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Thoughts on the Fiscal Cliff “Solution”

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Over the past six and a half years, I've written quite a bit about personal finance and related financial news. However, whenever the really big financial news comes out, I'm often not interested in writing about it. Such is the case with the fiscal cliff. It seems like every news outlet is either writing about that or what's going on Kim Kardashian's tummy and I can't recommend spending your time on either.

A few weeks ago, I relented and wrote about this fiscal cliff thing and I'm going to do today.

I have four main areas that I'd like to cover with regard to the fiscal cliff:

1. The 2% "payroll tax hike"

I've read numerous articles claiming that everyone's taxes are being raised. Each article points to the 2% tax relief we (Americans) got to help boost the economy. This came from the Social Security tax. In other words, we took more from an underfunded source creating a bigger problem in the future. Guest author Kosmo covered it well in this article, Social Security’s Death Clock Ticks Faster this Year:

"So we take a program that is already on shaky ground ... and cut funding? Sure, it will be great to have a few extra dollars in our pocket on pay day (I like extra money as much as the next person), but this seems to be missing the forest for the trees. Then there's the prospect of this cut ending at the conclusion of 2011. Will it really end? Or will there be fear that a reversion to the regular rate will be characterized as a 'tax increase'? If that's the case, we could see a few more years of underfunding for social security until someone finally has the cojones to say 'If we want to keep Social Security, we need to pay for it.'"

Nostradamus had nothing on Kosmo. Almost every article I read is characterizing this reversion to the regular rate as a tax increase. While technically true, it doesn't deserve the bad press surrounding it. Either be thankful you got it in the first place, or celebrate our Social Security funding getting back to the norm.

The upshot of the 2% means that someone making $30,000 is going to be making around $50 less a month. I realize that there are a lot of struggling people out there. I feel for those people. On the other hand, to the people with iPhones and iPads complaining about this, “I’m Like, ‘F@#% You!’”.

I can save most people a lot more than $50 a month, relatively painlessly. I put a bunch ideas on that here: fast finance fixes.

2. The raising of taxes on people making 250K vs. 450K

We just finished saying how it is such a crime that the people making $30,000 a year are going to lose $50 a month, right? With all the struggling people and the high unemployment rate, we should be focused on these people right? So what better way to demonstrate the highest level of hypocrisy by making a big deal out of whether we are raising on those making 250K, 450K, or 1M?

Let me make sure I'm clear on this: Congress was quarrelling over whether to raise taxes on the top ~98% or the top ~99% at the expense of everyone (including those in both ranges since they'd have their taxes raised too).

The only way this could make less sense is if the quarrel was irrelevant in the first place. And according to this Forbes article it was. The long shot is that many of these people are going to get hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) anyway.

Awesome... all that fighting for what seems to be nothing.

3. This "Solution" is just a drop in the bucket

The taxes amounted to 61 billion in more income a year for the government on average, while the annual deficit is something like 1100 billion (or better known as 1.1 trillion). So we've fixed about 5% of the problem for this year... and then we've got another 16 trillion in debt behind that.

I like how Rob Berger of The Dough Roller put it in one of the comments of his article: "... we’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time arguing over taxes on the top 2 percent when the revenue they will generate is so small compared to our problems. It would be like focusing all of our attention on patching a small hole in the Titanic while ignoring a huge hole on the other side of the ship."

I wish I was an artist so I could draw some kind of political cartoon with an ant ($61 billion) trying to fight an elephant (1.1 trillion) and both them not being aware of the nuclear bomb being dropped on them (16 trillion). I realize you have to start somewhere, but it is ridiculous to be fighting a this level.

4. The people upset with politicians in Washington

This reminds me of one of my favorite Buffy the Vampire Quotes: "So, Dawn's in trouble... must be Tuesday." In other words, what else is new?

I am shocked that night after night the news was able to find people legitimately surprised by everything that happened with the fiscal cliff. I turned on CNBC and people were complaining about the lack of leadership in Washington.

How much progress do you think would be made if you put the Hatfields and the McCoys in the same room and told them they had to come to an agreement. What about the Autobots and the Decepticons? You get the idea.

