Many people write or speak to tell us what we should think. Some want to be believed because they are experts, or think they are. Some want to be believed because they claim to speak for us. Some have had revelations. Others want us to trust them because they communicate through prominent media outlets. Many tell us what we should think. I write to encourage my readers to think for themselves. I write to ask you to inquire. Question me. Have fun.

  
Comment of the Day
More parenting is needed

Aug 01, 2019

Peter Gray in Psychology Today advises for less parenting. The problem is exactly the opposite: There is not enough parenting. In the past, when most of our ancestors lived in self-supporting households, often a farm, out of necessity, children were an integral part of whatever adults needed to do during their daily life, and they learned that way. Now, we do not need to do as much at home. Work is outside the home, food is brought in, heat is turned on and off, and mysteriously magical, colorful screens are the center of most activities. If we leave children free to explore what they find the most attractive, they will play video games. There might be some educational value in it, but one needs to learn much more. Hence, we need more effort in parenting, with parents doing more in the home than is otherwise required, and spending more time with children outside in order to introduce them to the real world. This realization hit home after I witnessed the surprise of a 7-year old seeing apples on my apple tree.

PREVIOUS COMMENTS
Less fight more work
Jul 30, 2017

The fight over Obamacare repeal is over, at least for now. The GOP can start to work on a new proposal that each of us can look at it, and then compare how my particular health care solution would play in it, as compared to Obamacare. In a television interview, HHS Secretary Tom Price said that Obamacare “may be working for Washington, it may be working for insurance companies, but it’s not working for patients.” Maybe it is time to consider patients’ involvement in the preparation of an Obamacare alternative? It could be that Obamacare repeal failed just because it has been prepared by Washington with consultation from insurance companies. Let us start with addressing 19 health care issues that politicians avoid talking about.

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How to pay for the wall?
Apr 04, 2017

If you want to build the wall, pay for it with your own money. How much of your own money are you willing to donate? Trump received 62,979,879 votes. If each of Trump’s supporters voluntarily donates at least $1,000, which corresponds to about $42 per month for the next two years, and if we encourage those who are more affluent to double their donations, then Trump can have on hand about $100 billion, which may suffice for a substantial piece of the wall. Hence, all of you who are talking loudly about spending my money on building this wall, stay away from my wallet, but open your own wallet and send money to the “Build the Wall Fund.” Put your money where your mouth is.

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What is wrong with Russia?
Dec 22, 2015

It appears that Russian leaders cannot free themselves from the medieval concept of regional influence, where weaker neighbors were subdued into becoming serf states. Is anyone capable of explaining to them that in these times of a global economy, any influence comes from economic strength? Russia, thanks to its size, natural resources and well-educated labor force, has everything that it takes to maintain a dominant position in the region, just by maintaining free trade with all its neighbors. It can do so without military interventions in Georgia and in Ukraine. Russia has everything that it takes to be a respected wealthier neighbor, to whom everyone in the region would turn for help when needed. Instead, it is a bully and a hooligan. It would take so little to change that. But it is so hard for Russia to do it. 

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Closed mind for closed borders
Nov 19, 2015

Known to some as a libertarian, Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. speaks against open borders. His argument is that it is an infraction against private property. He misses the point that most people migrate just because Mr. Rockwell’s neighbors want them on their private property – for picking apples, washing the dishes or writing a computer code. Then, Mr. Rockwell wrongly laments that those foreigners invited by his neighbors violate his private property rights by loitering in the public spaces that he frequents. He wants the government to deny the rights of his neighbors to do on their private property whatever they wish, so he will not need to face immigrants in the public spaces. Mr. Rockwell left the train called “liberty” at the station called “xenophobia.”    

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They do not know…
Sep 14, 2015

Mr. Trump says: “A lot of what I’m doing is by instinct.” I prefer that our President would make decisions based on systematic due diligence. The instinct that guides Mr. Trump in his professional life arrives from his vast experience, starting when he was growing up under the mentoring of his successful father, followed by a solid education and years of practice. Mr. Trump's confidence is misguiding, as it gives his supporters the illusion that someone who mastered real estate dealing can be equally skillful as President. It is similar to the illusion surrounding Dr. Carson, that he can be as good a President as he is a brain surgeon. If both gentlemen were humbler, they would realize that they qualify to be President equally as much as Mr. Trump qualifies to conduct brain surgeries and Dr. Carson to run Mr. Trump’s real estate empire. The problem is not that they do not know many things they should; the problem is that they do not realize that.

