Posts Tagged ‘Medicaid’

The following is written by my good friend, Bryan Stalder. Bryan lives down in historic Northeast Kansas City where we grew up together and is on a one man mission to try and stop the proposed Kansas City Streetcar that will eventually run through his neighborhood. His testimony of what he saw in the meeting would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sadly indicative of many Americans and their complete lack of critical thought. It also demonstrates the continual problems of corruption and cronyism we see at every level of politics in America. What Bryan doesn’t realize is that him, and other residents of Northeast were submitted to what is called the “Delphi Technique.” This is a method developed by none-other than the radical community organizer, Saul Alinsky. The purpose of the technique is to achieve oneness of opinion of a group. Good for Bryan and his willingness to ask tough questions. I especially love his conclusion, but with one caveat, I don’t believe many of these people that support this nonsense are “otherwise intelligent.” Intelligence is the ability to apply knowledge and skills to a situation, true intelligence is demonstrated in all areas of a person’s life, not just part of it. 

I attended the Next Rail KC meeting at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center this evening, and from the looks of the parking lot, I’m confident that no one in that room took public transit to get to the meeting even though the 24 runs within two blocks of the health center. There were at least seventy-five people in attendance from just about every neighborhood in Northeast, and I was probably the only opponent of streetcar in the room. There is plenty of opposition to the streetcar, but most of those people have school aged children or are seniors, so they have a hard time attending these types of events on weeknights. By the way, these are the same people that streetcar supporters drive to the polls when Democrats are relying on Medicaid and public education to get them re-elected.

Anyway, the meeting started out with a brief presentation from Vincent, an employee of HNTB who stands to make MILLIONS from this government funded project. He told us all of the great things that streetcar could and would do for Northeast, and even buttered us up by asking us to congratulate ourselves for having “one of the largest turnouts,” so far. Y’know, all of the stuff you’d expect from a “Two free meal tickets if you listen to our timehare spiel,” meeting.
A few things in that introduction that I found interesting.

-He spent a lot of time telling us the great things about streetcar, and just a few seconds breezing past a few obstacles facing streetcar. His presentation included just three obstacles, but promised that they could work around all of them.

-He promised us that Independence Avenue was one of the strongest corridors, because many of the other ones being considered had “dead zones” but Independence Avenue is already a strong corridor for businesses.

-He pointed out that the 24 and the 30 had some of the highest ridership of all the buses in the city.
-He mentioned that while other parts of the city are struggling to keep residents, Northeast regenerates our population.
So I had to ask myself, if streetcar is supposed to increase economic development, transit ridership, and residents, but we’re already doing that WITHOUT streetcar, then we don’t really need to spend over $300 million for the thing, do we?
After the presentation, we separated into groups to discuss our “dreams” for streetcar. Seriously. I allowed the discussion to go on without my input for 15-20 minutes, because I knew that once I started asking questions, the rest of the time would be spent debating, which wouldn’t be entirely fair to the people who I was sitting with.

When I joined in the discussion, my first question was “How will this be funded?” and I was told that there isn’t enough money in Northeast or along The Avenue to build this project, so most of the money would come from federal grants or donations. I pressed further and the representative from HNTB assured me that if any city monies were spent, that a city wide vote would have to occur. I know better, but I was just getting started, so I chose instead to make him re-establish that no city funds would be spent without a city-wide vote, and he did. What does he have to lose? He doesn’t work for city hall, so he can’t be held accountable for that (and probably has no idea, anyway.)

