Friday, January 30, 2009

Health Care Reform

Are you tired of hearing me rant on this subject? Please don't answer that because my tender ears couldn't take the loud screames of YES!

I thought I would soften the following lecture with a little humor. I am still using my walker and when I saw this cartoon on Grannymar's blog I asked if I could borrow (steal?) it and publish it on my site. Marie kindly granted permission (as I knew she would) so if you missed it there you get to see it here.

I am still finding it necessary to use the walker when outside so I really had to laugh at this cartoon. For the record - no one will see me standing on top of a bed with or without a walker. Let me assure you that I don't have any old duffers in my bed and, even if I did, I sure couldn't get on top. -;)

Now for the serious stuff. In case you missed this, I am posting another article by Paul Krugman on the Health Care Issue. I am so afraid that Paul is right and health care reform is being shoved on the back burner again.
Read on.

Health Care Now

The whole world is in recession. But the United States is the only wealthy country in which the economic catastrophe will also be a health care catastrophe — in which millions of people will lose their health insurance along with their jobs, and therefore lose access to essential care.

Which raises a question: Why has the Obama administration been silent, at least so far, about one of President Obama’s key promises during last year’s campaign — the promise of guaranteed health care for all Americans?

Let’s talk about the magnitude of the looming health care disaster.

Just about all economic forecasts, including those of the Obama administration’s own economists, say that we’re in for a prolonged period of very high unemployment. And high unemployment means a sharp rise in the number of Americans without health insurance.

After the economy slumped at the beginning of this decade, five million people joined the ranks of the uninsured — and that was with the unemployment rate peaking at only 6.3 percent. This time the Obama administration says that even with its stimulus plan, unemployment will reach 8 percent, and that it will stay above 6 percent until 2012. Many independent forecasts are even more pessimistic.

Why, then, aren’t we hearing more about ensuring health care access?

Now, it’s possible that those of us who care about this issue are reading too much into the administration’s silence. But let me address three arguments that I suspect Mr. Obama is hearing against moving on health care, and explain why they’re wrong.

First, some people are arguing that a major expansion of health care access would just be too expensive right now, given the vast sums we’re about to spend trying to rescue the economy.

But research sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund shows that achieving universal coverage with a plan similar to Mr. Obama’s campaign proposals would add “only” about $104 billion to federal spending in 2010 — not a small sum, of course, but not large compared with, say, the tax cuts in the Obama stimulus plan.

It’s true that the cost of universal health care will be a continuing expense, reaching far into the future. But that has always been true, and Mr. Obama has always claimed that his health care plan was affordable. The temporary expenses of his stimulus plan shouldn’t change that calculation.

Second, some people in Mr. Obama’s circle may be arguing that health care reform isn’t a priority right now, in the face of economic crisis.

But helping families purchase health insurance as part of a universal coverage plan would be at least as effective a way of boosting the economy as the tax breaks that make up roughly a third of the stimulus plan — and it would have the added benefit of directly helping families get through the crisis, ending one of the major sources of Americans’ current anxiety.

Finally — and this is, I suspect, the real reason for the administration’s health care silence — there’s the political argument that this is a bad time to be pushing fundamental health care reform, because the nation’s attention is focused on the economic crisis. But if history is any guide, this argument is precisely wrong.

Don’t take my word for it. Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, has declared that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Indeed. F.D.R. was able to enact Social Security in part because the Great Depression highlighted the need for a stronger social safety net. And the current crisis presents a real opportunity to fix the gaping holes that remain in that safety net, especially with regard to health care.

And Mr. Obama really, really doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes of Bill Clinton, whose health care push failed politically partly because he moved too slowly: by the time his administration was ready to submit legislation, the economy was recovering from recession and the sense of urgency was fading.

One more thing. There’s a populist rage building in this country, as Americans see bankers getting huge bailouts while ordinary citizens suffer.

I agree with administration officials who argue that these financial bailouts are necessary (though I have problems with the specifics). But I also agree with Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who argues that — as a matter of political necessity as well as social justice — aid to bankers has to be linked to a strengthening of the social safety net, so that Americans can see that the government is ready to help everyone, not just the rich and powerful.

The bottom line, then, is that this is no time to let campaign promises of guaranteed health care be quietly forgotten. It is, instead, a time to put the push for universal care front and center. Health care now!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Petition for Secretary of the Arts.

Today Sylvia who writes the blog Sylvia From Over The Hill had this petition on her site. I think it's an excellent idea because we need the Arts now more than ever.

During the Great Depression the Arts were exceedingly important. People were going through such stressful times that an evening of diversion at a play, concert, or performance of dance kept them from being depressed. Franklin Roosevelt realized this and created WPA orchestras as well as other Art groups. My uncle helped support his family by playing the cello in our local WPA orchestra.

So supporting the Arts not only entertained the downtrodden people, it provided jobs. Therefore, I am supporting this petition and hope you will too.


Quincy Jones, famed musician, has started a petition to ask President-Elect Obama to appoint a Secretary of the Arts.

 While many other countries have had Ministers of Art or Culture for centuries, The United States has never created such a position. We in the arts need this and the country needs the arts--now more than ever.

Please take a moment to sign this important petition and then pass it on to your friends and colleagues.

Thank You!

Please feel free to copy and paste to your blog.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Keeping a Journal

Today Steven, who posts on the blog, Projections, wrote the entry in Ronni Bennett's blog Time Goes By.
His subject was on writing a journal and that has prompted me to write my own thoughts on the subject.

It's strange where inspiration comes from, isn't it? I would never have thought of this subject had I not read Steven's post.

