Author Archives: Mike

A Gun Solution We Can “Live” With

As published in the Grinnell Herald-Register on February 19, 2018

As we mourn the deaths of another 17 young people with their whole lives ahead of them, I have to ask what’s actually changed since February 11, 2013 when the Grinnell Herald-Register published my first article on the subject.  Well in the five years since Sandy Hook some of the states hardest hit like Connecticut and California have enacted progressive gun legislation but on the whole legislation in the US has only increased the risk to American citizens.  Iowa is a good example of a state where reckless legislation is likely to make matters worse while we remain convinced that what happened in Parkland (recently named the safest city in Florida) can’t happen here.  The NRA has since become (whether wittingly or unwittingly) entangled in a Russian plot to create divisiveness in our country.

And the NRA under new leadership headed by our own (Grinnell IA business owner) Pete Brownell is yet to clarify whether they are a lobby for gun manufacturers, or an advocate for their members and the American public. 

Since I wrote this 2013 article the gun owners I’ve talked to overwhelmingly say they will support reasonable measures to curb gun violence.  I wish they would say the same to Pete.  But don’t take my word for it; in the latest polls 84% of Americans think gun registration should be required for guns purchased at gun shows.   I have asked the Herald Register to republish my 2013 article because it puts forth a skeletal plan to empower responsible gun owners to play a role in the solution simply by making sure their guns are passed to other responsible gun owners when they are done with them.  My challenge to NRA President, Pete Brownell is, “walk across the street to Grinnell Mutual (where by the way I started my insurance career) and work out a risk management formula that also promotes growth for both your industries, then tell our legislators what you need to make it work.”

Here is the reprint of “When LaPierre says gun owners will not accept responsibility, he’s got it wrong

Actually what National Rifle As­sociation CEO Wayne LaPierre said was, “Gun owners will not accept blame for acts of criminals.” It may seem like I’m parsing words here but the only difference between the two words is that “blame” implies we have no control over the situation and that simply isn’t true. And either way, he’s got it wrong, because the gun owners I know want to take responsibility and they only need a little help from lawmakers who just don’t seem to get it.

If our second amendment rights are worth saving they must be worth saving for future generations. And by not addressing the problem things will only get worse, causing public opinion to reach a tipping point so that recent big wins will become tomorrow’s big losses for gun rights advocates. The choice is finding reasonable solutions now or face oppressive measures later.

There’s been a lot of discussion about mental illness as a common thread in recent shootings. Mental illness and guns have both been around for a very long time, so neither can account for recent adverse trending. It’s unlikely that we will eliminate either one, so we need to figure out how to keep them apart.  Neither the government nor the family has been up to the task.

I live in Iowa where we issue gun permits to the totally blind and where this year alone we closed down half the state’s mental health institutions. This is not reflective of the good voters of Iowa nor is it what our gun owners want. It’s just one more reason not to trust the government or the lobbyists who buy their votes.

The second amendment was never about skeet shooting, hunting or col­lecting. It’s about defense of liberty!

So I also have to agree with the conserva­tive stance that if we leave gun control up to the government, “how can we know whether they will then impose measures that keep citizens safe or that keep the government safe?” Guns “winding up in the hands of the wrong people” is the greatest threat to our second amendment rights and we will need the help of responsible gun owners to prevent this from happening. But first, we must empower them to do the job.

The NRA says education and training leads to responsible gun ownership. In fact, this works very well when it comes to safety because there’s both a carrot and a stick. The stick, as so eloquently put in “A Christmas Story” is “you’ll shoot your eye out.”

But Charlton Heston’s colorful quote, “when you take it from my cold dead hands” reminds us that there’s another side of responsible gun ownership; guns outlive us all and may change hands many times in a lifetime.

Why shouldn’t I sell my gun to the highest bidder or leave it to my psychotic nephew, Fred? There’s no real stick to discourage this.

When cooler heads prevail we might see that there are solutions that satisfy most concerns on both sides of this argument, so I will propose one. We all want to reduce the risk of injury or death and we already have a private institution designed to deal with risk. I spent 30 years working in the insurance industry so I can assure you this fits the criteria of an insurable risk (large number of exposures, severe loss potential and low frequency of loss). And as in this case,

where it is a societal need to deny undesirable risks and discourage higher risks, insurance underwriting and pric­ing tools are particularly effective.

But we still need the government to craft the stick. Laws need to better define gun responsibility as absolute liability. Certain risks are inherently so dangerous (such as building demolition or passenger airlines) that victims (by law) do not have to prove negligence. Certainly guns should fall under this category.

I would propose that, proof of a million dollar insurance policy be required when guns are registered. The policy attaches to the gun wherever it goes until it is registered to a new owner or destroyed. That means the insurance company remains on the hook even if the gun is stolen (that’s part of the risk).

