Monday, March 30, 2009

Manson Family

I'm all for showing people compassion.  I'm all for giving people a second chance.  But, there are just some crimes that are so horrendous that even forty years later, I don't think the criminals who committed them should be shown any compassion.

Apparently, the Manson family members seem to differ. 

Susan Atkins is suffering from terminal cancer.  She has requested -- and been refused -- a compassionate release.  Are you kidding me?  Does she really think that anyone who remembers the horror the Manson family inflicted upon Sharon Tate and the others who died with her would ever think she deserves compassion now?  Actually, I think her terminal illness might actually be a case of justice.  She's almost completely paralyzed and she can't even be placed in a wheelchair.  There is a very small place inside my heart where I think, "Wow, that's a horrible death.  No one should die like that."  And, then I remember that Susan Atkins was the one who wrote Pig on the door in her victims' blood.  Even though I was just a little girl (and living on the other side of the country) and have no first hand memory, the grandmother in me feels for Sharon Tate's mother.  I'll bet she was making plans of holding her grandchild -- the same kind I was making a couple of months ago before Kim had little Nickie.  But, Susan Atkins killed Sharon and her mother's grandmotherly dreams went up in smoke.  And, now Susan Atkins wants to be allowed to go free?  That would be a miscarriage of justice.

Apparently, all of the other Manson family members have seen the errors of their ways and they want to be free.  Tex Watson is reportedly a minister.  Too bad they hadn't seen the error of their ways prior to August of 1969.  Who knows what Sharon Tate's child could've grown to become and for that reason alone, the Manson family should spend all eternity in prison.

God Bless

PS.  Even Jesus said render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.  Spending their natural lives in prison would be paying back Caesar in my opinion.



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cars and Tips

Let's discuss the cash for clunkers program.  It is a resounding success, according to Business Week, the program helped sell 157,000 cars.  I think that's just get.  Now, it is all over the news that the program has been such a success that it is out of money.  Congress is thinking about doing it again.  I have two concerns with this.  My first is that the program apparently didn't just allow sales of smaller cars go up.  Apparently, the trade in couldn't get more than 14 or 18 mpg -- I'm not sure which, as I've seen both figures in print - AND the car purchased had to get more than 16mpg.  16mpg?  Are they serious?  That means those big, hulky gas guzzling SUVs and trucks were being sold.  How is that am improvement?

Here's my second concern:  If we renew the cash for clunkers program, are we just going to artificially prop up the auto industry like the lowering of interest rates propped up the housing market?  I worry what will happen to the economy with a piece of it being blown up again.

I should disclose that I recently purchased a vehicle, but my Suzuki was still getting 24mpg and didn't qualify for the program even though she had 204,000 miles on her.  The dealer offered me $100 for her.  I donated her to kars 4 kids instead.  I'm a little irked that the Suzuki didn't qualify for the program - I know, I could've lied about her gas mileage, but I'm not that kind of girl - but that people are allowed to purchase vehicles that don't get better gas mileage than a car I donated.

So, my suggestion is that we continue the program for another billion, but every car sold must get at least 20mpg city and highway combined.

Next, we're going from cars to waitressing, which I know is a very strange combination.

The next time you sit down in a restaurant, I want you to consider this:  That waitress works for $2.33 an hour.  That's not a lot of money.  On top of that, whether or not you tip her, she pays tax on 8% of your total bill.  Further, depending on the restaurant's structure, she is giving a percentage of her tips to the bartender, the hostess and the bus boy.

So, let's say a waitress works an hour and makes $100 in sales.  Before she has tip one to count, she owes the government $8.00 in taxes.  She only made $2.33 (which is minimum wage) and she owes 15% (not including social security and medicare and state taxes).  If the tables in that hour don't tip her, she's just worked an hour of her life she can never get back and worse, she has to pay the government $8.35 for the privilege.

I know what you're thinking, what's your point?

My point is that before you leave that small tip, you stop for a moment and think about the service you've received.  If you received good service, make sure you tip 15% of the entire bill -- not just the pre-tax amount -- because she's taxed on the entire bill.  If you received excellent service, then you should leave a generous tip of at least 20%.  And, if you run into a waitress who sucks, just don't stiff her -- you look cheap.  Tip her 8%, to cover the tax and complain to the manager of the restaurant.  My philosophy is this:  I watch how many tables she has.  If the waitress has less than four and I can see her yakking with her friends in the back and my service is bad, she gets a small tip and I complain, but if I can see she has a lot of tables and is keeping up the best she can, then I leave an extra generous tip and I make no complaint.

Oh, and don't just complain, speak with a manager if you receive top-notch service, as well.

