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Michelle Obama’s Anti-Obesity Plans Revealed

8:38 pm in Government by fflambeau

Michelle Obama is leading the charge against childhood obesity. Here we outdo WebMD and present the First Lady’s 3 top ideas for keeping kids in shape!

#1: Punch-a-Progressive Program.

Michelle says this about her Punch-a-Progressive Program:

You know how my hubby stays in shape and keeps that cute bottom and also how Rahm keeps the midriff bulge off: they punch progressives. Not just daily, but two or three times a day. Great for the upper arms too (check mine out!).

#2: Help-a-Banker-Cross-the-Street Program.

We all know that bankers require help these days. And, the bigger they are the more help they need. So, here’s a great workout for your cardiovascular system: help bankers cross the streets. Protect them, pamper them. Remember, the more you coddle them, the more calories you will burn up!

Michelle’s hot tip of the day:

My "Help-A-Banker-Cross-the-Street Program" has been endorsed by none other than Robert Rubin. He especially urges you to help bankers from Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. They’re easy to spot: they’re truly losers and many of them can be identified by their golden parachutes or because they are sporting job id’s from my husband’s administration.

#3: Cut Entitlements Program.

Here’s a program that’s great for your wrist muscles and for you lower arms. Get out there and cut every entitlement designed to help average Americans that you see. Social security, medicare, medicaid–these are not the kind of programs that Princeton and Harvard Law School grads rely on anyway. Barack’s hero Ronald Reagan didn’t much like them either.

But if you cut these wasteful entitlements and squeeze the life out of them, you’ll not only cut the fat out of our budget but out of your obese body and the body politic. We can then spend the saved dollars where they are really needed: the Defense Department budget (one of my other programs is to assist servicemen and servicewomen); bailing out major corporations; and helping Blue Dogs get reelected.

You should see the wonders this program has done for Alice Rivlin and Anne Fudge since my hubby put them on his deficit reduction commission. They’re earning more money too!

New York Times Beats Drum for Social Security “Reform” (Meaning Cuts, Age Increases)

1:00 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

It’s already happened, sooner than I thought but as predicted. One of the mainstays of the status quo is calling for "social security reform". The New York Times in a front page article says social security "reform" is the "next big issue" and that Social Security is "the likeliest source of the sort of large savings needed to bring projected annual deficits to sustainable levels". The article, "Next Big Issue? Social Security Pops Up Again" was written by Jackie Calmes. Her article raises issues of journalistic ethics and the misuse of anonymous sources.

Shamefully, this New York Times article, for example, gives an anonymous source for listing three economists who it claims are "the best minds and prolific authors on Social Security" without exploring their background or telling us that all three have ties to institutions (like the Hamilton Project and Goldman Sachs) seeking entitlement cuts. This is stacking the deck just like the Obama administration stacked the deck against single payer and the public option by freezing out proponents of those ideas. This is also a complete misuse by Jackie Calmes and the New York Times of the reasons for an "anonymous source": what’s to hide in the naming of some economists, please, other than the fact that this reporter was essentially told by someone what to write and didn’t look into the subject at all?

Had Jackie Calmes done any research on this topic at all she would have found out that an attack on entitlements was also high on the wish list of the Hamilton Project (again, to which all 3 or her economists have links). Recall that the Hamilton Project is the "think tank" sponsored by Goldman Sachs and ex-Goldman Sachs chief, Robert Rubin, and cleverly embedded in the Brookings Institution. In April, 2006, a young, Democratic senator spoke at the inauguration of the Hamilton Project. Barack Obama lavished praise on "my friend Bob" (Rubin) and said the U.S. needs more NAFTA-type agreements and needs to cut entitlements (like social security). Read the rest of this entry →

POLITICAL SUICIDE: Senate (including 12 Dems) Nixes $250 Payout to Elderly

3:26 am in Uncategorized by fflambeau

The Senate voted against a Bernie Sanders sponsored bill to provide $250 payouts to the elderly, the disabled and veterans. Sanders sponsored the measure because Social Security checks to these groups will stay flat this year; the bill would have provided a small measure of relief to 57 million Americans, many of whom live at or near the poverty level.

