wordwraper

May 15, 2011

The Social Security Log Jam

Filed under: politics,retirement — Penrod @ 4:47 PM
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The Possible Solution….

Create a one-time voluntary program that gives a five-year early retirement incentive for all Seniors at full Social Security benefits rate.  The government would send out an initial “opt-in” inquiry, to determine how much participation could be expected.  Based favorably upon that, congressional leadership would tentatively agree, and  the decision to implement the program would be made.

This plan will open up hundreds of thousands of job slots for those of younger age who are out of work today.  This will immediately benefit the economy.  It will stop-short  many unemployment benefits claims.  It will allow those who are in danger of foreclosure to return to work.  This will have a “settling effect” on the economy.  The initial outlay for the program is relatively small, and is adjustable, dependent upon success.

The program would, of course, be tied to a now, more palatable congressional solution, making  the Social Security part of the entitlements equation, agreeable enough to pass.  The discussion will contain these points:

#     The one-time early retirement incentive (as listed above).

#     A Social Security revamping that adds a minimum of three (five years could very well be pressed) years to the retirement age schedule.  In effect, those forty-seven years old today would have the new Social Security minimum benefits start point at sixty-five years old, instead of the present sixty-two years old – with the remaining schedule simply pushed forward from there.  Whether this happens on a year-by-year sliding format or not is debatable, but in the end, the result is a three or five-year gain.

#      Waivers that make considerations for (but not limited to) certain types of career employment which may affect  some workers in a more physically wearing way than others.

#     A change to the cost-of-living adjustment criteria to more closely reflect actual national economic living conditions.

twitter: @USArmy_vet

April 22, 2011

Big Trouble

Filed under: commentary,current events,opinion — Penrod @ 8:38 PM
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A SUPER STORM IS BREWING

There is big trouble on the horizon for America, and $6.00 per gallon gasoline is the least of it.  But gas spikes may very well be the trigger that culminates in a “perfect storm” of problems that could prove to be horrific for the USA, to say the least.

But first the gas issue:

According to many predictions, we could be seeing six dollar per gallon gasoline before the year ends.  Last time we faced average costs of $4.00pg, the whole country cut back on use, and gas prices fell back to a more normal $1.87per gallon or so.

But, cutting back on gas use will not help us this time.  With a forecast for gas to be ‘one third again’ higher than the $4.00 level of 2007, it is obvious that Americans will be forced to be even more frugal – – all to no avail.   It should be noted that the $4.00 price came before the stock market plunge and the banking,Wall Street and, and mortgage problems.  We used “bail-outs” to help right-the-course.  But, the country fell into the recession from which we are still trying to dig out.

The US is again in a gas crisis, but this time, there will be no rising from it. Cutting back on gas use will not lower the price because there is no shortage of gas this time.  In fact, there is a glut of oil at the moment.  The chief pluralistic reason driving less won’t help is because the value of the dollar is being devalued by our government and that big bank, The Federal Reserve.

We have lessened our buying power.  We are broke, and we will have no money to create nonsensical “bail-outs” this time.  Being broke, along with having your money worth less because of it, is never a wonderful thing.

The value of the dollar is now at all time low against many world currencies including the important EURO, and each time the dollar loses some of its value OPEC raises the price of crude oil.  This is due to the fact that OPEC uses the dollar as currency for oil, so when the dollar plunges, OPEC raises prices of oil accordingly.  The saddest part is, there is no oil or gas shortage. No glut of oil will help the US this time.  It is simply a matter of what our dollar will buy – or more accurately, what it won’t buy.  If OPEC sees the dollar does not get them the profit they want, they will cut back on production in order force the prices to rise, and we can only get less for our dollar.  It is a vicious cycle.

For many workers, cutting back on gas use is not an option.  Growing numbers of families are already at the point where, after paying for necessary expenses, there is not one cent more.  Many will simply find that they cannot afford to get to work.  Consider this example:

A commuter drives 50mi to get to work.  Gas is priced at $6.00pg  His/her car gets 14mpg.  That calculates to 3.57 gallons of gas needed for the drive.  This comes to a cost of $21.42 to get to work.  The drive back home doubles it to $42.86 a day just to get to work and back.  Put into other terms, the first $5.36 of each hour of pay in an eight hour day goes directly to gasoline!  A staggering 214.29 per 40hr week.

