"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale." --Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, May 12

Souvlaki anyone?

Greece has become more than just a place to eat great food soaked in olive oil and enjoy the pungent smell of body odor. It has become the poster child for failed socialism. For decades, Greece has been governed by ultra-liberal socialistic ideals-during which a myriad of worker's unions have become the festering flesh wound upon the backside of any chance of a sound fiscal policy in Greece. The idea of workers coming together to improve benefits, pensions and workplace conditions does not sound like a bad idea-and it's not-so long as the unions realize that there is a point to which they slowly start cutting off the hand that feeds them. We have often seen that when concessions are made to unions, the unions look for more and more until the promises that business and government are forced to make to their workers' unions are unsustainable in the long term. Call it collective bargaining if you will, but taken to the extreme as in Greece, it is nothing more than extortion by the unions.

Take for example what we see happening in Greece. Public and private sector unions there are calling for a nationwide strike on May 20th in protest to the International Monetary Fund's bailout of their country. As a stipulation of this bailout to keep Greece afloat and not defaulting on bonds worth billions of Euros, union contacts and pensions will need to be rewritten and needfully reduced. How do the unions respond? Strike. This will definitely not help your situation my Mediterranean friends. The international community, of which you'll be happy to know the US is a part of in this case, doesn't love bailing you out with our taxpayers' money. Nowhere in our constitution does it say that we are required to bail out foreign governments-yet our President has committed over $50 Billion in loan guarantees as part of this package.

As rough as it might be for these workers to see a reduction in their pensions, they have to realize that their country HAS NO MORE MONEY!!! Even the countries that are bailing them out have no money. Do these people not have children? When a spoiled child doesn't get what he wants, he sits down and throws a tantrum. What is the difference here? Mom and Dad are broke kid. Your throwing a fit is not going to make the situation any better. Yet we see well-organized unions in Greece doing exactly what a spoiled kid would do. Instead of sitting down over a contract and talking about the options available to both sides, we see them run in their room and slam the door.

"The IMF will not stop thirsting for workers' blood," said Yannis Panagopoulos, chairman of Greece's main private sector labour union GSEE. "Its recipes are a disaster and the government must turn them down."

A disaster worse than the one you're in I assume Mr. Panagopoulos? Watch as your currency, your country's sovereignty and national identity fades away and tell me which you'd rather have-a smaller pension check or no pension check at all. A child could choose more wisely.

Why should I care here in America? Because we are following the same road of organized unions and socialism as Europe. This past month, we see protests at various state capitols organized by unions protesting pension and job cuts to try and help balance the state budgets. We are willing to watch everyone else get their job cut or retirement reduced until it affects us. Then the claws come out. I realize in my argument that no one would like their pension benefit cut. But we must realize that the premise of getting something for nothing or greater than earned, is the deadly trap of socialism. I hope that we can begin preparing now so that when the time comes, we can act like responsible adults. We have we been promised more than our country is able to pay. We enjoy things that might need to be eliminated in dire times. If we don't change our course and act like grown ups we will find ourselves eating a nice cold dish of souvlaki.

Monday, July 27

What gives you the Right?

A couple of things on my mind recently have led me back to blogging about it. Again more to just get my thoughts straight about this crazy world more than anything.

I've heard recently on TV and radio several different companies advertising their services for "settling debt". Credit Card debt, IRS debt, whatever.....they are all out there and they all use the same spiel. Let me break it down for you. "Do you have 5, 10, 15 or $20,000 in credit card debt? We are Credit Answers and we can help you settle that debt for a fraction of what you owe! In this era of government bailouts, don't be denied your RIGHT to settle our credit card debt." (Followed by several testimonials from people who owed the bank or IRS tens of thousands of dollars and were able to "settle" their debt for pennies on the dollar.)

The first time my wife and I heard this commercial, we looked at each other and both said,"What!?" First of all, if you bought your groceries from Wal-Mart, your dinner at Chili's, your clothes from Dillards and your vacation to Bora Bora on your American Express, you entered into a written and legally binding contract with that company to use THEIR money and repay it with interest throughout time. Nowhere in this contract was there fine print declaring that if you overdid yourself and purchased too many Margaritas on you cruise and racked up too much debt that most or even some of this debt would be forgiven. You bought it and used it with SOMEONE ELSE'S MONEY!!! If you made money from your job and didn't pay income tax on your earnings, what makes it okay for you to hire a sleazy lawyer to negotiate your taxes down from what you owe? You made the money now pay the tax just like all the rest of us. Or go to jail. Simple concept. It might be legal under the current laws to do this but in my mind it's still sleazy and a self-degrading form of evading consequence. You have no RIGHT to settle for less. And it makes my skin crawl when I hear this term thrown around like a beach ball at a rock concert.

