Now The Fun Starts . . .

The Administration has been looking a lot like “The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight” the past few weeks.  Everyone inside the Beltway is out to get them and self-inflicted tweets from the Big Guy doesn’t help.  With the budget’s details coming out over the next week and with the many “interesting” changes — deep cuts to taxes and social programs along with a healthy belief in supply-side economics — this Administration needs to be focused on legislation rather than “other” issues.

I read a recent op-ed from Karl Rove in yesterday’s (Thursday May 18) “Wall Street Journal,” and whether you consider him a Sith Lord, or a brilliant political tactician, it’s an opinion worth reading.  His key point was that the the Comey/Russian mess has become a major distraction.  Rove stated, “This presidency has reached a critical moment.  For months, true-blue Trump supporters grimaced at tweets and winced at needless controversies, but stood firm. Now many are questioning whether their man is up to the job.  Mr. Trump will not restore their confidence with the behavior he’s shown so far.”

Although I don’t agree with some of this Administration’s direction, I think that the President represents a significant portion of our country and those thoughts should be debated and if they have value should become part of country’s legislative fabric. And if found wanting, then we move forward as we have for the past 240 years.

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The Great Divide

Now that the Republicans have put forth some options to replace ACA, one of my favorite topics, I could comment on the proposed legislation and its potential effect on small business as well as individuals, but I’ll let that slide.  Not enough REAL substance to opine about.

I could talk about the Russians and the U.S.  Nah, too easy.  And as an avid Cowboy fan, why not discuss what folks in Dallas, Denver, Houston, and Kansas City are arguing about regarding Tony Romo, the talented but oft injured quarterback.  Nope, ain’t going there.

Let’s talk about the growing divide between the electorate and the fears which are being fed by 24-hour news channels and the blogosphere (I guess that’s me).

As with many individuals who have retired (or semi-retired), I find myself consuming TV and reading more than I have in the past.  Which in itself is a good thing, but given what I’m seeing from the news channels and other media very concerning.  Don’t like what you hear about the President or current political issues on CNN – then go visit Fox or comedy channel du jour.  Odds are you won’t even see the same topics discussed.  Is this any different than what we saw from the newspaper industry in the past century, probably not.

It’s today’s near-hysterical messaging which concerns me. Publishers in those days did not hide their opinions – but they weren’t constantly exposing their audience with statistics, consultants, and nuanced messages on a 24-hour basis. My hope is that today’s audiences will grow-up and realize that the world is full of bias and for lack of a better word – fake news.  Once we begin to discern between the facts and spin, we’ll all be much better off – and so will our country.

What’s The Right Theory?

Tax reform is on everyone’s lips – but is there a good solution?  The traditional supply side theorist (I use that term since there’s no guarantee the solution will work as predicted) says that lower taxes will help create jobs and grease the wheels of industry.  The other side is concerned about social benefits being curtailed and feels that higher taxes keep the predators in line.

The reality for most individuals and small business owners is that we need a balance on both sides.  I believe that lowering taxes doesn’t assure us growth.  I believe that we need some forms of social programs.  The question, as always, is what’s the right balance.  A tax on imports (call it what you want) will not guarantee more jobs will be created – and import “taxes” could be detrimental to our industry.  The answer is NOT getting rid of social programs, nor is it providing richer and richer benefits.  Remember, although no one is talking about it, our deficit is still a large one. With rising interest rates, a reduction in taxes without the hoped for growth would create long-term damage to our economy.

I have plenty of questions – but may be short of solutions. I don’t think it’s any different for Congress.  I for one, hope that they move slowly and remember that the economics underlying their decision is theory – and we are the guinea pigs.

Politics Are Local

OK, the fat lady is singing and the parties are over — so to speak.  We now have two candidates running for president which create heartburn for many “centrist” like myself.  For all the hate Hillary gets, I could have “accepted” her as president until the Democratic Party’s Platform made a big shift to the left.  In my opinion the Trumpster is totally unacceptable as an individual who has the chops to lead this country – and don’t give me that cr*p that he’s a business guy and understands how to lead.  Mr. Trump is a wealthy entrepreneur and they don’t do well in organizations.  Trust me.  Plus, his economic ravings concern me as much as the Democrat’s Platform.

