Friday, August 28, 2015

Principles for Reform of Government, Justice, Business

These are my principles when I approach the intersection of politics and governance.

I believe in sensible governance to help achieve both personal & business accountability & responsibility. 

When left to on their own, some people, some business owners, and executives actually do right by others, themselves, their employees and the business that they work for or that they manage. Often, these businesses flourish in productivity, turnover rate decreases, and the community that houses these businesses not only benefits but rallies support behind the business.

However, too often, businesses, owners, and executives do not do this on their own. 

What can we do?

We should reform the tax code, criminal justice, and the government programs and services to better incentivize higher standards of accountability and responsibility, both within business, within government, and for those individuals who need assistance. We should streamline and incentivize paths, ladders, and choices, for individuals currently on government assistance to become more productive in their own lives, the lives of their families, as well as their communities. 

Too often, those on government programs have a profound, justified fear of moving forward with life or career goals. Far too many barriers and obstacles have been constructed that directly dissuade individuals from part-time work, training or skill-building programs, and advanced education plans. Many universities, colleges, businesses, and other entities use public relations or other fears with regard to mental health populations to disadvantage or deny these life-changing options for these individuals.

We should revolutionize our criminal justice system. Non-violent offenders that are mentally ill, poor, or guilty of being caught in the broken criminal justice system of the last 50 years must be connected to services and care that match their needs. It is not criminal to be mentally ill, to be poor, or to be a minority. Giving drug and alcohol addicted offenders the choice between lock up and a new system of service and care matched with managed accountability and personal responsibility is critical to saving taxpayer money while giving individuals the chance to become productive, healthy citizens again. 

We need stronger, enforceable laws against violent crimes, especially regarding gun violence. These crimes involving guns or against others often receive less punishment and time behind bars than drug, alcohol, and other non-violent offenses. Not only does the lack of enforceable gun violence laws endanger citizens, this endangers police as well.

Police and citizens alike need to be protected with cop cams. For too long the minority of cops have created mistrust between the police and community. Cop cams will begin to bring some transparency to this process. Also, the grand jury process for filing charges on cops who have killed citizens is broken. Prosecutors are too close to the cops that they work with on a daily basis. An independent prosecutor or DOJ representative must be appointed to these cases to bring neutrality to the proceedings. 

These are very balanced approaches, not liberal, not conservative but all-inclusive American approaches. Many of these programs if they do exist are broken or are steeped in decades of government bureaucracy and personal bias against the disabled and the disadvantaged. The criminal justice reforms are based in protecting Second Amendment rights while protecting citizens and cops alike. 

We need to forge a new American plan that brings every American into the 21st century. The only way we can do this is together as a nation, as a government, and as individuals sharing and better managing our accountability and responsibility. Any one of these reforms is difficult, but the country and the American people are ready for real change. We don’t want reverse. We don’t want neutral. We want to go forward into the future . . . together.

Monday, August 24, 2015

America Needs to Wake Up to Wage Crisis

People have this idea that if workers are paid adequately for their work in these big companies that are making record profits and paying their top executives multi-million dollar salaries that it means prices must increase. This is the thinking that has plagued the working classes for decades. This is also the mentality that has kept many workers voting against their own individual interests as well as the interests of their family and communities as well. 

All of those billions in profits and all of the millions in top salaries to executives and administration in these companies are only possible on the backs of the cheap labor that has and continues to be perpetuated by support of the American taxpayers. The American taxpayers are simply footing the bill for what these employers are claiming as a successful business model that has resulted in record profits, bonuses, and multi-million dollar salaries. Instead of paying even living wages to the actual workers that created all of the profits and wealth, these companies have allowed the American taxpayers to foot the bill.

Many Americans give these companies a free pass on these low wages, on these lavish salaries and support these record profits. What would we do if we couldn't have our cheap services or goods? That's the wrong question to be asking. The mentality must be changed from top to bottom and bottom to top. What happened to an honest day's work and an honest earning for that honest day's work? That's the question that we should challenge every company, every CEO, and every board in America. Are you really worth tens of millions of dollars plus all the perks that go with your position? Does your company's profit margin really reflect the actual profits of the company or the inflated profits you've artificially created by not paying your workers adequately for their honest day's work?

If these employers and companies paid their workers more money and then passed that cost onto consumers instead of adjusting their profit margins and top administration salaries accordingly, then you know where the problem has always been and remains in our economy and our country. The top percentage wage earners in this country have been stockpiling their monies, their influence and their power for decades.

They willingly took their Bush tax cuts and didn't increase the number of jobs they offered, nor increased wages accordingly. They pocketed that money or better yet used it to build factories outside the country. Then, when times got tough with the global financial meltdown, they came a knocking at the American taxpayers door for yet another handout, which Congress of course gave them with no strings; it was a crisis, ya know.