The original owner’s liability is limited to the million dol­lar covered by insurance as long as he reports the theft and is truthful on the police report. Liability of intermediate owners (such as purchasers of stolen guns) is unlimited. Few people will just sell their M16 assault rifle to a stranger without proof it’s reregistered or fail to report gun theft, because they suspect their nephew, Fred, when in means risking everything they own. 

Gun owners are already held liable for allowing their gun to fall into the hands of children.  Is it too much to ask that they take some precautions not to put them in even more dangerous hands.

Government agencies are sporadic with background checks and have notably botched the record keeping. Insurance companies have a better track record of consistency, accuracy and efficiency in maintaining underwriting records. In other words, they are better prepared to maintain checks and bal­ances that would affect their bottom line which happens to be our bottom line too (to minimize risk).

Insurance is a way to administer this at a lower cost and assign these costs through pricing to the users, the gun owners.

Now I know this proposal won’t make everyone happy, such as those who rush out to buy semi-automatic guns on speculation that they may soon be outlawed, driving up their black market price. Some gun owners may object to bearing the cost of underwriting the risk rather than sharing with all taxpayers. But I look at this this way;

we all pay for these safety checks one way or another and since there are more guns in this country than people, only owners of multiple guns will end up paying more.

CNN reports over 400,000 victims have died of gunshot wounds in the US since 2001. It’s not these victims problem anymore; it’s ours. So let’s stop trying to cast blame and tell our lawmakers to find solutions “we can all live with.”

 

It’s Time for Grassley to Step Down as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee

First I have to apologize to my readers (all six of them) who subscribe to my blog “Dare to Ask” at topsawyer.com.  I must retract this passage from my article published last August, “Whether or not he (Senator Grassley) was answering me directly his answer at the Mount Ayr town hall this week shows that the Senate Judiciary Committee is now willing to share with us the 10 hours of potentially damning testimony from Glenn Simpson, a reversal from just a month ago.  Thank you Senator Grassley.” Continue reading

The Power of a Disruptive Caucus

This rather benign definition, “people with shared concerns” conceals a darker side.  It fails to tell us the secret within, “how a minority of a minority can subvert long-standing institutions suppressing the will of the majority.”  Today’s Republican Party bears little resemblance to the party I joined fifty years ago.  Certainly the Alt-Right movement must be the exact opposite; a parasitic caucus, it gains nourishment feeding off the guts of its unwitting host, the once proud Republican Party.  To understand this vulnerability you have to look at its history.  For most of the twentieth century the Republican Party has been comprised of a hodgepodge of divergent ideals few of which represented majority opinions on their own.  Only through this confederation where we agree to support each other has the party been able to push its agendas forward.  It’s been more culture-based than science-based and frankly quite “bossy”, telling us how we should live our lives has reached the point of annoyance.  Now you’re probably wondering why I’m still a Republican or if in fact I am still a Republican.  I guess you’ll have to read on.

A disruptive caucus is usually a small caucus within a caucus where a few members hold their votes for a ransom leaving the main caucus or party no choice but to give in to their demands. It turns out that such endearing names as “the gang of eight” may be more descriptive than intended.  It’s not that hard to see the similarities between a Congressional caucus and a street gang on Chicago’s south side (sorry Chicago).  “If you’re not in a gang you’re nobody” applies equally well to both.  If you don’t join a gang you’re vulnerable.  Street gangs are sometimes formed for noble causes like protecting the neighborhood, but end up doing drive-by shootings and selling drugs to school children, not unlike politicians threatening to throw millions off the health insurance rolls when their original goal was perhaps a worthy cause now long forgotten.  What makes a caucus a gang is when they go beyond shared concerns and passions to fall in line behind the perceived will of the group.  Usually orchestrated by a leader whose goal is to prop up his own authority, this process may take the gang in directions never imagined by any of its members.  In short, “you must vote with the gang or simply be another nobody.”

While the Republican Party, is awash with self-described conservative caucuses, perhaps Steve Bannon and his “war” on establishment Republicans who won’t abandon McConnell best demonstrates how this “divide and conquer” strategy works; demand loyalty from your gang and undermine loyalty of opposing gangs.  This fracturing of the Republican Party makes it vulnerable to further attacks from the inside, both good and bad.  Attacks from the outside (Democrats or the press) seem to have little impact.  Whether like me your goal is to fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party or you want to destroy it, we have the same dog in the fight, “restoring the cultural norms, traditions and morality that made this country great.”  It’s not that there isn’t any more “fight in the dog”; we just need to unleash him.

The evidence is clear that the best way to do this is to form a disruptive caucus of our own.  The “America First” movement has proved to be anything but for the Republican Party.  Time after time our Republicans in Congress have put party over country.  I think it appropriate to call a counter-offensive the “Party Second” movement because that’s truly the only way to put America first.  The movement must be one that responds to any party who forgets the country comes first; at the moment it’s the GOP that needs our help.

