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Golden Globe - Enough of Gervaise

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on November 20, 2011 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Having heard that the unthinkable but predictable has indeed happened and Ricky Gervaise was, yet again, invited to host the Golden Globes, I decided to post the following blog I wrote last year the day after the 2011 Golden Globes,but never posted.  Although this choice to go for crass, mean spirited and mediocre “Comedy” fits in nicely with the general malaise and mediocrity of American culture at the moment, needless to say, I for one will not be watching the show in 2012. And while I’m sure that I will not be missed by the Foreign Press, I am equally sure that I will be far from the only one not tuning in. (11.20.11)

Golden Globes – Enough of Gervaise (written Januray 2011)

Sunday we watched the Golden Globe Awards.  For those in the entertainment industry or for those (many more) simply interested in Movies and TV, the Golden Globes can be an enjoyable experience, as well as a nice predictor for the Oscars.  The big question for me was: why after the less than exciting and tasteless performance by Ricky Gervaise as host of the 2009 and 2010 Golden Globes, was he asked back in 2011?

Gervaise, not exactly my cup of tea in the best of times–I for one never found him funny or entertaining–was somewhat funnier when he was chubbier and had some humility, probably due to a better awareness of the limits of his talent. As he’s gone more “Hollywood” and apparently got a little more “Successful”–a testament to the escalating mediocrity and declining taste and demands of his viewing public, whoever they might be–Gervaise increasingly made up for lack of depth and talent by dialing up the crass and mean in his jokes (And no Ricky, loosing a little weight and growing a little stubble does not make you more attractive or manly or a stud).

His 2009 Golden Globe performance was bad enough but has gone substantially down hill in 2010, and just when we thought it was safe to go back in the water, came his 2011 performance last night, which was simply dull and boring with a deep overriding lining of mean (the last resort of the less than exceptional comedic minds).

As one who enjoys watching the Golden Globes and as one with a very high tolerance for comedy of all varieties, I was close to switching channel a few times, while Gravaise was spewing his boring poison–key word here being boring.  For me the issue was simply that he was Not Funny and Not Smart (two key and required ingredients for great comedy). Thankfully, his involvement post apredictable, uninspired and forgettable opening monologue, was limited and brief.  Also thankfully, various award recipients and presenters were not shy about responding to him and expressing their views about his unacceptable and criminally unfunny performance.

The blame is clearly with the organizers of the show who do not seem to learn that history is the best predictor of future performance.  I hope they finally learned their lesson and will find a smart and funny host for next year (If I was to recommend, I would consider both well known people like Steve Martin or Jon Stewart as well as less known ones like Katherine Tate, or Graham Norton),which would be befitting of the show and of our attention and time.

Considering that Gervaise is coming back in 2012 (kind of like the Termiator), clearly the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did not/cannot learn from past experience in 2009, 2010 and 2011, or they might simply just have no taste.

 


 


Just how low is the Bar?

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on November 5, 2011 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Just how low is the bar?

We are clearly in Presidential election mod in the midst of the Republican primary season.  One can’t help but be dismayed by the group of Republican presidential hopefuls. They seem to be all suffering from mediocrity and one or more of the following ailments and deficiencies:

1.    Don’t believe in Evolution (oblivious to the fact that it is not a question of belief but of factual science).

2.    Don’t believe in Climate Change/Global Warming, human contribution to it and the catastrophic disaster to humanity if action is not taken to slow it down (oblivious to the fact that, again, it is not aquestion of belief but of factual science).

3.    General lack of belief on Science – need I say more?

4.    Lack of basic understanding of how the economy works and what steps will get us out of this mess vs. what steps have been tried and failed abysmally–like tax cuts–over the past 10 years.

5.    Lack of understanding of the issues and foreign affairs–like the fact that China has had nuclear weapons since 1964...

6.    Claiming “God” chose them to be president!

7.    Preoccupation with social issues, like a woman’s right to choose and gay marriage and affirming an aleady existing law that our US motto is "In God we trust",  instead of solving the critical unemployment problem and working on jobs, jobs, jobs.

8.    Calling for a fence, preferably electrified, on the border with Mexico as a way to solve our illegal immigration problem.

