Archive for the ‘retirement’ Category

“Let the Buyer Beware”

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Predatory lenders have caused a record number of home mortgage foreclosures. Credit card firms are extorting millions of dollars in “penalties” from customers who have never made a late payment or gone over their credit limit. Insurance companies are weaseling out of billions of dollars’ worth of claims, using the zaniest excuses imaginable. And you’re paying hidden fees and surcharges every time you rent a car, stay in a hotel, go to the bank, sign up for a new phone service (or cable TV or Internet service), deposit money in your retirement account…

And yet Libertarians and rightwing Republicans keep insisting that there’s no problem here. This is capitalism, Buddy; the free market. Caveat Emptor. That stupid mouthbreathing retard should’ve read the fine print.


What the fuck are we devolving into? A company can hide a booby trap on page 37 of a contract — written in legalese in a size .01 font — and it’s up to the customer to spend several hours poring over the contract with a magnifying glass.

How far does this “logic” go? Is it legal to sell fake Rolexes on the street for $200 apiece? After all, if some dumbfuck is gullible enough to buy one — cool!

Auto repair shops should be allowed to use the cheapest shoddiest parts they can find and then tell you they used the highest quality components money can buy (and charge you accordingly). Hell, why even make them work on your car at all? They can just tell you they did it and then charge you $1,200 for the work they didn’t do. Hey, if you’re suspicious, just look under the hood and check it out for yourself. What, you want some big fluffy drooling Nanny State hovering over you??

And why is it against the law to assault or mug someone? When you’re walking down the street, it’s up to you to be aware of your surroundings and be ready and able to fend off any would-be attacker. If a person is oblivious or preoccupied, and/or too feeble to defend him/herself — hey, easy pickings!

People get thrown in jail when they try anything mentioned in the previous three paragraphs. And when slippery businesspeople mug their customers with deceptive practices and fine print, they belong in jail too. And throw the key away.

You’re Getting Mugged by American Corporations

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

If it seems like all of those hidden fees and surcharges are nickel-and-diming you to death — they are. Every time you turn around it’s $5 for this banking transaction, $10 added to your phone and cable bills for God knows what.

These hidden fees cost Americans $45 billion dollars a year. That’s roughly the same as the amount lost to Identity Theft each year. Unlike ID theft, these hidden fees are perfectly legal. After all, our legislators and regulatory agencies are fully owned and operated by the industries they’re supposedly “regulating.”

This $45 billion doesn’t include penalties or late fees; these are simply the hidden charges you automatically pay every time you purchase a product or use a service. These hidden fees cost the average American almost a thousand dollars a year. Ah heck, you weren’t planning to use that thousand for anything, were you?

These hidden surcharges also don’t include anything “extra” like vacations. This article is only based on the mundane everyday things you do: making phone calls, going to the bank, watching TV, using the Internet, saving for your retirement, buying groceries, etc. If you’re some sort of spendthrift who likes to take fancy vacations, you might be paying closer to $4,000 a year in hidden fees.

The author of this article says: “Sneaky fees peck away at us like a swarm of mosquitoes that ruin an otherwise beautiful summer evening. And like mosquitoes, an individual bite might seem trivial, barely more than a nuisance, but repeated bites can actually change the way you live. They chase you inside, make you build a screened porch, and in extreme cases make you sick.”

He uses the term “Gotcha Capitalism.” “Gotchas are everywhere you turn, now. They are a way of life for consumers. They are our economic system, one that has replaced our former system, the free market economy. Gotcha Capitalism — your personal finances, under siege. Mosquitoes might threaten your life with death by 1,000 bites; Gotcha Capitalism threatens your finances with death by a thousand fees.”

Minimum Wage for Grandma to Pay the Taxes

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

One of the largest expenses for the elderly in our nation after healthcare is property taxes. Homes that were purchased forty or fifty years ago for five to ten grand are now appraised at over three hundred grand in some areas of the Northeast. Tack on a property tax bill at thirty dollars per thousand and we have a senior citizen on a fixed income nightmare.

