Why? This is Why

I’m often asked, usually by Shari, why do I do this?  Somedays I’m not sure myself, but I think it may be because for many years, though I felt as though I had something to say, I had neither the skill, nor the patience to say it well.  I’ve worked very hard to get better at that, and by your responses it would appear that I’m at least making some progress in that direction.

I’m about to post another article, and this one has more hard data (and sources) than usual.  I apologize, because I know that can be boring.  However, I’m once-again addressing an emotionally-charged topic (like so many others), and I believe we are all better served by dialing back emotions and simply examining available data.  We are living in a culture where lately, it seems that the more one “cares” about something, the more they feel compelled to render their “expert” opinion, and the less they are asked to produce genuine evidence in support of their position.

What we end up with are interactions between opposing sides that, while provocative and possibly “entertaining,” are increasingly less productive.  This fundamental change is pushing our society off into (at least) two dangerous directions: the first is that more and more, we substitute fear for reason, and second, people are abandoning thinking in favor of feeling because they are no longer challenged to discern the difference between the two.

We live in a great country, and I am both grateful and proud to be here.  And though we may disagree on whether it needs to be made great again, we should completely agree that we each have a responsibility to make it better (and greater) everyday.  I don’t want what’s best for me.  I want what’s best for US, me and my fellow citizens.

This is our country, and our President, and our Congress, our media, our Constitution, our culture, our environment…  we are in this together.  But if we continue to increasingly view those with whom we disagree with contempt, we will fail, horribly.  “My way or No way” is a collective death sentence.  I want the United States of America to be truly united, for US to collectively flourish and prosper, and each of these writings is part of my humble effort toward that outcome.

Executive Orders on Immigration

June 26, 2017, the ultimate legal authority in the country, The United States Supreme Court, has ruled.  I don’t know every single one of the intricate aspects of this Administration’s Executive Order on Immigration.

What I do know is this:

  • December 2015 – 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12) – President Obama placed restrictions for on certain travelers who had visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011. In Feb 2016, he added Libya, Somalia, and Yemen to the list, trying to address “the growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters.”
  • This list of countries matches exactly the countries named in the current Executive Order.
  • The Obama restrictions took place without public outrage & protests, without screams of racism, without lawsuits, without the Press and the Left excoriating the President, and without any of the general hysteria we see today.

These are not three of my opinions, these are irrefutable facts.  Sadly, these days one can be denigrated as being racist, bigoted, xenophobic, uncaring and even un-American simply for stating relevant facts.  THAT is a big problem in America today, we can’t even have rational, fact-based discussion when it involves divergent views.

I’ve just listened to yet another leftist do-gooder venting their self-righteous indignation about the “Muslim” travel ban, and how it constitutes “bigoted, religious persecution by a white-supremacist society.”

With all due respect, if you make the “Muslim” or “religious” claim, you have absolutely NO credibility, NONE!!!

Once again, I’m a data guy, and given the choice of facts vs feelings, I’ll take facts: There are about 50 Muslim-majority countries in the world.  The six most-populous countries contain more than half (53%) of the entire world’s Muslim population.  They are (in order): Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria & Egypt.  Well Mr. Do-Gooder, remind me again, which of these Muslim countries is included in the Executive Order (your “Muslim” travel ban list)?

I’m waiting…

Yeah, that’s what I thought.  So please tell me again (this time without all of the hyperbole and emotion-based rhetoric) how this is a religiously-motivated action against Muslims?

You want to peacefully protest, fine.  You want to passionately exercise your First Amendment rights and respectfully debate a difference of opinion, also fine.  But in the interest of intellectual honesty, and perhaps even doing genuine “good,” do us all a favor, and at the very least, get your g**d*** facts straight!!!!!

PRE-EXISTING HYSTERIA – Perhaps Soon to be Known as Kimmel Syndrome

Are Facts Even Important Anymore?

It’s just my opinion, but I think that if you are going to go on TV and perform a very personal rant in a very public way, please do your fellow citizens a favor and know what the **** you are talking about.

Jimmy Kimmel recently stated, “Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition, you were born with a pre-existing condition.”

This statement is largely false – or better yet, this statement is 87% false.  Why, you ask?  Because according to the US Census Bureau, in 2013 87% of Americans had health insurance.  If parents have health insurance, a child born to the mother is covered under the parents’ policy whether or not the child has a health problem.

