Sunday, December 10, 2017

How will you die?

I recently read an interesting article that asked "How will you die"?  It sounds like a rather morbid topic, but if you think about it, it's a legitimate question.  Hopefully none of us have received a medical diagnosis giving us X months to live, therefore we likely just don't know.  

I suppose if you're a base jumper or a wing-suit flyer a "wardrobe malfunction" or a slight miscalculation could result in your untimely demise.  If you're a gang member, especially in a place like Chicago or St Louis, you might die in a violent shooting.  And it isn't hard to imagine a top member of the Trump administration being bludgeoned to death in prison.  But I doubt many of us fall into any of those categories.  So, what do you think will get you?  Stepping on a rusty nail?  Choking on a chicken bone?

For myself....hmmmm.  There was once a time in my life a chance I might have fallen off a cliff, or walked into an airplane propeller or been sucked into a jet engine, but those days are now mostly behind me.  I do drive daily in Dallas' insane traffic, so I suppose it's possible that might do me in some day.  I'm very careful with my firearms, so I doubt I'll pop a cap in m'self.

I have heart arrhythmia, but my pacemaker is ticking away like one of John Cameron Swayze's old Timex problem.  Otherwise my heart and all associated plumbing are in good shape.  I don't smoke, and I'm told my lungs are better than great.  I rarely drink, so I'm guessing my liver is safe, and my kidneys seem to be working as advertised, too.

No, I think some freak viral pandemic will eventually get me.  I had (past tense) a super strong, aggressive immune system, which oddly enough caused problems of its own, so I'm now taking meds to slow it down.  Now I'll probably be attacked by a flock of wayward mosquitoes carrying some deadly virus, or stung by that herd of killer ants making their way up from Mexico.  (All together now...."BUILD...THAT...WALL!  BUILD...THAT...WALL!")  *snort*

Maybe those crazy birds from Asia will find me here in Dallas and dump a load of their infected poop on me.  I really have no idea, but with my luck, it will likely be something weird that turns me into fertilizer.

How about you?  Venture a guess?


Friday, December 8, 2017

You know what I want?...

What I want is really simple healthcare.  I pretty much have that with my Medicare and supplemental insurance, but most everyone below Medicare age has a royal mess on their hands.

Need an appendectomy?  This hospital will charge $8K, but that one across town will charge $32K.  What's that all about?  Can you shop around?  Not really, because doctors are not in-network on all insurance plans, and are not on-staff at all hospitals.  And each health insurance company covers certain things, but not all things.  Some things are covered this year, but not necessarily next year.  

Some things are covered by United Health Care, but not Aetna, or Anthem.  WTH?  Insurers determine AFTER the event if it was necessary, and may or may not pay.  But SURPRISE, you're still responsible for the bill.  And if they decide your doctor charged more than the "usual and customary" fee, you're responsible for that, too.  How the hell is a layman supposed to know these things?

Doctors go to school for decades it seems, and owe $$$$$$ after med school, yet walk on eggshells every day, afraid they'll be sued.  Most are if they practice long enough.  To defend themselves they put patients through test after test, bleeding us almost dry, to make sure they have every eventuality documented.  On and on and on.....

If I get sick, I want to go the the doctor and I want him/her to evaluate me and fix me.  Don't send me a bill, or a statement, and I don't want to hear from my insurance company, ever.  The Doc fixes, the insurer pays.  Period.  No arguing about if this falls into the covered or non-covered category.  I don't care about Tier 1 or Tier 2 medications, or "formularies".  I don't care how they build the car.  I just want to turn the key and have it start.

If they want to do it through the government, Medicare style, I don't care.  If they want to do it via private health insurance, I don't care.  I'll pay for it with higher taxes or higher premiums if necessary, but once I pay, I want no excuses.

Bundle it all, I'll cut one check, then that's it.  Life is too short to put up with all this bullshit. Is this asking too much?


Monday, December 4, 2017

Choose your poison

President Donald Trump, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Speaker Paul Ryan are in an all-out sprint.  They're scared shitless their Republican Party will lose control of one or both houses of Congress within a year.  Their wealthy benefactors....the deep pockets that fund their political careers....are going to be pissed beyond belief if they don't get what they paid for were promised. 

While polls say Democrats are not at all well liked, Republicans are even deeper in the hole.  A flip of just 2 Senate seats and a handful in the House of Representatives to the Democrats and the GOP leaders will be asking for more knuckle-dragging body guards.  They won't want to have to face Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Banks, Big Insurance, Big Ag, and all the others and swim with the sharks. 

By next summer the mid-term election campaigning will be in full swing, so if they're to deliver on their promises, they'll have to do it before then.  The GOP will be doing their damnedest to ram something through pronto, forget thoroughness or public hearings.  Committee members will get 5 minutes each to ask questions, then it's vote time. *Wham...Bam...SOLD...SOLD...SOLD*  And of course President Trump will sign whatever Congress puts in front of him because THEY are the ones who will vote on whether to impeach/convict him and ruin his Mother-Of-All ego trips.

