Please check my "all-purpose" blog at or my blog about my wife's journey with a fatal disease - MSA - at

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Healthcare and government funding of same

On Facebook the other day a good friend of mine posted this link to a story:

It goes into the fact that Virginia is not meeting the criteria set up by the federal government on expanding Medicaid as outlined in the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). This prevents Virginia from receiving funds from the federal government.

My friend's comment was: "Hey VIrginia legislators! Get a clue."

He and I differ somewhat on the role of government and such, but I respect his opinion and knowledge greatly. I felt compelled to post a response.

Then this exchange follows between he and I:

  • Scott Poole My argument is - there is no government money! Neither state nor federal! To tell one overdrawn bank account they will be made whole by another larger overdrawn bank account is not fiscally responsible nor ethically honest.
  • Brian Keller Would you agree that there are pools of money that are collected from the citizenry? If so, how should they best be distributed to provide for the common good? How should we get a grip on our current healthcare system?
  • Scott Poole You know I love a good, sensible dialogue. So...Yes monies are needed from the citizenry. I do not, however, agree in the scope and reach that we have allowed government to obtain; especially at the Federal level. There simply is not enough money from the producers to support the non-producers. Some societal "safety nets" are necessary, and I might even be convinced that government should provide some of them. (I am greatly in favor of private enterprise and personal charity - another subject) Regardless of the negative press that the US healthcare system gets, we have the best system in the world. By force of law, public hospitals are required to treat and provide care for anyone that needs it. IMHO, the biggest improvement we could make is to eliminate the threat of bankruptcy by tort by capping awards for malpractice in all but the most egregious negligence. We could also help by making health insurance sales national, not state by state. Also, health insurance policies that offer whatever coverage the insured wants/needs. The idiocy of making all insurance policies cover all illnesses and conditions is just making it more expensive for most at the expense of some. Many, many more. Not necessarily the forum for this. I may try my "discussion blog" again with this.
  • Brian Keller Let me know when you start it, Scott. I'll serve up some responses. I love a sensible dialogue too, you know. There are so damn few of them.
I would ask that any and all of you that can have an adult, responsible discussion of this subject please do so. ANY respectable, non-judgmental, and civil response will be posted. Any rude, crass, disrespectful response will NOT.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

And another thing...

This is from my "all-purpose" blog - Just Some Posts ( I would still love to have some discussion and comments on this or any other posts here.

This is one that has be "a-brewin'" in by feeble mind for a while. I wanted to address the idea of income inequality and opportunity. (not exactly right, but I am at a loss of words - read on and see)

First, your lessons for the day - there are many posts on this site which cover this, so look around if you don't understand or want more -

 1) There is no government money. If you have questions on this point, I have many posts here where I expound upon this thought. Just suffice it to say that ultimately all money comes from the public (you and me).

2) Corporations and businesses do not and cannot pay taxes. Same comment here - lots of posts explaining this. Bottom line - only people pay taxes. Businesses just get the taxes by raising prices on their customers (you and me again).

3) Term limits are critical to any meaningful changes to be made in our government. This includes the bureaucracy that exists today in Washington that holds a lot of the real power.

Now for the post:
There are news reports and stories quite often now talking about how the income inequality, especially in the U.S.A., is "the worst it has ever been"; or something similar. I just wanted to weigh in on this and say "BS"! Income inequality is, has been, and probably always will be a part of the human condition. In fact, I am willing to say that the time we live in is probably close to the best that income equality has ever been. Are there a small number of people that hold a LARGE portion of wealth? Yes! No doubt. But, that is as it always was. Do you not think that in the U.S.A. in 1860 that there was not greater inequality? Approximately 14% of the population were slaves! They essentially had ZERO wealth. Do you not think that during Egyptian times of the Pharaohs there was not greater inequality?  It is estimated that 10 - 15% of the population was either a slave or an indentured servant. Again, their wealth was close to ZERO. The Roman empire is estimated to have had as many as 30% of the population living in slavery. Add another 10% as indentured servitude and you can see our times look pretty darn good.

