The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Mitt Romney’

LET HE WHO IS WITHOUT SIN WITHHOLD THE FIRST VOTE

John 8:1-7 (KJV)

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

(Apocryphal addendum)

At this point a rock flew past Jesus’ head and hit the woman squarely in the stomach.

Jesus looked up to see who had cast the rock and said, “Oh, really Mother.”

The question of Mary’s status had been debated by the Doctors of the Church until Pope Pius IX in 1854 issued an encyclical promulgating the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, thus requiring all those in communion with the Roman Catholic Church to accept Mary’s status as a person who was conceived without sin.  Please forgive the somewhat irreverent  conclusion to the well-known story of the woman taken in adultery – but if one accepts Pius’  ex cathedra encyclical, it is theologically sound.

Fortunately for those of us who are not theologians, there has been no debate over the fact that all the rest of us have flaws, are sinful and are redeemed through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (or so we Christians believe).  That would, of course, include candidates for public office – even for president of the United States.

The two presumptive presidential nominees prove daily in the tabloids and other news media, neither of them is a candidate who any reflective person would support with unbridled, unquestioning enthusiasm.  Perhaps the greatest difference between this and previous election cycles is that the turpitude of the candidates seems to have reached a new apex – or, if you will a new nadir.  Notwithstanding, there are mathematically only those two choices and one will emerge as the leader of what is left of the Free World for at least a four year term.  How did this happen?  Because we as a collective people and nation have chosen to ignore the obvious warning signs of a nation in decline and, rather than attempt to rectify the sins of the past, have chosen a path of apathy until the proverbial wolf comes to our own door.  That time has probably now come.

Seldom in my experience have I ever worked for and voted for a presidential candidate with unbridled enthusiasm – though it has happened.  Like most people, the media find it more titillating to expose the flaws of a prospective office holder and that is the information to which we are primarily exposed.  Negative news stories work to increase circulation and viewer ship.  Positive stories, if they appear at all, are buried deep in the recesses of the paper and have no interest to those who believe social media is a reliable source of information – which they aren’t.

So the alternative in most elections is determining who is the lesser of the two evils, holding one’s nose and ruefully casting a vote for the candidate who is qualified by his or her opponents’ even greater concupissance.  This year promises to exemplify that way of determining my vote – except that this is a year on steroids.

“It is indeed difficult to imagine how men who have entirely renounced the habit of managing their own affairs could be successful in choosing those who ought to lead them. It is impossible to believe that a liberal, energetic, and wise government can ever emerge from the ballots of a nation of servants.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville

Whether we like it or not, politics is at the core of each of our lives.  If we vote for someone who brings about rules and regulations that adversely impact our day-to-day existence, vote for a more enlightened opponent who is defeated or, worst of all, choose to pretend that how we are constrained by government is simply not important and choose to try to validate that opinion by not participating in the political process by not voting, there will be consequences.

In the last two presidential elections, most of us conservatives were presented candidates by the Republican party who in only a limited way appeared to champion our core principles.  Yet, most of us sucked it up and voted for them anyway because the alternative, Barack Obama was so odious.  It truly disturbs me that Gov. Mitt Romney, one of the least conservative people within the GOP is now on what I can only take as a personal vendetta to bring down the presumptive nominee in the general election, Donald Trump not only by withholding his support but by trying to find a candidate who would be the sacrificial lamb spear heading the efforts of a third party run, thus assuring Hillary Clinton’s election.

It is at the least ironic that Mr. Romney who withheld his tax returns until Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) got up on the Senate floor, lied and said that “he had information that Romney hadn’t paid a cent in taxes for years” only then put out his own returns and is now squawking so loudly about Trump’s returns .  (Frankly, I think this is a red herring issue – but, of course, the media loves it).  What a hypocrite.  Romney would better serve the Republican party and, more importantly the county, by insisting that the Clinton Foundation explain publicly the changes they made to their returns which, after scrutiny from outside organizations, forced them to amend and refile multiple years.

