Main St. Disney is Wall St. Disney

Main St. Disney is Wall St. Disney

I have been a huge Disney World fan for several decades.  I loved going there, my kids loved going there, and even my wife loved going there (the first 6 or 7 times, but not so much the 13 times after that).  Now my kids have babies and I‘ve been looking forward to going to Disney World with them when they’re old enough to appreciate it so I can see the park through their new eyes on their first trip there.

Despite it’s being my best childhood dream, I never got to Disney Land as a kid (there was no Disney World at the time), but I made up for it as an adult. I realized shortly after my first trip to Orlando that Disney World was a place where I could escape Rest of the World both mentally and physically.  Stress disappeared and the only objective for each day was to have more fun.  I never counted, but I’d estimate that over a span of 30 years I’ve been to Disney World at least 20 times. (Extending a business trip for a day, I finally fulfilled the childhood dream by spending a full day in Disney Land in 1995.)

There are lots of folks who have been there many times more often.  It was my treasured escape, until today.

Today Bernie Sanders sent me and scads of his other admirers an e-mail asking us to sign a petition in support of the many Disney employees who have been shamefully treated by the Company.  My first whiff of the tarnish on Mickey’s statue came when a neighbor/friend told me that his son had just been fired without warning or cause from his job as a singer in Epcot.  That couldn’t be right. That wasn’t Disney, it was Rest of World.  I filed that a away in my “there has to be more to it” file, but today Bernie’s light shining on the corporate side of Disney moved that file into the “could well be” drawer.

I can’t tell the story better than Bernie Sanders did, so I pasted an abbreviated version of his call for help here:

The Walt Disney Company is an enormously profitable corporation worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 billion. Last year, it made $9 billion in profits and rewarded its CEO, Bob Iger, with a compensation package worth up to $423 million over a four year period. And as a result of the Trump tax cuts, they were given an additional $1.6 billion.

At the same time — and this is a national disgrace — employees at the company’s theme park in Anaheim, California are paid so poorly that many of them are literally living in a tent city not far from the park.

According to one recent study, nearly 1 in 10 workers employed at the park reported being homeless in the past two years, more than 2 in 3 say they are food insecure, and 3 out of 4 employees say they do not make enough money for their basic needs.

This is not what Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are supposed to be about. This does not sound like the “happiest place on Earth” to me.

Now, I could be wrong, but I don’t expect you will see the plight of these low-wage workers at Disney discussed tonight on ABC, which is owned by Disney. Nor do I think you will be hearing too much about income and wealth inequality in the mainstream media….

It is long past time that we, as a nation, stop worshipping the corporate greed of Disney and businessmen like Bob Iger, their CEO.

While he may be regarded as a brilliant and successful businessman among his peers in the financial, media, and political elite, the truth is that the way Bob Iger and Disney treat their workers represents much of what is wrong with contemporary capitalism.

This is a company, and a CEO, that accepted an obscene tax cut gifted to them by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress, publicly promised to anyone who would listen a $1,000 bonus for all of their employees, and then withheld that bonus from some union employees unless they agreed to a contract that gave them a tiny raise to a wage that is still a starvation wage.

This is a company, and a CEO, that in addition to paying their workers here at home extremely low wages, employs many thousands of people in China to manufacture their products sold at Disney stores and online.

This type of greed and ruthless capitalism is not an economic model that we should be embracing. It is not to be celebrated. We can do better, and we must do better…

 

It’s me again. Speaking only for myself, it pains me deeply to realize and say that Disney must do better to earn the respect and interest I once had in this once great Company.  I happen to be a Disney Shareholder, but not one with the wherewithal that the company would take seriously.  I can only hope that others, shareholders and/or Disney enthusiasts, who find this uncharacteristic greed disconcerting will sign Bernie’s petition.  I did.  Maybe the petition will get their attention.

It feels to me as though Mickey has lost his soul.

https://go.berniesanders.com/page/s/disney-greed?source=em180531-t1-full

 

Student Loans: The Gift that Keeps on Taking

Student Loans:                                                 The Gift that Keeps on Taking

I am increasingly concerned about what appears to be strategic planning on the part of some of the 1%.  Of course the plans don’t bode well for the rest of us.  Their objective involves the systematic killing of the American Dream of home ownership to create a new, steady and significant cash flow into their already overflowing coffers for decades ahead.

