Thursday, October 31, 2013

It Would Be Worse With Romney

Obamacare is an utter disaster.

However, we would be dealing with something much worse if Mitt Romney was President.

Don't get me wrong.  I supported Mitt Romney and I still believe the people of this country made one of the gravest errors in our history by choosing Barack Obama over Romney last year.

When it comes to the Obamacare disaster there would have been little Romney could have done to impact what we are seeing right now.  In fact, the political reality is that it would probably be far worse.

Why do I say that?

Let's consider how Romney would have approached his responsibilities as President as opposed to Obama.

First, Romney would have clearly appointed a top notch Secretary of HHS that had a solid business, health care and technology background. Romney would have expected detailed reports on the status on the Obamacare implementation and would have undoubtedly determined early on that the launch was in serious trouble.  Compare that with the involvement of Obama and Sebelius

Of course, had he said anything he would have immediately been criticized as an alarmist who was trying to undermine Obamacare.

Second, he would have seen the same problems with the implementation of the employer mandate and small business exchange that the Obama administration saw.  The same with the waiver on the rule regarding annual limits. It was not remotely possible for these provisions in the law to be implemented without tremendous disruptions. Trust me, Obama did not want to waive or delay these requirements.  He was backed into a corner and had no choice.

Of course, Mitt Romney would have believed in the rule of law and understood he had no authority to unilaterally ignore and waive statutory requirements under the law as Obama did.  He probably would have gone to Congress and asked for a delay. He would have been rebuked by the Democrats in Congress who would have told him that he had taken a solemn oath to implement and administer the laws of the United States.  He better find a way to follow the law.

Third, Romney would have realized several months before October 1 that without full end-to-end tests of the Obamacare website by that time that it was simply irresponsible to implement the law and subject the American people to the ensuing chaos that would occur.

He would have asked for legislation to delay the law.  He again would have been criticized as merely being an alarmist in order to delay Obamacare and prevent millions of people from gaining healthcare.

Fourth, when the website launched as the complete disaster we know it is today, Romney would have been criticized as being responsible for its failure.  Ex-President Obama, Ex-HHS Secretary Sebelius and other Obama Administration figures would all be quoted as saying that everything was on track and working fine when they left.  Romney and his team had sabotaged the launch for blatant political purposes to try and get the law repealed.

The result would have been an even bigger disaster, even more political division, even more finger pointing and less accountability (if that is possible) than we are seeing now.

It was just about one year ago on Election Night that I was about as low as I have ever been in my life. It was a very dark cloud that descended on me that night.

My father used to talk about finding the silver linings in those clouds.

What we have seen over the last month is one of those silver linings.

This one is all on Barack Obama and the Democrats.

The clock is ticking.

There is no where to hide. There is no one else to blame. There is only one President and one party to look to for answers.

I have found a silver lining in that cloud.  On this issue, I am thankful that Mitt Romney is not the President of the United States.

Returning to reality, President Obama and his Administration have boxed themselves in pretty good on Obamacare right now.

They have 30 days (by their own number) to get their website working.  It will be very interesting to see what happens if we get to that date and there are still problems. They have to hit that date or it will get really, really ugly.  That is what I really call a RED line.

My view is that Sebelius has not been fired to date because Obama needs her around come December 1 as his own insurance policy.  He needs someone to blame and throw overboard to keep himself afloat with the American people. Expect her to be fired if they don't get the website operating normally by that date.

Perhaps their tech surge can save the day. I will be surprised if it will on that timetable. What is shocking to me is that anyone in the Obama Administration would put forth a date certain to fix the website with what we know right now.  That shows either incredible confidence, chutzpah or one more  concocted claim by a desperate President that is looking more and more like the Wizard of Oz.  Everyone is beginning to realize there really is nothing behind the curtain.

Consider if you are one 2 million Americans with individual healthcare coverage that has received a cancellation notice of your current coverage due to the Obamacare mandates.  You have to obtain new coverage in the healthcare exchange effective January 1 or you will become uninsured.

What do you do?

Right now you need to undergo hours on the website attempting to sign-on, apply and attempt to assess what your options are.  For many, the options will be bleak.  Higher costs, higher deductibles and higher out of pocket costs.  All of this after they were promised that "You can keep the health plan you have. Period".

With each succeeding day you are going to get more desperate.  January 1 is getting closer and you are concerned about being uninsured.  It is not a long time between November 30 and January 1.  That website is going to have to handle a mad rush in those last 30 days of the year that might put the Black Friday Door Busters Sale at Best Buy to shame.

Bear in mind that this is the group that was responsible all along.  They bought insurance.  And now they are the big losers.  In fact, they may end up uninsured and facing financial ruin because of having their health insurance cancelled by Obamacare while also being unable to obtain other coverage by January 1.

They are not worried about the March 31 deadline to avoid a penalty. Kathleen Sebelius keeps talking about people having plenty of time to sign-up with that date being more than four months away.  These people really want insurance and they have it now.  Their date is January 1 and we are getting awfully close to that date for anyone to have confidence they will be signed up correctly.

If you think things are bad now, it could get much, much worse.

President Obama missed the memo on millions of people being dropped from their plans, he missed the memo that the website was not ready to go live and he clearly does not understand the most basic principal of medicine..."First, do no harm".

The only good out of all this matter how bad it would be worse with Romney.

However, this is just one silver lining in one cloud and they just keep rolling in.  If we could only have another Presidential election next week.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Trick or Treat Teaching Moment-2013

A number of my readers enjoyed this post last year, "Trick or Treat Teaching Moment".  It seems appropriate to repeat it again this year (updated with current numbers as well as the new horror of Obamacare).

