Why Rich Guys Run The Local Government

I plan to run for state legislature in 2016 and I also plan to win. Kentucky needs leadership that understands the mechanics of engaging companies in the global marketplace, and that is what I have made my living doing. For the last 20 years my career has been all about working with companies to compliantly import raw material for manufacturing and exporting finished goods to foreign customers. Our state needs laws that incentivize manufacturing for export, tax breaks for employing people that make exported goods and legislation that supports vocational education to prepare our workforce for high tech and green industries.

Here’s the rub. I make a fairly decent living and am the breadwinner in my family. My husband works and has a reasonably good salary but I make almost twice what he does. We are tremendously blessed to have a comfortable lifestyle. We’re not rich by any stretch but instead are solidly middle class. That being said we need my income and could certainly not maintain our home and our son’s college savings without it.

In Kentucky our state lawmakers do not meet more than 60 days one year, and 30 days the next, alternating years. They are paid a per diem of $188 on session days and when committees meet. My state rep was paid approximately $26,000 last year as was my state senator. My state rep owns his own successful business in the construction industry and my state senator is a retired police officer. Both are secure financially. I on the other hand, would have to take a 75% pay cut to work 40 days every two years and still need to support my family.

I am a smart, talented woman with a wealth of diverse business and social experiences that could add a great deal of value to the legislative process and help the citizens of Kentucky, However I cannot sacrifice my family’s security so that I may work for the betterment of my state and its citizens.

Is it then just a cruel fact then that only the wealthy are destined to govern, like Plato said in “The Republic”? Are the masses left to demonstrate, voice their beliefs and hope desperately that those in power will listen to the people that elected them, rather than to the businesses that paid for the negative advertisements we’re all tired of by the middle of October and April? It would seem so. And it would seem that at least at the state and local level the best we can hope for is a generous rich person who remembers once in a while that real working people elected him/her. Maybe they will even throw a legislative bone every once in a while.

I want very much to work in state government as an elected official. Specifically I want to represent Boone County to ensure that legislation is targeted to and benefits the unique manufacturing, distribution and export potential that is here today. 2016 seems like a long way off but in reality it is not – so I’d better get cracking on developing supplemental income.

Suggestions for legal income supplementation welcome.

On the Healthy and Happy Kick Again

Yes, I’m back on my healthy and happy kick.  After a trip to Europe this summer and observing the following, it’s almost impossible to understand why there is opposition to Obamacare.

  1. Pretty much the only fat people were foreigners
  2. Portion sizes were way small
  3. There was lots of wine and beer.  Lots.  Like it was Wine-O-Clock everywhere, all the time.  None of this waiting until 11 AM malarkey.

I started out with researching who the healthiest countries are in the world.  While I am very interested in useful factoids such as where the most centenarians live, I was more interested to see how the data connected healthiest populations with whether or not there was government subsidized or universal healthcare, if those people were really happy, and what the corporate/personal tax rates were.  For those that are still with me at this point, and those that share my interest in factoids, please note that Sardinia and Okinawa have the highest percentage of centenarians.

What I want to know is:  Were these other governments providing healthcare but at enormous, burdensome cost in the form of astronomical income and corporate taxes such that nobody could afford to do anything but eat, sleep, work and take an occasional potty break?  Were all the healthy people healthy only because they were all peasant farmers plowing their fields with their healthy yet overworked oxen, while eating all organic foods and no pizza or KFC to be found for hundreds of miles?  In short, are they physically healthy but emotionally miserable?  Do they all live in Soviet style, grey, military-style apartments and are up to their eyeballs in debt and taxes as Faux News would have us believe?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a pretty cool international outfit that promotes policies to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.  It’s been around for 50 years and is an international forum for countries to work together to understand how environmental, social, governmental, educational, and other issues affect ordinary people.  A rather difficult job if you compare and contrast the ordinary person in Albania, Arkansas, Afghanistan or Alberta.  That’s a lot of data, a lot of very different buckets of information, but visiting their website is an interesting trip:  http://www.oecd.org/

Nonetheless the OECD annually publishes a list of 36 participating countries and ranks them according to a Better Life Index.  And the 2013 #1 country is?  Drum roll, please?  Our friends down under, Australia.  I’m a little disappointed to share that. Not I don’t like Australia or anything, but because they didn’t appear on my Happy-Healthy-Healthcare-Tax Matrix, which we will get to shortly.  But first, I find it noteworthy that Australia has no WalMarts.  But as usual. I digress.

