New Funding Offers Enrollment Assistance for Obamacare

Enrollment Assistance for ObamacarePress Release – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced new funding to help more uninsured Americans enroll in new health insurance coverage options made available by the Affordable Care Act. Approximately $150 million will help community health centers provide in-person enrollment assistance to uninsured individuals across the nation. About 1,200 health centers operate nearly 9,000 service delivery sites nationwide and serve approximately 21 million patients each year.

“Health centers have extensive experience providing eligibility assistance to patients, are providing care in communities across the Nation, and are well-positioned to support enrollment efforts,” Secretary Sebelius said. “Investing in health centers for outreach and enrollment assistance provides one more way the Obama administration is helping consumers understand their options and enroll in affordable coverage.”

With these new funds, health centers will be able to hire new staff, train existing staff, and conduct community outreach events and other educational activities. Health centers will help consumers understand their coverage options, determine their eligibility and enroll in new affordable health insurance options. Community health center staff will provide unbiased information to consumers about health insurance, the new Health Insurance Marketplace, qualified health plans, and Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

This funding opportunity was issued by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and it complements and aligns with other federal efforts, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service funded navigator program.

This funding announcement is part of the administration’s larger effort to make applying for health insurance as easy as possible. For example, last week, they released a single, streamlined application that was shortened from 21 to 3 pages. They are committed to providing the type of assistance that Americans need to ensure that they have access to affordable health care.

“Health centers work in communities across the country, giving them a unique opportunity to reach the uninsured in their communities and help connect them with the benefits of health insurance coverage under the health care law,” said HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield, Ph.D, R.N.

While over $8 million of the funding came to Florida, the closest health centers to our community eligible for these funds include Jacksonville’s Duval County Health Department and the Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless.

To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, visit www.HealthCare.gov.

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Federal Reserve Surprisingly Profitable

One Hundred Dollar Bills, fresh from the presses

One Hundred Dollar Bills, fresh from the Fed's presses

In 2008, the Federal Reserve famously purchased a lot of subprime bank loans that have been described, in the banking industry, as “toxic waste”–in an effort to clean up the balance sheets of large lending institutions.

Since then, the Fed has been an active buyer of Treasury securities and, in its latest (and ongoing) QE3 program, become the single largest buyer of mortgage securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, working hard to drive down their coupon rates.

These dramatic gestures are supposed to help revive the American economy, but what are they costing our nation’s reserve bank? The Reuters news service looked at last year’s audited results and reports a surprise: the Fed’s increasingly complex balance sheet generated $88.9 billion in profits last year. That’s far more than the most profitable U.S. companies, like number one Exxon Mobil ($41 billion); number two Chevron ($27 billion), #3 Apple ($26 billion) or Microsoft ($23billion).

Under Chairman Ben Bernanke, the Fed has gotten in the habit of earning a profit on its operations. In 2011, 2010 and 2009, it took in $77.4 billion, $81.74 billion and $53.42 billion in profits, respectively. The Fed earns money in the same manner as most banks do, profiting from the spread between return on assets and the interest paid on liabilities. The Fed’s liabilities consist mostly of currency in circulation, which pays no interest, and reserves, the cash that commercial banks are required to keep on deposit at the Fed. Since 2008 these reserves have ballooned to $1.6 trillion, on which the central bank pays only 0.25% interest. This difference between 0.25% and the average return of about 3.5% on its bond holdings accounts for the substantial profit the Fed earns from printing money.

Where does this money go?

Does the Fed pay out this largesse to its executives in the form of bonuses, like Goldman Sachs? Fortunately not. The Fed sent $88.4 billion to the U.S. Treasury last year, and gave taxpayers back a comparable percentage of its profits in previous years. The interesting observation is that the most profitable entity in the American economy is run like a nonprofit on behalf of our government.

However, there may be reason to fret about what could happen next. In the past, rising rates meant little for profits, since reserves were smaller and earned no interest. Since 2008, the Fed has paid interest on reserves in order to exercise control over interest rates. In the future, when the Fed must eventually switch to a tighter monetary policy, it will be forced to pay out more interest. To absorb reserves, it may have to sell some bonds for less than purchase price, resulting in capital losses. In theory, the Fed could begin losing money, which is a risk that grows with every Fed bond purchase.

On the other hand, a significant perk of central banking is that it can simply print the money it needs to pay interest. If this results in a loss, the Fed then creates an offsetting “deferred asset” on its balance-sheet, representing future profits it will not need to send to the Treasury. The profit that is lost would be much less than total interest saved, along with higher tax revenue from stronger economic growth and roughly $500 billion of profit that earlier quantitative easing (QE) had generated. Most important of all, these losses would happen only after the economy recovered sufficiently to demand higher interest rates. This situation, after all, would be the proof that QE had worked in the first place.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/21/federal-reserve-profit-2011_n_1369354.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/15/federal-reserve-record-profit_n_2884366.html?utm_hp_ref=business

Cyprus, Island of Debt

Financial trouble in CyprusThe Republic of Cyprus, with a population of just over 1 million people (about the same as the city of Jacksonville, FL) would seem an unlikely place to trigger a global financial crisis. The island nation in the eastern Mediterranean Sea is divided by a U.N.-monitored buffer zone rather less hostile than the one in Korea, and the only news you generally hear is how Greece and Turkey both claim the island once used by Richard the Lionhearted as a staging ground for Crusader attacks on Jerusalem.

Now, suddenly, news outlets are declaring that a failed bailout of this tiny nation could shatter the European Union’s finances, sending financial shock waves around the world. Shares on European stock exchanges plunged in panic selling, and it remains to be seen whether U.S.-based investors will join this fearful exodus. Meanwhile, the biggest potential losers in this crisis could be Russian mobsters.

What do we need to know about this latest Eurozone crisis? First, that it represents a spectacular display of poor timing. The southern part of the small nation gave up its currency (the Cyprus pound) for the Euro in January 2008, just before the global economic crisis hit. The meltdown was followed by a severe financial crisis in Greece–and, since most of the people living south of the U.N. buffer zone are ethnic Greek, it is not surprising that the country’s banks would have had substantial holdings of Greek public and private debt.

cyprus-a political and financial mess

Besides the political mess, now also a financial drama

The restructuring fell like a hammer on the Cyprus banking system. The Washington Post recently estimated that the nation’s two largest lending institutions–Cyprus Popular Bank and the Bank of Cyprus–ended up losing $4.4 billion and $3.1 billion respectively on their Greek debt investments–roughly 76 percent of their value.

The reason you didn’t read about any of this last year or the year before, during the bondholder-negotiated haircuts, is because the Cyprus government reached into its pocket and provided the necessary liquidity to its banking system–or, in the case of Popular Bank, simply took over the lending institution as a government subsidiary.

Unlike its insolvent neighbor to the north (or, for that matter, the U.S.), the Cypriot government takes in more tax revenues than it spends. But when the nation’s 10-year government borrowing rates rose from 4.5% to 7%, it became clear that a broader bailout would be necessary. How much are we talking about? An estimated $12 billion would restore solvency.

In negotiations with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the Cypriot government agreed to a solution that is (so far) unique in the Eurozone: the government would assess a one-time tax on its country’s bank depositors–taking 6.75% of all deposits of 100,000 euros or less, and 9.9% on deposits greater than that amount. This would have raised $7 billion, more than half the needed total, and the IMF and ECB agreed to provide the rest of the cash in the form of loans.

Why the different tax rates?

That’s a story in itself. The Washington Post reports that Russian companies have been setting up subsidiaries in Cyprus as a way to evade Russia’s heavy taxes on money they earn abroad. There are also reports that Russian tycoons have been using the Cypriot banking system to launder dirty money, and using Cyprus to evade U.N. restrictions on sending weapons to the Syrian government. German intelligence reports suggest that at least 20 billion euros of the 70 billion euros deposited in Cyprus’s banking system were put there by Russian oligarchs.

