The March? -Fog of Vague Purposes

Remember “Occupy Wall Street?” More currently, “Black Lives Matter?”  And the latest example, “Women’s March?”  They have this much in common:

  • Loose Organization
  • Diverse Membership
  • Aggregate Complaints
  • Unfocused Intentions
  • Non-Specific Proposals
  • Outdoor Meetings
  • Catchy Names

“Occupy Wall Street” was pretty much just news items about their encampment.  “Black Lives Matter” fails to note that Federal statistics show that 80-90% of murdered “black lives that matter” are victims of black killers.  Half of all murder victims, nationally, are black; blacks are less than 15% of the population.  Where is that protest and call to action?

In the context of this protest, do they mean “Black, Mexican, Muslim, LGBTQ, Women’s Lives Matter?”  Or do they mean “Black, Young, Men’s Lives Matter,” but this just happens to be a women’s march?  Just what do they mean?

It seems that the “Women’s March” was all about disappointment, fear, and frustration transformed into pink anger.  Disappointment that Hillary did not win, fear that women’s rights will be undermined, and frustration that women do not receive equal pay.

Trump became the effigy to blame for everything.

Misogyny:  How many participants, do you think, could cite specific instances when President Trump recently disrespected women who were not attacking him?  Where is the acknowledgement of the nonchalant treatment of wives and women by iconic presidents such as JFK, and Bill Clinton?

If the marchers are promoting equality for women, his business organizations reflect great respect for women by hiring them, promoting them into management and paying them well; sounds like equality to me.  Why not ask women who work for the Trump organization how they feel about their misogynist boss?

Immigration:  First, Trump got trapped in the “Newspeak” of the way we use “immigrant.”  Many foreign nationals, from many countries, apply for visas, “green cards,” and citizenship every year.  Those who gain permanent residence or citizenship can rightly be called immigrants.  A great number of Americans are immigrants or children of immigrants.

The proponents of unlimited immigration and aligned journalists fought to not use the legal term “alien.”  They insisted on substituting “______-immigrant” until it became commonplace.  The problem is that non-hyphenated, legal immigrants heard these “_______-immigrants” being criticized and threatened, and felt included in that group; they took personally the anger, fear, and distain.

By verbally lumping the “_______-immigrants” together with immigrant citizens, they built support for their open-borders philosophy.  If we had stuck with “aliens,” and “foreign nationals,” the citizens would not have felt combined with them.

Exactly, what did he say about Mexicans?  Not just the clips, the whole statements. He said that among the illegal migrants were, drug smugglers, human traffickers, fugitive criminals, including murders, and rapists.  Is that true?  Yes.  Trump’s opponents extracted this description and implied that he meant ALL Mexicans fit these profiles.

Muslims:  Trump wants to limit and vet prospective refugees entering the US from Islamist countries tied to terrorism.  He wants Muslim communities to help identify and thwart jihadist terrorists.

Women who live in Muslim countries might not be sympathetic with the complaints of the marchers; certainly, they would or could not march on their capitals protesting.  Why not ask Muslim-American women what they would face if they went home to Arabia and Africa?  What would you face going there as a Christian?  Count your blessings that you live here in America.

There are no government proposals or actions right now that threaten women; he just took office Friday.  All the rhetoric is about what could happen; what rights they fear might be lost; what affronts they fear they may face.  Fear is a factor, but not fact

The one thing that stands out to me is concern about reversing Roe v. Wade.  I understand opposition to abortion challenges.  I support safe, informed, reasoned choice for every woman.  So, focus on defending that right or you risk people writing you off as generally disappointed with the election results, and righteously irritated at the challenges of being a woman.

The last point is this:  What do you propose, aside from replacing Donald Trump?  Many commentators have shrugged their shoulders about the purposes of the march because the marchers are not clear about what they are championing.  It was a shame that all the time, money, effort, and commitment it took to get people on the streets ended in a fog of vague purposes.

Advertisements

Obamacare 6.7 Million Employees Lose Health Insurance

Yes, as I wrote in my August 31, 2016 article “Middle-Class Families Robbed by Obamacare – Before and After Taxes,” Obamacare has seen employers drop health insurance benefits for employees (6.6 million in 2014).

The administration boasts an increase of 9.5 million using the new exchanges in 2014.  Heritage.org provided this diagram of changes in health insurance coverage for 2014.  It shows that of 9 of the 9.25 million people newly covered were enrolled in expanded Medicaid.

It also shows the decrease in 6.7 million employer provided health insurance and 4.8 million increase in individual insurance.  Apparently 2.1 million self-insured (private pay, no insurance).

Employers stopped health insurance for 6.7 million employees after Obamacare came into effect.  The premiums paid by the employer for those insurance benefits were not taxed to the employees.

Often, those employers did not increase the paychecks of employees, they just pocketed the money.   The employees got a pay cut equal to the premiums.  The employees bought new coverage through the exchanges with after-tax dollars, probably for higher premiums than the employer paid.  But, even if the employee could buy equivalent coverage for the same premium, the employees lose.

Example:

Mary Smith earns $4,000 per month (taxable) and health benefits of $1,000 per month (not taxable).

Employer health insurance $1,000.  Equivalent individual coverage $1,400.

In the first example, Mary has $1,400 less per month, $16,800 per year.  The employer gains $1,000 per month, $12,000 per you.

In the second example, Mary has $615 less per month, $7,380 per year.  The employer loses $65 per month, $780 per year.

Employer Drops Health Insurance and Does Not Increase Salary to Offset

Obamacare

Employee Compensation

Before After Change
Salary 4,000 4,000 0
Income tax withholding 15%    600    600 0
Social Security & Medicare 6.75% 260 260 0
Paycheck                                              3,140 3,140 0
     
Health Insurance -1,400 -1,400
Total After-tax, after insurance       3,140 1,740 -1,400
Employer Costs
Salary 4,000 4,000 0
Social Security & Medicare 6.75% 260 260 0
Health Insurance 1,000 0 +1,000
Total Costs                                          5,260 4,260 +1,000

 

 

Employer Drops Health Insurance and Does Increase Salary to Offset

 

Obamacare
Employee Compensation Before After Change
Salary 4,000 5,000 +1,000
Income tax withholding 15%    600 750 -150
Social Security & Medicare 6.75% 260 325 -65
Paycheck                                              3,140 3,925 +785
     
Health Insurance -1,400 -1,400
Total After-tax, after insurance       3,140 2,525 -615
Employer Costs
Salary 4,000 5,000 +1,000
Social Security & Medicare 6.75% 260 325 -65
Health Insurance 1,000 0 -1,000
Total Costs                                          5,260 5,325 -65

 

 

 

 

Ignorance is Blitz – Hillary Slams Donald

Let’s see now, a former US senator who knows how Congress passes tax laws, shouts unnecessarily (microphones notwithstanding), counting on the ignorance of her audience.

“Duplicitous” is the apt description of this fiery rhetoric she delivers, as if Trump has done something wrong, sinister, diabolic, & deplorable with his taxes, when she knows better.  But she knows it just works; why not stir up angry emotions?

The billion-dollar loss on Trump’s 1995 tax return is a real loss of money, & perfectly legal.  Using past business losses to offset future profits is a given & it makes perfect sense.  This law has been in effect, with periodic modifications, since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Every tax law must come from Congress & be signed by the president.  Every one of Donald Trump’s tax returns has been scrupulously audited & accepted by the IRS.  Anything they may have found that does not comply with the law, they adjusted to conform.  Nothing was allowed that was not legal; no law was broken.

Few people know the complexity of the tax laws congress passed.  But, most people know that they can deduct mortgage interest, medical expenses, and certain  other personal expenses.  No one I know forgoes those deductions, or refuses to accept tax credits.  I believe it is pernicious, irresponsible & wildly ignorant to brand approved behavior as evil & elitist

Business Losses

Businesses are not always profitable, (i.e. Sales – Costs = Profit/Loss).  Even if some years are bad, others must be good; otherwise the business fails.  The government allows business to look at their profits & losses over several years.  For example:

Joe & Mary Remodeling Co experiences a loss in 2008 during the financial & real estate crash.

2008Income was $ 150,000 and employees, suppliers, equipment, outgo was $250,000, a loss of $100,000. This included the business share of payroll taxes, (employers match the Social Security & Medicare taxes withheld from paychecks). Joe & Mary had to borrow $100,000 to keep their doors open.  They also had to borrow money for living expenses that year.