9.    Flip-flopping on any and all issues over and over again.

10.  Refusing to address the revenue side of fixing our economy but more-than-happy to engage in draconian budget cuts that will stop the growth, slow as it is, that we are experiencing and hurt the dwindling middle class and the poor.

11.  Infavor of additional tax cuts to those who do not need them and subsidies to the most profitable industries in America like oil and gas.

12.  Calling for the abolition of the EPA, which after all just tries to make sure we have clean air, clear water and clean food, and holding the Corporations that pollute our environment accountable.

13.  Against the affordable healthcare act which will go a long way to solving our escalatinghealthcare costs and extend healthcare protection to millions of Americans who do not have it.

14.  Gut the working Social Security and Medicare/Medicade programs, which lifted and still liftmillions out of poverty, and can be easily made solvent for the long run with simple measures like lifting contribution caps, streamlining operations and instituting a single payer program that works well in the rest of the industrialized world, a world  that left us far behind in this critical human right to great affordable and preventative focused healthcare.

15.   Declaring that we should “Let foreclosures run their course” and have people of means buy these properties and rent them to the previous owners. All this while the bankers who created this mess out of greed and stupidity, keep their jobs and huge bonuses and avoid any consequences for their actions (maybe this new effort by stare Attorney General’s like Beau Bidden,will correct that).

16.  Accused and admitted to being accused of sexual Harassment of young women while leading the organizations they worked for, and then settling with them for large sums of money and then claiming that the reporting of these stories by the media is “Racist”.

17. Coming up with regressive flat tax proposals that substantially reduce taxes for the rich and shift the burden to the middle class and poor while shortchanging much needed revenues.

And the band played on and on and on…

The bottom line here is that we are truly living in an age where ignorance and mediocrity by those who are running for office and positions of great authority and power–including the Presidency of the United States of America–is not only flaunted, but also actually presented with great pride as a badge of honor.  Makes one wonder just how far we’ve fallen and how much farther do we have left to fall, as the Empire continues on its decline.  With people being taken in by the likes of Perry, Bachmanand Cain, building on the equally ridiculous rational for liking and voting for George W Bush since “He’s a guy I can have a beer with!”, once cannot help but feel somewhat disheartened.

However, there is still hope.  The “Occupy” movement is showing us that Democracy is still alive and kicking in this country. People still care and feel motivated to get involved and go out and protest what is clearly a dismal state of play.  Building on that and making sure voices of reason, fairness and well informed intelligent and factual positions are put to bear on the challenges we face, might just bring about a better future for all.

 


Not Thinking It Through

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on October 25, 2011 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Not Thinking It Through!

One would expect that people who run for the US Presidency-highest office in the land and possibly the world-would think things through.  However, in this age of rudeness and mediocrity, nothing can be further from the truth.  Months ago, when discussing politics with a republican friend, I was somewhat surprised to hear this smart and attractive woman seriously argue that the “President does not need to be smart, just have smart people around him”.

The obvious question, of course, is how would a person that is not smart able to choose and attract smart people to work for him, and then is also smart enough to listen to them and follow their advice, when it is good?  Equally clear is that the last republican president failed on both counts, resulting in disastrous results (two unpaid for wars, unpaid for drug prescription bill, financial meltdown etc.) we are all, the few at the top excepted, suffering the consequences and probably will for the foreseeable future.

Now we have the Republican primaries and it is a scary sight indeed.  Setting aside those that will never be King, including the only one that actually has the experience and smarts to do it (Huntsman) we are left with the trio at the top of this pitiful heap–Romney, Perry and Cain. 

Romney, who has been campaigning for the Republican nomination since 2008, lost to McCain and is now running again.  With a built in handicap in conservative and evangelical circles of being a Mormon, Romney also suffers from the reputation of being bland, boring, and a flip-flopper on the issues.  His very successful healthcare reform in Massachusetts while Governor there, while an asset in the general election, is a serious obstacle to getting the Republican nomination due to the inexplicable and frankly insane position that party has on this critical issue.

Perry and Cain are in a class by themselves.  On the one hand we have Cain with his 9-9-9 tax plan–the most regressive unfair concept favoring of those who have plenty and can afford to give more to the detriment of those who have little and can’t afford any more, to his electrified fence immigration policy, to his general lack of experience and understanding of any meaningful issue of importance domestic or foreign. 