What should we expect between now and then? A push to finalize a tax cut in the House that will please the GOP donors, another run at getting the government out of the health insurance equation, squashing Medicaid as much as possible (we have too many poor people, don'tcha know), and maybe even squeezing Medicare and Social Security dry, too. 

I'm guessing they have 8 months to make it all happen.  By August our politicians will all be back home, looking us in the eye and telling us how much they love us.  I think the Democrats will have a pretty good chance of winning one house of Congress, spoiling the Republican's party.  Further down the road in 2020, at the rate the GOP is digging its own grave, the Democrats just might gain control of all 3 branches of government.  Then it will be their turn to rape and pillage us and glad hand their special interests.

Another day in Washington.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Does the will of the voters matter anymore?

We like to tell ourselves that our elected representatives we send to Washington or to our state legislatures work in our best interest.  They have their finger on the pulse of their constituents, and if they want to get re-elected, they'll do what the majority of us want.  And if they don't, WE have the ability to send them packing at the next election. quaint.

All that may be textbook true, but it bears little resemblance to the real world that exists today.  Most of us are too busy struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent, or at the other extreme, out playing with all our expensive toys, to pay attention to what our representatives are doing for / to us.  I have many very educated friends who freely admit they don't watch the news because it's depressing.  When they vote, IF they vote, they just fall in line with the same old parties they voted for 10 or 20 or more years ago, no questions asked.

Do you question this?  Numerous polls said less than 20% of the American people were in favor of repealing ObamaCare without having something BETTER ready to replace it.  So what did the House of Representatives do?  They passed a bill that largely gutted the Affordable Care Act and replaced it with something that left millions more uninsured.  Then the Senate failed to pass their version by only ONE vote.  If they were truly concerned by "the will of the voters", all that drama would have been declared Dead On Arrival at the committee hearing level.

Today, by a two-to-one margin, numerous polls say we don't want the kind of tax reform Congress is on the verge of passing.  Every single analysis that has been done so far, by both liberal and conservative "think tanks", says the proposed plan is, long term, detrimental to the middle class.  Yet the odds are the tax cut plan now proposed will squeak through.

If our Congressmen and Senators truly gave a s__t about what their constituents wanted, they would listen to us more than the special interests.  But they simply lie and say they're doing all this for us.  They present numbers that affirm what they're selling, and ignore everything else, and we just nod and say, "Yep, sounds good to me 'ol buddy."  *Yuk yuk*

Of course, do read, do study the issues, be skeptical, and DO VOTE.  But honestly, don't look for much to change.  Enough of us are too busy having fun, or too busy just trying to survive, to pay attention, and that's what they're counting on.

All great empires throughout history have eventually fallen.  We'll be no exception, and now we know how it will happen. 

Carry on.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Is it just me or are we being suckered?

Can somebody PLEASE explain to me how giving a tax cut to (primarily) businesses and the wealthy will create new jobs? 

The argument the GOP seems to be putting forward is that businesses would LOVE to expand and hire more, but they just can't afford to.  But if they had a few hundred billion dollars more thanks to a tax cut, they'd hang out their "now hiring" shingle.

Consider this:  Southwest Airlines, headquartered right here in my back yard (Dallas), has bought back FOUR BILLION DOLLARS worth of their own stock in just the past two years, even after doubling their dividends.  They're swimming in cash, but can't find anywhere better to invest it than in their own company. Lucky them!

They could have taken that four billion dollars and bought another 30 Boeing 737's, and hired a corresponding number of pilots and flight attendants and mechanics, etc, AND PAID CASH FOR IT ALL, but they didn't.  Why?  Because they knew there wasn't enough demand to fill all those new seats without cutting prices to the point where there was no profit in it.  

I doubt many people making more than $500K a year, the ones who would benefit the most from a tax cut, are holding back taking a trip to Florida because they can't afford it.  But among those making $50K a year, a tax cut might indeed tempt them to jump on a Southwest jet and travel. 

The tax cut now being presented to us would only benefit the middle class for a couple of years, then they'd see their taxes go UP.  It seems to me that would dampen demand.  The "middle class" reference is just a tease, hoping it will pacify us until their bill is passed and signed, then they'll drop us like a hot potato.

Just increasing capacity will not create long term jobs. Once businesses realize they can't sell all they can produce, they'll start laying off all those new workers they just hired.  If the gubment truly wants to create jobs, why don't they take a few hundred billion dollars and start building new and repairing our older interstate highways, bridges, airports, etc?  That would create sustainable DEMAND for new heavy equipment, concrete, steel and more for years to come.  All those middle class people doing the work would then be able to buy more, thus creating a snowball effect.