I should note, I've NEVER been a waitress.  I couldn't do it.  Long hours on your feet, dealing with rude customers and making very little for your trouble - not my idea of a career, but someone has to do and those of us who don't should tip them well.

God Bless

Monday, March 09, 2009

Thoughts

Companies offer benefits for three reasons:
1. For the tax breaks
2. To comply with the law
3. To get and retain employees

I read this weekend that in regards to healthcare reform, Republicans want to take away the corporate tax breaks from employers. In other words, they don't want to give companies a break for insuring their employees. This is the same plan McCain offered up during the election. How is that a good thing?

What will happen if the Republicans get their way is that companies will stop providing health insurance for their employees and that is not a good thing. There's an article in Time magazine that describes the horror of what happens when someone doesn't understand the insurance for which they are paying. If you really think you could do a better job picking out your own insurance, God bless you. I, for one, don't think I'd do a very good job of it, nor do I think I could purchase the insurance for less than what my company is paying.

What the Republicans don't understand is if you take away employer paid health insurance, the number of uninsured will certainly be higher than 45 million. More people will need a hand from the government and no money will be saved. Leave it to the Republicans to decide on removing a tax break just when companies need it most.

In a bad economy, companies don't need to worry about getting and retaining employees -- where are they going to go? So, they won't offer good benefits packages because they don't have to offer them.

God Bless

Friday, March 06, 2009

A Reply


Below is the response email I received from Congressman Paul Ryan.  In fact, Paul Ryan ALWAYS responds and even when I disagree with his response, at least he responds in a timely manner.  I'm sure once he receives the hard copy of the email, I'll get a nice hard copy letter back from him.  I love how he (or his staff) always adds a link or a phone number to gather more information.

If I'm understanding his response, Ryan is trying to get a bill through that would offer much of what I thought the program should do.  What I don't understand is if there's a solution all ready out there, why isn't someone acting on it?  I wish he had added the names of the other Congressmen who support the bill.  Anyway, I think I'll ask for a copy of the bill and when I receive it (I think I can find it on the Congress Website, but I'm not sure), I'll post it here.  That way, if you agree with it, you can pester you're own Representative to get this out for a real vote.

I don't think the picture of his letterhead will appear here, but trust me, this came from his office.

Dear Julie:

            Thank you for contacting me to express your interest in the health savings accounts created in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, H.R.1.  This legislation was passed recently in the Congress and was signed into law on Monday December 8th, 2003.  I appreciate your taking the time to contact me on this important issue. 

            H.R. 1 makes a very important contribution to modernizing health care with the creation of health savings accounts (HSAs).  HSAs are a tool for individuals and employers to save and pay for their health care costs, including Medicare premiums and co-pays.  I co-authored the HSA provision passed in the Medicare bill and worked hard to see that the provision was included in the law because I believe they are very important to the future of health care.  The purpose of HSAs is to allow individuals, as opposed to insurance companies, to control their own health care dollars and manage their own health care needs.

 HSAs build off of the more-restrictive Archer Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) that are already available to certain qualifying individuals.  HSAs provide all Americans the opportunity to save and pay for their health care costs tax-free.  An HSA participant carries a high deductible insurance plan that is used primarily for serious illnesses, while routine medical costs, even Medicare costs, are paid for out of the individual's HSA.  Individuals, employers, or even family members can contribute money to an HSA.  And, HSAs are portable, from job-to-job and into retirement.  Contributions are tax deductible for both employers and employees, and all account balances can be carried over each year.  Also, account growth and health expenditures are tax-free as well. 

For your reference, here's a quick summary of HSAs:

-A qualifying high deductible insurance has a minimum deductible of $1000 for an individual, and $2000 for a family.  Out-of-pocket costs must not exceed $5000 for an individual or $10,000 for a family.

-Savings are portable, from job-to-job and into retirement.

-Contributions can be made by individuals, employers and family members.

-Annual tax-deductible contributions may be made up to the lesser of 100% of the deductible or $2,600 for singles and $5,150 for families.

-Individuals age 55 and older can make catch-up contributions of up to $1,000. 

-Savings can be used for qualified medical expenses, including retiree health insurance premiums, Medicare expenses, prescription drugs, long-term care services and insurance. 

-HSAs give people control over their own health care dollars, encouraging them to make good consumer decisions and helping to hold down health care costs.

 HSAs became available in the market from insurance companies on January 1, 2004.  Some insurance companies are already offering HSAs while many others will be coming out with their products throughout the year. 

