Geezer Gas

I feel the Senior Citizens, of which I am one, need a place to express their thoughts and goals. We need to be heard, and our voices will speak from this corner.

Name:
Location: Sious Falls, South Dakota

I am an avid fisherman which is an addiction I inherited from my Dad. I teach classes in custom fishing rod building. I started fooling with computers when few companies had a computer, and even fewer individuals had a PC. Today I teach computer classes for fellow seniors at our local senior center. I am married to a Master Gardener, so I spend a lot of time digging beds for her plants. I spend a lot of time admiring the achievements of my three sons and their offsprings. Most of all my wonderful soulmate keeps my life alive and exciting.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Part D, the Joke



I am always amazed at the people we elect to public office, in particular to Congress.  I believe these individuals enter politics with a host of lofty ideals they willingly express in their campaigns.  They want to do things differently.  They’ve had enough of the way our government is being run. Then, they win the election.  I think they go to Washington DC, and when they go through baggage check, they leave their brains.  That can be the only answer as to why these once normal, intelligent human beings desert all reasonable thought, and pass some of the legislation they do.

Come to think of it, perhaps someone is giving them cocktails that are made with St. Nicholas essence, causing them to suddenly want to give away everything they touch, including the entire financial future of our present teenagers.  No, it’s not that, I think they are just stupid.  

Prime example, Part D, a drug entitlement program given to all on Medicare, whether they need it or not. I believe that if you can pay for your medications, then pay for them.  If you can’t, then an assistance program is called for.  Simple?  Yes, that’s the way it should be.  But Congress thinks differently.  I assume they passed it so they can use it in their next campaign, “Look what I did for our seniors.”

Here are the flaws in this idiot piece of legislation.  They made Part D so complicated few can understand it.  But, that’s the norm for anything Congress does.  But let’s count off the mistakes.  

First, the overwhelming costs.  Congress was sold a bill of goods in order to get Part D passed.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported the cost of the program at 400 billion.  This report ignored the fact that the CMS head, Richard Foster, knew the cost would come closer to 534 billion.  Six weeks after Part D was enacted and put into lawn, the Congressional Budget Office was forced to report the estimated cost of Part D would come close to 557.7 billion. Hey, what’s another billion or two more when you’re after votes? Anyway, the ones that will pay for this largess are not even old enough to vote yet.  The reality of this lunacy is that Part D is it provides benefits to those that don’t need it, and does nothing whatsoever to improve health care.

Second, some ”Buddy Benefits.” You don’t have to look too deep in the list of political supporters to find our largest corporations.  These campaign donations always help to swing legislation their way.  So, Congress has found another way to support them in Medicare Part D.  Most of our major corporations have retirement programs. Many of these include some form of healthcare and assistance with drug costs. Under Part D, our government will reward these corporations with a 28%, tax free, cash rebate to help pay for the drugs the corporations were already under contract to pay for.  Isn’t that nice?  General Motors will get 4 billion a year in cash, tax free.  Verizon, 1.3 billion, BellSouth 572 million, Delphi, 500 million, American Airlines, 415 million, John Deere, 400 million and on down the line.

What about those corporations that have drug plans as a part of their benefits package?  An increasing number of those are dropping that benefit, and letting Part D take over.  The estimated aggregate profit increase in this move is at 8 billion per year.  That, too, is tax-free.

It is going to get worse.  Do you recall the recent stories about the huge profits the petroleum companies have scored recently? This Part D nonsense will produce profits to the pharmaceutical industry that will make the oil barons look like schoolyard bullies hustling lunch money.  

The drug manufacturers, and drug retailers can raise prices.  And why not, the government is now paying all or part of the retail price.  And that leads to a major problem.  This legislation prohibits the government from using its buying power to negotiate lower prices.  So, in the sort run, your prices for medications will shoot up.  In fact, price increases have been steadily rising every since the first hint of Part D was proposed.  And they won’t stop going up until Congress takes what is surely the next step, price controls. That’s what Canada did, and that’s why medications are cheaper north of the border.  But price controls are not the long-term answer either.

