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Charlie Traffas
Charlie Traffas has been involved in marketing, media, publishing and insurance for more than 40 years. In addition to being a fully-licensed life, health, property and casualty agent, he is also President and Owner of Chart Marketing, Inc. (CMI). CMI operates and markets several different products and services that help B2B and B2C businesses throughout the country create customers...profitably. You may contact Charlie by phone at (316) 721-9200, by e-mail at ctraffas@chartmarketing.com, or you may visit at www.chartmarketing.com.
From the Publisher
2012-08-29 13:15:52
Say it ain't so Joe - series
A- For the past few issues I have written on senior care and how it is mostly a matter of risk management. God willing, I will come back to this subject later to address more of the questions that I have received. But for now I need to take a break to write about some things that have been occurring during the past few weeks on the political stage between our two presidential candidates, their campaigns, the parties and the press. There is just so much a guy can take…or this guy anyway. I know I process things differently…and sometimes a little more “weirdly” than most, but as I was considering all of these things that have been taking place, I was taken back to the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919. Yeah, I know…I am “different”…but that’s where I went. For those of you who may not remember it or remember exactly what happened…let me brief you. The Black Sox Scandal took place during the play of the World Series of 1919. Eight members of the Chicago White Sox (imagine that…Chicago!) were banned for life from baseball for intentionally losing games, which allowed the Cincinnati Reds to win the World Series. The conspiracy was the brainchild of White Sox first baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil, who had longstanding ties to petty underworld figures. Gandil enlisted several of his teammates, motivated by a dislike of club owner Charles Comiskey, whom they perceived as a tightwad, to implement the fix. Comiskey had developed a reputation for underpaying his players for years. You see, under the MLB reserve clause back then, players either had to take the salary they were offered, or they couldn’t play Major League Baseball, as they were property of the original team, and no other team was allowed to sign them. The most notable of all of the players was the White Sox star outfielder, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. In fairness, he was always mentioned as a participant, though the level of his involvement is disputed even unto present day. The story goes that after the trial, as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was walking out of the courthouse following his guilty plea and conviction, a young boy, glove and ball in hand, sitting on the steps, looked at him and said, “Say it ain’t so Joe.” What I will present over the next few issues will be an ongoing analogy to this scandal using my opinions, of which this column has always had plenty. In that respect, it’s good to be the owner. These articles may get a little more “direct” than previous articles…but intentionally so. As I stated…there is just so much a guy can take. With all that has happened over the past nearly four years, and particularly over the past few weeks, I see a different America emerging than the one our Founding Fathers designed; the one our parents and grandparents worked so hard to build and preserve; the one for whom our veterans fought and died; and the one we hoped to pass along to our children and their children. I don’t think there are nearly enough people paying attention to what is going on…and those who are paying attention are not doing nearly enough to let others know. I will plead guilty to the latter…and try to remedy it by this series of articles. I might also mention that while I have friends and associates that won’t go to any movie for several reasons: and others who won’t go if there is anything other than a “G” rating; there is a movie playing presently that depicts much of what is going on. The movie is titled, “The Campaign.” While the language is offensive and some of the story lines are lewd and most improper, it tells the story of what is happening in politics today. If you can pardon me for all I have warned you about and get past it, it would be good for you to see it. The hate…divisiveness…corruption…greed…waste…lies…fraud…abuse…and moral decay…have finally all come together over the past few weeks to put this county in downward spiral where it looks like there is no way out. Those who we have elected, from the President to the most junior member of Congress, are out trying to get re-elected. They don’t have time to do the work of the people. By Labor Day, the President will have campaigned 49 out of the last 52 weeks. Nothing is getting done. The outright lies and distortions are a part of nearly every statement or speech from all sides. All we get is boatloads