Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Maybe it's time to talk about the "B" word

Like DJ, I'm feeling a combination of anger and fear about our auto industry's future, but I also feel a sense of resignation. How much longer can we continue this way? We're dying slowly, one excruciating job loss at a time, and it's like torture. I'm beginning to think maybe it's time to call in the triage team, or in this case the restructuring team.

Michigan native Jonathan Cohn expands on the "surgical bankruptcy" Obama mentioned this morning. He believes the administration is serious about that possibility, and he also notes that people involved in the debate see Section 363 of the bankruptcy code as a way for the company to continue operating without the burden of their huge debts. ((Fritz Henderson was quoted yesterday as saying a "strategic" bankruptcy supported with government money would be less risky than traditional Chapter 11 protection too.) Cohn provided a link to Harvard Law Professor Mark Roe that basically explains it like this...
GM files for chapter 11. The company puts together the automotive operations, and leaves behind the legacy obligations to retired workers and the bond obligations. It takes the auto operations and sells them intact. Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code provides for these kinds of sales. This would leave behind restructuring the bond debt and the legacy claims. Whatever GM gets from the automotive sale will go to pay off the bonds and pay off the legacy claims. That part is in some ways straightforward. If it can be completed, consumers would be looking at a viable GM that has exited bankruptcy. Then the claims–the legacy claims and the like–will be resolved.
Is Section 363 what Obama has in mind? It does have some benefits. GM would continue operating without the burden of their legacy debts, or what we call pensions and lifetime health care benefits. That would help free up cash and strengthen the company, which could end up protecting jobs that would be lost if they were allowed to completely fail. But what about the thousands of retired employees? Does that mean the PBGC would assume GM's pensions and people would lose their health care? Maybe someone familiar with bankruptcy laws could fill us in and help alleviate our fears.

As dark as it seems right now, there is reason to be hopeful about Obama's plans if history is any guide. According to an article in Washington Monthly, "any honest reading of history suggests that the federal government has quite an impressive record of rescuing institutions considered too big to fail." From banks to Lockheed, Chrysler, airlines and Penn Central Railway [Nixon came to the conclusion help was necessary - it's known as Conrail today], government help turned out better than anyone hoped and the companies returned to profitability. Those successes also left a good checklist for the Obama administration to follow:
...leave your ideology at the door, pay more attention to the engineers and managers on the ground than to the financiers in the corner offices, and remember that social returns, not profits, are the ultimate measure of success.
Our future is still uncertain, but I'm confident that if Bush and the Republicans were still in control, we'd be writing an obituary for GM and Chrysler today. I trust President Obama to remember those social returns and do his best to turn things around for us. I just hope he can fight off the Republicans and Wall Street types who'd prefer to just pull the plug and let us die.

And remember, Obama didn't say he's letting us die. He said he'd fight for us and that he's sending us help, which is like sending us to rehab. That's where patients go to have their quality of life restored. It's where they go to become whole again. We need that. We need to be whole again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

G.M. Worker Loses Job, Writes Song

This is a bittersweet story from the Flint Journal. Greg Miles worked for General Motors' Grand Blanc Weld Tool Center for three decades, and then a few weeks ago he learned that his job had been outsourced to a foreign country. What did he do? He wrote a song, "Didn't Quit My Day Job, It Quit Me."
The lyrics came to him in a rush one Sunday afternoon.

In an hour, he scribbled the song on a yellow notepad. He spent a few weeks recording the song in the basement of his Waterford home.

The title comes from realizing that his job, designing tools for assembly lines, was outsourced to foreign countries. The job didn't go away; it just wasn't being done by U.S. workers anymore. [...]

Sitting next to the Irish flag hung on the basement wall, Miles sang in his warbly voice, strummed his Fender acoustic guitar and played his harmonica.

The song combines folk, rock and country.

"It's kind of like a country song, but it's not real twangy," Miles said.

The song has become something of an Internet sensation, and he's already been contacted by several local media outlets and asked to sing at a concert.

"I've never had more fun losing a job in my whole life," Miles said, laughing.
At least they didn't take away his sense of humor, and his talent for strumming that guitar. He's pretty darn good.

