I was at Harvard, Princeton, Berkeley, and Stanford before I was 5 years old. I’ve been around the world twice, visited 31 countries, 49 states, and 10 Canadian provinces. Some only for hours, but most for well over a week. I grew up in a neighborhood that was restricted to University Professors. My mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt and cousin are all psychologists. I got straight A’s in Logic, with a BA in Art History. I’ve spent over 40 years in the Life Insurance Industry and hold a CLU designation, (the first financial planning designation and pertinent to estate planning). I’ve also sailed my own boat three times from the Great Lakes to the West Indies. Although I am a nobody and you have never heard of me, I do qualify as an Elitist. I’ve been living out my fantasy calling it reality, and am old enough to realize that this is what everyone does, whether they know it or not. Reality is connected to our everyday lives, and colored by our past experiences and beliefs. Many of us confuse reality with truth and there is a difference. We all share truths that we call reality: eating sleeping, working, and relationships. Our reality is different, however, colored by what we eat, when we sleep, what kind of work we do and who we talk to, listen to, what we believe in and depend on. Much of our reality is made up of things we have no direct experience with but is fed by others to gain their ends. Few of us have had an abortion, less have died by terrorists, immigrants haven’t taken our jobs, (they are always others’ jobs), gays getting married don’t produce more gays and I’ve never heard of anyone volunteering to go door to door to take guns away. The fact that many people’s reality includes a belief that our President was born in Kenya and is a Muslim doesn’t make it true, or have any real relevance to those peoples actual lives. The media and politicians color our reality with issues that have little substance while they ignore the real issues of our day, which would challenge their power.
My father, who was good with statistics, used to say “50% of the population is below average intelligence”. Our politicians are actively courting this 50% with their fear, lies, blame, and desire for power at any cost. A large part of the other 50% is disillusioned and either thinks that there is no way to correct things, have only one issue that concerns them, or have such a low opinion of our politicians that they can’t vote for any with good conscience. It’s become clear to me that no changes will take place until a large part of the population realizes that the crap they are fed by both political parties and the media is just that: crap. Then we can begin to change the way we elect our leaders.
The special interest groups are leading the way into a dumber public by campaigns of misinformation that will keep their special interest strong. The media is now so biased that you can’t get a real read on what’s happening in the world without editorial comment meant to bias the facts. Anyone who relies on only one or two news sources can’t discern the truth, and any who just rely on the internet are filled with false impressions and phony news stories. On top of this, our younger generations are being taught to pass tests, rather than how to think for themselves. Most of the country feels that the US is heading in the wrong direction, but the powers that exist are quite happy with the situation because it keeps them in power. With all the promises of change, we will find out our politicians are unwilling and unable to make any change that is going to get the country going in any direction.
The media and political parties want us to believe that one party wants to give lots of free stuff to anyone who wants it, while the other party simply wants to keep what they have and to hell with everyone else. My discussions with both liberals and conservatives find that they are not that far apart. No conservatives want to toss people out on the streets, (other than cheats), and no liberals want to provide for those who are too lazy, but able to work. All agree to the idea that government should provide for our security and prosperity and only disagree on the extent and details. I believe that most of us have only one or two issues that we are greatly concerned about and then have to chose our political party based on how they view those concerns. We then hold our noses about the other disagreeable issues that “our” party endorses.
With my reality being substantially different from those views I find in the media, I have been able to live out my “American Dream”. I thought it would be helpful to let others in on my world view and maybe they could find ways to live lives that are more fulfilled and happy. My interactions with others tells me that many share some of my views, even though they seem far from the portrayed mainstream.
In my studies of art history and the renaissance, I realized many similarities to those times: New ways of viewing the world are developing. Those with the new views are challenging those with the old view and are coming up with huge amounts of resistance to change.
Prior to Copernicus, the Earth was the center of the Universe, and predicting the position of the planets involved circular orbits around first the earth and then that orbit, and then that orbit and so on until the proper position was found and recorded as having “so many orbits each with its own radius and speed” that positions could be found and calculated. Copernicus moved the Sun to the center of the Universe but used the many circular orbits and calculations of their number and radii to calculate the positions. It wasn’t until Kepler many years later, that the true elliptical nature of the orbits was determined. While Copernicus got the view right, he got almost all of the details wrong. He is celebrated as the genius behind astronomy because he was willing to say that there is a better way of looking at the world than exists. We now find out that the concept of the “Center of the Universe” may not represent anything. While I am sure that many of my details may not be right, I am positive that the way I view the world can lead to solutions to many of the dilemmas we face today.
It’s significant that The Inquisition and the Renaissance occurred at the same time. While one group of scholars was learning more about our world another group was burning heretics while their brain trusts were busy counting angels on the head of a pin. Now we also have pseudo scientists spinning statistics in favor of their employer.
There are many things in this world that we can never understand. As a heterosexual, I cannot make sense of homosexuality. There are also many things that we don’t want to take time to understand: As a computer user, I don’t want to learn how 0’s and 1’s can be turned into letters on a screen. Much of our population has been taught that if you can’t understand something, it must be either heaven-sent or bad and feared. I am hopeful that a new viewpoint will make understanding issues a little clearer, and this perspective will present some solutions to our problems.
