The Downward Spiral Of Social Security ‘Earnings Replacement Rates’ — Tweet With C-Span Video

Please take a moment to view this 1:17 minute video clip by clicking on the second blue hyperlink entitled, “Social Security Benefit Replacement Rates Already Going Down In The Future.”

This clip features social policy expert Ms Janice Gregory, who served as a founding member and President of NASI [National Academy Of Social Insurance] from 2009-2012.

It is not generally well-understood just “how paltry” a typical Social Security beneficiary’s monthly benefit is–compared to a beneficiary’s average wage earnings during their lifetime.

Please note that the drop or decrease in future benefit replacement rates which Ms Gregory describes is already set into law.

In other words, without further tweaks or reforms by this Administration or Congress, the Social Security ‘replacement rate’ for lifetime average earnings in 2010–the year this video was made–was just 39%.

And under current law, or the Social Security Reform Act of 1983, this replacement rate is already scheduled to be reduced to only 32% by 2030.

In this video, Ms Gregory is referring to the percentage of decrease in ‘replacement rates’ for Full Retirement Age (FRA) beneficiaries–age 65.

[Note:  FRA for some retirees is already 66 or 67 under current law.]

I cannot discern from Gregory’s remarks whether these same replacements rates apply to Early Age Retirement (ERA) beneficiaries; or, if ERA beneficiaries are likely to suffer even greater decreases in their respective replacement rates.

But what I do know, is that the preservation of our social safety net should be a bipartisan issue.

And I am hopeful that Americans will put aside their partisan differences, and work together to preserve and strengthen our social insurance programs. Also, I consider it to be absolutely vital that the information above, regarding the extremely low replacement rates, be as widely disseminated as possible.

Especially, since there is an ongoing and tenacious bipartisan effort by some lawmakers to negotiate a ‘Grand Bargain,’ which would likely result in a “deal” containing many [if not all] of the cuts to Social Security and Medicare which were recommended by the Bowles-Simpson Fiscal Commission in their Chairman’s Mark proposal, “The Moment Of Truth.”

So please, consider ‘Retweeting’ this post–it would be much appreciated!

And don’t be shy about calling the White House, your US Senators, and your US Representative to tell them:

“Hands Off Social Security and Medicare!”
Posted in Culture and Politics and Music, Deconstructing Political Spin, Economics and Austerity, Entitlements, Politics--Music--Dogs, Social Insurance Programs, Social Safety Net, Social Security, Social Security - Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

In Remembrance Of ‘Mr John’ — The Impossible Dream

In remembrance of Mr John, I dedicate this lovely rendition of “The Impossible Dream,” performed by baritone extraordinaire Brian Stokes Mitchell, accompanied by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Mr John,

I can think of no other song that better exemplifies your character, or the way that you lived your life.

To my ears, your wonderfully rich and resonant bass voice was every bit as powerful and distinctive as Mr. Mitchell’s beautiful baritone voice. And it was a voice befitting a “Gentle Giant” who stood 6 feet 7 inches tall, even when the shoulders began to stoop ever so slightly “with old age.”

I loved and admired so many of “your ways”–not least of which was that you appeared to feel no embarrassment when on occasion during a thunderstorm, your eyes would almost imperceptibly moisten with tears as you remembered and spoke fondly of the family dog, ‘Lucky,’ who had always been terrified of storms.

Your love for all living creatures, especially dogs, was one of the greatest gifts that you imparted to those around you–and I thank you for it.

You live now, and forevermore in our hearts, Daddy.

[Video Credit: Impossible Dream - Brian Stokes Mitchell, BestArts - Music, YouTube, 03:46]

Posted in "The Impossible Dream", Brian Stokes Mitchell, Culture and Music, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Music and Culture, Music Videos, Tributes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Fabulous And Inimitable Harlem Gospel Choir Performs ‘Oh, Happy Day!’

What can I say, but WOW!

This excellent performance was part of a PBS Special several years ago, which featured the Johann Strauss Orchestra and Choir, and the Harlem Gospel Choir under the direction of Violinist and Dutch Maestro André Rieu.