I’m not sure that Mr. Romney ever heard the old adage about people living in glass houses – but if he missed it, he might consider my version, the title of this piece:

LET HE WHO IS WITHOUT SIN WITHHOLD THE FIRST VOTE

THE RIGHT WAY TO DO THE WRONG THING

If there were only one lesson which we could take away from the November, 2012 election it is this.  Unlike most of our movies (which serve “in loco parentis” for many of our young people) or like the fairy tales that were written of old, good does not, at least in the short run, always triumph over evil.

The GOP selected as their candidate a solid, middle of the road sort of fellow in Mitt Romney.  He didn’t have the charisma of a Ronald Regan but he started to come to life as the campaign developed.  And what was not to like about the former governor?

He had a successful track record in both business and in government.  He exhibited strong family values.  He was a person who adhered to his faith.  He was clean, wholesome and didn’t have a lot to hide from public view.  And he factually, (well mostly)  presented to us, an economy which was in the doldrums, a debt that had grown by fifty percent during the incumbent’s term in office and an unemployment rate that was the worst since the Great Depression.

He might as well have been speaking Chinese to his audience – a language which we may all soon need to learn.

One of his major points was that President Obama would go down in history as the person who created the greatest welfare state in this country.  He was correct.  However, he saw this as a reason to ask for our votes rather than to give them to the big “O”.  His thinking couldn’t have been more off the mark.

You see, Romney viewed reliance on a below-poverty level income from the government as something that was evil.  Obama realized that by expanding social (dependence) programs, he was buying votes.  And he bought a lot of them.  And behold, it was very good.

There are a lot of people in this world who are lazy.  I live in a town that was built just for them.  Las Vegas is the Mecca for the indolent.  I see it in those who gamble every time I walk into one of our casinos.

They are sitting at a slot machine or a table game with a glazed stare on their faces, hoping that because they are special, the gods will favor them with abundance.  After all, it is not their fault that they lost their job and soon may lose their house.  They are mere victims of forces they view beyond their control.  They see themselves both as entitled and deserving.  “Come on jackpot.”

I don’t think it will be long before the casinos will have made a deal with the government to redo their in-house ATM machines so that they can accommodate a player’s EBT card as well as American Express and Visa.  That way they can offer a true one stop shopping experience for those players on government subsidies.

Undoubtedly, this will come under the pretense of benefiting these consumers.  They will no longer have to spend the gas money to go to the convenience store to obtain some cash for gambling but will be able to transact all their business in one place.

American politics has a long, if sordid, history of buying the approval of the voters.  FDR and his New Deal was born out of the lessons he learned from his cousin, Teddy with his vision for America, The Square Deal.  Both men, as with the current occupant of the White House enjoyed enormous popularity as they offered programs which were intended to “benefit” your average Joe.

The public couldn’t get to the polls fast enough to vote for and return these demagogues to office.  And so it was once again in 2012.  Another demagogue – another victory for short-sightedness.

But this time, despite the narrow Obama victory as you compare his to his predecessors’ triumphs, the table has been set at the “Come On In Diner Where We’re Happy To Feed You Barely Enough So That You Have The Strength To Vote For Me Again.”  The problem is that there are so many who are eating, there are few left to serve them their meals.  And many of the wait staff are looking for new positions.

Romney’s essential failure as a candidate stemmed from who he was a person.  He was a man with a sense of traditional American values and was so thoroughly committed to them that he assumed they were essential components of belief that most of his countrymen shared.  He couldn’t have been further off the mark.

The genius of those running the Obama campaign was that they realized that there were millions who would listen to rhetoric and ignore substance.  They were the naïve and gullible who lacked the education or the gumption to go out and feed themselves and their families and would be easily swayed to vote for a president who promised them something for nothing.  And they came out or were bused in droves to accomplish their mission.

The campaign was nothing short of brilliant.

But the question remains, what happens when the trough runs dry as it inevitably will?  When you have over-promised and under-delivered, even the most addled of your minions will eventually catch on.

When that next payment on which you depend fails to make its arrival and you see that your overseers are living a life of luxury as you spend your afternoon dumpster diving to find something for dinner, what will be your feelings towards this divine monarchy for which you voted?

The common response from most in this situation will be anger – and they will act on that with violence.  Their “survival mentality” will dominate their deeds and anyone in their path will be in harm’s way.  That might even extend to those who created the programs which got them this far in life.  It’s been known to happen before.