Granted, in actuality, everyone does not commute 100mi per day, nor does each car get only 14mpg, nor does everyone commute alone, and some are even able use mass transit.  But, no matter how you look at it, gasoline takes a large chunk of available funds – and more and more workers have nothing available to give toward higher gas prices, as it is.

Some may be forced out of work because they cannot afford to go there.  And, given the shortages of jobs, looking for work closer to home may not be an option. Mass transit availability may not work either.  Hence, more become unemployed,  there is less tax revenue, more welfare, less company profit, and on and on.

And on it goes:

It is not just the gas price alone.  We know that prices in general are related to increasing gas costs, and will all rise in tandem.  Add to that, the fact that a large majority feel that the US is headed in the wrong direction, and the outlook for the quality-of-life getting any better is bleak.

This fuel issue we are facing could become a catalyst for anything from a major depression to an all out revolution in America.  Grim indeed.  The mood of the country is already stressed and the situation could get very ugly in short order, with hell-to-pay for those targeted as complicit in causing extended and ever-increasing grief.  Anger, either just, or misdirected, along with related social unrest, is difficult to predict.  Many grow sickeningly tired of hearing what they consider to be buck-passing, lies, or outright thievery – all at their cost.  Excuses for the state of the economy are wearing thing and the government is finding it harder to explain away lack of corrective action.

The low-wage, and middle-class workers who have shouldered America’s workload are, to say the least, fed up with having their endless demands for relief going unheard.  They are continually asked to sacrifice more, while costs go up and wages go down.

If you happen to be one of those who sit comfortably, somewhere above the middle-class, you may not be “home free” this time around.  It would be unwise to think that you will be affected only to the point where you are mildly inconvenienced – and then  all will pass.

Should $6.00 gas get us to a “chain reaction” point it may become a very difficult nationwide  situation, and by the time it is realized, the system will have killed the “golden geese.”   They are those who produced the few American-made tangible products that have paid for, and kept the rich and lazy propped up.  They will have lost their jobs for one reason or another.   It will then be too late for you too.

In this light, it would be very foolish indeed, for the powers-that-be to assume that a breaking point of Americans cannot be reached.  It would be a mistake to confuse the good and tolerant nature of the American people with that of being easy marks – to be bled time and time again.  Everyone has a limit to how much pain and abuse one can stand before exploding.  And, exploding social situations are likely to be contagious and spread.

Where this might end would be anyone’s guess.  But the word “revolution” was a word well-known, just prior to America’s successful bid for independence from an intolerable situation.  It could happen again.  In the words of the late rocker Janis Joplin (Me & Bobby McGee): “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

I am not, with this writing, in any way approving or fomenting revolution. It is opinion, and I am just calling it “like I see it”.  Also, it is a shame that such a declaration even /has/ to be made in this country.   But, I can tell you this much: If Marie Antoinette were alive again today, she would be very, very, afraid – and rightfully so.

February 3, 2011

Egypt’s “Virtual Twitter Reality” Game

virtual warfare

“Cairo looks like a ‘real life’ virtual reality game?”

Since January 25th, I have followed the unfolding crisis in Egypt almost continually.  The Mid-Eastern media network Al Jazeera has provided live streaming coverage of events (when allowed to do so, by the Mubarak regime).  USA cable networks shoot live video interspersed with commentary.  I have read many reports and assorted opinion.  The chaos in the cities and towns across Egypt has caught the attention of the whole world.  Besides the newsworthy quality of the events, the volume and speed of information exchange has had a lot to do with the widespread general awareness of the situation.  In particular, the streets of Cairo have become a focal point of much of the media.

But what has come to amaze me within these world-reaching events, has been my learning about, and the monitoring of the endless stream of information moving across the “Twitter Network”.  (Until very recently, I had only heard of this “tweet” thing.  I must have been the last hold-out on Earth.)