Currently, I am wading through a Journal that my Great Grandmother wrote. I believe she had not been married long when she started it because her five children are never mentioned. It is slow going because, although her penmanship is beautiful, the ink has faded to a pale brown and some entries are gone and can never be recovered. Even the entries that are legible are straining my eyes as I try to decipher them. The other thing that makes it difficult is the size. The Journal is about the size of a deck of cards and the writing is very small. I am making good use of my magnifying glass.

It would be worthwhile to surmount the reading difficulties if I were discovering her thoughts and learning about the events of her life. Unfortunately, she was writing it for herself without any thought to posterity. People are never identified and places are left to the imagination.

As an example, she tells about visiting Brother Al and Carrie being very ill. Since I know that her oldest child was named Carrie (my Grandmother) I was puzzled as to why Carrie was living with Al. Carrie eventually died from whatever her ailment might have been. At that time the Journal sadly explained that Carrie was a child. She was, therefore, not my Grandmother. (Was my grandmother named after her?) I then assumed she may have been Brother Al's child. That would make her my Great Grandmother's Niece . Later on in the Journal I discovered that Al came to live with my Great Grandparents for a time and he was only 19 years old. So my assumptions had to be adjusted once more.

The daily entries usually start out, "This was a pleasant day." or "Today was not pleasant." This is normally followed by her activities of the day as, "I cleaned house this morning and sewed on Carrie's dress this afternoon." In other words, the Journal is a diary and not at all illuminating about the people mentioned. I learned that a child named Clyde died shortly after they held the funeral for Carrie. These sad events are related without knowing who Clyde was and whose child he was. Was he a neighbor's child, a relative, a friend's child? What did he die from? The Journal provides more questions than answers. I am at sea about the relationships of the people named except when they are directly related to my Great Grandmother. She mentions going to see Ma and Pa, but does not tell where they lived.

Anyone who write their memories should write them as if they were explaining the events to a stranger. It will be strangers who read them, even if that person is a descendant of the author.

This has made me think I should go back and edit the Memoirs I wrote years ago. Would the person reading them know who I was talking about and where the event took place? I know who the people are, but will someone 100 years in the future?

I am also going to add photographs to my Memoirs so the future reader will have a better picture of the people I am writing about. I also need to investigate how to archive my Memoirs so they will endure.

It is a daunting task, but one I owe to my family. Even my children may find some surprises when they read my story. At least I hope they don't say, "Mom, we've heard that story a zillion times. (" One of the Beatitudes for Seniors is, "Blessed are they who never say, you've told that story twice today.")

It is true that when an elder dies, a library dies with them. Lets not let it happen to our children and grandchildren. Log on to your Word Processor and get busy!

Friday, January 23, 2009

What a difference a day makes. We not only have a complete turn around from the secretive, lawless previous administration, but we have hope for the first time in eight years. It is like the sun shining through the clouds after a rain storm. President Obama is wasting no time in overturning the directives of the Bush era and changing the whole atmosphere of government.

I hope the Administration's luck
has been better this week than mine has. The 'know it alls' are already critiquing his actions and I am happy to say that I think this man, Barack Obama, is so sure of himself that the naysayers comments will not have a negative influence on him. He is capable of ignoring contrary information unless it has merit; then he is wise enough to listen. That's a rare attribute and one that will stand him in good stead.

A day made a difference in my life also. My step-daughter, Lynne was due to arrive for a week of fun and chatting. Unfortunately, she baby sat her youngest grandchildren and the boy, Mason, had a cold. Sadly, Lynne came down with it a day before she was to leave. We both thought it prudent for her to delay her trip. We were both disappointed, of course, but I think we made the right decision.

(Lynne is the one on the left of the first photo and, of course the one wearing a jacket is me. It seems that I am always cold when I leave the Arizona sun. They kid me a lot in California.)'

(The second photo is of the grandchildren Lynne took care of. Mason, the baby, is the culprit who gave Lynne the gift of a cold. How could such a sweet innocent child do that to his grandmother? Maddie, his sister, is about to kiss him. In later years I am sure she will not get away with that. )

Our weather had been beautiful with temperatures reaching 80 degrees in the afternoon. Yesterday it all changed. We had rain off and on all day and this morning is no different. It is only 60 degrees now and probably won't get better. Maybe fate had a hand in Lynne having to delay her trip.

I spent most of yesterday trying to solve a computer glitch that prevented me from seeing my e-mail. I had a doctor appointment and had to leave the problem for a few hours. Upon returning home I tackled the situation again and finally achieved success. I am now a day behind in reading my blogs. Arrrgh!

I have another computer problem that I wish one of you tech savvy people could help me with. I have been informed that the link to my blog doesn't work. I have done everything I can think of to solve this problem, but apparently my efforts have been wasted. Aren't computers so much fun? ~: ( .

This is 'finis' on today's ramblings. Maybe I will be more inspired the next day. As Scarlett said, "I will think about that tomorrow."

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This Land is Your Land

This is the entire inaugural address by President Barack Obama.

While we are still in a state of euphoria over having a new President who offers us hope and challenges I thought you might enjoy Bruce Springsteen's version of the song, "This Land Is Your Land." It is almost as inspiring as President Obama's speech.

This Land is Your Land

This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me


As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Chorus (2x)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What a Day

What A Day

What an Historic Day

What an Exciting Day

What a Wonderful Day

What a Glorious Day

What a Beautiful Day

What an Unforgettable Day

What a Superfragilisticexpialidocious Day

Three beautiful words
President Barack Obama

It's time to celebrate. Break out the bubbly!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Hodgepodge

I know that everyone is anxiously waiting for midday tomorrow when we will officially have a new President. It feels like all of the hopeful cliches rolled into one; a new day dawning.

