Tag Archives: christmas

All I wanted for Christmas

I stopped all my pouting. I haven’t cried all year.* I have been good only for goodness sake. Sure, I had a long wish list. It had been eight long years since I’d even gotten a lousy lump of coal. I wrote my letters. Waited to see him in hopes of sitting in his lap.  Told him what I wanted and listened, oh, so closely, to his answers. I hung my stocking with care. I had such anticipation, I could barely sleep. I hoped. I let myself dream. And, I really, really believed.

Here’s some of what he promised that hasn’t been delivered, and, at least, not yet**:

  • A public option health plan in the new National Health Insurance Exchange
  • Repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the rich
  • Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
  • Anything serious, cap and trade included, to reduce global warming
  • Comprehensive immigration reform and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
  • Increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour
  • A Freedom of Choice Act
  • Closing Guantanamo and ending the use of torture and extreme rendition, and restoring habeas corpus rights for “enemy combatants”
  • Restricting warrantless wiretaps
  • Eliminating oil and gas tax loopholes
  • Including environmental and labor standards in trade agreements
  • Expanding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Passing the Employee Free Choice Act
  • Streamlining the Social Security disability approval process
  • Expanding the Family Medical Leave Act to include leave for domestic violence or sexual assault
  • Fully funding debt cancellation for poor countries
  • Helping Iraq refugees
  • Forbidding companies in bankruptcy from giving executives bonuses
  • Lifting the payroll tax cap on earnings above $250,000
  • Ending no-bid government contracts above $25,000
  • Allowing imported prescription drugs, allowing Medicare to negotiate for cheaper drug prices and preventing drug companies from blocking generic drugs
  • Requiring health care providers to report preventable medical errors
  • Providing $50 billion by 2013 for the global fight against HIV/AIDS
  • Mandating insurance coverage of autism treatment
  • Doubling federal funding for cancer research
  • Doubling the Peace Corps
  • Doubling funding for after school programs
  • Allowing bankruptcy judges to modify home mortgages
  • Implementing tougher revolving door rules for lobbyists and former officials
  • Signing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • Including humanitarian international missions in long-term budgeting
  • Establishing transparency standards for military contractors
  • Fully and properly equipping our troops
  • Making military deployments predictable for troops and families
  • Limiting Guard and Reserve deployments to one year for every six years
  • Restoring 24-month limit on cumulative Guard and Reserve deployment time
  • Ending the “Stop-Loss” program of forcing troops to stay in service beyond their expected commitments
  • Double U.S. spending on foreign aid by 2012
  • Securing our chemical plants, ports, refineries, pipelines and power grids
  • Expanding the child and dependent care credit
  • Requiring publicly traded financial partnerships to pay the corporate income tax
  • Closing loopholes in the corporate tax deductibility of CEO pay
  • Amending the Medicare “homebound” rule to allow some travel without loss of benefits
  • Opening “America Houses” in Islamic cities around the globe
  • Creating loan sanctions to stop private creditors from lending to repressive regimes
  • Reinstating a special envoy for the Americas
  • Seeking independent watchdog agency to investigate congressional ethics violations
  • Exposing Special Interest Tax Breaks to Public Scrutiny
  • Making White House communications public
  • Supporting college credit initiatives
  • Creating scholarships to recruit new teachers
  • Requiring all schools of education to be accredited
  • Creating a national performance assessment for educators
  • Repealing of the Defense of Marriage Act
  • Allowing five days of public comment before signing bills
  • Eliminating caps on damages for discrimination cases
  • Banning racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies
  • Creating a national catastrophe insurance reserve
  • Establishing a Global Energy Corps to promote green energy in developing countries
  • Limiting subsidies for agribusiness
  • Banning the permanent replacement of striking workers
  • Enacting windfall profits tax for oil companies
  • Requiring plug-in fleet at the White House
  • Including reproductive health care “at the heart” of health care reform
  • Strengthening international rules against commercial whaling
  • Changing the tone of politics in Washington
  • Inspiring hope

For what we got, thank you. A hell of a lot better than lumps of “clean coal.” Here’s what’s been delivered:

