“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, May 06, 2010

It's Happening, Healthcare Reform Causing Employer-sponsored Regime to Collapse

Is this a nightmare or what?

Documents reveal AT&T, Verizon, others, thought about dropping employer-sponsored benefits

By Shawn Tully, senior editor at largeMay 6, 2010: 10:42 AM ET

(Fortune) --
The great mystery surrounding the historic health care bill is how the corporations that provide coverage for most Americans -- coverage they know and prize -- will react to the new law's radically different regime of subsidies, penalties, and taxes. Now, we're getting a remarkable inside look at the options AT&T, Deere, and other big companies are weighing to deal with the new legislation.

Internal documents recently reviewed by Fortune, originally requested by Congress, show what the bill's critics predicted, and what its champions dreaded: many large companies are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable, dumping the health care coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.

That would dismantle the employer-based system that has reigned since World War II. It would also seem to contradict President Obama's statements that Americans who like their current plans could keep them. And as we'll see, it would hugely magnify the projected costs for the bill, which controls deficits only by assuming that America's employers would remain the backbone of the nation's health care system.

Hence, health-care reform risks becoming a victim of unintended consequences. Amazingly, the corporate documents that prove this point became public because of a different set of unintended consequences: they told a story far different than the one the politicians who demanded them expected.

Why the write-downs happened but the hearings didn't

In the days after President Obama signed the bill on March 24, a number of companies announced big write downs due to some fiscal changes it ushered in. The legislation eliminated a company's right to deduct the federal retiree drug-benefit subsidy from their corporate taxes. That reduced projected revenue. As a result, AT&T (T, Fortune 500) and Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) took well-publicized charges of around $1 billion.

The announcements greatly annoyed Representative Henry Waxman, who accused the companies of using the big numbers to exaggerate health care reform's burden on employers. Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, demanded that they turn over their confidential memos, and summoned their top executives for hearings.

But Waxman didn't simply request documents related to the write down issue. He wanted every document the companies created that discussed what the bill would do to their most uncontrollable expense: healthcare costs.

The request yielded 1,100 pages of documents from four major employers: AT&T, Verizon, Caterpillar and Deere (DE, Fortune 500). No sooner did the Democrats on the Energy Committee read them than they abruptly cancelled the hearings. On April 14, the Committee's majority staff issued a memo stating that the write downs were "proper and in accordance with SEC rules." The committee also stated that the memos took a generally sunny view of the new legislation. The documents, said the Democrats' memo, show that "the overall impact of health reform on large employers could be beneficial."

Nowhere in the five-page report did the majority staff mention that not one, but all four companies, were weighing the costs and benefits of dropping their coverage.

AT&T produced a PowerPoint slide entitled "Medical Cost Versus No Coverage Penalty." A document prepared for Verizon by consulting firm Hewitt Resources stated, "Even though the proposed assessments [on companies that do not provide health care] are material, they are modest when compared to the average cost of health care," and that to avoid costs and regulations, "employers may consider exiting the health care market and send employees to the Exchanges." (Under the new bill, employees who lose their coverage will purchase health care through state-run exchanges.)

Kenneth Huhn, vice president of labor relations at Deere, said in an internal email that his company should look at the alternatives to providing health benefits, which "would amount to denying coverage and just paying the penalty," and that he felt he already had the ability to make this change under his company's labor agreement. Caterpillar felt it would have to give "serious consideration" to the penalty option.

It's these analyses -- which show it's a lot cheaper to "pay" than to "play" -- that threaten to overthrow the traditional architecture of health care.

The cost side

Indeed, companies are far more likely to cease providing coverage if they predict the bill will lift rather than flatten the cost curve. Deere, for example said, "We do expect double digit health care increases as most Americans will now have insurance and providers try to absorb the 15% uninsured into a practice."

Both Caterpillar (CAT, Fortune 500) and Verizon believe the requirement to allow dependents to remain on their parents' policies until age 26 will prove costly. Caterpillar puts the added expense at $20 million a year.

How two new taxes and the employer penalty change the health care calculus

First, there is the "Cadillac Tax" on expensive plans. This is a 40% excise tax on policies that cost over $8,500 for an individual or $23,000 for a family. Verizon's document predicts the tax will cost its employees $255 million a year when it starts in 2018, and rise sharply from there. Hewitt also isn't sure that Verizon can pass on the full tax to its employees; so it could impose a heavy weight on the company as well. "Many [have] characterized this tax as a pass-through to the consumer," says the Verizon document. "However, there will be significant legal and bargaining risks to overcome for this to be the case for Verizon."