of politics with no substance. If it was ever time to tell it like it is…the time is now….without any reservations. Folks, our country is broke. Under our current system, we couldn’t balance the budget if we shut down the government and just kept our promises of paying what we call our mandatory expenses, such as the interest on our debt, and the entitlements of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. These payments total $2.5 Trillion for 2012, and the total goes up an average of $128 Billion per year thereafter. Our total revenue from all sources in 2012 is $2.5 Trillion. This means in “promises” alone, we spend all of the income we receive. But we will spend $3.8 Trillion this year. We borrow every dime of the additional $1.3 Trillion that is spent for all of the rest of the Government expense, including but not limited to things like the President, his staff, his wife’s staff, their trips, all of the czars, the cabinet positions, departments and staffs for all, the House of Representative, the Senate, all of their support people, the infrastructure, defense, EPA, FBI, CIA, homeland security, drug and alcohol enforcement, education, transportation, healthcare, energy, agriculture, labor and all of the rest. Again, if we totally stopped all of this expense, which means shutting down the Government, we still could not balance the budget, as someone will have to be paid to write the checks to our “promises.” Next year, we would create $128 Billion more deficit with the increases in our “promises”…with the Government shut down…and add to our debt even more! How sick is this? Yet all we are getting is empty rhetoric from all sides. This rhetoric is full of innuendo, lies, distortions, insults, scorn and deflections. We can debate when it all started, but as far as I am concerned, the “bottom of the barrel” negativism we see today began with the stated “Kill Romney” modus operandi by the Obama campaign more than a year ago. And has it ever worked! Each time they yell, “Smoke,” Governor Romney and his campaign jump up and scream, “Fire,” all the while nothing is getting done; there is no debate on the issues; and we continue to head over the fiscal cliff. Have you noticed how almost no one answers the questions that are asked any longer? It’s like they don’t hear them. They immediately change the conversation to another topic and go off on their own spin of whatever it is they want to talk about. When a solution to a problem is advanced, it is not met with honest debate. It is viciously attacked. It is always viciously attacked. Mind you those doing the attacking have no solution to the problem raised. They have no plan. They just know to attack anything from the other side. If it stays this “dirty knife fight” for the balance of the campaign, the Democrats win…hands down. They do it much better. Romney and Ryan have no idea what they’re up against. Chicago wrote the book. You know what? While I am at this point, I have to tell you…I have no idea why Governor Romney, who is worth more than $250 Million, is even running for President. If you would have an honest debate with me void of hate and accusations you can’t prove, you would say you don’t understand either. He certainly doesn’t need the salary of the office. He also doesn’t need any more to “fill his sack.” Why would he put up with all of the %^/! he has to put up with…if he didn’t sincerely want to do something about the direction of our country? Think before you answer this. Please…don’t give me the standard answer from the left that he wants more power, or he wants to hurt America, or he wants to further the agenda of big business, or he wants to step on the downtrodden. That won’t wash…and you know it. He sees what anyone with vision sees…we’re heading over the fiscal cliff. Although he is no “Cross of Gold Speech” giver like Williams Jennings Bryan, I think he is trying to do whatever he can to prevent it. I don’t think he sees a new world order…or a fundamental transformation of America…or a way for the rich to get richer and take it out on the poor. When those opposed say extending the tax cuts to rich are at the expense of the poor and middle class, I am blown away by their ignorance. The poor and the middle class aren’t paying any Federal Income Tax now, and if they are it is a miniscule amount. It is a ridiculous comeback. I have seldom seen a household making $45,000 per year or less provide any jobs to anyone, other than maybe something like babysitting or lawn mowing. Have you? Stop the class warfare thing! Enough is enough. And, of all the running mates Governor Romney could have tagged, he tagged the one (Paul Ryan) who could do the most to right the ship of getting a dialogue of substance…but I don’t think it will happen. Why? One, the hate and divisiveness are too much; and two, even if the dialogue could be changed to fix the things needing fixed, since the budget cannot be balanced, it would all be a moot point with our current tax system in place and how we run the government. Ryan may be the present day “Paul