Capitalism and socialism coexists

On more than one occasion, I have seen letters to the editor speak of setting up beachheads in the coming election around capitalism vs. socialism. To me, this is a name-calling gimmick to persuade a voter who does not do much homework. Voters that are prone to listen to name-calling as debate will buy into this logic time and again. The irony in this debate is the United States’ economy is a blend of “fettered” capitalism with socialistic underpinnings. So, both co-exist here.

For readers in the either camp, this observation probably surprises them, especially those who are gung-ho capitalists. But, the word in quotes is also important as we do not have unfettered capitalism. If we did, the US President would have run out of money long ago with his many bankruptcies. I believe in capitalism as well, but we need to understand why we ventured down the path of the socialistic underpinnings.

These underpinnings spoke to a nation that was in a great depression and who seemingly got lost in poverty later on. Social security is a low-income weighted pension, disability and survivor benefit program that is funded equally by employers and individuals. To determine the base level benefit, 90% of average wages are used for the earlier wages then added to 32% of the next tier of wages which are added to 15% of the highest wages up to a limit.

In the 1960s, LBJ’s “War on Poverty” added Medicare and Medicaid to the mix, with Medicare helping retirees and Medicaid focusing on people in poverty. Then, we can mix equal measures of unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation and food stamps which are now called SNAP benefits. Each of these programs are forms of “social insurance” benefits. That is socialism designed to keep people fed, housed and protected.

Taking this a step further, utilities are so needed to our communities, they are either co-ops or fettered capitalistic models where rate increases must get approved by a state governing board. Companies like Duke Energy and Con-Ed must get permission before they change their rates. For the co-op model, the customers own the business.

But, the word “fettered” enters into the mix on other businesses as well. To prevent monopolies, insider trading, interlocking boards, collusion, the misuse of insider knowledge by investors, etc. rules are set up to provide governors on capitalism. Then, there is that bankruptcy thing, where a business or person can claim bankruptcy to pay debtors what they can and restart. I use the President as an example, but his experience is a good one, as he filed for bankruptcy six times on various investments.

I want people to think about our country in this context. We want people to earn their keep and be fully functioning tax paying citizens. Yet, we have programs in place to keep them out of the ditch. As we considering changes to programs, we should consider what they are accomplishing and how changes could make them more effective. And, we must understand that things must be paid for, so how do we get the best return on the investment into those stated goals?

For those that have followed my blog for some time, you know I have been involved for many years in helping homeless working families find a path back to self-sustainability. We help the homeless climb a ladder, but they climb it. Yet, we are also successful in keeping people housed on their own after two years of leaving our program because we measure things and make improvements. The ultimate goal is self-sustainability, so we measure how we can be the best financial stewards toward helping people achieve that purpose.

We need social underpinnings to help people be fed, housed and protected. Some need to be temporary in nature, while others are longer term like Medicare and Social Security. There is a cost-benefit to these equations, but we should understand that we have poverty problem in our country. We must also understand technology advances will continue to change the paradigm on employment as it has throughout the industrial age placing additional pressures to even more wage earners. Not providing ladders out of poverty or ways to avoid it would be a bad path to follow for our country.

 

Advertisements

Sunday salutations

Quiet mornings to read and reflect are a treasured interlude, particularly on Sunday. The larger newspaper permits a more elongated review of the news equipped with two large cups of coffee.

Focusing away from “he who shall not be named,” there are plenty of newsworthy items. Here are a few to digest this morning.

The new President Khan in Pakistan has won on an anti-corruption platform. He is not the first to run and win on such, yet corruption is so engrained, previous efforts have failed. Let us wish him well in his endeavors.

In England, Northhamptonshire has run out of money and the citizens are none to happy. Funding from parliament has fallen by 60% to various municipalities since 2010, so many towns are in a heap of hurt. Brexit, soft or hard, will not help matters as economic projections post-Brexit are not favorable. As is the case in the US, a country cannot shrink to greatness.

It was noted that the US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is sending a Naval hospital ship to South America. The purpose is to help the vast overflow of medical needs in Venezuela. This is good news, but puzzles me why Mattis is the the one making the announcement. Is it being done on the down-low to avoid a certain person’s base from finding out, so Mattis could take any heat or is Mattis just acting at odds from the man in the White House and doing the right thing?

One of my sons and I saw “Black Klansman” yesterday. It was an excellent movie about a true story of a Black undercover cop who infiltrated the KKK back in the 1970s. He worked with a White Jewish cop who attended the meetings. The movie includes an actor playing Grand Wizard David Duke, who makes a real life appearance as the movie concludes with what is happening today.

Have a great Sunday. Salutations.