  • The $100,000 loss is “carried forward.”
  • Joe & Mary owe $100,000 +.

Things get worse in 2009; they cut expenses to $100,000, but income was only $75,000, a loss of $25,000, which they borrow.  They also borrow enough for personal living expense.

  • The $25,000 loss is added to the previous year’s $100,000 and $125,000 is “carried forward.”
  • Joe & Mary owe $125,000++

Things brighten in 2010; income is $125,000 with expenses of $75,000, a profit of $50,000.

The tax law allows them to use $50,000 of the “carried forward” losses from 2008 ($100,000) and 2009 ($25,000) to offset the 2010 profit.

  • $50,000 is subtracted for the $125,000 loss “carried forward.”
  • The remaining $75,000 of their losses is “carried forward.”

You can read the IRS instructions & explanations here:  https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p536.pdf

Bankruptcy & Unpaid Debts

Joe & Mary still owe the money they borrowed ($125,000 plus living expenses)

If Joe & Mary could not repay the debts, &  claimed bankruptcy, the amount of debt not paid is deducted from the amount of loss they could “carry forward.”  https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc431.html

Donald Trump’ s Billion-Dollar Loss in 1995

The amount of loss in the real estate business can include deductions for both cash expenses & “depreciation” of the buildings.  The tax law has strict rules on how much a person can “depreciate” all kinds of business assets.  If depreciation is part of the loss, & the building is later sold or repossessed, the depreciation is “recaptured,” which means added back into income & subtracted from the loss “carried forward.”

All in all, without more information, no one can tell what happened to that billion-dollar loss.  If Trump’s properties went into bankruptcy, those losses could have been cancelled by the rules for “recapture,” and debt reduction.

You can bet that the IRS audits every tax return Donald Trump files.  Someone should audit Hillary Clinton’s knowledge of tax law, & ethical portrayal.

 

Middle-Class Families Robbed by Obamacare – Before and After Taxes

The New York Times just published an article claiming that middle-class families are better off financially.  They blithely overlooked the greatest tax increase in recent memory and the greatest increase in medical cost Americans have ever seen.  We have been robbed blind.

Many employers dropped or reduced their health insurance benefits and left their employees to shop Obamacare market places.  Not only are the premiums higher and the benefits lower, but now they must pay with after-tax dollars.  Insurance premiums paid by employers is exempt from payroll and income taxes.  Any of the premiums employee pays must come from earnings that have been taxed at about 8% for Social Security, Medicare taxes; the employer pays the same amount in matching payroll taxes.

But that’s not all; the employee also pays income taxes on the earnings – at least 15%.  So 8% + 15% is 23% fewer dollars in the employees’ pockets just to get the money to pay for healthcare insurance.  Since Obamacare started, health insurance for middle-class families has roughly doubled.  They get no government subsidies; they have fewer choices of doctors and hospitals; the deductibles and copays empty the bank accounts.  People who have worked hard, have been nicked by the recession.  They may be working for a fraction of their former incomes.  Families are now strapped for cash, and struggle to find medical providers that will accept their healthcare insurance.

Ask yourself, is the New York Times right?  Have we increased our incomes enough to rise above the tax grab and the insurance double-cross?  Our economic anemia verges on leukemia; Obamacare is the pathogen, not the cure.

Doctors & Hospitals Reject Pre-existing Fedicare

Health care providers are rejecting people with Obamacare policies, Medicare, and Medicaid because of reimbursement rates, and the financial inabilities of Obamacare patients to pay their share.

Context

Insurance spreads large financial risks over a pool of people who face that risk.  Only some of the people will actually experience the losses.  Members of the pool pay “premiums” to pay the losses, administer the process, and provide a profit to the owners of the insurance company.

Insurance companies use “underwriters” to:

  • Measure the potential financial risks of issuing policies
  • Set the conditions included and excluded
  • Set the premiums and duration of coverage

The idea is to:

  • Keep premiums low for normal risk people
  • Set higher premiums for people with higher risks
  • Limit coverage for conditions that already exist
  • Decline people who are high risk

Obamacare Reality

Obamacare health insurance plans cannot decline people with pre-existing conditions, by law.  The medical costs are not a risk for these people, they are an enormous, financial certainty.  These high costs must be covered by premiums paid by other insured policy holders, or absorbed by the insurance company.

Obamacare prohibits “marketplace” insurers from rejecting high-risk applicants, and people with preexisting conditions.  However, not all policies are created equal.  The variables are:

  • Premiums
  • Government premium subsidies
  • Patient co-payments
  • Patient and family deductibles
  • Reimbursement rates (the amounts insurers pay the doctors, laboratories, imaging clinics, and hospitals)

Service providers need to get paid an acceptable amount, in an acceptable amount of time.  Insurers offer reimbursement levels, but providers do not have to accept them.  Providers can set the minimum for their services, but the insurers do not have to include them in their “network.”

The medical community now does what insurance companies used to do – when in doubt, decline Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid patients.

The top quality insurance companies are withdrawing from the marketplaces to avoid the losses they experience from the pre-existing condition patients.  The insurers are limiting the types of plans to Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO’s) which only use selected providers.  They are eliminating Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO’s) which give the insured choices of providers within a selected “Network,” and “Out of Network” for higher copays.

People are dropping their health insurance because the combined costs of premiums, co-pays, deductibles; the lack of providers who accept their insurance contributes to this attrition.

What if Trump Wants to Lose? – Reality TV at its Finest

Interesting; both candidates for President are set for life, no matter who wins.  Aside from political ambitions, what other consequences can we think of?  Speaking engagements, books, endorsements; contributions to “selected” organizations, trust, foundations?

I think that is why Trump keeps upping the ante.  He is probably just as surprised as the pundits that he is the Republican candidate for president.  He is geared to parlay events that favor him into big wins.  But what if he does not want to win?  Could he be testing the limits of our national appetite for trash talk?

And, what about his campaign team?  In mid-August, Donald shrugs off the RNC “sheeps clothing” and resumes his “Wolf of Pennsylvania Avenue” regime.  An experienced manager tries to get him to smooth public dismay, and assume RNC campaign strategies; Trump demotes him and resumes fraying the tightrope to the White House.

Back to the show without protagonists; it must be amusing and frightening to watch our silliness.  All our military power, all our amazing creativity, dimmed by this imbroglio.

Timid, cowering politicians, showing everyone we have no cohesion, no clear direction, no acceptable answers to quell the “masses” who intuit the vacuum of power in our country.  Since 9/11 we have been “dazed and confused;” what should we do, whom should we trust; whom should we fear?

Flaying with “Shock and Awe;” useless, ignorant “boots on the ground” in places rich in resources, but impoverished in modernity.  We have shown our naiveté by superimposing our values and culture on 7th century tribal people.  Iraq was not even a country before Churchill drew a line around three feuding ethnic groups and assigned a titular government.  Afghanistan is the graveyard of many invading armies.

Donald Rumsfeld’s endorsement of Donald Trump is emblematic; the man who almost single-handedly emasculated Americas military, feebly blesses a novice in military affairs.  Sad, sad, sad.

I always thought of America in superlatives; strong, honest, forthright, steadfast, resourceful, courageous, and blessed come to mind.  Our moral infrastructure is in such disrepair, that we cannot stand for anything as a nation.  We have such weak bonds with each other, that we waste our energy and resources on things of little consequence in the world.  We blame each other for problems no one could create or solve.  We are frustrated with the impotence of government to do what it cannot.

  • Are we still recovering from the shock of a homeland attack?
  • Have our imaginations and fortitude been diverted to virtual reality?
  • Are we happy that we chose two weak candidates for President?
  • Are we that detached from reality?
  • Do we think this is just another show on TV?
  • Is our decline that obvious to the rest of the world?
  • Are Russia and China taking advantage of our frazzled reticence?
  • Where are the serious leaders we need?

We need citizens to accept individual responsibility and to participate in the things that matter – the true threats and vital problems; not bathrooms and weddings.

As in the TV series House of Cards, the voters are not in charge of anything. If we remain the audience for a reality TV Show, it should be called Decline.  You are never fired; in fact, you are stuck in a job you cannot afford to lose.  We could wake up like Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s Metamorphosis; no control over, and less understanding of what is happening to us.

