Rest in Peace GOP

gop in a storm

You welcomed your executioner with open arms.

Inviting him in with a celebration of disrespect, pettiness, and discarded principles,  you walked away from what made you worthy.

Too late, your “leaders” came to realize that their private misgivings should have been voiced as forcefully in public as they now appear to have been in their nightmares.

While packed with voices of dissent, the leadership abdicated too easily. Removing your rudder in exchange for the captaincy, the GOP is now adrift.

As your crew indulged in the political rum found in abundance within the stores, you sped toward the rocks. Sobriety, too late, brings useless sorrow.

Your executioner is now your captain. And like all those who travel rudderless, he is content to go where the winds take him; too late, you realize you will share his political fate.

Rest in Peace GOP.

#RIPGOP

The Energy Policy is Really Just Money Straight to the Coal CEOs

The Corporate Welfare – A Gift To Executives

Through last year, fossil fuel subsidies in the US amounted to $20B.

About $4B for coal and $16B for oil.

https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/10/6/16428458/us-energy-subsidies

These are direct subsidies from the Federal and State governments.

Direct. This does not include the virtual “give-a-way” of mining and drilling rights on Federal land or other indirect subsidies.

Now the energy department is going to additionally subsidize energy producers to stockpile coal to the tune of about $15/tn. They don’t need it, just store it near their power plants.

Coal Power Is Being Shuttered

Meanwhile, we are taking coal-fired power plants offline at a record pace – or converting some to natural gas. Natural gas and renewables are cheaper and power companies are moving over.

Three plants alone in Texas supplied power to about 4M homes. They don’t need the capacity from coal anymore.

That’s just over half the closures for this year, amounting to 7.8k MW. In 2015 and 2016, 18k MW and 13k MW were taken offline respectively. Next year, another 13k MW of coal power is expected to be removed.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-energy-coal-closures/coal-plant-closures-continue-even-as-u-s-ends-clean-power-plan-idUSKBN1CI2RH

Energy’s Growth Opportunity

So, the coal mines are still closing. As the industry sheds jobs, the renewable power industry is creating new jobs.

http://www.businessinsider.com/solar-energy-job-growth-2017-1

http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/20/investing/coal-solar-energy-trump/index.html

Meanwhile, as the administration wants to sink dollars into a dying coal industry, they are seeking to reduce or eliminate subsidies for renewables, which are generating new jobs. If you don’t believe in any subsidies, great. But, you can’t rationalize the President’s energy priorities in any way that makes economic sense no matter your thoughts on subsidies.

https://www.usnews.com/news/at-the-edge/articles/2017-03-15/clean-energy-is-seeing-explosive-job-growth-dont-let-budget-kill-it

Job Training Programs

The proposed budget from President Trump seeks to cut jobs training programs that would prepare people to move from coal to renewables.  The cuts run about $166M for the training programs.

http://www.ccdaily.com/2017/05/trumps-budget-looks-cut-cte-job-training/

The President’s policies take money from the people who voted for him and gives more money to the executives running companies in dying industries. 

 

 

The strength of peace

For every blow you strike against the face of that fascist on the street, you also strike a blow against the cause for which you stand.

There is no moral comparison between the Nazis and those that oppose them.

The ultimate Nazi aim is to destroy others.

Those who oppose them aim to stop that destruction.

But with every act of violence, the opposition digs away at the high ground their position would otherwise hold.

Defend yourself, yes. But, do not incite the acts which will require such defense.

Speak. Yell. Scream. Stand in silent strength in opposition. But, do not strike out.

The violence of the Antifa lends shelter to the fascist. It creates sympathetic ears.

We hate their views, but our country gives them the right to hold their views as steadfastly as it gives us the right to hold our own.

Oppose them vehemently. But oppose them with the strength that can only come from peace.

Communicate. Congregate.  Educate.

Companies Turn Their Backs On Tump. It’s more important than you might think.

Morality or Practicality, either way, CEOs walked

Market forces compel businesses like Merck, Under Armour, Intel, and others to make practical decisions.

The CEOs of these companies walked away from Trump’s Manufacturing Council. Then his entire Strategic and Policy Forum voted to fold the group (shortly after, Trump “fired” them). Many stated that they cannot abide with Trump’s tacit support of Nazi’s and the KKK; they walked on moral grounds.

Whether moral grounds, of fear of market forces, this move by leaders in major companies is important.

