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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Jobs Lost Tapering Off Under Obama



A picture can speak 1000 words. This is the number of jobs lost per month. As you can see, jobs lost has consistently shrunk since Obama took office and more recently, we have seen 4 out of the last 5 months contain positive job growth.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maximizing your tax return

The Stimulus bill provided almost 300 Billion in tax breaks and incentives. Make sure you are taking using all of the tax incentives that you are eligible for. I provided a list below and also a link to a tax calculator that determines whether or not you are eligible for these deductions.

Here is a list of items you may be eligible for:
1. New Vehicle Purchases - In addition to 'cash for clunkers', you can deduct state & local sales taxes paid on new vehicle purchases
2. Family Credits - some families with children may be eligible for an increase under the Earned Income Tax Credit and the additional Child Tax Credit.
3. Unemployement benefits - if you received unemployement in 2009, the first $2400 is tax free.
4. Home energy improvements - there is up to $1500 tax credit for making your home more energy efficient
5. First time home buyers - Tax credit of up to $8000 for first time home buyers who purchase before April 30, 2010
6. College expenses - there is a potential tax credit of up to $2500
7. 'making work pay' - tax credit of $400 for individuals or $800 for couples

Again, you don't need to try and figure this out, the white house website has a tax calculator to help you determine what your are eligible for:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/recovery/tax-saving-tool

Friday, March 26, 2010

Getting The Facts of politics straight

"You lie!" yelled Republican House member Joe Wilson as President Obama gave a speech to congress on health care reform. “that’s not true,” the president responded. Of course, we later found out that it was Joe who way lying. What was the question and what is the truth?

These days, stretching the truth or even blatant lying seems common by our elected officials. I would argue that we should be able to look to our political leaders for details and facts. In order to support a candidate, we need to know what issues or agenda they support. If our politicians are distorting the facts, how can we accurately support the candidate that matches up with our personal views?

The lying and deceit seems more evident than ever, especially in the great divide that now exists between our congressional lawmakers. I would argue that one side tends to lie more than the other, however, both sides are guilty. Let’s take a look at the recent Health Care reform legislation. The lie of the year, according to Washington Wire, come from Sarah Palin. She of course is the former Governor of Alaska and would have been the number 2 behind McCain had he been elected President.

From her facebook page in July 2009:
“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”

We of course know that there are no “death panels” in the health care reform bill. This was a blatant lie and potentially dangerous statement to make, especially from someone who could have been the Vice President of The United States. However, many members of the GOP jumped on board including the RNC Chair Michael Steele. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was one of the Republicans endorsing and spreading this lie. About a month later when question on “Face the Nation”, Grassley did admit that the bill does not contain language in reference to death panels…somehow without admitting he was lying.

Back to our new friend Joe “YOU LIE” Wilson. Joe’s outburst was in response to President Obama explaining that illegal immigrants would not be covered under the Health Reform Plan. As we now know, there are no health care benefits for illegals, but since Joe’s outburst, polls show that some people still think that there is.

According to the Pulitzer prize winning Politifact website, we took a look at the top 3 lies regarding Healthcare reform.:

1. "forcing Americans off of their current health coverage and onto a government-run plan (is) exactly what the Democrats' plan would do." - House Republican leader John Boehner. False, false, false. There are many reasons why this statement is simply untrue but the most evident fact is that there is not a government run plan. You can’t force people onto a plan that does not exist. Under the healthcare reform legislation, insurance plans are still provided by private insurance companies.
2. “Preventive care saves the whole health care system money” - Barack Obama, Wednesday, September 9th, 2009. Not True according to most experts. While early treatment saves the patient money, the benefits don’t outweigh the costs of additional screening procedures, again according to experts.
3. “In the health care bill, "The 'Health Choices Commissioner' will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None."LIE, ewwww, this one even got rated ‘pants on fire lie’ by politifact. We know the health reform bill let’s people keep their existing plan and sets up exchanges for people who do not have coverage to select from a group of providers. Your health benefits are not decided for you.

Now I certainly do not support everything in the Health Care Refom bill, however, my support (or lack thereof) should be based on facts of the bill and not rhetoric. What are the accountability laws or regulations that keep this from happening? I think we should demand better from our Congressional leaders. We the people, after all, elected them and trusted them on our behalf. Shouldn’t they be accountable to reporting back to us with accurate facts so that we can properly express our support for or against legislation? I know we deserve better, and that is no lie!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Is the Tea Party movement a Fascist or a Totalitarian group in disguise?

“You’re dead; we know where you live; we’ll get you.” - This was a message that greeted Bart Stupack after his vote pro health care reform vote Sunday. “My wife still can’t answer the phone,” Stupak told POLITICO Tuesday. The messages are “full of obscenities if she leaves it plugged in. In my office, we can’t get a phone out. It’s just bombarded.” Stupak's wife has also reportedly received death threats.