  • Directing military leaders to end war in Iraq
  • Beginning removing combat brigades from Iraq
  • Establishing a credit card bill of rights
  • Extending and indexing the 2007 Alternative Minimum Tax patch
  • Closing the “doughnut hole” in Medicare prescription drug plan
  • Requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions
  • Giving tax credits to those who need help to pay health premiums
  • Requiring large employers to contribute to a national health plan
  • Requiring children to have health insurance coverage
  • Expanding eligibility for Medicaid
  • Expanding eligibility for State Children’s Health Insurance Funding (SCHIP)
  • Requiring health plans to disclose how much of the premium goes to patient care of their premiums for patient care
  • Establishing an independent health institute to provide accurate and objective
  • In non-competitive markets, forcing insurers to pay out a reasonable share of
  • Eliminating the higher subsidies to Medicare Advantage plans
  • Expanding funding to train primary care providers and public health practitioners
  • Increasing funding to expand community based prevention programs
  • Creating an Advanced Manufacturing Funding to invest in peer-reviewed manufacturing
  • Increasing minority access to capital
  • Requiring economic justification for tax changes
  • Implementing “Women Owned Business” contracting program
  • Changing standards for determining broadband access
  • Expanding loan programs for small businesses
  • Expanding the Senior Corps volunteer program
  • Reinstating the executive order to hire an additional 100,000 federal employees with disabilities within five years.
  • Increasing the Veterans Administration budget to recruit and retain more mental health professionals
  • Fully funding the Veterans Administration
  • Assuring that the Veterans Administration budget is prepared as ‘must-pass’ legislation
  • Expanding the Veterans Administration’s number of “centers of excellence” in specialty care
  • Appointing a special adviser to the president on violence against women
  • Fully funding the Violence Against Women Act
  • Making no bases in Iraq permanent
  • Sending two additional brigades to Afghanistan
  • Strengthening and expand military exchange programs with other countries
  • Making greater investment in advanced military air technology
  • Ending the abuse of supplemental budgets for war
  • Making U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional on anti-terror efforts
  • Giving a speech at a major Islamic forum in the first 100 days of his administration
  • Allocating Homeland Security funding according to risk
  • Creating a real National Infrastructure Protection Plan
  • Increasing funding for local emergency planning
  • Standing down nuclear forces to be reduced under the Moscow Treaty
  • Appointing a White House Coordinator for Nuclear Security
  • Initiating a grant and training program for law enforcement to deter cyber crime
  • Improving relations with Turkey, and its relations with Iraqi Kurds
  • Launching an international Adding Value to Agriculture Initiative (AVTA)
  • Creating a rapid response fund for emerging democracies
  • Granting Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send money to Cuba
  • Restoring funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne/JAG) program
  • Establishing an Energy Partnership for the Americas
  • Expanding the Nurse-Family Partnership to all low-income, first-time mothers
  • Releasing presidential records
  • Requiring new hires to sign a form affirming their hiring was not due to political affiliation or contributions.
  • Providing affordable, high-quality child care
  • Recruiting math and science degree graduates to the teaching profession
  • Reducing subsidies to private student lenders and protect student borrowers
  • Encouraging water-conservation efforts in the West
  • Increasing funding for national parks and forests
  • Increasing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Funding
  • Encouraging farmers to use more renewable energy and be more energy efficient
  • Expanding Pell grants for low-income students
  • Pursuing a wildfire management plan
  • Removing more brush, small trees and vegetation that fuel wildfires
  • More controlled burns to reduce wildfires
  • Expanding access to places to hunt and fish
  • Pushing for enactment of Matthew Shepard Act, which expands hate crime law to include sexual orientation and other factors
  • Restoring funding to the EEOC and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
  • Reforming mandatory minimum sentences
  • Creating a White House Office on Urban Policy
  • Fully fund the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)
  • Establishing program to convert manufacturing centers into clean technology leaders
  • Establishing ‘Promise Neighborhoods’ for areas of concentrated poverty
  • Creating an artist corps for schools
  • Champion the importance of arts education
  • Supporting Increasingd funding for the NEA
  • Promoting cultural diplomacy
  • Adding another Space Shuttle flight
  • Using the private sector to improve space flight