Price controls will surely dry up the supply of new drugs.  When pharmaceutical find their profits are largely restricted, monies for research will be diminished, and with that will go a lot of research for new drugs.  In the long run it will mean some people will die because price controls prevented the development of new drugs that could have saved them.

For all of these reason, I believe that Congress has passed the worst piece of legislation ever.  It will lead to higher taxes, price controls, and reduce the supply of life saving drugs.  I think it is noteworthy that AARP were the heaviest supporters of the bill.  And when it was passed, this king of do-gooders, started a new and intensive attach on President Bush’s Social Security reform.

I for one will be on line at www.ontheissues.org.  There I can check the voting record of every member of Congress.  I will seek out and encourage every one of the DC crowd that voted against Part D, to keep up the fight.  Someday, common sense might win out.  It certainly didn’t win with Medicare Part D, the great American Joke.



  

Part D, The American Farce



I am always amazed at the people we elect to public office, in particular to Congress.  I believe these individuals enter politics with a host of lofty ideals they willingly express in their campaigns.  They want to do things differently.  They’ve had enough of the way our government is being run. Then, they win the election.  I think they go to Washington DC, and when they go through baggage check, they leave their brains.  That can be the only answer as to why these once normal, intelligent human beings desert all reasonable thought, and pass some of the legislation they do.

Come to think of it, perhaps someone is giving them cocktails that are made with St. Nicholas essence, causing them to suddenly want to give away everything they touch, including the entire financial future of our present teenagers.  No, it’s not that, I think they are just stupid.  

Prime example, Part D, a drug entitlement program given to all on Medicare, whether they need it or not. I believe that if you can pay for your medications, then pay for them.  If you can’t, then an assistance program is called for.  Simple?  Yes, that’s the way it should be.  But Congress thinks differently.  I assume they passed it so they can use it in their next campaign, “Look what I did for our seniors.”

Here are the flaws in this idiot piece of legislation.  They made Part D so complicated few can understand it.  But, that’s the norm for anything Congress does.  But let’s count off the mistakes.  

First, the overwhelming costs.  Congress was sold a bill of goods in order to get Part D passed.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported the cost of the program at 400 billion.  This report ignored the fact that the CMS head, Richard Foster, knew the cost would come closer to 534 billion.  Six weeks after Part D was enacted and put into lawn, the Congressional Budget Office was forced to report the estimated cost of Part D would come close to 557.7 billion. Hey, what’s another billion or two more when you’re after votes? Anyway, the ones that will pay for this largess are not even old enough to vote yet.  The reality of this lunacy is that Part D is it provides benefits to those that don’t need it, and does nothing whatsoever to improve health care.

Second, some ”Buddy Benefits.” You don’t have to look too deep in the list of political supporters to find our largest corporations.  These campaign donations always help to swing legislation their way.  So, Congress has found another way to support them in Medicare Part D.  Most of our major corporations have retirement programs. Many of these include some form of healthcare and assistance with drug costs. Under Part D, our government will reward these corporations with a 28%, tax free, cash rebate to help pay for the drugs the corporations were already under contract to pay for.  Isn’t that nice?  General Motors will get 4 billion a year in cash, tax free.  Verizon, 1.3 billion, BellSouth 572 million, Delphi, 500 million, American Airlines, 415 million, John Deere, 400 million and on down the line.

What about those corporations that have drug plans as a part of their benefits package?  An increasing number of those are dropping that benefit, and letting Part D take over.  The estimated aggregate profit increase in this move is at 8 billion per year.  That, too, is tax-free.

It is going to get worse.  Do you recall the recent stories about the huge profits the petroleum companies have scored recently? This Part D nonsense will produce profits to the pharmaceutical industry that will make the oil barons look like schoolyard bullies hustling lunch money.  

