Top Of My Head

Thoughts on everything from Politics to Video Games

Category: Federal Government (page 1 of 3)

Student Loans and Ron Johnson

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Between Administration with a minor in Computer Science. I received my degree using a lot of hard work, tuition reimbursement, and student loans. I’m telling you all of this, because I firmly believe in student loans. I believe the rates should be kept low and I believe the government should back them.

Thus is NOT how Senator Ron Johnson feels. He thinks we shouldn’t have student loans. He has actually voted against legislation regarding student loans. (He, also, thinks it is perfectly fine to not do his job and vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee, but that’s just another reason to not support him.)

Johnson is up for re-election against Feingold. He and his PACs are running a lot of ads against Feingold and telling you how wonderful he is. 

Don’t believe them.

Anyone who doesn’t want to find a way to help our young become educated, really isn’t into helping our nation. Look up Johnson’s remarks on how a Ken Burns Documentary should be used to teach college instead of teachers creating curriculums.

When you vote in November, make sure to not vote for Johnson. He’s bad for both Wisconsin and our country.

Rich Men and Camels

I’ve been thinking about what Jesus said about it being easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven.  Why was Jesus harshing on rich guys so bad?  Is being rich inherently evil?

If you listen to these megachurch, superstar ministers; no – being rich isn’t evil and in fact, Jesus wants us all to be rich.  I don’t believe anyone who is preaching in a church the size of a stadium has a huge grasp on what Jesus wants.  However; I do believe that being rich doesn’t equate evil…

Unless…

If you have plenty and you don’t share – that’s evil.

If you pay your employees minimum wage — that’s evil.  The fact that we have to have a minimum wage is pretty evil.  Sure, there are some companies who pay fair wages, but there are a lot more companies who would pay less than livable wages if they could just get away with it.

If you don’t provide healthcare for your employees, evil.

We allow businesses – and, I’m talking about corporations, not the mom and pop small businessperson who is barely getting by – I mean the WalMarts, the WalGreens, the companies owned by the Koch brothers – anyway, we allow them to write a lot of expenses off their taxes.  I would like to suggest that we throw these complicated tax laws out.  We need to institute a new plan, so that corporations pay their fair share.  They benefit from our roads, bridges, military, police officers and fire fighters – schools train their next employees; but, when it comes to paying for all of this, well, they don’t want to.

They put out ads saying that it’s wealth distribution, but it’s not – it’s paying your fair share of what it costs, so you can run your business in the land of the free.

I say, we let them write off everything they pay their employees – no taxes on payroll, no taxes on healthcare costs — BUT, if that employee is outside the United States, we tax the hell out of whatever product they made when it gets shipped here.  (They would still have to pay their side of Social Security and Medicare.)

If we allowed companies to deduct the cost of employees, you can bet employees would go back to being well paid and important to companies – consider assets and not just cost centers.  Every tax break the upper 1% has received has not driven them to higher more employees – it’s just given them more to horde.

And, that’s why Jesus said, in a much more elegant way than I’m about to do so, that the rich ain’t getting into Heaven.  It’s all about how you treat others and the rich in this country, aren’t passing the camel test.

FCC and Net Neutrality

I sent the following to the FCC about Net Neutrality.  I encourage everyone to pass this around and encourage letters to the FCC to keep Net Neutrality going. Click here to contact the FCC.

Protecting the neutrality of the Internet is the biggest First Amendment issue facing us today. I am a blogger. Without Net Neutrality, Internet providers can make it difficult to find my site. They can charge me extra to guarantee a lane from a reader’s home into my site. I pay an Internet fee to my broadband provider. I pay another fee to have my site hosted. Without Net Neutrality, Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon could all demand that I pay them a fee to allow traffic through. This will end the ability for new ideas to be fostered. A large company could essentially pay to kill a news story, simply by out paying for traffic.

Further, from a consumer standpoint, killing Net Neutrality means that small Mom and Pop shops will not be able to compete with larger, well funded stores. Traffic can be slowed, delayed or even re-routed entirely because a small consumer store will not be able to pay extra fees. This kills competition and innovation.

Finally, Internet access is very much like phone access. By disabling Net Neutrality, you are allowing companies to decide where and who their customers see and talk to. Imagine if this was the phone company. AT&T cannot prevent their customer from calling a Verizon customer. In reverse, Verizon cannot block calls to their customers from AT&T customers. Without Net Neutrality, that’s exactly what these companies can and will do. They already skirt the issue by making their customers pay more for faster service – imagine what they will do when they can become the traffic cops of data and information.