Most of those Russian deposits, of course, exceed the 100,000 euro threshold by a few orders of magnitude, and therefore would have been taxed at the highest rate. This explains what might otherwise be a puzzling part of the Cyprus default story: the fact that Cyprus’s finance minister Michael Sarris flew to Russia instead of Brussels when the crisis became public, or that Russian President Vladimir Putin took time out of his workday to publicly pronounce the tax levy, in a very small country far from Russian shores, as “unprofessional and dangerous.”

You’ve probably seen, in blaring headlines, reports that the Cyprus parliament ultimately rejected this plan to confiscate billions from the country’s savers and foreign oligarchs, causing the rescue package to collapse and triggering yet another global hand-wringing over the fate of the euro. But there are also reports that Russia has offered Cyprus a loan of $3 billion at favorable 4.5% interest rates, and indicated a willingness to sweeten the deal if necessary.

Should you be worried about all this?

It depends on whether a big part of your investment portfolio is allocated to the Cyprus stock exchange, which suspended trading on Tuesday and Wednesday while the mess gets sorted out.

If not, consider that Cyprus can always go back to its original currency as a last resort, without endangering the Euro banking system the way, say, a Greek or Spanish exit might. And also remember that Cyprus is in the habit of running a government surplus, which means that the country will eventually get back on its financial feet again–probably after the Russian oligarchs and their government have quietly refinanced their private tax haven.

Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/03/18/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-cyprus-bailout-in-one-faq-2/

What is the Total Economic Impact of FSCJ?

What is the Total Economic Impact of FSCJ?Press Release What’s the total economic impact of Florida State College at Jacksonville, if you consider all of its activities and those of its former students in its service area, Duval and Nassau counties? A cool $1.6 billion annually, according to a study produced by Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. (EMSI) for the Florida College System Council of Presidents. The comprehensive study addressed the economic impact of all 28 state colleges and community colleges.

On its own, Florida State College at Jacksonville contributes a total of $136 million just in income to Duval and Nassau counties each year.

The EMSI study includes two major analyses:

    -An investment analysis, which treats education funding as an investment and calculates the returns from the perspectives of students, taxpayers and society.
    -An economic growth analysis, which measures added income in the region due to college operations, student spending and skills of past and present students still in the workforce.

Specific to FSCJ and the return on investment, the EMSI report determined that students benefit from a 17.6 percent rate of return on their investment in FSCJ. On average, an FSCJ student’s income increases by $6.60 for every dollar invested in FSCJ. Society benefits from the higher earnings-and the expanded tax base-an educated workforce brings, which in FSCJ’s case amounts to about $231.8 million each year.

The EMSI analysis of the region’s economic growth attributable to FSCJ was determined to be $123.5 million annually, based on income due to College operations. Additionally, spending by FSCJ’s non-local students (about 14 percent of its student body) amounts to about $12.5 million.

Academic credits earned by FSCJ students translate into higher earnings for students and increased output of businesses. The added income that can be attributed to these academic credits is estimated to be around $1.5 billion a year.

Fact Sheets and Executive Summaries of the economic contributions of the Florida College System and Florida State College at Jacksonville are listed below. For detailed information on the EMST study, visit Florida College System Economic Impact.

Florida State College at Jacksonville is a member of the Florida College System and is not affiliated with any other public or private university or college in Florida or elsewhere.

Florida State College at Jacksonville is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award the baccalaureate and associate degree.

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State Tax Exodus

Are State Taxes reason for people leaving?

High Profile Citizens give up citizenship as regular people exit staes over tax increases

Are more people moving away from high-tax states to places (like Florida) where the state tax burden is lower? Recently, Forbes magazine highlighted the most recent United Van Lines survey, which collects data on 125,000 families moving from one state to another.  The focus was on the ten states that were losing the most residents as a percentage of total population.  Then a writer looked to see if those states happen to be among those with the highest tax

rates.
Here’s the list of states with the most ex-residents, with their ranking as a high-tax environment in parenthesis:
1. New Jersey – 3,925 exits   (2)
2. Illinois – 5,931 exits   (11)
3. West Virginia – 418 exits  (19)
4. New York – 5,441 exits   (1)
5. New Mexico – 1,313 exits  (39)
6. Michigan – 3,123 exits   (18)
7. Connecticut – 1,991 exits   (3)
8. Maine – 634 exits   (9)
9. Kentucky – 1,886 exits  (26)
10. Wisconsin – 2,405 exits   (5)
The correlation is suggestive if not definitive; the three highest-tax states are on the list, and five of the top ten.  Of the states on the list, only Kentucky and New Mexico fall in the bottom half of the state tax rankings. At the same time, you might also notice that many of the states on the list have one other thing in common: brutal winter weather, recently highlighted by the major snowstorm blowing across New York and New England.
It is possible that at least some of those exiting the states on the list were retirees looking for both sunshine AND a lighter burden on their retirement distributions. If you have noticed that more and more of your new neighbors “ain’t from around here,” now you know one likely reason why.  Taxes matter.

Our most Powerful Enemy is Ignorance

Turning the Desert into Grassland

In a world overrun with mindless talk, mostly conducted by people who excel in looks and fail miserably in knowledge and understanding, I’m finding more and more that our biggest enemy is ignorance and therefore our main and maybe only weapon is education. Since the elections now 2 months ago I have been hearing that the US is now the leading example of capitalism’s failure and Obama socialism is some kind of relief. The whole fiscal cliff charade plays on ignorance and very few (at least in my circles) understand that it was just a smoke screen for the “next big political fight” called raising the debt ceiling.

At a minimum lift of $1 trillion a year we’re looking at a deficit of beyond $25 trillion in less than 10 years, not counting the galloping inflation that has to explode into our lives one day soon. But this essay is about growing ignorance among the people, only partially as a result of a growing disconnect from reality.

In that light some holiday conversations have stuck with me, mainly because I thought they were stuffed with ignorance overload and for me became a reason to share with you a story I remember from the mid seventies when two Irish brothers had the “crazy” idea to set up a farming operation in the Saudi Arabian desert. What lead up to that story? Well we were invited for dinner at Baxter’s and over the consumption of a delightful prime rib steak the question directed at me was: “What  do you think? Is the US really the best country in the world to live in, as so many people here claim”?
My answer to that was deliberately evasive, not only because America was once my promised land, which is why I moved here 32 years ago, but also having visited more than 180 nations in the world and having lived at least 3 months or more in about a dozen of them, my nuances have changed as they now include the wisdom of the years and retrospect and the knowledge that “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” The question could be sincere as in actionable or just conversation.
Based on that assessment I decided on my personal truth.

In my corporate years New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore had my total devotion; in my active travel years I found Argentina and Chile to be interesting and attractive, as I did Australia and South Africa. Europe’s countries were great when I was young and could grab a beer at 16 (but couldn’t get a drivers license until 18), go to concerts, hang out in brown cafés and was generally allowed to be and regarded a young adult. To build companies I preferred Atlanta, Dallas and Tampa (it was the early 80s) but in my mid thirties, when I needed to step back from the killing floors of corporate burnout, the Caribbean Islands offered a myriad of sailing and ‘limin’ opportunities and frankly the feeling of personal freedom I have been looking for all my life, is still mostly alive down there.

So in other words, best places to live largely depend on your stage in life, your desire for certain creature comforts, your insistence on brand-name merchandise and choices. Girlfriend or wife with kids?, your options are obviously different than if you’re single and nothing to hold you back. Also when you’re in your twenties, accessibility to a doctor or pharmacy is normally the furthest thing from your mind. When you’re in your fifties and sixties you learn to think in terms of Walgreen, “on the corner of health and comfort.”

