Will The Real Donald Trump Please Stand Up?

We American voters are often guilty of being gullible, and it seems that Mr. Trump has been playing to our collective gullibility.  If that isn’t so, why would he now be changing into what he hopes is a Donald Trump for whom we can vote without holding our noses?

His new political shepherds are busy trying to rewrite the image Trump has been portraying of the bombastic, say-anything-to-get-noticed rough and tumble politician.  They are assuring Republicans that Trump really isn’t the guy he showed himself to be to this point, and that this image is the real Donald Trump which we can take pride in seeing in the Oval Office.  Trump is “evolving” so they say.

We are being told that Trump had to go through the first persona apparently to attract attention and to say things that were intended for nothing other than the gathering of publicity.  We are being assured that the real Donald Trump is now emerging and that we’re gonna’ love this version…just you wait and see!

I feel so much better now to know that the utterer of crude, coarse remarks doesn’t really exist; but I wonder, then, what parts of the first set of utterances I am supposed to believe and what parts I’m supposed to simply ignore as if they had never been uttered?

I feel so much better now to know that Trump will actually be a smart and reasoned person sitting in that Oval Office and that all the world’s leaders will come on bended knee to be received.  Except, those, of course, whom he has already offended to the degree they’ll not pay any attention to him except if he threatens to build a wall…which may or may not have been a real position since the words came from a less-than-real Donald Trump which we’re being urged now to ignore.

I believe this is the first time since I’ve come of voting age that there has been a fake political persona paving the way for the ‘real thing’.  The fact that I am apparently so stupid, in Trump’s opinion, as to have needed to have been bamboozled with an actor acting out to get my attention is not supposed to bother me.  After all, this has all been for my own good…and ideally, I will be smart enough to accept that “fact” and vote for him.

This has indeed been a crazy election season, and this ‘confession’ has only succeeded in adding to the craziness.

I am now apparently down to hoping that Ted Cruz’ approach to assuring Republican delegates who have cast their ‘required’ ballot(s), that he is the person for whom they should thereafter cast their ‘free-thinker’ ballot(s) until he, Cruz, reaches the requisite 1,237 votes in the Republican convention.  It is a tenuous thread but I’m down to that, or so it seems.  What a strange election season this has been so far, and there is still much more to come.

Is ObamaCare Financially Fit?

ObamaCare is supposedly running very well if we are to believe those (liberals) who preach to us from Washington, D.C.  And yet, UnitedHealth Group, a major player in the world of health care insurance announced yesterday that it is dropping its participation in ObamaCare in 18 states.  That is a major statement by a major player and bears watching closely.

There is something amiss here since UnitedHealth is very good at what it does and it knows its business.  We are told about the wonderful uptake of ObamaCare by the government, but here is a giant in the business telling us it doesn’t want to play any longer, at least in 18 states.

There were subtle indications earlier that there might be an issue.  This past year during the peak of the open enrollment season, health insurance agents told me of a seeming issue in that UnitedHealth was not obliging the requests for information necessary to permit these agents to close sales of their products.  That action was directly opposite what would be expected and was opposite what UnitedHealth has done in earlier open enrollment periods.

Another interesting possibility is this:  the insurers were skittish about the lack of underwriting (the ability for the insurer to look into what the risks of insuring a certain person would be) in ObamaCare.  The officials originally told the insurers not to worry for ObamaCare also provided for retrospective reviews and additional money to be made available to assist those insurers that had gotten hit with heavier than expected claims.  I am not aware of any payments being made retrospectively, and that might also be a driving force for UnitedHealth to simply say, to heck with ObamaCare.  If you, the government, want us, the insurer, to blindly walk into mega claims issues without your help to offset “adverse selection”, we don’t want to play in your sandbox any longer.

“Adverse selection” is where the insurer is forced to take all comers without regard to health history and to take them at the regular premium rate paid by everyone.  Insurers can be turned upside down (pay more out than is taken in) if they get too many bad claims in the bargain.  The pool of uninsured people from which a large number of ObamaCare insureds came would’ve been very likely to include a significant number of bad risks.  I suspect this is what UnitedHealth is reacting to since it wants as much solid business as it can get, and bowing out of this marketplace is simply contrary to good business decision-making if it was profitable.

I would not be surprised to learn somewhere down the road that the government promise of help in defraying excess claims cost did not occur, or occurred but not in the order of magnitude necessary to make sense in a business setting.

There are quite a few much smaller entities in the ObamaCare world and they have not made any noise about similar issues.  It is possible those entities were not adversely impacted or that they had a much smaller share of the market and were able to ride out any bad claims impact, or at least delay the impact hoping that future business would be good business and help to offset the bad business.  In some cases, these entities seemed ill-prepared to enter into this jungle given size and financial capacity.  This reminds me of the early days of health maintenance organizations when HMOs that were hit by excess claims were given financial relief.

Frankly, if UnitedHealth is unable to sustain itself in the Obamacare marketplaces, I don’t see how any other company could do so either.   These guys are pros and have or had a ton of money behind them.