Reuters reports that:

A measure to give some 57 million elderly people, veterans and persons with disabilities a $250 check was rejected by the Senate on Wednesday…

President Barack Obama has called for Congress to approve the payments to make up for their benefits not increasing this year, but the Senate defeated it 50 to 47.

The payments would have added $13 billion to a $108 billion job-creation package pending in the Senate.

Social Security payments for the elderly and disabled will stay flat this year for the first time since 1975 because they are tied to consumer prices, which decreased amid the worst economic recession in 70 years.

The same article quotes the bill’s disappointed sponsor, Sen. Bernie Sanders as saying:

It is wrong to turn our backs on seniors in this moment of economic difficulty," said Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who sponsored the amendment.

But Republican Senator Judd Gregg pointed out that the bill would defeat the purpose of indexing Social Security payments to inflation.

"The law says it shouldn’t be given," Gregg said.

At least 10 Democrats [Diarist's note: 12 by my count, see below]agreed with Gregg and joined 40 Republicans to defeat the proposal.

That’s the same Judd Gregg who voted against Obama’s stimulus measure and whom Obama once was pushing to be his Commerce Secretary.

Sadly, a number of liberal/moderate Democrats voted against relief to the seniors including:

Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin);
Bennett (D-Colorado);
Feinstein (D-California);
Levin (D-Michigan);
Udall (D-Colorado);

Other Democrats voting against the bill:

Bayh (Indiana);
Carper (Delaware);
Landrieu (LA);
McCaskill (MO);
Nelson (NE);
Shaheen (NH);
Warner (VA);

So by my count, complied from lists from the Senate, 12 Democrats voted against this measure designed to help the elderly.

It seems that many Democrats haven’t figured out yet that the elderly have the highest turnout percentages of any voting group, that they have tended to vote in high numbers for Democrats [which is the party that gave them Social Security], and that this is going to piss off a huge group of their base support. It’s likely that these average Americans will recall the trillions given in bailouts to big banks and Wall Street and the hundreds of billions voted on by the same Senators for defense appropriations without a question being raised, while their $250 checks (yes, that is TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS and ZERO CENTS) were denied them with the aid and assistance of 12 Democrats. Many of these elderly Americans will be asking and thinking:

What’s the difference between these two groups of politicians, the Republicans and the Democrats? They both give money to the same groups and it ain’t us.

Methinks the Democratic party essentially committed suicide with this vote.

Of course, the Liebercreature also voted against the elderly and disabled.

Snowe (Maine) was the only Republican senator who voted for the Sanders bill.

Especially disappointing was Russ Feingold’s position on this. Most of the readers of my diaries probably know I’m a big fan of Feingold. He’s up for reelection and maybe he thought it important to be a hawk on the deficit. But I doubt this will go over well with senior citizens in Wisconsin.

In fact, Feingold had just a few days earlier, on Friday, February 26th, held one of his famous "listening sessions" with his Wisconsin constituents in the tiny town of Park Falls, Wisconsin, where he answered questions from an estimated 30 voters. According to a local newspaper/website account, several of the comments came from disappointed seniors and Feingold attempted to mollify them with words and promises that seem to be quite different from his vote:

The next speaker was one of several senior citizens who were concerned because the Social Security Administration had deemed that there would be no increase in benefits because there had not been any inflation during the year 2009.

Some seniors noted that they had gotten a 5.8% increase the year before, but never had they gotten zero.

Feingold agreed that the lack of an increase for those on social security just doesn’t reflect reality.

“I think this is very unfortunate,” he said. “This does not really indicate what people’s costs are and I would like to put this in a bill which would review this very thing.”

Feingold said he did not want to debate this in Congress “because then nothing will ever get done; we need to move faster than that.”

Several seniors noted that the cost of eggs, milk and almost all other staples have gone up and they couldn’t imagine that there had been no inflation in 2009.

…Geraldine Schmidt said that because her husband passed away, she has lost his social security benefits — even though he paid into the program for all of his life.

“So, now I discover that I am living on the poverty level and this year with no increase in the COLA (cost of living adjustment) what do I do? I am really sure that the cost of bread and butter has gone up so how can they say those on social security should not get any increase at all. The COLA helps this program work and I don’t know why they want to destroy that.”