And then there are lots of people out there who will use the quality of available education as a measuring stick for their choices, yet these days home schooling is growing by leaps and bounds and within the next 10 years you can obtain a college education from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Like one befriended teacher recently confided: “we would all prefer to teach in our shorts from a specially equipped room in our homes to anyone who wants to learn anywhere in the world.”

So all things considered I believe that all important choices should be based on well balanced research from trusted sources, not widespread ignorance spewed by commercial media. For some or many of you, this maybe the best country in the world to live because it fits your preferred lifestyle and mindset. As long as the decision is based on educated choices and future expectations, it’s all good. But unfortunately this is often not the case.

And this finally leads me to another chapter of “comfort zone ignorance” that has descended upon the human species.

On another social occasion I was pulled into a rant of a bunch of rednecks, talking about camel jockies in the Middle East. They claimed “on the ground experience” because they had either been part of Desert Storm or George W’s folly almost 10 years ago.  Listening to their agitated one-liners I wondered why is it that so many Americans (Guys mostly) consider themselves superior over so many species and nationalities? Why is it that so many assume that the rest of the world is incapable of looking after themselves. It sometimes reminds me of the old “White Man’s Burden” fallacy that became the big excuse behind slavery.

So here is the claim that not only caught my attention, I was actually drawn into it for the purpose of a reaction: “They don’t know anything about farming over there besides goat herding and poppy seeds in Afghanistan. If we wouldn’t feed them they would starve.”

And that’s what gave me a flash back to 1978 when I was working on a book publication for Aramco in Saudi Arabia and traveled the peninsula’s country side. On one of those travels I was introduced to an agricultural dream partnership between Irish brothers  Alastair and Paddy McGuckian and a visionary prince in the Saudi Royal Family who had set out to create an integrated dairy food company that today is considered one of the largest companies of its type in the world. Almarai, which is Arabic for “pasture”, operates smack in the middle of the desert. Integrated in this case meant, the company controls its raw material supply lines (food for dairy producing cattle). In order to do that they pulled 56,000 lush acres (88 square miles) of grassland out of the desert. The grass land is mowed 10 times per year and yielded 20,000 truckloads of Rhodes grass in 2009, all to feed a herd of some 105,000 cows for dairy production. Each cow produces almost 3,400 gallons of milk per year – three times more than in Europe or the US. Other crops grown on the land are 400,000 tons of alfalfa and 300,000 tons of corn every year.

I could go on about this amazing effort to reclaim desert land in the hope that at some point ignorami here would understand how degrading it is to blindly refer to muslims as desert people and camel jockeys. Do me a favor and learn from the following Powerpoint Download Farming in the Desert and realize that this tremendous feat was accomplished IN THE DESERT!!!!..and then quietly admit that insulting monikers like desert rats and camel jockeys, only expose your own ignorance about today’s world. You know who you are!

From Gun Control to Fiscal Cliffs

Consumer Confidence and the Fiscal Cliff

Consumer Confidence and the Fiscal Cliff Hoax

It’s the Holiday Season once again and that means attending too many parties and entering too many familiar conversations. I kind of promised myself (and others) to avoid participating in political discussions  of any kind whether it concerns gun control, Obamacare or the looming fiscal cliff rhetoric. So instead I have been listening and reading, instead of participating and what I have found is utterly distressing.

I am deeply saddened by the horrific mass murder of little children in Connecticut, but even this atrocity will not change the path we’re on and listening to combined government reactions that path will only accelerate the disarmament of future victims. It’s because the chattering class focuses on the tools used by killers, rather than on what made them killers in the first place. It’s that and the ethically and morally degraded state of society that I blame. Columbine and Aurora, Colorado, Virginia Tech Massacre, Newton Connecticut, Utoya Island Norway, German School killing in 2009 and hundreds of other massacres have proven one thing, guns can be obtained, no matter what the Law of the Land is.

Almost without exception the killers were recipients of drugs like Zoloft, Ritalin, Prozac or some similar psychiatric drugs, but no red flags there????

So I listen to the extremely emotional conversations and realize that pandering politicians will absolutely have no choice but to “do something” and that means in general catering to some of people’s deepest emotions: fear and anger. And giving them what they think they want: vengeance and the appearance of safety. They’ll call it “justice” and “reasonable” gun control, but it will be neither. Mark my words.

The Looming Fiscal Cliff

More in the field of my expertise are the conversations about the looming “fiscal cliff” and I just get cold chills when I hear supposedly intelligent people express their views on economics, while defending politics. Let’s make one thing very clear: it’s not the US economy that’s facing this alleged cliff, it’s the US government… well actually a large number of industrialized (is that a misnomer these days?) countries across the globe.

Love this cartoon!

Well not one person I’ve heard expressing their politicized opinions on the fiscal cliff really understood the real issue; yes they are aware of the ingredients as the simultaneous expiration of the Bush tax cuts and automatic spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 that go into effect next year, but the real issue is so much more severe than marginally bringing government spending down while raising taxes to historically unacceptable percentages.

The real issue is that both political parties in the US think that the economy is fueled by confidence, consumer confidence. It is often proudly paraded by pundits that our GDP is 70% consumer driven and therefore if they can only restore confidence, the economy will grow.

Wrong!!!!!

The economy itself is the aggregate of all the people, businesses, inventory, manufacturing plants, mines, farms, transportation networks, research facilities and accumulated capital of all the participants. And the economy grows when people produce more than they consume, and save the difference. They then have capital to put into new ventures, create new jobs, develop new technologies, and so forth. And frankly No government is needed to make this happen – rather the opposite.

But the average American, who is unfortunately completely ignorant of economics, thinks the government is a magic cornucopia, not grasping that the government, of either one color, has been kicking the can of complete economic ignorance down the road for many years now. The reason why we’re at the Fiscal Cliff talk once again is because the can that was kicked down the road almost two years ago is in plain sight again. They didn’t think then that they would have a new solution today – they only wanted to escape certain impending doom… and hoped magic would happen. They have no solution, not then, not now. They’ll just try to put off judgment day once again. They’ll do it by selling hundreds of billions more in debt to the Federal Reserve – they’ll have to because the Chinese and Japanese aren’t buying anymore.

So where does that leave us?

It leaves us with the real question: What does get the economy going?

The answer is almost too simple: PEOPLE.

People can’t just sit at home because they lack confidence; they’d starve. They have to work, create, build, invest – deploy their capital, whether that be financial, intellectual, or the time they can sell to employers.

History has proven time and again that if the economy isn’t growing, it’s not because the government isn’t spending enough to “stimulate” it. Government spending comes from: taxation, which is a burden on the economy; borrowing, which is a future burden on the economy; or printing money – inflation – which is an especially dishonest, hidden form of taxation that makes people think they’re richer while they’re being impoverished.

No. If the economy isn’t growing, it’s because the government has burdened it with heavy taxation, smothered it with excessive regulation, distorted it with false information (the Fed’s manipulation of interest rates), and replaced real money – gold – with paper. And consequently people have become disenfranchised, confused and yes…ignorant. Ignorant mostly of the fact that the Fiscal Cliff is merely a diversion to keep  us away from the real problems called derivatives and a dollar crisis.

People today think it takes government to smoothen out an economic business cycle back into growth. Nothing is further from the truth. If we think it takes a sign from government to become confident again and restart the economy, we’re sadly mistaken. It takes entrepreneurial effort and ideas. Big and small ideas and a government that steps out of the way.

I recently went to re-visit a big idea called Disney World after a 30 year hiatus and witnessed first hand how the vision of one man created a sustainable one pillar economy outside of a swamp town called Orlando, 40 years ago, and how 66,000 people are now directly and gainfully employed on a concept that celebrates mankind and imagination.
With that in mind I am not too deeply concerned about the future of confidence in this country. More about that in another essay.