In addition, just because someone doesn’t have health insurance does not mean that cannot receive health care.  The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTLA) of 1985 mandates that all hospitals provide treatment to anyone and everyone in need of emergency medical care regardless of the patient’s insurance status.  Moreover, this obligation applies to anyone entering the hospital through the ER, or the front door, the loading dock, or even standing in the parking lot.  Once they are on the hospital property, the hospital is obligated.

It’s called Charity Care, and last year my local hospital provided about $4,000,000 worth of it to individuals with no insurance.  Four million dollars!  Note the hospital still had to pay the doctors and nurses, and do the x-rays, and lab tests, and provide medications… and in the end could not collect a dime in fair compensation despite having performed all of that work to make people better, and even save lives.

I absolutely appreciate Jimmy Kimmel being an involved, concerned father, and he has every right to speak passionately about the challenges of that role.  However, is he a credible source for the promotion (accurately or inaccurately) of the alleged “benefits” of the ACA?  Given his entirely well-earned socio-economic success, I sincerely doubt that he bought his health insurance policy through one of the ACA exchanges.  Something tells me that his health insurance policy, just like the policies of everyone in Congress, is probably juuuusssst a bit better than that.

Modern Day “Hate-Speech” From an Old White Male

As I write, I am preparing myself for the onslaught of pejorative comments about my lack of character, intelligence, empathy and concern for my fellow man (or woman, or womyn, or genderless being, or gender-fluid human, or non-binary entity, or whatever the hell it is we’re supposed to call each other nowadays).  In 2017, my age, race and chromosomes immediately qualify me for passionate negative, invective-laden politically-correct response.

So here it is:  Unrestricted Pre-Existing Condition coverage clauses have absolutely NO business being in ANY health care legislation.  NONE!!

If your house burns down, can you then go out and buy fire insurance in order to have the insurance company build you a new house?  No.

If you crash your car, can you then go and buy comprehensive collision insurance to have the insurance company pay for the restoration of your car?  No.

Then WHY should health insurance be any different?  Not surprisingly, I’ve already had the answer to that question spit at me more than once: “Because houses and cars are things, you moron, and this is all about people’s lives!!!”  I see, how terribly foolish and insensitive of me.

So… if you die, can your family then go buy life insurance in order to have the insurance company not only pay your funeral expenses, but also provide a financial windfall for your beneficiaries?  Uh, no.

Quite frankly, the notion that anyone should be able to purchase any type of immediate “insurance coverage” for something that has already happened is absurd.  This is just one of the things clearly indicating that many of the most vocal members of American society are on the path to the complete loss of reasonable, rational thought.

The Pre-Existing Purpose of Addressing Pre-Existing Conditions

This has been a topic of serious discussion for many years.  Here’s what Pre-Existing Condition legislation was supposed to address, right up until the moment when emotion began to overrule reason.  The original intent was to protect people who were already insured by one provider, and were changing coverage to another insurance provider.  It was never intended to protect those who initially chose to not have health insurance, but now wanted it because they were sick.

Suppose you work for Employer A, who provides health insurance as an employment benefit.  During this time, you are diagnosed with a serious, expensive-to-treat medical condition.  Insurance Provider A covers your health care expenses per the terms of the policy.  Now you want to leave Employer A for a better, more fulfilling position with Employer B, who also provides health insurance as an employment benefit.  However, prior to making the change, you learn that Insurance Provider B will not cover the expenses of your specific condition, because it was pre-existing to your employment with Employer B, and therefore not their responsibility.

That situation was/is very common, and what it does is create “benefits hostages,” preventing qualified, motivated people from moving around in the job market because they need to maintain their present level of insurance coverage.   This situation is not good for individuals or society for all kinds of reasons, including limiting basic American freedoms, hindering growth and creativity, and stifling the economy, just to name a few.

KNOW The Problem Before You Try To SOLVE The Problem

One additional aspect of this that everybody (including our buddy Jimmy, and quite frankly all of Congress) seems to be missing:  In most cases, pre-existing conditions do not prevent someone from getting insurance.  Qualified applicants are typically granted the standard policy with a caveat: any pre-existing conditions will not be covered for a designated period of time, typically 6-12 months.  This enables honest people to obtain coverage for most health needs, and go forward while waiting a reasonable, defined time for the onset of coverage of the identified pre-existing condition.  Insurance companies are not unreasonable; they simply didn’t think it fair for them to immediately cover something serious that pre-dates the onset of the policy, especially for those cases in which the individual refused to purchase insurance coverage while they were healthy.