Sincerely,

 

Starbucks, College, and Interest

I’ve seen the various articles regarding Starbucks announcement that they are going to fund their employees’ college tuition at Arizona State University.  I’ve seen the articles that are pro and con (more con than pro, I should mention).  I’m not sure how I feel, because I need to understand it better and to see what’s going on.  I was researching the subject when I came across an article on Market Watch called “Why Starbucks is right, and Obama is wrong, on Tuition“.   The article is interesting and we do need to figure out how to lower tuition costs, but the article, also, makes a wrong point about college loans and interest rates.

According to the article, the average college student leaves college with $29,400 of debt.  The argument is that a payment of $375.14 a month isn’t that much of an economic problem.  It’s merely a car payment.  See the quote below.

Numbers don’t lie. That $29,400 borrower would pay $375.14 a month for 10 years at Sallie Mae’s highest current rate of 9.17%. But if that loan commanded 0.01% interest, the payment would still be $245.12. The real average is somewhere in between and covered by the spread between a college grad’s income and a high-school grad’s. It’s a car payment, and not really the economic problem many posit.

Except the author is missing a bigger point, that $130.02 a month savings adds up to a difference of $1,560.24 over a 12 month period or $15,602.40 over a ten year life of the loan.  Perhaps, that’s not a lot of money for the author, but it is for most people.

Realistically, the average student isn’t going to pay an interest rate of less than 1% and President Obama and Senator Warren haven’t suggested one that low.  Their plan calls for an interest rate on a refinanced loan of 3.8%.  Even at that amount, the total cost of the loan works out to $35,384.90 – $9,631.54 less than $45,016.45. That’s half a car.

One more item I’d like to point out.  He mentions spending $150,000 on an education for a $42,000 position.  In his opinion, this is way too much money.  He doesn’t really say if this was tuition or the cost of a loan, but I’m assuming he means tuition.  Here’s where the 3.8% interest rate comes in handy.  At this interest rate, the total cost of the education works out to  $180,535.21 .  It makes his argument look even stronger, doesn’t it?

Except, the $42,000 isn’t going to hold as the yearly salary for the rest of the student’s working life.  They, if they’re any good, should get some raises over the next forty years (assuming they start at age 25 and work until age 65).  But, let’s say they don’t receive any raises over the next forty years.  The student will have earned $1,680,000.00 minus the education cost, that’s a profit of $1,499,464.79. That’s not such a bad return on investment.

(The author, also, set me off by knocking people who scored a 20 on their ACT. I scored a 19 – not only have I graduated from college, but I’m at the top of my field, proving that test scores mean diddly squat. But, I digress, as that is off my subject.)

My whole point is this:  tuition needs to be controlled in some manner.  However; distorting facts and not telling the whole story isn’t going to help the overall debate.

Republicans Sue the IRS

Below is the email I received from the Republicans this morning. I love the part where they refer to the IRS as Obama’s IRS. Who do they think they’re fooling? Oh, right, their ill-informed followers.

There isn’t an IRS scandal. They were doing their jobs. Apparently, the Republican National Committee doesn’t like the IRS to do its job.

Now, they want to waste our tax dollars to find nothing.

Oh, and it’s President Obama, Reince.

(Someone thought it would be funny to sign me up for Republican emails. I reply back and tell them how wrong they are, but I think I’ve found a better outlet. I’ll post them here.)

Julie,

We are suing the IRS.

Obama’s IRS targeted, harassed and discriminated against tea party and conservative groups because of their values and beliefs.

This is an outrage and an unprecedented abuse of power. Principled conservatives should not be the victims of an administration that allows the IRS to go after its perceived political enemies.

Obama’s bureaucrats tried to silence our voices and deny us our constitutional rights—but we won’t let them. That’s why we’ve been fighting to expose the truth.

We just filed a lawsuit against the IRS, demanding they turn over the documents we legally requested.

Over 226 days ago, we filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the IRS to uncover the truth, but they are illegally stonewalling our legal requests for information.

We’ve had enough of the Obama administration’s denials, delays and deceptions. And we won’t stop fighting until we get to the bottom of this unprecedented targeting scandal.

But to ensure our voice is heard, we need you to speak up. Join us, and thousands of conservatives, in the fight to hold them accountable.

We will not stand for this abuse and we will fight until we get the truth.

Add your name in support of our lawsuit against the IRS.

Thanks,

Reince

Affordable Care Act

I think President Obama was wrong to hold off enacting the Affordable Care Act for another year. I think the past three years have been long enough for people to wait for health insurance.

Last year was a great year for my employment, but a bad year for hospital bills. I was working for a contract company and my expensive health insurance didn’t cover an emergency room visit. According to them, I went over my coverage. Go figure – I was supposed to have $15,000 worth of coverage. Instead, I was socked with the full visit price and was handed a $4,000 bill.