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Freedom cannot be legislated, its restriction can
Mar 31, 2015

Indiana voted in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In his WSJ piece, Gov. Mike Pence claims it was needed to protect the religious freedoms of Hoosiers. Every legislative act by its nature limits someone’s freedom. The only way of increasing freedom is by identifying existing laws that curb personal liberties and then eliminating them.  Hence, if Gov. Pence sees that under some circumstances, the religious freedoms of Hoosiers are not respected, he could correct the situation by eliminating laws causing this problem. We have the Bill of Rights, and it suffices. No “enhancements” are needed.

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Is Howard Schultz just another politician?

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

He claims he is not. So far, his exploration of a presidential candidacy creates no vibe.

More is expected from one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our times. From living in public housing to becoming a billionaire – by exploring an opportunity in something as mundane as coffee, Howard Schultz built a worldwide business empire. Even more, he provided pay and benefits, including health insurance for part-time employees, that were much better than offered by others. He succeeded by living by American ideas. One could expect that when a man with such credentials takes on the core problems of our nation, he would analyze our problems and shock us with conclusions that would be so logically obvious that we all would be astonished how it could be that we had not seen them before.

Nothing like that is happening. His well-balanced speeches and interviews do not excite listeners and do not send waves across media. His website – more about it below – is full of nonspecific promises. His promotional emails, which I regularly receive, are exactly like the ones I get from other politicians. He sounds like a decent but incredibly boring guy. He sounds like an ordinary politician.

$400 away from financial catastrophe
One day about a year ago there was news that about 40% of Americans cannot cover a $400 emergency expense without borrowing money or selling some assets. Howard Schultz picked up on this, claiming that millions of Americans are left behind. Are they? How many of these Americans living paycheck to paycheck own the newest model of smartphone, when a less-fancy one costing about $400 less would suffice? How many of them subscribe to $100-per-month cable TV? How many of them drive an SUV despite the fact that they can afford an economy car only? How many of them bet on their good luck by spending more than $50 per week playing the lottery? Lastly, how many of them do not brew their coffee at home, which would cost them no more than a quarter per cup, but buy it at Starbucks, where the cheapest cup of coffee is about 10 times more expensive?

The question is what a president, or a government in general, can do about it. If, for the sake of argument, those 40% were given an extra $400 from time to time, would they keep it for an emergency, or would they spend it quickly for something they otherwise would not buy? The greatness of America started diminishing when, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy needed to remind Americans: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” America became great when Americans knew that in their hearts and worked hard on enriching themselves, building a great nation in the process. America is in very bad shape when a person aspiring to be the best presidential candidate is afraid to tell Americans as it is: that they need to educate themselves how to advance economically by resisting spending money they cannot afford to spend.

Howard Schultz promises to get the federal budget under control and reduce the national debt. It is troubling that he does not see a connection between too many Americans living above their means and our flamboyant national spending. As individuals and as a nation we behave as though we are much richer than we truly are. Even worse, when spending public money, Americans are more reckless, falling for the illusion that they are not spending their own money. As president, Howard Schultz will not be able to fulfill his promise to reduce the national debt if Americans who do not understand finances elect to Congress similarly ignorant representatives.

One might expect that Howard Schultz would tell poor Americans that the only way out of economic distress is the one that he took. Unfortunately, like all other politicians he is trying to get elected not by telling Americans how it is but by telling them what they like to hear.

Immigration is not about decency and humanity …
… as Howard Schultz once stated. It is about the economic interests of the United States.

The crux of Howard Schultz’s presidential proposition is that he would be a centrist. As he explains on his website, he would sign major legislation only if it is supported by both parties. He does not tell us how he will do this on immigration, because the parties have not agreed on any major legislation on this issue since 1986.

