Friday, January 31, 2014

How Is Your State Of The Union?

Last Tuesday evening, the President delivered the annual State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. To many, it seemed a fairly easy to take list of modest goals with few sharp edges and nothing too inflammatory to offend the loyal opposition. Yes, I know, I know, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) was so mortified at the President's willful and brazen shredding of the Constitution that he was compelled to walk out during the address. Stockman is a professional boob who has mounted one of the most ridiculous and certain to fail campaigns we've seen in a long time. Stockman is an outlier, in more than one way. Soon, Stockman will be out of a job, too.

I've been thinking about my State of the Union. It compares in many ways to President Obama's remarks earlier this week. Generally speaking, my family and I seem to be heading in the right direction, although not as fast as we'd like. There are things we've accomplished, like seeing our kids move into their college years with a desire to further their education. We've paid down our debt, to the lowest amount its been in years. We've addressed some infrastructure issues on our property. For the most part, everything works as its supposed to here at the Corfield household. Sure, there's a list of things we'd still like to do. My wife wants me to replace a ceiling fan in one of the kids rooms, I'd like to install an exhaust fan on the roof, and replace the rear entrance completely. We'll need a few tons of gravel by Springtime and there's some plumbing issues we need to address after the weather breaks related to our well. Emotionally, I think I continue to grow and absorb all sorts of things around me I failed to notice when I was younger. Relationship wise, my marriage seems to be as strong as ever, our bonds have deepened over time and we genuinely enjoy each other's company, even after 23 years.

Financially, we're considered slightly better off than the typical middle-class family is. Both my wife and I have two college degrees and have put them to good use. She works in largest hospital in our area and has put her Masters degree in nursing to good use. I've parlayed my degree in Marketing and 15+ years of retail management experience into my own small business, which is very healthy as I head into my 18th year of providing and performing music for Seniors in Southwest Ohio. We enjoy a fairly high level of satisfaction professional speaking. We're pretty darn happy.

The dictionary definition of the word union, as it applies to this blogpost, says the following:

Union (noun)

a) An act or instance of uniting or joining two or more things into one.
b) A unified condition.

Like our politics, families all too often fall into the trap of distorted viewpoints or perspective. Its very easy to dwell or focus on the things that aren't working, the things we want to change rather than find a happy balance by recognizing the things that are going well. Life isn't just the bad stuff and its not just the good stuff. Its all that stuff. Every day, every week every year.


The Republicans and especially Speaker of the House John Boehner love to say "The American people want to know where are the jobs, Mister President?" Would we like more jobs to be created? Of course we would. In the first few months of 2009, after Barack Obama took office, the economy was losing jobs by numbers that can only be described as staggering and terrifying. Eight-hundred thousand jobs lost a month as Obama brought his Administration on the job. The economy contracting (getting smaller) by 8.9% in the 4th quarter of 2008.

Where are we now? 46 straight months of job growth, an impressive streak for sure. The unemployment rate, clearly an imperfect metric but the standard nonetheless, which peaked at slightly above 10% in late 2009, sat at 6.7% in December 2013. Clearly better? Yes, What we want? No. Keep in mind, the average unemployment rate from 1948 through 2013 was 5.83%. The average. For every hundred people looking for work, roughly 94 were working through that time period of over 60 years. Right now, roughly 1 more person of those hundred people I just mentioned is still looking for work. 93 people are employed.

This as we continue to recover, albeit slowly, from the second worst economic collapse in the United States of the two hundred years. Only the Great Depression outranks it.

My point? Its the job, I suppose of the loyal opposition to find fault with the sitting president and his party on any number of things, including unemployment. But keep in mind, we're pretty close to what the average has been for the last 60+ years, so when you hear the suggestion that the economy is dying, unemployment is at crushing levels, well, its just talk. Its just politics. Its up to you how you choose to look at things.

Fortunately, we don't usually face the same obstruction in our personal lives. If we do, its much easier to address the issue directly and find a way to resolve it. Perspective is critical in our personal lives. If we become too transfixed on making money, we tend to do so at the expense of other valuable things. Sure, not a single reader of this column has too much money, I'll bet. We all would like more. I would.

I've found thinking of the word "union" over the past few days, its a little easier to think in broader way. Money and financial worth is only a part of our lives and I'd caution everyone to not lose your minds over it. Things happen damn fast in this life. A tender moment with your spouse, a teaching moment with a child, a moment of true friendship with a friend, are special things that, as the old saying goes, money can't buy.

I'm not saying don't attack your goals aggressively. Go after what you want and work as hard and as smart as you can. Just leave time to tune into the other frequencies broadcast around you. Its not impossible to work it all in. A balance in life or a successful "union of your state" will have a pretty neat benefit on your pursuit of a more impressive balance sheet over time.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Why the 1% Should Love Obama" From The Daily Beast

  Daniel Gross of The Daily Beast has an interesting and almost convincing op-ed on why the 1% should be thankful for President Obama. He also makes a seldom made case that the timing of President Obama being sworn in for his first term came at a "good time" for him.