Check out this excerpt from his song, along with the YouTube video.
"Need to figure out what I am going to be
Might be a rock star or a pirate at sea
All I know is that this job is history"

"It started very slowly, our work shifted overseas
Began to pick up speed, it spread like some disease
Didn't know why they did this, they don't buy our cars over there"

"Need to figure out what I am going to be
A Wal-Mart greeter or pizza delivery
Do you want fries with that or super-size it please
I'll park that car sir, just give me your keys
All I know is that this job is history"

For his sake - and everyone else in the same situation - I hope the future brings him something better than a Wal-Mart greeter or pizza delivery job. You can't live the American Dream on those wages. Good luck, Greg.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

FedEx Blackmails Congress

This smacks of corporate terrorism. (h/t TPM)
FedEx could cancel contracts for $10 billion in American-made planes if Congress makes it easier for unions to organize the delivery giant's workers.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the Memphis-based company disclosed that purchases of Boeing 777s are contingent on FedEx Express' continued coverage by the National Railway Labor Act.

The disclosure serves as a warning shot to lawmakers seeking to put FedEx Express workers under the National Labor Relations Act, a move seen as helping the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

"It's FedEx political hardball at its finest," said analyst Donald Broughton with Avondale Partners. In a research note Monday, he wrote: "We see FedEx's action as a deft political move that aligns the interests of Boeing and GE with FedEx, and pits the interests of the Teamsters against the interests of the machinist and several other trade unions."
FedEx is threatening to buy French-made Airbuses to upgrade its fleet instead. Why does corporate America hate our country and its workers?

UPDATE: FedEx isn't the only corporation that likes to play hardball. Via Washington Monthly comes information about a recent WSJ article. It basically says banks sent the following message to President Obama after Congress moved to tax their bonuses:
When administration officials began calling them to talk about the next phase of the bailout, the bankers turned the tables. They used the calls to lobby against the antibonus legislation, Wall Street executives say. Several big firms called Treasury and White House officials to urge a more reasonable approach, both sides say. The banks' message: If you want our help to get credit flowing again to consumers and businesses, stop the rush to penalize our bonuses.
Real patriotic, huh? These bankers ruined our economy, put people out of work and literally on the street, and they still want to call the shots. And they wonder why Main Street is so outraged.

UPDATE 2: I should clarify that I interpreted FedEx as threatening to buy Airbuses because of something I read on Wikipedia:
FedEx Express was to have been the launch airline for the Airbus A380 freighter, having ordered ten for delivery between 2008 and 2011 with options on ten more. The company had planned to introduce the first aircraft into service in August 2008 for use on routes between hubs in the United States and Asia. Faced with A380 delays of more than two years, FedEx canceled these orders[20] and replaced them with an order for fifteen Boeing 777 freighters with an option for fifteen more, to be delivered from 2009 through 2011. FedEx has said that Airbus will allow it to transfer its nonrefundable deposits to purchases of future aircraft, and has stated it may consider the A380F when the A380 program is less affected by construction delays. In December 2008, FedEx posponed delivery of some of the 777s: four will be delivered in 2010 as previously agreed, but 2011 deliveries will be only four, rather than the 10 originally planned. Five more will arrive in 2012, and two in 2013.[21] In January 2009, FedEx exercised its options to buy 15 more 777 freighters and acquired options for a further 15.[22]
What better way to wiggle out of their contract, slam the unions and get those planes they previously wanted from Airbus?

Tweet Responsibly

In keeping with Blogging for Michigan's Twitter Tuesday theme, I thought I'd remind everyone to tweet responsibly, or risk having this happen to you.
A recent tweet by one would-be Cisco employee proves that when it comes to placing a permanent black mark on your resume via the Internet, Twitter is now the tool of choice. To illustrate, here’s the tweet the now Web-infamous "theconnor" shared with the world:

"Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.”

It wasn’t long before Tim Levad, a "channel partner advocate" for Cisco Alert, shared this open response:

"Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web."
"Theconnor" immediately set his Twitter account to private and deleted all information from his home page, but the damage was already done. He story spread like wildfire across Twitter, web sleuths discovered his true identity, and thanks to Google Cache, his homepage resurfaced on a web site erected in his honor - CiscoFatty.com.