Am I missing something?  I swear I was paying attention during my college Economics classes.  If someone can explain to me where I'm wrong, I'll certainly consider their argument.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My Thanksgiving memories

Do people actually eat like this on Thanksgiving?  Is this just some Rockwellian myth?

My mom was the sweetest, most wonderful person you'd ever hope to meet.  Kind, compassionate, friendly....I was fortunate to be able to call this wonderful lady my "Mom".  She had many talents, but cooking was NOT one of them.  I think her culinary goal was to just feed us something that would keep us alive until her next cooking attempt.  As bro and I made it to adulthood, I guess she was a success.  In her defense, she was never taught by her mom to cook because her mom never learned how to cook, either.  It seems my great grandparents were well off and had a live-in cook / housekeeper / nanny who handled all those plebeian chores.

I was grown and married before I ever knew Thanskgiving meals didn't come from Wyatt's cafeteria in a box.

The family story was that mom tried to cook our traditional Thanksgiving meal a couple of times before the rest of the family took a vote and asked her to just stop.  Instead they showed her a flyer that came in the mail advertising a complete Thanksgiving feast pre-cooked.  "Just call BR-549 and reserve yours now!"  

For a little more than 3-times what it would cost for her to buy the ingredients and cook it herself, mom could just drive to Wyatt's cafeteria and pay the nice lady a tidy sum and in exchange take home a "Bird In A Box", complete with all the trimmings.  Whoa!  Sometimes, just to mess with us, she'd bring home a "Honey Ham In A Box".  We never complained because, either way, it was better than her well-intentioned kitchen efforts.

Now here we are many Birds In A Box later, and tomorrow we're going to Kelly's sister's house for Thanksgiving.  She's a wonderful, if nontraditional, cook.  No Big Bird, dressing and all that. Nope, we're having a Mexican Thanksgiving meal.  We're taking avocados, tortillas, "crusty" bread, and a Tres Leche cake.  I'm sure it will be fantastic, but I'll confess, it just won't feel right sitting down to a fancy holiday meal that didn't come in a box.

Ah...the good 'ol days!  

Hope you have a great one.  :)


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Now you see it, now you don't. Now you see it....

So, whatdaya' think of our new middle class tax cut?  Slick, huh?

I'll make this short and simple because I know few of you are into this boring minutiae.  Unless your name is Rockefeller or D Trump or even WJ Clinton, after the initial bone they'll toss you, you're not going to benefit from the "middle class tax cut" the US Senate is now trying to ram through before their holiday recess.

If passed, everyone would receive a tax cut in 2019.  But after that the various provisions that benefit those generally making less than $75,000 begin to expire....they're NOT permanent....and by 2027 they'll see a tax INCREASE.  Only the provisions that are likely to benefit the upper income class, and businesses, will remain in place. 

Our politicians tell us that our businesses are not competitive with much of the rest of the world because our business tax rate is DRAMATICALLY higher than anywhere else.  That's a very deceptive truth.  Our tax RATE is indeed very high, but no business pays that rate.  After they take all the deductions the tax code allows them, the EFFECTIVE tax they pay....their taxable not much out of line at all.  A modest cut to close that remaining gap is indeed justified, but nothing like what they're trying to sell us.

President Trump's Chief Economic Adviser, Gary Cohn, formerly of Goldman Sachs, was caught off-guard at a recent CEO's conference when they admitted that only a few would take their tax savings, if Congress passes new tax cut legislation, and use it to increase their "capital investment".  In other words, grow their business and create new jobs.  Truth is, they're already enjoying record high profits.  They're cash-rich already!  This is why the stock market is at an all-time high.

So what exactly are businesses doing with their record profits?  Primarily increasing their dividends and buying back their own stock.  Example:  Last year Apple, GE, Pfizer, McDonalds, Gilead Science, Microsoft, Boeing, AIG, Express Scripts, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Oracle, Alphabet (Google), CVS Health, Disney, Wells Fargo, Visa, JP Morgan, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs collectively bought back $189 BILLION of their own stock.  Just 20 companies, in just one year. (Source: Standard & Poors)  

If these companies, or many thousands of others, had wanted to expand their businesses and create more jobs, they had more than enough cash available to do it.  We have no shortage of investment capital!

So what will it take to spur businesses to expand and hire?  DEMAND for their products / services. (Hello..."supply and demand".  Ever heard the term?)  If the middle class received the bulk of any tax cut, they would likely use it to buy a new TV, or a new laptop, or maybe even put it toward a new car or a new house.  When businesses see their products flying off the shelves, they'll expand and hire.  Until then, what's the point?  Unless they can SELL more of what they make, why make it?

Is this so hard to understand?  Bottom line, the promised "middle class tax cut" does virtually nothing for the middle class long term.  Provide REAL tax cuts for the working class and they'll buy more, giving business the incentive to grow in order to keep up with the new demand.

Please, send a short email to your Senators and tell them you're on to their slick shell game.