The debt the next generation will be paying was not started by our government, but by ourselves

Alice Paul c. 1930s

In her article in the WSJ, Peggy Noonan uses an example that has been kinda turning over in my head ever since I read it early yesterday morning. In it, she quotes Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee that many in the Tea Party crowd are grandmothers and that:

“Women are always focusing on a generation or two down the road. Women make the education and health-care decisions for their families, for their kids, their spouse, their parents. And so they have become more politically involved. They are worried about will people have enough money, how are they going to pay the bills, the tuition, get the kids through school and college.”

Ms. Blackburn suggested, further in the conversation, that government’s reach into the personal lives of families, including new health-care rules and the prospect of higher taxes, plus the rise in public information on how Washington works and what it does, had prompted mothers to rebel.

And that really got me thinking about who these “grandmothers” and women are, the timeline of their lives and the unintended consequences of history.

These women — who are older and are now “livid,” concerned and intuitive — were most likely responsible for inadvertently starting the ball rolling toward our ever-increasing crushing debt load by supporting the most politically and socially active woman’s issue of the time; the Equal Rights Amendment.

Now before you all start in on me for beating up on grandma, just hang with me for a moment. Growing up Catholic and as a kid of a mother forced to go to work second shift to afford us, my formative years were spent at ground zero of this issue. One thing that came out of the ERA was that women were an emerging force in the employment scene. With the political and cultural tides turning the way of equal pay for equal work and looking like the ERA was going to be ratified, companies slowly, reluctantly began paying women more and promoting in an effort to ward off legislation. Women were also becoming more educated and getting better jobs. The country was getting used to the dual income. And that flush of cash was too tempting for corporate America not to scheme a grab.

And grab they did. From 1964-1980, the average house price went up from $13,050 to $68,700 while average income went from $6,000 to $19,500 per person. That calculates to 217% of annual income for a house in 1964 v 352% annual income in 1980. In addition, a car which cost an average of $3,500 in 1964 now cost $7,200 in 1980. In 1964 when most families were single income, they only needed one car. In 1980 when the dual income family had firmly taken root, a second car was necessary. So was out-of-the-home day care. Women had fought the right* to be equal in the workplace, but so too had this fight created a dependence on a dual income for a typical family to afford a home to live in. Women could no longer leave the employment world at will and their men could no longer afford them to.

Life got too expensive to maintain and none of this was due to the Federal government meddling with significant entitlement programs (except Medicare, which every senior in the Tea Party loves and would kill any candidate who takes it away.)

But we really didn’t learn that large social shifts will always be taken advantage of by our free market economy and corporations incessantly hungry for more profit. In this last decade before the Recession, universities were watching the housing market climb up and up and jumped into the fray with their version of the cash grab. They raised their tuitions, knowing full well the middle class would dip into their easy home equity to pay for Johnny and Suzie’s education, regardless of cost. Now, their grandkids are saddled with large bundles of debt nobody is willing to forgive.

And men are losing their jobs at record rates, reducing the dual income family to a minority. And I was left wondering, “Were the grandmothers in Ms. Noonan’s article the same women who foresaw the staggering and unsustainable private debt we are now faced with as they marched for women’s rights back in the early ’70s?” All these women wanted was the right to be treated equally and have the right to do the same job as a man so they could have a higher quality of life. Unfortunately, all corporations saw was an opportunity to grab more disposable income.

I’m finding it hard to believe the average grandma is more “livid” and worried about the US Government going broke from entitlements than they are about their own grandkids being $50,000+ in debt from student loans and not being able to afford a house to live in because homes are priced to a dual-income standard. Maybe I’m missing something.

*I know, the ERA Amendment is still shy of 3 states ratification and died in 1982, but it gets reintroduced every year. Maybe someday. But for purposes of creating a dependence on dual incomes, women have won these rights.

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Shifting words to maintain the “incumbent” narrative

Did you notice it last night as the primary election results were coming in? The media narrative of “anti-incumbent” is not meshing with the reality, so the use of “incumbent” is being quietly shoved under the rug for words like “establishment,” “experienced,” and “DC-insider.”

The media was wrong in their prediction of this huge anti-incumbent wave sweeping the country, angry voters demanding change, etc, etc. but they won’t admit it. They stubbornly hang onto the theme they set and push valiantly through, changing the lexicon ever so slightly.