The drug manufacturers, and drug retailers can raise prices.  And why not, the government is now paying all or part of the retail price.  And that leads to a major problem.  This legislation prohibits the government from using its buying power to negotiate lower prices.  So, in the sort run, your prices for medications will shoot up.  In fact, price increases have been steadily rising every since the first hint of Part D was proposed.  And they won’t stop going up until Congress takes what is surely the next step, price controls. That’s what Canada did, and that’s why medications are cheaper north of the border.  But price controls are not the long-term answer either.

Price controls will surely dry up the supply of new drugs.  When pharmaceutical find their profits are largely restricted, monies for research will be diminished, and with that will go a lot of research for new drugs.  In the long run it will mean some people will die because price controls prevented the development of new drugs that could have saved them.

For all of these reason, I believe that Congress has passed the worst piece of legislation ever.  It will lead to higher taxes, price controls, and reduce the supply of life saving drugs.  I think it is noteworthy that AARP were the heaviest supporters of the bill.  And when it was passed, this king of do-gooders, started a new and intensive attach on President Bush’s Social Security reform.

I for one will be on line at www.ontheissues.org.  There I can check the voting record of every member of Congress.  I will seek out and encourage every one of the DC crowd that voted against Part D, to keep up the fight.  Someday, common sense might win out.  It certainly didn’t win with Medicare Part D, the great American Joke.



  

Monday, January 16, 2006

Medicare D is a Major Farce

I hate to go on a rant, but at times I just can’t hold it back. Maybe rant isn’t the best choice of words. Here’s the dilemma. When the price of gas goes over two or even three dollars a gallon, I get ticked off, but I pay it, I have no choice.  Then I read articles about the petroleum companies scoring obscene profits.  I say to myself, and to anyone else that will listen, “The profits these petroleum companies are making is obscene.  It’s not right. The government should do something about it.”

Yeah, what?  Forget the fact that these oil guys are lined up waiting to provide goods, services and campaign donations to any politico, regardless of party.  But when we start creating laws and regulations that define company profits we take steps toward the erosion of our whole American business structure.  Oil companies make the profits they do because they can.  We’d like them to be nice guys and say, “Gee…it’s not right for people to have to pay that much for gas, so we’ll just lower the price so you’ll think we are good corporate citizens. “  Never happen.  Nor do I see on company wanting to gain a larger market share by lowering their prices to gain more customers.  So, we learn to live with it...not happily, but it just becomes a way of life.

Then, our Washington guys see the price of prescription drugs is creating havoc with a lot of citizens and their budgets.  Our American way says we can’t legislate against the drug companies, for the same
collective reasons we can’t legislate against their oil brethren.  So these elected thinkers concoct the Medicare D program.  It ‘s designed to assist folks that can’t afford the drugs that will keep them alive, by helping with the cost.  The fact that the regulations they wrote will set a record for total confusion is beside the fact.

Enter the drug companies and their fellow conspirators.  They now see the new drug program as a way to insure their future harvest of billions in profits.  This potential windfall makes the oil barons look like bullies in the schoolyard conning kids out of their lunch money.

If you can’t pay for or don’t want to pay for gas to keep your car operating, you can walk, bike, car-pool or take public transportation. The alternative to paying or not paying for drugs offers no similar solution.  You either pay, or get sicker, or even the ultimate protest to drug profits, go on to another world.

And damn it, I don’t think it’s fair or right.  A host of articles I’ve read show some drugs have an ingredient  cost of pennies, and are wholesaled for several dollars.

Here’s just one of the many examples I’ve been able to track down. Xanax is a drug that is used to relieve mild depression and anxiety. Cost of the active ingredients for a month’s supply, about 21/2 cents.  It retails for $136.79 for 100 pills.  Mark up, 569,958%.  I realize there is cost of manufacture, advertising, packaging, research and development…and probably pages more of costs the drug companies could list.  So, let’s look at the wholesale price of this drug.  Retailers can purchase Xanax anywhere from $2.20 to 2.40 for a month’s supply.  Now for the fun.

