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The way it looks to me is that, as a nation, we’ve just about come full circle. We began by acclaiming a man who couldn’t tell a lie to a man who doesn’t seem to be able to tell the truth and who lost the popular election. Kind of a tough one to take on an empty stomach, isn’t it…hell, even on a full stomach, it sorta makes you want to empty out! Of course, we didn’t have television, social media, or hackers of all kinds in good old George’s day. Heck, things were so hush-hush back in that time that even today, we do not know the names of all six of President Washington’s infamous Culper ring of spies. The way things are today, it appears that all you have to do is give the incumbent a classified briefing, and after he tells Putin, he’ll find a way to put it out in a Tweet. I can see it now, “Mika Brzezinski, you low IQ co-anchor of the most low-rated program on television, let me tell you what I just told Vlad…” and he’d go on to reveal more of America’s secrets.

In announcing that the US was pulling out of the Paris Accord, Trump noted, “We’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair.” Excuse me, but there was no such thing as negotiation. Each nation set its own commitments to reduce greenhouse gases and those commitments were non-binding. One of the real kickers was his announcement that, “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020.” That’s just not true. An article in the Washington Post says, “There is nothing in the agreement that stops the United States from building coal plants or gives the permission to China or India to build coal plants. In fact, market forces, primarily reduced costs for natural gas, have forced the closure of coal plants. China announced this year that it would cancel plans to build more than 100 coal-fired plants.”

In spite of all of Trump’s lies and his tweets that demonstrate his insecurities, narcissism, bullying tactics, and his willingness to throw friends as well as former friends under the proverbial bus, Trump is not the first egotist to occupy the Oval Office. Jack Kennedy, somewhat of a roué in his own right, reflected to an aide about Lyndon Johnson, “You are dealing with a very insecure, sensitive man with a huge ego. I want you literally to kiss his fanny from one end of Washington to the other. While doing a bit of research for this little essay, I came across this interesting point, “In his memoirs, longtime Johnson aide George Reedy painted an ugly portrait of LBJ, accusing him of being a womanizing, perverted drunkard who delighted in having conversations with people while he sat on the toilet for the sole purpose of making them uncomfortable and bullying his staff to the point of sadism. Johnson was especially fond of whipping out his manhood, which he’d dubbed “Jumbo,” in mixed company. There is even a story, possibly apocryphal, that he urinated on a Secret Service agent’s leg, claiming it was his “prerogative.” Johnson’s behavior could be so reprehensible that it has been suggested that he was likely mentally ill, possessed of more “‘grandiose narcissism” than any other president in history.” Can it be that history might be repeating itself on an even grander 21st Century scale?

While his supporters appear to approve of his “fighting spirit,” what Donald Trump is demonstrating is a lack of presidential qualifications. As Maine Senator, Susan Collins, said, “The President of the United States should not have to dignify remarks made about him.” Every President, from George Washington on, has had to suffer the “slings and arrows” of an outrageous press. From William Howard Taft’s weight to James Madison’s height – he stood a magnificent 5’4” – and from Jack Kennedy’s womanizing to Richard Nixon’s Watergate antics, US Presidents have come under fire from all sides.

It is apparent from his inability to handle any type of criticism that Donald Trump doesn’t really know what the hell he’s doing in the Office of the President. Perhaps the Russia investigation will blow over. Perhaps the lies he’s told about James Comey and others will pass like the clouds overhead. Perhaps he will not lead us into another war, this time with nuclear abandon that will destroy the world. Perhaps none of this will happen, but I can almost guarantee that by the time Donald Trump leaves the White House, America will need decades, if not a new Century, to correct and repair the damage that he will have done to this nation, its people and its image around the world. He gets my vote for America’s number one homegrown terrorist. By his actions, he has denigrated this nation in the eyes of the rest of the world and made the Office of the President, a laughing stock.

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Didn’t seem to be a big deal. Fellow came by yesterday. We were sitting at the kitchen table, just chatting, and he asked, “Do you know those little Tedeschi stores?” I just smiled and nodded that I did know them. Maybe my smile gave something away, I really don’t know. However, he followed up with, “What, why are you smiling?