Revere” and be able to warn us of what is coming, but he and Romney are suggesting we use a “sling shot” to stop it. That “sling shot” is to keep the same tax system in place and try to move around the piles to get it all fixed. It won’t work. If you need two cups of flour to make a cake and you only have one, you can move around the piles of the other ingredients all you want and the cake isn’t going to be a cake. You’ve either got to go get the other cup of flour, or reduce all of the other ingredients to make a smaller cake with the flour you have, and settle for the fact that it is going to feed less people. God allowed the “sling shot” to work for David against Goliath, but it is highly doubtful He will do the same this time, considering all of what is happening in our country mentioned previously. That of course is not to take away the power of the right kind of prayer, which is always the best tool we have. Other than this…or in combination with this…there is only one way out of the terrible mess we are in. It is a strategy composed of three parts. One – an immediate and total overhaul of our tax system; two – strong, fiscal management in the areas of spending and stopping waste, fraud and abuse; and three – pro-growth policies established so our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) can grow at a sustained level of 4%. Other than God intervening with another “sling shot,” this is our answer, and unlike all of the “big hat-no cattle chin boogey” we are getting from all sides…I will guarantee it will work (more explanation to come). Add to all of this, in the most comprehensive piece of legislation ever passed in our history (Obamacare), there are “icebergs” of regulations and changes coming, meaning all we have seen thus far are the “parts” that are sticking out of the “water.” There are some real “monsters” below the surface, that will do all President Obama ever promised…that of fundamentally transforming the United States of America. You’ve heard it for the past several decades, but it has never been more true. I believe that what will happen on November 6th will be the most significant event that has ever happened in our country insofar as its future. No matter how it turns out, it is doubtful this “voice” will be here much longer. Whether it is stomped out; gets an offer it can’t refuse; or succumbs/surrenders to what is coming..its future is more finite than ever…so if you don’t agree with what I have to say…relax…it will all work itself out. If it doesn’t, it may not matter anyway. Israel set a deadline of September 25th as a date for us to declare to Iran that we mean business insofar as them continuing their nuclear program. Will Israel attack in October? I am reminded of the famous Israeli saying, “Those who know don’t talk and those who talk don’t know.” If they do, we may not get to see if the Mayans were right on 12/21/12. It is hard to believe…after 236 years…this country could have been mis-managed as bad as it has by those we elected to manage it. Here are the “players” for my analogy. The Black Sox Scandal itself is all that is going on between the two presidential campaigns, the two candidates, the rest of the Washington politicians and the political factions in our country. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson is America, and what is happening to it, its opportunities, its values, its name, its prestige and credibility, at home and around the world. The boy is all of us, our children and their children, and all of our hopes and dreams of what America has always been and what we thought it would always be. There is a new country coming than the one we have loved and cherished. Here are some of the reasons why, even though these have already been aired…they will raise their ugly heads again before this campaign is through: While none of us were alive during the first 100 years of America’s existence, most of us studied her history. We read about the Founding Fathers and what they went through in establishing her as a sovereign and independent nation, originally composed of 13 colonies, changing them to states in 1776, adding more and more up until 1959 with the additions of Alaska and Hawaii, completing our present day number of 50. We studied why she was established, and the principles on which she was established. Not one of our Founding Fathers, as well as each and every person who signed the most important documents in her history, had any problem using words like “…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” and “…one nation under God…” According to a poll taken on July 26th, 54% of Americans would vote for an Atheist for President. “Say it ain’t so Joe.” Each of our Founding Fathers understood, agreed and allowed in the Constitution for there to be differences of opinion, but none of the three branches of the government were to be more important than the other. All were to respect the others and the duties of each. They would all work together, through a system of checks and balances, to govern our country administratively, legislatively