People seem to have forgotten the lessons of the Great Recession. These companies don't give a damn about their workers, nor about the country. They just want their money, no strings attached, no regulations, please. That's too much bother. 

These million dollar salaries aren't justified by the actual work by these executives. These record profits aren't justified by the actual benefits that are required to supplement the pay of the workers that generate the profits. These big companies are raping and pillaging our great country. Taking what they want, keeping what they need, and throwing out the rest. They don't care about their workers, about the communities that house them, and they only want more and more without paying for the work that generates their wealth and their profit margins.

We need Americans to wake up to the reality of what's been happening to them and around them for decades. Wake up, America! Wake up! It's time to stop blaming workers. It's time to stop blaming Congress. It's time to start realizing the issue is the wealth and profit takers. These big companies have destroyed our national and local economies. They have taken from us all. They don't pay their workers fairly. They frighten you by saying prices will rise if they have to pay fair wages. 

Stop being scared. Start waking up. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

How the Walmart Model Makes Raising Wages Make Perfect Sense

I'm not a liberal nor a conservative, but there's major problems in our economy for average workers. As a company that hires a lot of Americans and is in many communities throughout this country, Walmart impacts a lot of people, businesses, communities and local, state and federal governments. It provides a powerful model in which to explore wages, compensation, and the impacts of policy on individuals, other businesses, the government, and the broader economy.

Now, all the whining about competition from Walmart edging out the competition is on its face bullshit. However, Walmart doesn't pay its employees fairly nor does it adequately compensate them with benefits either. There are equitable pay issues for women and minorities as well. This is compared to the top level executives that rake in the big money off the backs of all of these low level employees. 

How much did Walmart's CEO make last year? $25.6 million. This is after the company is making the largest quarterly earnings in its history. 

Now, let's backdrop that $25.6 million salary and record earnings with the welfare benefits that those low wage employees require to make ends meet that make the CEO salary possible and create the record earnings.

Taxpayers spend $6.2 billion in support of the Walmart low wage employee business model.

Now, let's examine further how this negatively impacts the communities and businesses that are home to Walmart. 

All of these low wage workers aren't even able to pay their own bills with their low wage earnings working at one of the most profitable businesses in America.

So, all of those low wage workers aren't spending their money in local businesses in the way they would if they were making a decent living wage . . . say, if the CEO wasn't making $25.6 million for raping the taxpayers of $6.2 billion in welfare benefits to his employees, adding to state and federal deficits.

Imagine that world where all of these American workers, not just at Walmart, but across the lower tier of wage workers made just five or ten dollars more an hour. 

Everyone would benefit. 

There would be less need for welfare benefits. Deficits would decrease. 

There would be more income tax revenue. Deficits would decrease. 

There would be more spendable income. Small businesses would benefit.

Sales tax revenues and business profits would increase.

Local, state and federal deficits would decrease. 

People would feel better that their work is actually paying off. Healthcare costs would decrease. Local, state, federal, business and personal costs would decrease as a result. 

It only makes sense. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Politically Correct Gone Awry

Some people want to control speech in this country. They use political correctness to achieve that end. Political correctness constricts and restricts free dialogue and honest debate between people with extremely divergent or different views. 

The most extreme form of the politically correct gone awry is when someone is offended by what someone says and seeks to shutdown that person by going after the person's character or morals. Others follow by targeting the person's job, livelihood and family by attacking them on social media, cable news and print media. 

The other option is to discuss what is so offensive about the speech like adults with a profound misunderstanding or strong disagreement. That's much more difficult unless you want to silence a person and silence their perspective . . . Political correctness gone awry. 

This is why discussions on race, religion, politics, terrorism, privacy all lose focus so often. One side uses language that is demeaning and belittling to silence their opponents. The other side seeks to use political correctness to silence their opponents. Both are squeezing out common discourse and dialogue. 

If you want to talk about race, gender, gender identity, religion, sexuality or other hot button controversial issues, it's often easy to say something that offends someone that isn't intentionally offensive, demeaning, or belittling to any specific person or group. A person's upbringing, belief system, and community can instill a reactive response to trigger words, topics or even certain people. 

However, because of the PC police, mob, or whatever word you want to apply to it, that person might be labeled racist, sexist, or bigot just for speaking honestly, genuinely, and sincerely even if mistakenly so. How is negatively labeling someone any different from demeaning or belittling a person? Each of those labels are not only demeaning and belittling but each is fairly damning as well.

Politically correct monitors are no different than the ones they're trying to silence. They just deem themselves judge, jury, and somehow better than others. How does labeling someone a racist or bigot help them understand anything? How does that broaden their view of others or ideas?

