Things I’m Tired Of

‘Trump’s Rich, He Doesn’t Care About Health Care’ — Worker In Preble County

A statue of William Bruce overlooks Eaton, Ohio, the city he founded in the early 1800s. Bruce was a member of the New Light church, a conservative Christian movement that championed an extreme, literal interpretation of the Bible. He also operated the town’s grist mill. Bruce split with the group when church officials told him it was ungodly to feed the poor on Sunday. Bruce fed them anyway, reasoning that destitute people did not choose which days to be hungry.

While T-Money sat on the sidelines during the ‘skinny repeal’ Tweeting ‘Go White, Angry Guys, GO!’ (I may be paraphrasing his Tweet slightly) my mother, 75, and her older sister, 82, had spent weeks ‘worrying themselves sick’ about what would happen to their health care. Being of a generation where a grade school education was considered adequate, they have very limited options on purchasing quality care.

They are not really in a position to alter that either, but like the Preble County man, a conservative, I quoted in the headline stated — Trump isn’t concerned about the issue.

Based on his Tweets since the failed vote — for 45* health care repeal is about the political win.

The Blame Game

Once the legislation was defeated by Trump’s on-again, off-again hero John McCain, the crying and finger-pointing began.

Freedom Caucus member Warren Davidson, who represents Ohio’s 8th Congressional District where I live, was one of the GOP politicians to start whining, Tweeting his favorite tagline, ‘It is not compassionate to bankrupt America.’

Besides the obvious, that Senator Mazie Hirono was not issuing an insult instead she was actually asking a legitimate question of a Party that a decade or two ago branded itself as Compassionate, what I found even more interesting about Davidson’s Tweet is the lack of interaction. I captured the image two days after it was written and it still only had 3 ReTweets and 16 Likes. There were 17 comments and none of the comments were from supporters of his position.

The GOP, with its oppositional approach to governing, have proven themselves to be incompetent fools (that’s an intended insult) in the health care repeal debacle, but they are highly skilled in one aspect — they know how to frame an issue. Ever since Ronald Reagan attached the label entitlement to social safety nets, the GOP has had a field day trying to undo as many as possible because, they know, Americans hate the word entitlement.

Of course, the people impacted by destroying the safety nets are citizens like my mother and aunt.

Frame and Reframe

Davidson’s Tweet frames health care as a situation where if it’s not repealed the country will spiral down into a debt-ridden abyss. An either/or situation. But one would presume, with the plethora of options available, other methods of cutting costs exist. For starters forgoing the $1.6 billion earmarked in Trump’s proposed budget for a wall on the southern border that the Freedom Caucus supports.

If the ‘big, beautiful wall’ is going to be transparent like Trump suggests (so no one is hit in the head by bags of drugs being tossed over) just put up a plastic orange snow fence with some no trespassing signs.

It will be just as effective and cost pennies on the dollar.

Is Health Care A Right?

Many of my conservative friends and family — and even those with ties to Christian fundamentalism — do not view health care as a human right. After all, they reason, why should I ‘pay’ for someone else’s healthcare. It’s their responsibility. Whether it’s a human right can be debated, I suppose, but whether it is humane to deny health care access cannot be debated especially if one claims to be pro-life.

You either believe life is sacred, or you don’t. If you do, then take the humane route and make health care affordable to all Americans.

Here Come The Levellers

It was, in part, the Bible — or at least a novel interpretation of it — that changed the power structure in the western world. Many of the liberties we take for granted in America are the result of a group largely lost to history — the Levellers.

England’s Levellers shifted the political structure by contesting the notion that Kings were ordained by God (despite earlier interpretations of the Bible) — and in doing so they also fought for a broader voting base and for increasing the ability of ‘commoners’ to govern themselves. (The movement was considerably more than this — read The Leveller Revolution by John Reed (2016) to get a thorough understanding of their tactics and beliefs).

It was also their belief that people have the ability to reason — and if they can reason, they can govern.

