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Student Loans

Millions of people are so burdened with student loans that they will NEVER be able to pay them off.  A person who graduates from college will have about $38,000 of debt which means a monthly payment of about $380.00.  Since a bachelor’s degree will only qualify one for a job that pays about $1500.00 per month after taxes their remaining monthly cash available would be $1220.00.  Reduce that by the $350.00 required ACA insurance premiums, transportation costs of $200.00 per month, apartment rent of $850 that brings them to $20.00 for food, clothing and other misc. expenses.  And this is using minimum costs for rent and insurance.

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The best solution to the problem is simply for EVERYONE who has student loans to simply quit paying them all at the same time.  Maybe then the government’s great generosity to the banks who make these loans will get a grip on reality.

I am not an economist nor do I play one on TV.  I am an old man who has observed everything this side of the second world war.  There is a dichotomy between the two issues in my heading.  They aren’t compatible at least not in recent years.  Here is my argument.

Most of my life I have had “growth” pounded into my head.  Everything was about growth.  It was a not only a good thing but a vital thing.  Cities, states, towns and the country MUST have growth.  Their revenues depend on it.  Their power depends on it.  Big corporations and some not so big must have growth.  They must keep getting bigger and bigger or perish, apparently.  The stock market must advance, share value must increase.  Bigger is better.  I want to give you two examples of towns that I have lived in that will hopefully give you an insight into my thinking.  The same argument could apply to the country in general, all corporations, etc.

There is a little town in Illinois that was one block long back in the 1940’s.  It still is today.  There was a grocery store owned by an individual from town, his brother owned the hardware store next door, there was a barber shop, one doctor’s office, a little gift shop with home-made stuff, a bowling alley, a little coffee shop, a post office and the telephone exchange.  There was a volunteer town committee, a volunteer fire department and a volunteer constable.  The nearest large town was several miles away so the little town just stayed the same except the telephone exchange which was swallowed up by out of area corporations.  Most everyone had a job of some kind, owned a used car, had a modest house, fed themselves and sent their kids to the school where they mixed with all ages and races.  The town is surrounded by farms so is in part influenced and supported by farmers.  There are no new housing developments, no big super stores and no car dealers because the town is surrounded by farmland and farmers not willing to give up their land to development.

Another town that I know with not so different a beginning in Utah decided that with “growth” they could have all the things that bigger cities have, big stores, shopping malls, national food chains, an auto mall, a freeway, parks, golf courses, subdivisions, a big city hall, bigger government with jobs and power for the officials, a bigger police department to handle the increase in crime, big paved streets and other infrastructure.  The national real estate companies started cashing in on the sale of desert properties, construction companies grew wealthy on building ever more houses, each like the other, national food chains sprang up everywhere, big box stores popped up everywhere, a bigger airport had to be built, roads and a freeway had to be built.  Now this once quaint little town that used to be a few blocks is sprawling for miles in every direction.  Because it is in a desert everything has to be air-conditioned so electricity use skyrocketed, water use to water all of the lawns and golf courses skyrocketed, public services increased with fire departments, police services and emergency services quadrupling.

My argument can be summed up pretty quickly.  Growth, quality of life and environmental protection are not compatible and never will be.  More people, more growth, more pollution, more crime, more environmental damage.  The only beneficiaries of growth are big business and big investors.  Big real estate companies, big construction companies, big corporations, big utility service providers, big salaries for officials.  Any benefit to the ordinary individual is only temporary and nothing compared to the real beneficiaries at the top of the heap.  Quality of life goes into the toilet.

What to do.  Well, it is pretty hard to rein it in because the people and corporations and government officials who benefit hold all of the power.  What SHOULD be done it to set a plan for the optimum population in an area based on livability and sustainability.  Limit the growth by limiting building permits for homes, stores, businesses, roads and infrastructure.  Will it happen?  Nothing of course, we are lemmings, heading for the cliff, fouling our  own nest as we go and holding out our hands  for the crumbs falling from the table of the wealthy and corporate interests.

LIMIT GROWTH

 

 

 

Most of us  are familiar with a company called “Outward Bound”; a  non-profit organization that provides expeditions where their clients can “test their physical and emotional limits in challenging outdoor adventure programs”.  Their program is designed for the education of adults, middle-school and high school youth and others.  It is an educational program that teaches one life skills, coping and confidence building.

A number of psychiatrists, psychologists and business people around  the country have attempted to mimic some of the results associated with the Outward Bound model by setting up their own academies/schools or camps for “rehabilitation” of troubled youth generally age 12 to 17. That trouble can be disciplinary, sexual, criminal, obsession with videogames, obsession with cell phones and numerous other problems that 12 to 17 year olds encounter growing up.  In some cases it is simply parents abdicating their parental responsibilities to a boarding facility, frequently far from home.

Many states have permitted the establishment of these “academies” but none compare to Utah.  While a number of states have two or three schools, Utah has almost fifty practically all managed, operated and staffed by Mormons.  Once they are licensed there are few real inspections by independent authorities.  Currently there is at least one lawsuit against one of the schools for sexual misconduct of their employees, there have been others in the past and one youth died at a school.  There have been a number of suicide attempt reports.

