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Postcards from the Edge

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Yesterday afternoon I shucked down to my birthday suit, grabbed a bottle of gin and sat my naked ass upon the couch all in anticipation of the lesbian episode of Postcards from Buster. This was going to be hot, hot, hot!

Well, Mr. Floppy and I were sadly disappointed. There wasn’t even any deep tongue kissing, let alone double, dastardly, strap-on penetration amidst the stately maples of Vermont. Nothing.

I finished my gin, sat in my buffness and awaited the President’s State of the Union™ speech. At least, I was prepared to have W shove his misguided “Give Money to the Corporations… errr…. Social Security revamping” plan right up my hairy wazoo.

In all seriousness, I did watch the controversial episode of Postcards from Buster with my daughter by my side.

When it was finished, like the responsible adult that I am, I decided to discuss the episode with her:

“So,” I began “Did you notice anything different in the show?”

“They used milking machines instead of milking the cows by hand.” replied my six-year old.

“Yes. That’s true… but did you notice anything different about the families?”

“They had a bonfire.”

“True… but was there anything different from our family?”

“They ate real cheese. Not that weird Kraft stuff.”

“Again, that is correct… but what about the mothers. Was there anything different about them?”

“One of them was as big as Kirstie Alley™.”

At that point I gave up. I decided our new Secretary of Education was out of touch and left it at that.

“Hey Dad?” asked my daughter as I got up to leave. A ha! Here it comes I thought.


“Could you put some clothes on?”

*originally posted today at brianlewandowski.com

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About Brian Lewandowski

  • Funny, funny! Thanks for reminding us that we aren’t born with intolerance, it is a value instilled by others.

  • Hilarious! Thanks. (and please go put some pants on)

  • bhw

    I wanted to watch the episode, too, but I screwed up with the TiVo and set it to record today’s episode instead of yesterday’s. It’s, like, the most simple interface to use, and I blew it.

    ANYway, I’m not surprised to hear that there was really nothing to tell about the episode.

  • Social Security is going to be tough passing. Not enough Reps to carry the vote. They would need Dems help, which Reid vows ain’t gonna happen.

  • naz

    Can someone tell me what the conseses is amoung republicans and democrats concerning the merits of the social security reform? are people for privatising ?

  • Consensus? You’ve got the wrong playbook there

  • bhw

    I really want to know what Buster Baxter thinks about Social Security.

  • No consensus. Democrats are dead set against privatising, and a lot of Republicans are nervous that if they vote for privatising that they will be beaten with a stick by the voters come the next election.

  • Maurice

    Those voters with good math skills are all for the reform. Ask your financial advisor if you should invest in a scheme that will never even pay back your original investment. Don’t forget – your employer is matching your ‘contribution’ to this lame lose money plan. It should be obvious that the plan needs to be overhauled. The Demoncats just don’t like it that the Repuglicans came up with a plan.

  • naz

    Well, if I were an american i would be left of teh democrats even. But having said that, I think the reforms sound pretty good.

    Problem is, how does the govenment get the moeny to do it without going bankrupt. I mean your economy is already in a scary place, the world economy is shifting quickly, and then these unprecedented expenditures for internal overhaul ….

    it could be dangerous.. but I hope it works.. other than that privatization is horrible thing in 99% of instances..

  • naz

    ARe all bloggers republicans..?

    The democrats seem to be afraid to sticktheir noses out without getting them bashed in.

    Calling all the cowardly democrats!! come out and fight for your country before its lost forever! please.. I dread even a few more years with a republican america next door..

  • 1) Privatizers can’t promise good returns. Read this article to learn about the assumptions you have to make for privatization to come out ahead. I personally don’t believe in a P/E ratio of 100.

    2) If this were just about me and my investments, I would probably support this. However, the road to privatization probably (at least in the Republican vision of how the world should be) include:
    a) Elimination of disability benefits
    b) No safety net for those whose investments do poorly.
    c) No means to protect the financially underinformed from making lousy investment decisions and thus ending up in poverty.

    Social security is a safety net designed to guarantee a minimum level of dignity to retirees. It is not intended as an investment program. That is what we have 401(k)’s and IRA’s for (and believe me, I am using those tools, and everybody else should, too). If you are not concerned that a significant fraction of our elderly may end up in poverty, by all means support this.