  • Working with international allies on space station
  • Partnering to enhance the potential of the International Space Station
  • Using the International Space Station for fundamental biological and physical research
  • Exploring whether International Space Station can operate after 2016
  • Conducting robust research and development on future space missions
  • Increasing spending to prepare for longer space missions
  • Working toward deploying a global climate change research and monitoring system
  • Enhancing earth mapping
  • Appointing an assistant to the president for science and technology policy
  • Supporting commercial access to space
  • Establishing school programs to highlight space and science achievements
  • Establishing special crime programs for the New Orleans area
  • Rebuilding schools in New Orleans
  • Funding a major expansion of AmeriCorps
  • Creating a Social Investment Funding Network
  • Bolster the military’s ability to speak different languages
  • Appointing the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer
  • Providing grants to early-career researchers
  • Working to overturn Ledbetter vs. Goodyear
  • Creating a national declassification center
  • Appointing an American Indian policy adviser
  • Creating new financial regulations
  • Increasing funding for land-grant colleges
  • Banning lobbyist gifts to executive employees
  • Signing a “universal” health care bill
  • Creating new criminal penalties for mortgage fraud
  • Raising fuel economy standards
  • Investing in all types of alternative energy
  • Enacting tax credit for consumers for plug-in hybrid cars
  • Asking people and businesses to conserve electricity
  • Creating a ‘Green Vet Initiative’ to promote environmental jobs for veterans
  • Creating job training programs for clean technologies
  • Requiring states to provide incentives for utilities to reduce energy consumption
  • Supporting high-speed rail
  • Investing in public transportation
  • Equalize tax breaks for driving and public transit
  • Sharing enviromental technology with other countries
  • Doubling federal spending for research on clean fuels
  • Providing grants to encourage energy-efficient building codes
  • Increasing funding for the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Appointing at least one Republican to the cabinet
  • Raising the small business investment expensing limit to $250,000 through the end of 2009
  • Extending unemployment insurance benefits and temporarily suspend taxes on these benefits
  • Reversing restrictions on stem cell research
  • Eliminating capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups
  • Expanding the earned income tax credit
  • Creating a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners
  • Establishing a small business initiative for rural America
  • Creating more public-private business incubators for poor communities
  • Creating a National Health Insurance Exchange
  • Creating a small business tax credit to help with health premiums
  • Strengthening antitrust laws to prevent overcharging for malpractice insurance
  • Reimbursing employer health plans for a portion of catastrophic costs
  • Investing $10 billion per year in early intervention educational and developmental programs
  • Allowing all veterans back into the Veterans Administration
  • Ensuring the Guard and Reserves can meet their homeland security missions
  • Seeking code of conduct for space-faring nations
  • Convening a summit on preventing nuclear terrorism
  • Creating a national cyber adviser to coordinate security of electronic infrastructure
  • Significantly increasing funding for the National Endowment for Democracy
  • Requiring more disclosure and a waiting period for earmarks
  • Creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit to offset college costs
  • Spending $25 million a year on programs to raise awareness of college financial aid
  • Protecting forest service lands from more roads
  • Providing more funds to educate young hunters and anglers
  • Cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants
  • Eliminating disparity in sentencing for crack and cocaine
  • Repealing law that limits the sharing of gun-tracing data
  • Restoring housing in New Orleans
  • Appointing experienced disaster official to head FEMA
  • Encouraging more public service by college students
  • Setting a three-month moratorium on foreclosures
  • Extending Production Tax Credit to encourage renewable energy
  • Requiring drilling on current oil and gas leases
  • Weatherizing 1 million homes per year
  • Using revenue from cap and trade to support clean energy and environmental restoration
  • Seeking more funding for transportation security
  • Phasing out incandescent light bulbs
  • Giving Al Gore a key role on global warming
  • Creating clean technology venture capital fund
  • Creating a $3,000 tax credit for companies that add jobs
  • Going “line by line” over earmarks to make sure money being spent wisely
  • Making no signing statements to nullify instructions from Congress
  • Getting your daughters a puppy

