Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Questions with Succession and its Ramifications

          In the wake of the most recent presidential election there has been a growing movement of people wishing to break away from the United States.  The loudest cries in the succession movement are coming from libertarians and the extreme right of the Republican Party which is the Tea Party.  They are not the only ones calling for this but they are the loudest.  This essay is just one part in a series of essays I will be writing covering some of the downfalls of any state; red, purple, or blue who wish to pursue succession.  The first essay will focus on a major concern to many; Social Security. 


          Social Security has been a political football ever since its inception and has continued to be one up into the present day.  For those who are unaware, Social Security refers to the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) which is a federal program that encompass’ several social welfare and social insurance programs.  Social Security is primarily funded through dedicated payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA).  Tax deposits are formally entrusted to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, or the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund which comprise the Social Security Trust Fund.  Now I realize that I have enlarged the word federal a total of six times so far when giving the definition and explaining the role of Social Security; but to be fair I enlarged the word state every time it was mentioned as well.  The only problem is that Social Security is ran, regulated, and maintained by the federal government, not the state government. 
Another fun fact about Social Security is that it is estimated to keep roughly 40 percent of all Americans age 65 or older out of poverty (1.)  Although this is an 8 year old statistic it is very reasonable to believe that 40 percent is still at best the most optimal situation but considering the recent global financial crisis it may even be higher than 40 percent.

So with all this being stated, if a state were to go through with succession what would this mean for those drawing social security or close to retirement?  What about states like Florida and Arizona where the amount of retirees are much higher than in other states?  Would there be anything put in place by the succeeding states or would people of every age have to fend for themselves?  These are a couple of the issues that would surely arise if states were to start breaking away from the Union.  Some could take the Ayn Rand philosophy and merely shrug at those who weren’t prepared for the collapse of the federal government but I have a hunch that a great deal elderly people would face dire choices if they were to lose their Social Security benefits.  And notice I called them benefits and not entitlements; these elderly people have been paying a FICA tax most, if not their entire working lives.  

One possible solution to this problem is that if a state were to succeed from the United States, the federal government could still pay the benefits regardless of where the beneficiary lives.  There is only one flaw with this scenario, I do not see a federal government helping out a state that has just succeeded from it.  You can’t merely flip someone the bird and then ask them for assistance.  Few people would be willing to do this and if the blood is that bad between the U.S government and a succeeding state I doubt they will be any different.  With that being stated responsibility for the elderly more than likely now becomes a state issue or rather a succeeding state issue.  

Could these states bear such a financial burden in the infancy of being an independent state and now a nation?  It is very doubtful considering the other financial burdens they would soon be getting ready to deal with due to their new found freedom.  There is also no mechanism in place to deal with this on the state level, so what would people do in the meantime till such a structure was established?  Succeeding seems to bring more questions than tangible answers and that is only on the issue of Social Security.

I am not in favor of any state succeeding from the United States, period.  For better or worse we are one big family and merely saying I’m done and leaving will weaken the government and create more burden on the succeeding state than they can handle.  I think the issues we face as a nation are fixable assuming reasonable adults can sit down at the table and agree on reasonable solutions.  Compromise is not a dirty word, it is the solution.  

Works Cited

  1. Orr, D. (November – December, 2004). "Social Security Isn't Broken: So Why the Rush To 'Fix ' It? In C. Sturr & R. Vasudevan (Eds.), 2007, Current Economic Issues. Boston: Economic Affairs Bureau.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Ex and LeBron


        LeBron James leaving his native Cleveland hit me like many Cavaliers fans pretty hard.  In trying to describe my feelings to a friend of mine after LeBron’s recent championship I was looking for the perfect analogy and I found it; an ex-girlfriend.

            LeBron to me is like an ex-girlfriend, it ends with the ring.  When I started dating my ex I was a wreck; ill equipped for the next level, unambitious, and slept in too late.  My Cavs before LeBron showed up also had these same issues.  My ex came in and changed the wardrobe bringing me a little more class, out with the jeans with holes and stained tees.  LeBron did the very same for the Cavs ditching older players and baby fat from the rooster to add new kicks like Antwan Jamison and a nice retro suit like Shaquille O’Neil to give the Cavs that new slick look. 

