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Your Kindness Will Never Be Forgotten

The past couple of weeks for us have been, how should I say this, hectic. Bonny and I are safely back home in Maine, and for that we are grateful. The passing of Bonny’s mom and uncle in the same week was somewhat surprising, but in all likelihood, we realize that other families go through similar, if not worse situations on a daily basis. It is a common experience that we all share.  In any event, these last several days have allowed for many hours of reflection.

As we all age, we realize that things like hope, kindness and good cheer do not smooth out the wrinkles, but can keep the heart refreshed. Honored age gives one the authority to ignore authority. You learn to forego your age or at least not dwell on it, to be happy to just be alive to have earned that privilege. If not years to your life, why not life to your years? Our human spirit is remarkably sturdy and resilient, allowing us to get past the hardships as long as we differentiate the little from the big, and find a way to smile through it all. Sometimes when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated. This is not necessarily the way that it has to be, as to lose a dearly loved one is also an opportunity for us to learn.

You learn that you cannot step twice into in the same river and expect things to be the same, for the waters behind you continue to flow. There is no time for stagnation as the flow of change goes on. So, let the past drift away with the flowing waters, but never forget the laughter, the sounds, the joys and the loving memories that you shared with loved ones. Extract the most from those memories. As sadness and pain creep in, realize that sadness and gladness succeed each other, both of which will be followed by spring.

So when the time comes, whether in a storm or calm, let down the sails and join quietly the waves.

On behalf of Bonny and I, we thank all of you for the outpouring of empathy, sympathy and inspiration that you have showered upon us and our family during these difficult times. Your kindness will never be forgotten.

 

By: raemd95, richardaevansmd.com, July 22, 2016

July 21, 2016 Posted by | Family Values, Marriage, Seniors | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Republicans Are Hell-Bent On Destroying Medicare”: Belief’s That Spring From Ideological Faith, Not Facts

One way you can identify politicians’ sincere convictions is by looking at the things they do even when they know they’re unpopular. There are few better examples than the half-century-long quest by Republicans to destroy Medicare.

As we move towards the 2016 presidential election, it’s something we’re hearing about yet again. Conservatives know the Democrats will attack them for it mercilessly, and they know those attacks are probably going to work — yet Republicans keeps trying. Which is why it’s clear that they just can’t stand this program.

When Medicare was being debated in the early 1960s, one of its most prominent opponents was a certain future president, who recorded a spoken word album called Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine. In it, he said that if the bill were to pass, “We are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” He failed in that crusade, and ever since, conservatives have watched in pain as the program became more entrenched and more popular.

That popularity didn’t happen by accident. Medicare is popular because it gives seniors something they crave: security. Every American over 65 knows that they can get Medicare, it will be accepted by almost every health care provider, their premiums will be modest, and it won’t be taken away. On the policy level, the program is expensive, but that’s because providing health care for the elderly is expensive. It’s not because the program is inefficient; in fact, Medicare does an excellent job of keeping costs down. Its expenses for overhead (basically everything except health care) are extremely low, somewhere between 1 percent and 5 percent of what it takes in, compared to private insurance costs that can run from 10 percent to 20 percent and, in some cases, even higher. (See here for a good explanation of these figures.)

That’s not to say there’s nothing about the program that could be improved, because there certainly is. The Affordable Care Act tried to institute some Medicare reforms, including moving away from the fee-for-service model (which encourages doctors and hospitals to do as many procedures as possible) and toward a model that creates incentives for keeping patients healthy. It’s still too early to say how great an impact those changes will have. But Medicare is still in most ways the most successful part of the American health insurance system. And if you care about empirical truth, it’s impossible to argue that it’s a failure because it involves too much government.

But Republicans do argue that, and it’s a belief that springs from ideological faith, not facts. In Wednesday’s debate, Rand Paul was asked whether Reagan was right about Medicare, and he responded, “The question always is, what works better, the private marketplace or government? And what distributes goods better? It always seems to be the private marketplace does a better job. Is there an area for a safety net? Can you have Medicare or Social Security? Yes. But you ought to acknowledge the government doesn’t do a very good job at it.” Paul’s ambivalence is obvious — he grudgingly acknowledges that you can have a “safety net,” including Medicare, even as he says it’s terrible. But if that’s so, why not get rid of it entirely?

The presidential candidates who have said anything specific about Medicare all want to move in the direction of privatization, which isn’t too surprising. After all, they believe that it’s impossible for government to do anything better than the private sector, and if you can take a government program and privatize it, that’s what you should do. That’s also what new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan believes: For years he’s been touting a plan to privatize Medicare by essentially turning it into a voucher program. Instead of being an insurer for seniors as it is now, the government would give you a voucher that you could spend to buy yourself private insurance. And if the voucher didn’t cover the cost of the insurance you could find? Tough luck.

