On a Merry, Merry Month

William Shakespeare (in Sonnet 18) wrote, Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May

May is named after the Greek goddess Maia – mother of Hermes, daughter of Atlas and Pleione the Oceania

May is the time for two astrological signs: Taurus the Bull (through May 20th) and Gemini the Twins (beginning May 21st)

May is the time for Lily of the Valley as the official birth flower … but other say the official flowers are daisies and sweet peas.

May is the month for the emerald birthstone – the one of love or success

May begins Beltane in the northern hemisphere, and Samhain in the southern hemisphere

May delivers many colors, but (according to somebody) dark forest green and pale sky blue are its official colors

May is a month of awareness for ALS, APS, arthritis, brain tumors, borderline personality disorder, celiac, cystic fibrosis, EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome), fibromyalgia, global civility, home schooling, Huntington’s Disease, lupus, allergies & asthma, hepatitis, Lyme disease, neurofibromatosis, strokes, toxic encephalopathy & chemical injury, pet cancer, preeclampsia. skin cancer, mental health, Tach-Sachs & Canavan diseases, medical orphans, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Tuberous Sclerosis, Tourettes Syndrome, skin cancer, Social Security

May is a month of culinary delights as hamburgers, barbecue, salad, salsa, strawberries, eggs, asparagus, beef, sweet Vidalia onions, chocolate custard, and vinegar

May is a month to chip your pet, garden for wildlife, revise your work schedule, get caught reading, heal children, prepare tomorrow’s parents, react, and strike out strokes

May embraces drums, EcoDiving, Latino books, tennis, bicycling, wetlands, clean air, Mediterranean diet, meditation, physical fitness & sports, photos

May promotes better hearing & speech, building safety, foster care, good car keeping, guide dogs, inventors, motorcycle safety, pets, youth safety, drinking water, spiritual literacy, healthy vision, family wellness, creative beginnings, and gifts from the garden

May commemorates Pacific Islander heritage, Haitian heritage, Jewish-American heritage, South Asian heritage, and the Freedom Shine

May wants us to smile more often

May birthdays include these famous people

Let’s conclude with Blue Rodeo singing 5 Days in May

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On Suggestions to the Super Committee

Several weeks ago, I sent a letter to Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who not only is one of my senators, but he also was my former representative and is a member of the Super Committee. I focused on retirement, including Social Security by aiming at four points: 1) Establishing individualized, privatized Social Security accounts, 2) increasing money flow into the Social Security system, 3) maximizing avenues for individuals saving for retirement so they are less likely to seek government assistance, and 4) decreasing the tax rate for all businesses (employers).

With this focus on retirement, examining the current system of retirement accounts is part of the solution. For instance, the IRS currently limits IRA contributions based on income. To be honest, there is no good reason to limit retirement contributions in this manner. After all, Bill Gates has as much of a right to deposit into his retirement account and any middle class citizen.

With this in mind, I suggested these 11 points.

1)   Everyone 30 years or younger shall establish an individual, privatized account into which a 5% payroll deduction is automatically deposited. These accounts should be employee-directed, but with limited investment options to minimize risk.

2)  Everyone 30 years or younger shall have 1% withheld to be sent to the current Social Security fund.

3)  Employers deposit 4% payroll deduction into the employee’s individualized account.

4)  Employers also send 2% to the current Social Security fund.

5)  Raise the Social Security salary cap to $150,000.

6)  For all salaries above the salary cap, employees pay 1% to the Social Security fund.

7)  The employer’s obligation ceases at the salary cap.

8)  If they so choose, all employees can deposit into their approved IRA regardless of salaries: limited to $2000 into a traditional IRA and $5000 into a Roth IRA.

9)  If they so choose, an employee can submit participate in a 401K up to a maximum percentage established by the law. Whether or not an employer wishes to contribute to an employee’s 401K is a business decision.

10) Contributions to 401K, IRAs, and individualized Social Security accounts should have no cumulative bearing on the others, thus allowing n employee to build retirement wealth; therefore, no need for government assistance.

11) Employees currently over 30 years old continue to pay in accordance to the current system with the salary cap raised to $150,000 plus the additional 1% for income over $150,000 to the general fund.

I realize that each committee member is probably swamped with correspondence, so I do not have much hope that Senator Portman even saw my letter, let alone the committee doing something with the suggestions – but at least I tried.

On a Thought about Entitlements

As we hear all the political rhetoric about the budget, entitlements are one item that Capitol Hill seemingly continues to ignore (or scared to touch). Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer recently wrote this about a possible solution.

Everyone knows that the U.S. budget is being devoured by entitlements. Everyone also knows that of the Big Three – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – Social Security is the most solvable.

Back-of-an-envelope solvable: Raise the retirement age, tweak the indexing formula (from wage inflation to price inflation) and means-test so that Warren Buffett’s check gets redirected to a senior in need

Redirecting checks seems to be a form of redistribution of wealth. Hmmm … that’s an interesting concept coming from a conservative Republican.

Now Rep Paul Ryan [R-WI] is also getting into the act by suggesting Medicare should be distributed through a system that includes receiving a government voucher. Hmmm … given Ryan and Krauthammer’s words, I guess perspective defines socialism.