            King James like most of our ex’s demands us to step it up and get some new things if you expect them to hang around.  The Cavs got a new work out facility closer to LeBron’s Akron home so the drive wouldn’t be too bad in the off season.  I didn’t have to go out and buy a gym but I did have to get an air conditioner for the apartment and ditch the futon for an actual bed.  In both comparisons all parties involved got what they wanted especially my ex, I mean LeBron, I mean, oh whatever!  

            `Now you guys have been together for a while now and it is starting to get a little more serious.  One of the people involved wants to take it to the next level and they start talking about a ring.  That one ring, which is different for my ex, and LeBron, and even Gollum strangely enough; that ring starts to rule their lives.  You try to be calm and rational about it and say “Honey, I’ll get you a ring but you have to show me you are committed.”  Show me your in it for the long haul and you aren’t going to leave me high and dry here in a couple years for some new beau in Miami but then they turn it around on you and say you don’t trust them.  They pout around and make changes to their game but never quite step it up to the level they have to showing you they are all in. 

After a while they start scheming with their girlfriends (Bosh, Wade, and Pat O’ Riley) and these friends always tell them that they could do so much better than you.  He’s a nice guy and all but is he really going to take you anywhere in life?  Will he get you that ring?  That’s when everything goes wrong with the relationship.  Constant under performance in key moment’s pulls the two of you apart until eventually you have a messy breakup. 

You try to patch things up and start over but too much has been said to ever repair all the damage done.  They move on and yeah, you wish you could go back to way things were before but what is done is done and you can’t change that.  You follow what’s going on from a far; reading facebook status’s and tweet’s for hints about what they are thinking or even if they will take you back.  After a while of doing this you hear news that they are about to get that ring they wanted so badly.  Once they get the ring you realize there is no turning back and you can quit pinning over them.  In the back of your head you hear a voice that says it will be ok, you heard these same rumors last year and nothing ever came out of it.  This time seems different though.  They seem really determined to get it.  It seems like it’s really going happen and there is nothing you can do to stop it.  

When LeBron finally got that ring last week I knew it was time to move on; he wasn’t coming back so I should just make peace with that.  The first step in fixing any problem is admitting you have one in the first place.  In closing, my name is William Balzer, I have a love / hate relationship with LeBron James and I’m trying to move on with my life!

To Be Continued….?    

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Whore of Akron, a Review

Scott Raab sums up one of the worst break up stories in sports history with his new book “The Whore of Akron.”

Above:  The cover of the book.  Don't judge a book by it's cover because I liked the cover but loved the book.

If you know me you know that I am loyal to my sports teams despite their inabilities to win at times.  I am all Ohio when it comes to who I root for; The Cincinnati Reds in baseball, the Cleveland Browns in football, the Blue Jackets in hockey, and the Cleveland Cavaliers in basketball.  Much to my surprise this Christmas my mother got me a book by the writer Scott Raab, “The Whore of Akron.”  Being a Cavs fan when you see the cover of this book you see the self-appointed King James on the cover in all of his glory and a rush of emotions come to mind.  Some of the different emotions I felt were:

Rage:  I hate this guy (LeBron or LeBrick as I like to call him,) he pissed on me, my team, and the entire City of Cleveland

Sorrow:   Damn the Cavaliers sucked last year

Pride (what is left of it):  I can’t bail on my team just because they played like 12 year olds against superheroes

Optimism:  We’ll be better this year; hell, we can’t get much worse

Joy:  Hehe, he called LeBron a whore

                So back to the book; before I started reading it I was hoping it wasn’t going to be a 300 page “hate fest” on LeBron.  I was trying to move past that stage in my life and look towards the future like most Ohio sports fans do because the future is always our best bet even though tomorrow never seems to come.  As I started to read the book I realized that Mr. Raab was a lot like me and the majority of Cleveland sports fans when it comes to the different stages and extremes of our/his mourning.  The book is a must read and not a “hate fest” like some who read the title would assume.  Mr. Raab gives credit where credit is due and isn’t shy about pointing out the faults of “The Chosen One,” himself, or any other Cleveland fan for that matter.  It was refreshing to see how the author progressed through his feelings during LeBron’s last season in Cleveland and throughout the following season with James in Miami while the Cav’s where on their abysmal road to ruin.