Companies didn’t Turn their back on The Nazis

In the early 1920s and 1930s (and into the mid-1940s), the rise of the Nazi party, and later the 3rd Reich, was significantly aided by the participation of companies.

At the time, the companies had leaders that were active with the Nazi party, like Hugo Boss (which made uniforms for Nazis).

There were companies that simply looked to profit, like Coca-Cola which started a new drink brand called Fanta explicitly for the German market(they couldn’t ship the ingredients for Coke to Germany, so they had to create a new drink).

Then there were companies that actively participated in the Holocaust, like the precursor of Bayer ( IG Farben) that made the gas used to kill Jews and others; they worked side by side with Josef Mengele.

These are not the only companies that sought profit and ideological alignment with the Nazis. Unfortunately, the list is not short. You can get an idea of some others on the list here : http://www.11points.com/News-Politics/11_Companies_That_Surprisingly_Collaborated_With_the_Nazis

From local sh*t talker to National movement

For those who argue that the people we see today are “just talking sh*t” and that companies would not get behind them, think again.

Hitler was one of these “sh*t talkers” in the 1920s. He espoused the very same ideas that people are shouting on our streets today. The purity of the nation (meaning whites only) is their mantra. Read what Hitler pushed for and spoke about, and what the Alt-right (Nazis & the KKK among them), are pushing for now. It is literally the same.

In the 1920s, Hitler was nothing but a mouth. By 1933, he was leading Germany with a platform of anti-Semitism and racism. By the 1940s, he was gassing millions of Jews.

http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/nazi-party

Corporations and the direction of a nation

Companies in Germany stayed with Hitler. Supported him. Financed him. Aided and abetted him.

Without the power and finance of corporations in Germany, Hitler would not have turned the world upside down.

This is why it is important that large and small companies turn their backs on Donald Trump’s acceptance of Alt-Right, fascist, racist, KKK, Nazis and others of their ilk.

Companies are neither inherently evil nor good. They are financial tools.

How the CEOs of companies allow these tools to be used is important in determining the future of our country, and (as we saw with Germany) the world.

We must support companies that oppose extreme nationalist, and hold to account those that do not.

Illinois Politicians Are Only Playing At Balancing The Budget

The state of Illinois has not had a budget for over 2 years. Our biggest issue, pensions, is not being addressed.  Here is a quick recap of the high-level numbers, sticking points and, falsehood.

Rauner’s proposed budget is $37B

Democrats budget is $36.5B

We’re on track to spend $39B

Democrats want a tax increase from 3.75% to 4.95%

Rauner wants property tax freeze

Dems offer a 4 year freeze.

Madigan wants exemptions for Chicago Public Schools and municipal pensions.

Rauner says he’ll veto the bill because of the income tax hike. His budget is even higher than the proposed. So, how was he planning on paying for it? (Trickle down?)

We haven’t cut any spending to speak of. We’ve not addressed pension reform or unpaid liabilities.

So, while the politicians are giving themselves a pat on the back for staying in Springfield this past weekend, doing what they should have done 2 years ago, don’t be fooled.

They have not trimmed any spending.

They have not dealt with the biggest cause of our issue: Unfunded pensions / pension reform

They don’t have an answer for the $15B in unpaid bills.

Unfunded state pension: $130B

290%+ of revenue

$14k/ capita

Other states are $1 -$4K per capita (Connecticut is the exception)

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/01/19/heres-your-share-of-state-pension-shortfalls.html

We have $15B in unpaid bills with a 12% interest.

They want to borrow money to pay the backlog. Reduce the fee to 6%. But, this is not in the budget. To get a loan at that rate would require a dedicated income stream as part of the loan agreement… ie more taxes.

Our per-capita revenue and spending are not out of line with bordering states. It is the mismanagement of the spending that is the cause of our problems.

https://ballotpedia.org/Illinois_state_budget_and_finances#Spending

 

https://taxfoundation.org/states-rely-most-federal-aid/

Healthcare: In the absence of perfection, choose nothing.

healthcare 2

There are differences in philosophy about how much the government should do for its citizens.

Politics and Healthcare

Libertarians will tell you that government should have no place in our day to day lives; no welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, regulations of any sort. They are pushing for even more draconian legislation with regard to the ACA repeal effort.