Years ago the proposed solution and rationale was that health insurance providers should, without caveat, accept insured people moving from one provider to another regardless of their health status, because those people were already part of the total insured population pool.  They were responsible enough to obtain insurance and pay premiums when they were healthy.  Over time, the number of people with expensive conditions moving between providers would balance out, resulting in no provider getting stuck with more than their typical share of individuals with serious conditions.  Simply put, every person transferring in with a pre-existing condition would be offset by a different person with a similar condition transferring out to another provider.  Given that the top four health insurance companies (Blue Cross, Anthem-Cigna, UnitedHealth, and Aetna-Humana) cover about 240 million Americans (that’s almost 75% of US citizens), basic probability alone supports this premise.

Speaking of insurance providers, we also need to understand that the primary purpose of health insurance providers is not to pay for healthcare.  Their main job is to produce positive return on investment, just like every other business in a capitalist economy.  All insurance providers must generate revenue in order to be able to actually pay the healthcare expenses they’ve promised to pay, and pay their employees, and pay all of their other business-related expenses.  For example, in 2014 Blue Cross of North Carolina paid out more than $266 million in local, state and federal taxes, and that’s just BCBS in one state!  Even the arithmetic I learned at Longfellow Jr. High was enough for me to understand that our covered medical bills far exceed the insurance premiums we currently pay.

America, Be Careful What You Demand

Mandated Unrestricted Pre-Existing Condition Coverage will ultimately bankrupt some insurance companies, drive others out of the market, and dramatically increase the cost of all health insurance.  It will eventually lead to a single-payer system run by the government.  So, if you enjoy going to the Secretary of State to renew your license, you are going to love government-run healthcare, especially when your very life – or better yet, the life of your child – depends upon it.

ENOUGH of the “My Indignant Outrage is Bigger than Your Indignant Outrage”

Preface

The inspiration for this piece is a VERY simple premise, but one that seems to have been somehow lost in the growing din of cultural noise.  I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but you won’t find me wandering around downtown wearing mismatched shoes and talking to buildings.  And though I don’t see myself as being particularly wise, much less visionary, I think I am a relatively reasonable man who has tried to pay attention during my schooling.  This I say today:

Our daily behavior with each other is clear indication of our future together.

David Wilson – April 18, 2017

 

Entirely Self-Serving Disclaimer

This isn’t about being preachy, this about collective accountability and mutual respect.  As a society we’ve often had leaders to serve as models for dignified, respected AND respectful behavior, people like Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King, and John Wooden.  However, in that those men are gone, and that most of our current “leaders” are failing us miserably in that regard, each of us needs to embrace OUR responsibility to lead.

We’re on the Wrong Track

To my friends and acquaintances, young and old, rich and poor and in between, Green and Blue, passive and impassioned, left and right…, we’ve been through a lifetime of experiences, together and apart.  Through much of this time I’ve been carefully reading our writings, listening to our words, watching our actions and reactions.  And not just for the past several months, but for the past several years.  Folks, I’m convinced that much of the interactive social behavior we’re increasingly adopting is not at all in our best interest, much less the best we can do.

To be perfectly frank, I am sick of the divisive vitriol that has become commonplace in our culture, especially (though not exclusively) when the discussion involves anything with any measure of inherent emotion, which pretty much includes everything we talk about.  Reading comments between my friends, I get a daily dose of pejorative remarks and even vile insults hurled back and forth at each other.  In addition, I see from everyone what I think is too much of “my side is always right and your side is always wrong!”  Dammit, just STOP IT!!  MY side is with my fellow American Citizens, all 325 million of us.  I think we have enough enemies in the world already, and it is therefore not in our best interest to make enemies of each other.

For the past year or more, and especially since November, this phenomenon has continued to increase, so much so that one can no longer engage in substantive discussion, much less watch a selection of prime time national news without experiencing some sort of visceral reaction, often due to utter disbelief and even anger at the content and context of what is being reported.