There is a range of “schools” in Utah that cater to “students” usually to the tune of about $70,000 per year for the high end models.  With 100 students, do the math…..$7 million dollars per year!

High end schools provide “ranch” settings with dormitories, swimming pools, “equine therapy” (at extra cost), regular educational courses and most of all discipline training.  The “students” in these schools are secured in these facilities and if anyone tries to leave they are arrested by the police and returned.

Down toward the lower end of the rung are the “academies” for the more troubled or violent youth.  These facilities range from old converted ranches to former motels in various towns.  The motels are fenced, discipline is strict and there are frequent problems at these facilities.  Some of their “students” come from frustrated parents looking for anything that will help their child.  Others come from counties around the country that have run out of space in their own juvenile facilities.  It isn’t unusual for a county in California to send a child to a facility in Utah without court approval or even knowledge of the parents.  These costs are paid by taxpayers.

There are some organizations who take a group of kids into the wilderness where they hike cross country almost every day with nothing but the clothes on their backs and some rudimentary food and water supplies.  This goes on in 100 degree temperatures or snow.  Outside contact is forbidden for at least 90 days.  Others live in rudimentary “bunkhouses” and care for animals.

The common denominator with all of these “schools” is that the “students” are all secured and not allowed to escape or have contact with their parents.  In other words they are incarcerated.  Mostly without any court approval.

My point here is that I am a little uncomfortable with all of these so called schools and with the minimal supervision and outside inspections that they have.  There haven’t been any real studies to prove the effectiveness of some of these pretty harsh treatment regimes.  No studies have been done as far as I know on the recidivism rates of the attendees.

The  bottom line is that with cooperation of the Mormon dominated government in Salt Lake City  a number of Mormon entrepreneurs have seized on this niche to make big money and these “schools” have blossomed.  My fear is that we are going to see more sexual assaults on these vulnerable kids and more deaths from suicide or other accidents.

WE NEED MORE TRANSPARENCY AND SUPERVISION

 

Stock Market Casino

OK, so I am not very bright.  I admit that.  What I can’t understand is everyone’s obsession with the stock market and how it affects their very lives.  Only about half of all Americans own stocks and only 20 or 30 percent actually own any significant amount of stocks with the top 1% owning the largest chunks.

The stock market is one big gambling casino and like casino’s you little investors are playing against the house and can not win.  Large corporations, brokers, banks and big investors have computers that place buy and sell orders WAY before you even have your first cup of coffee in the morning.  By the time you get to your computer to try to save your few shares of Amazon it’s too late.  Your little profit was just transferred over to a big bank or brokerage company.

So why do you hear on TV and the internet from the financial experts that you should just invest your money in stocks and keep it invested there?  Well financial experts have to make a living so they can’t just tell you to keep your money in a safe at home or perhaps buy some real estate that you can actually put your hands on (not to mention with very little fees).  Ask yourself this; if these brokers and financial experts are so smart why aren’t they rich from buying stocks instead of selling advice?

If you are a working man or woman and you have a few bucks to spare (congratulations), just buy yourself a nice fire proof safe and throw your cash in there until you have enough to buy something of real value.  Something you can actually touch with your hands.  Never put your excess money in the banks because you aren’t going to get anything out of it.  The banks borrow from we taxpayers for 0% interest and loan it back to us for 4% up.  How stupid can we be.

Unless you are addicted to gambling just stay away from the casino.  Do I care if the stock market drops 75% of it’s value?  NO!  It has been bid up so high anyway that a 75% loss would only bring it back close to it’s actual value.  Yes, billionaires would scream that the end of the world is coming but as far as us McDonald’s workers, who gives a shit.

CASH IS KING

WAR

July 27, 2017 slipped by quietly with almost no notice as far as I could tell.  It was, of course, the 64th anniversary of the end of the Korean “Conflict”.  The conflict was really a war in which North Korea attacked  South Korea in 1950 and several UN countries sent troops there to turn back the North.  China sent troops to support the North.   The United States lost about 36,000 of our finest young people to battle, freezing, mud and disease.  That’s more than the population of Cedar City, Utah.

Since July 27, 1953 we have maintained about 35,000 troops in South Korea to serve as front line troops in case the North should invade again.  After the armistice the other countries packed up their troops and equipment and went home.

Everyone is familiar with South Korean exports to the United States and around the world.  Big corporations like LG, Samsung, Hyundai and others are among the largest in the world.  In 2016 our trade deficit with South Korea was 17 Billion.

My argument is that after 64 years of our supporting South Korea it is time that we withdraw our troops, close our military bases and let South Korea shoulder it’s own load in the world.  It is because they didn’t have to spend billions on their military that they have been able to build a fine infrastructure, manufacturing, banking and political organization.

I can only conjecture that the only reason that our troops are there exposed to the first attack is that the military/industrial complex, those generals and their clients the armaments manufacturers, don’t want them out.  The cost of keeping 35,000 troops on the front line with the best military equipment must be staggering although I don’t profess to know the billions it costs every year.  I am pretty sure it would provide universal health care to every person in the United States for the year.