When you ask Paul Ryan about this, the first thing he’ll say is that he wants a slow transition to privatizing Medicare, one that won’t affect today’s seniors at all, so they don’t need to worry. In Wednesday’s debate, Marco Rubio made the same argument. “Everyone up here tonight that’s talking about reforms, I think and I know for myself I speak to this, we’re all talking about reforms for future generations,” he said. “Nothing has to change for current beneficiaries. My mother is on Medicare and Social Security. I’m against anything that’s bad for my mother.”

In other words: Medicare is a disaster, but we would never change it for the people who are on it and love it so much. They don’t have to fear the horror of being subject to our plan for Medicare’s future. Which is going to be great.

That contradiction is the essence of the Republicans’ Medicare problem. It’s one of the most successful and beloved social programs America has ever created, and to mess with it is to court political disaster, particularly among seniors who vote at such high rates. And its success is particularly galling, standing as it does as a living rebuke to their fervent belief that there can never be any area in which government might outperform the private sector.

But grant Republicans this: A less ideologically committed group might say, “We don’t like this program, but it’s too politically dangerous to try to undo it. So we’ll just learn to live with it.”

Republicans won’t give up. They want to undermine Medicare, to privatize it, to try in whatever way they can come up with to hasten the day when it disappears. And no matter how often they fail, they keep trying.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, October 30, 2015

October 31, 2015 Posted by | Medicare, Republicans, Seniors | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Greed Is Always In Fashion On Wall Street”: Republicans Or Social Security? On 80th Anniversary, Still An Easy Choice

Ten years ago, as Americans celebrated the 70th anniversary of Social Security, the presidency of George W. Bush was already disintegrating over his attempt to ruin that amazingly successful program. The people’s rejection of the Bush proposal to privatize the system was so powerful that Republicans in Congress scurried away – and his political reputation never recovered.

Since then, the United States has endured a market crash and a crushing recession that proved how much this country needs its premier social insurance plan. Those events demonstrated that ceding control of Social Security and its revenues to Wall Street, in accordance with the Bush scheme, would have been a national disaster. And yet the Republican candidates for president seem utterly unable to learn that simple economic lesson.

To paraphrase the old French adage, the more things change, the more conservatism remains the same. On this 80th birthday of Social Security, the increasingly right-wing Republicans continue to blather the same old nostrums, as if they missed everything that has happened since 2005 – and as if they still want revenge against Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the humiliations he inflicted on their ideological ancestors.

Since August 14, 1935, Republicans and their financial backers have sought to undo the progress that Social Security represents for workers, the elderly, the disabled, and their families. Today’s Republican presidential wannabes all claim to be offering something new, but whenever they talk about Social Security, they sound as if they’re stuck in 2005 – or 1935.

From Rand Paul to John Kasich, from Marco Rubio to Rick Perry, from Lindsey Graham to Ted Cruz, from Bobby Jindal to Jeb Bush and George Pataki, they all agree that Social Security should be privatized. And with the possible exception of Mike Huckabee, all agree on undermining the only program that keeps millions of older Americans from ending their lives in poverty rather than dignity. Chris Christie, robber of public employee pensions, would swiftly raise the retirement age to 69, threatening grave hardship for blue-collar, lower-income Americans. Carly Fiorina would inflict similar suffering on workers who weren’t fortunate enough to snag an undeserved $40 million “golden parachute,” like she did.

Behind Republican warnings about the solvency of Social Security – and their enduring desire to privatize – are major financial interests that would like to seize the system’s revenue streams for their own profit.

Greed is always in fashion on Wall Street. But working Americans see no reason to hand Social Security over to the banks, when its administrative costs amount to well under 1 percent of its revenues. They know that the financial geniuses who almost sank the world economy eight years ago would charge far more than 1 percent, while imposing enormous risks on everyone but themselves.

So thanks, but — most emphatically — no thanks. As we mark this anniversary, most surveys show negligible support for privatizing Social Security or reducing its benefits; indeed, there is growing public support for proposals to expand and improve the system.

Yet polls also show many young Americans worrying that the system may not be sufficiently robust to pay full benefits by the time they reach retirement age. The latest report of the Social Security trustees, issued last month, suggested that the system’s trust fund could be exhausted by 2034.