Please spread this message liberally to the next generation.  They need all the help they can get with what they have in front of them.  Too many tricks ahead, very few treats from what I can see.

If you are not teaching them now, when will they learn?

Halloween is here and why should we waste such a great teaching moment for younger Americans?

Our schools all too often fill our children's heads with liberal, progressive mush.  It occurs to me that we could teach them a few lessons about economics, capitalism and freedom using Snickers, Starbursts and Swizzlers.

How about a lesson on taxation?  When the children bring home their candy haul on Halloween night and spread it out on the family room floor, take 50% of it away before they get their hands on it.  They need to understand the burden of taxation.  They need to see first hand that when they work hard they also have a "partner" that wants to share in everything they work for-GOVERNMENT.  You need to explain to your child that their "partner" is always hungry.  It has an insatiable appetite for taxes  (and spending).

Pre-Tax Candy Haul

After-Tax Candy Haul

How about a lesson on the redistribution of wealth?  One of your children doggedly rings doorbells on two additional streets after your other child calls it quits because they are tired and cold.  As a result, they have 40 more pieces of candy in their bag when they get home.  When you see that they have more goodies, immediately tell them that it is not fair that they have more than their sibling.  

They will invariably protest and say that they earned it by doing more than their sister.  You then tell them that they could never eat all of that candy by themselves anyway and they are just being selfish. What is really unfair is not giving their fair share.

For good measure you can also point out that they did not build the sidewalk they walked on, nor the streetlights they walked under or the houses they rang the doorbells at to get the candy.

How about a lesson on regulation that would make Mayor Bloomberg proud? If your children happen to get one of those large Snickers bars instead of the little bite size ones prohibit them from eating it.  It is not healthy to take in all of those calories at one time so ban the large size and mandate that they limit themselves to small sizes.

King Size- Banned

Regular Size- Limited Availability

Enjoy the Fun Size!

The sad truth is that the trick is really going to be on them when they realize that they are responsible for $17 trillion of debt.  Big Bird seems to be in hiding right now but Elmo tells it like it is to our kids.  

The chart below compares per capita money income to national debt per capita.  Money income is what most people would consider money that they can spend-wages and salaries, interest, dividends, Social Security payments, welfare payments, disability income, etc.  It does non include capital gains, food stamps, withdrawals from bank deposits, employer contributions for health care from employers, etc.

Credit: Mark McHugh, Across the Street

Data released just last week (10/24/13) by the U.S Census Bureau indicates that for the 4th Quarter, 2011 there were actually more Americans receiving means-tested government benefits (welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, subsidized housing) than had full-time year-round jobs.  There were only 101.7 million workers in full-time, year-round jobs compared to 108.6 million Americans on some form of welfare assistance.

Those children have plenty of future bills to pay and they can add Obamacare to that list. It might be wise for the kids to save any nickels or dimes they pick up along the way because they are going to need it in 10-15 years. Their good health and money is going to be needed to subsidize the elderly and sick in the Obamacare risk pools.  The entire program does not work without these young people paying much more than they will use in health care services.  Yet another trick on them.

If these are not enough tricks for them to comprehend, look at the additions to debt over the last four years compared to the growth in total Gross Domestic Product you still get math that even a 5th grader knows does not compute.

Since President Obama has been in office the United States has borrowed over $2 for every $1 in economic growth that has taken place.

                                                   Jan, 2009                    Oct, 2013                          

Federal Debt                           $10.6 trillion              $17.1 trillion         +$6.5 trillion

Gross Domestic Product         $13.9 trillion             $16.7 trillion         +$2.8 trillion 

Source: from Treasury Department and Bureau of Economic Analysis 

Enjoy Halloween and keep the kids safe.  Let them enjoy the treats.  There are way too many tricks facing them in the future. After all, a little chocolate makes everything better!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pressure, Panic and Chokes

I enjoy reading what Malcolm Gladwell writes.  The Tipping Point. Blink. Outliers. I have read all of them.

I like the way he takes a story and then provides context, insights and perspectives that are unique and interesting.  I always learn something when I read Gladwell.

That is also my goal with BeeLine.  If I can be just a fraction as successful as Gladwell is in doing it I will be very happy.

Gladwell has a new book out, David and Goliath, that is definitely on my reading list.

I have also just finished his book, What The Dog Saw, which is a compilation of articles written for The New Yorker where he has been a staff writer since 1996.  It did not disappoint.  Gladwell tackles everything from what made Ron Popeil a great pitchman to why Grey Poupon changed the mustard

For a change of pace, over the next month I thought I would write about several things I learned from Gladwell in What The Dog Saw.  After all, we can only take so much of Obamacare, the federal debt and the deficit of leadership in Washington.

Speaking of Washington, D.C., what better topic to start with from Gladwell's book than "The Art of Failure".

Human beings falter under pressure. Gladwell asks why some people choke and others panic? Are they the same thing?  How are they different?

Consider Jana Novotna in the 1993 Wimbledon final.  She was leading 4-1 in the final set and was serving at 40-30 against Steffi Graf.  She was a mere five points from winning the championship match.  She suddenly became unglued.  She double-faulted on her next serve. She missed an easy forehand. She hit an overhead straight into the next.  She continued to flail and falter and ultimately lost the final set 6-4.

Something similar happened to Greg Norman in the 1996 Masters golf tournament.  Norman shot a course-record 63 in the first round.  He teed off in the final round with a six-shot lead over the field-the biggest in Masters history.  By the end of that Sunday he had lost to Nick Faldo by five shots. Norman shot a 78 to Faldo's 67.

