The Hand (rough first draft excerpt)

Kris said, “Sasha, In order to tell you about my missing fingers and thumb, you need to know about my past.”

At the age of 7, my father was killed in a war somewhere in Africa. I still don’t know where. Exactly one year later, my mother committed suicide. I guess that she just couldn’t live without him. I was sent to a small town where my grandmother lived. She had raised a child alone before due to the fact that my Grandfather had been killed during the Revolution. Anyways, when I moved in with my grandmother, the other people in the building took me in as well and made me feel safe. It was like having an extended family that occupied a three-story building. One of the first things I learned there was that the people of the building were of a strange religion. One that I would follow for the rest of my life.

The religion is one that had the major staples of almost any religion. You had the all-mighty one who the followers prayed to. You had the pomp and circumstance of following the religion’s traditions. You had the special days to that religion, such as the day that God was born, the day that God transcended off this mortal coil, and the fight against the darkness where God reigned victorious and saved the world from total devastation. There is one big difference from the religion that I follow and the other religions throughout the world that are followed though. It is the belief of the hand and what it symbolizes to us.

It is said that the hand will show you how your life will turn out. And, no it isn’t like a palm reader and their cheap parlor tricks. The palm shows you what to expect in your life. The lines, imperfections, ridges, and even how the tendons connect from your thumb tell you what your future holds. At the age of 10, my grandmother was concerned for me and my future. She said that my right hand told of a hard life of betrayals, physical pain, barrenness, and unnatural death. Well, I don’t know if cervical cancer is an unnatural death, but I leave that for you to decide. But my grandmother also said that there was one way of to prevent what the palm showed. She told me that the only way to avoid the prophecy of your palm is to maximize what your fingers and thumb represent. They represent the five most important people in your life. The four fingers are the four most important friends you have. They will be lifelong and will be there for you always. The thumb represents the true love of your life. Those five people can prevent what your palm predicts will be your life. It is rare though that a person find four people to fit that criteria, let alone all five. And all five do not share your blood. Family is great, but if it is God’s will to change your destiny, you must take your blessing to those that aren’t already known to you.

Now, I can already see that you have your doubts Sasha. You don’t believe me when I am telling you this. But it is what I believe. Humor me for a minute. Take a look at your stretched out hand. The fingers are stretched out in the same direction while your thumb is set apart and stretches out into a different direction. Now make a fist with your hand. Look at the fingers. They are joined together and doing the same exact thing. The thumb? It is used to stabilize the fist. It is like a spouse who gets the attention of their partner and gets them to focus their objective with the help of their friends.

So here I was at the age of 10, being told that I would have a horrible adult life, but I could avoid it if I found four friends and a spouse. Within a week, I told my grandmother that I had found my four friends. After a month, none of those four people were my friends anymore. My grandmother decided to increase my studies into our religion. For the next two years, every weeknight and every Sunday had me studying the texts and beliefs of my religion. After that, my understanding of the belief system and the actual religion was crystal clear. And at age 14, I knew that I had found my first finger.



The road to Universal Healthcare is ahead

The GOP repeal and replace mantra has been shown as a campaign slogan and nothing more. After 8 years of vowing to repeal the ACA, the party in charge of all the levers of power in Washington D.C. has shown that they cannot be a governing party. The United States Senate could not come up with 50 votes to eliminates millions of people off the insurance rolls. And I believe that is a good thing. I want people to be able to live a decent life after encountering a medical calamity. In fact, I can see a future where the United States of America becomes a county with universal healthcare.

Let’s look at the reason why repeal and replace failed. There were three GOP senators that decided that it was not in their constituent’s best interests for some of them to lose coverage. That and the $770 Billion cut in Medicaid also influenced hearts and minds. Those three senators have said that we need to know the costs of healthcare up front, not after everything is said and done. Because there are costs that will be attached to everyone if you have more people having to use Emergency Rooms for standard healthcare. It comes in the high cost of medical procedures, it comes in the cost of drugs, it comes in the cost of just being seen by medical professionals. That is the backside cost of people not being able to afford healthcare.

