As I rode the bus yesterday, I happened to hear the driver say starting pay was $17 an hour, about $34,000 a year.  This is a job where one has to drive a large vehicle in traffic, keep a schedule, load disabled people and strap them in, keep order, deal with the general public, who are not generally well off, often with mental disabilities, in a place with wet, icy roads.  In short, the pay is not commensurate with the responsibility.

We don’t pay teachers well, either, a similar starting salary here in Eugene.  Sure, experienced teachers and bus drivers get more, but they top out about double their starting salary, well below six figures.  Teachers have a lot of responsibility, too.  They are educating the next generation.  They have to deal behavior problems, be surrogate parents, deal with parents, and teach to standards.  I have been a substitute, where I got paid $75 a day to teach statistics, keep order, holding my bladder 6 hours, and wolfing down my lunch in 2 minutes.  I’m literal. It was 2 minutes.

Now I read that the Business Roundtable wants to delay full Social Security from 67 to 70. They wouldn’t have this affect those over 55, but if I were 50, and I had been counting on getting SSI, I would be upset.  Indeed, far too many elderly require SSI to survive, which was never the intent, but medical and other costs don’t go away.  The group wants to decrease COLA, the cost of living adjustment, as well.

The Business Group is a bunch of super rich CEOs, many of whom have annual bonuses greater than the lifetime earnings of the bus driver, the teacher, and me.  Certainly, this is often the case with financiers, who got huge bonuses for destroying the world’s economy in 2008.  Mr. Obama oversaw the recovery, which has been remarkable, but just not fast enough for people, which is not surprising, given the total lack of Republican support, and the party of deregulation is now back in power.  If we paid teachers better, more math majors might have gone into teaching, rather than Wall Street, where they created models using the assumption housing prices would never fall.

I’d bet many of the Roundtable folks say that the climate isn’t changing, too, despite CO2 levels we haven’t seen in 600,000 years.  Yet, they will say the stock market always goes up, with 80 years’ data.

The Roundtable says that personal savings should be increased.  I agree, but it’s difficult to save when one has student loans to pay off (to become a teacher, for example).   Granted, many don’t manage money well, which these rich folks count on, so they can sell stuff at higher cost, get higher interest rates on credit cards, the fine print of which most can’t understand, and push debt instruments that practically nobody understands.  You don’t believe me, watch Suze Orman sometime.  Oh, if you don’t know what the Rule of 72 is*, you have just proven my case.

I’d like to see Common Core deal with financial management.  A hundred billion dollars a year is borrowed by students.  The amount is unsustainable and must decrease.  Here are my ideas:  one, mandatory national service (not religious) required which discharges federal student debt.  Second, no cap on withholding SSI deductions. Third, stop giving people like me SSI.  I end up donating much of it in one way or another, but if you make six figures for 10 years, you delay taking SSI for 10 years.  That is forced saving.  I’m flexible on the amount.  What we must not do is make it more difficult for the working men and women, the ones who teach our children, drive our busses, pick up our garbage, clean our buildings, to retire with less.  We find another way. If others disagree, no problem.  But I don’t want “Damned liberal socialists are stupid” comments. I want specific ideas, written with good grammar, with dollar savings, and how it deals with the poor, needy, those with bad fortune, like leukemia, or accidents.  I have been fortunate, in large part because of America, and in lesser part because who I am and my work ethic.  The idea that  people are totally self-made goes against what American government has done.

The Roundtable had the audacity to want to raise Medicare eligibility to 70, not 65, which only shifts costs to somebody else.  If you are born after the mid-60s, you are SOL.  Looked at insurance premiums on Blue Cross for a healthy 65 year-old lately?  About $2K a month. We currently have the Affordable Care Act, but that could easily be gutted by Congress.  Medical costs increase dramatically with age; medical debts are a major cause of bankruptcy.  We increase the age groups that can get Medicare, not decrease it.  Where’s the money coming from?  Why from those who make over $2 million a year, with high marginal rates on bonuses.  Tell me, please, why a football coach should make $7 million with a low marginal tax rate?  He brings money to the school by using players who get paid nothing including no degree.

The Roundtable thinks “efficient” medical care will cut health care costs.  I heard about “seamless” care 20 years ago; we still don’t have it.  I espoused quality in medicine 35 years ago, because it was better and saved money, but we still don’t have good indicators. If we did, we’d easily know the number of annual deaths due to medical errors with a reasonable margin of error.  Yes, easily.  I understand sampling.

What need to expand Medicare to include the whole country, but I’d accept age groups as a start.  This approach won’t bankrupt the country or the people; indeed, Medicare is one of the best run programs we have.  The Roundtable think we ought to have competition, because “well-informed seniors” will make the right choices.

Have any of them read the Part D drug manual from Humana?  Medicare is fine; I have issues with the number of insurance companies who generate more paper than a Douglas Fir Forest in Lane County.  Well informed?  By whom?  Brokers?  The one I had steered me in the wrong direction.  TV ads?  By whom?  I am a college educated 66 year-old former physician.  I have trouble understanding the rules.  What about the poor black woman in Arkansas who turns 65?  Or an 85 year-old with dementia, an elderly person who can’t see well, can’t think as clearly as Paul Ryan thinks he can, and doesn’t have technical skills?  Do they really think “market forces” will work?

Oh, the Roundtable is in favor of healthy lifestyles, but they object to the EPA’s reducing ozone in the air.  That is hypocrisy. They are against regulations on food, water, or emissions.  Deal with obesity?  Five years ago, I measured the number of obese 6th graders in one school district in Tucson.  The results OF THE 1100 were astoundingly depressing.  We could have obtained data for the whole county, 32,000, FOR FREE.  Nothing happened. Why aren’t we using elderly volunteers more?

We need a strong middle class.  It’s time to deal with outrageous incomes that have produced no significant value.  The Waltons have $30 billion net worths on the backs of poor people working without adequate insurance. We need a major increase in the marginal income tax rate, we need a tax on investments, higher on capital gains, which are not earned income, and a buy-sell tax of 0.125%, which would generate $1 trillion by 2024.  We need a tougher means test for SSI and Medicare than we currently have.  We don’t take down Medicare or SSI for those who need it most.

The Roundtable wants better teachers, but they somehow think that certification requirements will do it, when increased pay will lead to better teachers. Increased pay works for better CEOs, I’m told, better coaches, better university presidents, so why should it be different for teachers?

My father, who went from a high school science teacher to superintendent of schools, once told me the argument “teachers were dedicated” was the reason their pay was so low.  That would be fine, he continued, “except you can’t eat dedication.”

The Roundtable ought to see if they can compute the area of their table.  If they can’t, then maybe they ought to stay silent on matters of numbers and how to save money, when not everything comes with a dollar sign.  That is the America I want and serve today.

*Rule of 72:  The time for doubling (year) is 72/rate of increase (measured in %).  Credit card interest at 24% doubles debt in three years (72/24 = 3)

Proof:  P=Po (exp)^rt, where P is the new principal, Po the original, exp=e or 2.71828, r the rate in decimal form, and t=time in years.  [1+(1/n)]^n = e = [1 + n}^(1/n)

(P/Po)= (exp) ^ rt; ln (P/Po)= rt.  (P/Po)=2 for doubling and ln 2=0.693.

Therefore 0.693=rt.  Change rate to per cent  and 69.3=rt.  72 is easier to work with.  so t=72/r.

Tripling time is 110/r.   This is done on aTI-83 by LN, 72/rate you choose.  It is easy.  This should be in common core.

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