Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fiction Friday: Songbird Under a German Moon

Tricia Goyer has written another outstanding World War II novel. Perhaps since this is the era when I was born, I find these books compelling. Besides the fact that they're well written, of course.

The year is 1945. The war is over and 21-year-old Betty Lake has been invited to Europe to sing in a USO tour for American soldiers who now occupy Hitler's Germany. The first nights performance is a hit. Betty becomes enthralled with the applause, the former Nazi-held mansion they're housed in and the attention of Frank Witt, the US Army Signal Corp Photographer. Yet the next night this songbird is ready to fly the coop when Betty's new roommate, Kat, turns up missing. Betty soon realizes Frank’s photographs could be the key to finding her. Betty and Frank team up against post-war Nazi influences and wonder if they will find the each other. But will they have a chance for their romance to sing? The truth will be revealed under a German moon.

Interested in other reviews on the blog tour? You’ll find the schedule here. Want to win a copy of songbird? Leave a comment on Tricia’s blog or send an email through her website CONNECT page and answer this question: What era in history do you wish you'd lived in and why? Earn extra entries by signing up for Tricia's newsletter here, becoming a Fan on Facebook or Tweeting about the contest on Twitter (use hashtag #songbird)!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Social Security Going Bust Faster than Expected

According to the New York Times, the bursting of the real estate bubble and the ensuing recession have hurt jobs, home prices and now Social Security. This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes—an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

It seems that payments have risen more than expected during the downturn, because jobs disappeared and people applied for benefits sooner than they had planned. At the same time, revenues have fallen because there are fewer paychecks to tax. Analysts continue to try to predict the year when Social Security will pay out more than it takes in because they view that threshold as a tipping point — the first step of a long, slow march to insolvency unless Congress strengthens the program’s finances. And how can they since they are already increasing taxes for health care?

As we Boomers hit retirement age, it’s tempting to apply for benefits in hopes of recouping at least some of what we’ve paid in over a lifetime of work. More so if your income has taken a hit from job loss or cutback. Frankly, I don’t expect to collect even a small percentage of what I’ve paid in, even if I were to start collecting now. And our kids will never see what they are paying in now.

When will we learn that we can’t support everyone in the manner in which we’ve become accustomed? Social security was a flawed program based on flawed premises from the beginning. It has created at dependent class of people who haven’t planned well for their retirement, assuming the government would take care of them. (It was never supposed to be more than supplemental income, but quickly morphed into total dependency for many seniors). Its costs have exceeded projections from the beginning and depending on Social Security has reduced self-responsibility in a generation of people. On one hand I’m glad my mom has Social Security, but on the other hand, I know she’s collected far more than she’s paid in. It’s a nice luxury, but can we afford it for our generation? Or do we need to reconsider? What do you think?


Sunday, March 21, 2010

It’s a Sad Day for America

Well, they did it. Lawmakers in DC, paying no mind to the will of the American people, narrowly passed legislation to take over one sixth of the American economy and the heath care of every American. Despite the Democrats’ claims of bipartisanship, it was a Democrat bill all the way, filled with high costs, mandates, limits on our freedom, and a budget-breaking price tag.

What will this mean to you and me? It’s too soon to tell, but we can expect doctors to quit their practices, wait times to increase, and rationing to occur. Our parents will suffer, we will probably suffer more as the bill is implemented and the rationing panels are implemented, and our kids will not only receive less care, but also enjoy less prosperous lifestyles as they pay for this and whatever else this administration has in mind for us.

Let’s keep the faith. Let’s pray. Let’s continue to follow the American way. Let’s continue to teach our children this history of this nation. Let’s not get sucked into the entitlement mentality. This America and it isn’t over yet. Consider these words from Congressman Mike Pence:

“Such a blow to freedom can either discourage us to the point of retreat, or motivate us to greater action. Victory may not be ours on this day – but there is another day. As for me, I have not yet begun to fight…. As John Quincy Adams said, “Duty is ours; results are God’s” – now, let us continue to do our duty.”

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Physicians Frustrated by Medicare

Increasingly physicians are being frustrated by Medicare and the witch-hunt for fraud. Many are considering dropping their Medicare and Medicaid patients, which would result in higher profits and less hassle.  Most don’t want to do this, but they don’t see many options. For example, here’s a letter by a primary care physician who is ready to drop Medicare. What will he do when the entire system is run by the government?

Other physicians are cost-shifting underpayments from Medicare to private patients. What will they do when the entire system is run by the government?

Meanwhile, the government tries to squeeze even more blood from these medical turnips. According to Human Events, since 2001, the real inflation-adjusted payments to physicians under Medicare Part B have decreased well over 10 percent, and many specialties have seen far greater cuts. These cuts would have been even larger, except that Congress has acted to block the cut every year since 2002.  Yet the underlying formula laid out back in 1997 remains unchanged, and the current planned cuts are 21.2 percent for this year, along with about 5-percent cuts for the next few years, all not including inflation. Because of this, many doctors will go out of business and many more will cease to participate in Medicare and Medicaid (where payments are most often tied to Medicare rates) if these cuts occur.  If health care reform is, in fact, supposed to increase access to health care AND promote quality care, this downward path is unsustainable. But in Washington, the cost of paying doctors for actually providing care is not being considered as part of reform.

And don’t forget that Medicare is the biggest denier of claims, denying 6.85% of claims in 2007-2008, which is more than other insurer. So who's the most "heartless" now? And why should Americans accept the idea of being forced into a government-run system when, based on documented government experience, they will be more likely to see their claims denied?

Folks, the health care bill will likely come up for a vote this week. Have you made your voice heard? If not, you and your parents will regret it. Soon.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Old People, Old Furniture....

I was at a brunch a while back when one of the older ladies made an interesting comment. She said, “We value old furniture more than we value old people.”

Isn’t that the truth? We have several pieces of valuable antique furniture—several that are older than my mom. I take great care to guard and care for those antiques. I never feel they’re a nuisance. So why do I get irritated in dealing with my mother? She’s just as fragile. Is she as valuable to me? On a difficult day, I confess I wonder. I get frustrated when she won’t do what I tell her. I get annoyed when she’s not willing to change or improve her life.

For example, last time I took her to the doctor, she had low blood pressure. The doctor found a slight irregularity in her heartbeat. He suggested she get a blood pressure machine and monitor herself for a while. Since she’s done that, her blood pressure has skyrocketed. Probably because she’s stressed about it. I try to tell her she’s inducing the spikes. She says she can’t help it. Of course she could if she’d try. So I get annoyed. And feel squished.

The same visit we went to the dermatologist to check out some spots. They were nothing, but Mom told the next doctor that she had been to the “cancer doctor.” Despite the assurances that her bumps were nothing, she had already decided she had skin cancer and no one was going to talk her out of it. I feel squished.

I think I’ll go polish my furniture…

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