A members-only store, Costco, sells Xanax for $7.67 for a month’s supply, or a mark up of 236% (the low). Walgreen’s was about in the middle, price wise, at $15.99 or a 600% mark up and the high was a Sav-Mor drug store that sold the same one month supply for over $44 bucks, or a markup of a whopping 1873%. These were all in the Detroit area where the research was done.

I think you’ll agree that this can’t go on.  But I have an answer.  Congress has to act and do so quickly.  If any drug store, independent or chain, wishes to participate in the new prescription drug plan, they must accept a price per pill list.  This list will be developed by an independent group that will have no representation from the drug industry, insurance companies, or hospitals. Failure to subscribe to this list and they will prevented from filling prescriptions under Medicare D. The list will provide the drug store and the wholesale distribution system a reasonable profit, say in the neighborhood of 100%. This doesn’t restrict either the drug companies or the drug stores from making a profit.  If they wish to sell their product under this government drug assistance program, they can.  Bottom line? The cost to the government will be reduced by an epic amount. Citizens will no longer have to choose between life saving drugs or food.  It’s a win-win situation.

But the problem is easy to spot.  Will those inside the Beltway subscribe to a plan that might restrict or cut off their pipeline to campaign contributions?  Our “elected ones” seem to ignore what’s really best for their constituents.

An elected member of the Michigan House of Representatives was concocting a bill to protect state pharmacies from unfair competition from out of state mail order drug companies.  The Rep stated his 4 drug stores were charging a low, competitive rates.  When a reporter showed him his stores were marking up drugs from 1000 to 1357%, he said he’d be happy to look at the evidence.  His bill went no farther.

I still think my plan is worth looking into.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Time to Change

As I was working on my blog, I got an email from a close friend.  She attached a newspaper article that detailed the stabbing death of a friend and colleague.  She was shocked and hurt.  

Though I didn’t know the lady that was killed, I realized my life, like most others, has had some unexpected twists and turn.  What this brought to mind is my TAT Syndrome, “There’s Always Tomorrow.”  I’ve done it most of my life, put off today what you can do tomorrow.  Of course it makes little difference if I mow the lawn today or tomorrow, or get books to the library this week.  But the more serious aspects of the syndrome have truly affected my life.

I spent the majority of my wage earning years involved in many activities other than my work and my marriage.  The latter I lost, and with it the joy of watching my sons grow.  I ignored overtures from my folks to come visit, the syndrome again.  

As the New Year starts I have renewed my vow not to succumb to this self inflicted “disease.” I cannot afford it.  When my Dad died, I was on the road working, and had not visited him in many months.  Just a little over a year ago my Mom died.  I was not there, but had planned a visit when the winter weather got better.  When I look at the new calendar, I realize I will turn 80 this year, and I don’t know how many things I can put off.  Rather than take the chance on missing anything, I want to start today, right now.  With luck, I can invest in another blog a year from now, and see how well I did. It took some strength to quit a career of smoking, and a lot of painful hard work to quit an equally devastating devotion to liquor.  If I put those completely behind me, than I guess I can do this.  I will, damn straight

One of my plans was to sort out a bunch of stuff that I’ve collected in my office.  When I went through an old file, I found something I’d written over a decade ago.  It underscores my TAT Syndrome

I Wish
On a table in the living room,
On the wall here in my den
Are pictures of my Dad and I
And I took both of them.


I took this when my Dad and I
Went far north to fish.Catching the biggest Walleye
Was then my only wish.

When I took the other one,
40 years had slipped on by
But there were a lot of memories
Shared by my Dad and I.

A pal, a friend and inspiration
More than he’d ever know
But as I set here now,
How I wish I’d told him so.

I seldom said, “What should I do?”
Or “Which way should I go?”
Yet he helped to guide my way,
More times than I would know.


I guess I learned from my mistakes,
Though I repeated one or two
He was there to pick me up;
Never asked, “Now what did you do?”

