There is snow in my driveway. I thought this stuff was supposed to turn to rain. Already, the rhythmic scraping snow shovel on asphalt is coming from my neighbors’ driveways. I have to get out there and shovel before I’m the only one with snow in my driveway and the cul de sac shuns me for non-compliance.
Let’s get on with the news.
First up, Robert Samuelson tries to justify the stingy, selfish, hard-hearted, cheatin’ ways of the Villager class when it comes to Social Security in On Medicare and Social Security, be unfair to the boomers. See, it’s not the wealthy’s fault. It’s YOURS for being so demanding of your money. But Samuelson is trying to make a case for cutting boomer benefits because to not do so would be unfair to future generations. So, let’s be pre-emptively unfair to boomers:
If we don’t, we will be condemned to some combination of inferior policies. We can raise taxes sharply over the next 15 or 20 years, roughly 50 percent from recent levels, to cover expanding old-age subsidies and existing government programs. Or we can accept permanently huge budget deficits. Even if that doesn’t trigger a financial crisis, it would probably stunt economic growth and living standards. So would dramatically higher taxes. There’s a final choice: deep cuts in other programs, from defense to roads to higher education.
Yet, neither political party seems interested in reducing benefits for baby boomers. Doing so, it’s argued, would be “unfair” to people who had planned retirements based on existing programs. Well, yes, it would be unfair. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a worse time for cuts. Unemployment is horrendous; eroding home values and retirement accounts have depleted the elderly’s wealth. Only 19 percent of present retirees are “very confident” of having enough money to live “comfortably,” down from 41 percent in 2007, reports the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
But not making cuts would also be unfair to younger generations and the nation’s future. We have a fairness dilemma: Having avoided these problems for decades, we must now be unfair to someone. To admit this is to demolish the moral case for leaving baby boomers alone. Baby boomers – I’m on the leading edge – and their promised benefits are the problem. If they’re off-limits, the problem is being evaded. Together, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid represent two-fifths of federal spending, double defense’s share.
There’s more garbage where that came from. Samuelson does acknowledge that outside his mighty fortress of wealth and privilege, there are little people who are being crushed by this Recession and can’t put money in their tax deferred 401Ks. But I don’t think he is getting the full picture like I am where I am literally *surrounded* by the walking dead former employed high salaried baby boomers who no longer have access to a tax shelter.
Let me count the ways that Robert and his ilk are wrong and should be strenuously resisted:
1.) In the 1980’s, the tail end of the baby boom generation, that would be people like *me*, were assured by the Reagan Administration that if we accepted higher payroll taxes on our minute, nascent post college salaries, we would be paying for our future social security benefits that required a surplus fund “because we are too menny”. Is this not true, Robert? We’ve already made our sacrifice. We were promised that if we deferred our compensation, it would be there when it was time to retire. If it is not there and we are asked to take a cut in future benefits, that would be equivalent to imposing a significant extra tax over the past 30 years on those of us in the younger cohort of the babyboom generation because people like Robert and David Broder and Sally Quinn liked their Bush era tax cuts. Robert has a lot of nerve lecturing us about unfairness.
2.) The problem is not social security, or at least, it wasn’t until the latest boneheaded tax deal. The problem is everything else that needs to be paid for. It’s funny how social security recipients are always being asked to foot the bill though. How about we end the costly wars before we ask future old people to retire in poverty? Or why don’t we end the Bush deficit increase plan early? I know! Robert and his friends can volunteer to pay the taxes they’ve gotten away with not paying in the past 10 years! That would be the unselfish thing to do. No? Then, shut the fuck up, Robert.
3.) In all the turmoil over stimulating the economy, I find it odd that the one thing I did not hear was giving anyone who is forced to tap into their 401ks a tax break. There are a lot of people who have been out of work for so long that they have to use their 401Ks to pay for calories and shelter. But they are taking a huge hit in taxes in order to do so. How come a tax holiday on the 401K was never offered to the long term unemployed? Wouldn’t that have had a more stimulative effect on the economy than the measly 2% break on social security, which is too small to do anything with and too large to make up for with money from the general fund? But curiously, the 401K tax penalty was never put on the table. Does it have anything to do with the idea that the stock market would take a hit if the long term unemployed siphoned money from the casino? Whoa! We can’t have that. That would be unfair to the bonus class, not to mention the giant 401K Ponzi scheme that Robert’s business buddies forced those younger boomers into in lieu of pensions so that Robert could retire on his investments.
4.) When you issue a promissory note to people you borrowed money from, that means you are promising to pay it back at some future date. If the rich of this country took money from future social security beneficiaries, in order to pay for the tax breaks they got so they wouldn’t have to pay for infrastructure and dirty stuff like that, they need to realize that there is a time that they will have to pay it back. And when they do, they will have to pay for it with taxes on the wealth that they accumulated in the past 30 years while they imposed an additional tax on the 2o somethings they burdened with an additional payroll tax. You know, like the way you stuck us younger generation boomers with this burden and now you want to stick us again so we don’t pass it on to our children? Do we look like we fell off the turnip truck, Robert? We’re not stupid. You gave us IOUs, now we want our money back.
