Wednesday, November 30, 2011
We have various run-ins with doctors all year. One "minor" day surgery procedure -- which entailed a total of two hours in and out, a snip here, a stitch there, a bit of anesthesia -- cost us a cool ten thousand dollars. Yes, that's right. It makes me yearn for the old days (not really) when we could have just gone in and done the snipping and stitching ourselves. But seriously, before the procedure, being the optimists that we are (or were), we figured this procedure would cost maybe two thousand dollars. Seemed like a good imaginary price. But of course, we found out later, we were wrong. Totally wrong. We did call before the procedure to find out how much it would all cost, and we were told that it would take two to three weeks to get us an estimate. (That should have been the tip-off).
Then there was the thirty-minute MRI that cost us five thousand dollars. Ten years ago, the exact same procedure using the exact same machine (I recognized it) had cost five hundred dollars. When we called afterwards to find out why the procedure had increased ten times in price in ten years, we got not even an attempt to explain the huge difference in price.
Now today I have another "minor" procedure to attend to. So, being the savvy consumer that I am, I called to inquire about price. I was shuffled off by phone to the appropriate department, and when I reached the person (thankful she was actually there), she told me that it would take her three days to work up an "estimate". I asked her whether this wasn't a pretty run-of-the-mill typical procedure, and shouldn't they have an "estimate" already? (I would think that after three days they could actually give me a cool, hard price, after all that time and work). Not the least bit amused, she explained that she would have to refer the question to various appropriate departments, and then repeated her answer that it would take them three days to work up that estimate. Clearly, I wasn't getting anywhere. I tried again -- well, shouldn't someone have some ballpark idea? No, becoming tired of me and my apparent lack of understanding, she repeated the same answer. (I might have detected a sigh too). Then she added that most people who are concerned about price call well in advance.
As I hung up, resigned to my fate, I couldn't help but think, shouldn't we all be concerned about price? Is there any other arena of life in which we are not concerned about price? I mean, I worry about the price of diapers, ice cream, dinner out, dance lessons, soccer cleats, Christmas. We have a budget for these things. Most people do have budgets, I think. Or at least they have a defined income within which they must live. I can't think of any other industry in which people, including those who work in their field, are totally in the dark about price.
Even if he doesn't know exactly how much is owed, perhaps, at least a person knows what his monthly house payment is or what his car payment is, if he has one. We are concerned about big prices and little prices. I was just out Christmas shopping and my shopping buddy decided to wait to buy some gifts until she could be sure she could get the best possible price.
Now, I just read, there's an app that can tell you, right at the store, whether you're getting the best deal on that giant set of paper towels, or whether you should drive next door to save a couple dollars -- maybe even five. It can tell you whether you're getting the best deal on the Pharaoh Lego set for your darling cutie-pie.
Just recently a friend face-booked all of us on her great grocery deals at Shaw's -- with pictures and everything! Just imagine if every week we went into the grocery store, loaded up on groceries for the week, and then on checking out, were told that the store would work on it and send us a bill in the next week or so. Imagine buying a house and signing all those papers (there's an endless amount of paperwork at the doctor's office too), all with no idea how much the whole thing is going to cost. Even attorneys have hourly rates and specific document fees or flat-rate fees, of which they inform their clients before they begin representation.
So, as I head off into the great hazy unknown for my minor procedure, be concerned for me, and wish me good luck--on the price.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Saturday, November 19, 2011
But here is why I think a 9% sales tax is a good idea: As an attorney who has represented thousands of people over the last 32 years, I know that there are many people who do not report all of their income. There is a vast underground economy in this country, if my experience is any guide. The practice is so common that the courts do not even comment on it when the issue is brought up at trial.
I am sympathetic with people who are loathe to pay taxes, but for those who do not report income, there are others--namely wage earners--who have to take up that slack by paying higher taxes. It is not fair to those who do report all of their income, or who are forced to report all of their income because they are W-2 employees.
A 9% sales tax is a simple way to require those who live on unreported income to pay some federal tax.
Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress tried to fix this problem by forcing business owners to file 1099's on most purchases, resulting in a bookkeeping and paperwork nightmare. Public outcry forced the government to rescind that requirement. Similarly, more IRS auditing of individual taxpayers might force more reporting of cash income, but that would require far more IRS agents and more intrusion into our lives. And an IRS audit is expensive for both the government and individual.
So, while a national sales tax may be distasteful to many, it accomplishes one goal in a simple, non-intrusive way: it taxes people who do not report all of their income, without any cumbersome or intrusive mechanisms to force people to report their unreported income.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Earlier in 2010, when the Tea Party Movement began, Democrats called for civility on the House Floor when false reports about Tea Partiers calling Representatives racial slurs surfaced.
The Establishment Media reported endlessly about the "lack of civility" here here here here and here which they concluded caused the Tucson tragedy. One pundit even called for a National Civility Month, and USA Today reported that a National Civility Institute was being established by President Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush. Never mind that the Tucson tragedy was perpetrated by a mentally ill assailant who had no political motive. These articles linked the conservative Tea Party to the lack of civil discourse in this country.
How times have changed in so short a period. First, a mere month after the Tucson tragedy, there were the decidedly uncivil union protests in Wisconsin and elsewhere across the country. The Establishment Media and the President were silent on the the lack of civility by union protestors. Indeed, while Obama remained mostly silent about the protests, his Secretary of Labor enthusiastically endorsed the union's methods.
Then came the Occupy movement. Unlike the Tea Party Movement, the Occupy Movement has been characterized by physical attacks on the elderly , arson, sexual assaults anti semitism; vandalism, zombie like shouting down speakers.
Civility went out of fashion a mere few weeks after the Tucson tragedy, according the Establishment Media and President Obama. A Google search of the word "Tucson tragedy civility" reveals hundreds of stories about the need for civility in politics in the wake of the Tucson shootings. A Google search "Occupy movement civility" reveals not one Establishment Media story linking the Occupy Movement with the need for civility in public discourse. Not one. And of course, our eloquent President has been silent on the need for civility by the Occupy protestors.
Last night, Presidential candidates Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich provided the answer to the call for civil discourse in politics. In an historic Lincoln Douglas style debate on entitlements, the two candidates delved into the issues of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security entitlements, and how to save those programs for our children and grandchildren. There were no "gotcha" moments, no personal attacks; only cordial discourse on the problems we face and solutions to those problems. If you did not see the debate, I urge you to go to C-Span to watch it. If we truly want civility in politics, Cain and Gringrich have demonstrated how it can work.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Here are the facts: TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) was instituted in October 2008 to promote stability in the financial markets. Under the program, the federal government essentially lent money to the nation's banks through various types of transacations. The banks were required to repay the funds at the usurious rate of 15%.
TARP was also used in 2008 to bail out the insurance giant American International Group (AIG), and later during the Obama administration to bail out General Motors and Chrysler.
The Congressional Budget Office issued a report on TARP in March 2011. The results? The financial institutions (banks) who were lent funds from the Treasury repaid those funds with interest so that taxpayers have earned 9 billion dollars from the banks who took TARP money. The CBO report states:
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
“It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man. When a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead in this republic, he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions.”
“A President cannot, with success, constantly appeal to the country. After a time he will get no response.”
Friday, September 2, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Vermonters have a right to know, before they elect the next legislature, how much Green Mountain Care is going to cost. Here is what you can do: Sign the petition asking the legislature to make public the cost of Green Mountain Care by September 2012. Better yet, print the petition and get your friends and neighbors to sign. Every Vermonter of every political stripe will want to know this information in order to make an informed choice in November 2012.
Monday, August 15, 2011
1. He argues that he and others don't have to pay FICA "taxes". Yes, there is an income cap on FICA contributions, however, FICA was not called a "tax" until recently. FICA is the amount that you pay for your own social security retirement. At one time, it went into a trust fund or a "lock box" as Al Gore called it, payable only for social security benefits. There was a cap, because the wealthy were thought to have enough money when they retired so they would not need to contribute additional money to Social Security for their own retirement. Social Security was never meant to be a welfare program. Furthermore, companies, including those owned or invested in by Mr. Buffett match each employee's FICA contribution, yet, unlike the employee, they do not get benefits in the future for that contribution. So what happened to the trust fund or lock box? Congress has long since spent it and replaced the funds with IOUs to future generations. Its the spending that is the problem.