What I wish to do is challenge many assumptions that we make without even thinking about them, (and a few we do). The reason we do many things is that we have always done these things. This is not necessarily wrong, but it is a good reason to look closer. To many, these thoughts may seem unpatriotic, but let me reassure you that I believe the USA to be the best place to be in this world and wouldn’t foresee changing that view at any point. I believe myself to be left of liberal and right of conservative, I try to distance myself from the political parties as I find much of what they do to be disgusting. I wish to discuss some things I have experience and knowledge of; ethics, words, economics, health care, power, democracy, religion, and education.
The issues of what is right and wrong behaviors have been discussed and debated for centuries. I have seen my moral code evolve over the years, so I don’t want to put value judgments on anyone else’s morals. I do want to point out some observations. Ethics is about how we put the public interest over our personal interests. We often talk about someone’s moral compass. I like to start here as there is a similarity to navigation with a compass. When navigating, we have a true direction, a magnetic direction and a compass direction. The true direction is just that, the “magnetic” direction varies from the true depending on where on the globe you are, (the magnetic north is not at the North Pole). The compass heading varies from the magnetic due to local magnetic influences on the compass, this is called ‘deviation’. Ethics has similar divides between True ethics, Social Ethics, and Personal Ethics. It’s wrong to steal is an example of True ethics. Personal and social ethics are subject to change. While I was growing up gambling was considered immoral. Obviously it no longer is. It was also considered unethical for lawyers and drug companies to advertise. Slavery used to be considered ethical as well.
Because the most vital instinct of a bureaucracy is survival, most bureaucracies have developed their own code of ethics, without regard to the greater society. These may be formal or totally unwritten. Currently we see this with; ‘what’s good for coal is good for Kentucky’, or ’what’s good for a police department is good for the city’. We tend to incorporate these “special interest” ethics over time, and don’t actually realize that we hold beliefs that are different from most of society because we are with people with similar beliefs every day at work. These special ethics are most disturbing when major retail companies pay their employees so little that it is necessary for the taxpayers to support them through welfare. The prevalence of bait and switch marketing seems to also go unquestioned.
Many say that the purpose of a business is to make money. I would say the purpose of a business making money is to allow it to continue to provide goods and/or services to its customers. Many businessmen now believe that if it can’t be measured it doesn’t exist. This push to metrics in business has pushed many business’s to ignore ethics and rely on the law in its stead. While many congressmen might disagree, just because it’s legal doesn’t make it ethical.
The judging of others, when there is no personal involvement, seems to have changed greatly with the advent of the internet. The media has determined that anger, fear, and outrage are what gets readers or viewers and have couched many of the stories of today in these terms. They editorialize within the news, while ignoring facts that are pertinent to the truth of the story. We used to either ignore or condemn zealots. Now everyone seems to want to tell us what to believe while having no tolerance for those who don’t happen to agree. Daily, we are asked to make judgments about things we know little about, or have been told only part of the story about. It is very hard to determine when this is happening as we don’t have the means or time to learn the truth about the issues. Criticism has replaced activism as it is so much easier to call names and place blame than it is to actually fix something.
I am worried by the idea that your worth to society is measured by your income. Your worth to your employer may be measured in income, but a person is more than his/her job. This seems to be part and parcel of the materialistic world we live in. The one who dies with the most toys, does not win. Equating a person’s net monetary worth as equal to their worth as a human being is a very distasteful practice we all seem to take part in. The high salaries of executives is, to them, a way of measuring how they are doing against their peers. There are enough ways to get rich without regard to ethics that we have many wealthy people out there who’s actions are despicable, but are still admired by many. I think that wealthy peoples’ worth should be measured by how many others they have made wealthy, among other factors. Being poor doesn’t automatically make you a substandard human being.
The financial services industry is especially troubling. When I entered the financial services industry, making money was not considered a reason for being. You had to be interested in providing for widows, orphans, and old people, or finance homes or business’s if you wanted to be hired. In the 70’s those involved with Wall Street were either “Investors” or “Speculators”. The speculators were considered the scum of the earth and no action would be taken that would help them in any way. We now call these people “Traders” and give them respectability. The “Investor” would buy and hold and was important to the whole economy. Now long term investors are labeled as dumb,(with a few exceptions like Warren Buffet) and someone who can make multiple trades in a second is hero material. We have regulators with fancy names like The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority that is run by a combination of the securities exchanges and the broker dealers that work with them. They are constituted to regulate themselves. I think we know how well that works; the simple securities representative is scared to write a letter without sending it for compliance approval, while one of the founders of the NASDAQ exchange was able to steal billions of dollars prior to turning himself in, (Mr. Madoff). We are also told to trust our banks, even though they seem to love to pay huge fines to cover up their misdeeds. We see banks manipulating interest rates, exchange rates and commodities and no one goes to jail. They are able to avoid pleading by just accepting a fine that punishes the shareholder, while the corrupt people who figured out these schemes are free to go on to their next one. Why do we continue to entrust these people with our valuables?
The fact that hypocrisy has become so accepted in our leaders is of utmost concern to me. A persons integrity is best measured by whether or not they do as they say they will. We have become so accustomed to our politicians not doing what they say, that personal integrity seems to hold no importance in elections anymore.