Even then, the system’s revenues are projected to pay at least 75 percent of the benefits owed. But that wouldn’t be good enough when benefits are already too low – and there are several simple ways to fix Social Security’s finances so that nobody need worry. Long before the trust fund runs out of money, Congress can follow the example Ronald Reagan set in 1983 by raising the payroll tax rate — or mandate more progressive policy changes, such as lifting the cap on earnings subject to the tax, and broadening the tax base.

Declaring the nation’s “ironclad commitment” to Social Security, Reagan – who had once opposed the system as a symptom of creeping socialism – also expanded its base by bringing government employees into the system. Comprehensive immigration reform, which the Republicans oppose in nativist lockstep, would also create a stronger future foundation for all retirees and disabled workers.

So whenever these would-be presidents start barking about the need to pare, prune, or privatize this country’s most effective government program, remember this: Saving Social Security for future generations — even with higher payroll taxes — is far more popular than any of them ever will be.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Featured Post, Editor’s Blog, August 14, 2015

August 15, 2015 Posted by | Republicans, Seniors, Social Security | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Privatization Of Medicare”: Jeb Bush Now Says He Wouldn’t ‘Phase Out’ Medicare. What He Would Do Is Just As Wrong

It had to happen sooner or later: a Republican presidential candidate says something suggesting he’d destroy Medicare, the Democrats jump all over him, and he backtracks, saying that’s not what he meant and in fact he only wants to strengthen it. This time it’s Jeb Bush, who said the other day that though we can keep Medicare around for the people who are currently on it, “we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something – because they’re not going to have anything.”

This is an old argument from Republicans, one they also use to justify attacks on Social Security: the program is doomed anyway, so we should go ahead and privatize it. The argument is completely wrong with regard to Social Security, and the truth about Medicare is that the program’s future is looking brighter and brighter — in no small part because of the Affordable Care Act. The argument Bush is making is ten years out of date.

Bush did try to walk back his statement a bit, saying the “phase out” part was taken out of context and he’s only talking about how we “reform our entitlement system.” Here’s his follow-up, which doesn’t change the essence of what he was arguing:

“It’s an actuarially unsound health care system,” said Bush, who said something must be done before the system burdens future generations with $50 billion of debt. “Social Security is an underfunded retirement system; people have put money into it, for sure.

“The people that are receiving these benefits, I don’t think that we should touch that; but your children and grandchildren are not going to get the benefit of this that they believe they’re going to get, or that you think they’re going to get, because the amount of money put in compared to the amount of money the system costs is wrong.”

Bush hasn’t yet released his plan to phase out/reform Medicare, but given these comments it seems likely he’ll embrace something like what Paul Ryan has been advocating for years. It involves changing Medicare from a guaranteed single-payer government insurance plan into a voucher plan, in which the government gives senior citizens a set amount of money with which they can go out and get private health insurance. It saves money by limiting the value of that voucher, so if it’s less than what coverage actually costs, well, tough luck. In that way, it eliminates the central promise of Medicare, which is that every American senior citizen will have health coverage.

We’ll await Jeb’s particulars, but I promise you that most of the GOP candidates will embrace some version of this plan, because that’s what the Republican consensus on Medicare is these days. And it’s always justified with the argument Jeb gives: because of skyrocketing costs the program is doomed, so privatization is the only way to make sure it’s there for your kids. But don’t worry, current seniors, we won’t touch your Medicare! Which is one of the ironies of their argument: the free market is supposed to make everything wonderful, but they fall all over themselves to promise senior citizens that they won’t disturb the big-government, socialist program that seniors love.

Now on to the cost question. As it happens, the Medicare Trustees just released their annual report on the future of the program. And as Kevin Drum noted, things are looking a lot sunnier than they were a few years ago:

Ten years ago, Medicare was a runaway freight train. Spending was projected to increase indefinitely, rising to 13 percent of GDP by 2080. This year, spending is projected to slow down around 2040, and reaches only 6 percent of GDP by 2090. Six percent! That’s half what we thought a mere decade ago. If that isn’t spectacular, I don’t know what is.

Those are projections for what’s going to happen decades from now, so things are doubtless going to change. But the presumption of the Republican argument is that Medicare is eventually going to eat the entire federal budget, and so we have no choice but to fundamentally alter it. And that’s just not true.

The other assumption they make is that the way to alter Medicare is simple: privatize it. But they’re wrong about this, too. Medicare is expensive, but that’s not because it’s an inefficient big-government program. In fact, Medicare is remarkably efficient, more so than private insurance. That’s because it benefits from economies of scale, and because it doesn’t have to spend money on things like marketing, underwriting, and big salaries for executives. The reason Medicare is expensive is that American health care is expensive, and it serves a lot of people. The retirement of the large Baby Boom generation is what’s producing its current funding challenges.

