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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

President Obama is Not a Big Spender and the De-Personalization of Communications

Another Educational Lesson for the “Legion of the Gullible(See definition below)

Obama’s “Out-of-Control” Government Spending is Just another G.O.P. Myth


     Mr. Boehner, Mr. Ryan, Mr. Kantor:     Which one of these Presidents qualifies as a "Big Spender"?

Here’s an item from the Wall Street Journal’s online Market Watch dated May 22, 2012, written by Rex Nutting.  Check out the bar graph at its end.

WASHINGTON (Wall Street Journal Market Watch) May 22, 2012:  Of all the falsehoods told about President Barack Obama, the biggest whopper is the one about his reckless spending spree.

              ?  ?  ?  ?

As would-be president Mitt Romney tells it: “I will lead us out of this debt and spending inferno.” Almost everyone believes that Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending, an “inferno” of spending that threatens our jobs, our businesses and our children’s future. Even Democrats seem to think it’s true.
But it didn’t happen. Although there was a big stimulus bill under Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s.  Even hapless Herbert Hoover managed to increase spending more than Obama has.  Here are the facts, according to the official government statistics:
In the 2009 fiscal year — the last of George W. Bush’s presidency — federal spending rose by 17.9% from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. Check the official numbers at the Office of Management and Budget.
In fiscal 2010 — the first budget under Obama — spending fell 1.8% to $3.46 trillion.
In fiscal 2011, spending rose 4.3% to $3.60 trillion.
In fiscal 2012, spending is set to rise 0.7% to $3.63 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the budget that was agreed to last August.
Finally in fiscal 2013 — the final budget of Obama’s term — spending is scheduled to fall 1.3% to $3.58 trillion. Read the CBO’s latest budget outlook.
Over Obama’s four budget years, federal spending is on track to rise from $3.52 trillion to $3.58 trillion, an annualized increase of just 0.4%.
There has been no huge increase in spending under the current president, despite what you hear.
Why do people think Obama has spent like a drunken sailor? It’s in part because of a fundamental misunderstanding of the federal budget.
What people forget (or never knew) is that the first year of every presidential term starts with a budget approved by the previous administration and Congress. The president only begins to shape the budget in his second year. It takes time to develop a budget and steer it through Congress — especially in these days of congressional gridlock.
The 2009 fiscal year, which Republicans count as part of Obama’s legacy, began four months before Obama moved into the White House. The major spending decisions in the 2009 fiscal year were made by George W. Bush and the previous Congress. 

Government spending under Obama, including his signature stimulus bill, is rising at a 1.4% annualized pace  slower than at any time in nearly 60 years.
                                                                       *  *  *
Remember, this piece came from the online Market Watch  feature of the Wall Street Journal, a publication not noted for its liberal propensities. 

 How to spot members of the “Legion of the Gullible.”  There are many in your community.  If they meet two or more of these criteria, they may belong to the “Legion.”  More than two, they are likely to be charter members, and probably beyond redemption, no longer being able to distinguish truth from untruth.
1.     Some believe the President was born in Kenya.
2.     Some believe that the President is a closet Marxist, leading the country down the road to Socialism.
3.     Some believe the President is a Muslim.
4.     Some leave their TV sets permanently tuned to Fox News.
5.     Some leave their car radios permanently set on stations broadcasting Limbaugh, Prager, Savage, Beck and other right wing talk show hosts.
6.     Some have weapons which they feel the government is intent on taking away from them, despite the Second Amendment. 

       Some of  the "Legion of the Gullible." (Their faces are grim because they are "settling" for Mitt Romney as their nominee.  They would have preferred Bachmann, Santorum or Ron Paul.  They may vote Republican this year but for all of the wrong reasons.)

The De-Personalization of Communications
Caused by Email                                       

The de-personalization of communications caused by Email and other electronic media is something that should be of concern to all of us. People sometimes will say something in an Email which they might find it difficult to say in face-to-face contact or even over the telephone.  I once worked for a firm in pre-Email days which laid off employees by sending them a impersonal Western Union telegram, avoiding an uncomfortable confrontation in the boss’s office.  I suspect that today, they might be sending the “pink slip” by Email.

Get angry with someone in person and you can see a face flushing or a grimace, and you can react accordingly.   You can look someone in the eye and ask “What did you mean by that?” and expect an answer.  You can’t do that to the verbiage received in an Email, unless you want to respond in an equally impersonal manner.  Replying to an Email with a telephone call raises the intensity level of the communication, which is something one might not want to do. 


