Monday, November 18, 2013

Another Tea Party Defeat - Global Warming

It wasn't long ago that the concern about global warming in the US was in steep decline.  Noam Chomsky often lamented this.  Apparently the Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the American Petroleum Instituted, publicly announced that they had learned valuable lessons from Obama's health care PR efforts, and they intended to use these lessons to shift public opinion on global warming.  As the link above shows, it worked.  As the scientific consensus became more and more solid that global warming was happening, was caused by man, and posed a serious threat to our future, Americans at the same time were becoming less convinced.  Propaganda works.

But that seems to be changing.  Check the results of recent polling discussed here.  Even the red states are getting it, with strong majorities recognizing that the above mentioned scientific consensus is true.

The right wing is always wrong, and always wrong in the same direction.  Helping the rich get richer and imposing the costs on the poor.  On a lot of issues the public isn't buying it despite the intense propaganda.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Checking In on California and France

Chad had told us California was a disaster. Well, it's been a few months.  How bad is it?  Pretty much as good as you could hope for.  And as Bill Maher discusses here on a rant about how things are great in places where the tea party gets booted, single payer could come next in California.  If so it will be an enormous success.  We know that already.  And then maybe we can debunk the rest of the errors on the right.  Among the most urgent: global warming.

What about France?  S&P has downgraded them, and one might be tempted to think that's a sign that they aren't performing well.  As Krugman explains here though that's really not true.

The American people seem to be learning a bit.  The tea party took it on the chin last Tuesday, and that was good news for Social Security.  These are good signs.  I'd read recently that research shows that when people are confronted with evidence that contradicts their beliefs (for instance the right wing being wrong all the time) the initial reaction is to dig in and hold to the erroneous opinions even tighter.  But then, over time, opinions can start to change as more and more evidence accumulates.  The evidence is always against them.  They're hostile to facts and science.  But with time these things can be beaten back.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Push Back on Social Security

The rousing defeat of the Republicans may lead to some dividends.  Emboldened Democrats are pushing back on the right wing nonsense that we need to be cutting Social Security benefits.  Not only should we not be talking about scaling Social Security back.  We should be expanding it.

Unfortunately we don't even have Obama on our side on this one, but it's the right policy.  We need to continue to beat back the lies of the right wing propaganda machine that wants to end it because they believe it will improve their profits.  They want the elderly to be compelled to stay in the work force.  This enlarged pool of laborers can drive the cost of labor down.  They want access to any monies you could be putting away for your retirement.  They can run mutual funds and extract fees, maybe crash the economy and get some bail out money in the process.

It's important to recognize that Social Security is a lot like what humans have been doing for thousands of years.  When people became elderly in Native American societies the young understood that they had to do what was necessary to provide for them.  When they shared the fruits of their labor with the elderly that were unable to work they weren't enlarging their share of wealth.  They were simply giving away what they had worked for.  They knew that when they became elderly the young would support them.  And this is why we pay today.  It's not a savings plan.  It's based on the principle that we take care of those that can't care for themselves.  And we know that one day we will be in that boat.

There's a pretty decent debunking of a lot of right wing myths about Social Security here.  It's worth checking out.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Logic of Stupid Poor People

In the same vein as my prior post that talked about how the criticism from the wealthy on the habits of the poor, check this superb essay on the supposedly irrational financial decisions of the poor, how they spend too much on cars, too much on their hair, too much on makeup.  There's something about actually living the life of a poor person and figuring out how to do what it takes to get by that sometimes leads a poor person to skip a meal just to be able to afford nicer clothes.  Maybe they know something that we who live comfortable lives don't about what it takes to survive in poverty.

Obama Care and the Entrepreneur/Early Retiree

Mr. Money Mustache has an interesting post on the effects of Obama Care on his budget.  Setting aside whether you think Obama Care is right or wrong you have to admit that if you are considering taking a financial risk as an entrepreneur or considering starting retirement early you are going to be pleased.  MMM retired at 30 on an income of about $25K/yr which he's able to draw from his savings using what is known as the 4% rule.  If you draw no more than 4% of your savings it is expected the money would last you forever.  If you think you'd need $25K you'd need to save $625K.  He gave himself a bit of a cushion and saved $800K.  He'd eliminated his mortgage debt, so that's a big help towards a goal of lower income needs.  And with more time available he's able to cook, ride his bike, and do other things the time strapped sometimes struggle with and this allows him to survive on little.

He had a high deductible health care plan prior to Obama Care.  But now if he had continued to have an income of $25K/yr in Colorado his plan would be completely subsidized.  Turns out he's making money from his website and other things, so he's earning too much to qualify for a subsidy, but others that plan to retire early in the way he did when he was 30 would be all set.

This is a truly freedom enhancing prospect for a lot of people.  Years back I'd mentioned in a comment that I always thought it would be kind of cool to hike the Appalachian Trail.  But that's a several month long project.  You'd have to either go without health insurance or buy a plan yourself, which of course is expensive.  And if you had a hard time getting another job after finishing you could deplete the savings.  It wouldn't have been impossible for a guy like me, but this makes it easier.

As some commentators might point out, you can hike the Appalachian Trail and work for yourself.  While that is true starting out in that way though is financially risky.  If it works out and you're making plenty of money, then great.  If not then you now have to deal with the insurance problem once again.  Obama Care basically says that if your business venture fails you still have health care without breaking the bank.  That's pretty cool.

I suppose you don't want to be residing in any of the 26 states that are refusing Medicaid expansion.  So if you early retire choose your place of residence carefully.