Care To Change Your Medicare Coverage?

Just did a little jig from mailbox to desk.

The materials I need to make a decision about my Medicare coverage between October 15 and December 7 have arrived in a humongous package from North Carolina Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Remember the Burger King jingle, “It Takes Two Hands To Handle a Whopper?” Took two hands to get this thing in the front door.
Now let’s see what’s in this largest and heaviest envelope I’ve ever received:

1) 21-page summary….check
2) 152-page “Medicare & You 2015” from the Feds….check
3) 159-page “Member Materials”….check
4) 1,047-page provider directory….check
5) 22-page pharmacy directory….check
Total pages: 1,401….check

And congratulations to the feds for the booklet with the fewest number of pages….

Now I grant you, the vast majority of this stuff is lists of primary care physicians, specialists, hospitals and pharmacies, most of which can be ignored. But my heart sings at having over twice as many pages to pour through to find the few entries that apply to me, about twice as many pages as the last Doris Kearns Goodwin history book I read.

I’ve set aside six hours over the next week or so to find out what’s in those pages. My fear is that I’ll need more time. My other fear is that I’ll understand what I read but will forget it as soon as I turn the page.

On the other hand, I’ve already determined my monthly premium is going up 51%, my out-of-pocket maximums 44% and my copays only 25%. What else do I need to know until I need to know it?

I hope all you geezers out there are as excited as I am.


Tax Dodging, Corporate Style

That’s the word President Obama used to describe corporations that, rather than take advantage of all the tax loopholes Congress has provided, choose to acquire foreign firms, or even move out of the country, to lower their taxes.
In 1952, the corporate share of federal tax revenues was 33%. The projection for 2014: 10.5%.
The corporate complaint: the U.S. corporate tax rate (35%) is too high. Yet according to “The Artful Dodgers,” an article on page 26 of the September 22, 2014 issue of TIME magazine by Rana Foroohar, the average tax rate for the Fortune 500 is 19.4% “…and a third pay less than 10%.”
Companies that are keeping their money outside the U.S. are “…more or less renouncing their corporate citizenship to avoid taxes.” They are forgetting the tax breaks and the benefits they reaped from “…U.S. talent and markets…” making them big and profitable in the first place.
In “The Entrepreneurial State,” Mariana Mazzucato points out that many corporate innovations “…came out of state-funded research.” But then the profits are stashed in Ireland, the Cayman Islands, or some other tax haven, resulting “…little return to the economy or the state.”
Should not American prosperity be shared by raising the level of the standard of living for all Americans and not stashed in some other country to further enrich the corporations and their cadre of managers?

What Not to Do About Russia and Ukraine

Just had an email that included several European political cartoons depicting President Obama as helpless and clueless about what to do about Putin and the situation in Ukraine.

I certainly don’t know what to do either. I do recall something called the Crimean War that happened a decade or so before our Civil War, War Between the States, War of Northern Aggression, whatever. Russia was defeated in that one by Britain, France, and Turkey, but the war did give us Lord Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade,” the expression “Valley of Death,” and a button-up sweater named after the Light Brigade’s Commander, Lord Cardigan. (I made that last part up.)

However I do submit the following actions that should not be considered for the current crisis:

First, a blockade as used in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962; it’s neither practical nor feasible. Russia doesn’t have enough coastline (which is quite possibly almost the entire reason Putin is doing what he is doing in the first place) and we’d look silly putting a bunch of ships in the Black Sea and having another bunch stuck in the ice over by Vladivostok, where Sara Palin can see them from her window.

Second, sending in Seal Team Six to relocate the Russians who currently live in Ukraine to various points of light in Russia.

(Don’t forget or become confused; this is a list of actions that should not, I repeat should not, be considered.)

And finally, declaring war, which would without a doubt be the dumbest thing ever what with the existence of all those nuclear weapons and all. Although if war could be declared without actually shooting or bombing anyone, kind of like duking it out on our iPads, I might reconsider.

In any event, this horrifying situation in Ukraine reminds me of sitting around years ago with some very smart friends trying to define justice and deciding it was easy to recognize injustice when we saw it, and possibly nod in agreement about certain things that we thought constituted just results, but we couldn’t come up with an acceptable definition of justice itself. Which translates into I don’t think what’s going on in Ukraine is justice, but I don’t know what justice would look and feel like either.

I do know that when I visited Kiev, Ukraine in 1966 along with 25 or so other high school Russian language teachers, a study trip funded by the National Science Foundation, the Ukrainians I met never missed a chance to complain about Russia, having to learn and use Russian, the street signs that had to show both Ukrainian and Russian, and the subservience of Ukraine to Russia in general.

Keep Those Books!

Took a spill the other day in our garage. Three stitches above the left eyebrow, a shiner (black eye to the young’uns), and a couple of strained wrists. Thankful it wasn’t more serious.

Tripped over a box of books collected for donation to the Wake Forest Friends of the Library.

Older son’s reaction: “See. You should never get rid of any books.”