On the other hand, we have Perry with a disastrous record as Texas governor (Highest rate of residents without healthcare insurance, $27 Billion budget shortfall Texas–one of the worst in the nation, short fund Medicare by $5 Billion, cut education by $4 Billion–Texas ranks last in the nation in High School diplomas), to his equally superficial and regressive flat tax plan which with substantial tax reduction to the wealthy would substantially increase the deficit by further decreasing revenue. One “Highlight” is his proposal to shift to a territorial system of corporate taxation which would allow corporations to repatriate profits parked overseas at a 5.25 percent rate, providing an even greater incentive fo rcorporations to move more of their operations and jobs overseas.  And then there is the call for Texas to succeed from the union, his religious calling to run for office, draconian antiabortion stance (requires all women who seek an abortion to have a sonogram),call for Texas to opt out of Medicare and Social Security, suing the federal government for disapproving the State’s air quality standards since Texas is the countries biggest polluter, and the list goes on.

The truth is that there is no substitute for intelligence,especially when the culture of government requires and values decisive actions that involve substantial impact on the standard and quality of our lives as well as great expenditure of treasure and potentially lives.  We need smart people as leaders on all levels of government, local, state and national. Our world, Micro and Macro, is very challenging and complicated and does not lend itself to catch phrases and half-baked concepts.  We are in an economic, environmental and social crisis and we need serious and smart people to lead us to a better and more prosperous near and long-term future.  In a country of over 300 million people, surely we can do better than the current present and proposed Washington crowd, specific select few (list availableupon request) excepted.

 


Teacher/First Responder Bill Fails-Surprise!

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on October 21, 2011 at 12:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Teacher/First Responder Bill Fails – Surprise!

With the filibuster by Republicans looming, the Senate voted50/50 with all Republicans against–joined in their negative act by three Democrats–falling short of the 60 votes needs to overcome a filibuster. What a surprise.  For the second time in as many weeks, every single Republican voted against a jobs bill that would put Americans back to work.

Setting aside the asinine, irresponsible, undemocratic and unnecessary filibuster concept, that should be put out of our collective misery immediately, we are again faced with the disconnect from reality and lack of wisdom so prevalent in the Senate, especially on the right.

With a simple and painless funding solution of ½% tax on income over $1 Million, for the portion past $1.1 Million, this bill would have put teachers, police and firefighters back to work to support our communities and our country.  It would alsom have generated more consunption and more badly needed revenue. In a clearly political vote the right, yet again, decided to do their best to sink the economy further and to make sure most American’s feel the pain with no relief in sight to hope for.

Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, summed up this “Brilliantand insightful philosoph" as follows: “We cannot afford to be bailing out local governments, and we can’t afford stimulus 2.0”.  One can clearly see why there is talk in Republican circles of nominating this fountain of smarts and economic prowess to the 2012 Republican ticke, as potential Vice President. 

In these morally and intellectually bankrupt political circles of our country, this actually makes perfect sense.  We seem to have fallen victim to the mediocre, narrowminded, regressive and superficial. Smarts and thinking-it- through seem to hold little attraction to those in power, especially on the right. To Marco Rubio there is not much I can say.  Experience dictates that when there is no one to talk to,one should refrain from talking. If, however, there was a chance to get through here, one can only mention two unpaid for wars, prescription drugs, subsidies to the most profitable US industries, lowest taxes in 80 years, a decade of slack regulation and low taxes which got us this charming recession and the Senate and House unable to get anything done, courtesy of people in office like Mr.Rubio, who should not be in office, not if they do not have what it takes intellectually to understand the issues, and the social and political compromise skills to get agreements with the other side for the best result for all Americans, not just the wealthy and privileged.

Again, I am thankful to the Occupy movement for bringing these issues to the forefront and for steering the conversation to the real issues of jobs, jobs, jobs and the resulting growth.  And yes, government has a critical role to play in these times of dire need and pain.   Clearly those that don’t/can’t understand these truths should not be in public service or at least should have their compensation and benefits contingent on the results they produce.  No bills, no work, no good results for the American people =no pay!

 

 

 


Occupy Everywhere

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on October 20, 2011 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Occupy Everywhere!

