Budgets

Social Musings v 1.0


Reading time – 2:42; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

This has been simmering for a long time and I know I’m not alone, because I’ve checked with many people whose experience is identical.

 

My day job is to deliver keynotes and workshops focused on leadership. Following each session I commonly receive requests to contact individual attendees to talk about what I might do for their company or because they want to connect me to an organization for which I would be a good fit. Being a simple kind of guy, when someone asks me to phone or email them, I do exactly that. That’s when the plot thickens.

The vast majority of people simply don’t answer their phone. Calls go to voice mail. That in itself is worthy of discussion, but the lack of a return call is the key point.

I’ll commonly follow up several times, which seems reasonable, given that I was asked to call. I’ll leave a series of voice mails, often including a suggested time to talk so that we don’t play phone tag. The result: crickets.

The same thing plays out with emails and text messages, almost all of which never get a reply.

To back up just a step, all of this is in an effort to contact people who have asked me to contact them. And they don’t respond. We don’t connect. And, as I said, this is commonplace stuff, all of which is leading to my question: What’s going on in our society where people are routinely blowing off one another and it’s apparently okay to do that?

I’ve noodled over this to find an explanation for the behavior and have come up with a few guesses:

  1. People are significantly more conflict avoidant than were earlier generations and they simply can’t bear the anxiety of saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
  2. People are insanely self-focused and have no conscious notion that what they do has an effect on others.
  3. It’s a control thing: “I control if an when I make contact with others.”
  4. People don’t like to be distracted, even as they are so distractible, so they try to focus on whatever is in front of them at the moment. In that scenario, a call, email or text is unwelcome. And quickly forgotten.
  5. The best game in the world is deleting emails, voice mails and texts. Don’t you feel lighter just thinking about doing that?
  6. This is really a subset of #5: People are overwhelmed with things to read, tasks to accomplish, places to be, and the deluge of information that assaults our senses every day, so avoiding is a satisfying thing and may even feel like a survival scheme.

Any of that could be true and, really, the blow off behavior may be due to a completely different set of crazies. Nevertheless, my start as an early Boomer gives me sensibilities that tell me that it’s simply rude to blow off others and rude has somehow become acceptable. If true, what does that say about us?

Finally, the president, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer had a photo op in conjunction with their budget discussions on Tuesday. Right in front of the cameras they got into bickering about the wall and even with multiple invitations from Schumer and Pelosi Trump refused to remove the press and have a private conversation. So, we watched temper tantrums on display for the world to watch. I was so embarrassed seeing that behavior that I turned off the TV.

That display was courtesy of the president we call the leader of the free world. Can you imagine any world leader who would want to follow him?

Click me

A post post – During that embarrassing exchange in the Oval Office, Trump interrupted Chuck Schumer 3 or 4 times; he interrupted Nancy Pelosi 16 times. Click the pick and see for yourself. Then decide if there was any sexism – or you can call it disrespect – going on.

————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Republican Juggernaut Against Government


Reading time – 2:10  .  .  .

In a recent conversation, a friend wondered why working-class voters vote for politicians and support policies that are at odds with their own interests. It’s my belief that these voters don’t think through the situation. All they recognize is that a program of small government and low taxes sounds good. That’s the promise that has been lied to them. But the promised decrease in taxes means that there is less money to pay for the services that taxpayers want. That’s the part they don’t see and nobody tells them it’s coming.

George Will has said for years that Americans want about $300 billion more in services than they’re willing to pay for. That, of course, leads to politicians telling otherwise sensible Americans that they can have those services without paying for them – just, “Vote for me!”

And we do. We all like something for nothing. And that’s what it looks like we’re getting as we vote for small government and lower taxes. It’s only later that we learn that our child’s school room has 37 kids, the books are 36 years old, the roof leaks and the walls are water damaged and the boys bathroom is out of service and the teacher has to buy the paper and markers for the kids, as well as the Band-aids for bruised knees. Then the teachers reach the point where their personally funding the education of everybody’s kids is unsustainable and they wind up in the rotunda of the West Virginia or Oklahoma state house carrying signs. That is when, in a stunning admission of failure, the governor says he doesn’t have money to pay them more or to upgrade schools.