Down through the ages, we’ve had several guidelines for determining what is ethical behavior. The Ten Commandments, The Eighth Fold path, and The Golden Rule for example. I have found asking what the world would be like if everyone did what is being contemplated is a good additional guideline.
WORDS & PHRASES
We have played loose with our words so much that many of them have either lost their meaning or have different meanings for different people. When you can’t win a debate with reason, you can only win by calling names. These words are signs that reason in no longer in attendance. We must be careful both when we use these words and when we hear them to be able to discern what the speaker was really saying;
I was brought up to believe that a conservative was a person who was resistant to change. While I still feel that way, there are many who have other definitions.
My upbringing said that a liberal was just someone with an open mind. The word now has many connotations from progressive to unmentionable.
Capitalism, Socialism, Communism
The fact that we are still using definitions of economic systems that were first proposed in the middle of the 19th century should give us pause. The world back then was substantially different than it is today. Trying to fit the systems of the world into definitions such as capitalism, socialism, or communism just don’t work. Much rhetoric has been spent accusing one party or the other of being one of the isms doesn’t move us in a positive way. The American economic system is a blend of the 1850’s ideas; to each according to their needs, spells out our welfare system, to each according to their abilities describes our business system. Public ownership of our roads, ports, and airports are necessary to allow easy entry into a system that rewards private ownership over all of our other means of production. The real question is how much should government interfere/intervene in the free market system? When the above words are used, today it is almost certainly a sign that someone is insulting someone else.
Isn’t being used much anymore. I believe the folks that trumpeted it so much in the past realized that most people’s family values included toleration and love. This didn’t fit the picture that was being presented and we don’t hear much about their importance anymore.
I’m always amazed that this phrase is always in the singular. During the depression it was: “a chicken in every pot” while I was growing up, it was epitomized by the phrase: “two cars in every garage”. Now we are told it is the ability for our children to be better off than we are. My American Dream was to sail my own boat to the Caribbean. I believe that each American has his/her own dream and that Jefferson had it right when he wrote “The Pursuit of happiness”. Without knowing the speakers definition, it is impossible to know what he is talking about when mentioning the American Dream.
Rich, Poor, and Middle Class are fluid concepts that change relative to the person talking about them. Everyone says they are middle class, You only admit to being poor when you are applying for benefits, Only a few billionaires would admit to being rich. Many years ago I read a survey that has been backed up by my experience in the financial services that a rich person has either twice your income or twice your net worth. To someone earning $50,000 a year a rich person is earning $100,000 a year. To someone worth 1 million a rich person is worth 2 million. When these terms are used without qualifiers, there is no way to know what the speaker really means.
Tax Simplification is one of the biggest lies out there. I have seen several “simplification” acts passed and each one makes taxes more complicated. If you ask any tax preparer or CPA about this, I am sure they will agree.
Income (or wealth) redistribution is a sure sign that a rant about poor people will follow. It’s a phrase that is sure to get blood pressure up. For some reason it is only mentioned when wealthy people feel that something will be taken from them. The fact is that wealth is redistributed each time money or property changes hands. One of the greatest redistributions of wealth has been occurring over the last decade or so of the poor’s assets going to the rich.
Some People Say Is being used by news broadcasters more and more. This is an indication of editorializing on the news while presenting the item as news. One network seems to say this every time I watch its’ news show, (not that often). They don’t tell you who said it or how many people said it. When I hear it, I have to tell myself that it is the boss of the network that said it, thus putting the proper importance to it.
Islamist is the most misused word I know of. None of the people that are described as such practice Islam as Mohammed laid out in the Quran. The Quran explicitly states that those who commit suicide or the killing of innocents will go directly to Hell. The Quran also states that Jesus was the greatest prophet and that his teachings should be followed, (though not necessarily those of the apostles). The hate and anger that are caused by the misuse of this word is one of the greatest tragedies of the day.
Over the years I have taken three courses in economics and all of them started with the statement that we should ignore everything we had learned previously and that what was about to be taught was correct. Many of my beliefs about economics came from reading “The Capitalist Manifesto” by Louis Kelso. His idea of turning the entire population into capitalists has real appeal to how we could be living. The Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was passed in 1974 just after I had read Kelso. I was intrigued with all the exceptions he was able to get put in ERISA for Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPS) and contemplated a career working with these plans. Growing up across the street from Walter Heller, (Chief economic advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and instigator of the cut taxes to grow the economy concept), I asked Professor Heller on his thoughts about Kelso and ESOPs. He told me that it wasn’t his area of expertise, but that the idea held merit. At the time, I couldn’t understand how he could say this was out of his area of expertise. I now understand that economics is truly a dreadful science that can answer only very specific questions and even then without exactitude. The relationship between two trees may be clear, while the entire forest is a mystery. I have followed economic issues since my entry into the financial services industry in the early 70’s. As more and more economists go to work in the private sector it will provide for more self serving studies like those that prove tobacco is not harmful. It’s still true that money can be made only from man at work or capital at work. It’s also still true that capital is simply labor that has been stored and or combined with natural resources. I have concerns with how we believe in the dynamics of interest rates, jobs, and growth.
