Weekend with Bernie

Friday night we went to our first political rally. Yes, I made it through 62 years without ever attending one.

We went to see Bernie Sanders in San Diego.We found a spot very close to the podium.

Bernie Sanders at Podium in San Diego, March 22, 2019 [photocredit: Trisha]
The crowd was large, but being in the middle of it, it was impossible to count or estimate. Here is a happy selfie.

Selfie [photocredit: Trisha]
Sanders has a huge momentum built up this early in the campaign. Obviously, in 2016, he was just short of the nomination, mostly due to coming in a bit late after Clinton and of course Clinton’s notoriety. This time around, there is no Clinton, and Sanders appears to be the front runner. He already has a million volunteers signed up all around the country for his campaign. It will be difficult for anyone else to catch up to that. Having done this last time around, unlike the wide field of other candidates, he has a huge (huuge) advantage.

Old Guys Rule

I enjoyed listening to a stump speech that is not about a personality cult. Trump’s self-admiration and egotistical world view was far, far away. Here is a humble man, from very modest beginnings, who has been a public servant for most of his life. He has also been a maverick, agitator and activist. Most of all, he has the welfare of the people, the country, and the world as his objective.

I predict that Sanders will win this election.

If he is elected in November 2020, he will be 79 years old and by far the oldest president ever. So far the oldest is Trump, who was 70 when he was elected. Remember when the country thought that Reagan was too old when he took office at age 69?

Be that as it may, I can see the possibility of a very young electorate voting a very old man into the presidency. This means that his selection of a running mate (presumably younger than himself and probably a woman) will be crucial, and the likelihood of that vice president ascending to the presidency is high, especially if he succeeded for two terms.

So far, the outcome of this rally for me is that Sanders has my vote. He had it in 2016 in the primary, and he will have it this time around (as long as he does not pull a McCain and find a Palin – but that was another story I wrote about here in 2008).

Old Guys Rule!

Socialism, Bernie Sanders, and the Minimum Wage

I am on the board of a Homeowners Association (HOA). Recently we received the letter below from our landscaping contractor. I have redacted any identifying information for privacy. You can click on the letter to enlarge it.

This shows the effect of government-mandated minimum wage increases. The result is almost never what is intended. The additional costs are passed on to the consumer, and the whole process simply drives up inflation. We, the homeowners, are going to pay more for the landscaping, so the workers can get their higher minimum wage. This happens when there is nothing the company can do about it.

Other affected companies, like fast food restaurants, have choices, usually related to automation. We have seen more self-service kiosks spring up in fast food places, replacing the high school students behind the counter. Restaurants figure out how to make do with less human labor, not more. In that case, minimum wage incentivizes automation.

Recently I have seen Bernie Sanders attack Amazon and Jeff Bezos, who recently passed Bill Gates as the richest man in the world. Here is one of Bernie Sanders’ tweets:

Here is another one, where you can hear Bernie speak about the subject:

This is a complicated subject. Bernie wants to force Amazon, and other companies, to pay their workers a “living wage” that takes them out of the income range that qualifies for welfare.

Yes, you and I, with our tax dollars, pay for food stamps and other programs to help Amazon workers who can’t feed their families on the money they earn.

Sanders rages against Bezos, who has built the company into what it is today.

As cruel as it sounds, however, Bernie’s answer isn’t going to work. It’s not the government’s job to tell companies what they need to pay their workers. Companies pay their workers what they need to pay them to do the jobs they need done. It’s as simple as that.

If there are enough high school students who are willing to stand behind a counter at McDonald’s for $7.25 an hour, then that’s what McDonald’s will pay.

If Amazon workers don’t like their wage, why don’t they go to another company that pays more for the skills they have? Why don’t they all leave Amazon? If Amazon could not find workers to work for what they pay, they would raise that pay.

The problem is that the low-paying jobs are those that do not need a lot of skills, education, dedication or creativity. Go check out what Amazon pays its engineers! You’ll probably find $120,000 and above as the average. Why don’t the workers that don’t like the low wage become engineers so they can get paid high wages?

We also keep pointing out that the average CEO makes 312 times as much as the average worker. I just found this in Time Magazine today:

Here is what I say: If you like the pay of the CEO, why don’t you become the CEO of one of the top 350 publicly held companies in America?