Know, We Don’t

I’ve said this before; One thing about which I am certain is that there is far too much certainty in this world.  We know what happened in Ferguson, we know what happened in the election, we know what happened in Flint, we know what happened on that stupid United Airlines flight…  Folks, we don’t know squat!  We don’t know even half of what really went on with any of these situations.  We get carefully selected bits and pieces of information and conflicting reports, all delivered with respective “spin.”  And as a result, what we end up with is analogous to knowing a little bit of karate, which provides us just enough unwarranted confidence and false bravado to pick a fight, only to receive a good (and probably well-deserved) beating.

A Hard Job for a Worthy Cause

American Citizenry done properly is not an easy job.  Nowhere in the US Constitution does it say (much less imply) that this will be easy, or even fair.  But what it does is provide unmatched opportunity, and with great opportunity there is typically legitimate challenge.  Given our already inherent challenges, I don’t think it serves any of us well to constantly rip to shreds everyone with whom we disagree, be it the President, the Congress, or even our friends and neighbors.  Let’s abandon the ad hominem attacks, and instead discuss data-driven, historically-supported better ideas and thoughtful suggestions, with measurable outcomes.  Let’s try to make our case without making enemies, the politicians and political commentators do enough of that already, and seem to be perfectly happy pitting us against each other.

Finally, I don’t think any of us will ever achieve the America we desire as long as each side consistently views the other side with contempt.

As always, just my opinion, but all of us ARE really in this together.

Minimum Wage, Living Wage and other Great Misconceptions

I work for minimum wage.

Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  In fact, I submit that pretty much everybody who receives a paycheck from an employer is working for minimum wage… everybody…, including me, and all of you.  Most employers generally pay employees the minimum amount of money they need to pay in order to get the desired work out of the employee.  For a school teacher that might be $60,000 per year (according to the NEA, in 2012 the average for a Michigan public school teacher was $61,560).  For a heart surgeon it might be $600,000.  For a high school senior working part time in fast food it might be $10/hr.

If someone will successfully perform their job for $10/hr, there’s no reason to pay them $11/hr.  It’s no different than a trip to the grocery store.  The price tag shows a price, which is the minimum amount the store will take for that item.  We don’t step up to the cash register and pay more than the marked price do we?  No, we pay the minimum.  With labor, the employee has a minimum price for their time and effort, and thus the employer pays that price in the form of a wage – a minimum wage.   If the employee’s minimum price is not met, one of two things happens; either the employer raises their minimum offer, or the two go their separate ways.

Minimum Wage Law

Most people do not realize that the concept of mandated Minimum Wage has been around for at least 600 years, probably more.  European serfs generally worked without pay in exchange for a place to live and a field in which to grow food.  A common concern was should they also be given a single coin each day.  Is it really a surprise that someone came up with an idea in the 1400’s and we’ve been arguing about it ever since?  Six hundred years later it remains an issue of HUGE contention within our Society, with countless reasons being argued by both sides of the issue.  Sadly, it seems that most arguments for either raising OR lowering the mandated Minimum Wage usually have everything to do with politics, and absolutely NOTHING to do with appropriate exchange of value.  This too, is of no surprise.

Here in the US, mandated Minimum Wage is such a contentious issue because it’s a Socialist premise trying to fit into a free market Capitalist system.  Minimum Wage is set by a combination of Local, State and Federal laws, in that order of hierarchy.  Per the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (really, 1938!), the current Federally-mandated Minimum Wage (set in 2009) is $7.25 per hour.  In my opinion, this is $7.25 too high.  The REAL minimum wage in a free market Capitalist system is $0.00, just as the allowable (maximum) wage is limitless.  All societies must make a choice:  Do the citizens want complete protection or unlimited opportunity?  With respect to earnings you can’t have both, at least not for very long.  And by the way, it seems unlikely that any in-depth review of Socialist societies during the past century would conclude that above all else, all the citizens were “protected.”  The most protected classes of people in virtually every Socialist society are either members of the Government, or those that really do not want to work, but I repeat myself.

On the surface, the notion of a Federally-mandated Minimum Wage might seem sensible, even noble.  However, in reality it is patently absurd, for the US is far too large and economically diverse for this to make any sense at all.  How can one say a Minimum Wage is valid when it’s the same for Mancelona and Manhattan, Bellaire and Bel Air, Atlanta MI and Atlanta GA?  The difference in the cost of living between even just these pairings should be clear indication that a Federal Minimum Wage is completely economically irrational.