Special thanks to the Harlem Gospel Choir lead vocalist–an incredibly talented artist and performer!

I would like to give the lead vocalist the attribution she deserves, so if anyone knows her name, please leave me a message so that I can update this post.

Note:  The default for this video may be “Auto,” but it has the capacity to be played in HD splendor–including 720p and 1080p.

[Video Credit: Happy Day, Harlem Gospel Choir Et André Rieu, The34andalouse, YouTube, 04:44]

Posted in Community, Culture and Politics and Music, Entertainment, Music, YouTube Videos | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Video: “Comic Relief” for Dog Lovers!

Yeah, I know.

This is probably one of the “silliest” videos you’ll ever find on YouTube, or on anyone’s blog.

That’s a given.

But as a major dog lover, I must admit that this clip of “Mishka the Husky” always brings a smile to my face, when I’m really feeling low or discouraged.

Hope it does the same for you . . .

[Video Credit: Husky Dog Talking - "I love you," gardea23, YouTube, 0:48]

Posted in Community, Culture and Politics and Music, Dogs, Entertainment, Pets, YouTube Videos | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

“Amigos Para Siempre”–A Musical Tribute To My Spouse

[André Rieu, Live In New York, "Amigos Para Siempre," castadiva777, YouTube]

“Amigos Para Siempre,” or “Friends For Life,” was the official theme song for the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain.

The song, as performed by British Soprano Sarah Brightman and Spanish Tenor José Carreras during the closing ceremony, was scored by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  The lyrics were written by Don Black.

The beautiful rendition above was performed several years ago as part of a PBS Special entitled “Live At Radio City Music Hall.”

It features several exceptionally gifted tenors and sopranos accompanied by the Johann Strauss Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Violinist and Dutch Maestro André Rieu.

The Tenors are L to R on stage: Thomas Greuel (Germany), Gary Bennett (Australia, Island of Tasmania), and Bela Mavrak (Austria/Serbia).

The Sopranos are L to R on stage: Carla Maffioletti (Brazil), Celine Saleh (France), and Suzan Erens (Netherlands).

Joining in the Finale is the sensational “Harlem Gospel Choir,” (USA).

Enjoy.

While March 17th is widely recognized as Saint Patrick’s Day, an unofficial U.S. Holiday in celebration of Irish culture with religious connotations, it holds a much deeper meaning for me because it is the anniversary of the birth of my Husband.

He is a wonderfully intelligent, funny, talented, and supremely kind and compassionate man, with whom I’ve had the privilege of sharing countless moments and memories of wonder and joy.

Interspersed, of course, with (thankfully) considerably fewer periods of deep personal loss and pain–as in the death of cherished Parents and extended family members, dear friends, and our beloved Dogs and Birds.

Words cannot convey how fortunate I am that my spouse chose to take his “life’s journey” with me.  He has been a “soul mate” and friend like no other, and I honestly cannot imagine what life would have been like, without him.

So, to Mr HNPS, I simply say:

“Thank you, I love you.”

And in honor of your Special Day, here’s one of your favorite songs, with the English lyrics below.

“Amigos Para Siempre”

I don’t have to say a word to you
You seem to know whatever mood
I’m going through
Feels as though, I’ve known you forever

You, can look into my eyes
And see the way I feel and how
The world is treating me
Maybe I have known you forever

Amigos para siempre
Means you’ll always be my friend
Amigos para siempre
Means a love that cannot end
Friends for life not just a summer or a spring
Amigos para siempre

I feel you near me
Even when we are apart
Just knowing you are in this world
Can warm my heart
Friends for life not just a summer or a spring
Amigos para siempre

We share memories, I won’t forget
And we’ll share more, my friend,
We haven’t started yet
Something happens when we’re together

When I look at you, I wonder why
There has to come
A time when we must say goodbye
I’m alive when we are together

Amigos para siempre
Means you’ll always be my friend
Amigos para siempre
Means a love that cannot end
Friends for life not just a summer or a spring
Amigos para siempre

I feel you near me
Even when we are apart
Just knowing you are in this world
Can warm my heart
Friends for life not just a summer or a spring
Amigos para siempre