Republicans, (or Libertarians who want to get elected), will espouse a role for government that is severely capped; generally, if you are on hard times and need assistance, they’re inclined to blame you for your problems (it seems cancer is on the list of problems for which you are to blame). They consistently chant that big business is our salvation, and the Government is ALWAYS the problem.

Democrats want to support you until you’re on your feet; unfortunately, the solutions Democrats have is to force the middle class to give a lot of money to Insurance companies, then give insurance companies a fat part of our tax dollars, and then have them cover poor people.  Their allegiance to Insurance companies above citizens is a fair subject for debate. Of course, insurance companies return some of those tax dollars to the politicians in the form of campaign donations.

Progressives want to take away as many worries from citizens as possible; front and center is healthcare and their desire for a single payer system. Philosophically, this is a challenge to the old American adage “if they can’t pull em selves up by their bootstraps, f*!k em.” They are, perhaps, overly fond of government solutions, but their hearts are in the right place.

No Path To A Real Solution To Healthcare

In the past (40+ years ago), these differing philosophies competed but the people who held them at least tried to work together. They compromise, debated, amended and created laws that were intended to make a better country.

Despite any rhetoric to the contrary from Washington, I think most Americans believe the politicians don’t give a darn about us. After they get done throwing smoke at us about how much they care about Americans, they head back to their chambers and plan the demise of the other party. Today the Democrats have not presented any alternative to the Republicans and instead just berate Republicans for their “terrible bills”. During the previous eight years, the Republicans did exactly the same thing.

Neither side cares about finding a solution. You can’t convince me otherwise. The Republicans are about to throw 22 million people off health insurance and the Democrats have done nothing to present a solution to the skyrocketing insurance rates that are chewing away at the income of the middle class.

The fact is, it doesn’t really matter if the Republicans succeed or not. The system is being pelted from so many angles that will fail. From Republicans withholding subsidies promised to the insurance companies, to the President preventing the enforcement of mandatory participation, to the lack of true cross-state-line competition, the rates are going to go beyond most people’s ability to pay.

In our area, there is literally only one carrier and their rates are 60% higher (minimum) with virtually no cost-sharing until a family is out of pocket $35k. It’s just going to get worse.

From corrupt institutions paying politicians to stick to the status quo to politicians so focused on party loyalty they’re will let people die (literally), to a general public that doesn’t really care until it impacts them directly, there is no path to a solution.

Unless it is perfect, run perfectly, by perfect people, we will always find excuses not to solve this problem. While we decry government waste of millions, we will let corporations bilk us for billions.

If we can set aside ideological predispositions, we’d see that a single payer system, though imperfect, is working better in the rest of the developed world than the capitalistic system we have running in the U.S.

 

We won’t ever get there.

The latest Senate Bill will put 22MM off insurance. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/26/us/politics/senate-health-care-bill-republican.html)

Alternative Energy Ideas

There is a lot of talk about alternatives to fossil fuels. We hear a lot about wind and solar energy and storing electricity in batteries for cars and even meeting the needs of larger building with batteries.

Direct solar energy to electricity through photovoltaic solar cells is gaining traction, but there are obvious issues with the uncertainty of direct sunlight. Certainly we have the option to store energy in batteries as Elon Musk is championing. But the production of batteries and their subsequent disposal can have negative effect on the environment and peoples’ health.

There are other options, such as storing the sun’s energy in fuels that can be used later.  Below are two of many methods being explored to do this.

Turning Algae into biofuel provides a relatively carbon neutral fuels source. As the algae being used takes carbon out of the air as it grows, and then cycles it back into the air. Watch to the end of this video and you’ll see that they are considering ways to recapture the carbon directly from the power plants to use in growing the algae. Pretty cool ideas.

The other way is more in the idea stage. What if we can literally turn sunlight into an storable fuel source, as is done in photosynthesis. The concept is being explored and may be a viable option. However we proceed, exploring the alternatives of multiple paths will lead to several ways to meet our future energy needs.

https://www.gatesnotes.com/Energy/Beating-Nature

Medicare For All Option

healthcare 2

It is not a secret that I believe that a single payer system to cover healthcare costs is in our best interest. One of the struggles is how to pay for it. There is a proposal out there to expand Medicare. I think it is worth exploring.

Administratively, Medicare is already in place. A single administrative body to coordinate the processing and payment of medical expenses. The greatest advantage of this is that it eliminates administrative overhead. Based on a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the amount of expenditures related to Health Insurance overhead is significant. Consider the few examples that would not need to be part of the process.