Age Of Reason

But, it is the reasoning that is missing in our current era. A minority of Americans reasoned ‘what could possible go wrong,’ and supported 45* helping him squeeze out an Electoral College win. And politicians of the majority party reasoned that they could do whatever they wanted because the ‘American people have spoken’ by putting them in power.

Sensible people see the error in the logic.

For example, Davidson touts that he won 77% of the vote in the June, 2016 election. It is, after all, a fact. As an avid Cincinnati Reds fan I know that the Reds won the 1919 World Series, but I never say that because a tainted (gerrymandered) system yields tainted results. However, I will talk about the 1975 World Series — a contest that pitted two of the best teams in MLB history against each other.

It was an untainted Series and a legitimate victory for the Reds. It was also a bit of a quandary for my pre-teen self. I was a fan of both teams. I mean, the Red Sox had Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Carl Yastrzemski — and the Reds, well they had Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan. Although my allegiance tilted toward the Reds, either way I would win since both of my favorite teams were competing.

If only politics worked the same way.

Out Of Touch

A strong sense of decency is driving many Americans to push back against the current political mayhem. More Americans are questioning why they cannot have access to the same quality of care as, say John McCain or Steve Scalise. They are also tired of a Party wanting to ‘Repeal and Replace’ with health care plans that are more harmful to average Americans.

Plans that hurt people like my mother and aunt.

In a recent article by Freedom Caucus members Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, written about a week before the failed Affordable Care Act repeal vote in the Senate, the duo preemptively tried to discredit the Congressional Budget Office. They wrote,

Congress too often makes the mistake of blindly following projections of the Congressional Budget Office that later prove to be grossly inaccurate. The CBO’s reputation among the public and the media may be strong, but its track record in providing accurate estimates to Congress leaves much to be desired.

The pair then proceeds to show all the wrong projections about the CBO’s rating of the ACA. Although attacking the credibility of institutions represents a new low for the GOP, they are missing the larger picture.

Many (most?) Americans, like mom, are not interested in political blathering. And far too many Americans no longer trust the intentions of the GOP. Others, like the man I quoted, accept the reality that the current health care system needs tweaked and want improvement, not replacement. Americans like myself, expect a bi-partisan approach to health care because, at the end of the day, I don’t want my mother and aunt exempted from health care just to satisfy the Orange Menace’s ego or to pad a rich man’s wallet.

And, I certainly don’t want ideology to bankrupt an individual or a family — and even more importantly I do not want it to cost someone their life. One of the commenters to Davidson’s Apples-to-Oranges Tweet said,

Debt is only money, healthcare is American lives. Shame on you for showing your true priority of money over lives.

I agree and would add, if you’re pro-life, then be pro-life from the uterus to the grave.

Categories: 8th congressional district, health care, My America, Things I'm Tired Of, Understanding Trump Counties

Presidential Election Pushes Me Off Facebook

25784477746_83eb04c81a_zI’ve taken a much-needed reprieve from Facebook after this presidential election. The election taught me a lot, and it solidified my left-leaning political position as well as my belief that many Americans are motivated by fear.

Many also struggle with verifying information. Fake news and misinformation fuels the belief system of too many Americans. The stories I read on Facebook, with their numerous ‘unnamed sources,’ would have been laughable if written by The Onion. Instead they were championed and believed by those who posted them.

The Things People Believe

Some day I intend to list the most ludicrous beliefs I’ve heard in my life. Here is a non-political example of a ‘truth’ told to me by a Preble County resident years ago. A 40-something-year-old man explained why older men, and not younger ones, have high cholesterol. It is about sex, he noted. Young men have a lot more sex and, he said, when a man ejaculates it purges cholesterol from their body.

Besides being potential fodder for bawdy humor and one-liners, the statement has no basis in fact. Scientists, doctors, and the entire medical field have studied cholesterol and understand why it tends to plague older people. It’s really not complicated.

But, explaining that to a man who latched onto a homespun cholesterol theory would have been futile.

