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Archive for February, 2016

By now it will come as no surprise to anyone that I am an enthusiastic and vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders’ candidacy. But rather than putting up yet another pro-Bernie post, I’d like to put a discussion topic out there for everyone’s consideration.
 
The estimated combined annual cost of Sanders’ single-payer health care plan and his tuition-free college plan is, by any estimation, substantial. Between the two, it’s about one and a half trillion dollars. (!)
 
But let’s compare that against current expenditures. The 2015 federal budget, between mandatory and discretionary spending, provides for just over a trillion in Medicare and health spending, and a further fifty billion in tertiary education (college-level) spending.
 
So we’re already spending 70% of what Sanders is proposing.
 
Sanders further proposes to levy a tax of “a fraction of a percent” on Wall Street speculation, which he believes would bring in revenue of seventy-five billion. A fraction of a percent doesn’t seem unduly onerous to me, and that gets us to 75% of goal.
 
What he suggests in order to defray the health care costs are a personal income-based tax of 2.2%, which is substantially less than most households currently pay for insurance, deductibles and the like, and a business tax of 6.2% of the employees’ income – again, substantially lower than what most employers are currently paying to their benefits providers. These two tax increases are estimated to generate eight hundred and thirty billion dollars in revenue.
 
That brings us to 130% of that goal – fully paid for and then some, and saves money for businesses, workers and students alike into the bargain. That seems pretty good to me, and the benefit of a healthier and better-educated populace seems like an obvious choice at that point.
 
Sooooo… since I will admit that I am by no means an economist, I would like to see a conversation *WITHOUT partisan rhetoric, please*, in which someone explains to me why this scenario is apparently so undesirable to so many.
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So… I’ve seen a lot of this discussion over whether President Obama should be the one to nominate the next Supreme Court justice, some saying that he should let the next President do it, some dusting off Kennedy as an example, etc. etc.
 
So I went back and looked at my handy-dandy pocket-sized copy of the Constitution, given to me at a semi-creepy hot dog joint in Plattsburgh NY.
 
It says that the President ‘shall nominate’ new justices. Not ‘shall have the power to nominate, save when the exercise of same should present a political inconvenience’. It says that he ‘shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint’.
 
The President has the power to make a recess appointment right this minute, filling that seat with anyone he wants for the next ten months. Instead, he is waiting until such a time as he can not only exercise his Constitutional obligation, but also allow the Senate to exercise theirs. But he absolutely should nominate. The Constitution demands that of him.
 
Quite frankly, I don’t know that I would have given that much power away to that particular group of obstructionist arseholes, many of whom have already explicitly stated that they will simply refuse President Obama’s nominees on principle rather than bothering to consider them on their merits.
 
One of the most admired minds ever to sit on the Supreme Court, Louis Brandeis, was nominated in the final year of a presidential term. The guy had enemies, for sure, as did the President who nominated him. The nomination was bitterly contested, both sides fought tooth and nail for their viewpoint, but it would have been unthinkable to merely refuse the nomination – and so they considered him, and he was ultimately confirmed, and America is better off for his opinions on freedom of speech, the right to privacy and a host of other matters.
 
One would think that the current crop of Senators would want to uphold their own obligations, and engage in a real debate over a nominee’s merits. But maybe they just don’t have the balls.

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After a few weeks in a mystical den somewhere in deepest darkest west central Pennsylvania, a groundhog is imbued with certain magical talents which enable it to see future weather patterns.
 
Unfortunately, the effect of the sun’s juxtaposition with Pennsylvania interferes with the enchantment, since as we all know, any remotely decent enchantments are most powerful under cover of night. By casting his own shadow, the groundhog can recapture enough of the magic to predict a long winter, but when the spring is set to come early, the enchantment fades, and he doesn’t have to cast a shadow. Which is helpful, since as a general rule, groundhogs don’t like throwing shade any more than humans do, and if the winter is ending soon, the groundhog can switch to his regular job as a woodchuck, and get back to chucking wood at a generally unknown rate and quantity.
 
Technically, the enchantment could work on any mammal of the family Sciuridae, but squirrels and chipmunks simply don’t have the memory span to remember the spells, and thus it falls to marmot-kind to undertake this noble responsibility.

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