November is Long-Term Care Awareness Month

November is Long-Term Care Awareness MonthNovember is the official month to think about planning for long-term care for yourself or your loved ones. In fact, November is officially “Long-Term Care Awareness Month.”

Services needed for long-term care, such as personal care or care in your home are not covered by traditional health care plance or Medicare. So additional insurance may be well worth the money spent.

Policies provides plenty of flexibility so you can choose from a variety of options and benefits. Emergency care, assisted living, nursing homes, and transportation services are just some of the things you should be thinking about now.

Some long-term care policies may even include help with daily activities, lengthening the time you live independently. It is important to keep in mind that aging is not the only reason you may need long term care.

Many illnesses or an accident could mean you need assistance with dressing, bathing, going to the restroom, cleaning, cooking, shopping and more.

Of course these services won’t be free, and you can learn more by viewing the Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance. Just one year in a nursing home can cost $50,000 or more, depending on where you live.

Generally, Medicare doesn’t pay for custodial care. This pays for services that are medically necessary so a long-term care insurance policy may be needed to help your family prepare for the future.

If you are a care-giver and need to learn more, you can find an abundance of Caregivers’ Resources HERE… and if you aren’t, well, this is the season to count your blessings and plan for the future.

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Post Election Gun and Ammo Sales Reach Frenzied Level

Post Election Gun and Ammo Sales Reach Frenzied LevelThe election is over, but the buying of guns and ammo is at a frenzied level! Starting around November first both have been going quickly. The results of the election won’t change this surge in sales any time soon and our suppliers and manufacturers are beginning to run out of stockpiles.

Some of the most popular items have become nearly impossible to find and the demand dicates prices will not be coming down any time soon.

General Manager Mark Puca, of Second Amendment Outfitters on Hwy 17 South of Yulee, saw this demand coming so he ordered early and for now the store is fairly well stocked with AR15s, high-cap mags, lower receivers and ammo right now. In response to this scramble for weapons, Proprietor Michael Gorman said, “Don’t wait long to stock up because we’re experiencing record sales and we don’t expect the Obama regime will wait long to make good on their threats to ban ‘assault weapons’ and start issuing executive orders restricting your Second Amendment rights.

2012 Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot is On

The holiday season is fast approaching and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. That means turkey season is in full swing at Second Amendment Outfiters. The fourth annual Turkey Shoot has begun and this year, just like last, the competition is likely to be fierce.

Stop by the range and test your skill (and luck) by firing a .410 shotgun round from a Taurus “Judge” at a Turkey Target 7 yards out from the firing line. At the end of the competition, the shooter with the most pellets in the kill zone wins “The Judge” 410/45 Long Colt Pistol (MSRP of $524.99).

$10.00 buys you one shot and you may take as many shots as you want, each at a fresh target, of course. The gun range will keep track of the current front-runner so call or stop in to see where you stand throughout the month. The leader board will be posted in the shop.

The contest has already started and will run through 7:00 pm on Saturday, November 24th. In the event of a tie, the contestants will be allowed an additional tie-breaker shot free of charge anytime before 3:00 pm on Sunday, November 25th after which the prize will be awarded.

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Elections are advanced auctions in stolen goods

Falling through Clouds does not mean a soft landing

I greatly agree with Henry Louis (H.L.) Mencken’s observation that Government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction in stolen goods, especially after being confronted with a $15,500 thousand dollar property tax bill for the Inn this morning.

H.L. Mencken also opinioned: “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

My warning for the faint of heart is:

The following essay is my purely personal opinion, or at least part of that opinion, and does in no way reflect the opinions of the various SearchAmelia Team members. Our team reflects absolute individual freedom of thought and representation.

Presidential Elections Outcome

For reasons that in general escape me, I get drawn into a lot of discussions about the outcome of Tuesday’s Presidential Elections. By choice, I’m not a political animal. In my marketing past I ran several successful election campaigns on various levels of government and always walked out with a bad taste afterwards. It was a time in my life that I thought it would make a difference which party would claim the White House, or the Senate or Congress, until I learned that the four year cycle back and forth is the product of a well oiled manipulation of hoi polloi.  Which is why I can honestly say that from a long-term perspective, it certainly doesn’t much matter who wins this election; Romney would be just as great a disaster for what’s left of America as Obama, just in different ways, with different rhetoric. Romney may be able to advance the economy (but not without raising taxes to continue certain entitlement programs and pay off debts), but he’ll suck majorly in the humanities. Obama is already tired of dealing with the Washington Hell Raisers, his longterm macro economic insights stink and he is definitely expanding the size of government to a financially untenable degree.

But do people care?

I don’t know if they do. Truthfully, I don’t know anymore which sentiments prevail in the big city barrios and ghettos or the trailer parks across the nation. Nor do I pretend to know what GenExers in the cities or white middle classers in the suburbs think, let alone the seniors in retirement homes and parks. The polls are very inconclusive and manipulated by statisticians and politicians, so much actually that the state of Texas Attorney General has decreed that International Observers cannot come closer than 100 feet from a polling place without risking to become subjected to criminal prosecution. This, while it becomes front page news that computers can be fixed to fix the final election results. This happens in the country that carries the torch for democracy globally??!!

In spite of it all, my gut feeling is that Obama is going to win again, partly because the incumbent always has the advantage, partly because well documented result fixing and partly because the mainstream media – which is where most people get both their information about what’s happening in the world and how to interpret it. And they seem to overwhelmingly favor Obama.

Depending on Government Action

I abstract this opinion from a massive shift in recent years where most people now think that whenever there’s a problem, it’s the government’s job to “do something” about it.

Super storm Sandy is the latest proof of this mentality, with academia already pledging that only large government is organized enough to face the aftermath of these disasters. As far as the rhetoric goes Obama is in a better position as incumbent to address the needs of 60 million Americans who were impacted by Sandy, roughly 20% of America’s voting population. It seems that Obama is much more activist about “doing things” than Romney. On the other hand, all politicians are enthusiastic and skilled liars. So Romney might go wild with social programs, all the while saying something idiotic about trying to save capitalism and the free market system.

So let’s assume for a second that Romney wins. If allowed by the other participants in the government process, he may be able to attach a patched parachute to the economy before it hits the bottom of the barrel in the next few years, but it would still be a very rough landing. But frankly I doubt he will. On the short term he may eke out advantages for certain taxpayers; but, for the long run, a Romney win would be very unfortunate. That’s because he would be associated with free-market economics, as Republicans almost always are. And the social and economic disaster that’s looming over the next four years would incorrectly be blamed by history on free market capitalism and thus the Republicans.

For the long term benefit it therefore just may be better if Obama wins, which would attach the economic train wreck we’re facing to socialist style ideas, where they actually belong.

With the country’s debt having quietly crossed the $16 trillion mark rapidly moving towards $20 trillion (not talking about unfunded liabilities here), it really is too late to become fiscally responsible to the extent that it will divert the monetary disaster that will be upon us sometime during the next election period. The only reason why I say “sometime during this coming presidency” is to point out that “screwing with the dollar” as is Bernanke’s approach to economic instability, may still kick the can a bit further down the road. But talking in disaster terms, as far as I’m concerned we entered the front end of our economic super storm in the fall of 2008. Obama has had the “advantage” of being mostly in the relatively quiet eye of the storm, a period in which he has been able to fill all federal bureaucracies with socialist style “servants”, the Soviet Union called them “apparatchiks. Imagine Romney winning this election and then facing a state with far too much momentum going in the wrong direction, he would run out of time as economic chaos hits the global fan. With the tail of the economic storm in plain sight, we have no choice but to go through the ringer before things will get better or will they?

As long as people think that there are political solutions to the economic problems, I pity the poor fool who gets into the White House after this election.