Both were said to have choked.  But what is choking?

Simply stated, choking occurs when you think too much.

Top athletes reach the top of the game through repetition and practice. They practice so that their movements and actions become almost automatic. Developing a skill requires "explicit learning".  You learn how to grip the club and how high to throw the ball on a serve explicitly. Practice makes it implicit so that you do these things without even thinking about it.  It becomes natural, rather than mechanical.  This is "implicit learning."

However, under conditions of stress, the explicit system can take over. You start to think about how high you are throwing the ball on the second serve.  You start thinking about your grip on the 10th tee. You lose the fluidity and start to falter.  You choke.

Choking is not limited to professional athletes in high pressure situations.

Research has found that it can also occur in other instances.

For example, an experiment at Stanford University involved a standardized test taken by both white and black students.  Before the test the students were told that the test was an important assessment of their intellectual ability.  A similar study was done with male and female students in which they were told that a test would measure their mathematical and quantitative ability. In each case, the blacks and females scored much lower than the whites and males on the tests.

However, when the same test was administered without any mention of it as an assessment tool the scores of the students were nearly identical.

What happened?  The researchers identified what they called "stereotype threat".  When blacks and females were directly confronted with a stereotype about their group (intelligence or math ability) they put pressure on themselves and their performance suffered.  In other words, they choked.

I saw the same thing with my children when they took the SAT for college.  Although they prepared diligently and took many practice exams, their scores on the actual test were lower than on the practice tests they took.

They were all great students at the top of their class.  They had an academic status within the school that they wanted to validate.  They had high expectations for themselves and knew that my wife and I had expectations for them as well.  I see now that they succumbed to their own "stereotype threat".

They were not careless, they were ultra-careful when they took the tests. They were not going to mess up.  However, this leads to second-guessing.  They got away from the intuitions that would have helped them and the quick processing that is needed on a timed-standardized test.

People who choke care about how they perform. They fail not because they did not work hard or did not take the competition or test seriously enough. They fail because they are good and care about living up to that standard.

Compare these examples to the plane crash that killed John F. Kennedy, Jr. in 1999 as he attempted to fly from Teterboro, N.J. to Martha's Vineyard.  Kennedy apparently became disoriented in the darkness and haze and began a series of curious maneuvers. He had little experience flying solely with his instruments. He ultimately lost control of his plane and he crashed in a graveyard spiral into the ocean.  He apparently was disoriented and failed to keep his wings level.

Kennedy did not crash because he choked.  He likely crashed because he panicked.  He was put in a situation that he was not prepared for.  And when that happens humans tend to stop thinking and rely on instinct.  However, in a plane with no visual cues your instincts are often wrong.

Panic occurs when we don't think enough.

That is why we have fire drills in offices and schools.  And why pilots train in simulators where they are confronted with any number of panic situations. The drills and simulations are intended to provide the experience, knowledge and thinking to use in a time of uncertainty and panic.

This is how Gladwell sums it up.

Panic, in this sense, is the opposite of choking.  Choking is about thinking too much. Panic is about thinking too little. Choking is about loss of instinct. Panic is reversion to instinct. They may look the same, but they are worlds apart.

Keep these thoughts in mind if you find yourself in a pressure situation.

If you have prepared and care, think less.

If you are unprepared and panic strikes, think more.

And when your kids have to take an important test, it really is important to tell them to not worry about it if they have prepared.  You can quote BeeLine and Malcolm Gladwell if they have any doubts.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Dam Is Starting To Break

I have written extensively about the problems I foresaw with Obamacare and its implementation going back several years.  You can read some of my observations below.

One absolute about our country that I have pointed out in my writings is that you cannot sustain any type of law or public policy without the support of the people.  Laws and policies that do not have the support of the governed cannot be sustained.  Two prime examples are Prohibition and the Vietnam War.

The Democrats have toed the party line and have been united in their support of Obamacare and their President for over 3-1/2 years.  I predicted that the day would come where there would be a break in their ranks.  That day may be upon us.  The dam looks like it is starting to break.

Politicians are responsive to power.  We would like to think that they are most responsive to the power of the people first and foremost.  However, their first reaction is to react to the power closest to them.  For Democrats that is the President.  He has a lot of levers he can pull.  Money, appointments, privileges, trips and cuff links to name a few.

However, that political power is limited if the power of the people begins to consolidate and coalesce and the politician begins to fear for his or her own power.  If the politician does not win the next election the President's power is meaningless.  The people's power is absolute in our system.  Unfortunately, too many people don't believe it.  However, it is very real.  We may see how real in the next few weeks.

The flaws of Obamacare are now apparent to everyone.  There is nowhere for Democrats to hide. Especially those Democrats in red states or competitive Congressional districts. The talking points are no longer believable.  The explanations are empty.  The excuses are inexcusable.

When you see what will unfold over the next several weeks keep in mind that these were the same Democrats who refused to consider any type of delay or deferment of Obamacare's individual mandate just two weeks ago.  They were the same people who referred to Republicans who asked for a simple one-year delay in the individual mandate as "terrorists", "wackos" and "extremists".

What has changed?

Why did these Democrats put us through the government shutdown if they are now going to reverse course?

Is this a surprise?

Not to BeeLine.

If I understood and could see this coming in Cincinnati, Ohio why didn't Secretary Sebelius or President Obama? Sebelius can be fired.  It is a year too late and three long years before we can be free from the other guy who brought this on.

Elections do have consequences. 