There is a basic tenet in logic that if you being with a faulty premise you will reach a faulty conclusion.  It may not always be apparent at the moment, but like a bridge that is constructed with structural flaws, inevitably the right set of circumstances will come about that causes it to collapse.  It is no different with the structure of human societies.

So bask in your accomplishments, you who voted for the “Great Society.”  You finally did a job.  Like much in your lives, you did the wrong thing – but you did it well.

AMERI-CAN (BUT WILL WE)?

A few days ago I saw a lawn sign in my neighborhood.  It read, “It’s not an election.  It’s an emergency.”  I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment that sign expressed.

I have had the opportunity to speak with many of my fellow citizens about how they determine who deserves their vote for President of the United States.  Many of those had a single issue which they cited as the basis for their selection.  Some of them were focused on economic issues, others on social issues.  I’m sure that you can fill in the blanks as to the specifics.

Generally speaking, I think that voting on the basis of only one issue to the exclusion of everything else is naïve and self-serving.  And it is with some amount of chagrin that I admit that is how I made my decision to cast my vote.

My single issue was this:  “How do I assess the integrity of the candidates running for office?”

The question of a candidate’s race should not be an issue – but unfortunately it is for many voters.  Were it not that President Obama is perceived as a black man, I am confident in saying that he would be defeated in this election by a margin which would rival the late Sen. George McGovern’s trouncing in 1972 when he received only 17 electoral votes and failed to carry his home state of South Dakota.

And I find that remarkable because the two men were so tremendously different.  If you remember Sen. McGovern, he was a voice of principle, descrying the War in Vietnam at a time when it enjoyed the popular support of most Americans.  His opposition to the war was in large measure reflected in the poor showing he made in the election.  But McGovern stood by what he believed – much to his credit.

By contrast, I don’t view President Obama as a man who has his anchor attached to any principle or set of them.  I have seen him vacillate on so many issues that it is hard to know where he stands at any given moment.  The only thing that he now promises us is that if re-elected, he is going to continue on the same course he has already plotted.  But where has that course led us if not to the brink of the abyss?

Based on his record, had President Obama been Captain of the Titanic, there would have been no survivors.

This is not a recent change – one due to the onerous burden of being President.  It is reflective of his political career as an Illinois State Senator and as a member of the U. S. Senate.  It is a record of mediocrity and indifference and perhaps is a continuation of his scholastic achievements as well.  Would that be the reason that his transcripts are such a well-guarded secret?

And mediocrity is the credo to which he asks us to rally and support with our votes.  Is that all we want?  Is that what you want – to be average?  Or do you have the vision to be exceptional – or at least to make the attempt and be able to say at the end of the day, “Well, I gave it a shot.”

But the biggest problem I see with the President’s lack of integrity, is that America is rapidly becoming a country where those who try to make a real difference and make something of themselves, helping others along the way, are looked down upon and scorned – particularly if they succeed.  That may be Mitt Romney’s greatest flaw in the minds of those who are determined to enforce the “average” on all of us.

The men who founded this country were anything but average.  They were thinkers and they were people who applied the sound principles of common sense to their decisions.  They were guided in their judgments by what they believed to be in the best interests of this new country that they had founded.  And what they founded became an example of what could be achieved when people with different interests and backgrounds banded together to support a common cause.

Mitt Romney is not flawless.  None of us is.  But since I had only two realistic choices from which to select I opted to vote for him, I might add, with  enthusiasm.  His track record speaks on its own.

He was inclusive and able to work with members of both parties as Governor of Massachusetts – and we need inclusion in America.  He brings strong values about family to the table – and we need a good example for our far too many single-parent homes.  He has exhibited personal generosity and commitment to those he met who were in need.  In essence, I think he is a decent human being – and I would prefer having someone of that caliber in the White House.

I began writing this blog in October, 2011, long before we knew who would be the candidate to oppose President Obama.  Three years into the President’s term it was apparent to me that virtually anyone else would have done better.  An additional year has done nothing but entrench me further in that opinion.

