Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to Save the Humanities

I have well educated friends, I have well educated educators, and they will tell me, “Anthony, the Humanities are dying.”

I have given my life to writing, especially poetry. To this day, I have no idea if I am any good at it. I have tons of people tell me I am very good. I have a few people who tell I am the best poet they have ever read. When I was younger, I thought my mother bribed kids into liking me. I have no evidence of it, but as I knew I can be very brash and “in your face” and most of the people I know really seem to like me.

My mother is dead, so I am pretty sure she isn’t bribing anyone anymore. But I still have no idea how or why anyone likes me or what I write, but I do know a few things.

I love teachers. Teachers are the hope for all future generations. Having said that, teachers are the problem. Teachers and administrators and all those who would “save” the humanities. With rare exception, the more academic a liberal arts/English major is, the more they think it is not just important, but critical to “hold the line” to stop the corruption of the language, the misspelling, the bad grammar, the texting that passes for communication. They live to find and correct a their/there/they’re. They seem to think their great purpose in life is to make sure an inverted “ie” doesn’t pass the threshold.

I have dear friends who suffer from this. They cannot see they are working to shutter the doors of the Humanities departments faster than all the know-nothings in the world.

I understand that one must exercise care with punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and grammar to improve clarity to help make the process of turning thoughts into the symbols of thoughts that are words. But, too often, almost always, it seems to me, the process gets inverted.

Language, communication, English, especially as it is the only language I know inside and out is not to be guarded like the eternal flame. It is a growing, exploding, dying rebirthing and ever-changing series of sounds and marks on paper (or in the digital ether). You may have dedicated 40 years of your life to the cause of helping make English all it can be for as many people as possible. This can be a good thing, but you must realize, you do not own the language, you have no right to state that the conventions that you and other academics currently hold to be correct have any bearing on the actual language. To do so is to find a pre homo sapiens skull and insist the current human brain must conform to it.

What is true today is gone tomorrow. Just as Shakespeare destroyed and rebuilt English in a way we now honor, the street kid speaking Spanglish or young Black girl speaking Black English is rebuilding our language into what it will be tomorrow after you and I are both dead and forgotten. To quote one of my (and probably your) favorite pop-song philosophers:

Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

 

Until we tear down the walls that keep people out, the walls of grammar and spelling and punctuation, we can expect more and more of the skeletal halls to be shuttered or repurposed as Business Sciences Departments. So if you truly care about humanities, I hope you will “heed the call.” I hope you will join me to fling wide open the doors of academia to those who have something to say, to those who want to learn, but who are not willing or able to measure up to the classism of “proper English.”

$500 for the World!

 

I have been interested in a UBI (universal basic income) for the last couple of years. It seems to me like if we took every man woman and child in America and gave them a check for $500 per month, and added a $500 monthly stipend to each head of household, we could move almost the entire country up out of poverty, move the working poor into the middle class, we could allow more job growth, because if  a couple with two kids are earning a combined UBI of $2500 per month, if they are only getting minimum wage, they would have a family take home income of over $60,000. This is enough for a family of four, to not live in fear of loss of food, shelter or education. In most communities, they wouldn’t be rich, but they would be solidly middleclass and if they made the typical $15, they would be living as well as middleclass family from the 1960s did!

Of course, most people have a couple of objections to this. They are afraid it will cost too much, and they are afraid it will make people lazy and they will not want to work. The truth, the cost is about 12% of GDP, so if we added a tax on all wealth earned and aid everyone, no matter their income this amount, unless your family income was over $160,000, for a family of three or $210,000 for a family of four, you would end up with net dollars in your pocket, or we could simply cut the cut out for those whose family income is less than $100,000, and charge more than 12% on those making more, a good deal more on those making millions.

And speaking of those who make millions, ever notice how many millionaires don’t work? Unless they are very young or very old, most them work, many work long hours. Why? Because the only people who only work for money are those who don’t have enough, those who are fairly well off tend to do the kind of work they find rewarding. Think about that. If the working poor all the sudden had the choice to do work that mattered to them, how much more creative and productive would ur work force become?