Here’s how I see it:

America will always need highly educated workers and tradespeople, but the cost of a college education or a technical school is very high and spiraling out of reach for middle class families, and even more so for those close to either side of the poverty line. Many institutes, colleges and universities are well endowed and offer scholarships that defray some of the tuition and cost of living burden on students, but the portion of these costs that are not covered by scholarships and grants are still substantial.

In order to make ends meet, more and more students have no choice but to take a out student loan – the gift that keeps on taking.

When many students graduate, the value of the degrees they earned is likely more than offset by the student loans they owe. They begin their careers saddled with five or six figures of debt that is often comparable to the cost of a nice home.  In essence, they have a mortgage without a dwelling and there’s no way out of that pile of debt in less than a decade unless one wins a lottery. Unlike many other loans and obligations, college loans are not forgiven (erased) when one declares bankruptcy.  In other words, someone took great care to keep these people bottled up for several years.

I have noticed over the years that many real estate developers, especially in big cities and suburbia, are building far more apartments and other rental units than they are condominiums or “starter homes.”  I wondered why, and then considered what they might be up to.

The student-loan-laden graduates have begun to earn good money in the marketplace.  But with the equivalent of a monthly mortgage to pay off student loans before paying other bills, including rent, these folks have little if any funds to save for a down payment on a home.  The rents they pay are like a second mortgage, only they are building no equity when they pay it.  Who is the beneficiary of the equity in this transaction?  The landlords (who are often the developers and/or financiers of the projects).

This generation of young professionals and skilled tradespeople are in a tough spot if they want to eventually own a home.  Rents look more and more like mortgage payments without the benefits.  What incentive is there for these people that could make a mortgage payment more attractive than a rent payment?

Until this year, there was such an incentive. Interest payments on mortgages used to be tax deductible, but they aren’t under the golden haired wonder’s “tax reform.”  Not only did the Republicans (many of whom are basically owned by the 1% profiteers) hand over more than 80% of the benefits built in their tax reform to the 1%,  at the same time they drove another nail in the coffin of the American Dream to own a home. No 20% down payment plus no tax deduction of mortgage interest equals no compelling reason to try to own a home.  They have few viable alternatives but to be renters.

This, and the last minute packet of special incentives for Real Estate Developers that was packed into the tax legislation in the 11th hour as a reward to the golden haired boy and his ilk, is too coincidental not to stink of collusion.

Within the next 20 – 30 years in America, landlords will have enjoyed an enormous captive marketplace and a great deal of influence in the quality of life for Americans.  Their strategy is largely already in place, and until and unless the tax codes in America are repaired, they will no longer be one of the only means by which the insane distribution of wealth in America can be changed.  The “let them eat cake” attitude of turning a blind eye to financial oppression is a time tested recipe for ugly, catastrophic revolution.

The Reason I Call Them “Repugnicans”

The Reason I Call Them “Repugnicans”

Donald Trump – the President who never released his income tax returns, and never will –  has been among the architects of a sweeping Republican Tax “Reform” Bill. Amazing. The hastily written and largely unread 1,000 + page Bill will give the typical taxpayer a small amount of relief for a while, but first and foremost it is designed to feed the insatiable greed of global corporations and the top 1%. Analysts calculate that super-rich will reap 80% of the benefits of the tax reductions in this new “reform.” These are the same folks who have already been favored by countless loopholes that have provided the 1% unique abilities to shield their riches from taxation under the old structure. This is not a “Reform” it’s a “Repeat” of Reagan & Bush policies that created and nurtured the huge divide between the 1% and the rest of us in America.

Why does anyone in his right mind think that this is good for America?

The Repugnican strategy is no secret. They have the best interests of their masters to serve. Their underlying policy is “Lets make those who earn less pay more, so that we can let those whose money ‘earns’ money pay less.” The Repugnicans, who were so worried about the deficit throughout the Obama years, suddenly have spun 180 degrees with Twitter-Don in office and magically proclaim the National Debt is no problem at all, in fact it can easily take on another $1.4 TRILLION of debt! This is supposed to be good for America?

Think about it for a minute, Ryan’s and McConnell’s Repugnicans are willing to take out a new $1.4 Trillion loan in the nation’s behalf in order to GIVE the 1% rich 80% of that money on a silver platter. That means the 1% get another $1,120,000,000 to make sure they stay stinking rich. What’s left over will be spread unevenly in small bits among the remaining 95% on a sliding scale regressing as income brackets decrease. That way most of the rest of us aren’t completely left out (except the already poor, of course).