The same holds true with politics. Convinced that ‘God works in mysterious ways,’ many of my Facebook friends reasoned that president-elect (such difficult words to write) Donald Trump is part of God’s plan. It’s a convenient truth that totally disregards what Trump did to get into office.

Americans know politicians lie

Yet, in the case of Trump, his lies rallied supporters. Now, they are faced with his changing message. They are slowly learning that, despite the ‘Lock Her Up’ signs still visible in my county, Trump is not going to do that. He never was. As his cabinet appointments are demonstrating, he’s also not going to ‘drain the swamp.’ He is even hedging his bet on Obamacare.

Facebook taught me, though, none of this will matter to his fans.

In fact, I’m betting many of those supporters are already plunking down $150 to adorn their Christmas tree with a Trump ornament. Because, as the ad says, Trump really loves saying ‘Merry Christmas.’.

Categories: Life In A Red State, Politics, Preble County, Things I'm Tired Of | Tags: , ,

What’s The Deal With All These Surcharges?

28344076923_6e62aa1798_zLately I sense a persistent level of anger and irritation in my country. It bleeds through the TV screen, my computer monitor and, is especially alive and well, in the political arena.

Why are Americans so angry?

We snipe online, listen to angry TV commentators yelling about something trivial, and even things as simple as paying a bill can trigger irritation when customer service employees become combative over the phone.

Since I can only control my response, why am I so irritated? Specifically, what is feeding the anger. To find out I made a list. And, not surprisingly, it’s long — filled with big and small annoyances that steal my joy and happiness.

Right to Be Mad

I’ll start with my utility bill. Not an earth-shattering subject, but, like taxes, it is something we all pay. In the month of June, I used 10 CCFs of natural gas. Apparently that’s how much it takes to keep my water hot. At a price of .399 per CCF, my bill for the natural gas was $3.99.

Not bad.

Except, that is not what I paid. Included in my bill were surcharges and taxes because, not only do I pay for the natural gas, I also get the privilege of paying to have it delivered. It feels a little bit like the story my father told on himself. After buying a set of encyclopedias for the family (way back in the 1960s), he also paid the door-to-door salesman a delivery fee. After handing the man the check, Dad and the salesman walked outside and unloaded the books from the trunk of the man’s car.

Utility companies charge me to maintain their privately-owned gas lines. The surcharge was $24.70 and, for good measure I suppose, a 29-cent tax was tacked on.

So, the true cost — out-of-pocket cost — per CCF was $2.91 ($29.07).

Try Travelling

It’s not just utilities it’s a whole slew of products and services we use. In a couple articles USA Today tackles hidden fees unsuspecting customers pay to the airline, hotel and car rental industries. They report,

‘The airlines have become very good at extracting every dollar from consumers by keeping travelers in the dark with hundreds of optimizations and fare rules that maximize the carriers’ revenue.’ In other words, airlines create these nonsense rules because they help them make money.

New Orleans International Airports in 1960s.

New Orleans International Airports in 1960s.

The ‘infectious logic’ is mining cash from our pockets as companies engage in ridiculous behavior — like charging customers extra fees for returning a rental car early — without any fear of reprisal. Have you ever wondered, like a former co-worker did, why auto insurance premium prices don’t fall year-over-year since the cost is based on the value of the vehicle.

Is it because consumers have few legitimate options for the services they buy and no easy way to file a complaint. When my teenage daughter was stiffed on a concert ticket, I had to file complaints with four organizations (and in our buyer-beware society, she lost).

High-Priced Slow Internet

In southwest Ohio, I have two equally poor choices for my packaged deal of phone, cable and Internet: Time Warner Cable or Dish TV.

Although it is tempting right now to go on the standard rant about having 1000 channels and nothing to watch, I’ll restrict myself to surcharges. I pay for two promotion packages. Apparently the word promotion is important to Time Warner Cable because they offer 5 packages and they all include the word promotion. My two promotions include starter TV, standard TV, a variety pass (again 1000 channels — nothing to watch) and other added values like, drum roll please, UNLIMITED (yes, they cap it) local and long distance phone calls in the United States and Canada. Surprisingly, I do not make a lot of long distance calls to Canada (or in the U.S. for that matter).