Lately, the political discussion has been centered around the health care reform bill before Congress now. In this bill, health care for anyone within the boundaries of our country's borders regardless of their citizenship will be granted health care as a "right". No one in need of urgent medical care is denied treatment now because of their ability to pay. I know that the cost of these persons health care gets rolled into the cost of my insurance and the high prices I pay for health care. But please, pray tell, explain to me how a government can grant a right to a standard of health care. Does everyone have a right to get liposuction, botox or a tummy tuck? Where do we draw the line? Doesn't every American have the right to live in a home, eat sufficient amounts of food and have a lifetime income stream when they get old? SURE! Let's furnish everyone a house (or at least a trailer), give them food stamps to eat, and promise them a social security check. No. Our RIGHTS are earned by us or others in our behalf and certain others are only given and granted by God, not a late night television commercial, the Supreme court or even our Congress. Our basic rights, by definition in our constitution, are given by God. I assume this drives the average secularist liberal crazy to read this part of our founding documents.

My point tonight is simple our rights are earned. Life is given my our creator, Liberty is given by our soldiers and the pursuit of happiness is given to us as a gift to make of it what we will.

Perhaps if we do get a government-run health care system that spends our country even further into oblivion, with money we don't possess, we can hire these sleazy debt settlement companies to negotiate with our debtors to settle our $11 Trillion deficit for a fraction of what we owe. After all we do have the right. Right?

Tuesday, July 14

America's Turn For A Rectal Exam

Health care reform is a hot button topic right now in the world of politics and so I thought i would share my experience this week with health care both good and bad.

Tuesday afternoon I started experiencing a good amount of pain in my abdomen and came home from work. Wednesday, I went into the doctor because I had not yet seen an improvement and it had actually gotten worse over night. I was to see a Physician's assistant at the Ogden Clinic. I got in pretty quickly and was treated quite well. I was sitting there in the room and I felt like I was on a game show except this one was a really painful one. They asked questions about family history back generations, health history questions I thought I was applying for life insurance! So they got a good idea of what every thing looked like and handed me over to the Physician's assistant. She continued the "Who wants to be a Patient" questionnaire until she asked me what I did for a living. I told her I sold insurance and investments. She then asked about health insurance coverage and I told her I had it. She then proceeded to tell me her opinion of how she doesn't understand that so many people are against a single payer system but how America is the richest country in the world and that she couldn't understand how we couldn't provide health care for everyone. She then turns and asks, "So what's your opinion?" Wanting to avoid an ideological debate with a woman that reminded me of everything a liberal arts teacher would resemble, I looked at her and politely told her that I would just like to be treated. She recognized that I was in considerable pain and then apologized and continued to treat me. I was then sent to another clinic for a CT scan and blood work.

I got there and waited for 3 hours for them to tell me to go to the ER because I had appendicitis. Wonderful. I got to the ER 7 hours after going to the doctor and stood there in the ER. I was told someone would call the surgeon to meet me there in the ER. I knew if I checked into the ER, I would be charged again for all the tests that I had previously had and then some. Luckily I knew the nurse that checked me in. She pulled me to the front of the line and told me that this is the way the system works. You go to our doctor and get diagnosed and then they send you to the ER to get checked in. I asked her why the couldn't send the records from the scans to the ER to save me another six or seven hundred dollar bill. She commented, that's just the way they do it. I told her I would wait and she called the clinics and did everything she could to get me admitted directly instead of going through the ER. Another nurse heard me and she turned to the other nurse and said, "Now there's the smartest thing I have ever heard from an ER patient!" They understood that the hospital billed for the same things I'd already had done. If I didn't have insurance and wasn't going to pay the bill anyway, of course I would have just let them check me in! I just couldn't understand why the ER needed to re-diagnose me. So they got me admitted, had the surgery, had good people work on me and now I recover as we speak.

