Barack Obama and Hand-outs

Recently I’ve received several emails from my backwards thinking compadres claiming that all Democrats (and especially Obama) want to play Robin Hood, stealing from the rich while giving to the poor, who are always characterized as lazy. This prompts several thoughts.

First, do these people really believe that every single person who is struggling to make ends meet is in that position because he/she is lazy??? Really???? If so, I can only conclude that these people are divorced from reality.

Second, I do not see how Obama’s tax policy equates to giving handouts. He is proposing tax cuts to 95% of working Americans, as opposed to McCain’s plan, that proposes giving the largest tax cuts to the top 2% of earners. (Obama’s plan gives 95% of Americans 3 times more tax relief than McCain does.) How is this a handout? It simply provides more opportunity for the majority of Americans to get ahead.

Let’s think about this. Two-thirds of US GDP is consumer spending. So, in order to spur economic growth, doesn’t it make more sense to spread the money around to more working Americans who will spend it rather than concentrating it in the hands of a very few people who will simply invest it to keep making money of the money they already have. (Please note that this doesn’t involve real “work.” It involves shuffling money aorund, which is all the people in the top 2% of earners do. They’re not investing in business or sending it down to their employees at the low end of the totem pole. They just invest it and live off their dividends.)

Barack Obama is the candidate for economic growth.

Socialism…really?

Wikipedia defines socialism as “a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” Given this, will someone please explain to me how Obama’s tax policy makes him a socialist?

Obama is proposing to return the highest tax bracket from 36% to 39%…a mere 3 percentage points. This is a return to tax levels before the Bush tax cuts. We are not talking about tax levels that have never before been seen. Further, our country has always had a progressive tax policy, meaning that the people who make the most money pay the most taxes. This idea is not Obama’s. Reagan was actually a big proponent of it. And it doesn’t amount to socialism.

Now, McCain has proposed to have the government buy up bad mortgages. Doesn’t that sound more like socialism than Obama’s tax policy?

Here we go …

The NAACP filed the first voter fraud lawsuit today. They claim that in Virginia “the failure to provide more voting machines, particularly in majority black precincts, violates the state and U.S. constitutions and the Voting Rights Act of 1965“.

With voter turnout expected to be huge, there’s going to need to be more counting machines, more ballots, more polling places, more precinct judges and probably later hours.

So, what exactly do you do when the machines break down, when the polling place runs out of ballots, when lines extend far out the door, when precinct judges can’t keep track of the voting, and when you get shut out of the voting place? I hope the states have answers to these questions. Because otherwise there are going to be some very angry citizens.

Not everyone gets the day off so that they can wait all day to vote, nor afford the childcare to wait long into the night. Voting shouldn’t be a function of income, or the willingness of your boss to let you take time off.

For all the money we’ve spent on this important decision, we should expect better. (The Center for Responsive Politics suggests this election will cost $5.3 billion dollars.) All the world is watching, to see how the great democratic tradition plays out next week. Somehow, I think the message they will be seeing is “Better get a lawyer, quick:

Farewell, my good friend

Corporate pension funds are suffering in the current stock market plunge, and it looks like a number of employers are going to take this opportunity to cut their company retirement benefits adrift.

Not that I can blame them. Much like many household mortgages now underwater, it would appear that the future liabilities are more than the investments set aside to cover them.  In the boom years, the funds looked good and rosy. But, today they are grasping for air as the value of the underlying assets are dropping like stones.

Problem is, a number of companies (and also government employee retirement funds like Calpers) are now asking their employees to make up the difference. Not that the employees did anything wrong. They astutely put aside a sizeable portion of their income each month. And someone else invested it for them. Few knew where those investments went, how much were set aside as reserves, nor how lucrative the management ‘fees’ were for the fund executives. But, now the humble employee is on-the-hook for the excesses of the investment officers. Just doesn’t seem fair.

This may mark the beginning of the end for mutual funds. There just isn’t sufficient accountability, other than withdrawing all your funds thereby sending a message to the fund managers. You don’t vote for any oversight board. You have little say over how the mutual fund operates, such as how high goes the CEO and CIO salaries go. And perhaps worse of all, you really don’t own anything. You don’t have a stake in the company. You aren’t invested in the output of the underlying stocks. You never look an employee in the eye. All you care about is the short term returns, to heck with the underlying productivity.

Perhaps the scariest farewell, however, may be the decline in retirement benefits. Already, companies are dropping their pension plans in favor of 401(k) plans, even though many employees are now learning just how difficult it is to manage your own investments. As an interesting discussion over at Missoulapolis explores, few of us really know what to do with our money nor can we afford the time and money to learn.

In Australia, Colonial, the wealth management arm of the Commonwealth Bank and the largest fund manager in the country, has blocked investors from withdrawing their money. And, then there’s President Kirchner in Argentina, ‘nationalizing’ over $30 billion in private pension funds!

This is sad. Retirement funds were supposed to protect us all in our old age. We wouldn’t have to rely upon soup kitchens and food pantries. We would live a dignified retirement with time for our grandchildren, our neighbors, and a bit left over for the odd leaf-peeping trip or two. We would reap the reward for our dutiful hard work and contribution to the building up of our great country.

For the young’uns like me, I can probably work another five years or so. But, if I were in my sixties or seventies, then I’d be mighty worried. As my back gives out, my memory starts to go, and my hands get the shakes, I’m not sure I could keep working even if I wanted to. I hope I don’t have to sell my house. I hope there’s family and friends around me when the times get tough. My nest egg just might not feed me for very long and I’m not so sure I’ll have the strength the soldier on. It just doesn’t seem fair.

Hockey Mom shops at Saks Fifth Avenue

Politico is reporting that the RNC took Sarah Palin shopping – including spending $75,062 at Neiman Marcus and $49,425 at Saks Fifth Avenue! Not that it really matters how much politicians spend on clothes, but most Hockey Moms don’t spend much more than a grand or two on clothes in a year. So, all this proves is that Sarah Palin now doesn’t look like who she wants us to think she is. You could say she’s a fraud.

Or, you could just say she’s a smart shopper. Win or lose, she takes home the $2,500 Valentino Garavani shantung silk jacket!

Family First!

Bravo Sarah Palin for taking your family along with you on Alaskan state business. This is a wonderful way of spending time with her large family, as she pursues her political career.

But, charging the commercial flights to the State of Alaska? That’s an interesting judgment call. Are your children a necessary expense for anyone conducting official state business, or is there something special about Sarah’s kids? Because, that’s what the governor’s spokesperson is claiming – that the kids were representing the State of Alaska!

Really? Are they State employees? Aren’t they too young for child slavery employment? Were they hired in the usual manner for State employees, or was theirs a special case? Is their Mom their supervisor? Does she evaluate their performance? Or, is this all just a case of nepotism?

Now, I can understand why both Sarah and her kids want to be together. It must be hard with the Governor working in Juneau and the kids growing up in Anchorage. I’m not sure why Governor Palin didn’t move to Juneau, but it’s probably just Alaska politics. I just don’t think it’s fair for the State to pick up the tab for her choice to live apart from her children.

All in all, though, maybe it is OK to put family first. And, maybe it is OK to bring the kids along whenever Sarah travels to New York or somewhere exciting like that. What gets in my claw, however, is going back and amending those previously filed expense reports once she had been chosen as McCain’s VP pick. Not that – that look as though she is trying to cover her tracks. Whatever else it is, it sure doesn’t look like she is putting Country First!

Photo of the Week

This photo is truly inspiring. It was taken yesterday at an Obama rally in St. Louis, Missouri. Official reports put the crowd at just over 100,000 people.