There is a big disconnect between what Americans believe about the job market and the reality of what it is. We educate our young people to fill a particular job and then talk about how it can turn into a lifelong career. We cling to Plato’s concept that a man should practice only one occupation so that he may become the best in it. Most of the career’s available to me as a young man no longer exist. Only a few professions and trades can boast of being a lifelong career, and even then they require constant continuing education. Many of today’s “high flying” jobs won’t exist in 20 years and we don’t know which ones they are. Most workers will have many jobs in their lifetime, and I would suggest that only a few of them will be similar to the first real job they held. Most of today’s higher paying jobs require the holder to learn more and more about less and less. Realizing this people begin to believe that they don’t know enough about “other” matters that they will leave them up to the ‘experts’. Unfortunately in the internet world of today all it takes to become an expert is to call yourself one.
American’s relationships with their jobs has taken on an unhealthy status over the last few decades. It never used to be possible to get “Rich” by a job. You used to have to create something of value and through the entrepreneurial process you either sold or stewarded your creation through the building of a business. We are now rewarding bureaucrats based on the number of people they have working for them, without regard to how well they are performing their jobs. We also seem to highly reward those whose create value for a small few without regard to what that does to the rest of the world. Well into the 20th century, people used to change from entrepreneur to employee and back again several times in their lifetime. Under our current economy this no longer takes place as often, if at all.
I passed on taking up my “family occupation”; dealing with career counseling, to enter the world of financial planning. Being a little more exposed to the idea of ‘we are what we do’, I quickly realized that we as individuals lie on a line between working solely for sustenance or working totally out of passion for what we can accomplish. Most of us envy those who display a true passion for their work. We emulate it and hope that it will contagiously rub off on us. The nature of our jobs is such that we are not willing to admit a lack of passion; as that is the surest way to a dead end future. It is clear to me that most of those who successfully reach the highest point in their organizations have this passion and know how to look for it in others. Many of us fakers are able to rise quite a ways in the organizations we work for, but frequently end up burnt out and ready to leave.
When you look around you at people you interact with, it is pretty obvious where people are on this line: You love interacting with those that are passionate about what they do because you know they really care. Those just earning a check, you would rather not have to contend with as they will do just enough to get by. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone you dealt with was passionate about what they did! We would be happier and much more efficient.
This won’t happen until we change the way we assign our self worth to our occupation. It would also help to change our society just enough to allow people to survive and thrive without a steady job. Most of our beliefs and political persuasions can be placed on a continuum of security to opportunity. The more security we have, the less opportunity, and vice versa. Many look at this as a continuum of bureaucrat to entrepreneur and this can be useful if we realize that even entrepreneurs want some security while the most hidebound bureaucrat is likely to say they would like more opportunity.
I believe there is a huge contingent of Americans that would love to quit their jobs and occupy themselves in non or lesser remunerative ways. We discourage this by our social policies: We tax Social Security benefits (for those who have been fiscally responsible), and we tax Unemployment benefits, (who knows why?). If you are employed you can deduct $15,000 to over $40,000 into a retirement plan. If you have no “earnings” you can’t contribute a penny and deduct it. We also tax dividends twice while the retained earnings only pay tax once, allowing the bureaucrats to decide what to do with the money rather than the owners, (shareholders). No one on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time in the office. It seems silly that we spend all this money on labor saving devices only so we can labor more at something else.
Most of the country now believes that more jobs is the only way to get the economy moving. While I don’t deny that more jobs do help get the economy moving, I don’t believe they are the holy grail they are made out to be. When politicians talk about creating jobs, we must remember, that the only way they can create jobs is with bureaucracies and regulations. President Bush got us out of the 2000 recession by creating the TSA and its thousands of medium pay low skill jobs. Currently about a third of the US population is not working, while less than 6% is looking for work. By giving tax breaks to seniors and children a lot of stimulation could be accomplished. Those that are not working are much more likely to spend the extra dollar they get then those that are working and able to save some of every extra dollar.
A common lie is that taxing higher incomes will stultify job growth. This is patently false as everything about creating a job is tax deductable. If an entrepreneur is facing higher taxes, he/she would likely invest in the business for future growth by adding a few new deductable positions.
If we put our emphasis on adequate incomes for all rather than jobs we could see things much differently. Incomes to include interest, dividends, rents, royalties, and capital gains as well as welfare. Many of the structural changes and reforms that this country needs will never be realized because the industries needing reform would lose so many jobs that the special interests and politicians won’t be able to structure reforms until the lost jobs can be atoned for.
Like Jobs, Growth is one of those economic factors that has realized significance way beyond the reality. We say that: if we are growing, everything is good and if we are not growing we better get back to growth as soon as possible. Unfortunately the economists have good tools for measuring growth and because it is “easily measured” it stays our major indicator of the economy’s status. Many business’s believe that if they are not growing they are dying. Things are much more complicated than this. As the population grows the economy should grow at least equally. If the population shrinks, so should the economy. There is a major difference between the micro and macro economics as far as growth goes. While many business’s should be growing throughout their life, some business’s should not grow. Once an electric utility has all the customers signed up and wired, growth can only come from more power being sold. This is not a good sign for the environment. Growth in health care means either more people are getting sick or more expensive procedures are being used. Neither of these is a good outcome for society. Inflation is a phony type of growth and how it is accounted for in GDP statistics has to skew the numbers in ways we can’t tell. Growth also involves the using of natural resources, which are finite and could be used up. We have come to use economic growth as a way to say how well our nation is doing. This ignores many factors that are really important to all of us; fulfillment, happiness, and security, The Nation of Bhutan has taken a step in this direction by instituting a “happiness index” to measure how their politicians are doing. The EU is working on some similar measurements; We need to be changing the way we think about this.
