Danger: Asteroid ahead (5×8 – 4/24/12)

The future of Social Security, a son’s tribute to his child-protector mom, Music Man Murray, life and the human-powered airplane, and Tim Pawlenty season is underway.


I’ve always wondered what would happen if we found out today that an asteroid was heading for Earth, arriving in a few months and likely wiping out all life. Chances are: We’d struggle to come up with some sort of cockamamie plan to change destiny; we’d have to try something. It’s who we are.

And then there’s the Social Security asteroid. Yesterday, a new report from the feds said Social Security will be insolvent three years sooner than previously thought — 2033 — and Medicare will be toes up by 2024. The Social Security fund that helps the disabled will run out of money in four years.

Anybody got a plan?

Today’s old-timers are in no danger. Politicians don’t have the stomach to do anything to them. But you kids, Forbes says, can look forward to the return of a time when people will retire from work close to when they’re expected to die:

The rest of the shortfall would be made up with a gradual increase in the “full” or “normal” retirement age” for Social Security; less generous benefits for the highly paid; and shaving the annual cost of living increase for the already retired by about 0.3 percentage points a year, with an upward adjustment after a beneficiary had been on Social Security for 20 years, to soften the cumulative effects. The retirement age increases would start with those born after 1960. That’s not only because of the politicians’ fear of older voters–it’s also where already legislated retirement age increases end. The 1983 Social Security fix raised the full retirement age for those born from 1943 through 1954 to 66, boosting it another two months per year after that to 67 for those born in 1960 or later.

But back to the asteroid. A group of high-tech tycoons is hatching a scheme to mine asteroids using robotic ships to squeeze rocket fuel and valuable minerals like platinum and gold out of the lifeless rocks that routinely whiz by Earth, the Associated Press reports today.

Which leads to a question: If you make your money mining an asteroid in space, do you have to pay Social Security taxes on terra firma?


A former MPR colleague, Bob Ingrassia, lost his mother a week ago when Barbara Ingrassia died. She was in the child protection business, a job that requires a great deal of secrecy for the good it does. Her eulogy, delivered by Bob, deserves the time it takes you to read it today, as a reminder of what people do when you’re not looking, and when the news media doesn’t care about jobs well done:

Think of it. It’s the middle of winter in Minnesota, 20 below on New Year’s Day. There’s a single mom with small children. They’re stuck in a run-down rental house in the far reaches of Anoka County. The furnace is broken, the water pipes frozen.

Who will come to their aid? Who cares? Barb cares. Her staff cares. Yes, they’re from the government. But guess what. They really are here to help you. So they’ll give up their holiday. They’ll find a safe and warm place for this mother and these children. That’s what they do. They help people.

Barb was not a desk jockey, pushing papers while others did the actual work. Barb earned the respect of her staff by regularly getting into the field, taking the lead on tough assignments.

Even though she was the boss, my mom took her turn in the on-call rotation. When her turn covering weekends came up, calls came at all hours of the day. A ringing phone would send Barb into action, coordinating the response to all sorts of difficult situations.

Deepest sympathy to the Ingrassia clan. And to the people going to work today to toil on behalf of others: Thank you for your service.


Saturday was “record store” day, a day to celebrate vinyl and the few shops that still sell it.

“I wasn’t earning enough money to support my family, so I decided to get some extra income by putting my record collection up for sale,” Gershenz told NPR’s Scott Simon. “I opened the store, built some shelves with the help of a rabbi friend of mine and, little by little, the music took over.”

And now it’s for sale. Murray is turning 90.


Jem Stansfield is testing a human-powered airplane for his BBC show. It’s the prettiest video you’ll watch today.



Every four years, Tim Pawlenty gets to be one of the politicians waiting for the bride to throw the flowers. Mitt Romney is in the market for a vice presidential candidate and even though Pawlenty couldn’t deliver his state to Romney in the caucuses, even though Massachusetts and Minnesota have been politically joined at the hip for years, and even though there are more politically astute choices — Marco Rubio, for example — that could put Romney in the White House, Time’s Swampland blog says picking Pawlenty makes sense. It seems to suggest Pawlenty is boring enough not to overshadow the top of the ticket. Ouch.

Bonus I: The life of a female trucker. A Minnesota woman writes one of the more fascinating blogs in the state as she rolls across the country, detailing the life of a woman on the road. Sometimes, it’s not very pretty as today’s blog post reveals (language warning).

Bonus II: Ignorance or anti-Semitism? Is there an anti-Jewish bias in today’s university? (University of Minnesota Daily)

Bonus III: Google is honoring Gideon Sundback today.


The jury selection process for Amy Senser’s trial on charges stemming from a hit-and-run accident in Minneapolis focused on whether potential jurors had followed news coverage of the case. Defense attorneys had raised the possibility that Senser could not receive a fair trial in Hennepin County, where media coverage had been extensive. Today’s Question: Does a potential jury need to be uninformed about a case to be fair?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides has gone from negotiating financial deals on Wall Street to negotiating geo-political deals with U.S. allies. He talks about his recent trip to Pakistan, and the challenges that the United States faces in finding common ground with an often unpredictable ally.

Second hour: Kerri Miller speaks with New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat about the 2012 presidential campaign and why America’s current crisis is mainly a religious crisis.

Third hour: Can Amy Senser receive a fair trial in Hennepin County?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Live broadcast from the National Press Club featuring Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. He’ll be talking about energy development, mining on public lands, off-shore oil drilling, and other controversies.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Where are the jobs for college graduates? Plus, columnist E.J. Dionne on guns, the NRA and stand-your-ground laws.

Second hour: Author Fergus Bordewich talks about the Great Debate, and the compromise of 1850.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The Los Angeles system of public hospitals and clinics is known as inefficient, disorganized, and depended upon by millions of low-income residents. NPR profiles Dr. Mitch Katz, who is trying to turn that system around, despite some people telling him that it’s beyond repair.

MPR’s Mark Zdechlik profiles hotel owner and political newcomer Jim Graves, who thinks he has a good chance of defeating Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann this year, even though it appears the 6th District is solid conservative territory. Graves has been accusing Bachmann of ignoring her constituents in favor of her unsuccessful run for president.