Saturday, August 18, 2012

What's Your Tax Bracket? - A Butterfly Update - The 716 Billion Dollar Lie - and Sid's Plane Flight

At What Rate Are YOU Being Taxed?

Here is a little exercise for you.

1.  Get out your copy of your 2011 tax return and have a calculator handy.

2.  Enter into your calculator the total amount which Uncle Sam wanted you to pay in income taxes, based on your income after you took your deductions and credit for exemptions. This is the called “Total Tax” and it appears on line 61 of your form 1040.

3.  Now push the division key on your calculator. 

4.  Now enter the total amount you paid taxes on, after all deductions and exemptions due you, which you will find on line 43 of form 1040 where it is called “Taxable Income.” 

5.  Now push the percentage sign key (or the equal sign key if you don't have a percentage sign key) on your calculator to see what percentage of your taxable income you paid in taxes. You might want to sit down before you do this. 

Keep that percentage in mind the next time  
Mitt Romney assures you that he always paid his taxes and that they were about 13.6% of his income. or whatever number he mentions that day.
Jack Lippman


Butterfly Corner Report

This year’s floral work in the butterfly garden out in back included the planting of a new Passiflora (Jeanette) to replace the Vida Pura which was pretty, but didn’t support butterfly larva very well, and two Dutchman’s Pipe vines along with some replacement Milkweed plants.  Meanwhile the Calliandra (pink powderpuffs) and Wild Lime have thrived along with the Pentas and Porterweed.  Also, two Plumbagos and a Firebush are growing in a wild manner and are frequented by many butterflies of all varieties.

Innumerable caterpillars have hatched from eggs laid on the Passiflora and the Dutchman’s Pipe, as well as on the Milkweed.  Butterflies spotted in the yard this summer include Gold Trimmed Black Swallowtails, Giant Swallowtails, Zebra Longwings, Gulf Fritillaries, Monarchs, Queens and White Peacocks.  Almost all of them enjoy the White Penta I planted last fall.  There is something doing almost all of the time in the butterfly garden.  Come visit if you are in the neighborhood.

Caterpillar (either Goldtrimmed Polydamus Swallowtail or Pipevine Swallowtail) on Dutchman’s Pipe vine in my yard.


Medicare, Obamacare and Lies  - It's All About  $716,000.000.000!

Over the next decade, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) provides for a gradual decrease in the amount needed to fund Medicare, due to reductions in amounts paid to hospitals, nursing homes, physicians and insurance companies.  The purpose of this is to have these recipients of government Medicare money operate more efficiently, getting rid of waste, fraud, inefficiency and duplication without any reduction in the benefits available to those on Medicare.  The amount the government will not have to pay out over the next decade due to this decrease in spending is 716 billion dollars!  This is the law of the land at present.  

Let's look at what can be done with this "freed-up" resource.  Of course, if “Obamacare” is repealed, these built-in spending cuts will not be the law of the land any longer and the government will have to figure on spending, rather than saving, that 716 billion dollars over the next decade because the efficiencies which were to produce them would no longer be the law!  But more about that later.

Basically, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is designed for people who are not on Medicare.  As deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court, the law mandates them all to purchase at least minimal health insurance privately so that insurance companies will be able to spread the risk among a large number of healthy and unhealthy insureds, all of whom will then be able to get health insurance regardless of their health at a fair price.   

For those who cannot afford health insurance, and those on Medicaid due to their low income, the government will provide financial support.  The Act provides that the freed-up 716 billion dollars of Medicare savings mentioned above can be used over the next ten years for this purpose.  If that were not the case, such government financial support for purchasing health insurance for those who cannot afford it would require additional revenues in the form of increased taxes of some kind.

The Republicans refer to this as stealing from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.  IF THE SAVINGS WERE BASED ON A REDUCTION IN BENEFITS TO THOSE ON MEDICARE, WHICH THEY ARE NOT, I WOULD AGREE WITH THAT.  BUT AGAIN, LET ME REITERATE THAT THIS IS NOT THE CASE!   The 716 billion dollars will come from reduced payments to Medicare providers who will be compelled to operate more efficiently. 