The U.S.A. does not have the worst, or even a particularly bad (as compared to the rest of the world) income inequality. There is tremendous disparity between the top earners and the lowest. But, on average, our "poor" are well-off compared to the rest of the world. Do the top .01% of income earners here make a lot compared to the rest of the population? Yes. But although the CEOs make a lot, a large portion of this is skewed higher due to entertainers and pro athletes. For the record, I too think that CEO pay has gotten ridiculous over the past couple of decades. I also feel that the pay for entertainers and pro athletes has as well. However, I do not feel that I or any other person has the knowledge, perspective, or wisdom to decide what the "correct" pay should be. When the government or some other appointed body starts deciding correct incomes for any class or employees we have a serious problem. The market should decide. FYI, that is why the minimum wage is wrong, and a very bad thing for the free market. An employee should be able to accept or deny any wage they are offered by any legitimate employer. If I, as a business owner, can hire a cashier for $5 an hour, that should be fine. If it takes $20 an hour to get a suitable employee, that too is fine. But, that is another subject.

The "worst" income inequality since the Civil War in the U.S.A was from approximately 1903 to the crash of 1929. The disparity between the lowest and the highest wealth was much greater than it is now. In fact, until the late 90s, there was no comparison. We have had some widening of the spread, but it is still less than it was then. The Great Depression did a lot to "equalize" things as did the "Great Recession" of recent memory. The stock market and housing booms have contributed greatly to the other side (more inequality). CEO pay is tied to the stock market in a lot of cases, so it is understandable that that would be the case.

Bottom-line - it would be great if we could equalize things out. However, as I said above - I do not think we humans have the ability or wisdom to do so. In no small measure because of the following.

The other issue I wanted to tackle is the one of "fairness". We also hear and read many reports and comments about how our society is not fair. I am not blind nor naive, I understand that discrimination, bias, and bigotry exist and are part of our society. I also recognize that they have gotten tremendously better in my lifetime. I also understand that although I tend strongly towards Libertarianism and small government, that regulations and laws have helped in this regard. If a business hires a person of a certain race and/or ethnicity due to a law, that they might not have done, it is still a good thing. I concede this fact. I do however feel that a lot of the racism and/or racial divide that exists today does so because of regulations and laws. For example, why should my race matter when reporting anything to the government. Government and laws should be gender, race, ethnicity, creed, and sexual orientation neutral. However, race is one of the first bits of information asked for in almost every transaction.

The real problem as I see it today is one of understanding. The general population does not seem to understand the difference in equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Neither can be guaranteed 100%. The former can be to an extent, and should be as much as is humanly possible. The latter can never be in any reasonable and fair manner. The U.S.A. offers as good of a offer of equality of opportunity as there is in the world. That is proven day in and day out as new entrepreneurs, businesses, and even millionaires are made. These successful people are all colors, creeds, nationalities, and any other label we can lay on people. However, they flourish while others languish. 

The biggest indicator of success would seem to be effort and hard work. Guaranteeing equality of outcome is not really possible because of this. Now, I am not saying that all hard work is rewarded with riches and/or success. I am saying that most successful and/or wealthy people have worked hard to be there. They have set goals and worked towards them. They have educated themselves and put themselves in position to succeed. That also does not mean that some people in good circumstances aren't put there by nature of their birth or inheritance. However, even most familial fortunes were originally earned by hard work and/or revolutionary ideas. Not all, I understand, don't shoot them messenger. 

The problem with trying to achieve equality of outcome is it marginalizes and de-emphasizes effort and hard work. Most people that are driven at all have worked with someone that is a slacker. (if you cannot remember one - you may be that slacker) A co-worker that is always taking breaks, late for work, standing or sitting around, asking for help doing their work, etc. Is it fair that this employee would be paid and/or promoted the same as someone that is always on-time, works hard, takes initiative, etc? Most would say no. That is why we cannot guarantee equality of outcome.

This has been a bit long. I know from my past long posts they don't get read as often as the others. If you are reading this, you made it to the end. If you skimmed it, go back and read it. Comments are welcomed along with discussion.

Monday, January 13, 2014

My Suggestions - Part 2

Before we get started let's do the lessons - (again)
1) There is no government money. If you have questions on this point, I have many posts here where I expound upon this thought. Just suffice it to say that ultimately all money comes from the public (you and me).