Howard Schultz simply shows his lack of knowledge when stating that the problem with immigration has been going on for 20 years already. Anti-immigration sentiment has been around since the beginnings of the nation. But it came to the forefront in 1907 when Congress established a Joint Immigration Commission, also known as the Dillingham Commission. The findings of that commission led to the first immigration restrictions, legislated in 1917, and then to the Immigration Act of 1924, which – despite later modifications – in its spirit, is the law of the land today.

Beginning in 1917, our government “protects” us from undesirable immigrants. Before that, our immigration functioned fine, and this is how America became great in the first place. Without elaborating on details, the more politicians did to make our immigration system work better, the more screwed up was the immigration system we got. Ronald Reagan’s famous statement that “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem” describes this the best.

The key problems are in how many immigrants should we admit and how should they be selected. Let us say that Starbucks or the Trump Organization sees a need for hiring foreigners. Can we trust them that they would hire good, hardworking people, or should we have a massive immigration administration under President Trump or President Schultz to protect us from bad people coming in? Then, can we trust the market that, after all the needs of our economy for foreign labor are satisfied, new immigrants, even if coming in, would not be able to find a job and therefore would be returning home? In other words, can we imagine the possibility of resolving our massive illegal immigration problem not by building the wall or militarizing a border, but by creating a legal immigration system that would make it unrewarding to come and stay here illegally? After all, Canadians did it; illegal immigration is less problematic there.

The difference is that in Canada, foreign born are 21.9% of the population, whereas in the United States, including illegal immigrants, they comprise only 13.7%. It is logical to ask whether we can eradicate illegal immigration by increasing meaningfully legal immigration. None of the mainstream politicians would even mention this for public consideration. Sadly, Howard Schultz is joining this crowd by talking roundly about the need for a reasonable solution.

The reasonable solution is by determining in public debate the number of immigrants that is good for our economy. For the last 20 years it has hovered around one million per year, but about half of these new legal immigrants are so-called status adjustments, meaning foreigners already in the country on temporary visas or illegally who managed to get a green card. Some Americans advocate for lowering legal immigration to about 300,000 per year while others would increase legal immigration to at least two million per year. A small minority would lift all immigration restrictions and would let the market decide how many foreigners we need to work here. The decision needs to be made by a scrupulous analysis of the facts, rather than basing it on how many misinformed Americans support or oppose any given option.

This can be done only by someone who dares to say that we might be facing our ongoing immigration crisis only because most Americans are wrong on immigration, because they support a policy that, due to its original faults, never could work and never will. Trying to be a centrist between advocates of closed borders and proponents of a relaxed immigration policy boils down to standing for what we have now.

What to do with Obamacare?
Howard Schultz spoke against the public option for health care insurance but left me unsatisfied, with ambiguous reasoning behind it.

Health insurance by its definition is a form of a contract where most of us contribute a little for the uncertain eventuality that we might need a major medical expense. It means that most of us take from this contract much less than we contribute. This has not been the message behind the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. A system constructed on the assumption that most of us take more than we contribute cannot stay solvent. It is worth noting that the lengthy ACA document does not have a definition of health insurance. If it did, it would invalidate the very concept behind it. Under the terms of health insurance, Obamacare guarantees many medical services that legally are health maintenance. This is not sustainable. I bet that the businessman Schultz understands this perfectly. I am concerned that when aspiring to become a politician, businessman Schultz does not bring this critical fact to light.

Also, in order to be solvent, health insurance needs contributions from many healthy people who barely see a doctor. But these people would voluntarily contribute only if their contribution would guarantee them health care for the duration of their whole life, not just for a one-year contract. Those very basic economic rules are poorly understood by most Americans. The biggest challenge in establishing an efficient and effective health care system in the United States is not in overcoming our dysfunctional political system in Washington as Mr. Schultz is saying. It is in explaining in plain terms to Americans what can and what cannot work, and why. It might mean to tell boldly to many that they are simply wrong. A leader would say it; a politician would not.