Trump/Ryan/McConnell fervently hope that the middle class who get the crumbs under the 1%’s table will fall for the charade that they are our champions. They remain consistent in their belief that they really have no reason or interest to help the poor.

These grifters are saddling us with a $1.4 Trillion ‘Bill’ that will need to be paid. As things stand now, it won’t be paid by Mr. Trump’s Platinum American Express Card, nor on the card of any other person bloated with wealth. Oh no, Ryan and McConnell couldn’t let that happen to the sugar daddies who put them in office and have made them wealthier and more powerful than their wildest dreams. Their tax “Bill” will become our burden. The 99% of folks, many of whom already had to max out their Visa and Mastercard accounts in order to feed their families, will get stuck with the Bill.

Repugnicans want to buy our votes with pennies while they and their masters harvest more piles of money and power than anyone could ever spend.

Was anyone surprised when, in the 11th hour the Repugnicans quietly slipped into their sure-to-be-passed Tax structure one last provision that, surprise, surprise, provides extra tax benefits for Real Estate Developers. I think this provision should have its own name, The Donald Trump Screws America Again clause. That lying sack of excrement had the nerve to tell his “base” of followers that he is going to be hammered by this Tax Reform and that many of his fellow 1%’ers are very unhappy with him. Riiiiiiiiight. This tax reform is shoveling boat loads of money into Donald’s family’s pockets there is NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. His lies could not be bigger.

Wake up. This is only phase one. Trump and his Repugnicans are gearing up to drain, not the swamp, but the US Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs that every day Americans have earned and count on and that those less fortunate need desperately.

The Repugnican Congress is setting the stage to steal what rightfully belongs to real Americans. Somewhere along the line folks seem to have forgotten that when someone in a democracy is entitled to Social Security and Medicare, that “entitlement” is something that people have rightfully worked for, paid for and is due them. Social Security and Medicare are not items of government spending! They are bank accounts owned by people who had to make mandatory deposits into them during their working years. The national budget needs to differentiate between Operating Assets and the People’s Retirement Savings.

The record of Congressional theft of Social Security and Medicare funds to pay the debts Congress incurred for the country is long and shameful. And if we Americans don’t do something about it, it will be continued big time soon.

The overwhelmed and nearly powerless poor will remain Public Enemy #1 in the minds of the Repugnican national legislators. Medicaid, food, shelter, education, and other crucial programs that serve people in need are in the middle of the Bull’s Eye of the hypocrites who will look to take down “government spending.” Only the most reckless government spenders in the land, the military, will be not just exempt from cut backs, but the beneficiaries of several billions of dollars more to play with. The cost of toilet seats in the Pentagon has risen again to what, a thousand dollars each?

It’s time to for us to swamp these brazen bandits with the power of our votes. Let’s take them under. Vote for no one who refuses to sign a sacred pledge to make any diversion of Social Security and Medicare funds from their original intended purposes illegal and punishable under Federal Law. Vote for no one who would take sustenance away from any of our countrymen and women.   Vote for no one who refuses to recognize that the current distribution of wealth in America is absurd, threatens the core of republic, and needs to be changed in our tax system quickly.

If the 99%, don’t stop them, who will?

I have a cold…again

I have a cold…again

I have a cold…again.

I hate having a cold.  This one started just two weeks after my last cold finally left my system.   I’ve been cycling through colds separated by brief hiatuses (hiatusi?) for several months now.

It’s not hard to figure out why.  It’s an occupational hazard. Two and a half years ago, I was shanghaied into a new job.  Grand-parenting.  My official title is “Grandfather,” but never one to stand on ceremony, I prefer the  informal, “Pop.”

For the first 63 years of my life, I was not qualified for this job.  My resume was strong but it lacked one absolutely-mandatory-no excuses-accepted qualification – a grandchild. I was an honorary Grandfather, a title I still proudly hold, but in order to qualify for the bona-fide Grand Certificate and the 401K opportunity* that come with the real thing, I needed one more credit.

*[Update: I just learned there’s no 401K opportunity, but I’m expected to establish a College Fund for each grandchild. Shanghaied again.]

Finally, in late 2014 my wife Doris and I were invested with full rights, privileges and responsibilities of Grandparenthood. Our names were added to the on-line version of the Official Grandparents Directory/ US Division/ New-bees Chapter: www.diaper-changers (the national equivalent of the British Division’s famous www.nappy-changers).