and judicially. Nowhere was it written or implied…or even contemplated…that the primary function of an elected official was to spend the majority of his/her time once elected…seeking re-election…but that’s what we have today. “Say it ain’t so Joe.” Each agreed that a central government was necessary for our free society, but it was never to be bigger than society itself. It was always supposed to play a support role…and never take the lead. “Say it ain’t so Joe.” Our government was to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people. It was recognized that the government would produce nothing. The government cannot create a single job, product or service that contributes one dime to our gross domestic product. It never was intended to be anything but a third party, funded by tax dollars from society, with powers granted to it by society, to insure things got done for society. To do this, people were to be appointed and elected to serve in positions. Government was never to be the “dog” and society be the “tail.” What we have today is akin to a board of directors (society) hiring a CEO (government elected officials) for the company they direct, and the CEO running the company the way he wants to run it, as opposed to the way the board of directors hired him to run it. He got the job by promising in his “interview” to do it the way they wanted, but once hired, he immediately set out to do it his way and no one on the board is doing anything about it. “Say it ain’t so Joe.” Food stamps were something that came about in the early 60s so people would not starve. Getting food stamps was something that was always looked upon as the last resort to being able to feed one’s family. In the early to mid-70s, 1 out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps. Today, 1 out of 7 are on food stamps! What’s more…there is a multi-million dollar advertising campaign running now, of prime time ads and commercials targeting more and more people, telling them how great food stamps are and how to go about getting them. 108 Million Americans are on welfare as of August 1st, 2012…and this number does not take into account those who are on Medicare and Social Security. That is 30% of our entire population! “Say it ain’t so Joe.” Unemployment benefits used to be given for 26 weeks. People would hide the fact that they were receiving unemployment benefits. It wasn’t something to be proud of. Now they are given for as long as 99 weeks…with even some cases extended beyond this. It used to be that you had to check in weekly and list the businesses to whom you applied and document that you were actively looking for work. These are no longer requirements. Long term unemployment benefits have produced “chronic” long term unemployment. I have had three positions open in my company for more than two years. I have spent several thousand dollars advertising these positions. I used to get 10 times more applicants when unemployment was 4% (back in 2004 under Bush) than I get now when unemployment is 8.3%. With more people unemployed you would think I would get plenty, right? These positions all pay a minimum of 25% to 75% more than what unemployment benefits would be, yet I get no applicants. If I do get them and hire them, they work for a few days and leave. I am sure some would say it is me, my company, the jobs, or the jobs’ requirements that are too tough, but part of what we do as a company is consult other businesses in their marketing and operations. I hear the same thing from these companies continually. They post openings but get no applicants. If they do happen to hire someone, most work a few days and then do not come back. “Say it ain’t so Joe.” Today, when unemployment benefits run out, people are applying for and being approved and granted Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits. In 2007 there were approximately 8 million people receiving SSDI benefits. Today, there are nearly 37 million…and more are being approved each day! There are at least three, separate, national, marketing campaigns running presently that are advertising that they can assist people in getting SSDI benefits. “Say it ain’t so Joe.” On the day that changed everything (June 28, 2012), Supreme Court Justice John Roberts remodeled the Affordable Health Care Act and pronounced it constitutional…not as it was written and submitted under the commerce clause…but under the authority of Congress to tax. Now it doesn’t matter whether I am for or against this “Obamacare,” or whether I am for or against any other piece of legislation that follows the same path…or whether YOU are for or against any of this. What we had was one man, who by his own words is “supposed to call balls and strikes and not get into taking sides in the ballgame,” who knew his decision could not be appealed or challenged, rewrite the law to make it constitutional. How could he have done such a thing? What will ever stop the very same thing from happening in the future on any piece of legislation? “Say it ain’t so Joe.” Distortions serve as deflections