2) Corporations and businesses do not and cannot pay taxes. Same comment here - lots of posts explaining this. Bottom line - only people pay taxes. Businesses just get the taxes by raising prices on their customers (you and me again).

3) Term limits are critical to any meaningful changes to be made in our government. This includes the bureaucracy that exists today in Washington that holds a lot of the real power.

In Part 1 I had two suggestions:
1. I suggested that we raise the voting age to 21. To encapsulate it succinctly - I cannot believe that any sane person thinks it takes more maturity to decide to drink and alcoholic beverage than to decide who will govern us.

2. I also suggested we consolidate and/or eliminate many government departments and cabinet positions. Note: I did not suggest we eliminate any programs (that is coming), just departments and management of said departments. More details can be found in the previous post. Thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Now for the new stuff -

3) I would raise the maximum income for the cutoff of Social Security contributions. I would either make it like the Medicare tax and have no cap or take it dramatically higher than it is now ($117,000). To help out lower income folks I would cut the rate from 6.2% (it is actually 12.4% with half from the employee and half from the employer) to 5%. I would also means test for any Social Security payout. I know the arguments - "I paid in! It is my money!. They are valid. But since Social Security has morphed into something it was not designed to be - a retirement plan (WHAAAT!! You say?!? I was not a retirement plan? No. In fact it was presented as a small government stipend to help the less fortunate survive old age among other things. But, that is another subject) If a person does not need Social Security income they should not get it. I know "does not need " is relative and I do not claim to have the wisdom to tell you at what level exactly it would not be needed. But, I know there are people receiving Social Security payments every month that could do very well without the checks. Everyone knows Social Security is a train wreck waiting to happen. No one has the cajones to do anything about it. We must do something or it will disappear or bankrupt us.

4) Still staying with Social Security, I would move to privatize (or partially privatize) the funds. Maybe start with anyone under 50 (or make it voluntary for anyone over 45 - whatever is decided). At some point everyone would have at least a portion of their Social Security withholding invested in stocks and/or bonds. I know the uproar that occurs here - "Why expose our retirees to the volatility of the market? What if this had already occurred in 2008!? FYI, the last time I checked the stock market had NEVER had any ten year period that was down. If reinvestment of dividends is required that would insure so. This would require a lot of work so that the immense amount of money flowing into the market would not disrupt things or go to scam artists (including politicians!). If we work on it, it could be done. If this had been done for my generation in the 70s I would have no issues with retirement on my Social Security. It would be a fortune.

5) I would eliminate baseline budgeting. I would guess most of you don't even know what this one is. Baseline budgeting is how our government computes spending. The amount of tax revenue coming in and the spending taking place is extrapolated and computed considering the inflation rate (and anticipated inflation rate for future periods) and population growth (or anticipated population growth for future periods). If we are spending a billion dollars today on a program that is being budgeted going forward and it is thought inflation would be 3% per year with a 1% population growth rate per year, then in the tenth year we would be budgeting to spend $1,437 billion - almost 44% more. Now in Washington speak - that would be a flat, no growth budget. It doesn't matter if inflation was less (or more), or if the population was flat or went down (or up). If someone suggested that we only spend $1.2 billion (a 20% increase over the start number) that would be seen as a 16.5% CUT! FYI, all the "cuts" that the Republicans have suggested were not actually cuts to anything. They were cuts in the proposed increases in spending! Each department/program should be required to justify any funds allocated every year. If my idea from #2 in Part 1 was taken up, combined with this approach we would save trillions over a decade!

I will stop now. Please comment. Part 1 comments welcomed as well. As always, all comments will be published as long as they meet civility criteria.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Another try for comments - The War on Poverty

Here we go again. I had a brief exchange on Facebook last week on this subject. Let's see if we can get some communication and thoughts on this subject - government support for poor. This would include the War on Poverty, welfare, food stamps, WIC, tax credits, private/religious organizations vs government, etc.

(an outline - I do reserve the last word, so I will not do details but here is a shorthand view from me)

Since the Great Depression the U.S. Government has offered food and monetary support for families and individuals that are in need. The problem now is the level of poverty and dependence is greater than ever yet the amount of money doled out by the various levels of government are enormous.

