Is an Unfavorable Balance of Trade Really Unfavorable?

You probably think an “unfavorable balance of trade” is a bad thing.  But would you feel the same way if it were called a “favorable balance of goods and services.”

The definition of “unfavorable balance of trade” is when the value of imports exceeds the value of exports meaning we receive more goods and services (real value) than we give.  Of course that also means we pay more money (virtual value) to other countries than we receive.  Many people worry that this as an unsustainable and temporary advantage.  Seen as a continuous drain of cash from the American economy, many of my conservative friends compare this to their household budgets and what happens when they consistently spend more than their income.  This analogy seems to make sense; it just doesn’t match the facts.  The American economy has seen tremendous growth since WWII and we have never once seen a favorable balance of trade in that period.  By that theory, after a seventy-year “drain of wealth”, we should be dead broke.  The largest trade deficits have occurred since the year 2,000 yet the nation’s wealth has more than doubled in that same period.  Whether you personally realized this growth probably depends on your income bracket.  But the fact remains we are not seeing a drain of wealth to other countries even as wealth is redistributed to the top here at home.  Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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