Friday Open Thread

Did you see Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” on Wednesday evening? He did a segment calling the credit downgrade “Obama’s Downgrade”. A little snippet has Larry Wilmore stating that he believes that if Obama’s going to be labeled “black”, then he should own it, and by “own it,” he means “rent it.”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Obama Downgrade
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

I wish Obama had a little bit of Clinton in him. When Gingrich threatened Clinton with a governmental shutdown, Clinton responded with a big, fat BRING IT. Now, let’s think back…hmmm…who was the one that ended up looking like a dick? It sure wasn’t Bill.

Hey – President Obama? The right doesn’t want to work with you. In fact, they’re betting on you to fail and are doing everything in their power, including putting our country and the Ameican people at risk in order to see it happen.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my President. I just wish he was less bi-partisan, let’s-reach-across-the-aisle-and-just-get-along-kumbayah, kind of president.

Now, let me take you back – WAY BACK to  a different time in our American history…


President Bill Clinton: Good afternoon. Today, as of noon, almost half of the federal government employees are idle. The government is partially shutting down because Congress has failed to pass the straightforward legislation necessary to keep the government running without imposing sharp hikes in Medicare premiums and deep cuts in education and the environment.

It is particularly unfortunate that the Republican Congress has brought us to this juncture because, after all, we share a central goal — balancing the federal budget. We must lift the burden of debt that threatens the future of our children and grandchildren, and we must free-up money so that the private sector can invest, create jobs, and our economy can continue its healthy growth.

Since I took office, we have cut the federal deficit nearly in half. It is important that the people of the United States know that the United States now has proportionately the lowest government budget deficit of any large industrial nation. We have eliminated 200,000 positions from the federal bureaucracy since I took office. Our federal government is now the smallest percentage of the civilian work force it has been since 1933, before the New Deal. We have made enormous progress, and now we must finish the job.

Let me be clear — we must balance the budget. I proposed to Congress a balanced budget, but Congress refused to enact it. Congress has even refused to give me the line-item veto to help me achieve further deficit reduction. But we must balance this budget without resorting to their priorities, without their unwise cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, in education and the environment.

Five months ago I proposed my balanced budget plan. It balances the budget in the right way. It cuts hundreds of wasteful and outdated programs, but it upholds our fundamental values — to provide opportunity, to respect our obligations to our parents and our children, to strengthen families and to strengthen America — because it preserves Medicare and Medicaid, it invests in education and technology, it protects the environment, and it gives the tax cuts to working families for child rearing and for education. Unfortunately, Republican leaders in Washington have put ideology ahead of common sense and shared values in their pursuit of a budget plan.

We can balance the budget without doing what they seek to do. We can balance the budget without the deep cuts in education, without the deep cuts in the environment, without letting Medicare wither on the vine, without imposing tax increases on the hardest-pressed working families in America. I am fighting for a balanced budget that is good for America and consistent with our values. If they’ll give me the tools, I’ll balance the budget.

I vetoed the spending bill sent to me by Congress last night because America can never accept under pressure what it would not accept in free and open debate. I strongly believe their budget plan is bad for America. I believe it will undermine opportunity, make it harder for families to do the work that they have to do, weaken our obligations to our parents and our children, and make our country more divided. So I will continue to fight for the right kind of balanced budget.

Remember, the Republicans are following a very explicit strategy announced last April by Speaker Gingrich, to use the threat of a government shutdown to force America to accept their cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, to accept their cuts in education and technology and the environment.

Yesterday they sent me legislation that said — we will only keep the government going, and we will only let it pay its debts if and only if we accept their cuts in Medicare, their cuts in education, their cuts in the environment, and their repeal of 25 years of bipartisan commitments to protect the environment and public health.

On behalf of the American people, I said no. If America has to close down access to education, to a clean environment, to affordable health care, to keep our government open, then the price is too high.

My message to Congress is simple — you say you want to balance the budget, so let’s say yes to balancing the budget, but let us together say no to these deep and unwise cuts in education, technology, the environment, Medicare and Medicaid. Let’s say no to raising taxes on the hardest- pressed working families in America. These things are not necessary to balancing the budget. Yes to balancing the budget, no to the cuts.