Our obligation is to penetrate the primaries to assure the parties select candidates who honor these traditions.  This may mean registering with a party that shares few of our views; it doesn’t mean you must vote for the candidate that party selects.  It probably makes it more likely though.  I know what you’re thinking, “This is an impossible task.”  Before you jump to this conclusion let’s do the math.

First of all there are lots of moderate Republicans and even a few liberal ones.  I know it doesn’t seem like it, but that’s because we don’t have a caucus so “we’re just a bunch of nobodies.”  The fact that there are a lot of moderates is in fact a problem since there will be a lot of good potential candidates to split the moderate votes.  This is not a common problem for the Alt-Right, after all how many Roy Moore’s can there be to choose from.  The whole purpose of a caucus is to vote among yourselves on the best candidate and in exchange for the privilege you agree to vote with the caucus.

Registered Republicans make up less than 30% of all voters so if they do go to war they will be battling for a 15% plurality.  Registered Independents as of last January make up 44% of registered voters.  Polls show that more and more voters are becoming Independents because they can’t stomach either of the polar extremes, of course leaving the residuals even more extreme than before.  And it is these extremes that set the table for the rest of us.  If you’re an Independent and tired of the choice between raw liver and fried roaches, maybe it’s time to tell the cooks.

The fact that we’re not welcome to help set the table is exactly why we must.  No party will refuse to register you as a member, tell you how you must vote or ask your motives but don’t be afraid to tell them you want to restore our cultural norms and long-standing traditions.  That’s the best way to recruit moderates from the Republican Party.  I would hope we can get 20% of Independents, 15% of Republicans and 10% of Democrats behind the “Party Second Caucus” by 2020 as I know there are many of us of all persuasions who want to restore both sanity and honored traditions to government.

I need your ideas on how we can organize this movement so I have set up a Facebook page to discuss this and to call out every politician who has put his “Party First” over Country.  Search for “Party Second Caucus” on Facebook.

 

Telling It Straight; How We Feel About Trump.

 I sent the following email a week ago and already Senator Grassley has answered.  Whether or not he was answering me directly his answer at the Mount Ayr town hall this week shows that the Senate Judiciary Committee is now willing to share with us the 10 hours of potentially damning testimony from Glenn Simpson, a reversal from just a month ago.  Thank you Senator Grassley.

From: Mike Sawyer
Sent: Friday, August 18, 2017 1:19 PM
To: Senator Joni K. Ernst (Senator@Ernst.senate.gov); athena_porter@grassley.senate.gov
Cc: stillplayswithcars@outlook.com
Subject: Please forward to DC staffers
 

Last night I had an argument with my brother.  I guess it’s not really an argument if I don’t let him say a word.  It’s not his fault; it’s not like he’s the only one who voted for Trump.  It’s your fault we’re in this mess.  You could have ended this before it began.  I’ve been writing to politicians in measured tones while yelling at my brother.  I’ve got it backwards.  So I’m writing first to apologize to my brother and second to tell it to you straight like I should have done in the first place.   

I’m terrified of the alt-right wing of the Republican Party and just as wary of the “All Right” wing which just goes along.  It’s time for both of you to break ties with the All-right wing.  I know you’re intimidated by Trump and his base, but I really don’t understand why.  You have more power than you think.  You should be more afraid of voters like me.  When Trump voters are discouraged they won’t show up at the polls.  When you let me down, I will show up to vote against you.  I will show up at the caucuses to say we need candidates have the guts to stand up for what they believe (and I share many of your beliefs). 

I want Trump gone!  I don’t care whether you hang him or build him a castle and make him king of the world; I just want him out of the Whitehouse.  I don’t care whether you impeach him or declare him incompetent, I just want to wake up in the mornings without running to the TV for the disaster of the day.  You have the power to censor him and to render him impotent, but why don’t you just ask him to resign?  Who would have thought the presidency would be so hard (and boring).  Open the door and give him an honorable way out.   

In short, “You get rid of Trump or I will do everything in my power to get rid of you.” 

I’ll post this on my blog and I will post your replies.  No form letters please! 