What, if anything, does this have to do with the Tea Party? Since the passage of health care reform, many people who claim to be members of the Tea Party have issued similar threats. Politico also reports that “Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a Blue Dog Democrat from California, said he’s gotten physical threats over health care reform.” “There are some folks that identified themselves as being members of the tea party [who] called, [and] my staff has gotten to know their names over time, and they have been very loud and very ugly,” Cardoza said.

Tea Party activists recently attempted to post Democratic Rep Tom Perriello's home address online after his "yea" vote for Health Care reform. Mistakenly, they posted Perriello's brothers address. Mike Troxel, an organizer for the Lynchburg Tea Party, encouraged tea party activists to 'drop by.' Reportedly, a gas line was severed at Perriello's brother’s home. No injuries were reported, the authorities are investigating.

At least 5 democratic offices nationwide have been vandalized and threats have been made to 'assassinate' the children of pro-reform lawmakers. The FBI is investigating. These types of stories go on and on.

The definition of Fascism varies greatly but it is essentially an authoritarian ideology that believes in violence and a will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong. Totalitarian governments believe in rule by a single party and alternate vote are not allowed, often punished with violence or worse.

The current Health Care Reform passed with a majority in the senate, majority in the House of Reps, and finally approval by the president. Hence, it passed the Democratic way. With groups and members of the Tea Party threatening violence and spreading fear to those who passed it, what does that make them? If they are unable to accomplish their agenda through the democratic practice, they now turn to violence and the threat of violence. During town hall meetings, a memo was posted on the Tea Party Patriots Website encouraging and explaining to members how to disrupt discussions on Health Care Reform. Their goal was not to make their views heard but to simply stop the flow of discussion and information.

I believe there are members of the tea party that are good people who choose to freely organize and demonstrate their opinions. However, there is a growing movement within the party to promote violence and/or the threat of violence in order to scare people into voting their way. Disturbing images from the Tea Party protest during the healthcare vote show signs that said “We came unarmed - this time" and "warning if Brown can't stop it, A Browning (showing a picture of a Browning Gun) can" - a sign referring to Scott Brown pledging to stop Healthcare reform but if he can't, a gun can.

UB8SHUSFD26E

Sunday, March 21, 2010

BRIEF HISTORY OF NATIONAL DEBT

Interest on the US Debt was approximately 451 billion dollars in 2008 and 383 Billion in 2009 (lower due to record low interest rates). The 2009 interest payments on the debt are more than we receive in corporate taxes from every single business in the US. A lot of blame and finger pointing always surrounds any conversation between our political parties concerning the national debt. The truth is constantly blurred so what really contributed to the debt and who is at fault?

First, what is the national debt? The government spends money just like people to fund operations, pay for programs, etc. The government collects revenue in the form of taxes and fees. Any spending above the revenue they take in is funded by issuing debt instruments such as Treasury bill, notes, and bonds. These debt instruments are purchased by everyday people and corporations but the bulk of them are purchased by foreign countries.

Another form of debt was created when the US borrowed from the Social Security fund. The fund was running surpluses and it seemed like a good way to get a free loan. However, excessive borrowing has left us in a position where we will have deficits by 2016. In other words, we will not be able to pay out the total social security funds owed to the people, due to the large amount of baby boomers starting to collect.

The US historically has always carried debt but the debt was relatively small until 1980. Ronald Regan made reducing the debt an important campaign issue in his 1980 presidential run but the national debt tripled during his presidency. This was caused by massive military spending during the cold war coupled with “Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1982”, the largest tax cuts ever enacted. Regan’s economic policy (Reganomics) was considered extreme even by the Republican Party. While running against Regan in 1980, George Bush called Reganomics “voodoo Economics.” Although the Regan economic policies now left a deep national debt of 3.3 Trillion by 1990, they created a period of sustained economic expansion.

Soon after George H Bush became president, the savings and loan businesses, de-regulated by Reagan collapsed, adding $150 million to the national debt. In addition the Gulf war did add to the debt but was partly funded by Saudia Arabia, lessening the debt load. He left in 1992 with the national debt now at 4 trillion.

Fast forward to 1993, President Bill Clinton presented to congress the first balanced federal budget since 1969. By 1998, tax revenue exceeded expenditures. Clinton’s 2nd term produced 4 consecutive budget surpluses and in 2000 Clinton announced the largest pay down of the national debt in history. Clinton accomplished this by raising taxes and creating a pay as you go plan.

Following Clinton, in 2001 George W Bush started the first of two terms and a record explosion in spending and increases in the national debt. “President Bush promised that he would "retire nearly $1 trillion in debt over the next four years. Combination of tax cuts and huge spending budgets led to a national debt of 11 trillion (including the TARP passed by George W Bush) and a running deficit over 1 trillion dollars in the budget.

More recently, since taking office, Obama has passed a stimulus plan and several small spending programs bringing the total deficit to now stand at 12 trillion. Obama is quick to point out that massive deficits left little choice. “I found this national debt, doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me as I stepped into the Oval Office. “ -- Barack Obama

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Top 10 facts to know about health care reform

Reposted from the award winning politifact.com:

Top 10 facts to know about health care reform
By Angie Drobnic Holan
Published on Thursday, March 18th, 2010 at 7:09 p.m.