This is what the people voted for, perhaps without recognizing those inevitable consequences. But the citizens of Kansas, the land of Gov. Brownbeck’s miserably failed experiment in state strangulation, could have told them this was coming.

We can be fooled very easily. George W. Bush sold his tax reduction plan by sending a check for $300 (or $600 if you made more money) to every taxpayer. That cash in hand – seemingly something for nothing – sold his  plan to give away billions of dollars to rich people. Slick politics, indeed. That blunder was magnified as he lied us into two wars at the same time, which meant that we not only had a bigger cost to run the country, but we had hamstrung ourselves with less revenue for the fundamental services Americans want.

Oh, wait – I forgot that the reduction of taxes on rich people would pay for itself because of the stimulus to the economy that Bush’s tax reduction would create. We’re still waiting for that windfall to reach the rest of us. Worse, our 115th Congress and President Trump just fooled us into this very same tax deceit once again with a tax plan that ensures that 83% of the tax reduction benefit goes to our ultra-wealthy citizens.

That false promise of small government and low taxes has brought us trillions of dollars of debt, a grotesque equity imbalance and our kids still aren’t getting a good education, except in high income neighborhoods.

The Republican juggernaut against government has consequences. Failing our children is one of them.

————————————

Ed. note: I don’t want your money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:
  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Stop Obsessing About the How


Reading time – 61 seconds; Viewing time – 2:54  .  .  .

Bernie Sanders is telling us that he wants Americans to have universal health care – single payer. He is challenged by those on the left, the center and the right, asking how he’s going to get that done.

Donald Trump tells us he’s going to deport 11 million undocumented residents now in the U.S. The math for that works out to 7,534 people to be deported every day of a 4-year presidential term. How will he do that?

Ted Cruz has a plan to completely re-make the federal tax system. It would reduce the income of the government by $8.6 trillion over a decade. At the same time, he plans to dramatically increase money for the Defense Department and the National Security apparatus. The math simply doesn’t come anywhere near to working, so how will he do that?

Marco Rubio disapproves of increasing the national debt limit, but he doesn’t explain how the United States will avoid default on existing debt without raising the limit. By what magic will we not become a deadbeat nation?

Hillary Clinton has accepted many millions of dollars from big money influencers, including the fossil fuel industry, big Pharma and big banks. How will she lead without being influenced by those massive campaign contributions and the money sure to arrive for the purpose of funding her second term?

Here’s the point: You’ll never get a satisfactory answer to “How?” from any of the candidates. Nobody can tell you how a Democrat as president will get what they want through a Republican Congress. Nobody can tell you how an absolutist Republican president would accomplish his absolutist ends with the filibuster alive and well in the Senate.

All you can get is an idea of what these people believe in and the direction they would take the United States if they could take it some place. Decide for yourself if their values and ideas match yours (or if they are totally cuckoo bird) and stop fretting about the “How?” stuff, because most of what is promised during a campaign will never be done.

And VOTE. Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina primary elections are on Tuesday, March 15. Show up and VOTE.

Here’s some happy news: If you’re an Illinois resident and are not already registered to vote, you can register on election day. Yes, we have same-day registration now, so bring a few forms of ID, like your drivers license, passport, student ID, credit card, utility bill with your name on it – you only need one, but bring more just in case. Show up at your poling place and you’ll be able to register and VOTE right then and there.

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Exceptionalism


The Louisa, Portland, OR Yes, that's the roof

The Louisa, Portland, OR
Yes, that’s the roof

Reading time – 61 seconds  .  .  .

America is an exceptional country in many ways. The problem is that without a mindfulness about it, we can easily assume that America is exceptional in every way. That myopia can lead to the arrogance of dismissing the ideas, capabilities and the accomplishments of others, which many do as a matter of course, and that can lead directly to a Chinese 21st century. Follow the logic.

