Comedian/social commentator Paul Mooney has a bit where he exclaims “It’s the end of the goddamn world, it really is.” According to the Mayan calendar, the world is supposed to end on on Friday, December 21, 2012. The Mayans believed the date will usher in a new world age of spiritual enlightenment. But it might mean Rapture. And if it’s Rapture, the shop has mixed feelings. There’s a few things we still need to get to. But then again, like my man Troy Johnson implied on Tuesday, maybe all of our bills will go away, too.
The massive gun violence discussed in previous posts on this sight seem to indicate we are in the last days and times. As debates about stricter gun regulation versus resistance to restricting gun ownership escalate, the President appointed Joe Biden to head a task force to look into ways to make the country safer from gun violence. Which begs the question, where has he been all this time folks were shooting each other up right under his nose? He got defensive about it when questioned at a White House press conference on the issue. To wit, his response: “I’ve been the President. Dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the auto bailout, two wars. I think we in Washington have to prioritize things.” In other words, he told ABC’s Jake Tapper he’s been too busy to pay attention to people killing each other in America.
How do you feel when someone tells you they’ve been too busy with other things to call you back, respond to an email, or pay you money they owe you? Don’t you feel blood rush to your face? Like “Damn. My bad. I forgot the world revolves around you.”
It may be nitpicking. It may be too hard on him during a difficult time. But the President’s response was condescending. I get it – he’s got a lot on his plate. But some of the accomplishments he listed in his response were old news. Truth is he’s been campaigning for most of the year. Part of his campaign strategy was to avoid a fight with the NRA. Comparatively, his response to Hurricane Sandy was a softball. Responding to and commenting on gun violence in Chicago, Aurora, Florida, etc. would have been pricklier and took him off track from campaigning on economic issues. Granted he could have tied the role poverty and hopelessness plays into gun violence, but that seems to be outside of his senior advisors’ wheelhouse.
Extreme violence is supposed to be a sign of the last days and times, which could have lent credibility to the Mayans’ prediction. And maybe that’s why Hilary Clinton let Susan Rice take the hits for what happened in Benghazi. If the world is going to end, her non-committal stance wouldn’t hurt a 2016 presidential campaign. Unfortunately for her, we’re still here. Released this week was a report examining what happened in Benghazi, and what security breaches, if any, occurred in the process. The report kind of spared her and laid blame at the feet of some of her subordinates. But as this Washington Post article points out, Susan Rice as a culprit for either the breaches or alleged cover-up ain’t in there. Now heads rolled but conspicuously absent was any statement from Hilary. I hope she apologized to Susan Rice in the meanwhile.
The Mayans weren’t the only ones predicting the end of the world. The so-called fiscal cliff is being played like it’s the end of the world. But the people crying the most about it – rich m-fs and the military are most impacted – and truthfully, the impact on the rich is overstated. First things first. Taxes are not going up per se. They are being restored. Bush cut tax rates from Clinton era levels ten years ago. So a restoration might feel like a hike because, for example, we got used to (and could use) that extra dough from the payroll tax cut. So the top rate of 39.6% on income is not a hike. A hike would be going over that 39.6%. And if you’re making a lot of cheddar and have benefited from the Bush tax cuts the last 10 years, the restoration does not hurt you. Second, the bulk of the spending cuts are targeted at the military. But they ain’t going to hit personnel or veterans’ retirement accounts. It might mean we don’t spend it on outdated weaponry and stuff we don’t use and contractors who fall outside of the chain of command. Third, Medicare benefits aren’t cut but payments to medical providers and insurance plans are capped. (That downward adjustment could have a domino effect on people in finding providers who will see Medicare patients). There are no, repeat no, cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, federal employee retirement plans, and Pell Grants. Emergency extension of unemployment benefits will expire. So the people most impacted in the immediacy are the high income earners and the military.
Now, we hear that The Market is not taking the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff negotiations well. My thought was “There goes that mythological monolith Market that does not like it when rich people can’t hoard more money.” The so-called Market is acting as if no deal on the so-called fiscal cliff is the end of the world. But if it was, they’d have enough money to carry on like they do now into the After-Life.
Sad by-product of the fiscal cliff hand-wringing is that the public is sick of hearing about it. Not just sick about hearing about it, but want a deal to be made. Want a deal to be made so badly, they’ll take just about any deal. At least that’s what the polls indicate. New rap coming out is that the Prez and Nancy Pelosi are prepared to allow changes to the way Social Security benefits are calculated. Which goes into the “But Why” question box. This whole fiscal cliff is a creation of an effort to balance the budget and reduce the deficit. Social Security ain’t got nothing to do with that. The GOP’s main man, Ronald Reagan, said as much. The current sequestration has no cuts to Social Security. So why are the Dems desperate to make a deal to save face in the short run for long term damage to beneficiaries of Social Security. Congressman Alan Grayson provides this summary and example:
Social Security benefits are automatically adjusted each year to reflect increases in the cost of living, as determined by the consumer price index (CPI). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the CPI each month. Here is how the “chained CPI would change things: Let’s say that the cost of gasoline tripled, from $3.33 per gallon to $10 per gallon. Most people would call that a 200% increase in the price of gas. That’s how it would be calculated under the CPI today. Under the chained CPI, however, it would be calculated at less than 200%, because some people couldn’t afford to pay $10 a gallon. They would drive less. They might have to take the bus to work. They might take a “staycation” instead of a vacation. Because a tripling in the price of gas basically makes everyone poorer, and thus less able to buy gas, the chained CPI doesn’t count that as a 200% increase. It reduces the percentage increase in proportion to the amount of gas that people can no longer afford to buy. In fact, the bigger the price increase (and the poorer people get), the bigger the gap between the actual price increase and the chained CPI adjustment. This effect starts off small, and barely noticeable, but then as time goes by, it swells like a blister. In fact, it swells from $1.4 billion in the first year to $22 billion in the tenth year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. So the chained CPI is inflation protection that, by design, inflation itself erodes. Ain’t that just grand? To make things worse about the chained CPI, there is no evidence that the existing CPI is somehow overpaying seniors.
So why are we talking about messing with Social Security again?
The world may not have ended, but it seems to be the end of the creativity for many sportswriters. How many stories are we going to read about Rob Parker’s comments about RGIII on ESPN2′s First Take? In summary again, he called RGIII a “cornball brotha.” And he might be. But that’s the way they roll on First Take. They are always name-calling. They talk in slang They insult players, coaches, executives, commissioners, other sports journalists, each other. Charles Barkley frequently makes similar comments on TNT’s Inside the NBA. First Take is siphoning its energy from that kind of programming. The “keep it real” programming. They invite bombastic remarks and loud talk. Bruhs do it all the time. Sports fans do it all the time. So what’s the problem?
In any event, Parker’s comments got more run than the aforementioned callous remarks from Obama on gun violence. More stories than those written about Stephen A. Smith screaming “Nigga please!” during an ESPN segment on hoops. (As a boy of mine said, while Stephen A. denied saying it, he never repeated what he actually said). More stories than on Kanye West wearing a leather skirt while performing in a concert benefitting the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Only slightly less stories than on what ails the Lakers.
Oh well, if you can’t write about shootings, Benghazi, the fiscal cliff and the Lakers, what else is there to write about? After all if the world’s going to end anyway, why write about anything else other than low-hanging fruit?