Friday, November 3, 2017

Parties of Hate, Anger and Blame cry for a new party

Our current political parties are both heavily involved with the spreading of hatred, anger, lies, and personal attacks.  The Parties lack of faith in Democracy is best exemplified by the sources of money running our elections.  Money decides the candidates and then we get to vote for the richest ones. Those that give the money are only concerned about their own specific issues, that are frequently at odds with those doing the actual voting

I would suggest a new party embracing the values of honesty, transparency, personal integrity and compromise. The platform would be flexible and allow votes on either side of the isle.  Issues to hold dear would be:

1.      Acting in the interests of our children and grandchildren, to not saddle them with huge
amounts of debt in the form of the deficit and college loans.
2.  Actually fixing Social Security and Medicare now before it gets more expensive.
3.   Taking climate change as a serious matter.

4.      Providing quality health care to everyone, (not necessarily insurance). 

5      Taking campaign contributions only from voters that have registered and are able to vote for the candidate.

6      Refraining from negative personal attacks on their opponents.  Attacks should only  be on the issues.

7.      Remembering that taxing, spending, and compromise are what politicians are supposed to do.

8.      Focus on uniting the county by embracing diversity.

We will only be able to affect change when we stop blaming others for our situation and accept the responsibility that we are making matters worse by enjoying the hatred and anger that permeates our society.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Terrorists have won

It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that the terrorists have won their game.  The object of most terrorists is to take down a government.  Ours hasn’t been a functioning democracy for some time.  Both political parties are so wrapped up in building and maintaining their power that they have forgotten what power is supposed to be used for.  Small groups of activists in power in each party are convinced that a divide and conquer strategy is the best one to use.  By spreading fear,  hate, anger and blame to the other party they think they can consolidate their power.  I haven’t voted for a candidate for a long time and I bet you haven’t either.  We vote against the candidate we think will do the most harm.  We have equated money with power and believe you need one to get the other.  We have stopped listening to the “horse’s mouth” and instead listen to the pundits misinterpretation of what was said.  Instead of discussing ideas, we bad mouth people.  One group blindly agrees with what they are told to believe and another group thinks they know what is right for everyone and that everyone should agree with them without discussion.  We are  told to see things as good or evil with no in-between.  We are led to believe that all relationships fall in the category of winner or loser and the thought that a transaction could benefit both sides and even result in synergy is not a possibility.  We are taught to believe that if the other party gets its’ way, the country as we know it will implode.

As an old white man who wears a feed hat, I am tired as being portrayed as a racist, and I am sure that black people are more tired at being told their lives don’t matter.  When Archie Bunker came on the scene we all thought it was funny when he said things that people thought but didn’t say out loud. Now it seems people just want to say the most outrageous things they can to be noticed. People rant against “political correctness” when it is really just being polite.  We used to be taught that “if you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all”. 

The media has found that using outrageous headlines is what garners them the most attention and money and have turned to using opinions as headlines.  We are left not knowing what to believe as we are told that truth has two sides now.  Even the most reputational media provides opinions when they decide to report only the bad things, (or good) that a politician does.  With all the cacophony going on I would suggest that no one knows what the country wants, and anyone that says they do is only pushing their own agenda.  We no longer provide any importance to a politicians’ integrity and many even think the best liar makes the best politician.  This championing of mistrust is perhaps the most harmful aspect of our current climate as all business and politics require trust for anything good to happen.  It’s gotten to the point that when I hear one party accusing the other of distasteful actions, I know that the accusing party has already taken part in those same actions.  The names politicians give their bills always seem to describe what the bill will not do.

The phony stories about entitlements, income redistribution and takers really gets my craw.  I am entitled to many benefits because I have paid for them!  Income redistribution is seen as awful when the rich are to give to the poor, but the recent past shows the largest income redistribution in over a hundred years going from the poor to the rich.  Being accused of being a taker when the accusers are usually promoting tax cuts is the largest folly.  When one politician gets taxes cut, politicians in other governmental units end up raising taxes in order to keep the services that government provides.  I would suggest that the tax cutters are the biggest takers in the way they pass on larger and larger debt to future generations while continuing to spend. It’s the same story I heard in corporate life: We get some good benefit now, and when the it hits the fan it won’t be on my watch!

As long as we let the drug, finance, insurance and other fat cats finance our electoral system we will see no change.  It is in their interest to keep everything as it is.  Lawmakers have made it illegal for Medicare to negotiate drug prices while we are flooded with opiates,  Bankers can continue to rip off their clients without facing jail, and the Federal government will continue to subsidize health insurance premiums.  Meanwhile all our Congress people stay the same, arguing that government is either the only problem or the solution to all our problems.  Voters have to realize that when you elect clowns you end up with a circus.  We must unite to prosper.