There are many people in America who look down on the French. They seem to consider them to be backward or unproductive or lazy. But I ran across this short article about the French, courtesy of S.G. (thanks for the pointer), and it seems that they are doing something about global warming, energy consumption and beautification of their cities all at the same time.

The French government has mandated that buildings being constructed in commercial zones must have roofs that include plantings, solar panels or both. These “green roofs” are popular in several other countries, too, but the technology has not been widely embraced in the U.S. Sadly and self-defeatingly, this technology might be further ignored, since it’s the French now leading the way. After all, we prefer our “freedom fries” over those lowly French fries. Okay, that part was snarky, but the American dismissing of the French is quite real.

The Germans supply 4% (and the number is climbing) of their energy needs with renewable technology, but we resist that path, mostly because our energy companies make their money by burning fossil fuels and use their profits to turn the heads of our legislators. On top of that, many Americans wouldn’t want to emulate the Germans.

Come to think of it, we probably wouldn’t want to emulate the Swedes either, since theirs is a socialist state, meaning they don’t have a single good idea in their whole country. I guess we should ignore all of Europe. That isn’t snark, as our legislators routinely invoke that very sentiment.

And we routinely assume that because the Chinese are communists that our superior attitude toward them is warranted. Our leaders imply that we can just ignore the enormous hydroelectric plant they are constructing on the Yangtze River to bring electric power to the entire central portion of their country. We can close our eyes to their modern cities that make ours look like medieval hamlets and their ground transportation system that makes ours seem archaic. They are pouring hundreds of billions of yen – actually, our dollars – into building infrastructure across their country while our politicians dither in Washington solving no problems, mounting no challenges and watching our own infrastructure crumble, all the while telling us about American exceptionalism. There is, indeed, something exceptional about that, but it isn’t good exceptional; it’s bad exceptional and that is what will lead to a Chinese 21st century.

The problem with American exceptionalism is that we assume a superiority that isn’t warranted everywhere. That doesn’t make us exceptional.

But we could be.

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Chores


Raking LeavesReading time – 59 seconds  .  .  . 

Were you required to do chores around the house when you grew up? Chances are, you were. When I was a kid, chores were simply what had to be done and we all had a hand in the work.

I recall that once in an moment of teenage male iderntity seeking I balked at doing the dishes after dinner because, I had decided, that was women’s work. My dad listened calmly, then pointed out that there were no girls in the family and my mother was busy with other things and we didn’t have a maid, so get over here and do the damn dishes. That cured me of such nonsense permanently. Note that I learned to be a really good dishwasher.

And mower of lawns, shoveler of snow, taker out of the garbage and many other chores. All of that was simply the way things were.

Mom had a moment of clarity for me one time when I complained about having to do some chore. She said that was alright. But no chores, you don’t eat. I got the point quickly and it’s a point that has relevance today.

In a recent article Why Children Need Chores by Jennifer Breheny Wallace she reports on several studies that tell us that doing chores, ” . . . helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance  .  .  .  ” She further reports that, “Chores also teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs.”

Can you think of a group of people who lack a sense of responsibility? Perhaps those same people seem to have no empathy and are completely unresponsive to the needs of others?

I can’t help but wonder if a lot of those in Congress got away with not doing chores when they were kids. They certainly aren’t doing their chores now, like passing budgets without self-imposed crises, voting on a new attorney general, overhauling our immigration system, passing sensible gun safety legislation, amending the Constitution to get the big money out of our politics and bringing our education system into the 21st century.

And it’s not just the current mix of slugs in Congress. This has gone on for at least the past eleven Congresses, most notably when there was a Democrat in the White House and Republicans flexed obstructionist muscles in Congress.

Somebody metaphorically hand those lazy children a rake, a dishcloth or a lawn mower and tell them to get to work. Perhaps they should be given Mom’s instruction, that they won’t be allowed to eat until they do their chores.

