Why I’m Not Blogging about Politics

A post in which I proceed to blog about politics.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m very involved there with politics. But if you follow this blog, you know that I very seldom blog about it.

I’ll make my position clear here just once: I don’t like Donald Trump. I think he’s a conman who isn’t sincere about anything he promised his base during the campaign. I think his only goal as president is to make himself and his family richer by playing the system any way he can. I think that the only reason he’s a [supposed] billionaire is because he started life with millions he got from his father, consistently cuts project costs by not paying his contractors what he owes them, and has been bailed out after more than a few bad business decisions. For Pete’s sake, the guy has six bankruptcies under his belt — doesn’t that speak volumes? How people can trust and believe in a conman like this is beyond me.

I think he’s semi-literate, a guy with a tiny vocabulary who can’t be bothered to prepare for meetings or speeches because he thinks he can bluff his way through them — and everyone lowers their standards to make sure he does.

I also think he’s a crazy narcissist who needs constant ego stroking, a true man-child who can only focus on things that affect him personally. I think he’s delusional in the sense that he rewrites events in his own mind to fit the narrative he wants to tell about himself and then actually believes the new story. Simply said, he believes his own lies.

I think members of his staff likely did collude with Russia during the election — and maybe he did, too — and that Putin definitely has enough dirt on him to make him march to his tune. I think he’s hiding far more than he’s revealing and I’m sure that what he’s hiding is plenty to be ashamed of.

And no, I don’t want to debate it. So save your pro-Trump comments for some other blog.

And yes, I would like to see him removed from office. Impeachment would be nice. So would a resignation. Heck, I’d probably celebrate if he just dropped dead of a heart attack.

(Not that I think Pence is good for this country, but that’s a whole other story.)

But that doesn’t mean I’m one of the rabid left wing anti-Trump kooks that are making fools of themselves by believing every single Trump conspiracy theory thrown at them.

And I’m outraged by the people cooking up these theories and pushing them. While it’s possible that these people actually believe the nonsense they’re spouting, I think it’s a lot more likely that they’re trying to secure a position for themselves on the far left like Alex Jones’s position on the far right: offensive nut jobs who can turn a buck by building a following of gullible people on the left who are desperate for any hope that Trump will be removed from office in shame.

And I’m fed up with people who tweet and retweet these theories and then get upset with me when I advise them not to believe anything until it’s published by a credible news source. As if I’m somehow “the enemy” because I’m not as gullible and desperate as they are.

Seriously?

I recently changed the tweet pinned to the top of my Twitter profile page in an effort to advise people who are going nuts these days over what they’re seeing and reading and believing. Will it help? Probably not. But it’s my new mantra when it comes to politics: “PAY ATTENTION, everyone. Think before you react. Check before you believe. And, for pete’s sake, CALM DOWN!”

While there are similarities and differences between our current state of political affairs and the Watergate scandal that brought down Nixon, I have full confidence that the legal system will do the right thing when it comes to dealing with Trump.

Eventually.

Until then, I see no reason to blog about politics anymore. I have more interesting — and positive — things to write about.

Want to comment on this post? Comments are open — for now. But there are a few strings attached.

First, read the Comment Policy. You’ll find a very informative comic there about “free speech” that perfectly illustrates my thoughts on the matter. If your comment violates this policy in any way, it will be deleted before it even appears. Even I won’t read it.

Second, if your comment mentions Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama (or emails or Benghazi, etc.) as a reason for supporting Trump now, today, after all the shit that’s come down since the election, I will delete your comment. If you can’t make a 2017 argument for supporting Trump, you obviously haven’t thought much about what’s going on and have nothing worth sharing here. Go back to your Fox News bubble and leave the rest of us who actually care about the future of our country alone.

Third, don’t expect me to debate with you on the merits of Donald Trump. I won’t. No matter how nicely you present your argument, thus getting it past moderation, I will not reply. I’ve said everything I have to say above and you cannot convince me that I’m wrong about any of it.

If you want to respond to someone who has commented, keep that comment policy in mind. And keep it civil. If I don’t spend all of my time moderating this post’s comments, the comments will stay open. But if moderation becomes a chore, I’ll shut it down.

Seriously, I have better things to do with my time than deal with MAGA trolls.

It Takes Money to Make Money

A simple fact too many folks don’t seem to understand.