I continued by asking which services that the bus currently offered would be enhanced by the streetcar, and the general consensus at the table was that streetcars have a larger capacity, so I pointed out that we could make buses bigger, or run them more frequently. They claimed that the streetcar routes are simpler, so I asked why we couldn’t make the bus routes the same as the simpler streetcar routes. We could even include the simple maps and paint a stripe in the street to trick all of the people who can’t figure out a bus schedule into thinking they’re actually on a streetcar. They told me that a streetcar has better lighting, and I assured them that a few more streetlights or LEDs inside the bus could solve that problem. They said a streetcar shows a commitment to a corridor, so I reminded them that I’ve lived in Northeast since 1982, and my dad used to take the 24 to work when I was still in diapers, (forgot to point out that KC has already established their willingness to RIP OUT rails.) Their final point was that they get people to jobs, which I laughed at, because currently, I’d wager that 90% of the people on the Northeast buses are going to work and I’ll bet there’s not a single one who tells themselves, “If they don’t build a streetcar on Independence Avenue, I’m going to quit riding the bus to work,”

Everyone at the table also admitted that they either don’t ride the bus, or rarely ride the bus, and suggested that it was because of the people that are on the bus. I pointed out that those same people will also be on the streetcar and resented the suggestion that certain people are too good for the bus. Before I could ask if they were “too white for the bus,” there was a general consensus that women aren’t comfortable on the bus, and I left it at that, because I wasn’t really looking to start debating race or calling my friends and neighbors racists.

One resident in our group suggested that all of the other corridors being strongly considered served “rich, white people,” and that they NEED to put one in Northeast so they can brag about how they’re also helping the poor minorities. I thanked her for pointing out that streetcar is for “rich, white people,” who want to ride public transit for fun.

After I out-debated about ten of my neighbors and a couple of HNTB reps, the tables were supposed to present their ideas to everyone. This was perhaps my favorite part of the evening. One presenter was adamant that the streetcar needed to go all the way to the old ARMCO building, because that was the only viable location for a COSTCO and she didn’t want to see any of the existing businesses on Independence Avenue get demolished. I literally giggled out loud because Councilman Jim “I brought Costco to Mid-Town,” Glover was standing in the room at the time. This is also funny because the stated goal of streetcar is economic development, and this neighbor wanted streetcar to run THE MAXIMUM distance (read: $$$$), but then she wanted to dictate what structures could and couldn’t be removed. And finally, and this is the most obvious question: WHO THE FUCK is going to go to Costco on the streetcar?

Another presenter suggested that big box stores like Target would consider transportation in a particular area when they start expanding into urban settings. This is hilarious to me because again, not only are people NOT going to ride streetcar to Target, but Target is the type of retailer that the “celebrate diversity. eat organic. go green. buy local. ride streetcar.” crowd DOES NOT want in Northeast. I could screenshot you pages and pages of neighborhood Facebook group debates to evidence this.

The presenter from our table said, “If we were getting a $10B blank check from the federal government, I think we’d all agree that streetcar is the last thing we’d spend it on, but the fact is that if we don’t use the money for transit, we don’t get it,” and I consider that a win that I got a supporter to actually admit in so many words, “We all agree streetcar is at the bottom on Northeast’s priorities,”

At the end of the evening, Vincent from HNTB, said he enjoyed listening to the discussion at our table, and a few other people who know my position on the streetcar admitted that the groups they were in were basically just a big circle jerk.
Bottom line, HNTB recognized that I’d done my homework, but realized that I don’t stand much of a threat on my own, and their money was safe. The overwhelming consensus in the room at the end of the night was that residents were all concerned that it was inevitable that the money was going to be spent, and so they wanted it to be spent in our neighborhood. Coincidentally, in the wake of a federal government shut down, furloughed non-essential employees, and a debt ceiling, we’re in a meeting making plans based largely on receiving federal money, to make public transit more comfortable for white people… er, women.
In 2008, people elected Barack Obama on a concept. They were frustrated, and whatever they wanted him to be, that’s what he was. No one really knew or cared what he would do, they just assumed that whatever they wanted, that’s what he stood for. That’s how it felt in this room tonight. Everyone has ideas for Northeast and Independence Avenue, and many of those ideas are conflicting. They assume that whatever they want, streetcar will make it possible. It’s disappointing that people who I believe are otherwise intelligent are so naive. They preach corporation hate and corrupt government out of one corner of their mouth, and then they endorse it when it comes rolling into their neighborhood.