I know the loss of government service will cause disruption in the lives of millions of Americans. We will do our very best to minimize this hardship. But there is, after all, a simple solution to the problem. All Congress has to do is to pass a straightforward bill to let government perform its duties and pay its debts. Then we can get back to work and resolve our differences over the budget in an open, honest, and straightforward manner.

Before I conclude, I’d like to say a word to the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who will be affected by this partial shutdown.

I know, as your fellow citizens know, that the people who are affected by this shutdown are public servants. They’re the people who process our Social Security applications, help our veterans apply for benefits, care for the national parks that are our natural heritage. They conduct the medical research that saves people’s lives. They are important to America, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I will do everything I can to see that they receive back pay and that their families do not suffer because of this.

But it is my solemn responsibility to stand against a budget plan that is bad for America and to stand up for a balanced budget that is good for America. And that is exactly what I intend to do.

Thank you very much.

I miss Bill…after all, he was our nation’s first black president.


Quick Answers To Common Money Worries

In light of today’s economy, financial experts in a Ladies’ Home Journal story offered practical advice on how to save and weather the storm. The article was not online so I will run the “action plans” of the article.

In the first scenario — there were three total — the Reeves family of Cincinnati, Ohio, is swimming in debt. Here is what certified financial planner Paul Dolce told them:

The Reeves family needed to cut expenses to free up even more cash for debt payments. For example, by reducing their life-insurance coverage from $500,000 to $300,000 each and switching to a less-expensive carrier, they’re saving $504 a year. Combining their home and auto insurance with one company and increasing their deductibles from $500 to $1,000 reduced annual premiums by another $300. Dolce also encouraged them to start building an emergency savings account, not only to cover those surprise budget busters but also to cushion the occasional cash-flow problems that can result in costly finance fees and overdraft charges.

Dolce also recommended the family skip paying into a college savings account for their children and instead pay off their high-interest credit cards.

In scenerio #2, the Downey Family in Shreveport, Louisiana wants to upgrade to a bigger house. Here is what they plan to do:

The Downeys vowed to slash their discretionary spending by more than half from about $2,200 to $1,000. “We don’t buy lots of stuff, but we do like to travel and eat out a lot,” says Reneé. So instead of dining out 12 to 15 times every month–mostly at mid-priced family-style restaurants–they’ve cut back to about five times. By taking their lunches to work, they save an additional $150 a month. To cut gas costs on longer trips, Reneé drives Patrick’s fuel-efficient car instead of her minivan, and last summer the family took just one 1-week vacation rather than two. They also stopped using credit cards in favor of a debit card, which forces them to keep closer tabs on their spending.

The family — which appears well-off already! — sold stock to make a 20 percent down payment on the new house. They rented their old house to make mortgage payments and opted for a 30-year loan at 6.3 percent.

Now onto the final financial scenario. What did LHJ experts say to the Rudiger Family of Wichita, Kansas, who wanted to retire early?

Retiring early can be costly: The IRS charges a 10 percent penalty on most retirement plan withdrawals taken before age 59 1/2. There are exceptions to the rule, however, including one called “72(t),” after the section of tax code that describes it. The key, says Wright, is that you must take a series of substantially  equal payments–calculated by one of three different methods allowed by the IRS–for at least five years or until you reach age 59 1/2, whichever is longer. “It’s a powerful tool that a lot of people miss out on,” he says. When Christi left her job, she rolled her 401(k) into a self-directed IRA–quite often companies prefer not to administer 72(t) withdrawals–and now receives monthly payouts from her account. David increased his take-home pay by cutting his 401(k) contributions from 20 percent of his salary to 10 percent, enough to get the full company match plus a little extra.

To supplement their income, Christi works part-time on a contract basis at her old company. The couple will also receive a check from a company-sponsored pension plan when they turn 60. They are in their early 50s, by the way.

Unless I were a millionaire, I would find it frightening to retire today much less in my 50s. But the couple says they have been saving since they were young, allowing them to retire early without sacrificing their standard of living. Good for them.

How are you all weathering today’s economic storm, MotherTalkers?