The country has been bamboozled by the bankers over how interest rates work. The economists like to lower them to “jump start” growth and raise them to put the dampers on things. The Federal Reserve has adopted these beliefs and they are quite self serving as the Fed consists almost totally of bankers. The Fed has three basic tools to use in its monetary policy: The ability to print money also known as quantitative easing, the ability to change interest rates it charges banks, and changing the amount of reserves banks have to hold. By lowering the discount rate the banks can make much more money on their spread between deposits and loans, keeping them happy. Lower interest rates also devastate the conservative saver who doesn’t trust the stock market. Before 2007 many retirees lived off the interest on their FDIC savings accounts. This is no longer possible, forcing these folks to either gamble in the market or to spend principal. Most responsible citizens save for their future and those that tend to be the most secure financially buy things for cash whenever they can. The wise investor/consumer will only borrow for things that will go up in value over the life of the loan or in case of an emergency. The government, society, and especially the bankers, however, wants us to finance all our purchases, no matter how small, so that the economic activity happens immediately instead of in a deferred future. We’ve seen how this developed in the 2008 crisis and yet we keep on the same instant gratification pipeline now as we were then. There is no talk about making us an “ownership” society but only keeping us an “indebted” society.
Back in the high inflation 80’s interest rates were continually being raised in “efforts” to bring the inflation rate down. Only after a 1 year CD was offering an 18% rate did this seem to have any affect. I couldn’t help but think that the continual raising of rates only contributed to inflation. Paying more in interest was fine because inflation would increase the value of what was being bought more than the interest price. Higher interest rates led to higher prices as the borrowing rate is part of any sales price. Back then I wondered why the Fed didn’t raise the reserve limits on banks to tighten the money supply. It would have forced the banks to lend less and bring down inflation by quashing economic activity. Of course they didn’t do this because the banks would have had a much harder time making money. We now have the foxes running the hen house and until a majority of the Federal Reserve Board is made up of non bankers we won’t have much change.
After 40 years insuring human beings, I am amazed at the sudden appearance of hoards of health insurance experts as it relates to Obamacare. The word ‘Insurance’ usually puts people to sleep, but all of a sudden everyone seems to like their insurance company? The Health Insurance industry’s lobbying is the most effective in the United States. No politician can fight an industry that can put a dozen agents in every congressman’s office with just a few hours notice. I still don’t know how America’s Health Insurance Plans, (AHIP) was able to participate in the writing of Obamacare while at the same time donating $83 million to The US. Chamber of Commerce to run ads attacking the plan using the Chambers name rather than their own. They can use one side of a story to make people angry, and it’s obvious that angry people don’t think with clear minds. Consider:
1. Announcing that Obamacare will increase insurance premiums. What else is new? Insurance premiums have gone up virtually every year in memory. Now the insurance companies can blame someone other than themselves for this.
2. Scaring people that a government bureaucrat will be deciding the type of medical care you receive. Right now you have a private insurance company bureaucrat deciding what medical care you will receive. Not only that, but he may get pay increases by keeping claims down.
3. Health insurance company profits have been huge in the years since the passage, and analysts generally are bullish on future profits.
4. With the exception of large self insured plans, all insurance is regulated by the states. Each state has different rules and procedures for insurance companies. That Obama didn’t know this is deplorable.
5. Social insurance is provided by the government and allows us to manage risks that pertain to all of the population. The Armed Forces insures the country’s security, covers all risks and is paid for by all of us. Social Security, The FDA, OSHA, and Medicare are other examples.
6. Private insurance companies are formed to manage risks of groups of people, over and above what the government covers, and does this by underwriting , (selecting the best risks and not covering the worst).
7. The Canadian system is in fact at least 10 separate systems. One for each province. Some do a great job, others not so good.
8. The insurance companies are allowed to keep 20% of premiums for “expenses”. Medicare is able to do it’s administration for 4% of premiums.
9. Obamacare has Republican roots that can be traced from Romney to Nixon. It is nothing like what the Democrat’s had ever proposed before.
10. Because all 50 states have laws that require hospitals to serve the uninsured in their emergency rooms, we’ve had the most expensive kind of universal health insurance coverage for a decade or so.
11. The way most hospitals pay for these uninsured ER visits has been by corrupting their billing system by charging different prices for the same procedures, because of deals they make with separate insurers, causing the highest billings to go to the uninsured.
12. Because the government under Obamacare will take care of the catastrophic claims, the private insurance companies have no risk to manage. Without underwriting, the insurance companies are not taking part in the practice of insurance, they are simply transferring money. Is it any surprise that United Health Care is putting so much effort into their Optum Bank?