In particular, a rejection of Medicare for All needs to be explained that it will create a labyrinthine system where the flow of money would be so intricate that many could be deceived that 2+2 equals 5. It would be intriguing to know what the centrist would do when trying to find a compromise between the populists convincing us that that if we act by our hearts, we can make 2+2=5 happen, and the cruel accountants firmly standing by 2+2=4, regardless of how we feel about it. I know what businessman Schultz would decide, but from his emphasis put on the centrist position, I am not sure that President Schultz would not settle for 2+2=4.5.

Why America is dangerously divided?
On his website Howard Schultz starts his message with a statement that America is dangerously divided. It would be interesting to know his opinion as to how and why this happened. Then, how he proposes to fix it. It is not there. But, let us stop for a while and think seriously: Why are we so deeply divided? Is it God’s punishment for our sins? Is it Russians’ manipulation on social media? No, it is something within us.

In the case of Americans left behind, we found earlier that it is due to a lack of basic economic education. On immigration, why should we assume that people with poor math skills suddenly would be able to think logically when analyzing our immigration problem? On health care, again, the lack of ability to reason points Americans toward socialistic illusions.

John Kerry once said: “In America you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be.” We are so dangerously divided, not due to the dysfunctional political system in Washington. We have the dysfunctional political system because too many Americans exercise the right that John Kerry was talking about.

A critical reader can comment that, writing with such temerity, the author of this text is one of those Americans abusing the right that John Kerry was talking about. It is a valid point that I am ready to refute in a fair academic debate. There is no other way to overcome our dangerous divide than by discussing our differences candidly.

Howard Schultz proudly claims that he built Starbucks by a collective effort of its partners. He credits people who had the audacity to speak aloud against views assumed to be unquestionable. Logically, one could expect that, aspiring to the presidency, Mr. Schultz would use this experience to lead a reunification of the dangerously divided nation by opening a frank public debate on the most igniting political issues. Nothing like that so far.

Instead, Mr. Schultz asks rhetorically:

Isn’t it time for a government that works for you?
This implies that if he is elected, I can sit on a sofa, watch TV, order a pizza and have a beer. In the meantime, government will take care of all our problems.

America became great in the first place not by what government did, but what people did without any, or with very little, government involvement. They were not smarter than Americans today. They were given an opportunity to pursue happiness the way they wanted. They did not expect anything to be given to them.

Since then, in exchange for us giving up a little bit of our liberty here and there, the government offered us many small comforts and securities. Somewhere in the process, our mentality shifted from entrepreneurial citizens to government’s serfs. Our great past should inspire us when shaping the future. We can make America great again, or as Mr. Schultz calls it #ReimagineUS, not by electing a government that works for us. We can do it only by Americans rolling up their sleeves and doing more to advance themselves. The best that a president and government can do is make sure that Americans who take this path have as few obstacles as possible. Regretfully, like all other presidential candidates, this is not where Howard Schultz looked for ideas in his presidential platform.

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About me

I was born in 1951 in Gdansk, Poland.
Since my high school years, I have interest in politics and love for writing. During my college years, I started writing to student papers and soon became freelance author to major Polish political magazines.

In 1980 I wrote a book “Czy w Polsce może być lepiej?” (“Could it be better in Poland?” – this book is available only in Polish) analyzing major problems in Poland at the time and outlining possible solutions.

I was among those Polish political writers who by their writings contributed to the peaceful system transformation that finally took place in 1989. Since 1985, I live in the Chicago area. I went through the hard times typical of many immigrants. Working in service business, I have seen the best and the worst places, I met the poorest and the richest. I have seen and experienced America not known to most of politicians, business people, and other political writers. For eleven years, I ran my own company. Presently, I am an independent consultant.

My political writing comes out of necessity. I write when I see that the prevailing voices on the political arena are misleading or erroneous. Abstract mathematics and control theory (of complex technological processes) strongly influenced my understanding of social phenomena. In the past, my opponents rebuked my mathematical mind as cold, soulless, and inhuman. On a few occasions I was prized for my engineer’s precision and logic.

I have a master’s degree in electronic engineering with a specialization in mathematical machines from Politechnika Gdańska (Technical University of Gdansk).

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