2. If the government confiscated ALL of the taxable income of the top 1% of wealthy Americans, it would not even cover the DEFICIT for one year, never mind the national debt. Its the spending that is the problem.
3. Mr. Buffett's funds would be better spent in creating jobs in the private sector. Jobs in the private sector mean more people paying taxes. More people paying taxes mean more revenue to the government. More taxpayers are created when the economy is growing. When this has happened in the past, the government did not use the extra revenue to pay down the debt. They spent the money. More revenue has always meant more spending, it has never been used to pay down our debt. Its the spending that is the problem.
4. There is nothing in the world stopping Mr. Buffet or President Obama, or others from contributing to paying down the national debt. In fact there is even a website for this. https://www.pay.gov/paygov/forms/formInstance.html?agencyFormId=23779454
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Friday, August 5, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Then it had a story about a family who couldn't afford $25.00 in birth control, and as a result, had a baby--what a horrible result!--and therefore taxpayers should be funding birth control. Those of us who work with people below the poverty level every day know that they can afford $25.00 a month for birth control. But never mind. NPR continues its campaign to let us all know about all the terrible things that will happen when the government cuts spending.
Then it had a story about how HIV retroviral drugs have increased the life expectancy of Ugandans. It mentioned that the drugs became widely available in 2004, but never mentioned it was President Bush whose Pepfar program made possible for those drugs to be available to Ugandans. Of course not.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Worse yet, these "renewable energy" ogres are so inefficient that they must be subsidized heavily by the taxpayers and ratepayers. Wind farms cannot generate electricity at a profit on their own; so the long suffering taxpayers must cough up money for this latest political fad Why? Because it is politically popular to be in favor of "renewable energy", and wind energy not so incidentally helps politicians' lobbyist friends to get some easy money from Uncle Sam and the State of Vermont instead of doing the hard work of making a profit by providing a product or service at a competitive price that the public wants and needs. Its a win-win for politicians and a lose-lose for taxpayers and ratepayers.
Recently VPR broadcast one of its nearly daily press releases from our Congressional delegation touting their support for eliminating ethanol subsidies. Ethanol used to be the latest "renewable energy" fad; and Senator Leahy, who recently bragged about eliminating tax subsidies for ethanol voted for those same subsidies in years past. VPR of course, did not note that hypocrisy. Ethanol has been subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of six billion dollars a year; with the demand for ethanol raising prices for corn up 17% in 2011 alone.
Vermont's ACT 250, which is supposed to regulate development, fails when politically powerful interests support projects like wind power. In Hardwick, the building of a cell tower 180 feet tall has been blocked for a decade under the pretense that it violates Criterion 8 of the Act which requires the project not to "have an undue adverse effect on the scenic or natural beauty of the area ...[or] aesthetics..." Vermont courts have interpreted that requirement to mean that the project should be "in harmony with its surroundings".
Monster wind towers on Sheffield Heights are not in harmony with their surroundings. But never mind. Powerful politicians and powerful lobbyists trump taxpayers, rate payers, and small town residents every time.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
George W. Bush speech after capture of Saddam Hussein:
The success of yesterday's mission is a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq .
The operation was based on the superb work of intelligence analysts who found the dictator's footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many
dangers in the hunt for members of the fallen regime, and in their effort to bring hope and freedom to the Iraqi people. Their work continues, and so do the risks. Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our Armed Forces and I congratulate them.
Barack Obama speech, Sunday, May 1, 2011:
And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as I continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.
Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by my intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information
about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that I had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Proponents of theistic evolution such as Francis Collins would have us believe that biblical Christianity and Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection are compatible. They are not. Evolutionary theory says that we are here by accident. It is at odds with the biblical teaching that people are God’s special creation, set apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. It’s no wonder that evolution’s primary advocates, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, are the most outspoken atheists of our time. But which view is correct? I find the idea that God created each species individually more plausible because there are too many questions for which evolution does not provide a satisfactory answer. Here are the main problems I see with the theory of evolution.1. Information. Each species has a massive amount of information encoded in its DNA that distinguishes it from others. Evolutionary theory tells us that an unguided, random process has built up this vast store of information over time, but we do not observe random processes that produce information in any other field. In Carl Sagan’s book Contact, scientists looked for patterns in radio signals from outer space as an indication of intelligent extra-terrestrial life. When they found a signal repeating a list of prime numbers, they interpreted it as proof that there was an intelligence producing the sequence. DNA is almost infinitely more complex than a sequence of prime numbers, and yet some scientists believe that it comes from a random process. The idea that God wrote the code for each species seems much more reasonable to me.
2. Probability. For atheistic evolutionists, the big problem is how life appeared in the first place. Among these is Francis Crick, who discovered DNA along with Watson. He believes in what he calls “directed panspermia,” which is a theory that the first single-cell organism arrived on earth from somewhere else. That’s just passing the buck. The idea that God created the first cell and evolution took over from there would be more probable, but still too improbable for me to believe. Fred Hoyle, the mathematician and cosmologist, said the probability that evolution produced the variety of life we see was similar to a tornado passing through a junk yard and producing a fully-functional 747. I could almost accept it for organisms with asexual reproduction. Gradual changes over long periods of time could possibly produce great changes. But the probability seems far too remote for organisms with sexual reproduction. Evolution would have to produce two specimens of the same new species at the same time, in the same geographic location, and for the opposite genders. (This is true because the ability to reproduce is one of the key things that separates one species from another; if the evolved organism could still reproduce with the old species, it would not be a new species.) You have to wonder how many times natural selection would have to produce a horse from whatever came before it until you would get one male and one female horse at the same time in the same place. Thousands of times? Millions of times? Again, the biblical explanation that God created each species seems much more plausible.
3. Irreducible complexity. Scientists have discovered molecular machines inside cells that are irreducibly complex, meaning that they consist of parts that serve no purpose outside of the machine of which they are a part. The molecular biologist Michael Behe has written extensively about the bacterial flagellum as an example. It is similar to an outboard motor, and it consists of many parts that serve no other purpose. Evolutionary theory cannot explain how natural selection could produce a molecular machine like this through a gradual, undirected process.
4. Lack of evidence. Darwin predicted that archaeologists would uncover transitional forms in the fossil record. These were supposed to fill in the gaps between the species we observe today, but we haven’t found them. The fossil record does not show the gradual transitions that Darwin predicted. Furthermore, no one has ever observed the birth of a new species. Scientists can produce a new generation of fruit flies every few weeks, and they study their mutations, but after thousands of generations in labs, they only produce more fruit flies, never a new species. If our ancestors were a different species a few tens of thousands of years ago (roughly a thousand generations), why shouldn't we see a new species emerge from fruit flies breeding in labs?
Thursday, June 23, 2011
There it is hidden in plain sight: the archetypal scare tactics of those who seek to control the citizenry: Hysterical predictions about the future coupled with a not so subtle warning to anyone who dares to question the wisdom of the ruler, along with the final denouement: the citizens must be regulated in “everything we do” to protect us from the predicted disaster.
Rulers used to warn of invasion or pestilence to justify imposition of martial law, onerous taxes or far-reaching restrictions on people’s freedom. Now climate change alarmism is the perfect substitute: it is a prediction of future events which of course cannot be measured in the present; it is backed up by “scientists” who earn their living on predicting global warming; and it requires uber regulation of the populace. And as the actual evidence from the historical record demonstrates, even if there is global warming, there is absolutely no credible scientific evidence to support the alarmist predictions of climate disaster.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
This comports with the reports about the Medieval Warm Period, when crops flourished, and societies prospered.
Yeah for Global Warming!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
The gas price at the time of Obama's inauguration was $1.87 per gallon. Today, the average price nationally is $3.75 per gallon, a completely predictable result given his restrictions on exploration and drilling.