Did you notice? You should have. You should be asking “why?” You should be asking why media is predicting and producing a news cycle rather than reporting and analyzing.

And when the final results are in from the general elections and they don’t match the narrative then it was an “upset.” I guess it is all entertainment after all. Very expensive entertainment, but…

Am I wrong?


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Some common sense tax math

Hey, everybody, listen up to some common sense tax math that the Republicans are hoping you are too scared or stupid to do. After listening to John Boehner and every other right-wing pundit out there, it is time to just come clean about what the expiration of the Bush tax cuts really mean.

Allowing tax cuts to expire will hurt job growth
Nope. The tax cuts were not designed to stimulate job growth, only to give back tax money that was “over-collected” or what was then called a surplus. If the tax cuts were designed to create jobs, we would not be in the recession we are in as they have been in effect throughout 2007-2010. Really. You can check this out for yourself.

Capitalists don’t create jobs with tax credits. They put the money away so they are in a better cash position when the economy starts improving and they see customers on the horizon. Then, they invest. Machines first, people second.

Allowing tax cuts to expire will hurt small business
Think about this for a second. The top tax rate is applied to the PROFIT over the $250,000 mark. I don’t know of any small businessperson who pays tax on revenue, but I could be wrong. If you find one, let me know.

For a small business to generate $250,000 in profit that slides over as personal income on an S-corp, assuming a very generous 20% margin, the revenue from activity must be $1,250,000.00 That’s $1.2 million folks. Raise your hand if you have a small business making $1.2M at 20% net profit.

If you own a restaurant and are open 365 days a year, that means you have to serve 171 meals at an average of $20.00 per to hit that revenue mark. I’m not aware of many restaurants operating at 20% net margin, so let’s say at 10%, you have to serve an average of 343 meals at $20.00 to hit that number. And that is being open every day. If you are open for 12 hours, that means 14 meals every hour at 20% or 29 meals every hour at 10%. That is one very busy restaurant.

When you start breaking down the amount of effort it takes to generate a net income of $250,000 in most small businesses, it is a bit unrealistic. Even if you take a look at freelancing businesses and start breaking the numbers down for someone like Chris Brogan who claims to get $22,000/day for onsite work, he still has to work 57 events a year to hit that magic $250,000 number at 20%. (I don’t know what his margin is. Maybe it’s higher.) When you look at the detail of what is takes to generate $250,000 of net in a business, the claim that many small mom and pop small businesses will be hurt by the tax cuts expiring just doesn’t add up.

Am I wrong? What am I missing?


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Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Ohio is calling me a liar. Again.

I’ve had three small, routine claims this year so far and that triggered the letter I posted here. More accurately, my daughter went to the doctor for a routine physical because that is the responsible thing to do.

I know that from an insurance company’s point of view, determining if they can shove off costs to another insurance company is the fiscally responsible thing to do and I understand subrogation. I used to buy insurance for groups of employees in a past life as an HR VP and I also understand insurance laws as a result of me selling medical devices in a past life. I get all that. Goodie for you, Anthem BCBS of Ohio, you are saving your shareholders money.

As a customer of your plan where you increased my premiums 21.8% last year and 18.2% the year before and consistently for the past seven years, let me tell you how I read your letter.

Dear Double-dipping pile of crap customer,

We think you are lying to us about what insurance plans you have and think you’re trying to stick us with the latest medical bill you generated. Since we have your nuts in our hand anyway, we’re going to make you jump through all these stupid hoops just because we can and you can’t do a damn thing about it because this is legal. And while we’re sending out this stupid letter, we’re going to hold up payments to your doctor until we get your response back. But it’s not likely we’ll pay any part of the claim anyway; we just like to watch you dance you miserable piece of crap.

Thanks for your money. And since you really don’t have much a choice in Ohio anyway, we really don’t care if we piss you off. You’ll come crawling back.

Have a really crappy day.

Faceless person blah, blah, blah.

Before anyone jumps in here and tells me that I should shop around and not buy from Anthem if that is the way they treat customers, buying individual health insurance in Ohio is like a torturer showing you the implements he is going to use on you and you picking out the one that will hurt the least and will kill you the fastest if used. Then hoping he’ll not ever use it. Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield sucks, but the other choices suck worse.