Thankfully, the Democrats who you will undoubtedly see turning on Obamacare also understand it.

I wrote this in March, 2012 (on the day before oral arguments on Obamacare before the Supreme Court)

My guess is the Supreme Court will uphold the law.  That opinion is not based on what I think should happen but on what I think will happen.

It is extremely rare that the Supreme Court overturns a law that Congress has passed.  

(Obamacare) is a mess and I think it will get worse when we see the results on the individual market when the public exchanges come on line. 

I wrote this in January, 2013

If I were to make one prognostication about 2013, I would suggest that the first open enrollment period with Obamacare's health care exchanges is going to be very chaotic.  As a result, I do not think I would want to be the HHS Secretary in October or November.  I do not see how the systems for the open enrollment period can be ready to handle what has to be done. 

I wrote this in April, 2013

We only have six months until the Obamacare health insurance exchanges are available for enrollments. Most of the provisions of what I call the "Unaffordable Care Act" go into full effect on January 1, 2014.

I think it will be very interesting to see this play out.

As an outside observer who knows a good deal about the health insurance marketplace, I would have serious concerns if I were the Obama administration and the Democrats.  This is one that can't be blamed on Bush, the right-wing Republicans or the Tea Party if it does not go well.  And there are many ways it could go wrong.

The first question I have is whether the health insurance exchanges will be ready and will function as intended?  I believe there is a good chance that the entire process could be chaotic and confusing for the public.

The fact is that the information technology challenge to establish the exchanges is considerable.  This challenge has become even more pronounced since so many states have decided to forego establishing their own exchange and have delegated that responsibility to the federal government.

I wrote this in July, 2013

How long are Democrats are going to keep sailing on the S.S. Obamacare?  Right now the ship is listing badly.  Captain Obama will throw as many things overboard as he can to keep it from sinking.  However, you can be assured that all Congressional Democrats will not be willing to sacrifice themselves to keep it afloat if the waves of public opinion start overwhelming the ship.  Therein will determine the ultimate fate of Obamacare and whether this cruise ever reaches a safe port.

I wrote this in August, 2013

I am of the opinion that there is a good chance that Obamacare will fall and fail under its own weight.  The Republicans don't have to kill it.  It may well die on its own as the public further questions the law and the fundamental flaws that plague the statute become more and more apparent. 

This would either drag down the entire Democratic party or (more likely) you would start to see substantial defections from the ranks of Democrats in defending the law. This could lead to a repeal vote that would get substantial bi-partisan support that could prove devastating to the legacy of Barack Obama.

I wrote this on October 1, 2013 (the day the Obamacare exchanges launched)

This truly looks like a potential train wreck but a lot will depend on how the problems are played in the media. Will the media cover for the problems or not? This will be an important indicator to watch.

The future of Obamacare will not be decided in the next few days.  It will ultimately be decided in the court of public opinion over the next few years.  When the public really sees it in operation, will they embrace it?  We have been told since its passage by the President and the Democrats that the public would come to love Obamacare.  We have yet to see that yet after nearly 1,300 days.  Watch closely over the coming months to see how the narrative on Obamacare plays out.

Laws that do not have public backing do not survive over the long term.   Both parties have left little question where they stand on the issue.  The question I am interested in seeing is whether both parties will still be standing in the same way on the issue come the 2014 elections. 

I wrote this on October 13, 2013

I would give better than even odds that President Obama will have no choice but to waive the individual mandate before we reach the end of the year.  At that time we will all wonder why he didn't do it when the Republicans asked for it in October.  I guess it only counts if he does it.

The demise of the Republican Party right now is greatly exaggerated.  As time goes on, it will increasingly be dangerous to be a Democrat as Obamacare implodes.

Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius will probably be the first casualty.  She will not be the only one before it is over.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Shouldn't It Be About The Kids?

Marriage is about love.  However, it is also about children.  And it is about money.

Gay 'marriage" is undoubtedly about love.  It has little to do with children.  It has a lot to do with money.

In fact, my view is that gay "marriage" is principally about money.  Specifically, the money that flows through the hands of the federal government.  Spousal deductions and exemptions.  Social Security and Medicare benefits.  Joint tax returns, disability and survivor benefits.

I wrote about all of this earlier this year in my post, "Marriage and Money" in which I argued that were it not for all this government money in play, marriage would most likely remain in the realm of the religious roots where it began.  We simply would not be seeing the demands for gay marriage if this money was not involved.

Why has government gotten involved in the marriage business?  It has done so because it has proven to provide tangible benefits to the society.  As I pointed out in my earlier post...

It is an unrefuted fact, based on several thousand years of experience, that marriage is an essential foundational framework for a well-functioning and stable society.  To be self-sustaining a society needs to reproduce to sustain itself.  This is only possible with a man and a woman.  It is not necessary for a child borne of that union to be raised by these two parents.  Many children do not have this advantage. However, it also seems to be well-documented that children in a family unit that includes a biological mother and father united in marriage, a male and female, do much better than those in single-parent situations, in cohabitation arrangements or in situations with one biological parent and a step-parent.

Marriage has also been shown to individually benefit both men and women and, in turn, this conveys additional benefits to society.  There is more physical security and less violence against women in societies with high marriage rates.  Marriage also benefits men and society in corresponding ways.  Finally, there are significant economic benefits to couples and society as a whole as a result of marriage where both the division of labor and economies of scale result in the more efficient use of human and physical resources.

For all of these reasons it has made sense for societies and government to confer specific incentives and benefits to men and women who marry.  Does this mean that in every case that marriage produces these benefits?  No.  Some couples will not have children. Some unions undoubtedly should have never occurred. However, the broader social good has been well served by the marriage covenant by one man and one woman for thousands of years.