Unemployment stood at 7.2% when Obama took office. It stands at 9.1% today. The uncertainty created by the implications of Obamacare and the lack of an energy policy focused on lowering costs and his constant promises to raise taxes have caused a prudent business community to restrict hiring.
Housing prices have eroded an additional 20% nationwide since Obama took office representing an enormous loss of wealth among consumers helping to explain the persistently weak consumer sentiment. The new financial regulations incorporated in the Dodd-Frank legislation fail to address the sources of the housing crisis...the government sponsored enterprises (GSE's) known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The new regulations only serve to increase costs of doing business for financial institutions, costs that will be passed on to us consumers.
Obama "inherited" a national debt of just over $10 trillion which has soared to over $14 trillion thanks to the cost of his failed "stimulus" program, and the failure of his administration to address the serious fiscal problems facing government. This enormous debt overhanging our economy is contributing to the economic malaise reflected in the grim statistics associated with the Obama economy.
The dollar has lost 7% of its value in the world currency markets in the past year as the rest of the world takes notice of the precarious fiscal situation facing our government.
Obama is being disingenuous when he blames his inheritance from the Bush administration for the failure of his administration to succeed in addressing today's economic problems. Even with all of the problems created by the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008, the economy was, by many measures, stronger when Obama took office than it is today. Obama's policies have made a bad situation worse. He has squandered his inheritance.
I will treat any reader to dinner who can send me any evidence of any Democrat or member of the mainstream media who condemns the violent threats against Sarah Palin and renews calls for political civility.
I have no doubt I will not have to spend my money.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
The Fourth Estate is supposed to scrutinize our elected officials. This watchdog role a vital part of democracy. But if government funded media use its taxpayer funded resources to provide free press releases for elected officials, with no scrutiny, then the fourth estate has become a corrupt arm of the government. That is exactly what has happened at VPR.
I have never taken a journalism course, but here are some suggestions for questions Mr. Kinzel might have asked Rep. Welch if he wants to be a real journalist rather than a mouthpiece for Rep. Welch:
- Why an ethics investigation? We already have all the information about what Weiner did.
- Isn't it a waste of taxpayer's money to have an ethics investigation? How much will an ethics investigation cost the taxpayers?
- An ethic investigation is confidential until the committee makes its findings public. Rep. Charles Rangel's ethics investigation lasted almost 735 days with his censure occurring five months later after the 2010 November elections. Isn't a call for an ethics investigation just an opportunity to take this scandal off the front page until after the next Congressional election?
- Republican Rep Chris Lee resigned hours after it was revealed he posted a shirtless picture of himself online because John Boehner demanded he do so. Democrats gained another Representative in a special election for Lee's seat because Republicans would not tolerate such behavior. Rep. Weiner sent an obscene picture of his naked body to several young women, and lied about it for a week. Why don't Democrats demand resignation by this obviously worse behavior?
- Isn't your "outrage" hypocritical? Isn't it cynical for you to come on the air and express outrage at Weiner's behavior, yet not call for any consequences for his behavior?
Sunday, June 5, 2011
George W. Bush never said he "inherited" anything, not even the Clinton recession, the dot com bubble burst, or an intelligence community in shatters. He manned up and took responsibility for anything that happened on his watch.
Was Obama faced with such terrible circumstances that we should continue to give him a pass in the third year of his Presidency? Hardly.
Obama actually inherited an average recession, and since he has been in office, has made it much worse than any other post war recession.
Obama inherited $1.87 a gallon gasoline on the day he took office, thanks to George W. Bush opening up drilling in July 2008. Now gasoline prices are $3.84 a gallon. Funny how Pres. Obama never talks about this inheritance.
Obama inherited $10 trillion in debt; he increased our debt in 2 1/2 years another four trillion and counting.
Obama inherited a superb military and intelligence community, thanks to the efforts of President George W. Bush. Because of the efforts of Pres. Bush, we had the capability to finally kill Osama Bin Laden. Yet, the President failed to mention President Bush when announcing Bin Laden' death, patting himself on the back instead. Funny how this inheritance gets overlooked by our Commander in Chief.