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

New Ryan Budget Adjustment


Reading time – 23 seconds  .  .  .

Washington DC – In a press briefing in front of the Washington Field Office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced new details of his updated budget plan. “To help save the economy,”  Ryan announced, “we’re making  an important change to our proposed budget. Upon adoption of the plan, we will start deporting seniors instead of illegal immigrants, in order to lower Social Security and Medicare costs. That simple change will extend the life of both programs by decades. It will also cost far less to administer than the current INS rules because older people are easier to catch and will not remember how to get back home.”*

____________________

*The picture above is from a spoof piece making the rounds on the Internet Machine. Thanks go to ES for passing it to me.  I have taken liberties with the text for satirical purposes. Note that Congressman Ryan has not yet contacted me to indicate if his mother, Elizabeth Ryan, will be eligible for deportation.

____________________

Eric CantorSUNDAY TWO-FER!

Reading time – 11 seconds

Good-bye, Eric Cantor, latest loser to a new extremist fool.  For years you had the power to be the driver of betterment for the American people and you chose instead to be a petty obstructionist.

We will not miss your arrogance and lies, your demagoguery and fraudulent misrepresentations, your partisan posturing and your dedication to failure. Your mother may be proud of you, but most of us are not.

————————————————–

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Nothing Conservative To See Here – Move Along


Reading time . .  .  43 seconds

There are so many programs that the Republicans used to support, like healthcare reform, gun background checks and programs that suggest something science-y, like cap-and-trade.  For six years, though, they have been focused solely on opposing anything President Obama supports, so they have turned their backs on their own programs trying to out-testosterone one another and promoting governmental paralysis. Indeed, many Republicans used to be conservatives, but that seems to have fallen into disfavor over on the right, which is now well short of the neocortex.

The Republicans are big promoters of a fire breathing, smoke belching military. They support the troops and wave flags and insist that we continue to spend money on defense at the same rate or even more than we spent when we were engaged in a cold war opposing a country that now no longer exists. Let nobody suggest that the R’s are military wimps. They got their camo mojo on and it’s cookin’ all the time, supportin’ the troops. Conservative bedrock in action, right?

Except when our troops come home broken up, messed up and throwing up. Then the R’s aren’t so supportive of the troops. That’s when they adjust their bean counter eye shades and sleeve garters to cut budgets. That’s when it’s clear that the “political right” has departed from conservatism. Indeed, Poppy Bush would be aghast to learn that there are no compassionate conservatives.

Read Carl Gibson’s excellent article Fake Political Outrage is the Real VA Scandal and see for yourself. These R’s who are refusing to properly care for our wounded are the same right wingers who authorized “supporting out troops” by lying to the American people, trumping up “evidence” for an unnecessary war and then sending our troops into battle without body armor, without vehicle armor and without an exit plan. Then they sent another 100,000 troops to attack Afghanistan, yet another country that did not attack America. Tough beans now for the 1.6 million vets who have cycled home, need help and are applying to the VA for what was promised.

Are you looking for conservatives? Don’t bother looking at today’s Republican Party, because there’s nothing conservative to see there. Move along.

 Ed. note:  Thanks to EBC for bringing Gibson’s article to my attention.

————————————————–

There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Modest Proposal


a-modest-proposalReading time: 68 seconds  .  .  .

There was a time when we Americans believed in the strength, resiliency and the fortitude of each of us. We took responsibility for ourselves and didn’t look to others to solve our problems. We were proud and independent.

Then things started to go awry.

The Sixteenth Amendment (ratified in 1913) authorized a federal income tax and that was the beginning of a non-stop grab at the wallets of honest Americans. Then the Great Depression came along and offered the perfect opportunity for bleeding heart liberals to suck dry the wealth of we self-reliant Americans. The feds used pictures of people in breadlines to increase taxes on hard working Americans and give it to poor people. Then there was an Old Age tax, as though anyone needed the government to tell them to put something away for a rainy day.  And the government gave money to widows and orphans and anybody with a sob story. And then it started paying for people’s medical care. And public television. And support for opera. Opera!