It is about time! With the economic collapse, the recession that followed and demonstrations all over the world, with the much spoken of“Arab Spring”, an American protest movement was inevitable and long overdue.  We are after all a Democratic country, and participation in the process is the corner stone of any Democracy.  No longer will people vote against their economic interest, we hope. No longer will there be those that are “More equal” in a country that is supposed to be equal for everyone. It is up to all of us to make it happen. and the peaceful Occupy movement is the way to go and win the hearts and minds of the American people.

There is no doubt that money–although cannot and does not buy happiness–does makes life much much easier for those who have a lot of it.  Money, however, should not make the one that has a lot of it–their issues, life and vote–worth more then those who don’t, although in real life America 2011, it certainly does, as it did for the past 200 plus years.  The critical question is the degree to which money endows the haves with power and a much larger share of the national pie then is reasonable or fair.

This issue now is not dissimilar from the issue that prompted the city elders of Lyon, France to create the first primitive welfare system.  Faced with a poor, hungry and angry mob that dared to leave their dilapidated part of town and violently come calling to the rich and civilized part of town, leaving mayhem and damage in their wake, they knew they had to do something.  That something turned out to be a very simple idea.  Let's give those people enough to make sure they stay in their neighborhood. Put it down to the cost of doing business.  After all, we are all benefiting from those people.   Their cheap labor and sweat, their small buying power, and how great it is to have them to feel superior to!

The American people are very forgiving and reasonable.  It seems that most people still believe that everyone in America can become rich. Herman Cain clearly stated that if one is unemployed or poor, they have only themselves to blame to cheers from the Republican crowd.  As such, we the people respect and admire those who are successful and do well and we want them to keep a large chunk of it.  However, and in the wise words of Elizabeth Warren, those that are wealthy got to be that way not only due to hard work and luck. They got wealthy because America afforded them those opportunities via infrastructure, financing, skilled labor force, skilled professional services, large consumer market and use of national resources and sometimes generous subsidies, all paid for by the American taxpayer. Those that make it should keep a large chunk of it, but they should also pay their fare share to support the country that made their wealth possible. It's simply the cost of doing business and getting so much from the country and its people.

The gap between the rich and soon to be ex-middle class has gotten obscenely large.  American’s were happy to have the rich be the rich, with special privileges and power, as long as the rest of us could maintain a reasonable standard of living, a good steady job,a home, a vacation a year, a car, college for the kids, a comfortable retirement, good affordable health care…

All we ask is to be able to work for that and keep it and we have no problem with your lavish, albeit decadent and empty, money "Culture".  The kind we can see in “The real housewives of…”, but one example of many depictions on TV of the “Rich and Famous lifestyle”.

The occupy movement would never have started–nor would it have become the global phenomena that it is–if average hard working middle class people did not find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own, unable to find a new job, loosing their homes, their savings/investments and college funds for their kids, while those that went to college and graduated have to move in with them since they can’t find jobs either and are burdened with large college loans they can’t pay.  And while all of this pain is happening to millions and millions of people, the financial institutions executives responsible for this mess are doing well and collecting huge multi million dollar bonuses with no accountability for the mess they made.  The rich coprporations and their executives are laying off many thousands of people to maiontain a profit margin and keep getting large bonuses and great perks, including a fully paid for healthcare, pension and retirement benefits, and lets not forget, the tax incentive for the private jets. And lets also not forget our elected officials and representatives who seem completely disconnected from reality and unable to get their heads in the game and approvea jobs program and revenue bills to get us all out of this mess.

I, for one, am delighted that the Occupy Movement is here.  It has already changed the conversation in the country.  When one talks to the protestors, it is refreshing and energizing to hear them discuss the economy, jobs and fairness and NOT making abortion and gay marriage illegal, defunding Planned Parenthood, repealing the Affordable Health Care Act and making sure Obama is a “One Term President”.

This movement has given all of us hope.  Hope that America can get back on track and be the kind of country we all deserve and can be proud of, as well as one rest of the world can respect if not try and emulate.

 


The Marie Antoinette Syndrome

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on September 20, 2011 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

The Marie Antoinette Syndrome

In response to President Obama’s jobs and deficit reduction plan,including streamlining the tax code and requiring millionaires and up to pay about the same tax rate as the people that work for them, Tea Party Representative John Fleming (R-LA). argues that out of a business income of $6.3 Million, he only has about $600,000 left net  leaving him for “Feeding my family” only $200,000, and only $400,000 to invest in his businesses!

