The real problem with Social Security is that our senators and congressmen, who make all the rules about Social Security, don't pay into the plan, and, of course, they don't collect from it. The reason is that they have a SPECIAL retirement plan that they voted for themselves many years ago! Regular Social Security was not good enough for them. For all practical purposes their plan works like this:
When they retire they continue to draw the SAME pay they received as a senator or congressman, until they die, except for the fact that it may be increased, from time to time, by cost of living adjustments.
For instance, former Senator Bill Bradley, who retired recently, may be expected to receive $7,900,000 if he lives to his life expectancy, with Mrs. Bradley drawing $275,000 during the last year of her life, assuming they each live to an average life span.
This would be all well and good, EXCEPT for the fact that they contributed NOTHING to the plan, and neither does any other senator or congressman.
This fine retirement plan comes right out of the General Fund, which means our tax money, while we who pay for it all draw an average of $1,000 per month from Social Security.
Imagine for a moment that you could structure a retirement plan that would be so good that people would make additional contributions in order to increase their own personal retirement income. A retirement plan that works so well that workers who were not in it would clamor to enter the plan.
That is how good Social Security could be if only ONE small change were made. That change is to jerk the Golden Fleece retirement plan out from under our senators and congressmen, and put them on Social Security with the rest of us. Then watch how fast they fix it. Watch how quickly they become concerned with robbing the Social Security fund for their pet government programs.
If enough people read this, maybe somebody along the way may be able to get some action on this problem!
Lake Hill, N.Y.
I was blown away by Karen Charman's brilliant and thorough cover article about Nuclear Power in the 7/1/01 issue. However, my conservative friends tell me that nuclear power is used extensively in Europe, in particular in France. I wish Ms. Charman would write a sequel in which she discusses the use of nuclear power in Europe and how they handle the serious problems that she points out.
Karen Charman replies:
I won't have time to write a sequel regarding nuclear power in Europe in the near future, but I can offer the following points:
First, your conservative friends are right that Europe is heavily dependent on nuclear power -- much more than we are in most places. Just to give you an idea of the numbers of reactors there, a 1998 story in the American Nuclear Society's journal, Nuclear News, noted that Britain has 44 reactors; France has 58, which produce about 80% of its electricity; Sweden has 12; Germany, 30; Switzerland, 5: Spain, 10; Holland, 3; Finland, 4; Belgium, 8. These figures include some reactors that have shut down already, though most are still operating. An awful lot of nukes in a place as small as Europe, and there are plenty more in Eastern Europe and Russia!
But what your friends haven't said -- and may not know -- is that since Chernobyl, nuclear power in much of Western Europe has been in big trouble. Germany just vowed to phase out all their nukes, which I believe will run until the end of their licenses. About four years ago Sweden decided to phase out its experiment with nuclear power. Switzerland has also considered a phaseout (don't know where that's at now). Austria has no reactors and is so fiercely anti-nuke that it will not allow shipments of any nuclear materials across its borders. There is a vibrant anti-nuclear movement in Britain and Holland, and even France, which has considered its nukes as a source of independence and pride, is starting to talk about the possibility of shifting to other alternatives. The nuclear trade press over the last couple of years has run several articles bemoaning the depressed state of the nuclear industry in Europe.
Nuclear waste is a huge problem in Europe. Waste shipments in Germany have brought thousands of people out to the streets in protest, laying their bodies down in front of the waste casks to try to block the shipments. No country has a long-term storage repository. In fact, we are the first to build and operate an underground storage facility, WIPP, which opened a couple of years ago near Carlsbad, N.M. And all the other problems I mentioned in my piece apply to Europe as well.
Ignorant yet fascinated by the computer I recently got my nephew to get us another dictionary on the Internet. If anyone cares to mention that six dictionaries for two people in one house is stupid then I plead mea culpa which means I am guilty. Learned that a vocation is what you do and an avocation is what you do besides what you do. Learned that omnipotent means all powerful. Most of us acknowledge that God or the Supreme Being of our choice is omnipotent. The problem comes when certain men decide they are omnipotent.