It's like complaining that a country in the middle of a civil war isn't leading the rest of the world. It just isn't going to happen.

I'm trying hard not blame one political party or the other, but well, screw it. When someone says, "The rape guy lost the election" and another person has to clarify, "which rape guy?" your political party has a problem. When one of your most public faces, Michele Bachmann, doesn't know the basic facts about vaccines and autism, and publicly displays her ignorance many times, it demonstrates a lack of intelligence in your party's leadership. All is not lost for your political party though... in the past few months Chris Christie has shown multiple times that he's there for the people he represents with his response to Hurricane Sandy. He's not afraid to praise the other political party when they help the cause. He's not afraid to blast his own party and John Boehner when they leave without voting on the bill that would aid victims of Hurricane Sandy.

With people like that, maybe there's hope that common sense and coming together for the welfare of the nation can still happen.

Posted on January 3, 2013.

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Economy, News

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26 Responses to “Thoughts on the Fiscal Cliff “Solution””

  1. Great post, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Good thing we get to re-live the whole ordeal in a month when the debt ceiling debate arises again!

    It’s a growing problem in our country that politics is treated like a football game. A growing number of people would rather see their “team” stick to their guns at all costs instead of actually compromising on some of their increasingly rigid ideals. Which I guess is why its no surprise Ms. Bachmann would rather vote to repeal “Obamacare” for the 34th time instead of tackling some issues that have a chance of actually happening.

  2. Gene Clarke says:

    Lazy Man,

    I just unsubscribed from your feed in my RSS Reader. You come into this with a clear bias.

    You correctly point out that this is a SPENDING problem, not a REVENUE problem (we could tax the top 2% at a 100% tax rate and still not close even a 1/3 of the deficit) and then go on to blast the one party that wants to cut spending?

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. The Republicans aren’t opposed to the tax hikes because they are “so friendly” with the rich that they want to defend them… they oppose them because tax hikes at this point are smoke and mirrors… they won’t help, and have the very real potential to HURT the economy. So, the Republicans are willing to face the anger of the masses by cutting spending – and as we all know, everyone wants to end the deficit, but no one wants you to touch their precious programs.

    You, yourself are living in part on the government dole. I look at all of your posts about your wife’s military benefits – like subsidized groceries at the exchanges. Why are we subsidizing you? You’re a two income family, and your wife is not serving in a war zone. Buy your groceries at market prices, like we all do.

    I’m done with your blog – during the election you attacked Romney, and now you’re fighting the Republicans in general. I love how you use Bachmann and that rape guy to represent the entire Republican party. It’s like me using Congressman Jefferson, that Democrat from Louisiana who was keeping bribe money wrapped in tin-foil in his freezer, and Re. Jesse Jackson Jr., who is under investigation by the FBI for shady campaign accounting, to represent that the entire Democratic party are on the take illegally. It’s hogwash and you know it.

    Best of luck in your future endeavors, I won’t be around for your rhetoric any more.

  3. Lazy Man says:

    Gene Clarke,

    You probably won’t read this since you unsubscribed, but here goes anyway.

    You mention that I come into this with a clear bias. I’m not a political person. I prefer to follow technology news. However, my wife likes to watch the Today Show in the morning and I pick up some things from there while I begin my work. If you detect a bias against Republicans, it’s because whenever I hear something really outlandish said by a politician (i.e. legitimate rape, vaccines cause autism after it was well debunked) it comes from one party. I give credit where credit is due like with Chris Christie.

    I haven’t heard the news on Jefferson or Jackson as you state. I take politicians being shady as par for the course. I can see how power gets to their head and they feel like they can get away with anything… power corrupts absolutely, right? However, being completely ignorant of very basic things is something that I can’t understand. I don’t understand how they can get to this level or fame and influence without people having realized they were bat-poop crazy.

    I’m all for cutting spending as I pointed out. I’d love to hear a plan on how to do that. As you say, no one wants to touch their precious programs.

    If the Republicans believed that the tax hikes were all smoke and mirrors, there shouldn’t have been an argument over them. It should have been, “We’ll give you the 250K tax number, but we need these spending cuts.” I think that’s how it started, but then it turned into “We want it to be 1M or 450K, not 250K.” The best plan would have been to just let the 250K thing go and focus on the spending cuts. I understand that the democrats weren’t willing to go there yet, but that’s understandable since the immediate problem with the deadline was the tax issue.