One of the problems with a one for all tax base fee per thousand dollar home value is that it does not in fact take into consideration the age and income level of the homeowner. Granted good old Donald Trump is at the age of AARP membership level but the average senior citizen is not anywhere close to his income level. Should the two have homes and property taxed at the same level? Personally, I don’t think so.

I’m a large supporter of letting senior citizens keep their homes. Not for one second is their one iota of thought in my mind that thinks that we should toss them to the home if they can’t pay the property taxes due. Over at the Houston Chronicle I found this interesting piece on helping the elderly that are able to help themselves…

N.Y. town lets seniors work off property taxes — for $7 an hour
Associated Press

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Audrey Davison lives alone, gets a $620 Social Security check each month and worries about the sharply rising taxes on her four-bedroom house. Davison, 76, raised her family there and after 43 years, she really doesn’t want to leave Greenburgh.

Greenburgh doesn’t want her to leave, either.

The town is pushing a program that would let seniors work part-time, for $7 an hour, to help pay off some of their property taxes.

“People shouldn’t have to sell their house, move away to a place with less taxes, leave behind their family and friends,” said Town Supervisor Paul Feiner.

He envisions retired doctors mentoring schoolchildren, retired accountants helping with the town’s finances, retired lawyers offering their services for a discount. But there are plenty of less-skilled jobs that need doing, he said.

“It’s not like we’re going to see grandma running the snowplow,” he said. “There are lots of things people can do for the town and it wouldn’t cost us that much to pay them.” - Houston Chronicle

Growing up I had my neighbors in a small town in New England that actually were able to live in their homes till the day they died because the town cared about it’s elderly citizens. After a certain age the elderly based on income paid no property tax to the town. The end result was my neighbor Betty Stein, may she rest in peace, that lived out her days in the home she and her husband bought sixty years prior. Betty was never in the best of health but she loved the kids in the neighborhood and always had treats for my friends and I that played in her yard, searching for crawfish in the pond behind her home, or just stopping in to say hello to her. Betty would never have been able to keep her home if she had to pay property tax on it. Her deceased husbands pension and Social Security were next to nothing.

Betty was wheel chair bound for all the time that I knew her growing up. Neighbors helped her every single day because she was just Betty. She had no living children or family to speak of and maybe that is why she adopted all of us neighborhood brats. What about all the other Betty’s in the nation today? Granted, our workforce in America has changed where both the husband and the wife worked a full career and with or without a pension still struggle to survive in the homes they bought so many years ago. This is an issue that needs to be looked at and solutions or probabilities discovered to save the senior citizens all across America.

Back just a few years ago the cost for just one senior citizen to live in a nursing home was averaging five grand a month for full round the clock care. How I know that little bit of information is simply because that was the bill I received every month for my father with Alzheimer’s Disease. Till we were forced to sell his home, which went entirely from the lawyers hand to the nursing home for his care. We were lucky with Blaire House of Worcester for Dad. Many other cared for elderly family or friends are not. What happens to the individual that gets placed in that home?

Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes
Nursing Home Abuse News

Watching our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles grow older has its own set of stresses. As those we love fall victim to the ailments of aging, we worry about our lives without them, all the while learning to provide care for them. We look to medicines, doctors, diets, vitamins—anything we can find—in hopes of keeping them healthy and happy and able to live as independently as they wish to. When finally the complications get too great, we turn to an assisted living, nursing home, or other long-term care facility to continue the thoughtful and conscientious care we are no longer able to provide.

Many of these facilities provide excellent care, however, far too many do not. Often understaffed with underpaid and poorly trained employees, many nursing homes push the bottom line so far that they endanger the lives of their patients.