So here’s the aforementioned Happy-Healthy Matrix.

happy healthy

Hello, Iceland – come on down!  While I certainly expected them to be healthy – you must know that health and fjords go together like peas and carrots – the fact that they ranked in the Top Ten Happiest countries was a little surprising given that it’s rather wickedly cold there.  At least that’s what I’ve read.  Note the comparatively super-freaking-low corporate tax rate.  Hmm…..that must mean that the PERSONAL tax rate is painful.  Hmm…..seems to me that rate is ALSO lower than the US’s 40% personal tax rate.  So much for the over-taxed theory.

OK, I will admit that Finland’s personal tax rate seems high to me, as does Japan’s.  But did you know that if you belong to a church in Finland that you pay the church a tax of 1-2.2%?  Just sayin’.  And Japan’s doing a little bit of housecleaning right now.  That may speak to the lack of happy a bit as well.  But, if 3 of the 5 of the HEALTHIEST countries are happy, have relatively lower or somewhat in the ballpark tax rates as the US, AND they have universal or government subsidized healthcare, doesn’t that mean something?  To me that says it is possible and in fact good to do this thing called Obamacare, and we are being handed a model to follow.  Gift wrapped, with a bow on it.

I will readily admit that I absolutely cannot speak to the domestic societal issues in any of the above countries.  This is why I do this blog for free and in my spare time, while I’m partially doped up on Benadryl.  But, in closing, I fail to see how the ACA will be the downfall of the US, such as the lead in cups and pipes caused a downward, crazed spiral of the Roman civilization.   Look at the model of Finland. Sweden and Iceland.  Feel free to insert some palm trees, and let’s see what we can emulate.  For the record, I wonder if they have Faux News in Finland.  I kind of doubt it.

Take the Fast Food Boycott Poll

Lowpayisnotok.org is a website that is galvanizing fast food workers today, 8/29/2013, to go on strike against low wages. After reading about a single mother who has been supporting two kids on $8.25 an hour for the last ten years, I am still shocked, saddened, angered and awed.  I am shocked that such a prosperous culture can, with a straight face, advocate that $300 gross per week is enough to live on anywhere in the United States.  I am saddened that this horrible lack of income for so many struggling Americans forces them into dangerous living situations, abysmal living conditions and sets them and their children on a path of poor or non-existent healthcare, obesity and disease.  It is truly infuriating that our government permits bloated, self-serving corporations to take advantage of struggling Americans while expecting tax payers to subsidize their businesses through food stamps,  and worst of all that these same corporations  continue to churn out blatantly poisonous non-food that endangers the health of every taxpayer who ingests it.  Lastly I am awed by the perseverance and the inner strength of the parents who work in the fast food industry and simply “do what must be done” for their families.

American citizens and taxpayers should take this as a call to arms that we’re tired of supporting McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and all the other fast food corporations that push fat laden, disease causing non-food with the right hand.  With the left hand the same companies are pulling in profits from not paying decent wages because they KNOW that the government via the taxpayers, will pick up the slack.  How is it that corporations are treated like people under the law yet they exhibit none of the signs that a decent, sentient human being would?  Yet government is the entity that sympathizes, assists and gives hope to thousands of minimum wage workers.

Thursday August 29th, 2013 will come and go.  On Friday August 30th as many of us head out to enjoy a long holiday weekend that celebrates labor and how well paid, dedicated labor has made our country strong, we should vow to put an end to an industry that poisons us from the inside out, weakens our government, and perpetuates a culture of obesity and disease in America.

Not A Godless Female Democrat

Recently I made a very important personal decision with which I have struggled for a very long time.  As I’ve become more engaged in the Democratic Party platform, I have found my affiliation with the Southern Baptist faith incongruent with my true spiritual and intellectual values.  A young, fiery, Baptist minister at a service I attended asked members of the congregation to stand up and give personal testimony.  He was very specific in inviting the ladies of the congregation to participate as long as they did not “preach to the men in the congregation” as the Bible strictly prohibits women from “prophesying” to men.  And that started it.  I really had never thought about women’s role in the church, and from that point on I was on fire to understand what God’s real guidance was for women.

Was it possible that I was not qualified to speak instructively to the congregation or lead prayer in a room with women, children AND men, but Billy Joe Jim Bob without even a high school GED WAS qualified and even encouraged to do so?  I just could not, at any level – intellectually or spiritually – reconcile that I, a successful member of executive management in my organization, a college graduate, national public speaker, and member of community and professional boards of directors was NOT welcome to participate at equal levels as any man in that church?  Clearly this did not sit well.  And in trying to explain to my husband how really disturbing this was, I became even more exasperated.  It went something like this:

Husband:    Do you WANT to preach to the congregation?

Me:                NO!

Husband:    Do you WANT to teach the Men’s Sunday school class?

Me:                HELL NO!

Husband:    Then what’s the problem?