Take an aspirin – but check with doctor first*

“Take an aspirin” used to be a derogatory phrase in response to someone complaining about anything. Today, I don’t hear it as often, as many folks are like me and take a baby aspirin (81 mg) each day under the guidance and awareness of their doctor.*

Taking a low dose aspirin (see below about checking with your doctor) aids with blood circulation to help counter coronary artery disease and could prevent a cardiac event or stroke. It should be noted, when I had a scare fifteen years ago, which turned out not to be a heart attack, the EMT handed me four baby aspirin to take. It is usually when a patient has a scare (or event), they are doctor-prescribed a daily low-dose aspirin regimen.

A 2006 Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) study revealed men and women react differently to a daily aspirin regimen. In men, it reduces heart attack risk by 32%, but does not alter stroke risk. In women, the opposite occurred, with no material difference in heart attack risk, but a 17% reduction in the risk of a stroke occurred.

A 2012 Lancet Oncology article revealed that a daily aspirin regimen reduced the risk of certain types of cancer. A recent Nurses’ study revealed taking aspirin offered a 10% reduction in the risk of Ovarian cancer for women.  And, once you get it, taking aspirin improves recovery by 30%.

If you are thinking about an aspirin regimen, please check with your doctor. This is especially true if you take other medications. There are risks such as bleeding risk (your blood does not coagulate as easily to stop bleeding) or gastrointestinal complications such as ulcers or other issues.

Let me emphasize a key point. I am NOT a doctor. I am a patient. Please do NOT take my word for it. This helps me (although it does take a few extra seconds to stop a wound from bleeding), but do your research and speak with your doctor, especially if you take other medicines. And, speaking with a doctor is even more critical if you are on blood thinners or other pain killers. Aspirin is not a panacea, but it might help under the right circumstances. A doctor can help you decide.* 

* Note: There are instances where taking aspirin is inappropriate. Again, please check with your doctor before any regimen is started or if you have an issue arise. I am always concerned with folks taking other medications or who have an accident. Please refer to Hugh’s comment below, as a good reason why you should speak with a doctor before taking any medicine. The purpose of this post is to create conversation with your doctor (if you feel this might benefit you), not substitute for such conversation, as I am not qualified at all, to offer medical advice.

When you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you will know that I love cleverly worded song lyrics. The above title comes from an unexpected source (if you don’t follow the band) – a song called “Free will” by the rock band “Rush.” I find this lyric, penned by drummer Neil Peart, compelling as it speaks to people who choose to do nothing in the face of obvious problems. Martin Luther King saved some of his criticism for the silent people who did not condemn Jim Crow actions.

People choose not to vote because they do not like the choices. But, “none of the above” is not an option and one candidate tends to be worse or represents worse. If you did not vote because you did not think Brexit or Trump would win, you water down your right to protest. And, I would add there are seven white supremacists running for office, empowered by a US President who won’t condemn racist actions and has made racist statements. So, your vote does matter.

If you witness a daily assault on civil rights, women’s rights, truth, media, science, allies and environment and don’t speak up, then you condone the actions as acceptable.

– It is not OK for leaders to lie multiple times a day.

– It is not OK to have governmental websites delete data that run afoul of unsubstantiated opinions by leaders.

– It is not OK to demean people because they dare criticize a leader’s point of view.

– It is not OK to demonize groups of people or exaggerate causes of problems, as it is hard enough to solve real problems with real data.

– It is not OK to ignore real problems or have faux efforts to address them. Gun deaths, poverty, health care access and costs, infrastructure deterioration, increasing debt, environmental degradation, climate change, etc. are real problems.

Please do not remain silent. Speak up. Call or email your representatives. Attend marches and protests. Share diplomatically your opinion, but listen to theirs. Find a way to get your opinion heard and heeded. Calling someone a name is not the way to be heard.

The other day as I was looking for a new battery for my cordless mower, a store clerk and I chatted about the need to move toward renewable energy. While he supported the eventual move, he said renewable energy is “seven times” the cost of fossil fuel energy. I responded and said that is a ten-year old argument. The costs are now more on par. In fact, there is a city in Texas who chose to be 100% renewable energy powered as its CPA mayor said financially it is a better deal. Did he hear me? I don’t know, but he would not have  if I had not listened to his argument and responded.

Do not follow the words of the song lyric. Choose to decide.

Media – focus more on the problems needing solving and less on who wins

The main stream media is doing a better job on focusing on the issues, but they still have a bias toward conflict. Who wins and loses based on the airing of an issue or problem is covered way too much for my taste. The end result is problems and their many causes do not get addressed or are oversimplified, so they go unsolved.

The dilemma is we citizens lose. The focus must be on the issues rather than who benefits from whatever hits a news cycle. Substance matters more than image. Here are a few examples to digest.

We have a poverty problem in the US. It is not just a declining middle class. Too many are living beneath paycheck to paycheck or are one paycheck away from being in trouble. The United Nations just released a report that confirms the US has a poverty problem citing numerous examples and numbers. Instead of asking lawmakers what are we doing about it, the media focused on the Trump administration admonishing the UN for the report. The problem exists whether or not it makes Trump look bad, as it took decades to decline to this point. Addressing poverty is more important.