It still hasn't been determined if "theconnor" was allowed to keep his job. Hopefully, Cisco gave him the benefit of the doubt, like our country did when Pete Hoekstra compromised security by tweeting this back in February.
"Moved into green zone by helicopter Iraqi flag now over palace. Headed to new US embassy Appears calmer less chaotic than previous here."
Pete kept his job, but you might not be so lucky, so stick to tweeting about twits like Sen. Shelby and leave your comments about your employer off the Web.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Americans View the Rich With Rising Skepticism

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me."

That segue leads me to an article I read in the LA Times about Americans attitudes toward the wealthy. For decades they've been held up as examples of what we can achieve through hard work and determination, but recent events have people looking at them in a different light, and the belief that the wealthy are worthy is waning.

Thanks in part to AIG, BOA and men like Bernie Madoff, Americans are beginning to realize that the rich have added little value to our economy, and in the case of corporate executives, their huge salaries weren't even based on performance. They made millions even when they failed at their jobs.

And they made millions even when they didn't work. Dumb luck explains their wealth in many cases.
By my count, roughly one-quarter of the names on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans got there by inheritance (and by no means have all of them enhanced the family fortune with their own toil or brainpower). A few years ago, it was common to think of the rich as a special breed. We may soon come around to George Orwell's view that the only difference between rich and poor is income -- "The average millionaire," as he put it, "is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit."
Except, the average millionaire can still afford health care, a roof over his head and the cost of a college education, while the rest of us struggle to keep our homes, fund retirement accounts, etc. Meanwhile, inequality is now at levels not seen since the Great Depression.

It's no surprise that a recent CNN poll shows that Americans are losing confidence in their ability to keep their current standard of living. People need jobs, good paying jobs, and that means we'll probably need a second stimulus plan, along with progressive tax increases on the wealthy.

But, but, higher taxes make it harder for the wealthy to invest and create jobs, right? Wrong.
It's proper to note that years of study have unearthed no consistent evidence that taxation causes the rich to alter their investing behavior much, at least not until their tax burden reaches a point vastly higher than what Obama contemplates.

"The real rich -- the top 1% -- work very hard for reasons other than money," Reuven S. Avi-Yonah, a tax historian at the University of Michigan, told me this week. The quest for prestige, political power and self-esteem, the ability to control things and people, are all factors in their behavior.
Actually, the original case for a progressive income tax was directed at the real wealthy. Our Founding Fathers sought to break up concentrations of wealth, inherited or otherwise, because they considered these to be undemocratic -- markers of "an aristocratic society, not a free and virtuous republic."

IMHO, it all boils down to two things. Morality: Taxing the wealthy at higher rates than the poor is a moral issue. And it's also a religious issue: If God provides abundantly it is only for the purpose of you in turn giving to those in need.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gallup: Majority Support Employee Free Choice Act

The latest Gallup Poll shows that 53 percent of respondents favor a new law that would "make it easier for labor unions to organize workers" versus 39 percent of respondents who oppose such a law. This is amazing support considering the efforts big business is taking to fight it.

Citibank, BOA, Wal-Mart, Burger King, and a couple hundred other U.S. Chamber of Commerce companies are prepared to spend $200 million on advertising and lobbying to block the Employee Free Choice Act. They're also saying some pretty strange things in the process, according to economist Dean Baker.
Recently, they have sought to promote the argument that unions lead to higher unemployment. To help push this case they have been circulating a study that examines differences in unionization rates and unemployment among Canadian provinces. This study purports to find that a 3 percentage point increase in unionization rates leads to a 1 percentage point increase in unemployment. Based on this study, the opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act argue that any resulting increase in unionization will cost millions of jobs.
This propaganda is actually being pushed by "something called the Alliance to Save Main Street Jobs" — an alliance that happens to include that bastion of "Main Street," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce."