In a statement to Fortune, Verizon said it is not, "considering or even contemplating" the plans laid out in the report, though records show the company did send the report to its board shortly after the reform plan was passed by Congress.

Second, the bill imposes new taxes on drug manufacturers, medical device-makers, and health insurance providers. Hewitt leaves little doubt Verizon will be paying for them: "These provisions are fees or excise taxes that will be shifted to employers through increased fees and rates."

Caterpillar and AT&T actually spell out the cost differences: Caterpillar did its estimate in November, when the most likely legislation would have imposed an 8% payroll tax on companies that do not provide coverage. Even with that immense penalty, Caterpillar stated that it could shave $25 million a year, or almost 10% from its bill. Now, because the $2,000 is far lower than 8%, it could reduce its bill by over 70%, by Fortune's estimate. Caterpillar did not respond to a request for comment.

AT&T revealed that it spends $2.4 billion a year on coverage for its almost 300,000 active employees, a number that would fall to $600 million if AT&T stopped providing health care coverage and paid the penalty option instead. AT&T declined comment.

So what happens to the employees who get dropped?

And why didn't these big employers drop employee coverage a long time ago? The Congressional Budget Office, in its crucial cost estimates of the bill, projected that company plans will cover more employees ten years from now than today. The reason the bill doesn't add to the deficit, the CBO states, is that fewer than 25 million Americans will be collecting the subsidies the bill mandates in 2020.

Those subsidies are indeed big: families of four earning between $22,000 and $88,000 would pay between 2% and 9.5% of their incomes on premiums; the federal government would pay the rest. So policies for a family making $66,000 would cost them just $5,300 a year with the government picking up the difference: more than $10,000 by most estimates.

As bean counters know, that's not a bad deal for a company's rank-and-file, and it's a great deal for the companies themselves. In a competitive labor market, the employers that shed their plans will need to give their employees a big raise, and those raises could be higher, even after taxes, than the premiums the employees will pay in the exchanges.

What does it mean for health care reform if the employer-sponsored regime collapses? By Fortune's reckoning, each person who's dropped would cost the government an average of around $2,100 after deducting the extra taxes collected on their additional pay. So if 50% of people covered by company plans get dumped, federal health care costs will rise by $160 billion a year in 2016, in addition to the $93 billion in subsidies already forecast by the CBO. Of course, as we've seen throughout the health care reform process, it's impossible to know for certain what the unintended consequences of these actions will be.


  1. In "Machete," the protagonist, played by Danny Trejo, is a former Mexican Federale now looking for work as a day laborer in Texas. He charges $70 a day for yard work, but an oily businessman makes him an offer he can't refuse: $150,000 to take out a senator bent on deporting illegal immigrants.


    Rat's idea: is it life imitating art or art imitating life?

  2. When all is said and done, the added cost of healthcare in the U.S. will be about $150 Billion, mostly borne by higher income taxpayers. Bottom line.

    That's what it costs to insure 30 Million people. However, the numbers get a little shakey when you consider that we're already paying for their "emergency," and "life threatening" care.

  3. Does that fall into the category of data or speculative projection Ruf?


  4. I guess it would be a SWAG, Q. :)

  5. Or, maybe, a "KSWAG." (kinda scientific wild-assed guess.)

  6. Watching CNBC today they had a seantor on who was arguing that the US should not be paying for the Greek debt through its contributions to the IMF.

    Unfortunately, the only way I can see for them getting out of it is by quitting the IMF. Won't happen.

    Still, it will require the US to put out a lot of bucks. Hopefully, we will ultimately make some money off the investment rather than losing it.

    They mentioned some numbers that don't seem to add up correctly. The bailout cost is $100+ billion. The US dues to the IMF are about 17-18%. The US portion of the would be $37-38 billion.

    (Maybe the bailout is $100+ euros. That would make the numbers come out closer.)


  7. Senators get lost in numbers pretty quickly, I've noticed.

    The number is probably closer to 160 Billion Euros. 17% of that would be what? Around 27 Billion Euros? Or around $34 Billion? Of course, trying to be any more precise than a factor of two would, right now, be silly. Too many variable at work.