Let’s not forget that at the same time Republicans cry that Medicare is unaffordable and so must be dismantled, they fight any effort to actually lower costs in a rational way. For instance, they’re adamantly opposed to comparative effectiveness research, which involves looking at competing treatments and seeing which ones actually work better. That this isn’t something Medicare already takes into account sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. If there are two medications for a particular ailment that are equally effective, but one costs $100 a year and one costs $100,000 a year, wouldn’t it make sense for Medicare to 1) find that out, and 2) make coverage decisions accordingly? But Republicans have said no — Medicare should just pay for both, no matter what it costs.

Republicans also oppose the most significant effort to reduce Medicare costs in decades, something called the Affordable Care Act, which included all kinds of provisions meant to achieve this goal. Perhaps most critically, the law starts a move away from the fee-for-service model, in which doctors and hospitals make more money the more procedures they do, to a model where they get paid a single rate for treating a patient. Under the fee-for-service model, if your hospital screws up, you get an infection, and you have to get re-admitted, they make more money; the ACA actually punishes them for that, giving them a greater incentive to provide better and less expensive care.

But Republicans not only want to repeal the ACA, which means repealing all those kinds of payment provisions, they have nothing much to say about how, specifically, we might save money in Medicare. Their only answer is that if we privatize it, the magic of the market will produce savings. Of course, if that were true America would have the cheapest health care system in the advanced world, since ours is already more private than in any other similar country. And yet we don’t — ours is far and away the most expensive, and that’s precisely because the market has failed.

So to sum up, this is the Republican argument on Medicare: We absolutely can’t do anything in particular that would bring down the cost of Medicare, but the cost of Medicare is so outrageous that we have no choice but to privatize it.

When Jeb Bush and the other candidates talk about this subject, pay close attention to what they say. They’ll use the word “strengthen” a lot — we want to strengthen Medicare! They’ll tell seniors, who vote in great numbers, that they aren’t going to touch their precious Medicare. And they’ll ignore what we’ve learned in the last few years, talking as though things look just as bad as they did before the Affordable Care Act was passed and health care spending slowed. But the truth is that their solution is no solution at all.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 24, 2015

July 26, 2015 Posted by | Jeb Bush, Medicare, Seniors | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Getting By On Fumes”: Has Rush Limbaugh Finally Reached The End Of The Road?

Like him or hate him, there is no disputing that Rush Limbaugh’s very special brand of mixing right-wing politics with his flare for entertainment has produced one of the most successful radio programs in the medium’s long history.

Whatever the burning political question of the day, millions of Americans have relished the opportunity to tune into Rush’s program, knowing that he would quickly take that hot potato, throw a few gallons of verbal kerosene into the mix and elevate the matter into a five alarm fire with a just a few well-chosen words spoken in the style only Rush Limbaugh could produce.

Until now…

At long last, it appears that Rush Limbaugh has run out of steam.

I have to acknowledge that I have sensed Rush getting by on fumes for some time now (yes, I tune into his show from time to time to enjoy his broadcasting skills if not his message). However, it was only recently that the world of Limbaugh crossed that thin red line from partially serious to total self-parody and audience deception—a line crossed from which there is often no return.

It happened on the occasion of Stephen Colbert’s appointment to fill David Letterman’s soon to be vacated chair on the CBS  (CBS +0.65%) late-night set.

By using this occasion to create a political narrative designed to stir up his listeners, Limbaugh telegraphed to his loyal followers that he is now dependent upon feeding fully faux political nonsense that his audience instinctively—or explicitly—knows is a bunch of baloney.

To be sure, this is hardly the first time Limbaugh has fed his audience a diet of twisted information and bizarre, conspiratorial memes. However, it may well be the first time that he attempted to shove a diet down the throats of any semi-rational listeners still living in the real world made up of nonsense that even his most loyal listener could not possibly swallow.

That’s a problem for Rush.

A show like Limbaugh’s is wholly reliant on his listeners’ willingness to believe—or suspend belief—no matter how ‘out there’ their guru’s arguments may be. While it is one thing for me to sneer at much of what Limbaugh may present, it is quite another when he attempts to sell his loyal audience on stuff they already know, through personal experience, to be false and fraudulent hokum.

Upon hearing the news of Colbert’s new gig, Limbaugh pronounced— as only Limbaugh can pronounce—

“CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values, conservatism. Now it’s just wide out in the open. What this hire means is a redefinition of what is funny, and a redefinition of what is comedy. They’re blowing up the 11:30 format… they hired a partisan, so-called comedian, to run a comedy show.”

