Magic Pots Of Money

First published on the Wake Up Tucson Blog:

Over the last year I have taken issue with characterizations of politicians here in Tucson. Specifically the commendations and congratulations for spending time and effort focusing on, and eventually succeeding in, bringing federal grants to our local community (in the form of TIGER and other federal transportation dollars) for our newest, big scale, fun-time, public works project: The Modern Streetcar.

Without getting into a lot of other issues with this project let me state one simple fact that people seem to be missing: There is no magic pot of free money in Washington, DC.

Federal grants and project funding only come from our own pockets or from pockets in other communities.

To the former, why are we sending money to Washington just to have it sent back to Tucson? To the latter, why should Tucsonans be living off of anyone else?

However, the situation is more complicated than that simple philosophical construct. You could answer that you believe that both of those are wrong and you still would likely take the money. Why? Because you don’t want someone else living off of you either. If we don’t take the money, won’t someone else?

Nasty little conundrum, right??

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Fifty Is The New Zero In TUSD

First published on the Wake Up Tucson Blog:

One of my father’s favorite quotes is from Woody Allen. I’ve heard it a couple ways but he always related it as “90% of life is just showing up.”

The older I’ve gotten the more I have come to find this an astoundingly important and fascinating insight. It (rather unexpectedly) says that doing the minimum or close to it is really a big deal in most of life.

In my firm I write insurance contracts for clients. What my client is looking for, and what they will pay me to do, is fill out forms and file them with insurance companies. There is a lot more that we do in addition to this, policy reviews, competitive bidding to ensure the best price, custom marketing, employee services, etc. But at the end of the day, the client (AT MINIMUM) just needs that paperwork done.

The flip side though, is I get NO credit, NO payment, if I fill out the application to 10%, 30%, 50%, etc. If that minimum standard is not met, I get ZERO credit.

For my job, Woody’s adage certainly applies. 90% of what I do is meeting that minimum effort requirement. Everything above that is icing, but anything below that is worth nothing, nada, zip, zilch.

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Will someone please let me know when “The Long Term” gets here?

 

First published on the Wake Up Tucson Blog:

As we start debating the re-authorization of our state’s 1 cent sales tax I would like to pause for a moment and take a slightly closer look at what has been, and will undoubtably be again, one of the oft heard sentiments in these discussions.

You almost certainly have heard some version of it, but Paul Krugman (writing in his recent release A Manifesto For Economic Sense) provides a good example: “There must of course be a medium-term plan for reducing the government deficit. But if this is too front-loaded it can easily be self-defeating by aborting the recovery.”

So more or less, “Yes, we absolutely, positively know we need to get back to (INSERT NORMAL HERE) but certainly not right now.”

Dr. Krugman is certainly and simply an easy target but is an excellent example of those who, over many years, have maintained an incessant drum beat for “emergency measures”. Whether it is stimulatory fiscal and monetary policy, private company bailouts, vast military spending, expanded police powers, environmental regulatory interventions, increased taxes or other“temporary”, “one-time” reactions to current difficulties, there always seems to happen to be another “emergency” on the horizon which will serve to extend the definition of “temporary” and turn “one-time” into repetitive.

My primary issue are the pundits and government officers who prefer to define us in an almost constant state of “crisis” or for whom at least the pendulum seems only to swing in one direction.

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Please Politicians, Stop “Helping”

First published on the Wake Up Tucson Blog:

As an insurance broker I am faced with clients every day preparing for and dealing with some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable: loss of their home, injury in a car accident, unexpected medical conditions and many more. My job is to place them into financial products that, while not eliminating their suffering, can at least help them avoid the financial ruin that will make it all the worse. Thus I help people face their fears and manage them… unfortunately I had to face a professional fear this past week and there was no way to manage it or deal with it. Over the course of 5 days, I received two separate calls from clients for whom I could not place coverage, whom I could not help. They were healthy children and I couldn’t provide coverage because of changes made to the health insurance market by the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Due to budget constraints and mismanagement, effective October 1st AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid program) made changes to benefits eligibility.  As a result of these changes a friend and client of mine recently received a notification that her two minor children would be losing their coverage. She came to me last week as her agent to discuss options for replacing this insurance.

The second call came from two grandparents. Tragically, their daughter and her husband had died in a car accident several weeks earlier. Because of this they were taking in their 16 year old granddaughter. They called me because they were both in their 70’s and on Medicare, thus they needed an individual policy for the new teenager in their home.

As recently as a few months ago I would have been able to help both of these situations easily with policies that would have cost no more than tens of dollars every month ($30-$60); very reasonable and within reach of a working student and mother as my friend was, and a couple on a fixed income as the grandparents were.

But no longer.

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Raising The Bar

Published by the Wake Up Tucson Blog, 11/18/2011:

I will start by saying I do not know Phil Lopes.535af4b96e847.image

However, he made a series of statements this last week (unusual in their clarity as examples)  that I would like to address due to their implications regarding the level of discourse and understanding in our fair Pueblo.

In case you are not familiar, Mr. Lopes is a long time Arizona activist, a founding staff member of Pima Community College, a former senior manager at the AZ Dept. of Health, a state legislator and the current coordinator of the Tucson Chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America a “group of left-leaning Democrats, Independents, and Greens who work… for progressive change.” (PDA Tucson website).

Those roles have placed Mr. Lopes in the group of what, in our city, passes for “Public Intellectuals”.  This group includes political party leaders, any number of media personalities, some members of the university, and a few participants from the business, religious, non-profit communities and others.

“Public Intellectuals”, as a vocation, can be defined as the entrepreneurial class within any community’s market of ideas.  And as with all entrepreneurs they are constantly competing for customers.  However, unlike those in the business world aiming for dollars or other measures of growth, entrepreneurs in the political and thought arenas are competing for ears and minds.  They count their success not in financial terms but in how many people they can get parroting their beliefs and the level of influence of those who echo their thinking.

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