I get called all sorts of names and have all manner of accusations lobbed at me wherever I comment as well as on my own material. It doesn't bother me. As far as people's personal opinions of me, it doesn't affect me, certainly emotionally. I attempt to find some common ground wherever I can. Sometimes, I fail miserably at that. That's okay. 

It's a different approach and touch to managing people with a diverse set of opinions. I don't think I would learn too much about those who disagree with me if I took offense at every name they called me or mischaracterization they attached to my intentions. However, I always welcome input and enjoy discussing, debating, and exploring alternative perspectives and ideas.

This doesn't exempt anyone's ideas from criticism, including my own, but that criticism shouldn't be to shutdown discussion or debate but to broaden understanding.

If we keep lobbing word grenades at one another, trying to prove who is right and who is wrong, all we've real done is proven how utterly incapable we all are at uncovering the common ground that we all stand upon right here right now.

I'm always striving to think beyond just my limited interaction with a person, as I know I'm not that important.

What can I do that may pry open the mind just a bit for that person's next encounter? 

I certainly don't want to shut anyone down or turn anyone off. 
Who would they turn to?
Likely, people who only think as they already do. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Reality Trumps Emotion on Immigration

I often hear from critics of immigration reform, that they demand all benefits to illegal immigrants stop until all Americans are fed and housed. It becomes yet another us vs. them battle that devolves from a reality-based discussion to purely emotion-based. Let’s examine some facts and opinions.

There are 12+ million illegal immigrants that are here right now, many of whom have family that are American citizens. Our immigration system is antiquated and hasn't been reformed since the Reagan era. 

Many of these people fled horrible conditions in their home countries for a better future here. Yes, they did it the wrong way, but they are here and there's no conceivable way to remove them all. It would bankrupt our country and make it impossible to feed and shelter the very Americans that you’re wishing to help with your post here.

Many of these people aren’t on welfare, are working hard, paying taxes, contributing to our American society or are or were children when they were shipped here to escape violence. Their home countries aren’t going to pay to have them returned as those countries are extremely poor. 

I understand the issue that some people have with illegal immigration, I really do. However, we have to as a country and as a people deal with the reality of decades of a government that did nothing on border security, did nothing to reform our immigration policies, did nothing to punish employers for hiring illegal immigrants and did nothing that was promised during the Reagan amnesty. 

The GOP would rather American children and families starve. This is why Congress cut food stamps for Americans. That’s despite the overwhelming evidence that for every tax dollar spent on food stamps generates $1.75 in economic output. It pays for itself and puts food in the mouths of children and families. That’s before we even discuss illegal immigration and the alleged benefits many disagree with. 

People will claim these sanctuary cities are part of the problem. There are definite issues with how law enforcement and city government work with the federal government with violent illegal immigrants. Repeat deportees should be set aside in special prisons and dealt with in a new way. However, sanctuary cities are a net positive as it brings the illegal immigrants out of the shadows.

It’s the demonization of these human beings that creates more problems for and endangers more Americans.

Non-violent, hard-working illegal immigrants are more apt to work with local law enforcement if there’s no impending threat of deportation. This means they are useful sources of information to find violent offenders. They are more likely to seek medical treatment for communicable diseases instead of remaining ill and potentially infecting others. The illegal immigrant children are able to receive a quality education, learn English, and begin to transition and better immerse into our American society. 

I think some people only consider this from an emotional perspective, not a rational one. It is very difficult to separate the two. I certainly don’t want to offend anyone, but when you’ve worked in public health, worked to protect public security, worked to educate children, you get a hands on education and experience with these issues that most people simply do not. 

Just something to consider.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Instead of Criminalizing, Treat the Mentally Ill

As a country, we deserve a better criminal justice system. The current system is broken, costly, and often punishes the weak, the meek, and the most vulnerable amongst us. Accountability and responsibility has seemingly disappeared from as we’ve entered the blame game state of affairs where a select few can do no wrong while others languish in prisons costing taxpayers millions of dollars. We can, must, and will do better.

Cops shouldn't simply arrest people that upset and aggravate them. They certainly shouldn't kill the mentally ill or people that are frustrating. If cops were better trained and equipped to encounter the mentally ill, many of their encounters with disruptive, difficult citizens wouldn't end in arrests or deaths of those citizens. Even when this happens, our criminal justice system is not currently designed to rectify these mistakes in judgment and discernment.

When any citizen is arrested, it becomes a problem. It disrupts the individual’s life, obviously, but it potentially leads to the loss of a job, the loss of a livelihood, and the loss of housing and healthcare. This usually doesn’t just affect one person but whole families and extended families. Arrests should be the last resort and used for only the violent criminals among us.