I had to ask, “Do you know the history of the Tedeschi’s?”

“No, whadda you mean?” he asked.

Well, you know me, I’m not one to let an opportunity pass, so I had to tell the story…at least as I know it, and so I began…

Years ago, gosh, I couldn’t have been older than six or seven, we lived on the first floor of a two story house in Rockland, Massachusetts. The house was on Belmont Street, number 51 to be exact. Down the street from us was a little neighborhood grocery store. It was actually attached to the residence, but it had a parking lot that was big enough for maybe six cars. The husband and wife who lived there were Angelo and Katherine Tedeschi. There were days when my dad would take his shotgun and some shells, walk down the street and into the store. He’d yell, “Hey, Angelo, get the dogs and let’s go hunting,” and Angelo would tell Katherine to mind the store, and off he and dad would go to hunt. Remember now, this was late 1940, early ’41. If they were lucky, they would bring home a number of rabbits. Angelo would skin them and put them in his freezer. I have to tell ya, this store was just a little big larger than a two-car garage, so when I say it was ‘neighborhood,’ I mean, if you walked in there, you knew right away who was shopping. They were your neighbors. They knew you. You knew them, and it was a gathering place for neighborhood gossip as well as for picking up that night’s dinner.

It was later in 1941, December 7th to be exact, that America changed. We were drawn into a Second World War. Angelo and my dad were too old to join up, but some of the Tedeschi boys, as I was later told, went right down and enlisted. Ralph, the oldest, went into the Army as an officer. He fought in Europe and was promoted to the rank of major. To his misfortune, he was captured by the Germans. Ralph’s treatment at the hands of his captors was not too good. He was severely beaten. He was urinated on, and a number of other rather vile and despicable treatments were his wont in the camp in which he was held prisoners. He was isolated and thrown in a cell that had a dirt floor. As I understand it, he found a small stick at some point, and that dirt floor of his cell and that stick probably saved his life. You see, Ralph would diagram on that dirt floor his ideas for a new kind of market that he and his family would build when the war was over and he could go home. Different stores, different designs, different this and different that…all on the dirt floor as he was recovering from his beatings and his interrogation. Eventually, Ralph was freed from his captors by Russian soldiers. He was reunited with his family, and he began to plan.

The first “supermarket” opened by the Tedeschi family was on Market Street in Rockland. Ralph’s family, including brothers, Sam, Nick, and Bobby, as well as sister, Etta, were all part of the team. There could have been other brothers, heck, I could never keep track of all of them. Anyway, Angelo and Katherine were able to retire and watch their boys build a small empire. Stores in Braintree, Hanover, and a couple of other towns followed. Eventually, Stop & Shop, another major New England chain of supermarkets took notice. They offered to buy out the Tedeschi’s, and Ralph, as I understand it, drove a pretty hard deal, one that resulted in reasonably good wealth for all members of his family. Oh, and there was another proviso in the buyout. Ralph was prohibited from opening any other supermarket with the Tedeschi name for a period of ten years. Hey, they were all now millionaires, right, so what’s the big deal. Well, not so fast. The Tedeschi family hadn’t gotten to the position they were now in by being lazy and sitting on their collective butts. Within five years, the supermarket bug that had bitten Ralph was back and chomping away. As a result he opened some supermarkets on Cape Cod under the name of his father. They were called, “Angelo’s,” and they were big! As time went on, Ralph turned the business over to his brothers and other relatives. Eventually, another chain came and, once again, purchased the stores.

That, however, is not the end of my tale. My own Mother and Dad were in Florida when Angelo Tedeschi died. They read of his passing in a paper, and Mom called me. “Will you please go to the wake and the funeral and represent our family?” she asked. It was an honor I couldn’t refuse…probably would have gone anyway. When I walked into the funeral home, there they were, all of the brothers, greeting people who had come to pay their respects to this wonderful man who, along with his wife, had raised some pretty damned good kids. Ralph walked over and asked, “Excuse me, but who are you?” I explained that my folks couldn’t come and that I was representing the family because someone from our neighborhood had to be there. I no sooner got the words out of my mouth than Ralph grabbed me in a bear hug and carried me into the room where Etta was sitting with her mother, Katherine. “Look,” said Ralph, “It’s Dickie Bishop!” [Gad, how I hated that nickname…still do]. I spent some time with the family and, really, it was old home week. It was also the last time that I saw Ralph alive.

Years later, my wife and I were spending a vacation in Bermuda. As I was heading for the water at our little beach, a lady ahead of me yelled out to her friend, already in the water, “Wow, not like Green Harbor,” – a beach on the Atlantic to which our my family and all of our friends frequently visited. Being the smart mouth that I am, I responded from behind her, “Not like Brandt Rock either,” another haunt of our neighborhood and right next to Green Harbor. We both laughed and went for our swims. On getting out of the water, I told my wife of the brief encounter which she thought to be rather amusing. About half an hour later, I noticed one of the women talking to a man on their blanket and point over toward me. “Ah, what the hell,” I figured, “might’s well walk over”…which I did and introduced myself. “I’m {can’t remember the first name] Tedeschi,” he said. To which I responded, “Whose are you?” This rather confounded them, and I asked if they were from Rockland. “No,” the man said, “We live in Norwell.” I repeated my question, adding, “Which one of the brothers are you the children of?” It was as though the lightbulb went off, and he responded, “Do you know my family?” I allowed as how I did and asked them what they knew of their grandparents. Turned out that both Angelo and Katherine had passed on before these young people were born. “Did you know my grandfather,” I was asked, and thus, once more, I had the privilege of telling some folks a bit of their own family history. Did I embellish just a bit? Of course, because Angelo and Katherine deserved to be embellished. They, along with their children, believed in and became the American Dream.

I write this not out of a need to tell a story. I write it because another fellow came by yesterday, sat at the kitchen table, and asked if I knew the name Tedeschi. This fellow, too, is an immigrant. He and his mom, escaped from the Soviet Union about thirty-five years ago. He owns a small business, and I can see in his eyes and in his work ethic, that he, too, is pursuing this thing we call the American Dream. I think he’s going to make it, maybe not the way Ralph or his counterparts did, but I really think he stands a good chance of realizing what just about every immigrant dreams of when he or she enters the shores of our United States of America.

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I find it difficult to understand why Senate Democrats would block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination when they all know that it will just lead to the ‘nuclear option’ that will allow the man to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. This is just the child-like behavior that Republicans showed over the past eight years of the Obama administration. It seems to me that the two-party system in America has degenerated into a bunch of name-calling, infantile, assholedness that we often attribute to police state countries in other parts of the world. Perhaps the part that bothers me most is that the American public appears to be content to tolerate this behavior on the part of our national law makers…and that my friends is no less than absolutely frightening.

Are the Democrats so fearful the Justice Gorsuch will sway the balance of power that they have to use anything they have to prevent his nomination from passage? Yes, of course it’s true that he will be a voice of conservatism on the Court, just as Merrick Garland’s appointment would have made the Court one that would lean more to the liberal side of the aisle. However, I have to assume that the successful block of Garland’s nomination was nothing more than a cry-baby attempt by conservatives to further their agenda of diluting any kind of legacy that would be left by Obama. Certainly, Trump’s executive orders and the House’s idiotic attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act seem to be designed to ensure that there is no Obama legacy to be undone.

Call me naïve or dumb or whatever you wish, but I find it absolutely ridiculous that 435 men and women, sent to Washington to do the very best for this country by composing, comparing, and enacting legislation that will benefit this nation as a whole, cannot do so. Sure, I understand that what the people in Maine want, the people in Mississippi want, and the people in Montana, Minnesota, and Massachusetts may want, but goddammit, somewhere along the line, there should be things that people in our 50 states can say, “Well, yeah, I’m not crazy about it, but I can live with it.” This is not the case today in the Houses of Congress. It’s “my way or the highway, and fuck you very much!” and that does not serve the best interests of anyone in any part of the country. Congress has become too self-absorbed with what it considers to be its own importance. To top it off, we now have a person in the White House who encourages this type of discord, although for what reasons, it’s hard to imagine. Congress can censure its own members, but the only way that America can benefit is if we throw some of these people out of office and let some new folks attempt to understand the word, “compromise.”

I can hear the politicians now…”Oh, you don’t understand how government works. You don’t realize the pressure we’re under from our constituents to stand our ground.” Perhaps not, but what I do realize is this: Too many of you have been in office too long, and you have turned government into your own political play thing, that does nothing for the nation, but that lines your pockets in ways that are unimaginable to the vast majority of your constituents. Do you think I’m joking? Time Magazine, in a January, 2014 story, wrote, “The Center for Responsive Politics analyzed the personal financial disclosure data from 2012 of the 534 current members of Congress and found that, for the first time, more than half had an average net worth of $1 million or more: 268 to be exact, up from 257 the year earlier. The median for congressional Democrats was $1.04 million and, for Republicans, $1 million even.” In that same year, the median income of Americans was $51,939. Doesn’t that make you stop and think that perhaps members of Congress cannot possibly understand what it’s like to be an average American citizen? They listen and nod their heads and commiserate with their folks back in East Bumfuck or wherever, and then they return to Washington, dining at Fiola Ware, Bourbon’s, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, or The Source, usually at the expense of some lobbyist or other who will get them to vote for a bill that is actually at odds with what the interests of their constituents happen to be…but they tried…they were just overwhelmed by their fellow Congressional leaders or members of their party…and it’s all a bunch of bullshit…just so they can pocket a few more bucks or increase their portfolios.

Am I a cynic? No, that’s not cynicism, it’s realism. I’ve been on this earth for over eight decades, and in that time, I’ve learned one or two things about political leaders. The first of these things is that they are overly impressed with their own self-importance. A second thing is that they may have begun their political careers hoping to change things for the better, but that they soon become corrupted by those who were in office before them and took them under their wing, and if they refused to be taken “under a wing,” they were soon out of office and never even saw the bus that they had been thrown under by their ‘friends.’ Remember what Mark Twain said, “We have the best government that money can buy,” and by God, he was absolutely right.

My political ambition never carried me farther than being vice president of a Little League, and seeing the back-biting and chicanery that happened in something as low-level as that was enough to convince me that getting into the real political arena was somewhat akin to shoveling shit against the oncoming tide…you just won’t win.

I love America with all my heart and soul. It is the greatest country on earth. It’s a land where people are free to pursue their dreams, and whether they succeed or fall flat on their collective faces, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because they are free to get up and start their pursuit all over again. Yes, I love my country, but sometimes I wonder just how we ever came to this sorry impasse that we call the United States Congress.

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U.S. Route 1 is a major north–south highway that serves the East Coast of the United States. It runs 2,369 miles, from Fort Kent, Maine, at the Canada–US border. It runs through any number of states, including New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, etcetera, south to Key West, Florida, making it the longest north-south road in the United States. How about that for a piece of trivia that you can wow your friends with the next time you get together? This is an historic highway, one traveled many times by George Washington, both in time of peace and war. In fact, along this route, many taverns and inns which have survived the tests of time and termites now boast of having sheltered the First President. If what they claim is true, it is little wonder that he is often referred to as the “Father of our Country.” Your highway education, however, is not the reason for putting forth this factoid. Rather, it is to give you a frame of reference regarding the importance of this rather ancient but venerable piece of asphalt.

You see, in Massachusetts, there is a one mile stretch of U.S. Route 1 – by the way, you may pronounce this as “rout” or “root,” depending on your own choice – that is known as “The Auto-mile.” Clever, ay whot? For along this stretch of this nationally named passage sits more damned auto dealerships, with their gaudy pennants and signs, platformed and cut-away vehicles than can be crammed into any other stretch of roadway in the country. And next to each dealership is a fast food franchise or a bloody service station. All in all, it’s rather an ugly piece of roadway. However, and there is always a “however,” there is one article that stands out above all others, not for its gaudiness or ostentation, but for its beauty. The beauty is in the thirty by sixty foot American flag that flies high above one dealership. On a clear, warm, somewhat windy day, I can hear that flag as it flaps in the breeze. It may not sound to you like such a big deal, but U.S. Route 1 is a busy highway, with trucks, buses and cars whizzing by at all hours. Yet, I can hear that flag flapping in the breeze. It reminds me of all the things that I have, have had, and will always have.

That flag represents my freedoms. It represents the fact that I can travel from state to state – all fifty of them – without having to show travel papers or any kind of documentation that says I have the right to be in New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and all the way to California. I’m free to go north or south without care…if that’s what I want to do. I did it once by car. That was over half a century ago. It’s a freedom that too many of us take for granted, but we shouldn’t. When I see and hear that flag, it reminds me that somewhere, out there, on a ship, in the air, and even on the ground in countries I’ve never seen, there are men and women on duty who are making damn certain that I will continue to have my freedom to travel across my country if I wish; that I can go to any gas station and fill up my car if I so desire; that I don’t have ration coupons that will prevent me from buying exactly what I want when I go to Wegman’s or Stop & Shop, Star, or whatever grocery store I so choose. That flag reminds me that I can go to the polls whenever we have a local, state, or national election, and vote for whomever I darn well please…and I don’t have to tell a soul for whom I voted if I don’t care to…but if I do care to, no one is going to tell me that I voted wrong or report me or have me arrested. That flag says that I can write whatever I wish to write for this blog without fear of retaliation or retribution by some government bureaucrat. I like these freedoms; hell, I’ve liked them for eighty-two plus years, and I intend to keep liking them, well certainly not for another eighty-two, but you get my drift.

I sometimes think that too many of us don’t take the time to look at the American flag as it flies on poles on the top of our town halls, or fire stations, department stores, or even in the front yards of people we know. We’re too quick to go about our business and not think about others who don’t have the freedoms that we take so much for granted.

Years ago, someone sent me the following:
• This morning, if you woke up healthy, then you are happier than the 1 million people that will not survive next week.
• If you never suffered a war, the loneliness of the jail cell, the agony of torture, or hunger, you are happier than 500 million people in the world.
• If you can enter into a church (mosque) without fear of jail or death, you are happier than 3 million people in the world.
• If there is a food in your fridge, you have shoes and clothes, you have bed and a roof, you are richer than 75% of the people in the world.
• If you have a bank account, money in your wallet and some coins in the money-box, you belong to the 8% of the people on the world, who are well-to-do.
I don’t consider these five bullet points very often, but whenever I see and hear that flag flying over that auto dealership, I do think about what that flag means to me. I served two tours in the Army. No, I didn’t have to go overseas or shoot anyone, but I served, and I served proudly. I hope that the next time you just happen to see an American flag flying from a pole somewhere, you’ll take a moment and think of just how blessed you are. If you are able to read this but you’re not from America, think of how blessed you are to have a computer and to be able to read English (I’m envious because I do not speak a second language).

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading.

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In the “as if we needed to hear any more bullshit from you,” category, Donny Trump tweeted that “ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!”

This is just another indication of why Trump is not a leader, just a thin-skinned child who, when he doesn’t get his way, takes his ball and goes crying home…in this case, to his daughter, not his wife…hmm. It was the perfect opportunity to admit that ‘his’ congressional leaders were unable to develop a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act {ACA}. He could have followed it up with, “Now is the ideal time for Republican and Democratic leaders to reach across the aisle and, together, develop a plan that will replace the flaws in ObamaCare and that will ensure that all Americans receive appropriate health coverage.” That is something that a leader would have done.

Consider the number of times that Republicans attempted to repeal the ACA over the eight-year term of Barack Obama. The number, by the way, is sixty. It seems to me that rather than spending all of that time attempting to repeal a law, they could have more productively spent their time developing a plan to replace the Act. If you, as a member of Congress, felt that ObamaCare was such a terrible piece of legislation, wouldn’t you first come up with a better, stronger, more viable plan rather than behaving like a bunch of spoiled children? I’m sorry, am I being too logical here? Was it, perhaps, a case of, “We don’t want anything that the ‘foreign-born,’ n-word, SOB got past us to ever show up as part of his legacy! Oh, naw, that could never be the case…or could it? Was it that this first national health plan, for all its flaws, managed to get enacted by Congress?

You see, I’m rather a cynic when it comes to killing something just for the sake of killing it. I don’t hunt, but I used to enjoy deep sea fishing enormously. We kept the bluefish and stripers that we caught because people would eat them. If we were having a better than average day, it was catch and release. The Republican Party had seven years to put together a better health plan. They-didn’t-do-that. They-wanted-to-kill-a-program-that-had-been-legally-enacted-without-having-the-faintest-fucking-idea-of-what-to-replace-it-with. Now, I don’t know about you, but I might just have wanted to ask my Republican Congress person what he or she was doing to develop a plan to replace ObamaCare during those seven years, and if they didn’t have an answer, I might just have voted his/her ass right out of that Congressional seat. Am I being too harsh for you here?

Now, unable to come up with something to replace the Affordable Care Act, instead of uniting Congress, this idiot at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the “Greatest Deal Maker of All Time,” whines and moans and blames everyone without even considering the tremendous opportunity put before him, starts his surrender talk with, “Well, no Democrats were going to vote for anything the Congress came up with.” Note that please. It wasn’t “…anything we came up with,” it was, “…anything Congress came up with.” In other words, “It wasn’t my fault; it was the fault of those assholes in Congress.” It’s this lack of leadership qualities or even understanding the qualities of leadership that terrifies me about this man. He was a little king in a small village when he had his businesses that were being run by others. He was a television celebrity who could do as he damn well pleased when he was on air. He is now in a position that requires skills and qualities that he has never and probably will never possess, but because of his celebrity status and the bombast with which he conducted his campaign, he was the chosen one.

There is a need for our nation to have a health plan. There is a need for a health plan that covers the rich, middle, poor, and elderly classes. It can be done. Mitt Romney showed that it could be done in Massachusetts. Was his plan perfect? No, it, too, was flawed, but care was taken to correct many of those flaws. No plan, whoever, drafts it, is going to ever be 100 percent guaranteed to work for everyone. We are not a one-size-fits-all nation. Hell, we weren’t even a one-size-fits-all-state. From the hills of Holland to the tip of Provincetown and from Florida to Dracut and beyond, Massachusetts residents have different needs, but by God, Romney tried and did something no other governor had done. Now is the time for Ryan and McConnell, Schumer and Pelosi to sit down, shake hands, look at one another, and simultaneously ask one another, “How do we pull ourselves out of this deep shit,” for that’s what it is. Trump and his hooligans will do everything in their power to ensure that the ACA implodes, just to get back at Obama. It’s time for the adults in the room – those from both sides of the aisle – to come together and determine what is best for the country, for all 326,474,013 members of this country. Forget ‘Hairspray’ and his band of brothers, for he will attempt to sabotage your efforts. While sub rosa may be a term we don’t care to hear, it may be the only way that the nation will be able to make health care for all a reality. Demonstrate that you are true leaders even though we don’t have one sitting in the White House.

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We all know that there are inequities and inequalities in this world. Well, at least anyone with half a brain knows these things. I’m a big believer in this funny little thing called equal pay for equal work, which makes me just a wee bit pissed that women, on average, receive only eighty-two cents for every dollar that a man makes for doing the same job. When Mary Barra took over as head of General Motors, I’m told, she received a compensation package one million dollars lower than that of her predecessor. Her compensation package last year consisted of a $1,750,000 salary and other compensation that brought her package up to $28,576,651. Admittedly, this is probably one of the few cases where a CEO has earned every penny. Even within the male population, there is inequality. Tell me, if you can, why the head football coach at the Air Force Academy is making eight times more money than the Secretary of Defense of the United States? When one considers the international considerations of each position, it would appear reasonable to assume that the roles really ought to be reversed. Additionally, if the president of the University of Michigan is making $750,000, and the head football coach is making $9 million, how does one justify that inequality…and please, don’t tell me that old saw about the alumni fund depending on a winning season. It may be true in part but is it really true to the extent of such imbalance?

What does one have to do to earn millions of dollar each year? It certainly helps to have a history of achievement and demonstrated leadership qualities. According to Chief Executive Research, executive compensation is a “strategic tool.” “…having the right senior executives on the team and aligned are key drivers of business success, yet far too many companies don’t approach executive compensation strategically.” It seems to me that far too many companies hire more based on ‘old boy networks, school ties, or religious affiliations. After that the 300 multiple appears to take effect, that is, the CEO makes about 300 times what the average worker in his/her company earns. Is this fair and equitable? The answer is complex.

If you hire the very best person for the job as CEO, everyone benefits. The new ‘boss’ plans strategically for a five, ten, or longer period – one Japanese executive created a strategic plan 150 years out. If the plan works, the chief executive should certainly be compensated appropriately. Should the compensation be 300 times what the worker in the factory, on the floor, in the sales office or the secretarial pool? My answer to that is an unqualified, “No!” What if the chief executive increases the profits of the company by 300 percent of his/her strategic plan? The answer is still, “No.” We have allowed executive compensation to get out of control, according to Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, but, “Corporate apologists say CEOs and other top executives are worth these amounts because their corporations have performed so well over the last three decades that CEOs are like star baseball players or movie stars.” This is nonsense. The economy has grown. The stock market has grown. People have either amped up their spending or gone into greater debt just to “keep up with the Joneses.” CEO’s aren’t any brighter today than they were in 1965 when that multiple we talked about earlier was 27:1. In addition, legislation – until Trump came along, but it still will – favored big companies that wished to outsource, either to other states with more favorable tax rulings and lower labor costs, or overseas where labor costs were markedly lower.

In 2015, “The SEC passed a new rule for large corporations: Starting in fiscal year 2017, they must disclose their “pay ratio,” the multiple by which the CEO’s pay exceeds that of the median worker’s.” In his article in Politico, Michael Dorff states, “The point of the rule is to both bring down CEO pay and to improve the compensation of rank-and-file workers. The theory is that CEOs and boards of directors will be so embarrassed when they have to admit just how much more they pay their chief executives than a normal worker—300 times is typical, though some companies’ ratios may stretch into the thousands—that, in their shame, they will simultaneously lower the CEO’s paycheck and grant their workers a raise.” Personally, I have strong doubts that CEOs and boards of directors that are currently paying outlandish compensation packages give two hoots in hell about their workers, are too narcissistic and self-centered, and it will not become effective until labor unions and workers themselves take action against those same CEO’s and boards of directors.

The idea that a CEO and his/her top four or five executives bear a responsibility only to their boards of directors is ludicrous, although it appears that many of the S&P 500 still adhere to such a belief. You figure it out. If the CEO reports to the board of directors, it figures that he/she also has some input regarding who sits on that board. In an article in The Atlantic, they cite, “…Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried, [who] in their 2004 book Pay Without Performance, argued that this procedure is a comforting fiction. They wrote that skyrocketing executive pay is the blatant result of CEOs’ power over decisions within U.S. firms, including compensation. Being on a corporate board is a great gig. It offers personal and professional connections, prestige, company perks, and, of course, money. In 2013, the average compensation for a board member at an S&P 500 company—usually a part-time position—was $251,000. It only stands to reason that board members don’t want to rock the CEO’s boat. While directors are elected by shareholders, the key is to be nominated to a directorship, because nominees to directorships are almost never voted down. Bebchuk and Fried showed that CEOs typically have considerable influence over the nominating process and can exert their power to block or put forward nominations, so directors have a sense that they were brought in by the CEO. Beyond elections, CEOs can use their control over the company’s resources to legally (and sometimes illegally) bribe board members with company perks, such as air travel, as well as monetary payment.

In other words, get your foot in the door as CEO of a major corporation via the old boy network, make the shareholders and your board of directors your primary concern, and you could well be set for life. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but I believe you get the general idea.

Truth to tell, CEOs and their organizations owe a far greater debt to a larger audience than their shareholders and boards. These stakeholders, as they are known, can also exercise some control over the pay of the CEO. Stakeholders include workers, product consumers if a product is involved, suppliers, creditors, and many others. R. Edward Freeman introduced the concept of stakeholders in business in 1984 in his book, Strategic Management. “The book proposed that effective management consists of balancing the interests of all [of] the corporation’s stakeholders – any individual or group who can affect, or is affected by, the achievement of a corporation’s purpose. The stakeholder concept provides a new way of thinking about strategic management – that is, how a corporation can and should set and implement direction.” Only by involving, completely involving, all stakeholders in the decision making processes, will CEO compensation, a major component of directing the organization be brought back into line. It seems to me that as long as CEO’s have any ability to influence who is on their board of directors or that the boards’ only interest is in lining their own pockets, this idea of multi-million dollar compensation will not be curbed, but will, in fact, flourish. The losers in this situation are too many to mention, and it only further grows the gap between the one percenters and the rest of the nation.

In the second part of this two-part series, I will take a look at the health care industry and the compensation of those in it.

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I’m gone and there’s nothing anyone can do about it…especially me. By ‘gone,’ I simply mean that my days are numbered, and it really is up to people so much younger than I to help move this nation toward greatness. No, I’m not so naive nor so egotistical as to believe that I ever did anything to make a difference in America’s history. I voted; I served my country…twice. I bitched and wailed in a few newspaper editorial opinion pieces about this, that, and the other, but I really don’t think it made a hell of a lot of difference. Now I’m an old man who is widowed and whose children and grandchildren see little of. I’m tired and grouchy, cynical and curmudgeonly, but I refuse to give up on America.

It’s my understanding that Civics hasn’t been taught in public schools in a long time. I’d bet there’s no such thing as a Problems of Democracy course any more either. In my dotage, I can look back and say that neither course interested me that much at the time. I don’t really know how you convince younger people of what they really have and who they really are when [or if] they say to themselves, “I’m an American.”

Memorial Day is coming up at the end of this month. It’s a day of remembrance for all of those who died while serving in the armed forces of this country. It’s a day to remember Harry Hunt and Ed Hurtig. It’s a day to remember Washington Burns and Giuseppe Pialmo. It’s a day to seek out the monument in your hometown that lists the names of all of the men and women who died so that we might live the lives we do without fear of anyone telling us what we can or cannot do; where we can or cannot travel; who we can talk to and who we can’t. We are so blessed…and we take it all so much for granted. We wave flags and watch as the fire engines and the marching bands pass by. We might even spend a bit of time at the veteran’s memorial where some old guys wearing funny outfits and hats stand up and talk about their experiences in one war or another. There may even be a few people in wheelchairs down front, and some of them will have tears running down their cheeks before the whole ceremony is over. Other, younger people will walk away without really understanding of what was said or why the tears were shed.

How many of us have ever walked the battlefields of Manassas or Gettysburg or visited the site of the Battle of Pea Ridge or Glorietta Pass? We talk about our vacation to Bermuda or our trip to Paris or Rome, but have you ever heard someone excitedly speak of the time they spent at Lexington or Concord, soaking up the history of our nation began. Plymouth Rock may be no big deal to look at, but it is the place where a small band if dissidents came ashore to begin what we have become.

“I pledge thee my allegiance, America the bold…for this is my country, to have and to hold.”  I wonder what was going through the minds of Al Jacobs and Don Raye when they composed the song, This Is My Country.’ Were they thinking about those who had fought and died? Were they just writing another patriotic song? It doesn’t really matter why they wrote it; it’s a wonderful song.

I’m not certain that today’s Americans know, understand, or even really care about who they are, just as long as they can have the latest electronic gadget; as long as they can get a medal for just participating; as long as they don’t miss the next episode of whatever it is they want to watch on some streaming video. Perhaps my message should be this: America doesn’t run itself. It requires intelligent, hard-working men and women who are committed to ensuring the nation’s future; people who put the welfare of the nation ahead of the welfare of their village, town, city, or state. America First is not just some slogan to be bandied about. Who is out there, what young man or woman, who is willing to work his or her butt off to ensure that our country will remain free and that its citizens will all receive a fair chance without regard to their race, color or creed?

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