I am sorry to make that statement because I want whoever is President to succeed, not so that we may praise him for his genius, but because I want America and its people to succeed.  I am not willing to accept “mediocrity as the norm”.  I think higher of myself – and I think better of you.

Ameri-can – but will we?  We’ll see how many people committed to the principles which established the greatest nation on earth are still living here on November 6th.

FINGER POINTING

Mother once gave me a lecture on politeness which included the phrase, “It’s very rude to point your finger at someone.”  Apparently, those who are the copy writers for political ads and those candidates who conclude them by saying, “I’m So and So and I approve this message,” never got the same talking to from their own parents.  More’s the pity.

When people brought Barack Obama into the White House in 2008 it was on a theme of “Hope and Change”.  Things were tough.  We knew they were tough.  The newly elected President campaigned on the theme that while things were tough, he was going to fix all that.

Simply put, he didn’t.  In fact, by many metrics, those things that were tough have gotten even tougher.  The current mantra of the President’s ads is that things are actually getting better; that he has a plan which needs time to work; and that we should stick with him for another term.  It is an ad featuring a far less confrontational Obama than we have seen during the last four years.

Much of the hyperbole about why things are tough and it’s going to take longer than he thought to get everything working again, is his predecessor, President George W. Bush.  Apparently, virtually everything that has gone awry in the universe since the Big Bang is the fault of this misanthrope from Texas.  But let’s examine the facts for a moment – that is for those of you who think that facts matter.

Yesterday the Bureau of Labor Statistics provided the Unemployment Report for September.  It showed that from the previous month, the rate of unemployment went from 7.8% to 7.9%.  I have attached the link to this report for you to review.  No matter how we garner our information, I believe that it is essential for the intelligent individual to do her or his own research and make sure that the sources on which they are relying are honest and factual.  That is one of the reasons I seldom listen to the popular media for my news.

http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/lauhsthl.htm

There are two items on the report that leap off the page at me.  The first is then candidate Obama’s claim that he would bring unemployment down to a mere 5.2%.  There is only one state in which that is the case, Iowa which can boast the lowest unemployment rate in the country with only 5.2%.

I guess that there a lot of ways that you can spin this – and which all the President’s men will spin it – if they choose to acknowledge it at all.  But my take on this is that for those residents of 49 of the 50 states, Obama has failed to deliver on this specific promise.  Because I always like to hear alternative views, please feel free to leave a comment should you have a different interpretation.

The second item that appears obvious from this report is that under President Bush’s watch, 35 out of the 50 states enjoyed the lowest levels of unemployment since they started recording these statistics.  Check the list out for yourself to verify this statement.  And what was the average rate of unemployment in those states during those awful years while Bush was in charge?  The answer – 2.91%.  In other words, going from the years in which we enjoyed the lowest unemployment rates under President Bush to the current statistics under President Obama, we have seen a 271% rise in the rate of unemployment.

The President’s most recent kinder gentler ad suggests that his “plan” is working and we should just stick with him.  As does another ad that is narrated by Morgan Freeman that beings, “Every President inherits challenges..”.  Well, back to our old nemesis President Bush.

There is no question that President Bush’s policies gave rise to a substantial increase in the National Debt.  Part of that was financing wars which he deemed in our “national interest” and part of that was accompanying those with tax reductions, best known as the “Bush tax cuts”.  Every householder knows that if you reduce your income and spend more than you take in, eventually you’ll run out of money.  And we have.

Sadly, President Bush was a mere novice in delivering a message of under-earning and overspending which is why under President Obama we have seen an increase in the official National Debt of $6 Trillion, a 60% increase in a mere four years to a record $16 Trillion.  Part of that increase is certainly due to the tax cuts that were put in place in 2001/2003 and which are set to expire on December 31st of this year.

Did you notice the dates when those decreases were enacted?  They became effective eleven years ago.  Mitt Romney has argued in favor of continuing them as they currently stand on the books – at least until such the time that the economy really begins humming.  This is his plan to “benefit the rich by slashing their taxes $200,000 per year” of which he is accused in almost every Obama ad.  We have been living with this plan for over a decade – so I hardly think that Gov. Romney deserves either credit or opprobrium for thinking it up.

