This is no victory

Dear News Media,
This is not a ‘victory’ for the Republicans. They passed a bill and they have majorities in both the House and Senate. This should be routine.
 
To get this passed, they had to vote before reading the bill, rush it through, avoid hearings, add a bunch of special-interest provisions and systemically vote down any amendment proposed by the democrats [while claiming the act of rejecting everyone without discussion and without hearings was including them] is not ‘normal order’ for passing major legislation. So are you celebrating the victory because they abolished all best practices of governing?
 
Or a victory would have been to do what they promised to do – produce a bill that would cut taxes for the middle class. But this bill does anything but that – hurting many and helping only those who do not need more help.
 
Or a victory would have been to finally tackle the debt that they care so much about and was why you can’t let democrats be involved in governing at all [preferring accused child molesters]. But it adds $1.4 trillion to the debt – $600 million of that from one provision that helps hedgefund managers who live in the Virgin Islands avoid even more taxes.
 
Or they could have tackled the growing income inequality – but this bill makes it worse.
 
Or they could have provided more breaks to those that are in retirement and facing challenging economic times living off retirement, social security and medicare. But this bill will trigger reductions in Medicare [with some cancer doctors coming forward and indicating that this bill will trigger cuts that will remove care from current patients.
 
Or they could have restored funding for children’s health – cut previously – but they left that out and declared how they just ‘can’t afford that’.
 
No this is a victory for the rich donors and for the wealthy – and the incumbents who hope to avoid a primary challenge.
It is a defeat for decency, ethics, and democracy.
So, Dear New Media, do not reward them by calling this a ‘victory’.  Successful thieves are not ‘victorious’ – they only managed to complete another theft.  They hurt their victims and eventually – hopefully – will be held accountable.
And did you forget all your reporting on how bad this will be for most people?  And you call this a victory?  Please!  Resist the BS.  You know better.
We know better.
Go back and do your job and read the details of this bill and explain just how many people will have their lives hurt right away and how many will be hurt by the cuts this bill requires and how many will be hurt in a few years.
And then do your job and start tallying the PERSONAL gain of these elected / appointed officials …. and make it clear that the president LIED when he said this would hurt HIM.  It won’t hurt most republican leaders either.

Why take a pay cut?

Ever been in debt?
 
Ever want something you cannot afford?
 
Ever worry about how to cover your current bills – like mortgages – from your paycheck?
 
Is the first thing you think of to reduce how much money you make?
 
Do you go out and get a job that pays less?
 
Do you cut back on the number of hours you work and make less money?
 
Well, our country does not need to take in less money because it is currently in debt, has trouble meeting its current obligations and has many things it would like to spend money on.
 
And yet there is always talk about reducing taxes….
 
Which will reduce the amount of money our country has to do what it needs to do, to do what it wants to do, to do what it must do and to pay off its already existing debt.
 
Making the way it takes in revenue fairer? Especially in a way that might drive demand for goods and services made in the USA.
 
Now when people hear ‘tax reform’ or ‘tax cut’, they THINK ‘More for me – YEA. I think I can do better things with it than the government.’
 
But each of us can’t build a road, or fix a bridge, or fund the military, or run elections or keep our National Parks open, or a million things we rly on the government to do. The things it should be doing according to the Constitution.
 
And the powerful corporations already keep extra money [that is why they have overseas accounts] ore return profits to investors and they haven’t felt like increasing pay and benefits for workers [in fact they keep looking for ways to reduce expense related to workers] or producing jobs.
 
And the top 1% already have had their wealth increased at a faster rate than any other part of our economy and they haven’t been creating jobs.  And most haven’t used their money to help others or to make the world a better place.  They have used their money to get richer.
So why cut taxes at all?  Fundamentally it makes our country even less able to function for most of us.
Simplify the process of filing taxes?  Good idea – but that isn’t what they are doing.
Close loopholes that allow powerful people and corporations and have them pay into funding our country at the same % of their income or profits that average people do?  Good idea.
Put incentives that reduce taxes when wages are increased or good-paying jobs are created?  Good idea.
But the country does not need to reduce its income and hope good things will happen.
You KNOW it doesn’t work for your home economy.  It won’t work for our country.

Thank you for proving why ‘trickle down’ doesn’t work!

The news is full of reports on the abuse of taxpayer trust as administration officials follow the example of the president and opt for extravagant travel options at the expense of the taxpayers and/or to personally benefit their own interests for comfort, luxury and, in the case of the president, personal business gain.