  • Maurice

    I knew there were some people with bad math skills here but Roy gets the prize as the first to speak up. Roy give me $5000 a year for 40 years and I will guarantee $1000 bucks a month to you for as long as you live after age 65. You may want to use a calculator. If you are still confused go here and calculate your retirement ‘benefit’.


  • Maurice: Did you read the article? Projecting future earnings (particularly from stock markets) is all about what assumptions you make about the economy.

    Besides, my beef with privatization has more to do with the social aspects of it than the financial aspects.

  • naz – thank God you’re not an American!

  • By the way, how did we get from Postcards from Buster to Social Security reform?

  • Maurice

    Roy –

    glad you backed down from the financial arguement. I would have required you to find one mutual fund that lost money over a 40 year period.

    BTW I have a theory. I think Buster and Mr. Foppy are one and the same. You notice you never see them together.

  • If a mutual fund lost money over a 40 year period, it wouldn’t have lasted 5 years, so that is a non-argument.

    The financial argument (again, read the article) is based on the fact that if you use the economic assumptions used to say that social security is going broke, you have to conclude that the stock market isn’t going to cut it either. If you assume that the economy is going to grow fast enough to make privatization work, then social security isn’t insolvent in the first place.

    The social security administration uses conservative (I would argue pessimistic) assumptions about the future of our economy to make its projections. The financial argument is still valid, but my main opposition is still based on the social costs.

  • Maurice

    Ok Roy, I read your article and I was able to ignore many of the errors. Some I can’t ignore. For example: the writer refers to the social security trust fund going broke. There is no trust fund. Social Security is a money transfer scheme that started with 40 workers for every retiree and now has 3 workers per retiree. The writer also refers to dividends as part of the expectation for growth. WTF. I avoid stocks that pay a dividend because they are non-growth stocks. Your comment about mutual funds not being around if they lose money for 5 years tells me you are unfamiliar with how stocks and mutual funds work.

  • Maurice: Rather than argue with you about investment philosophy, since you seem set in your convictions, I will just ask you to find an economist who will take up the challenge (“No economist left behind”)described in the last paragraph of the article: “make a projection of economic growth, dividends and capital gains that will yield a 6.5 percent rate of return over 75 years”.

    According to the article, “Not one economist who supports privatization has been willing to take the test”.

    Those non-dividend paying “growth” stocks that you like to invest in depend on economic growth for their capital gains every bit as much as other stocks do for dividends.

  • Maurice

    Milton Friedman

  • Yes, Milton Friedman supports privatization of Social Security. Has he made a projection of economic growth, dividends and capital gains that will yield a 6.5 percent rate of return over 75 years? If so, what is it? What assumptions does he use?

  • Maurice


    I already explained that the aritcle is riddled with errors. Dividends are unimportant to the issue because only utilities and other non-growth stocks pay dividends. Capital gains is a tax term not a stock term. You seem to have an axe to grind that has nothing to do with how to fix this problem; or even how money works. I’ll address you confused comment about mutual funds. They are like a football team. They have many players (stocks) and are managed (coached) closely by a fund manager. If one player is injured (poor performing) then he is benched (sell some) and if he is really bad fired from the team (out of the fund). All these teams (funds) are in competition with each other and so get better as the years go by.

    One last point to consider. At the end of your working life you will have contributed $200k to SS. The money you contributed was consumed by retirees (and used by corrupt politicians to pay bills) and so now you are hoping that there are enough young whipersnapers out there to pay your way. What if you had put that 200k into a mutual fund paying a measly five percent? You would have over $634k for your retirement. Now I am going to do the math for you. Instead of the $1000 a month you would get from SS you will have $2641 a month.

    * calculations assume $5000 contribution per year (which is what you currently pay not counting your employers matching $5000) at %5 compounded per year for 40 years. Life expectancy of 20 years after retirement. Do you want the dry, microwaved burger or the…..

  • So I guess you guys didn’t become heathens from watching Buster?

    (At the current rate of deductions and such, Social Security will be able to pay out at 80% of current amounts in 2042. It’s not for another 20 years or so that the system even begins to take in less than it pays out.

