Humor Times blog - by James Israel

I publish a monthly paper called the Humor Times, available via subscription anywhere in the world. This blog allows me to comment in a more timely manner on current events, etc., since, after all, I have plenty to say!

Friday, September 09, 2011

All posts now at

Please go to for all blog posts by James Israel from now on. Thank you.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

What's this about a free ride?! We PAID for our Social Security!

I saw this rant in an email making the rounds, and it got me thinking:
        Remember, not only did you contribute to Social Security but your employer did too. It totaled 15% of your income before taxes. If you averaged only 30K over your working life, that’s close to $220,500. If you calculate the future value of $4,500 per year (yours & your employer’s contribution) at a simple 5% (less than what the govt. pays on the money that it borrows), after 49 years of working (me) you’d have $892,919.98. If you took out only 3% per year, you receive $26,787.60 per year and it would last better than 30 years, and that’s with no interest paid on that final amount on deposit!
        If you bought an annuity and it paid 4% per year, you’d have a lifetime income of $2,976.40 per month. The folks in Washington have pulled off a bigger Ponzi scheme than Bernie Madhoff ever had.

Well, lots of stuff gets passed around the internet that's not true. So, I used this handy-dandy online Annuity calculator and checked it out. I plugged in the following info: $4,500 initial investment (first year of 15% payroll taxes on $30K, which is the total paid by the worker and the employer), $4,500 annual contribution (since you pay every year), 50 year contract term (working 50 years), 6% expected return (1% more than the ranter above, but reasonable), and then added in the effect of 2% per year inflation (something the ranter didn't do). I didn't include any taxes being taken out, because, after all, this is basically a savings account administered by the government. They get the benefit of having all that money to borrow off of (although they've been irresponsible and over-borrowed, but that's another issue).

The above example produces an account total of $719,000. Now, if you lived to 100, and were 68 when you retired, you could take out $22,469 every year, and that's not calculating the continuing interest the account should accrue, which would increase that amount substantially.

Now, you may not start out making what you will later on in life, but this example uses a very modest average of $30K/year, so I think it's more than fair.

So, it's true. We paid for our Social Security, it's no hand out. All this bloviating by our elected officials -- who, after all, get a pretty cushy retirement and health benefit deal -- about how we need to sacrifice some of this "entitlement" to help pay down the national debt is pure BS. Because it is NOT charity, but we ARE entitled to it.

The government has irresponsibly borrowed from the Social Security fund to try to balance their books all these years, and that is not the fault of the workers paying into it. We've spent untold gazillions over the decades on our ill-conceived military exploits, but once again, that's not the fault of the worker. We give HUGE tax breaks to multi-national corporations who are already making record profits -- now THERE'S some welfare that needs to be scaled back!

The super-rich exploit loopholes and pay less in taxes as a percentage than us working stiffs, yet the Republicans refuse to even consider going back  to the Clinton-era tax rates, which would go a long way toward balancing the budget. The rich were doing just fine under those rates, by the way.

Yet the only "shared" sacrifice being called for by these hypocrites is off the backs of the ever-receding middle class, the seniors and the poor. We must reject this whole line of so-called "reasoning," and demand fair treatment and common-sense solutions.

And NO WAY will we let them rip off our hard-earned Social Security!

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

The best way to turn around the economy is not austerity

For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps. The top 1% of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago. Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008. In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one. 61% of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, up from 49% in 2008 and 43% in 2007.

Given these facts, showing wealth continues to get concentrated at the top, while the majority continues to slide down the economic scale, why would anyone want to vote for the party that consistently does the most to help the rich, while ignoring the needs of the majority?
Families earning more than $1 million a year saw their federal tax rates drop more sharply than any group in the country as a result of President Bush’s tax cuts.
-- New York Times, January 8, 2007
Republicans have been promising more of the same, should Americans give control of Congress back to them next election.