But wait, there’s more.

When I switched from one contract position to another contract position, I changed insurance companies. On March 5, I fell and sliced my right knee from one side to the other. It turns out I didn’t have any insurance – due to no fault of mine – and there went another $2,000 bill.

I can’t imagine what would happen to someone who doesn’t have the earning potential that I have. I’ll be able to pay these two bills off in due time, but what about the family who can’t? Our health care costs are rising at an alarming rate and families end up losing their homes to medical bills.

When one family loses, we all lose. If a hospital doesn’t collect what it is due, then it doesn’t make any money – no money, no health care. It’s a sad fact of life.

Putting off the Affordable Care Act for another year isn’t going to help. The Republican Party wasting millions of our dollars to try to repeal more than 39 times is ridiculous. People need to be insured and this is a way to do it and we just might save some money in the long run.

Fact Check and Insurance Rebates

I’m going to start this by saying that I trust FactCheck.org.  It is at the top of my list of places to check when I receive emails where I’m not believing or I doubt what I’m seeing.  What I like about Fact Check is that I don’t always agree with them.  I am human and I don’t like it when facts mean I have to reconfigure my beliefs.  You can make this statement about a lot of humans – you know who you are.  People do not like to be proven wrong and they especially don’t like being proven wrong with numbers and facts.  Anyway, if they agreed with me 100% of the time, I would think they are biased and if they disagreed with me 100% of the time, I would believe that they were biased.

Anyway, Fact Check recently wrote an article about President Obama’s July 18th speech touting the savings of the Affordable Care Act (which is more commonly known as Obamacare).  Fact Check called the article “Obama Overhypes Health Savings“.  I’m not going to disagree with Fact Check that President Obama made the health savings sound wonderful, he did.  Unfortunately, his hype is needed to overshadow the hype on the other side, which claims no savings and total financial ruin for all if we continue on the Affordable Care Act path.  I just think Fact Check is overhyping the overhyping.

Case in point the following quote from President Obama

Last year, millions of Americans opened letters from their insurance companies — but instead of the usual dread that comes from getting a bill — (laughter) — they were pleasantly surprised with a check. In 2012, 13 million rebates went out, in all 50 states. Another 8.5 [million] rebates are being sent out this summer, averaging around 100 bucks each.

Fact Check takes issue with this because ” The average rebate is about $100 per family — not per person. It’s not 8.5 million rebates “averaging around 100 bucks each,” as the president said. Instead, it’s 8.5 million consumers who will benefit, with an average rebate of $100 per family.”

I’m not really sure what the issue is here.  Fact Check admits that the rebates average $100 each.  When millions of Americans open the letters, I’m sure that the letter opener most likely be either the male or female head of a family.  I’m sure that the rebates for single people will be less than the rebates for families.  No, President Obama didn’t say millions of American families opened letters, but I don’t think what he did say was too much hype.  — This is a matter of opinion, not an actual fact.

The fact is that millions of rebates will be sent out this summer and that the average of these rebates is around $100.

But wait…there’s more!

Fact Check, also, takes issue with the fact that President Obama didn’t mention that a lot of these rebates are going to businesses.  In fact they say just that:  “But the more glaring omission is an acknowledgment that a lot of this money goes to businesses, not individuals.”  I don’t see the problem in this, either.  Even if the employer gets the rebate, it has to be used to benefit the employee.  In fact, Fact Check even quotes the  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as saying such, ” if you bought your insurance through your employer, your employer must use the rebate for your benefit.”  I don’t really understand their problem with the hype in this case.

I think the main point in all of this is that the Affordable Care Act is to some extent causing people and businesses to save money on their health care insurance premiums.  Second to this is that it didn’t cause premiums to go up, as the opposition claimed it would.

 

Obamacare and unAmerican Companies

Here’s a quick, yet truthful thought.  Every large company that is announcing cutting employees’ hours to avoid paying healthcare for them isn’t a company that should be held up in esteem.  It is a company who should be avoided as much as possible and derided for being unAmerican.

It is time the profit hogging corporate types and Wall Street bozos start taking care of business and the American Worker.  You break your back for forty years, do you get a pension?  Hell no, you probably don’t even get a watch.  You get a 401K that isn’t worth shit if the banks and Wall Street screw with the economoy, like they did in the run up to the crash of 2008.

Our health care system needs  a lot of changes.  We spend more than nearly every other developed country and, yet, we’re sicker than ever.  Part of this is that we don’t take care of ourselves and part of it is that companies don’t take care of employees.