    Not sure how you can stop the system now without adding another 2 trillion big ones to the defecit. I guess we could get more loans from China. Did you even know that China pays a lot of our debts for us?

    All is needless. A simple solution is to be a fatalist like me. You live everyday like your last. It stops you from getting caught up in the …yawn… or the political hype. Now if you excuse me, I have to swell neklkid chicks sitting here looking for something to do! Aloha!)

  • Maurice:

    Mutual funds and share prices (of both stocks that pay dividends and those that don’t) depend upon growth of the economy, and fundamentally can’t get very far ahead of economic growth (that is what causes bubbles). Tell me what assumptions about economic growth you use to support your 5% return – and and is that 5% before or after inflation? The social security administration actually pegs their numbers to projections of economic growth when they predict how solvent they will be.

    What projections of economic growth are you using?

    Also, you seem to be under the presumption that you will be allowed to pick your stocks or mutual funds under the privatization scheme, but when pressed the privatizers say, well, no we are going to offer only a limited selection of the broadest mutual funds. If this is the case, then the performance of those stocks that pay dividends is important because they will inevitably be part of the broad mutual funds.

  • Maurice

    Good luck with that Big Bri! BTW becoming a heathen would involve more than watching an episode of Buster.


    I did explain that the article is riddled with errors, right. Why are you asking about projected growth of the economy? There is no direct connect between mutual funds and the health of the economy. Also, why in the world would you bring up inflation? Stocks (and mutual funds) are impervious to inflation (government printing too much money) because currency is not involved until time of sale. At the risk of name-calling I think you might be naive about investing or insincere in this discussion. You’ll notice I have responded to your statements but you still haven’t told me if you want the dry microwaved burger.

  • Maurice


    I forgot to address your last comment about choice of mutual funds. This is similar to the 401k where you are offered choices that weigh risk against growth for your own protection.

    It is an effort to protect the neophyte from himself.

  • On protecting the neophyte from himself, try this scenario on for size:

    A not very knowledgeable individual decides to be conservative and put all his money in the most conservative bond fund from 1990-2000. He then decides he is screwing himself by not being in stocks and switches all his money into the most aggressive stock fund. He then gets hammered in the dot.com meltdown and general bear market that began in 2001 and then puts all his money back into bonds. He then repeats this plan for every peak and correction in the stock market for the next 40 years. Do you think he will have a positive return? And if not, will anybody help him?

  • Comment 28:

    “There is no direct connect between mutual funds and the health of the economy.”

    That is an interesting statement that I will just let stand for everybody to examine themselves. And I’m the one who is naive about investing?

    I will now take my naive (or insincere) self out of this discussion now and go manage my investments, which have done quite nicely over the past ten years.

  • Dania

    I just wan’t to thank the producers of “Buster The Bunny” for creating such a kind and inclusive show. Here is an article in which the children from the “Sugar Time” episode speak out in defense of their parents


  • Maurice


    I get the feeling you have no investments. Your 401k protected you from the dot.com meltdown because of limiting your choice. The scenario you propose is why the choice is limited. Am I repeating myself repeating myself? The reason there is no direct connect between the economy and mutual funds is because mutual funds deal with shares not dollars. Over any 40 year period no mutual fund has lost money ever. If you have further questions about how the market works read Wade Cook or the Motley Fool here: Fool.com

  • So, the conclusion to be drawn is that children’s programming on PBS won’t turn your children into clam-lapping, pagan, donut-bumpers, but economists.


  • And the worst part is how innocuous it seems.

    Starts with a couple of math lessons on compound interest, then they’re doing actuarial tables, because all the other kids are, and the next thing you know, you’re trapped in a tin shed under the hot sun, in the hole, with nothing but stale bread, water and an insurance salesman.

  • Maurice:
    A 401K (that includes a self-directed brokerage account as one of the options), IRAs for myself and my wife, two mutual funds outside of IRAs and oh, yeah, a brokerage account for the past five years (since before the dot.com meltdown/general bear market). Yes, I do pick individual stocks, and I have gotten fairly decent returns even through the rough times. I am a buy and hold investor and refuse to try to time the market.

