Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Shrinking Middle Class in America

The middle class in the United States has been shrinking because it has been under attack from both ends for over 50 years. Politicians have figured out a very effective election formula.
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  1. Grant special favors and give payouts to mega-wealthy donors in exchange for money to run election campaigns.
  2. Grant special favors and give payouts to poor people in order to “look compassionate” and buy votes.
  3. Get the money for all of these favors and payouts by taxing the middle class and rendering their savings useless through deficit spending.
A middle class family now pays over 1/2 of their income in taxes and gets little to no value for it. Fifty years ago, taxes like that would have caused a riot. The middle class family could afford to buy just about everything the government provides if the government wasn’t always taking their money. Deficit spending hits the middle class disproportionately. The poor don’t have the extra money to save so don’t notice the effects as sharply, unless the price of food or gasoline is increasing. The rich make money from deficit spending. the middle class have some money to save, but what is the use? It used to be a middle class family could put $1000 in a jar or a bank and have something 10 years later. Now, that $1000 doesn’t buy much ten years later. The middle class family that saved $1000, or $10,000 or even $100,000 sees their net worth disintegrate over an average lifetime. A lifetime ago, a millionaire in the United States could afford just about anything they could desire. Now a millionaire cannot afford to live a middle class lifestyle for more than a few years.
So, the middle class worker who has seen their salary go up 30% but their after tax income rise little and the buying power of that money drop feels uneasy. The middle class person who saved their whole life to have $200,000 in a 401K, only to realize that is not enough money to live for 20 years, feels uneasy. The middle class person who just had their health insurance cancelled because of the ACA feels uneasy. Most middle class people don’t understand all of the details of this, they just feel it in their gut.
Real World: When I was young, if I had $100,000, I could have bought the house I live in currently (it sold for $55,000 in 1977), the car I drive (MSRP $3,371 in 1978) and had enough money left over to live for 20 years (at $3000/year for food and utilities). Now, for $100,000, I couldn’t buy the vehicle and have enough money left over for a year. The MSRP on the vehicle ($45,765) is about the price of an average house in 1977 ($49,000).

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Problem With Bernie Sanders

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Bernie Sanders “socialist” ideas are bad because they are “Magic Unicorn” ideas. he promises all of these wonderful things “for free.” There is no such thing as free. When pressed on how he will pay for them, he is as slippery as ice and never gives an answer beyond, “make the other bad people pay for it.”
Bernie talks about “Medicare for all.” The closest country to Medicare for all is France.
Current US Medicare is an 80/20 plan, for which Americans pay about 3% for most of their lives in order to receive coverage at age 65.
Current French insurance is a 50/50 plan for which French workers pay around 21%.
The French receive significantly less health care in many areas than that to which people in the US are accustomed. Yes, the French system offers good basic care. However, it does not offer cutting edge, on demand care that many US consumers demand. When I talk with people from Canada and Europe, they have trouble even understanding the concept of on demand care. They think it is natural that somebody with a minor complaint waits and people with life threatening conditions get priority. They have no concept that someone with a runny nose wants care just as quickly as someone with a heart attack.
To create an on-demand 50/50 plan will require people in the US to pay a 25% payroll tax, maybe more.
To create a “Medicare for all” 80/20 plan will require a payroll tax of around 1/3 from each person.
If he said, “I propose Medicare for all, but realize that it will cost everyone 1/3 of their paycheck. However, everyone in the US will receive top healthcare.” I could support that point of view. Even if he said, “We can have a system like France, but it will cost you 25% of your paycheck,” he could at least be considered honorable.
Instead, Sanders says, “I propose Medicare for all and it will cost almost nothing.” This is what makes Bernie Sanders a lying scum of the worst kind. Or maybe he is just senile.
Here are the actual figures from Medicare for All: Leaving No One Behind - Bernie Sanders— “Under this plan, a family of four earning $50,000 would pay just $466 per year to the single-payer program” Only $466, compared to the French, which pay $10,500 on $50,000 (or Euros), or the Medicare for all figure, which would be $16,500 per year. Currently that $50,000/yr. family pays $1500/year to receive Medicare 40 years later.
How can Bernie cover someone for $466 now, when it is difficult to cover them when they pay $1500 for 40 years before the system has to pay a cent. The answer from mathematics is that he can’t. He is lying through his teeth.
So, as you can see from the “Medicare for all” sample, Sanders is talking about people getting things for nothing. “Magic Unicorns” will provide government services for everyone. If Bernie Sanders proposed a system like France or Germany, we could discuss it. It is hard to have a rational discussion with someone who is promising magical unicorns.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Conservative View of Political Parties