    As for the subsidized groceries, from the official Commissaries web: “Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones.” There’s no government subsidization, they are essentially non-profits. Additionally, the military pays considerably less than other pharmacy jobs, which is one of the reasons they have a very difficult time recruiting health professionals. It comes out as a wash in the end.

    To be clear, I attacked Romney for supporting MLMs which are pyramid schemes according to the FTC guidelines. If you’ve read my blog, you understand that these cost low-income people thousands of dollars a year since well over 99% of people are mathematically going to lose money. It’s a matter of principle and doing what’s right. I attack anyone that supports these pyramid schemes… republican, democrat, or space octopus from Kelmar. Trust me, I’m not thrilled that the democrats aren’t doing anything to shut them down either.

  4. Kosmo says:

    The people complaining about the 2% “tax hike” are probably the ones that would complain the loudest when Social Security would have to drastically cut benefits due to a shortage. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

    Although, honestly, I’m more worried about the viability of medicare. Even though the cost of health care has been skyrocketing, the ratio of SS to medicare has remained the same (6.2 : 1.45).

    I’d actually voluntarily give up my SS benefits in exchange for the guarantee of good health care coverage when I’m older. I’m not worried about my ability to pay for a house, car, or food. It’s the open heart surgery sorts of things I worry about.

  5. Cathie says:

    Thank you for a very well stated article, and response. I have never found you to be a rhetoric-spewer.
    I am a resident of the Garden State. I am a registered Democrat. I have a lot of issues with politicians of both parties as well. I am very fond of my Gov, and I think it’s about time to govern with a little common sense instead of rigidly walking the party line. And make no mistake – there are a bunch of Republicans who don’t want THEIR programs cut either. I just wish our public servants were more interested in the public SERVICE than in their own interests and income.
    As I recall from my military spouse days of yore, there were pros and cons to shopping at the commissary, and I often found myself shopping off base for some of those reasons.

  6. Lazy Man says:

    Kosmo,

    I agree with you that health care is getting out of control. I lie to myself and say that it will probably get better with efficiencies in information technology. I’m sure it won’t.

    Cathie,

    Thanks for the response. I think I’ve made 2 or 3 comments regarding politicians in the last 6.5 years. If that causes people to unsubscribe, so be it. I would rather read someone with a strong differing opinion than someone who just plays it safe and says that they love everyone.

    Yes there are a number of things that I won’t get at the commissary. For example any diet soda is usually around $1.50 a 2-liter, where my local grocery store has them under a dollar. The meat specials at grocery stores are cheaper too. Like most grocery shopping, you have to pick and choose. Often I’ve found that Wal-Mart competes quite well with the commissary prices. Also, if you buy in bulk, Costco’s price per unit is typically very competitive as well.

  7. Gene Clarke says:

    Lazy Man,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I still disagree with you, but appreciate your time in crafting your answer.

    One point I do want to make though, is to respond to the part where you said:

    “If you detect a bias against Republicans, it’s because whenever I hear something really outlandish said by a politician (i.e. legitimate rape, vaccines cause autism after it was well debunked) it comes from one party.”

    I would suggest that part of the bias I am detecting is because maybe you choose not to hear the crazy dumb things Democrats say (or maybe it is just that more liberal outlets like NBC aren’t reporting them). For example:

    “I don’t know if she’s ever had a real job, at least since she’s been a grown up”

    -Theresa Heinz Kerry, wheh her husband was running for president in 2004, talking about First Lady, mother, school teacher and librarian Laura Bush

    “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion…”

    -Presidential candidate Barack Obama talking about people in small town America who lose jobs.

    “[Romney]’s gonna let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street! They’re gonna put y’all back in chains.”

    -VP Joe Biden, addressing the Democratic National Convention (imagine a Republican saying this!)

    “You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent … I’m not joking.”

    -Another gem by Joe Biden

    “We have to pass it to know what’s in it”

    -House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talking about the Obama Care legislation she was ramming through Congress without letting members read it.