Hospital and doctor compliance and monitoring. Doctors don’t just send a bill to the insurance companies. They first have to work with the companies (multiple companies) to understand the terms of the agreement. Then they have to have staff and processes to comply with each one of those companies.

Payement. As with compliance, each company has it’s own process for payment and reconciliation of payments. Each medical practice must manage to each of the insurance companies processes.

Each insurance company has its own administrative overhead to establish, maintain, and manage compliance, accounting / payments. The reason there has been so much consolidation in the industry it that the companies themselves agree there is too much redundancy and recognize the power of consolidating. The problem is that this gives them too much power to dictate terms with doctors, hospitals, and patients.

Employers higher specialist simply to manage and comply with insurance requirements.

Take a look at the study and you will see other areas where we add cost to healthcare but do not add any value. Non-treatment costs for healthcare go upward of 30%.

The supposition of medicareforall.org is that we can drop all private insurance, increase the payroll tax associated with medicare from about 1.4% up to 5% and cover everyone through medicare. The initiative assumes a pretty significant cost reduction through the implementation of a single payer system.

While I think the assessment of 5% may be low, compared to the cost of insurance, which can easily exceed 15-20%% of HHI, even if we double that amount, it will be less for the average household than the cost of insurance.

While our preference is a capitalistic solution, it simply has become untenable. If we believe everyone who needs health care should be able to get it, then a single payer system is the only viable answer. Private insurance adds no value to the equation and in fact adds monetary and significant emotional cost to the process.

If you feel that poor people should not have access, than tens of thousands of people should be ‘allowed to die’, or that families should have to decide between homelessness or medical treatment (families lose homes over medical expenses), the private insurance for some at the expense of others is the better option.

Is healthcare in the United States only for those who can afford it?

healthcare 2

For healthcare we have to answer one fundamental question:

Is healthcare in the United States only the for those who can afford it, or is it a right for all regardless of their ability to pay?

The current system is setup for those with the ability to pay.

ACA’s failing was trying to make the current system something it’s not. The current system is designed to provide healthcare to those with the money to pay for insurance, not ensure healthcare to all. ACA tried to make it do both.

The GOP plan only makes the insurance more affordable for some people by dropping other people from coverage, or putting coverage out of their financial reach.

We had this prior to ACA. 40,000+ people died each year because they lacked the ability to pay.

Again, the question for us as Americans, is that okay?

We can’t obfuscate this with talk about our system being better. It’s simply not. When I looked into the stats, I was compelled to write about what I found: http://smilinganyway.com/a-case-for-a-single-payer-healthcare-system/ .

Capitalism is heartless. It is designed for one thing, to make a profit, as large a profit as possible. We get mad at drug companies for gouging. We get mad at insurance companies for dropping unprofitable regions or people. But these companies are doing exactly what they are suppose to do… maximize profits. Scorpions will always be scorpions. If they don’t maximize profits, then they are doing shareholders a disservice.

If we believe everyone has a right to coverage then we have to take capitalism out of the healthcare insurance equation.

There are many examples around the world of well functioning single payer systems. There is not just one option, but several to model a plan for the U.S.. It is up to us whether we believe people deserve healthcare or not.

Welcome to the U.S.(S.R.)

soviet flag

I remember watching movies as a kid about American spies in the Soviet Union. To travel the country they needed “papers”, documents to prove they were citizens. As freedom loving Americans we traveled our country at will; no “papers” required. The use of “papers” in these movies was one of the best creative devices / tools for showing the distinction between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. . It struck home with everyone in the theater. We’re free. They’re not.

If you don’t remember those days, then the story of U.S. government agents checking “papers” for people on a San Francisco flight to JFK probably doesn’t chill you. But it should.

We forget that there used to be a time when all you needed to get on (and off) a domestic flight was a ticket. That’s it.

Then terrorist struck. To protect us, we gave up a bit of our freedom. We agreed to have our identity checked before we got on the flight. You may remember that some people railed against that, but ultimately lost.

Now, to get off the plane the passengers had to prove (again) that they belonged.

This isn’t to protect us. The plane landed safely.

This is the FEDERAL government forcing (yes forcing) people to prove they are allowed to be in the U.S. before and after the flight, detaining them if they can’t.

Are we really so afraid of illegal immigrants that we are willing to cede even more freedom to the Feds?

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/border-patrol-agents-stop-domestic-travelers-at-new-york-airport-w468643