  8. Lordy, the blind leading the blind.

    The IMF portion of the bailout is about US 39 billion and the rest of it is coming from the Europeans. The US share of the IMF portion is about 17%

  9. The number of people on Facebook is pushing 500,000 with an overall potential (unlikely) of 2 billion.

    There are privacy concerns. The latest being that a persons e-mail accounts may mistakenly be made known. Also, that friends can see the websites their friends visit.

    Occurred to me this could be a marketing opportunity for the EB. If all of you were to join Facebook, it is likely the traffic here at the bar would increase.

    (Disclaimer: Assumes you barflys have friends.)


  10. If we had "friends" we wouldn't be barflies. D'OH.

  11. Ah well.

    The numbers I mentioned from CNBC came from Mark Haines.

    Maybe I misunderstood him.

    (Or maybe its just that the numbers came from Mark Haines)


  12. No living human being knows what that deal will cost (or, who will pay for it.) To pretend otherwise is sophistry.

  13. what deal are you talking about rufus? There is a current bailout package for Greece that is anything but sophistry. Whether it'll work or not is a completely different story.

    Dow Plummets 900 Points on Concerns Over Greece

    eh? who cares about Greece anyway? right Deuce?

  15. Wow, THAT was quite a show.

  16. The "Greece" deal, Ash. Having a deal "on the table" is "having a deal *on the table.*" Nobody knows how it's all going to, eventually, shake out.

  17. This has got to be a good time to put on the Euro, Oil trade.

  18. Not the rent money, though.

  19. We probably won't know how this plays out until at least next week. The German elections are this weekend. Have to see how Merkel does. I think it could still affect Germany's position on the bailout loans.


  20. Yeah, this is way, way, way over "my" pay grade.

  21. of course nobody knows how it is going to shake out but they've been working on the current bailout package for quite some time and they have very specific numbers. Specific enough that the various legislatures that need to vote to approve the funds release (i.e. Germany) are preparing for the vote. Greece's legislature, just today, approved the austerity measures stipulated in the bailout package.

  22. Yeah, but can the Greek Parliament hold up against the pressure from the protesters?

    What will the German citizens force the German Parliament to do?

  23. Ash, my opinion about Greece is that they will not change. They are more Middle Eastern than European. They never should have been under the euro. The EU should face the reality and let them go.

    What does Greece have to do with a P&G trade

  24. The German vote appears like it will pass but it is no slam dunk. In any case Greece is but one part of the Sovereign debt problem. They were talking PIGS, or, PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain, but now the bond trader acronyms have moved on to STUPID (Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, Portugal, Italy, Dubai) or STUUPID to include the world's biggest debtor nation - the US. Or HELL (Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania).

    In any case the sharp drop today might rattle regular old investor and they too might start running for the exits. Hold on to your hats.

  25. Evidently, there's a trillion, or so, in hedge fund money betting on a Greece "Default." How hard will the ECB fight to keep Euroland "intact?"

    If they let it go do they have to fight a Bigger Fight over Spain? Then Italy? You're betting on "people." That's worse than horses.

  26. The EU has a choice. They will support the Greeks as a permanent ward and let them smash their plates or they can cut them lose.

    I would cut.

    Given the choice, most Germans would cut.

  27. P&G down a little over 2% today. Greece influences in the way a rising tide floats all boats. As money disappears (i.e. defaults, market declines) investors exit. The world of finance is a very interconnected place.

  28. I think the big bettors have already given up on Greece. The sights are set on the rest of the PIIGS to soon be followed by STUPID. Then the US. Sorta like toppling Dominos.

  29. They're out of luck with the U.S.

    In the end, there can be Only One.

  30. God, I Love the smell of a Burning Europe in the Morning. :)

    I cain't hep it. It just makes me smile.

  31. It doesn't make my 401k smile.


  32. Mine either, I guess. I don't care. Like I said, "I jist cain't hep it. :)

  33. Say what you like about Bernanke; but I know Bernanke and Trichet is no Bernanke.

    Philosophically, I say let Europe fold, step by step.

    However, philosophy doesn't pay for the groceries.

    My 401k says Europe needs a little monetary easing please.

    Let's see the E.C.B. buying bonds.