and end up being deceits. Here is a good example. Most recently President Obama was in Ohio and said, “My administration has been responsible for the largest percentage increase in manufacturing jobs in Ohio since the 90s.” Upon analysis, we find in 2007 there were 500,000 people employed in Ohio, which was up 90,000 from a year earlier. That is a 21.9% increase. Since then, unemployment has taken it down to 300,000 employed. This means that at the bottom, 200,000 people had lost their jobs. In the past 18 months, 75,000 jobs have been added. That’s a 25% increase. Now 25% is a larger increase than 21.9%, but look at the distortion. One situation has 500,000 employed, and the other has 375,000 employed with 125,000 unemployed. Depending upon which side you move and when you move it, you can make numbers can work for anything you want to say. Don’t get me wrong. I am for even one job being added, and I don’t care who is responsible for adding it, but why not just tell the truth without distorting it, and misrepresenting things? But that’s what most politicians do isn’t it, whether they be Republican or Democrat. Every statement one of them makes has to be checked out for accuracy. Few ever tell the truth anymore…and if they do…you had better be listening closely because something other than the truth is coming next. Most of the time you won’t hear two truths back to back. “Say it ain’t so Joe.” Recently, on the floor of the Senate, where one cannot be sued for libel, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “The word’s out that Romney has not paid any Federal income taxes in the last 10 years.” He is demanding that Romney provide these returns and doesn’t understand why he doesn’t immediately do so. My first comment is about the venue of the comment. I do not believe the institution of the Senate has ever been used for such an obvious political gesture by anyone, at taxpayers’ expense. Does anything go now? What methods will not be used to deflect the conversation away from what the people say is what this election is all about…jobs and economy #1, corruption #2, and our debt/deficit #3? But what does Romney do? He stutters around and says, “Mr. Reid needs to reveal his source.” Governor, it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to advise you in this situation. First of all, why would you respond at all to the likes of Harry Reid? Secondly, how can you continue to get yourself into this type of dialogue? It’s like everyone is telling you to keep the focus on the issues at hand and you don’t know how to control it. Thirdly, if you were going to respond, the answer should be, “Why would I provide anything more than what the law requires, which is the financial disclosure statement I have already submitted? So you and everyone else on the left and mainstream media can dissect every line item and use it to keep the conversation away from what it should be about…the dismal economy, high unemployment, the huge deficit, the spiraling national debt, corruption and the terrible job President Obama has done? Further, if I ever was going to provide more than what I have submitted, I would put all of my tax returns you want on the same pile as your tax returns, along with the tax returns from all of the 535 people in Congress, the college records of President Obama, the information regarding the leaks from the White House, and all of the subpoenaed records from Fast and Furious that Eric Holder has refused to present, that the President eventually evoked executive privilege to protect. When all of this is on the same pile, everyone can investigate everyone and mainstream media can fill their programming with the results, as we all ‘sail into oblivion.’ Oh, by the way Harry, I had a credible source tell me the other day that on one of your recent tax returns, you deducted the expense for counseling from a psychiatrist after you beat your wife a few years ago. Can you please provide the return that shows the details of this?” Maybe a final comment Romney should make is, “I don’t understand. Since you can stave off a subpoena from Congress at any time you please; make an executive order to go outside of Congress to get whatever it is you want; and evoke an executive privilege any time you wish; why don’t you just order the IRS to produce copies all of my tax returns that you want; release them to mainstream media…your most stalwart supporter…let them go through them with a microscope…find something I did wrong…prosecute me…put me in jail…and make it impossible for me to serve if I am elected? That sounds like the way you would do it in Chicago. Why haven’t you thought of this?” As I entertain the thought of this last suggestion…realizing how inadequate Romney is to deliver an immediate “counter punch”…and now with Paul Ryan able to step in if Romney can’t serve…maybe it wouldn’t be too bad of a deal, so long as it would happen after Romney is elected. Again, a 4 year old could defend himself/herself better than Romney, and the 4 year old wouldn’t have to be told what to do. “Say it ain’t