    The reason there is a connection between mutual funds and the economy:

    GDP=value of all goods and services produced in the US=value of all goods and services produced by businesses in the US. If GDP growth is low, then the aggregate growth of all businesses in the US is correspondingly low. If you have a very broad based mutual fund (such as proposed by promoters of the privatization scheme), the value of the underlying stocks will not grow appreciably faster than the economy over the long term.

    The value of underlying stocks may grow faster in the short term, but there are two main reasons for this: either companies are reinvesting profits in the business rather than distributing them as dividends (which may either be good – the company (and ultimately GDP) grow faster – or it may result in overinvestment, but which it is depends on the particular company and economic circumstances – in any event it won’t go on forever); or, the Price to Earnings (P/E) ratio has gotten out of whack, which is indicative of a bubble and means a correction will come sooner or later. Just before the dot.com meltdown, many of the high flying stocks had a P/E ratio of 50 or higher, which is over three times the historical average (somewhere around 15).

    Stock market yields over the long term will be somewhat higher than GDP growth, but that is because of profits, which is why dividends are important in thinking about overall return of the market over the long term. Although it makes sense for some companies at some times to not pay dividends and reinvest profits in the company, it most definitely does not make sense for all companies to reinvest profits all the time.

    Bottom line: aggregate stock market yields over the long term are equal to growth of value of stocks (=GDP growth) plus profits paid out to shareholders (i.e., dividends – damn those pesky things keep coming back into this discussion).

    Since GDP growth is one of the two components that drive long term stock market yield, if GDP grows more slowly, then mutual fund yields will be lower. Therefore, any projection of mutual fund yields over a long period must make an assumption about GDP growth.

  • I considered watchning the episode, but I figured it would be too dull for my 2 year old who’s used to watching the 24 Hour Spongebob Gayloving Review.

    Big Bri:Not sure how you can stop the system now without adding another 2 trillion big ones to the defecit.

    What people seem not to be aware of is that the longer we take to actually put money in the fund or replace it with something else the more it will cost. It’s $2 Trillion now. Down the road it could be as much as $60 trillion.

    And did I really see someone say that they couldn’t find an economist to commit to a 6.5% market return over a 75 year period? Pick a 75 year period in history – any one including the period of the depression – and you have that good a return or more per year. No reason to expect 3 or 4 full scale depressions in the next 75 years – which is what it would take to break that pattern.


  • The catch-22 for the privatizers is that if the economy grows fast enough to support 6.5% return in the market, it also grows fast enough to keep the trust fund fully solvent for the foreseeable future.

    The social security administration bases its projection of going broke on a GDP growth rate of 1.9% per year over the next 75 years. This is a significant slowdown from 3.4% for the last 75 years.

    So which is it?

  • It doesn’t matter which it is, Roy. If the growth rate is high then private accounts would return so much more than the current system that there’s no justification for wasting money on what’s basically just a big slush fund for porkbarrellers to loot and provides no return on investment. If the growth rate is moderate, then the market account will still return enormously more for the future retiree and the system will also fall apart. The key thing is to act now so that if the worst case scenario comes along we’re not left holding the umpty-trillion dollar bag. Plus the longer we wait the higher the cost of scrapping the old system and moving to a privatized system.


  • Maurice

    Jim, you are funny as hell. Your reference is one of my favorite and is from ‘Take the Money and Run’. Dave don’t waste your time with Roy. If you check my earlier posts you will notice I already explained the same things to him about mutual funds growing over ANY 40 year period of time. Roy read one negative article and is basing all his posts on what the writer (not an economist) claimed. Also, his ‘talk button’ is pushed so anything you post is not received by him. He will post about divdends (which are irrelavent). I have tried to help him understand the disconnect between mutual funds and the economy (all my current mutual funds are foreign). He also thinks that growth of the economy will help social security. I already explained that SS takes in $5000 bucks a year per person no matter how much you make. I feel like feel like I am am repeating myself.

  • Dept of Education

    Even my boss thinks same sex couples are vile. She wants PBS to return the money they used in the production of this show. Are you suggesting she is daft.