    I'll bitch about it later like I did about the U.S. but I'll still be eating.


  34. We're going to be eating, no matter what with Greece.

    Europe is, and always has been, "Germany, and the chaff."

    Germany's fine. Let the rest of them rot.

    (I'm just hyperbolating, but this seems like the day for it.)

  35. "We're going to be eating, no matter what..."

    Yea, but I'm not used to eating 'greans and beans', chitlins, and turnips.


  36. You know, the country that escaping the commentary, and yet, the country that is the most self-centered, and independent of all, is France. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to wake up in the morning, and read that France has called, no mas, on the whole deal, and has called for Greece to go "over the cliff."

    Remember, the French are "French."

  37. Don't go knocking "Chitlins," there Yankee.

  38. quirk wrote:

    "Let's see the E.C.B. buying bonds."

    I think they have been for some time even though they aren't, legally, supposed to.

    One 'new' phrase has been "Spain, too big to save."

    Another reason, Deuce, P&G can be affected by what is going on in Europe is that P&G tends to sell premium brands and they sell world wide. Europe in the shitter doesn't spell good tidings for Tide.

  39. Anyway, some argue that big market crashes throughout history have been tied to an overabundance of credit. We've had one crash credit related and I'm guessing another is happening due to Sovereign credit.

  40. but at least rufus can giggle at others misfortune. He's old, he'll soon be dead anyway, right rufi?

  41. here is a little section from a decent article on the European problem. It is well worth reading. At the end of the article they talk about devaluing the Euro. But if that happens what happens to the US troubles?

    " Since most Greek debt is held abroad, roughly 80 percent of the budget savings the Greek government makes go straight to Germans, the French and other foreign debt holders (mostly banks). If growth turns out poorly, will the Greeks be prepared for ever-tougher austerity to pay the Germans? Even if everything goes well, Greek citizens seem unlikely to welcome this version of their “new normal.”

    Last week the European leadership panicked — very late in the day — when it realized that the euro zone itself was at risk of a meltdown. If the euro zone proves unwilling to protect a member like Greece from default, then bond investors will run from Portugal and Spain also — if you doubt this, study carefully the interlocking debt picture published recently in The New York Times. Higher yields on government debt would have caused concerns about potential bank runs in these nations, and then spread to more nations in Europe."

  42. We took "Our" medicine, last year, Ash. Now, Europe can take theirs.

    It's NOT "misfortune." They lived large for years on little output. Now, the bill is due. No "misfortune" involved.

    We did the same. We paid the piper. It's their turn.

  43. lordy, rufus, you have a very blinkered view of the world. I guess you didn't notice that Europe suffered through the last downturn as well. Similarly the current problems won't be confined to Europe.

  44. and I hate to inform you rufus that the 'medicine' taken didn't fix the patient - U.S. public debt currently sits at 94% of GDP...and climbing.

  45. Things That Go Unnoticed

    "Forgotten for years, 26 vets will finally be laid to rest

    "They fought in conflicts from World War I through Vietnam, yet the remains of 26 servicemen sat unclaimed for years, seemingly forgotten by the country they served.

    "Now, thanks to a Dearborn veterans' group, they will finally be laid to rest this month with full military honors. On Memorial Day, a horse-drawn caisson will carry a flag-draped coffin with the soldiers' cremated remains down Michigan Avenue, beginning a ceremony that will end with a military burial in Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly.

    "It's unbelievable that no one has taken their remains, no family or friends," said Joe Terry, commander of VFW Post 2107 in Dearborn. "The whole object of this is to show honor to our veterans, to show the city what being in the military is all about..."

    Veteran's Remains to be Buried


  46. No, Ash, our banks were forced into a "stress" test, and forced to shore up their balance sheets. Theirs never were.

    And, our debt is, most assuredly, not 94% of GDP. Our "Debt to Public" is, I believe, somewhere between 65%, and 70% of GDP. Still too high, I'll admit, but not 94%.

  47. My mother called, asking who "this Mockus person" is. "All we ever heard about was Santos."

    Our son and his girlfriend are coming up in June and staying through early July. He is excited about introducing Maria to the splendors of the Capitol. And the wonder that is us.

  48. What did Katherine Graham say on election night 1972? "I don't understand this. I don't know "Anyone" who voted for Richard Nixon?"