Don’t try to sell us on the idea that we can retire at a later age. I won’t be able to use a microscope and fish crystals out of a 1 uL drop with a tiny nylon loop when I’m 70. I’m sorry, we’re not all janitors. Some of us will still need fine hand-eye coordination if we’re lucky enough to still have the highly technical jobs we already have.
And don’t try to make it sound like those of us with higher salaries can afford to take this hit. As I’ve mentioned before, a high salary in Kansas means nothing in NJ. On 100K around here, you’re barely middle class and there is not a lot of disposable income to sock away for a rainy day. But more than that, I’ve seen people with salaries much higher than mine who a few years ago thought social security was beneath them who have now been brought low by this Recession and for whom social security is their life saver. For them, social security is serving the purpose for which it was originally intended. If people of Robert’s class are having an “Oh, shit! Now we have to pay back the surplus fund with higher taxes” moment, too fucking bad. Pay up, Robert.
What we do with the money we get from social security is nobody’s damn business. I won’t have someone asking me to account for buying a nice steak someday. I won’t have a bench of tut-tutters asking me what I intend to do with the money. Social security is not a welfare program. It’s my retirement money, I paid for it and damn it, I want it back without strings attached. I don’t ask Robert how many summer houses he owns at the shore using money he’s been stealing from the surplus fund over the last 30 years. If he and his class pay it back by taking a modest hit in taxes, I won’t press him on the matter. Just return the money and no questions will be asked.
Here’s the thing, Robert. A promise is a promise. This country made a promise to the future elderly that they would not retire in poverty. And they took our money promising to pay for those future benefits. And the rest of us relied on that promise so that we could plan our lives, family size, mortgages, savings accordingly. And now that the country has fallen on hard times, through no fault of the hard working people who believed in those promises, the wealthy and well connected want to reneg on those promises in a manner that is no different than some corrupt third world country run by some petty dictator and his greedy retainers. That’s where you’re taking us, Robert. Why do you hate America?
We’re not just going to hang ourselves to relieve you of the burden of caring for us, Robert. We have every right to expect to get our money back. So, take the austerity plan that you and your friends have cooked up for us and stick it where the sun don’t shine. Pay up or shut up.
In other news:
Cancer is complicated. Multiple genes and proteins are involved and then there are feedback mechanisms and the intricate machinery of a cell that, once unbalanced, is difficult to set straight. To make it even more maddening, the cell adapts by developing resistance to chemotherapy drugs over time. Now, researchers are asking the dying to help them figure out which mechanisms are causing drug resistance so that the next patient on therapy benefits. In Enlisting the Dying for Clues to Save Others, the NYTimes illuminates the research process:
Lacking tumor samples from patients in the Roche trial, Dr. Lo instead sought to replicate the cancer’s resistance to the drug by feeding a steady diet of the drug to melanoma cells taken from three previous patients who had never received it. When the few cancer cells that survived the onslaught began to grow in their petri dishes, he used those, now resistant to the drug, to begin his search.
It could have been straightforward. Many researchers believed the answer would be that the gene whose mutation initially made the protein that drove the cancer’s uncontrolled growth had mutated again, as had happened in other cancers. In a few cases, a new drug tailored to the new mutations had lengthened remissions.
But Dr. Lo found no evidence of this. Nor did he find the smoking gun in several other genes linked to the growth of other cancers.
Instead, he began the painstaking process of measuring the activity of hundreds of proteins that might have driven the cancer’s uncontrolled growth. The experiments required modifying the levels of each protein in the drug-resistant cells, dosing them with the drug and checking every few hours to see how fast they were growing. With only two junior scientists and a technician in his laboratory, Dr. Lo performed much of the work himself.
Even so, he knew, nothing he found in the cells whose resistance he had artificially bred in the lab would matter unless he also found it in the patients who had relapsed.
It’s a painstaking process of trial and error and careful observation.
Last but not least, the vaginal steam bath:
Pungent steam rises from a boiling pot of a mugwort tea blended with wormwood and a variety of other herbs. Above it sits a nude woman on an open-seated stool, partaking in a centuries-old Korean remedy that is gaining a toehold in the West.
Vaginal steam baths, called chai-yok, are said to reduce stress, fight infections, clear hemorrhoids, regulate menstrual cycles and aid infertility, among many other health benefits. In Korea, many women steam regularly after their monthly periods.
There is folk wisdom — and even some logic — to support the idea that the carefully targeted steam may provide some physiological benefits for women. But there are no studies to document its effectiveness, and few American doctors have even heard of it.
“It sounds like voodoo medicine that sometimes works,” said Dr. Vicken Sahakian, medical director of Pacific Fertility Center in Los Angeles.
Niki Han Schwarz believes it worked for her. After five steams, she found she had fewer body aches and more energy. She also became pregnant eight months ago at the age of 45 after attempting to conceive for three years.
So, there you go! Sit over a vaginal steam bath, get pregnant! And my health teachers used to say such things weren’t possible.
Oh, those crazy Koreans.
What are you finding around the web?