                The book kind of reminded me of “Faithfull” by Steven King and Stewart O’ Nan except there wasn’t the fairy tale ending where the pious home team wins it all in the face of adversity; it was almost like the bizzarro to “Faithful.”  I’m sure Mr. Raab would agree that it wasn’t his intent to make it feel this way but in Cleveland sports, how else was it supposed to end?

Above:  The author Scott Raab

                The book jumps around a great deal between the present and the past.  Mr. Raab talks about his life growing up in Cleveland, the History of Cleveland sports and his career as a writer.  At first I was kind of lost by this but as I kept reading the book I realized that I am / was a lot like Mr. Raab (I’m still nowhere near as successful) and his story is a lot like the story of Cleveland.  In the end though Mr. Raab has turned out to be a successful writer but Cleveland sports is the same sad affair it has been for several decades now, only to show some signs of life before it gets washed away by the inevitable erosion of Lake Erie herself.  I’m not going to go into great detail about the content of the book because I feel that my synopsis cannot do it justice.  I like most of the likely readers already knew part of the story but I did feel when I was reading it that I was an NBA insider there for a little bit.  I remember things going down in the media and the book helped give a back story to what was going on behind the scenes that an average outsider didn’t know.

                   If you are a fan of Cleveland sports; read this book! If you are a fan of any teams who have fallen on hard times; read this book!  Hell, if you’re a fan of sports period you need to read this book!  If you think that LeBron is a saint and “The Decision” wasn’t the worst break up of all time; then don’t read this book and as a matter of fact go play in traffic somewhere!  This is one of the best books on sports I have ever read because it was real, gritty, and it showed the true colors of a lot of the athletes we put on pedestals whether they deserve it or not.  Thank you Scott Raab for helping me with this break up, you have made the fandom of the Indian’s, Brown’s, and Cavaliers proud and we are blessed to call you one of our own!    

 William Balzer

Review of Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay

Not sure what “Mylo Xyloto” is or means… but listen to it!

Ok, so I am going to admit something which may get my “man card” revoked in certain circles; I love Coldplay.  Now with that out of the way and a definite loss to some of my “street cred” it is time to take a look at Coldplay’s newest album “Mylo Xyloto.”

Mylo Xyloto is a beautiful album that I think will widen the bands fan base.  Coldplay has been evolving their sound their whole careers, their previous album “Viva La Vida” was a break from their previous three albums and “Mylo Xyloto” is no different.  In my opinion, on a lot of the tracks I felt like Coldplay was almost channeling U2 of the 90’s and 2000’s.  The chunky guitar riffs, choir like vocals, and ambient acoustics of “Major Minus” made me feel like I was listening to the pride of Ireland U2. 

   So this album is a lot different than their previous ones in that I felt there wasn’t a constant lyrical or musical thread throughout the whole album.  I’m not complaining it’s just different for Coldplay.  Although the thread was missing it wasn’t hard to listen to the album, it still flowed really well.  Piano is also not as prevalent in this album as in previous ones, it’s not void of piano, just a lot less than expected.  In place of piano there is a lot more keyboards and effects giving the album an electronica feel at times.  There are some really good singles on this album; “Up in Flames,” “Paradise,” and the “Princess of China” are three of my favorites.

Although I like “Up in Flames,” it did kind of have a Michael Bolton love song feel to it.  “Paradise” was beautiful and felt like a traditional Coldplay song and “Princess of China” featuring Rihanna was awesome!  If you would have told me before I heard this album that Rihanna and Chris Martin would have a duet I would have probably told you this would be the end of the band but it exceeded my expectations to say the least.  I have never been big on Rihanna but I definitely have a new found appreciation of her after her duet with Chris Martin on this album.  

So in closing, there are a couple things I need to state.  The first is that I am not sure what “Mylo Xyloto” is or means… but listen to the album.  If you want to be the “in” guy / girl there are a couple goods singles you can get without buying the whole thing, and my “street cred” will never be the same until I review some metal or gangster rap, any suggestions for future reviews or comments email me at:

William Balzer