That backside cost is why I believe that universal healthcare is coming to America. Not this year or the next, but it is coming. The attitudes of the younger generations have healthcare as something that everyone has a right to. I don’t know if it is singlepayer, because you will have to raise taxes in order for that to happen. But eventually, even those people who believe in guns, girls, and freedom will relent to having socialized healthcare because the free market healthcare that we have been enjoying doesn’t make sense. We have insurance companies making the largest profits in their history, but yet claiming that they need to pull out of the healthcare exchanges because of the costs associated with it. Could it be that the reason they want the healthcare system to collapse is because there has been regulation on the rates hikes that they have had to adhere to in order to stay in the exchanges.

In my ideal world, the parties represented in Washington D.C., would figure out how to get everybody covered by either health insurance or covered by one big exchange that is run by the federal government. Yes, the government isn’t the best organization to keep running things smooth, just look at the past results. However, we have seen that a market solution to healthcare doesn’t work. Something needs to be done to fix the ACA or a new framework needs to be worked out that is palatable to both sides of this debate. Otherwise, this just becomes another thing to argue about for the foreseeable future.

South Dakota loses in Cutting Medicaid

From the 13 member Republican Health Committee that became the Senate version of Obamacare repeal, there was a cut of $770 Billion over 10 years for Medicaid. (And no matter what anybody says, it is a cut.) Senator John Thune, the #3 Republican in the Senate, is from my state (South Dakota) and is one of those members who wants these cuts. I believe that both of our Senators from South Dakota are not doing what is best for our state, just looking out for their party. Why? Take a look at how this will hurt the population.

During Fiscal Year 2013, South Dakota ranked #4 in the percentage of federal dollars as their general budget. 39.0% of the South Dakota General Budget was due to federal funds. So here we are with our United States Senators arguing that we need to have Medicaid funds slashed for the entire country. I agree that we need to cut some federal spending, Medicaid spending is not one of those things that need to be cut. In fact, it is the level of Medicaid spending in South Dakota that has allowed the economy not to follow the budgetary problems of Kansas and the failed experiment of the GOP economic arguments of lower and in some circumstances, no taxes being levied against businesses and individuals.

Talk to the people of rural South Dakota, not those in towns and cities of 15,000 or over for population. They will tell you that the economy isn’t working. They will tell you that prices keep rising, but their wages are not. They will tell you that people and businesses are not investing in their towns. They want to know what our representatives are going to do to help with their economic plight. How they are supposed to fend for their families and loved ones, while working two jobs that pay under $10/hour. They want to know how they can have a community that has enough nurses and doctors for the hospitals and nursing homes that are in that community.   These cuts will not help.

Imagine that the Nursing home in your community is one of the top 5 employers in your town. You know what business gets a majority of their funding from the government, including Medicaid? Nursing Homes. You take $77 Billion in funding out of the budget for Medicaid, guess who has to make either cuts or charge more? Nursing Homes. Guess where families have to pay over $6,500 on average to have their elderly family members taken care of in small communities? You guessed it, nursing homes. Now for a family who has the husband and mother working 60 hours each week at $10/hour, they receive $1,200 per week before taxes. A month would bring in $4,800. Tell me how they are supposed to live and pay for their family members stay in the nursing home for a month? I would say government assistance. Now you are taking away some of that assistance. Where does the money that is supposed to help come from? The state of South Dakota? The state passed a state tax on internet sales because they needed more revenue this past year. So I don’t think that the state has enough money to make up what the Medicaid cuts will leave on the table.

It is crazy to think that politicians are willing to see lower-income Americans struggle even more while the wealth gap will increase by their own policies to help wealthier Americans keep more of their own money. But that is where we are. Senator John Thune sold out his own state to do the national GOP’s bidding. That goes for Senator Mike Rounds and Congresswoman Kristi Noem. Unfortunately, there will not be any backlash from the political class here in South Dakota. We are a true red state and cannot get past “culture war” issues like abortion. Otherwise, we might have a congressional delegation in Washington that looks out for their constituents. Not politicians that know they are safe from the voters.


