off their ass (as if they need one!) So what do they do, they fabricate an alternate holiday, call it "State Patty's Day", and go out and get drunk off their asses. This took place yesterday and last night. Of course this leads to some less than exemplary behavior from the "future leaders of our nation" including some run-ins with the law. Here are some excerpts from the local newspaper reports of some of the activity...

    "At 2:48 a.m., two men said they were minding their own business when eight to 10 men beat them up, police said. The assailants were white, college-aged males, police said."

    "A man threw a snowball at a State College parking enforcement Jeep at about 12:30 a.m., only to learn it was being driven by State College police officers due to the weather. The thrower is being cited."

    And my personal favorite..........................

    "Police came to the rescue of a lost, drunken man who was “trapped” inside the State College Area High School’s track at 650 Westerly Parkway about 2:30 a.m. Saturday. He apparently was too intoxicated to get over a 4-foot-tall fence, according to a police report. The man will be cited with public drunkenness."

    Is it any wonder that I have such low regard for the local college students?

    So Sayeth The Shack