The polls are so encouraging; the people know Obama can't do it all in 100 days and they are not going to be impatient. It took eight years to get in this mess and it will take years to get out of it.

Wouldn't I just forget that tomorrow is a huge day for America and schedule a doctor's appointment for that day? I will have to read the coverage on other blogs when I get home.

I know Obama's inauguration speech is going to be a big one for the history books since he is writing it himself. It will be repeated over many times and I will have to hear it later. My prediction is that there will be at least one memorable line like JFK' s "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask instead, what you can do for your country." We need to be
reminded of that again and I feel sure that President Obama will do so.

With company coming in two days I am taking the easy way out this week and only posting things that came to my e-mail box or articles of interest. I know this is a 'cop out' but my surgeon said it takes from six to nine months to return to normal and it hasn't been two months since my surgery so I will use that as another excuse for not being faithful to my blog. Do please visit now and then to see what I find interesting. For today, you can't beat Maxine.

I am proud to accept an award, Certified Honest Blogger, from Ugich Konitari who writes a marvelous blog named Gappa. I feel honored to accept this badge because of the words that Ugich added. She said I was the most honest blogger she knew and had more guts than anyone. She also added that I was the oldest blogger. There are others older than I, but I guess Ugich doesn't read them. I am old, I try to be honest, but I am not sure about the guts part. Maybe writing about touchy subjects earns me a smidgeon of that label.

I am passing the badge on to two other bloggers who probably deserve it far more than I do.

  • Rain of Rainy Day Thoughts
  • Ronni of Time Goes By

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Paul Krugman - Part II

By now I am sure it's obvious that I admire Paul Krugman. My admiration for him is because he got it right about the economic failure to come long before others saw what was happening. When an economist is proven to be right it makes sense to listen to his advice.

The following article is long, but well worth the read.


Back to What Obama Must Do


by: Paul Krugman, Rolling Stone

Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, offers advice for the new administration. (Photo: Jeff Zelevansky / Getty)

A Letter to the new president. What Obama must do.

Dear Mr. President:

Like FDR three-quarters of a century ago, you're taking charge at a moment when all the old certainties have vanished, all the conventional wisdom been proved wrong. We're not living in a world you or anyone else expected to see. Many presidents have to deal with crises, but very few have been forced to deal from Day One with a crisis on the scale America now faces.

So, what should you do?

In this letter I won't try to offer advice about everything. For the most part I'll stick to economics, or matters that bear on economics. I'll also focus on things I think you can or should achieve in your first year in office. The extent to which your administration succeeds or fails will depend, to a large extent, on what happens in the first year - and above all, on whether you manage to get a grip on the current economic crisis.

The Economic Crisis

How bad is the economic outlook? Worse than almost anyone imagined.

The economic growth of the Bush years, such as it was, was fueled by an explosion of private debt; now credit markets are in disarray, businesses and consumers are pulling back and the economy is in free-fall. What we're facing, in essence, is a yawning job gap. The U.S. economy needs to add more than a million jobs a year just to keep up with a growing population. Even before the crisis, job growth under Bush averaged only 800,000 a year - and over the past year, instead of gaining a million-plus jobs, we lost 2 million. Today we're continuing to lose jobs at the rate of a half million a month.

There's nothing in either the data or the underlying situation to suggest that the plunge in employment will slow anytime soon, which means that by late this year we could be 10 million or more jobs short of where we should be. This, in turn, would mean an unemployment rate of more than nine percent. Add in those who aren't counted in the standard rate because they've given up looking for work, plus those forced to take part-time jobs when they want to work full-time, and we're probably looking at a real-world unemployment rate of around 15 percent - more than 20 million Americans frustrated in their efforts to find work.

The human cost of a slump that severe would be enormous. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research group that analyzes government programs, recently estimated the effects of a rise in the unemployment rate to nine percent - a worst-case scenario that now seems all too likely. So what will happen if unemployment rises to nine percent or more? As many as 10 million middle-class Americans would be pushed into poverty, and another 6 million would be pushed into "deep poverty," the severe deprivation that happens when your income is less than half the poverty level. Many of the Americans losing their jobs would lose their health insurance too, worsening the already grim state of U.S. health care and crowding emergency rooms with those who have nowhere else to go. Meanwhile, millions more Americans would lose their homes. State and local governments, deprived of much of their revenue, would have to cut back on even the most essential services.

If things continue on their current trajectory, Mr. President, we will soon be facing a great national catastrophe. And it's your job - a job no other president has had to do since World War II - to head off that catastrophe.

Wait a second, you may say. Didn't other presidents also face troubled economies? Yes, they did - but when it came to economic policy, your predecessors weren't actually running the show. For the past half century the Federal Reserve - a more or less independent institution, run by technocrats and deliberately designed to be independent of whoever happens to occupy the White House - has been taking care of day-to-day, and even year-to-year, economic management. Your fellow presidents were just along for the ride.

Remember the economic boom of 1984, which let Ronald Reagan run on the slogan "It's morning again in America"? Well, Reagan had absolutely nothing to do with that boom. It was, instead, the work of Paul Volcker, whom Jimmy Carter appointed as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board in 1979 (and who's now the head of your economic advisory panel). First Volcker broke the back of inflation, at the cost of a recession that probably doomed Carter's re-election chances in 1980. Then Volcker engineered an economic bounce-back. In effect, Reagan dressed up in a flight suit and pretended to be a hotshot economic pilot, but Volcker was the guy who actually flew the plane and landed it safely.

You, on the other hand, have to pull this plane out of its nose dive yourself, because the Fed has lost its mojo.