Support Cancer Research, Not Offset Cancer Costs

Let me put this out there right at the beginning. I am going to come across as a dick in this post. I don’t care. We Americans are stupid about lots of things. We love mixing alcohol and guns. We love all the scandalous personal details about celebrities. We believe politicians about how they care about the average American. We believe that bigger equals better. And the final thing that I am going to mention here is this: we donate money to help offset the costs of people who get cancer. That is probably the stupidest thing that I have written here. Why? Because it doesn’t do anything to fight this scourge of a disease.

Cancer has been around for over 2000 years. The ancient Greeks are the first to label cancer. It is believed that the Ancient Egyptians also were afflicted with cancer throughout their history. The treatment for cancer has changed and evolved since then. And yet, it is a disease that we have not been able to solve because of it’s ability to be benign, interact with our blood, and attack the body from the inside. Technology is helping us figure out this disease and yet, now we might have the cure for some forms of cancer be pushed further into the future due to cuts in scientific research by the United States government.

And while the fight for funding through the government needs to have high importance, there is also private funding that needs to be increased. And that is where we need to focus. Let me ask you something? Do you know of a family member who has died from cancer? I do. I know 5 of my family members that have died due to cancer or complications that came from the disease. I know that none of my family members had fundraisers to help with their medical costs. And that is fine. And yes, I do begrudge those that have fundraisers held for their medical costs. And I think that those who give funds to those fundraisers are throwing their money away. (Told you that I am going to be a dick.) In fact, you stupid idiots need to figure out something. You are just allowing this disease to kill more people.

Let me give you an example. I lived in Jamestown, ND for 16 years. The Relay for Life organization used to be huge there. For a town of 15,000 people, the organization used to have their Relay for Life attended by over a thousand people. The fundraising used to be over $10,000 per year easily. And then something happened. People started to wonder why the funds raised didn’t stay local. The community started to wonder why the American Cancer Society needed money to go to their headquarters and why they didn’t see what their money was going to. So, R.M. Stoudt, the local Ford Dealership, decided that they would do a 5k run for a fundraiser and all funds would go to people in the local community to help defray their costs associated with the cancer that they have. That is great. They raise thousands of dollars for those people. Guess where none of that money goes? Cancer research. So while the Relay for Life fundraiser might raise about half of what it did back in it’s heyday, some of that money goes towards research to cure this disease. While the run from R.M. Stoudt does none of that. Let’s look at what happens in 20 years. The R.M. Stoudt fundraiser does nothing to figure out a cure, but the ACS fundraiser does. If you want to eliminate cancer, which one do you support?

It is time for Americans to stop being idiotic and figure out that we need to fund research that will eventually lead to a cure for cancer. If we continue to to do the tribal thing that Americans do, we will allow more of our fellow Americans to die because we are worried more about our town or area instead of the entire population. And this problem isn’t a local problem. Yes, it might mean that some people in our communities will have a little bit more problems with their financial situation. But people in fly-over country shouldn’t care due to the voting patterns that we see there and the politicians that they vote for. The time has come to eradicate this disease. The only way we do this is if people stop worrying about being butt hurt and financing the research.

Increase the Marginal Tax Rate And Cut Spending To Eliminate The Deficit

With tax reform coming down the pike from the Trump Administration, we are hearing that middle class income tax cuts are coming. And of course with them, comes the financial bonanza of the tax cuts for the higher levels of income. And while I do identify myself as a Democrat, I am not a spend to the moon Democrat. Some programs need to be reformed, some need to disappear, and some need to continue as it has been in the past. But this tax cut should be scrapped.

Here are some highlights using the Federal Individual Marginal Tax Rates for selected years, adjusted for inflation according to 2012 dollars (all tax rates using single person unless annotated):

The lowest rate is 20%. $0-$19053 in income gets you that rate. $50,000 in income gets you a 26% tax rate. $100,000 in income gets you a 38% tax rate. $250,000 is a 62% tax rate. $500,000 is a 75% tax rate. $1,000,000 is a 89% tax rate. And finally an income of $1,905,344 is in the 91.0% tax rate. In 1950, the American debt is $256 Billion.