    And, let’s not forget the Twitter misadventures of Anthony Weiner, and the Oval Office intern-antics of Bill Clinton.

  8. Bret says:

    I’ve unsubscribed from your blog. I enjoyed your financial viewpoint. Im not fond your political views. One reason Trent at the Simple Dollar is so successful is he avoids politics. A good blog is one everyone can enjoy.

  9. Kosmo says:

    I’d think that most of the efficiency gains from IT may have already been achieved.

    I wonder if a big chunk of the increase is the fact that medical science has found treatments that were technologically impossible in the past – but which simply are expensive by their very nature. If the past, it was cheap to treat these things – you’d just let the patient die because there was no treatment.

    This election cycle just seemed to have most of the nutty things fall on the GOP side. Next time it could swing completely the other way. It does seem that nutty seems to trump “simply” corrupt when it comes to capturing the public interest. Gov. Blago (Dem) got a lot of headlines because he was corrupt AND nutty – the daily double.

  10. Contrarian says:

    Lazy, I’ve got no quibble with the specific points you’ve made, other than the fact that you (like everyone else) seem to have been seduced into buying into the 24/7 big-media fiscal-cliff sensationalism … which amounts to arguing over the exact placement and location of the deck chairs on the Titanic while the ship is sinking. Everyone is lost in the weeds and missing the main point point.

    The fiscal cliff is about politics, and today’s politics is about optics over substance. Both of the corrupt big-government parties are playing is a deceptive game of “smoke and mirrors” in an attempt to mask and obscure the real problems this country faces … as if ignoring the problems will make them magically go away. I’ve got a question for you: how many of your problems go away when you ignore them?

    These bloated self-serving bureaucrats are just trying to buy themselves enough time so that the house of cards doesn’t collapse on their watch. It is all theater; a “can kicking – extend-and-pretend exercise” intended to mask and obscure the true risk in the system. Nothing has changed, nothing has been fixed, and nothing will be fixed. Shakespeare would call the entire charade, “sound and fury, signifying nothing”. I would agree.

  11. Lazy Man says:

    Bret,

    I don’t think avoiding the discussion of politics adds to a financial blog. There are a lot of blogs who focus on religion or at least once a week write on a religious topic. I know a some people who are complete atheists and they read these blogs… even the articles about donating to church. I think you can learn more from people with opposing views than with those who agree with you.

    I don’t believe Trent’s success is rooted in that he avoids politics. He’s simply a well-trained writer, even before he started blogging. (Side trivia: Did you know he used to leave comments here before he even started a blog?) I read Peter King’s Monday Morning Football every week for great football analysis, but he also includes his beliefs on a wide variety of things. He’s a far more successful writer than even Trent (with apologies to Trent), so clearly avoiding politics is part of being successful.

    Gene,

    Thanks for coming back. I’ll have to look into more of these quotes, but at first glance, I would dismiss the comment by Theresa Kerry as she isn’t a politician (or at least I don’t think she’s been elected to anything).

    Many of the other quotes seem to be taken out of context. As you have demonstrated from reading my articles, you know that I just moved from San Francisco, which Pelosi represents (I’ll say that for brevity as I’m running out the door). This Washington Post article explains what she was saying in more depth. I can assure you that in dozens of years of being in Congress, she knows how the system works. Do you think she really believed that you have to pass a bill to know what’s in it? I hope not.

    On the other hand, I really do believe that Bachmann stuck to her guns several times about about vaccines causing autism, even when it seemed others were telling her it wasn’t true. It wasn’t taking a quote out of context, it was repeated ignorance. I would say the same thing about the guy who thought that women’s bodies had a way against protecting babies being born when they were raped. That’s the kind of thing that most high schoolers could say simply wasn’t true, but this person fundamentally believed it.

    I’ll get to the other quotes in a bit, but as for the sexting stuff and Clinton’s Oval office, it doesn’t bother me for some reason. I don’t feel like either lacked basic knowledge, but got drunk with power. I give politicians a pass on moral behavior because I haven’t really seen any from either side. As I said before, it seems to come with the territory. However, if one claims that gravity doesn’t exist or something like that, I’m going to wonder how that person got to where they are with those beliefs.

