Sunday, October 29, 2017

How we can save our Social Security system for every future generation

File Photo. (1935). Franklin Roosevelt Signing the Social Security Act [Photo] Kerrey (Soc. Sec. Ad.) 06:22. CQ Roll Call. Washington DC. Retrieved from
Roosevelt Signing the Social Security Act (1935)
I've been talking about the age-inversion crisis facing our nation for about 30 years as the number of retirees receiving Social Security benefits exceeds the number of workers supporting them. SS was designed using actuarial information from the 1930s that collected enough money from each worker to provide a SUPPLEMENTARY income for them when they retire. 

However, from the beginning, the US Government treated Social Security contributions as it treated Government-issued bonds, spending the money that came in as it came, and promising to pay out the same money with compounded interest. 

Then in the 1960's President Johnson, in his "great society" speech, declared that it was shameful that our Social Security system had such a huge surplus while there were disadvantaged families living in poverty. He said our nation could afford to end poverty, and it was our moral duty to do that. I was about 12 years old at the time. It made perfect sense to me. I was all for it. It made me feel good that I lived in a country that cared so much about people.

Except I did not understand the implications of spending the social security "surplus." There was NEVER a surplus. All of the money collected by Social Security was collected as a part of a financial contract that would require the return of every penny invested upon the disability or retirement of those who paid into it. In addition, inflation had been progressing on average, at twice the rate of the guaranteed interest rate. In the late 70s and early 80s during the Jimmy Carter administration inflation was over 10% each year, and surpassed 14% until after the first year of Reagan's administration when inflation dropped to under 3% again. During those horrendous years of the Carter administration when average mortgage rates were 14% or higher, and grocery store prices had nearly doubled due to inflation in the previous three years, large numbers of retirees whose incomes never went up were being impoverished. 

Our Government responded by creating "cost of living" adjustments to social security payments based on an index of commodity prices, however that index has been regularly tampered with to enable whichever political party is in power to claim the economy was better than it actually was. Tampering with the cost of living index by leaving out medical insurance costs is how Obama was able to claim he improved the economy while the average household income shrank, and those on social security, who were already hard-hit by the extreme price increases from grocery prices, energy prices, and medical costs, were also hit with lower monthly checks from their Government-run retirement plan, based on the political fiction that Obama's economy had improved. 

Back in the 1980s, before Clinton took office, it was obvious to me that the Social Security "surplus" that the politicians were anxious to spend was a temporary bubble caused by the baby boom generation that so vastly outnumbered those who were retired. One day, I did the math on the declining birth rate and the increasing age of the baby boom generation, and it was not hard to graph how we were headed toward an inversion of the ratio of payers to payees in which the spent surplus would become a burden of debt on the next generation. It scared me. I knew human nature then as I do now. No one wants to be saddled with the debt of others, and young people starting families have to focus on providing for their children over all other needs. I realized then that unless we made major reforms to Social Security that it would go bankrupt and would begin to be treated as a welfare program rather than a retirement program. It seemed obvious to me that I could not count on social security to exist at all by the time I retired, yet the very poor economy made saving for retirement difficult. 

I responded by educating myself on investments and creating an investment company that focused on encouraging people my age (in my 20s) to put aside small amounts of money each month into growth-focused mutual funds. I got a series six securities license and I contracted with a company to begin that dream. Unfortunately, my vision of focusing on people my own age who were making very small contributions did not produce a livable income. Worse, while I correctly surmised that real-estate was a solid investment in terms of its intrinsic value, I was devastated to see how people who had followed my advice were hurt by the housing bubble. Granted, the real cause of the problem was fraudulent manipulation of the housing market by big investors in New York, but that disenchanted me entirely. I changed careers. I had been writing my own software to help me understand and predict the economic future of specific companies and to create sales presentations, and I found that was the part of my work that I enjoyed the most, so I sold my client base to another company, I did some free-lance programming and data-recovery work, I built and sold computers out of my home, and I slowly established a reputation as a computer consultant. I spent my last 20 years as a programmer and IT consultant. 

Even during those years, I worked hard writing editorials and corresponding regularly with my senators about how to correct the impending social security crisis by privatizing part of its funding. Unfortunately, Al Gore, with his "lock box" shell game convinced the Nation that continuing to "invest" social security taxes in current Government Spending was somehow equivalent to saving money for the future, and the collapse of our social security system became inevitable. 

