Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Road Trip In A Great Country

I just finished what I call my annual pilgrimage to harass relatives.  This was a road trip, which was 1,760 miles long over a nine-day period.  I stayed in Oxford, Iowa; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Des Moines, Iowa.
I saw visited three of my four sons, my brother and a lot of extended relatives.  It was great to see everyone. 

The great country I drove through made an impression on me.  I drove through Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Minnesota.  I saw some of our great cities, like Kansas City, Tulsa, Des Moines, and Minneapolis/Saint Paul. 
I saw fertile farmland, lush grassland, and woodlands full of timber.  I saw oil wells, wind turbines, solar panels, and mining operations.  I saw beautiful lakes and rivers. 
I saw all kinds of livestock.  The new calves and foals in the pastures made some beautiful scenes. 
I had my choice of many routes with good roads and bridges.  I saw several trains and many trucks moving freight.  We live in a great country.
The natural and renewable resources of this country are amazing.  Most people seem to be good stewards of the land.  Obviously there are exceptions. 

The greatest resource this country has seems to be the people.  Most are moral and have a good work ethic.  Again, there are exceptions.  The most glaring exceptions are some of our inner cities.  We need to work on these areas. 
The ingenious and hard working people of this country have built the greatest country in the world.  They invent solutions and solve problems.  We have so many people willing to risk their personal resources to create companies and jobs.  This is capitalism at it’s best. The United States of America has a lot going for it. 

I was totally impressed with what I saw on my road trip.  Considering what I saw, it is hard to comprehend why we have a problem with government spending and our national debt. 
Maybe our biggest problem is in Washington DC.  Maybe our political elite doesn’t have a clue what is happening in the rest of the country.  Maybe they don’t care.  Maybe they just want to drain the country to increase their own power. 
Maybe Washington DC is the problem and not the solution.  Maybe the political elite just needs to get out of the way.  It is just something to think about.

Friday, April 13, 2012

First Dollar Coverage Auto Insurance 

I had to put new tires on my vehicle.  They were expensive.  I wish they were covered by insurance.  Just changing the oil is expensive.  That should be covered too.  With the current cost of gas, filling the tank is expensive.  Why not have all these normal, routine, and maintenance items covered by insurance?
Let’s take a look at how this would work.  When we go into any auto repair or maintenance facility, we would give them our auto insurance card.  With gas stations, maybe the insurance card could be like a credit card so we can just swipe the card.  That would be really convenient. 
After we receive the auto service or product like gas, the retailer providing the service will bill our insurance company.  The insurance company will then review the claim to determine if it is covered by the insurance policy you or your employer has bought. 
The insurance claims person will then check if you have met your deductible and what percentage is your co-pay portion.   The insurance company will then notify you and the retailer submitting the claim how much the insurance company is paying and how much is your responsibility.  After the retailer knows how much of the claim is your responsibility, they will bill you. 

Obviously, the insurance company will have to raise your insurance premiums to cover the additional claims.  There will also be substantial additional costs for handling all the additional claims.  This will require more employees and more insurance company facilities.  The insurance company will also need additional profits. 
There will also be additional expenses for the retailer providing you products and services for your vehicles.   They now have to submit claims to your insurance company and then bill you for any portion of the claim that is your responsibility.  This will add to the labor cost of serving you. 
There is also an additional monetary cost of doing business to the retailer.  Additional working capital will be required, as it will take longer for the retailer to get paid for the product or service.  The cost of the products and service will have to go up to cover these additional costs of doing business.
Costs will also go up due to lack of competition.  Why would you as a consumer care how much you are paying for your gas?  Why would you care what kind of gas mileage your vehicle gets, or how much you drive?  The gas is covered by insurance anyway, so who cares? 

Your insurance premiums will increase tremendously and will continue to increase.  The cost of the products and services for your automobile will also increase substantially. 
How much will your total vehicle costs increase?  It is safe to expect an increase of 300 to 500 percent, but who cares.  It would be so convenient. 

Does this sound ridiculously stupid?  Why should it?  This is exactly what we are doing now with first dollar medical insurance.  Why doesn’t that sound stupid?
We can never control health care costs until we stop paying normal, routine, and maintenance heath care costs with insurance.  Insurance has created the problem.  We can’t solve the problem with insurance. 
We must move to true major medical insurance and medical savings plans to control health care costs.  If we don’t, we will eventually see government provided health care. 
I don’t mean “Single Payer.”  “Single Payer” still has the same claims processing costs as present medical insurance coverage, and we know the government has never handled these things as well as private industry.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Political Name Game

        A name can mean a lot and project an image.  That image may or may not be representative. 
        We have a Republican political party.  That name comes from the fact our government was formed as a republic.  We elect representatives to conduct the business of government for us.  We just can’t be informed in every aspect of government.
        We have a Democratic political party.  That name comes from democracy, which we like to think we are, when our government actually is a republic.
        The Libertarian political party is simple.  These people believe in personal liberty and freedom with less government control. 
        Constitutionalist political party is again simple.  They believe in following a strict interpretation of the Constitution.  None of the notion that the Constitution is a “Living Document.”  This often is just an excuse to ignore the Constriction for the personal gain of special interest groups in my opinion.  