When I reflect on life with him,
Oh yes he was a man.
I hope to be as great as he,
Though try is all I can.

A pal, a friend, and inspiration,
More than he’d even know
But now that Dad is long since gone,
How I wish I told him so.

Oh, I’ve also decided that I won’t postpone winning the lottery.  But wait, I have to buy a ticket first. Damn that syndrome

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bye Bye Ma Bell

I grew up with a telephone. Today my grandkids hardly use their phones, if they even have one. Cell phones and online computer calling seems to have replaced the old telephone.

As a kid I visited relatives that lived on farms, and their phone was on a party line. You had to count the rings to know if that call was for you or a neighbor. You knew by the rings who the call was for. When you wanted to make a call, you would listen first to see if someone else was on the line. You could listen in on someone else's call. It wasn't nice, but secretly fun. Even in Minneapolis we had party lines. They were cheaper than private lines. Operators had to place your call.

When I lived in Escanaba, Michigan, I was a member of the local Lions Club. The club undertook a stage promotion to raise money for the club. The performer was Rubinoff and his Magic Violin. He was well known for his years with Phil Spitanly and his All Girl Orchestra. Rubinoff was a soloist. I guess because I worked at a radio station, I should handle the promotion. I must have done a good job because several weeks after the concert I got a call from Rudy Valley, who wanted me to help him promote a concert tour of the Upper Peninsula.

At the time I was doing a morning show on the local radio station. When my phone rang an operator that was either awe struck or excited said, "John, you've got a call from Rudy Valley!" A lot of people asked me that week why Rudy Valley was calling me. I wonder how they found out?

Today the phone company has really changed. Everything is automated, and I hate it. If you want to ask about a bill, for example, you have to punch a whole lot of buttons to finally get to a live person. Their advertising sort of reflects where they are now. Today I heard a telephone company ad promoting high-speed computer hook ups and satellite TV. I guess they are tired of seeing the local cable company promote TV, high-speed Internet access and long distance phone service.

The phone book gets worse every year. To save paper, they've kept the book the same size as last year, but the print is a lot smaller. The Yellow Pages are just as bad. Don't try finding an attorney. In my phone book there are ten full page ads for attorneys before you get to the alphabetical listings. And those are tough to follow because they are squeezed between more ads. I got a mini directory for my office. The print is so small I need a magnifying glass to read anything. With my old eyes it's just too much work to find a number. I now use it to raise my computer monitor an inch and a half.

My wife and I both have cell phones. We talk with our kids and grandkids by cell phone. I can't remember the last time our telephone bill included any long distance charges. In fact I wonder why we even have a "land line" any more. We never use it. Maybe we keep it around as a reminder of how much fun a telephone used to be. And how it was almost exciting when someone called.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Is it really the Star Spangled Banner?


Sunday, November 13, 2005


Defiling our National Anthem

Our National Anthem is a tough song to sing. Over the years many have said we should have a different one that any one can sing. Fine! But until then, we have the Star Spangled Banner. I don’t need to dig into the history and all it means. It is our National Anthem.Now, here comes a host of singers, soloists, groups, and bands that take this beautiful piece of music, and add their own interpretations. Fine. But why do they feel their talents are so great, that they can apply them to this music until it is almost unrecognizable.A young, “world famous” recording artist did the Star Spangled Banner before the 4th game of the World Series. Great voice, horrible arrangement. He added enough extra notes to make another completely different song. He also rearranged in such a way that the lyrics were the only clue that he was singing our National Anthem.I have no objection to these artists taking any song ever written and adding their interpretation to it. Bury it in any arrangement they choose. That’s music and they have the freedom to do with what they wish. I for one just tune them out, instead preferring to hear the music the way it was written. Of course, I immediately date myself and show I am out of touch with today’s music In my younger years my folks wondered why I listened to the music I did, as I wonder today why kids listen to the music they do. Each generation seems to have their favorite music.Back to the Star Spangled Banner. Why can’t these present day artists realize the glorious history of this anthem, and sing it from their hearts? I’ve heard many renditions that were clean, clear, and memorable. Today’s generation could say these artists are making it memorable by applying their talents to it and doing it their way. Nuts. Next, they will probably say our flag should be “interpreted” like they do the Anthem, and change the colors, add polka dots or whatever distortion they feel makes it memorable.A bit of humor during the World Series occurred at the 7th inning stretch of game 3. Another “well known country artist “ that I’d never heard of, sang God Bless America. Somehow she and her guitar were in two different keys. She was flat beyond the imagination. It was as funny as the National Anthem vocalist was sad.
posted by Grandpa John 6:29 PM
Friday, October 28, 2005

