retirelazyandhappy

There are lots of things to think about.


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Governor Romney’s comments

I am sometimes puzzled and sometimes alarmed by the actions and statements of Mitt Romney.  While he is sometimes considered thoughtless, I suspect there is a lot of thought and perhaps calculation behind what he says.

The latest example were the comments made on May 17, at a Boca Raton Florida fundraiser, and recently released online by Mother Jones magazine.  His statements 47% of Americans don’t pay income taxes, and will vote for Obama, because President Obama will continue the culture of entitlement.

Most of us throughout our lives receive some government benefits.  Right now my greatest source of income is Social Security.  I am a Medicare beneficiary.  I don’t consider myself a victim.

I suspect there are many Republicans who are like me, beneficiaries of social Security and Medicare who don’t consider themselves victims.

I am most concerned about the statements about the people who will vote for President Obama are people who don’t take responsibility for their own lives.  Admittedly there are and probably always will be some people who are unable or unwilling to take responsibility for their actions.  However, most of us whether we are in the Democratic party or not, whether we have been successful in business or not, whether we were raised in wealthy families or not do take responsibility for our lives, our finances and our taxes.

Lets look at a couple of facts.  One it is more difficult for young people today to make it on their own.  The costs of education, especially advanced professional education have become extremely high.  At the same time, health care has become very expensive and workers have been expected to pay for more of the premium expense.  Wages have stagnated.  This stagnation has come at a time when business profits are high.

The inequality between the rich and the middle class has grown to a dangerous degree.  So responsibility is important, effort is important, but the path to the middle class and to wealth is a very difficult one.

The wealthy have benefitted from the government as well.  Roads, bridges, trains and airplanes have served the wealthy as well as the poor and the middle class and in some cases, more so.  All of us have been served by the military, the police, the schools, and the fire department, among the many other services that the government has provided.  Wealthy and poor we have all benefitted, perhaps the poor have benefitted less than the average.

When we look at some discrepancy between what a person says and what a person does, the surest tactic is to believe the acts.  This is an issue for Governor Romney.  He says that he will abolish the Affordable Care Act, but he signed a very similar act in Massachusetts.  He says he wants to help the middle class but he wants to provide more tax reductions for the wealthy.  He says he wants to balance the budget and eliminate the deficit, but he wants to decrease revenue for the wealthy, and restrict payments to medicaid and medicare.

So what will Governor Romney do if he should become President?  My guess is that he would not repeal the Affordable Care Act, however much he would like to. (I don’t know that the President has the power to unilaterally repeal an act).  He would protect the money of the wealthy, which is something that he has done in his own life.  He protects his own wealth with off shore accounts and paying a low rate of taxes on his income.  I believe he would protect the wealth of other wealthy Americans.

The belief in wealth is rooted in part in Governor Romney’s faith. There is an informative article in the August  edition of  The New Yorker about the Mormon Religion.  In this article, Mr Gopnic describes the belief that rich people get rich by being good, the riches are a sign of their virtue, and therefore they should be allowed to rule.  (Description taken from I, Nephri, Mormonism and its meanings; The New Yorker, August 13 and 20, 2012, article by Adam Gopnik.)  For the Mormon Faith, Romney’s riches are an indicator of his virtue, and support his right to rule.  Governor Romney who appears to be deeply rooted in the Mormon Faith, is comfortable with his own virtue, and gives little attention or acknowledgment to the help and support that he received as he grew up.

Governor Romney has been descried as personally generous but his giving has apparently been within the structure and function of the church.  I wonder if he is aware of the great need for society to provide the needs of those of us who are not Mormons: specifically the need for a place to live, food, and health care.  Perhaps it is the responsibility of government to provide some basic services to those who cannot provide them for themselves, because of job loss, disability, lack of education, or opportunity.

Are they entitled to those things?  If not, why not?

 


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My Thoughts on Medical Insurance.

Health care systems

Health care systems (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The whole insurance issue is complicated.  It is also inflammatory.  The country is divided on whether we should develop some form of socialized medicine, whether it should be completely free market, and how much help people should get with their medical expenses.

Right now, the US medical system is run on insurance, with support from Medicare for those who are elderly or disabled, and Medicaid for others with severe medical conditions, or for those who are very young.  It is an unstable, expensive system.

