Posts Tagged With: Social Security


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Continuing the saga of my homeless brother Norman, here he is with his little dog and his bike. He lost the dog the last time he was arrested.  He had taken over a condemned house. With a house address, he was able to get a bank account and begin collecting his social security which amounted to about $1,200 a month. He dug a new sewer line, fixed leaks on the roof, put in new flooring, a toilet and new plumbing. Over time,  he put in a washer and dryer and television set. He made friends with the neighbors.  He lived in this place for three years and invited a couple other homeless guys to live there too.  Then, he decided to plant a garden with veggies and marijuana. A neighbor reported on him and the police came to “his house”, knocked on the door, arrested him for growing marijuana. (The other two guys vacated the minute the cops came to the door.)The cops would not let him secure the house nor make arrangements for his dog.  Directly to jail.

In court, Norman could make a deal with the D.A. but he refuses. “If you do, they own you. They can just pick you up at any time and slap you back in jail for looking cross-eyed at someone.  Probation for me is useless. I can’t get anywhere on time. I don’t have a watch or a calendar. I often don’t know the time of day or what day it is.”

While in jail, another brother picked up his mail and deposited his checks and paid for his storage building.  Without family help, he would have had to reapply for Social Security all over again, and wait for it to clear, from 6 weeks to  3 months.  When Norman returned to “his house”, the place had been stripped of everything he owned. His dog, gone.

He made his way back to a homeless camping area under the freeway in San Leandro. Someone told him  about a mobile home park in Hayward with vacancies.  It was a run-down place. He walked up to apply. The woman took one look at him and turned the sign around and said she had no vacancies. He was scruffy and dirty again, by this time.

Norman is personable. People like him.  He makes it a point to befriend the storekeepers he must depend on so they know he doesn’t steal. He manages to fend off depression through his Bible and his faith.

Desperation is the most common ailment of the homeless. It sucks away any sense of well-being, hope or strength. It is naive to think that homeless people, single men especially, who can’t afford housing and basic necessities, should somehow be kind and sweet. Homeless people can be scary, full of tattoos, drunk and offensive, druggies, often panhandling aggressively. They don’t want to be dirty and stinky and loathed by all who see them. So called normal people with homes and traditional lives suffer from depression, drink too much, beat their wives, and kick the dog.  They can live their messy lives behind a locked door. But the homeless are treated like trash and we expect them not to be depressed, hungry, angry, criminal and ill?

It kind of reminds me of the old debtors prisons. You go prison for stealing a loaf of bread because you are hungry. You can’t get out until someone pays your way out, but you have no money to make that happen. Are we that medieval?  The way some cities treat the homeless, the answer is yes.

Everything has changed again for Norman. He is in a burnt out house that he is slowly fixing for the owner using his carpentry skills. He is not paid. With housing, he is stable, relatively sober and upbeat. The owner buys materials and arrives with his tools, one or two days a month. The owner takes the tools with him so no one can steal them while he is gone. (Not exactly the best neighborhood.)

At this new place, he has something to love-a stray cat;  He has a place safe from young street punks who steal his bike and shove him around, just because they can. Here guys on the street have offered him friendship and marijuana. He doesn’t trust them and so far has refused any involvement with them. It is easier to do when you have a locked door.

The owner, (to remain unnamed), is a guy Norman built a house for about 10 years ago when he was homeless but still working for food and booze.  It was before he had his stroke and before he could collect his social security. This man allows Norman to use his address for his mail when he is living on the street.

Norman has a throw away phone for which he buys minutes so he can communicate with me. He has a know it all attitude about some subjects and can be irritating at times.  I listen as patiently as I can.

Currently, his Social Security has been  reduced to $780 a month.  Social Security is on auto deposit now, and they promptly deducted Obama Care from his check.  He has no way to get to a hospital, or establish a relationship with a doctor. He recently had a toothache and was in considerable pain. But, he couldn’t get to a dentist either. His income and ability to find a place to live is further from reach then ever, when this house is finished.

His bills are few without rent. He has to pay his storage fee. When on the street he has electricity in his unit and he can cook in a crock pot and sit in a chair and write his letters. He has a place to keep his papers safe and dry.  But, no shower, nor place to sleep.  Still, it is a refuge of sorts that the manager of the storage building allows because he likes Norman.

Meanwhile, in this house, he can shower and keep himself clean.  He is stable and has a sense of purpose. He writes letters to public figures like Elizabeth Warren, President Obama, Governor Christie. He writes long letters to major newspapers and sends me copies of them.  He is a bit mentally impaired in that he thinks he is part of the political scene and is influencing others for a better America with his letters.

I feel he needs to know that he has some self-worth; that his opinion is worth something to someone. That someone cares about whether he lives or dies.  Isn’t that what we all need?  A sense of self-worth with some dignity?

In one of his letters to the editor, he wrote:  “A fox has his den, a bird has her nest, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.”

So, what is the answer? More tomorrow.


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I received a letter from Alan Grayson, a missive that made such good sense, I thought I’d reprint it here. I’m a fan of his even though he is from Florida. They don’t often make sense there, it seems to me, but Alan always does.

Dear Mary,

I think that LeBron James should pay the same percentage of his income in Social Security taxes as everyone else does.

He doesn’t. Not by a long shot. In fact, not by a 90-footer.