This whole scheme, ObamaCare, has been troubling for me since its inception.  It was simply too good to be true, and it came from a government that seemed only to want to give stuff away to perpetuate its existence.

Trump Wins New York…

Was anyone surprised at the win posted by Donald Trump in New York?  Absolutely not, since this is Mr. Trump’s world, and for him to have lost the State of New York would’ve been almost impossible.  Does this mean that Ted Cruz is down and out?  Absolutely not.

The Republican Convention is going to move ahead with the same byzantine rules in place that it started this season with and, notwithstanding Trump’s entreaties to the contrary, that process is not going to be altered simply because it doesn’t play into Trump’s hands as he believes everything in this world should.

The magic number of 1,237 votes on the first ballot at the Republican Convention is still the magic number no matter how strenuously Trump rails against it.  And, if Trump does not have that number going in, he will not be magically made the candidate just because his name is Donald Trump.  All his protestations serve no useful purpose.  Donald Trump is just like everyone else in the Republican primary race and that is, of course, blatantly unfair in Trump-land.

Cruz reportedly has successfully outmaneuvered The Donald so far as the Republican Convention goes because his staff knew the rules (just as Trump’s staff should’ve known the rules), and has apparently locked up sufficient second round ballots to come very close to winning or to win outright, since the majority of the Republican convention-goers are locked in for only the first ballot by their respective state party rules.  More are freed up after the second vote, etc. until all are permitted to vote their conscience.

Mr. Trump, of course, disapproves, since this puts him at a personally-induced disadvantage by not having had the foresight to engage in the same second ballot and beyond securing of additional votes as has Ted Cruz.  That either was because Trump didn’t study the rules, or didn’t think it possible that he wouldn’t win on the first ballot.  This is not some nefarious scheme concocted by the Republican National Committee; this is the way things have worked for some time at Republican conventions whether byzantine or not.

Donald Trump has great difficulty not believing everything he has ever said about himself. We poor voters do not have that kind of problem.  If anything, we might be off put by his antics and braggadocio.  But then again, we’re just well-mannered non-New Yorkers not given to false hero-worship.

Ted Cruz is still in the race…and he is still a significant factor, for all Trump’s denigration.

Be Happy, Be Conservative…

I read a piece in the morning Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by a poll worker from Madison, WI who was lamenting her need to require ‘voter ID’ and how she felt that she was wasting the time of voters who had to stand in line to vote.  She professed her dismay as a poll worker in this new world of proving who you say you are before voting.  She is a true liberal and is obviously living in the city in Wisconsin where liberals abound.

I reflected on a blog I wrote the day after the same election talking about how well the election day had gone with ‘voter ID’ required and how many voters were able to cast their votes.

The difference between her and me was simple: she is a liberal and thinks it a shame that people have to be able to prove who they are just to vote; I am a conservative and celebrated the numbers of people we helped as they streamed into the polling place.

I have always felt alive and full of joy as a conservative, but she seems to walk around in a deep funk because of her liberal beliefs.  I was happy to greet voters and I suspect she had a hound-dog face on all the day long…with all due apologies to hound dogs.

This is probably oversimplification on my part, but it seems a reasonably accurate portrayal of the differences I see between us, the difference between a liberal and a conservative.  Liberals seem always to see things that are wrong and need to be fixed while conservatives see things to applaud all through our days even as we note things to change when we have the opportunity.

We conservatives in Wisconsin have been on a great ride; I hope for all of us Wisconsinites that the ride will continue for a good long time to come.  One thing is for sure, us conservatives will not mope around when we find ourselves again in the minority, and we will since that is the ebb and flow of these things; we conservatives will simply set about regaining the majority while continuing to present ourselves with smiles rather than scowls to all we meet.

The lesson is simple:  be happy, be a conservative!

A Hannity Trump Bromance?

A supposedly even-handed televised interview between Sean Hannity and Donald Trump left me almost speechless.

Hannity obviously was supposed to lend journalistic credence to this ‘show’ but the “bromance’ was so evident as to make the whole thing ludicrous.  Hannity would frame what seemed a decent question and then after Trump made a few comments, Hannity would re-direct the discussion to a place he appeared to think would cast Trump in a better light.

This was so blatant as to be sickening.  What was Hannity thinking?  He couldn’t have had his career in mind because this presentation did nothing good for Hannity’s career, at least not his career as a tough journalist.  If he is on the Trump payroll, then he earned his money and then some.  If this was supposed to be an even-handed back-and-forth conversation, it failed miserably in my opinion.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why Hannity would’ve done this to himself.  If he was in his right mind and he appeared to be himself, this was an amateurish display of anything but what we think journalism ought to look like.  It was as if someone asked for a spoof interview to be done.  If that was the case, this spoof will go down in the annals of spoofdom; certainly not in the annals of news people doing what they’re supposed to do.

