Social Security Changes

I ask that you accept that I’m a day late in my usual posting. My wife of 53 years passed away yesterday. She will, of course, no longer receive Social Security benefits.

Much has been written about when Social Security will run out of funds, and President Trump has taken the position that his policies will bring in more income to the fund based on a more vibrant economy. However, there are some changes that will occur to the program without any government action. First, according to the Motley Fool, is that the “full retirement age” will increase from 66 years and 4 months (an increase of 2 months) because of a law signed into effect in 1983 to account for increasing life expectancies. The second anticipated change is that beneficiaries will receive the largest Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in recent years because of economic data.

The final change is that the “rich” will pay more. All earners are paying Social Security taxes on income from $0.01 to $127,200. Most pay 6.2% of their income while the employer pays an additional 6.2%. Self-employed people pay the entire amount. The Motley Fool predicts that total taxable amount will increase by about 3% to somewhere above $130,000. (Note that the amount extracted from your paycheck is not deductible when you file your federal and state income tax reports!)

A message to all of those who are hoping Trump will fail: If he fails to improve economic conditions, all wage earners will be required to pay more to rescue the Social Security program. Perhaps that outcome is preferable to you when you must pay more to keep benefits from being reduced? For those new to this site, I am not a fan of Trump. However, I don’t understand why doing everything possible to cause his policies to fail is good for the country or you?

Another Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge Update

A previous posting mentioned that anti-Rocky Flats activists had filed suit to stop construction of a visitor center at the refuge on the grounds that the requirements for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) had not been met. The good news is that the suit has been dismissed. The bad news is that the court dismissed the suit because the activity is not imminent. The exact wording from the July Rocky Flats Cold War Museum Newsletter is that the “. .  .plaintiff’s (the activist organizations) made a motion in the case for a temporary injunction to stop the construction of the Visitor Center.  The judge denied the motion citing the fact that construction is not imminent anyway.”

Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge Update

320px-Rocky_Flats_refuge_003The Rocky Flats Homesteaders (Rocky Flats retirees) July 2017 news letter provided an informative discussion of what is going on with the Refuge. Sadly, the Fish and Wildlife Service has put a hold on developing the visitor center for the Refuge. Anti-Rocky Flats activists have filed a lawsuit alleging the center “…violates the National Environmental Policy Act.

The activists continue to protest the place despite the fact the Plant has been closed for over a decade. And they have a financial interest in their protests. That’s proven by the fact they are seeking to recover costs and attorney’s fees in their lawsuits.

Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge Safety

320px-Rocky_Flats_refuge_003Activists who made a living protesting the Rocky Flats Plant are continuing their careers by using the legal system in an attempt to prevent public access to completely safe areas in the vicinity of the now closed Rocky Flats Plant. Vincent Carroll, a former editorial writer for the Denver Post, has written a powerful editorial filled with pertinent facts that deserves wide readership. I’ll submit a few key points from the editorial to encourage you to click on the link and read it in its entirety.

  • The title is “Activists ignore the science that says Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is safe.”
  • A lawsuit has been filed by activists to prevent access to the Refuge by the public, which, if successful, “…would also amount to a triumph of fear-mongering.”
  • The activists “…have stoked their exaggerated fears of Rocky Flats for too long and the habit is apparently incurable…”
  • “The rest of us can only marvel at their dismissal of science that has been conducted at the site and the consensus among relevant government agencies…that the refuge is safe for visitors and wildlife employees.”

There are many more important points in the editorial, and I request you forward the link to everyone you know who has an interest in the Rocky Flats Plant. My hope is that those who remain skeptical of the legacy of the Plant read and consider the information in the editorial. Thanks to Vincent Carroll!

Russia and Trump

I  decided to do this commentary after reading Gzep’s recent commentary about his disheartening experiences with the FBI associated with the government raid of the Rocky Flats Plant. His point, as I understand it in relation to his personal experience, is about current political turmoil in the U.S. based on hatred of Trump. I agree there are many who are interested in nothing other than destroying Trump. I’m submitting a different scenario, and that is that the Russians, who developed skills during the Soviet Union days in creating turmoil in governments of opponents, have won a major victory in the attacks on the U.S. because of the election of Trump!

I’m working on publishing a book about how Nuclear Deterrence prevented World War III and the role of the Rocky Flats Plant in providing that deterrence. One of the things that I’ve learned in researching information for the book is that the Soviet Union invested heavily in resources to disrupt anything positive with the West. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is that the Russians now have allies in the U.S. government who have no agenda other than preventing anything positive during the Trump administration. The Democrats are desperate to prove Trump “colluded” with the Russians. In my opinion, Democrats are “colluding” with the Russians by doing everything possible to shut down government operations with the exception of Trump and Russia hearings and investigations.