Things have gone way too far and government has stuck its nose into everybody’s business, so it’s time to turn things around, to go back to what made this country great.

It’s time to eliminate all government programs except for national defense. Correspondingly, we’ll eliminate all the taxes we collect for all those giveaway programs and instead allow strong, resilient, independent Americans to stand proud again. All those lazy people who have had their hands in the pockets of the rest of us can deal with the consequences of their decisions.

Getting the government out of where it doesn’t belong will be easy. For example, meat producers that make foods that kill people with salmonella will lose their customers, so the market will take care of policing that. Who needs the USDA? Same thing with medicines – the market will police that, too, so who needs the FDA?

There are lots of benefits to doing this, like the way we’ll end the population problems of our inner cities because those people won’t have food or medical care. And fewer people means lower oil consumption so we will end our dependence on foreign oil. Illegal immigration will end, because those lawbreakers would starve if they came here. And those other countries to which we are currently sending foreign aid can just take care of themselves and stop expecting us to be responsible for them.

Really, now, this just isn’t that difficult a problem to solve. A simple and modest proposal like this should slip right through our Congress.

————————————————–

Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

If It Isn’t a Perfect 10 . . .


Look, it’s as plain as can be that the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – was flawed from the start.   Whatever your political views, the act focuses on payment, not medical care itself.  And it doesn’t cover everyone.  Besides, the stupid website doesn’t work.  Just de-fund it, already.

And while I’m thinking of it, our interstate highways are pretty beaten up.  De-fund those, too.

Education.  Now, that’s a mess.  Our kids are way behind most of the industrialized world in science and math, so the only sensible thing to do is to just dump the system we’re using.  Perhaps funding based on real estate property taxes made sense a long time ago.  Maybe, maybe not.  But that funding mechanism isn’t preparing kids for today, much less for tomorrow.  And we’re not hiring and retaining the best teachers, either, as too many are on the “Three Years and Out” plan.  No, this isn’t working well enough to continue to throw money at it, so just pull the plug.

The Postal Service doesn’t get any money from the government, unless some bureaucrat wants to mail a letter, so we don’t have to worry about that.  But the people running it ought to be re-thinking their whole model.  One stamp sends a letter to the remotest places in the U.S. every day.  That’s crazy.  Maybe congress should increase the requirement for their pension put-away to cover people who won’t be born for another 50 years.  That would put the pressure on them to pull the plug.

And those spiffs to alternative energy companies – what’s up with that?  Those technologies only supply 2% of our energy needs, which is way too little to make a real difference.  No point in encouraging that, so we should just de-fund those loony subsidies.

What the heck is the government doing in the home mortgage industry?  Everyone knows that Reagan was right about government being the problem.  We should just let the free market do its magic.  The FHA falls well short of doing things right all the time.  Adios, FHA.  And pay no attention to those too-big-to-fail bank derivatives that nobody understands.  Let the free market work there, too, except if those guys crash and burn again and then government will be the safety net.  Everything has an exception, right?

Medical R & D – now, that’s a real problem.  We keep throwing money that way, but where is that cure for cancer?  Have you seen it?  Neither have I.  Now, that’s a really dark hole into which we throw cash all the time, but that’s a system that never delivers like it should.  De-fund that bad boy, too.

Back to Obamacare for a second.  The website is so bad that it’s embarrassing.  And President Obama did that, “If you like it you can keep it” thing, which turned out not to be true for everyone.  Those are two more good reasons for trashing the entire program.  Okay, really just one more, since I mentioned the website earlier.  But it’s that bad, though, so it should be beaten up twice.  Maybe continuously.

There are so many programs that we fund that work at sub-optimal levels.  If we are to make good choices about what to do with our scarce resources (i.e. what’s in our collective wallet), then here is the bar that must be cleared:  If it isn’t perfect, de-fund it.

There.  That was easy.


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

 Scroll to top