There is simply no evidence at this point in time that gay "marriage" provides similar benefits.  It is way too early to know.  Gay 'marriage" is too new.  Its benefits and advantages have not been time-tested over thousands of years.  Could it be beneficial?  It very well could be. Future evidence might show that same sex unions are vastly superior for children compared to a single parent or cohabitation arrangements.  I stated in my last post I was open to seeing that evidence but it would likely be years before the effects on gay marriage and children would be known.

Why am I bringing this up again? There is some new evidence. And rather than supporting the benefits of gay marriage, it comes down squarely on the side of thousands of years of human experience. There are significant benefits to a child being in a household with a man and woman who are married to each other. The same can't be said for same sex marriages.
onathan Last, one of my favorite writers (see my post on his recent book, "What To Expect When No One's Expecting") cites some interesting new research that shows that "Not All Marriages Are Created Equal" in an article in The Weekly Standard.

Last cites a new research study by Douglas Allen in the Review of Economics of the Household (how do I get a subscription to that?) on the educational outcomes for children raised by gay couples compared to single parents compared to heterosexual couples.

This was a study done in Canada (which has had same-sex government benefits since 1997 and it used the 2006 Canadian census to compare the effects on children between different parental structures (single father, single mother, heterosexual and gay couples). Since the study used census data it had the advantage of a large sample size that similar studies in the past did not have. Allen focused his study on high school education rates "to compare side by side the young-adult children of same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, as well as children growing up in single-parent homes and other households.

So what did Allen find? Three big effects:

* children of married opposite-sex families have a high graduation rate compared to the others;

* children of lesbian families have a very low graduation rate compared to the others;

* the other four types [common law, gay, single mother, single father] are similar to each other and lie in between the married/lesbian extremes

The real bottom line is this.

T]he children of gay and lesbian couples are only about 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school as the children of married, opposite-sex couples. And gender matters, too: girls are more apt to struggle than boys, with daughters of gay parents displaying dramatically lower graduation rates

This is only one study but it is worth noting that the finding indicates that gay unions produce vastly inferior results for the children in those households insofar as their education is concerned.  And that is a big factor in their future contribution to society.

Gay "marriage" proponents argue it is about "equal rights".

I am all for equal rights. I have no problem with domestic partner legislation on the subjects of transfer of property, hospital visitation rights and the like. However, when it goes beyond "rights" and moves into "benefits" it is a different issue. 

There simply is no "right" to government benefits or money. The government discriminates on this subject all the time. Look at the Internal Revenue Code. There is line after line where one person or corporation gets a benefit that someone else does not. Homeowners are favored over renters. Green energy gets benefits that carbon energy does not. The rationale is that there is a governmental or societal benefit in doing so. It is discriminatory to those that don't get the benefit but there is supposed to be a larger public purpose.

So if the proponents of gay "marriage" want to talk about rights, when does the question of the rights of children enter into the debate?  Are these rights to just be ignored?

When liberals push for new social programs it is always first and foremost "about the children".  

What about these children and gay marriage?  What about their rights?

I am open to more research and study on the subject.  However, until we see some firm evidence that gay marriage is actually contributing to society, it is way too premature to say it should be receiving equivalent benefits to traditional marriage.  There is absolutely no reason to do so based on the evidence.

After all, shouldn't it be about about the kids?  And the Allen study shows why we should be very cautious on conveying government benefits for gay "marriage".

Therefore, why would government sanction gay "marriages" today and provide equivalent incentives and benefits for something that is really nothing more than a social experiment at this point?  That makes no sense, especially for a government that is $17 trillion in debt and climbing every day.

If supporters of gay marriage want to talk about "rights" the subject should be changed to "the rights of children" and the Allen and other studies should be cited.  Our children and our tax dollars should not be sacrificed for an unproven social experiment.  Bring the data and facts to show that gay marriage is as beneficial to society as heterosexual marriage.

Sanctioning gay marriage should not be about the gay community feeling better about itself.  It should be about demonstrably showing that it provides similar benefits to children and society in general that traditional marriage has shown over time.

If anyone is honest about it, that should take at least 20-25 years to get reliable data since gay marriage is a relatively new concept.  Let's talk about gay marriage then when we have some facts. Anything less is potentially threatening our children as well as our fragile governmental budgets. That makes no sense.

My grandfather used to tell me to never buy a pig in a poke. When I first heard that advice I asked him what he meant.  "Don't buy something until you have seen it. A poke is a sack or bag.  There may not be a pig in that bag."  I understood the lesson quickly.  Why should we buy what the gay lobby is selling?  Let us see what is really going on in those households before we decide whether the benefits outweigh the cost.

A pig in a poke?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Obama Is Not In The Rotary Club

I attended a funeral for a member of The Greatest Generation on Saturday.

He was a great man who led an extraordinary life.  However, there were so many of that generation that led extraordinary lives it seems we have heard so many great stories they start to seem ordinary for that era of men.

Consider this man's life. The sixth of ten children.  Lived in a house with dirt floors and no indoor plumbing.  Father died at age 10. Worked various jobs through high school from delivering newspapers to washing dishes to setting pins in a bowling alley to support his family in The Depression.  Graduated from high school and joined the U.S. Marine Corps serving in the Pacific.  Worked as a laborer in a steel mill when he returned home from the war and started going to college at night.  He finally got his degree after eight years of night school.