  49. Or, was it that old "Harriman" witch?

  50. While I don't have any special interests in C(boob)l(boob)mbian policies per se. Especially since all the principles espouse pretty much the same policies vis a vis US interests. It would still be interesting to see Mockus win just so an old post could be revisited.

    Yes, I would enjoy that very much.

    Very, very much.


  51. This is just a very bad blog to make "definitive" statements.

    These old bastards might be drunk, but they're drunk "elephants." They don't forget a f'ckin thang.

  52. rufus wrote:

    "And, our debt is, most assuredly, not 94% of GDP. Our "Debt to Public" is, I believe, somewhere between 65%, and 70% of GDP"

    ummm, rufus, many here have noted your propensity to spout stuff as if it were fact. In other words you appear to pull numbers out of your ass and treat it as the gospel. Please support your assertions with some outside reference for your credibility is tainted.

    I've seen the 94 percent number cited in numerous locations. Wiki has it at 87

    and this official looking place has it at 2010 94.27 percent.

    as to the stress tests puhhhhleeeze, what did they tell us? and how are they indicative of 'taking the medicine' to cure all that ails the US economy? ewwww mark to fantasy and all is well - is that it?

  53. oh, and Rufus, before you cite the CIA fact book note that they EXCLUDE the debt of the US States in their calculation.

  54. The attached link gives the British election results. It's from the BBC and should keep updating.

    British Election Results


  55. Why America will remain in Iraq for years to come and why Iran will be punished through its proxy Syria

    Correction: dyed...The “died” came from empathy for those who died and their stonewalled families, all necessary to boost the careers of gutless pencil pushers.

    I do admit to shameful Schadenfreude at the expense of those who so confidently predicted the US exit from Iraq in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Get used to it guys; we're going nowhere in a hurry.

    We need not directly attack Iran to drastically weaken it. Syria and Lebanon will do nicely. As Churchill might have said, they constitute the soft underbelly of Islam.

    Don’t bother thanking Israel for doing the dirty work (as if you would); we are used to it. What you might do is humbly keep your fat mouths shut.

  56. Quirk,

    Re: UK election results

    I have no idea how this will play out overnight. Nor do I know what an outright Conservative or Conservative coalition win would mean.

    There are a lot of unreported areas. Any thoughts?

    It might be possible that a Conservative win would strongly suggest that UK voters understand that political and fiscal change is a necessity. But again, the regional dynamics are unknown to me.

    The UK's refusal to adopt the joint currency may prove to have been a wise choice, given the turmoil in the remainder of the Eurozone. Wouldn't it be remarkable if by this time next year the dominate currencies would be the pound sterling and the reborn mark...back to the future.

  57. Quirk,

    I am so sorry: Must I ask first before kissing you? Frankly, the grab'em-stab'em style of Antonio Banderos has always appealed to me. Granted, never having tried it with a man, I am sailing uncharted waters. Some expert EB advice would be helpful. Do know, however, that there will always be a "spacial" place in my heart for you. Gee, I am starting to get that bob feeling.

  58. Wow!
    allen has arrived at my 2003 position:

    On to Damascus!

    Comical, considering the route taken.

  59. Total Public Debt Outstanding:


    US GDP:
    $14.26 trillion (2009 est.)


    Which, according to my computer calculator puts the publicly held debt right around 90% of GDP.

  60. $8,430,700,000,000.00 divided by
    $14,360,800,000,000.00 = 58.7%

  61. You can NOT consider the $4.5 Trillion Soc Sec Money as Debt.

    DEBT is a Legal Obligation.

    The money owed to Soc Sec is Intragovernmental. It is "Statutory." It can be changed, negated, whatever with the vote of 218 representatives, 51 Senators, and a President. It is no more "Debt" than my saying to you "I'll take care of you" is debt.

  62. If the "War" had really been "with Islam" the 4th ID would have landed in Haifa, then driven to Baghdad.

    As at least one of us, here, suggested at the time.

    That the 4th ID transited the Suez, proof positive that "Islam" was and still is not the enemy of the US.
    Nor were Iranian proxies, back in 2003.

  63. Your link, rufus, puts the:

    Total Public Debt Outstanding:


    If the link YOU provided is outputting faulty data, find another, please.