13. “For Profit Healthcare” is an oxymoron that more people should recognize. All those feeding at this trough won’t consider any dissent, unfortunately. Logic says that the only way to more profits is to increase the number of unhealthy people, raise your rates, order more diagnostic maneuvers, and treat more chronic conditions. Curing people is decidedly not profitable.
Until the American Voters realize that the special interests are interested in maintaining their power through divide and conquer tactics I see little chance for positive change. The biggest problem with health insurance today is the insurance companies. As long as they are at the table in the discussion of Americas Health we will be spending 15-20% more than we need too. For an industry that relies on keeping its promises their dishonesty is deplorable.
My recent qualification for Medicare is a good example: Under Obamacare, My policy was just over $300 a month and had a $6,500 deductable. Now enrolled in Medicare, my policy costs, $100 a month, Medicare A costs $100 a month for a total of a hundred dollars saving and a deductable that is now about $50. Remember please that I am a year older which should raise rates.
It makes me ashamed to be an insurance person. The recent actions of the Health Insurance industry show just how little they can be trusted. I don't deny that their industry is at risk: If you provide universal coverage without underwriting age or pre existing conditions, you don't have private insurance you have social insurance. The real issue is who gets to keep their jobs. With several million jobs at stake this is a real concern. The fact that we already have universal coverage in all 50 states with ER laws has been roundly ignored. The real issues are: can I keep my doctor, and can my doctor charge what he desires? This could be solved relatively easily by paying a set fee schedule, (similar to Medicare), but should the doctor want to charge more than the schedule, he could do so, but then be reimbursed for less than the schedule with the patient making up the difference. This leaves a spot for private insurance similar to what developed around Social Security. True universal coverage, like Social Security, has precedents and doesn't force any purchases. It's time to ignore the lobbyists and do what's right for the country. This could be paid for by taxing employers the same amount that they claimed on their 5500 tax form for health insurance benefits in prior years.
Ultimately, power comes from the barrel of a gun. Civilization has kept the exercise of this type of power limited to nations and outlaws. Even though many in this country seem to have a desire to demonstrate the power of a gun, I hope that our culture will keep this from happening here. Power is the ability of having other people do things that you wish to be done. We have all seen the corrupting influence power has on people, and in the past, our Country has taken steps to limit the amount of power any one individual has. There are two basic ways to obtain power: From above and from below. A persons initial ascent to power usually comes from above. Someone with power recognizes someone’s talent and confers a position of limited power to them. Once in a position of power, people tend to want to keep it and expand it if they can. Proper Ass Kissing is one of the most common ways of gaining power from above. Gaining power from subordinates is the best way for expanding power from below. Power operates in a manner similar to love. You can jealously guard your love and not let any others in, or you find out that the more you share the more that you have. I think that one of the reasons we have such a “Celebrity” culture is that most celebrities have received their power from below and we as a country love that. Most business’s have a top down power structure that frequently seems like cronyism to those below. Our Democratic/Republican structure of government is predicated on power coming from below. The incursion of money into politics today, has changed the prescription and now our politicians are anointed by those with the cash to fund a campaign. By the time we at the bottom get to exercise our power in the election, it is limited to those that the top has chosen.
The exercise of power is usually in the form of leadership. Those wishing to be leaders must accumulate enough power to attract followers. The motivation for becoming a leader is most telling of the type of leadership that will be practiced. There are those who simply want to be powerful and those who want to accomplish something for those that are following. It was Harry Truman who said: “you can accomplish anything provided you do not mind who gets credit”. Unfortunately, many of our leaders follow the examples of “The Prince” by Machiavelli and the “Art of War” by Sun Tzu in formulating their leadership tactics. Divide and conquer tactics have been used down through the ages and have been very successful for periods of time. Our current political parties have impressively increased their number of zealots using fear, blame and anger to move their points Unite and prosper seems to be a much better way of accepting differences between peoples. The example of the two world wars illustrates this best. After WWI the conquered Germans were treated horribly and forced to pay reparations for they were conquered. The problems with the peace led directly to WWII. At the end of WWII, we were wise enough to worry more about rebuilding peacefulness than extracting punishment. By funding both Germany’s and Japan’s reconstruction we were able to build good allies from bitter enemies. We as a country have accomplished some of our greatest feats during periods like WWII and the years thereafter when our parties where talking to each other. We actually had a very stable tax code between 1954 and 1974 which allowed both citizens and business’s to plan with certainty how our taxes were going to affect our actions. Unfortunately, Fanny Fox put a stop to that when she forced reporters to pay more attention to the personal lives of our politicians. Presently we don’t know how much in taxes we will pay for a given year until after that year is almost over and the “continuing resolution” is passed. Everyone agrees that we have to reform Social Security, Medicare, and the Alternative Minimum Tax, but arguing about the credit and blame keeps anyone from doing anything positive about them.
"Naturally, the common people don’t want war. But after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country." Hermann Goering, president of Reichstag, Nazi Parliament, 1934.
Our leaders have proved the truth in Goering’s quote doesn’t only apply to hot war. The cold war was a way of using fear to unite the country even though we had little to fear from the Soviet Union. Our values were attacked in both Vietnam and Iraq as well as the country with 9-11.
