Fortitudine et Prudentia

Posts Tagged ‘2012’

Hollywood Wows, Obama Changes and Jobs Report Disappoints

In News and Opinion on September 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm

The Democratic National Convention was hitting on all the right notes until The President took the stage. By acclamation and consensus the DNC was a well-choreographed production worthy of the highest world standards that Hollywood can create but as the famous rapper Jay Z once said, “this ain’t a movie.”

Michelle Obama showed in very real language President Obama’s empathy for hurting Americans and expressed his “common man” values compel his decision making. Bill Clinton gave a lights out rebuttal to the attacks against President Obama by his political foes. In an amazing display of mental jujitsu former President Clinton, now known as “The Secretary of Explaining Stuff”, dismantled Republican claims item by item in one of the most factually correct speeches given at either convention.

All was going very well for Democrats. Point by point they were in lock step defending Medicare, advocating women’s rights, touting foreign policy, promoting education, and, of course, saving the American auto industry. The liberals found their voice; they were speaking to their base and beyond pushing their core belief that growth and prosperity comes from the middle class out and from the bottom up – that government can be a tool good.

But when President Obama took the stage the energy flattened. Like leaving a darkened movie theatre after watching an exciting Hollywood production, the bright lights of the lobby tend to set in and minds leave the fantastical and adjust to the true light of reality. Obama was humble and gracious in his acceptance delivering a “workman” like speech more in the fashion of a stoic statesmen interested in checking off boxes rather than the fresh “A list” celebrity on the scene with a new catch phrase.

Declaring that he’s “changed” The President remained steadfast and resolute in his progressive vision for the future. Invoking President Franklin Roosevelt as the standard for his re-election Obama warned, “if you turn away now… change will not happen.” Citing the possibilities of Medicare going bankrupt and being changed into a voucher system, the protections “Obamacare” holds for sick children and uninsured adults could be repealed, and higher education opportunities would most likely be cut by his opponents. Obama pushed that this election is a choice between two vastly different ways forward. Obama has to make this election a choice between visions rather than a referendum on the economy to win because in the back of his mind, while he was giving the acceptance speech, was a disappointing jobs report.

Federal jobs reports are released to the public the first Friday of every month but the President gets the jobs numbers at 4pm the day before they are released. The August jobs report that was in the back of the President’s mind showed a mere 93,000 jobs created which isn’t enough to keep up with the amount of jobs that needs to be created to keep up with population growth. To add insult to injury over 350,000 Americans left the labor market lowering the unemployment rate from 8.3% to 8.1%. In August the job market was on the wrong side of flat. Of the August jobs report the Romney Campaign said, “Yesterday was the party, today is the hangover.”

The convention put on by the DNC was well produced and well directed. The Democrats put on a show that was unified, on message and totally behind President Obama. They set the stage as best they could for the serious tone of Obama’s acceptance speech as he sought to recast his role before the American people. President Obama is now what screen writers would call a dynamic character, one who changed or evolved in some manner but as the August jobs report reminds voters this “ain’t a movie” – This election is about jobs and the economy.

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Why Didn’t Paul Ryan Fight to Save the GM Plant in Janesville?

In News and Opinion on September 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm

People put their hopes and dreams into politics because politics is a forward looking vision and we all want to be on the best path going into the future. But arguments for the future should not be based on misrepresentations of the past.

Recently, the Republican national Committee put on a fairly good convention showcasing a series of Romney supporters and future leaders of the party. The Republicans put out their best and brightest and made their case for the future.

Ann Romney and Marco Rubio stood out at the convention and gave grand slam speeches that pulled you into their lives and explained why they believe what they believe and why they believe Mitt Romney is the better choice in this upcoming presidential election.

Mitt Romney did a fairly good job at “humanizing” himself which was the bar he had to get over. Romney did a fine job. He didn’t need to swing for the fences he just needed to play it safe and he did that well.

Clint Eastwood was something else and truly something to see. But when it comes to Paul Ryan’s speech exuberance turned into exaggeration.

The Vice Presidential hopeful delivered a full throated and impassioned speech making his case for why Mitt Romney and himself would be the better choice going forward. The only problem with the speech is it was fallacious at times. Among the false accusations and misleading stands Mr. Ryan took were misrepresentation of a work requirement to receive federal welfare benefits and a half-truth of Ryan’s support of the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission’s suggestions. But nothing was more contentious as Ryan’s assertion that a General Motors factory, that was shut down in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, was the president’s fault.

According to Politifact The General Motors plant in contention was built in 1918 and has produced tractors for farming, automobiles commuting, and army tanks for war but most importantly that factory produced well-paying middle class jobs for Americans. That factory produced the American Dream – A means to owning a home, raising a family, sending your children to college, and retiring with dignity and security. In essence Ryan was pinning the crumbling American Dream on the President and using the Janesville plant as a metaphor. Which would be fair play except for the fact that that plant began closing before President Obama took office and was running a skeleton crew filling the last orders for light duty trucks when Obama assumed office.

Ryan laid the responsibility for the plant’s closing and subsequent jobs loses on Obama because in 2008 the then Senator Obama visited the Janesville plant while campaigning for president.

While at the plant Senator Obama stated, “And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.  The question is not whether a clean energy economy is in our future, it’s where it will thrive.  I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America; right here in Wisconsin; and that’s the future I’ll fight for as your president.”

And this is the basis for Ryan’s fallacious claim: Because Senator Obama believed if the government was there to support the auto industry in 2008 that plant would be there for another hundred years. Mr. Ryan was part of the government in 2008 and was the congressional representative for Janesville during that year. Why didn’t Mr. Ryan use the government to support the workers of Janesville and fight for the funds to retool and retrain the workers of his hometown’s GM factory?