  12. Contrarian says:

    Lazy … I don’t know about everyone else here, but I come to your site to hear YOUR opinions … even if your views differ from mine.

    Your blog is about money, and few things in our lives effect our money more than politics, especially now a days. Taxes, laws, and legislation are all determined by the elite politicos in government – therefore politics has a huge impact not only how much money we are able to earn, but also how much of our own money we get to keep and pass along to our heirs. So it seems to me this topic is highly relevant to the main theme of your blog … money and finances.

    Do not allow a few thin-skinned and small-minded shrills to steer the conversation away from a topic that makes them feel squeamish because it forces them to actually think. It takes a big person to want to hear what he doesn’t want to hear. Let the sheep flock to those boring sites that have nothing important to say and where everyone agrees with each other.

    If you really want a sure fire plan for loosing a bunch of subscribers (including me), start groveling, apologizing and catering to these pathetic whiners. And if I may offer a another suggestion … perhaps in your next blog post you can opine on the subject of religion. LOL!

  13. robyn says:

    [yawn] and how about some fiscal tips which are unique and can be used by those of us who were already couponers/BOGO, competitive shoppers and purchasers of ONLY necessities, off cable/off landline/ metro pcs users BEFORE we read your blog? i’ve lived on the edge for years, i’d love to read a column that did not tell me to ‘skip my daily starbucks/cut back on cable’

  14. Lazy Man says:

    Robyn, there comes a time when saving money reaches diminishing returns. With that in mind, here are some tips for making more money: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2010/11/10/make-more-money-how-to-supercharge-your-income/. Hopefully there’s a tip or two there.

  15. Meghan says:

    LM,

    I appreciate all of your posts, even in the occasional instance that I share a different viewpoint. This isn’t one of those times. I’m a federal employee and I’m finally to the point where every stalemate doesn’t send me in to a panic about my livelihood. Your statements are true. Sure lots of politicians say stupid things but one side continually saying ridiculously ignorant things about large groups of people that don’t just highlight ideological or cultural differences but are the blatant disregard of science is pissing moderates off. Today’s politicians don’t give a damn about reality or common sense. And clearly neither side is serious about cutting spending; Romney said he wanted to increase defense spending. There is no plan, only rhetoric, and it’s getting old.

    It’s tempting to refrain from voting at all. America’s politicial situation is downright scary to citizens of other advanced countries. We’re not the best example of a functioning Constitutionally Limited Republic these days. If people don’t start having the hard discussions, nothing will ever change. That includes being open to other ideas, whether that means reading a blog, watching FOX, or NBC. Dave Ramsey’s political comments don’t make me avoid him and yours aren’t even that frequent or direct.

    Happy weekend!

  16. Bret says:

    Evening Lazy Man, I’d like to clarify my point about politics. ( Sorry I responded earlier on my phone from work) By politics I was referring to the personal. Your attacks on Bachmann are beneath a personal finance blog. For the record Bachmann isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. ANYBODY can run for president. The primary process identifies and weeds out the nuts. It worked! Yet you blame the Republican party. They can’t stop her from running. The media gave her notoriety. I could spend a few minutes online and find Obama quotes and Hillary Quotes that make them look stupid. If you deal in the personal it denigrates quickly. Look at the comments on this post! People who thoughtfully disagree with you are being called “groveling” ” pathetic whiners” You’re a better writer than that. If by politics you mean the numbers and the effects of legislation than I would gladly resubscribe. Your first point in this article was awesome!! You changed my mind! It is a really good point that I haven’t read in the blogs I subscribe to. Your 2nd and 3rd points were thought provoking and well written. Your last post ( in my opinion) was weak and denigrated from there. Again the Republican party only has so much control on who actually runs. It’s called democracy! Your party won. In my opinion you’re being a poor winner. You’re a good writer! Take the high road. It’s less crowded!!!
    Take care

  17. Lazy Man says:

    I think you hit a key point that I was trying to make, Bachmann isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer… and I think that’s putting it mildly. Sure anyone can run for President, but she was actually getting consideration from her party. Are you suggesting that I could show up and be the next candidate for the Republican nomination? Because I might be willing to throw my hat in that ring for 2016.