But there is a further point that I would like to make.  Those who have been employed during the past decade, as a result of the Bush tax cuts, received an average additional amount of take home income of about $50 per week.

The first time your paycheck reflected this increase, do you recall either saying yourself or hearing a co-worker say, “You know, I’m kind of worried.  If we keep spending more than we’re taking in, we might run into trouble six or seven years down the road.”  Or did you happily accept the increase, take your wife out for a nice dinner, buy a couple of new electronic gizmos and trade up to a newer model car?

“Give the people what they want.”  It’s an old political saying.  And Americans want and believe we’re entitled to a lot – perhaps more than we truly deserve.  It’s really a pity that when it comes to electing people who are going either to run the country or run it into the ground, we have expectations that are far lower.

And I guess that if I have to point a finger at anyone, (sorry Mom) it would be at those of us who think this is an acceptable way to run a country – or anything else.

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS

What really is in Mitt Romney’s years of tax returns that he has not released for public gawking?  Apparently only he, his wife, their accountants, the IRS and Sen. Harry Reid really know.

You may recall that about a month ago the good Majority Leader of the Senate made the declamation that “he had proof” that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid any taxes for ten years.  Having laid that unsubstantiated bombshell on the public, there has been nothing further forthcoming from Sen. Reid on the subject.

Frankly, neither I nor the intelligent segment of the American public really cares whether that is true – other than to point to the incredible stupidity of our massive tax code which no one can understand – including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who failed to pay his own taxes correctly.  The Tax Code should be overhauled so that it is not only equitable but understandable to the average Jane Citizen.

A few days ago Sen. Reid was “involved” in a six car collision here in Las Vegas.  Not only was his vehicle damaged but two that were being driven by Capitol Police and two Metro Police cars, all four of which were “escorting” him were involved.  Now I do not know if the Senator was at fault in causing this accident since the media coverage conspicuously avoided describing the circumstances surrounding it.  But if the Senator’s driving skills are as compelling as his ability to bringing a budget to the floor of the Senate, I think that is a good possibility.

I’m not sure who the occupant of the last car was, but you can be pretty certain he was a Republican who had not yet participated in early voting.

Throughout this campaign, President Obama’s ads have leveled charges that Mr. Romney isn’t “paying his fair share” – or more accurately – “his fair percentage.”  This makes for good sound bytes and gets people riled up and angry – which has been a hallmark of the achievements of the Obama campaign.

People who couldn’t, with or without the use of a calculator, tell you what percentage 87/299 is,are totally stoked by this inequity.  The fact that Mr. Romney and his wife paid $3 Million or so compared to their $10,000 doesn’t seem to impress those who buy into this rhetoric as being “fair”.  Again, you can hardly lay the blame at Mr. Romney’s feet when it deserves to be leveled against those who wrote the code under which he made his contribution to the welfare of the nation.

Frankly, if I had been an advisor to Mr. Romney, I would have simply said, “Show them the returns and let them have fun with them.”  I would also have used that as an opportunity to address the fact that we need, not to revise, but to re-do the tax code.

Just think about all the jobs we could eliminate at the IRS, and H & R Block and public accounting firms if we had a flat tax.  We would no longer need those handy dandy tax software preparation programs nor would the firms that provide them need software developers.  And the amount of paper that we would save!  We could cut back on the number of loggers and employees at paper manufacturers as well, even as we were saving some of our remaining trees and forests.  And let us not forget that with the reduction in advertising all these tax preparation services, we could slash quite a few jobs in the media as well.

Earlier today I put up a post, “What’s Sauce For The Goose Is Sauce For The Gander”.  And given all the criticism which has been leveled at Mitt Romney and his tax returns, I thought it was only fair to turn the tables and look at some “dirty little secrets” that President Obama is keeping from us.  Specifically, I refer to his college transcripts.

Let me begin by saying that when it comes to the subject of Donald Trump, the most complimentary thing I can say is that he must be suffering from a perennial “bad hair day”.  I watched one episode of “The Apprentice” and was mildly horrified at the glee with which he pronounced the fatal words, “You’re Fired”.  I don’t care for the gentleman – but his offer to contribute $5 Million to a charity of President Obama’s choosing if he reveals his college record does underscore a point.