20% is the lowest tax rate. To get into that rate, you earn less than $15,513. $50,000 is a 30% tax rate. $100,000 is a 43% tax rate. $250,000 is a 65% tax rate. $500,000 is an 81% tax rate. $1,000,000 is a 89% tax rate and finally, a 91% tax rate for people earning over $1,551,311. So from 1950 to 1960, the tax rates have gone up on people. And yet, many people remember those years as a golden age for America. In 1960 the debt is $290 Billion. Only $34 Billion in debt is accumulated. But yet, we aren’t trying to close that gap.

A 14% tax rate for people who earn under $2,959. $50,000 is a 28% tax rate. $100,000 is a 42% tax rate. $250,000 is a 58% tax rate. $500,000 is a 68% tax rate. Anybody earning over $591,737 is in the 70% tax rate. Less tax rate levels and the people earning huge amounts of money get the tax cuts. Not saying that it wasn’t needed, but in reality, the huge income earners were catered to in this decade. National Debt is $380 Billion. The $90 Billion in debt that was added in the past decade isn’t worried about and taxes are cut. Cutting spending isn’t a viable political option.

No income taxes if you make under $6,409. $50,000 is a 30% tax rate. $100,000 is a 49% tax rate. $250,000 is a 68% tax rate. Income over $301,760 is in the 70% tax bracket. Tax rates actually rose during the decade. Yes, there was a energy crisis and the Cold War was in full effect, but we effectively raised taxes during the decade. The National Debt is now $909 Billion. The energy crisis of the 70’s and the political turmoil of the Cold War are looked at as the major factors. But yet, still hardly anyone on both sides of the political spectrum are worried about the increase of the debt.

A 15% tax rate if you earn under $34,167. 28% tax rate if you earned over $34,167. (A 33% Bubble Rate for people that earned $44,900 and $93,130 to recapture the revenue from upper-income taxpayers had saved by applying the 15% tax rate). The 80’s were a great decade for tax cuts. In 1982, the top tax bracket went from 70% to 50%. In 1987, the top tax rate went from 50% to 38.5%. In 1988, the bubble rate was instituted and the top rate went from 38.5% to 28%. Here you have the makings of deficit spending. Tax revenue is going down just due to the cutting of the top tax rates. The government is still spending more and more to subsidize programs, businesses, and individuals. In 1990, the debt has exploded to $3.2 Trillion. So during the Reagan years and his fiscally great administration, the debt more than tripled. And yet, we hear about how unfair the tax system is but nothing from the people that would become deficit hawks.

A 15% tax rate if you earn less than $34,999. A 28% tax rate for those that earn $50,000. $100,000 in income is a 31% tax rate. A 36% tax rate for those that make $250,000. Over $384,457 in income gets a 39.6% tax rate. In 1991, congress added the 31% tax rate. In 1993, the 36% and 39.6% tax rates were added. The additional tax rates were added in the hopes that it would help increase revenues to combat the deficit. Didn’t really help. But it did give political talking points to those who whine about the tax rates going up and the need to slash government programs. The debt is totally out of control now. It is up to $5.6 Trillion. This is funny. Basically the one President that held office for most of these years and vilified by the GOP for his economic policies and sticking cigars and his mole ridden penis where they shouldn’t be, did not even double the National debt. It is still a serious even perilous problem, but at least the growth of the debt is slowing down.

A 10% tax rate if you make under $8,818. 25% tax rate if you make $50,000. 28% if you make $100,000. 33% if you make $250,000. 35% if you make over $393,421. In 2001, the tax rates were cut by 0.5%. In 2003, the tax brackets were changed to 6 brackets and lowered by at least 2%. In a decade, the amount of marginal income taxes you pay have decreased by 3%. What that means is that the government is taking in less than what was expected and yet inflation is going up. Prices for upkeep are going up, and more deficit spending. More stupidity by our elected leaders. $13.5 Trillion is the debt now. Basically we ran up the debt 2.5 times during the decade. Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan help with that. A severe depression starting in 2006 also cause economic problems for the country. And the deficit hawks are mostly silent when these things are going on. Imagine that, politicians looking out for their own political careers.

The same rates and basically the same amount of income to qualify for those rates. The debt is $16.7 Trillion. The economy is out of freefall. The war on Terror is in it’s second decade and will never end. Reforms seem to be what can help one party or the other. The debt is projected to be $22.4 Trillion in 2020. Nobody is being serious about trying to slow that down. Each political party is entrenched in their decades old rhetoric on how to stop the debt from growing. But neither is right.