Saul Alinsky was an important personal mentor to Hillary; his books are modern, grass roots, activist versions of Machiavelli’s The Prince, and Karl Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party.  Listen to the rhetoric of semi-incumbent,Hillary Clinton, and parse out the words that are not in Rules for Radicals.  She does not have any answers that were not available to another Alinsky apostle, Barack Obama; how can anyone believe she can do what he could not?  Not that Trump has any silver bullets either; but voting does not have to be rational; and so it is not.

Kizr Khan waved the Constitution on TV, but he must not have read the powers of the Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. Had he read and understood Articles I, II, and III, he would know that all these sweeping promises candidates make are not within the powers vested in the Presidency.  If they could have, they would have.  Obama has stretched every possible executive power; what can any president do without Congress and the rest of the nation?  Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

But I digress.  Just think; what if what Donald Trump never intended to become President. It has cost Donald Trump virtually nothing to become a famous world figure and a national icon.  He definitely, upset the powers-that-be in the RNC.  He awakened an army of citizens who have suffered too long from economic and government impoverishment.  Even if the presidency goes to the second most unpopular, and widely distrusted candidate, both she and Trump are set for life.

 

 

 

American Royalty – Power Without Heart

 

The 2016 presidential campaign harkens back to the earliest years of our nation.  Democracy, Republic, Three Branches of Government, Bicameral Legislature, By The People, Checks and Balances were new ideas.  Did everyone agree?  Not in the slightest.  And they had not invented political correctness in the middle of the 18th century.

No; instead, anonymous, pamphlets of slanderous accusations and invectives, swirled like blizzards across the newly formed United States of America.  The reins of power were not certain or predictable. Contenders for office came from all walks of life with no “party” to promote them.

The evolution of America’s two major political parties took some time, but those in power were hardly poor or neutral; power is the ultimate opioid.  Despite conflicts, Democrats and Republicans play the same games; they expect to win and lose from time to time, but both sides know the rules of placating the masses by making them think they have a voice in what goes on.

Until recently, the pretense of two radically separate political bodies survived, and thrived.  Now, two is not enough, talk is not enough, rhetoric is not enough.  Americans are tired of the same old crap: “They” are bad, “We” are good.  We will fix (what they broke, again).  They found out that there is just one old machine with two faces; they do not want it anymore.

The 9/11 attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mortgage fiascos, the collapse of investment banks, the explosion of college costs and debts, the Great Recession, the expansion of global terrorism, have shaken our confidence in America, in ourselves, and in our institutions.

We have lost the super in superpower.  Our military is so weak, we have to send the same soldiers back into combat again and again until they break; we spend millions of dollars on a drone strike to kill a dozen enemy soldiers so we can avoid American casualties.  The all-professional military means that average citizens are not involved; we do not feel like we are really at war.  What would make us think that?

The same old promises will not work on brand new problems any better than they did on the old problems.  Conspiracies seem to explain current events better than the lame “official” excuses and falsehoods WikiLeaks keeps uncovering.  And just maybe the truth is not that far off.

We have lost the attention span to take politicians seriously.  Incumbents no longer offer us advantages. Hence the wave of populism, barely dodged by the Democrats secret machine, and now staring the Republicans in the face.  The political czars are going to any length, including crossing over to the other side to avoid losing control of the constituencies they have cultivated.

The trouble is, the new constituencies are awakened, vocal, mobilized, and revolting against Big Brother.  They want purpose, they want independence, they want liberty, and at least a passing chance in their pursuit of happiness.

It looks like the machine, with all its money, influence, propaganda, connections, and experience may win again this time.  I am unhappy that my country, with all its advantages, cannot cultivate enough honorable leaders to field worthy candidates for president, and remain loyal when the voters speak.

The DNC Chose Krizr Khan Very Carefully – A Sad Abuse of a Gold Star

As a Vietnam veteran, I honor Captain Khan’s valiant service.  I too was a Captain serving in a foreign war.  My brother spent two tours in Vietnam.  My wife’s 19-year-old brother died in Tet 1968.  I guess we were a Gold Star family too.

I am not in favor of the family or the opposing political candidates using his death as a political platform.  This is a dark use of an honorable man’s tragedy.  Using a Gold Star as a shield for partisan purposes is sad, and verges on disgrace.

I have visited the resting place of my fallen comrades in Arlington Cemetery, I have read and touched the names of people from my life engraved on the vast, black, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall; I have read and support the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights; I support the First Amendment which defends free speech, even when used for such ignoble purposes.

Background:

Both Krizr and Ghazala Khan were born and brought up in Pakistan, he received his bachelor of law degree from Punjab University Law College in Lahore, Pakistan in 1974.  Ghazala taught Persian at a Pakistani college.

Soon after getting his law degree, they moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates; their two elder sons, Shaharyar and Humayun, were born there.

There is an unexplained gap in Mr. Khan’s work history; there was no indication on his law firm website of what Mr. Khan did, or where he worked the six years from 1974 to 1980.  Then the family moved to Boston, straight into Harvard Law School.

In 1982, Mr. Khan received his masters of law degree from Harvard.  The family then moved to Maryland; it is not clear where he worked the sixteen years from 1982 to 1998.

1998 to 2007, Krizr managed the Litigation Technology Services group at the international law firm of Hogan & Hartson, Washington, DC, including European and Asian offices.

From 2007 to 2010 he was Director of Law Technology & Electronic Discovery at a major global law firm based in New York.

(Note:  This history seems to conflict with the statement from his speech, “Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed.”  Q:  Why would he put that glib cliche in his speech, when it seems so unlikely to be true?)

The oldest son, Shaharyar, was a top student at the University of Virginia, where he got his PhD in Neuroscience.  He co-founded a biotechnology company, Gencia Corporation, in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he serves as Chief Science Officer.  His youngest brother, Omer, currently works at Gencia as a research specialist.  Mr. Khan now works as a legal consultant in Charlottesville, Va.

The second son, Humayun Khan, took ROTC while attending the University of Virginia, and received his commission in the US Army upon graduation in 2000.  In 2004, Humayun died from a suicide car bomb explosion at the gates to the base in Baqubah, Iraq.

Q:  Who killed him?

A:  His enemiesour enemies; the enemies we do not want here in the US.

Perspectives:

  • 3.3 million Muslim immigrants equal .9% of the US population. (365 million)
  • About 6,000 Muslims have served in our military since 9/11, (.27% of the 2.2 million US Military)
  • A total of 14 Muslim US soldiers have been killed in Iraq, (.31% of the 4,424 total deaths)

The Speech:

With this background, here is Mr. Krizr Khan’s DNC speech:

“Tonight we are honoured to stand here as parents of Captain Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims – with undivided loyalty to our country.

Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy; that with hard work and goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings.

We are blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams.

Our son, Humayun, had dreams too, of being a military lawyer, but he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son ‘the best of America’.

If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities; women; judges; even his own party leadership. 

He vows to build walls, and ban us from this country. Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future.

Let me ask you: have you even read the United States constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. [he pulls it out] In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law’.

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America.

You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

We cannot solve our problems by building walls, sowing division. We are stronger together. And we will keep getting stronger when Hillary Clinton becomes our President.

In conclusion, I ask every patriot American, all Muslim immigrants, and all immigrants to not take this election lightly.

This is a historic election, and I request to honour the sacrifice of my son – and on election day, take the time to get out and vote.

And vote for the healer. vote for the strongest, most qualified candidate, Hillary Clinton, not the divider. God bless you, thank you.”

Summary:

Statistics certainly do not diminish or relieve the terrible pain of losing a son, or a brother, or any loved one.  Clearly, Humayun was a hero.  But he was a rare example of Muslim participation in our military

The DNC was brilliant in choosing one of the 14 Muslim Gold Star families to represent loyal, patriotic Muslims.  Unfortunately, the presentation implies a larger number of such families, and a larger Muslim participation in our nation’s defense.

It is clear, though, that Mr. Khan, and Mr. Trump have never met; both are assailing each other from the parapets of fixed partisan positions, based in rhetoric and hearsay.

It is sad that a Gold Star is being abused for political leverage.

Trump Could Win the “Immigration” Wars – Banish ”Newspeak”

Donald Trump speaks the language of the people, as he knows it.  When he talks about immigration policy, he has fallen into the “Newspeak” trap set by the media.  He could escape this trap and turn it on his enemies.