 In order to expand access to HSAs, I introduced, with several of my colleagues, H.R. 1872, the Health Coverage for the Uninsured Act, on April 27, 2005.   This bill tries to hone in on the problem of the uninsured where we can have the most impact: individuals who do not receive health care through their employer and small businesses that cannot afford to offer health care coverage.  The legislation encourages individuals to purchase a high deductible health plan (HDHP), and contribute to an HSA, by allowing for an above-the-line deduction of the health care premium.  Also, small businesses that offer high-deductible plans would receive a tax credit if they contribute to an employee's Health Savings Account.  Finally, the legislation would assist low-income individuals in purchasing health insurance by providing a tax credit for the purchase of health insurance. 

 Lastly, you may find further information on HSAs on the Department of Treasury's web site: http://www.treasury.gov/offices/public-affairs/hsa/.  If you have any further questions about HSAs, please feel free to contact me again.

            Thank you again for contacting me on this issue.  If I can be of further assistance to you regarding this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I am always happy to respond and be of service to you.

Sincerely,

Paul Ryan
Serving Wisconsin's 1st District

Healthcare Reform

Below is a copy of a letter I sent to President Obama.  I sent a similar one to Senators Kohl and Feingold and one to Congressman Paul Ryan.  I wrote a similar blog post with a little of this outlined, I define it a little better in the letter.  I know that this isn't the full solution, but it is a start.  If you agree, feel free to send a copy to your Congressman and Senators.  If you don't agree, feel free to send me an email with your own idea and I'll post it here.  We need to start working together to solve the crisis in our Nation's healthcare.  Further, we cannot afford to seek short-term solutions.  With the baby boomers on the verge of retiring, our Nation's healthcare system will be taxed like it has never been taxed before.  We need to start looking to the future.  I don't want this plan to replace employer provided healthcare -- it should enhance it.

God Bless

March 6, 2009

Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

Recently, I torn the cartilage in my knee and required surgery to repair it.  The total cost of the surgery was roughly $3300.  I am a very lucky American in that not only did I have health insurance to cover the majority of my bill, but also I have short-term disability to continue my paychecks rolling in during the two weeks of recovery.  Normally, I would not believe that my knee surgery would warrant the attention of the President, but the idea that came to me because of it does.

I know that today you are holding a healthcare forum to come up with an idea to solve our nation's very real healthcare issues.  Unfortunately, I am not going to be there to tell you my idea, so I hope this letter doesn't reach you too late to do any good.  I believe very strongly that the answer to our healthcare problems all ready exists in Health Savings Accounts.

Health Savings Accounts allow people to save for their own healthcare and they do not require anything but the minimum in insurance coverage.  Health Savings Accounts (HSA) allow individuals and families to pay for their own healthcare.  The advantages are lower premiums for employers.  In addition, HSA is not a use it or lose it plan.  You can keep the money from year to year.

There are a couple of downfalls to the current HSA legislation. 

First, there are maximum pre-tax amounts that seem a little to low for this to work.  The current limits are $3,000 for single coverage and $5,950 for a family.  I believe the limits should be raised to $7,000 for single coverage and $14,000 for a family.  My reasoning is that the more money people save, the more money there will be left once they retire, which would mean less money Medicare will pay in the future.

Second, the individual will have to pay the high price for their healthcare.  Remember the $3300 I mentioned earlier for my knee surgery?  My insurance company had that amount dropped to around $1000.  They paid 90%, which left me a $100 bill for a $3300 surgery.  Someone with an HSA would probably not have that option.  My solution to this is the same thing insurance companies have been doing.  1. We have out of network doctors and in network doctors.  The in network doctors would pay a fee much as they do now to insurance companies.  These fees would be used to pay for the administration of the whole process.  2. The government would use the same process of determining rates that insurance companies use now.  They average out the rates charged by doctors in certain areas and determine the average.  Then, the fee for that service is set. 

Now, I'd like to add that this isn't meant to replace the current health insurance.  This could be a lower cost plan for companies that cannot afford the high insurance premiums.  I believe that companies must receive some tax benefits for carrying health insurance and I think we should offer a chance to help companies match their employees' contributions. 

I sincerely hope, President Obama, that you are shown this letter.  I would be willing to discuss this with you or any member of your staff.  Your election has made me believe more than any other time in my adult life that one person can make a difference and change the world.  Please know that I always keep you and yours in my prayers.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

CEO Pay

Just a quick note while I'm eating breakfast -- CEO pay. I hear that people don't want this regulated by the government because it isn't capitalism. Yet, I was reared with the idea that he who pays the band, gets to pick the music. I think if companies are receiving my money or rather our money, then they should have to abide by some very strict rules. Further, I read in Business Week that some people think this will cause an exodus of talent. Really? The guys who screwed up are all going to leave their jobs to find greener pastures because they don't like living with the new regulations they brought upon themselves? Poor, poor babies. On top of that, who in their right mind is going to hire them?
God Bless

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

We have Nothing to Fear but the Conservatives

Rush Limbaugh wants Republicans to take back America by picking a good candidate for President in 2012. In the meantime, he wants Obama and the liberals to fail. In other words, he wants our nation to fall even farther down the rat hole.