People are arguing that we need to cut the rates. OK. Here is what I am going to say. Take a look at what is happening. The government is spending more than it takes in. I think that everybody can agree on that. The question is how we can eliminate $500 Billion per year from the federal budget. That is tough. 7% of the FY18 spending is on interest of our debt, so that cannot shrink. 25% of FY18 spending is on pensions that have been promised. We need to stand by our word. That hurts our ability to spread around spending reductions.

It is estimated that we will spend $1.21 Trillion on medical care in FY18. That is 28% of the budget. Some sort of reform is needed here. We need to figure out how to cut $200 Billion from this budget. And yes, I know that is going to hurt services available to people. And yes, I understand that it will hurt rural areas more acutely than urban areas. But if you are serious about reducing the debt, you cannot grow the economy fast enough to catch up with the spending that the country is doing. So we need to find areas to cut. Here is one of those areas. Prescription drug negotiations for Medicare and Medicaid should be happening for the government. Cut the growth for reimbursement spending, so that stays at the same level. And yes, that is a cut in spending, not just holding the costs the same. Prices go up and you pay the same amount, you are cutting the costs of your spending.

Another place where we could cut spending is the military. Let’s be honest. China is the 2nd largest spending country on their military and they are at about $500 Billion. The United States is at $880 Billion. We all know that there is waste in this budget. I wouldn’t cut it to the bone, but eliminate $130 Billion from the defense budget to get it down to around $750 Billion per year. If a service says that they don’t want a weapons system like the F-35 or the Osprey, then stop spending on it. The Military Industrial Complex gets way too much money for political reasons. We can eliminate some of that waste and actually to some cost analysis for what we need to have on the battlefield. 21% of our budget is spent on defense. President Trump has said that NATO members are now spending 2% of their GDP on defense, so we should be able to cut back a little bit there. Close a couple more bases in Europe. That helps eliminate spending on things that we do not need.

So if we find the savings in those two budgets that I have pointed out, we are spending $330 Billion less than what is in the budget. We have already addressed over 75% of the budget. Next up is Welfare. I do agree that there has to be some reforms, but not draconian measures. The budget calls for $400 Billion to be spent on Welfare. The future projects that the government will spend more on welfare. So we need to have less spending on welfare in the future. That is where the economy can help. If it continues to grow, eventually the spending on Welfare will decrease. But we would cut Welfare spending by 10%. That means $40 Billion would be saved. And yes, people will feel the crunch that are on welfare. But we need to all feel the pain of stopping the debt from growing larger.

We are at $370 Billion in savings. If we stop now, the debt only grows by about $150 Billion per year. But let’s not do this half-assed. Let’s go all the way like the deficit hawks want. Next up is Education spending. At 3% of the total budget, it receives $120 Billion. If the GOP had it’s way, this would become $0. And we would save $120 Billion and almost balance the budget. We know that would be a bad idea. But let’s trim $12 Billion off the budget and find areas where we can save money like eliminating any federal money to going to charter schools. You want your child to go to a charter school, pay for it out of your own pocket. The public school systems of most states need help and any money being siphoned off of that problem just hurts everybody. So with the $12 Billion in savings, we are at $388 Billion. Still need $112 Billion to balance the budget.

And finally here is the point of the post. Increase the marginal tax rates of individuals. A millionaire is not going to miss a little bit of money that needs to go towards taxes. And in conjunction with that, eliminate the special tax rates for investment income and the special tax breaks for corporations. Let me put it this way. If you bring in $1,000,000 in income for a year, you are charged 35% at the current time. That is $350,000 for your marginal tax rate. If you change it to 37%, that is an increase of $20,000 in taxes for them. In 2015, there were 500,000 people in the United States that had an annual income of a million dollars or more. So if you take the 500,000 people that have an income of a Million or more and multiply that by the $20,000 tax increase I would propose to try and balance the budget, you would get 500,000 X $20,000 or $10 Billion.

Increase the tax rate on the $500,000 income earners by 1% or to 36%. There are 1.4 Million people that earn that annual income. That is an extra $14 Billion in tax revenue a year that would help with the deficit.