In addition, the fact that Minimum Wage is a premise based upon what an employee is ENTITLED TO from their employer, while completely ignoring the work the employee is RESPONSIBLE to perform for the employer creates all kinds of problems related to fairness, motivation, and even morality.  How can a standard of specific tangible reward regardless of contribution be justified, especially when the reward comes at expense of someone else?   Simply put, it cannot.

Living Wage

Regardless of how many times these two phrases are spoken in the same sentence, or viewed together on the same protest sign, Minimum Wage and Living Wage are two entirely different and separate things.  The premise of Living Wage is determined by a myriad of factors, none of which can, much less should be solved by mandated Minimum Wage.

Living Wage is also a very contentious issue because beyond subsistence, living wage is ENTIRELY determined by CHOICES made by the individual, such as where one chooses to live, how many children one chooses to have and when one chooses to have them, what kind of car one chooses to drive, how much education one chooses to get, which smart phone and plasma TV one chooses to buy, etc.  The concept of what constitutes one’s basic needs is entirely, individually fluid, and is therefore the responsibility of the individual to meet, and NOT the responsibility of the taxpayer or employer to subsidize.

For example, I happen to think that my earnings are MY problem to solve.  That’s sort of the nature of the beast isn’t it?  Which of any individual’s given problems should be solved by whom?  At numerous points throughout my life I earned less than what was needed to “live” the life I desired.  So I took it upon myself to increase my relative value in the market.  I did things like accepting a lesser wage in order to work to gain experience, and returning to school to increase my knowledge through additional education.  I thought it inappropriate to ask my fellow citizens (taxpayers) to increase my earnings by passing a law that mandated I be paid more, regardless of the value of my work.

Many advocates of raising the Federally-mandated Minimum Wage insist that it’s needed in order to increase Minimum Wage earners’ purchasing power.  Further, these advocates often insist that employers will easily afford the additional payroll expense by simply raising prices of the goods and services they provide, thus taking in more revenue.  This idea fails to recognize even the most fundamental principles of Basic Economics.  “Just raise prices!” actually punishes the very people that mandated Minimum Wage professes to help.  If all companies raise their prices to fund higher wages, the Minimum Wage earner now needs even more money in order to buy that which used to cost less, thus negating the value of the wage increase.

Wrap It Up David, My Brain is Starting To Hurt

Private employers need to compete in the open market for quality employees, and thus pay the going market-driven wages.  Employees need to take responsibility for providing value for their employer that is congruent to the wages they demand.  Private employers need the freedom to hire whomever they wish, and employees need the freedom to work wherever they are qualified to work.  Each of those “freedoms” typically comes with a broad range of costs, and everyone involved must accept those costs.  Many of our societal issues are the result of an unwillingness to bear the inherent costs of our numerous freedoms.  Minimum Wage is no different.

The entire notion of mandated Minimum Wage is incredibly complex, as is the determination of Living Wage.  Economics, societal mores, individual responsibility, political platform, Constitutional law, and acceptable behavior are only a short list of the things that play a crucial role in these issues.  Therefore, it is of no surprise that this cannot be effectively addressed by simply deciding that even though Minimum Wage today is X, going forward it will be Y.  It’s just not that simple, or that easy.

So once again, I work for “minimum” wage, and I always have.  However, I also took responsibility for enhancing my knowledge, skills and willingness to work in such a way that the value that I provide my employer both motivates and enables my employer to pay me considerably more than what the Government mandates that I be paid.  Given the individual economic and lifestyle choices I’ve made, and continue to make on a daily basis, the wage I earn constitutes a “living” wage for me.  I do not need, much less desire, the government to be anymore involved in this financial relationship than they already are, in the form of Withholding Taxes.  Taxes that are used for, among other things, the giving of money to people who staunchly REFUSE to make responsible economic, lifestyle and employment decisions.