So it got me thinking a little about the arguments of both sides of the health care debate. There are a lot of people that can't get insurance because of their health. There are a lot of them that could afford it if it was reasonably priced. There are a lot of people that lose their benefits and can't afford the cost of a personal plan. The system if flawed. I will give anyone that argument. We are prosperous nation but to call us a rich nation I would have to argue on that one. Yes we have assets. Yes we have ideas but the last time i checked, we were so far in debt, that it would take the economy of several large industrialized nations to just pay the interest on what we owe our creditors. If we were talking about a family, who owned loads of real estate but was so cash strapped under enormous debt payments that they had to keep borrowing to make their payments on what they owned, I would barely call them rich. By the hands of greedy politicians on both sides of the isle, America has over-promised herself to her citizens. America is responsible for everything from the groceries of those that make less than $30,000 to our national defense. We spend more than we make! Is it true that we can really afford to pay for everyone's health care too?

I can guarantee that the cost of care will not go DOWN. It will go up. Look at the contractors that work for the defense department. They charge 10 times the amount of money to do the job of one enlisted soldier. If a computer program gets written by a software engineer on a government contract, the government MAKES them bill a rate that is most of the time double. What makes anyone think that doctors and hospitals are going to charge the government the same amount they charged you? I think that the solution lies within our ability to use the best doctors and hospitals on earth (which we already have) use the technology that we have, and find personal efficiencies in the process rather than letting the insurance companies decide what and who gets treated.

I am grateful that I didn't have to wait in pain for very long to get my surgery. I am grateful that when I went to the hospital, I was seen by some of the best doctors available. If we go to a single payer system, it will not allow us to have the quality of care we have now. Many countries have tried and many countries are far behind us in the quality of care the provide. I have sat in a European hospital one too many times and believe me, you don't want what they have.

I don't have all the answers on health care but I think that if the answer to all of our problems is always to let the government handle it, we will be very disappointed when the day comes that we realize there are no more coins in the coffer and we have puffed up the hopes of our citizens only to tell them that there is just a little man behind the curtain.

Tuesday, May 12

Things I'd like to say: Volume I

Cut your grass. It's springtime, grass grows and if you have a yard and don't want to mow it or pull your own weeds, either pay someone to cut it for you or have a kid. If your dandelions are lofting their seeds into the neighbor's yard, cut your grass. It's like a thong...no one wants to see that.

If you're not coming, call. If you make an appointment, either keep it or cancel it. Don't leave someone waiting for you. It's like thumbing your nose at the queen. Even if you don't like her, at least show some respect.

If you don't want someone trespassing on your land, post a no trespassing sign. I hereby pledge to go where trespassing signs are not. If you put up a sign, posting a monetary fine is a strong deterrent to potential trespassers. No one wants to see what you have on your land if they have to pay for it. That's why there's a Disneyland.

In conjunction with the no trespassing, I am not referring to private property and residences. I am referring to rural public lands such as the foothills of the mountains. I don't make it a habit of roaming through people's backyards (although it may be exciting). My city has closed it's public lands to motor vehicles by city ordinance 10.35.25.blah blah blah. Where my grandpa, father and I all played as youth is now under this new city ordinance. If it's fun, outdoors or if there is a chance someone might be hurt, please do it quickly before a city councilman gets wind of it.

If your kids are sick, leave them home! Don't bring them to church, nursery or pre-school. Your kid is sick. And now so are mine. I thank you from the bottom of my toilet.

Nursery is not a free babysitter. If you bring your kid to nursery, you dang well better go to class. If I see you in the hall chatting with billy-bob while your kids beats on everybody else's kids, there's going to be disciplinary counsel and the bishop's not going to know about it.

For crying out loud people use your turn signals! GM could stop putting them on their cars and probably save enough money to stay in business. You don't use them anyway!

Monday, April 13

Patriot Guard

I am not dead. It's been a combo of taking a break from blogging and a broken laptop that I have delayed having worked on because I have found the tether of my Blackberry enough as of late. I did however have a few things on my mind that I would like to write down, if for no other reason than to sort through them myself.

On Jan 15th 1991, I was an 11 year old Cub Scout. I was in charge of the flag ceremony at our pack meeting that night. Earlier in the day, my country had entered a war with Iraq and Saddam Hussein and the Gulf War began. I wasn't sure what to think as a young boy. All I knew was the country in which I lived was involved in war, which I knew was a scary place to be. I knew nothing of the politics, middle east history or even where Iraq and Kuwait were. For some reason, I felt emotional about the soldiers and the military. I asked if I could play the Lee Greenwood Classic "Proud to be an American" on my tape player before the flag ceremony. I remember crying. I remember a lot of people crying. That's what scared me the most. I sat in front of the TV with a typewriter documenting the war as I watched hours of news coverage and night vision pictures of green Scud missiles intercepted by Patriot missiles over Baghdad. I thought somebody needed to write this down in case we didn't survive. As a young buy I had a soft spot in my heart for soldiers and the military. More inclusive, were all things patriotic. If this experience as a boy taught me anything, it was that I should be grateful that I didn't have to fight in such a war. Throughout my youth, I would always remember that night and even today I always get a lump in my throat when I hear a really great rendition of the Star Spangled Banner or see Old Glory presented by soldiers in the 4th of July parade.