Let me try and put this in perspective for the congressman (I also want to take the opportunity to offer my services to help him streamline his business, make it more effecient it and make it more profitable–call me to discuss congressman).  Last week the US Census Bureau released new 2010 data on poverty. Due to the Great Recession 46.2 million Americans now live below the poverty line–defined as less than $22,314 per year for a family of four–Leaving Mr. Fleming 8.9 times that amount for his food budget. A record 20 million Americans now live in deep poverty–defined as les than $11,000 or a family of four–Leaving Mr., Fleming a mere 18.1 times that amount for his food budget.  And we're not sure where the Congressman's $174,000 salary and federally paid health insurance and pension fits into this? (is $374,000 a year enough to eat on?) And also lets not forget that the proposal is to raise the top tax bracket from 35% to 39.6%–the same rate which under President Clinton created a huge boom in the economy–a small margin Mr. Fleming would hardly miss.

What is most pathetic and disturbing here is the fact that a US Congressman can actually get on a television news program and make this ridiculous argument with a straight face.  It reminds me of a story from his childhood my Dad told me many years ago about a teacher that was discussing poverty with her class. When she asked the students for their stories, one student described her family of four living in two rooms with their grandparents, all sharing one outhouse etc., another little girl jumped up to share, and she passionately explained that her family was actually poorer since their maid is poor, and their cook is poor, and their chauffer is poor etc.

Although life is subjective to a certain extent, reasonable mature and intelligent adults do agree on a basic reality.  Claiming that his low effective tax rate–the lowest in numerous decades–cannot be adjusted, as was always done,because he only has “$200,000 left to feed his family" makes no sense.  We already have a progressive tax code to make sure people pay their fair share depending on their income.Unfortunately with Bush 43 tax cuts and numerous deductions and loopholes, the wealthy pay less effective tax than their secretaries.  President Reagan raised taxes up to a top tax bracket of 50%; President Clinton raised taxes and created 23.1million jobs. President George W. Bush cut taxes, only created 3 million jobs,got us into 2 not-paid-for wars and an unpaid for prescription drug policy that with the lax regulation of wall street, got us into this depression.

Even before the President’s jobs speech, the Republican’s were crying “Class warfare”, which would be hysterically funny if not so predictable and pathetic.  Coming from a group of people that have spent great amounts of wealth and human resources, combined with spinning, lies and deceit to try and dismantle the middle class and further enrich the rich (top 400 American families have more wealth than 50% of Americans and have seen their taxes cut by 40% since1999). 

If it looks life the middle ages in Europe, it is because it is. What we need is a modern day Robin Hood, not to take from the rich andgive to the poor, but to fairly and equitably distribute the burden and costs of this great country and to structure a healthy and positive partnership between smart and efficient government and smart, innovative and efficient private sector, to heal the economy and move the country forwards.  Other countries have done and are doing so very successfully (think Germany as but one example).  There is absolutely no reason we can’t do it, and do it much, much better.

 


We Stop Political Donations - But will They?

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on August 18, 2011 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

We Stop Political Donations - But will They?

Howard Schultz, the chairman and CEO of Starbucks, is on a mission.  He wants people and corporations to boycott political donations. as an incentive to our representatives in DC to grow up and concentrate on getting the business of the country and its people done. No doubt he is expressing a strong popular sentiment from across this country, currently neck deep in a recession, especially following the mishandling–if handling at all–of the self imposed and irrelevant debt-ceiling fiasco.  Schultz called for suspension of donations to all incumbents–including President Obama–until a “proper deal” on the debt issue is reached.

In a political system distorted, corrupt and drowning in money from special interest groups and people, cutting the funds is not a bad idea, or is it?  Interesting that these calls, initiatives and yes, dare I say it, pledges, come from the left (Howard is a registered Democrat), while the right is more interested in shortsighted and uninformed “no tax”, “no gay marriage”, “no abortion”, “God is great” type of pledges. 

Washington is clearly bought, sold and owned by money.  Money has to be taken out of the equation somehow for the democratic process to win the day.  It is the how (god and the devil are both in the details!) that is important. 