Compare the situation right now with the one back in the 1980s, when Volcker turned the economy around. All the Fed had to do back then was print a bunch of dollars (OK, it actually credited the money to the accounts of private banks, but it amounts to the same thing) and then use those dollars to buy up U.S. government debt. This drove interest rates down: When Volcker decided that the economy needed a pick-me-up, he was quickly able to drive the interest rate on Treasury bills from 13 percent down to eight percent. Lower interest rates on government debt, in turn, quickly drove down rates on mortgages and business borrowing. People started spending again, and within a few months the economy had gone from slump to boom. Economists call this process - from the Fed's decision to print more money to the resulting pickup in spending, jobs and incomes - the "monetary transmission mechanism." And in the 1980s that mechanism worked just fine.

This time, however, the transmission mechanism is broken.

First of all, while the Fed can still print money, it can't drive interest rates down. Why? Because those interest rates are already about as low as they can go. As I write this letter, the interest rate on Treasury bills is 0.005 percent - that is, zero. And you can't push rates lower than that. Now, you might think that zero interest rates would lead to an orgy of borrowing. But while the U.S. government can borrow money for free, the rest of us can't. Fear rules the financial markets, so over the past year and a half, as the interest rates on government debt have plunged, the interest rates that Main Street has to pay have mostly gone up. In particular, many businesses are paying much higher interest rates now than they were a year and a half ago, before the Fed started cutting. And they're lucky compared to the many businesses that can't get credit at all.

Besides, even if more people could borrow, would they really want to spend? There's a glut of unsold homes on the market, so there's very little incentive to build more houses, no matter how low mortgage rates go. The same goes for business investment: With office buildings standing empty, shopping malls begging for tenants and factories sitting idle, who wants to spend on new capacity? And with workers everywhere worried about job security, people trying to save a few dollars may stampede into stores that offer deep discounts, but not many people want to buy the big-ticket items, like cars, that normally fuel an economic recovery.

So as I said, the Fed has lost its mojo. Ben Bernanke and his colleagues are trying everything they can think of to unfreeze the credit markets - the alphabet soup of new "lending facilities," with acronyms nobody can remember, is growing by the hour. Any day now, the joke goes, everyone will have a Visa card bearing the Fed logo. But at best, all this activity only serves to limit the damage. There's no realistic prospect that the Fed can pull the economy out of its nose dive.

So it's up to you.

Rescuing the Economy

The last president to face a similar mess was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and you can learn a lot from his example. That doesn't mean, however, that you should do everything FDR did. On the contrary, you have to take care to emulate his successes, but avoid repeating his mistakes.

About those successes: The way FDR dealt with his own era's financial mess offers a very good model. Then, as now, the government had to deploy taxpayer money in order to rescue the financial system. In particular, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation initially played a role similar to that of the Bush administration's Troubled Assets Relief Program (the $700 billion program everyone knows about). Like the TARP, the RFC bulked up the cash position of troubled banks by using public funds to buy up stock in those banks.

There was, however, a big difference between FDR's approach to taxpayer-subsidized financial rescue and that of the Bush administration: Namely, FDR wasn't shy about demanding that the public's money be used to serve the public good. By 1935 the U.S. government owned about a third of the banking system, and the Roosevelt administration used that ownership stake to insist that banks actually help the economy, pressuring them to lend out the money they were getting from Washington. Beyond that, the New Deal went out and lent a lot of money directly to businesses, to home buyers and to people who already owned homes, helping them restructure their mortgages so they could stay in their houses.

Can you do anything like that today? Yes, you can. The Bush administration may have refused to attach any strings to the aid it has provided to financial firms, but you can change all that. If banks need federal funds to survive, provide them - but demand that the banks do their part by lending those funds out to the rest of the economy. Provide more help to homeowners. Use Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the home-lending agencies, to pass the government's low borrowing costs on to qualified home buyers. (Fannie and Freddie were seized by federal regulators in September, but the Bush administration, bizarrely, has kept their borrowing costs high by refusing to declare that their bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the taxpayer.)

Conservatives will accuse you of nationalizing the financial system, and some will call you a Marxist. (It happens to me all the time.) And the truth is that you will, in a way, be engaging in temporary nationalization. But that's OK: In the long run we don't want the government running financial institutions, but for now we need to do whatever it takes to get credit flowing again.

All of this will help - but not enough. By all means you should try to fix the problems of banks and other financial institutions. But to pull the economy out of its slide, you need to go beyond funneling money to banks and other financial institutions. You need to give the real economy of work and wages a boost. In other words, you have to get job creation right - which FDR never did.

This may sound like a strange thing to say. After all, what we remember from the 1930s is the Works Progress Administration, which at its peak employed millions of Americans building roads, schools and dams. But the New Deal's job-creation programs, while they certainly helped, were neither big enough nor sustained enough to end the Great Depression. When the economy is deeply depressed, you have to put normal concerns about budget deficits aside; FDR never managed to do that. As a result, he was too cautious: The boost he gave the economy between 1933 and 1936 was enough to get unemployment down, but not back to pre-Depression levels. And in 1937 he let the deficit worriers get to him: Even though the economy was still weak, he let himself be talked into slashing spending while raising taxes. This led to a severe recession that undid much of the progress the economy had made to that point. It took the giant public works project known as World War II - a project that finally silenced the penny pinchers - to bring the Depression to an end.

The lesson from FDR's limited success on the employment front, then, is that you have to be really bold in your job-creation plans. Basically, businesses and consumers are cutting way back on spending, leaving the economy with a huge shortfall in demand, which will lead to a huge fall in employment - unless you stop it. To stop it, however, you have to spend enough to fill the hole left by the private sector's retrenchment.