Because of this "unmanly" soft spot in my heart for things patriotic, and my gratitude that I have never been called upon to leave my family to put my country's welfare before my own, I decided I should at least find a way to show that gratitude to those who have. I was recently talking with a friend that told me about the Patriot Guard Riders. They are a group of motorcyclists who are invited by the families of fallen soldiers to escort the funeral processions and show respect as soldiers return home. This immediately became something I wanted to do.

Last Friday, I attended my first "mission" with the Patriot Guard. It was for Col. Steven Mittuch who was stationed at HAFB. He was killed in a car accident early last week. I didn't know him. I didn't know his family or anyone who even knew him. But he joined the Air Force in 1988 and spent his career defending my country. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got there but given my past history of patriotic soft-heartedness, knew that there was potential for a few manly tears.

When I arrived at HAFB, I was the only one in the parking lot who wasn't a veteran. I was the youngest of the group...I didn't have any veteran's patches on my leather jacket. I didn't have on a bandanna and I immediately went back to the days of a 7th Grader's first day of school. I spoke with several men as we waited for our instructions. One man asked me if I was a veteran. I told him no and that I felt a little out of place amongst these veterans. He told me not to worry. He explained that these veterans get more excited to see a civilian than they do fellow veterans. It shows them that someone cares besides the group of veterans that were there.

We proceeded out onto base. About 40 riders parked their bikes and were given full sized flags. We stood in parallel flag lines outside a hangar on the flight line. The hangar doors opened and the widow and her family proceeded between the flag lines. Congressmen and decorated officers followed. Once the family was out on the flight line, F-16's flew over the family in the missing man formation and the lead jet shot heavenward directly above us. It was a very moving experience to be part of.

As I stood there saluting and holding an American flag for this man and the hundreds of people who attended his funeral, I thought to myself..."What qualifies you to even be here? You're not a veteran. Your life has never been threatened in defense of your country!" I still don't think I have answers to those questions yet. But I do know that if my country called me, I would. One thing I did realize is that those who have served our country deserve alot more gratitude than they are given.

Friday, March 27

I got some ocean front property in Arizona.....

On January 31, 1940, the first monthly retirement check was issued to Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, Vermont, in the amount of $22.54. Miss Fuller, a legal secretary, retired in November 1939. She started collecting benefits in January 1940 at age 65 and lived to be 100 years old, dying in 1975. She worked for three years under the Social Security program. The accumulated tax on her salary during those three years was a total of $24.75. Her initial monthly check was $22.54. During her lifetime she collected a total of $22,888.92 in Social Security benefits. From an actuarial standpoint, the Social Security program started off on the wrong foot.

I also ran across a Sun Life study this week that said 48% of Americans would voluntarily walk away from Social Security and all the money they've paid into it and take no benefits if they never had to pay into the system again. After seeing the good fortune of Ms. Fuller, you'd call those people crazy right? I wouldn't be so quick to make that assumption. Obviously these are younger worker with far less invested in the SS program. But I think most people realize that the word of our government has become worth less and less. Every few years we get a new set of legislators and a new administration that seems to work off of opposite ideals. China has caught on. Why should they buy our debt if we just turn around and print more money?

The math is there. Social Security is paying out far more than it takes in. A person age 65 in 1940 could expect to live another 12 years; today, they may expect to live another 18 years, or 50% longer (Source: 2007 OASDI Trustees Report, Social Security Administration). As 77 million baby boomers – 26% percent of the U.S. population – began retiring in 2008, there will be a dramatic rise in retirees collecting Social Security retirement benefits. Social Security is a system that relies on the taxes paid by wage-earners to pay the benefits for retirees. When Social Security was created, there were 41 workers to each retiree. Today, there are 3.3 workers for every retiree. By 2030, it is estimated that there will only be 2.2 workers to support every retiree. The U.S. Department of the Treasury, charged with managing the Social Security trust funds, has warned that cash flows could turn negative as soon as 2017, bankrupting the system by 2041. It was not designed to be a retirement savings program, it was designed to get older workers out of the work force to create jobs in the 1930's for younger workers. If I asked you to invest in a company that had this outlook and these financials, would you ever invest with any expectation of getting your money back? No!