He got married and stayed married to her for 64 years.  They had children who have been very successful in their own right.  He eventually started his own manufacturing business and provided employment for thousands of people over the years.  He shared his success with others by giving generously to his church and his community and of his time to various industry and community groups.

He was a committed member of the Rotary Club for many years and a local chapter President.  He was a particular believer in "The Rotary Four-Way Test" of the things we think, say or do.  He referred to it often when he had to make a decision and he encouraged others to use the test as well.  He gave out laminated cards with the test on it to friends and kept a framed copy of it behind his desk.

As I sat in the pew at this man's funeral I could not help but reflect on this test, these values and the vast difference between this gentleman who was being laid to rest and the current President of the United States.

You can certainly see the differences in their backgrounds.

What is more profound is the difference in their values and outlook.

One thing that is certain is that Barack Obama was never a Rotarian.

Let's consider the Four-Way Test if Barack Obama had applied it to his "signature" achievement---Obamacare.  It might I have helped him immensely if he had considered it.  It might have helped the entire country if he had applied the four-way test and saved us a lot of pain.

Is it the TRUTH?

No. Not even close.

Politico reported last month that the idea for Obamacare was little more than a "check-the box, news cycle expedient" because Obama needed something to say in a speech.  In other words, it was more about scoring political points against Hillary Clinton than carefully considered public policy.
“We needed something to say,” recalled one of the advisers involved in the discussion. “I can’t tell you how little thought was given to that thought other than it sounded good. So they just kind of hatched it on their own. It just happened. It wasn’t like a deep strategic conversation.”
The candidate jumped at it. He probably wasn’t going to get elected anyway, the team concluded. Why not go big?

Therefore, all of the rhetoric that followed such as "the average family will save $2,500 per year, "you can keep your health plan and your doctor if you want to" was not the truth.  They were just talking points.  As was his insistence that he was adamantly opposed to an individual mandate.  That wasn't the truth.  He merely was looking for a way to differentiate himself from Hillary who knew that an individual mandate was essential in any universal health care plan. That was the truth.  Barack Obama did not care about the truth when he was campaigning.

Is it FAIR to all concerned?

Not by a long shot.

Obamacare is the exact opposite of fair.  It attempts to help a relatively small group of people at the expense of millions of others.  It involves selective taxation, it forces others to lose health insurance they are satisfied with, millions are asked to subsidize the costs of others with no corresponding benefits in return.  It is a classic redistribution scheme that does little more than places government in almost complete control of 1/6 of the U.S. economy.


All Obamacare has done is create ill-will and division in the country from the outset.

A large reason for this is the manner in which Obama approached the legislation from its introduction.  There was no outreach and no attempt to build good will and friendships with others. He was unwilling to listen to Republican ideas.  He was unwilling to compromise in any way.  Nothing has changed in this regard in over three years even though the framework and economic sustainability of Obamacare looks more suspect every day.

Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

No again.

You can read the stories every day of lives and finances disrupted by Obamacare.

Premiums doubling and tripling.  Health plans cancelled.  Medicare benefits curtailed to pay for the uninsured under Obamacare. Health workers losing their jobs.  Full-time jobs being converted into part-time positions.

In fact, when all is said and done, it is doubtful that Obamacare will be beneficial to more than a mere fraction of the nation's 316 million citizens.

I am sure there might be some who read this and say, "What about Social Security and Medicare?".  "Can't you say the same things about them?  This is just another sour grapes gripe about Obama."

How would they have fared on the Rotary Four-Way Test?

Let's consider Social Security.


When Social Security was proposed by FDR he knew very well that Social Security was not a sustainable program the way he was proposing it.  He knew it was akin to a Ponzi scheme.  He was very truthful and expected that Social Security would have to be modified after about 30 years. 

Of course, it has been over 75 years since the program began and steps were never taken to make the system into the self-supporting annuity plan that FDR envisioned.  However, FDR was truthful about the benefits and limitations of what he was proposing from the outset/

Consider this direct quote from his message to Congress asking for Social Security to be enacted in January, 1935.

In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans. (emphasis added).


Social Security was structured so that essentially all private-sector workers (later extended to most public sector workers as well) paid into the system and everyone who paid into the system received a benefit.

It was not structured to have one group pay and another reap the benefits. In fact, this connection was considered critical in order to ensure long-term popular support for the program. The long-term success and popularity of the program is because everyone who contributes also receives something from it. The poor get proportionately more but it is considered fair in that everyone pays into the system and everyone benefits. This is far different than the the way Obamacare is structured.

Good Will and Better Friendships

Because everyone pays the same percentage up to specified levels of income and everyone receives benefits, Social Security has created bonds and shared connections between workers of all income levels and across generations. Social Security is a program that we all share in and in which we all contribute. It was not designed to pit one group against another as Obamacare was. It therefore has become a source of good will and friendship as it ties and binds us together.

Contrasted with the vote on Obamacare in which there were no Republican votes, the Social Security Act of 1935 passed both houses of Congress with overwhelming bi-partisan votes. 372-33 in the House (R's voted 81-15 in favor) and 77-16 in the Senate (R's voted 16-5 in favor).

Social Security began as a program designed to promote good will and better friendships. It was intended to unite us. Obamacare has done nothing but divide us.

Beneficial To All

The entire country benefited from Social Security. It provided an immediate safety net of financial independence for all senior citizens. It also established a formal minimum retirement savings program for all workers for the future. Finally, it freed younger generations from knowing that they might be required to fully support their aged parents in their later years. It was beneficial to all and was viewed that way from the beginning. Contrast that with Obamacare.