I especially love the part of his speech where he claims that Conservatives want this: "We don't want to tell anybody how to live. "1 Really? Aren't these the same Conservatives who push for anti-gay amendments? They don't want to "tell you how to live", but they certainly want to butt in. And, aren't these the same Conservatives who are against a woman's right to choose? Again, they won't "tell you how to live", but they're going to control your body. For the record, I should disclose that I am pro-life, but I would never join the pro-life movement, because 90% of the pro-lifers I met are just jerks.

Moving on...

Rush said, "We love people"2 Really? ALL people or just the ones that happen to agree with you? Because, I don't see the love when you don't believe in programs that help the poor. I don't see the love when you want families to lose their homes, but you bailout the bankers. I don't see the love when an 8% profit isn't good enough to NOT layoff employees.

He's also claimed that Democrats have wanted all Republican Presidents to fail. He said, " the Democrat Party has actively not just sought the failure of Republican presidents and policies and now wars for the first time, the Democrat Party doesn't stop at failure. Talk to Judge Robert Bork or Justice Clarence Thomas about how they tried to destroy lives, reputations and character, and I'm supposed to say I don't want the President to fail?"3 Really? Judge Robert Bork? Isn't he the guy who worked in Nixon White House and carried out Nixon's firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox? I mean, Nixon ordered two other guys to fire Cox (don't know who Cox is? Read about the Saturday Night Massacre on Wikipedia). Those two guys, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, resigned rather than fire the special prosecutor, but not Robert Bork. So, who destroyed his life? He's a judge now, even though he didn't have the courage to stand up to the President of the United States when he knew it was wrong.

Rush is clearly running scared, as a matter of fact, the whole conservative movement is running scared. They had this country for 8 years and what happened? Well, nevermind, we all know what happened. The problem is that they don't want to take the blame, but they're not offering solutions.

God Bless

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Health Insurance

If you've been paying attention, I just had knee surgery. (I'm doing fine, thanks for asking.) After being off work for a little more than two weeks, I went back yesterday -- much to the surprise of my boss and co-workers who all thought I'd be back today. Yesterday, I received my explanation of benefits on how much the surgery cost and how much the insurance company will pay.
The doctor billed over $3200. The insurance company disallowed roughly $2200, leaving $1000. Since I had all ready made my deductible of $650 this year, my insurance company is going to pay 90%, leaving me a bill of $100.
Now, a lot of people say we don't need everyone covered by health insurance because I could just save that $1000 and put it in a pre-tax account and pay it out of my own pocket. But, here's the thing, if I didn't have insurance, I would've paid the full $3200 - not the negotiated $1000.
So, what we really need in this country is not so much health insurance, but a way that if you're not insured, you can still get this negotiated price. We need it for everything. Then, I'd sign on that we don't need health insurance.
But, I don't think the government is that good to do the negotiating and if we use a private company to do it for us, we're just going to end up right where we are now.
Anyone got any good suggestions?

God Bless

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Trail Obama

I received in an email the following press release about a new site. It was started by a college graduate who has lost his job in the new economy. I checked it out and it looks interesting. Give it a read.

As the world looks on in awe at the new day among us, a new era has begun in America. The folks at TrailObama.com are well aware of the fascination with President Barack Obama and his every move. TrailObama.com provides the public with insight into exactly what President Obama is doing day-to-day.
The TrailObama staff selects the most relevant, unbiased content to showcase action items that the President is acting upon. Interestingly enough, the TrailObama team is comprised of both democrats and republicans in a bi-partisan effort to show the people that you can indeed come across the aisle to achieve a common goal. "Our goal is to get down to the meat and potatoes - to sift through the most relevant eye catching action items of President Obama so that the user can decide whether or not Barack Obama is doing a good job" says TrailObama content manager Bryan Bloom. The site was created when the TrailObama team noticed that when trying to keep up with current Presidential happenings, they couldn't easily find what's been checked off the President's to-do list. TrailObama gives you the uncanny ability to cut through opinions and hearsay and get straight to the facts so you can formulate your own opinions about his actions.
Currently, the site allows you to get a daily serving of the President's tasks at hand, vote on weekly polls regarding the presidency, peruse news pertaining to President Obama from a variety of sources, scroll over a visual timeline of President Obama's first 100 days in office, and discuss each news item with other visitors. The team is expected to roll out a slew of new features and content over the next weeks, months, and years, including stock charts to see how the economy and each specific market has fared since Obama took office on January 20th, 2009. Beware of our Obama look-a-like contest coming soon!!!

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