Of course, it's more than tax cuts that have created this super-rich class. It's all kinds of policies that affect all aspects of the economy. Laws that help corporations avoid responsibility, for example, save them money.

Starting unnecessary wars enrich the military industrial complex. So much money has been thrown at privatizing the national security state that "no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work," as the Washington Post reported recently in their Top Secret America exposé.

The list of ways our government helps the rich and hurts the rest of us goes on and on.

What we really need to do is encourage a fundamental change in direction. Many have called for an FDR-style work program on energy conservation, such as retrofitting buildings, and on building a vibrant alternative energy industry, such as solar, wind, geothermal and so on. Transportation, too, is an area we desperately need to put people to work on, building more light rail and speed rail lines. There is plenty that needs to be done in the area of rebuilding our infrastructure as well.

It would take another, very targeted, stimulus to accomplish these things. But by getting our economy moving again, really moving, by employing people rather than throwing money at banks, etc, we would increase the tax base and be able to pay down our national debt.

The austerity measures being touted now by conservatives and even some Democrats will not accomplish this. It will only increase the pain. And, of course, help the rich.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pissed off voters about to piss on themselves

With the election season already heating up (along with the summer), conventional wisdom says the Republicans will make big gains in Congress, maybe even take over the House. After all, the economy is still in a shambles, and voters tend to vote against the one holding the White House when they’re pissed. And pissed they are.

Hell, I’m pissed. But the “new” Republican plan looks a lot like what got us into this terrible mess in the first place: more tax cuts for the rich, expand offshore gas and oil drilling – and forget fixing and strengthening those pesky regulations – we should “trust the market.” The market will punish BP, and cause oil companies to get better at safety! Yeah, right. That’s worked so well in the past. Hey, I’m an independent, but with that record, I can’t vote GOP.

Oh, and by the way, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – a right-wing political group representing large corporations – has proposed what it’s calling a “recovery plan.” It includes the above, and says we should also get out of the way of logging companies and just go ahead and level the national forests, privatize Social Security (just think how well that would have worked in the last stock market dive), and get this, we need to privatize highways and waterways!

What’s scary is that the combination of so many folks being so frustrated and so poorly informed may result in this lunacy becoming reality.

To react to the recession by privatizing everything and giving corporations carte blanche to do anything they want without regulation is just plain suicide to a democracy. We the people should be in charge, not fake corporate “persons.” They’d like to shrink government down to a size they can “drown in a bathtub,” as Grover Norquist so infamously put it.

The problem has been that the government has been functioning poorly, not that there is government. And it’s been functioning poorly precisely because we had people in power for eight years who wanted to “drown” it.

While they held the presidency and Congress, Republicans put industry people in as heads of the “watchdog” agencies. They just hopped right in bed with the companies they’re supposed to regulate – literally, in the case of the disgraced Mineral Management Agency, which was supposed to be enforcing good safety practices for the oil industry. Instead, they waived the rules and partied with company brass in the now infamous sex and drug parties.

No, the problem isn’t the government, it’s letting corporate power brokers take over the government. And this will only get worse, since the Supreme Court decided to let corporations spend unlimited sums to influence elections (because they’re people too!).
Unless we elect a congress that will pass real election reform.

It’s not easy to turn around such a gargantuan mess, and although I disagree with much of what Obama has – and hasn’t – done, I recognize it’s like turning around a huge, slow moving ship – it takes time. And things would be improving a whole lot faster if the minority party in the Senate wasn’t filibustering everything!

If anything, voters should recognize that we need to elect fewer GOP (Grand Obstructionist Party) members, because of their irresponsible use of the filibuster. Maybe then we could get some desperately needed changes in place. (And/or, Congress needs to do away with the filibuster.)

Just what kind of “democratic” institution is run by the minority, anyway? Oh yeah, our kind. *Sigh.*

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fox News is Lying to You -- AGAIN

Fox News reported that a video of Dept. of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod talking to an audience of NAACP members proved she was racist, and shows her saying that she was proud of withholding help for a white couple who were in danger of losing their farm.