I know that the Rotary Club assiduously works to maintain a non-partisan position in American society. However, I was curious as to which Presidents might have been Rotary Club members.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were all Honorary Rotarians. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are not.

In fact, I could not find even one reference to indicate in a Google search that Barack Obama has ever addressed a Rotary Club during his entire political career. That in itself is very telling.

I can't say that I am surprised. Are you?

To show you the full impact of what I am talking about, this is what came up when I typed in "Rotary Club + Romney in Google images.

This was the first image that came up in the search with Rotary Club + Romney.

There was not one image of Barack Obama at any Rotary Club event on the search I made.

In fact, this is the first image that came up in searching images for Rotary Club + Barack Obama.

Photo credit: www.

I kid you not.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Incomprehensible Incompetence

Incomprehensible Incompetence.

I can use it to describe the Obama administration's roll-out of Obamacare or I can use it to describe the Republican strategy on the budget and debt ceiling negotiations.

One thing is for sure.  They deserve each other.

The United States won World War II in less time than Obama was given to get Obamacare up and running.  In that war we mobilized millions of men and women in a common cause.  We built planes, tanks and ships.  We fought two major enemies in different parts of the world.  We invaded Europe and made beach landings on dozens of Pacific islands.  It took 1,347 to complete the effort and declare victory.

The Obama administration was given 1,379 days to implement Obamacare (March 23, 2010-December 31, 2013).  That's more than a month longer than it took us to win World War II.  What have they done with the time?  All we have seen are exemptions, excuses, delays, denials, waivers and whining.

As of today, it has been 1,303 days since the law was signed.  If Obama and Kathleen Sebleius were in charge during WWII we would probably be sitting on Catalina Island on the Pacific Front and the Germans would be celebrating Oktoberfest on Trafalgar Square if we turned back the clock to 1945.

Obamacare is an utter disaster almost three weeks into the enrollment period.  People can't get on to the site to enroll.  There are no records on how many Americans have enrolled.  And journalists across the country have not even been able to find anyone that has signed up.

Remember that this was 100% their law.  There were no Republican votes.  They could choose any deadlines they wanted.  They could put any provisions in the bill they wanted.

Incomprehensible Incompetence.

If misery loves company, Obama has the perfect partner in Congressional Republicans.

They were handed an enormous gift in two ill-advised moves by Obama over the summer. Both actions were in direct violation of the Obamacare statute and were clearly outside of President Obama's power as President.

First, a waiver of the employer mandate under the law.  Second, granting employer subsidies to Congressional members and their staffs in the Obamacare exchanges which was also not permitted under the law.  These two actions had to be among the most legally and politically indefensible acts I have ever seen done in Washington, D.C.

For good measure, Obama also issued an order to ignore the income verification provision of the law to obtain exchange subsidies which could open the Obamacare system to wholesale fraud.

Given this gift, what were the Republicans able to accomplish in their negotiations over the budget and debt ceiling?

They were able to shutdown the government for almost three weeks for which they agreed to give every federal employee who did not work a paid vacation.

They were also able to get the Democrats to certify that they are going to use their "best efforts" to "kind of try" to verify income before they give someone a federal subsidy.

It is almost as if the U.S. Constitution has been turned upside down in the process.

The President seems to no longer be charged with faithfully executing the responsibilities of his office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  How could that be true if he is picking and choosing the duly passed laws of the United States based on his political views and positions?  In addition, it now seems that a law needs to be passed twice to be be considered a "law".  This is what occurred with the income verification provision.

I don't know if I have ever seen a worse case of negotiating in my life than was done by the Republicans considering the facts they had on their side.

Incomprehensible Incompetence.

It is easy to criticize the result but what would I have done at the end?  I wrote several times previously that I would done things far differently in the negotiations from the beginning.  However, that is ancient history at this point.

There is little doubt that the Republicans had painted themselves into a corner at the end but there is always a way out if you think strategically.  That means looking at the negotiation from your adversary's perspective, not from your own.  What is the position they don't want to be in?

Obama decided early that the position the Republicans could not afford to be in was to be in the last couple days before the debt ceiling deadline where they were taking heat from his friends in the media for being unreasonable extremists.  He figured if he refused to budge, they would eventually have to blink because they would not want to take the blame if the debt ceiling was breached.

Effective negotiating often means putting your adversary in a place they don't want to be to put yourself in the place that you want to be.

Therefore, I would have reversed the tables on Obama and this is what I would have suggested in the Republican House caucus yesterday.  And this is how I would have worded it when I presented it to the public.

  • The Republicans recognize that Obamacare is the law of the land.
  • We are providing a clean CR and debt limit for 6 months (put it after the next election if he wants it)  President Obama has asked for.
  • In keeping with the recognition that Obamacare is the law of the land, President Obama must enforce all aspects of the law as written and provide evidence of such to the Supreme Court of the United States by December 15, 2013.  The employer mandate, income verification, no exemptions for Congress, small business exchange etc. must all be operational pursuant to the dictates of the law.
  • If the Supreme Court does not find that all provisions of the law are being faithfully followed in accordance with the timetable of the law it will be suspended until 2015. 

Would this have been a place that President Obama would want to be in? I doubt it.

What would his argument be to the American people to veto this bill?  He doesn't believe in his own law and his capabilities?

What would his argument be against it?  He was given exactly what he asked for.

Everything that is in play would now be in his hands.  He has a clean CR.  He has a clean debt ceiling limit.  The Republicans have recognized his law.  All he has to do is perform his duties to keep it all in place.

He controls his destiny.  The Republicans could just sit and watch the chaos ensue.