How much spending are we talking about? You might want to be seated before you read this. OK, here goes: "Full employment" means a jobless rate of five percent at most, and probably less. Meanwhile, we're currently on a trajectory that will push the unemployment rate to nine percent or more. Even the most optimistic estimates suggest that it takes at least $200 billion a year in government spending to cut the unemployment rate by one percentage point. Do the math: You probably have to spend $800 billion a year to achieve a full economic recovery. Anything less than $500 billion a year will be much too little to produce an economic turnaround.

Spending on that scale, at a time when the weakening economy is driving down tax collection, will produce some really scary deficit numbers. But the consequences of too much caution - of a failure on your part to do enough to stop the economy's nose dive - will be even scarier than the coming ocean of red ink.

In fact, the biggest problem you're going to face as you try to rescue the economy will be finding enough job-creation projects that can be started quickly. Traditional WPA-type programs - spending on roads, government buildings, ports and other infrastructure - are a very effective tool for creating employment. But America probably has less than $150 billion worth of such projects that are "shovel-ready" right now, projects that can be started in six months or less. So you'll have to be creative: You'll have to find lots of other ways to push funds into the economy.

As much as possible, you should spend on things of lasting value, things that, like roads and bridges, will make us a richer nation. Upgrade the infrastructure behind the Internet; upgrade the electrical grid; improve information technology in the health care sector, a crucial part of any health care reform. Provide aid to state and local governments, to prevent them from cutting investment spending at precisely the wrong moment. And remember, as you do this, that all this spending does double duty: It serves the future, but it also helps in the present, by providing jobs and income to offset the slump.

You can also do well by doing good. The Americans hit hardest by the slump - the long-term unemployed, families without health insurance - are also the Americans most likely to spend any aid they receive, and thereby help sustain the economy as a whole. So aid to the distressed - enhanced unemployment insurance, food stamps, health-insurance subsidies - is both the fair thing to do and a desirable part of your short-term economic plan.

Even if you do all this, however, it won't be enough to offset the awesome slump in private spending. So yes, it also makes sense to cut taxes on a temporary basis. The tax cuts should go primarily to lower- and middle-income Americans - again, both because that's the fair thing to do, and because they're more likely to spend their windfall than the affluent. The tax break for working families you outlined in your campaign plan looks like a reasonable vehicle.

But let's be clear: Tax cuts are not the tool of choice for fighting an economic slump. For one thing, they deliver less bang for the buck than infrastructure spending, because there's no guarantee that consumers will spend their tax cuts or rebates. As a result, it probably takes more than $300 billion of tax cuts, compared with $200 billion of public works, to shave a point off the unemployment rate. Furthermore, in the long run you're going to need more tax revenue, not less, to pay for health care reform. So tax cuts shouldn't be the core of your economic recovery program. They should, instead, be a way to "bulk up" your job-creation program, which otherwise won't be big enough.

Now my honest opinion is that even with all this, you won't be able to prevent 2009 from being a very bad year. If you manage to keep the unemployment rate from going above eight percent, I'll consider that a major success. But by 2010 you should be able to have the economy on the road to recovery. What should you do to prepare for that recovery?

Beyond the Crisis

Crisis management is one thing, but America needs much more than that. FDR rebuilt America not just by getting us through depression and war, but by making us a more just and secure society. On one side, he created social-insurance programs, above all Social Security, that protect working Americans to this day. On the other, he oversaw the creation of a much more equal economy, creating a middle-class society that lasted for decades, until conservative economic policies ushered in the new age of inequality that prevails today. You have a chance to emulate FDR's achievements, and the ultimate judgment on your presidency will rest on whether you seize that chance.

The biggest, most important legacy you can leave to the nation will be to give us, finally, what every other advanced nation already has: guaranteed health care for all our citizens. The current crisis has given us an object lesson in the need for universal health care, in two ways. It has highlighted the vulnerability of Americans whose health insurance is tied to jobs that can so easily disappear. And it has made it clear that our current system is bad for business, too - the Big Three automakers wouldn't be in nearly as much trouble if they weren't trying to pay the medical bills of their former employees as well as their current workers. You have a mandate for change; the economic crisis has shown just how much the system needs change. So now is the time to pass legislation establishing a system that covers everyone.

What should this system look like? Some progressives insist that we should move immediately to a single-payer system - Medicare for all. Although this would be both the fairest and most efficient way to ensure that all Americans get the health care they need, let's be frank: Single-payer probably isn't politically achievable right now, simply because it would represent too great a change. At least at first, Americans who have good private health insurance will be reluctant to trade that insurance for a public program, even if that program will ultimately prove better.

So the thing to do in your first year in office is pass a compromise plan - one that establishes, for the first time, the principle of universal access to care. Your campaign proposals provide the blueprint. Let people keep their private insurance if they choose, subsidize insurance for lower-income families, require that all children be covered, and give everyone the option to buy into a public plan - one that will probably end up being cheaper and better than private insurance. Pass legislation doing all that, and we'll have universal health coverage up and running by the end of your first term. And that will be an achievement that, like FDR's creation of Social Security, will permanently change America for the better.

All this will cost money, mainly to pay for those insurance subsidies, and some people will tell you that the nation can't afford major health care reform given the costs of the economic recovery program. Let's talk about why you should ignore the naysayers.