Then comes the fees and surcharges. The most intriguing ones are:

  • $5 extra for ‘extreme Internet upgrade.’
  • $8.75 surcharge for ‘Broadcast TV and Sports Programming’
  • $4.84 for state and local taxes
  • $4.03 franchise fee
  • $.08 FCC regulatory fee – cable.

The God of Profit

Even though I live in Ohio Vectren, an Indiana company, supplies my natural gas. Indiana is one of only three states where industry regulators are appointed by the governor with no oversight from the public or the legislative branch.

It’s a great deal for business, but it’s really hard on the environment. I live in the Tri-State area — and all three states: Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana landed on the 10 most polluted states list. Ohio was first.

It’s also hard on the pocket book.

According to Citizens Action Coalition, a watch group launched in 1974, this lack of public oversight has led to unchallenged rate increases. If utilities were a ‘normal’ company that might be acceptable, but they are not. They were created by the government as monopolies guaranteed a ‘reasonable profit’ (what a nice, slippery term) in exchange for providing the commodity — like natural gas or electricity — to the public.

So, utilities are guaranteed profit and customers, but that’s not enough.

As CAC notes on their site, the utilities have created a way to automatically increase rates (but never decrease them) through the use of trackers — which are essentially a ‘we need an increase because costs are up,’ measure. If utilities’ books were transparent, again, this would not be a problem. The public could examine the books and expose any indiscretions.

This lack of transparency has the Coalition seeking passage of a Consumer Bill of Rights because,

Legislators are ignoring policies that benefit and protect ratepayers. Instead, they work to protect the monopoly utilities at taxpayer and ratepayer expense.

But, At Least They Keep Salary Costs Down

Okay, not so much.

In 2015, the CEO of Vectren received nearly $4 million in compensation. A really good wage in a country where more than 50 percent of the jobs pay less than $30,000 annually — and 71 percent of all American workers earned less than $50,000 in 2014.

Time Warner Cable

This company ranks near the top in companies I love to hate (Express Scripts is No. 1) — which is kind of sad because the service workers who have been inside my home have always been extremely professional, likable and highly skilled. It’s not the front line workers at fault, it’s a company philosophy of providing a substandard product and engaging in, what feels a lot like, price gouging.

Is ‘Extreme’ Code For Slow?

ruralAmericans, especially those in rural areas like me, have been shafted on Internet service. Despite an outcry more than a decade ago by politicians to ‘outlaw’ French fries (rename them Freedom Fries) the French have something even better than those thinly sliced and heavily salted deep-fat fried potatoes. They have real high-speed Internet — eight times faster connection speeds, and unlike me, they don’t have to pay a $5 ‘extreme Internet upgrade’ surcharge. Even Belgium, the place French fries were actually invented, has faster connection speeds than the United States.

According to a 2015 report from NPR, citizens in the United States pay higher prices, yet get slower speeds. Why? They report,

…half of American homes have only two options for Internet service providers for basic broadband, according to the Federal Communications Commission. And for faster speeds, a majority of households have only one choice.

Sold To The Highest Bidder

When I went online to examine the surcharges on my Time Warner bill, a banner on the page advised me that the Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications merger was complete. The small press release announcing the change said,

Exciting changes are in the works, but for now, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Charter Spectrum will continue offering their current suite of services to customers in their markets.

I could barely contain my excitement, after all 1000 channels…. But, what the press release failed to mention was Time Warner’s chief executive Robert D. Marcus is projected to receive a $100 million+ golden parachute in the deal. Not bad for less than two years on the job.

Now, I know why I’m angry.

So I click the Time Warner’s online customer service form URL so I can voice my complaint and give them a piece of my mind.

But the page won’t load.


Highway Robbery

An excellent book that goes into detail about the surcharges that nickel and dime the average person to death is The Fine Print.

Categories: Things I'm Tired Of | Tags: , , , , , , ,