Not quite satisfied with his initial declaration, Limbaugh returned to the subject in a later program, commenting further on CBS’s  decision to hire Colbert—

“It clearly indicates that the people making this decision have chosen to write off a portion of the country, that they don’t care if a portion of the country watches or not.”

Rush has it right on his last statement.

Indeed, the people who make decisions at television networks have chosen to write off a portion of the country—a decision that was made for them a very long time ago.

However, it has never had anything to do with making choices of audience based on anything even resembling politics and has always had everything to do with blowing off  anyone older than 49 years of age because these older folks are poison to advertisers. In other words, the networks are clearly writing off those in ‘the heartland’ if they’ve reached 50 years old—just as they’ve written off folks in this demo in every other nook and cranny of America.

What Limbaugh chose to ignore in his rant is that this is a choice based on what television advertisers want—and what television advertisers want is a young television viewing audience or, to be more specific, viewers that fall between the ages of 18-49. Despite Limbaugh’s truly lame efforts to pretend otherwise, if you fall within this age group, you are welcomed to the party whether you be a progressive, conservative, independent, communist, John Bircher, or whatever other political affiliation you can conjure up.

You see, car companies don’t really care about your politics when they are trying to sell you a car via a TV commercial—they care about whether you are in a position to buy that new car should they succeed in getting your attention. Purina really doesn’t give a damn about your politics or your dog’s politics when they are trying to sell you their brand of dog food.

For these reasons that would appear to be obvious to everyone but Rush Limbaugh—although we all know that they are obvious to him too—all viewers younger than 50 are coveted by the television networks.

And yet, Limbaugh—a guy who has spent his life in media—wants his audience to believe that there is some political agenda on the part of a network at work here. Never mind that early morning and late night are the two largest sources of revenue for every broadcast network. Limbaugh expects us to believe that CBS is willing to throw all that money out the window to make a political statement.

If you are a Limbaugh fan, how are you not asking yourself just how dumb this man thinks you are?

Even the right-wing Frontpagemag.com was able to properly discern the truth of the situation and provide an excellent explanation of reality:

The number of people who watch a TV show stopped mattering years ago. If it did, Murder She Wrote, a show that had an older audience and high ratings, wouldn’t have been canceled. Instead there’s talk of rebooting it with younger multicultural leads in a different setting.

Network television doesn’t just fail to count older viewers; it tries to drive them away. A show with an older viewership is dead air. Advertisers have been pushed by ad agencies into an obsession with associating their product with a youthful brand.

The demo rating, 18-49, is the only rating that matters. Viewers younger than that can still pay off. Just ask the CW. Older viewers however are unwanted.

A network show would rather have 5 million viewers in the demo than 15 million older viewers. A cable show would rather have 1 million viewers in the demo than 10 million viewers outside the demo.

Colbert and Stewart have the top late night talk shows in the demo. That means 1 million ‘young’ viewers. That’s barely what Letterman was pulling in on a top network.

Networks, which already have high median ages, are doing everything possible to bring them down. CBS has a median age of 58 and is the oldest network. Colbert is supposed to lower their average.

Letterman’s show had a median age of 56. Colbert’s show has a median age of 39. That a 49-year-old comedian with an audience whose median age is 39 is considered a draw for younger audiences reveals just how thoroughly younger viewers are abandoning television.”

As someone who spent the overwhelming majority of his career as a television producer and executive, I can state with absolutely certainty that Frontpagemag.com got it precisely right—and when was the last time you heard me say that a right-wing anything got it exactly right?

So, what does it say when a guy like Rush Limbaugh stoops to trying to build a political fire out of what is about as apolitical as chicken soup?

It says Rush is running on empty. It says he’s grown lazy. It says he’s probably trying to hold on to get though the next presidential election cycle before fading off into the sunset.

Rush’s audience knew that his anti-Colbert rant was nonsense the minute it left Limbaugh’s lips. How did they know?

While Limbaugh’s listeners may be inclined to believe the words of the great Rush Limbaugh, these aging listeners are the very people who can no longer find anything on TV to watch because everything is so skewed to the young viewer. They know all too well that it has nothing to do with their politics and everything to do with their age and being outside the desired demographic.

Rush Limbaugh ‘works’ when he can fire up his audience with red-hot ideology designed to bring out the anger of his listeners. But no entertainer succeeds when they try to stupidly pull the wool over the very listeners who have been loyal—and Limbaugh’s effort to politicize the Colbert hiring was just that.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, April 15, 2014

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Rush Limbaugh, Seniors | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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