If

Ron Paul, member of the United States House of...

Ron Paul, member of the United States House of Representatives from Texas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I lost my home due to fire, earthquake, flood, hurricane or tornado, and the insurance company refused to reimburse me or went bankrupt due to a large number of claims, I would be homeless.

If Congress reduced my Social Security payments below the rate of inflation and cut Medicare payments and I did not save enough for retirement, I would live my golden years in poverty.

If I suffered a major accident or acquired a life-threatening illness and my insurer refused to cover the necessary treatment, I would live on with pain or die early.

If I subscribed to the above, I would support Ron Paul and the GOP. However, I do not subscribe to those views and therefore I support Barack Obama.

Chained wages

"Wake Up Walmart Campaign" requestin...

“Wake Up Walmart Campaign” requesting additional wages. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time, American workers earned enough in wages to afford to purchase goods and services produced in America by American workers. Those days began to end in the 1980s. Americans began the long, slow decline in our standard of living by downsizing our expectations and our purchases, substituting cheaper goods where possible and borrowing against our paper assets in the stock market and our homes when we resisted downsizing. That is an example of chained wages, where wages do not keep up with the cost of living. Borrowing against our paper assets came to a screeching halt in 2007 at the beginning of the Great Recession.

Now some in Washington are advocating a chained CPI, a way to refigure and reduce the annual cost of living increase for retirees and other recipients of so-called “entitlements.” Using the rationale that less income will force Americans to further downsize our purchases, proponents of a chained CPI want us to substitute pet food for human food and later substitute no food for pet food. Instead of American made durable goods, we are expected to substitute Chinese made not-very durable goods retailed by big-box discounters. The current government calculated COLA adjustment to entitlement programs is totally inadequate. To reduce it further in order to save the 1% from paying additional taxes is a high crime and misdemeanor truly worthy of impeachment of any legislator who supports it.

Guilt

Benefit Security Card .. HALF of the U.S live ...

Benefit Security Card .. HALF of the U.S live in households that receive government benefits (26 May 2012) …item 2.. Brevard man gets 4 years in Social Security fraud case (Jun 1, 2012 ) … (Photo credit: marsmet481)

If the Bush era tax cuts are reversed only for those earning over $400,000 or for those earning more than $1,000,000 at the expense of recipients of Social Security, I hope that at least some of those earning more than $250,000 and less than $400,000 or whatever the final number happens to be, will feel some guilt at retaining their tax breaks. The current way of calculating Social Security’s annual cost of living adjustment is grossly inadequate. To reduce that amount on a technicality by using a chained CPI is an insult and an embarrassment. I have read that President Obama may agree to it as the least bad compromise to be had. If true, I hope that the 2014 election will change Congress enough to allow a more equitable calculation of future Social Security cost of living adjustments.

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Half-full or half-empty

Aerial photo: Santa Barbara, California

Aerial photo: Santa Barbara, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fill a glass with your favorite beverage; drink half of it, and then put it down and look at it carefully. What do you see? Is the glass half-full or is it half-empty? It is all a matter of perception.

For six years in the 1990s, I worked two part-time jobs at a hospital in Santa Barbara, California. One job paid around $9.00/hour while the other, easier job required more training and paid $20.50/hour. Both jobs lacked full-time benefits. I loved my schedule because every week of the year had a different work schedule. I worked a variety of shifts around the clock and floated from department to department. And although I loved the variety, the payroll department made frequent errors in computing my salary.

We received our paychecks every other Friday around 11:00 am. I enrolled in direct deposit so my check was only for my information. During one particular period, I had worked 58 hours and I was expecting a check in the amount of $900+. When I opened the envelope, I was shocked to see that my take-home pay was $3,900+. The gross amount of the check was $8,100+. That meant that slightly more than half had been deducted for Federal income tax, state income tax, Social Security, Medicare, State Disability Insurance, charitable deductions and other. I was incensed that so much was deducted, and I was elated at the amount of take-home pay, $3,000 more than I was expecting. I brought the error to the attention of payroll, but since it had been directly deposited, there was nothing they could do that day. On Monday, I wrote a check to the hospital to correct the error.

I calculated that if I worked full-time at the $205.00/hour rate that they had used to miscalculate my salary instead of the correct rate of $20.50, in a year I would earn $400,000+. Even if deductions exceeded 50%, my annual take-home pay would be $175,000+. At that time working part-time, my net pay was around $25,000/annually. Would I have been happy with $175,000/year instead of $25,000? You’d better believe it.

So it’s all a matter of perception. Of course, I would like take-home pay to be more and deductions less. Still it is much easier to make ends meet with $175,000 than it is with $25,000 and this occurred about 15 years ago. Economic times have only gotten more difficult.

Retirement age

Hot Wheels Michael Schumacher Monza Retirement...

Hot Wheels Michael Schumacher Monza Retirement 2006 Ferrari F248 F1 (08) (Photo credit: Sevi_Lwa)

Daffy definition, retirement: putting four new tires on the family car.

Talk in Washington these days is of raising the retirement age. WRONG. Instead of raising the retirement age, they should be considering lowering it so that there is more room for advancement for younger workers. I would like to see the retirement age lowered in steps to age 50. After age 50, workers could elect to retire or to work part-time. If a worker elected to work 3 days per week, he/she would receive 60% of his/her wages from the employer and 40% of his/her Social Security and Medicare benefits.

This would be a way to keep working at a reduced pace and slide into retirement gradually. It is not easy, in my opinion, to work for 40-50 years and then retire “cold turkey.” I retired gradually and found the adjustment easier than if I had tried to retire in one full swoop.