The Betsy DeVos Challenge

US Secretary of Education Elisabeth DeVos is NOT anti-public schools, she’s anti-FAILING schools, and so am I, and you should be too.

Regarding the nomination and confirmation of Secretary DeVos, during the past nine months I’ve read numerous quotes from incensed teachers, parents and students from across the country, including a huge dose of negativity from right here in Michigan.  Some of the strongest objections have come out of Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw.  They all pretty much spit the same generalized talking point: that she is going to “destroy” Public Schools.  Quite frankly, the hard data would seem to indicate that in many places, the politicians, public school leaders and advocates have already done a fine job of destroying public education all by themselves.

Challenge 1:  To the anti-DeVos public education “advocates,” I challenge you to stop Secretary DeVos dead in her tracks by impressing her with your school’s success record.

Hard Data – What’s Not Working

The Michigan Department of Education maintains a database that displays each public school’s 2015-16 statewide percentile ranking based on measures of student achievement and student improvement.  Each school district is assigned a number on the scale of 0-99, with 99 being the highest relative performance and 0 being the lowest.  For the cities mentioned above, the numbers are sobering:

  • Detroit Public Schools     11th percentile
  • Flint Public Schools           8th percentile
  • Pontiac Public Schools     9th percentile
  • Saginaw Public Schools    9th percentile

By the way, these numbers have been relatively consistent for more than a decade, and in some cases two or three decades.  And please spare me any claim that the MDE database has clearly been hacked by the Russians.  Or the NSA, or Republicans, or the 1%, or a Nigerian prince.

Challenge 2:  Set aside the political ideology and quit echoing the ridiculous, divisive and deliberately misleading ATF, MEA and DNC talking points.

We’ve heard them ad nauseam: “She didn’t graduate from a public university!!”  “She clearly supports charter schools!!”  “She was never a teacher, she’s not even a degreed educator!!”

  • It is true that Secretary DeVos did not graduate from a public university (Calvin). Neither did either one of her predecessors, President Obama’s Secretaries of Education, Arne Duncan (Harvard) and John King (Harvard, Columbia, and Yale).
  • She does indeed support charter schools, as did both Duncan and King. John King spent part of his career as a Charter School Principal.
  • It’s also true that she is not an educator by trade or training, though neither were former Carter Secretary Shirley Hufstedler (lawyer, judge), Clinton Secretary Richard Riley (lawyer, politician), and again, Obama’s Arne Duncan (basketball player, sociologist).

If these traits are so objectionable, then why was there NO similar outcry about the Secretaries chosen by each of the most recent Democrat Presidents?

That being said, what’s especially interesting is the one talking point we’re not hearing, which also happens to be the only consistent aspect of all of the opposition to Betsy DeVos; nobody is claiming “Our public schools are doing a GREAT job!!”

It’s All About the Money, Or Is It?

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development involves (and studies) the world’s most developed countries for the purpose of stimulating economic progress and world trade.  The OECD has reported that US teachers are better paid (avg = $53k) than most of their counterparts elsewhere in the world (avg = $46k).  The average first year high school teacher in the US earns around $38k compared to OECD nations at $31k.

The US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics reports we spend about $12,300 per student, compared to the OECD average of $9,300.  The OECD reports that the US spends over 7% of its GDP on education, compared to an average of 6% in the other OECD countries.  So, we’re paying teachers more, spending more on the students, and spending a greater portion of what we have.  What exactly is all of that buying us?  The answer…, a lot less than one would hope.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study that compares levels of scholastic performance in 72 developed nations.  In the 2015 PISA study, US students’ scores ranked them as follows:  Math – 39th, Science – 25th, Reading – 23rd.  Just how are US graduates going to fare in the global workplace when their critical skill levels aren’t even in the top 20?

Challenge 3:  Either admit that what’s been tried in many schools isn’t working, or roll out the data that shows it is.

What IS Working

I don’t know (and quite frankly, neither does anyone else) whether Secretary DeVos will be great for American schoolchildren (and their parents) or not.  But I do know two things:  First, that continuation of current practice or maintaining status quo in failing schools will NOT solve the problem, especially when many of the people directly involved refuse to even acknowledge – much less take responsibility for – the implications of the percentile rankings listed above.  Second, Secretary DeVos and her family have a long history of education advocacy and philanthropy, for both private and public schools, including those schools in and around her hometown:

  • Holland Public Schools           45th percentile
  • Hamilton Public Schools        66th percentile
  • Saugatuck Public Schools       87th percentile
  • West Ottawa Public Schools   74th percentile
  • Zeeland Public Schools            76th percentile

It would seem that if anyone had a legitimate complaint about public schools being “destroyed,” it would be the folks from those schools listed immediately above.  Yet, I’ve seen no concomitant outcry of concern from the teachers and parents of these schools.