So, what does that leave us?  Your local elected leaders.

There are 535 individuals (100 senators; 435 congressman) who ARE the folks who create laws – not the president.  They’re the folks we need to be electing — and more importantly – making sure they hear our opinions.  And don’t fall for that “they’re bought and paid for” by special interest groups (on both sides).  Yes, they’re being lobbied on a regular basis – but it’s the voters who keep our representatives employed.  So, it behooves us to make sure we have the right kind of folks representing us – not just folks who are listening to a vocal minority.

I have been fortunate over the years to be in the “belly of the beast” (Washington D.C.) working on behalf of the printing industry, and it’s a messy business. Yet, when it gets all set and done, it’s about that representative getting re-elected. So, if you don’t like the choices for president, make sure that your congressman or senator (and their staff, who really get the job done) hear your concerns and more importantly remind them that you’re a voter.  So, come November, let them her your voice!

 

The World Of Economics and Politics

Do you notice all the promises that the presidential campaigns have been throwing around?  Bernie with stating how easily we can afford to pay for everyone’s college.  Trump with his making trade better by bashing other countries; and Clinton with her comments saying that we need a universal health plan.  I’m not going to get in a discussion of the merits of any of those issues – I don’t have the time or temperament at this time.  BUT, what I do find of interest, and have for many years, is what an OpEd piece in this morning’s Wall Street Journal touched upon.

“The Weekend Interview” was with Russ Roberts the host of “EconTalk” a weekly podcast.  Roberts is an economist by trade; so he’s no empty talking head.  For anyone who has studied economics, you know that there’s as much black art as there is science.  Yet, over the years, an entire priesthood (cult?) has been created by politicians to show their promises are backed by experts.  And if you don’t like the answer – get a new oracle!

My concern, and has been one for years, is that people take a sound bite from their media of preference and it becomes dogma.  To quote the OpEd, “All the incentives push us [economists] toward overconfidence and ignore humility  — to ignore the buts and the what-ifs and the caveats.  You want to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?  Of course you do.  So you make a bold claim.  Being a skeptic gets you on page A9.”

As Roberts opined in the article, economists are people who have bias and often that will influence how they approach an issue – and why we have so many contrary opinions.  He feels that economists should be more humble – and I don’ have an argument with that statement. I’ll take it a step further. Those of us who feel strongly about our side of the political argument should be the same way.  Be humble. Listen to the other side. Study the FACTS – not just one person’s or side’s opinion.  If we truly want to continue being a great nation, our electorate needs to be well-informed.  And if we really don’t know the answer to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin – say so.

It’s 2016!

Happy 2016!  Hoping everyone’s New Year has started well.  As many know, it’s a different world for me as I am now “retired,” whatever that means.  Regardless, my “Cup” will continue to overflow with various thoughts and ideas on print and “stuff” since I’m not really going to disappear.  More to come later.

The last few months have been pretty hectic and I realized earlier this week that I hadn’t posted in weeks.  So, I’ll start 2016 with one of my favorites – Affordable Health Care (what an oxymoron).

The Republicans were able to get a bill repealing the AHC out of the Senate, and the House quickly (along party lines) passed the bill, but of course it will be vetoed by the President and that’s going to be it.  For now.

As many of us who’ve followed this debacle for years understand, this whole move was about politics – the potential to truly overturn AHC in 2017 (assuming there’s a Republican in the Presidential Office) is really going to be difficult, if not impossible due to all the businesses which will be affected (HEALTH CARE!).  What I really want to hear over the next few months from the Republicans will be what they propose to “replace” AHC. It just can’t be more of “we don’t like it.”

Ah, 2016 was going so good until yesterday (anyone want to talk about the stock market?)

ACA Chickens Coming Home

The underlying issue that many of us saw with Obamacare was that inexpensive (Affordable) insurance didn’t seem to be in the cards – regardless of what the President and his team of “experts” said.  Most of those folks never lived in the world of having to deal with the convoluted health care system of PPOs and HMOSs, paying for health care insurance, or making decisions on a company’s group health insurance plan so that you could provide a benefit without bankrupting the company.

