Saturday, January 30, 2010

Who's gonna take responsibility?

I usually don't do this, but I think I am going to take today to climb up on my soap box. Excuse me while I get my ladder. Stand by for large amounts of personal opinion. Hey, it is my blog, right?

So here goes. First, let me tell you, I despise politics. The political system we have now is not the same one we started with over two hundred years ago. We may have the best system that exists in this world, but we do not have the best system possible. Why is that? Some things I know, some things I don't. I will not pretend to have all the answers, as you will shortly see, and I probably don't have very many of them anyway. But I can see what some of the major problems are.

We needed a government to help protect us, from without and from within, and to help organize and bring our country together; a government to support an infrastructure and develop our physical lands as resources and retreats. This is the role of the government. To oversee the needs of the people. All the people. Not just the elitist and the wealthy, and not just those who are so destitute that they cannot provide the basic necessities for themselves, but for all the people. Low, middle, and high income alike.

One common theme I hear from my middle-class friends, and I have a lot of them, is that they are too rich to get the assistance for college and such, but too poor to be able to pay for it without some assistance. There should be some middle ground, right? I mean, we DO have a middle class, right?

Actually, I started this post on Saturday, got mad, quit the writing, and now it's Tuesday night and I can't remind where I was going with all this. I do remember some of it so here goes.

I have grown up conservative all my life. It's what I heard as a kid and what I learned as an adult. Staunch Republican. And I still consider myself a conservative, if I'm gonna wear any label at all, but I don't think I'm a Republican anymore. I know I'm not a Democrat, so let's call me an Independent.


That said, I don't trust President Obama, and for a number of reasons. One is I sincerely feel he's not experienced enough for the position he holds. Another is that his governmental experience was nearly all earned in Illinois which has the reputation of being one of the most corrupt political environments in the country. And thirdly, the actions that he's taken in his first year in office indicate more government involvement in our lives. And I don't like more governmental involvement.

(Deep Breath)
That said, again, I am fairly certain that I would not vote for President George W. Bush again if it were possible for him to run again. I voted for him the first time, in 2000, but I did not vote for him in '04, nor did I vote for McCain and Palin in '08. Now there are some people who feel that if you don't vote you don't have the right to complain. I would disagree. The act of WITHHOLDING my vote is a vote in and of itself. I found neither of the candidates suitable enough for me to support. I feel that had I voted for McCain, I would bear some responsibility for his being in office, and likewise had I voted for Obama. And since I felt neither man was appropriate for the job, I gave neither one my blessing. (That sounds quite haughty, doesn't it? But rest assured, it's not meant to be. This is just my personal opinion, remember?)

But I lost confidence in President Bush by his handling of the war in Iraq and the lack of action I saw regarding those large companies who violated the trust of their shareholders, ran the company into bankruptcy, and then went running to the government with their hands out. Now I firmly believe that this country was built by private businesses and that companies should get some breaks so that they can provide jobs for the people of this nation. But I also believe that there needs to be stiff penalties for those who violate the law for the sake of greed, who cook the books for profit, and leave the employees and the shareholders hanging out to dry.

Had executives known that they would be serving jail-time for their actions, I doubt very seriously we would be where we are today. But instead, Wall street players and big insurance companies (AIG) made deals and engaged in business practices that could be called shady at best, but would be better described as immoral and unethical. And now, right now, in the midst of this economical meltdown, those gentlemen who actually bear the responsibility for us being in the position we are in, are receiving bonuses for their companies profits of 2009, which came from the pockets of the taxpayers, and in some cases, these bonuses are retention bonuses! I do not, in any way shape or form, understand how people would think that this is ok. Take a look at the whole sub-prime mortgage fiasco and one can easily understand that this was a house of cards just waiting for someone to bump the table. But those who were making money from this legalized form of gambling, made their money and are safe and sound. No responsibility to bear.

(Now I remember where I was going).

So who bears responsibility for this situation? Is it the homeowner who knowingly bought a house, just because he wanted a house of his own, knowing he was unable to make the monthly payment? Or is it the lender who also knew the homeowner could not make the payment, and in many cases changed, falsified or ignored financial information on the applications which would have caused the homeowner to be rejected? Or the lender, who after falsifying or ignoring this financial information, then went out and bought and insurance policy on this loan, which was a high risk, from a company who, unlike all other forms of insurance, did not have to have enough money set aside to pay the claims that would one day come rolling in.

Do you see? We are all asking today, right now, who is responsible for this mess. Why didn't people do what they knew to be right? Now I know it's pure stupidity to ask any industry to police itself. Ain't gonna happen. So we need some regulations in place. But, from what I understand, we had some regulations in place that would have prevented this mess and some of them were done away with and some were ignored. And I have heard people cast the blame for that on both sides of the aisle.