If the President has nothing to hide, why is this such a deep, dark secret?  For exactly the same reason that I believe Romney should have just given us his tax returns to diffuse the subject, the President could put to rest all the innuendos regarding himself by revealing the contents of his academic background.

It troubles me when unsubstantiated statements are made about anyone – including President Obama.  If those statements are intentionally fabricated with the intent to do harm to another, they are called liable and slander.  No one should be subject to that sort of calumny – and when those assertions lie about the shoulders of the person who is the leader of the free world, it does him and all Americans a tremendous injustice.

I have read several pieces which claim that when the President was at Occidental College, he attended as a “foreign student” from Indonesia under the name he used at the time, Barry Sotero.  Further, these reports indicate that he received grants to attend as a foreigner.  I do not know, nor does anyone other than the President and the Registrar at Occidental College whether this is true.  But if it is then it is certainly disturbing.  And I believe that the American people have the right, and the President has the responsibility, to put these matters to rest.

I try to keep my own counsel and share those things about myself with friends whom I trust when there is a reason for them to know.  I think that is good advice for most of us to follow.

But if you’re a public figure, there is a slightly different set of rules.  We should have the confidence that those in public office are telling us the truth about their personal life experience and conduct so that we can fully get behind them and support their efforts on behalf of the country.  Anything less is both unproductive and unpatriotic.

I find being on the same side of an issue with Mr. Trump to be a little disquieting.  But I must admit that he does throw down an interesting gauntlet.  I hope that President Obama takes it up, collects the $5 Million for his favorite charity, and puts to rest the suspicion and ends the talk about his “Dirty Little Secrets”.

THE AARP AGENDA

I was approaching one of those milestone birthdays – you know, one of those ending in a zero.  It happened to be my 50th and several months before the actual day I had a new friend who didn’t want the day to go by unnoticed.

The American Association of Retired Persons as it was formerly called, began sending me solicitations to become a member of their organization.  A number of my friends were members and the cost to join was inexpensive, so I returned my invitation together with a check.

AARP efficiently returned an informative membership packet and I began receiving a copy of their bi-monthly magazine.  As it turned out, I was already getting the travel and hotel discounts that they offered from other sources, their offerings for Medicare health insurance supplements were not available to me because of my age and I found I could do better shopping on my own for auto and homeowner’s insurance.

The magazine which AARP publishes is very informative and I highly recommend it to people who do not have the time or are unwilling to make the effort to do their own research.  I have always preferred learning things on my own, comparing several sources so that I get a variety of views and then drawing my own conclusions.  So after perusing several issues, the remainder of my subscription went into the recycling bin unread.

At the end of my year’s membership, AARP sent me a renewal form which also went into recycling as have many solicitations that I received from them over the following years.  I have chosen not to renew my membership in AARP.

If you’ve watched any television recently, you will certainly have seen some ads for “AARP endorsed” Medicare supplement plans.  That is because the period between October 15th and December 7th is “open enrollment season” when seniors on Medicare can choose to switch or change their supplemental coverage for the following calendar year.

I admit that with my sometimes twisted sense of humor, when I hear “open enrollment season” I think of hunters going after our senior population, armed with bazookas to bring down their targets.  There is big, very big money in selling Medicare insurance supplements – a fact that is not lost on AARP.

As part of our regulatory system, both “for profit” and “not for profit” organizations must file financial statements with the Federal government.  What is required of “not for profits” is less than for their counterparts.  But reviewing these statements can still be informative.  So that’s what I did.

In the year ending December 31, 2011, AARP received more than two and one half times the amount of revenue from “endorsing” insurance products than it did from its membership fees – a rather staggering, $704 Million.  By anyone’s standard, this could hardly be considered chump change.  The vast majority of this income was derived from royalties paid by United Health Group based in Minnetonka, MN, but some of it was derived by its “affiliate programs” with other insurers who provide auto, homeowners and life insurance to AARP members.