Should we get rid of parties? No, the people have the right to assemble into groups in the United States.
Should we get rid of the illegal and unconstitutional system that the Dem/Reps use to control for whom people vote? Definitely.
Remember how many news stories and memes there were about “You can write in Bernie,” or “Maybe the Republicans will run someone else,” or “Maybe another Independent candidate will enter the race,” that were published during the 2016 election. That shows that most people in the United States, including those "experts" who are supposed to know in the media, do not realize that all of those options were impossible under the current legal structure. A group of wealthy, powerful Republicans looked into running an Independent candidate for president in 2016 and concluded that it was not legally allowed.
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People should know that, especially since the relative success of Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura, thousands of laws have been passed to make it difficult or impossible for anyone who is not the choice of the Republican and Democratic Party to run for office. These laws make it especially difficult at the local level, partially because federal courts are less likely to meddle in local law and partially because the Democrats and Republicans know that new parties would be more successful if they were able to start locally, so make ballot status impossible at that level.

Conservatives should support reasonable ballot laws that apply to all candidates the same.  There should not be a reason that people in the United States do not have at least six to eight choices each time they vote.  This change, more than any other, will break the grip of special interests on politics and make politicians responsible to the best interests of the voters.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Conscious Conservativism Loses as Senator Flake Retires

I am sad to see Senator Jeff Flake go. Neither Trump, nor the person running against Flake in the primary, Kelli Ward, is a conservative. They are both populists. Ward expresses some views that are traditionally conservative and some that are very liberal, depending on what she thinks will get peoples’ attention. I can’t think of any conservative view that I have heard Trump express.
I didn’t agree with Flake on everything, but can say that he was a conservative most of the time and appeared to be trying to do what he thought was best for the United States.

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Goodbye Jeff Flake

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Why Congress Does Not Simplify the Tax Code

The problem is that there are two competing goals for the tax code. The first goal for the tax code is to raise revenue to operate the government. The second goal is to influence the behavior of citizens. This goes back to one of the first major taxes in the United States, a tax on whiskey Whiskey Rebellion . Alexander Hamilton felt the tax was a way to raise revenue from the unseemly behavior of drinking whiskey.
Congress is reticent to give up any power or control over the people. That is why people get a tax deduction for doing one behavior and a tax penalty for doing another. These objectives sometimes fight each other. For example, you get a deduction for installing alternative energy like solar or wind power only to find another government agency charges a “grid fee” for not using as much electricity from the utility company.
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Those that see the tax code solely as a means of raising revenue want the code to be as simple as possible. This makes taxes easy to collect and makes cheating on taxes more difficult.
Those who want to accomplish various other goals with the tax code, such “redistribution of wealth,” “social justice,” “supporting clean energy,” “making home ownership affordable,” “supporting working families,” “making US companies more competitive,” or whatever goal, need a complicated tax code to accomplish those goals. Of course, there are also the more unsavory goals, such as rewarding constituents and campaign donors through tax code changes.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Conscious Conservative Record of Civil Rights Feats

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Conservative President Calvin Coolidge believed education was the key. He supported Howard University and integration of African Americans into all areas of military and public service. President Calvin Coolidge: Civil Rights Pioneer

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Conservative Senator Robert Taft worked with civil rights groups to undo discriminatory laws passed under Democratic Party presidents, especially FDR. He proposed a fair employment bill, which liberal Democrats were unfortunately able to block.

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Senator Barry Goldwater, who has been called “Mr. Conservative,” fought against segregation in all forms in the military and in his home state of Arizona. This includes de-segregating his chain of department stores. Here is an except from an article in The New Yorker Magazine.

