Wednesday, July 11, 2012

That vision thing

Recently I had the pleasure of riding a train from California across the country and gained perspective as I looked out over a lot of our beautiful terrain. And sharing some of that perspective I ask you to consider the recent debate about high speed rail lines in the context of vision. Some have been against it, so I think it worth reminding that the United States now does not have a manned space vehicle. You may think that's ok, but our astronauts need to hitch a ride with Russian astronauts on their nation's rockets, or maybe soon with Chinese on theirs.

People who fight against big projects can feel really justified talking about costs that make sense to them, but the direction of humanity itself, and the big picture of leading the future may escape them. And they might shrug at the idea of the mighty United States of America needing other nations to help our astronauts get into space.

I do not.

For those wondering what a loss of American leadership looks like, you can see it with every news story when our astronauts need the help of some other nation to get into space.

That loss happened under Republicans and Democrats who are currently back to arguing, about what?

Do you really care?

The two primary parties of this nation have lost their way, do not know what they are doing, but the consequences are real as American leadership in the world slips away.

Sure they may tell you repeatedly that we're the greatest nation on earth, but since when did we have to brag? Need someone to tell us we're great?

Politicians can SAY anything. But you can feel our nation drift.

High speed rail is just one thing. But how many things will there be that you lose? California moved forward. Other states did not.

It's time to remember America. Remember a nation that got things done without excuses, and without bold claims against evidence like asking other nations to let us hitch a ride.

The best of us understand that our future is waiting to be made through adversity, trial, and overcoming difficulty.

Being human does not get easier.

Accomplishment is not a given.

You never assume you're done. You're always just looking for the next big thing, the next challenge to push, further.

Or you're hitching a ride.

Though I am just one citizen like you I like that vision thing. Let's move ourselves.

Quit waiting on politicians. Let's start another party, and get back to guiding our own destiny as a nation.

Sure, our astronauts may need other people's rockets but we still have plenty of things as a nation and no need to lose any more.

Thought I'd add a picture this time from my trip across country. Think it's fitting. We are at a junction in our nation's history. What will YOU do?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A political reality

The US Congress got things done last week including a very important bill that addressed national infrastructure, and I'm glad to be able to say nice things about them.

Our government needs to work.

Oddly enough, a massive storm that has created a problem with getting electricity for quite a few people in this nation including in the area of Washington D.C. helps to see the criticality of a working government.

My own position is simple enough about the answer for the purpose of government.

The role of government is to protect and enable its citizens.

Currently crews are racing and working very hard to enable citizens in areas hit hard by a storm to have electricity. I praise their efforts and wish them the best.

Politics is more than talking points, or well-dressed people in suits haranguing each other in far off places, like Washington D.C. as ultimately it is about--who will be there to protect you when things really go really, very wrong?

Who will help when something shatters some part of your life?

People forget when things go well. Our path to HUGE debts was started when the government ran surpluses and people worried we might pay off the national debt! Economists debated if that might be a terrible thing.

We moved down a path, and lead the world down a path, and it is a political reality.

Thinking ahead is not a crime. Politics does not have to move well only when people hurt or find their lives are being destroyed. But that unfortunately does give perspective.

Our nation is changing. That change is being driven by forces outside of people's control.

That is often how it happens. THAT is political reality.

Americans across this nation will celebrate our nation's birthday tomorrow, and along with all the other patriotic themes, thoughts and concerns, I suggest you appreciate seemingly simple things in your life.

Things that seem simple until they are gone, like electricity.

Our government must work for US. We demand that first and foremost as American citizens if we ask for that most critical to its function.

Politics is not about speeches, empty promises or endless debate. It is not about partisan or bi-partisan.

Politics is not a dirty word. It is not something you avoid without cost. It is not that something far away in a distant land called Washington D.C. which you consider only when you must.

Political reality is that politics is your government defending you, enabling you to have the brilliant life possible that we call being an American.

Never forget. It's time to remember America.

Our country, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all is a dream that should never die.

And it depends on a citizenship. A duty of each person.

You will not fail this nation. I believe in YOU, who are the United States of America.

James Harris

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Questions for your representative

One cool thing for getting a political feel is to ask questions! And it's a fun way to interact with a political representative while it plays a valuable role, but what to ask?

Well I'll suggest some questions which come from a document I wrote to try and come up with my own political party which I call the Core Middle Party, for core American values focusing on the middle-class.

In my life I was first a registered Republican, later an independent, and most recently a registered Democrat, but now am back to independent as I try to see if I can get a new party going, so I've been across the political spectrum.

These are fairly simple questions, which follow the outline given in my document about the Core Middle Party:

1. What do you think is the role of government?

2. How do you feel about separation of Church and State?

3. What is your stance on freedom of information? Right to privacy?

4. To what extent do you believe people should be allowed to choose their own destiny, including a woman's right to choose?

5. Do you believe in a strong national defense?

6. What is your opinion of political recalls?

7. How do you think we best hold representatives and government in general accountable?

8. What is your position on government services for children?

9. Do you support universal healthcare?

10. Do you support the mortgage deduction? Charitable deductions? What is your position in general on taxes?

Those are I think a nice overview of some basic questions that anyone can ask regardless of politics except maybe the one about a woman's right to choose, which may sound leading to some.

And of course you can ask whatever you want! I'm just putting out some suggestions which may help.

If not, no worries!

James Harris

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Age Related Subsidy

One of the things that puzzles me are attempts to raise the retirement age, which I think is unnecessary and ignores human reality.

