Freedom Is Spreading!

This story appeared in the New York Times today.

Kyrgyzstan, March 24 – President Askar Akayev and his family fled the capital today, a former presidential aide said, after protesters stormed the presidential compound and seized control following clashes with riot police during a large opposition rally.

Mr. Akayev’s hasty departure underscored the spectacular ease with which a wave of frustration with corruption, poverty and electoral fraud that had been gathering over the past two weeks toppled one of Central Asia’s five authoritarian states.

After the presidential compound was taken over, an opposition leader, former Prime Minister Bakiyev, appeared and vowed to hold new elections.

But today, two weeks after an angry crowd spontaneously took over the main administration building in the southern city of Jalal-Abad, two demonstrations converged on the White House, the main government building in which Mr. Akayev had his office on the central square of Bishkek.

The opposition said that it also had taken over state television, which had not been reporting any news of the widespread protests over the elections this month that were widely condemned as fraudulent.

“The latest news is that national TV is with us,” an opposition leader told protesters central Bishkek, where thousands had gathered demanding the resignation of Mr. Akayev.

A leading opposition figure, Felix Kulov, who was freed from prison, said on state television: “It is a revolution made by the people. Tomorrow will come, and we must decide how to live tomorrow.ââ?

Those are great and powerful words; a revolution made by the people! It seems freedom is contagious!

Social Security “IS” In Trouble!

I am sorry I have to have yet another article on Social Security. But it is all over the news and it is full of so much misinformation I cannot stop myself from commenting. From Rueters

PROJECTED EXHAUSTION

The Social Security trust fund will exhaust its assets in 2041 instead of 2042 as forecast last year, while the Medicare hospital insurance trust fund will be depleted in 2020, rather than 2019, the funds’ trustees said.

Social Security outlays would outstrip tax income in 2017 instead of 2018 as previously forecast, the report said.

When the program’s trust fund is exhausted in 2041, tax revenues would still be sufficient to fund 74 percent of the benefits, the trustees said in their annual report on the finances of the programs.

Medicare, the government’s program to provide health care to the elderly, is expected to pay out more in benefits in 2005 than it receives in tax revenues, as it did in 2004

“Today’s report confirms that the so-called Social Security crisis exists in only one place: the minds of Republicans. In reality, the program is on solid ground for decades to come,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in a statement.

What is Reid talking about? It clearly states that we will take in less money in SS tax in 2017. Where are we getting these imaginary assets to not cut benefits till 2041? Are they planning to stop spending every penny they receive in SS taxes from this day forward? If it stays business as usual the answer is an emphatic NO! That means the problem will start in 2017! In fact you can say it starts before that date, because every year we get closer to 2017 they will have less over payments to fund all their pet programs. This means Budget cuts every year from now on or an increase in taxation. It is that simple folks.

I will cover Medicare separately.

Medicare Is In Trouble Now!

Medicare hospital insurance trust fund will be depleted in 2020, rather than 2019, the funds’ trustees said.

Really? So what do you folks think about the following story?

Medicare may raise U.S. seniors’ health-insurance premiums by 12 percent next year because of higher payments to doctors, a government report showed.

The increase would push premiums for doctor visits up 49 percent over three years to $87.70 a month, the health-insurance program’s trustees said in an annual report yesterday. A separate monthly premium for drug coverage would be $37.37 monthly, the report said.

Out-of-pocket costs for seniors have been rising faster than pension benefits under the government’s Social Security program. While Medicare premiums, which are deducted from Social Security checks, rose 13.5 percent last year and 17.4 percent in 2005, Social Security payments increased by 2.7 percent in 2004 and 2 percent this year. The retirement program’s trustees projected a 2.2 percent raise for next year.

It seems to me that Medicare is already in trouble.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Releases Employment Data

Here is some good news:

WASHINGTONâââU.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao released the following statement on the December state and regional employment data released today:

ââÅSixteen months of job growth and 2.4 millions jobs created signal that the economy is on track for continued growth.

ââÅToday’s numbers demonstrate that the jobs recovery continues to be broad based. And over the past year, non-farm employment increased in 48 states, and the District of Columbia, and unemployment rates declined in 43 of 50 states.

ââÅDue to the pro-growth economic policies of the Bush Administration, the American people are now benefiting from low unemployment and continued job growth in the majority of States across the county.ââ?

Good News on Iraq

Here is some good news on Iraq:

A raid on Tuesday by U.S. and Iraqi forces on a suspected rebel training camp left 80 militants dead. Seven Iraqi commandos also died in the fighting.

The number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq has plummeted recently and attacks on American troops have dropped significantly. At the same time, many Iraqis are alarmed by a rise in attacks on Iraqi civilians and security personnel. If the trend continues, March, with 22 U.S. soldiers killed by hostile fire so far, will be the least deadly month since February 2004, when the figure was 14, according to icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks coalition military deaths in Iraq.

Gun battles erupted out in the streets of the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Doura, where militants wearing black hoods and riding in three cars opened fire on people shopping on a main street. Shopkeepers and residents returned fire, killing three assailants. A man, woman and child were injured and taken to a hospital. Dozens of insurgents attacked a U.S. convoy with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades, sparking a clash that saw U.S. troops kill 26 militants.

Social Security Starts Downhill in 2017!

Because this information has just been released today, I am going to talk about Social Security one last time.

The trust fund for Social Security will go broke in 2041.This is a year earlier than previously estimated; the trustees reported Today. The trustees also said that Medicare, the giant health care program for the elderly and disabled, faces insolvency in 2020. This is the trustees of the program reporting now.

Equally important are when benefits paid to the elderly start exceeding the payroll taxes designated to support the two programs. That’s when the government will have to increase its borrowing on financial markets, raise taxes or divert money from other government programs to sustain Medicare and Social Security at current levels.

For Medicare, the threshold when benefits exceed program income occurred last year. For Social Security, that threshold will be crossed in 2017, one year earlier than the 2018 date projected in last year’s report.

That is the last straw folks, we are going to have to do something to solve the problem.

Should private accounts be part of the solution? Absolutely! You say investing is too risky so it wonââât work. Well it has been stated that the return on investment in SS is 1.9%, so why not put it in a savings account at Emigrant Direct They are currently paying 3.25% in a federally insured savings account. Do you want a better return? Put it in a long term CD at the same bank. This is all FDIC insured. There you have it a safe, insured investment that will yield at least 1.25% more then what you get from Social Security, and you know your going for the 10 year CD that is giving 5% right now. Do you still think it is a bad idea?

Patriot Act to Sunset

An unusual coalition of conservative groups and the American Civil Liberties Union opened a public campaign yesterday to scale back the enhanced surveillance powers granted to law enforcement after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The alliance, Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, urged Congress to let sections of the USA Patriot Act expire at year’s end and modify what it called other “extreme provisions” of the law. Sixteen provisions, all related to surveillance powers, will expire Dec. 31 unless Congress extends them.

Bush and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales have called on Congress to renew the Patriot Act in full. Gonzales said on Feb. 28 that although he would welcome a debate in Congress on the topic, “What I will not support are changes in law that would make America more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.”

I still have not made up my mind about this issue. I donââât want to make it harder to crack down on terrorists; however, I donââât like the concept of secret searches either. I donââât like the broad language on domestic terrorism in the Bill. I guess I am for improving the Bill. How about you?

Speaking of Domestic terrorism; why havenââât we rounded up any ELF members?