When I look at you, I wonder why
There has to come
A time when we must say goodbye
I’m alive when we are together

Amigos para siempre
Means you’ll always be my friend
Amigos para siempre
Means a love that cannot end
Friends for life not just a summer or a spring
Amigos para siempre

I feel you near me
Even when we are apart
Just knowing you are in this world
Can warm my heart
Friends for life not just a summer or a spring
Amigos para siempre

Amigos para siempre
Means you’ll always be my friend
Amigos para siempre
Means a love that cannot end
Friends for life not just a summer or a spring
Amigos para siempre
Amigos para siempre

[Read more: Sarah Brightman - Amigos Para Siempre Lyrics | MetroLyrics]

Correction: After double-checking several sources, including “The Platin Tenors” portion of Andre Rieu’s official website which describes Mr Mavrak as “Hungarian” (see link below), I have changed his country of origin to reflect both his “birth country” of Austria, and the country “where he grew up,” today’s Serbia.

http://www.andrerieu.com/en/andre-jso/the-orchestra/the-platin-tenors

“Hat Tip” to Levi van Vierendonck for bringing this detail to my attention.

HNPS

Posted in Culture and Politics and Music, Music, YouTube Videos | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Happy First Anniversary — A Celebration With David Bowie And Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour

[David Gilmour and David Bowie -- Comfortably Numb, StanMark, YouTube, 08:41 minutes]

To mark my First Anniversary at WordPress, I would like to present a righteous rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”

This music video also features rock icon David Bowie.

This version replaces an earlier version which I posted here one year ago today, but which is “no longer available” on YouTube.

The default setting is “Auto,” and must be manually reset to 480p.

And much like the other version, it highlights one of my favorite rock bands and the considerable talent of guitarist David Gilmour.

By the way, Gilmour ranks #14 on the 2011 Rolling Stone magazine’s “List Of The 100 Greatest Guitarists.”

Enjoy.

Posted in "Comfortably Numb", 100 Greatest Guitarists, Entertainment, Guitarists, Music, Music and Politics, Music Video, Pink Floyd, YouTube Videos | 1 Comment

Countdown: #100 From ‘The List’–Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham Featured In “Go Your Own Way”

[Video Credit: Go Your Own Way - Fleetwood Mac - 1997, Chris Salmon, YouTube, 06:09]

Starting from the bottom of Rolling Stone’s ‘The List’ of the Top 100 Guitarists Of All Time, here’s a tune featuring the sometimes underrated, but always excellent guitarist Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, performing a song that he penned–“Go Your Own Way.”

Enjoy.

Posted in 100 Greatest Guitarists, Culture and Politics and Music, Deconstructing Political Spin, Guitarists, Music, Music Videos | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

In Remembrance Of Legendary Folk Singer Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger At Columbia University Commencement [Photo Credit:  Getty Images]

Pete Seeger At Columbia University Commencement
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

Pete Seeger And Bruce Springsteen  Perform At Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial During The January 2009 Inaugural Celebration. [Photo Credit:  Getty Images]

Pete Seeger And Bruce Springsteen Perform At Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial During The January 2009 Inaugural Celebration
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

Below is a link to a January 28, 2014 NPR program [podcast] honoring ‘musical icon and activist’ Pete Seeger. The 48-minute tribute includes a 2003 radio interview with Seeger.

Guests John McCutcheon (folk singer) and Rob Rosenthal (sociology professor) join “On Point” host, Tom Ashbrook of 90.0 WBUR, Boston, to discuss Seeger’s many contributions as a musician, an activist, and a peace advocate.

Link: The World According To Pete Seeger: A Remembrance

[On Point’s host, Tom Ashbrook, "is an award-winning journalist brought to public radio following the attacks of September 11, 2001, when he was enlisted by NPR and WBUR-Boston for special coverage, after a distinguished career in newspaper reporting and editing."]

Posted in Culture and Politics and Music, Deconstructing Political Spin, Folk Singers, Pete Seeger And Music | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tennessee Cuts Medicaid Benefit Funding For Some Long-Term Care Patients

'Wheelchair'

‘Wheelchair’

[Wheelchair In Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Amy Simpson's Flickr Photostream]

I ran across the Kaiser Health News piece below while I was researching a comment the other day. The policy “reform” that this piece addresses hits home for us since we have a number of close relatives who live in Tennessee.