So, your thoughts. More government funding needed or less? More tax breaks and credits or less? More programs or less? A loosening of requirements or a tightening? All of the above or none?
  Remember, your discussion is required!!  (your comments will have to be approved by me - I will not allow any flaming or uncivil remarks - however I promise anything that meets polite discourse rules will be published) COME ON - LET ME HEAR FROM YOU!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Suggestions - Part 1 (from Just Some Posts blog) looking for comments

This appears in my all-purpose blog - but I want COMMENTS! So I thought I would put it here as well. Let's get some discussion going!

I have been working on this one in my head for a while. I had planned to do a post of all the suggestions I had for addressing the ills and problems I see in the world. The problem with a post like this was/is the sheer magnitude of it. I have been delaying doing it due to the time and effort involved. So, I just decided to write it as a series of posts. NOTE: I WANT feedback. I want discussion.

Before we get started let's do the lessons -
1) There is no government money. If you have questions on this point, I have many posts here where I expound upon this thought. Just suffice it to say ultimately all money comes from the public (you and me).

2) Corporations and businesses do not and cannot pay taxes. Same comment here - lots of posts explaining this. Bottom line - only people pay taxes. Businesses just get the taxes by raising prices on their customers (you and me again).

3) Term limits are critical to any meaningful changes to be made in our government. This includes the bureaucracy that exists today in Washington that holds a lot of the real power.

Now to the suggestions -

A) raise the voting age to 21. I can hear the gnashing of teeth now. Oh no, disenfranchising voters! Woe is me, woe is me. I was the among the first group of American young to be able to vote after reaching 18. I understand the allure of including all those that are subject to the laws in electing those that make the laws. I have one point - why do we feel it takes more maturity and life experience to decide whether to buy alcoholic beverages and/or tobacco products than to decide on the people that will govern us and make our laws? I know there are movements throughout the world to allow people as young as 16 to vote. Several countries have done so. There are various municipalities, counties, and even states that have lowered the age requirements for certain voting or registering to vote in this country. FYI, I would actually prefer a lowering of the age to purchase alcohol to 18 and raising the age of voting to 21. I feel that voting takes much more maturity and knowledge than the purchase of alcohol. If someone can convince me that I am wrong, have at it.

Further thought on the voting age - One thing I have seen that most people agree on is that most elections are a choice between the lesser of two evils. (we may not agree on who or what the evil is, but that choice nevertheless. I feel our choices have become more limited as younger voters have become more engaged. The young are more likely to be sucked into the "feel good" political-speak that surrounds campaigning. We get politicians that play to that feeling rather than truly addressing our problems and/or issues. You have to admit - regardless of the political affiliations, if the politicians that have been elected over the past 20 years had carried out their campaign promises we would be in a totally different country today. (note - I did not put "better", just good. Out of respect for the fact that we all see good and bad government differently) An 18 year old typically does not have the experience nor maturity to decide who should run the country. If municipalities and/or counties want to give a 16 year old the right to vote in local elections, I could possibly see that. (although I would venture to say the results might be disastrous depending on the number of these underage voters there are), but not for national or state level elections.

B) Eliminate and/or consolidate a large number of the departments of government. When the country was founded we had the departments of War (now defense); Treasury (now same, as well as other departments that have taken some of what was administered here, like Commerce); and State (originally Foreign Affairs, but essentially the same). The office of Attorney General was established with the Constitution in 1789 (yes 1789, not 1776 - look it up) , but the Justice department did not come about until after the Civil War.

There have been seven department/cabinet level divisions set up since WWII (8 if you include Defense which came from the consolidation of the departments of War and the Navy in 1947. FYI, the Post Office was a governmental department until 1971 when it was made a quasi-independent agency) In my opinion all seven could and should be rolled back into the department that they were spun off from. There also have been numerous lower-level departments with Cabinet level appointees set up like the department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency that I would include in this consolidation.