This call to action–or no action– only works if everyone adheres to it. In an environment where one side–the right–has a scorched earth policy–and will bring the country to the brink of calamity–debt ceiling fiasco–religiously sticking to its convictions, as erroneous, uninformed and dangerous as they are,one side actions of reason do not work.

The list of the corporate leaders who decided to sign the no-donation pledge is supposed to be released next week.  It would come as no surprise to this writer if it is mostly, if not all, populated by people from center left, while the ones on the right stick tightly to their political goals of making sure Obama is a “one term president” and the redistribution of wealth and wealth acquisition and control continues upwards.

The solution here is simple, just like the solution to our health care tragedy.  We take money out of politics altogether (yes that does mean reversing Citizens United and revamping our political system and elections).  In addition, we make the presidency a 6 year, one term office.  Once elected, you have six years to get your platform and campaign promises done, without the ridiculous distraction of having to start running for your second term 18 months before your first term ends.

That is the way to solve this huge problem that is, and has been, distorting our democracy for decades and decades.  With all due respect to Howard Schultz–who is putting his money and power where his heart is and doing the right thing here–this is a people problem; and unless “we the people” join the fight, nothing will ever change and we all would be the less for it.

Finally, although I would love to support Howard’s company,I like his politics much more than his coffee.  So for now, I will continue to drink at Peet’s, while supporting Howard’s politics from their store. 

 


Where is the leadership?

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on August 8, 2011 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Where is the Where leadership? 

President Obama just spent ten minutes with us talking about the S&P downgrade (a ridiculous disastrous political act by a credit ratings agency of what should have been, and always was, an economic issue not deserving of a downgrade) of the US to AA+ as well as the tragedy in Afghanistan that resulted in the loss of thirty American troops and seven Afghans (do you think it’s time to get out of these two wars NOW? A war that never made any sense and makes even less sense now).  

When talking about the economic issue, President Obama made it clear that we are still a AAA nation and that we can solve our problems and get out of this financial and social mess. He mentioned the Super Committee and indicated that we must implement several actions immediately (or as soon as Congress gets back in September):

1. Extend unemployment benefits – which will keep consumers spending the little they are.

2. Extend the payroll Tax holiday – provide an incentive to businesses to hire.

3. An infrastructure jobs program by the federal government to get people back to work.

President Obama stressed that we need a long-term balanced approach to debt reduction and that jobs are the critical element at present. What is perplexing is the tone and lack of action involved in his speech. Since it is clear that the Republicans are not willing to consider raising taxes or closing loopholes to generate additional revenues, nor are they willing to provide additional stimuli to the economy via a jobs program, where does the President think that we go from here?

What needs to happen is simply a specific and aggressive action plan by the White House to create jobs, and take the plan to the American people. He should call for Congress to come back NOW and get to work to fix this mess. The majority of American’s, according to polls, are on the side of the White House, the Democrats and reason. They support the balanced approach the President is calling for which includes raising revenues, fixing the tax code, massive jobs program, fixing health care while also devising a mid and long term plan to fix entitlements and defense spending (the Simpson Bowles commission plan deserves serious consideration and should be offered to the American people).

What is glaringly missing here a loud and forceful call to action. Where is the outrage over this self-inflicted fiasco in DC while a majority of Americans are suffering? Where is the Presidential leadership? Get out of your comfort zone Mr. President and lead us put of this. Stop worrying about your reelection. It is paralyzing you. Do the right thing by the country and your second term is in the bag.

You're on Your Own - The American Way?

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on August 6, 2011 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)

You’re on Your Own – The American Way?

Fascinating as our politics are, they are at present mostly frustrating and bewildering.  It is sad to see how little we have leaned from past mistakes and how eager we are to throw the baby out with the bath water, giving in to fear and panic, as soon as things get tough.  What happened to American resourcefulness, resilience and ingenuity?  What happened to tackling big ideas and big projects and to taking big risks?

In 1957, The Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik and the space race. Two years later, in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration, Project Mercury was launched with the goal to orbit the earth with a manned spacecraft.  To the shock and surprise of the nation and the US administration in 1961, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, became the first man to orbit the earth, leaving the US still behind.  President John F. Kennedy, on May 25,1961, stood before congress and asked for an additional $7 to $9 billion,over five years, for a space program, arguing that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth”. On July 20,  1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts–Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr.–did it.