First, let's put the costs of the economic-recovery program in perspective. It's possible that reviving the economy might cost as much as a trillion dollars over the course of your first term. But the Bush administration wasted at least twice that much on an unnecessary war and tax cuts for the wealthiest; the recovery plan will be intense but temporary, and won't place all that much burden on future budgets. Put it this way: With long-term federal debt paying the lowest interest rates in half a century, the interest costs on a trillion dollars in new debt will amount to only $30 billion a year, about 1.2 percent of the current federal budget.

Second, there's good reason to believe that health care reform will save money in the long run. Our system isn't just full of holes in coverage, it's also grossly inefficient, with huge bureaucratic costs - such as the immense resources that insurance companies devote to making sure they don't cover the people who need health care the most. And under a universal system it will be much easier to use our health care dollars wisely, to spend money only on medical procedures that work and not on those that don't. Since rising health care costs are the main source of the grim, long-run projections for the federal budget, the truth is that we can't afford not to move forward on health care reform.

And let's not ignore the long-term political effects. Back in 1993, when the Clintons tried and failed to create a universal health care system, Republican strategists like William Kristol (now my colleague at The New York Times) urged their party to oppose any reform on political grounds; they argued that a successful health care program, by conveying the message that government can actually serve the public interest, would fundamentally shift American politics in a progressive direction. They were right - and the same considerations that made conservatives so opposed to health care reform should make you determined to make it happen.

Universal health care, then, should be your biggest priority after rescuing the economy. Providing coverage for all Americans can be for your administration what Social Security was for the New Deal. But the New Deal achieved something else: It made America a middle-class society. Under FDR, America went through what labor historians call the Great Compression, a dramatic rise in wages for ordinary workers that greatly reduced income inequality. Before the Great Compression, America was a society of rich and poor; afterward it was a society in which most people, rightly, considered themselves middle class. It may be hard to match that achievement today, but you can, at least, move the country in the right direction.

What caused the Great Compression? That's a complicated story, but one important factor was the rise of organized labor: Union membership tripled between 1935 and 1945. Unions not only negotiated better wages for their own members, they also enhanced the bargaining power of workers throughout the economy. At the time, conservatives warned that wage gains would have disastrous economic effects - that the rise of unions would cripple employment and economic growth. But in fact, the Great Compression was followed by the great postwar boom, which doubled American living standards over the course of a generation.

Unfortunately, the Great Compression was reversed starting in the 1970s, as American workers once again lost much of their bargaining power. This loss was partly due to changes in the world economy, as major U.S. manufacturing corporations started facing more international competition. But it also had a lot to do with politics, as first the Reagan administration, then the Bush administration, did all they could to undermine the ability of workers to organize.

You can make a start on reversing that process. Clearly, you won't be able to oversee a tripling of union membership anytime soon. But you can do a lot to enhance workers' rights. One is to start laying the groundwork to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it much harder for employers to intimidate workers who want to join a union. I know it probably won't happen in your first year, but if and when it does, the legislation will enable America to take a huge step toward recapturing the middle-class society we've lost.

Truth & Reconciliation

There are many other issues you'll need to deal with, of course. In particular, I haven't said a word about environmental policy, which is ultimately the most important issue of all. That's because I suspect that it won't be possible to pass a comprehensive plan for dealing with climate change in your first year. By all means, put as much environmentally friendly investment as possible - such as spending to enhance energy efficiency - into the initial recovery plan. But I'm guessing that 2009 won't be the year to introduce cap-and-trade measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If I'm wrong, that's great - but I'm not counting on big environmental policy moves right away.

I also haven't said anything about foreign policy. Your team is well aware of the need to wind down the war in Iraq - which is, by the way, costing about as much each year as the insurance subsidies we need to implement universal health care. You're also aware of the need to find the least bad solution for the mess in Afghanistan. And I don't even want to think about Pakistan - but you have to. Good luck.

There is, however, one area where I feel the need to break discipline. I'm an economist, but I'm also an American citizen - and like many citizens, I spent the past eight years watching in horror as the Bush administration betrayed the nation's ideals. And I don't believe we can put those terrible years behind us unless we have a full accounting of what really happened. I know that most of the inside-the-Beltway crowd is urging you to let bygones be bygones, just as they urged Bill Clinton to let the truth about scandals from the Reagan-Bush years, in particular the Iran-Contra affair, remain hidden. But we know how that turned out: The same people who abused power in the name of national security 20 years ago returned as part of the team that, under the second George Bush, did it all over again, on a much larger scale. It was an object lesson in the truth of George Santayana's dictum: Those who refuse to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.

That's why this time we need a full accounting. Not a witch hunt, maybe not even prosecutions, but something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that helped South Africa come to terms with what happened under apartheid. We need to know how America ended up fighting a war to eliminate nonexistent weapons, how torture became a routine instrument of U.S. policy, how the Justice Department became an instrument of political persecution, how brazen corruption flourished not only in Iraq, but throughout Congress and the administration. We know that these evils were not, whatever the apologists say, the result of honest error or a few bad apples: The White House created a climate in which abuse became commonplace, and in many cases probably took the lead in instigating these abuses. But it's not enough to leave this reality in the realm of things "everybody knows" - because soon enough they'll be denied or forgotten, and the cycle of abuse will begin again. The whole sordid tale needs to be brought out into the sunlight.

It's probably best if Congress takes the lead in investigations of the Bush years, but your administration can do its part, both by not using its influence to discourage the investigations and by bringing an end to the Bush administration's stonewalling. Let Congress have access to records and witnesses, and let the truth be told.

That said, the future is what matters most. This month we celebrate your arrival in the White House; at a time of great national crisis, you bring the hope of a better future. It's now up to you to deliver on that hope. By enacting a recovery plan even bolder and more comprehensive than the New Deal, you can not only turn the economy around - you can put America on a path toward greater equality for generations to come.