We go beyond the slogans and tell you what's really in the bill.
PolitiFact has checked hundreds of claims about health care reform and read the plans under consideration by Congress. As the Democrats move toward a final vote, we've selected 10 facts about the actual health care legislation that every voter should know. Agree with the measure or not, here's what it intends to do and where the big unknowns are. We've linked to our previous reporting on each issue throughout the story; click through for even more sources.

1. The plan is not a government takeover of health care like in Canada or Britain. The government will not take over hospitals or other privately run health care businesses. Doctors will not become government employees, like in Britain. And the U.S. government intends to help people buy insurance from private insurance companies, not pay all the bills like the single-payer system in Canada. The key parts of the current U.S. system -- employer-provided insurance, Medicare for the elderly, Medicaid for the poor -- would stay in place. The government would create health insurance exchanges for people who have to buy insurance on their own, so they could more easily compare plans and prices.

2. Insurance companies will be regulated more heavily. They will be told the minimum services they must cover, including preventive care. They will have to pay out a certain percentage of premiums for patient care. By 2014, when the exchanges open, insurers won't be able to deny customers for pre-existing conditions.

3. Everyone will have to have health insurance or pay a fine, a requirement known as the individual mandate. The government intends to cap premiums for people who make below a certain income. For people who buy insurance on the exchanges, a family of four making $88,000 would have a cap of 9.5 percent of their income. Lower incomes would have lower caps. The fine for not having insurance would be a minimum of $695 per person per year, with exemptions for financial hardship and other special cases.

4. Employers will not be required to buy insurance for their employees, but large employers may be subject to fines if they don't provide insurance. But Congress wanted to encourage employers, especially large employers, to offer insurance. So they created a fine for employers with more than 50 workers: If those employees buy insurance on the exchanges and qualify for a low-income credit from the government, then the employer would have to pay a fine. Fines are calculated based on number of employees; for large firms, the fines could be significant.

5. The vast majority of people will not see significant declines in premiums. When President Obama talks about premiums going down, he usually means they won't go up as much as they would otherwise. For the 4-out-of-5 who get their insurance through their employer, the savings would land in the 0 to 3 percent range by 2016, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO. People who buy insurance on their own, but who don't qualify for government subsidies, could actually see their premiums rise by as much as 10 to 13 percent, but that's largely because they'll be getting beefed-up policies that would pay for more basic services, especially preventive care. Low-income people who qualify for new credits to buy insurance would see the biggest drops.

6. The plan might or might not bend the curve on health spending. Critics say there aren't enough provisions to reduce waste or fraud, but Democrats say they're not being given enough credit for new cost-saving pilot programs that could be rapidly expanded. The most recent estimate of the plan, released Thursday by the CBO, said that it would spend $940 billion over 10 years. But new taxes, penalties and cost savings would offset that spending, according to the CBO, so that overall the plan pay for itself, dropping the deficit by slightly $138 billion over 10 years. Obama has said the plan will save more than $1 trillion in the second 10 years, but that estimate, according to the CBO, is highly speculative.

7. The government-run Medicare program will keep paying medical bills for seniors, but it will begin implementing cost controls on health care providers, mostly through penalties and incentives. The legislation would reduce payments for hospital-acquired infections or preventable hospital admissions. For Medicare Advantage, the federal government intends to reduce extra payments, taking away subsidies to private insurance companies. Insurers will likely cut benefits in order to not lose profits. The bill does not address the "doctor's fix," an expected proposal that Congress usually passes to prevent doctor's Medicare payments from severe cuts.

8. Medicaid, a joint federal-state program for the poor, will cover all of the poor, instead of just a few groups the way it currently does. Right now, to qualify for Medicaid, a person has to be poor and also disabled, elderly, pregnant or a child. Under the new plan, all poor adults would qualify.

9. The government won't pay for elective abortions. But under the Senate plan, people will be able to buy insurance that covers abortion on the new health insurance exchanges, as long as the insurance company pays for the services with patient premiums, not taxpayer subsidies. Medicaid has an exemption for cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

10. No one is proposing new benefits for illegal immigrants. Some House members had hoped that illegal immigrants would be able to buy insurance with their own money through the new exchanges, but that now appears unlikely.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rush Limbaugh promoting Socialist Healthcare?

“I am leaving the country. I’ll go to Costa Rica.” -Rush Limbaugh
Earlier this week, conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh stated he would go to Costa Rica for medical treatment if Congress passes proposed reforms to the US healthcare system. Why Costa Rica? Let's take a look at this Government run health system.

Back in the early 2000's, the World Health Organization rated Costa Rica #36 in terms of countries general health. Where was the US...number 37. What is striking is that Costa Rica spends 87 percent less on health care per capita. Oh yeah Mr. Limbaugh, Costa Rica has a government run health system.

Upon Rush moving to Costa Rica and becoming a resident, he would be required to pay into the Government Health Care system. Costa Rica is run by Social Democrats, which should fit right in with Rush's new ideology.