Recently, I have been thinking about Global Income Inequality. About 1 billion people life off less than $2 per day, $700 per year! Yet, if we divided all the wealth created every year, by the number of inhabitants on the planet, each human would receive a check for $12,500 USD per year. Now, most Americans and Europeans, and a lot of folks in Asia and South America make more than $12,500 per year and they wouldn’t want to give it up so the poorest of the poor don’t starve.

Today, it occurred to me, that same $500 per month I wanted to distribute in the USA would work globally. But because there are more poor people, but in total and as a percentage globally than in the USA, it would take more than 12% of the worlds’ income. It would take nearly 50%. Now folks living in the developed world, no matter what case you could make for why the people in developing countries were OWED that $500, if it came out of the pockets of folks who make $30,000 – $50,000 USD per household, they would never support the tax.

But, if we asked people who made over $50,000 to contribute 1%, over 100K 2%, over $500k 5%, up to 90% for those making over $10 million per year, we could cover the cost, and completely end would poverty. If the poorest family of three in the world received $18,000 per year, there would be no hunger, little disease, less war, less violent crime and more productive working populations around the world! Even the super rich would remain very rich and if they were smart would continue to make millions and maybe even billions from investing in people.

A Cadillac for Everybody

 

With the discussion of various healthcare plans becoming subject for sharp divides among Democratic candidates for president, I have two thoughts, one short, and one more essay form.

All the plans promoted by the various candidates is better than what we have now, so no matter who wins, if you care about healthcare, you will be voting for the Democrat.

And two, one of the main objections to Medicare-for-All seems to be that many people will not want to give up their current health insurance. I think this is legitimate. If you have a “Cadillac plan” why would you want a “Yugo” plan? no one in their right mind wants to give up a plan their employer is paying $11,000 for per individual or over $30,000 per family.

If you are like me, someone who bounces between high deductible Obamacare policy and no coverage at all (my current slot until the first of January), you might think: “well, why do they get a nice policy and I get nothing?” the problem is, those nice policies are generally part of hard fought negotiations for union employees, who gave up raises to get them. To suggest we get rid of private Cadillac plans and force everyone onto plans like I have when I have insurance is unrealistic, and really in bad faith, and more importantly, going the wrong way.

So, I propose “Cadillacs for everyone”. No one would have to give up their great plan. We transform the Medicaid and Medicare systems into these high value plans, in a single payer system, we would automatically save over 18%, as private plans pay 20% (thanks to the Obamacare caps, it used to be higher) and govt plans Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA, all administer for under 2%, pay out no profits to the owners so our $11,000 plans would cost no more than $9,000.

The average employee pays about $100 per month for their share of health insurance while their company pays around $500 monthly, because most of the Americans get a policy through work that costs about $7000, ($20,000 for family) not the $11,000 Cadillac ($30,000 family). To get all 350 million human beings who reside in the USA to have access to the same level of care for as those who currently have the best plans would certainly cost less than the $9000 ($24,600 per family), because the costs would not be paid to any insurance, level of care would be universal and guaranteed and the costs would be born, not by policyholders, for there would no longer be health insurance policies, only a universal right to care with deductibles and co pays comparable to the best current policies. A rich person could no longer buy better health care than a poor unemployed person.

If this seems wrong, think about it this way: why does a billionaire deserve to be healthier than a beggar? Is one less human? In what way?

So lets say our new plan costs about $8000 per person ($22,000 per family)per year or about $3 trillion dollars or 14% of the entire GDP of America.

Remember that number:

$3 trillion per year.

You and I, and everyone who doesn’t have any health insurance pay zero, and if we are really poor and really sick, we go to the ER, because they HAVE to take you without payment. The hospital will bill you into oblivion, but even if you owe them $10,000, if you come back next week, they have to see you.

Studies have shown that the ER, for all its skilled staff and amazing life-saving equipment, is a terrible place for non emergency healthcare, and other studies have found that people with no means to pay, wait until they are very sick to go to the ER. it is generally an unpleasant enough experience, and the added humiliation of not being able to pay also deters folks.

 

41% are on employer plans that cost under 10,000

(of which $2000 goes to non-insurance claim portions, mostly overhead and profit)

16% are on Medicare

11% with a Cadillac plan

10% of Americans with no coverage

5% are covered through the VA

4% are covered thru ACA (Obamacare)

3% are privately insured, neither Obamacare marketplace, nor through employers

 

So we have not a two tier system, but a 7 tier system, and even within those 7 tiers, there are levels of coverage.