With just those 2 small adjustments we raise $24 Billion in revenue. With that extra revenue, combined with the cuts that I would make we are at $88 Billion for the deficit in FY18.

If you increase the rest of the marginal income tax rates nominally, you can have the deficit eliminated or it become so small that if the economy does pick up like the politicians have promised, then you could actually start paying off some of the deficit. You would spend less than the previous amount on subsequent interest payments. Imagine that. The future would look better for America and your children. The economic uncertainty would be lessened and then finally people would feel better about their future. You can believe in an America that looks like it’s best days are ahead of it. That is how you get the American people to start believing in their leaders again, not by the bluster that they spew.

The National GOP Needs To Talk To Democrats About Healthcare

Earlier today, the AHCA was pulled from consideration on the House floor. Republicans did not have the votes to pass the measure. And yet, instead of going maybe we should look at other alternatives, we have our fearless leader stating that Democrats own Healthcare and that he will wait until Americans experience pain from the ACA and then will get a better bill passed. Nice. Let’s let more Americans have difficulties with healthcare instead of swallowing the pride and actually reaching out to the opposing party and talk to them.

The AHCA was going to be a cluster anyway that you sliced it. You had a provision stating that you could purchase plans across state lines, but you also had a provision stating that states could state what those plans needed to cover. You had Phase II that would have eliminated all the requirements that the plans had to carry per federal law and would put people that had conditions in one pool which would be hyperinflated with prices and another for those that had said that nothing was wrong with them.

The way to fix or make the ACA better is for those in power in Washington (Republicans) to talk to those in the Democratic Party. Democrats have said that they would like to try and fix the ACA. So the onus is on the Republicans to talk to those who have said that they would like to try and fix the ACA. See what common ground is there to help reign in costs. And no, including over $300 Billion in Tax Cuts isn’t fixing the problems for those covered.

Look at what the ACA exchanges did for West Virginia and Kentucky. People really liked what the programs did there. Why not figure out how to do that on a federal level? Since it seems like the GOP cannot repeal the ACA, why not work to make it work better. Like Paul Ryan has concluded, even if a bill isn’t perfect, we must pass a good bill. So fix the law that helped millions of people obtain health insurance and did slow the rate of growth for medical spending. Otherwise, each and every Republican who doesn’t want to help those people that need the ACA just proves that the GOP cares about power only.

I Agree With Rob Port About The Need To Diversify The Media

Rob Port over at the Say Anything Blog (@robport) on twitter or wants the National media to be more diversified. On this, I agree with him. I believe that the national media should be more diversified. I also believe that the regional and local media should be more diversified as well. I agree with him that every article or story written has a purpose to influence you and that it might not be trying to persuade you to the political bent that you subscribe to. But where I disagree with Rob is the lack of Conservative voices out there.

Go to talk radio. Dominated by conservatives. Look at newspapers, dominated by conservatives. Look at TV. It does lean more centrist, but it is becoming more and more conservative. Why? Because the conservatives have had a better messaging product for the past 30 years than the Democrats. And yet we hear about the Elite Liberal Media. Why? Because it is always better to say that there is a bad thing causing you problems instead of telling people that are listening to you that they might have a bad idea that they are cling to.

Where I live now, it is deeply Red. Actual Liberal news doesn’t make it here. The national broadcasts aren’t Liberal, no matter what anybody tells you. I see commercials every night to tell my Congressperson that they need to support our current President. I see commercials on my TV, that we need to eliminate the forces of evil to let our current President Make America Great Again. On the local news, I hear about why the Farm Bill needs to pass and why we need the Ethanol tax break. I also hear about how businesses need tax breaks to survive. Doesn’t sound Liberal to me. In fact, it sounds Conservative to me. Why isn’t the question about how we diversify the local and regional media? Or how about where are the actual left-wing talking points in the news?

I am still waiting for a broadcast news story about how the American people need Unions to make a comeback. Or how we need to ensure that each and every worker needs a 30 hour work week or that Universal Healthcare is a God-given right. Then I will listen to how the national media is Liberal. But if you believe that the media is Liberal, then you have bought the talking points of Republicans. But you are not facing facts.