  64. Look at "Debt to Public." That is the Legal Debt. The rest is just Intragovernmental (Soc Sec money.)

  65. I mean, rufus, it is the US Treasury telling the rest of US that the Total Public Debt Outstanding is:


    They oughta know, aye?

  66. It is still money owed, rufus.

    The Treasury does not discount it.

    Indeed, they include it in the Total Public Debt.

  67. The word TOTAL being inclusive.

    As far as the Federal Government goes.

  68. Allen:

    Re: British Elections

    I haven't been following the British election that closely. Merely watching the latest polls and Brown's continued attempts at self-destruction.

    If the Conservatives win, they have promised to re-instill fiscal discipline to the government. Depending on what exactly that means it could be good or it could be short term bad given the UK's shaky fiscal situation.

    However, as I understand it, the main scare for a while now has been the fear that there won't be a clear cut winner that can step in and start governing from day one. If a significant amount of time is required in order to solidify a governing coalition it could be a very bad thing given everything that is going on in the EU at the moment.


  69. Rat, you can play all the word games you want. But, if Congress decides to cut your social security benefits they cut'em. If they decide to raise your retirement age, they'll raise it. If they want to raise your contribution, they'll raise it.

    These are not definitions of Debt. You want to call it debt, go ahead.

    If I want to call your horse a cow, I can do that, too. But it won't make it a cow

  70. And that, I assume rufus, is just the Federal debt, not the accumulated debt of the States and Localities of the country.

    All those tax free Munis floating about. One would imagine there is a boatload of debt being carried, there.

    So, total Governmental debt, more than likely, exceeds annual GDP, whether the Intergovernmental debt is included, or not.

    We could also include private debt, on top of the Governmental load, to the total package, but I imagine that would provide a number that would cause me to gag.

  71. How the "debt" is paid to the end beneficiary does not cancel debt, rufus.

    If the Congress repudiates that debt, to itself, that'd be more than telling, to the actual state of the Republic.

  72. Sending a message more powerful than any State of the Union address.

    Never going to happen, rufus.

    Not in the real whirled.

  73. Quirk,

    This link gives some interesting insights into the UK electoral process and what may be going on in these early hours in the UK.

    UK's Cameron: Brown has lost the right to govern

    How the European markets react in the next few hours may be illustrative.

    I believe Greece will finish the week in continued chaos. Greece appears close to undergoing a revolution as that term was defined by Barzun.

    Quirk, I've had a hard day supervising government packers. I have a headache. Please, don't hold that against me. Perhaps tomorrow night - No, that is not possible. Tomorrow evening will be spent in the arms of my lady. I do hope you will not hold this against me.

    Our Song

    If I am moving to quickly, bear with me.

  74. Rat, here's a site that give State Debt at $1.1 Trillion.

    The Default is for the last 12 months, and the option is for "calendar" (not, fiscal) year to date.

  75. The Federals will raise taxes, rufus, to pay that debt, to themselves.

    Just take the cap off of FICA eligible income, tax 15.3% of every dollar earned, then the progressive income tax on top of that.
    Instead of the status que of a flat 15.3% tax rate on the first $106,800, plus the progressive income tax.

    That 15.3% flat tax, paid by all those doing legal labor, either through payroll withholding and employer matching payments, or paid as the self-employment tax, is paid by ever legally employed worker in the US. Regardless of how little total income is earned.

  76. No, Rat, what they have ALWAYS done is "adjust" soc sec when inflows become less than outflows (plus administration.)

    Every 20 years, or so, we have a "commission." Remember Vocker, and Reagan? Every ten years or so they make a more minor adjustment - remember when soc sec was just paid on the first forty, or fifty?

    They'll come back this time (After the election, of course,) and inform us that they'll have to raise the "cap" to $175, or so, and maybe soak the employer for another 2% or thereabouts. Maybe even adjust the way the COLA is coputed (now it's computed of "wages," not cost of living.)

    THAT is what they do with Soc Sec.

  77. You know how much I hate the term, "Unfunded Mandates;) but, if I were going to describe Soc Sec at all, that's what I would call it.

  78. They put the Federal debt at $12.9 trillion, too.

    Who is trying to play word games, rufus, really?

  79. That's what's so funny about the "flat taxers," Rat. If you'll look at that last link I gave you, we take in just about as much in Soc Sec (flat tax) as we do "income taxes."