During the '30s Herman Brown of Brown & Root adopted LBJ. This arrangement allowed Brown & Root to do a lot more work for the federal government than they would otherwise have been able to do. As long as LBJ did what Herman Brown told him to do he was a successful politician. The problem came when LBJ got in the Oval and decided he was omnipotent and did not hafta listen to anyone any more. Thus he personally was able to prolong the war in Vietnam for many years after the nation's, top brains had figured out it was time to declare victory and come home. History is replete with examples of the havoc caused by men (Adolf & Josef etc.) who had decided that they were omnipotent.
Now we have a new problem. Last year the United States Supreme Court decided that America was better off having the Republicans in charge than they would be having the Americans in charge. Who do you appeal Supreme Court decisions to ?
The law requiring people to wear seat belts is an intrusive invasion of privacy that I am strongly opposed to. The purpose of the law is to protect citizens from harm caused by someone else and not to protect us from ourselves. The seat belt law is in the same vein as the law against suicide. How do you punish a person who disobeys the law against suicide? Do you prohibit him from having a Christian burial and instead quarter his carcass and boil it in oil? For the Supremes to say that it is okay for a young cop to handcuff a young mother and sling her into the pokey because she didn't have seat belts on her kids is a good indication that this group of nine has gone bonkers. Unless someone can come up with "who is the boss of the Supremes" then we gotta hope that God will come down outta the heavens and get some sense into these people and if he don't do this we are in for a long ride.
Re: Molly Ivins' "America Steps in It," 6/1/01 PP: Although Ms Ivins consistently writes with a wry wit, her subject is only half-covered. She concentrates only on needs, not where, nor why, these needs must be met by yet another coercive, confiscatory government program.
Here's why I say this: In her diatribe "America Steps In It," she roasts our current US president, basically saying his policies stink. Fine. The problem is that, as usual, her implied solutions involve the government taking even more power, taking even more of our honest earnings ("wealth," Ivins would say), and redistributing them to this program or that.
Wise Up: If the government has the power to fund abortions training in India, it will also have the power to fund subsidies to "evil" tobacco farmers. It's two sides of the same coin: Taking from the earners and giving to others.
In addition she has not yet realized that giving the people in government these powers attracts those you label as rascals, or worse. They like nothing better than using power you give them! They'll use it to redistribute and confiscate according to their agenda, perhaps also yours. Lobbyists would dry up and blow away and monopolies could not exist, but for the power of government's power to confiscate?
How can you control such a genie, once summoned? Yes, he'll make all kinds of promises, but once out of the bottle, he'll use his power according to his rules. You cannot have it your way and not be disappointed in the end.
For your ideas to succeed would require our living in a dream world, where saints have at least a majority in the houses of government and the courts. We would have to be ruled by people who could never be tempted to reward friends and punish rivals with the power you gave them.
Sorry, I don't see those people anywhere in government. To have a better country, we need to take power back from government, while we still have the power to revoke it -- if we still do.
Then watch the rascals find something less destructive to do, as we find voluntary, peaceful solutions to the problems you so aptly identify.
San Diego, Ca
Ah, the Republicans are trotting out their venerable old warhorse again, limits on lawyers fees, and limits on damages awarded to victims of health-care blunders. "Sorry, Mr. Jones, we cut off the wrong leg so now you'll have none. But not to worry, here's a cool $500k to buy a gas-powered wheelchair."
Perhaps the Republicans have a bead on the "right" agenda, limits. I say if we can limit, or give a maximum wage for lawyers, why not limit other salaries? We could limit CEOs to the same $500k threshold. Dick Cheney, instead of making $36 million, is limited to $500k. That provides Halliburton with an extra $35 million to invest in more drilling! Wow, this could really go places! The three top executives for Enron, the Houston-based energy company that provides the overpriced power to California, made about $250 million last year. With the new wage caps in place, that would provide about $249 million in cost reductions!
Limits, a Republican agenda, may have a place in the populist movement after all!