so Joe.” As this publication was preparing to go to press, an Obama Super PAC (Priorities USA) ad began running showing a person (Joe Soptic) who was blaming Romney for the death of his wife, who had died from cancer. The Washington Post puts out a rating on all campaign ads and assigns a “Pinocchio” rating of 1 to 4 for each ad insofar as distortions and lies. This ad achieved the highest rating of 4 “Pinocchios.” Don’t think the Romney campaign are saints. They received a “Pinocchio” rating of 4 too in their ad of taking the work out of Welfare. They too distorted the facts. Here are the facts on the Joe Soptic ad…with no spin…just in case it comes back around before the election, since no other source has presented them that I have seen. Romney was CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital company he and two other partners founded in 1984, turning their focus in the early 90s to leveraged buyouts and growth capital companies. This means that they look for companies who are bankrupt, or almost bankrupt, that they can buy for a good price, invest capital, manpower, operations and marketing, and turn the company around and sell it for a profit, or continue to operate it profitably. Does everyone have this? Companies that are bankrupt…or almost bankrupt…are their targets. Without Bain Capital these companies would not “make it,” or certainly not “make it” to the extent that they could or did. Since Bain’s beginning, they have invested in all size of companies. Some of the bigger ones you might recognize are AMC Entertainment, Aspen Education Group, Brookstone, Burger King, Burlington Coat Factory, Clear Channel Communications, Domino's Pizza, DoubleClick, Dunkin' Donuts, D&M Holdings, Guitar Center, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), Sealy, Experian, The Sports Authority, Staples, Toys "R" Us, Warner Music Group, The Weather Channel and more. The US Government, the largest “business” in the world, would be most fortunate to have Bain Capital apply the same processes to it. It is so unbelievable to me when I hear Washington politicians criticize Bain for the prudent and fiscal methods of operation they employ and their track record, when they are in charge of the terrible mess that our Government is in. We would do well to employ these same methods of operation…immediately. To go on… Bain acquired GST Steel in Kansas City, MO in 1993. Bain also had a steel plant in Georgetown, SC. The company was not doing well at the time of the purchase, and per the CEO of the company at the time, would have gone bankrupt had not Bain invested the $125 Million it invested in trying to turn it around. Bain merged two other steel companies it had bought earlier into this company to form the new GST Steel. Romney left Bain Capital six years later in 1999 to run the 2002 Olympics. GST Steel was shut down by Bain Capital in 2002 after fading three years of cheap steel being imported from China into this country. It and 31 other steel companies in the US closed between late 2001 and early 2002. Joe Soptic was employed by GST Steel. When it was closing, he was given an opportunity for a buyout of his job, but he refused it. He went to work as a janitor for a school. He got insurance for himself but did not cover his wife, because his wife had a job with her own health insurance. In 2003 she had a minor accident and left her job. Did you get this? She left her job in 2003, a job that provided her with health insurance. She could have taken COBRA, or an individual policy, but did not do so. Further, Joe Soptic did not make the decision to include her on his health insurance that he had from his job. In 2006 she went to her doctor complaining of pneumonia-like symptoms. She was diagnosed with cancer and died 22 days later. Once diagnosed, she lasted 22 days. She could have had the greatest of all “Cadillac” health policies and it would not have saved her life. These are the facts…void of spin. I know all of the stuff in this ad is terrible…despicable…and full of lies and distortions, but I want to go back to Joe Soptic who told the story. I lost my wife, Brenda, to cancer in March of this year. She was my entire world and the love of my life. Surely Joe’s wife meant the same to him. Now, I don’t know whether the %^!s that used him and his situation paid him, or just took advantage of him…but one thing is certain…Joe will have to sit there for the rest of his life and think about his wife, his and others’ memories of her, and the dishonor that has befallen her as the result of all of this. May God bless you Joe. My loss continues to hurt me each day like “ripping flesh,” but I thank God I don’t have this pain compounded by thinking I let people like these…use me and my situation…and ended up hurting all of my and others’ memories of Brenda. “Say it ain’t so Joe.” I will be back with more, “Say it ain’t so Joes,” next month, but when it’s all done…I won’t just be a “whiner” and relate the problems. I will have some solutions in my pocket.
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