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Comments by curiouscat

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Posted on November 19 at 10:05 a.m.

Loneranger,

It is a grand assumption that I do not and have not run a business. Ad hominem attacks are both pointless and silly, since we do not know each other - and even then they just expose the speaker's argument as deficient in substance.

But the main point is that this is a discussion of government spending, not consumer spending. Anyone who has worked in government purchasing or for a company that supplies public institutions knows that it works very differently from shopping at Vons.

Private contracting has supplanted many activities that were done by public employees just a few years ago, and the result has been a marked increase in cost. This is both at the front end - the cost of a Blackwater contract is far greater than that of the same number of trained military personnel - and the back end - those contractors who return home to no health care, employment training or disability coverage. These necessary services are then covered by you and me. It is all very nice for Mr. Prince to externalize costs while privatizing public funds, but we are the ones who pay for it. And at last check, his local charity was the royal family of Abu Dhabi.

On a local level, look at the privatization of the public library in Camarillo - a library that the city acknowledges was well-run and making the painful cuts dictated by city budgets. The contractor promises that firing all staff and making them reapply for entry-level positions with minimal 401k matching and reduced health care coverage will save money eventually, though the switchover actually requires a hefty investment by the city. The selling points are things like Wal-Mart style "greeters" with no library skills, a nonsensical waste paid for with the pensions of those who earned advanced degrees specifically to serve the public in one of the lowest-paid parts of the public sector. Services will be reduced greatly, since it will be a stand-alone collection rather than part of the county network and will not participate in statewide programs like inter-library loan and school programs. There will be no adult services, e.g. book clubs or literacy tutoring, and those for children will be reduced. Essentially, it will not be a library but a bunch of books (that were paid for by the good citizens of Camarillo) in a pretty building (built with tax dollars) that is open occasionally. And all for the vague promise of savings somewhere down the line.

On Capps Pauses on Proposals

Posted on November 18 at 9:43 p.m.

Asserting that a reduction in the benefits for the federal workforce would impact the deficit at all defies logic and history. The tiny amount of savings would be absorbed by other programs, just as the supposed cuts in the a few defense items are just going to be redirected to other ventures within the military, resulting in a net raise for the overall defense budget:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-an...

Think bigger. What are the institutional problems that cause the budget to be so large in the first place? The basic premise that we should pay a private business the same cost that a government department would incur, plus a layer of profit on top? The system of cost-plus pricing that allows contractors to base this profit on a percentage of the total bill, motivating them to spend as much as possible? The commercial tax structure that rewards the private sector for driving wages to the bottom, then allows it to dump its elderly and disabled workers onto the public rolls?

We can no longer afford the luxury of welfare for the most successful capitalists. Just about every aspect of the public sphere has suffered greatly with the blind devotion to privatization and profit - and we all suffer as a result.

On Capps Pauses on Proposals

Posted on November 18 at 3:31 p.m.

Hooray for Congresswoman Capps!

I support her work toward a public option, and for fair access and services for the people of this community, regardless of income level.

While I see the argument for maintaining the mortgage tax deduction, I respectfully disagree. It only serves to keep the housing bubble artificially inflated with tax dollars. Real estate prices need to deflate for the market to return to levels based on use value, rather than speculation and fraudulent CDOs.

It is very unfortunate that many people will be harmed, but many are being harmed by continuing to overvalue property. The consumers who gain the most from the mortgage tax deduction are those with high-value and multiple homes; they will not end up homeless or even renters from the loss of this tax credit.

The ones who will lose out most will be owner-occupants who cannot afford the mortgages they took out at the height of the boom. But many of them are likely to lose their property in the next few years anyway, with or without the mortgage deduction in place. They will be better off over the long term if prices drop than if they try to pay their 2007 mortgage off in a depression that lasts through 2020 or beyond.

Eliminating the mortgage tax credit is an essential step in letting prices find their real level. This will benefit many reliable consumers who cannot afford to compete with speculators. It is also more equitable toward renters, who pay the mortgage and interest on it while never seeing a dime of the owner's tax perk.

Real estate and finance industries are fighting tooth and nail to keep it, of course, as those who choose the interest rates and get paid a percentage of the sale price are the ones who benefit from an inflationary bubble. The economy is only going to get worse until they learn the lesson they missed in basic market economics: an object or service is only worth the price someone is willing to pay for it.

The bankers got their fees, a few years of mortgage payments and possession of properties that they can now resell, albeit for a lower price. They gambled and won. Now they just need to quit whining that the winnings didn't live up to their expectations of an eternal windfall as in previous years. There are better uses for your tax dollars and mine than keeping the top 2% in the lifestyle to which they wish to remain accustomed.

It would be even more beneficial if the tax incentives for developers and commercial property owners were eliminated, but those are a political third rail of even higher voltage than the residential one.

On Capps Pauses on Proposals

Posted on November 14 at 10:41 a.m.

This couple clearly experienced a tragedy the day of the fire. How unfortunate that it had to be followed by the tragedy of health care in this country.

A huge proportion of the civil legal system is devoted to health care disputes: actions between consumers and insurance companies, insurers and providers, government and insurers, and consumers and providers. Entire buildings of lawyers are devoted to to finding deep-pocketed culprits to hold responsible in order to cover expenses that are so inflated by a profit-driven medical system that the ordinary person cannot hope to earn enough money in a lifetime to cover one extraordinary event. This is why more than half the bankruptcies in this country are caused directly by medical bills - and most of those people were insured.

In countries with single payer, the motivation for such suits does not exist. Negligence and lost wages may still be sued for, depending on the legal system of that particular country, but no one needs to find a villain in order to pay for necessary care.

The "reform" will do little to change this. The insurers are still free to go after those they consider responsible for their expenses and offer policies that both drain families' finances and fail to offer any meaningful support when needed.

I am very sympathetic to this couple. It is unlucky that they are forced into the position of going after a bunch of college students, and unfortunate that these young people may have their lives ruined over suspected carelessness that the criminal justice system cannot substantiate.

Whatever the outcome, the winners will clearly be the lawyers.

On Tea Fire Victims File Suit

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