Is a deadlocked Congress good for the country?

COLUMBUS: As we come to the end of the year, folks are complaining about Congress, saying they didn’t do nothin’. They didn’t pass any bills.

Here’s Will Rogers on a similar Congress in 1924:  “Washington, D.C. papers say: ‘Congress is deadlocked and can’t act’. I think that is the greatest blessing that could befall this country.”  In 1926 he also said: “We cuss ‘em, and we joke about ‘em, but they are all good fellows at heart, and if they wasn’t in Congress, why, they would be doing something else against us that might be even worse.”

Everybody is making predictions about the economy for the new year. Here’s one for consideration: more unemployed people will find jobs in the next three months than in any other three month period in the last five years. I have a suggestion for young ones unemployed and still living at home. Get up early, change from your pajamas into nice clothes, and walk down the street looking for work. Remember, you don’t say, “Can I have a job?” No, you ask, “Do you have any work that needs to be done?” It might be for only a few hours, but it’s a start.

President Obama wants to reduce income inequality by raising the minimum wage. The main cause of inequality isn’t the ones making $7.50 an hour; it’s the ones making zero.

When the President returns to Washington he should call in each of his agency heads, one at a time, and ask, What changes can you make that will make it easier for businesses to hire more workers? Start with the EPA, then the Departments of Labor, and Energy, and Health, and so on. Up to now he’s always thinking of ways for the government to hire more people. But nobody that’s broke ever hired anybody extra, and neither should a government that’s broke.

If we’re going to put all these folks to work, where will they find the jobs? Well, in case you haven’t heard, the oil and gas business is booming. And we have plenty of coal, too, if we’re allowed to use it.

I’ll also go out on a limb and predict that Congress will pass a farm bill, with Democrats and Republicans agreeing that four fifths of the money appropriated will go to feed the poor. Of course, a year ago I predicted the farm bill would pass, and probably the year before that. But I’m not the only one that missed with earlier predictions. Al Gore said five years ago that “by 2013 the Arctic ice will all melt.”  The folks who suffered through ice storms recently in Texas and Oklahoma are curious if that cold weather originated at the balmy North Pole.

Historic quote by Will Rogers:

    “These people that you are asked to aid, why they are not asking for charity, they are naturally asking for a job, but if you can’t give them a job, why the next best thing you can do is see that they have food and the necessities of life. You know, there’s not a one of us has anything that these people that are without it now haven’t contributed to what we’ve got… The most unemployed or the hungriest man in America has contributed in some way to the wealth of every millionaire in America.” Radio, Oct 18, 1931

Duck Dynasty and Obamacare divide the country

The Federal Reserve met last week to do a thorough examination of the economy. Ben Bernanke announced the patient is improving, and will soon be able to walk on its own. He’s been supporting it with $85 Billion a month of “printing press” money (some of us call it counterfeit), and he will remove $10 Billion of the $85 Billion and keep an eye on it to make sure the economy doesn’t stumble and fall on its face.

Wall Street liked the announcement and set another record. Those folks are thrilled the printing press was only slowed down a little, and not scrapped.

President Obama is glad the economy is growing. Unemployment is down to 7%. But he looks at Wall Street and says the rich are not sharing enough of the wealth with the poor. Pope Francis agrees with him that “income inequality” is a problem.

Personally, I think the Pope can do more to solve it than the President. If he would follow the example of Brigham Young and have all his followers give 10% to be distributed among the poor that would sure help balance the scales. The President might be able to do the same thing, but he would have to persuade us to give about 30%.

Concerning the Affordable Care Act, the President said on Friday, “Eighty-five percent of Americans have benefitted. It’s working as intended.” Not everyone agrees with him, especially the other fifteen percent. He has made so many changes that no one is quite sure what his “intention” is. The 5 million who have lost their insurance will now be able to sign up for a simple “catastrophic” plan. Previously, it had been outlawed. With a January deadline looming, the President turned the whole situation over to Secretary Sebelius and the insurance companies and flew off to Hawaii to play golf.

Have you been following this Duck Dynasty controversy? It has divided the country even more than Obamacare. I had been contemplating what to say about it myself, when Jay Leno beat me to it with the perfect comment. He said that Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family, criticized gays, so gay people are upset with him. “Then he went on to criticize adulterers, drunks and swindlers. And now Congress is mad at him.”  Yes, I sure wish I had thought of it first.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers: (on Christmas)

    “I am too busy replacing presents to write today. I bought some mechanical and electric things for the kids and wore ‘em out playing with ‘em myself.” DT #120, Dec. 23, 1926
 “Merry Christmas, my constant readers, both of you. No scandal today. There is some, but it will be more scandalous by tomorrow.  Men, act surprised this morning as if you didn’t know the tie was coming.” DT #121, Dec. 24, 1926

What America learned from Mandela

The world has been celebrating Nelson Mandela’s life in South Africa. Despite spending more than twenty years in prison, which would have destroyed the will of most men, he proceeded to lead “his people” out of perpetual slavery without a revolution.

