Gibbs’ Last Week, and a Video Tribute

February 8th, 2011

Robert Gibbs has been President Obama’s press secretary and trusted advisor for many years. This week is his last week in office. Occasionally I enjoy tuning in to the Presidential briefing each day around lunch time, so I’ve become quite accustomed to hearing Gibbs speak, along with his nuances, repetitions,  ability to cram a one sentence answer into 5 minutes, and overuse of words like “obviously” and “look”.

Political put together a funny video tribute to Gibbs entitled “What Robert Gibbs is Not”. Check it out below.

Tyson Politics

I Just Balanced the U.S. Budget

November 15th, 2010

The NY Times has a really cool interactive puzzle this morning – the Budget Puzzle. Basically, it gives you a bunch of options and let’s you attempt to balance the U.S. Budget. If you didn’t know, the guvmit is broke. And that’s an understatement when you’re talking about a trillion dollars.

So anyways…I just balanced the budget. Here’s a link to my version.

Here’s all it took: (dollar figures represent short-term and long-term savings)

  1. Eliminate earmarks – $14B / $14B
  2. Eliminate farm subsidies – $14B / $14B
  3. Cut pay of civilian federal workers by 5 percent – $14B / $17B
  4. Reduce nuclear arsenal and space spending – $19B / $38B
  5. Cancel or delay some weapons programs – $19B / $18B
  6. Reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 60,000 by 2015 – $51B / $149B
  7. Enact medical malpractice reform – $8B / $13B
  8. Reduce the tax break for employer-provided health insurance – $41B / $157B
  9. Cap Medicare growth starting in 2013 – $29B / $562B
  10. Pres. Obama’s proposal on investment tax – $10B / $24B
  11. Allow expiration for income above $250,000 a year – $54B / $115B
  12. Payroll tax: Subject some incomes above $106,000 to tax – $50B / $100B
  13. Taxes: Eliminate loopholes, reduce rates (Bowles-Simpson plan) – $75B / $175B
  14. Taxes: Reduce mortgage-interest deduction by converting to credit – $25B / $54B

So there you go…fourteen cuts, modifications and tax increases (gasp!) that will balance the budget.

Let’s look at a couple of the biggies.

First, #8 – slowing the growth of Medicare. It’s going to be nearly impossible to balance the budget if Medicare spending continues on its current course. Frankly, this just has to be done.

#12 – Eliminate tax loopholes and adjust tax rates. If you have seen the Bowles-Simpson plan that came out last week, definitely Google it. They proposed many changes, but the most noteworthy was dramatic changes to the personal and corporate tax rates that would increase revenues while lowering overall rates. Basically, your tax rate would be lowered but you might not get to deduct charitable contributions, or local taxes, etc. I like this also because it broadens the tax base (you know only about half of us pay any taxes currently??).

#7 – Reduce the tax break for employer-provided insurance. Once again, this speaks to the growth of medical expenses. If we limit the growth rate of health insurance expenditures, employers will be more likely to shop and search for a great deal on insurance, or offer more choices to their employees.  Or, given the health exchanges will be live in 2014, maybe they won’t offer medical at all and each employee can simply buy a plan from the exchange.

OK, so I went out on a limb…now I’ll admit, I didn’t study these for hours and hours. I reserve the right to change my mind. But it sounds good right now. What do you think? Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below.

Tyson Politics

It’s a Bird, It’s Superman…no, it’s a Plane!

March 30th, 2010

My wonderful wife ran across something so interesting yesterday while using Google Maps. She was just perusing our neighborhood from above and look what appears almost immediately over our house! Apparently the moment when the satellite snapped the picture, there was a commercial airliner flying north immediately above our house. I’m guessing the speed and material of the aircraft are what makes that cool prism effect.

Anyways…just wanted to share. What are the chances, right?

Tyson Technology

Interest Fading on Manned Space Exploration

January 17th, 2010

The Houston Chronicle has a story today reporting that a new Rasmussen poll shows that only 40% of Americans believe that the Shuttle program has been worth the cost. This is the last year of the Shuttle program, with 5 missions to go.

President Bush had planned the shuttles retirement at the end of 2010, and Obama has agreed with his budget this year.

It costs half a billion dollars every time the shuttle flies. I like what Michio Kaku says in his article in Forbes:

The space station costs upward of $100 billion, yet its critics call it a “station to nowhere.” It has no clearly defined scientific purpose. Once, President George H.W. Bush’s science adviser was asked about the benefits of doing experiments in weightlessness and microgravity. His response was, “Microgravity is of microimportance.” Its supporters have justified the space station as a terminal for the space shuttle. But the space shuttle has been justified as a vehicle to reach the space station, which is a completely circular and illogical argument.

What do you think…should we continue manned space exploration?

Tyson Politics

Google Has a Better Idea for your Computer

November 19th, 2009

Google’s long awaited operated system, Chrome OS, was open-sourced today at a big to-do at Google’s HQ in Mountain View. Here’s a video of what Google thinks is a better idea for your computer.

Tyson Search, Technology

Health Care Reform Passes House…Barely

November 10th, 2009

At almost midnight last Saturday, the House passed a health care reform bill by a razor-thin margin of 220-215.  By the end of the night, almost every Democrat had either been stabbed in the back or thrown under the bus, but the bill passed.  Speaker Pelosi relented and passed a bill with a negotiated-rate public option, as well as the highly publicized Stupak amendment restricting federal money from paying for abortions.

Unfortunately for Pelosi, she has major problems:

  1. Her bill is DOA in the Senate…they don’t like her funding source (tax on millionaires) or her public option.
  2. Her bill is too expensive (way more than Obama’s target of $900B)
  3. Her bill doesn’t really bend the cost curve (as compared to the Baucus bill, which discourages expensive health plans)
  4. Everyone in the House of Representatives hates each other right now.

If the Senate votes on and approves a bill with a weaker public option, it’s unclear if liberal members in the House will approve. However, Senator Reid is going to have trouble getting to 60 votes with any kind of public option at all.  It’s really getting more and more complicated every day. Stay tuned…

P.S. The best place to stay caught up on health care reform news is Politico’s LivePulse blog.

Tyson Politics

Pelosi Introduces Final Health Reform Bill

October 29th, 2009

Speaker Pelosi just introduced the merged health reform bill for the House of Representatives.  The bill is 1,900 pages long, so let’s split it up.  Report back when you are finished reading the first half, and I will read the second half.

Otherwise, you can read a nice 11 page summary here: http://www.politico.com/static/PPM41_hcr_complete_summary.html

This bill contains a public option with negotiated rates, however, it’s looking less and less likely that the Senate will pass anything with a public option (save Snowe’s trigger option).

One of the things that I saw for the first time was the requirement for employers to contribute 72.5% of employees premiums, and 65% for the premiums for families. This would make a significant difference for me, as my employer contributes quite a bit for employee insurance but much less for families.

Now it’s time for Senator Reid to make his bill public!

Tyson Politics