By now, no one doubts that both Trump and Clinton have real, and growingly serious “enemies.”  Some have even asked, “What happens if a party’s candidate dies before the election?”

One set of people upset with Trump are immigrants.  The problem with the word “immigrant” is, we need to use more precise language.  We need to say whether we mean “citizens with strong identification with immigrant forebears and culture,” or”non-citizens?”

See how easy could that be?

Americans are almost all descendants of immigrants, even though we are not immigrants ourselves.  A person who has become a naturalized citizen may describe themselves as an “immigrant” to refer to their country of origin, but they are citizens.

Even though they live here, foreign nationals (legal language: “aliens”) who have not gone through the naturalization process are not citizens.  They may still stay here as permanent residents once they apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and are approved. *

Political correctness has eroded the use of the word used by most governments around the world: alien.  “Some people” objected to the proper word “alien” and began to use euphemisms to disguise the true status of non-citizens, and aggravate citizens who immigrated legally, or who have a strong immigrant identification, such as “Latino, Latina.”   http://www.illegalaliens.us/euphemisms.htm)

If Trump wants to shock the sensibilities of the PC crowd, why not use the right words:

Illegal Alien
Also known as an “Undocumented Alien,” is an alien who has entered the United States illegally and is deportable if apprehended, or an alien who entered the United States legally but who has fallen “out of status” and is deportable.

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/immigration-terms-and-definitions-involving-aliens

He can make himself clear and unassailable by using the proper language when discussing immigration policy.

Oh, by the way, why not publish our current immigration policy so we can ask, “what part of the law don’t you understand?  What parts of the law do you intend to change?”

http://www.immigralaw.com/english/immigrationquotas.html

 

Populists Remodel, Instead of Making New Parties

“Americans are not only strongly dissatisfied with the state of the economy and the direction in which the country is headed, but with government efforts to improve them. As the Pew Research Center’s analysis of exit poll data (2010) concluded, “the outcome of this year’s election represented a repudiation of the political status quo…. Fully 74% said they were either angry or dissatisfied with the federal government, and 73% disapproved of the job Congress is doing.”

http://www.pewresearch.org/2010/12/14/how-a-different-america-responded-to-the-great-depression/

Like the two poles of a magnet, anger and dissatisfaction manifested in favor of a clearly popular Bernie Sanders movement on the left, and more clearly in the ascendancy of Donald Trump on the right.

The Democrats

Bernie Sanders attracted a large plurality of younger citizens to socialist ideas for solving perceived failures of government.  The Obama administration did nothing to ameliorate the impact of staggering loan burdens on college students; the Affordable Care Act not only failed to manage healthcare needs, it aggravated the problems of access and affordability.

Super delegates, and the strident support of the DNC establishment saved Hillary Clinton’s primary candidacy from an embarrassing drubbing by the populists.  Nonetheless, the Democrats had to shift their platform to the left to avoid losing the new voters Bernie Sanders attracted.  The party apparatchiks felt their grip on power slipping, and quickly adjusted to retain control.  Witness the remodeled Democratic Party

The Republicans

The Republican powers-that-be were not so lucky; by denying, resisting and eschewing, they lost control of the party to a populist candidate beyond their influence.  Donald Trump, by design or blind luck, tapped into the anger and frustration of a tsunami of new and dormant voters on the right. Instead of building a new third party, ala Ross Perot, Trump remodeled the Republican Party.  This massive wave of constituents was so strong that sixteen traditional candidates succumbed to mild taunting and criticism in televised debates, and strong turnouts in the primaries.

The barrage of criticism from both parties, the withdrawal of political support by RNC powerhouses, and the withholding of financial support by big-time contributors could not stop a political neophyte from becoming the Republican candidate on a tiny fraction of the money spent against him.  The Republican Party has been transformed into a conservative, populist majority; sour grapes, snubs, and disownment remain ineffective on the new dynamics of the party.

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore,” is our new national creed.

Tools from Carl Sagan’s BS Detection Kit

We are in an age of hyper-information/persuasion/spin about all aspects of our lives, from what we eat, to what we buy, to what we attend, to whom we choose as leaders.  Now, as always, we can benefit from screening the inputs to our lives, and weighing our beliefs on a scale of clarity, and verity.  Carl Sagan gave us some sage tools to evaluate and detect fallacies of arguments, and false claims.  After the quote, I will try to translate, without bias, his precise language, and references, into reasonably understandable terms.

A. Evaluate Ideas to Approach the Truth:

  1. Wherever possible,there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science, there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument,every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the dataequally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.
  1. Avoid Common Pitfalls of Common Sense

Just as important as learning these helpful tools, however, is unlearning and avoiding the most common pitfalls of common sense. Reminding us of where society is most vulnerable to those, Sagan writes:

In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions.

He admonishes against the twenty most common and perilous ones — many rooted in our chronic discomfort with ambiguity — with examples of each in action:

  1. ad hominem— Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously)
  2. argument from authority(e.g., President Richard Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan to end the war in Southeast Asia — but because it was secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him because he was President: a mistake, as it turned out)
  3. argument from adverse consequences(e.g., A God meting out punishment and reward must exist, because if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and dangerous — perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement for other men to murder their wives)
  4. appeal to ignorance— the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore, UFOs exist — and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
  5. special pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble(e.g.,How can a merciful God condemn future generations to torment because, against orders, one woman induced one man to eat an apple? Special plead: you don’t understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will. Or: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the same Person? Special plead: You don’t understand the Divine Mystery of the Trinity. Or: How could God permit the followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — each in their own way enjoined to heroic measures of loving kindness and compassion — to have perpetrated so much cruelty for so long? Special plead: You don’t understand Free Will again. And anyway, God moves in mysterious ways.)
  6. begging the question, also called assuming the answer (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or: The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors — but is there any independent evidence for the causal role of “adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned anything at all from this purported explanation?)
  7. observational selection, also calledthe enumeration of favorable circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent on its serial killers)
  8. statistics of small numbers— a close relative of observational selection(e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly.” Or: “I’ve thrown three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”)
  9. misunderstanding of the nature of statistics(e.g., President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence);
  10. inconsistency(e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of which a potential military adversary is capable, but thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union to the failures of communism many years ago, but never attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for the Universe to continue to exist forever into the future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has infinite duration into the past);
  11. non sequitur— Latin for “It doesn’t follow” (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often those falling into the non sequitur fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities;
  12. post hoc, ergo propter hoc— Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” (e.g., Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of … a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.” Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons)
  13. meaningless question(e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)
  14. excluded middle, or false dichotomy — considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”)
  15. short-term vs. long-term— a subset of the excluded middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed malnourished children and educate pre-school kids. We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets.  Or: Why explore space or pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?);
  16. slippery slope, related to excluded middle (e.g.,If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant. Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our bodies around the time of conception);
  17. confusion of correlation and causation(e.g., A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore, education makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore — despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer, more massive planet Jupiter — the latter causes the former)
  18. straw man— caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance — a formulation that willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or — this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy — environmentalists care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do for people)
  19. suppressed evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown on television; but — an important detail — was it recorded before or after the event? Or:  These government abuses demand revolution, even if you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far more people are killed than under the previous regime? What does the experience of other revolutions suggest? Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable and in the interests of the people?)
  20. weasel words(e.g., The separation of powers of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress. On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected. Presidents of either political party may therefore be tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and calling the wars something else — “police actions,” “armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,” “pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class of reinventions of language for political purposes. Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”)

Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world — not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others.”

 

The Revolution Is Here – Take It To Heart

In every revolution, the “intelligentsia,”are swept aside.  They represent an entrenched notion of superiority and upper class that would keep change within their purview for ever. They call anyone who is not aligned with them “ignorant.”

But Americans have developed a different model of “knowing” called “trending.”

Ignorance is what?  What does a person have to “know” to rise above ignorance? Over the past six decades, we Americans have gradually diluted and “re-purposed”public education to reveal a new role for our schools:  Day Care and fail-proof graduation.

BTW:  What we don’t know, we can, like, Google, right?  Like, the internet is a great source, right?  And, like, almost better than rumors.  And Twitter, hey.  Right?  It is not only right; it is right now!  Who needs to be smart when they have smart PHONES;)

Each generation allowed to drift away from personal responsibility and thoughtful challenge dims our future, and insults our past.  Then the child become the parent, their children become parents, ad nauseum.  There is a saying, “Wisdom comes with age.”  But apparently, sometimes, age comes alone.