The problem is that it’s hard to do that. It takes years of education, working at entry-level jobs, climbing through the ranks, working in stressful careers, doing 80 plus work weeks for years on fixed salaries, getting promoted to management, working 12 hour days 7 days a week in management. If you do all that, and you happen to choose an industry and career field with a future, and your company doesn’t go under as you work you butt off, and if you’re lucky and don’t get sick, and if the economic cycles align to your benefit, you might one day find yourself a CEO. And you make the big bucks.

After you have gone through that, you will know that the government had nothing to do with your overnight success and your phenomenal income.

You will also understand that minimum wage laws don’t work. All they do is force the working people to pay for those that don’t work, or don’t want to work, or can’t work, or don’t have the education needed to work.

This is what feeds Trumpism in the first place. This is why our country is divided. Trumpism does not work. But Bernie Sanders’ socialism also does not work.

Neither is the solution we need for a well-functioning society.

The real solution is education, and that is for another rant.

Bernie’s Press Release – I’m with Bernie

BURLINGTON, Vt., Nov. 9 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement Wednesday after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States:

“Donald Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media.  People are tired of working longer hours for lower wages, of seeing decent paying jobs go to China and other low-wage countries, of billionaires not paying any federal income taxes and of not being able to afford a college education for their kids – all while the very rich become much richer.

“To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him. To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.”

— Bernie Sanders

Redistribution of Wealth

Yesterday I heard some statistic that the richest 15 people in the United States have more wealth than the bottom 100 million combined.

Donald Trump is not one of those 15. On the Forbes list he is at rank 121 with his $4.5 billion. He always says he should be ranked higher and claims $10 billion, but be that as it may, objective observers put him at number 121.

I am sure I am part of the 100 million on the bottom. And so are likely you, my hardworking reader. What I don’t get is this:

When Obama was first running for office, some eight years ago, everyone called him the great “redistributer” even though the redistribution was well underway, starting with Reagan and going on through the Bush years. And the redistribution was not what we all were talking about. It was a redistribution of wealth from the pockets of workers like me and you to the pockets of the billionaire class like Trump. And Obama hasn’t slowed it down. It’s still going on.

What I also don’t get is this:

How in the world does Trump collect supporters among the 100 million, workers like you and I, and convinces them that he, one of the billionaire class, has our best interest in mind? Do Trump supporters really think he will do the right thing for the middle class and start stemming the tide of redistribution that has been going on for decades, so the wealth of the workers stays with the workers?

They really believe that he understands what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck?

They really think he would even care?

So I sent another thirty-five dollars to Bernie Sanders today. Call me crazy.

Worldwide Fossil Fuel Energy Subsidies $5.3 Trillion in 2015

Here is a study by the International Monetary Fund analyzing how large global energy subsidies are. This includes coal, oil and gas. The number is staggering: $5.3 trillion in 2015. That amounts to about 6.5% of the global GDP. About half of that is in emerging Asia, which includes China, and is boosted by the heavy use of coal in that part of the world. In the United States alone, the amount estimated for 2015 is $700 billion.

Subsidies are money that our governments take away from citizens in form of taxes and give to private and nationalized large corporations to do with as they please. Those corporations exist to make money by selling their products. They don’t exist to worry about what air our children breathe in 20 years and our grandchildren in 50. They don’t exist to worry about Pacific islands sinking under the sea. They don’t exist to worry about Miami, New York, and Tokyo being under water by 2100. There is no incentive for them to keep the environment clean, the rivers pristine, and wildlife alive. By definition, corporate organizations exist to make money and worry about nothing else. Yet, we give them the people’s money, every day.

How much is $5.3 trillion?

Oil Subsidies Worldwide

You can read the chart, but the bottom line is the most staggering one: The world’s taxpayers spend $168,000 a second, every second, day and night, year after year, to prop up oil companies. Yes, that’s Shell, Exxon, BP and many others. These are the same companies that make unbelievable profits. Shell’s profit alone in 2012 was $26.8 billion.

We are being brainwashed every day by our very own media and politicians to hate the word “redistribution” since it connotes socialism. The entire food stamps budget in the U.S. for 2015 is $84 billion, and it was cut significantly. Everyone seems to hate food stamps, even though is is an impactful and effective program, and has a surprisingly low fraud rate with more than 99% of benefits going to eligible households. In 2013 alone, it lifted nearly 5 million people above the poverty line, including about 2.1 million children.