If you can recall any of United Health’s ads for Medicare supplements, to promote sales of their products they include the phrase, “the ONLY Medicare supplement endorsed by AARP”.  The implication, of course, is that AARP wouldn’t “lend” its name to a product that it hadn’t thoroughly checked out in much the way that consumers used to look for the “UL” label on an appliance to make sure that Underwriters Labs, an independent organization, had thoroughly tested the product before passing on its safety.

There is a big difference between the UL seal on a product and the AARP endorsement of a Medicare insurance supplement.  Underwriters Labs provides an independent assessment of each product it reviews.  It is not compensated by any company for passing or rejecting their products.  AARP has a significant vested financial interest in promoting products by United Health because they receive a royalty for each one of these supplements which are sold.

United Health Group is a fine and reputable company.  It owns the largest portion of the Medicare supplement business with a 30% market share.  I am not suggesting that their products are in any way inferior to those offered by their competitors.  In fact, if I may cite one example in which government regulations have actually proven effective, it is the Medicare supplement business.

Our seniors can choose a “lettered” supplement which will pay part or all of the costs which Medicare does not cover.  The government has standardized these different options and each insurance company which underwrites them must offer the same government-specified coverage for that particular contract as does its competitors.  The only difference between them is the cost that a particular insurer charges and the service that the insured receives from the underwriter.

Considering that fact, an AARP endorsement, or lack of one, makes absolutely no difference to the consumer when they select a Medicare supplement.  It all comes down to the cost of the product and the service that they will receive should they need to file a claim.

According to the financial statement which AARP filed for calendar year ending December 31, 2011, of its $1.35 Billion in income which the organization recorded, more than 50% of it was derived from royalties from insurance contract sales.  In other words, AARP has a vested interest in making sure that there is no threat to its primary source of income – the royalties it receives from the sales of insurance contracts.

And that brings me, together with another item in its financial statement, to question its motivation in criticizing the Romney campaign for statements that they have made regarding Medicare and Obamacare.  Are these criticisms that have been leveled by an independent organization whose mission is to defend and protect our senior population?  Or are they self-serving statements made by a business, intent on protecting its own interests?

The other item in the financial statement which stood out to me was the income the AARP received from “grants”.  The amount that it recorded was $101 Million, and of this amount $92 Million came from the Federal government.

My friends in academia used to sweat bullets when it came time for their “grants” from Uncle Sam to be reviewed for renewal.  Although they may have lived in ivory towers, they realized that the individual who made the determination of continuing or stopping their grants had the power of financial life or death over them.

I would suggest that AARP is in much the same position as my academic friends.  If you combine the royalties it receives from the sale of Medicare supplements and the money it receives in grants, AARP is dependent on the Federal government and its programs for over 60% of its income.

Is it, therefore, any surprise, that AARP took Mitt Romney to task for challenging the administration on its healthcare programs calling his statements “false and misleading?”

As I head out with Gracie for our morning visit to the dog park, the old adage comes to mind.

“You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

“WHO YOU GONNA BELIEVE?”

With the Vice Presidential debate on Thursday evening now a part of history I found it interesting that the President’s latest ad asks the question, “Who you gonna believe?”

The thrust of the ad is that Mitt Romney, that insidious successful millionaire, is planning on slashing the taxes of his fellow successful millionaires.   He will pass on the cost of the money this saves them to the remaining middle class who have survived four years of Obamanomics, by increasing their taxes $2500 per household.

This is fear in advertising at its absolute worst.

Let’s think about the scenario that the President paints in his ad.  You are already a multi-millionaire and this year you have another decent year.  You earn $10 million for your efforts and on your investments.   Depending on the sources of your income, that should leave you with about $7 million or so in pocket change.  Does any one of my readers know how they would possibly spend $7 million if they were given the opportunity?  And, of course, our multi-millionaire has already accumulated a great deal of wealth that goes beyond this year’s income.

So ask yourself the question.  If you would be hard pressed to spend $7 million on things that you really want, how would you spend the $7.2 million that the ad suggests you would have under the “Romney tax plan?”

Well, that’s all theoretical.  But let’s look at some numbers which are suggested by the ad and which Vice President Biden offered in the debate.

The Veep says that this scheme is designed to benefit 110,000 wealthy tax payers at the expense of all middle class tax payers.  Each of the wealthy would get a $200,000 tax cut – and every middle class family will get a $2500 tax increase.