Our Constitution is supposed to be about equal protection under the law. If this law is not ready to be implemented as written on everybody, it should not be applied to anybody until it is ready.  That is a very simple proposition underlying this proposal.

He would probably state that this is another extremist position. However, all that is being asked is for him to do his job and follow his law.  Would there have been a simpler message for the American people to understand?

He would also probably say that there is not enough time?  How long did World War II take again?

What would the view of Republicans be today if that was what came out of the GOP House Caucus yesterday?

I don't think it would be Incomprehensible Incompetence.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Are Machines Doing To Our Children?

In the last ten days I have heard the following stories.

  • A first grade reading teacher told me that it is almost impossible today to gain and keep the attention of students to teach them reading. They have the attention span of a gnat.  She told me it is like having an entire class of students with Attention Deficit Disorder. This is a teacher that has been teaching a very long time and has seen thousands of students in her career.  

  • I also heard the story of a father who took three middle school age girls on a car trip of 2 hours. Not a word was spoken between the three girls the entire trip.  However, they all were constantly using their thumbs to text most of the trip. When they arrived at the destination the father asked the girls why they had not conversed together.  Their response-"What are you talking about? We texted with each other the entire trip."----  "OMG, look at that cow!"

  • Someone related to me that they saw a 5-year go up to a television to change the channel.  They swiped at the screen with their finger and could not understand why the picture on the set did not change.

Bill O'Reilly calls this the menace of machines on our children.  Computers, the internet, texting, iPhones, iPads, video games.

What are these machines doing to our children?

What will be the affect on their interpersonal skills?

On their personal communication and conversational skills?

On their writing skills?

On their reading ability?

On their connection to the real world?

On their coping skills?

These are big questions.

O'Reilly is a former teacher so he knows something about this subject. He said this in a recent "Talking Points" segment on his show.

Right now millions of kids simply want to play games on the net. That's all they want to do. They don't want to play sports, they don't want to go outside and run around. They don't want to do activities that separate them from cyberspace.

The main problem here is that the net allows people to create their own worlds. They can lose themselves in a vast array of distractions therefore, they don't learn coping skills. They don't compete and their national curiosity is stifled.
In the last week I also received this article from AdWeek magazine that was sent to me by my Millennial age son. The article was entitled "The Millennial Male Is Not Who You Think He Is".

With the article he also added a note to his mother and I.

"I guess I can finally say I'm glad you didn't let me play video games as a kid! Adults bragging about what level they reached in video games?"

What was he talking about?

First, you need to know that my wife and I never let our children have any video games while they were growing up.  There was no Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox or anything else in our house.  They were not happy about it at the time.  We heard plenty of complaints.  We heard that no one wanted to come to our house because there was nothing to do.  We heard that we were horrible parents.  That note from our son seems to prove we may have done something right along the way.

What is he referring to in the Adweek article?  This is how the article begins.

It’s the best time in the world to be a millennial man, to hear baby boomers tell it—let your parents or your girlfriend pay the rent, maybe start a useless tech company, watch marketers trip over themselves trying to reach you. But talk to guys in this highly desirable demo yourself and you might discover a disenfranchised group with little disposable income, a love of niche culture and an upbeat outlook that belies the economic hand they’ve been dealt (two-seven offsuit).

A little later they get into a discussion of the video games that millennial males like to play. After all, what's more important in life than going platinum on a video game? This must have caught my son's attention as he has no video games to play.  We didn't buy them for him and he sure would not spend his own money on them today.

All pride themselves on being outliers, on having really nerdy, wonky interests that they know everything about—but which don’t really have that much in common with the gen pop. “I platinumed Warhawk,” says Steve proudly, “which is the No. 1 hardest game on the Sony [PS3] to platinum.” (It’s hard, incidentally, to “platinum” any game—that is, to get every last one of the cleverly named virtual trophies for performing a stunt.)

Of course, when you look at some of the facts of life facing the millennial generation you can easily understand why escaping into the world of video games has some attraction.

First, a few statistics on U.S. millennials, or Gen Y, or Those Damned Kids, depending on who you ask: Collectively, they carry $1 trillion in student loans. Only 62 percent of them have jobs, and only half of those work full-time. Median net worth among people under 35 has decreased by more than a third since 2005. Barely one-quarter of the men have bachelors’ degrees, despite all that college debt (many didn’t finish). More than one-third live at home with their parents—double the number from the previous generation.

The point of the Adweek article is that marketers are beating their brains out trying to reach the millennial male demographic.  There are millions of them but they don't have much money, most can't afford cable so they play video games or pirate videos, and most don't want a new car (they have no money for it anyway).  Not exactly a marketers dream.  However, how do you ignore them?  They just might get their act together.  It they do turn that corner are they going to know anything about your brand? It is a risky bet on the future either way.

The same can be said about the effects of machines on our children.  Are we making riskier bets with our children with each new piece of technology that makes things easier?

I see it myself every day.  I used to remember all sorts of phone numbers off the top of my head.  I am lucky to even remember my wife's cell phone number today.  I used to find my way on my own anywhere I needed to go.  I now rely on my GPS and I often don't know which way is north.  I had the skills and they have become dull due to lack of use.

What of our children?  They are not even getting the most fundamental foundational elements of many essential skills for self-reliance, interpersonal relationships and real face to face conversation.  Using their head (mouth and ears included) and not just their thumbs.

Technology is a wonderful thing.  However, when does it stop enabling us and begin to disable us?

My advice is to be very aware of what these machines and technology can do to your children.  You want to stay very far away from the line that separates enable from disable with your kids.