Mike Sawyer

 

A Letter from the Chairman of the Boorish

USA School District 

Dear Parents, 

Many of you have heard the rumors from your children that their bus driver, Donny J. Trumpet has been drinking on the job and that he ran over playground equipment while shortcutting through the school yard.  I want you to know we are as concerned with these rumors as you and we will investigate them thoroughly.  We did confront Mr. Trumpet about this and he assured us that despite the Smirnoff’s label on the bottle it contained only lemonade or was it iced tea, possibly an energy drink, so I guess it could have been anything.  In any event he swallowed the evidence so this was inconclusive.  As for the damaged playground equipment, that might have been caused by any bus and no one was hurt so “no harm/no foul.”  Continue reading

My letter to Joni Ernst – “Put insurance back in the American Health Care Act”

June 14, 2017

 

Senator Joni Ernst

111 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

Re: American Health Care Act – let’s get it right

Honorable Joni Ernst,

I became a registered Republican in 1966 because I believe private enterprise can solve most any problem and the only role for the government is to give us a fair playing field conducive to the goal.  There has been little else the party has to offer to keep me in the fold.  I am now confronted with a new generation of Republicans who have lost the faith.  They believe they have a duty to rig the playing field to generate profit for profit’s sake, while ignoring the goal altogether.  Profit should be the reward for solving the problem (which the AHCA doesn’t) and forgetting this only erodes the cornerstones of capitalism. Continue reading

The Real Story of George Washington and the Cherry Tree

When George was a boy his father came to him and asked, “George, did you chop down my cherry tree?”  George replied, “Father, I cannot tell a lie, but I must respectfully decline to answer in this open hearing.”  His father scratched his head and walked away.

This is the real story of how George Washington saved country and the reputation of a future president.

So if you found yourself scratching your head after listening to today’s Congressional testimony from Andrew McCabe,  Rod Rosenstein, and  Dan Coats, just remember what you have witnessed is part of a grand tradition.

TrumpCare Fails the Most Basic Tests of Insurance

My late father, a staunch Republican would sometimes muse, “Which is the greater problem we face, ignorance or apathy?”, only to conclude most would respond, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”  As a life-long Republican myself, it pains me to say that in passing the AHCA, House Republicans are guilty of both.

I spent 30 years in the insurance industry and I can attest the health insurance is complicated.  But the basics are simple!  On day-one of my insurance career in 1970, I learned that insurance serves but one purpose as the instructor drew this “risk treatment” chart on the board. 

I would have to say what the House has passed on to the Senate is a “fine health savings plan.” In other words it fully addresses risks from the left side of the chart, things we could handle on our own with a little planning and budgeting, while excluding entirely anything that might meet the definition of an insurable risk. 

Sure it’s nice that my homeowner’s policy will cover replacing shutters and shingles blown off in a storm, but my reason for buying the insurance is for major events I really never expect to see and I can’t manage out of pocket like fire or tornado.  Fortunately property insurers can’t set up separate pools for those who will experience fires and tornados because the damages from these are immediate and do not carry forward for a lifetime like the illnesses listed below.  Here is a partial list of possible pre-existing conditions in the AHCA that are excluded from the basic plan that may only be covered in separate more costly pools.

My wife, Kathi was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 73.  Like most of those on the list such a diagnosis is a low frequency and high severity event, precisely what insurance was designed for.  Continue reading

How Not to Fix Obamacare: Part 4

They should have known how a kamikaze mission must end.

In my September 26, 2013 letter to the editor I characterized the Republican attack on the ACA or Obamacare as a “kamikaze mission” because of course the fate of the pilot is the same whether or not he succeeds in blowing up Obamacare.  But Republicans have exceeded my wildest expectations!  Whatever happens with today’s vote many political careers are going down in flames. While Obamacare has substantially reduced the number of uninsured, it has had little effect on the overall cost of healthcare at around 18% of GDP, which is expected to rise with the aging baby-boomer population. 

The fact is that healthcare costs in the U.S. have risen far faster than inflation over the last fifty years (not just since Obamacare) while other wealthy nations provide the comparable or better health care at half the cost.  Of 17 high-income countries studied by the National Institutes of Health in 2013, the United States had the highest or near-highest prevalence of obesity, car accidents, infant mortality, heart and lung disease, sexually transmitted infections, adolescent pregnancies, injuries, and homicides. On average, a U.S. male can be expected to live almost four fewer years than those in the top-ranked country.  A 2014 survey of the healthcare systems of 11 developed countries found the US healthcare system to be the most expensive and worst-performing in terms of health access, efficiency, and equity.  The only conclusions we can draw from this is up to half of cost of health care in the U.S. is a result of waste and somebody’s getting richer at our expense.  And from the number of wrong-headed ideas I’m hearing out of Washington, Congress remains oblivious to the back-door deals creating this waste. Continue reading

Uncovering the Truth is Hard

I watched yesterday’s Congressional hearings covering foreign actors who deceived us with fake news stories, top officials who outright lied, intelligence officials who know the truth but just can’t tell and unknown parties who leaked the truth to the press. 

Guess which of these groups the Republicans want to prosecute?  

If it hadn’t been for the damn leakers, we could have avoided facing the truth altogether. 

Moral of the story:  If you want to leak information, make sure it’s false or you could go to prison.