And we wonder why the number of people receiving taxpayer-funded financial subsidies and entitlements continues to grow…

Name Calling in Politics, and Football

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I have a significant number of friends and acquaintances that ascribe to a political ideology that differs from mine.  We discuss, debate, sometimes argue, and do actually on occasion learn from each other.  I also have a number of friends (and family) who wear a lot of maize and blue, while I wear green and white.  We too debate, tease, and on occasion gloat with respect to our respective football team’s athletic endeavors.  What we do NOT do is denigrate each other, much less call each other despicable names.  Sadly, respectful discourse does not seem to be terribly popular across America today.

Being a reasonable guy trying to gain understanding, I simply have to ask a question:  Does anyone really think that destroying property, insulting fellow Americans, obstructing public event participation, and refusing to accept Constitutionally-defined Presidential electoral results are appropriate and effective means by which to persuade others to change their team loyalty?

To those that think it is, I believe you are wrong, and your beliefs and methods will continue to leave you in your present situation, that being that in all of the political/governmental areas that matter, you are losing the game.  Yes, your team racked up more total yards of offense (the popular vote), but you failed to score enough touchdowns (winning states).  Your team especially failed to score touchdowns from inside the Red Zone (MI, OH, PA, WI).

In addition, what’s with all of the vitriolic name-calling?  I’ve read that there are 3,144 counties in the USA.  Virtually every major news source agrees that President Donald Trump won a little over 2,600, and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won about 490, resulting in the final State tally of 30 vs 20.  What in the world gives you right to label ALL of those who voted differently than you as stupid, hateful, sexist, bigoted and racist (just to list a few)?

How is it that you are SO much more intelligent, compassionate, and rational than nearly 63 million of your fellow citizens?  Is this really the way we want Americans (football fans or not) to demonstrate tolerance, intellect, insight, understanding, and knowledge of the true nature of the culture in which we live today?  And by the way, all the intellect, insight, understanding, and knowledge in the world doesn’t mean a thing if nothing is actually accomplished for the greater good.

To that, I’m not impressed by political strategy, game plan, what plays are called, or even total yards.  I’m more interested in positive outcomes, successful results…, touchdowns!  And I really don’t even care which team within the House, Senate or Executive Office has the ball, as long as AMERICAN touchdowns are being scored.  Unfortunately, today in America it seems that Democrats are completely offended by Republican-scored touchdowns, even when liberal, or working class, or inner-city constituents benefit.

One final thought: Lately it seems that the ONLY way to be sure that you don’t OFFEND anyone, is to NEVER take a stand on anything.  Two of our fellow Americans have been very politically outspoken over the past several months, offering up all manner of opinion and solutions.  At the risk of once again being vilified by many, including members of my own family, I am going to take a stand: I really do NOT believe that America would be a better place for all under the “guidance” of Rosie O’Donnell and/or Snoop Dogg.

If, because of my stance you find me offensive, I’ll respond with the simple, yet poignant words of Shane Falco: “Yeah.  Yeah, I can live with that.”

Veterans Day

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Veterans Day…

A day to show respect and gratitude, a day to demonstrate genuine appreciation. However, before we say thank you, we should take a few minutes to truly contemplate the meaning of the day, and the measure of our gratitude for those for whom the day is named.

Sadly, and with no intended disrespect, we’ve gotten pretty comfortable throwing around the word “Hero.” We often label the unusual or exemplary actions of those in uniform as heroic. Unfortunately, more often than not, the uniform upon which we’re focused is emblazoned with a number on the front and back, rather than an American flag on the shoulder or over the breast pocket.

We need to re-think that.

The person who wears the uniform bearing the flag puts on that uniform and swears an oath to risk the life they have to protect the life that we have. THAT’s a Hero! They take the risk, we reap the reward.

“Semper Fidelis”               “Semper Paratus”

Though politicians and newscasters seem compelled to constantly make judgments (usually after the fact) as to whether the risk is worth it or not, the person in uniform did not have that luxury. In fact, they often had very few luxuries, because committing one’s time in uniform to honor, duty and sacrifice leaves little, if any room for luxury.

“This We’ll Defend”         “Aim High…Fly, Fight, Win”

We all have our favorite “teams,” and even favorite uniforms. Let’s remember that the praiseworthy individuals for whom Veterans Day is named really are OUR team, and therefore it is for them that we should cheer the loudest. And not just on a single day, because for them, every day they were in uniform was potentially a BIG game.