Monday, June 5, 2017

Buggy Whips forever

It looks like the “Buggy Whip” lobby has taken over this country.  Just as the buggy whip manufacturers put all their effort against the auto industry, the status quo lobbies have won.  Leaving the Paris accords works for coal and petroleum companies.  Funding the health insurance companies keeps them profitable while they cry to Congress. It’s been said that if we had today’s healthcare in the 1950’s we’d have designer iron lungs as a major industry.  We have to stop overlooking the lies that our lobbyists tell, while ranting against the lies the other guys lobbyists are telling.  Hypocrisy seems to be a virtue in that we all seem to support our politicians that continue to lie and change positions.  It’s ok for me in Minnesota to influence an election in Montana, but not ok for the Russians to influence elections in the US.  I fail to see the difference.  Each action takes power away from the voters and gives it to the lobbyists. Until we get campaign finance reform, I’m afraid we are going to forestall the future and maybe go to a past of robber barons, rip offs, and pollution. The corruption of power is in how it spends more time keeping power then using it for the public good.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Personal Bubbles

As we retreat into our safe bubbles of beliefs and world views we have to remember that our bubble is relatively small and not as all encompassing as reflected by our personal media.  By portraying the stupidity of those in other bubbles, our media can make us feel good by denigrating those in other bubbles without even attempting to see their viewpoint.  We have become a nation that chooses to not accept responsibility but ready to blame others.  We don’t argue about  concepts that can better the nation, we call each other names and denigrate people. We revel in getting in other people’s business and telling them what they should do.   The only visions that I can identify from our politicians are that either: we should totally get rid of government, or that government can solve all our problems.  The view I get from my bubble is that we believe in: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Money”. 

 Of course, I don’t really know what this country believes, because the media is run by money and each organization willing to give the money to the media has a special interest in mind.  The media, just like our politicians, have to be circumspect in how they perform their duties or they won’t have any money to operate with.  Power comes with money, so it is no surprise that the two largest campaign donors are the two industries screwing us the most: the pharmaceutical  and  insurance industries.  It’s always been a political trick to cause fear among the citizenry.  Fear of loss is one of the greatest motivators known to man.  Pulling this card has become more and more common as we make individuals (that entered public service to do what they thought was good) into evil people. 

Our politicians don’t have the time to both govern and raise campaign funds from thousands of donors so they raise funds from special interests who now “HAVE ACCESS”.  This is all perfectly legal and perfectly corrupt.  As a Nation we are disgusted with Russia’s meddling with our election.  I wonder why there is no disgust with the calls for all of us non voters to meddle in Georgia’s and Montana's congressional elections?  Shouldn’t the voters in that district be able to decide for themselves about who is best to represent them without our interference?

Politically we have become a nation of critics afraid to innovate or suggest solutions because we know the ‘trolls’ will come down hard and/or someone will lose money.  I will counter this trend and suggest a solution, that if passed four years ago, could have left us in a much better place.  The amendment to our Constitution 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.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

 It would have far reaching consequences and need real grass roots support, as most of our power brokers will need substantial readjustment of how they operate, and will oppose it.  The only effect that we can be sure this would have is to return us to a real Democratic Republic.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Health Insurers are getting rich

Retiring after 45 years of insuring human lives, I am still amazed to see how the insurance industry has bought and paid for most of our Congress; Democrat and Republican.  AARP generates over half of its’ revenue from insurance sales and isn’t likely to harm the industry or represent us.  Now our State government wants to hand over a half a billion dollars in additional subsidies!  The insurance industry has always relied on being both boring and “complicated” in order to carry out their scams and it is time to call them on this nonsense.  Many conservatives are still saying we don’t have a mandate for universal coverage in this country,  even though, decades ago, all 50 states have passed laws making the most expensive universal coverage, emergency room care, mandatory.  Private insurance is the managing of risks through underwriting, spreading of risk, and claims management.  Traditionally, health insurers divided their business into individual (fully underwritten) and group. With the introduction of Obamacare the ability to underwrite the individual market went away, which should have eliminated this differentiation of group and individual and thus spreading the risk better.  Because the states regulate insurance, and the insurance lobby is very effective, no one seems to care to force the insurers to price their business on all the risk that they assume, group and individual. 

While the insurers are complaining about their individual block of business the politicians are freely giving them our money.  The top seven health insurers net income for 2016 was over: 17 billion dollars.