A poster in a fast food eatery
A Burger King is the last place you’d expect to find a memorable phase that really struck home. I did. I took my wife’s seven-year old grandson for his favorite meal, a king fry and a glass of water. Not my choice, but he loves it. On the wall was a large poster with this phrase, “Unless you try to do something beyond what you’ve already mastered, you’ll never grow.” That struck home. It rang with the same flavor as my oft-said expression, “I can hardly wait to see what I’m like when I’m fully grown.”But in both are the reasons why I am teaching computers to seniors, like myself. As I stare 80 in the face I could choose to sit back and do little except live day to day. Triple by-pass surgery over a year ago is a reminder that the human condition is fragile at best. Instead, I chose a whole new career, teaching computers. Most of what I know about computers is self-taught through the trial and error method. When I joined our local senior center, I agreed to coach computer classes. That led to reading the manuals for each of the classes taught. When asked, I said I would teach a class. But the revelation was not my teaching, but those in my class.In my first class the youngster was 67, and the oldster a bright eyed 92-year old. Before I started, I asked each of the 10 attendees why they were in a computer class, and what did they hope to learn? Several wanted to learn word processing in order to write their family history. Another had agreed to take over the newsletter at her church. Email was the number one reason for the class. They wanted to stay in touch with friends and families.These seniors had mastered the art of living. They’d raised families, enjoyed the grand and great grand children. Their life’s work ranged from farming, to factories, from homemakers to attorneys. But one and all had a thirst to learn more. To grow. To acquire a skill that would extend their joy of living. And I enjoyed being a part of their growth, for I, too, grew with them
posted by Grandpa John 6:25 AM
Sunday, October 23, 2005

At 79, what am I doing learning to write and post my thoughts to a blog? Yes, I have things to say. But most of what I plan to share are the thoughts of a great many gray heads like mine. These are folks that I spend a lot of time with at our local senior center.We have over 4,000 active members, of which the majority are 55+ with a host of them in their late 80's. They are talkative, willing to express their opinions, and can talk about a world of things besides their aches and pains, and grandchildren.I don't know that we have an active voice. The empty suits in DC want to battle for our vote. Maybe battle is not a good choice of words. Maybe they want to buy our votes with a handful of programs that will make our life easier, and stretch our budget. We instinctively know there are strings. And like most of the trash they dole out, it will be complicated and difficult to understand. The final plan will require a third person to try and explain it.The Center has trained a large group of people to explain the new drug plan to us. Some of us understand it and can see some relief in paying for drugs. Others see it as join now, like it or not, or we'll penalize you later. We'll watch it.Most of the folks I share lunch with, voted Tom Daschle out of office, realizing his "all for you fellow South Dakotans" was really more like, "I'm all for what is best for me first and foremost." They also returned GW to office, and now are regretting it.When you're 80, you spent your youth in the depression or post deparession age. We personally know what fiscal responsibility is. Now, we see our President as a spending fool, with no conscious worries about the future. He lacks the guts to cut pork; he lacks the talent to lead. How's that for openers? And it gets worse from there. Regretably, I voted for him, twiceSo, from here on in I'll share what the gray brigade is talking about, at least those from the flatlands.Grandpa John
posted by Grandpa John 1:18 PM