As I discussed on many occasions, countries and individuals get wealthy by producing more than they consume and saving the difference between the two. Consuming more than you produce, results in the depletion of wealth, either as savings are drawn down or debt is accumulated, a process we are very familiar with. By doing so you either destroy the productive capacity of past accumulations of capital or mortgage the productive capacity of future accumulations of capital. Either is bad economics, whether for a household or a country; and we’re seeing both – and will continue to see both, regardless of who wins the next US election. Why? Because what you see is not necessarily what you get. In their climb up the ladder candidates often sell their souls to the “devil”, like in the 1986 movie Crossroads when Ralph Macchio as Blues great Robert Johnson sells his soul to the devil in return for guitar mastery.

The World’s Central Bankers, including our own Bernanke are no kindergarten variety idiots. Yet they have most of us, including all politicians convinced that keeping interest rates at near zero, will benefit investing and consequently employment. But investment capital comes traditionally from savings, people that actually save their difference between producing and consuming. No-one in their right mind however wants to save and get zero percent interest back. Actually add taxes and fees and a $1,000 saved at the end of the year is only $950 give or take.

So here are possible scenarios we’re facing on Wednesday Morning, November 7, 2012

If Romney wins:

• lots of investors may think he’ll “fix” the economy, resulting in a surge in the stock market based on nothing more than political expectations.
• short term thinkers will “benefit” from tax cuts
• like his withdrawal on the FEMA issue, many serious changes promised on the campaign trail would result in a talking-to by the heads of the various Praetorian agencies. If he survived that, the Supreme Court would strike down most of what he did, and Congress would legislate against it. And yes the people would riot in the streets if entitlements were threatened. They would riot like the Greeks in Athens or The French in Paris because when the people realize that they can vote themselves free lunches rather than work for them, a democracy is doomed.
• expect Romney to seek economic advancement in excessive military spending and adventurism; many of his background advisors formed the nucleus behind George W Bush in his decision making progress in the early part of this century.

If Obama wins:

• as a second-term president with no possibility of re-election to worry about, he could (would) go wild, no holds barred.
• the continuing global economic crisis (and much worse to come) would be used as an excuse for Obama to open the floodgates on all kinds of really stupid ideas.
• the introduction of many programs will create their own bureaucracies, with their own buildings, structures and legislations, impossible to get rid of. Lenin comes to mind when he said, “The worse it gets, the better it gets”.
• as investors expect higher taxes, many will sell in advance of that happening – people are talking about “tax-gain selling” this year in addition to tax-loss selling. This will give less capital to corporations, who will be less inclined to hire.
• be prepared to loose your last liberties, because the man is drone-happy and in awe of Homeland Security
People think the economy rests on a base of psychology, but they are wrong, as is the thought that government can fix the economy. It can’t. What makes an economy work is not confidence and not consumption, but production. What makes an economy grow is savings – accumulation of production in excess of consumption that can be invested in new things.

As government has majorly taken control of the economic production output as well as the monetary policies in this country, we are looking at a perfect storm scenario which will cause catastrophic deflation, as some will argue, or an equally catastrophic inflation that will turn this nation into a banana republic. Bernanke has promised a minimum of $40 billion a month in new liquidity which goes into banks. At some point the banks, which are generally not lending much, will start doing so as they are forced by politicians with constituency agendas. When all the cash they are sitting on starts flooding into the economy, we’ll see inflation in earnest and interest rates of 15% to 30%, just like in a banana republic. That’s going to trash the US dollar. And since most savers save in dollars, that’s going to wipe out the productive class, worldwide.

So mid-term thinking has me convinced that if Romney wins this one, the Democrats will win 2016, spearheaded most probably by Hillary Clinton (God Save us all). If Obama wins this one, the Republicans will win 2016, if there still will be presidential elections.

In closing, I am an eternal optimist who appreciates that we have to pay the price for excess before we can move on in history. I honestly think that collectively we are going to have a very hard time in the near future. But I also believe that once we’ve gone through the ringer, the future is going to be better than even I can imagine. Medical advancements, science and technology are progressing rapidly towards a better, more globally balanced society. I truly believe that.

Planning versus Crisis Management

Hurricane Sandy passes Coca Beach to our South 300 miles out

Hurricane Sandy passes Coca Beach to our South 300 miles out

Mixed in to the prognostications of where exactly Hurricane Sandy and the pre-season winter storm coming east will meet to give birth to a potentially devastating Frankenstorm next week, there is another conversation brewing about weather satellites soon reaching the end of their life cycles and we may be without guidance on weather systems in the near future.

Now we have all learned on dozens if not hundreds of occasions in recent decades that “authorities” can only claim and execute the powers that go hand in hand with words like “officials” and authorities”, after a crisis emergency of some order has been declared.

In other words, long term responsible planning is not a strength of short term politics. Besides the continued warnings we receive about our 100 year old plus water distribution system that leaks more potable water than we consume and a potential power grid collapse that even worries the smarter tier of politicians, nothing will change the culture that prefers short term crisis over long term planning.

But wait…there is more. Not only are we ignoring our weather satellites, water distribution systems and power grids, we have also abandoned the space shuttle program that would allow us to install, repair, monitor the satellites that we depend on for communication, defense and weather. How exceptionally stupid are we to let politicians spend $2 Billion for irritating campaign ads this year, but spending for infrastructure is a major neglect… a surefire way back to third world status.

Planned management instead of crisis management makes the important priority distinctions. In the case of the weather satellites, fine tuning weather forecasting beyond an already adequate base is fine, if sufficient means are available. If not, than I would like to see someone seriously tackle the problem of electrical outages caused by the slightest windstorm. I would like to see funding allocated to put a new power structure underground. Yes it is costly, but not as costly as ignoring the problem over the long haul. Millions of people are affected by this problem on the Eastern Seaboard and having a satellite tell me it’s about to happen is no substitute for it not happening.

Instead of eliminating the power outage and surge issues we experience on a far too regular basis here on Amelia Island, we get a letter from the power company inviting us to sign up for a Surge Shield protection service to protect our appliances and computers at a cost of $9.95 a month. What a racket! Before moving to the island I lived on the Caribbean Island of St.Martin, which had all powerlines above ground as here. After Hurricane Luis hit in 1995 and wiped out power for 6 weeks, the Dutch (the island is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) came in and put all power underground. Yes it was expensive, but now 17 years later the island is the first one to welcome tourists after a hurricane hits the area, while all the other destinations still scramble weeks or months later. A power grid underground is an economic investment not a wasteful expense that adds to the national debt.

Here in the US we have been so focused on threats from terrorism since 9/11, that we’ve forgotten to look after ourselves in much more fundamental ways. Electrical grid in the northeast? Bailing wire and chewing gum. Roads, bridges, sewer systems, internet, educational system, our own government? We’d rather send troops, bombs, and drones to pursue desperate people in third world countries than take care of business here at home.

And before I’m getting a mile long stretch of comments that would like to politicize this story, let me warn you, this has nothing to do with Republicans vs Democrats. Almost every government project ends up like this, it’s the Washington culture. The military’s satellite acquisition program is a god-awful mess of fraud, waste, abuse, and horrific project management, and they have nearly limitless resources. I’d suggest outsourcing, but Congress would just give the program to Boeing or Lockheed and we’d be in the same position.

This is also not a discussion about expenses that increase the National Debt, this is a discussion about strategically investing in economic growth and national security with a longterm plan.

Of course, when push really comes to shove we can do without microchips, computers, cell phones, computer systems for automobiles and other vehicles; not to mention household appliances, climate control systems, security systems, etc. I know, I have been through the aftermath of 7 major hurricanes (Cat 4 and 5). None of the above matters in the destruction created by a major hurricane.

