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Why I'm Not Part of the 79% Who are Optimistic about the Next 4 Years
2009-01-19 21:27
by Scott Long
Notes:
Scott Long is now blogging at NSFWsports.com.
Will Carroll can still be found at Baseball Prospectus.

A recent CBS/NY Times poll reports that 79% of Americans are optimistic about the next 4 years under Barack Obama.  Here's my thoughts on that question.  I feel Obama is the right person for the job, but it is the job itself that is the problem.  Even though Obama mentions the disaster our current economy is in, most Americans seem to have little understanding of how bad it really is since it hasn't really hit like it will.  Unless you live in a state like Michigan or Ohio, you don't have a great feel of how it will be in the near future.

Here are my thoughts on what needs to be done. 

Tell the AARP and its members that there is going to be major changes in how Social Security and Medicare will be used. 

Politicians have been afraid of doing anything to social security benefits for decades, despite anyone who had a shred of honesty knowing that the government's version of a Madoff scheme was about to combust.  Well, the subprime mess has exacerbated the problem, as we now are printing money like we are working in a Parker Bros factory.  It is time to raise the retirement age, cut benefits to people who make over 100 grand a year and pull back the financial disaster that is the Medicare prescription drug plan. There are plenty of good articles about this subject, but I suggest a good place to begin is a column Robert Samuelson wrote in Newsweek.  The greatest generation got way more than they ever paid in, so we need to act quickly on making sure the baby boomers don't continue this heist.  We never could really afford it as a nation, with now more than ever that being the case. 
NOTE: Remember back in 2000 how a big debate issue was  Bush wanting to create retirement accounts (just think of how that would have worked out now), while Gore saying he would put a lockbox on social security and medicare?  Democrats have used this lockbox argument for great effect, much like Republicans have used no new taxes.  Both are bullshit concepts.  The voters and the media have played a gotcha game with politicians, with those who are willing to change their minds being accused of flip-flopping.  Nothing should be left off the table this time around.  I hope Obama flip-flops like a Mutha, if it is the right plan for the current crisis we are in. 

Global Warming isn't as Important as Some Tell You

I believe it exists.  I believe in promoting being a more earth-friendly citizen.  This is not the time, though, that we should be pushing more new regulations that will hurt American business in the short-term.  While I'm not someone who doesn't believe that global warming is a problem, there are real questions if its effects are as great as is preached by its zealots. 

Push for Civil Unions for Gays

I'm all for Gay people being able to marry, but I'm in the minority on this one.  Most of the country is not ready for Gays to marry.  Instead, the focus should be on civil unions that would provide many of the protections that married couples have.  The success of civil unions will eventually make for the next step, especially after a lot of old people starting dying off. Much like legalization of pot, it is more of a generational issue in being opposed to the concept of gay marriage.  If you want to help the President you love so much, give Obama some time on this one.  He doesn't need a hot button issue like this one to come up too soon, while he's dealing with bigger things. 

Set a Time Table for Major Withdrawal in Iraq

Use the problems in Palestine or Afghanistan or our current financial crisis as reasons for needing to get out, but do it soon.  The Iraqi government needs to be motivated to take more control.  Yes it won't be a pretty exit, but here is where being a man of color with a Muslim middle name should help, right?  It will also be time to see if Europeans mean what they say in their supports of Obama.  The big, bad Bushie is gone, so we are going to need some of your troops to make-a-the-peace, when we leave the massive vacuum of security for the Iraqi's when we high-tail it out of there. 

Increase the Size and Power of the IRS

During the Bush administration, this department has been devastated.  It is part of successful democracy that people are forced to pay their fair share. We need more agents and we need to quickly shutdown the Cayman Island money shuffle which has gotten worse and worse over the past decade.  Oh and can the nomination of Timonthy Geither, Barack.  It sets a horrible example to have the US Treasury Secretary be a guy who doesn't pay his taxes properly.  I'm not buying his excuses.  If he's such a brilliant guy, he shouldn't have been dumb enough to do what he did. 

Put Universal Health Care on the Backburner

This one hurts, but with the current economic mess we are in, it just isn't the time to push this through.  We should try to set up a system that covers uninsured children in a more cost-effective way than Medicaid does, but that might be about all we can do right now. 

I'm sure I pissed off about everybody with this list, but we are in really dire straits right now and we need to to have political leadership that is willing to look past what will get them elected next time.  Since I don't feel very confident in Pelosi or Reid and have no confidence in Boehner and McConnell, I'm really hoping that Obama will be willing to make the tough choices Bush rarely ever did.  I feel positive about him being up to the job, but I'm very pessimistic on the massive challenges we are set to face.  Hopefully, I'm wrong and the next 4 years will be a positive place.  Considering the way we have been running up our personal and government credit cards over the past 8 years, I'm not confident about that, though.

Comments
2009-01-20 16:45:59
1.   Xeifrank
I must admit I was shocked at how much of your post I agree with. I usually find about 2% of the stuff you write worth reading and this post kicks it up over the 4% mark. :)

1. Social Security: Yes, it is a pyramid scheme, I've said it all along. It has the same mechanics of a pyramid scheme. It was created out of the Great Depression and is a relic of the past. Private retirement accounts with strict rules/oversight are the way to go. Even with the crap the stock market took recently, it's still the way to go. Rules that keep people from day-trading and age aligned portfolios that keep 60 years old from having more than 20% in stocks would be easy to implement. The young can afford the rocky ride, the middle-aged and elderly cannot. Raising retirement ages and cutting benefits is just a sign that the current system does not work. Raising retirement ages is really just a racist policy due to the lower life expectancy of minorities.

2. Global Warming: I agree. Being good stewards of our planet/environment is important for many reasons, not just the fact that it may/or may not cause global warming. But there is no reason to go whacko-left wing on it.