Although an overused cliché by now, these events are a testament to our capabilities as Americans to get the seemingly impossible and extraordinary done. Important to note that when President Kennedy issued the moon challenge in1961, no one had any idea how to actually accomplish the task. Yet eight years later, it was done.

 Here we are again facing huge challenges, larger than getting to the moon on a certain level, and yet  we do not seem to be capable of agreement on an approach, get our heads above self absorbed and selfish political agendas and get this country back on track.

82% of Americans disapprove of the way congress handles itself. 46% disapprove of the way the debt ceiling issue was handled and the resulting deal, with only 39% approving. The numbers get worst when asked if this deal will make the economy better or worst. 49% of Republicans, 54% of conservatives and 33% of Democrats said worst. As far as making the economy better; only 8% of Republicans, 10% of Conservatives and 29% of Democrats said it would.

Clearly there is a real disconnect between the American people and our representatives. What we need is the President to get aggressive, take action and take the case to the people to launch the following programs:

1.    Payroll Tax Holiday – provide more cash in peoples pockets to encourage spending. Please note that 70% of our economy is consumers and they are not spending. Thus no demand. Thus more layoffs and no growth.

2.    A Hiring Tax Credit to encourage corporations to hire.  One idea is to allow the unemployed to keep their unemployment insurance while getting a job, which will lower the first year salary to the employer.  Tax credit is another option.

3.    Specific Infrastructure Programs – List of specific bridges, highways, roads, airports,trains, water plants etc., which need fixing and improving with federal government funding to hire people and fix and improve them. The US is now benefiting from extremely low borrowing rates to get the economy moving.  In addition the government would get some of that money back in payroll and income taxes.  As the economy grows, revenues increase and some of that money would go to pay down the debt.

These are not new or radical ideas.  We have done all of this before with great success (Great Depression is one example).  Tax cuts alone simply take revenue out of the system and increases unemployment, which reduces revenues further and increases unemployment benefits.  The key is to create jobs NOW. And that is a task only government can accomplish initially, in addition to also creating incentives for private industry (hiring credit is one example), which is currently sitting on 2.5 Trillion Dollars in cash, and instead of investing it and hiring people they are laying off more people as their profits increase.

Continuing on the road we are on will simply increase unemployment, reduce revenue further, which will further increase the deficit.  In times like these government has to get involved and launch projects, which will create more small businesses around it, which will then hire people and get the economy moving and growing again.           

Another favorite red herring of the right is Social Security, even though it is solvent till 2036 if nothing is done. Keeping in mind that Social Security had nothing to do with our financial difficulties, obviously something has to be done with all the baby boomers retiring, but the solutions are simple and involve a combination of raising revenue and adjusting benefits*. On the revenue side we can and should do the following:

I.- Revenue

a.      Raise the cap on income subject to FICA taxes – The cap is currently at$106,800.  Raising it to $190,000 will close 31% of the gap. However, eliminating the cap altogether–which is the only thing that actually makes sense–closes 99% of the gap and solves the problem.

b.     Raise the payroll-tax rate on employers and employees – Going up to 6.7% from the current 6.2% eliminates half the shortfall.

c.      Broaden the base of income subject to FICA taxes – Tax health benefits and flexible-spending accounts will close 11% of the gap.

On the benefits side we can and should do the following:

II.- Benefits

a.      Raise the retirement age – A gradual increase from 67 to 70 by 2040 would close 65% of the gap.

b.     Index benefits for longevity by paying lower annual benefits and average life expectancy increases – This would close 21% of the gap and maintain similar benefits to all generations.

c.      Change the formula for the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) – Using a inflation measure called the “Chained” Consumer Price Index since it tends to rise slower than the current index now in use (Recommended by President Obama deficit commission).

*From article by Mark Miller – AARP Magazine

The simplest thing to do is eliminating the Cap, as outlines in I – a. plus II.- a and then analyze if further measures are needed.  Finally as far as Medicare is concerned, The Ryan voucher plan is an unsound and impractical draconian solution which makes no sense.  Medicare was created since Insurance companies would not insure seniors because they represent a bad risk, they get ill with expensive to treat illnesses.  The solution lies in reducing healthcare costs with a single payer program.  in the face of these and other simple solutions–as opposed to the  Ryan plan–actually provide that all important safety net to all American’s for generations to come.