  80. DR,

    I do hate to burst your bubble, but the negation of Syria has been on my agenda since 1967. My position was formulated at a place named Phu An after reading the Stars and Stripes account of the rapidly moving Seven Days War and the liberation of Jerusalem. By that time, I had already been awarded two Purple Hearts in the execution of Mr. Johnson's war.

    Had the US sought landing sites in Israel in 2003, I believe those would have been granted. No such request was made, to our detriment because State considered it bad form. Moreover, State would never stoop to asking disgusting Jews for assistance against a common enemy. You see, Saddam was the lesser of two evils; Israel was the first.

    Whether the big brained pencil pushers in Arlington, charged with implimenting American policy in Iraq/Afganistan/Yemen/Somalia/Lebanon etc comprehend that the US is at war with Islam is beside the point. Islam, through its authoritative speakers across the globe has declared war on the United States. Therefore, your position is absurd.

    For example, if the United States had declined to take the attack on Pearl Harbor as an act of war, would that have changed Japanese motives and policy? I think not.

    Your position is like that of the guy who gets socked in the nose and refuses to acknowledge the assault and insult. It changes nothing other than making his humiliation comedic.

    Of course, neither of us is at the pencil pusher pay grade. So, what would we know?

  81. Yes, rufus, they adjust the payments made to SS, that is true.

    But they still "owe" themselves the money. It is word games, to be assured, but you are being to clever, by half.

    You are promoting propaganda.

    The debt is $12.9 trillion, EVERY source you have cited says so.

    The Federals will not repudiate that debt. It may not pay it out, to the people, in SS payments, but they will collect the money, to pay themselves, one way on another.

    It is part of a much larger cycle.

  82. Rat, these sites are ALL PUT up by "partisans." The Gov refers to it as Total Debt, and Public Debt.

  83. You have sent me to two different web sites, one Federal, one Private.

    Each puts the Federal debt at $12.9 trillion.

    You then attempt to explain why they are incorrect.

    But the message has already been sent and confirmed, despite your protestations that the $4 trillion is dispute may not be spent on SS benefits.

    On which we agree.

    But the Federals will not repudiate that debt, either. They'll pay themselves, with our money.

  84. Rat, I just can't stand "imprecision." I hate koolaid, regardless of who's serving it.

    Let me give you an example. That site gives my portion of the debt, IIRC, at around $45,000.00

    But wait, if that is a debt, then I have an asset (the government's obligation to pay me until the day I die.)

    They didn't subtract the value of my asset from the amount of my "debt."

    See what I mean? It's silliness.

  85. That is going to be the cornerstone of the coming "economic conservatism", rufus, paying back that $4 trillion in "debt".

    Power, more than money

    Think it through, amigo.

  86. "Quirk,

    I am so sorry: Must I ask first before kissing you? Frankly, the grab'em-stab'em style of Antonio Banderos has always appealed to me..."

    Was that Antonio Banderos as 'Puss-in-Boots' in Shrek?

    I assume this explains your frequent trips to Atlanta, Allen.

    Atlanta Ranked No.1 Alternate Lifestyle City in the U.S.

    Try and control those animal passions guy.

    Although I am cute as hell and as such equally attractive to all ages, sexes, races, and species, my wife has issued strict rules against me indulging in any extramarital experimentation.

    Thanks for the offer though. And no offense. I get this all the time and have to tell them all the same thing.



  87. Don't get me wrong, Deficits like the one this year Would turn us into Greece. The good news is, barring a "black swan," or a double dip we'll be in a whole lot better shape in a year.

    Although, a bit "higher taxed."

  88. You do accounting, rufus, I do propaganda.

    Believe me, the Federal debt is $12.9 trillion.

    That's the number in the annual report.

    That it is a purely political number, better believe it. The Federals will use it, their irresponsibility, to enhance their power. To pay that "debt".

    Which even the most conservative of folks will agree to, that we should pay our collective debts.

    While not cutting benefits to current recipients.
    Pass the sugar, please.

  89. What matters is how much the government has to go to the bond market, and borrow every month. We need to get that down in the twenty to thirty billion range. I expect we'll be getting close to that by 2012.

  90. Public debt "Normally" ranks with the public somewhere below "dog poo on the sidewalks.) Ranks pretty close to "global warming."

    Right now, the Conservatives are pissed. That gives them something to be mad about. When Bush was running big deficits after the 2001 recession he said, "I'm working on it," and the Pubs said, "Okay, lets have some pie."

