FRIDAY AFTERNOON THOUGHTS

Unchain My Heart—er, my CPI (With apologies to Ray Charles.)

Word comes today that President Obama will propose a “grand bargain” budget next week. It will contain a mixture of revenue increases and cuts to some programs all with an eye towards achieving a reduction in deficits of $1.8 trillion over the next ten years.

Among the scheduled cuts or reforms are a proposal to have a means test for certain Medicare benefits, slashing farm subsidies, and reductions in federal employee retirement benefits. The most glaring proposal to me…as it does affect me personally…is establishing a so-called “chained CPI” (Consumer Price Index) which will limit increases in monthly Social Security benefits in the future.   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/05/obama-budget_n_3019281.html

It does not have any impact on current payouts. But, as I have noted here and in other forums the current formula for Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLA) for SS beneficiaries is already woefully inadequate. It is also different in composition from other COLA formulas applicable to other government functions and programs.

Thus, for the years 2010-2013 my monthly benefit has grown by roughly 6%…not per year but in total. Two years (2010-2011) saw no increse at all. During those same years the COLA which sets Congressional pay has led to approvals for a raise each and every year. To its credit Congress has voted to reject the raise each time.

Now whatever the reported rate of inflation over that period, I have no doubt you will all agree that certain goods and services have grown more costly by far more than 6%, especially food. My hike in 2011 of $36 per month was negated by a corresponding increase in my fixed costs of living, let alone the creeping advance of higher food costs.

I don’t expect sympathy on this matter just for my situation. Indeed many SS recipients have other sources of retirement income that makes the effect of a chained CPI on them negligible. But millions, like me, rely on SS for their entire or the great majority of their income.

Because Obama’s proposals have tax hikes included, there is certain to be vigorous opposition from Republican members of Congress, so this “grand bargain” may not become reality. But the mere fact Obama is offering us up for human sacrifice is enormously disappointing.

I’m Not Scared Of Dying

Popular film critic Roger Ebert died yesterday. He had been fighting health issues for quite some time and so he had ample opportunity to contemplate his mortality and express his concerns. This he did in his book, Life Itself: A Memoir.

What he wrote in dismissing his fear of death is remarkable in its simple, understandable wisdom. In this excerpt from his book appearing in Salon, Ebert begins:

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.

http://www.salon.com/2011/09/15/roger_ebert/

He continues by noting that though he was raised Roman Catholic and internalized its social tenets but no longer adheres to its theology. He rejects the claim by some that it is tragic and dreary to approach death without faith.

His take on the purpose of our lives is no less uncomplicated.

“Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

Roger Ebert was truly a man at peace with himself and his is a path I hope to emulate.

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Comments

  • toadsly  On April 5, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    Great post…couldn’t agree more about trying to screw SS beneficiaries. And, like now departed Chris Hitchens, I admire Mr. Ebert’s going gently into the eternal night of nothingness.

  • Charles Marshall  On April 5, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    Dave,   I too was very disappointed in Obama. He may have been just testing the GOP on their true desire to work out a deal on budgets, but I still don’t like it. I would tell those conservative bastards to kiss my ass and then I would work tirelessly to assure a democratic majority in 2014. Fuck em! When I was totally in control I would enact a progress agenda that would scare Lenin and then tell all the GOP to blow me.   cjm

    ________________________________

    • toadsly  On April 5, 2013 at 8:26 PM

      Well said, Mr. Marshall!

  • Devildog  On April 5, 2013 at 9:22 PM

    Ditto cjm. Well said! But I have more faith in our saviour, apparently, than do you all.

  • anonymous  On April 5, 2013 at 11:02 PM

    There is a bigger probability that Obama ascends into Heaven when his presidency ends than there is that the House will go Dem in 2014. Libs should be praying they don’t lose the Senate in 2014.

    UMOC, maybe O can help you retain some of your diminished increase (not cut) in your SS benefits by giving you some of the 5% of his income that he so graciously sacrificing. Don’t worry about the cost of his sepatate vacays he and his soon to be ex-wife take – the taxpayers have that covered.

  • Little_Minx  On April 9, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    Thinking of our Tourist!

    “Where to Get a Grilled Cheese… in Tokyo”:
    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/food-for-men/grilled-cheese-tokyo
    Grilled Double Cheese (1150 yen, or approximately $11.63)
    Cafe Hohokam, Jingumae 3-22-14 2F, Tokyo

    Alongside deodorant and toothpaste, many ex-pats living in Japan moan about the lack of cheese on this side of the world. This means finding a grilled cheese is quite an undertaking. Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku district is one of the only places in Japan with restaurants serving the sandwich, highlighted by Cafe Hohokam’s Grilled Double Cheese. It features cheddar and mozzarella melted between crispy pieces of bread, but additional lettuce, tomato, and sauce detract a bit from the cheese flavor. Still, for a place where Velveeta would demand top dollar, Hohokam’s sandwich is one of the best grilled cheeses in Tokyo.

    Cheese: 8 out of 10
    Texture: 7 out of 10
    Originality: 4 out of 10
    Intangible Grilled-Cheese Essence: 6 out of 10 (drop the vegetables and then we’d be talking)
    Final Score: 25 out of 40

    • Devildog  On April 9, 2013 at 6:31 PM

      I have come across a number of (relatively young) people from around the world whose favorite “American” food is peanut butter-which is unavailable to them at home.

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