Why now?  Because the checks and balances that were in place in previous administrations where such requests would have been challenged before the expenses were incurred are no longer in place.  The people in this administration, starting with the president, simply have no issue with making taxpayers foot the bill for their luxurious habits.  They don’t seen any issues with this behavior.

What better example could be produced for the consequences of the proposed tax cuts for powerful corporations and the already well off?

The proposed tax cuts promise to help the overall economy and benefit those with less.

But there are no regulations / obligations in the law that require the behaviors that will benefit the country or will produce economic benefits for those who need it most.

We are relying on individual choices to do the right thing.

And we just saw what happens when rich, powerful men are given the option of unregulated access to money – they use it for personal comfort and benefit with no thought for the impact on others.

Remove the estate tax and the wealthy can take care of their own without being ‘troubled’ with paying taxes into the country that enabled their good fortune.  No jobs created, nothing given back, no sense of doing what is best for the country – only what would be best for the family.  This benefits no one but the family that avoids taxes and feels entitled to benefit from  the country has to offer without paying anything close to their fair share.

The same is true of any tax cuts on their income – or the removal of that pesky ACA  Additional Medicare Tax that required the wealthy to pay into Medicare at a rate close to that paid by the least of us.

And corporations, led by the wealthy and powerful, will be allowed to keep more of their revenue.  There is a possibility that jobs could be created – but why when they could opt to keep the profits for themselves?   Corporations already have much wealth and are not creating jobs because they don’t have to – most people can’t purchase enough to drive demand.  The tax breaks have no requirement to produce jobs – so they won’t.

And that small business tax relief includes reducing tax rates for the ‘small businesses’ that will never create jobs because they are merely legal entities to protect individuals from risk.  No matter what the level of income – no jobs will be created.  These companies are identified separately so they could be exempted from the breaks but are not – because the wealthy use this status to minimize their tax rates.  The tax reductions have no requirement to produce jobs and no regulations to avoid letting the wealthy pay a lower rate of taxes overall without giving anything back to help others.

Unless we force the already well off to do ‘the right thing’ and contribute back to the country and the people that enable their wealth, we have seen proof that they will take every advantage they are given to enrichen themselves.

And the president who claims that his tax changes will not help him personally is willing to lie to get the benefits that help only himself and his family.

This is what trickle down looks like – and it has produced the income inequality and wage stagnation that the current economy is threatened by.

We have the proof in real visible examples of what happens when you give the wealthy and powerful the option to take advantage of others while enriching themselves.

And too many choose to help themselves.

So the tax cuts that will be used to then reduce public services that help all of us are a double whammy.  They help the rich AND create a situation that will be used to take services AWAY from the majority of people who need the help.

We don’t need to be economists – we can see this play out right before our eyes.

So Thank you for demonstrating the case against your policies better than we could.

And now excuse us as we fight like hell to stop you from doing this harm to our country and our fellow Americans – you know, that ‘We, the People’ you are SUPPOSED to be representing?

 

 

Right or Responsibility – that is the question

There are those that believe that health care is a responsibility – and that if you can’t pay for care that is your fault and you don’t deserve it.
There are those that believe that health care is a right – and that the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness along with equality for all ground that belief.
This is the Value-fight that is underway.
But it is disguised.
It is disguised as Republicans against Democrats, liberals against conservatives, young against old, urban against rural, winners vs. losers.
But the REAL disagreement is on the fundamental principle that guides policies and actions –
Right or Responsibility?
If you believe it is a right, then all actions proposed to gut [aka repeal and replace or just repeal and blame] the Patient Protection and Affordability Act are unacceptable. The compromise being asked is to give up the belief that health care is a right.
But if you believe it is a responsibility – then all government programs providing assistance are wrong and need to be eliminated.
Paul Ryan and many other Republican leaders believe that it is a responsibility.  Actually Ryan also believes that government should only help the already well off – and that makes it worse.  But the ‘get government out of health care’ is really part of the move to get all social programs out of our laws.
Those who oppose this notion – some are Republicans – believe that health care at some level is a right.  How to make this work is a matter of discussion.  But to remove all support programs is not aligning with our values based on rights.
Most Americans believe health care is a right.  Most sick people believe health care is a right.
Recent published discussions act like the current law is ‘failing’ and only repeal will save us.  But that is crap.  The current law is constantly undermined because those in the majority want all health care programs gone.
So those who are not worried about Medicaid yet expect Medicare to be there for them are fooling themselves.  Don’t be surprised when you see aspects of weakening Medicare become part of tax reform.  This is the plan – and Social Security is next.
So where do you fall?
Don’t worry about how to get this done – American’s can collaborate on innovative solutions if they are aligned around a purpose.
Right or Responsibility?
Because if it is a right, it is a right.  It isn’t a right for some, or sometimes, or in some situations or some of the time.  It is a right.
Choose wisely
Because the political fight is on.  Like it or not, the current one-party controlled government is trying all they can do to take out the law known as ‘Obamacare’ and Medicare cuts and Social Security are next.
And only lots and lots of people coming forward, demanding this be personal and demanding that elected officials accept that health care is a right and that they need to figure out how to make it work – not remove it have stopped the law from being removed.
And that is only for now.
Because the leaders speak and act like those that did not vote for them do not count.  But more voted against them or not at all by lots then supported them.
This isn’t about winning or losing.
It is about our rights.
And rights that are not fought for are not retained because they are not valued.
Listen to the comments – not along party lines – but from the Right vs. Responsibility lens.
Ask your representatives which it is for them.  Take all stalls or non-answers as Responsibility.  If you believe it is a right, you don’t hesitate.
Where do  you stand?