Neglected, abused, and threatened, nursing home residents may suffer physically and emotionally. Painful bedsores, broken bones, or even premature death can result from neglectful and outright abusive treatment. - Nursing Home Abuse

What about the Betty’s that live just next door into their nineties that do not need a nursing home and still want to live their days out in their own damn home? We need to think of people like her or for that matter ourselves because the simple fact is that you or I will be in that position eventually. Would you want to be kicked out of your home because your home was taken for back property tax bills?

Don’t get me wrong, I give full credit to all of our nations senior citizens that work every single day. God bless them for being able to do so. One of my friends and co-workers is eighty four, another is seventy four. There is a difference to what these two friends are doing and what this program is all about. This work for property taxes can work for some people but it is not a fix all for blindly abusing the elderly. Did these people not live through the worst times our nation has ever seen and survived? It sickens me as a political opinion writer to think that anyone could have any argument against giving elderly retired homeowners living below poverty level any kind of break but feel free to speak your peace.

As much as America needs to protect its children with the full diligence that they deserve we need to do the same for our aged and elderly. That is a direct reflection on our society and way of life as a people. We all know that we can do better for all of our senior citizens. Should I mention that senior citizens vote too? That probably isn’t supposed to be relevant when it comes to this topic. I happen to think it is. Everyone forty and younger forget that I wrote that part. All of you forty and older bookmark this page. Maybe we should take back America by taking care of our Grandparents and elder neighbors first.

This liberal stands by all senior citizens no matter what political affiliation and will bitch the loudest when it comes to protecting them. They were the ones that paid the ultimate sacrafice and you can never forget that fact. What freedoms we enjoy today were bought and paid for by the previous generation. Maybe we should look to them as to what really being an American is all about?

In the words of former President Ronald Reagan, “As I fade into the sunset of my life…”


Originally posted at Papamoka Straight Talk

Follow The Money: Yes To Tainted Toys; No To Cheaper Meds

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Time has a way of exposing inconsistencies…and when it does, it often shines a bright light upon previously ignored or hidden hypocrisies. For me, Thursday’s Democratic debate helped crystallize my thoughts on one of those situations.

We’ve all heard plenty about the tainted toys being imported from China…toys which have been recalled due to lead content and other dangerous chemicals harmful to America’s children. As the candidates were debating the merits of our trade agreements, it occurred to me that the response of the Bush administration to the questionable imports warranted further analysis.

Following an exchange on the topic of our existing trade agreements and whether they provide the mechanisms necessary to monitor and penalize the improper acts (like the exportation of dangerous toys) of those nations and companies (often American owned) doing business in those countries, I took particular notice of Senator Biden’s comments.

After a number of the candidates expressed their criticism of the handling of the imported toys as well as NAFTA and CAFTA (the trade agreements typically associated with questionable trade issues), Biden offered the following with regard to the outrage at the lack of response to the toys in question:

From The New York Times:

SEN. BIDEN: Look, it’s not the agreement; it’s the man. Under the WTO, we can shut this down. What are they all talking about here? It’s about a president who won’t enforce the law. (Applause.) When they contaminated chicken, what happened? They cut off all chickens going in from Delaware — a $3 billion industry — into China. They cut it off. We have power under the — this agreement. I don’t know what anybody’s talking about here. Enforce the agreement.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: Shut it down. (Applause.)

As I listened, I recalled another situation which I think even better demonstrates the inconsistencies of the current administration with regard to trade and the safety and protection of the American public…one that exposes a level of hypocrisy that we shouldn’t accept from our government.

Following the passage of President Bush’s Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003…and in response to the President’s insistence upon a provision to prevent Medicare from negotiating bulk discounts for drugs…there was a push in the Congress to allow the importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada in order to assist those in need of less expensive drugs. As it was being discussed, the President threatened to veto legislation which would enable Americans to import prescription drugs from Canada. Back then, he stated he would do so because there would be no way for the FDA to insure the safety of the drugs which would be imported.