Most Americans pay 6.20% of their incomes to Social Security taxes. LeBron James pays 0.03% of his income toward Social Security taxes. In fact, he is finished paying his Social Security taxes in the second quarter of his first game of his season. Then he’s done for the rest of the game, and the rest of the season – including the playoffs. Even the offseason.

“Wow,” you say. Yes, “wow” indeed.

I want to make this clear – this is nothing personal. I love to watch LeBron James play basketball. I forgive him for taking his talents to South Beach, but then taking them right back to Cleveland. I look forward to his becoming the all-time NBA scoring champion, during the 2021-22 season.

But I think that he should have to pay the same percentage in Social Security taxes as others do.

The Social Security tax applies only to the first $118,500 of income (the “cap”). As soon as LeBron and anyone else reaches that limit, they’re done for the year.

Which is precisely why some people fret about the system going broke. The solution is obvious. No cap, no problem. In addition to making our tax system more fair, scrapping the cap would make Social Security solvent forever and ever. And ever. So I have introduced a bill to do that, and the Social Security Administration has confirmed that it solves the problem once and for all. Sure, some Republicans would be sad — they’d have no excuse to push sadistic cuts in Social Security benefits. But the rest of us would be thrilled.

Q. When does a teacher stop paying Social Security taxes? A. Never.

Q. When does a nurse stop paying Social Security taxes? A. Never.

Q. Why do only the rich get this huge tax break, threatening the solvency of the program? A. I wish I knew.

Grayson is pushing a bill through congress called Scrap the Cap. I hope it passes.

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Eighty years of  Social Security is a big deal. Before Social Security half of America’s seniors lived in poverty — and without it, many more of them would today. And on top of being the primary means of retirement income for thousands of  vulnerable seniors, it serves as a critical safety net, providing necessary funds to disabled workers, children and veterans. Earlier this year, the GOP set up an impending showdown in 2016 that pits current and future retirees against people with disabilities — and could result in benefit cuts of as much as 20%.

Why attack something workers pay into, for their benefit? Why attack the most successful insurance program for Americans, a program that benefits every level of society.  The smart thing to do is find a solution to save social security.

The danger that Social Security faces is real. When you have a chance, tell members of congress and all presidential candidates, that it is time to work at protecting and expanding social security benefits for our children and grandchildren so they can age without facing living on the streets or in their cars.

I, for one, will ask the chosen presidential candidates, when they face off before presidential elections, what they intend to do about preserving social security? Hopefully the moderator will allow that question to be publicly asked.

AFSCME, along with the caring voices of  Alliance for Retired Americans, American Family Voices, Caring Across Generations, Center for Community Change Action, Courage Campaign, Daily Kos, Democracy for America, Economic Policy Institute, Left Action, National People’s Action, Pension Rights Center, People Demanding Action, People For the American Way, Progressive Democrats of America, Social Security Works, and Working Families is asking that people make sure our politicians remember just how many of us have benefited from Social Security — and how many more will, if we have the political will to ask the wealthiest few to pay their fair share. I ask that you remember what Warren Buffet pointed out, that his secretary, a member of the working middle class, pays more taxes than people like him, the ultra rich. Click on the link below to sign a petition to support Social Security.

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Recently, Exon-Mobile had one of their lines break, but when it came time to clean up the  mess?  What was in the line was not “legally oil”, so who gets to pay for the clean-up?  We kind taxpayers. And, what kind of crap is it when the huge tar sands spill that evacuated an Arkansas town had a no fly zone so the press couldn’t take revealing pictures for everyone to see?

Reagan shut down the mental hospitals and treatment centers. With that grand legacy, people in trouble have no place to go, and few services. We have in excess of 43,000 homeless people in San Francisco alone. People dealing with the homeless know that budget cuts in California are putting them even more at risk. And, with an aging population, it is predicted that that figure is set to double by 2020. Pretty soon communities won’t be able to hide them from view. Since the United States supplies reservations for Native Americans, why can’t they supply Homeless Reservations for people who don’t make enough money to provide themselves with shelter, toilet and a bath? Instead of arresting them and using up valuable resources in police and court time, they can supply about five trained sentries to keep order and safety on the reservation.

We read a lot about Wildlife extinctions; the small critters like certain birds and frogs and the big beasts like Rhino’s, leopards, elephants, tigers, manatees, and more. But what about less visible critters like bats and bees. The white nose bat disease is spreading wildly across the United States and systematically killing these automatic mosquito eradicaters by the millions. We’ve lost over 50% of our bee population that pollinizes our crops. The first mass bee-hive theft in California where someone  took a fork lift and drove off with a whole colony of bee hives belonging to an orchardist. The Xerces Society is dedicated to protecting invertebrates and their habitat. Who would have ever thought insects like ants and wasps would need protection?

A president who wants to cut social security for people who’s lives depend on it? The Average social security pay, $15,000 per year. Millions get less than that. Yet, the tax benefits for the super rich are untouched and their income is growing. And Bush’s law that medicare can’t negotiate with the drug companies like the Veterans Administration is allowed to do?  Why not change that? Drug company profits are nothing short of extortion.  And taking away the right to report abuses in the work place? I think Obama has a stupid gene.We are in trouble.

Call your congressman and complain loudly. And tell all your friends to do the same, because we are in trouble and it isn’t pool in River City.

At least people are beginning to realize the reality of Climate Change. Get online and visit, Ted talks, Ted’s lists, the scientist who educates people about all kinds of things.








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