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December 31, 2008     Feather River Bulletin
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IgmU,! "'. . -' --i - [il .-   - - - - Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVE Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008 11B New long-term deficit projections paint a grim picture WHERE I STAND CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRI ORITIES Deficits and debt will rise to unprecedented levels in coming decades without ma- jor changes in federal bud- get policies, although the current recession, financial bailouts and upcoming eco- nomic recovery package will have only a very small im- pact on this problem. "Right now, policymakers are correctly focusing on stabilizing the financial markets and the economy, even though these steps will increase deficits in the short term," said James Horney, director of federal fiscal pol- icy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "But when the economy recovers, we're going to have to make significant sacrifices on both the tax and spending sides of the budget to get long-term deficits under con- trol." .Driving the grim long- term outlook are at least three factors: (1) swiftly ris- ing health care costs, (2) the aging of the population, and (3) an eroding federal rev- enue base. Under current budget poli- cies, the federal debt will skyrocket from a projected 46 percent of gross domestic product in 2009 to 279 per- cent of GDP in 2050 more than two and a half times the record 110 percent at the end of World War II. This as- sumes Congress will make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent and won't change policies governing large programs like Medicare or otherwise re- form the health care system. Debt of this size would threaten serious harm to the economy and the budget. By 2050, interest payments alone would soak up 80 per- cent of annual federal rev- enues. Closing the long-term bud- get gap would require the equivalent of an immediate and permanent 24 percent increase in revenues or an immediate and permanent 20 percent reduction in all government programs, from Social Security and veter- ans' health care to defense, law enforcement and aid to the poor. As noted, the key factor.s driving long-term deficits and debt are rising health care costs, the aging of the population and an eroding federal revenue base. The first two will cause the "big three" domestic programs Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid to grow sig- nificantly faster than the economy or federal revenues in coming decades. Addressing the nation's fiscal problems will require fundamental reforms to slow cost growth throughout the nation's health care system, both public and private, for two reasons. First, rising costs in the overall health care system are largely driving the pro- jected increase in Medicare and Medicaid costs. Second, rapid increases in private health care spending reduce federal tax revenues, since compensation provided in the form of health benefits is gen- erally exempt from taxation. If current tax policies such as the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are continued and health care cost growth is not tamed, revenues will de- cline as a share of GDP in coming decades, falling well below their levels of recent decades Policymakers could shrink the fiscal problem through 2050 almost in half by allowing the tax cuts to expire as scheduled in 2010 or offsetting the cost of any of the tax cuts they choose to extend. The savings would start almost immediately (in 2011) and reduce projected interest payments on the debt by a larger amount each year. By itself, however, this wouldn't place the nation on a sustainable long-term fis- cal path, and Congress al- most certainly will not adopt such a course• The cUrrent recession, the financial bailouts and the economic recovery package Congress is expected to pass early next year will add sig- nificantly to short-term deficits. They will, however, have only a small budgetary impact on the long-term deficit problem, because they are temporary. Temporary costs even if very large in the short run add much less to the long- term fiscal gap than perma- nent costs (such as extend- ing the tax cuts) because their total costs are small relative to the total size of the economy over the long run. The above-men- tioned costs related to this recession account for just 4 percent of the center's pro- jected long-term budget gap. Editor's note: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization and policy institute that conducts research and analysis on a range of government policies and programs. It is support- ed primarily by foundation grants. In the new year, the Christmas WHERE I STAND BY FATHER BRIAN FOOS CHRIST THE REDEEMER CHURCH ST. THOMAS BECKET CHURCH Perhaps seeing a piece on Christmas in a newspaper published on New Year's Eve seems a bit incongruent. After all, the Christmas CDs, the Christmas tree, the deco- rations have all come down and as a culture, we have moved on to New Year's and after that, the holiday sea- son is more or less over with Valentine's Day merely a blip on the horizon• Not everyone in our cul- ture, however, keeps pace. There are still some who put mentioned in an earlier piece, Advent is all about an- ticipation and preparation for Christmas. So it is no surprise that when we as a culture have left behind the traditions and the whole sea- son of Advent and instead start our celebration of Christmas during the Ad- vent season (or even before), that we don't celebrate Christmas as a season (as it has been celebrated for cen- turies). Christmas, of course, is a contraction for the Christ's Mass--the Holy Communion service celebrated in remem- brance of the birth of Jesus and in