As people age, abilities unfortunately do tend to lessen and it's just not fair to tell someone 65 and older that they should compete against the younger workforce as if that's not true.

And I think the problem is the concept of "retirement" itself, which is not necessary for everyone at 65, and it can be deadly dangerous anyway, as if you go from being highly active to sitting in a rocking-chair doing nothing, you are likely to pass away sooner than later from the doing of nothing.

So rather than cruelly shift the age for "retirement" why not simply shift to an age related subsidy?

The current level of 65 is maintained, and people in advanced countries with social security simply start getting a check when that age is reached regardless of whether they have "retired" or not.

Those who choose to remain in the workforce will help their economies just by working and also would no longer pay into social security, which would be an additional benefit.

We can keep the current level of benefits without adjustment, for those, say, over 55, and evaluate the situation for those under, while noting that the 65 point of beginning of benefits is now locked in, without any reason to move it.

Monetary outlays may be less necessary in the future, with things like universal healthcare, and more efficient age related services, as, for instance, the United States throws away huge amounts of food on any given day.

Also in many areas, public transportation is not as good as in others, keeping more drivers in cars.

In a more efficient city, older citizens could enjoy a higher quality of life with less money if our society took it seriously and focused on reality versus political maneuverings that in the US usually are about cutting taxes for rich people, which is a subsidy as well!

It's just a more stupid one.

James Harris

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Health Insurance Responsibility

One of the most contentious issues in President Obama's healthcare plan is the requirement that people have health insurance, and while I supported him and Congress in getting the healthcare law passed, I've put forward what I think is a better idea where people can be responsible without being forced, while being kept accountable.

The healthcare idea I have is an important element of the Core Middle Party, an idea for a new political party that I put forward back in October.  Critical to any party platform is a healthcare plan and a tax position.  I'll talk here about the healthcare plan and how it removes the need for a healthcare mandate.

The key idea of my healthcare plan is allowing health insurance companies to remain businesses, and not charities, while leveraging their key strengths to help people stay healthy, and limit fraud and abuse, as keeping up with how some people try to cheat is what they do.  It's their business.

Our federal government is just not as good at figuring out fraud and abuse as private companies, and is not as fast in implementing the best practices as learned from the market, meaning there are continual concerns about waste, fraud and abuse, so I recommend third party administration.

That is what the last company where I worked did, where despite being an insurance company themselves--though not in healthcare--they used United Healthcare to administer their healthcare plan for workers, but the company itself actually paid out claims.  That is just a smart way to do things.

So how does that remove a health insurance mandate?

Under my plan people who are healthy and able to pay keep their health insurance like they do now. The one addition is that preventive care becomes automatically part of all plans.  Otherwise, no changes.

They are under what I called Core Care.

Health insurance companies pick them because they are insurable.  It is a business decision.

If someone is not normally insurable, they still have the same insurance company if they wish, and no health insurance company can refuse anyone.  But the health insurance company might put them in the Expected Care tier, where they administer but the government pays.

That person would pay their insurance premiums to the U.S. Treasury.

So let's say someone chooses not to pay for health insurance despite being healthy and despite having the ability to pay.  Then they get sick and apply for health insurance!  No problem, the health insurance company signs them up and puts them in Expected Care, which also covers indigents who lack the ability to pay.

That is, the system covers everyone, and if someone cannot pay for regular health insurance, even if healthy, they'd go into Expected Care, as indigent.

If you chose not to get health insurance while healthy and got sick, you'd end up considered indigent by the system and the U.S. Treasury would pay for your care.

And the government might review your case and charge you later for your entire cost of care.

You had a chance to get insurance, so why didn't you?  If you screwed up, you pay.

So if you screwed up by not getting health insurance when you could, it was your choice.  But the consequences are up to legislators.

So what's the problem with other approaches?

Well let's say that a person under a system without mandated insurance decides to screw the system and not get health insurance until he is sick.  Then the health insurance company is not then a business if it has to take him on--it becomes a charity.

Worse that person could be then rewarded for being irresponsible, and other people would pay for it.

Punishing them at that point could be more difficult for a private company as it's politically a hot issue.  So it is an area for politicians.

In contrast, by allowing people to choose health insurance companies they can pick the ones who give the best service, without refusal being possible for those companies.  While the health insurance companies have an incentive to keep people healthy, so that they pay premiums.

While for those who are beyond the realm of profit for private companies, our nation does the right thing and takes care of them, but doesn't administer so the private companies can help in catching fraud, waste and abuse.

I like this plan.  To see my original presentation with all the 4 tiers including Core Care and Expected Care explained, you can look at a previous post on this blog.

How hard would it be to try it out?

Our government could means test by taking some people from Medicare and Medicaid and having them pick insurance companies who would third party administer, and we could see if it could work or not.

Those people would just get an insurance card like anyone for, say, United Healthcare, and I don't have any affiliation with them, as I lost my health insurance when I was laid off.  For me, being covered by them is just a memory.  Yes, I could have done the COBRA thing.  No, have never done it as it's too damn expensive I think.

I've sent this plan to my congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, but more of you need to ask for it as well, as one person is not enough, and should not be enough.  I like my ideas, as I should, they're mine.  But can they really work?  Not sure.  But if other people think they might and ask for them, then our government might try.

Health insurance companies should not be considered enemies.  Smart solutions can turn business strength into an asset for our entire country, bring down healthcare costs, and give people choice without a health insurance mandate.

But still allow accountability for those people who foolishly choose not to get health insurance anyway, when it becomes, universal.

James Harris