“Semper Fortis”       “Always Ready, Always There”

The calendar says November 11 is Veterans Day. However, let’s consider making it OUR duty to take the things we associate with Veterans Day (like recognition, respect and gratitude) and seize every opportunity to demonstrate those attributes on a daily basis for the benefit of the men and women of the United States Armed Services, past and present. They were and are our Team, and we owe it to them to be committed, supportive and grateful fans.

The REAL Student Loan Debt Crisis

You read it here first: The student loan debt problem is NOT what you think it is.  Wait, check that, there’s some pretty smart people who read The 5×5.  Ok, the student loan debt problem is NOT what you are being told it is.  It is in fact, much worse!

I read an article today filled with misplaced sympathy, false tragedy, and more hand-wringing, nail-biting and genuine worry than the waiting room of the Free Clinic the week after Spring Break.  Politicians on all levels are getting involved, including the Presidential candidates.  The message being spread loud and clear is that one of the most pressing domestic issues facing the USA today is student loan debt, and more needs to be done to save these poor, exploited victims of modern predatory Capitalism.

Seriously?

Just for the heck of it, let’s consider these FACTS:

Like ALL other LOANS (mortgages, car loans, etc.), the terms of all student loans are clearly spelled out PRIOR to acceptance.  BEFORE they sign, it is the lendee’s responsibility to determine whether they will be able to repay the loan according to the expressed terms.  What is NEVER explicitly expressed in any of the terms, either from the lender or the educational institution, is that the borrower will graduate to a “high-paying” job that will make it easy, convenient and entirely painless for borrower to repay the money that the borrower asked to borrow.

Given these facts, can someone please explain to me how these individuals are being victimized or exploited?  They knew the deal going in, and when the time comes to start paying back, suddenly it’s just not fair????  Since when?

  • Did the student ask for the money? – YES
  • Was anyone forced to take the money against their free will? Were they somehow conscripted into borrowing? – NO, and NO
  • Are they being asked to pay back money they did not receive? – NO
  • Are the interest rates even close to being that of a credit card? – NO
  • Are the interest rates at, or even below market rates for unsecured loans at the time the money was borrowed? – Yes
  • Is the lender entitled to have THEIR MONEY returned to them under the terms of the agreement explicitly expressed prior to any money changing hands? – YES

So I ask again, where is the injustice?

I had student loans.  I could not have attended college without them, and I did not graduate to a “high-paying” job (whatever THAT means).  In fact, I was unable to find work in my chosen area of study, and ended up working in entirely different fields, changing careers now 5+ times.  Regardless, it was still my responsibility to pay the loans back (as promised), and it took me about 20 years to do that.  Ironically, my final payment was made right about the time MY children were entering college.  Yes, college now costs more, a LOT more.  As a result, WE now have loans (Parent loans and Student loans) to repay, which we are doing.  But again, like me, my children could not have attended college without them.  We each did what we needed to do in order to embark upon the path of our choosing.

There is indeed a student loan crisis, and that crisis is this:  There is a growing segment of our society that thinks they should be able to forsake their responsibilities the moment any aspect of a given situation starts to go against their liking.  What ever happened to that very simple premise, so simple that it is routinely invoked by toddlers, wide-eyed and disappointed, pleading… “But you PROMISED?!?!”

The REAL crisis is an amalgamation of labor law, government regulation, tax code, trade agreements, immigration enforcement, foreign policy, political ideology, and public perception.  The only reason student loans get dragged into this mix is because it’s a lot easier to show a sympathetic public the sad faces of poor, fearful, financially-strapped former students.  Note the use of the word “former.”  Why are we not seeing pictures of, or hearing from current students in the midst of enjoying their higher education experience?  For the same reason we don’t hear people bitching during the middle of a party.  The bitching starts when the party is over and one has somehow become obligated to stick around and help clean up the mess.  They would have much rather foreseen the future an hour earlier: “Thanks for the great time, but I gotta go!”

Like former students with acquired debt, and entry-level workers who do not yet earn enough money to buy the latest iPhone AND plasma television AND vacation in the Tropics, we continue to add more and more “classes” of people to the roster of the “oppressed.”  We even have political candidates promoting the notion that somehow we will be a much better society if we simply relieve everyone of their unpleasant responsibilities.  Really?  Will that premise also apply to firefighters and hospice workers?  Military personnel?  Pediatric Oncologists?  Sanitation workers?  And by the way, regardless of whether the topic is student loans, tuition, or healthcare costs, those politicians aren’t really erasing the responsibility, they’re just imposing it onto somebody else, feeding into the ever-growing premise of “I don’t care who takes care of that particular need of mine, as long as it’s NOT ME!”