    I think that’s one of the things that I found disheartening in the political campaign. I think any of my 6-10 closest friends would have been better candidates than Bachmann. I’ve also worked with dozens of people who be better candidates. I humbly think I would be a better candidate. I think that’s where I start to have a problem. While I can’t agree with Anthony Weiner’s sexting or Clinton’s infidelity, I’m not convinced that I could call up a dozen people I know and replace them. In fact, I wouldn’t trust anyone I know to do half as well as Clinton (I’m not as familiar with Weiner’s political impact). And I don’t mean to pick on Bachmann too much, because the Santorum and Perry campaigns had their own debacles. Listening to each of these candidates left me thinking that they weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer. Romney was different in that he put together a good campaign and is a sharp knife, but he supported the MLMs that I have shown are scamming millions and millions of people each year. (On that topic, it doesn’t help my view of the Republican party when Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are actively supporting Income at Home which is a pyramid scheme on top of a pyramid scheme (see this breakdown of the scam by fellow personal finance blog PT Money.)

    Yes, you can find Obama quotes and Hillary quotes that make them look stupid, but I think everyone agrees that they are not… very far from it. I think that’s where the quotes are taken out of context like with the Nancy Pelosi one mentioned above. I don’t see too many people are claiming that they aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer like Bachmann.

    I think the reason why people who have thoughtful disagreed with me were being called pathetic whiners was because they decided to put one or two political comments ahead of 6.5 years of “good writing” (using your words calling me a good writer).

    If you’ve liked some 75% of the post I’ve written and considered it thought-provoking, I’m going to take that as a win. In my view it’s more interesting than “5 Ways to Save Money on Bathroom Tissue” (okay I’m exaggerating) that you can find on some blogs.

  18. MJS says:

    Lazy,

    I may be in the minority of people on why they come to your site. I guess the first reason is that you and I go pretty far back as friends and enjoy seeing you do well. Being in finance myself, I like seeing as many takes on issues as possible. Lastly, it is to see what you say about issues like this, even if we disagree greatly. I usually skip your MLM articles because it isn’t my thing, but personal finance issues I find informative, even if I disagree with your premise and conclusion.

    I think your Bachmann comments are a bit misguided. Look up Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley-Braun, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Grand Dragon David Duke and federal inmate James Traficant as past Democratic presidential candidates. Point is that both sides have crackpots and it doesn’t take much to get on to early television debates.

    Also, I think your rebuttal on the governmental dole is also a tad insincere. Your wife may be taking a pay cut, but most pharmacists (and I have family members that are in the profession) don’t have a sweetheart pension and GI package coming to them for the rest of their life. That far outweighs whatever discrepancy there is in salary.

    I am a huge fan of the military, but I also believe you can cut vast amounts of waste by creating a two tier compensation system between those who go to war (or who could go to war) and the others such as JAG, Pharma, Medical, etc. I have friends in JAG and the fact they are pension eligible is ludicrous.

    When you write these kinds of articles and have biases, both explicitly and implicitly stated, you have a duty to your audience to acknowledge both.

  19. Contrarian says:

    Considering I’m the purveyor of the “pathetic whiner” comment, allow me to clairify:

    Brett – making a public announcement that you’ve “unsubscribed from this blog”, because you’re, “not fond of your political views”, is not, as you attempt to justify, a “thoughtful disagreement.” Au Contraire, yours would be better far better characterized as a cry for attention, on par with that of a child whining to manipulate their parent in order to get their way.

    Also, your passive-aggressive suggestion that “you’d gladly resubscribe” so long as Lazy’s political comments are confined to “the numbers effecting legislation” is by my definition, pathetic, and the low(est) road that can be taken.

    In order to placate and rescue a subscriber like this, it would require some serious public ass-kissing and “groveling”, because reason and thoughtful disagreement clearly would have no effect on this feeble mind, hence my comment(s).

    Further, a good blog (in my opinion) is one that challenges you to think, NOT “one that everyone can enjoy,” as you suggest. If everyone can enjoy the blog then everyone is thinking alike, which means nobody is thinking at all, and I call that boring … not “good”.