Me:                 Sigh.

My husband is not a sexist.  Much.  Just kidding, he’s not.  However he IS an upper middle class, conservative white guy.  He has NEVER been told he can’t do something.  He was never told, in pre-Title IX days, that he couldn’t play a particular sport because of his gender.   200 years ago he would have been allowed to vote, and 2,000 years ago he would have been permitted to own property in virtually every culture on the planet.  I, on the other hand, couldn’t vote until relatively recently, and 2,000 years ago would have been little better than a 2 legged cow.  So he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.  If I didn’t want to do it myself, why was it an issue?  I’m getting all riled up again, reliving the conversation.  Sigh.

What I did was read.  A lot.  And I learned that for each Christian denomination there was a different position on women in the church.  Thank God for that.  And many of those positions discussed a need to “apply a different lens” depending on what one was reading in the Bible.  Some truths are timeless.  Don’t murder, don’t lie, don’t steal.  I’m on board with that find those to be pretty applicable in any decade, century or millennia.  Illustrative lessons, the parables, require a lens that takes the timeless moral of the story and applies that moral to today’s situations.  Pretty simple.  Jesus’ parables about, well virtually everything, are still thematically applicable to most events today.

My real dilemma with the Southern Baptist church came with the historical lens.  Do I believe that Paul said what he said?  Absolutely – I believe he said that women should be quiet in church, that they should cover their heads and that they should not preach to men.  Do I believe that the exact same standard should be applied today?  Of course not.  In Paul’s time most women were not educated so why would you want them teaching men?  Or kids?  Or anyone?  The fact that women were NOT eligible for the same education as men is another issue for another day, but suffice it to say that uneducated people probably shouldn’t be teaching other people.  Shout out to Billy Joe Jim Bob teaching Sunday school today because he has a penis.

That simply doesn’t make sense in our world today.  The spirit of God is timeless.  Humanity striving to be more enlightened, like Jesus or Buddha, or whomever you see as an enlightened being, is why I think God put us all here together.  Loving each other as ourselves is timeless.

We don’t continue to teach the world is flat, nor do we teach that women and minorities are second class citizens in this day and age.  In no other place in the United States of America have I ever heard, with my own ears, that intelligent, professional women should still be relegated to the status of chattel (or cattle) as they were 2,000 years ago.  This same doctrine teaches that women should remain with their husbands, even if they and their children are being abused.

Wow.  That sounds like a couple of recent GOP Congressional votes, doesn’t it?

Dual Minimum Wage

There are at least two types of workers that are competing for minimum wage jobs.  As I see it, from a purely unscientific perspective, the two large groupings of these workers are part time and full time workers.  The defining criteria between full and part time are chiefly and not  the number of hours worked.  Given that the 8 AM to 5 PM 40 hour work week is morphing into 30 hours a week averaged across a week, the universe of full time employees will surely be expanding. 

For better or for worse, because it is the current state of our country’s economy, even after the ACA goes into effect in 2015 there will still be those who depend on fast food, retail, or other minimum wage, unskilled employment as their primary source of income.  At the risk of over-generalizing the profile of a part time worker, I see those that seek part time employment as simply desiring to add income.  While this list is clearly not comprehensive, part time employees would include full time students, people with other full time jobs, retirees; stay at home moms looking for work while the kids are at school – basically anyone looking for supplementary income.  These types of workers optimally would not depend on part time work as their primary income source.

Full time workers, conversely, are those people that are working for the sole purpose of generating a primary income.  It is these people, and their families, that deserve earnings above the subsistence level.  In addition to health insurance, a full time worker who devotes their time and indeed their spiritual energy to the success of their employer should be deserving of at least a living wage. 

I believe there is room for a dual minimum wage – one for part time workers that have other primary sources of income, and one for workers that meet the criteria of “full time” under the Affordable Health Care Act. 

The other piece of that puzzle is what to do about companies whose business models depend on part time, low wage workers (shout out to Walmart).  One would hope that if a dual minimum wage were implemented along with the new ACA “full time” standard that there would be a mass exodus from the Walmarts of Kentucky to companies offering employment along with a little bit of dignity.

At the end of the day, isn’t it about dignity?  Don’t most of us want to feel proud of whatever activity into which we invest our time and energy?  If I work like a dog for a company that won’t invest in me I’m not sticking around long.  And while I DO stick around my work product might not be the best.  Once again, it seems like Democratic principles such as a decent living wage, health care to support a healthy workforce, and compassionate business models CAN and DO lead to better business overall.  What company doesn’t want a healthy, strong, loyal workforce?  Democratic principles, forged into our working psyche by labor unions, express and lead to a strong motivated workforce, and a healthy sustainable economy.