Someone once said (I am sorry, I forget who it was) that we usually insure against low frequency events: like floods, like fires to our homes.

Health insurance does not work that way, or at least it doesn’t appear to work that way.  If someone just has health insurance for catastrophic events, it is similar to fire or flood insurance.  However, our medical clinics do not work that way.  Instead, we use health insurance  for illnesses and procedures and preventive medicine.  As long as the US medical system is run on insurance, then everybody should have access to it.

If we don’t call it insurance, we may be able to see the problem in a different light.

Let’s call it granite account.

Everybody needs to have access to medical care, and that care is charged to a granite account.  You pay a monthly fee into your granite account.  The amount you pay is based on your income.  You pay over your lifetime.  If you cannot pay anything your payment is covered by either your parents, depending on their income, a youth grant to your granite account, or by a disability or unemployment grant. For retirees, a portion of the social security payment is made to the granite account.  For the elderly, the amount that they pay can be modifiable according to retirement income.

The cost of medical care is paid by the granite account,  with medicare available for the elderly population, the disabled, and the people with difficult to manage or catastrophic chronic conditions.

This system would work something like the way we currently manage our exercise and entertainment.  We pay a monthly fee to the exercise club, whether we use it or not, and we pay a fee to Netflix, whether we watch 10 videos a month or only 1, and we pay monthly fees to our cable and/or telephone company.

What I have described would cover a basic system of care, and I know that there are many people who would want more:  Therefore we should be able to choose to have a tiered system if people want more tests than those that are required, or who have some problems with adjusting to a new medication and want more attention.  To save money some of the changes that are already under way in medical care can be used:  case managers for people with chronic illnesses, follow up contacts with nurses, education and encouragement for healthier life styles.

Some services, like vaccinations, are required because they are essential for public health, other services are used to increase personal health and safety.  We pay for these services over a lifetime by our payments into the granite account. Once these  changes are made, and people have accepted the fact that they are paying over a lifetime for services that they will use sometimes rarely, sometimes often, we can, if we would like, stop calling it granite accounts and go back to calling it health insurance.  We just need to recognize that we are paying for a service that we choose to use, some more than others, and that we will almost certainly use at times.

Now Governor Romney is saying that he likes many aspects of the Affordable Care Act, and that he will replace it with something that he likes better but that will look a lot like the Affordable Care Act.  This is confusing but not surprising, since he has helped to pass a similar plan in Massachusetts.  Although he has not said specifically what he wants to eliminate from the Affordable Care Act many people suspect that he wants to eliminate the mandate: that requirement that everybody obtain insurance.  However he has said that insurance companies will not be allowed to deny insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.  It is difficult to see how this would work, but I will say more about this tomorrow.  Meanwhile I would love to hear your comments and suggestions.


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Dialogues in politics.

With both political parties having their conventions this week, there is a lot of commentary about who is good, who has the best position, and worst of all who is “right”.  In place of rants, lets start some dialogues.

I think it is important for people to talk to each other, especially when they disagree.

There was an interesting point made on a public radio station  which illustrates this.  A woman was discouraged when a liberal congressman who was in her district refused to consider a restriction on partial birth abortion. She knew that if he took a position of absolutely no restriction on abortion he would not ever be re-elected in that district.

The point was that when positions on either side are so absolute, it prevents any good thing from getting done.  We need to recognize that people do have some valid points of view and we need to listen to each other.  Having a respectful attitude toward each other will go a long way toward some reconciliation and some agreement.

Democrats pay a very high price for complete intransigence on abortion, and Republicans pay a price when they refuse to consider even mild restrictions on gun sales.  We both need to recognize that abortion is a tragic situation and can be examined.  We both need to recognize that unlimited gun sales often lead to unwarranted loss of life.

Both Democrats and Republicans can discuss the fact that not all people in poverty are taking advantage of the government, but we also need to recognize that some are.  Helping others too much can be unhelpful, but refusing any help or pretending that the playing field is level when it is not is also unhelpful.

I also think that true dialogue means sharing our own thoughts and experiences rather than passing on and repeating slogans, and propaganda. Our own experiences are real, varied and nuanced, while slogans and propaganda is too often exaggerated, based on one or two examples, passed down without context.

All sides of the political spectrum (we have plenty more than two) have many things that they could say to each other.  A true dialogue could begin.