1. Unitedhealth Group
2. Wellpoint Inc. Group (Anthem)                            
3. Kaiser Foundation Group
4. Humana Group 
5. Aetna Group
6. HCSC Group
7. Cigna Health Group 

While the insurance lobby was very effective in both writing and fighting Obamacare, they have lead misinformation campaigns such as: The government bureaucrat deciding your health care is worse than the insurance company bureaucrat deciding your healthcare.  Think for a minute, who gets the bonus for denying your claim.  Another is that you should be able to buy coverage that doesn’t cover everything.  Young people aren’t likely to have a problem so why should they pay for coverage?  One because they aren’t likely to have claims, the coverage is likely to be very inexpensive and two, when the claim does come in: it’s us taxpayers who are going to pay it.  The thought that “private industry” is more efficient than government doesn’t stand up to scrutiny: Medicare operates on about 4% of premiums, while private insurers are operating on between 15% and 20% of premiums (it would have been more except for Senator Franken).  The very idea of “For Profit Healthcare” is an oxymoron.  You can only increase profits by: more sick people, more expensive drugs and treatments, less cures, and more treatments.

If the pursuit of money isn’t taken into account healthcare is relatively simple.  You want to be able to see the doctor of your choice and your doctor wants to be able to charge what he/she wants.  This can be easily be done with a single payer system like Medicare, where a schedule of payments for procedures is set and the more the doctor charges over the schedule, the less the single payer will pay, leaving the difference up to the patient or private insurance.  Employer deductions for health insurance, from form 5500, can be the base for the tax that would pay for the single payer since employers would no longer have that obligation.

Unfortunately, I see little hope of change happening until we can limit campaign contributions to those able to vote in the elections.  The corruption of our political process is getting worse and until we can weed out the money from outside our constituencies, (including Russia) it isn’t likely to improve.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Real Problem is Congress

Just when the world can’t get any stranger; Congress decides to allow mentally ill people to purchase firearms.  The strange part of this piece of news is that we don’t have any details about what it actually means.  The media is only interested in clicks and sales, and will do anything to get our attention.  Like most of us, I started out as outraged that such a thing could happen.  Then I realize that this was the desired effect.  If I am outraged, I don’t have the calmness required to question the reality of this piece  of news, I’m supposed to get angry and react.  Our leaders are using outrage as a tool to maintain their power.  While we are outraged at either the Democrats or Republicans, (it doesn’t really matter), they are able to legislate in favor of those that pay them the most.  Looking at the Center for Responsive Politics report on 2016 spending by industry groups shows that Pharmaceuticals/Health Products and Insurance are to two top lobbyists spending a combined $390 million dollars.  Is there any question as to how our drug prices have not only increased dramatically, but also we have laws that say the government can’t bargain over the prices they pay!  Not to mention the health insurers complaining about huge losses that force them to raise ACA rates while somehow having war chests large enough to propose the largest mergers in US business history!

The cold truth is that our Congress now represents our special interest groups rather than our voters.  When we wish to accomplish something that requires Congress’s approval, we contact our Congressperson but more importantly we contact our special interest group.  Our Congressperson will verify that we can vote for them, and then do what they can.  If they are not on the right committee there is very little they can do.  Our lobbyist will determine  which committee handles the question, they already have a relationship with the leaders, and then they will get it handled.  Of course there were campaign contributions made, within the framework of the law, prior to and after the desired effects are realized. It’s no wonder then that those special interests giving the most money will have the most control over Congress public be damned.  Is it any wonder that our Veterans are given such short shrift when they don’t have a group in the top 20 of political donors? 

I am surprised that the current fuss about Russia meddling in our campaign is as large as it is.  There is no fuss at all about Washington DC meddling in our Minnesota campaigns.  The campaign of Nolan versus Mills was particularly dirty.  We have two decent Minnesotans with differing views, wanting to improve our state.  The ads that they approved were quite informational.  The ads that came out of Washington DC cast both as monsters.  I was outraged that someone from out of state could come in and trash our good citizens with a dose of hate.

Unfortunately our leaders, media included, see campaign finance as the goose that lays the golden egg and will do nothing to slay it.  We need a grass roots movement to promote a Constitutional Amendment reading:

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.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

I am hopeful that this might even bring the Tea Party supporters to agree with the Bernie supporters.  Please consider the consequences.   

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Christian "Sharia" Law in the U.S.?