If Ryan cares so much about auto workers now why didn’t care about them in 2008?

As president, Obama did fight for the future of the auto industry and auto workers. President Obama battled against Republican opposition and against Paul Ryan himself to save auto manufacturing in the Midwest. Obama pushed for a bail-out for the auto industry in 2009 and won and America won and American manufacturing won and auto workers won. But for all the efforts and struggles of the 2009 auto bail out it was too late to save the Janesville plant that produced its last Tahoe and laid off the majority of its work force on December 23, 2008.

At the eight minute mark in the video below Congressman Ryan states in 2008 that the Janesville Plant will be closed by December 23rd.

The video below is of the last Tahoe  built in Janesville being raffled off by Fagan Chevrolet with a dated banner from December 23, 2008.

Of this video Fagan Chevrolet wrote – We were lucky enough to have the last Chevrolet Tahoe built at the Janesville, WI assembly plant. Fagan Chevrolet Cadillac would like to thank all the workers that put their hard efforts in day in and day out to make these great vehicles. We sure will miss having G.M. here in Janesville.

-Ray Reilly

Medicare – Ryan’s Vouchercare & Why You Should Care

In News and Opinion on August 16, 2012 at 12:09 am

If you’re an American and you’re planning on living until you’re 65 then this election is very important to you.

For the eternal optimists among us retirement is something far off into the future that we don’t consider daily but as sure as birthdays add up retirement is coming and with retirement comes healthcare needs. Coverage for doctor visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, medical devices, and therapy is not cheap. In 2010 The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated it costs the government $11,743 per enrollee for annual coverage in Medicare. That covers Jazzy scooters, home health aides, and enough prescription drugs to fill a fisherman’s tackle box for all of America’s retired population.

Currently Medicare is funded by the tax payers who aren’t retired yet. Tax payers pay into the system until they retire then when they retire the younger tax payers pay for the Senior’s coverage. Taxpayers pay a whopping 1.45% of their income toward Medicare that their employers match dollar for dollar. That should be spelled out to dispel any notion of a typo – Medicare is taxed at one point four five percent of income.

For retirees Medicare is not a free ride. Currently there are monthly premiums for Doctor and prescription drug coverage but overall retired citizens are very happy with their Medicare and the system as whole. As a matter of fact they are happier with their healthcare coverage than people with employer based insurance.

It’s a good deal. Pay a measly 1.45% of your income during your working years and retire secure with great insurance you are most definitely going to need.

But there’s an onion – Medicare is going broke.

But Medicare has always been going broke. According to Patricia A Davis of the prestigious Congressional Research Service the current solvency projection of Medicare extends until 2024 which is in line with the average insolvency projections of 11.8 years historically.

This isn’t Medicare’s first rodeo with solvency. Just like any other health insurance coverage, public or private, if changes aren’t made the solvency outlook deteriorates. Healthcare companies raise premiums and change copayments as needed to stay solvent but not Medicare. Medicare slogs along like a dinosaur and this static notion of Medicare as not being adaptable leaves it open to the unfounded hysteria of inevitable extinction. Medicare is perceived as a lumbering dinosaur slogging its way off of a cliff because our government mismanages it.

Paul Ryan, now the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, is the latest opportunist to pull the proverbial fire alarm. Mr. Ryan came up with a plan to “fix” Medicare in 2010 as part of his budget entitled The Path to Prosperity. Nice name. Ryan didn’t want to fix Medicare like they do in the private sector or like as was done under Ronald Reagan’s Presidency; Ryan decided the best course of action is to hand over – the most popular and successful government program ever – to the private sector. His current boss, Mitt Romney, said he would sign Ryan’s plan into law if he became the President.

The Path to Prosperity has already passed through The House of Representatives and would surely be passed through budget reconciliation if Republicans get the majority after this election then it would be on Mr. Romney’s desk for his guaranteed signature by Spring 2013.

For a man who claims to be an “actuary wonk”, Ryan’s numbers get scary – very scary – if you plan on retiring. Under Ryan’s Plan ten years from now Medicare turns into “Vouchercare”, a system that issues American retirees coupons they can use toward the purchase of health coverage that’s similar to employer based coverage. The out of pocket costs for senior citizens would sky rocket according to the Congressional Budget Office. In 2012 the current out of pocket expense for seniors is 25% with traditional Medicare under Ryan’s “Vouchercare” the cost for seniors would rise to 68% or roughly $6,200 per year. That should be spelled out – six thousand two hundred dollars per year senior citizens would have to pay out of pocket under Ryan’s plan.

Ryan’s Medicare plan puts an unconscionable extra $400 per month expense on all retried American citizens – If you’re under the age of 55 today that means YOU and if you’re over the age of 55 today that means your children and grandchildren.

And there are unknowns with Ryan’s plan too. It’s not clear what happens to the Seniors who will not be able to afford the extra premium. Do the indigent seniors get dropped from their coverage or do they get forced into bankruptcy, nobody knows. Then there’s the question of what will be the minimum standard of coverage if Medicare gets handed over the insurance companies? What will be covered and what won’t be covered? What about Doctor and Hospital choice? Currently Medicare is accepted by most Doctors and Hospitals. Can a 93 year old navigate an HMO effectively?

There are many things that can be done rather than handing over Medicare to the insurance industry. Taxes can be raised 0.5%, the retirement age can be increased, coinsurances and deductibles can be raised, fraud, waste and abuse can be cracked down on. The practical options are almost endless. What shouldn’t be an option is giving seniors a voucher and wishing them good luck during what should be their best years of life.

-Ray Reilly