We have a significant and growing debt problem that has been made worse by the Tax law passed in December. The economy was already doing pretty good with a long growth period. Yet, rather than address our debt, we borrowed more from our future. This malfeasance must be highlighted. Yet, most of the focus is on the economy doing well and its impact on the midterm election. Note the economy would have done well without the tax change, but we have a day of reckoning coming that will require more revenue and less spending. What are we going to do about it now, especially with a good economy?

The Affordable Care Act has needed improvements and stabilization for some time. The American public favors this as do lawmakers from both parties. Yet, the media focuses too much on the political  impact of an ACA that could be doing better. Not only has the party in power not helped the ACA, they have sabotaged it making premiums go up even more. As I see it, the President and GOP own the ACA. Letting premiums go up hurts Americans. If the ACA fails, our poverty problem will get even worse and the economy will suffer.

Issues like immigration, climate change, water shortages, tariffs, exiting international agreements, eg, all need to be focused on. We need to drill down on what makes sense in a data driven and reasonable manner. Attempting to resolve issues based on optics of winning or losing won’t solve anything. And, that is what our President and legislators seem to be more interested in.

So, media please start asking our leaders what they plan on doing about these problems and asking them to explain why certain measures don’t seem to be helpful.  And, leaders stop worrying about keeping your job and start doing your job.

A few select statements

A counterpoint response to my comment that the President needs to tell the truth more than he does not, might be “all politicians lie.” Yes, they do, but he laps the field at a 69% rate of untruthfulness per Politifacts.  But, he also makes decisions off his supporting lies.

One that gives me concern is “You can win a trade war.” History has shown this not to be true and we will soon be finding out as Canada just added their retributive tariffs to those of the EU and China. By the way, the lone constant in these three tariffs is the US. The impact is already showing up in economic decisions by companies,

Today he said “the tax cut is the reason for our economic miracle.” That is a stretch in that we are completing 108 consecutive months of economic growth today, which is the second longest in US history. He has only been President for a little more than 17 months and the tax cut has only been in effect for 6 months. As for the long term, I am worried about the tax cut increasing our huge and increasing debt. To be frank, the tax cut will help some short term, but hurt us in the long run.

Yesterday, he noted again “Russia said they did not meddle in our election,” to me implying his tacit support. But, the US intelligence asserts with high confidence that not only Russia did, but the Trump campaign benefited from it. Plus, they said the Russians are still influencing opinion and sowing seeds of discord. The question we must ask is why? Why say this? Why let it go on? Why is Congress not more assertive to get to the bottom of this? Why do you people believe him when he calls the investigation a witch hunt?

Finally, the Affordable Care Act is in need of stabilization and select improvements. Instead, it has been sabotaged at the expense of Americans, once by Congress in 2015 and just last summer by the President. When he defunded payments to insurers for copays and deductibles for families making less than 2 1/2 x poverty limit, he said “it would only impact insurer profits.” That is simply untrue. The CBO noted that the impact would increase the debt by $10 Billion. Why? As insurers raise premiums as a result of picking up this unfunded tab, the premium subsidies would climb by $10 Billion. That means it effects taxpayers by that amount.

The sad truth is there are numerous instances where lies and oversimplified problems and solutions have caused policy decisions. It is hard enough to solve problems when we use facts. It is nigh impossible when we don’t. The truth matters.

 

 

 

 

 

Medical Marijuana Continues Growth

A topic which continues to build in momentum is medical marijuana. In the US, twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for at least medical purposes. And, Canada just passed a law effective in October allowing the legal personal use of marijuana by those over age 18,

Time Magazine has issued a Special Edition called “Marijuana – The Medical Movement.” It is an excellent summary of its history and current uses. It notes the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine published their findings in January, 2017 citing marijuana is a therapy for a number of ailments, but especially pain.

Yet, this is not new, as history reveals marijuana showing up as a treatment in China 4,000 years ago, India and Greece around 50 AD and in England and Ireland in the 1600s. It was prescribed in the US until the movie “Reefer Madness” focused on its psychotic influence in the 1930s.

Today, the tide has turned in its favor with over 90% of Americans supporting it for medical purposes. From epileptic seizures to CTE to Crohn’s to Chemotherapy to MS, people have indicated how it has helped them with their issues. But, its main benefit has been with pain as a replacement for or in lieu of opioids.

I have a relative who has been able to get off all pain medication by using a cannabis oil from which he creates a salve. Rubbing it directly into the skin has helped him not only with the pain, but regaining his ability to speak and think more lucidly sans opioids. Suffice it to say, after several car accidents, he was in a bad way. The impact is quite noticeable.

This topic is worthy of serious discussion. The opioid epidemic is truly a national crisis. Medical marijuana is not a panacea, but it will help with this and other issues. It has already passed a tipping point. We just need to check previous conceptions and look at it with both new and much older lenses.