What has come of the devaluation of deep education, and elimination of critical thinking/learning skills?  Is it fair to castigate an electorate that has been hoodwinked into accepting whatever their equally educated associates and self-proclaimed leaders tell them?

What do we expect from uber-indulged offspring, un-chaffed by the requirements of self-reliance?  Why should we be surprised when 4th generation union laborers cry out in pain when their family traditions leave them without a clue or a paycheck?

We find ourselves in 2016, after wrenching damage to our smug image of ourselves as Americans with unlimited potential, who need only show up to garner success.  The wounds inflicted by 9/11 are still with us after 15 years of missteps in response.  We have tried to deny the damage; we have launched counterattacks on the phantoms of suicide using oceans of borrowed money to fund distant wars with professional warriors; we have salved our pain with money borrowed to buy homes and the trappings of wealth against a mirage of future prosperity; we drowned in the aftermath of deluded excess; we barely made our way back to the shores of reason and a semblance of recovery.

Now, we use deceitful yardsticks to measure our return to Camelot.  Empty words like “employment” when a person finally finds a job at 60% of their former pay.

We make false implications like “college education” when a barely literate and numerate high school “graduate” borrows the price of a new home to learn to read, write, and use a computer; then, the search for work that will pay the student loans, while the “college graduate,” either stays in the family basement, or shares desperate apartment space with like-indentured contemporaries.

When I say “we,” I mean our shackled culture.  We have been fooled into believing what we are told, minding our “political correctness,” and allowing mobs to control our justice system when, the results do not satisfy them.  We have allowed loud minorities of no more than 3-5% of our population to direct our legislatures and judiciaries to give them control and sanctions over the rest of our society.  We have succumbed to the notion that Americans have to allow others to flaunt our laws, treaties, and alliances because we should never stand firm, confront evil, or fight dirty.

The idealized America of the past was pretty hard-nosed, and seldom a patsy for, “that’s not NICE.”  Our heroes were tough guys who would not stand for threats or false promises.  Somehow we believe we are still tough when we are just the opposite.

The social organizers, the media and professional politicians have informally colluded to keep Americans in their recliners, consumers of what they conjure, passive observers of life in America.

But we all have our limits, and when those limits are breached, we get up and fight the bullies who have tried to keep us under control with their well-honed rules.  Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are appealing to the Americans who have suffered and who see not relief, but more suffering.  They are mad as hell, and they are not going to take it anymore.

Even if these gladiators are martyred by “the System,” they have awakened those who have let things go too long.  These revolutionaries will not accept sophisticated “ideas” or convoluted promises; they want palpable relief.  They want to push the buttons, and pull the levers, and see results that make a difference.

Obamacare – Expensive Eternity on Hold

Wouldn’t it be great to have unlimited hours and days to manage your family’s medical insurance?  Apparently, that is what is required under the new medical insurance regime.

Straight story:  My wife is a home health care nurse.  Her employer is a giant in the home health care business.  In addition to her paycheck, she had good health care insurance paid mostly by the company.

With the advent of the A.C.A aka Obamacare, employers were let off the hook for 2014 regarding penalties for not providing medical insurance.  At the same time, individuals were required to have it.  The home health giant dropped health insurance benefits, not for office staff or management, but ONLY for the nurses who delivered the care.

That led to the pursuit of an individual policy for my wife paid with after-tax dollars of $605 per month.  To the uninformed, this means having to earn $800 per month, paying $195 dollars in Social Security, Medicare, and income taxes, to net $605 to pay the premiums. (Question:  who got the $195 that she did not have to pay beforehand?)

Then we discover that her doctors are not included on the “in network” list or are not accepting her new coverage.  Several times we drove to the offices of doctors who were listed as providers on the company’s website, and discovered that they either dropped out of the “network,” or closed their doors.

In December she got notice that her premiums were increasing to $710 for 2016 for the math challenged, this is a 17.4% increase.)  Another $140 per month of earnings less $35 in taxes.  So we were facing paying $940 of her pre-tax earnings each month ($11,280 per year) for insurance with $2,000 deductible and $7,000 annual out of pocket.

Fortunately, her new employer offered her better health insurance benefits as of 01/01/2016 at $360 per month for her share.  She now only has to earn 470 dollars per month, and pay $110 in taxes to cover this benefit.

But wait, there is more.  We both tried for nearly two weeks to cancel the old policy.  Nowhere on the health insurer’s website are information or links to cancel a policy.  We called the 800 number for customer service numerous times, only to be subjected to hour plus waits ending in mysterious hang ups.  When I finally reached the customer service number after 1 hour and 40 minutes of waiting, I was informed that I had to call the Marketplace to cancel the policy.

After another wait, I was told I had to give them 14 day’s advance notice to stop the January premium payment.  This would have meant $710 paid for January for double coverage.  When I asked who I could talk to, I was given an 800 number that was answered by the health insurance company.

This is not apocrypha; this is first-hand experience.  Replicate this experience millions of times and you have the cost we are paying for the changes caused by Obamacare, not counting the coming tax filings by employers and employees, the IRS processing and enforcement.

 

Problems Equal Power – Solutions Subtract

Have you noticed how much time and blather are lavished on inventing and enlarging problems, blaming, and shaming the “other” for causing, maintaining, expanding and taking advantage of problems?  Have you paid attention to how little or no time is invested in compassionate, cooperative, thoughtful, creative ideas?  Have you noticed how little time is spent pursuing sometimes simple obvious solutions, and strategies to reduce divisiveness, or resolve negative issues?

That is because “Problems = Power” in politics – especially perpetual & perpetuated problems.

What is a problem?  Think about it – a problem is a perception, a belief, a concept, an idea, a puzzle, a construct that proposes that an obstacle, a burden, a threat, or a harmful condition exists for a person or group of people.

The word “problem” also implies that a “solution” or “answer” or “proof” is available.

If you want political power:

  • Define a “problem” and declare a solution is available.
  • Proclaim yourself the champion of a particular social, financial, cultural pain for which you have the answer.
  • Stand up as the leader who will right a present, past, or future wrong.
  • Convince others that you are a spearhead who will break the hold of nefarious conspiracies on the throats of the weak, disadvantaged, and marginalized.

The basic strategy appears to be:

  • Maintain and emphasize the “problem” to your intended constituency.
  • Complain publicly, and produce anecdotal, sometimes rare examples of the “problem,” victims, or damage.
  • Blame someone else for creating, expanding; and perpetuating the “problem.”
  • Berate anyone who could or could have, should or should have solved the “problem.”
  • Propose a law so someone else has to stop it, fix it, or pay for it.
  • Promise that, if elected, you will fight it, expose it, or make it “fair.”
  • Make emotional accusations that others intentionally cause the “problem” for their benefit.
  • Stir up anger and hatred for groups, classes, or nations accused of causing, imposing, or withholding solutions for the “problem.”

But do not, under any circumstances, actually do anything to solve the problem systemically because, when you solve the problem, you lose the power created by the problem.  (that is, if there really is/was /were a problem.)

Some statements sound like problems, but they are really just statements.  For example, I remember hearing:

  • “The poor will always be with us.”
  • “How much better is it to acquire wisdom than gold! and to acquire understanding is worthmore than silver!”
  • “Thethings you own end up owning you.”

Other “problems” are invented and protected, such as the “problem” of requiring a photo ID.

First, has anyone, besides me, ever been in another country?  Everyone, citizens, residents, & visitors must have “papers” such as passports, or else you go to jail or get deported, period.  Often, proof of birth is not on record, but the governments know this and have methods of dealing with it.  Guess what? – people get and keep IDs.

Second, we live in a culture of ubiquitous identity verification requirements.  How does anyone live in the USA without government issued ID?  We need ID’s to receive, record, do, buy, or operate anything worth receiving, recording, doing, buying, or operating.  Here are some examples:

  • Paychecks (job application & check cashing)
  • Social security checks (benefit application & check cashing)
  • Credit purchases
  • Food Stamps (benefit application & purchasing)
  • Unemployment (benefit application & check cashing)
  • Welfare (benefit application & check cashing)
  • Home & auto titles
  • Insurance
  • Marriage
  • Birth
  • Divorce
  • Buying alcohol
  • Driving
  • Attending school
  • Getting medical care
  • Internet purchases
  • Electricity
  • Sports events
  • Buying stupid stuff advertised on TV for $19.95, (but wait – order now &..)
  • And much, much more

Oh, I forgot, with everyone taking “selfies” these days, that means they have a smartphone, and the related bills.  They are also creating photo IDs on the internet.  So who is left?  The Disabled, the Aged, the Homeless, the Poor?