All working people contribute to Medicare, VA, Obamacare, and the cost of uninsured persons, citizens and non-citizens.

Employers contribute about 80% of the employer-based coverage, regular and Cadillac, or about $1 Trillion dollars per year, of about 250 Billion of that goes to enrich the private insurers and does nothing for either the employer nor the employee.

Employees pay another $250 Billion

Currently, Obamacare costs the taxpayers about 100 Billion per year

The uninsured cost taxpayers about 100 Billion

The VA costs about 60 Billion to care for 18,000,000 Vets (about $3,500 per vet)

Medicare, and Medicaid costs are about 600 Billion each, for a total of 1.2 Billion

(Medicare is paid for through our payroll deduction of about 3% of our total earnings, ½ paid by the employer and ½ by the employee, unless one is self-employed, then the employee pays it all, in any case, it I money that could be paid to the employee but goes to Medicare for those over 65.

Lets total up the current cost of the system:

$1,000,000,000,000 employers

$  250,000,000,000 employees

$  100,000,000,000 ACA

$  100,000,000,000 Uninsured

$  600,000,000,000 Medicare

$  600,000,000,000 Medicaid

$   60,000,000,000 VA

$   80,000,000,000 Private Purchased Coverage

$2.79 Trillion    Total current costs not including co pays and deductibles for entire USA

Remember, we could have everybody in America on a Cadillac plan for $3.00 Trillion

This means, if we converted the entire US medical system to a single payer, offered to pay every provider, doctor, hospital, prescription and medical device provider at 93% of today’s current rates, we could provide EVERY person, man, woman, child, senior, vet, immigrant, documented or otherwise with the care of a current holder of a Cadillac plan.

So, you pay what you have always paid, be it as an employee, a retiree, an employer, no matter who you are, and we get universal coverage as good as anyone in America currently gets.

Can you think of a good reason why we shouldn’t do this?

 

To MFA, or not to MFA?

My recent comments in a discussion with students and the professor at the University of Pennsylvania‘s Modern and Contemporary Amercan Poets (ModPo):

Love the question, love the answers!

As a nonacademic who somehow ended up here, in a quasi-academic role, I can only offer my outsider perspective. As a reader, I find certain MFA programs, even famous ones tend to give us authors who rely on a formula closely related to that school.

I am not going to name authors nor programs, as I have never achieved ANY kind of undergrad, much less advanced degree, nor have I had any serious success, either critical or financial in the business of writing, but I love to read and to write, and I love most to read books by people who can tell a good tale, but not use the same clever tricks they learned in school.

I am sure a good education would have given me both the discipline and knowledge to be better at both making money and writing something worth reading, but from what I can see, too many MFAs produce carpenters, not architects, or at least architects who build buildings that look too much like all the others from that school.

(I use the carpenter/architect comparison even though I worked as a carpenter and curse the architects to this day. In fact, to the extent both architectural schools and MFAs help create architects with a better set of carpentry skills, I think they do the world a favor.)

I think there is a tendency in all arts/crafts for education to be a tricky balance of giving you skills to do a better version of what you do, without killing the spark that would make your work memorable.

As a qualification, I must note, my opinions are raw outsider views and can be as wrong as anybody’s.

 

Letter to my Nephew

My nephew just turned 30 and asked me what I could advise him, or the 30-year-old me, now that I am 60. Besides flattering me and showing a good deal of wisdom on his part, it reignited a question I have been struggling with ever since I hit my 50s and realized that much of my “productive” life was behind me.

Part of me regrets not finishing college, and either getting a job in accounting or engineering, or something along those lines. A steady check, a clear path to advancement and a reasonable expectation of a 6-figure income, good healthcare, and a decent 401K derived retirement.