If you do the math which underlies this statement, here’s what you will find.  According to Vice President Biden, the United States of America, out of our population of 310,000,000, has a mere 8.8 million families who are “middle class”.

I realize that things have been tough for everyone under President Obama but is the Vice President suggesting that is the totality of the middle class that is left in this country?  If that is true, that is sufficient enough indictment to throw the two of them out of office.

Let’ return to the debate for a minute.  Frankly, I was uninspired by both participants for different reasons.

I have heard Rep. Ryan speak on many occasions and have been impressed with the sincere manner in which he delivers his information.  By contrast, I thought he seemed very “mechanical” in the debate.  Perhaps that is because it was his first experience or perhaps because the main focus was on foreign policy.  I am not making excuses for him because “it is what it is”.  I have heard him do far better and was a little disappointed.

I felt insulted by the demeanor which the Vice President projected.  I thought he was rude, condescending and generally obnoxious.  He obviously has a wealth of experience, (he told us that several times) and I felt he would have better served his cause by simply delivering his message in a forthright and factual manner.  I half expected him at some point to turn to Ryan and say, “Listen, Sonny …”

He also had the annoying habit of starting to answer a question and then, without finishing his statement, change the subject.  This is the typical tactic of the veteran politician who either doesn’t know the answer or doesn’t want to offer an answer to a question.   If you taped the debate, I suggest you watch it again to see what I mean.  I counted six separate instances of it in the 45 minutes that the Vice President held the floor.

Well, according to those who are politically smarter than I, Ryan slightly edged out the Vice President – but it was, in essence, a draw.  But there was one part of the debate that I thought was most interesting and that was the discussion about abortion.

For the first time in U. S. history we have Vice Presidential candidates on both tickets who are Roman Catholic.  It’s common knowledge that the official view of the Roman Catholic Church is that abortion constitutes murder of the unborn.  Both the Vice President and Rep. Ryan are aware of that.

Ryan offered his explanation of why he is opposed to abortion from a personal standpoint.  He referred to his unborn first child’s ultrasound when she was only the size of a bean – but he could see her heart beat.  He went on to explain that because of this experience, he and his wife had nicknamed her, “Bean”.

The Vice President approached his support for abortion in what could easily have been misinterpreted as an almost statesmanlike way.  While he would never personally have a child aborted, he explained that other people did not accept his Catholic theology of life beginning at conception.  Therefore, it would be wrong for him to impose his personal beliefs on them.

There is a problem inherent with that statement.

Some people believe that murdering another adult – if it suits their purpose and is the way for them to attain their personal ends – is perfectly acceptable behavior.  You have only to read a newspaper on any given day to know that is true.  Thumb to the section covering the ongoing violence among members of the Mexican drug cartels.

Civilized societies dating back thousands of years have generally frowned on that behavior.  The Roman Catholic church considers murder to be so serious that it is classified as a “mortal sin”.

But if we take the Vice President at his word, I can only presume that he similarly is opposed to all the laws on the books, in every state and every jurisdiction, which punish adults who commit murder.  Even though  his Catholic upbringing informs him that it is wrong for him to murder someone, he shouldn’t impose that belief on others who hold a different view on the subject, just  as he refuses to do in the case of abortion.  Or is imposing his Catholic beliefs something which he only selectively declines to do?

Of course, the Vice President’s quasi-libertarian view on the subject of abortion introduces an obvious corollary issue.  If it is wrong for those who oppose abortion to impose their will on others, is it not equally wrong for those who favor abortion to require those who find it immoral to pay for it with their tax dollars in contravention to their conscience and right to Freedom of Religion?

Politicians promise a lot of things.  If you’re in your thirties or older and are the least observant, you will have noticed that those promises are very often empty.  While they sound good and encourage us to vote for them, hoping that they are sincere in their statements, the sad truth is that seldom is the case.

We have seen how “Hope and Change” have played out for four years of this administration.  In their ad, Obama/Biden asks the question, “Who you gonna believe?”

And we should all be asking, “Who do you think has the ability, understanding and committment to deliver?”

 

Tag Cloud