Dear Republican Senator

You are not my senator – but you swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and this country.  I ask you to consider taking one brave step to uphold that oath.
I am asking you to change your party affiliation to Independent and caucus with the Democrats.
As a citizen, I accept that our last election included an attack by Russia that provided access to hacked content that was used by this administration to win votes. Can anyone say that the wiki-leaks disclosures fueled by Russia – had no effect? I observe a set of interactions between the Trump campaign and Russia that were cause for alarm on their own but that are fueled by continued actions with respect to Russia that appear to be rewarding them for their actions.

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If the USA is up for sale, maybe ‘We, the People’ need to buy it….

We heard a lot about ‘pay to play’ during the campaign.

Only then it was a bad thing and it was clearly what you would get if you voted for Hillary.  This claim was pumped up by the leaks and fake news that we now know was fueled by Russia.  And by her opponent – who is now president.

Personally profiting from your office – that used to be a bad thing.

But now?  If you watch from afar, access and influence are for sale.

Read more

Profit and Health Care don’t mix

“For-profit” – means you maximize profits and stakeholder value.  It means it is about the money.

You charge the most you can.  And you keep profits high.

Less regulation – you don’t lower costs, you make more profits.

More customers – you don’t lower costs, you make more profits.

Competition – well, what or who are you really competing with?

Doctors – supply is limited.  Why should the good ones reduce their costs?  They don’t have to.  You would only lower your prices if you had excess capacity.  But you don’t.   So you won’t.

Hospitals – A lot of fixed overhead required.  So it costs a certain amount to run a hospital.  If fewer people can afford to pay, and you have to write off bad debt, you need to make it up somewhere – so you might raise prices.  But there is no reason to lower prices.

Insurance companies – you would only lower costs if you can keep a decent profit margin and gain more profitable business.  CBO said the premiums would be lower BECAUSE MORE SICK PEOPLE WILL HAVE TO GO WITHOUT COVERAGE.  Since people who buy coverage will use less of it, you could charge less.  But with the ACA repealed,  you don’t have to.  There is no motivation for insurance companies to lower prices when the risk mix if healthier.  Why should they?  If people are paying the rates they charge now, and profit margins are thin, why not keep the profits if the costs of those that you insure go down?  That is what insurance companies did BEFORE ACA.

A plausible example – A drug company makes good profits on a patented drug that, once prescribed, is taken for the rest of the person’s life.  They can charge whatever the market will tolerate – and if the alternative is death or suffering, people will pay.  The company is working on an enhancement and will get it nearly ready for approval.  They will delay release until the patent on their current drug is ready to expire.  That way, they can keep a monopoly on the drug and closeout competition.  They notice a medical device start up has a device that would cure the condition and eliminate the need for their drug.  While the device is being approved, the drug company buys the start-up.  They continue until the patent is in place.  Then the drug company puts release on hold.  The ‘forever’ drugs are remain profitable.  The device never makes it to market.

The Opioid challenge is fueled by routine prescribing of Opioid’s for pain despite the risk of addiction.  Alternatives are available.  But drug companies have created a protocol of Opoids being routinely provided for possible pain – not just real pain.  What motivation is there to stop this practice in a for-profit model?   Opioid addiction is bad for people – but not for the companies that profit from it.

THAT is for-profit health care.

What if the focus was on caring for everyone?  What if the incentives shifted from profit to quality of care and quality of life?

You could run research centers that focus on finding cures.

You could run rural health centers focused on providing care.

You could build out mobile health care models for handling the homeless.

You could ensure that the focus was on prevention and invest in public school health education on lifestyle choices that impact health.