Paul Krugman

Friday, January 16, 2009

Forgive and Forget?

Because the Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman, says it so much better than I can, I am posting his editorial from the New York Times.

It really galls me to think that the worst administration in history can calmly slink out of town and not fear any repercussion for their actions.

Where is the justice? If an adolescent can be sent to jail for having an illegal drug in his/her possession, how can the most powerful men in the U.S. get away with crimes against humanity (torture) and crimes against our Constitution? How can they subvert the rule of law and not pay a price? How can they ruin our economy and not feel some heat for that? How can they abuse the political system by using the Cabinet posts to twist the law to further their ideological beliefs?

How can Dick Cheney, with arrogant mien, blithely lie about all they did? How can Cheney still maintain that Saddam Hussein and al Quada had ties that went back years, as he did in his recent TV interview Sunday morning? Every expert who has written on the subject confirms that Bin Laden and Saddam were bitter enemies. Is Cheney brain dead, in denial or just the most consummate liar ever to hold office?

They must be held accountable. Please write Obama, your Congressmen, and your Senators and express your outrage that they might not be investigated for their heinous crimes.


Forgive and Forget?

Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. It’s not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation’s security. The fact is that the Bush administration’s abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.

At the Justice Department, for example, political appointees illegally reserved nonpolitical positions for “right-thinking Americans” — their term, not mine — and there’s strong evidence that officials used their positions both to undermine the protection of minority voting rights and to persecute Democratic politicians.

The hiring process at Justice echoed the hiring process during the occupation of Iraq — an occupation whose success was supposedly essential to national security — in which applicants were judged by their politics, their personal loyalty to President Bush and, according to some reports, by their views on Roe v. Wade, rather than by their ability to do the job.

Speaking of Iraq, let’s also not forget that country’s failed reconstruction: the Bush administration handed billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to politically connected companies, companies that then failed to deliver. And why should they have bothered to do their jobs? Any government official who tried to enforce accountability on, say, Halliburton quickly found his or her career derailed.

There’s much, much more. By my count, at least six important government agencies experienced major scandals over the past eight years — in most cases, scandals that were never properly investigated. And then there was the biggest scandal of all: Does anyone seriously doubt that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into invading Iraq?

Why, then, shouldn’t we have an official inquiry into abuses during the Bush years?

One answer you hear is that pursuing the truth would be divisive, that it would exacerbate partisanship. But if partisanship is so terrible, shouldn’t there be some penalty for the Bush administration’s politicization of every aspect of government?

Alternatively, we’re told that we don’t have to dwell on past abuses, because we won’t repeat them. But no important figure in the Bush administration, or among that administration’s political allies, has expressed remorse for breaking the law. What makes anyone think that they or their political heirs won’t do it all over again, given the chance?

In fact, we’ve already seen this movie. During the Reagan years, the Iran-contra conspirators violated the Constitution in the name of national security. But the first President Bush pardoned the major malefactors, and when the White House finally changed hands the political and media establishment gave Bill Clinton the same advice it’s giving Mr. Obama: let sleeping scandals lie. Sure enough, the second Bush administration picked up right where the Iran-contra conspirators left off — which isn’t too surprising when you bear in mind that Mr. Bush actually hired some of those conspirators.

Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.

Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it’s probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he’s going to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That’s not a conditional oath to be honored only when it’s convenient.

And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Health Care Redux

I know, I know. You are getting sick of this subject on my blog. I promise you that I will try to restrain myself. but I am posting this for two reasons. One: I have been gone all day, I am tired and it's so easy to cut and paste. Reason two; it's my soapbox issue. Please forgive me.

I still think the subject needs to be stressed, so I will copy another article on this over emphasized subject. The time to strike is while the iron is hot.

My step-daughter, Lynne, is coming to spend next week with me so I will not be very active on the Internet. I will try to check in now and then and hope you will do so also.


Public opinion surveys show most Obama voters knew the Illinois senator is a progressive when they cast their ballots - and those votes for him weren't just anti-Bush protests, they were ideological. According to a post-election poll by my colleagues at the Campaign for America's Future, 70 percent of Americans say they want conservatives to help this progressive president enact his decidedly progressive agenda.

Sensing the enormity of these numbers, Obama seems ready to back a "big bang" of far-reaching initiatives. "We can't afford to wait on moving forward on the key priorities that I identified during the campaign," he said in his first radio address as president-elect.

Based on advertisements, Obama identified no more important priority than guaranteeing health care for all citizens. As the Campaign Media Analysis Group reported, he devoted more than two-thirds of his total television budget to ads that included health care themes. Consequently, a Pew poll found 77 percent of Americans said health care would be a decisive concern in their presidential vote.

The moral case for universal health care is obvious. In the world's richest country - in a country that builds lavish sports stadiums and showers Wall Street with trillion-dollar bailouts - 18,000 people die each year because they lack health insurance. We permit this annual massacre while our wasteful system exacerbates our debt and saps our economic competitiveness by forcing us to spend more money per capita on health care than any other nation. The problem would have been addressed long ago. Overcoming inertia on such a thorny issue requires budget pressure - which Obama definitely faces. While some claim the deficit should preclude bold health care legislation, it's the other way around. The Congressional Budget Office says America's fiscal gap is "driven primarily by rising health care costs," meaning a fix is an imperative. "People ask whether (Obama) has the fiscal breathing room to push health-care reform," economist Jared Bernstein told the Washington Post. "He doesn't have the fiscal breathing room not to do health-care reform."

Additionally, as with everything in Washington, a political motive is needed for action - and even conservatives acknowledge Democrats have such a motive when it comes to health care.