celebration of the in- carnation--the reality of day has just recently passed, Dec. 6. Many of the traditions stem from pagan celebra- tions of the Germanic peo- ples of Europe, but the Church took over the tradi- tions and symbols and gave them new meaning for use in Christian culture--a fair- ly common practice through- out the life of the Church• Christmas was traditional- ly celebrated with three Masses, or Communion Ser- vices: of the night, of the dawn and of the day. This is why today you still have the tradition of the Midnight Mass, for that was when the night mass was celebrated• Later tradition has gener- 0 SeaSOn IStl the Day of Christmas• You'll also see servmes that are not communion ser- vices, one of the most popu- lar being the Festival Ser- vice of Nine Lessons and Carols, which comes from King's College, Cambridge, England• The 12 days of Christmas also have a number of im- portant feast days in them. St. Stephen, the first Christ- ian Martyr, is celebrated on the 26th. St. John the Apos- tle is celebrated on the 27th. The Feast of the Holy Inno- cents (the children King Herod had killed in trying to kill Jesus because he didn't want competition for his throne) is celebrated on the 't really over just yet however, is that Christmas is almost always cut short. Instead of 12 days of Christ- mas, as the song has it, there is only one. Instead of gift- giving throughout the 12 days, we cram it all into one and, as far as I can tell, cele- brate the amazing amount of stress we can add to our lives in so doing• Gift giving is connected, of course, to St. Nicholas, but it is also arguably more con- nected to the Epiphany, which is the Feast Day that ends Christmastide• On Epiphany we remember the wse men that came to visit Jesus (not in the stable, ac- tually, but some time later) and gave Him gifts• Thus, wise men. If you care to en- joy Christmas as a season, may I suggest that you hold a Christmas party during the Christmas season? Our family hosts an annual New Year's Eve party but we ac- tually label it a seventh-day- of-Christmas party. Just do- ing our bit to remind our family and friends that it is still Christmas and not only do we celebrate the end of a year and the beginning of a new one, but we also contin- ue to celebrate the birth of Jesus. After all, Christmas has been celebrated quite regu- larly for almost two millen- nia while the new year has been celebrated on differing their tree up on Christmas Eve and leave, it, up for the 12 days of Christmas, which end on the 5th of January. Yes, the 12 days are after " Christmas, not before. The season of Advent is before Christmas, and as I God himself becoming part ally brou ght the number 28th. Local Churches will gift-giving has a strong con- days in different ages. • ,,: ., ......... ,:, , ..... March 25 was the first day of of His creation. Santa C!aus down to two, usually an , celebrate these days as well. nection to the birth of Jesus. is the contemp0raryremem, vening OrLmidnia$..:=.:Thes ,.-A-ourfamily-we try to,-  _. .the newyear-in England.un-. ,, brance of St. Nicholas, a and eithern early id-" mas are matW andvary a lit :° space out the gift-giving a bit til 1752. "* ....... fourth-century bishop of day Mass on Christmas Day. tle from culture to culture and especially save one gift So, here on New Year's Myra (in Turkey) who was If you check the local and from family to family, to be opened on Epiphany, Eve, I wish you a happy new known for giving gifts to Church calendars, you'll see The one thing that seems helping all of us to remem- year and a very merry children and whose feast services on the eve of and on constant in our culture, ber the gift-giving of the Christmas! Demand grows WHERE I STAND BY CHERIE JAMASON FOOD BANK OF NORTHERN NEVADA FOOD SOURCE NEWSLETTER FALL 2008 Northern Nevada commu- nities, the state and the na- tion are facing an economic crisis of proportions unseen in decades. In Nevada, unemployment has reached 7.3 percent; we have a higher rate of mort- gage foreclosures than any state in the nation. Every day, new layoffs or business closures are an- nounced, and the number of people without jobs contin- ues to grow. Our state's fis- cal crisis is forcing cutbacks to services at a time they are desperately needed: closures of mental health clinics in rural communities, elimina- for area families still not able to meet basic needs tion of 70 jobs at the Nevada Department of Welfare when more workers are needed to help people' connect to feder- al benefits. Our outreach staff is working furiously to help el- igible families apply for sup- plemental nutrition benefits, school breakfast, after- school meals and other op- portunities so they can use scarce family resources to cover fuel, utility and hous- ing expenses. Many families have never before needed such services, and have no idea where to look or what's available to help. It is an uphill battle, but we know there are well over $150 million in nutri- tion resources readily avail- able: Resources we have al- ready paid for with our tax dollars, ready to be used by families who qualify. What's often missing in the media are the stories of those who have been impact- ed...the stories that make it real to you and me and com- pel us to do more than stand by and watch. We may have heard of the "federal poverty line" used as a benchmark for program eligibility, but it is not real for most people. The federal poverty line has traditionally been used to measure whether families have incomes high enough to allow them to meet basic needs. Yet most researchers now agree a "poverty line" income is not sufficient to support most working fami- lies. The Economic Policy In- stitute calculates a "basic family budget" for 400 com- munities annually. It is im- portant to note a basic fami- ly