As more and more pieces of ACA are becoming implemented and the reality of who is really using the subsidized programs (individuals who have REAL problems) the chickens are coming home to roost. Case in point is the recent 36% increase that was approved in Tennessee by its insurance commissioner.  The commissioner said that the increases were necessary to cover higher-than-expected claims from folks who had signed up for individual policies in the first two years of the Affordable Care Act.  In an article by the Wall Street Journal, it reflects that this is not an isolated trend but one being faced by many states.

It’s going to be an interesting election discussion in ’16, but of more critical interest, how do we fix this MAJOR challenge to our economy and social well-being.  And don’t tell me “let the market fix it,” or “single-payer is the only way to go.”

Cuba. Why Not?

I’m of an age that I vividly remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs fiasco.  Yet, the world has moved on, and I think it’s time that we do as well. So, I have no problems in creating an Embassy in Havana, or for that matter working hard to create “normalization,” which very well could mean lifting embargos.

Are the Castro Boys our BFFs?  NO, but neither are the majority of the world leaders.  One has to remember, if you read your history, we didn’t do the Cuban people any favors prior to 1953 when the Cuban Revolution began.  Nor did we handle the situation in our best long term interest during the six years of Batista’s fight with Castro.  There’s plenty reasons to harbor ill-will — on both sides.

Today, more than ever, we need to consider the Monroe Doctrine.  Not in terms of creating puppet governments, nor military might, but in economic power to create stability.  Cuba has been our sore spot for over 50 years, let’s find a way to salve that wound rather than keep fighting the same old wars.  If there’s a lesson to be learned from the turmoil in the mid-east, it is that people tend to hold grudges and fight to the death over issues which began in the 7th century.  So, let’s not go there.

Supremes Support Subsidies

I may be in the minority within the group of folks who don’t care for Obamacare, but I think the Supreme Court got it right with their 6-3 ruling this morning (June 25).

This was a crazy gambit from the folks who felt that blowing up what is in place was a solution.  It’s not.  Healthcare is a major mess in this country (in how it’s funded) and if the subsidies had been overturned, I feel it would have created MAJOR turmoil within the healthcare system.

So, now that this has been perceived as a win by the Administration — and many in the U.S. — it’s time to really look at Obamacare and see what is good (yes, there are good aspects of it) and what really needs to be changed to make it better.  I’ve given up on any idea of getting employers out of the system — that’s tantamount to the IRS supporting a flat tax. So, does Congress have the guts to find a way to address this issue?  Sad to say, I don’t think they do, and even if things turned Republican in ’16, Congress may not have the cojones to truly address healthcare.

Balance — It’s Not a Bad Thing

“May you live interesting times,” states the ancient Chinese curse.  Although I think that today we live in times which are more than “interesting.” We face the Russian Bear once again, as well as a China which is not only militarily strong, but also economically dominant.  We are in the midst of economic doldrums which have spanned nearly seven years, and we face a political landscape which gets more and more polarized daily.  We see a Middle East that is becoming more explosive and threatening as the fervor of religious animosity raises its ugly head all over the world.

Many lash out at the perceived and real threats and become more staunch in their beliefs.  Others adapt by ignoring the “real” world and immerse themselves in today’s technologies and live their life as a digital avatar or through the voyerism of social media. It’s much easier to ignore the world, or scream at it than to find ways to address the issues.

My concern is that we as individuals — and as a country — are becoming isolated behind the  walls we are fabricating.  The solutions are much more complex and require individuals who are willing to see the long-term and accept that the world is no longer what they grew up with.

I hope that over the next 12-18 months as we begin the process of voting for our national leaders, that we become engaged in REAL thinking and analysis and not just repeat the phrases we’ve heard from contemporaries who spin the idealogical mantras of “conservatism” or “liberalism.”

More than ever we need balance in our complex world.  Being a moderate shouldn’t be a bad word.