Fifteen years ago, Republican strategist William Kristol warned that the Clinton administration's universal health care proposals represented "a serious political threat to the Republican Party" because, if passed, they "will revive the reputation" of Democrats as "the generous protector of middle-class interests."

As we all remember, Democrats failed to capitalize on the health care opportunity. But Kristol's prophecy was correct then, as it is now. With huge Democratic majorities in Congress come 2009, only the Braindead Megaphone is in Obama's way.---------

David Sirota is a fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network - both nonpartisan organizations.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Monday, January 12, 2009


For my family and friends who may be reading this (but do not comment) I want to report that I am ever so much better.

The swelling in my feet and legs that plagued me so much is nearly gone. I think I will be able to give up the diuretic soon. (I certainly hope so before I wear a path in the new carpet between the loo and the rest of the house.) I still use my walker, but it's more for safety purposes than need. However, by late afternoon my legs do get weak and the walker is necessary to propel me around the house.

I am sleeping through the night now - no more getting up in the middle of it for my hot chocolate and cookie fix. Hmmm - maybe that's why I gained five pounds. ;)

I have an appointment with my surgeon tomorrow and will find out what I am allowed to do. I hope he okays bending over soon as I am tired of doing dishes by hand.

And that's the medical update for now.


Joy, of The Joy of Six gave me The first award I have ever received, The Van Gogh's Ear Award.

Because Joy said it so much better than I ever could I have taken the liberty of copying her text explaining the award.


"Ears To You"......

The Van Gogh's Ear Award was created by Roger of Idaho Photo; and she in turn passed it on to several of her blogging friends....and I was one of them.

Inspiration of the Van Gogh's Ear Award

"You may know the story of Vincent Van Gogh a well known artist in history. Although a brilliant painter in his later years went quite insane he received the nickname of fou roux ("the redheaded madman"). The most bazaar of Vincent's behavior is when he cut off the lower part of his own left ear lobe, which he wrapped in newspaper and gave to a prostitute named Rachel in the local brothel, asking her to "keep this object carefully. After this he suffered recurrent bouts of mental illness, which led to his suicide July 29, 1890 he was 37 years old. His works of art are priceless."
The point of this award
"We are all artists in our own way be it art, photography, writing, philosophy, comedy, blogging and we all go a little crazy sometimes. But if you ever feel so crazy to cut off your ear and give it to a prostitute 'Seek Help'!"
Always remember you're unique.
Just like everyone else.


I'd like to share The Van Gogh's Ear Award with my following blogging friends:

Sylvia from Sylvia Over the Hill
Lilalia from Yum Yum Cafe
Ernestine from My Journey to Mindfulness
Ugich Konitari from Gappa
Beverly from Beverly Use Your Words
Brenda of Rinkly Rimes
Mort of Octogenarian

All of my friends have shown artistic ability in one way or another; photography, poetry, essays, collages and other ways of expression.

It is always nice to be recognized for what we do. Few will get the Congressional Medal of Honor or even a Purple Heart, but we can all make our blogging friends feel special with recognition for a job well done by giving them with an award. I am not sure I deserve this one, but I am mighty pleased to get it. Thank you again, Joy.


Sylvia K said...

First of all, I'm so glad you're feeling better, I do admire your spunk and remind myself of your attitude when I get to wimping around. And thank you so much for the Van Gogh award! This is my second one and I do feel so honored!! Thank you, Darlene, I'm so glad I've had the chance to meet you through blogging! It's friends like you that make it such rewarding fun!

Beverly said...

I am glad you are feeling better too. I also want to thank you so much for the Van Gogh award. No one has ever given me an award, so thank you so much!!!

Rinkly Rimes said...

How lovely to get my first award! I don't quite know where to put it on my rather stark page, so I'll look into it this-evening! But how good to know that you're feeling well enough to get back into the swim of things!

Mortart said...

I'm glad to hear that you are making good recovery progress. And thank you for the Van Gogh award. I think the last award I ever received was the Army's Good Conduct Medal some 60 years ago for being a good boy and not screwing up. It's been a pleasure getting to know you via the blogosphere.

Mary said...

I am happy to hear that you are feeling much better. However, I'm not sure you will ever be able to go off the diuretic. I have been on them for years..I was less than 50 when I had to start taking them.

I do hope you are able to get around on your own soon. I have added your name to my prayer list.


Joy Des Jardins said...

You're welcome Darlene. You are a VERY deserving recipient sweetie. I just love your make me, you make me laugh....and you touch me. What more can I ask out of what I read? I love visiting your blog. Love, Joy

Joy Des Jardins said... make me 'think', you make me laugh....and you touch me.

it's important to check these things over, isn't it? Sorry ~Joy

One Woman's Journey said...

Dear Darlene, first I am so pleased you are feeling better.
You bless me with your attitude.
I think I complain too much.
Second, thank you for awarding me this special award.
You have become very dear and special to me. At this time in my life I am so thankful that I entered the blogging world.

Darlene said...

I deeply appreciate your loyalty in visiting my blog and your kind comments on my recovery. Sylvia, Beverly, Brenda, Ernestine and Mort you are so welcome for the award. You deserve it.

Mary, thank you for putting me on your prayer list. I am taking the diuretic for leg and feet swelling due to the surgery so doubt that I will have to take it after the swelling has completely left me. I could be wrong, of course.

Thanks for putting me on your prayer list.

Paul Nichols said...

Did you know that when you leave a comment on my blog (and thank you, by the way) that the link back to your place is no good. You know why? Because the "m" is missing from the ".com"

Reminds me of the bottom of Van Gogh's ear a little.