“Goldwater was not a segregationist, nor was he any kind of racist. He was, in fact, a lifelong opponent of racial discrimination. At the beginning of his political career, as a city councilman, he had led the fight to end segregation in the Phoenix public schools; his first staff assistant when he went to the Senate, as Perlstein tells us, was a black woman; he was a member of the N.A.A.C.P.”— He Knew He Was Right

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Do We Need More Taxes?

   Doesn’t extra tax money go to programs that rebuild infrastructure, invest in future prosperity like education and research, provide opportunities for people to escape poor circumstances, and other things that benefit us all? 
That would be wonderful if that was how it worked. In reality, most of the money goes to pay government workers. After that, much of it goes to reward either the voters that support those in power or the donors to their campaigns. Rebuilding infrastructure becomes awarding an overpriced contract to a friend or family member of a legislator to build an unnecessary project. Money for education and research goes to further political gain. The opportunities to help the poor, with the SNAP and WIC program being excellent examples, actually funnel money to large business interests with armies of lobbyists.
Government spending almost always revolves around funding for political expediency and power gain than actual need. Politicians are adept at shifting the focus away from themselves with side issues like, “We must help the poor,” and “If only the rich were paying their fair share.”

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Main Problem With Government Funded Healthcare

Should Taxpayers Pay?
The largest problem with using the government to fund healthcare is defining what products and services equal “healthcare.” Does it include exotic herbs? Rhinoplasty? Chiropractic and Naturopathic medicine? Gym memberships? Faith healing? Nutritional counseling? Personal Training?
If somebody has a sore back, does it include only a trip to a doctor and an opioid prescription or the latest in laser back surgery? Does it include two years of physical therapy with a back specialist or Chiropractor?
Each of these decisions and millions more are why politicians have actually avoided the issue of health care in the United States. Both the ACA and the AHCA involve only for how much health insurance the government should pay.
Even if there were no business interests involved, some constituents would want lawmakers to make what they define as healthcare more affordable. There can be as many definitions as to what constitutes healthcare as there are voters. For example, some don’t consider breast augmentation as medically necessary, some consider it “psychologically necessary.” It could cost taxpayers $1 Trillion or more over a ten year period if government decides to pick up the tab for breast augmentation.

That is why it is best to have consumers pay for their own health care.  Some consumers may opt for a trip to the doctor and some may prefer a trip to the herbalist.  Without government interference, market forces will decide how much each of these services will cost.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

How Do We Make Health Care Affordable?

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We have examined some of the difficulties of single payer healthcare.  For some reason ( I would guess lobbyists) both the proposals of the Democratic (ACA aka Obamacare) and the Republican (AHCA) have nothing to do with healthcare costs.  They both focus on regulating insurance and coverage.  So how do we make health care affordable to the largest number of people?  There are many ways, but lets talk about the few that would have the largest effect in the quickest fashion.

1.  Get rid of the American Medical Association (AMA monopoly).  In the United States, a myriad of laws create an unnecessary system where access to health care and medication is controlled by people licensed as "medical doctors."  There are plenty of other health providers, including nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, midwives and nutritionists who can take care of many health needs less expensively than doctors.  For example, in some areas nurse practitioners conduct sports and pre-employment physicals at 1/10 the cost of using a medical doctor.  Over the counter medications from a pharmacy are usually much less expensive than prescription medication.

2.  Increase price transparency.  There are two major problems with the pricing of medical services.  The first is that they are not published.  It is almost impossible to determine the cost of a procedure before it is performed.  Costs vary greatly from provider to provider and patient to patient.  The other problem is the lack of advanced agreement on price.  Health care is the only industry in which people pay at the time of service, only to receive a bill for hundreds or thousands more several weeks or months later.  Imagine eating a meal at a restaurant, then receiving a bill for $5,000 six months later.  Isn't that insane?  Yet it happens often with medical care.

3.  Abolish government mandated coverage.  Many people may remember when insurance did not cover pregnancy.  Men, children, women over fifty and others who did not plan on getting pregnant did not have pregnancy coverage.  Women of child bearing age could buy pregnancy coverage as a rider for about $30 a month.  Now, everybody has the cost of pregnancy included in their coverage, whether they will ever need it or not.  Many women bought such coverage, some didn't and some used a midwife. There are now dozens of these things which are mandatory.  Since insurance also usually covers preventative care at the medical level, access to care goes through expensive medical doctors rather than less expensive health professionals.  Because of the mandates, a select group of people pay slightly less for coverage of those conditions.  However, overall they pay much more because they are paying for coverage which they don't need.