Feingold said that he hopes a Social Security fix will be coming in a broader bill.

Perhaps the good Senator will join us here to set the record straight and explain his vote?

Here is more official information from the Senate on this:

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 111th Congress – 2nd Session

as compiled through Senate LIS by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate

Vote Summary

Question: On the Motion (Motion to Waive Sec. 403(a) of S.Con.Res. 13, 111th Congress, re: Sanders Amdt. No. 3353 As Modified )
Vote Number: 36 Vote Date: March 3, 2010, 06:28 PM
Required For Majority: 3/5 Vote Result: Motion Rejected
Amendment Number: S.Amdt. 3353 to S.Amdt. 3336 to H.R. 4213 (Tax Extenders Act of 2009)
Statement of Purpose: To provide an emergency benefit of $250 to seniors, veterans, and persons with disabilities in 2010 to compensate for the lack of cost-of-living adjustment for such year, and for other purposes.
Vote Counts: YEAs 47
NAYs 50
Not Voting 3
Vote Summary By Senator Name By Vote Position By Home State

Alphabetical by Senator Name
Akaka (D-HI), Yea
Alexander (R-TN), Nay
Barrasso (R-WY), Nay
Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Bayh (D-IN), Nay
Begich (D-AK), Yea
Bennet (D-CO), Nay
Bennett (R-UT), Nay
Bingaman (D-NM), Yea
Bond (R-MO), Not Voting
Boxer (D-CA), Yea
Brown (D-OH), Yea
Brown (R-MA), Nay
Brownback (R-KS), Nay
Bunning (R-KY), Nay
Burr (R-NC), Nay
Burris (D-IL), Yea
Byrd (D-WV), Yea
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Cardin (D-MD), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Nay
Casey (D-PA), Yea
Chambliss (R-GA), Nay
Coburn (R-OK), Nay
Cochran (R-MS), Nay
Collins (R-ME), Nay
Conrad (D-ND), Yea
Corker (R-TN), Nay
Cornyn (R-TX), Nay
Crapo (R-ID), Nay
DeMint (R-SC), Nay
Dodd (D-CT), Yea
Dorgan (D-ND), Yea
Durbin (D-IL), Yea
Ensign (R-NV), Nay
Enzi (R-WY), Nay
Feingold (D-WI), Nay
Feinstein (D-CA), Nay
Franken (D-MN), Yea
Gillibrand (D-NY), Yea
Graham (R-SC), Nay
Grassley (R-IA), Nay
Gregg (R-NH), Nay
Hagan (D-NC), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Yea
Hatch (R-UT), Nay
Hutchison (R-TX), Not Voting
Inhofe (R-OK), Nay
Inouye (D-HI), Yea
Isakson (R-GA), Not Voting
Johanns (R-NE), Nay
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Kaufman (D-DE), Yea
Kerry (D-MA), Yea
Klobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Kohl (D-WI), Yea
Kyl (R-AZ), Nay
Landrieu (D-LA), Nay
Lautenberg (D-NJ), Yea
Leahy (D-VT), Yea
LeMieux (R-FL), Nay
Levin (D-MI), Nay
Lieberman (ID-CT), Nay
Lincoln (D-AR), Yea
Lugar (R-IN), Nay
McCain (R-AZ), Nay
McCaskill (D-MO), Nay
McConnell (R-KY), Nay
Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
Merkley (D-OR), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Murkowski (R-AK), Nay
Murray (D-WA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Nelson (D-NE), Nay
Pryor (D-AR), Yea
Reed (D-RI), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Risch (R-ID), Nay
Roberts (R-KS), Nay
Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Sanders (I-VT), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Sessions (R-AL), Nay
Shaheen (D-NH), Nay
Shelby (R-AL), Nay
Snowe (R-ME), Yea
Specter (D-PA), Yea
Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Tester (D-MT), Yea
Thune (R-SD), Nay
Udall (D-CO), Nay
Udall (D-NM), Yea
Vitter (R-LA), Nay
Voinovich (R-OH), Nay
Warner (D-VA), Nay
Webb (D-VA), Yea
Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea
Wicker (R-MS), Nay
Wyden (D-OR), Yea