I can hear my detractors already: “Of course they’re not worried, they’re doing great, she’s not going to destroy them!”  And the problem with that is…?  Shouldn’t schools that are underperforming indeed be the focus of efforts to revamp the current model and rebuild from the ground up?

Why Not

The real question for my hometown and our I-75 corridor neighbors north and south is, do you want public schools like those west of Grand Rapids, or not?  Because based upon many of the actions for the past 30 years, and especially the vehement objections since November 23rd, it sure seems like your answer is… not.

Challenge 4:  With all due respect, give Secretary DeVos a chance… you’ve had yours.

 

 

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.

Losing My Jimmy Buffett Virginity

In just a few days, Jimmy Buffett kicks off his 2017 summer tour in Vegas.  So, it seems like a perfect time for a light-hearted piece about my first (and so far only) Jimmy Buffett concert a few years ago at Comerica Park.

Top Ten Reflections on our First Jimmy Buffett Saturday:

10) Morning – Most of you know that I am a cyclist, and one of my all-time favorite places to road ride is Belle Isle in Detroit.  It’s 5.4 miles (or so) per counter-clockwise lap, a one way road with a great surface that varies from two to four lanes wide.  The chance to group ride, motor pace, compete against the locals, and weave in and out of the vehicle traffic limited to 25 mph makes it a great challenge, and absolutely fun.  Given that, spending Saturday morning doing 13 laps (70 miles) on Belle Isle is the perfect way to not only start the day, but also give yourself permission to eat and drink whatever you want for the next several hours during the tailgate and concert.

9) Park and Tailgate – Pick a football powerhouse…  ANY powerhouse…  and I’m telling you, compared to Parrot Heads, all football fans (no matter the team) are rank amateurs when it comes to tailgating.  Jimmy Buffett fans are without question the most enthusiastic, creative, dedicated, happy, friendly and partying tailgaters in the world!  We pulled into a typical ugly, urban, abandoned-property, broken-surface parking lot.  And THEN… Out of the back of SUV’s and Minivans came the typical barbecue grills, stereo systems and nine course meals.  HOWEVER, within no time there were also beaches, complete with actual sand AND palm trees, pools filled with water AND people in bathing suits, Tiki bars with functioning beer and margarita taps, and women (and men) in grass skirts and sea shell/coconut bikini tops…  and this was just what we could see from where we were tailgating.  All this and there’s also a concert!!

8) General Atmosphere – Making new friends while tailgating was a blast!  As I said, Parrot Heads are the most friendly, most relaxed, most welcoming and happy collection of pre-event partygoers I’ve ever seen.  In addition to that, I ran into Big Ed, an old MSU friend that I’d not seen in way too many years, what a priceless moment!

7) Well, Let’s Head In – Our dear friend Kari arranged for us to get a VIP/Police escort into Comerica Park through the Tigers Executive Offices, and then ride their elevator up to the 4th level right to our seats.  It was amazing, all of these totally wonderful things happening to us, and the concert is still an hour away.  At the end of the night, we got to go back out pretty much the same way we came in.  Thanks again to Kari for making all the arrangements, putting us up in style, and loving us like Family!  She is the BEST!

6) Opening Act – Even at age 64, Jackson Browne has still got it!  Hit after hit after hit.  Tight sound, full vocal range, and every tune sounded just as fresh as they did decades ago.  And to think, this is all still “pre-game!”

5) Showtime – When it comes to live music, my friends know that I am NOT easily impressed, and Jimmy and the Coral Reefer Band were even better than I’d anticipated.  However, throughout the course of the show I couldn’t decide which was more impressive, what was coming from the stage, or what was happening out in the seats.  JB Parrot Heads seem to have an almost spiritual commitment to enjoy the evening, and they do indeed know how to party.  No posturing or pretentiousness or sitting on their ass and texting, everyone is family, interacting casually with their friends and neighbors.  They dance, sing, laugh, smile, hug and do everything they can to have (and share) as much fun as possible.  Big Ed has been to something like 60 or 70 Buffett shows, and seeing all of this I began to understand why.