Is there anyone who cares if the Sahara desert gets hit by massive storms without adequate warning? or icebergs the size of Delaware are breaking loose from the Arctics? or, if terrorist activities go undetected until it is too late to prepare. Many “conveniences” and life saving treatments these days are the result of this so-called useless space technology. Many call it a wasteful expense…that is, until you need it.

Self Reliance Please!

As a lifelong sailor I know that long before meteorologists had sophisticated technology and satellites to help them predict the weather, people made forecasts based on historic observations of the sky, animals, and nature, just like before we were spoiled by GPS systems, we navigated the oceans by Polaris, the Pole Star in the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Cross in the Southern Hemisphere. Don’t get me wrong. I love the ease brought on by science and technology, but I also know that it is a gift, not an entitlement. That’s why I don’t forget that many of the traditional weather observations used are accurate. Maybe if all else fails, we may need go back to them, even if it’s only temporary.

1. The higher the clouds, the finer the weather. If you spot wispy, thin clouds up where jets fly, expect pleasant weather. Keep an eye, however, on the smaller puff clouds (cumulus), especially if it’s in the morning or early afternoon. If the rounded tops of these clouds, which have flat bases, grow higher than the one cloud’s width, then there’s a chance of a thunderstorm forming.

2. When clouds appear like towers, the Earth is refreshed by frequent showers.
When you see large, white clouds that look like cauliflower or castles in the sky, there is probably lots of dynamic weather going on inside. Innocent clouds look like billowy cotton, not towers. If the clouds start to swell and take on a gray tint, they’re probably turn into thunderstorms.

3. Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning. 
A reddish sunset means that the air is dusty and dry. Since weather in North American latitudes usually moves from west to east, a red sky at sunset means dry weather—good for sailing—is moving east. Conversely, a reddish sunrise means that dry air from the west has already passed over us on their way easy, clearing the way for a storm to move in.

I could be me, but I’d rather be prepared and plan for what is ahead of me, than depend on any government’s crisis management storybook or track record.

Changing Diapers is an Act of Love

Diaper change is an act of love

Diaper change is an act of love

Having been enriched with another grand child this week, my wife and I had a conversation one morning that I found enlightening in terms of mother appreciation. My wife went up to take care of the 19 month old grandson while his mother, our daughter, was focusing on bringing a new grand daughter into this world. At one point my wife told me that she had to change diapers of the grandson at least 5 times during the day alone. As an economist I naturally gravitate to numbers, so my brain started quickly crunching diaper sales numbers using various options and ages between newborn and 30 months old.

A little research revealed that a newborn on average soils 6,840 diapers between being born and 30 months old, at a total cost that hovers around $2,100 for disposable diapers and wipes. That equates to $70 per month on average, which I thought was quite reasonable. Doing the research however I also noticed that the price for diapers has almost doubled in the last 4 years and that is at least a bit alarming. Check here for the best pricing.

But then another thought struck me as much more relevant than just the cost of 6840 diapers!

So I asked my wife, who bore six children, how much time on average it takes to change a diaper and together we came up with about 10 minutes from fetching the new diaper to discarding the dirty diaper and all the smelly steps in between. To be truthful, I have never changed a diaper and never had the ambition to learn either, but I have witnessed close up and personal in recent years that a brand-new mother has no time to herself, and looking at spending 1140 hours changing diapers, 90 hours in the first 3 months alone, is a tremedous act of LOVE in my book.

Turning to my wife I smiled and said: “Do you realize that you spent 6840 hours of your life, or 285 days, changing diapers, raising 6 children?” That’s more than the duration of a full pregnancy, or if compared to a normal work year of 2,000 hours (50 weeks x 5 days x 8 hours) you were a diaper changer for almost 3.5 years! And that is only if you use disposable diapers. Imagine how many more hours my own mom spent on the “diaper issue” sixty years ago, when diapers were made of cotton cloth and needed to be attached with safety pins.

Well I don’t know about you guys out there, but that is an Act of Love I’d be honored to do a ‘Tebowing’ for if he hadn’t trademarked the move recently .

I really need to stop saying, “How stupid can you be?”

Feeding the Financial Vortex in DC

Federal Feeding of the Financial Vortex to the Black Hole

The more I think “How Stupid Can You Be?”, the more I think some people are starting to take it as a personal challenge. Especially considering the economic ignorance that media have surrounded themselves with.

Why this rant? Because I’m so fed up with the media practice to create uneducated headlines anchored in willful ignorance, spiced and seasoned with pliable statistics and numbers they have no clue about how to interpret correctly. And this assertion is being nice, because I can easily go the other way and accuse them of being inflammatory partisan and steering elections. Oh no, could it be…?
Here is today’s headline I am talking about:

US economic growth improves to 2 pct. rate in Q3

What does this headline mean to you and do you take away from it that the economy is improving?

In our fast paced world with little time and often less understanding of economic intricacies, you may take this headline as something positive and conclude that maybe Obama needs a bit more time to make it all happen. Well by taking some layers of obscurity away, the reasons for this almost insignificant economic pick up is in reality anchored in the Keynesian principle of massive consumption and government spending during recessions. Actually I will show you that the “heralded” economic pick up is a scam of massaging the statistics and interpretations.

We have been fighting this politicizing of the economy process since the bottom dropped out under our economy in 2008, yet the White House still considers it credo and the right thing to do. Young and inexperienced media reporters fall for it time and again, and the result is that Headlines become the News, and the headline writer is usually the dumbest one in the bunch, who glances at the story, and without understanding the majority words a headline people on the street will take as the news. It’s scary how easy news can be manipulated these days.

But the reality behind the above headline is this:

1. All numbers and statistics come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Commerce Department, two government institutions who are known to massage the numbers every month.
2. We know first hand that Economic Growth is anemic and trails last year’s meager 1.8% by an even measlier 0.06% (clutter in the margins)
3. The “growth” in the headline is partly attributed to a moderate growth in consumer spending. Turns out that this spending was fueled by auto sales (loans) and back to school credit card sales. Not much real fuel or longterm indicator to the end of a sluggish economy.
4. The accredited spending increase in the housing sector improvement is majorly a result of loan related home improvements and seasonal construction timing. The moment winter hits, this growth will drop like a hot coal from a carpenter’s hands. Another consideration should be that a 14% increase in housing spending (which only contributes 3% to GDP) comes from 5 years of market contraction to less than half the size it was before the financial crisis. In addition many potential home improvers are also applying for box store credit cards and both Lowe’s and Home Depot are reporting that their credit card sales are exponentially growing.

And then last but not least The Federal Government conveniently decided to sharply increase defense spending by no less than 13%. Actually this was the largest increase in 3 years. Do you sense the irony in this charade this close to the elections?

So did the Economy grow in the third quarter?

Subtract all increased government spending from these data and the GDP stayed exactly the same. How ’bout them apples?

No doubt the Obama campaign will quickly politicize the “improved” economy and crow about this “uptick” in GDP improvement, especially since the mediocre media reporting will only produce headlines that mislead and fool many in the electorate.
Now I’m not saying that the Republicrats have a better grip on reality than the Demopublicans, but overriding reality is that if we don’t bury Keynes’ Spending Doctrines quickly and get spending under control and lower, businesses will keep cutting back on investments and investors, local and foreign, will stop buying US paper and demand repayment of outstanding debts in a currency/value that will not be debased and devalued out of existence. But in the meantime count on unemployment to stay high for years to come.
And that my dear friends is the real story behind a massively deceiving headline this morning.

Managing Health Care Expenses in Retirement

Managing Health Care Expenses in RetirementManaging Health Care Expenses in Retirement, a FREE seminar offered by Mark Dennis, will be held at the Cafe at the Hamptons on November 8, 2012.

If you want to know what Baby Boomers need to know about medicare, long-term care, and more… then you do not want to miss this event!