And now insurance companies claim they have to raise premiums 20%+ to offset the costs of the Health Care Reforms passed earlier this year? What were the increases for last year?

And why again should we not be furious with health insurance companies? Is it the wholesale leeching or the blatant insults? Or is it a dread fear that our lawmakers who may be in power starting next year are entirely clueless about the state of health care insurance in HIS OWN STATE?? Please, somebody tell me as with my health insurance choices, I am literally dying to know.


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Hello? Can anyone hear me? Koran burning over here

No, I’m not really burning a Koran nor would I burn a Bible, Torah or rip up a picture of the Pope. I wouldn’t even fling elephant poo on it, hang it in a museum and call it art. Why? It’s not that I don’t reserve the right to express myself in these ways — because in America, I do — but because they are deliberately intended to show disrespect to other people’s beliefs about themselves. Doing these things is only intended to send a message of disrespect to others, not as an expression of my free speech.

But that is not really my point. I just said all that because I believe it to be true, but also to stave off any nutjob who wanted to come over here and pee all over my carpet just to show he can. Whoopdeedoo, you found the comment box.

My point is just one small contention with one assertion President Obama made in his press conference today. He stated (40:22):

This is a way of endangering our troops… I hardly think we’re the ones who elevated it. In the age of the Internet, something that could cause us profound damage around the world.

With all due respect, Mr. President, I disagree.
Continue reading “Hello? Can anyone hear me? Koran burning over here”

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My slice of heaven

My slice of heaven is a simple place. In the middle of a busy city, a single large room. The place would not separate work from home, night from day,

One side would be a wall of windows from floor to ceiling, overlooking a skyline or a bridge or simply look out. The other wall, shelves of books, floor to ceiling. In the “living room” area, I would have one large leather couch that pulls up and hugs me in, one round table for writing and a television (until Mad Men goes off the air, at least.)

The kitchen would flow from the living area. The bathroom would flow from there and have a huge shower. And I think I would like a bidet, just because I’ve never had one and they seem useful. And the final room, a bedroom with a bed. In every room, a wall of windows on one side, a wall of books on the other.

And of course, a dog. Maybe two.

That is all. No granite countertops, no fancy exotic woods, no heavy furniture, no expensive Italian tile. No lawn to mow, not roof to tile, no siding to wash, no shrubbery to prune. The wall of windows overlooking the city would be my artwork; the wall of books my only vice.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “Exploring your little bit of heaven” It extends a previous #letsblogoff about the simple life. To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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I don’t really want your tomatoes. Or squash. Or zucchini.

For years I have reluctantly taken bags and bushels of over-produced tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, corn, gourds, and various melons and assorted garden by-products from my neighbors and friends who happily planted a garden in the early Spring — albeit without a plan — all giddy with the thoughts of fresh vegetables at their table. I took their bags of vegetables and assorted garden crap party out of guilt, partly to be nice but mostly to get them to stop talking about how wonderful their gardens were and how they didn’t expect so much stuff (apparently gardeners forget about last year’s harvest.)

Not anymore. I’m done. Go peddle your fibrous crap to someone else.



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Get your own ham; it’s all about self reliance

When my son was just shy of his fifth year, we found ourselves in an Old Country Buffet on a Saturday afternoon. For those of you not familiar with the format of the all-you-can-eat-for-one-low-price buffet, these places usually have a lower price afternoon service that did not include carved meats and a higher price evening service that started about 4:00pm. For the extra savvy buffet-goer, it was generally known that if you came in about 3:30 or so and stalled a bit on some salad, you could sneak in and get the good stuff for a lunch price. I did not partake of this little loophole but sometimes, we found ourselves in that limbo time.


#140conf Road Trip in Dayton, Ohio – Photos and video

Jeff Pulver of 140Conf poses with Gary Leitzell, the Mayor of Dayton at the Dayton Road Trip meet up for the 140conf.

When we arrived at Blind Bob’s for the 140conf Road Trip Meet Up, there were already a dozen people there, waiting for and watching Jeff Pulver and his “roadies” navigate the Ohio freeway system. When Jeff arrived we had over twenty people there and more on the way. Apparently, this was a very large crowd, so we’re very proud of our Dayton peeps!