Why haven’t their family, or friends, or social workers, or political party members taken them to the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the Post Office, or wherever they need to go to get an ID?  The fact that the photo will be atrocious should not daunt you.  The ultimate ID is a US passport, good anywhere in the world.  Next is a driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID from the state.

Obviously, the first step is a census, a list of people who do not have an ID.  The opponents of having an ID seem to know who they are; so prove it; produce the list.  Then solve the problem instead of complaining.

Third, where photos are required, couldn’t we just have cameras, or smartphones to take pictures of people who have none (duh)?  For example, have digital cameras to take photos of any who wants to vote, but has no ID.  Email the picture, name, address, and phone number to a secure central server.  If there ever is a problem or doubt, you have the data to answer any questions. I’ll bet the pictures would come out better than the Department of Public Safety, or Department of Motor Vehicles, or, heaven forbid, Department of Corrections.  This data could also be used to create a photo ID, once verified.

Fourth, isn’t getting a photo ID something that lasts once you get one, or only requires renewal every few years?  If you average out the yearly cost of having a photo ID, it should be affordable (maybe $5-10 per year, at most).

I mean, if you knew Aunt Betty did not have a photo ID, couldn’t you help her get one as a 50th birthday present?  Also, if a political party wanted supporters to vote, couldn’t they spend some small fraction of the millions of dollars they raise to get them ID’s?  Naahh!  Just let the problem ride, and keep the power so you can accuse, complain, and litigate again next year.  Oh, and take the “problem” to the Supreme Court to make it permanent.

But, this is just one example.  Let’s think about how politicians develop strategies around problems.  What is missing, or mislaid?

  1. Avoid Problem Analysis – Strategy: generalize, exaggerate, fabricate, and avoid any details and real research.

Ask yourself, would the protestations of ANY of the current candidates for President solve ANY of the serious pains Americans are suffering?  All I have heard are mission statements, results promises, and slogans.  Oh, I forgot, blame, & snide ad hominem bombs hurled like fireworks into the air, never to land; entertaining, reinforcing, & useless.

  1. Avoid Solution Analysis – Strategy: poor math, blur the subject, blame obstacles, avoid saying who would really pay.

Has anyone heard of a workable tax/spend plan that would actually produce the stated result, in practice?  It must be out of fashion to think things through; for example, “Tax the Rich” probably won’t work, when we wiggle the definition of “rich,” and forget that people do not stand still for painful government actions.  They either stop the taxable behavior, or substitute non-taxable behavior, or cheat.  “Do Not Tax the Poor” is a problem when the definition of “poor” is feeble, and government spending exceeds the resources of everyone.

  1. Avoid Distinctions – Strategy: collapse specific meanings into general terms, confuse demographic groups by using the same words to describe different groups.

The most prominent example of this is the intentional, improper use of the word “immigrant.”  “Immigrant” means a person who is a citizen of another country living in the USA legally by registration (aka – Green Card), or through naturalization to become a citizen of the USA.

That is all.   The term is specific and narrow in its legal definition; it absolutely excludes “unregistered aliens,” “foreign nationals,” “migrants” and so called, “illegal immigrants,” and “undocumented workers.”  All of those terms refer to unregistered non-citizens living here in violation or our immigration laws.  But, clever politicians, journalists, and advocates substitute the word “immigrant” for people who are not citizens.

The effect of this is to rile up immigrants, who are Americans, and make it sound like Americans hate immigrants.  Use the right words and it is clear that Americans love immigrants; we ARE immigrants, or descendants of immigrants.  We oppose people violating our immigration laws.

It is deceitful, and “newspeak” to use euphemisms or the word “immigrant” with obfuscating adjectives to imply that illegal aliens are really just citizens who kind of sort of haven’t taken care of a few annoying, paperwork details, so it is okay for them to come here and stay as long as they want because they really are Americans; aren’t they?

All in all, we can be tricked into supporting causes and politicians by perceiving “problems” as reality.  Sure, there are real problems, like homelessness, nuclear threats, infrastructure neglect, terrorism, inadequate public education, business and government corruption, to name a few.

But “inequality,” and “poverty” will always exist because people are different and “unequal” in many ways.

Should we regard exceptional students, athletes, scientists, artists, inventors, leaders, entrepreneurs, other geniuses as affronts to those who are not exceptional?  Should we slow down the hard workers and ambitious business owners to make things more “equal?”

Should we fault those who adapt to the world the way it is, instead of insisting that the past return for those who are stuck there?  Should we respond to the politicians who accuse government for making terrible agreements with other countries, or for not meeting all of our personal needs?  Is there something not great about America the way it is?

Make no mistake, America is the best place in the world for people who treasure liberty, personal freedom to live and work wherever we want, love who we want, go where we want, strive for our dreams, and as citizens vote how we want.

Go the Middle East, or Asia, or Africa, or Central America to see how the “other half” lives, and you will kiss the ground when you get back home to the United States of America.

 

 

Mental Health Parity – Who Will Make It So?

Sure, Obamacare was supposed to raise the level of care for mental health to the level of physical health.  Sure, President Obama declared a $500 million increase in federal spending for mental health issues.  And……..?   That equals $1.56 per capita.  The states are decreasing their spending on mental health faster than that every year.

Those who venerate Ronald Reagan’s presidency may not have noticed that, once he converted federal health care into block grants to the states, the spending and resources for mental health collapsed to a feeble level.  As the mental health facilities closed, the new prisons opened, and the homeless population mushroomed.  Some experts estimate that 29% of the homeless have severe mental illness.  Department of Justice studies show that 45-65% of local, state, and federal prisoners have severe mental illness; about 1/3 receive treatment.  In other words, the justice system is in charge of mental health care in America.  A police officer is the most likely person to interact with the seriously disturbed citizen on our streets.  Then the most likely outcome would be to be incarcerated in a de facto asylum, or relegated to the streets.

I do not have the answers, but denial will not make things better.  Maybe it would better to convert our prisons into hospitals, and our prison guards into psychiatric nurses.  The last figure I heard was about $39,000 per inmate per year (about $107/day) for incarceration.  Then most of those released have not been treated for mental illnesses.  What do you think the chances are that they will have other episodes that might put them back in prison?

No one can guarantee that treatment would reduce recidivism; no statistics exist to test that theory.  All I know is that people I know do very well, when they take their meds.

So, here is the question every candidate for federal office: “It seems that all the candidates agree that mental illness has played a prominent role in the mass shootings around the US.  How well do you think the federal and state governments are managing mental healthcare in prisons, among the homeless, and the public?  What do you think they should do to really meet the needs?”

 

A.C.A. “Obamacare” Revisited – Employers & Government Set to Ream the Middle Class Worker

(For a detailed explanation of the ACA and its features go to: http://www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs/consumer/cb005.html

The Affordable Care Act has had its share of glitches and detours.  The technical problems can be addressed.

We tried to “keep our eyes on the ball” but they fooled us.  They showed us the wrong ball and we fell for it.  We should have noticed the tax implications of employers cancelling their health care insurance plans, because those are the most sinister parts of the scheme to pull billions of dollars out of the pockets of the middle class and businesses.

The enormous, savings to employers from dropping health insurance and the secret, unspoken, tax windfall to the federal government verge on devious and obscene.

The ACA’s Unfolding Structure Belies Promises & Benefits.

The demographics of the initial users of the new health insurance exchanges are what most thinking people would expect – the least healthy, most costly, poorest individuals have signed up because they are the ones who benefit the most from the taxpayer-subsidized design of the ACA.  This 1/21/14 article from Money Morning reveals the mix so far:

First-Ever Obamacare Demographics Are In – And They’re Ugly

Until last Monday, not a single Obamacare demographics statistic had been released since open enrollment began in October 2013.