People say things in an Email they might not say were they not hiding behind a computer.  Benjamin Franklin is often quoted as saying that “Once something is kissed by printer’s ink, it lives forever.”  The same might also be true of Email, even with the existence of the capability to delete messages.  We should put more thought into what we put into an Email.  Perhaps the most important key one can strike on their keyboard is the “Send Later” key which gives the communicator the opportunity to review their words before transmitting them.




In the old days, when people communicated by sending letters to one another, they had the time to review, rewrite and correct their thoughts, and even could wait a while before putting a stamp on a letter and mailing it, giving them the opportunity to change their mind about what they had written.  Such carefully written letters represented the thoughts of the sender far better than the hastily typed thoughts put into an Email by a sometimes angry person.  The “Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy” or the “Collected Letters of C S Lewis” are recognized masterpieces of literature.  I wonder if the “Collected Emails” or the "Collected Twitters" of anybody in our present day world will ever be similarly recognized.  So, in addition to making use of the “Send Later” key, it might be a good idea for us to make a point of not even framing a reply to any email for a day or so, giving us time to better digest the message and to compose an appropriate response, if one is even necessary.

If you disagree, and feel that electronic communications are not impersonal, ask yourself why we still take the trouble of sending hand-written “get well” and “sympathy” cards through the U.S. Postal Service, or go to the expense of printing and mailing elaborate wedding announcements when the invitation or message could be just as effectively transmitted by Email.  Electronic communication, because of its impersonal nature, is not always the best choice as a means of communication.

Jack Lippman                                                       


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Most readers of this blog are alerted by Email every time a new posting appears.  If you wish to be added to that Email list, just let me know by contacting me at Riart1@aol.com.  

Also, be aware that www.Jackspotpourri.com is now available on your mobile devices in a modified, easy-to-read, format.

Our family of web sites includes:   www.computerdrek.com  - www.politicaldrek.com  -  www.sportsdrek.com  -  www.healthdrek.com.   
Check all of them out, find out what “drek” really means and feel free to submit your thoughts and articles for publication on these sites, which, while still “under construction,” already contain some interesting content.

Additional new material will continue to be posted on www.politicaldrek.com until the Presidential election.  New material will resume being added to the other three “drek” sites after November of 2012.

Jack Lippman
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To send this posting to a friend, or enemy for that matter, whom you think might be interested in it, just click on the envelope with the arrow on the "Comments" line directly below.

Friday, May 25, 2012

EUROPE AT A CROSSROADS - Austerity? and "THE YELLOW TEE SHIRT" from the Short Story Archive

Europe at a Crossroads

Right now, it looks like Europeans are saying “no” to austerity, and hopefully looking toward increased government pump-priming it improve their economies.  Their doing so seems to indicate that they are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary for their countries’ economies to survive.  They seem to be ready to permit their governments to default on their countries’ debts.  This is the case in Greece where a left wing government is likely to take power at the next election.  If Greece defaults on its debt, which is in euros, it will end up withdrawing from, or being thrown out of, the bloc of nations using the euro as their currency because of its refusal to follow their rules.  It will replace the euro with the drachma.  The drachma will not have a strong economic base and its introduction will probably result in inflation, as paper is printed with which to pay the nation’s obligations and to “prime” the economic pump. Other European countries may follow this scenario. Some of these countries do not have enough tax revenues to support the expense of running their governments whose costs include generous social benefits.         
Without “optional” austerity, borrowing to do this will no longer be an alternative. No one will lend them money without their first tightening their belts, which they do not want to do.   As a result, a scarcity of “real” money and printing of “faux” money will cause inflation to occur.  As everything becomes more expensive, spending will be reduced, and like it or not, austerity will then become automatic and not just a choice, as it is today. 

Digging out of such an economic morass will be more much difficult using a nation’s own weak currency than with the Euro, which at least is anchored in Germany’s solid economy.  For that reason, I believe Greece (and Italy, Spain, Portugal and possibly even France) will eventually bite the bullet, tighten their belts and work to strengthen their economies within the framework of the euro rather than with independent weak currencies.  
The alternative to this is the politically dangerous move to some form of redistribution of wealth through the mechanism of higher taxes.  European history is filled with lessons learned from attempts to satisfy the populace with some such form of wealth redistribution.  The results have been grim.

                                 Lenin                                           Hitler                                              French Revolution

It should not be ignored that in Greece, there exists a shadow economy, where tax evasion is a way of life, where business transactions are hidden and reportable banking and credit connections avoided.  It is estimated that these practices are the rule, rather than the exception, in a quarter of the Greek economy!  If this is stopped in Greece and elsewhere on the continent where it exists, it will be a large step forward toward economic recovery.