    As soon as the Pubs get the house back they'll make a little pretense of "doing something" while the Obama tax increases kick in, and then when the deficit starts to come down they'll say, "See." And the Pubs will say, "Grreat, let's have some pie."

    This shit never changes, Rat.

    It's a force of nature.

  91. This all, of course, being dependent on "Europe, Oil, No Meltdown in China, and No Big Shoot'em Up War - and about a dozen things we haven't even thought of."

  92. So?

    Did you boys get it sorted out yet?


  93. Six Day War...too much scotch...

  94. "...The idea that high school kids anywhere in America would be called the principal's office - let alone that they would be asked whether they should apologize - for wearing clothes bearing the image of the United States flag, is a perfect case in point.

    "It's the kind of insanity that rankles the sensibilities of millions upon millions of Americans, and has them cheering when someone - whether a Cambridge cop or a Bay Area mother - stands up, refuses to back down, and says, "there will be no apology..."

    No Apology!


  95. Quirk,

    Yes, Atlanta is a little slice of Sodom in Bubbaland. How can it be otherwise, the legislature sits in session there. And while the constitution mandates a 40 day per year session, lobbiests supply ample K-Y jelly to keep our consciencious public servants crusing the town the better part of the year. The public's business calls for sacrifice and a real statesman will never let the calendar or a bar closing time interfer with his/her duty - ever vigilant...probing...probing...probing.

    I don't know what it is, but there is some cosmic force joining politicians and boyish interns.

    In fairness, I must admit that we have lost several of our best and brightest to "lady" lobbiests and aids. At this rate, Atlanta will again return to Jesus.

    Although our interlude, first pressed by Trish, has passed away like a Mayfly, there will always be the thrill of what might have been.


  96. Re: debt

    The enormity of the question is mind boggling. How high would be a stack of $1,000,000,000,000.00.

    I am reminded of the lady who, when called by her bank about insufficient funds, replied, "I still have checks, so I can't be broke."

    If we are lucky, our currency will continue being printed on both sides and it won't take $1,000,000,000,000 to buy a cup of coffee. At that rate, two packets of Splenda would go for what, $200,000,000,000.00.

    Not to end the night on a sour note, Rhodesia might sell us some of their spare change cheap.

  97. Obama National Security Policy: Hope Their Bombs Don't Work

    Love her, or hate her, she's funny as hell.

  98. "Fuck", by the way, is what you people are doing to my country.

    - allen

    (Which one?)

    Arrrrgh! Grrrrr!

    Arlington's off the hook, anyway. Ain't never worked there. Excuse me: commuted and spent the day wasting a whole lotta taxpayer dough.

  99. But now I'm now in the mood to go in search of a good Arlington pencil-pusher anthem.

    Surely there must be.

  100. Pencil pushers of Arlington unite!

  101. Trish,

    Yea, by all means spend your time as you do best, pushing Trish LLC.

    If you change your mind about analyzing the Fort Hood murders from the Army's point of view, do get back with me. Who knows, I might even agree with some of it.

    As to which country I support, I gather you are taking the DR highroad by questioning my loyalty to the US because I am Jewish. In the case of green airman sent to die in Afghanistan in support of narco-corruption and troops murdered at Fort Hood, I was referring to the USA.

    Whatever else can be said of loyalty, mine is not solely dedicated to feathering my own little military nest at taxpayer expense as is the case of Trish LLC.

    That creeped out thing of yours didn't last too long did it? O, and Trish, I am not bob.

  102. These people and their families and friends really creep me out

    Boy, do I ever miss the good old days when Mr. Reagan would send generals before Congressional committees with the excuse of "executive privilege".

    Yep...Those were the days...Real Americans felt no creepiness then. Everything was under control.

    "General, can you explain to this committee why this toilet seat cost $1,000.03?"

    "Aaaaah, Senator, with all due respect, I have been advised by counsel to claim executive privilege...It's the matter of national security, Sir."


    General, does your evasion suggest that this crapper seat was one destined to be smuggled into Cuba to monitor and analyze Castro's bowel habits?"

    "Aaaaaaah, Senator, I am advised by counsel to claim executive privilege as the matter of national security."

    Shucks…They paved paradise and put in a parking lot.