  • Eric Olsen

    yes, she is daft.

    nice one Jim, one of your best

    enjoying the social security debate, even learning a fair amount, but I am not one eyelash closer to amking up my own mind – it all seems to turn on philosophy rather than economics, which is just a dismal branch of philosophy anyway.

    And re Buster, didn’t catch the Maple Lesbos ep, but I did see the Kurds of Nashville over the weekend and found it quite engrossing and humane, am guessing the Parents Without Testosterone ep was similar

  • Maurice


    if you are sincere about making up your mind about the SS debate, consider this. You will receive 75 cents for every dollar you ‘contribute’ to SS. Nobody would willingly (maybe Roy?) make such a lame investment. Over the life of your 40 year career there will be many up turns and down turns in the economy. When you invest for the long term you will come out ahead. As Dave pointed out earlier there is no losing 75 year streak. There are peaks and valleys but overall growth. One last point. THERE IS NO SOCIAL SECURITY TRUST FUND. It is more like a non-interest baring checking account and has been frequently abused.

  • You can read about the Social Security Trust Funds on the Social Security Administration website:


    There are trust funds indeed.

    (And yes “department of Education, I am calling your boss daft.)

  • bhw

    if you are sincere about making up your mind about the SS debate, consider this. You will receive 75 cents for every dollar you ‘contribute’ to SS. Nobody would willingly (maybe Roy?) make such a lame investment.

    Social Security is NOT an investment. It’s a tax program to provide a safety net to workers and the disabled.

    That’s the problem. Bush is trying to get people to think it’s an investment when it’s not. One of the reasons most people pay in more than they get out is because they’re paying for disability and retirement payments to people who don’t put in as much in their lifetime as they’re going to receive. We’re making sure that all Americans, regardless of how much they’re able to earn during their lifetimes, have some sort of guaranteed protection from living in complete and utter disgrace if they become disabled or when they retire.

    Get over it. You are paying for yourself and others.

  • Gosh, if your newly inducted Education Secretary can get y’all fired up over insurance because of the proprietors of a Vermont maple sugar bush, what’s going to happen when PBS does a show about schools and box lunches?

  • Maurice

    bhw –

    Thank God you at least acknowledge that you get less than you put in to SS. I take your point well about the uses for SS but no matter how it is used it should not have a stagnant value. Also, no matter how you slice it sooner or later it does go bankrupt. It costs a certain amount to fix it now (2T?) what will it cost 20 years from now.

  • Dept of Education

    Great! Just Great! My boss doesn’t care for carpet munching farmers and for that you guys think she is daft. Great! Just Great!

    I suppose the next thing will be hermaphrodites competing as women in sports? Just what is this world coming to?

  • Dept of Education

    I see where the chief of PBS, Pat Mitchell will resign in june. Coincidence?

  • I am sure somehow the person who serves as the replacement will have been the head of a major corporation that contributed to the Bush campaign. Wanna talk about what love thy brother really means?

  • Dept of Education

    Do you mean…Love thy sister or munch her?

  • Eric Olsen

    Interesting that Dept of Edu, Smegma, Rip Van Winkle, and Don’t Come Through the Back Door all use the same computer – very busy with all those people coming and going

  • Me thinks it’s “W” himself…

  • Eric, that does explain a similarity of, um, authorial flavor? from their postings.

    Or perhaps the similarity is more obvious to a different sense than taste…

  • Eric Olsen

    other senses indeed

  • Dept of Education

    You’ve caught me out! Yes it is true I post under different handles….so what! I would have posted my comment under the handle ‘Big Bri’ but it was already taken. Just what is your point?

    My comment “Love her or munch her” is more relevant than ‘wanna talk about brotherly love’. Just what does that have to do with the resignation of the PBS chief?

  • Eric Olsen

    “Yes it is true I post under different handles….so what!”

    I guess that would depend upon why you use different “handles” (breaker breaker), how you use them, and what you say when you use them. Anything that obscures transparency is open to question

  • Dept of Education

    Just what is transparent on the internet? an ip address? most of the people here do not use their right name. I remember one blogger who posted here had her name swiped and use on a triple x site (against her will). I don’t think it would be wise to let that happen. Much better to post under an assumed name.