So do you see my dilemma? Big Business or Government Regulations?I am in support of business, BIG business even. Businesses make products that we buy, provide services that we use, provide jobs for me and my family, and in some cases, even pay for my health insurance. And so I don't believe businesses should be hindered from doing this and making a profit. But many things are happening that make this difficult to do. Insurance costs are a big problem as everyone knows. I personally pay $231 a month for insurance, which I think is fairly good. That covers my whole family. My company pays, I believe, $752 for my family to have insurance. So one insurance company is receiving $983 every month just for me and my family to have coverage. And my company provides that to around 45 employees. That amounts to nearly $12,000 per year, just for my family. Now, don't get me wrong. I believe in insurance, but it has reached a cost level that makes it out of reach for most Americans. And even WITH insurance, many families can't afford the medical bills that they do get.

John, you're preaching to the choir, you say. I know, I know. Sorry. I guess I'm thinking out loud here as I try to work this out.

See, one reason that insurance costs so much, aside from executives greed, is that medical expenses cost so much. I have sleep apnea. The machine I use costs $1200. Ok, it's a little more complicated than an air compressor, but not that much. But I'll let them have that. The rubber hose that goes from the machine to my face mask costs $75. It's 5 feet long. It's about an inch in diameter. IT'S A RUBBER HOSE!! Plumbers don't even charge $75 for 5 feet of hose. A comparable hose in Home Depot would cost about $5. So that's the hose. The strip of fabric that goes around my head to hold my mouth closed is about a foot and a half long. It has velcro on the ends of it so it doesn't fall off. It cost $65. RIDICULOUS!! See, I got to thinking about this cause Sheila went looking for a larger car seat for Josh. He's getting bigger, and he needs a bigger car seat. He's already in the largest one that you can buy off the shelf. Anything larger has to be purchased from a medical supply company. So she went looking for one. She found one. You wanna guess? You wanna take a stab at what a car seat that is about 1/3 to 1/2 larger than the one you can buy at Costco or Wal-Mart for about a hundred dollars costs? $200? Think again. $300? Uh uh. $500?! Nope. Try $1602. For a car seat. $1602 for a car seat and this does not include the car. And then if you want to be really special, you can buy a stroller frame that you can strap this car seat into and take your little guy for a stroll without having to take him out of the seat. But you'll need another $1600 for the frame. But the frame does come with wheels so that makes the pushing of said frame a little easier. This combination supports a child up to 110 pounds. Three thousand two hundred and two dollars, plus tax, plus shipping and handling, some assembly required, don't forget to tip your waitresses, for a car seat and stroller!

Why so much? And seriously, it's just a big car seat. Nothing special or technical involved. I sincerely believe it costs so much because the manufacturer knows that insurances, be they private insurance or Medicaid, will be the ones that pay for these things. And so the average consumer will let his insurance foot the bill. What to do? I don't know. I told Sheila we should call this company up and order one for Josh, but tell them we would give them $250 for it and they can keep the stroller. Think that would fly? Me neither. But that's also what insurance companies do. They'll call the doctor or the supply house and say, "We'll pay this much and that's it." Then I get stuck paying 20% of the total bill, plus what the doctor or supply house charges that the insurance company would not pay.

It's an ugly mess, and in all reality, I don't see anyway out of it other than to have more regulations. But I hate more regulations cause that means more government involvement in my life. And I don't want more governmental involvement in my life. They haven't been doing all that great as far as being responsible either, as far as I can see. But without regulations we are trusting people to do the right thing. And so far, they are not doing it. So you and I are footing the bill.

Now I said at the beginning that I don't trust President Obama. But if you are one of his supporters, don't let this make you mad. The truth is, I don't trust ANY of them. And I find myself becoming more and more disappointed in their actions. President Obama put forth a budget on Monday that conservatives are calling him a spendthrift for and that liberals are saying doesn't go far enough in reducing the deficit. Now, as I said, I hate politics, and this is why. Right here, my very own senator, George Voinovich, from Ohio, said, "I am disappointed that he himself failed to jumpstart reform by making tough choices on the real budget busters like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid." This coming from a man who is retiring. And I can guarantee you that he is not retiring on Social Security alone. These three programs address the needs of the neediest people in our nation and this man wants to cut them first? Yes, there is immense amounts of fraud in the Medicaid system, but address the fraud, not the budget. Arrest people. Make people responsible for their actions. But don't take the money away from the seniors who are trying to get by on $600 a month, or the kid who, through no fault of his own, finds himself relying on the government for his medical needs. This is ridiculous.

John, shut up already! You're writing a diatribe.