Only one problem: When you view the whole tape, you see that this is not so.

Ms Sherrod was relating doubts she had way back in 1986, when she was working for a non-profit. She was explaining how for a while in her position there, only black clients had come through needing help. Then one day, she had her very first opportunity to help a white couple. As she explained after this controversy broke out, she was at the time "telling the story of how working with [the white client] helped me to see the issue is not about race. It's about those who have versus those who do not have."

She related how she had joined this non-profit to help other blacks, since that was all she had seen suffering growing up. So when a rare white couple in this area applied for help, she was, at this early point in her career twenty-four years ago, taken aback, and she admits, tempted to see them as not worthy of help somehow. But the whole point of the story she’s relating, as you see if you watch her whole talk, is that she saw the light, and realized it was poor people in general she wanted to help.

And another small detail left out by the makers of this video, conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, and Fox “News” is that the white couple in question -- you know, the “victims” of Sherrod’s “racism”? -- absolutely love her. When questioned on this story, the old couple were incredulous that anyone could call her racist, and talked about how great she was with them, and how she helped save their farm.

The farmer's wife, Eloise Spooner, 82, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that Sherrod helped save their land. Spooner, who considered Sherrod a "friend for life," said that "the federal official worked tirelessly to help" the couple hold onto their farm as they faced bankruptcy in 1986. "Her husband told her, ‘You're spending more time with the Spooners than you are with me,'" Spooner said. "She took probably two or three trips with us to Albany just to help us out."

Some racist.

Look, we all experience doubts in life, and adjust our viewpoints as we mature. Shirley Sherrod was courageous enough to talk openly about her doubts, to make a point that she knows she was wrong to think that way, and that she realized it is better to unite with all races to fight the injustice of poverty.

And this is the type of person Fox News wants to smear? What are they really doing here? Just stoking racial resentment in whites?

No? Are you sure? After all, there’s a pattern here. There was the episode in September 2009 with White House Adviser Van Jones being forced to resign after it was revealed that he said some bad things about Republicans before joining the administration, basically. And what about the ACORN video circus, brought to you by the same folks who brought you this latest “creatively edited” tape?

That one was also proven to be surreptitiously edited with nefarious intent, for once again, when you view the unedited tape, you find that you are being deceived. In the ACORN case, tapes were edited to make it seem employees were helping a pimp and his whore with plans for housing underage prostitutes from Mexico. Just one problem: This too, was a big lie.

One of the employees these slimeballs were trying to frame turned out to be a guy who was actually eliciting as much information as he could from them. After all, he believed that they were criminal sex slave traders -- he bought their act -- and he wanted to report them to the police. Which he did -- immediately after these soulless “pranksters” left with their secret video “evidence.”

Which “evidence,” as you may recall, was dutifully reported by Fox News. And reported. And reported. It was all they talked about for days. Playing the clips over and over again. The heavily edited clips. The intentionally misleading, slanderous clips. Reported as news. By Fox “News.”

Now the latest is that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said his department will reconsider the ouster of Shirley Sherrod. He decided this after civil rights leaders told him they were "snookered" into believing a conservative website's charges of racism against her were true, which was what had caused them to make an earlier, rushed statement that she should resign.

So, conservatives, I ask you: Is this really “fair and balanced” reporting? Is this the “trusted news source” you want to get your information from?

Because, if it is, you must really like being lied to.

And we ain’t talkin’ no “white” lies here, either.

Yes, by now the truth is plain. It is, shall we say, black and white.

* * * * * * * * *

Check out Rachel Maddow’s brilliant dissection of this story, as well as her brilliant dissection of the Obama administration’s terrible habit of kowtowing to right wing media on these character assassination attempts, before thoroughly investigating the charges. The administration is, as she puts it, “feeding the dog at the table -- and the dog is going to keep coming back.”

News report on the Shirley Sherrod story.

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