The other day, I was at a social gathering with a bunch of friends and neighbors. Conversation turned to a good friend of mine with a very large, underutilized garage. I mentioned that during the winter, he rents out storage space for the season to people with boats, RVs, and other vehicles not likely to be used in the winter. This brings in some extra cash for his winter travels to the south.

“What a great idea!” one of my neighbors said. She turned to another member of the group. “See? There are all kinds of ways people can make money. I don’t see why we should be paying for them.”

I could tell that she’d used my story to continue a conversation she’d had earlier with other people in the group. But she was missing an important point.

“It’s all about assets,” I said. I told the group about how I’m currently being paid to have my helicopter parked in a snug hangar in California in case it’s needed. Yes, I’m bringing in cash without seeming to do anything. But the asset that’s making that possible has cost me more than a half million dollars in the past 13 years to buy, maintain, overhaul, and insure. It’s not as if I’m getting money for nothing.

MoneyThe same goes for my friend. If he didn’t have that big garage, could he rent out space to boat owners? No. What did it cost him to build that garage? Maintain it? Insure it? All that costs money.

The sharing economy has given us all kinds of ways to bring in a little cash on the side. It’s no secret that before I sold my big fifth wheel, I parked on my driveway and rented it out on AirBnB for $89/night with a two-night minimum. I had people in it nearly every weekend that summer. But could I have done that if I didn’t have the fifth wheel? Or acreage with an amazing view and a full RV hookup? What did it cost me to buy the fifth wheel and land? And set up the power, sewer, and water hookups? All that costs money.

And then there’s Uber and Lyft, two ride-sharing companies. Yes, you can drive people around and get paid for it. But to do that, you need a car that meets certain requirements for age and style and that car has to be insured. All that costs money.

The conversation didn’t go this far. It moved on to other things before I could make this point. It didn’t matter. I like my neighbors, even though I think some of them are politically misguided, and didn’t want to ruin the evening with a possibly heated debate. We’re among the fortunate Americans. Neither rich nor poor, we are homeowners on the downhill slope of life, able to take care of all of our needs with a little left over for extras. Life’s not easy, but it certainly isn’t hard.

Yet some of us understand what it’s like for the people who struggle to get by. We empathize, possibly because we’ve been in their shoes in the past. We don’t expect them to produce money out of thin air with creative use of assets they couldn’t possibly afford when they’re having enough trouble putting a roof over their head and food on the table. We don’t mind paying a little extra in our taxes to help them with social services programs or, even more importantly, to fully fund our school systems to help their kids get a path out of poverty through education.

But it’s the mindset of my friend — the complete lack of understanding of how difficult it can be for certain people to earn a decent living — that bothers me. It’s an almost “let them eat cake” moment. And sadly, it’s shared by far too many Americans these days.

My Health Insurance Story

If the AHCA passes, something like this could happen to you.

I’ve been self-employed since 1990. When I left my last full-time job — which did include health care benefits — I bought my own health insurance coverage. I was 29 at the time, a non-smoker, and in good health. But health insurance was something I thought everyone needed to have, so I signed up with one program or another — I honestly can’t remember any details — and stayed insured for years.

Understand that I seldom needed insurance coverage. Again, I was in good health. If I caught a cold, I went to the doctor. If my insurance covered the visit and medicine, fine. If it didn’t, I paid and didn’t complain. When I had some problems with my knee and needed several tests, some physical therapy, and finally some arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus, I ponied up the $1,000 deductible before finally getting some benefits to cover most of the other costs. I’m not rich and I’m not poor but I was usually able to afford any kind of medical attention I needed.

Each year, my insurance rates went up and I paid the new premium. It wasn’t a big deal; I made more money every year and I saw the increased expense as part of my cost of living increase. Occasionally, I’d shop around for a new policy and get one that was a little less costly. That would creep up over the years and I’d change again.

The biggest mistake I ever made

I’m not exaggerating when I say that getting on my future wasband’s health insurance was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life. Why? Because when was I diagnosed not long afterwards with a tumor that needed removal and possible cancer treatments afterwards, he told me that I might not be covered if the insurance company found out we weren’t married. Terrified of bankruptcy from medical expenses for surgery and cancer treatments, I agreed to marry him. After all, we’d been together for 23 years and “engaged” for most of that time. We’d obviously stay together forever.