If we have learned anything from the current economic problems, it is that this way of life whether in personal life or in government is not sustainable. Sooner or later, someone is caught holding the bag, on the hook for far more than they are able to pay.

Interesting to note that our government seems to have a knack for running things into the ground. I say we give them a shot at Health Care.

Tuesday, March 10

Vertically-Disadvantaged Advantages

We bought a new mattress about 3 months ago. It's a King Size bed with the foam top. It wasn't one night until we realized this bed had it's quirks, just like the old one. Body Indents. Big Kirk sized ones. The bed just kind of swallows you and give you a big polyurethane hug. That's okay if you're always a back sleeper-which we try to be- but often find the belly position with the crumpled-up snuggle pillow a bit too tempting. So we are faced with a great dilemma. Become exclusively back sleepers or get another bank account-draining mattress. Unless there's another way....

I am 5'7" on a good day. My feet comfortably reach my motorcycle pegs if I wear my thick-heeled boots. I look for Levi's that are freakishly labelled with as short a leg as possible. Usually a 29". So I am slightly inseam-challenged...we all have our challenges. My wife is 5'3". You can see where I am headed with this can't you?

So we started sleeping sideways on the new mattress. It's 6 inches shorter but 6 inches wider. Feet don't hang off and I could drop a boat load of bowling balls from unmentionable heights without waking my sweetheart-she's 9 feet away! And no idents! It's a mattress-manufacturing conspiracy. They are in bed with the chiropractors.

Friday, March 6

Sonora Grill

So if you have ever been to the Sonora Grill, you know it's pretty tasty food. It is right by my office and I enjoy it for client lunches as the food is quite impressive. I went to school with the owner and admire them for coming into downtown Ogden. They are also great marketers. They are having a Blog giveaway for a free dinner for 6 people and if I link to their blog, I am entered in the drawing more times. You may be one of the lucky ones that I pick to go with me. Oh how I love the power of the Internet! So go to their website and check them out. The Chili Verde is divine.

Thursday, February 26

Economic Entertainment

The most beautiful part about President Obama's speech the other night to Congress was the entertainment factor. It was almost like watching those old TV's that had picture-in-picture where you could watch three shows at once. In the main screen you got to see what could be considered the beginning of modern socialism. In the upper right-hand screen, you got to see the geriatric channel's version of jazzercising in a pant suit by The San Fransicko treat Nancy Pelosi. On the upper left you got to see the modern Alice in Wonderland's version of the Cheshire cat grinning creepily from ear to ear. And to bring it all together, the geriatric was racing the Cheshire to see who could give the creepiest botox smile and stand up first to applaud the President's vagueness. I was partly concerned that she might break her brittle bones while clapping so enthusiastically. I never knew she was quite so adamant about the whole socialism thing. The clap-off/stand-up off with VP Biden was more entertaining than Michelle Obama's sleeveless number.

Please entertain yourself here.

I am also constantly amazed at the power our new president possesses in controlling the financial markets. His ability to speak so vaguely about the bailout-of-the-week/economic recovery plan of the day instills so much confidence in Wall Street and the investors of the country that the market drops faster than the charts can keep up. I usually watch the DOW and if it drops abruptly I know our President has stepped in front of a camera again. Here's my economic recovery plan......stay home President Obama. I hear you have a bowling alley in the white house. No one cares how nebulous you speak when you're amongst your Hollywood friends who are lobbying for their favorite pet project. Maybe you could tell your friend George Clooney that you have a concrete plan that might, potentially, solve or mediate some or all the problems in Dafur and surrounding areas that maybe you'll unveil in a few units of time. And my plan doesn't cost a dime.

Friday, February 20

Protect your Brain

While riding my motorcycle down Ogden Canyon this afternoon, after visiting the great white north that is Ogden Valley I was reminded of why I wear a helmet. I was heartlessly and randomly struck by a few pieces of falling ice. It was the universe's way of telling me it loved me I guess. It woke me from my riding daze with all the political and economic garbage running through my mind. In retrospect, it was kind of nice to get hit squarely in the head by a blunt object.