Encourage a No vote on the AHCA

The following is an email posted to my US Representative’s website today.

As a retired benefits actuary, consultant and manager, I encourage you to vote no on the AHCA vote today. The CBO says the modifications made do not alter the expectation that over ten million people will lose coverage. Plus, two hospital groups, two Doctor groups and the AARP have all recommended a no vote.

As a benefits professional, my strong recommendation is to improve the imperfect ACA. It is disappointing that my former party has highlighted the negatives of the ACA, while downplaying the many positives.

I would recommend the ACA be improved with a few changes:
– fully fund the risk corridors to reimburse insurers for adverse selection, the absence of which drove premiums up and forced some insurers out of the market,
– introduce a public option in areas that have no competition,
– encourage the 19 states who did not to fully expand Medicaid.

There are other changes that would help, but getting rid of this law would cause more problems that it would solve. Also, a poor reason to vote for the AHCA is to do so because a President who has little understanding of healthcare and wants to check a box is threatening you.

Please vote no to the AHCA and improve the ACA instead.

Zero Credibility

If you were a foreign leader, let me ask you a simple question. Would you trust the current President of the United States? Unfortunately, the answer is an obvious no. The sad part is the leaders have less trust in America.

With the continuation of his lying and insufficient knowledge of the issues, he has offended several leaders in so little time. His mistakes are unforced, so he has brought them on himself.

His worst mistake which weighs him down as investigations continue are his continuing insistence that his predecessor had his offices wire tapped. He greatly complicated this false accusation by indicting the British in the wire tapping. He damaged a relationship with our best ally, so that he would not be caught in a lie. So, his solution was to lie again.

Adding to these lies are the Russian conspiracy investigation, the incompetently handled travel bans and various insults to Germany, China, Australia, Mexico, Sweden and NATO. He has shown he is something of a loose cannon which unnerves folks. He says he likes to be unpredictable and he is. But, so is a toddler.

Right now, our President has zero credibility. Unfortunately, he is our leader, so we are guilty by association.

Mama told me not to come

Three Dog Night had so many great songs, but when they sang Randy Newman’s song “Mama told me not to come,” they struck a nerve with many. As teens, we wanted to listen less to our parents and more to our friends.

Even when our friends may be leading us down a perilous path, we will continue onward. Even when Mama told us that the path may be fraught with perils, we knew better and we ventured onward. The Three Dog Night song speaks to the realization by our teen selves that walking down that path or, in this case, going to an ill-advised party may have been a mistake. Not wanting to listen to Mama did not make her opinion less valid.

Why am I thinking of this song? I am trying  to put myself in the heads of people who voted for our President as they begin to realize who they voted for. I read a statistic last week from The Los Angeles Times that 11% of Trump voters have regrets. Going beyond the inane tweets, the consistent lying and puzzling incoherence and incompetence, he has submitted a budget and supports the repeal and replacement plan for the ACA which kick his voters in the teeth. This is already after he signed a bill in his first two hours to take away a mortgage premium reduction that would have helped a million Americans and his intention to cease or hamstring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that helps multiple millions of Americans from aggressive and fraudulent financial practices.

“Mama told me not to come,” will be that song which echoes over the cognitive dissonance that will be dished out in spades to Trump voters.

 

The circus is not going away

While Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey will be ceasing their circus tours ending an era, we have an even bigger circus going on in the White House. It is the new greatest show on earth, but unfortunately that is not a good thing.

Former Republican Congressman, Senator and Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen was being interviewed by the BBC earlier this week. A question was asked regarding the President’s lack of veracity with the truth. The correspondent said the world is noticing and leaders are coming to the conclusion that they cannot trust Donald Trump.

Cohen said it is more than that, as not only is it the lack of trust in Trump, he represents America, so it is our trust that is at risk. He added “the world is watching our circus.” He added when President Kennedy approached French President De Gaulle for his support in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy offered to show him pictures of the missiles. De Gaulle said he did not need to as he trusted America. Cohen did not sense Trump and America would get that level of trust.

Even Trump’s hand-picked people (Messrs. Mattis, McMaster, Kelly, Tillerson and Pence) are having to apologize for his remarks, assuage our allies and openly disagree with the President. One NATO leader asked “who speaks for America?” When our leader lies about the smallest of things to nurture his large ego and has problems with the truth on larger issues, it requires others to fill in the gaps.

Yet, this should not be a surprise as Trump has always had trouble with the truth per six authors who wrote his biographies and his best seller. It was no different during the campaign when fact checking organizations said he lied 70% of the time, by far more than any other presidential candidate since 2007 when their measuring started. This same percentage is holding steady in his Presidency per these same fact checkers.

While I am in the camp of giving him a chance, he has not been able to achieve even my low bar of expectations. A key reason is he cannot stop lying. Even during his lone speech that got accolades, he lied at least eight times. And, when caught in a lie, he doubles and triples down on the lies enlisting his staff to get the coarsest sand paper to smooth out his stories. They say he is not lying, you misunderstood him, he was speaking jokingly or did not mean to use that specific term, e.g.