You could develop support systems for people who require care assistance on a prolonged basis.

And the profit margins can be used to expand the capacity to care for people.

This could all be possible…..

If you believed in providing health care for all.

If you understand that no one wants the cheapest care if it isn’t the best care.

If you cared about people instead of profits or corporations.

It’s Simple – why shouldn’t the top 2% pay into Medicare?

Form 8960 – did you have to fill this out when you did your taxes?

Probably not.  This form details the Net Investment Income tax added as part of the ACA.  For the 1st time, this applied a tax to Net Investment Income that would go toward Medicare.

Why is this important?  Because many high-wage income earners do not earn income through self-employed or payroll-based formats.  That means their income is not subject to payroll taxes.  And Payroll taxes are how most of us fund Social Security and Medicare.

But what if you earn all your money through a trust fund or through investments?

Well before the ACA you didn’t have to pay into Medicare while you were working – AND you got the benefits of Medicare including the premium cap that sets a maximum limit on the premiums paid.  That premium cap means the more you make, the lower % of your income is paid into Medicare Premium.

Sounds like a win-win, right?  For those in the top 2%, it sure is. Now many could have avoided this tax by not taking their income – or putting off transactions that might trigger income just to avoid the taxes.

But some people do still earn a lot through payroll taxes, right?  Well the Additional Medicare Tax had those people who earn more than 97% of us pay some additional tax into Medicare as well.  [They had to complete Form 8959]

When the ACA is repealed and replaced, these two taxes go away.

And Medicare loses funding.  And it is weakened.  And it will be pronounced to be in a death spiral and the proposal will be whipped out that privatizes Medicare making it a voucher system helping the rich even more – and hurting the very people Medicare was created to protect.

WHY IS THIS OK?

Why is it fair to have the top 2% pay LESS for public services?

Why can’t we  have a simple law that puts these taxes in place to fund Medicare and separate this from the mucking about with the ACA?

And let all of our elected officials go on the record as to why they think the top 2% should benefit from Medicare without paying anything into it while working:?

Better yet, how about asking every one of them to disclose how they will personally benefit from the elimination of this tax….

A dangerous lie… spread by FB

I often see a FB share that says ‘ college doesn’t make you smarter’ and then mentions something about ‘common sense.

I disagree . . . going to college or getting more education doesn’t make you better than anyone else – it can make you smarter.

Common sense – that knowledge that you can figure out intuitively – is important.  But it isn’t very competitive.  Read more

Take the profit out of war!

Yes – I mean it.  Let’s take the profit out of war.
I believe that making war pay is the worst policy we have ever adopted.
Instead, war should cost more than lives- it should hurt people’s pocket book – especially the wealthy.
Infrastructure investment #1 – Le’ts Re-patriotize all weaponry and soldiering and military roles for offense or defense and the research that goes along with it.
If you are building weapons for the government, you must do so with government employees
If you are relying on people to fight wars or hold military roles, they nust be government employees
If you sell any weapons to any other country, you add a 30% margin that is contributed directly to funding for military and veteran health care
If you are conducting research for new military options – defense or offense, you must do so with government employees. And if you invent anything as a result of this action, the patents are issued to an entity that is not-for-profit and that has all revenue go toward funding disaster relief.
When not at war, government workers who are trained to hold roles required by the military are available to support other infrastructure projects – especially those that build out interstate capabilities.
Because our defense is based on our ability to effective, safely and rapidly communicate to all citizens, the government workers who provide military support will also build out broadband for all and deed the management of this to United States Post Office to enable secure trustworthy digital identities. Theft of your government ID is a federal crime and holds harsh penalties both criminal and financial. Funds earned from prosecuting identity theft of government IDs are used to help fund the infrastructure and services that support them.
All cyber security defense and offense is done by government employees. Again, any inventions that come from these activities are owned by a not-for–profit entity that is committed to allocate all fees earned to pay for additoinal research.

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My Stand – do you have one?

I would like all of my right wing, conservative friends and family members to read the following. It explains my beliefs in a nutshell. I borrowed this from my buddy Barry Pearl, who borrowed this from another friend. I recently found out that the original author is LORI GALLAGHER WITT.This explains my views in an even tempered, logical way. Read more

Almost called in to a talk show….

On the drive home, I almost called in to a talk show which was asking democrats to take a stand on Bill Clinton’s past actions as a requirement to take a stand on Roy Moore now.
I didn’t call in but it stuck with me through a restless night.  The rest of this blog post reflects how I am settled about this issue.
In my opinion – it is past time to draw a line in the sand and reset the behavior rules for our leaders [those we choose to follow and those we might be forced to follow and those that set the example for who we are as a nation]
We need to stop excusing bad behavior toward those with less power, where the action reflects someone acting without regard to the ability of the other to provide consent – either due to their age, their mental state at the time or due to the position of power or authority that the person has over them.
Below I share where I ended up for myself.