    Respectfully,

  20. Lazy Man says:

    Thanks MJS,

    I would definitely say that you are in the minority in that you know me in real life (and for a long time). I think quite a few people skip the the MLM articles as well. Most are too smart to fall for it. However, I write about it as a service for those who aren’t. Even if they aren’t regular readers of my site, the information helps numerous people who search for it on the web and I think it’s a necessary research. I would however encourage people who aren’t personally interested in participating in MLM to at least take an interest in it for the good of others. I like to think that such altruism will be rewarded.

    As you are probably aware, I’ve never been politically focused. I got involved this year, not by choice, but the media made it unavoidable. I didn’t hear anything about Kucinich, Moseley-Braun or Duke. I don’t really know them, but I remember having heard of Duke in the past. As I’ve said numerous times, history isn’t my strong suit… unless you are talking about the history of Netscape or something in the tech industry.

    Sharpton and Jackson are often in the news, but they seem to show up predominately when it is a matter of race discrimination. I’m sure they’ve commented on Sandy Hook, but I didn’t see a news show really focus on their opinions in the way they did with Trayvon Martin or other race-related incidents.

    So maybe it was just a case where one party trotted out their crackpots all in one year and the other party had Obama. The people who are supporting the crackpots (Limbuagh and Hannity as I mentioned prevoiusly) are supporting the pyramid schemes that I’ve put a lot of work in exposing for the good of the people. What you call having a bias, I call a very objective point of view based on the current information I have. I haven’t gone out of my way to find these things, they all find me.

    I think suggesting that we live on the “government dole” is ridiculous. Dole’s definition is “a giving or distribution of food, money, or clothing to the needy”, which implies things like unemployment, welfare, etc. My wife’s career has been well-earned and she works hard at it. To suggest that it was given to her because she is needy is much more insincere than my response.

    That said, I agree with you on the military pensions and GI bill. I’ve been writing about them because they are extraordinary… far surpassing my expectations. If they weren’t noteworthy writing about them wouldn’t make for a very interesting article. There has been a lot of talk about the pensions disappearing and instead getting things that are in the private sector like 401K matching (or in the military world TSP matching). I think if you want to do that for all military entering the service in 2014, I have no problems with that… I welcome it. However, I’d be justifiably upset if they change the rules after my wife and I have put in significant planning for the pension. We’ve made irreversible life decisions around it.

    As for the discrepancy in salary with pharmacists and lawyers, I’ll say that it isn’t so cut and dry. My wife’s uncle (by marriage) patented a drug and let me tell you, they are ridiculous well off (as they should be). My wife, in the military, will not have this opportunity. Some lawyers have their own practices and make some 200-300K a year, I’m sure. Some probably even a lot more. How much did Johnie Cochran make a year? Are your friends in JAG getting that? From what I know of the military pay scale, they probably aren’t. Seems like a case of their being less risk, but also less reward, which I take as fair.

  21. MJS says:

    I consider myself a good writer, but on occasion, I don’t convey my intended opinion. I have no doubt your wife work(ed/s) to get where she is and deserves every cent she makes. I used the word dole synonymously with payroll. I meant that she was on the government payroll. I apologize for the unintended inference.

    I don’t think they should change rules for people that are expecting and planned for it, but you could have a cut off. A private in their first year hasn’t really planned for a pension related retirement. Someone in their 10th year definitely has. Someone smarter than me can figure out the actuarial number.

    As far as private sector pharmacists and lawyers, I know some that are very well off and some that aren’t. In neither case, is their the secure retirement a pension provides. You think people who retired with 7 figure 401ks in 2008 are still feeling that comfort level?

    Your wife’s pension will be market protected and guaranteed. That will probably offset the people in the private sector making six figures. It might not equal your wife’s uncle or a senior partner in a major law firm, but for the regular every day pharmacists and attorneys doing very well, it most certainly will.

  22. Lazy Man says:

    Gene used the term “dole” too, so my comment wasn’t geared just towards you, MJS.

    I’m very surprised that people would use “dole” synonymously with “payroll.” I can’t imagine saying, “See Billy over there, he’s on the Google dole.”