Gary Leitzell, the Mayor of Dayton (the REAL mayor, not the fake one on Foursquare) joined us early and stayed almost the whole time until his official duties as Grand Marshall of the Ale Fest kick-off parade pulled him away. We can now claim another “first” in a long list of firsts for Dayton, Ohio; the first mayor to join an official Tweet Up! Dayton, first in flight; first in Social Media!

We’ll be publishing the more “official” story in the next couple of days, but for now, we have a ton of photos and some video. Cindy DeVelvis also shot some really cool footage that will be available soon. Links here when that is online.

To download all the photos, grab the zip file here.

And some videos…

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Olive Garden serving priceless service and jokes

I went to a #140conf Meet Up with Jeff Pulver in Dayton this afternoon (more stuff about that later) and afterwards, we headed out to dinner at the Olive Garden to celebrate my son’s birthday. He ordered a plate of something that was on the menu, but had no price.

“How much is that,” I asked Beth, our server.

“13.99,” she said… “Oh, wait, sorry… that is 14.99.”

Naturally, I thought we were negotiating, so I proceeded to question the price of everything everybody else ordered and threw out a counter-offer each time. It went all the way down to how much she was going to charge us for the puppy box, the mints and water.

It was fun; we connected.

Then our bill came. I opened it up and found the itemized receipt above. She got the tip she said she was worth, which was a bit more than 20% of the bill.

It wasn’t the great service or the food quality that was worth the tip, but that Beth showed she was engaged with us, she got the running joke and was willing to not only play along, but took the extra step to do a “Yes, and….”

So Beth, this blog post is your “Yes, and…” from us to you.

Thank you for the wonderful dinner. You were successful in making the sameness of a franchise a very memorable place.


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We should trust Verizon on net neutrality why exactly?

A Verizon service truck parked at one of my neighbors yesterday and I snapped a photo of it on our walk. Notice the sticker stuck on the side, crooked and added as an afterthought. When I see that, I see Verizon treating Internet access as an afterthought, an add-on feature, like the sticker they slapped on their trucks.

They couldn’t even get it on straight. And we are now going to trust them in bed with Google on net neutrality rules? Why exactly would we do that again?

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How much does it cost you to exist for one hour? Size matters

How much does it cost you to exist for one hour? Have you ever asked?

Just for a rough guess, add up all the expenses of replacing the stuff that breaks, the cost of going to your job, your mortgage, taxes, tuition bills, gifts for relatives and friends, etc. Then divide by 8,904 (the number of hours in a year, assuming an extra 6 hours to offset for leap year.) How much is that? Is it higher than the US minimum wage?* If it is for you, you no longer have to wonder why you are broke. If you work forty hours a week, there are an additional one hundred twenty eight** uncompensated hours your wage does not cover.


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Design that tries too hard to be cool

I was stumbling around Twitter, opened the door to what I thought was the restroom and found myself staring at this:

I frantically searched for the remote control to change the channel before anyone else walked into the room and realized this was not a movie set for an adult film; is a real bath tub.

I admire the craftsmanship. I get the quirkiness of the design. I can appreciate the “cojones” it takes to commit to something this big, this odd as a bath. I get all that. I’m not sure what is most disturbing; the foot sweat pouring from the faucet or the obvious hooker-heels look.

But it still tries too hard to be cool. And too hard is just never cool; it is uncomfortably awkward.

This blog post is part of an informal “blog-off” where a pack of know-it-alls brazenly comment on one topic selected at random by somebody at random who couldn’t run out of the room fast enough. We tell ourselves our opinions on this stuff is influential, but most of the time it won’t make a damn bit of difference. That being said and my conscience clear now that I have warned you, I encourage you to drop by the list of folks below and see what their reaction to the shoe tub is:

Links on name go to the blog post; twitter goes to twitter!

Alexandra Williams @Alexandrafunfit
Nick @cupboards
AventeTile @AventeTile
Rufus Dogg, AKC, PhD, DS @dogwalkblog
Madame Sunday @ModernSauce
Mr. Paul Anater @Paul_Anater
Becky Shankle @ecomod

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