With respect to this issue, it’s time that certain members of society grow up and face reality.  Students who borrowed money are legally and morally obligated to repay the debt.  They should stop the “not fair” whining, because the rules of the game were well known before the game began, and they still CHOSE to play.  They need to just figure it out, make a budget, have a plan, and buy only what they can afford.  They may need to work more than one job, even a job they don’t really like, and don’t tell me how hard it is, because I know exactly how hard it is.  I’ve worked as a substitute teacher, a door-to-door salesman, a private cab driver, a handyman, a telemarketer, and a janitor, all AFTER earning my Master’s degree.  Along the way, I managed to pay back every single dollar of my student loans, and if a near-sighted, follically-challenged product of the Flint Public Schools can do it, then anybody can.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – An Every Day Man

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It took me many years to finally understand and appreciate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was 6 yrs. old when he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The following year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I was only 10 when he was killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968. During the ensuing years of junior high, high school and college we learned about him and his role in the struggle surrounding the American Civil Rights Movement.

Given the magnitude of his influence on our culture, it’s hard to believe he was only 39 when he died. However, along with his much-publicized efforts to guide America to a better place, there were also accounts of his (normal, typical) human flaws and failings. Initially, I chose to focus on the latter, not because I was white, but because I was lazy, and it was easier.

Dr. King challenged us, all of us, in ways that often made both his detractors and his supporters uncomfortable. He asked…, no, check that… he demanded that we look more closely at things that we either could not, or would not see, both in our culture, and in the mirror. This all seemed like it involved genuine dedication and even outright work, and at the time, I just couldn’t be bothered.

I had to grow up to appreciate him. I had to age, experience life, and thankfully along the way, learn. I had to mature, to even simply wise up in order to recognize the significance of this amazing man and his noble mission.

Growing up in Flint during the 60’s & 70’s, I experienced both the best, and the worst that Flint had to offer. However, many years later, after leaving Flint and living in too many places to count, there are aspects of that time in Flint about which I believe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been pleased. LONG before the word “diversity” was even a small part of our vernacular, we had cultural diversity and acceptance for each other as individuals, especially within our age group.

That state of being was NOT in deference to political correctness, because that phrase didn’t even exist. The robust, blended milieu was absolutely real, not this watered-down, homogenized, sensitivity-laden drivel that we see misguided do-gooders trying to create today. We had respect for each other, and we also held each other accountable. We did it because we lived it every single day, and we didn’t need some clueless, pretentious bureaucrat showing up to “empower” us with some sort of vacuous “program.”

I think Dr. King would have liked much of what he saw in Flint, and even more of what he saw in us. I believe that had he lived to further his mission, we would certainly have at the very least, a much more clear understanding of what racism is, and what it is not. I believe that he would agree that much of what is now labeled as racism is simply opportunism on the part of the racism accusers. Dr. King would be angered that his Dream has been hijacked by people who have forgotten that his Dream was for ALL people.

Were he here today, I believe he would be disgusted by our constant bickering, finger-pointing, and self-righteous indignation. He would be angered by our use of diversity as fuel for divisiveness. He would admonish us to spend considerably less time being offended, and much more time being effective. His niece, Dr. Alveda King (author of the book The Spirit of a Dream) recently said “I really believe he would ask us to communicate without fear, without hate, without rancor. I believe we can still do that in America. I really do.”

There have been many great Americans throughout history who have, by example, shown us that we as a people do indeed have a great deal of work to do, and though it will not be at all easy, it will most certainly be worth it. Though the third Monday in January has become the day we set aside in his honor, to truly give honor, we should strive every day to remember that Integrity is more important than intellect, that Responsibility is more important than riches, and Character is more important than color.

It took me a while to come to appreciate the man we now know as MLK, and I can only hope that more and more of America will eventually get there as well. Rest in peace Dr. King, may we one day be so very fortunate as to properly understand, embrace, and ultimately achieve your Dream.