  23. The Obama welfare state for corporate cronies and slackers and low tax rates cannot co-exist forever. I vote for the dissolution of the Obama welfare state. We’ve added over 6 trillion to the national debt in 4 years and these guys are just getting warmed up.

    Scott Grannis says it best: “Debt becomes problematic when the money borrowed is put to unproductive use, because that leaves the borrower without the resources to repay the loan, and that will eventually disappoint the lender. Most of the money that Uncle Sam has borrowed in recent years has not been put to productive use, and that is a big problem, because the economy has not grown sufficiently to pay back the debt. The federal government has borrowed trillions of dollars in order to 1) send out checks to individuals who are retired, unemployed, disabled, and/or earning less than some arbitrary amount; 2) pay salaries to millions of bureaucrats, 3) subsidize bloated state and local governments, and 4) subsidize corporations engaged in activities (e.g., wind farms, ethanol production) that would otherwise be unprofitable. The money was essentially wasted, since it wasn’t used to create new sources of revenues with which to service the debt in the future.”

    Based on past history, any increased government revenues will be frittered away on foolish “investments,” not deficit reduction. So let’s try something novel and cut spending.

  24. Lazy Man says:

    Is the Obama Welfare state south of Delaware ;-)? I missed it driving across the country.

    It is certain better than the Romney Supports Pyramid Scheme Fraud state in my book (I realize I’m in the minority here, but if you’ve walked a mile in my shoes with the MLM stuff on this site, you’d understand).

    I wasn’t a fan of the bailouts, but it looks like Detroit has had a good rebound. The investment in AIG was profitable for the government.

    That said, I agree with much of what you said. I am a fan of cutting spending, which I thought I made clear in the article. It’s easy to say, “Let’s cut spending”, but it’s much more difficult to actually figure out how to do it fairly. If you have a fight for weeks about raising taxes on the wealthiest people and compromise on that issue, you certainly aren’t going to make any headway in cutting Medicare or Social Security from the people who need it (that’s just one example). That’s like backwards Robin Hood, saving the rich to steal from the poor (not that the poor are the only ones who get Social Security, but they depend on it the most).

  25. Keep living the delusion, my friend. I wasn’t a fan of the bailouts either, especially the car companies, even though the taxpayers made a profit on financial institutions. The car companies should have gone through the non-political reorganization process of the bankruptcy courts. The taxpayers are set to take a $30 – $40B loss on the GM bailout (not to mention how unfairly the GM bondholders were treated in the process). The city of Detroit is poised to go bankrupt. Foodstamp participation has never been higher in the history of the nation. Unemployment benefits keep getting extended. The US has the most progressive tax code of all developed nations and that still isn’t good enough for some. Government wealth redistribution/welfare programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare are financed like Ponzi schemes, and there aren’t enough “late investors” to provide the promised level of benefits to “early investors” (demographic changes are a bitch). In general, success is punished, and failure is subsidized. The country is just assbackwards right now, and politicians only know how to do one thing…. spend, spend, spend.

  26. Lazy Man says:

    I think the city of Detroit was posed to go bankrupt far before any bailouts happened. You can’t blame that on politics.

    To some extent I agreed with you about the car bailouts, but let’s say they go through the bankruptcy courts. They have to layoff more people and unemployment rises with more people going on food stamps. Then people would complain that administration is doing a terrible job because of high unemployment and foodstamp participation being at record levels (something you are already complaining about). It’s a no-win situation and it would be that way for any government.

    Social security isn’t financed like a Ponzi scheme, I have a pretty long three part article about setting that straight.

    If success is punished then I’ll take all your Apple stock, because I think they’ve been pretty successful and shareholders have been rewarded. Also I’d say that Buffett and Gates don’t look like they lived a punished lifestyle in comparison to some homeless people who some would categorize as subsidized failures.

    If you want to live in a world where the rich get richer and the poor just decay on the streets, I guess I have to say more power to you. That’s not my idea a country going in the right direction.

    If things were so backwards in this country, you’d think the Republicans could have put one successful candidate of the pile they trotted out there. Saturday Night Live didn’t even have to exaggerate for this skit. In fact, I thought they went light on Bachmann for only picking on her Newsweek photo instead of the whole vaccines and mental development issues thing.

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