We don’t like redistribution of tax dollars of $84 billion to the poor and their children. Yet, we seem to have no problem handing $700 billion to the oil companies in the U.S. alone. That’s almost 10 times as much as the entire food stamp program.

Giving tax money to corporations, any corporations, is wrong. Giving it to oil companies is immoral.

Why don’t we just stop this nonsense? Bernie Sanders has proposed an End Polluter Welfare Act, which he says would cut $135 billion of U.S. subsidies for fossil fuel companies over the next decade. It doesn’t seem like a big enough cut to me, but it’s a start.

I think I’ll donate another $35 to Bernie Sanders right now.




Ruminations About the S-Word (Socialism)

Here is a hilarious article about If Socialism is Evil, Does that make Israel Bad?

Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist, and according to a Gallup poll listing groups of people, socialists are the least trusted group in the United States in this chart:

Gallup Socialist and Atheist

We have been brainwashed into thinking that socialism is evil, or abhorrent. Socialism is definitely un-American. Yet, we have a lot of allies that are socialist countries. Go to Sweden, Denmark, Germany and talk to the people on the streets. They are proud of their countries, the social system, and they cannot understand all the fuss in the United States.

They are baffled that we choose not to provide healthcare coverage to everyone. They are in disbelief that our public universities are not free to all that qualify to attend them based on merit. They don’t understand how we can live without at least five weeks of paid vacation per year. They are mystified about our attitudes toward paid maternity leave.

Israel is basically a socialist country. Yet we send billions of our tax dollars to them every year to prop it up. That does not seem to bother us.

There are pros and cons regarding both systems. I chose to spend my life as an American citizen, and I like our system over that of Germany, for instance. That does not mean I couldn’t think of things we might want to tweak and improve.

But one thing I am sure about: Socialism is not EVIL. It’s just different.

Now let’s watch Bernie Sanders not get elected [sarcasm]. Perhaps if he professed to atheism, he might have a better chance.

The Socialist and the Plutocrat

Bernie Sanders has jumped out to a nine-point lead over front-runner Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, and he’s gained ground on her among Iowa voters in the Democratic presidential race, according to a pair of brand-new NBC News/Marist polls.

In New Hampshire, the Vermont senator gets the support of 41 percent of Democratic voters, Clinton gets 32 percent and Vice President Joe Biden gets 16 percent. No other Democratic candidate receives more than 1 percent.

— NBC News

The way things are going right now, we’ll have to choose between a plutocrat and a socialist for the next president. Where is the middle of the road?

We have 318.9 million people in the United States, and these two are our choices?

Whatever we do, the country is doomed. This is not good, this is not good at all.

CEO Pay, Billionaires and Income Inequality


Bernie Sanders and his followers have been blasting billionaires and CEOs for their greed. They insinuate that the blight America is in is the fault of the billionaire class. They vilify CEOs for their greed. They say that they don’t deserve to make that much money, as compared to the middle class.

Based on this list at PayScale.com, the CEOs of the large corporations make salaries of 83 times as much as the average employee in their companies.

So, if the average employee makes $60k a year, the CEO makes about $5 million a year. I hate to say this, but if you “only” make $5 million a year, you’re not going to become a billionaire. Billionaires are not where they are because they live frugally, save their money, and get regular raises. If you make $5 million, as the average CEO of a large company in this list makes, you have to spend nothing and save all your salary for 200 years to become a billionaire.

So bringing up CEO salaries, and how they compare to average workers, does not make sense when talking about billionaires. To become a billionaire, you either have to inherit a lot of money (like the Walton clan did), or, as it is the case with most billionaires, you have to create a very unique and highly successful company, make it take off, make it grow, and then either sell it, or take it public. It’s not easily done, and it won’t happen if you’re mostly interested in a paycheck. I just wrote a post about some prominent billionaires and what I think about Bernie Sanders’ comments about them here.

I don’t know what exactly Sanders wants to do about this problem of CEOs making more money than average workers. Do they deserve it? I don’t know. It’s the jobs of the boards that put the CEOs in place to decide, not mine, not Sanders’, and not the government’s. The government cannot dictate to companies what they pay their employees, within some limits. Yes, there are minimum wages, and I have outlined what I think about minimum wages here. But there are no maximum wages.

The only thing the government can do is tax. I agree with most people: taxation should be fair. I do not believe that a CEO should pay less taxes than his secretary. Why is the tax code so complicated?