Jack Lippman


The Yellow Tee Shirt   (from my short story archives)

He unlocked the door and let himself in and tiptoed through the house.  It really wasn’t necessary since Sadie was not yet asleep.

“Ben,” she called out.  “You’re home early tonight.  It’s only eleven.  Thank God, too. I got something I wanna talk to you about.”

“What is it, Hon,” he asked as she came down the hall from their bedroom where she had been reading.  “And why the hell are you wearing that bright yellow tee shirt at this hour of the night.  Never saw you in it before.”

“I’ll tell you about it in a minute, but meanwhile, how was it tonight at the fruit packing plant?”

Bored sick with life at Coconut Commons, South Florida’s self-proclaimed foremost retirement community, Ben had gotten a job two weeks earlier.  Unable to find anything for which his background as a nuclear molecular biochemist had prepared him, he had settled for an evening job at the Palm Beach Fresh Fruit Company’s Lake Worth warehouse.  That firm distributed apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, oranges, plums and almost anything else that grows on trees to vegetable stores and supermarkets throughout Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin Counties.  His job was to put the little sticker on each piece of fruit leaving the warehouse the next day so that the scanner at the cash register in the supermarket where it would eventually be sold could identify whether it was a $1.89 a pound Fuji apple or a $1.59 a pound Delicious from Washington State.
“Oh, tonight was real fun.  I labeled about 2,000 Granny Smiths and then they put me on Santa Rosa plums, for the rest of the night.”

“I figured they did something like that, Ben.  I can see your shirt is all purplely from the juice.”

“Yeah, those plums squash easily if press too hard when you put the sticker on.  That’s why they put me on plums, tonight.  They know I’m good.  Some of those kids from Haiti squash every other plum they touch.”


Sadie smiled, taking his hand.  “They sure recognized talent when they hired you, dear.  But let me tell you what happened here tonight, and let you know about this damn yellow shirt.”

They sat down at the kitchen table and Sadie took out some of the cake leftover from Saturday night and poured them each a caffeine-free diet Coke over crushed ice.

“Ben, remember when we were on that two month cruise around the world last summer, and the Board passed a lot of stuff we didn’t even look at.”

“Yeah, Sadie. I remember,” Ben replied.  You know I gave up on the Board after that crew of jerks was elected last year.  Not one of them could put a label, even on a grapefruit, where I work.   A real bunch of dummies.  Anyhow, what did they do now?”

Sadie’s smile had disappeared.  “Ben,” she said.  “They passed a lot of crazy stuff.  You know, all the ones who were elected were Snowbirds, not like us who live here year round.  And I guess they want to look after their own kind first.”

“What d’ya mean, Sadie,” asked Ben, becoming more interested.

“Well, the block captain dropped by at about six, right after you went to work.  He left a couple of yellow tee shirts, one for you and one for me.  Like the one I am wearing.  He said we gotta wear them whenever we go outside.  All the people who live here year round got them.”

“And what about the snowbirds?”

“I guess they don’t have to wear anything special.”


“And what if I don’t want to wear a tee shirt, what then?” Ben, getting a little more agitated, asked.

“They gave us these buttons to pin on whatever we were wearing instead of the tee-shirt,” she explained, showing her husband two bright yellow plastic buttons, each about five inches in diameter with the word “Year-Rounder” printed on them. If we get caught within the community without wearing our tee shirts or buttons, they can fine us $50 for each occurrence and put a lien on our house if we don’t pay.  The shirts and buttons, the block captain told me, were to make sure the Snowbirds get preferred treatment.  He said they pay club dues and maintenance for twelve months a year but are only here for five or six months at most.  So they feel there ought to be some way for them to get their money’s worth during the time they are here.”

“And what does that mean, Sadie?”

“He said they this will make it possible for Snowbirds always to get seats in front for all of the shows, always go to the front of the line in the Coconut Commons Coffee Shoppe, get right on the exercise equipment in the gym no matter how many year round residents were waiting to use it, and always have chaises and umbrellas at poolside, even if it means asking a year round resident to get up. Same kind of thing goes for the tennis courts and the golf course too.  And oh, yes, the best places in the parking lots will be reserved for their cars, too.  We have to put these yellow stickers on our cars, and if we park them in a ‘Snowbird Only’ spot, we get towed and fined.”

By this time, Ben was visibly angry.  “They can’t get away with this shit.  It sounds like Nazi Germany,” he screamed.

“Don’t get your blood pressure up.  Let’s go to bed and maybe in the morning we’ll think of something,” Sadie said as she wiped the crumbs from the table.