Find your own stand – share your own journey on this issue.  We need to talk about this more and find our center again.

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Rational Gun Policies, Please!

As folks think about rational controls on guns, I would suggest that we need to set a threshold of the capacity of a gun that is appropriate for citizen ownership in terms of firepower capacity within a period of time.
This is instead of banning a specific type of gun or add-on – leaving the loophole for an equivalent to be produced with a different name.
We should be able to agree on a certain level of firepower for a specific duration of time and put that into the regulations.  Personal ownership does not include military-grade weapons and ammunition.
Putting the focus on the capabilities of the weapon is more sustainable and purposeful.
It can also be used to address the emergence of Lego-like guns which can be deconstructed into parts and combined with other parts to form weapons that would not be legal if they were sold in their modified configuration.  If the part has the capacity to be turned into an ‘illegal’ weapon, then they part is not legal.
I also propose that if we want to retain the freedom to arm citizens it comes with the right of the government to track all gun ownership and ammunition purchases.
Have manufacturers be obligated to mark all guns and ammo with a mark that can be traced back to the manufacturer and use this to track all sales. Unaccounted for weapons and ammunition remain registered to the manufacturer. Therefore untracked / registered sales place some liability back on the manufacturers who enable unchecked channels of sales.
The tracking of the ammo and weaponry will be enabled by a background check for all purchases regardless of purchase channel. Again if the purchase does not follow the background check procedure, the previous owner remains accountable for the subsequent actions of the weapons and ammo.
There was a lot of questions as to why no one knew the Vega shooter had all those weapons – well we don’t allow them to be tracked centrally and not all purchases are tracked.
And we should have each gun owner hold the responsibility to have previously completed some level of formal gun safety training. This can be completed and registered with the entity that is completing background checks. If there hasn’t been any safety training, the sale transaction waits until it has been completed.
The above gets to the heart of the issue – owning guns carries a responsibility.
If I have to provide all of the information it would take to complete the above to buy over-the-counter medicine because it could be used to produce different drugs, there should be NO issue with collecting this type of registry for guns and weapons.
And if there is so much interest in interfering with a women’s access to legal health procedures, there should be no issue with introducing checks and balances for the purchase of legal weapon and ammo.

Tax Reform – what to watch for

#1 – Does it remove / reduce the Estate Tax?

If it does, it is a bad deal.  The purpose of the Estate Tax is to prevent the wealthy from sheltering their wealth, passing it on from generation to generation free from taxes.  Free market best practices approve of this type of tax because the ability of the powerful to produce generations of family wealth thwarts competition.

#2 – Does it reduce taxes on ‘small businesses’ that either have only 1 employee or that by their nature will never create more jobs?

The vast majority of small businesses are set up for professionals to avoid taxes.  If their taxes are reduced, no jobs will ever be created.  If this deal reduces the taxes on this type of business, that break largely goes to the wealthy and won’t create one single new job.

#3 – Does it remove the additional Medicare tax that was part of the ACA?

If it does, passing the bill will cripple Medicare.  Part of the ACA had those that earned income outside of payroll or self-employed income pay into Medicare often for the 1st time.  This loophole being closed not only strengthened Medicare it removed the entitlement that the top 1% received by getting Medicare benefits without paying a % of their income as the rest of us do.

#4 – Does it mess with the deductions for Health Care Insurance, claiming this is a major ‘loophole’?

If it does, it will dramatically increase the cost of employer-supplied health care insurance – impacting the bottom 99% the most.  It increases the cost of providing health care because it subjects the money used to pay health premiums to social security and
Medicare taxes.  This means you will have to spend more to get the SAME health insurance you have now.

#5 – Does it lower / reduce the tax rate on the top income level?

If it does, it will reduce the ability of our government to fund government services and pay its bills – including any current debt.  It also will NOT create jobs or increase consumer demand in any way that will produce jobs.  Once you earn a certain level of income, you are already buying each year what you need.  If you get more money, you are not likely to spend it.

#6 – Does it leave the lowest tax rate unchanged?

IF it does, it misses the largest opportunity to stimulate economic growth. Any tax applied to people who make below the poverty level reduces their capacity to fund their survival.  If there is no tax relief for those at the bottom of the tax rates, then the opportunity to really impact economic growth is lost.  So is the opportunity to reduce demand for government programs.