If Sanders suggested that everyone pays the same percentage, I’d be all for it. What is that rate? 17%, or 25%, or 34%? Pick a number.

The guy flipping burgers pays that rate, I pay that rate, Bernie Sanders pays that rate, and the CEO of Disney pays that rate. I’d have no problem with that, and I’d say that most people won’t.

But here is the rub: Many low-income people pay no taxes at all. Why? Churches are tax exempt? Why in the world do we allow that? The government should make up its mind how much money it has to extract out of the people in income taxes as a percentage. Then the tax code, which everyone says is so complicated, gets really simple:

  • How much money did you make last year? ______
  • Multiply this by 0.XX, where XX is that number we all agree on is fair.
  • Send that money to the government.

The entire tax code is three lines long.

For those that believe it’s not fair that CEOs make millions of dollars I simply say that: Just become a CEO. Then you can make that kind of money. Get the education that it takes. Start with an entry-level job, preferably in the sales department and work your way up. When the CEO job opens, apply for it and get it. You can then earn the big bucks.

Oh, that’s a lot of work, huh?

Well, there you have it. That’s the difference between being the CEO and flipping burgers.


Musings about Vilifying Billionaires


Bernie Sanders has been getting headlines and filling up stadiums of people with his message:

Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.

Here is another quote:

Sanders, an independent, is seeking the Democratic nomination for president. On Saturday, the second day of a three-day Iowa swing, pointed out how FDR called the wealthy protectors of the status quo “economic royalists.”

“He said, ‘They hate my guts. Never have they hated someone as much as they hate me. And I welcome their hatred,’” Sanders said.

“And let me echo that today: If the Koch Brothers and the billionaire class hate my guts, I welcome their hatred. Because I am going to stand with working families.”

In a 1936 speech at Madison Square Garden, just days before his reelection, Roosevelt described his opposition as “the old enemies of peace: business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.”

“They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”

— Des Moines Register

He is basically saying that billionaires are bad people, criminals, and financial and moral rapists of the middle class.

I call this whole line of thinking bullshit. Bernie may have some good ideas. I admire his zeal and energy, but he needs to drop this silly line of thinking because it makes no sense.

I am not a billionaire. I am not a millionaire. But I have been a business owner and job creator all my life. For the vast majority of my career, I was responsible for meeting payroll. I know a thing or two about business.

There are very few billionaires in the country. Forbes lists about 400 or so. The exact number does not matter. The fact is, they would all pretty much fit into one Boeing 747. It’s not a lot of people.

I have read the biographies of a number of billionaires, including several of Bill Gates, several of  Steve Jobs ( – by Isaacson), and one of Elon Musk ( – by Vance).  I have learned a thing or two about billionaires in the process.

I actually talked with Ted Waitt, the founder of Gateway 2000, at a CEO round table in San Diego. There were about 10 to 15 of us CEOs of local companies who invited business personalities on a monthly basis, and one time our guest was Ted Waitt. At the time he was worth about $1.4 billion. Ted talked about the days when he started Gateway in his family barn in Sioux City, South Dakota. He started the company on September 5, 1985 with a $10,000 loan secured by his grandmother.

On September 5, 1985, I was a computer programmer in San Diego, making $26,000 a year. I could have started a computer company in my garage. But I didn’t. Ted did. He talked about the early years trying to keep the company going. “Every morning we’d go to the mailbox and see what checks we received, and then the accountant and I would decide which bills to pay that day,” he said, and to every one of us CEOs in the room, that rang home loud and clear. Everyone who ever had to meet payroll has run out of money and has had to figure out how to make it past that. All too often, the solution came in form of a personal credit card in the owner’s wallet – or worse.

Ted Waitt didn’t become a billionaire because he ripped off people, stole from the middle class, or was greedy. He was successful because he provided a product (computers) at a time when the personal computer business was booming, and supplied that product at a fair price, with high quality, and with little overhead, since he pioneered the concept of mail-order computers (along with his rival Michael Dell at the time). He was eventually successful because we worked 18 hour days, 7 days a week, for years and years, and took enormous risks. He shipped millions of good computers. Our company bought all Gateway machines in the early years. He created thousands of high-paying jobs in – of all places – South Dakota, until he couldn’t fill the positions anymore, having pretty much employed everyone available within commuting distance. That’s when he moved the company to San Diego. Ted Waitt, through his sheer tenacity, brutally hard work, long hours, his creativity, vision, and leadership built a billion-dollar company, made himself fabulously wealthy (billionaire), made many of his partners and investors very wealthy, employed thousands of people, became a major industrial factor in Sioux City, South Dakota, and supplied good, solid computers, made in the USA, to millions of people for many years.