Using these Medicare savings over the next ten years to subsidize those who cannot afford to purchase the required health insurance on their own will put all Americans in the same boat, and neutralizes a contrast between those already on Medicare and those who are not.  We are all in this together, and that includes the providers.

Certainly, we must make provision for the future funding of Medicare but that has nothing to do with the 716 billion dollar reduction in Medicare spending over the next decade.  Perhaps the entry age will have to be changed and income-based deductibles and co-payments instituted, but that is another question entirely; both parties agree that something has to be done.  Of course, spending cuts due to the greater efficiencies which Obamacare will require of the participating insurers who will be providing coverage, as well of all Medicare providers, will have to be a permanent part of whatever is done.

Republicans are always thrilled when there is a decrease in government spending.  They are elated over that 716 billion dollar savings over the next decade, but reluctant to give President Obama and the Democrats credit for it, so they instead refer these spending cuts as “stealing from Medicare to fund Obamacare.”   The G.O.P. says this in order to appear favorable in the eyes of those gullible seniors whom they can frighten into believing the falsehood that their Medicare benefits will be reduced.  But that is not the case.  For the umpteenth time, let me repeat that Medicare benefits will not be reduced.  The 716 billion dollars will come from efficiencies instituted on the part of insurers and providers.  When Republicans tell you otherwise, remember that what they are saying IS A BIG, BIG LIE !  Medicare benefits will not, I repeat, NOT, be reduced to effect this savings.

Of course, you won’t catch candidates or the party doing the heavy lifting in perpetrating such falsehoods. 
They leave it to the unaccountable SuperPacs brought into prominence by the Citizens United decision.  When you see their ads on television, note the names of the groups sponsoring them. 

If the Republicans, after the November elections, are in a position to repeal Obamacare, the 716 billion dollars in Medicare savings will no longer be the law of the land.  They will not happen. In all probability, however, the G.O.P. will then enact legislation instituting these very same spending cuts so that, under their own label, the same 716 billion dollars in Medicare savings cuts over the next decade will still be there, based on the same more efficient delivery of benefits by providers as is the goal of the current law.  

But with Obamacare repealed, there would be no longer any need for this freed-up money to help provide health insurance coverage to the uninsured.  What other use might be made of it?  Hmmm?

I suspect that the 716 billion dollars would suddenly be available to justify a continuation of the Bush tax cuts and to eliminate  any need to provide additional revenue by raising taxes. Thus the wealthy would have more untaxed resources available for supposed job creation.


That, at least to my way of thinking, is the way Republicans look at it.  I would hope you can see through their curtain of falsehoods.
Jack Lippman


Sid's Corner 

Sid Bolotin

“What time is your flight tomorrow morning, dad?”

 “9:30”, I answered, even though I knew it was actually ten minutes later at 9:40.

And so began our inevitable ritual that always reminds me of the Passover ceremony wherein the youngest child asks the four questions of “why?”.

“What time do you and mom want do get to the airport?”

“Well, you know that I like to get there two hours before takeoff; so get us there at 7:30.”

“Dad, why do you get there so early? Just to sit at the gate for an hour? Remember that you printed your boarding passes on line and just have to drop off your two checked bags. You can get there at 8:00, zip through security in fifteen minutes with no problem, and be at the gate well before the 9:10 boarding time.”

“Al”, I responded with a sigh, “we go through this every time mom and I visit. Rationally you’re right; but it’s a matter of my comfort zone. I’d rather sit longer at the gate than risk a “what if” delay…traffic, security, call of nature, whatever…that could exacerbate my travel angst. You know I hate to travel. Just give me my thirty minutes more of comfort.”

“Okay, okay, dad; but we’ll have to leave before 7:00 to beat the Monday morning traffic out of town rushing to get to work in Boston.”

So, the next morning after I arose at 5:30 to allow time for my yoga stretches, toilette, and breakfast cereal, I was pacing the kitchen at 6:45 eager for my son to load our bags into his wife’s car for Phyllis to zip us to Boston’s Logan Airport…normally a twenty minute jaunt from their home in Swampscott, just north of Boston.