Now is the time to start planning for health care expenses in retirement. Find out what you need to do to obtain the coverage you need and protect against rising costs.

This workshop is purely educational. No specific insurance or investment products will be discussed. Join independent, Certified Financial Planner™ professional Mark Dennis for this informative and educational discussion.

Discover the answers to these important questions:
• When do I need to sign up for Medicare?
• What does Medicare cover?
• How much does it cost?
• Will I need other insurance?
• What about long-term care?

If you are concerned about health care expenses in retirement, now is the time to start planning. Starting with an overview of Medicare and ending with a discussion of long-term care, this workshop will open your eyes to the way health care works in retirement and what decisions you need to make now to prepare. This workshop is geared to everyone over 60, even if you are already on Medicare.

At this workshop you will learn:
• How Medicare enrollment periods work — and what you need to do to avoid late-enrollment penalties.
• How much you can expect to pay in health care costs after going onto Medicare.
• How Medicare works with private insurance to provide comprehensive coverage.
• Why most people pay too much for private insurance, and how you can avoid excess costs.
• Why you must prepare for higher health care costs in retirement — including the possibility of needing long-term care.

Presented by Certified Financial Planner™ professional, Mark Dennis and A1A Wealth Management, Inc.

Reservations are required.

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Waking up on October 16, 2028

Saltwhistle Beach on Mayreau in the Grenadines

Saltwhistle Beach on Mayreau in the Grenadines

My alarm goes off at 7:00 AM, pulling me out of a deep sleep. At the ripe age of 77 I should not have to be woken up by such a rude and inconsiderate method, truth be known I never expected to have to use an alarm clock this late in life, this early in the morning. I should have been able to leisurely wake up and slowly enjoy the beginnings of a new day at that age, but the financial crisis of 2008, followed by the devastating monetary collapse of 2016 took a large bite out of my retirement age reserves and the rest was taken by the voracious appetite of an ever expanding bureaucracy of government institutions. The world changed a lot since Obama’s second term took the country into an rapidly accelerating slide towards a central command economy, supported by the election promise to create an avalanche of (un)funded entitlements. Despite all the policy failures in his first term as pointed out during the 2012 Presidential Debates, the country once again decided to place its trust in the promises of policies rather than the results. Now 16 years later, or just about 5 presidential elections ago, our economy has long been surpassed by China and India, while even the African continent has caught up on us. Brazil and Russia are licking at our feet and Australia has squandered its wealth on social programs. Korea and Japan have formed an economic alliance that has surpassed us as well.   We are still somewhat of a military powerhouse, but our equipment is getting old and there is little money to replace it. Much money had to go to repair our national water supply pipelines and our electric grid structures; when both collapsed under the pressures of old age in 2018. We’re now a socialist society, less than 100 years after Norman Thomas – six-time Socialist Party candidate for President- equated in 1932 the following message to his followers : The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism; but under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program until America will one day be a Socialist nation without knowing how it happened.

So here is how I live on October 16, 2028

I roll over, grumbling a command, and the alarm obediently shuts up. I drift off again, but ten minutes later the alarm returns, more insistent. It won’t be so easily pacified this time; the loose sensory netting inside my down pillow will keep the noise going until it detects alpha waves in drastically higher numbers than theta waves. At first I had opted for 1970 rock music coming out of my alarm clock, but after several times not waking up and getting to work late because I thought I was at a rock concert, I had it changed to this nuisance sound. It won’t stop until it senses my head leaving the pillow and it gets the automated password from the shower. Yes, a morning shower is mandated by government these days. With a deep groan I roll out of bed, pull my Computing ID (CID) card from the alarm unit, stumble out of the bedroom to drop the card into my house computer and make my way to the shower. The alarm triggered the shower’s heating unit and the water comes out at a pleasant 108 degrees, exactly my preference. (42 degrees, as I remind myself —  another transition to the metric system still isn’t second nature, after almost two full years.) I wash quickly to avoid exceeding my water quota, and step out refreshed, ready to meet the day. Next door I hear my wife of 24 years slowly awaken. We have individual quarters these days, since medicine still has not found an effective way to rid mankind of snoring. The time spent together is elective and mostly evolves around the weekends and holidays.

After the shower, I grab a bowl of cereal and head to the open living quarters. The real estate design of an “open floorplan” rules the home design these days and dry cereal is the prescribed and affordable breakfast for millions. Mixed in are all the vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants a human needs according to the Surgeon General, so it became a mandatory ‘side effect’ of Obamacare’s preventative health plan.

My wall monitor has automatically torrented last night’s episode of my favorite comedy show, saturating the municipal gigabit fiber connection for almost a full minute to grab the 20-minute program. I religiously kept on watching the Daily Show since the days from way back when Jon Stewart became a mouth piece for centralized sanity.  But for more fireworks, the show added Dennis Miller as Jon’s political counterpart after the botched elections in 2016 and in spite of their advanced ages, Stewart is turning 66 and Miller turns 75 in a couple of weeks, they are still slugging it out every night.

At a spoken command, the screen turns on and begins playback. When the confirmation box pops up on the screen, I state my name to authorize payment for the episode. Unfortunately, because I spent extra time sleeping, I’m in too much of a rush to finish the episode at my leisure so I tell the satellite to send the remainder to local storage, pull my CID from the desktop, and put it into my phone. While I get dressed, my phone plays back my social streams from last night, filtered to only the closest tier of relationships. After listening to our youngest daughter’s voice detailing plans for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and my friend Ric summarizing the concert he went to (Ric just turned a wholesome 82 last week), I tell the phone to retrieve streams from one tier further down. Ten seconds into yet another political rant from a longtime MySpace friend, (oh yeah MySpace was pulled  from the ashes under the spirited leadership of one Justin Timberlake)  so I tell it to cancel and I set off for work.

As the door closes behind me, I automatically, almost absently, wave my iPhone 20 by the doorbell panel. The embedded RFID chip triggers the house management and security system and sends a command to start my car. Most people are not allowed to have cars to drive to work anymore, but the phyle council thought it would be beneficial to keep me productive in the propaganda department, so I became the privileged user of a council issued automobile. I climb in and place my phone in its dock. It quickly checks the car’s charge, my preferred temperature, the accuracy of my weight in the seat, the tire pressures, any foreign objects attached to the vehicle and its wireless connection, and when all systems go to green, I say, “Rollem’ Rollem’ Rollem'” and lean back into my spacious seat as it rolls out of the apartment complex’s driveway. For some undisclosed reason Clint Eastwood and the wide open spaces of a Rawhide TV episode mistover my eyes. I must be getting sick!

Now I’m telling my onboard computer to resume playback of the Daily Show and after my windshield quickly turns black, I watch the rest of the show, waiting for my commute to finish. (I’m only vaguely aware that the car isn’t making the same turns today — there must have been a stupid hackcident — and I’m irritated once more at the low speed limits, wishing there was a way to shut them off unnoticed.) After the show is over, I access my work email and calendar on the window screen, and prepare for the rest of the day. It’s not until the car comes to a halt and softly beeps at me that I realize I’ve arrived in the parking structure. As the induction coils top off my car’s charge, I exit the structure and enter my building’s entrance. After waving my phone past the entry sensor, I stand as still as I can and slowly concentrate on my FULL name, yes that includes all four of them… Johan Anne Marie Hubert!! The fMRI sensors process the input quickly and agree that I am who  I think I am and unlocks the door.

Walking into to my office, I drop my phone into yet another dock and flip on the display, thus interacting with the only two objects on my desk. The display, nearly five feet across ( sorry 1.5 meters, I mean) scans my CID and instantly restores the projects I was working on yesterday. Yet I notice that a handful of button icons are different than they were before. There must have been an Operating System update overnight. My mild curiosity over finding a ‘changelog’ fades when I realize I can’t remember the name of the OS to look for it. I guess I need to increase my Ginseng intake in my morning and evening cereal. It’s unlikely anyone else at my agency does, either, except perhaps the CTO.