ISIL is using fear in much the same way as Genghis Khan did to make the largest empire the world has ever seen. When Genghis conquered a town, the losing men were rounded up and given the choice to fight for the Mongols or die. If they chose to fight they were put in the very front of the charge into the next town, without weapons. If they didn’t fight, those behind them would kill them. If they survived the massacre, they were given weapons for the next conquest. Those that rose to the top were the most brutal fighters that killed the most enemy. The use of ruthlessness and fear to co-opt integrity and truthfulness dooms these organizations to relatively short life spans. Genghis’ empire lasted less than two generations, which unfortunately for those living then was much too long a time.
Many of our worst politicians are using fear and anger to completely disguise many issues we have in this country: I’d like to meet the idiot that’s going to go door to door to take the guns away. Is an immigrant really going to take your job away? Do the police really want to shoot black people? Why is addressing voter fraud so important, when there is so little of it? What’s so scary about bi-lingual business’s? Does anyone refuse to talk English to you? Why do I get a very unchristian reaction when I say “Happy Holidays” to some? You have a better chance of being hit by lightning than being hurt in a terroristic attack. Why do politicians scare us?
Power and Religion are natural allies. When the power comes from “ABOVE” and the penalty for not submitting is hell, you can get away with most anything. Despite the Gospels, the scariest part of religious power is the intolerance of other beliefs. I often wonder what those who want prayers in public venues would say if they heard Muslim prayers in those venues? The folks who fear Sharia Law in America seem to be the same ones that want to impose Christian Law in America. It’s one of the paradoxes of the United States that we were formed out of several colonies that began as places where only one religion was allowed, and grew up as a place where all religions were allowed. We truly did unite and prosper!
Democracy and Republic are some of those words like Christian and Muslim that are often used to hide ugliness. If it is either a Democracy or a Republic how could it possibly be bad? Many countries claim to be republics like Russia and China and have no intention of letting the citizens decide their future. It’s always surprised me that around the turn of this century, democracy was claimed to be the savior of the world. When I was growing up it was always explained to me that democracy only worked if you had an educated electorate. After a stay with a Rasta man in Jamaica during an election campaign I came to see the truth in this. He was a sincere and caring holy man, who could just barely read and not add properly. His vote was going for the politician that promised the most, even though it would have been impossible for this politician to keep any of his promises. He was not going to vote for the incumbent because he hadn’t kept his promises. His lack of education kept him from making a rational choice and he went with the gut instead. Democracy in an illiterate country is going to end up with warlords and corruption because the best liar will win.
Our founders laid out a geographic republic within our Constitution. The original plan was to only let landowners vote for representation by someone who lived near them. While we now can vote directly for our Senators and Representatives, even if we don’t own land, we are still voting based on those that live near us, or at least in our State. In the nineteenth century we shared most of our interests with our neighbors that were engaged in the same type or complimentary livelihoods. Corn farming in one part of the country, wheat in another, cotton in another, shipping in the ports, and so on. When the representative went to Washington they knew the issues that were important to their neighbors and were able to vote to bring those issues home. If issues came up that didn’t apply to their concerns they were able to trade their vote on those issues to other representatives whose votes on the “right” issue would help. Back then, a rich person in Boston may have helped a politician from Braintree get elected, but I am sure that they never even thought about contributing to an election in Virginia. As our society has become more complex, the relationship of location with personal interests has been broken. A doctor in New York feels he has more in common with a doctor in Miami than a plumber in New York. This complexity has given rise to the “Special Interest” groups that originally were giving advice to our lawmakers. With the breakdown of campaign financing these special interests are now nominating our politicians and writing our laws through their proxy lawmakers. We voters have accepted this state of affairs when we send money, and thus our power, to the lobbyists (our special interest group), instead of our congressional representative.
The current situation allows unlimited money to be used in politics, and it doesn’t seem to matter where the money comes from. A rich foreigner can buy a US corporation and have it donate as much as wanted through a Super PAC and no one knows where the money came from or how much it is. The biggest beneficiary of this unlimited money is the media. All of the money ends up with the media and because of this we don’t hear why it is a bad thing. The second biggest beneficiary of all this is the incumbents, who have always ended up with more contributions than the challengers. The third biggest beneficiaries of this money is the special interests themselves with the political parties coming in fourth. All these beneficiaries are hoping to hold the status quo and work hard to keep anything from changing or they will lose their power. When I hear any of these groups talk about change, all I can do is hold on to my wallet. The only hope to get money out of the campaigns is from a grass roots movement.
The Supreme Court has opinioned on this when they called campaign contributions a function of FREE SPEECH. I understand how money can be used to buy speech, but somehow it isn’t free. We currently have several forms of speech that are not free. You can go to jail for shouting “fire” in a crowded space. You can be sued for libel if you lie about a non-public person with your speech and you can be jailed for lying under oath. I believe that a Constitutional Amendment defining electioneering as a special type of protected speech is the best way to get the big money out of politics and to return it to a local issue. The amendment would read:
Notwithstanding the First Amendment, efforts to influence elections to public office in the United States and its’ subdivisions shall be limited to those who are able to vote in said election.
This would eliminate money from any source that can’t breath as well as limit money to those geographically interested in the election. It would keep the political parties to their original purpose of guiding legislation through Congress. It would make lobbyists use intelligence in their arguments rather than money. It would make the news media come up with new sources of money in the campaign seasons. And it would be fought by every successful special interest group in the country. It would also cost thousands of mostly high paying jobs.