It has shown itself to be the perfect instant-communications tool for the relating of what what has been happening at street-level. This, especially within, and nearby to a public square in Cairo.  Appropriately, it is named Midan Tahrir, which translates in Arabic to: “Liberation Square”.  Tahrir has become a center point for the protesters to gather, as well as the symbolic base for the anti-government protests taking place in that city.

In a time when the internet and mobile phone service was almost totally cut-off by the Mubarak regime, “twitting” became the normal method of getting vital instant information out of, and into Egypt.  It had become the “chat-line” if you will, among the anti-government protesters.

Now, by using the term chat, I am not in any way intending to appear to take the situation in Egypt as less than very serious.  But rather, I use it to point out how very much twittering and chatting are similar. Chat lines are the way that the younger generations communicate in normal times today via the internet.  This chat-type thing in the form of twitters, has become the best or only way for them to evade Mubarak’s information crackdown.

To me, it occurs that there is another aspect of this twitter surge (especially as used among the younger protesters), that may not be realized or considered by many.  It calls to my mind, a striking similarity between the twitters and the way some virtual-reality games are “chatted” and played by countless younger people around the globe over the internet.

In the minds of a generation where growing up, firstly with video games,  then online fantasy games being quite the norm, how would they be expected to react when faced with a real life, and dangerous, situation?  Would they tend to use the tools they have learned, albeit of the virtual kind?  In effect, they may today, be recreating in “RL” (real life) the strategies and styles of the games they have learned to play-act so fluently online.

Often these games are “capture the flag” types of things.  Usually, there is an elaborate setting of backgrounds and scenarios, the gathering of causes, an equipment outfitting, weapon-wielding, aligning with allies,  and then – repetitive fighting. Occasionally a “PK” (player kill) happens – replete with winning side or player-character chest-thumping, and the losing side making threats of revenge.

Another integral part of the online gaming experience is the “RP” (role play) that is coincidental to the fighting.  There is usually a detailed description of the battle and/or death that took place, including the various arguments and reasoning leading up to it.  And, after the fact, there is the customary comforting by friends and supporters (similar to many twitters I have read). There are also threats of retaliation (also twitted), with new rounds of fighting being the inevitable outcome.

This gaming can be seen to be analogous to the current Cairo situation, where several protesters were killed (RL) recently.  This, sadly, during rock-throwing incidents.  The fighting took place on a small ramp leading onto a bridge that crosses the Nile River.  There have been back-and-forth battles there over the last several days.  One group charges at the other and hurls rocks.  The other group responds in kind.  It becomes a “capture the flag” type of senseless battle.

Some older-lived among us may remember and be reminded of the war in Vietnam where almost endless assaults took place on a mortar-ruined piece of slope dubbed “Hamburger Hill”.  It seems few knew of any logical reasoning for the senseless assaults, as US troops were repeatedly ordered upward and onward, to lay claim to this worthless hill.  But just as surely as it was taken, the Viet Cong would retake it.  This was “capture the flag” taken to a RL extreme.  That episode is well-remembered because it was an exception of an era, rather than the perceived norm that the virtual gaming experience connotes today.

For all intents (and this is only for topical generalization), some of the protesters in Cairo may be subconsciously playing “IC” (in-character) a virtual reality game in their minds,  with the only difference being that the setting, characters, equipment, and weapons are REAL!  I do not assume here to question or judge their motives, or the virtues of their cause.  That is for another subject.  However, whatever their reasoning, it is the methodologies which they have been employing so far, that are noteworthy.  Their actions are amazingly alike those actions that take place on the virtual reality games.  They may, or may not be able to differentiate between the virtual, which they perceive as a norm, or the crushingly real.

Of course, and praying otherwise, the hard facts of life may come thundering down upon them in the form of RL tank fire.  The protesters would do well to be “actually” prepared and to realize that they may “actually” be PK’d at the next moment……..and there will be no “play-over”.  Virtual reality can be made to seem very, very real – in some to greater degree than in others.  But virtual gaming can become addictive.  With enough exposure,  it could possibly affect the way that real situations are perceived by some, and how those situations are addressed.

(note: This piece is a discussion of societal trends as perceived by the writer and in no way is intended to demean any specific person or group.)

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