Now we have our first-ever look at who is signing up for Obamacare – and the number is alarming. (see whole article).
http://moneymorning.com/2014/01/24/first-ever-obamacare-demographics-theyre-ugly/

But the ACA is just a subterfuge to pick the pockets of the middle class.  If the trend in businesses dropping health insurance continues, most average workers will not be able to afford any insurance because of the cut in compensation and the gross income needed to pay premiums from take-home pay.

The Largest Ever Tax Increase on the Average Worker

A poll cited by the Huffington Post 5/16/13 concluded:

Obamacare Won’t Cause Employers to Drop Health Benefits: Survey

Employers are concerned about increased health benefit costs arising from President Barack Obama’s health care reform law but almost none intends to drop coverage for full-time workers next year, according to survey results released Thursday.

The health care law’s requirement that companies with at least 50 employees provide affordable health benefits is the chief reason most firms expect their spending on health insurance to rise in 2014, according to a poll conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, an organization of human resources professionals. Nevertheless, more than two-thirds of companies definitely plan to offer health benefits to full-time workers, and just 0.5 percent said they definitely will discontinue coverage. More than 90 percent of companies surveyed currently offer health benefits to full-time workers.”  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/16/obamacare-employers_n_3286508.html

The actions and reactions of business do not quite match the rosy picture described in the article.  It seems that employers see plainly that $2,000 per employee is going to be cheaper than paying 50% of the premiums for insurance.  Many have rushed to drop employee health care insurance without an offsetting increase in employee pay for the premiums the company pays.

Of course, the one-year moratorium on those penalties seems to have accelerated the waves of health insurance cancellations by businesses.

This has left many employees stranded while more than a few employers dodge their responsibilities under COBRA by not informing workers of their legal option to temporarily continue their health insurance while they look for individual coverage.

We are witnessing a growing suspicion that the ACA marks the demise of health insurance as an employee benefit primarily as a way to dramatically increase federal tax revenue.

Last November, an article in Forbes magazine analyzed what is actually happening and what it bodes for the near future.  Here is an excerpt:

“Obamacare and the End of Employer-Based Health Insurance

According to the American Action Forum, 43 million American workers will lose access to employer-based health insurance coverage because of Obamacare. Critics of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have warned that the creation of health insurance exchanges, and federal subsidies for people earning less than 400% of the federal poverty limit, practically invites employers to stop offering coverage to their employees, so the federal government picks up the tab. Some supporters of the ACA even celebrate this possible exodus from the employer-based insurance market, figuring it is prelude to a government takeover of the healthcare industry.”  http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterubel/2013/11/14/obamacare-and-the-end-of-employer-based-health-insurance/

Companies large and small have already dropped health plans as of 12/31/2013, for example, this excerpt from a 1/21/14 Bloomberg article:

Target to Drop Health Insurance for Part-Time Workers

Target Corp. (TGT) will end health insurance for part-time employees in April, joining Trader Joe’s Co., Home Depot Inc. and other U.S. retailers that have scaled back benefits in response to changes from Obamacare.

About 10 percent of part-time employees, defined as those working fewer than 30 hours a week, use Target’s health plans now, according to a posting yesterday on the Minneapolis-based company’s website. Target is the second-largest U.S. discount retailer by sales and had about 361,000 total employees last fiscal year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-21/target-to-drop-health-insurance-for-part-time-workers.html

Another example from a 10/4/13 New Hampshire Business Review article:

“Is ACA the First Step in Ending Employer-Based Healthcare?

The Affordable Care Act might eventually result in the end of the nation’s employer-based health system, and that might not be so bad, said Stan Hopfield, an author, former hospital CEO and the keynote speaker at NHBR’s Health Care Forum, held Tuesday at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord.  Businesses have striven to maintain employee coverage for years despite higher costs, trying to straddle the realities of higher premiums, lower benefits, restricted provider access and higher deductibles. “This is an expensive benefit that you are providing an employee and all you get is grief,” Hupfeld told the audience of about 300. “It’s a huge human resource headache and the first chance to get out of this, you are going to take it.”  The Affordable Care Act might be a way out, he said, since starting Tuesday individual coverage will be offered to those who can’t get coverage through their employers.”

http://www.nhbr.com/October-4-2013/Is-ACA-the-first-step-in-ending-employer-based-health-care/

The Washington Post published an article 1/11/14 which says, in part:

“Second Wave of Health Insurance Disruption Affects Small Businesses

In New Jersey, the state’s association of health plans says 650,000 people with small-group coverage have had their plans disrupted. In Colorado, regulators said small-group plans covering 143,000 people are being discontinued in 2014.

In New Hampshire, the state’s largest insurer, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, is moving all of those in its small-group plan — 60,000 to 70, 000 people — to plans that are similar to those sold on the marketplace created by the health-care law. These plans have drawn fire from consumers because they include only 16 of the state’s 26 acute-care hospitals.

In Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is discontinuing all its small-group plans for those who did not renew early, and offering new policies with different coverage and premiums. The company says 99.5 percent of the 5.3 million people it covers through its individual and small-group plans will be affected, but it declined to break out the number under small-group plans for competitive reasons.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/second-wave-of-health-insurance-disruption-affects-small-businesses/2014/01/11/dc2f7404-6ffe-11e3-a523-fe73f0ff6b8d_story.html

It is even more evident that employers are taking advantage of the one year delay, paying nothing at all.  Drop the insurance and hold onto all the money subtracted from the employees’ compensation.

Big Tax Bonus for the Government, Big Compensation Rip-Off for Businesses

The Obama administration is about to make the biggest tax increase ever on average wage earners, by exposing compensation that was tax free (health insurance paid by the employer) to at least 30.3% taxation between the employer and the employee.

The A.C.A. does what Congress has contemplated, but been reluctant to do overtly: eliminate the tax benefits of employer-provided health insurance to employees.  This is where all the rhetoric about helping the middle class is belied.  It means a giant tax bonus for the government at the expense of the workers. The promised subsidies for health insurance will come from the paychecks of the middle class.

This sleight of hand means that many workers will lose their pretax health insurance and be forced to replace it with insurance they pay from after-tax dollars.  The premiums an employer pays are not taxable to the employees.  Figure it out,

As long as your employer was paying the premium for your health insurance, it was not income taxable to you, or subject to social security and Medicare payroll taxes.

Paycheck income is subject to both employer and employee federal FICA payroll taxes.  The employer and the employee each pay 7.65%.  What this should say to employers is that unless health insurance premiums are more than 8% of current gross payroll, they are increasing their costs when they drop health insurance.

Add the employee’s income tax rate of at least 15% (which is what we used in the examples) and we have subjected every dollar of added income to 30.3% in federal taxes, plus state taxes, where applicable.  The employer also pays unemployment taxes and workers compensation insurance premiums, which vary by state and type of work.

The Biggest Rip-Off Ever – Businesses Drop Insurance & Do Not Offset With Wages

The taxation is not the worst thing that is happening to middle class workers. The biggest threats to workers income are the companies who drop their health insurance plan and do not pay their employees an offsetting  raise.  This is a greedy grab for keeping part of the workers total pay & benefits and cutting the pay of every employee with impunity.

Notice in the examples below, what happens when the employer drops health care insurance with no offsetting raises.

What happens under the various employers’ options?

In the first example, A, the employer drops the health insurance and replaces the $10,000 the company paid for health insurance with an equal increase in pay.  Both the employer and the employee will pay $600-700 more a year including payroll taxes, workers’ compensation and unemployment taxes.

If the employer fails to offer health insurance or pay 50% of the premiums, their company will pay the $2,000 per employee penalty tax to the federal government.

Meanwhile the employee pays taxes on the $10,000 and has to make up the difference from aftertax paycheck income.

The government makes out like a bandit.

Effect on Cash

A.    Employer Pays $0 Ins, Pays Offset $10,000, You Pay $10,000

Change for

Income

Payroll Tax

Income Tax/ Tax Penalty

Insurance Premiums

Total

Employer:

($700)

($2,000)

($2,700)

You

+$10,000

($680)

($1,500)

($10,000)

($2,180)*

Government:

+$1,380

$1,500

+$2,000

+$4,880

*Congratulations you just got a $2,800 pay cut, courtesy ACA.