Baker questions their reasoning:
Of course the immediate response might be to ask, if this study's findings are accurate, why Canada's unemployment rate isn't 7 percentage points higher than the U.S. rate? Canada's unionization rate is about 20 percentage points higher than in the U.S., yet its unemployment rate is somewhat lower.
He also goes on to point out that there's a large body of research on this topic, and the most recent research finds no link between unemployment and unionization rates.
In 2006, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) did an exhaustive analysis of the research on this topic and concluded that there was no link between unionization rates and unemployment. It is easy to find examples of countries with very high unionization rates and low levels of unemployment. For example Norway and Denmark have unionization rates near 80 percent. Before the current crisis their unemployment rate was under 3.0 percent.

Of course we don't have to go overseas to prove the case that unions don't lead to unemployment. If we go back 40 years, the unionization rate was over 30 percent. Presently, it is just over 12 percent. In the 60s, the unemployment rate fell as low as 3.0 percent and was below 5.0 percent for most of the decade.
Unions don't lead to higher unemployment, but the act of unionizing can lead to firings. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, "our estimates suggest that almost one-in-five union organizers or activists can expect to be fired as a result of their activities in a union election campaign. Since 2000, illegal firings have marred over one-in-four NLRB-sponsored union elections, reaching 30 percent of elections in 2007."

That's why we need to pass the EFCA. It would strengthen penalties for companies that coerce or intimidate employees when they try to form a union, but more importantly, it would help revive America's middle class. And that's what scares corporate America. They want all the profits for themselves.

(To learn more about the EFCA, read Citizen K's excellent post on the subject. His money quote: "Passing EFCA is not only an important step for unions and employees who want to unionize, it's an important step for anyone with a job.")

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Airplane Foreclosures Skyrocket

How dare these people take out risky loans they knew they couldn't afford?
Mr. Hill is an airplane repo man, one of the best and busiest in the business. With the economy sinking and the general aviation industry suffering, Mr. Hill is working flat out as he makes his way from one airport to another...

Mr. Hill, who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., said he typically repossessed about 30 planes a year, ranging from propeller-powered Piper trainers to twin-engine Gulfstream business jets. Last year, he brought in 50 aircraft. This year, “it could be 100,” he said.
Republicans can't blame this on poor people.

(h/t NYT)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama on education and chewing gum

President Obama delivered a speech before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce this morning that accomplished two things at once. First, he answered Republican critics who think he isn't focusing on the economy enough.
I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, passed the Homestead Act, and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn’t have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war. President Kennedy didn’t have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don’t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.
I guess Republicans never heard of multi-tasking. Unlike GWB, Obama can chew gum and walk at the same time.

The president also spoke about his education agenda.
America will not remain true to its highest ideals – and America’s place as a global economic leader will be put at risk – unless we not only bring down the crushing cost of health care and transform the way we use energy, but also do a far better job than we have been doing of educating our sons and daughters; unless we give them the knowledge and skills they need in this new and changing world.
Obama explained why we can't afford to wait on education: "By 2016, four out of every ten new jobs will require at least some advanced education or training." He also pointed out that workers without four-year degrees have borne the brunt of recent layoffs, and what is at stake is nothing less than the American dream.

Read the lengthy speech to learn more, but these are the four areas of reform he outlined:
  • Investing in early childhood initiatives like Head Start.

  • Encouraging better standards and assessments by focusing on testing itineraries that better fit our kids and the world they live in.

  • Recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers by giving incentives for a new generation of teachers and for new levels of excellence from all of our teachers.

  • Promoting innovation and excellence in America’s schools" by supporting charter schools, reforming the school calendar and the structure of the school day.
  • On additional money to teachers, Politico reports that Obama proposes spending cash in up to 150 additional school districts, which apparently once earned him boos from the National Education Association. However, TAPPED reports that Obama is talking about developing "performance pay" plans, something unions are on board with.
    The language here is key. "Performance pay" is supported by teachers' unions, and awards salary bonuses to teachers based on a variety of factors, including classroom observations, teaching in hard-to-staff subjects and schools, and improving student achievement. "Merit pay," on the other hand, is understood as directly aligning teacher salaries to student test scores.
    Disclaimer, my sister is a teacher, my son is a teacher and so are several friends, and I've heard them all say they favor "performance pay" because it would help school districts retain good teachers. In my son's case, one of his friends was a crackerjack math teacher who left teaching to take a better paying job in business. He had $50,000 dollars in student loans and felt he didn't have much choice. (Obama wants extra pay for Americans who teach math and science.)