I am concerned that this groundbreaking and pernicious policy will not be contained in this state alone. This policy is the result of a federal test pilot program conducted under the auspices of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Apparently, this “new category of patient” has been approved by both the Tennessee State Legislature, and by the Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

I find it to be nothing short of abhorrent that in order to expand Medicaid, we as a society are willing to allow some of our most elderly, sickly and frail citizens to possibly be forced to lie in their own excrement, and/or become malnourished (the ones who are unable to feed themselves) in order to “save a buck.”

The idea that folks who cannot perform two or more of the Activities of Daily Living [ADLs] can get by with no more than an occasional “visit” [or even a 4-hour, 5 day-a-week series of visits] from a home health care aide is absolutely ludicrous, in many cases.

The six (6) types of ADLs, are: Eating, Bathing, Dressing, Toileting, Transferring, and Maintaining Continence.

Now is the time to fight this new regulation and policy, before it spreads to other states.

Tennessee is still considered a nominally “purple state,” by some. My concern is that unless there is an organized and sustained pushback against this policy, many other states, especially the “red” ones, will jump to adopt this cost-saving policy.

Please help get the word out.

Here’s an excerpt from the Kaiser News piece entitled “Tennessee Cuts Medicaid Benefit Funding For Some Long-Term Care Patients.”

I acknowledge that this piece is a bit dated, but just as the “news” of America’s extreme poverty level did not seem to make it into the mainstream or liberal media, it appears that this story was ignored, as well.

In a unique experiment being watched nationally, Tennessee is revising its Medicaid long-term care options to make it harder for certain low-income elderly people to qualify for state-paid nursing home care.

The program, which has received federal approval and began this month, is the first of its kind in the nation because it creates this new category of patients who don’t qualify for nursing home care. Up to now, under federal law, everyone who receives long-term care under Medicaid first had to qualify to be admitted to a nursing home.

“Federal law requires that program eligibility be tied to eligibility for nursing homes,” said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “Tennessee is stepping ahead to create this new category of at-risk individuals whose benefits are not linked to nursing homes.”

But consumer advocates worry that the $15,000 annual limit will fall short of meeting the needs of some seniors, who could end up going without services or relying on funds from family or friends. Gordon Bonnyman, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, said he feared that “a lot of frail people are not going to make it on the reduced package.”

The average cost per year for nursing home care nationally is about $80,000.

State officials decided they could raise the level of need for patients to qualify for full long-term benefits, whether in a nursing home or elsewhere. The legislature approved the change in April, as did the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Under the new regulations, the current requirement – that someone need help with an “activity of daily living” such as dressing or using the bathroom – has been replaced by a complicated weighted point system that makes it considerably more difficult for patients to reach the standard to qualify for nursing home care.

Jesse Samples, executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Association, representing the majority of Tennessee’s 330 nursing homes, agreed [with Bonnyman] that TennCare’s chief motivation is to save money and also agreed with Killingsworth that nursing homes were the target.

“In an ideal world we would increase funding for all categories of services,” Samples said. “But we’re playing a zero-sum game here. In order to get money for home and community-based services, you have to take it from somewhere else. That would be nursing homes.”

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Economics and Austerity, Medicaid, ObamaCare, Social Safety Net | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

‘Smooth’ — Musical Blast From The Past

Performed by Santana and Rob Thomas.

Carlos Santana Comes In At #15 On Rolling Stone magazine’s ‘List Of The 100 Greatest Guitarists’ by David Fricke.

Enjoy.

[Video Credit:  Santana Feat. Rob Thomas - Smooth, SantanaVEVO, YouTube, 04:17]

The embed code for the HD version of this video is no longer available. The default setting is “Auto,” and must be manually reset to 480p.

Posted in Culture and Music, Deconstructing Political Spin, Entertainment, Guitarists, Music, Rob Thomas, Santana, YouTube Videos | Tagged , , | Leave a comment