Yet, when something major happens, both Americans and our allies have to be able to trust the President. Right now, the answer is they will be less inclined to do so. I have shared before I don’t believe a word the man says. If he says it, the odds are in my favor it is not true. As just one example, he said he has never met a Russian businessman who bought his house and had his plane on the same tarmac as Trump’s on two separate occasions – I don’t believe him. Now, I a may be wrong to think that, but his track record would say I’m right.

And, that is sad. We do not need a circus in the White House. We need a leader. We need someone to tell us the truth.

A windy day at sea

On Monday, I read an article written by Bloomberg called “Costs for generating wind power at sea drop.”  The gist of the article written by Jessica Shankleman and Brian Parkin is the cost of building a wind facility offshore is now less than building a new nuclear power plant and getting closer to the cost of building a coal power plant.

It should be noted this is the cost of building and does not factor in the present value costs of retrieval, transportation, environmental degradation, distribution, maintenance, litigation and health-related costs, which make coal energy less palatable than wind energy. Just maintaining coal ash many years during and after the life of a coal-fired plant is something utilities would love to avoid, as it is the gift that keeps on giving, in a negative way.

Per the article, “Across Europe, the price of building an offshore wind farm has fallen 46% in the last five years – 22% last year alone.” The average building cost is $126 per MWH versus $155 for nuclear and $88 for coal. Yet, Henrik Poulsen, the CEO of a Danish utility, noted “If you have a sufficiently large site with the right wind speeds, then I do believe you can build offshore wind at least the same price as new build coal in many places around the world.”

Heretofore, the significant growth in wind energy has been in our plains states, with Texas leading the way. Iowa gets a third of its energy from wind energy. Yet, the US is expected to build offshore wind in a significant way in the future. Our goal is “install 86 GW of turbines at sea by 2050. That’s six times the 14 GW of capacity now in place worldwide, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.”

Wind energy has overtaken hydro-energy as the leading renewable source in the US. Like solar, it is taking off in installation and job growth. And, with the significant efforts from folks like Tesla owner Elon Musk on large-scale battery storage, it will grow even more. As we speak, Musk is helping out Australia with a power outage problem with a goal of setting up a battery storage facility in 100 days or it is free.

This is the progress that needs to be discussed as it is exciting, environmentally needed and job-creating. Investing in an increasingly obsolete energy is throwing money away.

 

 

Erecting barriers does not make the world safer

Our new President has been in office less than two months and the world is a less safe place than it was before his tenure. So, is the United States, which is the opposite result of his stated goal.

Erecting barriers, both physically and verbally, perpetuates a we/ they culture. Demonizing groups of people and specific individuals causes disenfranchisement. Banning folks creates segregation and less integration of thoughts, cultures and ideas. Tolerating and fueling bigotry promotes narrow-minded thinking and less collaboration. And, a jingoistic national bent derails international commerce and security.

But, this is not just a US phenomenon. Like-minded folks in other countries are demonizing people who look and worship differently than they do. I recognize fully there are concerns and conflicts with influx of refugees. Yet, demonizing folks does not help resolve the issues. The resulting nationalistic thinking makes collaboration and trade more difficult, as well as finding ways to resolve problems.

Breaking down barriers makes us safer. The more commerce we do across borders, the more indebted we are to each other’s success. The more commerce and common goals makes us more secure. The greatest threat to terrorists is multi-cultural success and freedoms.

And, as I wrote recently, coexisting leads to more profits. So, we should reduce barriers not erect them. We should challenge bigotry and exclusion. We should ask the same of our leaders.

Wordsmithing and storytelling

“He went to Paris, looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.

He was impressive, young and aggressive, saving the world on his own.

But, warm summer breezes and French wines and cheeses, put his ambition at bay,

And, summers and winters, they scattered like splinters and four or five years slipped away.”

This is the opening stanza to my favorite Jimmy Buffett song, whose title is in the first line “He went to Paris.”  The wordsmithing and storytelling of this song is so engaging and I love how easily Buffett sings it to let the story unfold.

Another song I adore is written by Kenny Loggins  as a tribute to his brother Colin and his first child called “Danny’s Song.” It was made popular by Anne Murray, but I enjoy the Loggins and Messina version a little more. The last stanza defines my wife which is a key reason for my enjoyment.

“Love a girl who holds the world in a paper-cup.

Drink it up, love her and she’ll bring you luck.

And, if you find she helps your mind, you better take her home.

Don’t you live alone, try to earn what lover’s own.”

Words and music. I enjoy a nice instrumental, but to me the words matter, especially when they tell a story.

A final taste is courtesy of Jim Croce in a less known song called “Lover’s Cross.” Here is the opening stanza.

“They said it was bound to happen.

It was just a matter of time.

Well, I have come to my decision

And, it is one of those painful kind.

Well, it seems that you wanted a martyr,

And, that is the one thing I just couldn’t do,

Cause, baby I can’t hang upon a lover’s cross for you.”

These three songs are from a small number I can sing word for word. You will laugh, but I would sing them to my kids as I rocked them to sleep, as I grew quickly tired of nursery rhymes. Gordon Lightfoot, David Gates and The Beatles also lend themselves well to such a mission.

The lyrics I typed are from memory, so there is a chance they are not exactly correct. What are some of your favorites where the lyrics come easily to you?