In the 90s and after 2000, my hope was that our nation could outgrow its debt via the artificial boom in production from the microcomputer revolution, which played a big role in my decision to be involved in that industry. I could also see a lot of potential not only for the US economy, but for the Global economy with internet-based trade, but it was obvious we would have to overcome our national xenophobia with regard to international trade. I wrote many letters to my representatives in the early 90s encouraging the elimination of international tariffs, and I was a big supporter of the free trade agreement and developing trade relations with Russia and China. I continue to believe that protectionist ideas supported by labor unions and now by Trump supporters is short-sighted and ultimately will cost us more than it helps us.

As I became involved at the request of my Church pastor in teaching ESL classes to immigrants, I saw another big opportunity for our economy, which is to encourage immigration to fill our great need to improve the ratio of workers to retirees in this nation. However, xenophobia promises our nation will self-destruct in this area also. 

I have mixed feelings about promoting immigration and ending the racist quota system that causes so many good tax-paying, law-abiding immigrants to become classified as "illegal," because I don't want our country to just take advantage of immigrants. If we don't reform our social security system, then saving it for today would only push the problem to the next generation. 

Here is how we can save our Social Security system for every future generation:

1) I think immigration reform that ends racist quotas and encourages more immigrant workers to grow our economy, become US Citizens and improve our worker to retiree ratio is our last great hope economically, but it will only be a short-term fix unless we also reform our social security system. 

2) We need to gradually reduce the percentage of the Social Security trust that is invested in public debt. I think we should apply some of the principles that were incorporated in the ACA, making partners of the Insurance and Annuity industry to fund our Nation's social contract. I think this should involve mandatory co-insurance arrangements between Government and private investment companies to manage risk and keep our social contract accountable.

3) I think we need to repent of our xenophobic approach to global trade and stop making protectionist decisions that attempt to help us locally while hurting other countries. That kind of approach can only work short-term, and will most certainly be a cause of conflict and even war in the future. Our nation needs to be a responsible world citizen, not only for our own financial welfare but the for the global economy also.

Related article (and the source of the photo):

Ohlemacher, S. (2015, August 14). Things to know about Social Security at 80: Overhaul time? Associated Press. Retrieved from

Thursday, October 26, 2017

DMCA, DRM, and the destruction of creativity and human rights

The courts are overdue striking down the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It has been the most destructive impediment to human rights and modern culture ever passed into US law in my generation, and it has created an outrageously out-of-control monster of the entire entertainment industry. I don't see how its excesses can be corrected without breaking up most corporations in the entertainment industry. If our courts won't strike it down, then our legislature must replace it.

Copyright law is supposed to reward those who create, but instead, it throttles creativity as it rewards corporations that continually push the limits on how debased our culture can get. Media companies strangle creativity by enforcing lowest-common-denominator principles that put short-term profitable fads over enduring artistic endeavors. Culture, art, and short-term corporate profits are mutually exclusive.

I want to see new copyright laws that focus primarily on protecting authors and artists from the creativity-crushing media corporations. Media corporations should not be allowed to own copyrights. The corporate ownership of copyrights conflicts with the public interest. Only individuals who create, and possibly limited partnerships representing groups of people who create should ever be allowed to own copyrights, and copyright restrictions should die a natural death with the creator(s) of the content, with only a short (20-year) extension provided for the estate of a creator who dies prematurely. All other corporate entities must license such rights from those who create media content via short-term (5 to 10-year) contracts that must be periodically renewed.

I don't have the same definition of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) software that is generally understood by most people. In my mind, its a synonym for all Government-backed Corporate theft that is perpetrated on innocent citizens via software.

DRM is the legally protected malware that preemptively deletes files from your computer that you may have paid hundreds of dollars and spent thousands of hours to acquire on the theory that everyone is guilty until proven innocent if a bit of software code mistakes your files for something owned by one of those big out-of-control corporations that published it or something similar to it.

DRM is the robo-sheriff that steals from the poor and gives to the rich, but cannot be held responsible for any personal property it might destroy in the process.

DRM is the software that marks the video of your baby's first steps the property of a pop singer whose music might be playing in the background, but cannot be distinguished from normal background noise by any human ear, yet it makes mothers spend thousands of dollars and risk punitive civil court fees if they go to court to get their home movies back.

DRM is the software that takes down original performances of music written in the 1800s and if the takedown notice is successfully disputed, automated software issues a new take-down notice within a few hours, starving the legitimate owner of any benefit of his creation with impunity. Even then, if it is eventually restored, it is likely that the artist's royalties will be diverted to some wealthy music company with no legitimate claim to the work that is too big to fear your warnings they may be sued, because it's cheaper for them to use more automated software to shut down their detractors than it is for them to pay attention to individuals fighting their Government-protected piracy.