What we need is an aggressive and daring jobs program as the highest priority, much higher than paying down the deficit. That comes later when you have people back to work and paying taxes.  We went from zero to landing on the moon in eight years.  We can certainly get our citizens back to work and our economy growing. We need the President to take off the gloves, lead and get us back to prosperity, just like former presidents did in the past, linking deficit reduction to growth of the economy. Considering S&P just downgraded the US credit rating to AA+ (which makes no sense as far as credit ratings go because credit ratings should only relate to risk of default and the US government has never defaulted) due to a "do nothing" congress, led by Republicans insisting on no revenue increase as part of a comprehensive deficit reduction plan, in addition to budget cuts–something every economist of reason understand as a must do–there is reason to continue the gentle approach. It does not work as we all saw in the past 2.5 years and especially in the past few months.  Time to call them out and make the case to the American people.

Time to fight for the majority of the American people. The time is now.  Labor is plentiful, cash is cheap.  Now is the time.  If not now, when?

 

 

 

 


Mr. President - Time to get Angry and Tough

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on August 3, 2011 at 11:01 PM Comments comments (0)

Mr. President – Time to get Angry and Tough

The FAA is shut down. Four thousand (4,000) FAA employees have been furloughed without pay, and no back pay, because of it.  In addition seventy thousand (70,000) construction workers were laid off because construction projects for airports stopped.  All this pain to thousands of people in a disastrous economy and high unemployment is due to the Republicans trying to accomplish two political objectives with no regard to the damage to the economy and to people: 1. Close some regional airports in Democratic districts; and more importantly 2. Destroy the unions involved in the aviation industry, on the behest of Delta Airlines, the only major airline not unionized.  This is also costing the treasury $200M dollars a week and since the congress is in recess and left DC without the routine autorization of the FAA, which was always done, it will cost the treasury over $1 Billion in  revenue.

After caving on the extension of the Bush tax cuts and now caving on this seriously economically crazy debt ceiling deal, it’s time for you, Mr. President, to fight back for what is right and true.  It is time for you to fulfill the promise of your 2008 campaign and get us out of this mess and move us forward to a brighter future of employment and prosperity, end the wars and protect and rebuild America.

This is not the time to play nice with those who will never accept you or listen to you.  This is not the time to continue trying to reason with those you cannot reason with.  This is not the time to meet the unreasonable demands of those that don’t get it, half way.  We spent the last 10 years trying it their way and it got us into the great recession while making their masters much, much richer at the expense of the country's and society's health as well as the great majority of us citizens. 

What we need is a clear policy and dialogue with the American people.  Treat us like the adult we are–at least most of us–and mobilize us.  Talk to us about large corporations that are posting record profits while laying off American workers.  Talk to us about jobs, jobs, jobs, and what will be required to get there–government involvement and projects.  It was done before with the Great Depression, and can be done again.  Lets learn from history and not repeat its mistakes of the past.

It’s time to get angry and fight back.  It’s time to rally the American people and stand up to the Republicans.  Time for a Democratic agenda which must include: Government investment in job creation which will also raise revenue from taxes of working people, simplifying, de-loop holing tax expenditures and equalizing the tax code for fair tax payment by all including corporations and the rich, a reasonable plan to pay down the deficit as the economy starts rebounding (might want to look at the Simpson-Bowles recommendations or The People’s Budget as a good blueprint), a real universal healthcare reform–we all deserve it as Americans, investments in education, R&D, infrastructure with specifics of projects that MUST get done to fix crumbling roads, highways and bridges, a fast rail system, and the list goes on and on.

If you, Mr. President, call for us to join you in that fight to get our country back on track, our citizens back to work, our corporations to invest their trillions of profit dollars in expanding their business here in the US, and all of us to share in the pain and sacrifice required to get our entitlement programs solvent and our debt paid off, we will.

Give it a try, Mr. President, after all, considering what is going on these days, you have nothing to loose and everything to gain, and most importantly, we might just surprise you and you just might surprise yourself and the whole county so much better for it.

 

 

 



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