Citizens who are not violent criminals and are mentally ill or drug-addicted should be given the choice . . . mental health treatment or lockup. It then becomes a choice for the citizen. This gives citizens the accountability and responsibility over their lives that they both deserve and require as opposed to giving the government sole authority over managing a person’s affairs. That’s a conservative value. If the person is a disruption to society and that person does not want to take that accountability and responsibility seriously, the government should step in to protect the broader public and the citizen from harm. That’s a liberal value. 

I’m not suggesting utilizing the current treatment that is forced upon people that become embroiled in the criminal justice system either. That system is a colossal failure that punishes the drug addicted without providing any effective treatment. All that benefits from that system is the state and their contracted partners.

Currently, if you are arrested for drug or alcohol-related crimes, a person is actually placed in close proximity with hardened drug and alcohol abusers who are also forced to be in the same costly programs. The program is not actually meant to treat alcohol or drug addiction but to cost the person a great deal of money and time which ends up in the pockets of the government and their partners. Ultimately, the person is set up to fail, is set up to lose their job, and set to perpetuate their time in the system. 

I am suggesting real treatment for real mental illness. Drug and alcohol abuse, dependency, and addiction really are symptoms of underlying mental health issues that if are unresolved or undiagnosed will always trigger those symptoms of escape. Connecting this vulnerable population with real healthcare and actual services that help each become more responsible members of our society benefits us all.

Is this easy? No. Is the current system of punishment and perpetual cost and criminalization working? Hell no. 

These people don't need to suffer and don't need to spread that suffering to others. They can become productive citizens in our society. 

The current criminal justice system has failed them and all of us completely. Mental illness is still absolutely misunderstood by the vast majority in the general population. People don’t realize that the reason some turn to alcohol and drugs on a daily or regular basis is because these are self-medicating options that are more socially acceptable than taking daily psychotropic medications or undergoing mental health treatment.

The facts are that we have too many mentally ill citizens in our jails and prisons. In 1960 there were over 320 beds per 1000 people. Today that number has dropped precipitously to 17 beds per 1000 people. When services lag behind need, the overflow becomes a collective concern. American prisons hold over 350,000 mentally ill people that shouldn’t be in the system or aren’t capable of being in the system. These American citizens are vulnerable to egregious abuse by both inmates and prison staff. 

Republican Presidential candidate for Governor John Kasich of Ohio has worked to reverse these trends. He, unlike most Republican governors accepted the Obamacare Medicaid expansion money to help the poor and the disadvantaged in his state. He has been connecting the mentally ill in prisons with services and has dropped the recidivism rate down to 27% for these individuals, a dramatic drop from the national average of 50%. 

It is possible to tackle these issues with a bipartisan approach. This is not an ideological struggle. This is a moral and rational fight to better our country, better the lives of our citizens, and together strengthen our communities and families while saving taxpayer money. We all benefit when we all become more whole and healthy. We don’t benefit when we lock those away that are sick. When we give people choices and better options from which to choose, it gives each person more accountability and responsibility. That is what is sorely lacking in America today.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Reality of a No Felony Gun Violence America

Cops are saying new lax gun laws are to blame for a spike in gun violence in cities around the country. Ease of access to guns is only a small part of the problem. A much more sinister problem are new laws like the inalienable right to bear arms law in Missouri which makes it nearly impossible to prosecute violent criminals who use guns.

Someone can get a felony for having drugs but not for having a gun in most jurisdictions. Criminals who commit gun violence are quickly back out on the street, and can then easily purchase another gun, often legally from a relative or a gun show. That's true nearly everywhere in America. 

In Missouri and other jurisdictions, the easy access to legal guns, high capacity clips, and semi-automatic guns is leading to more dead bodies more rapidly. This is more dangerous for cops and citizens alike. Spikes in violence are upwards of 50% in some cities this year from all time lows in just 2013. 

This is not from the usual gun control advocates but from leading cops like Chief Dotson in St. Louis and Chief Flynn in Milwaukee. These cities are in fairly red states for gun laws, Missouri and Wisconsin.


The NRA has been leading the charge for ever more lax gun laws and has been making strides in many states ever since the Sandy Hook massacre where 20 children were shot to death and six adults were shot to death. Not even universal background checks could pass through Congress. 

You can have your guns. If you commit violent crimes with a gun, you should be charged with a felony. If you commit two violent crimes with a gun, you should go away for a long time. 

The fact that someone with marijuana or other drugs can get a felony charge and a violent criminal with a gun can walk with no charges is part of the problem in America. Add in the evermore lax gun laws that the NRA and the gun lobby has bought and paid for in Congress and in state legislatures across the country, we have the perfect storm for dead citizens and dead cops. 
Stop defending bad ideas.

Start defending your fellow citizens.

Start defending cops that protect & serve you.