DRM is the way in which big corporations can encode rules into software that could never be legislated because they would violate the US Constitution. DRM is legislation by the rich that by-passes the legislative process and all accountability to the public on whom it enforces its actions.

DRM is the software that can get you put in jail just for tampering with it when it glitches, regardless of whether that tampering actually stops a big corporation from stealing from you.

DRM is how wealthy corporations pirate the royalties earned by individuals who post their work on YouTube just by making false claims of ownership that the law makes nearly impossible for individuals to be able to afford to dispute.

DRM is how wealthy corporations can ignore the expiration of copyright dates and still demand payment for something they no longer own.

DRM is how wealthy corporations can penalize people for making fair use of copyrighted material in violation of the principle that all information belongs to the public, and that copyrights exist ONLY as a temporary and narrowly limited exception to that principle.

Software should never be a substitute for law-enforcement, but until this travesty of human rights has been dismantled, its victims must be compensated lavishly for every property rights violation it commits with all property fully restored or compensated at several times the cost of any damaged equipment and license fees paid plus punitive damages for the destruction of personal recordings (sounds, pictures, and other media) that cannot be replaced, with the burden of proof and all technical and legal fees placed entirely on the publisher of the offending DRM software.

Information is NEVER ANYONE's property. It can only be leased for a short time from the public domain.

Wow. Now I think I should post an equally long response to what I just said with all the court records that back up my comments. I have all that documentation filed, but legal citations break all the normal citation rules, and I spend hours fighting with my software to get it to properly cite laws and court decisions. Still, as always, I maintain documentation of every claim I post, so if anyone wants the citations, I'll be happy to look them up for anyone who posts a question.

Monday, September 25, 2017

How To Have Clean Glasses

Image description: cleaning glasses while holding them from the bridge
Hold glasses by the bridge to clean
1) Before you leave the optometrist's office, make sure your glasses fit well so that the lenses are not making contact with skin or eyelashes.

2) Develop the habit of handling glasses by gripping them at the bridge (over your nose).

3) Never use paper or unknown synthetic fabrics to clean or dry glasses.

4) Develop the habit of wiping glasses from the outside toward the bridge to avoid spreading oils and dust particles trapped in the oils that are generally most concentrated near the bridge.

5) Don't clean glasses "when they need it" or you will over-clean them, creating micro-scratches that will make your glasses always seem dirty anytime they aren't wet.

6) Routine cleaning should be done with warm water and only the smallest amount of detergent necessary to prevent water spots. More detergent can be used if necessary, but rinse them later. Do not rinse glasses with water that does not have a small amount of detergent or the water will leave mineral deposits that can cloud and scratch glasses. Whenever possible, let glasses air dry rather than drying them with a cloth.

7) When you MUST clean glasses outside of your routine, use a moist towelette specifically designed for cleaning glasses.

8) Never use a dry cloth to clean glasses, not even a micro-fiber cloth, however, a dry micro-fiber cloth that is only used to dry clean glasses is an excellent choice for drying glasses after washing them when air-drying is not possible.

9) When you clean your glasses, pay attention to their state of repair. Tighten loose screws and make sure the glasses are still not making contact with skin or eyelashes while in normal use.

10) Some people recommend only keeping glasses in a glasses case, but it is my opinion that glasses don't last as long if they are regularly folded and unfolded. Nevertheless, it is important to only lay glasses in a place created for them where they are protected and where they will not be exposed to dust. A small tray with a cloth laid over them would be a good choice. So would a wooden box with a hinged lid that is large enough to hold them unfolded.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

MEDICARE, the PURPOSE of insurance is to ELIMINATE cost uncertainty!

Went to the lab to have blood work done this morning, and was given this form to sign. Apparently, there was no timing issue. The lab didn't have any record of this test having been performed within the last six months, so WHY would they require signing a form like this?!!!

Advance Beneficiary Notice of Noncoverage

Either ask for payment upon service or refuse service. No pointless forms like this should EVER be shown to a patient!

"Estimated costs" should be illegal for routine procedures such as blood tests. The PURPOSE of insurance is to ELIMINATE cost uncertainty! Either charge or don't charge. Don't EVER leave a patient in a position of not knowing what their care will cost. A practice like this can only lead to abuse and fraud, and will NEVER benefit patients.

If it cannot be determined in advance whether Medicare will pay, then Medicare is corrupt and full of fraud. If a private insurance company tried to get by with a practice like this, they would be shut down by the insurance commissioner's office.