The phrase that quickly comes to mind is this:  Hannity seemed, obviously, to be in the tank for Trump.  To give you a better idea, if you were so fortunate as to have missed this, even Donald Trump could find nothing that he disliked about the way he was treated.  He was a gracious guest.  That tells you a lot about the ‘hardballs’ that were pitched to him.

Was Hannity interviewing for White House Press Secretary?  Or did he actually think this was a hard-hitting interview?

Trump the Discombobulator…

Donald Trump has managed to discombobulate the Republicans, with that defined as causing them to be confused, disconcerted, upset and frustrated.  Is that what he intended all along or is that simply something he caused without actually setting out with a plan to make that happen?  I think we give him too much credit if we believe he has masterfully orchestrated the current plight of the Republican Party.  But I believe he is also gleefully observing his creation and wishing he had done it on purpose.

Trump is master of making others feel uncomfortable, inferior, ill-equipped and vulnerable.  That is his ‘art of the deal’.  That is largely what his career has been based upon, and it is how he has managed to be the best deal maker ever…at least in his own mind.

He sees the Republican Party as ripe for take-over and he is pressing that case each and every day.  He believes that he is now the only person who can save the Republicans from themselves, and he is going to drive a tough deal if he is expected to ‘save’ the party.  His angst at the way he views himself as being treated by the party likely accounts for the manner in which he conducts himself.  There is nothing small about Trump, certainly not in his self-view.

Simply look at all his conquests.  Look at his television show.  Look at his big airplane and his helicopter.  Look at the beautiful women he has counted as wives.  Look at his buildings and resorts.  Look at his swagger, his cockiness, his disdain for the common people, unless they promise to worship him at the polls.

He claims to be running for President to help the country, but that tends to fly in the face of what he has done in his previous successful ventures.  Trump helps himself and if he can’t avoid it, he also helps the little people along the way…provided they genuflect subserviently in his direction.  His inability, so far at least, to make the Republican Party roll over simply makes him ever more intent on doing so.

Note that Trump never errs, in his mind anyway.  There is always something or someone to blame if his plan goes awry.  The very idea that the Republicans think they can run their party as it has been run for years with the archaic rules about how delegates are counted, and how they can change their votes if they choose in later rounds, is anathema to Donald Trump.

Where will this all end?  I am not sure anyone knows.  I am not even sure we’ll know after it has ended.  This could be among the case studies in political science classes for which no final answer will be found.

If he is elected as our next President, how will he act in office?  The same as he always acts; he knows no other way to conduct himself.  Will he be good for our country?  I can’t see how he would be good for the country.  Is the country strong enough in principal to survive a Trump presidency?  I believe so, but only time will tell if we elect him.

Flat Tax: Possible or Impossible?

Today is April 15th, a day that strikes fear in many hearts across America given that it is income tax filing deadline day…except for the fact that today is also Emancipation day and that has caused the government, in its benevolence, to tell us we have until Monday, April 18th to file this year to avoid late-filing penalties.

This is also the time of year when we hear fleeting references to a flat tax that would replace our current income tax approach.  “You can file on a postcard” is a favorite phrase used to advance the concept.  Would a true flat tax be possible?  What would the implications of a flat tax be to us besides making our lives quite a bit simpler?

There are many approaches to a flat tax, but there is usually a marginal rate applied after a certain amount of income is reached for individuals with the income beneath that level being tax-free.  Businesses would also see a marginal flat tax rate.  There are at least as many variations on a theme as there are proposals for a flat tax system.

One thing that most of these plans have in common is this:  The Internal Revenue Service, or is it the infernal revenue service, would be largely done away with along with the hundreds of thousands of pages of tax code mumbo jumbo.  On the surface, all that sounds good unless you are a tax attorney or an accountant earning a sizeable portion of your income providing advice to clients on this, that and the other approach to minimizing tax impact.

Probably the single biggest stumbling block to the implementation of a flat tax is our Congress.  Those we elect to Congress can become enamored of the tool that is the tax code since they can manipulate it to benefit their constituents even though it might damage another’s constituents.  They can reward entities that financially support their re-election campaigns by favoring those donors when bills make their way through the House and the Senate.

Isn’t it amazing how much a person can be worth financially after serving in the U.S. House or Senate for several terms when he or she was much like you or me when elected the first time?   I am not so much saying that we elect honest people who become less that way after being in Washington for a few terms, as I am saying they find themselves in positions to be rewarded for votes taken in some cases without regard to the pros and cons of that vote as it impacts multiple constituencies.

When we look at where Bill and Hillary Clinton began financially and where they are today, it is simply difficult to see how that could’ve happened without a lot of friends  feeling indebted to them for favors gained.  I don’t think either is worth what they’ve been paid in the recent past for speaking if it weren’t simply seen as an investment in the future by those inviting them and paying them.  You can draw your own conclusions.

Staggeringly complex tax codes play a part in that dance.  Those codes create winners and losers, and, unfortunately, as we know ‘when the elephants dance, we mice best get out of the way’.

Could a flat tax code work?  Yes.  Will we ever see a flat tax code?  Probably not; for obvious reasons.