El Cajon, Calif.
In Washington, Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee continue to fiddle together after the 2000 sham elections, arguing about the same song. Two so called "bastions of Liberalism," Edward Kennedy and Patrick Moynihan, play right along with the conservative right, hardly missing a beat. Kennedy applauds Bush for an education plan that does little more than have our teachers teach testing, instead of critical thinking, to our children. Moynihan is to lead the newly formed social security commission so Wall Street gluttons will have access to billions more of our earnings. It isn't much of a surprise that Bush is finding his agenda pretty easy going. Where's the "loyal opposition" to call citizens out and march to a different drummer? Delaware's government uses the same looking glass to play an all too familiar tune. Symphonies are conducted with the super rich and powerful. Poor to middle income Americans get a deaf ear. Two pressing examples: Jane Brady sits idly by while the owners of American Appliance make plans to liquidate assets -- this before people who already bought items can get them out of the stores. Then, the State quietly passes time allowing energy deregulation to proceed. Meanwhile, fuel prices skyrocket as big energy companies make shameful earnings on our backs. There is an alternative to the cacophony of the two major parties. The Green Party of Delaware (GPDE) stands in progressive opposition, like a still small voice. We are working to prevent a California scenario in Delaware. We advocate for RE-regulation of energy to protect the consumer while supporting development of alternative energy sources (no, Homer, NOT the Arctic Wildlife Refuge). The GPDE calls upon Delaware courts to stop the sale of any and all items in American Appliance's stores, warehouses and repair shops until every person gets what they paid for first. Hear ye, here ye ... there is more than one band in town.
J. ROY CANNON
I was absolutely riveted by the Wayne O'Leary, Ted Rall and John Nichols articles in the 7/1/01 issue of The Progressive Populist. As Ted Rall points out, democracy is indeed dead because Wayne O'Leary's position that the Democrats are wimps holds true. Up until now, I have seen nothing to the contrary. Indeed, bipartisanship is killing the Democratic Party. Too many compromises, too much drifting to the right. And, as John Nichols points out, we now have a Republican Party committed to dragging us all over the cliffs of fascism all in the holy name of Capitalism -- read greed and corruption. Barbra Streisand was right to call the Democratic Party weak. On television they come over as spineless and whining. Any warrior knows that "making nice" is easily interpreted as weakness in an adversary. After the election debacle and the very successful right-wing agenda of the President-Select, there really is no place to go within the Democratic Party to achieve any humanitarian goals. At present they are pushing the Bill Clinton centrist legacy right into the arms of their opponents. The Republicans must be thrilled at these developments, even with the loss of the Senate. At this rate, such a loss can only be merely temporary. And, like many others, I am going to have to search for another party to support before the next general election. The Democratic Party is no longer speaking for the working men and women of this former democracy.
Since the Faithful Conservatives don't want to spend taxpayer money on Stem Cell Research, or anything else scientific, why not develop a two-track system? One for Scientific Medical Research using taxpayer funds. The other for Faith-Based Healings and Wellness using the vast sums of money so many ministries already get by promising miracles. This would be in-sync with the other Faith-Based Initiatives that W wants to come to pass. Believers in the powers of Pat, Jerry, Benny et al would go solely to them for health care. Those of us who are a bit skeptical of healing through radio, television and satellite would go to Medical Centers. Since "Love Offerings" and such are not taxed and tithes and offerings are tax-deductible, Faith-Based Health is largely a system already in place. And if they don't get better, it's God's will, just like it is now.
CHRIS LANE GRAY
I was horrified to read (7/1/01 Dispatches) about the arrest of three elderly protesters at the Bush speech at Legends Stadium in Florida on June 4th. The article listed the ages of the protesters as 55, 37 and 59. Elderly?!? I will be giving some serious thought to any protest plans in the future. I can cope with a possible arrest, but the thought of the newspaper calling me elderly is terrifying.
MARY ANN KOZLOVSKY
(50s but not quite elderly)
Editor's Note: We're sorry for prematurely elderizing the protesters.
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