Effect on Cash
B.    Employer Pays $5,000 (50% of $10,000), Pay Offset $5,000, You Pay $5,000

Change for

Income

Payroll Tax

Income Tax/ Tax Penalty

Insurance Premiums

Total

Employer:

($5,000)

($400)

+$5,000

($400)

You

+5,000

($400)

($750)

($5,000)

($1,150)*

Government:

+$800

+$750

+1,550

*Congratulations you just got a $1,550 gross pay cut, courtesy Employer and ACA.

Effect on Cash

C.    Employer Pays $0, Pay Offset $0, You Pay $10,000

Change for

Income

Payroll Tax

Income Tax/ Tax Penalty

Insurance Premiums

Total

Employer:

(2,000)

(2,000)

You

($10,000)

($10,000)*

Government:

+$2,000

+$2,000

*Congratulations you just got a $12,800 gross pay cut, courtesy Employer and ACA.

Effect on Cash

D.   Employer Pays $5,000, Pay Offset $0, You Pay $5,000

Change for

Income

Payroll Tax

Income Tax/ Tax Penalty

Insurance Premiums

Total

Employer:

$5,000

$5,000

You

($5,000)

($5,000)*

Government:

$0

*Congratulations you just got a $6,400 gross pay cut, courtesy Employer and ACA.

Summary

Preference

Most Favorite

Least Favorite

Employer

C

A

Employee

B

C

Government

A

D

The most attractive option for the employer is “C.” – Drop coverage, No Offset, Pay Penalty

The second most attractive option for the government is also “C.”

In every scenario, the employee loses money, “C.” being the worst.

The pain of this change will crush the middle class worker.  Is this what you thought would happen?

What can we do to head off this travesty?

False Hope Is Far Worse Than No Hope

What is wrong with hope?  We know that in an impossible situation where the outcome is unknowable, hope can keep us in that situation long enough to triumph or despair.  The problem comes when hope is not accompanied by action.  When things look hopeless, we either give up or fight on with everything we have.  When we are given false hope, assurances that all will be well, despite the looming crisis, we either relax in the happy notion that it will work out, or we fight on, but not with everything we have, rather with the idea that fate or miracles will save us.

It seems that the past few years in America, we have operated on the false hope that the federal government has the ability to control economic and world events.  Our hopes were elevated after 9/11 by the war on terrorism, including military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The results have been weak to poor.  We have burdened the future taxpayers with four to six TRILLION dollars of future obligations, and for what?

We have exhausted our volunteer military with short turnarounds and multiple tours.  We have aggravated and elevated the importance of the leaders and citizens of the region with our misunderstandings, ignorance, and arrogance.  No one has ever been able to extract the minds of the people from the secular feuds, endemic poverty, and warlord mentality since before the birth of Christ.

Everyone else on the planet sees our hubris and disrespect for other cultures, yet we continue our Crusades.

What if we had recognized the damage and pain inflicted on our national psyche by the 9/11 attacks?  What if we had reconsidered our smug attitudes toward the rest of the world?  What if we had just revised our approach of insisting that democracy is the best form of governance for everyone regardless of their history, culture, economy, and philosophy?

Instead, we embarked on a path of attack and appeasement.  We attacked anyone who remotely seemed to be a threat with no idea what to do and whom to do it with or to.  We were ready to believe that the vast expenditures and capabilities of our military could subdue the culprits and liberate the subjects of our perceptions of tyranny.  We took no heed of the clear indications that the religious and cultural context these people were born and raised, they see as absolute truth.

What made us think that pouring billions of dollars into the hands of a culture that values corruption and cheating as an art to respect would buy us anything but hate and deceit?  Where else have we bought victory or power with our Niagara of free money?

We fooled ourselves that the impact of the attacks on world confidence and finances was easily healed.  We proceeded to go on a spending spree of unheard of proportions, borrowing as much as our credit could bear, and more, when politics made buying a home hysterically important and easy for virtually anyone.

Our false hopes led us down a path of self-destructive thinking and acting.  In the midst of an unmitigated world financial crisis, governments took on the bad debts of citizens using the creditworthiness of nations.  Now that that burden has become untenable, we see financial strategies that verge on desperation and still try to maintain the illusion that the solution is at hand.

I wonder what paths we might have taken without the false notions and optimism on which we proceeded to get where we are today.

Raising the U. S. Minimum Wage in a Lower-Wage World

What are we Americans and our elected politicians thinking?  The real minimum wage is zero for many Americans who cannot find a job at all.

At this tenuous stage of our economic recovery, raising the federal minimum wage would only make businesses more prone to raise prices, to put greater work responsibilities on fewer employees, to adopt technology alternatives, and to outsource work to the lower-labor-cost, domestic and overseas vendors and suppliers of services.  The last choice is to go out of business or adopt a new business model.

Think a minute about how the minimum wage is used and to whom it applies.  Minimum wage is paid for entry level jobs, part time jobs, jobs for under-educated or untrained workers, etc.  Those who do a good job, and prove reliable, usually get raises.  In other words, entry-level, unskilled, or transient workers start at minimum wage. (See notes and links below)

So let us suppose the federal government raises the minimum wage to $10 or even $15 per hour, as some fast food workers propose.  Sure, those who get the higher wages will be happy, but who will choose the employees to keep?

Imagine you are the owner or manager of a business that has a very thin profit margin now.  If you calculated the added costs of a higher minimum wage would erase or greatly erode that margin, you would have six choices:

  1. Raise prices on the goods and services the business provides.  This option is greatly limited by the likes of Walmart.  If your customers can get the same or equal/services for less, where would they go?
  2. Increase the workload of a smaller staff.  This option is limited to the most work you could expect from each employee.  If the work gets to be too much, employees look for other work.  Walmart, and other discount retailers, squeeze suppliers and staff to limit costs.
  3. Adopt technology that replaces unskilled labor.  This is limited by the functions technology can fulfill.  We are all familiar with voice menus, websites, self-service, and vending machines.  Imagine what else technology can be designed to do.
  4. Outsource to US contractors.  The US military has greatly reduced the number of soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen by contracting civilian companies to do non-combat and combat support services, such as food services, equipment and vehicle maintenance, etc.
  5. Outsource to foreign contractors.  Wages in other parts of the world are much lower, even for skilled work.
  6. Quit the current business and take on a different business model.  Many retailers have shifted from stores to online catalogs, for example.  Some businesses have shifted away from low-margin operations to higher market levels.

So, we would have growing unemployment among those who could get jobs at the old minimum wage, but not the new minimum wage.  Who bears those costs?

Add this to the list of ideas that sound good, but have unintended and undesirable consequences.

Notes:

  1. If you are not up to date on recent labor statistics, review the U.S. Department of Labor publication below, or go to http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2012.htm and read or download the report and the appendices.
  2. Some states have slightly higher minimum wages than currently mandated by the federal government, but none more than Oregon’s $9.10. (http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-minimum-wage-chart.aspx)
  3. Although not included in the statistics, many self-employed people end up with less than minimum wage for the time they spend, depending on business conditions.

A Business Owner’s Response To Obamacare

What a great time to load more burdens on business.  Just as the US economy has leveled off from its scary decline, the federal government has chosen to add regulations and taxes relating to health care insurance to the choice of whether to hire or keep an employee.

I suggest that now is the perfect time to deal with this extra cost head-on with a new concept of employment compensation:  Total Compensation Agreements.  That’s right, fire all your employees and rehire them under TCA’s.  A Total Compensation Agreement would put a number on the total amount the employer will pay for the services of an employee.  If the number is $75,000, then that amount would be allocated among the employer’s costs related to the employee; what was left would be their paycheck.

We are fortunate to live in the age of computers that can calculate how this would work out.  For example, if the employee’s health insurance is $25,000 for a family of 4, the program would subtract that amount from the $75,000 leaving $50,000; if the employer’s cost of  FICA, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, etc., was $5,000, that would be subtracted from the $50,000 leaving $45,000; if the employee’s withholding and FICA was $7,500, that would leave take home pay of $37,500.  That is it.

If the business cannot afford to pay more than $75,000 for this employee’s services, or the employee cannot afford to live on $37,500, then no job.

The TCA structure would eliminate all minimum wage employees, and almost all less skilled workers from consideration.  Only those people whose productivity and lifestyle matched the profile would be employed.  Already, many business have found that redesigning their business model to use technology and fewer people makes sense.

What else can a business owner do?  It is either this approach or failure as a business.  Do the numbers.

So far, the only thing a business owner does not have to do is stay in business.