There are now three acorns after my name and Doris’s.  So far all of our acorns reside under one roof.  For  good reasons, Doris and I were enlisted for temporary duty to assist in acorn management under that roof.   At least for the time being, we are a household of seven family members, two of  whom typically labor weekdays nine-to-five in “Day Care.” (Their artwork and paper hats can be stunning.)

I’ve learned that it is wise to inquire as to how many other acorns are in a Day Care. The chance that one of our acorns will catch another one’s cold and bring it home for us all to share is inextricably related to the number of acorns there. We are vulnerable to colds incubated in Day Care for export as well as the home-grown kind. Only a miracle combined with a total ban on kissing might break the cycle of colds passed around in our present environment.

Tired of grabbing tissues to clear mucus from my stiff upper lip, I recently decided to buy an over-the-counter cold remedy.  I was amazed at the number and variety of cold remedies on Walgreen’s shelves.  Each item’s label listed the specific combination of symptoms that the remedy was supposedly designed to manage: congestion, headache, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, general aching, fever, sleep deprivation, halitosis.

(Okay, one of these wasn’t among any product’s targeted symptoms – can you find it?)

Amazingly, each product touted its prowess with typically only three or four among the universe of cold symptoms.  I found not one product claiming to relieve all cold symptoms; the most I saw was five.

I guess if you have six or more symptoms you should go to the hospital, not the drug store.

Before going out to buy a cold remedy, I suggest you should list and prioritize your symptoms.  Not including the mystery entry, my list of ailments two paragraphs ago names nine different cold symptoms.  Among products with labels advertising special effectiveness for three symptoms, there are exactly 84 possible combinations of three symptoms that could be offered. (So says a permutation calculator on the Internet.  Impressed?)

This inventory of 84 possibilities is considerably more than the 50 or so cold relief products on Walgreen’s shelves.  I suspect some odd combinations of symptoms, like headache, general aching, and halitosis, didn’t make the cut.  Nonetheless, if you are hunting for a remedy to cure your three most acute symptoms, your hay stack is 84 differing three-symptom combinations and the needle you seek, may not even be in a store that stocks only 50 or so combinations.

Make sure to bring your glasses when you go to buy; symptoms listed on the front of the package are alphabetized on some labels, but not all. No uniform code of for symptom labels addresses this issue.  Finding a package claiming to have been made for your three priority symptoms could take some time. Plan accordingly.

Alternatively, however, you can look at the lists of ingredients in the various products, like I did. There you may be surprised to find, despite the symptoms listed on the front labels, most of the mainstream cold products list the exact same active ingredients in the exact same proportions!

So why do manufacturers put the same ingredients in so many different bottles?  Well, if you see a product that appears to specialize in Runny Nose, Sneezing, and Congestion, and those are your symptoms of greatest concern at the moment, wouldn’t you choose it over other products touting their effectiveness against symptoms you don’t have?  If you don’t know the pills are essentially all the same, wouldn’t you be willing to pay more for a product that appears to have been customized specifically for YOUR symptoms? Wouldn’t that increase the product’s profit margins?

In the end, it appears that the only thing associated with a cold remedy that has been customized is its label. 

This slick trick is a shining example of American Marketing Ingenuity at the Top of its Game.

This is what Makes Money for investors, which is what Makes America Great.  

Let’s see China, Russia or North Korea top that!

 

 

 

Welcome

Welcome

cropped-blowing-my-own-horn1.jpgWelcome to Blowin’ My Own Horn, a compilation of observations and learnings that I have made over the more than six-and-a-half decades of living currently under my belt (right next to the results of six-and-a-half decades of poor eating habits that also reside under my belt).

Blowin’ My Own Horn topics range from politics, life observations, my beliefs about the relationship between here and the hereafter, and some rants and laughs. I describe some unique experiences I’ve had, especially as connected to my health and survival (so far).

Hopefully, the blog is thought provoking and even more hopefully it will be response provoking as well. If you think I may be onto something, let me know. If you think I am way off base, let me know that too. If everyone agrees with me, I will know that I am a reporter of the obvious just wasting my time and yours.

Feel free to let me know one way or t’other in the Comments segment and/or directly at jim@jim-ash.com.

Let me dispel one potential misinterpretation up front. I am not a musician; I don’t know how to play any horn. When I blow a horn, random, senseless sounds come out. So be forewarned. Blowin’ My Own Horn may not be pretty, but it will always be honest.

Jim C. Ash

Actual Cabinet photo - 1

 

 

 

 

 

©2016 James Ash