Ok, sorry. If you've stuck with me this long you are truly patient, and I thank you. But you are also very lucky. Because, you see, I actually do have the answer for this mess. It's not quick and it'll take a while but it will work. Here's what you do. Pick yourself up from where you are right now and find the quietest, darkest room in your house. Go their alone. If you're with someone, tell them they can do this after you are done. Go into this room, turn off all the lights, plug your ears with white noise headphones or something, and start thinking.

And here's what you think:
In my house, in my neighborhood, in my school, in my church, in my community, what is the right thing to do? Not for the world, but just for where I am right now? What is the RIGHT thing to do? And I'm not talking right and left politically. What is the proper thing to do? The mannerly thing. The compassionate thing. The honorable thing. In what situation, you ask? In all situations. See, if I were to stop thinking about just what is good for me, but also think about what is good for others, then that will most likely lead me to the right thing to do. And I really believe that if we take away our outside influences, our preconceptions and our prejudices, and allow ourselves to really think about what is true, and honorable, and right, then we'll know what we should do. And we should do that.

Will this fix the mess? Not today. And not tomorrow. And most likely not before any of you have died. But one day...maybe.

That sure is pie in the sky thinking, John. Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that if I am going to expect executives to do the right thing, or politicians, or insurance companies, or my neighbor, with or without regulations in place, I better be willing to do what is right and honorable.

Change doesn't come from me voting for the one who makes the right choice. Change comes from me BEING the one who makes the right choice.

Thanks for listening. I'm done.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Good, Bad, and Ugly

It's been a long time. I feel disconnected. I miss you guys. Sniff.

We had a good Christmas. I made my wife cry. But it was a good cry. See, she's one of those lady's where it's all about the kids. "Don't get me anything. Money's tight and the kids need it more than I do." And my sister would ask, "You didn't listen to her, did you?"
No, sis, I did not.
Sheila's into scrapbooking. The one and only thing that she has ever asked for was a Cricut Personal Cutter. And no, it's not a lady's razor. It's a computerized letter and shape cutter. Very cool. The only thing she's ever asked for specifically.
They were on sale at less than half price at Joanne Fabrics this year. Sheila was very, very happy. And you know what the old saying is; If Momma ain't for your lives!

Work is good. The weather hasn't been too bad. I've missed most of the bad roads and for that I am grateful.

It's January so I'm back in the sound booth at church announcing for the Upwards basketball games and having fun.

Josh has been progressing. Sheila's still getting him to the commode most mornings before he's already seen the man about the dog. And he's getting the hand, or should I say handle, of a spoon and fork. Soup is not a fun meal, but the dog loves it when Josh eats chicken or beef.

Preston has lost a few teeth. And yes, the normal way, no help from family. He's playing basketball again this year and loving it.

We got word Isaac needs his adenoids taken out. So the surgery was scheduled for this Friday. Sheila tells me last night that the doctor called and said that Isaac has not met his insurance deductible yet and they need $250 by Wednesday or they won't do the surgery on Friday. I don't know how others feel about this but it really irritated me. Sheila was ok with it. Maybe it's just me. My comment to her was that I couldn't think of any other service industry where you are forced to pay BEFORE you receive the service. And then to say that it has to be paid by Wednesday which is two days before the surgery, and only five days away. Most folks would put it on the credit card or something like that but we don't have any credit cards, which has saved our collective butts more than once. So, I don't know. Not sure what we're gonna do. And then that got me to thinking, maybe I should get a second opinion anyway. I mean, it is surgery and it got scheduled pretty fast. One more thing to think about.

It appears my compassion level is dropping. Not sure why, but I seem to have less concern about the plight of others. And it worries me. I'm usually not that way. But it seems like every time I turn around there's a new ad or plea for some charitable organization or other. Someone wants money to support these folks or those kids or that organization. And I'm thinking, why should worry about them? And then I feel guilty, and then I get mad at myself for feeling guilty, and then I get tired and then I take a nap.

Maybe I'm just trying to isolate myself. I know this is a little bit of a ramble, so bear with me. I see folks around me who go to work, and then come home to their families and relax and watch TV together and have their hobbies like model trains or bowling, and I think, when does that happen in my house? Someone has to go here and the other kid has to go there and this person needs this, that or the other thing. Now, granted, my wife does most of the running around, but I miss her. I long for the days when I can sit with her and just revel in her presence. Am I gearing up for retirement? (Which will probably not happen anytime soon, considering the state of my retirement portfolio.)


I don't know. I just wish I weren't so hard-hearted lately.

Maybe next week...

But...I have a good wife, very pretty, very sweet; and a great family.

Ya'll have fun.

Maybe I should lay off the Vicodin.