Because Phyllis and my wife, Barbara, were less brisk than I in their timeliness, we didn’t get on the road until 7:10, got snagged in heavy traffic, and didn’t get to Logan until 7:45.

Oh well, I thought, my thirty minute margin was to allow for just this. We’re still okay.

But then our nightmare began as we entered the airport, approached the bag drop off counter, and saw a sea of like-minded travelers in a serpentine queue seven rows wide. With my heart pounding we inched along as I kept watch on the time and wiped my sweating face with paper towels. As we looped round and round, I caught sight of the line forming up to go through security just beyond the check-in counter, and my gut wrenched at its length leading to the actual security area.

After clearing check-in Barb and I schlepped our two carry-on bags over to the security line as fast as my arthritic knees and pounding heart would allow, only to discover that while we were at drop-off, the line had swelled to the length of a basketball court. Exhausted and hurting we positioned ourselves at the end and proceeded to crawl toward the entrance to security. The only encouraging thing was the airport personnel coming along to gather travelers who were in danger of missing their flights.

At about 8:30 we entered the security area to discover another five-row serpentine queue snaking its way slowly toward the scanners…clearly lacking in the number of TSA examiners.

TSA personnel marched along the lines admonishing everyone that the slowness was being caused by us because we were not adhering to the 3-1-1 rule, especially that we were not keeping the plastic bag separate from our carry-on bags. They were enforcing the rule to the letter of the law.

Having travelled many times from Florida to New England to visit our children I had never been reproached for having left my plastic bag with gel, toothpaste, and such in my carry-on. “Why now? Why today?” I wondered aloud to Barb. Then it dawned on me that this could be a deliberate slow-down in response to the just-published newspaper account of possible racial profiling at Logan.

Because I gambled and did not present my plastic bag separately, my carry-on was pulled, and I had to explain each liquid…including medications…to the nice TSA lady. After a second run through the scanner we were cleared to go to the gate. It was 9:15…five minutes after scheduled boarding had begun…and ninety minutes after our daughter-in-law dropped us off.

So much for my son’s zip-through analysis!

Luckily we were leaving from Gate 11…fairly close to security…and we huffed and puffed as quickly as we could, secure in the knowledge that we were checked in, and that take-off was at 9:40.

When we staggered into the gate area, we discovered that boarding had been delayed due to a computer glitch on the plane. Thankful for a chance to recoup my emotional and physical wellness, I sank into a chair with gratitude.

My respite was short-lived when after thirty minutes; they announced that the glitch was not fixable, and that we had to change to another plane at Gate 26. Everyone began to rush to the new gate which was at the other side of the terminal. Barb and I chugged along behind the parade with my knees screaming in vain protest: “Get a wheelchair, macho man!”

Murphy’s Law was in full enactment when we gathered at the new gate because nobody had informed the flight crew to join us at Gate 26; they were still at Gate 11. I had lost track of time and was exhaustedly grateful when the crew, paperwork, and inspection were complete. Pleading medical necessity, I stumbled on with the pre-boarding elite passengers, nestled into my seat, and obtained water from the flight attendant for my meds. Safe at last!

“Oh, oh! Why have they stopped boarding?” I wondered aloud to my wife. The announcement came quickly that the engine cowl had a small crack in it and was being evaluated. An answer would be forthcoming within two hours. Meanwhile we had the option to exit the plane to wait at the gate or stay on the plane and enjoy the refreshments. I chose the latter because I was physically and emotionally drained…orders of magnitude more than my usual angst-filled travel obligations.

Sometime later we were again directed to shift to a third plane that had just landed from Chicago at Gate 32. Off we went again!

As they say, “Third time’s the charm!”

We finally landed at West Palm at 5:30 P.M., about five hours later than our originally scheduled arrival, were picked up by patient friends who had shared our day-long odyssey via cell phone, and then enjoyed our usual on-the-way-home repast at our favorite Greek restaurant.   And Jet Blue gave each of us a $100 travel credit.



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