There is an interesting new book out by economist Larry Kotlikoff called The Clash of Generations. I read several excerpts from it. It seems to be definitely worth your time. The general point is the biggest problem America is facing is the mess the Baby Boomer generation is going to leave us with. Mom and dad, I love you, but this is your mess, and you are leaving me, my wife, and my son with an insane financial mess to clean up. I hope you enjoyed your prime years. At this rate, my generation is going to be saddled with the ball and chains you left us with because you let politicians run amok promising you everything under the sun in the years when your sun is setting.

“The $30,000 combined Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid payment that is being handed, on average, to each of today’s elderly equals almost two-thirds of per capita GDP. By the time the boomers are fully retired, the figure could exceed 100 percent of per capita GDP. Whoever said America isn’t a welfare state? It is a welfare state, but the welfare is for the elderly, not the poor. While our two parties argue over the haves and have-nots, we are blind to what the nows are doing to the laters.”

“In the dream world of our political parties, their favorite action always “pays for itself.” Republicans buy votes by reducing taxes and claiming they pay for themselves. Democrats buy votes by spending money and calling it an “investment.” Setting just one set of these loonies loose on the economy would be damaging enough, but in recent years we’ve opened the asylum. We’ve watched them combine forces to both raise spending and cut tax rates. The bill goes to the kids who, conveniently, are never in the room.”

“But our main point here is that most of the massive postwar redistribution from the young to the old has not been from rich young people to poor old people. It has mostly been from middle-class young people, who pay high employment taxes, to middle-class old people who receive them. And that redistribution has left the young with a fiscal sword of Damocles suspended over their heads. Furthermore, that redistribution has cut our national saving rate from 15 percent to 0 percent. It has cut our domestic investment rate from 15 percent to 4 percent, and it has contributed to the lack of real wage growth, which marks the death knell of the American dream. Reducing poverty among the elderly (or any other group) is a wonderful goal, one that we should pursue. But we seriously doubt that anyone, of any political or chronological persuasion, would want to do it at the cost of literally wrecking the country.”

“The financial meltdown that’s surely coming and will do more lasting damage to our kids won’t be triggered, like the last one was, by the production and sale of trillions of dollars in fraudulent securities. It will be a run on the Treasury and the Fed triggered by the global realization that Uncle Sam is in far worse fiscal shape than ever imagined.

The moment of reckoning can come at any time, and when the markets finally realize that our fiscal problem is enormous and cannot indefinitely be papered over by the Fed’s money creation, things will change abruptly. We’ll have a tremendous financial collapse that hits the bond and the stock markets, and not on a short-term basis. That will accelerate the fiscal collapse, which will reinforce the financial collapse—in short, a vicious cycle. By design, our financial institutions have built no firewalls separating themselves from one another. Instead, there are only fire paths, waiting to ignite.

The hour is extremely late. We can no longer afford doing too little too late, putting off tough decisions for tomorrow, and enduring political gridlock. To fix America, we need to start from the ground up. Only radical, fundamental reforms of the financial system, the tax system, the health care system, and Social Security will solve our problems and get our country turned around. But it can be turned around.”

“There are about 70 million Americans between eighteen and thirty-five years old. Imagine they all march on Washington. Imagine they let their elders know they aren’t happy with their treatment. Imagine they join together in a party—the Generational Equity Party—and start voting for candidates who represent the interest of today’s and tomorrow’s young generations. Imagine how that would change the conversation.

And imagine those older than sixty seeing their faces and hearing their voices and saying Yes, they’re right. These are our children and grandchildren. We need to protect them. They are on earth, if not in heaven, our only true future.”