    Performance pay would also help hard-to-staff schools attract top teachers. One reason districts like Detroit, Saginaw, Flint and other poor areas keep under-performing teachers is because they have trouble recruiting new teachers, and a bad teacher is better than no teacher at all. As a result, students suffer.
    Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half’s worth of material. That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year.
    Excellence doesn't come cheap, but excellence in education shouldn't be something only rich parents can buy for their children. Businesses pay top dollars to attract the best talent, our schools shouldn't be any different.

    And Republican critics should just shush up. Preparing our children for the future shouldn't wait for anything - not even the mini-depression we inherited from them.

    (Cross-posted at BFM.)

    Friday, March 06, 2009

    Republican CEO Says "Yes" To Socialism

    Limbaugh won't be happy when he hears this. The CEO of a construction company awarded the first recovery project from the stimulus package is a big Republican donor. (h/t HuffPo and ProPublica)
    The selection of the company, American Infrastructure, was announced by Obama at a news conference highlighting how stimulus money was helping transportation projects. The $2.1 million road resurfacing project in Silver Spring, Md., will support 60 jobs and be completed by late fall, Gov. Martin O'Malley's office said.

    In 2008, the company's chief executive, A. Ross Myers, gave $25,000 to McCain Victory 2008 and $20,400 to the Republican National Committee, according to Federal Election Commission records. He has donated thousands of dollars each to Rudolph Giuliani's presidential campaign, RNC chairman Michael Steele's Senate campaign and Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

    Myers was one of the top donors to Lynn Swann, a Republican who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, according to Pennsylvania campaign finance records. Democrat Rendell was often mentioned as a potential Obama pick for transportation secretary, and his deputy chief of staff was appointed undersecretary for transportation policy this week.
    But, but...I thought Republicans didn't want any part of this socialism stimulus package?

    It is all about the jobs, and this money will allow the company to call 60 employees back to work (they've had to lay off 350 people), but I love how they rant against spending money while putting their hands out to grab it. What hypocrites.

    One more thing, I hope someone keeps an eye on American Infrastructure to make sure every last cent gets spent on employees wages and material. I don't want Myers donating any taxpayer dollars from the stimulus package to Republicans - and I especially don't want him pocketing any of the money.

    Thursday, March 05, 2009

    Takin' It To The Streets

    This goes out to DJ, who's angry with conservative ideology that favors the rich over the poor and middle-class, and to Bruce Fealk, who wonders why Republicans "want to be so unpatriotic as to think Americans shouldn't earn good wages, have access to health care and a decent pension to live on during their golden years."

    Bruce also asks, "When do we take to the streets en mass and call these idiots out? When do we say, ENOUGH!"

    That day may be coming soon if Europe is any indication. Large demonstrations sparked by the economic crisis broke out recently in France, Greece, Iceland and Russia, and only a couple of weeks ago thousands of people marched in Dublin.
    MORE than 120,000 workers surrounded the Dail, or Irish Parliament, to protest against bail-outs for wealthy bankers, soaring unemployment and the Fianna Fail government's attempts to force public-sector workers to take a pay cut. [...]

    "There is anger, because everybody knows that this crisis is not our fault, that a business elite has destroyed our economy and has as yet to be made accountable for it," Mr Begg told the huge rally at Merrion Square in the heart of Dublin.
    Workers are angry because the government plans on docking 7 percent from the paychecks of 350,000 Irish workers "amid revelations of shady dealings and irresponsible lending at banks now getting taxpayer's help." Sound familiar?

    The Irish Times labeled it "a case of the bankers’ billions versus the worker’s mite."

    The General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, David Begg, said "those involved in what he called corruption had done huge damage to Ireland and described their actions as economic treason." Addressing the rally, Begg also added that "there is anger, because everybody knows that this crisis is not our fault, that a business elite has destroyed our economy and has as yet to be made accountable for it."