But the next morning, Ben got up very early and left the house before Sadie was awake.  He knew what he had to do.  It wasn’t Ben of the crisp khaki shorts and golf shirt, his usual daytime attire, nor Ben, the fruit labeler wearing his faded blue jeans and old shirt stained with plum juice or some other residue of the fruit warehouse.  This was Ben of the grey slacks, blue button down collar shirt, regimental rep tie, lightweight blue blazer and polished cordovan loafers who strode into the Boca Raton regional headquarters of Monarch Industries, parent of the Palm Beach Fresh Fruit Company, carrying nothing other than the battered briefcase which, thankfully, he had brought with him to Florida.. 

“I have an appointment with Mr. Campanellis,” he said, addressing the receptionist.  “I am Dr. Benjamin Obolensky, and I represent the Sunbelt Foundation.”

“I have no record of that appointment,” the young woman replied, but impressed by the name of the nation’s leading think tank devoted to agri-business, she picked up the phone.  Within a few minutes, Ben was seated across the desk from the man who controlled the fresh fruit business in an area roughly equivalent to the old Confederacy, and whose corporate tentacles reached out to practically every fruit distributor in the country.

Ben explained how the entire fruit labeling process, which had been an expensive pain in the ass for the entire fruit industry ever since the supermarkets had insisted upon it, could be eliminated at Palm Beach Fresh Fruit and the 132 other similar warehouses which Monarch controlled, nationwide.  The answer was in the development of slight mutations in the fruit they were presently handling, through a relatively simple DNA altering procedure. This was closely related to the field in which Ben had received his Ph.D years earlier.  In fact, back in his days at the University, and later at the Sunbelt Foundation where he had been senior research director, he had all but finalized a similar procedure which, if adapted to the fresh fruit business, would enable the laser beam scanner at the checkout counter to look at a piece of fruit, and the proper price would be registered, without a label of any kind having been affixed to the fruit.  The Granny Smith apple would tell the scanner, “I am a Granny Smith apple and my code number is 2089.”  Of course, only an apple from a tree exposed to Dr. Obolensky’s DNA altering procedure would produce such an apple.

Ben knew that Palm Beach Fresh Fruit and Monarch Industries were spending a lot of money developing a machine to affix the labels to the fruit, without having to be touched by human hands.  This would enable the company to eliminate jobs like the one Ben had been working at in the evening.  Capable of putting a sticker on everything from a cherry to a watermelon in a microsecond, each installation would cost the firm about a million dollars.  And with over a hundred warehouses where the machines, if they could be perfected, would be needed, this meant big bucks.  Ben also knew his DNA altering process, including all research and development, government approval, as well as the cost of getting growers throughout the world to use his procedures, would cost far, far, less.


Well, to make a long story short, within a week, Monarch signed a contract with the Sunbelt Foundation, at which Ben was given the title of senior consultant-emeritus, and he ended up with a $5,000,000 fee for giving up his rights to his DNA altering process in addition to a guaranteed income of $1,000,000 a year, for overseeing the project.  The hitch was that he would be required to be in their San Francisco corporate headquarters about eighteen hours a week, but only during the height of the growing season, from May until October.  This made him very happy. 


Ben and Sadie bought a condominium on Knob Hill, from which they could see the Golden Gate Bridge, and enjoy San Francisco’s cultural attractions enormously.  When it gets a little chilly in the “City by the Bay,” however, they fly down to Coconut Commons to take advantage of Florida’s milder climate.  Ben, however, feels a pang of guilt every time he sees a resident wearing a yellow tee shirt or a yellow button.  But, the pain doesn’t last very long, as he and Sadie are pushed past half a dozen yellow-shirted year round residents, to the front of the line at the Coconut Commons Coffee Shoppe.                                        



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Most readers of this blog are alerted by Email every time a new posting appears.  If you wish to be added to that Email list, just let me know by contacting me at Riart1@aol.com.   Also, be aware that www.Jackspotpourri.com is now available on your mobile devices in a modified, easy-to-read, format.

Our family of web sites includes:   www.computerdrek.com  - www.politicaldrek.com  -  www.sportsdrek.com  -  www.healthdrek.com.   
Check all of them out, find out what “drek” really means and feel free to submit your thoughts and articles for publication on these sites, which, while still “under construction,” already contain some interesting content.

Additional new material will continue to be posted on www.politicaldrek.com until the Presidential election.  New material will resume being added to the other three “drek” sites after November of 2012.

Jack Lippman
                                                    * * *   * * *   * * *
To send this posting to a friend, or enemy for that matter, whom you think might be interested in it, just click on the envelope with the arrow on the "Comments" line directly below.