A recent Rasmussen Poll demonstrated a scary statistic. Only 51% of Americans know that most federal spending goes to defense, Social Security, and Medicare. Ponder that a second, on a random day walking down the street, half of the people that you pass actually understand what the three primary drivers of government spending in WADC is. It gets worse though, 30% believe incorrectly that this is not true, and 19% aren’t sure. Kind of helps understand how Obama got elected, doesn’t it?

Now the good news is that only 35% knew this last February, we are making some ground here.

So, I consider this post a public service announcement, please pass this along to your ignorant friends and family members.

The first recipient of Social Security “benefits,” Ida May Fuller, paid a total of $24.75 in Social Security taxes. She inevitably lived to be 100 years old. She collected $22,888.92 total in her retirement, a return of 92,000 percent on her initial “investment.”

In 1935 less than 6% of the population was age 65 or older. By 2008, that percentage doubled to 12.8. The number of Americans ages 65+ will more than double over the next 40 years, reaching 80 million in 2040. The number of adults 85+ will nearly quadruple in that same time. (Unless Obamacare kills them first, but that’s another topic for another post!)

In 1960, 5 workers funded the “benefits” of each retiree. Today that ratio is 3:1, by 2030 it will be 2:1. Imagine a boy and girl born today. In 2030, they marry and start a family. This young couple will have to support themselves, their children, and the Social Security & Medicare benefits of their very own retiree.

When the Social Security Act was signed in 1935, it was done with the support of 81 Republicans in the House. When Medicare was passed in 1965, 70 Republicans voted in favor. More recently, the Republican controlled Congress passed Medicare Part D. For a party that supposedly hates entitlements, they sure don’t walk their talk.

The thing that’s so scary about Medicare is how underfunded it is. The payroll tax funds only Part A, and that is even in deficit. Parts B and D are not “social insurance” and are only funded 25% by premiums, taxpayers finance the other 75% through general tax revenues. Medicare is essentially a welfare program for seniors.

Of the $31,406 that Washington spent per household in 2010, $9,949 was spent on Social Security and Medicare alone.

The costs of Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid is expected to grow from 9% of GDP in 2009 to 26% of GDP by 2082. To finance this the CBO estimates that the income tax brackets would have to rise to 25% for low income families, 63% for the middle class, and 88% for upper income individuals, small business, and corporations.

Without change, by 2052, EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR of federal tax revenue will be used to pay for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits-we won’t even be able to pay the interest on our debt.

We spend a lot of time in America blaming politicians in Washington, DC. Typical American response of not assuming personal responsibility. Who sent these idiots there in the first place, and furthermore, who were the people that continued to beg for more entitlements at the public trough? At the end of the day, it’s really our fault, the American people. The people I blame most are those that run around on a daily basis believing that America is fine and nothing will ever happen to us. They look at you with contempt, or go silent and try to change the subject when you try to have a conversation about something other than American Idol, their kid’s soccer game, or the latest moral degenerate to be in the news (i.e. Anthony Weiner, Charlie Sheen, or Kaylee Anthony).

It’s up to us, if we want this nation to continue to be great you have to do your best to continue to educate those that don’t want to be educated. You have to have the courageous conversations with friends and family that frankly don’t want to hear it. Candidly, I think this is worth losing friends and family over if you have to. If you don’t, it’s going to get ugly! Taxing the rich is not going to get you out of this, it’s going to take cuts and the precious little entitlements might have to be modified a little bit. What’s disgusting is no change needs to befall those currently on the system, or about to go on the system in the next decade. This has been perverted by the left and the mainstream media in this country. It’s the younger people that will have to look at modifications. I’m 28, I fully accept this, AND I’M OK WITH IT! You see I’m not so selfish as to want to see my nation destroyed because I don’t want to be responsible enough to plan for old age. News flash folks, you get old, and you have to prepare for it, if you don’t do it, it sucks! And you deserve to have it suck!

Oh, and for those of you that have this naive view that defense should never be touched, get a clue, there’s no sacred cows this time.