I agree with a lot in the article and its worth a read...

Find it here...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I'm Now Contributing at!!!

I am pleased to announce a new publishing arrangement with the good folks over at Polititalk's stated mission focuses on a "healthier government and is certainly worth a read. Its a big tent at Politicalk and I'm happy they've invited me inside. There's plenty of interesting writers over there with lots to say. If you've been looking for a companion website to Reasonable Conversation, I think you'll find Polititalk quite comfortable.

Generally speaking, I'll be providing unique content for them in the fields of political analysis, commentary on the Affordable Care Act and any future healthcare reform efforts, as well as robust mid term and general election coverage.

First article was posted yesterday, and it addresses "the question" that I think all GOP Presidential wannabees will have to answer during their primary season.

You can find it right here...

Go read!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Vaccines Don't Cause Autism...

This week's Healthcare Triage takes a hard look at the data available around the issues of vaccines and Autism. There are those who don't think vaccines are safe or as in the case of autism, the cause of some diseases. The data, the science and the research leaves little to doubt as to the lack of any connection between the two.

If you have any doubts on the safety of the MMR vaccine or its "involvement" with causing Autism in some children, you really owe it to yourself to watch this week's episode of Healthcare Triage...

Dr. Carroll provides a number of links that support this video, including the original paper that has since been retracted from the Lancet ...


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bruce Springsteen & Jimmy Fallon "Gov. Christie Traffic Jam...

Jimmy Fallon and New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen played a duet last night and had some fun at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's expense.

Click through for their performance:

Monday, January 13, 2014

Political Authors Getting Big Boost in Sales from Like Minded Groups...

 There is a great article over at the Daily Beast that explores the gimmick behind the sales of books like this, "Liberty and Tyranny" by Mark Levin.

Typically, political action groups, think tanks and other politically affiliated organisations will political books in bulk and then distribute them to its members and prospective members in exchange for subscriptions, donations and the like. It happens on the Liberal side of publishing, but conservative books are by far bigger sellers. 

Read the full article here...

As the article says, in no way is anyone doing anything remotely illegal. It is a bit of a stretch to boast about this books sales or that one when outside organisations are buying them up hundred at a time. Levin's hardly the only one to benefit from the practice. Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, etc....all have seem similar arrangements I suspect. 

All are popular figures and you'd expect them to have strong sales given their audiences. Its my opinion that political books bought in bulk should not be considered in the regular sales figures. Its a bit misleading to the average consumer. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Question: Does Making People Pay More Out of Pocket for Reduce Health Care Spending? Answer: Yes, but...

 Starting in 1971 and concluding in 1986, the RAND Corporation conducted the largest study ever done on health insurance in the United States. Its findings were landmark and serious. The study basically looked at 4 groups of people, divided by how much out of pocket each group would pay for their health care.

Would the people that paid less or nothing for their health care spend more than those who paid more? A popular idea then and now is that if you make people pay more for their healthcare, they will use less of it, thereby lowering total healthcare spending in the country.

The findings have not produced a universally held interpretation of the study. Dr. Aaron Carroll, in this week's Healthcare Triage, discusses the study and why some savings from higher out of pocket expenses aren't necessarily without consequences. At times, serious consequences...


Friday, January 3, 2014

A Change of Heart On The Eric Snowden Matter...

On June 11, 2013, I wrote a column taking Eric Snowden to task for his releasing of sensitive information regarding the security and intelligence gathering methods of the United States.

From that column: (Boldface mine)

"As maddening as our government can be, as frustrating as our elected officials can be, no single citizen has the right to release classified documents, essentially to the world, to make a point. No business would put up with it, and no government can either. Snowden had options. Talk to his superiors, leave the position, file a report with the Inspector General for him to follow through, seek out his elected representative, etc. All, far better choices that going to the media, creating some level of hysteria and further alienating the people's government from the people." 

I don't disagree with what I wrote. However, after reading the New York Times op-ed from January 1st on what should happen to Snowden as well as an interesting column in the New York Times from yesterday's edition, I feel a need to amend and soften my position regarding Mr. Snowden.

One paragraph from each article weigh heavily with me:

"Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community."

And... (Boldface mine)“If the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistle-blower protection to the intelligence community for the first time,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference. “So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.”
In fact, that executive order did not apply to contractors, only to intelligence employees, rendering its protections useless to Mr. Snowden. More important, Mr. Snowden told The Washington Post earlier this month that he did report his misgivings to two superiors at the agency, showing them the volume of data collected by the N.S.A., and that they took no action. (The N.S.A. says there is no evidence of this.) That’s almost certainly because the agency and its leaders don’t consider these collection programs to be an abuse and would never have acted on Mr. Snowden’s concerns."

I don't know what the correct outcome should be for Snowden. Given the list of revelations, (the Clapper thing isn't getting nearly the play in the press it should be...) perhaps we all should take a step back and reconsider what we know about this case and what a sensible resolution should be? I don't support him walking free, but a long jail sentence, treason charges, etc,. now seem to miss the mark we ought to be aiming for.