On a Thought from 2005

Early in his second term, President Bush launched a trial balloon regarding reforming Social Security. As a basic supporter of the notion, he caught my attention, but I had questions. As we know, the idea did not get any traction because (as a whole) Republicans fumbled and Democrats balked. However, my interest and questions still exist.

Like anything, Social Security has a history. Yes, Congress enacted the legislation in 1939, but here is a link with more of the story. The bottom line is that Social Security’s intent was to protect senior citizens from poverty.

As it can happen over time, and regardless of the reasons, many Americans developed a view of Social Security as a retirement system. As the largest demographic group in our population is approaching their time to draw, and with high unemployment numbers, Social Security’s financial soundness is questionable.

If it ever happens, odds are that privatizing Social Security won’t affect me, but that doesn’t mean I’m not supportive of the idea. Money from individual paychecks going into a dedicated account for that individual simply makes sense. Giving some basic investment choices for that account that the holder decides makes sense. I guess “making sense” is the reason Washington won’t do it and if they do, they would screw it up.

Yet, my questions from 2005 are still on the table.

  • How will we financially transition from the current system to another?
  • How will we protect senior citizens from poverty during and after the transition?

I may be for privatizing Social Security, but I still believe in its intent.

On Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 52

On the White House, Republicans, and Health Insurance
Recent news has President Obama inviting Republicans to bring their ideas to the table. Here are the problems I see with this step.

  • Of course is it a fight for bipartisanship or a ploy to blame the other side?
  • President Obama is admitting the previous process shutout Republicans
  • Even if the White House and GOP find common ground, getting Speaker Pelosi (the one controlling legislation) to buy in is another matter
  • Republicans will probably still vote no.

On the other hand, many voters see the current partisan tone as a negative, so now there’s a race to see how can demonstrate bipartisanship.

On Senator Shelby
Until earlier this week, Senator Shelby (R-AL) was intentionally medaling the federal appointments process to prevent approving appointees because he wanted certain pork for his home state. Since this a prime example of what many citizens do not like about Washington, here are three thoughts:

  • Senator Shelby is pathetic
  • Republican senators not calling him out are pathetic
  • Democratic senators who did the same thing during the Bush administration are pathetic

On the Super Bowl Commercials
As a whole, I found the commercials during the Super Bowl to be a very mediocre crop. Go Daddy doesn’t get it, the ETrade baby is not as funny, and Budweiser and Coke seems to be cutting back. No need to slam Hyundai for being normal, yet I praise Doritos as the product winner.

On a Fund Raiser for Haiti
The earthquake in Haiti has tugged on a lot of heart strings … but in this case, G-strings. Marilyn’s, a strip club in Toledo, recently raised $1000 in their Lap Dance for Haiti promotion.

On 2010 Bearcat Football
The past several seasons have been successful for the UC Bearcats, but they announced the 2010 OOC schedule. OUCH! … a 1-3 start is a good possibility …. at Fresno, Indiana State, at NC State, Oklahoma.

On Studying Climate Change
Our Commerce Secretary announced plan for NOAA to set up a new group to study climate change. Here is a novel idea – Study all the data without political or economic interests and then reporting honest, unbiased conclusions to the public.

On No to this Stimulus
About an hour after posting about social security, I read a bipartisan proposal in USA Today that Senators Schumer (D-NY) and Hatch (R-UT) have to boost the economy. Well, it’s obvious that they didn’t seek my advice.

On Missing the Bush Administration
Someone posted a “Miss me yet?” billboard in Minnesota with a picture of President Bush. Although I’m disgruntled with the current administration, I politely say no.

On Toyota
Their recent recall situation continues to be a PR nightmare. Let’s see – the company has formed a quality committee to closely examine the situation. What happened to your focus on quality as part of normal operations? Their focus on the crisis and not the problem is unbelievable!

Of course, Congress cannot resist looking into the matter with its own special committee, thus another opportunity for grandstanding!

On the Approaching Social Security Deficit

Another article recently appeared proclaiming the doom and gloom for future social security payments. Well, at least being officially broke in 2037 – a projection shift of about 20 years (earlier).

Now this is not rocket science. The system uses money from current tax revenues to pay income for current retirees. As long as more money is coming in than going out, no problem! Two main points highlight the issue: employment and demographics – the current high level of unemployment and the high number of people entering retirement.

Here is how Congress has approached the problem in the past: raise the social security tax (mistake 1) and raise the retirement age (mistake 2). President Bush (in 2005) proposed shifting from the current system to a voluntary private account, which received no traction in Congress (mistake 3). Even if so, the transition would be the difficult part of the journey – but shifting to a private account system is not the focus of this post.

Employee and employers pay 9.6% of the first $106,800 of a salary. That means anyone with a salary in the millions only pays social security on the first $106,800. How much additional revenue would go into the social security pot if people paid 1% on the earnings above the ceiling?

By the way, two facts about Congress:

  • Members of Congress do pay social security tax on their congressional salary (a common misconception is that they don’t … have been paying since 1984)
  • When revenue from social security exceeds payments, Congress spends it on whatever (mistake 4)