So, the Health & Human Services would return to its original name of Health, Education, & Welfare and absorb the functions of the Departments of Education, and Housing & Urban Development. This department would also take the food stamp program from the Department of Agriculture (yep - that's who does that - more later)

The Department of Commerce would return to it's earlier name of Commerce and Labor and absorb the Labor Department as well as the remaining Department of Agriculture (without food stamps). This would hopefully simplify the farm bills that keep being held hostage or pushed through because of the food stamp program. This would also include the Labor Department and the Transportation Department as well as the Departments of Energy and Interior.

I would then take the Department of Defense and include - Homeland Security, CIA and NSA, along with Veterans Affairs.

Then I would cut the management of the departments accordingly. You might still need a department level head, but they would not be cabinet level. You would not need as many people doing payroll, support, etc. So, lots of cuts could be made. I would challenge the remaining departments to audit and suggests cuts that could be made in other departments. This would be mandated by law to insure it was done and the manner in which it would be done. Any savings would go half to the treasury (true savings), one fourth to the department that suggested it as bonuses to be paid out to the employees, and the final one fourth to be paid out to the employees of the department being cut in the same manner. This would be done annually.

More to come. Thoughts?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Discussion Point #2 - Guantanamo

Let's get us another one out there. How about the prison/detention center at Guantanamo? That was a serious campaign point for Obama in 2008. Here we are five years later and it is still going. There have been some "human rights" organizations that have sued on various points over the years. How do you feel about Guantanamo? (the place and the "idea" - it could be other places) Necessary evil? Human rights violation? Somewhere in-between or a hybrid of both? Let's go people.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

First Discussion - and I didn't even have to do it myself!

The first discussion point is in! (Thanks Brian) It is:

I am in favor of raising taxes both for personal income as well as corporate side. I'd like to see that money used to pay down debt and reinvigorate our infrastructure. Why? Because we need to do so. And although I am not in the 1%, I'm in the top 2 and want to do my share.

Brian Keller


Remember, to keep out the internet trolls and flamers, all posts will be moderated by me first. This will slow down the communication but I refuse to become a forum for people that just want to call names and blast others for their ideas. I want everyone to feel like they can comment and post their ideas.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Beginning

I have been thinking about doing this for a while now. One of the benefits of a "connected" world and existence is the ability to hear differing opinions. I have noticed, on Facebook posts especially, some people that I know fairly well (or used to, at least) have diametrically opposed opinions from mine. That is not a bad thing, in fact it could be a good thing; but I was surprised.

In most of our lives we associate with people that are like-minded on most major subjects. (or they are intimidated or confrontational-averse enough to avoid mentioning they feel differently) The problem with this is we go through life thinking that everyone agrees with us on those subjects. We may not "work" as hard as needed to find support or substantiation for our position. One thing the internet has done is give a voice to those people that have differing opinions. The problem is, it also allows people to sit back and "snipe" at people with nasty and offensive blasts of name calling.

I have noticed that there are numerous issues that the country is very divided over. These issues are tough to cover in any forum, so we will have to tread carefully on these. The ones I am specifically referring to involve morals and/or faith. I do not want to tread on faith (although if the argument is presented in an adult, intellectual fashion, I am not ruling it out totally) as it is the only position that can get down to "just because" citing the Bible, Koran, Torah, etc as "proof". The subjects I am looking at discussing and hearing from differing opinions on are: increased taxes and/or taxation policies in general, government spending, unions - especially public sector, government regulations - especially as they relate to the "nanny state" (I know I have to even watch my labels as they can be contentious, and any other similar societal or economic subject.

My desire for this blog is to open a dialog between those with differing opinions. I certainly have my opinions on things, but I would like to think I could be persuaded by a good argument to change. I know over the years I have changed my opinion on certain subjects as I learned more about them or just as I matured. The reason I did this as a blog versus a Facebook page is I can easier keep out the idiotic blasts I refer to above. You will have to trust me, but I pledge and promise not to censor or block any dissenting argument as long as it is presented in a civil manner. I would ask people to be respectful and to have backup and documentation for any statements made. Name calling and degrading, disrespectful comments will not be posted.

If someone wants to post the opening argument/position - have at it. If not, in a few days I will post one myself. Please talk this up and participate. If no one responds this will be no different than my other blogs, just a forum for me. I want to hear other opinions as well as other people that may have a reason to support the original statement.