I’m hoping that if Obama really supports this, as he claims, he and the Democratic Party will try to do it another way. That could be done, for instance, by modifying the way the cost of living is derived for the formula which in turn affects social security benefits. Like the citizens’ expressions in Wisconsin, I find it hard to believe there was zero inflation this past year (but I don’t claim to be an economist either, so help me out if you can). Another way that a similar result could be reached is to raised the minimum payout threshold to a higher level for all Social Security recipients. We should also be looking at INCREASING the level that the Social Security tax goes to (I think it stops now around $90,000 in income). That would provide for possibilities of more minimum payments to recipients and also stabilize the system over the long haul.

In the meantime, shame on the 12 Democrats who voted with a virtually united Republican party. If we cannot provide a little help to our old people, our disabled, and our veterans, who can we help? I guess the answer is big banks.

The bill would have cost only $13 billion, a trifle of what Wall St. received from most of the same Senators, and most of the money would have helped to stimulate the sluggish economy because it would have been spent, most probably, on food and other necessities. A double shame to the liberal/moderate Democrats who abandoned average Americans, many of them in a time of need.

Governments Worldwide Assail Elderly and Attempt to Cut Their Benefits

8:17 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

Many Western, democratic governments face huge budget problems and are attempting to raise the retirement age and to cut benefits to the elderly to balance their books. This is occurring now in Spain (where the government wants to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67), in France where Nicolas Sarkozy has led an assault on all types of government benefits to the French population, and now to the Dutch. Moreover, the Obama administration will not be far behind.

Buried in a story in today’s New York Time’s web site on the collapse of the Dutch government due to differences over staying the course in Afghanistan is this telling comment:

The question of retaining troops in Afghanistan was far from the only issue pulling apart the parties in the governing coalition in the Netherlands; the parties were also divided over a controversial decision to increase the retirement age and the impending need for deep budget cuts. But the dispute over the troops brought relations to the breaking point.

(Emphasis added).

Note too that these governments typically want to spend MORE money in their budgets on bombs, tanks, bullets and fighter planes and that if they cut back in these areas they would have the money to fund retirement programs that would provide dignity and necessary financial support for the elderly and retired. But that means less profits for the military industrial complex which often provide kickbacks to the politicians. The retirement funds earned by workers (which are never put into a "bank" and used just for that purpose) are also "cash cows" for politicians to milk for their less than worthy projects. In this sense, America is no exception and this situation is now occurring in almost all countries because the population is aging and governments worldwide have failed in their core responsibilities of taking care of their citizens needs in health, education, and retirement.

Usually, attempts to cut such social benefits are disguised as "reform". That is what Sarkozy calls it. And that too is what Barack Obama and Rahm called their health "insurance" programs which were anything but reform and were designed to increase profits for insurance and pharmaceutical corporations.

Obama himself in 2006 in a speech he gave at the Hamilton Project inauguration, with Mr. Goldman Sachs (Bob Rubin) who funded that neo-liberal "think tank" warned his approving audience of bankers and the elite, that entitlement cuts were necessary. His speech was also larded with compliments of NAFTA and a call for more such "free trade" pacts.

Unfortunately, Obama and Rahm want more money for the big banks, for fighting in the five countries where we are now at war, for Wall Street. These "Democrats" have less will to spend revenue on true health care reform, education, and retirement systems. When it comes to spending on these items, these people suddenly become "budget hawks". So beware when Obama and any other politician starts talking about "social security reform": what it really means is social security cutbacks.

Here are 2 simple proposals to expand and improve U.S. retirement benefits:

1) extend the social security tax to all taxable income, not the $90,000 or so threshold that now exists (so the rich do not really have to pay a social security tax on most of their income); this single item would make social security solvent forever.

2) put all the money collected from the American people in the name of Social Security in a new bank, the Social Security Bank. It could earn interest there AND no money could be taken out except to pay retirement benefits.

If politicians do not measure up, we can kick them out. That’s exactly what happened to the Dutch government which is in the process of being dissolved and will have to face the voters.

We need to send the same message to our American politicians and getting rid of Harry Reid and some major Blue Dog Democrats is the way to start.