        Now let’s touch on some more political names.  We have “Socialist”. The Socialist Party USA web site says, “The Socialist party strives to establish a radical democracy that places peoples lives under their own control.”
        I have a little confusion here because they are proposing “progressive” changes though government controls to achieve this.  These government controls equalize people, but take away individual freedoms. 
        Socialism means a government controlled economy and government controlled business.  Again this takes away individual freedoms.  It is very confusing. 
        The Communist party has a more negative image.  I think that is because it brings an image of violence.  I have a hard time differentiating between socialism and communism except for the violence aspect. 
        Both socialism and communism have several things in common.  They both advocate strong governments with a political elite making decisions for what the people need.  There will be no rich except for the political elite. 
        Both parties talk about the rights of the individual.  They advocate the “Right” to some minimum standard of living.  This is a “Right” that does not have to be earned. 
        The potential negative side to this political view is the individuals ‘Right” to work and earn a standard of living higher than the minimum is diminished.  Incentive to succeed is taken away. 
This is not true for the political elite who are the decision makers.  Theoretically, they are working in the best interests of all the people.  We know how well that idea works, don’t we. 

        Liberals and conservatives are more clouded because there are both social issues and fiscal issues.  Many individuals are conservative on fiscal issues and liberal or social issues, or vice versa.
        On fiscal issues conservatives are for less government, and liberals are for more government.  Personally, I don’t think social issues should be handled by government anyway and certainly not the Federal government. 
        On some social issues like religion, we end up letting a small minority dictate to the majority anyway.  This is just not right. 

        Now to a political term that drives me crazy.  What is a political “Progressive.”  Most definitions of the word “Progressive” are positive.  The political “Progressive” is for larger government, more government spending, more government debt, and less individual freedoms.  Personally, I don’t call that positive or progressive. 
        Have we heard anything like “Large Government” with any other political parties?  Must just be a coincidence.  What’s the old saying?  “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.”  Some politicians now hedge their bet by calling themselves “Modern Progressives.” 
        Many “Progressives” talk about the “European Socialist Economy.”  How well is that working out for Greece?  Socialism has never worked in history that I can find.  Why do we keep trying to reinvent the wheel?

One other thing that drives me crazy with the political name game is how the same issue can be brought up over and over again with a new name. 
“Global Warming” is a good example.  This came after the predictions for another “Ice Age” in the 1970s.  Global warming is a big issue and a potential fortune for the political elite.  If a political proposal is not acceptable, just change the name, and try again.  The name keeps changing.  How many names has this issue had?  Now we hear things like “Clean Air and Jobs” and “Green Jobs”.  Just how naive does the political elite think we are?

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Name Game In Business, i.e. Pink Slime

A catchy name that conveys an image can also make story news worthy.  The media was giving a lot of attention to “Pink Slime”.  What is “Pink Slime”?  Is it something bad, or is it a safe meat product?  If this product has been used in our meat products for decades, how bad a product is it for us to consume?
If the facts end up showing it is safe and nutritious beef trimmings, where did the name “Pink Slime” come from?  What should this product be called?  I kind of like “Dead Cow Bits and Pieces” myself.  Does the name game convey an image? 
I hope the current controversy over “Pink Slime” has some basis in fact and not just a good media story, because the resulting costs are huge.  It has cost the meat industry thousands of dollars and hundreds of people have lost their jobs.  Don’t think it won’t cost you when you buy meat, because it will. 

I am not saying all meat processors are perfect, but most turn out a good product.  My brother worked in meat processing plant for a while.  He taught me a lot about how to select the best cuts of beef. 
We have all heard stories of people that worked in meat processing plants that would not eat hot dogs because of what was in them.  Just what is a hot dog other than “Pink Slime”?  Most people still like hot dogs.  What would happen to baseball without hot dogs?

I was raised on a farm.  We raised our own cows, pigs
and chickens for our meat.  We butchered our own hogs and chickens.  I won’t go into details for you city folk, as I don’t want to turn more of you into vegetarians. 
The cows we just field dressed and took to the local locker plant for processing and freezing.  The locker plant was a building with a section refrigerated to below freezing.  The refrigerated portion of the building had large storage bins that people rented to store their frozen meat. 
One of my favorite meals was when we butchered a hog.  That night, Mom would slice the fresh tenderloin into small patties and fry them in a pan with butter.  Good eating.
We used all the fat from the hog to render our own lard.  Lard was a preferred ingredient for many baked items.  Good eating.  We were not big on eating healthy on the farm. 
When we butchered a hog, we also always made “Head Cheese.”  “Head Cheese” is all the trimmings and everything that can be scraped off and out of the hog’s skull.  As I remember, we threw away the brain, eyes and ears, but used the tongue.  Dad would smash the skull with a sledgehammer, and scrape off all the meat.  Mom would pick out any bone fragments.  This “meat” was then cooked and ground up very fine.  I guess we could have called it “Brown Slime” instead of “Head Cheese.”  We served it chilled as sandwich meat.  Done right, Head Cheese might even be considered a delicacy. 
Once when I was a kid, we had a bunch of relatives over and Mom served “Head Cheese” on fresh homemade buttered buns.  They were delicious.  I waited until some of my cousins were on their second or third sandwich before I told them what they were eating.  Some of them got a little green. 

A name can mean a lot.  A name can convey a good image or a bad image.  A couple other names currently thrown around in the food industry are “Lite” and “Low Fat”.  Just what do they mean?  They may not mean what you thought. 
I heard one nutritionist on TV say we should go through our refrigerators, cupboards and pantries, and throw away anything that had the label “Lite”.  Who knows?

I will talk more about the name game in politics later.