I turned out to be wrong about that. But the insurance was the root of my mistake; if I hadn’t gotten on his health insurance plan, I never would have married him. It would have been a hell of a lot easier to get him out of my life when he decided he wanted a mommy more than a wife and took up with a desperate old whore he met online only six years later. (Read a few of the early posts tagged divorce if you want the details of his betrayal.)

And no, there was no cancer.

In the early 2000s, my future wasband took a job in the Phoenix area with a company that offered very good health insurance plan. Around the same time, I got a sizable increase in my health insurance premium. He told me I could get on his insurance and it would be cheaper and better. Even though we weren’t married, I assumed he knew what he was talking about when he made the offer, so I dropped my insurance and got on his.

Sometime after we married, when I was still on his insurance, I started having digestive issues. I went to a gastroenterologist connected to Wickenburg Hospital — which I will never do again — and told her about my symptoms, including pain in my upper abdomen. She translated that as chest pains and decided that I needed to get an EKG. When that showed no problem, she sent me for a stress test. When that showed no problem, she sent me for another test. When that showed no problem, she finally gave up trying to diagnose me with heart problems. She was never able to resolve the digestive issues I had. Neither was another doctor I went to see. I wrote about this in a 2010 blog post titled “Getting Quality Health Care: Apparently Impossible.”

My wasband lost the job with the great insurance got another one with good insurance. I stuck with his new plan. Then he lost that job and was unemployed for a while. He got us on Cobra, which he paid for with our joint checking account. Except he didn’t pay on time. He missed a payment and they cancelled our coverage.

He got in touch with them right away and made the payment. It was only five days late. They reinstated him immediately. But they looked at my medical records, saw the heart tests, and refused to cover me because I had a “pre-existing condition.”

Except I didn’t have the condition they claimed I had. I had never had that condition. All tests had proved negative. My heart was fine.

It took six months of fighting with Blue Cross to get insurance coverage again. For the entire time, I was completely exposed to financial loss: if I was hit with a major health problem, the cost of medical attention could easily bankrupt me. Actually, I guess it could bankrupt us — I don’t think my idiot wasband realized how exposed he was, too.

I finally got coverage under my own name, separate from my wasband, by signing papers saying I’d never put in a claim for heart-related issues. I had no trouble with that because I had a healthy heart.

And, as you might imagine, I learned my lesson and kept my insurance separate from my wasband’s no matter how good his next employer’s plan was. I simply couldn’t trust him with something that important. (That probably helped confirm my financial independence from him in divorce court a few years later.)

I have been on one health insurance plan or another since that “pre-existing condition” scare all those years ago. The Affordable Care Act (ACA or ObamaCare) made it easy to find insurance that met my requirements. Again, I’m generally healthy and I make a decent living. I have insurance primarily to prevent bankruptcy in the event of a major illness. I have assets to protect, including my home, my business assets, and my retirement funds. I’ve worked too hard my whole life to put them at risk.

To keep my premiums as low as possible, I have a very high deductible: $5,000. I take advantage of a health savings account if I can. (My new plan does not allow additional savings but I can still use the balance from my old plan.) It’s nice to have annual check-ups and special tests like mammograms covered by insurance without having to worry about the deductible. Coverage under ACA helps people who can’t afford doctor’s visits at all to make at least make one visit a year which can, hopefully, find any problems before they become serious.

I’m not at all happy with the provisions of the Paul Ryan American Health Care Act (AHCA or TrumpCare) in part because it will allow insurers to deny coverage or greatly raise rates for people with pre-existing conditions.

Will it affect me? Will I be denied coverage? Or charged some outrageous rate for premiums? Just because I had a few heart tests ten years ago? Tests that proved I had a healthy heart?

And will some test or problem you’ve had in the past prevent you from getting coverage?

And what about well-care visits? Maternity coverage? Contraception? Mental health care? Any number of items on the list of required coverages from the ACA?

(Don’t worry boys, I’m sure you’ll still be able to get your little blue pills. Republicans wouldn’t dare threaten a man’s sex life.)

With only 17% approval rating from the people, Republicans could pass the bill later today anyway. They don’t care about the people who voted them in. They care about the lobbyists and rich donors who pay for their campaigns. The people most likely to benefit from this plan.

So I guess time will tell how it affects you.