As seems typical in today’s marketplace of ideas, the pro-lifers and pro-choicers are talking past each other with neither side listening to the other.  As a male, the abortion question isn’t about my body, it’s about my religion!  Murder is about taking some one’s life away from them.  The abortion question then is: when does a fetus have a life?  While I would never try to denigrate the believe that each sperm and egg has a life prior to combining, I do not hold to that belief or of the heartbeat belief.  My personal belief follows the bibles Genesis 2.7 “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” 

The thing that confuses me the most about the pro-lifers is their opposition to Sharia Law, without their realizing that what they want is their version of religious law.  I feel that they want to continue on with their anger and hate of pro-choicers eliminating the possibility of joining forces to reduce abortions, (part of what Planned Parenthood is all about).  Abortions are at an all time measured low and unlikely to go much lower, whether legal or not.  I think we can all agree that abortion is the worst form of birth control,    Why can’t we defer our judgments to our higher power?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Minnesota Health Insurance "Crisis"

After being licensed to sell health insurance for 45 years, I am totally convinced of the old saw that it is easier to con people than to convince them that they have been conned.  The fact that America’s Health Insurance Plans assisted in the writing of Obamacare while they funded a $83 million campaign against it through the Chamber of Commerce assured that they couldn’t lose.  When they first offered plans through the ACA they offered much lower premiums than  were called for, to remain competitive, because they felt the Federal Government would bail them out with the excess risk portions of the law.  Now that Congress wouldn’t authorize these funds, they decide they must raise premiums to cover the losses they knew they were going to have without the governments help.  Rather than requiring Health Insurers in Minnesota to operate in the entire State and base their premiums on statewide experience, or to cough up and cover the losses they knew were coming, we are bailing them out with taxpayers funds.  We must realize that “for profit healthcare” is an oxymoron.  We can have highly paid medical professionals without paying dividends to shareholders.  With Medicare operating at 4% of premiums, the 20% that these “highly efficient private business’s” are allowed to charge is exorbitant. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

National Blame Someone Else Day

 This Friday should be the most celebrated day in America.  National Blame Someone Else day should be hailed by all of our politicians.  Blame, hypocrisy, and a little bit of hate are what motivates our Parties  and it should disturb all of us as they spread this disease over our country.  The Republicans are all out of joint because the Democrats are behaving exactly as they did after Obama was elected. Meanwhile the Democrats are out of joint because the Republicans are trying to steamroll over them, just like in 2009. We are disturbed about Russia tampering with our elections but show no problem at all when we meddle in elections in the next state that we can’t vote in.  We have to realize that those embedded in power, in this country, are mainly concerned with holding on to that power by using divide and conquer tactics.  We have to stop blindly believing what “our” side says about the “other” side, and find out the truth for ourselves.  Can we please get back to talking about issues and ignore this bashing of individuals, even if the other guy started it first?  This country has demonstrated many times that there is nothing we can’t accomplish if we work together at it.  Why do we insist that the other guy is something other than a decent human being?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

"Let's see how negative we can get"

I am trying to see the difference between Donald Trump’s appointment to Secretary of State and John Kennedy’s appointment of Robert McNamara for Defense Secretary.  Neither had prior government experience and both had run one of the world’s largest corporations.  While I am not a fan of either man, or Mr. Trump, I am outraged by the hypocritical treatment the media has made of this uncomfortable transition.  Having a Secretary of State that has actually negotiated with world leaders can only be beneficial to future negotiations.  The tenure of all your transition articles has been negative, positing a world of winners and losers.  We are all on the same team, isn’t it about time to recognize that synergy is much stronger than division?  It’s obvious that we cannot be guided by what Mr. Trump says.  Can we just keep our negativity within ourselves and let the new administration, actually do something before calling foul.  Let’s not fall into Mitch McConnell’s call to screw America in favor of the Party.

Regulations do need reworking!

I may be a wild optimist, but I do believe that if we can overcome our hatred, anger, and one sided view of the world we may be able to accomplish some good in the coming years.  The issue of government regulation needs a cooler head:  When the liberals hear of reforming regulation they think of smog, rivers catching fire, and poison in our foods among other things.  When conservatives think of reforming regulations they think of: The size of compliance departments, additional paperwork that no-one reads, and procedures that slow everything down.

My career in the financial services industry has shown me the current regime of regulation is more concerned with its’ self preservation than with stopping wrongdoing.  When a company is caught breaking the law they are usually allowed to pay a fine along with a promise to “sin no more”.  The people responsible for breaking the law (or regulation) suffer no consequences.  The company’s shareholders are the ones to suffer, even though their sin was only inadequate due diligence.  The government entity that caught them frequently gets the amount of the settlement.  There is no detriment to doing wrong for the management!

While I’m generally against jailing non-violent offenders, I feel it is the only way we will see integrity coming back to our business world.  When a company hurts people, people should go to jail.  Regulations that require filling out numerous forms will not keep people honest.  We need principal based prosecution, not rule based paperwork.