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I didn’t ask for, and really didn’t want some of what you brought us. A lot of it ended up being quite a bit different than you described when you promised. Some of it didn’t fit anyone very well, was already broken or has been back-ordered and won’t be here for years.

Here’s all I want for Christmas:
Jobs. Ok, jobs and world peace.

Please deliver that or I’ll know for sure that you are just like the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny – imaginary.

_________

* Except when viewing photos of those lost in our wars. And those horrific scenes of those harmed from natural disasters, our economic policies and our bombs. And the tragic losses from disease or accidents. Okay, so I cried a lot, but privately.

** Much of this list is from the comprehensive lists of Candidate and President Obama promises, tracked by the St. Petersburg Times’ PoliticalFact.com: Broken Promises; Stalled Promises; Still in the Works; Compromised Promises; and Promises Kept.

Faith Based Security

There’s a reason Sadam Hussein was good at security. He had everyone killed that he suspected. He also carried out pre-emptive murder. Ditto Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Milosevic, Idi Amin, Jean-Paul Akayesu, Abdul Hamid II and more than you would tolerate listing here. It still works today in way too much of the world – China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Darfur, Burma, Iran and others.

We, in America, practice faith-based security. We believe (or choose to pretend) that we are safe. That democracy works. That we count all the ballots. That capitalism isn’t rigged. That justice is best served in courts. That civil rights, privacy, liberty and the right to own guns, trump a more absolute form to guarantee public order. That obeying our laws makes us safer. When something goes wrong – 9-11, Pearl Harbor, Firing on Fort Sumter, etc. as examples – our government has special powers to temporarily suspend these rights so that our faith can be restored.

airport securityOur government spends hundreds of billions of dollars each year to protect us and keep us believing while enjoying the fruits of freedom – intercepting phone calls, spy satellites, agents on the ground, interdicting suspected evil doers, and the like. When the Clinton administration foiled a planned millennium bombing attack on Los Angeles, it was luck and the system worked. When they didn’t in Oklahoma City; the 1993 World Trade Center; Centennial Olympic Park; the Birmingham, Pensacola, Brookline, Amherst abortion clinics; or Columbine; they weren’t lucky and the system didn’t work. Ditto the Bush years: 9-11; anthrax mailings, LAX, Beltway sniper; Riyadh compound, and all those bombings in Iraq, they weren’t lucky and the system failed. When they stopped the shoe bomber, they were lucky and the system worked.

No matter what Dick Cheney says, short of suspending all basic freedoms, imprisoning, or executing all we suspect, there is little we can do to stop it all. It takes luck. We spy, x-ray, screen, watch our lists, take our shoes off and wait endlessly in line; take names and invade countries harboring evil doers, but it is just part of making us believe we are safe so we can live out our lives normally and free. Our chemical plants, the water we drink, our power plants, grid, and ports are unguarded, or barely guarded. Were Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab to have chosen to take out thousands at a football game instead of a couple of hundred on an airliner, he would have had no problem.

Sure, when the Christmas terrorist was reported by his father, we should have put his name on the No-Fly list along with 3,400 others; or on  the Selectee list with 14,000 others; or the Terrorist Watch list with 400,000 others; instead of just the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment list with 750,000 others; but we didn’t.

The bomb didn’t work – not because he was stopped when he went through airport security in Nigeria. We just had made it difficult enough that it didn’t work – this time. Sure, we need to do better. Be more vigilent. Get the huge database lists to work more effectively. But the system worked just as it does most of the time when we are lucky. The system we have used since the beginning. The faith-based security system. We believe, therefore we are. I depend on the same system each time I get behind the wheel of a car.

Terrorism is nothing new, not even to us. For a list of terrorist attacks dating back to 1800, click here.

Where’s Chicken Little When You Need Him?

Chicken With His Head Cut Off

Perhaps it is I?