When the issue resurfaced earlier this year, the President once again promised to veto the proposed legislation; arguing that it would risk the importation of “unsafe, unapproved, and counterfeit drugs”.

In the absence of sufficient comparisons, one might be inclined to believe that the President’s persistent opposition to imported drugs signals his concern for the safety of the American public…and while I’m sure such concerns exist and may well be sincere…they may not be the primary motivation. I contend that the tepid response to the importation of dangerous toys from China provides an important comparison…one that is necessary to identify an inconsistency…and therefore serves to illuminate an obvious hypocrisy.

Here’s the thing. There are millions of elderly and poor Americans lacking sufficient insurance coverage and in need of affordable medications. The fact that our President refuses to allow these individuals to purchase drugs from Canada…drugs that Canadians apparently trust and drugs which no doubt keep Canadians well…speaks to one underlying motive. Isn’t is probable that the President’s opposition to the importation of Canadian medications is first and foremost about protecting the profits of large drug companies who charge Americans premium prices for their medications? Keep in mind this is the same President who also vetoed legislation to extend health care coverage to more of America’s poor children. As I look at these issues in conjunction with the measures to insure the safety of imported toys, I struggle to reconcile the contradictions.

One must question the lack of substantive action on the part of the Bush administration with regard to tainted toys from China…toys that are often manufactured in China by large corporations seeking cheap labor and higher profits. If we’re willing to make the argument that it is prudent to prevent ill Americans from obtaining Canadian medications that are arguably safe and beneficial, then why aren’t we also acting forcefully and preemptively to protect healthy American children and prevent them from obtaining unsafe toys manufactured in China?

I’ll answer my own question. We do so because the Bush administration places more weight upon cozying up to corporate interests and protecting their profits than he does upon looking out for the welfare of American citizens. Should the two concerns intersect, all the better; should they not, then we apparently turn a blind eye to danger.

Toss in the fact that we are constantly being bombarded by the Bush administration’s mantra that they’re fighting the war on terror in Iraq (at a cost of 10 billion per month) in order to protect Americans at home and the breadth and depth of this President’s efforts to distort and deceive suddenly becomes crystal clear. Protecting Americans ought to extend beyond the concerns for the coffers of corporate collaborators and the political aspirations of those who have found that fueling fear wins elections.

If this represents the manner in which the Bush administration intends to execute its responsibilities to protect us and keep us secure, I’m afraid I join many Americans in believing the outcome is woefully inadequate.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

The “Silver Tsunami” Begins

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

As the first official “baby Boomer” prepares to receive her first Social Security retirement check, government officials brace for what they call the “Silver Tsunami,” a gigantic wave of retirees knocking on the vault door in search of the retirement benefits they were promised throughout the working lives, and indeed paid for. Conservatives like to deride the social security program as an “entitlement” program, as if being entitled to receive something you paid for is some kind of crime. Funny how you don’t hear any of them crying about the tax cuts for the richest Americans as a bad thing, even though that was a gift that was neither paid for or promised to anyone.

We all know that Social Security has serious funding problems, thanks in large part to decades of malfeasance by the federal government as they raided this “dedicated fund” to pay for all sorts of non-retirement, non-disability kinds of things with that money.

And we all know that most politicians are not eager to “fix” the problem for a variety of reasons, chief among them is that they want an available slush fund handy. But they are also mostly unconcerned with the plight of average Americans since they have quite nice federal retirement packages apart from the Social Security system.

I’ve written extensively about how Social Security can be reformed and possibly saved for today’s and future generations. Rather than rehash all that here, I’ll offer links to the original posts.

Post 1- Defining Social Security

Post 2- Crafting A National Pension Plan

Post 3- The National Whole Life Pension Plan

Post 4- Salvaging Social Security’s Retirement Benefits

This series looks at the benefits of having a national retirement system, provides a plan for funding benefits for future generations and talks about how to salvage the most from the current system.

Read the posts, then we can discuss the issue…