Oddly, during the various celebrations of his life, instead of learning more about his 95 years, Americans primarily learned that the Prime Minister of Denmark is a lovely blond. We also thought we were learning Zulu sign language, but that turned out to be gibberish.

Last week I reported on the experience of an Obamacare Navigator. I talked to him again  to see if the computer system is working better. You may remember that he had helped six people try to get enrolled. Well, in the last week six more called and two of ‘em came to the office to enroll. One got far enough to get an ID number. But so far for this Navigator, no client has made it all the way to making a payment for health insurance. And among the ones he helped, none are the healthy young men we need to sign up.

The Navigator told me people are taking the problems in stride. None of his clients have resorted to yelling or attacking his computer with a chainsaw. Their patience is logical because for ones who do get their information entered, hackers may get it before the insurance companies.

I have heard from others on their experience with the new healthcare programs. In Maryland, where the state operates the system, it seems to be working to get people signed up. But a self-employed friend in another state has been trying to sign up for weeks, and got no farther than “error messages.”

The White House has announced they want insurance companies to figure out how to cover folks when they show up at the hospital January 1, even if they aren’t enrolled. Secretary Sebelius had three years to get this system up and running, yet they give the insurance companies and medical professionals three weeks to work out a reimbursement plan. Of course folks will get treated. But doctors should send the bill to the Oval Office.

Congress reached an agreement on a budget, but not without some weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth among Republicans. The situation of Speaker Boehner vs. the Tea Party members reminds me of this Will Rogers quote (except I’ve switched the parties): “Republicans never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Republicans. If they agreed with each other, they would be Democrats.”

Historic quote by Will Rogers:
“The trouble with Democrats up to now has been that they have been giving the people ‘what they thought the people ought to have’ instead of what the people wanted.”
 Saturday Evening Post, March 30, 1929

Navigating Obamacare

Do you know what a Navigator is? You might think it’s a guy on a boat that helps the Captain go in the right direction.

Today there’s another kind of Navigator, ones that are helping three hundred million Americans get their health insurance headed in the right direction. Not all at once, mind you, but millions and millions must get onboard the big ship named Obamacare by December 23.  That ship, the biggest ever built, was launched two months ago and its engines have been sputtering and coughing so much it’s moving mighty slow. How many knots? Well, more nots than knots.

I talked to one of these Navigators, trying to get to the bottom of the problem. Not all Navigators are alike, but here’s one situation. He got trained in October and they gave him three thick notebooks. I had to ask, anywhere in those thousands of pages of instructions, does it say, If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor?

Where this fellow lives, there are about 750 poor folks who had been able to see a doctor for little or no money, but they were told they couldn’t do that anymore and had to sign up on the Affordable Care website. They were asked to call this Navigator if they needed help.

Well, here’s what happened to those 750. About 150 called    to ask what’s going on, why am I losing this deal that I like? Keep in mind probably half of ‘em don’t have a computer or internet, so they need help signing up. He started three weeks ago, helping these 750, and he has about two weeks remaining to get ‘em all onboard by the December 23 deadline.

How many has he signed up so far? Six. Yes, six out of 750. But not all six. Two got started but the website froze up. They got passwords, but no ID.  Two others were eligible for Medicaid (free health care), but got stuck. Calling the 800 number didn’t help; put on hold. More than two hours working with each, and still not signed up. Well, why not fill out the forms and mail ‘em in? No, he was informed that mailed forms wouldn’t get read and approved soon enough by the government. You can’t blame the Post Office. But it makes you wonder, if Santa and his elves can handle millions of letters, why can’t Obama.

And the other two? Those two got on, passwords selected and received their ID numbers. So those two are done? No, they have to pick an insurance plan. There’s only one company, but they do have a choice of platinum, gold, silver or bronze plans. Do you think many of these 750 can afford platinum or gold?

Remember, these folks had health care privileges at a local clinic. But after January 1, they have to have Obamacare. Well, six down (partly), only 744 to go.

Historic quote by Will Rogers: (writing after his gall bladder operation)
“If you want to stay well, just bet a lot of rich
 (insurance) companies that you will get sick. Then if you can’t have any luck getting sick, have the policy cut down, and before six months you’ll be saying, “Doctor, the pain is right there.” Ether and Me, 1927