I have healthcare.  I happen to have a skill set that will remain in demand probably until the day I die and beyond.  I am blessed because of this.  Many people – in fact, the majority of people – are not blest as I am.  I will not have to worry about health care, because I’ll never have to work for a company that doesn’t offer it.  Even when I worked as a contractor, because of my earning power and salary, I was offered health care paid for by the company – that doesn’t happen often in contracting jobs.

Don’t blame President Obama for forcing companies to do what they should’ve been doing all along.  The CEO has health care.  The President of the company has health care.  So should the workers on the floor who actually perform the duties that keep the company going.

The Republicans don’t understand this.

Fox News doesn’t understand this.

The people in the red states don’t understand this.

We do the work, we should reap the benefits.  The guy on top – he didn’t dig that ditch, put that car together, bake that pizza – the guy on top is receiving the big salary made possible by YOUR hard work.

Don’t forget that.

So Called Christian Right

So, you joined a group that is fighting for freedom, but all it’s really doing is fighting gay marriage.  And, you vote for a politician because he believes in unfunding Planned Parenthood, again while claiming to be something you’re not – Christian.  You claim that you’re following Jesus, but you vote for politicians who want to make it harder to become a US citizen.  You claim to follow the Constitution, but you want to impose YOUR religious beliefs on the rest of us.

Sad, really.  The whole Taxed Enough Already crowd is full of hypocrites.  The Constitution supports the separation of church and state.  And, no matter how many times some wrong wing person wants to proclaim that we are a Christian nation, we’re not.  This isn’t a “Christian” nation and we weren’t founded on the Christian religion.  We even put that fact in a treaty in 1797.

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. ~ Article 11 Treaty of Tripoli

There are groups who dispute the Treaty of Tripoli.  They claim that George Washington never saw it, even though it was written during his administration, and when the Senate heard it Article 11 wasn’t there.  Sigh – sad, isn’t it?

Moving on to the whole point of this which is this: Stop being a hypocrite.  Stop supporting politicians who would rather give a tax break to a billionaire, than feed hungry school children.  If you want to show your love for Christ, then follow what He preached:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:31-40

Everytime a program that feeds the poor or clothes them – offers health care to them or just gives them a hand to help them help themselves is knocked down or cut by a politican, our country moves from Jesus’s right hand to His left hand. We move from being one of His sheep to being one of His goats. And, we all know how that story ended, right?

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”
He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. Matthew 25:41-46

I can hear the unrighteous (the ones who think they are righteous) speaking now, “But, I give to charity, so I’m good. We can’t have the government spending that money.” Oh, no? We can’t have the government taking our taxes, which is our money, and giving it to the poor? We can’t have that, but we can use religion to justify your hatred of gays? We can use religion to justify control of what a woman can or cannot do with her own body? We can use religion to go to war? We will vote for a politican who will give that money – our money – to an oil company in the form of a subsidy? But, we can’t take care of the least of us, which Jesus actually commanded?

If you don’t agree with gay marriage, fine – you have the right to your opinion.  If you don’t believe in a woman’s right to choose, fine – you have a right to that opinion, too.  But, don’t claim that your love of Jesus is why you don’t believe in the freedom of others, because you’re full of crap.  I know it and He knows it.

Gay Marriage: The Real Inequality

Last week, the US Supreme Court ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional.  That means that gay people in states that recognize or have gay marriage will have their marriages recognized.  This is good – for them.

For those of us who are gay, in non-legally recognized marriages and living in the wrong states, nothing has changed.  We still do not have the right to inheritance, hospital visitations and joint income tax returns.  It, also, means we don’t have the responsibilities and protections that marriage offers.

There are legal ways around this.  My wife and I have registered as Domestic Partners, so we have some of these rights.  And, prior to Domestic Partnerships being legal in my state, we had signed power of attorneys for health and legal matters.

BUT…

What we can’t do is file a marriage, filing jointly income tax return.  And, this is what burns my butt.

By myself, I will pay $12,260 in Federal Income Taxes in 2013.  My wife (who earns less than I do) will pay $2,978.  Together, that’s $15,238.  (This is based on the IRS Withholding Calculator.)  Using the same calculator, I calculated what we would owe if we could file as a married filing jointly couple and the amount is $13,901.  That’s $1,337 less than what we’re separately paying now.

I don’t think I’m receiving $1,337 in extra Federal Benefits, do you?  What am I getting for this money?  Why is MY marriage not recognize by the Federal government because a bunch of bigots didn’t want gay marriage nine years ago – and they won. (By cheating, the question was worded so that yes meant against gay marriage and no meant for gay marriage.  I can’t tell you the number of my friends who were happy it passed, because they couldn’t figure out the difference.)

In any case, we have a long way to go.

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