    And Patricia McKeown, president of the ICTU, decried the "casino capitalism that has brought this country to its knees."
    "An economy cannot be built on shady financial deals, privatisation of public services and the ever insatiable greed of the very, very wealthy," she insisted.

    "But we face a government which wants the workers who built the economy to now sacrifice while it protects and bankrolls those who wrecked it. We are not prepared to live in that type of society," Ms McKeown declared.
    Ironically, John McCain bragged about Ireland's economy on the campaign trail last year, pointing to their low business taxes as an example of what they can do for a country. Just like DeVos missed indications that Michigan wasn't the only state showing signs of economic stress, McCain missed signs that Ireland was having problems too.
    The roots of Ireland’s fall date to more than 20 years ago, when a clutch of economists, politicians and civil servants put their heads together in this very pub and planted the philosophical seeds for the Irish economic miracle. ....

    Known widely as the “Doheny & Nesbitt School of Economics,” these beery musings soon became government policy that chopped taxes in half, sharply reduced import duties and embraced foreign investment...
    So how is Ireland's economic miracle working out? Their housing prices have fallen by as much as 50 percent, bank shares have plummeted by more than 90 percent, and unemployment is approaching 10 percent. No wonder one of London's senior police officers is warning that law-abiding middle-class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may now seek to vent their anger through protests this year.
    The public's rage with the banks and the Government is growing by the day. Thousands are losing their jobs through no fault of their own ... Homes are being repossessed across the country, but not the penthouse flats and country piles of bank bosses who thought nothing of taking home vast seven-figure bonuses, and consider £1 million a year a modest income.

    The innocent are being punished while the guilty continue to lead affluent lives.
    British police are preparing for a "summer of rage" as people protest the growing economic crisis. Europeans have had enough. Americans have had enough too, and as David Sirota says, "It is only going to get worse if genuine change doesn't happen in short order."

    (Cross-posted at BFM.)

    Wednesday, March 04, 2009

    I'm Thankful for Socialism

    Republicans can't whip people into a frenzy over Iraq, terrorism, gay rights or abortion anymore, so they've settled on a new target - socialism. For some reason, they're under the impression that Americans are just genetically opposed to it. That's because Republicans sit on their high horses, out of touch with average Americans like me. I'm thankful for socialism, in particular social security, Medicare and Medicaid, and I'm not alone.

    In the past 5 weeks, I've attended 4 funerals, including my mother's, and I've learned that most families are very thankful that their loved ones had Medicare to cover medical bills and Social Security to cover part of their daily living expenses.

    I also learned that young people wish they had something like Medicare to fall back on. They're worrying themselves sick because they don't have health care, and they're more than willing to pay extra taxes in return for coverage.

    In my mother's case, she also received Medicaid, which enabled us to put her in a nursing home 2 years ago. She was 86-years-old at the time, had outlived her money a long time ago, and was in the end stages of Alzheimer's. We couldn't emotionally and financially care for her at home anymore and Medicaid was a godsend. My mother had round-the-clock nursing care, and for the last 6 months she even had hospice, which meant she was kept pain free up till the end.

    Incidentally, don't buy into the Republican myth that socialized medicine prevents you from choosing your doctor. My mother had physicians from the best hospitals in the area to choose from. Ditto nursing homes. We visited several places before deciding on the one we liked. (I guess Republicans haven't heard of choice limiting HMOs or PPOs.)

    My mom was a blessing to us, just like all of your loved ones are blessings, and it makes me angry when I hear people like Mike Huckabee say, "Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff," or other Republicans who throw around terms like "Comrade," as though socialism is dirty and disgusting, and by extension so are the beneficiaries of it. How dare they insult people like my mother. She did the best she could in life to work hard and pay her fair share in taxes. And even if she hadn't worked a day in her life, she deserved health care and a death with dignity because she was one of us.

    It's not socialism to provide health care or a roof over a person's head, it's the right thing to do. It's the Christian thing to do.

    Thank you America for looking after my mother. Your tax dollars made her last few years here on earth more comfortable. God bless you all.