4) Favorite Song of the Night – Fins!  Practically every song is a blast, but this one was especially fun for me, suddenly everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) in Comerica was a choreographed part of the show.  Even the Cops were doing “fins” to the left and right.  On the stage, great interplay between the horns, guitars, keys and drums, with everyone in sight laughing all the way.  How can this not be fun?!?!

3) Favorite Moment – From the beginning of the day until the end of the evening, there were simply too many to list.  It left me feeling a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for the life that I have and the delightful things I get to do.  I’m pretty lucky.

2) Saving the Best for Last – It was a great day all around, for all of the reasons stated, and one in particular: I firmly believe that when it all comes down to the pure essence of the moment, it’s not about where you are or what you’re doing…  It’s truly ALL about the PEOPLE with whom you are sharing that experience…

1) I was with My Wife Shari.

 

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.”

An Open Letter to All of the Traumatized Clinton-Democrat College Students

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Dear Clinton-Democrat College Students,

For the past 18 months, you enthusiastically proclaimed you were going to put an end to racism, sexism, bigotry, income inequality, animal cruelty, student debt, and poverty.  You were going to “heal” the climate and save the planet.  You were going to open America to all who simply wanted a better life, and enhance our country with inclusiveness, tolerance, and diversity.  You were going to give high-paying jobs, quality healthcare and free college educations to everyone.  You trumpeted your individual and collective strength, your commitment to your mission, your readiness to rise up and change the world!!!

Right up until about 3am on November 9th

Since then we have seen from you pretty much one thing, and that is just how incredibly FRAIL you are.  You need puppies, and crayons, and Play-Doh, and safe rooms to protect you from further “triggers” and micro-aggressions.  You need counselors, and private time, and unconditional empathy in order to cope with your collective fear and unprecedented disappointment.  You also seem to need public forums, and targets at whom to direct your outrage.  You don’t have the energy to attend class, much less take exams, but you do have the energy to yell in the face of anyone with whom you disagree, to attack police officers, and destroy public and private property.  One after another you seek out any microphone and camera in order to tell the world how you are sick to your stomach, unaccepting of reality, unable to sleep and absolutely afraid.  Aren’t you even the least bit embarrassed by all of this?  Weakened and afraid?  Come on.

Life is hard.  Period.  Successful, effective, independent and rewarding life is even harder.  And by the way, this is still, more than any other country in the world, the Land of Opportunity.  It was never supposed to be the Land of Entitlement, much less the Land of I Always Get My Way, especially if I threaten to yell a lot on social or mainstream media.

Boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen… grow up.  Understand the disparity between simply making a commotion, and actually making a difference.  Show America you are capable of being more than just victims.  Between the ages of 19 and 27, I “suffered” through three Presidential elections, standing on the losing side of every one.  In two of those elections our generations’ chosen candidates got CREAMED!!, the race being over before the 11 o’clock news.  We watched it, and bitched about it, and were totally bummed out.  We swore a little bit, and a few might have even hit the bottle or the bong.  And then the next day we got up and went to class and back to work, hoping for better in four years.  We disagreed with the opposition’s platform just as strongly as you do, but we weren’t afraid, much less incapacitated because we lost.  We believed we were strong enough and smart enough to persevere through whatever lay ahead, and together, we survived and even prospered despite our then-perceived impending doom.

So…, IF you are so damn right, and concerned, and noble, and smart, then stand up and get busy promoting your platform in a manner that at least garners some measure of respect, and maybe even acceptance.  Be confident, even courageous!  With integrity and civility, convince the majority of the electorate that your way is best for all, not just for you.  And if you encounter resistance, then either improve the quality and delivery of your message, or move on.

One final note: it’s just my opinion, but I think you are much more likely to get others to give your platform serious, respectful consideration if you were to spend less time and energy calling them racist, sexist, hateful, bigoted, radical, uncaring, clueless, homophobic, environmentally irresponsible, heartless, fascist, privileged, and/or deplorable.  Let’s just call each other “Americans,” better yet… Fellow Americans.  And if you are not comfortable with that characterization, then perhaps you should take it upon yourself to leave the USA and go to school elsewhere.  Unless of course, you are afraid…

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.