We have to remember that the job of an elected representative is to determine taxes and spending. They can only do this by compromising. It is a shame that so many of our politicians use the rights of minorities to stop the will of the majority. We now have a disloyal opposition that will do everything to bring down the other party, no matter how bad it is for the nation. The political parties are more interested in a divide and conquer strategy than a unite and prosper one! The refrain has been: “If you are not fully with us, you are against us.”
Being suddenly faced with retirement, I decided to face a number of questions that had never been answered to my satisfaction. As is common with most people, my first direction was that of religion. With a Jewish father and a Christian mother I was brought up with no religious education other than reading the Bible. I decided to read the holy scriptures from cover to cover in a speedy manner. Because the God of Abraham is worshipped by the majority of the earth’s people I started with the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Quran, and ended with the Book of Mormon. Religion serves the purpose of explaining that which we can’t understand. The less we understand about our world the more we ascribe to religion.
While this read took a couple of years for me to complete, it was because of putting it down for periods of time and not because I was re-reading or thoroughly studying certain sections. I felt this was important to be able to identify themes that ran through, while ignoring single issue type of items. It soon became obvious that you could back up any point you want to make by a scripture quote, (sometimes two). The Scriptures are used in two different ways: I believe the original purpose was to provide a guide to a better place both before and after death, they are also used to gain and consolidate power.
The “Highway to Heaven” is best described by Mohammed when he writes: “My deeds are mine and your deeds are yours. You are not accountable for my actions, nor am I accountable for what you do.” The Scriptures provide a path to behavior that will put you in God’s positive light. We know these as the “Ten Commandments”, the “Golden Rule” and much of the Quran. Interestingly enough, I only came up with one example of someone being brought into heaven by another, that of the thief crucified along with Christ. There also is no “requirement” to go to Temple, Church or Mosque, in order to be blessed and go to heaven.
The people that brought forth the great religions were unanimous in their belief that the existing religion was corrupt and no longer providing the path to heaven. Moses had to deal with the golden calf. Jesus railed at the corruption of the Temple in Jerusalem and kicked the money changers out. Mohammed didn’t like the way the leaders of his time combined animism, object worship and the beliefs of “The Book”, and, of course, Luther railed against the Church selling passes to heaven. Joseph Smith had to leave New York for eventually Utah in order to avoid the corruption he saw all around. It’s a true statement that “Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist, Christ wasn’t a Christian, and Luther wasn’t a Lutheran.
The belief that the Bible is the “infallible word of God” is particularly distasteful to me. The Bible was the result of the Emperor Constantine being unable to govern a Christian world without consensus as to what was “Christian”. He ordered the top religious minds of the day to convene and come up with one book that would be the “Bible”. The many writings that didn’t conform to the attendees particular needs were excluded from the Bible and most were lost to the following generations. All this happened hundreds of years after the death of Christ, so is a reflection of Constantine’s beliefs instead of a “Clear Message from God”.
With a daughter that teaches and a wife who worked for many years in the public school system I am certain only about two things in education:
1. If the teachers are doing a poor job it’s most likely because they aren’t being allowed to teach. My mother was involved in the first National Educational Assessment in the 60’s and I remember her statements about how this job was impossible and could only serve politicians interests. The idea that you could compare the education of an inner city child with that of one living on a farm accurately is sheer folly. We have embraced this idea and now testing is the only thing that is important to our educators. What is needed is children that can think for themselves and not be taught to pass a test. We have the anti union zealots saying the teacher tenure system is all screwed up and not realizing that the principals can get rid of the bad teachers, no matter their tenure! School administrators need to do the hard work of getting rid of substandard teachers and then get out of the way and let the teachers teach. The very best teachers may have students with very poor test scores due to the kids situations that have nothing to do with the quality of teaching.
2. We need to be teaching personal finance from an early age. I didn’t learn what leverage was until after I had graduated from college. This is a complete shame. We read that the average person in their fifty’s has about $10,000 in savings after earning many 100 of thousands of dollars. With technology eliminating many thousands of jobs, it’s incumbent upon us to make sure people can live on their capital assets. Most people today don’t even know what a capital asset is, much less have any. It’s a known fact that almost anyone can get rich slowly but we all want to do it overnight. Winning the lottery may be a fine fantasy, unfortunately it is many people’s retirement plan. High school graduates should know about: balance sheets and income statements, types and terms of leases, how to balance accounts, calculate interest rates, types of legal entities; trusts, corporations, partnerships, LLC’s, and proprietorships. Attaining financial independence is part of most people’s American Dream. We need to do a better part educating how to achieve this goal.
As a child watching afternoon cartoons, my mother made me very aware of the purpose of the advertisements and their attempts to make me believe stuff that was to their benefit. I’ve always thought that this was one of the most important things I’ve been taught: Every communication contains the bias of the presenter and will aim to get you to believe in the relevance of that communication. There is no Media that is fair and unbiased. We need to understand the medias bias and include it in our assessment of what they are presenting. My hope is that we will try to consider the world that we want to live in on a personal basis and look beyond the dogma to help shape the world that we want to be a part of.