budget is indeed "basic." It includes only the amount a family needs to spend to feed, shelter and clothe it- serf, get to work and school, and subsist in 21st-century America. It includes no savings, no restaurant meals, no funds for emergencies not even renters' insurance to protect against fire, flood or theft. The basic budget is mar- ginally lower in rural com- munities due to housing costs. These numbers do not reflect th e rising food and fuel costs of recent months. Today, families need al- most 250 percent of the "poverty threshold" to make ends meet without some kind of support. This information will make shockingly clear to each of us that thousands of hard-working families may be forced to seek assistance of some kind for the first time in their lives. The Food Bank of North- ern Nevada has already as- sisted 27 percent more fami- lies than during the same three-month period last year, a year during which more than 80,000 different people received services ei- ther directly or through our partner agencies• We know that during diffi- cult economic times our community steps up to help us help those most in need. This year, it may be your neighbor. Your community needs your support th.is year more than ever before. We deeply appreciate your support and commitment to the Food Bank, and I ask you to take an additional action this year: Please tell this sto- ry to your friends and fami- ly. Please tell them how they can help by making a contri- bution and that it's as easy as picking up the telephone or clicking on our Web site. As you know, we can make a dollar stretch farther than just about anybody; this winter we'll need every- body's dollar to help keep food on the table for thou- sands of families• We have much for which to be thankful this year, and we wish you many blessings this holiday season. The Food Bank of Northern Nevada is the Feeding Ameri- ca (formerly America's Sec- ond Harvest)food bank that provides food and other sup- port to pantries and other agencies in Plumas, Lassen and Sierra counties• LETTERS to the EDITOR Guidelines for Letters All letters must contain an address and a phone num- ber. We publish only one let- ter per week, per person and only one letter per person, per month regarding the same subject. We do not publish third-party, anonymous, or open letters. Letters must be limited to a maximum of 300 words• The editor will cut any letter in excess of 300 words. The deadline is Friday at 3 p.m. (Deadlines may change due to holidays.) Let- ters may be taken to any of[ Feather Publishing's offices, [ sent via fax to 283-3952, or e-] mailed at mail@plumas-[ news.com I Appreciation Christmas morning, and the snow is falling. As we look out the window, the white blanket makes a pretty picture for those of us gath- ered around the Christmas tree, opening gifts, enjoying family and friends. But, this is also a time to remember and appreciate those who are out there in the icy cold and snowy depths plowing the snow and keeping our public roads safe, those who go to work in our hospitals or answer the phones at crisis lines, the law enforcement officers, fire personnel, and dispatch- ers who guard us and keep us secure, and so many oth- ers whose Christmas day is spent in the service of oth- ers. Thank you. We are grate- ful for so many blessings in our lives, yet we realize we don't often give thanks for the people all around us who carry out the every day tasks that keep us safe, healthy and out of harm's way. And, most especially, we appreciate and thank the men and women of the armed services whose dedi- cation and duty to country enables us to abide peaceful- ly in our home and worship as we choose in ottr commu- nity. Thank you. We appreci- ate you. Merry Christmas and many blessings in the New Year. Bob and Linda Rean Chester Same rules It is illegal for residents to shovel or blow snow back in- to the streets. That creates a very dangerous, icy condi- tion that could result in an accident. Shouldn't the same rules apply to Caltrans? They take all the snow that they pile in the center lane between Mill Creek and the end of town and then spread it all over the four lanes. That creates one heck of an icy mess. They don't do this on the oth- er side of M ill Creek. Why? The roadway between Mill Creek and town is clear and dry. What does that make East Quincy residents, chopped liver? They do the same thing downtown. Wouldn't Caltrans be liable for any ac- cident caused by this illegal procedure? Myrna Henwood Quincy Help with ice This winter some older and/or infirm folk are run- ning into persistently recur- ring problems with mobility. Most businesses are very conscientious about shovel- ing and "salting" sidewalks, but parking lots seem to be another story. The other day at the Meadow Valley post office, ! parked but then couldn't get out of my car be- cause of the very slick ice. I had to move my car to an- ther spot. A friend told me that she recently moved her car twice at the Quincy post office, then ended up leaving without getting her mail be- cause it was too slick to get out of her car. Another friend asked, "What good does it do to have handicap parking in front of a busi- ness if it's so slick and icy that you can't even get to the sidewalk?" A couple of peo- ple I know have had painful falls in the past and are very worried about it happening again. I'm wondering if there is something businesses can do to reduce the hazard? One thing I used to do back when I worked for home health was keep a quart-size milk carton of cat litter in my car, and then I could sprinkle some in front of me as I crossed icy patches. It would really be helpful if businesses and public places could extend their efforts to the parking areas. The pub- lic will thank you. Judith Parks Stevens Meadow Valley