My book presents evidence that the Soviet Union spared no expense in interfering with anything positive for its Western enemies during the Cold War. Examples are the billions they spent supporting anti-nuclear protests in Europe and the United States. They recognized that the only thing that was preventing their massive advantage in conventional military forces from easily taking over Western Europe was the nuclear arsenal of the United States and the belief that American leaders were willing to use it to repel an invasion. They therefore invested, unsuccessfully, about $2 billion a year in efforts to curtail the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The book also includes reference to the huge “disinformation” organizations in the Soviet Union and its Iron Curtain Allies. They were skilled at producing forgeries that supported their agenda. They produced a flood of forgeries after the U.S. embassy in Iran was taken over by revolutionaries, which provided a wide variety of State Department official stamps and stationary. My favorite example is how the Soviets created a false scenario when they set up a television expose that filmed recovery of forged Nazi documents from a lake. The forged documents targeted West German officials unfriendly to the Soviet Union by labeling them as Nazis.

Continue reading

Rocky Flats Retirement Plans

I was notified by a reader that Rocky Flats was making changes to the retirement plans and attended one of the meetings where the changes were explained. I don’t pretend that the following is an official version of what is going on, although I’ve tried to make it as accurate as possible. The bottom line, as I understand it, is that management of retirement benefits will be transferred to an insurance company and that pension benefits will not be affected. This is being done because of the cost of administering the current plan. I was told when I arrived at the meeting that I had not received a letter announcing the changes nor did I need to attend because I took the lump sum payment when I retired. They graciously allowed me to attend the meeting.

I did hear some discussion that gave me comfort. It was stated there are no plans to change the health or death benefits for retirees. There was also a discussion about recent letters sent to salaried employees about confirmation of Medicare cost repayments. A confirmation letter must be sent to the benefit center by May 30 with documentation of Medicare costs to assure that the benefit continues. The discussion was that the reimbursements will be made quarterly. We have received deposits from the RRAs, but didn’t see any reimbursement at the end of the first quarter. Maybe that is coming at the end of June? It was suggested to call the benefit center to verify they have received the needed documents before the end of the month if you haven’t received a letter of confirmation.

Back to the changes in the retirement plans, the IRS is being asked to approve transfer of the plans to an insurance company. It is expected the IRS will issue a ruling in 12 months or so and, if approved, the completion will be in 18-24 months. Everyone, including those who have not yet reached the age to receive benefits, will be able to decide whether to take a lump sum or an annuity. The lump sum would be based on benefits earned, life expectancy, and interest rates. Spousal approval will be required. Financial advisors will be available to help make this important decision. Wells Fargo will continue to issue payments to those who have a current annuity until the process is completed. There was an appeal to keep the benefit center informed of address changes.

As an aside, I received an email that discusses DOE’s Office of Legacy Management obligations to the pension fund that is pertinent to this message. “At this time LM funds will be needed to meet its pension obligations, but the fund currently exceeds the anticipated liabilities.” The email goes on to state that any requirement to fund retirement obligations “. .  . would likely target DOE’s-USFWS (the Fish and Wildlife) visitor center.  .  .”

The Democratic Party and Trump Derangement Syndrome

GUEST POST by G. Zepernick

Well, here we are. Not quite three months into the Presidency That Could Never Be and most of the country, liberal to conservative, is still dealing with emotions ranging from disbelief and denial to outright shock.  The political landscape is looking like a small town that just got hit by an F4 tornado.  Half of the populace has emerged, dazed and blinking, from basements and bathrooms to find their lives relatively intact but changed in ways they can’t yet fathom.  The remaining souls, if they have been lucky enough to survive, have seen everything they hold dear wiped away.  Safe to say, nobody is happy about the outcome, but some are much more upset than others.

Republicans, having committed one of the monumental miscalculations in the party’s history, were fully prepared to see their nominee suffer an equally monumental whupping on Election Day. Democrats were already sending Two Men and a Truck up to Chappaqua to bring all the Clintons’ furniture (and a few misplaced White House odds and ends) back down to Pennsylvania Avenue when the returns started to trickle in.  The media coverage from that evening revealed the barely concealed amazement on almost every Republican face.  Democrats were also amazed.  None of them had imagined that their world could end, so suddenly and completely, at the somewhat undersized hands of Donald J. Trump.

Since November 8, the political Right has lifted its collective jaw off the floor and moved cautiously into the winner’s circle. The Left’s amazement meanwhile has morphed into a kind of madness. Wags have named it Trump Derangement Syndrome.  It is marked by an irrational fear and vitriolic hatred of all things Trump, from his Cabinet picks to Melania’s dress choices.  Democrats are by nature an emotional cohort, but the election of Donald Trump seems to have turned them into wounded animals, lashing out mindlessly at anyone who might try to mollify them and seizing upon every rumor and leak as grounds for impeachment.  Time was that, for any Democrat, hoping to put Mike Pence in the Oval Office would be the very definition of derangement.  But, as I said, here we are.

Not to say that all the Left’s worries are unfounded, or that only the Left is worried. Donald Trump is inarguably a classic Narcissist with poor impulse control and no apparent core principles who shoots from the lip and has raised unpredictability to an art form.  But the recent battle over the appointment of Neil Gorsuch has shown the depth of derangement among Democrat Senators.  Asked to accept a jurist of character and unparalleled qualification who was confirmed 99-0 to the second highest judgeship in the land, and whose approval would do no more than restore a balance to the Supreme Court that has existed since Bush One, Schumer and Co. chose to waste their only bullet.  When the next appointee, who is likely to be much more odious to liberals and will likely replace one, comes before them, Senate Democrats will be all but powerless.  Republicans may have killed the filibuster, but Democrats tied its hands, led it to the wall and put on the blindfold.  Sound logical?  Not unless Donald Trump is inside your head.

Now consider the Great Trump-Russia Election Conspiracy. One of the Left’s favorite talking points is to claim that Trump is somehow an illegitimate president because he, or someone he knows, or someone the person he knows knows, may be implicated in Russia’s clumsy attempt to influence our election.  Missing from this narrative is any sort of mechanism by which Putin and his Cold Warriors could have pulled this off.  Words like “collusion” are tossed around with no real context offered.  The line is that Putin dislikes Hillary Clinton (as did a few too many American voters) and loves The Donald and so was moved to hack only the Democrats and leak their damaging emails.  If Putin is half the schemer we all believe him to be, would he not make every effort to gather dirt on both parties and their candidates?   Perhaps the Republicans used more secure passwords?  This cannot be, screams the Left.  Russia conspired with Republican “operatives” (a wonderfully pejorative term lifted right from the Watergate investigation) to defeat Hillary.  The evidence is there, somewhere!  Trump must be impeached before he can do further mayhem.  Never mind that Russia needed no help from any Trump operatives to spread disinformation through social media or to plant fake news stories on shady websites, or that any supposed collusion a) would not involve Trump personally and b) would have occurred before he was elected.  Not impeachable.

So the Left continues to cast about wide-eyed for an explanation of the why and how of President Donald Trump, looking everywhere, it seems, but in the mirror. Did the Republicans screw up by allowing Trump to hijack their party?  Certainly.  Was his election victory aided and abetted by the hacking of the Democrat National Committee?  Highly likely.  But when all the cards are down, nothing the Republicans or the Russians did or didn’t do equals the culpability the Democrat Party bears for not only the loss of the White House but the failure to gain a Senate majority.  No Russian operatives placed an unsecured server in the Chappaqua basement.  No Republican dictated the ridiculously damaging emails that were so easily snatched from John Podesta’s account.  When Donald Trump secured the nomination, was there a single Democrat in the country, starting with HRC, who didn’t believe he or she had not been given a great gift?

And yet.

This election shouldn’t have been close for the Democrats, let alone a loss. At its core, the Great Democrat Election Debacle of 2016 hinged not on what Trump, the disarrayed, gobsmacked Republicans, or even the Russians did.  It hinged on what the Democrats didn’t do. They didn’t secure their internal communications.  They didn’t deal fairly with their base (a mistake also made by the Republicans).  They nominated, by a process that must have made the Russians proud, a deeply flawed candidate of their own, who took her firewall states for granted and campaigned poorly.  They didn’t take their opponent seriously (a mistake, it must be noted, made by virtually everyone).  But their most galling error was never considering for a second that they might not be right, and in the right, about everything.  To fall from so high a perch and then realize that you sawed off your own branch might drive anyone around the bend.

So perhaps the Democrats’ derangement does not stem only from their loathing of Donald Trump. Perhaps they have been looking in the mirror.