It’s time to pull out.  Let the armament manufacturers sell their death machines to the South Koreans without us being the middleman.  General Eisenhower, one of our greatest generals and Presidents warned in his departing speech for the country to guard against the influence of the military-industrial complex and the dangers of massive deficit spending.  He knew that the military ALWAYS wants more and better and when they are lobbied by arms manufacturers there is great danger to the nation.

LETS PULL OUT OF SOUTH KOREA NOW

Just Give Up

The United States government has slipped into anarchy.  The American populace is completely divided across ideological lines.  The government is totally controlled by wealthy and powerful corporations and individuals.  World population has climbed WAY beyond what the earth can practically support.  The oceans are full of junk, the earth is one giant landfill, the ozone layer is gone, the temperature is rapidly rising,  sea level is rising, strange new diseases are popping up all of the time, the poor and middle class can no longer afford to live, air pollution is at all time highs, people from areas affected by drought and famine are migrating to areas where there it is more livable, nations and cultures are clashing and the fight for clean water and food is only getting started world wide.

In the dark ages plague took care of the population.  Today we are so smart that we can keep a fire plug alive forever.  What we can’t do and won’t do is put in place an effective plan to get the earth’s population under control and save the earth from total destruction.

So, I have two alternative plans:

  1.  Have a UN mandate for 1 child per couple around the world until the optimum population is reached.  (Yes I know all the religious mumbo jumbo about rights to reproduce without restriction.)
  2. All out, unrestricted nuclear war.  Think of it.  All of Russia’s thousands of nukes, all of the US thousands of nukes, all of China’s nukes, all of Europe’s nukes and yes, even throw in a few from North Korea and Iran all set off at the same time.  Can you imagine the spectacle, at least up until the moment that you can’t imagine anymore.  A good old 4th of July event of massive fireballs all over the earth.  After all of the ear shattering, blinding light, shockwave moments it would be very quiet except for the moaning.  And then silence.  No cell phones, no internet, no television, no wifi, no cars, no electricity, no cities, no people, no animals, no food, no drinkable water, no trees, no grass, just quiet in the red glow of the faint sun and chill.  After a few hundred thousand years of winter the earth could probably recover to the point where the cockroaches could creep back out.

I am thinking that choice number 2 is the most likely.  Hatred, greed, power, nationalism, stupidity, self interest, overpopulation, religious fanaticism and the idiocy of looking at your little world and thinking that everything is ok because my little plot is ok and much more will keep everyone heading down this path and over the cliff.

BUT, CHEER UP…….NOTHING IS GOING TO BE OK!

 

 

Health Care

As a former claims vp of an insurance company I would like to offer the following.  It’s not a conservative or liberal issue nor a Republican Democrat issue.  It is a practical issue.

Insurance companies were organized to provide for major property losses by collecting money from the many (premiums) and handing it out to the few (claimants).

Later, under pressure to produce more profits for their shareholders they expanded to provide insurance for the life of an individual using the same technique.

These were pretty straight forward matters because you could eventually figure what property cost to replace and  how long a person was expected to live and set a premium.  Simple.

Then these same companies started fiddling around in health insurance, a field with so many variables, costs, complications, ages  that it became impossible to actually calculate what the costs might be for anyone.  So they sort of tried to say, “we will only insure young healthy people” because we know that they won’t cost us too much.  By insuring old or sick people they couldn’t figure out what the potential cost could be.

What we have ended up with is madness.  Given the fact that insurance companies simply can not handle health insurance and at the same time provide large bonus’ for all of their officers AND hand their shareholders a profit they are operating like a gambling casino.

The only answer that makes any sense at all is to have everyone insured under an enormous umbrella of everyone in the country.  That way everyone pays in and everyone gets taken care of.  We already have a solid, proven, workable system in place for people over 65 years of age.  It’s called Medicare and contrary to popular belief it is NOT free.  Every person enrolled in Medicare pays $109/Month for coverage with a 20% deductible.  Simple.  If you don’t like the 20% deductible you can buy policies that cover that.

Now imagine if Congress just passed a law lowering the age to join Medicare to 0.  About 200 million people would be signing up.  Think of the income, 200 million times $109 EVERY month.  Additionally Medicare would have the power to get better services and drugs by negotiating.  It’s not rocket science.  It’s math.

If it’s so simply why not do it.  Just think for a second about how much the insurance industry pumps into our Senators and Congressmen.  That’s the deeper issue and probably can’t be solved until we get term limits,  limits on how much our representatives in Washington can collect in graft from corporations or such public pressure that our representatives will eventually represent us instead of the insurance and pharmaceutical industry.

MEDICARE FOR ALL……IT WORKS

 

Cars, drivers plunge into river after Wash. I-5 bridge collapse – U.S. News.

FAA Report: Spirit Airlines Is The Fucking Worst | The Onion – Americas Finest News Source.

Fantastic

Fantastic.