Frowning at some irritating messages on my display, I remember when I used to have co-workers who dealt with that sort of thing. As my attention returns to the projects at hand, I realize that the world has evolved too fast for anyone to stay on top of a wide array of topics and specialization is salvation. I used to build websites for emerging companies and professional organizations, which in hindsight were just old world adaptions to new technology. Ten years into the internet technology, back around the turn of the century, I often remarked that surrounded by a handful computers I could do the work I used to need half a dozen employees for. Now at almost 78 the thought sensor in my Apple Centaurion translate my thoughts into designs as it manipulates the contents of my screen. Sometimes I can’t help myself and find my hands moving along the top of the desk, sometimes gesturing in midair as a frustrated afterthought. For particularly precise work, I used to detach a stylus from the side of the display, but since eye sight perfection has been re-calibrated, the stylus became a relic in less than a decade.  On predetermined timeslots I pause to read or listen to an email and vocalize my response and occasionally I take a moment to check in on my subordinates’ screens, watching in real-time as they manipulate data and imagery. When needed, I open the intercom channel and provide direction.

By lunchtime, the global advertising (propaganda) campaign my team is working on is nearing completion. I package it up and open a connection to headquarter’s AI provider (Artificial Intelligence), working quickly to minimize the bandwidth fees. Setting the AI to “Human Approximation” (and using “Moderate” fidelity to make it finish in a reasonable amount of time), I run it through the consumer adaptability campaign and monitor the psychological reactions over a matrix of common phenotypes and personalities. The response from the Super-Rationals isn’t good (well…is it ever?), and I spot weaknesses in the campaign’s ability to reach females in one subculture, and males in two others. I make a quick list of potential improvements to background music and the facial expressions of the computer-generated actors, and send the list off to my team.

This project has been particularly stressful; in addition to the legislation currently being debated over how AI’s can be used (or whether they can be turned on at all), several patent suits involving advertising methods are hanging over the company’s head, and I have to carefully review my team’s work to ensure it doesn’t cause another. I know far more about patents now than I ever wanted to, but I don’t want our company to be one of the early victims. I hope the advertising industry doesn’t go through a reckoning as happened with the computer and entertainment industries about ten years ago. There’s still money to be made in those sectors, but nobody’s getting rich, and I have my mind set to retire before I turn 100 into one of the extra terrestrial communities. I have heard that Venus has beaches like the Caribbean and my wife and I have been talking for many years that we would like to return there.

mayreau in the grenadines

No politician worth his weight in salt is interested in this place

Mid-afternoon rolls around before I realize it and my stomach demands attention. Actually I feel mildly uncomfortable all over. Talking the stairs one floor up to the building’s Sundial restaurant I seat myself in a booth that reminds strongly of a record listening booth when music was still pressed on vinyl records. I select my preferred music channel and call up the menu on the table’s display. Finding a likely-sounding sandwich, I browse quickly through pictures, read a few reviews, and the nutritional information before confirming my order. Switching the table to browse-mode, I catch up on the news while waiting for my food. It seems another Middle-Eastern country has severed its last wired connection to the outside world as a desperate defense against continual cyberwar, a long road that started back in 2012 when a atrocious video about Islam was posted on youTube (now GlobalTube) supposedly igniting riots in the Middle East. It was later uncovered that it was just another lie from an administration that already had long lost the fight against terrorism. Economic interests in the Middle East forced Washington’s hand and youTube became censored.

Local police forces became tasked with controlling wireless transmissions, but were soon run ragged trying to construct monitoring stations and conduct wardriving patrols with limited manpower. Nobody is willing to take chances after last year’s nuclear incident involving Kashmir and Pakistan . Browsing more, I learn that nothing is new with the coastal flooding situation in Europe, except that China has once again increased its level of economic aid. I also note with dismay that the U.S. election campaigns, underway for over 18 months already, are both distancing themselves from the current plans to return to the Moon. The organization that replaced NASA is likely to face budget cuts regardless of who wins, all this while China and India have already bases established on Mars.

The server robot finally rolls up to my table and deposits my sandwich, along with a glass of water (soda is a rare treat these days, because of the sugar tax. An 8 oz can demands a $100 bill and if hyper-inflation continues that may soon be $1,000. After eating half my meal and picking at the rest, I realize it’s not hunger that’s making me feel poorly. As I briefly remove the CID from my phone and wave it across the table to pay for my food, I leave a small tip for the robot maintenance engineer and walk back to my car, calling work on my way home to notify them I’m feeling ill.

Once I’ve instructed the car to go home, I recline the seat and take a short nap. The car gently chimes to wake me when I safely arrive home. Heading inside, I walk to the bathroom and root around in a drawer for my phone’s medical attachment (I refused the option to APP-in my medical records). Once connected, I instruct it to contact the CDC’s servers for a virus definition update. I quickly swab my nose and throat, and place the samples on the attachment’s sensor, then step into the kitchen to make some tea while I wait. In 20 minutes, the results come back, showing a very strong likelihood that I have the seasonal flu. The results are automatically sent to the CDC, where their algorithms verify my CID and confirm that I had contact with several other people exhibiting similar symptoms. It’s encouraged to not expose myself the way I do as it increases contamination chances. If I keep on doing this I may loose some of my medical priviliges according to the Obamacare act. For now they instantly prescribe an antiviral drug for me at the nearest pharmacy, which I electronically dispatch to my car to pick up.

Laying back down in bed, I pull my CID from my phone and place it into my tablet. Checking my social feeds, I see several get-well-soon messages already from friends and family. I absently browse through some of the media my “friends” have been reading, watching, and playing, but nothing captivates my interest. After my car returns, it dispenses the meds in an air chute to my apartment and I settle back down with a cup of tea. Undoing four small latches at the corners of the tablet, I softly pull at the sides, stretching the screen until it’s 30 centimeters across (you figure out the inches here, I’m sick) and fire up a game of chess. After quickly losing two games, I’m vaguely aware that it won’t be good for my A- rating to play while sick. I briefly consider pulling the CID and playing anonymously, but decide against it. Returning the screen to its default shape, I detach it from the tablet and grab an e-ink screen from the drawer. Once I’ve firmly seated it on the tablet, the ebook I’ve been reading appears on the screen right where I’d left off a couple of days ago.

After reading a while, I begin to nod off. Sensing the increase in theta waves, my pillow’s sensor web shuts off the tablet, dims lights throughout the house, and silently monitors my vital signs to see if my symptoms are getting any worse. As I drift off to sleep, I dream of the time when we people touched, talked, interacted, made love, kissed, shared laughter and tears, danced, partied and genuinely cared for each other.

I know I shouldn’t be working full-time at 77. It has become so crazy in the workplace that 4 and 5 generations are known to work next to each other in one office!! I should have taken my wife years ago and moved back to a Caribbean Island that nobody cared about politically. Medical Technology, even if not always morally defensible, has made it possible for us to live up to 120 years on average. The Question, as it was back in 2012, is: how much longer can we really afford these entitlements, before the masses in China and India claim the money we owe them in a pursuit of their right to a better life. We’re living in an age of feathered balances and I guess the next fifteen years will bring more answers to the ideological questions of big government versus small government, Romneycare versus Obamacare, entitlement economy versus production economy, socialism versus capitalism, one party system versus multi party system.

But until then I will dream about a little 1.5 square mile Caribbean island called Mayreau. One church, 12 bars, 2 restaurants, a couple of cars and 300 inhabitants on a busy day in the height of the season. Look for us on Saltwhistle Bay ten years from now.

This church survived many a hurricane

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