4.  Insurance coverage for critical, not routine care.  By mandating that insurance companies cover routine visits to the physician and screenings, many parts of the market are distorted.  People go to the physician rather than a less expensive alternative.  People do not know the true price of seeing a physician, so they do not shop for a lower price.  Physicians can charge horribly distorted fees, because their patients are not the ones paying and won't complain.  Insurance rates rise exponentially as people who would not pay full price out of pocket to see a doctor are willing to pay the smaller co-pay. Premiums for insurance that would to cover all serious conditions and prevent people from going bankrupt would cost almost nothing compared to the current structure of insurance which covers all sorts of procedures, needed or not.

These are just a few of the measures that would have a great impact.  There are other measures, such as dealing with the cost of medical education and student loans.  However, these are the issues that Congress should be debating rather than regulating insurance coverage.  The issue is to lower the cost of health care, not create a government bureaucracy to insure payment of higher costs.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Why Not Single Payer Healthcare?

Do you really want healthcare like single payer telephone?
Many people in the United States are old enough to remember that prior to the 1980s we had single payer phone service in the United States. Instead of purchasing your own telephone, you were required to rent a phone from the phone company. If you lived in an area where you were allowed to have more than one phone, the cost was often prohibitive to all but the wealthy.  Having a house with two phones was very rare and almost nobody had more than one phone number.  Calls were charged by time and zone called.  Talking to a friend down the street for 10 minutes could cost $5.00 for a "long distance" charge if they happened to live across the zone line. Businesses paid the equivalent of $400/month in today’s dollars so that they could call or be called by everyone in the city without the added "long distance" charge. Receiving a new telephone could take months and people had to stay home for a day or two waiting for a phone technician to arrive. Technological advances that improved the customer experience were stymied.

The best case scenario is that single payer healthcare in the United States would work much like single payer phone service. The worst case scenario is that single payer healthcare would work like current healthcare in systems like the Veteran’s Administration or the Indian Health Services.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Myth of Equal Opportunity

The idea of equal opportunity is in many ways a myth. In ways we are all the same, however we also all have our differences as human beings. Some are taller, faster, smarter, better looking, whatever. The three hundred pound athlete has a better chance to become a Professional Football Player, the 100 pound person has a better chance to become a Jockey. Should we give the tall child drugs that stunt their growth so that their classmates will have an “equal” advantage to play basketball? Should we refuse an education to the smart child, which happens in government schools, so that the other students will have an “equal” chance to succeed in the academic setting? Maybe we should disfigure the good looking?
Every individual has an advantage over most other individuals in some way or another. There are exceptional athletes who aren’t that bright, people of genius intelligence who can’t walk straight and people born to incredibly wealthy parents who become afflicted with physical or mental disabilities. You can create equal opportunity by taking freedom away. The problem is that everyone can only be equal at the lowest level. You must break the legs of the talented athlete so that their opportunity is equal to the person born with a disability, you must lobotomize the genius so that they have equal opportunity to the person who is mentally slow, and everyone must live in poverty, so that nobody has more than the person who does not manage money properly or decides that sitting on a beach is preferable to working.
That is why freedom is so important. Only in a free society does everybody have a chance to use what talents they have to choose the life they wish to live. Some will be wiser, some will have more money, some will have better health, some will be better looking and some will be more athletic. Some will have more successful relationships and some will be happier. Some will enjoy sitting on a beach. It’s a little messy but it beats squandering all the world’s talent so that we all have an “equal” opportunity. The only way we all have an “equal” opportunity is if we all have no opportunity.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The National Debt

All recent presidents have left office with a huge national debt. I think there are two reasons for this:
  1. The purse strings of the nation are controlled by the House of Representatives. The members of Congress know that the American public is ignorant enough that talking heads can blame deficits on the president.
  2. It is easier to buy votes and power by borrowing money than by finding a source of income. Especially if you know you’re not the one who has to pay the money back.

One of the ways to combat deficit spending is to stop thee unproductive argument of "This or that president was better for the economy."  In reality, the president has little control on the economy or overall government spending.