Here we are in the last week before Christmas. The time to cast fear to the wind and spend, spend, spend out of hope, love and tradition. Surely our best and brightest, the good men and women who run our government have things under control – unless they are all out reading their copies of The Pet Goat instead of the daily security briefs. Surely the pundits would be screaming even louder if something really bad was going to happen – unless they just don’t have the video, or are under orders from the top to lighten up the holiday buzz kill.

Is it just me?

The paper (is is time to use the phrase “My RSS Aggregator”?) this morning is again filled with fresh new announcements of layoffs and plant closings. Statistics of unemployment, bankruptcy and foreclosure. Stories on how the dollar is crashing. Oil prices dropping and OPEC cutting production. Billions lost on Wall Street. State and municipal budgets in budget crisis and services being cut. Same ole, same ole.

The sky seems to be falling.

Sure, big business is cutting back, but what small business – that sector of the economy where more than half of us work (two-thirds if you take out mining and manufacturing)? Small business is the home of the American entrepreneur (French word defined as, “A person over 40 whose projected salary, benefits and healthcare cost make them unemployable by big business and whose Willy-Lomanesque belief in the American dream drives them to risk anything they have so they don’t fall into what’s left of the safety net”). Small business has all but stopped, but not wishing to play Scrooge, small business has stuck their proverbial heads in the sand until after the new year.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

While Scrooge could avoid the future shown to him and alter his and Tiny Tim’s fate if he changed, I believe it may be too late for what will happen next. Right now, retail is in a desperate race for cash, but not necessarily to pay creditors. There will be a wave of business bankruptcy filings in January and February, followed by a wave of supplier filings and the appearance of empty storefronts in strip centers and malls across the countr, which will lead to more problems in commercial real estate values, which will lead to foreclosures on commercial buildings.

But I get ahead of myself. So many of those working in small business are hourly workers, on tips/commissions or are not working full time (or have already had their hours cut back). They will be toast. In half the states, they won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits (Source: Economic Policy Institute). It is safe to describe these workers as just hanging on. They will be filing bankruptcy, losing their homes and facing eviction beginning in late January.

The trickle down becomes a flood.

We are interdependent. Every couple of jobs creates a job. Every couple of lost jobs, loses another job. And it will continue, cycle after cycle. The pressure on the safety net will shred it and with it the state budgets. And with each news cycle, the faith that is the engine of capitalism will be challenged. The new President, working with the new Congress, will pass a huge stimulus and in a few months, some will get help quickly, some won’t. Children will move in with parents, or the other way around. Friends will help each other. But with a giant stimulus and government cash pouring in, it is just a matter of time before inflation takes hold. If we are unable to manage it, it turns into double digits – with our without jobs, and forces interest rates to rise with them.

The sky knows no border.

All of the Americas are interconnected (source: Center For Economic And Policy Research). The world owns our debt. What if they dump the dollar out of self-insterest or worse, as an act of aggression? But hang on, Europe’s banking crisis may eclipse ours. Putin’s power comes from petro-wealth and with demand and prices falling, eventually his power will be threatened and the world will become very dangerous – ditto Venezuela, Libya, Iran, Burma, Kazakhstan, etc. and, yes, Iraq (source: Mother Jones). The manufacturing economy in China is collapsing with an estimated 130-230 million workers to be sent back penniless to their rural homes – just what is plan B for a billion people? Ditto the manufacturing collapse throughout Asia. How quickly will the outsourced jobs be cut in India? How quickly will foreign aid, not just our own, be cut in the poorest countries of Africa? As billions around the world struggle for jobs, food and basic services, just how unstable will the governments become?

But will the sky fall?

The idea of the dramatic Fed intervention in the markets was to renew confidence (I hadn’t lost mine at that point). The policy is and was risky. By blowing so much so quickly, we have caused exactly what the intervention was trying to prevent – creeping panic (my own included). Consumer confidence is now at an all time low (source: CNN Money) and proves we are all listening and watching what is going on. We may not be able to wait until a government is sworn in, parties, moves in, sets up and gets down to business. The news of January will be bleak and we will all be listening. I’m scared the sky is falling. The question now, is can we stop it?

Happy holidays.