We don’t want to strike down people like Ted Waitt! We need more of them, many more of them, if the USA is to ever again be an industrial nation that creates and ships products all over the world.

I don’t need to talk much about Bill Gates, who has been the wealthiest person in America for some 25 years or more now. Gates, of course, heads off the billionaire class, and in my estimation he is one of the most brilliant business men of our entire generation. He has created an entire industry. He employed many thousands of people, now for more than 40 years. Many thousands of ex-Microsoft workers are millionaires now in their retirement. Microsoft still fuels our US economy. It’s one of the companies that still makes stuff right here and exports it all over the world. Microsoft is a major job creator.

Apple is the most valuable company on the planet, with today’s market cap at $661 billion. Steve Jobs became a billionaire many times over, not because he raped the middle class, but because he reinvented an entire host of industries single-handedly, including computers, movies (Pixar), music distribution (iTunes), cell phones (iPhone), and modern computing (iPad). It is reported that Apple is now working on a car. I guess it’ll be called the iCar?

Steve Jobs was a billionaire when he died too early. He, too, created good American jobs and industries that will fuel our national economy for decades to come. Apple is one of the most recognized brands on the planet. He founded the company on April 1, 1976. I remember that day, because on that very day I reported to military boot camp. Every soldier remembers that day vividly. Jobs built his company through relentless hard work, vision, persistence when everyone around him told him it could not be done. He ran several companies in parallel for years (Pixar, Apple). Apple would not exist without Jobs. There would be no Apple stores everywhere. We would not be using iPhones. Smart phones might look different entirely today if it hadn’t been for Apple’s creativity and leadership. Jobs was a billionaire, and he produced more value for the US than thousands of average workers combined.

Then there is Elon Musk, an immigrant from South Africa who arrived first in Canada as a teenager in the late 1980s with a few hundred dollars in his pocket. Eventually, he cofounded PayPal, and after it was sold, started Tesla, the electric car company, SpaceX, the rocket company, and he was heavily involved in SolarCity, the solar energy leasing company. With Tesla worth over $40 billion, and SpaceX still private, but estimated at more than $12 billion, Musk is a multi-billionaire and he got there by taking huge risks, working extremely hard for decades and having an outsized vision of what can be done.

Did you ever think it would be possible to start a brand-new car company? Or how about a rocket company that will compete with Russia and NASA? That’s exactly what Musk did, from scratch, in his garage, with his own money, that he made from writing code for PayPal – while the rest of us went to work every day at our jobs. Now he too employs thousands of people in several companies. Those companies are still growing and creating jobs in America, every day, every week, every month.

We need more people like Waitt, Gates, Jobs and Musk in this country, not less. Bernie Sanders does not know what he is talking about when he vilifies billionaires.

Granted, I just listed a few prominent ones here, but I could go on and on. Go and study up on the biographies of the wealthiest people in this country, and you’ll find that for the most part, they are the ones that have created opportunity, wealth and welfare by providing superior products for the US and the rest of the world.

So when I quote Sanders again from the top of this post:

Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.

I can only say: what an idiotic statement!

Our Kids are Defending Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar

…and we happily let it happen. We have already spent more than $1 billion on ISIS airstrikes, and we don’t have any money to repave the crumbling roads of Los Angeles and New York.

“I’m sitting here wondering where Saudi Arabia is, where Kuwait is, where Qatar is, I’ll be damned if kids in the state of Vermont — or taxpayers in the state of Vermont — have to defend the royal Saudi family, which is worth hundreds of billions of dollars.”

— Sen. Bernie Sanders – check out his video at this link.

These super-wealthy Arab nations are laughing all the way to the bank, while their royal families shop in Beverly Hills and Fifth Avenue stores.

Senator Bernie Sanders on Syria and Our Country’s Values

We’ve cut back on education, we’ve cut back on nutrition programs, we’ve thrown kids off Head Start. We have billions to spend on a war but no money to take care of the very pressing needs of the American people. That bothers me a lot.

— Senator Bernie Sanders