As it is, I drove an over-the-road truck, sold cars, drove a Pepsi truck, became a salesman for Pepsi, poured concrete by hand for bathroom remodeling, sold bathroom remodeling projects, sold hurricane shutters, windows and doors, got paid $500 per day to answer the phone, until I got into a dispute with my boss about a lead test, sold construction labor, and finally became a insurance related home inspector these last several years. I have never made over $60,000 per year, but I have mostly done okay, though I have had a few rough spots. The thing is, many of the “successful tracked” people who did what I was “supposed to do” have also either had major setbacks, often due to no fault of their own: major layoffs, mergers and so on, and many of them have followed the path up the ladder until they wanted to kill themselves, their wives and even their kids. And of course, some have played it straight and done well, and to them I say congratulations.

Life is a complete crapshoot. Doing the “right thing” either gets you somewhere or nowhere, and you don’t get a redo, this is a one inning game. Given that, it seems to me, my life hasn’t been wasted, and fortunately, isn’t even over. I do plan to spend the rest of my life with an even more creative effort.

I have been a poet since age 5, and for the last 25 years I have been part of poetry groups, a publisher of a series of literary journals, and for nearly a decade, I have been a community teaching assistant at the Ivy League institution, the University of Pennsylvania. I have never made more than a few dollars from anything creative I have ever done. But I have published a couple dozen books of poetry, I am much beloved by people I hardly know, and even by some who know me well. I don’t have a boss I hate. I don’t have a wife I hate. (I have both, only I don’t hate either) And for some reason, my kids seem to love their old dad who never amounted to anything. I haven’t changed the world, but I like to think I have made it a tiny bit better.

In the end, my advice is to never be afraid to fail, follow your heart, and try not to regret the fact that you can’t take one than one path at a time. Be good to everyone, but especially to those who love you. Pet the dog, kiss the baby and live your life, whatever that is.

I have a new 1% theory.

 
Let’s allow 1% of our current population in legal immigration each year, including 20% of that 1% to be refugees. this means instead of the 1.1 million total legal immigrants, and 30,000 refugees, we would allow 3.5 million to legal immigrants and about 700,000 refugees. I think it would be a good idea to reserve 50% of both categories for immigrants from the Americas. in the event any given year we don’t have 1.5 million total immigrants and 350,000 refugees from the Americas, we could allow more of either or both from other countries.
Immigrants are shown to be less likely to commit crime and add both vigor and cultural diversity to our social genetics.
refugees do bring a financial burden for a few years, but most immigrants pay their own way within a year or two of arriving. in the end, we would almost eliminate illegal immigration, stop the domestic crimes of exploitation associated with it (wage theft, human trafficking and other undesirable effects of having a black-market economy in human beings).
 
This will cost the average working American about an additional $100 per year, but should net both in savings and additional tax revenues a lot more than $100, making it a net savings for the average worker. Immigrants create jobs faster than they take existing jobs, so the economic opportunity for native born Americans will be enhanced as well.
While 700,000 refugees is hardly our fair share, egiven the fact that many of our policies contribute to the crises that lead to refugees, it would be a much more humane offset than the measly 30,000 currently offered.
 
Most immigrants settle in areas where there are already populations from their home country. This helps them succeed at a lower cost to themselves and to the surrounding community. Our resettlement populations should encourage this trend. If we spend most of our current ICE HSA budget on resettelment, we would be safer, and wealthier, as a nation ans as individuals.

I AM a Capitalist!

I am daily infuriated by the HUMAN capital we squander thru small minded and hateful policies, from oppressing the poor, to killing unarmed people of color to a million other daily ways we prevent EVERYONE from contributing all the BRAIN captial they have. just imagine, if anyone, anywhere in the world, but especially those already here knew, if they were in america, we would feed, cloth, educate, and support their dreams with grants and investments to allow them not only to better themselves, but to build a better greater America and the world!

Our GDP would triple, our cost for wars and criminal justice would plunge. We could save the planet from this pending enviromental catastrphe, feed the world, and go a long way towards ending international conflict.

Why is this so hard?

Why do we, generation after generation, continue to waste the brightest minds, the best ideas, the very hope for humanity, because of place of birth, skin color, religion, gender, or “queerness”?
The sooner everyone wakes up each day knowing there are no barriers between them and their full potemtial, the sooner we all reach our full potential as americans and as citizens of the world.
Why is this not the order of the day? Are people too stupid? Too greedy and small minded or what?