3. Civil Unions: Couldn't agree more. Give em all the same benefits as legally married couples, just call it something else. Don't want to re-hash the Prop 8 debate again.

4. Iraq withdrawl: Check

5. Increase the IRS: Disagree on this one. I say get rid of the IRS and tax accountants completely and go to a consumption tax. You shouldn't have to spend 20 hours figuring out your taxes, or hire a tax accountant paying them $500, or buy some off the shelf software with the name "Turbo" in it. Tax code is a joke. Stop the cheats with a consumption tax. Consumption tax is actually more stable and predictable than an income tax.

6. Yes, the backburner is a nice place for it. Charbroiler is even better.

Nice post!
vr, Xei

2009-01-20 17:04:05
2.   scareduck
Telling the AARP where it can get off on Social Security is functionally meaningless when you're even considering -- if postponing -- "universal health care" (really, socialized medicine).

I'm down with civil unions and plotting an escape from Iraq.

The IRS is not a problem; expanding its reach is a mistake. In fact, if anything the middle class isn't paying ENOUGH, as Andrew Sullivan pointed out a couple seeks ago:

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/01/not-paying-th-1.html

You missed the single biggest issue that's facing everyone, Americans or otherwise, and probably the biggest item that propelled the Iraq war: oil depletion, and the business of energy acquisition and distribution.

2009-01-20 17:11:13
3.   scareduck
1 - Xei,

Raising retirement ages is really just a racist policy due to the lower life expectancy of minorities.

I would add that it's a con game as well. When SS was started, hardly anybody qualified, which was part of the unspoken point.

2009-01-20 17:39:59
4.   regfairfield
That separate but equal thing sure worked out well last time we tried it.
2009-01-20 18:24:01
5.   Xeifrank
4. I wonder why African Americans voted it (Prop 8) down with the largest margin. Guess they didn't learn, huh. Or perhaps it's apples to oranges.
vr, Xei
2009-01-20 18:49:19
6.   Scott Long
I'm all for a consumption tax, but it isn't going to happen. Also, that might not be the best idea right now, considering how it would be a bigger hindrance in getting people to buy cars, houses, etc.

The age of 65 was chosen for SS because the average age of death was 64.

Can I ask you, XEIFRank. Where do you get your health insurance? The options for people like myself, who have to pay private insurance for their family are getting killed. I would love to get some Mitt Romney system that would cut costs for the uninsured, but it ain't gonna happen soon, between the disaster that was Republican rule between 2000-06 (cut taxes and spend like teenage girls) and then the unreal stimulus package that Bush and now Obama have proposed to try to save us....

98% of everything I have written is not worth reading. Yeah, that is about right, if you are a complete and absolute moron. What a horrible life you must lead if you can't enjoy the type of subversive nonsense I put up here.

2009-01-20 19:05:03
7.   regfairfield
5 For the same reason that a lot of gay people hate bisexuals. It's still very possible to be a bigot even if you're oppressed.
2009-01-20 19:05:57
8.   spudrph
Scott-well said. I am somewhat hopeful, but deeply afraid at the magnitude of the task. I don't think he's up to it, only because I don't think ANYONE is.
2009-01-20 19:45:17
9.   Andrew Shimmin
It's not the IRS's fault that Congress writes new and special loopholes into the tax code every year. And, anyway, the biggest tax cheats in the country aren't shady corporate robber barons: they're strippers. Would you want to be the anti-stripper president?

How can disbanding the TSA not make the list? I think it's weird that we had a whole election without that being a big issue--what's the matter with you people? Can't you see a herculean waste of time, patience, and money when it spreads your legs and pats you down? Alternately, I'd be okay with permitting the TSA to continue if, after they pat me down and find nothing, I get to kick the agent in the testicles. Workers comp claims would go through the roof, but tell me it wouldn't be worth it.

2009-01-20 19:56:54
10.   Scott Long
Thanks for your comments, Andrew. This is the type of commentary that I really appreciate, so others, take note. I think you miss an important point, though. As soon as you put a dollar in a stripper's g-string, it ends up being spent by her the next day. Adult entertainers (this is their actual job title, just ask one) not only stimulate my package, but not taxing them at all might be the greatest stimulus package we could come up with. Nice working with you, Andrew.
2009-01-20 20:32:13
11.   Andrew Shimmin
I'm a uniter, not a divider.
2009-01-21 06:17:37
12.   jgpyke
Interesting post, Scott. We agree on the problems, just not the solutions. And I think that's why I like what you write. Too often, opposite sides in the political spectrum can't even agree on what the problems are.

If tax compliance is a problem, then rather than increasing the IRS, let's cut taxes and make them easier to file. (Both increase compliance.)

And I'm all for health care reform. Not nationalization, though. Over 10% of my gross income goes to health ins. and co-pays, and we're healthy and I have a job with a large employer with "good" benefits.

Global warming is real. It's also unstoppable, since that's what earth does. It gets cold. It gets warm. Rinse. Repeat.

2009-01-21 11:10:04
13.   chris in illinois
12 Too often, opposite sides in the political spectrum can't even agree on what the problems are.

I wholeheartedly agree; until yesterday the president of the USA didn't believe in global warming. I also agree with your main point on global warming---that our planet has gone through many, many climate changes, changes that pre-date human existence (unless you believe that the Earth is 5500 years old). What is not 100% clear is whether the current warming is completely cyclical or has it been jump-started by human activity. I don't know what the answer is, but I'm glad that we can finally start the attempt to answer the question.

2009-01-23 12:47:35
14.   jgpyke
14 Until yesterday? Welcome to June 1, 2007, then. Glad you made it.

"In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it," Bush said. "The United States takes this issue seriously. The new initiative I am outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany next week." WaPo, 5/31/07

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