Agriculture was a mistake.
Pushed: How many corporation need to fund retirement health plans out 75 years? Why does the Postal Service – and only the Postal Service, no other government agency, no corporation, nobody – have to fully fund its retirement health costs out 75 years, and do so by 2016. That's pre-paying for employees they haven't even hired yet. Without this burden the Service would have had a $1.5 billion surplus this year. So why this unreasonable burden? Because this ensures that Postal Service spending must exceed revenue, causing a perpetual and rapidly increasing deficit. Leading, of course, to privatization. Before Congress (House by 410/20, Senate by a voice vote at 10:30 at night) decreed this foolishness, the USPS made a profit. And Congress won't let them raise rates on big donors like the junk mailers. The USPS has also overpaid $80 billion to the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System, and the government won't give them their money back – money which would, of course, cover their deficit for quite some time. Is this what austerity will bring us as we slide into collapse? Thank a congressman.
Get That Education: Germany’s education minister had her doctorate rescinded due to plagiarism. Leading by example.
Spring Comes To The Desert: Islamists running Tunisia were forced to dissolve its coalition government in the face of massive protests that followed the assassination of a well-known leader of the political opposition. The country will be run by “ non-partisan technocrats" until elections can be held.
Takeaway: Economic growth and recent legislation have cut the federal budget deficit in half in the past four years, and - according to the CBO - that particular boogeyman will fall to about 2.4% of GDP by 2015. The 2012 deficit equaled 7% of GDP. So where's the fire, why are Certain People trying to con us into a panic?
Supporting The Troops: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is recommending that soldiers' pay be limited to a 1% increase next year, because of "budget uncertainties." It seems to be an attempt by the Pentagon to get the public to bring pressure on Congress to exempt the military from any sequestration. Leon also says cutting Defense spending will tank the economy, and he's probably right.
Not So Great: Water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron have reached the lowest ever recorded, the result of over a decade of below-normal precipitation coupled with higher rates of evaporation driven by higher temperatures. Wonder how long before they become the formerly-great lakes…
Leftovers: For inexplicable reasons, our forefathers didn't exterminate all of the natives when they were clearing the land. A descendant of survivors pointed out to an Arizona anti-immigrant rally that: “We didn’t invite none of you. We’re the only native Americans here. That’s what the flag stands for – all the Native Americans you killed to plant your houses here..."
Literacy Test: The chair of Idaho's Senate Education Committee wants a law forcing every high schooler to read - and pass a test on - Any Rand's Atlas Shrugged because it will make good Republicans out of them. A similar gent in Alabama advocates a 'fetal personhood' bill to prevent 'aborted babies' from going straight to hell
with their mothers. He also wants to require that all in vitro-fertilized eggs be implanted – all ten or twelve of 'em.
The Lineup: More and more organizations are agreeing that global trends in CO2 emissions are “perfectly in line with a temperature rise of 6°C” - even if we double the rate at which we are cutting emissions. Seems like make-believe is losing traction and the realization that we must cut our use of fossil fuels is getting more attention.
Porn O'Graph: Let's go to the data.
The Parting Shot: