April 22, 2013 in Guest Bloggers
“The Goat Hunters”
The primary reason we need to hide our goats is because of the different people who
calculatingly or unintentionally hunt them down. These can include family members,
coworkers, bosses, subordinates, neighbors, acquaintances, children and utter strangers
we encounter on a daily basis. For this eArticle, we will take an in-depth look at the most
unpredictable of all, the disingenuous friend.
Sometimes a friendship becomes unhealthy and needs to end. How can you tell when it
reaches that stage? Too many times friends are getting your goat by using you for selfish
ulterior purposes, or their natural personality ends up constantly irritating or hurting you.
While breaking up with a friend is difficult, it is necessary if you are going to put yourself
and your needs first. Life should not be mind-numbing and wearisome. When you prolong
relationships with people who see their world through tainted glasses, you are at risk of
being imprisoned by their negative views and not your own. Remember, all friendships
are volunteer situations. You are not required to continue any of them.
There are many compelling reasons to end a friendship. Before you do, however, list
yours as well as concrete examples of your friend”s behavior to support them. These may
include major deal breakers or something as understated as you no longer have shared
interests. You may even want to ask advice from your family members or others,
especially people who know your friend well and may be able to provide insight. One
caution, though: mutual friends may feel the need to pick sides, so you may end up
compromising additional relationships.
Here is some ammunition that goat hunters posing as friends may have in their armory.
They are possessive and overly demanding. Their constant requests for your
time and attention prevent you from forming stronger, more meaningful friendships.
They are inclined to be resentful of your other relationships, and while they are
also persuade you to participate in activities that really don”t interest you. You
involve yourself out of a sense of obligation rather than enjoyment or personal
They disregard your view of a situation and are judgmental. They manipulate
you by constantly making you feel inferior or guilty. They are never wrong, and
even when they are, an admission of guilt isn”t part of their repertoire. They defend,
excuse and explain all of their behaviors, and also delight in pointing out your
deficiencies. Their insecurities are a pathetic excuse for their behavior, and yet
when all is said and done, you are the one who feels horrible. You feel like nothing
you say or do can ameliorate the situation, so you all too often overlook it and
continue the circle of the irrational and wondrous entanglement referred to as
“friendship.” People who are critical and judgmental have low self-esteem. This can
intensify as they get older and poison any relationships they form as an adult.
These so-called friends often disguise their emotions until something triggers their
more negative nature.
You no longer trust your friend because of something they did or said. If
they spilled one of your secrets or spoke poorly about you behind your back, you
have a legitimate reason to revoke your trust. For some people, that loss of trust
may irreversibly affect the friendship.
They are selfish. You may help them with their problems, but they rarely
reciprocate. Yes, you might shrug off this lack of consideration as just being part of
your friend”s personality, but it”s still an inexcusably serious issue.
The moment of truth is deciding what to do. Do you want to maintain an acquaintanceship
or completely cut the friend out of your life? The reason list you produce may help you
decide how contaminated the friendship is.
You must meet this goat hunter head-on. Entering the confrontation, be open to the
possibility that your opinion may change. Express your feelings absolutely and
unequivocally. As daunting as initiating this conversation will be, it must be done. Losing a
friend hurts, but what hurts even more is when someone causes you to lose your focus,
your direction and, most importantly, your identity.
When you finally sit down with this person, avoid personal attacks. Rather, calmly state
your observations and concerns about their behavior, and speak in terms of how those
actions have made you feel. If you use “I” messages to convey how their oversight,
selfishness or insecurities may have hurt you, they”ll be more receptive of your comments
and more inclined to change.
Remain composed. The other person may become angry or even counter your challenging
statements with complaints of their own about you. If this happens, calmly but firmly
state that this is your time to talk and their time to listen.
divert the conversation away from its original purpose.
A long-time friend may ask why you”re suddenly bringing up issues now after so many
years. Well, realize that your friend is likely not the only one to blame for the strain; you
are also changing and realizing things about yourself, perhaps reaching a point where
your tolerance level for certain behaviors has maxed out.
Can a tainted friendship be salvaged? Possibly. Hear your friend out. It may be that he or she expresses sincere contrition and makes a pledge to change. If you still decide enough”s enough, burn your bridges carefully. Restarting a friendship down the road can be especially difficult. Be absolutely certain you want to end things if that”s the path you choose.
Even if you decide to stay friends and give this person another chance, both of you may need a temporary break to think things through and clear your heads. Jumping right back into the friendship at this stage may cause unintended tension and pretense. Step back and reset. Change won”t happen overnight.
It is always our choice whether we get on with our lives and live based on who we are instead of chaining ourselves to people who hold grudges and are not enriching. Go with your gut. If you feel it”s better to end the friendship and move on, end it. Don”t feel compelled to give the person another chance just because you”re nice. No moral code binds you to such an obligation. You”ve already been
dragged down by this person, and you should only continue with the friendship if there”s some positive aspect of staying close to them that you”d like to preserve.
Remember that you need an actual reason to stay friends with this person, not a reason not to stay friends. Put your needs and considerations first.
There comes a time in your life when you walk away from all the drama and the people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh and feel good about the person you are. Forget
the bad; focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right; pray for the ones who don”t. You may feel guilty, but if you know you made the right decision for yourself, stand by it. Life is too short to be anything but happy.
Turning Negatives into Positives
This seven-part series is dedicated to everyone who has ever put up with a nosy neighbor,
fickle friend, sneaky sibling, envious family member, scheming coworker, manipulative
boss, conniving acquaintance, impolite employee, disrespectful adolescent, hypocritical
Christian, dishonest subordinate and people who think the world revolves around them.
When someone says something or other “really gets my goat,” they mean they are
extremely irritated. A variety of things could contribute to that irritation, ranging from
someone else”s actions to a series of events. Despite the turn of phrase, however, actual
goats are not usually involved. Like many colorful idioms in the English language, the
origins of “get my goat” are murky. The first incidences of the phrase crop up around the
early 1900s, a great era for colorful slang in America, reflecting the rapid expansion of
settlement in the U.S. and the commingling of people from varied social, class and ethnic
backgrounds. Some have suggested that “get my goat” may be related to “goad,” as in
“to prod” or “stick with a pointed end.”
Regardless of its origin, “get my goat” resonates with all of us. Our daily lives intersect
with a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, opinions and personalities. The
fast-paced and stress-filled schedules we maintain open the gate and expose our goats to
people and circumstances. As you read this series-entitled Hide Your Goat-I”ll present
ideas on how to herd your goat, lock your gate, identify people who hunt your goat,
retrain your goat and provide nutritional (mental) advice on what to feed your goat.
ANDY FRIEDMAN — THE WASHINGTON UPDATE — Congress Avoids a Government Shutdown; Up Next, the Debt Limit
Congress cleared another hurdle last week, passing a bill (a “continuing resolution”) to keep the federal government operating for six months past its current funding deadline of March 27.
The continuing resolution also eliminates some of the draconian effects of the “sequestration” spending cuts that began on March 1. The real unhappiness with the cuts lies in the way the sequestration process operates. Sequestration imposes an across-the-board ratable reduction in spending that does not stop at the agency level. Rather, it goes down to departments within each agency and to spending accounts within those departments. Thus, the process robs agency heads of the ability to reallocate funds within their agencies to retain full funding for crucial programs. For instance, the Secretary of Defense cannot allocate funds from non-essential defense functions to keep the armed forces operating at current levels.
The continuing resolution funds the government at existing spending levels (maintaining the sequester cuts). But it ameliorates some of the adverse effects of sequestration by giving the Secretary of Defense the ability to reallocate funds within his department, and by prescribing reallocations to crucial functions within some of the other the federal agencies.
Now we turn to the next fiscal deadline looming in 2013. On May 18 the United States will hit its borrowing limit. After that date, the government will be able to continue to pay expenses for another few months without additional borrowing. But around July or August the limit will have to be raised or the United States, unable to borrow, will be unable to meet its existing obligations, including paying interest on outstanding debt.
In the past week, each house of Congress has passed a proposed budget. This alone is an improvement over recent practice — Congress has not passed a budget to run the federal government in four years. This year, we have a plethora of budgets – one each from the House, the Senate, and the President. It will not be politically feasible to meld the disparate proposals into a single budget. But those budgets will become blueprints for negotiations — negotiations that will crest around August when the debt ceiling must again be raised.
The difference in the two budget proposals is stark. Indeed, they are virtual mirror images of each other, opposite in almost every regard. The Republican plan, drafted by Rep Paul Ryan and passed by the House:
- Balances the budget over ten years through spending cuts alone
- Contains no new tax revenues
- Increases projected defense spending
- Changes Medicare to a “voucher” system, which allows recipients to choose among private and public plans and provides premium subsidies based on income
- Turns Medicaid into a block grant to the states and caps the growth in federal expenditure
- Repeals health care reform (but keep the methods for financing it)
The Democratic plan, drafted by Senator Patty Murray and passed by the Senate:
- Does not purport to balance the budget in the near or intermediate term
- Calls for a dollar of new tax revenue for every dollar of spending cuts
- Creates new spending initiatives for infrastructure repairs and job training
- Cuts defense spending
- Makes no changes to entitlements (Social Security and Medicare)
In an effort to pave the way for a smoother debt ceiling negotiation, the President recently undertook a “charm offensive,” inviting Republican Senators to dinner and meeting separately with the Congressional party caucuses. In those meetings, he emphasized his desire for a “grand bargain” to fix the deficit. But the differences between the parties aren’t limited to niceties; they are deep and defining. At the end of the day, the Democrats want additional taxes and the House Republicans – believing Obama got his new tax revenue in the fiscal cliff compromise – are dead set against them. Entitlements are almost an equally strong divide. Republicans assert that the only path to fiscal responsibility is to reform Social Security and Medicare. House Democrats, at least in their public statements, have adamantly refused to consider them (although the President is more open to some entitlement changes).
So, the President’s efforts notwithstanding, negotiations over the spring and summer are likely to follow the tortious path we’ve seen repeatedly in past years. The initial positions don’t portend a quick compromise. On the one hand, the Ryan budget calls for repeal of health care reform, sure to anger Democrats who believe that issue is settled. On the other, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently asserted that “it is almost a false argument to say that we have a spending problem” at all. Failing to recognize the need to cut any spending will not sit well with Republicans.
This is not to say that a deal won’t get done, only that it will not be easy or early. My guess is that the debt limit will be the “forcing event” that compels compromise at close to the last minute. It will be a repeat of August 2011 – the last time the country engaged in the debt limit debate.
In the meantime, the rhetoric – fueled by a flurry of media reports – could hinder the equity markets. They might pull back a bit from their run-up, much as markets fell in August 2011 during what was otherwise a strong year. To the extent a correction is based on a perception that Washington will be unable to reach agreement, I believe that concern will be misplaced. The United States is not going to default on its debt. Thus, any correction based on Washington dysfunction should be temporary, reversing when a compromise is reached. This is not to suggest that investors should sell equities in anticipation of a correction, because they will not know when a compromise is imminent so they can buy back in. But a market correction based on the perception of Washington dysfunction could be a buying opportunity.
A similar analysis applies to the municipal bond market. Municipal bond values have pulled back recently, in part due to a proposal by the President to tax a portion of municipal bond interest received by affluent investors. In my view, Congress is unlikely to adopt that proposal. When it becomes apparent the proposal is legislatively dead, the municipal bond market may rally. The tax-exemption provided by municipal bonds is more valuable than ever, now that the top tax rate has increased almost ten percentage points due to the fiscal cliff compromise. Again, a correction in the muni bond market could be viewed as a buying opportunity.
Originally Posted on The Daily Beast 9/11/12
Terrorism is always one bad day away from being issue number one and on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, it can be easy to forget that the terrorist’s war on us hasn’t stopped.
The good news is that we have made measurable progress in this fight – not only with the elimination of bin Laden, but also with the more than 45 attempted jihadist plots foiled in the last ten years.
The Obama administration’s strategic decision to intensely focus on the destruction of al Qaeda has proven especially effective to date, providing a useful contrast to the more unilateral, boots-on-the-ground approach of the Bush administration. This should inform our domestic debates.
And so on this anniversary, I spoke to Ali Soufan, the former FBI agent, security consultant and author of the award-winning Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al Qaeda to get his take on the Obama counter-terror doctrine. How would he sum it up in a sentence?
“Total elimination of Al Qaeda.” Soufan said. “They are hitting leaders of al Qaeda, and anyone who is known to be plotting against the United States. But at the same time they are trying to stop all the incubating factors that help terrorist recruitment, funding, P.R. and so forth. They are hitting them on different levels. A lot of people see the success of the drones…but the global partnerships that have been created have been effective – and that includes law enforcement, diplomacy, economic aid, educational program and definitely boots on the ground when needed, ie, killing Osama Bin Laden. So, I think it’s more comprehensive in nature.”
“We joke sometimes that Obama does a lot of the same tactics as George Bush, but he keeps his mouth shut,” Soufan says. “The Bush administration’s war on terror wasn’t actually working because most of our allies around the world— including England, Germany, other European countries and Muslim world—did not have the same concept the war on terror. So, it makes it difficult when you have a strategy that your partners are not buying into. No. 2, it was wrongfully viewed in the Muslim world as a war on Islam,” said Soufan.
Soufan clarified that he doesn’t “want to blame everything on the Bush Administration. I think you have to put yourself in their shoes at the time. But the two things I disagree with the Bush Administration on: the invasion of Iraq and EITs (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques), because it just created a lot of problems to our reputation around the world.”
But Soufan doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to Bush White House’s failures during the war on terror. “The Bush Administration had a huge disaster by going into Iraq in 2003,” Soufan says. “Iraq had nothing to do with al Qaeda. Saddam and bin Laden were not working together. This is where some people decided to take advantage of the support after 9/11 and unfortunately that backfired and created a really significant rift. Basically, we opened Pandora’s Box.”
Soufan received the Director of the FBI’s Award for Excellence in Investigation as well as a commendation from the Defense Department that described him as “an important weapon in the ongoing war on terrorism.” He is now chief operating officer of the Soufan Group, a consultancy that works with governments and companies around the world, offering a rare perspective on the partnerships that have now been created. “For the first time you have Muslim countries, European countries working together hand in hand,” Soufan explains. “It was clearly outlined in Obama’s speech in Cairo, [which] in the Middle East was viewed as ‘the time of unilateral action is not going to be there anymore.’ What he decided to focus on upon creating these partnerships to counter violent extremism, talked about human security, economic development, education, literacy, women’s rights, a lot of these issues.”
Despite the high praise, Soufan is not without criticism of the Obama record. “I think he rushed into the idea of wanting to close Guantanamo,” he says. “There was a lot to be studied before closing Guantanamo, such what to do with the detainees. Some of these detainees are very dangerous. We cannot release them. We cannot send them back to their homelands. As you know, some of the people we send we ended up tracking again.”
What does he think a Romney administration counter-terror policy would look like?
“I hope we put the era of partisanship in counter-terrorism behind us,” says Soufan. “There are a lot of professionals in the field who don’t play politics. And I hope that will continue under Romney, if he is elected. You know, some of the people are around him might be a little bit hawkish and advocate a return to the old ways. But I think the world is very different now than it was and the partnerships that have been created around the world have proven very effective.”
If Soufan had to put a grade on the Obama Administration’s counter terror record to date, what would it be?
“I’d give them an A?. I think even though they have been correct to focusing on al Qaeda and they have been trying to work a little bit on the ideology, but I think that there is a spread of the narrative and rhetoric of al Qaeda to areas like Mali and Syria and Yemen and Somalia—in many different areas around the world and I don’t think we’re doing enough to counter the narrative and counter the rhetoric. I’m not talking about putting boots on the ground, but I think we need to basically do more in order to deprive them from any sort of roots where they’re trying to recruit and start again.”
We now have perspective on the actions taken in the wake of 9/11 – what worked and what didn’t and much of the partisan polarization has faded away in the face of practical realities. “We don’t live in a world of white and black,” Soufan reminds us. “We live in different shades of gray and we have to do what we have to do to keep America safe and to weaken our enemies.”
September 5, 2012
The Daily Beast
Corn ethanol is the Franken fuel of American politics. Neither party, neither candidate dares question the program that requires motorists to buy a corrosive, low-heat-content, hydrophilic fuel adulterant—even though that program is now consuming 37 percent of all American corn production and driving up food prices.
The corn-ethanol boondoggle got a free pass in Tampa. The Republicans didn’t talk about biofuels during their hurricane-shortened convention; theGOP’s 2012 platform doesn’t even mention ethanol. And this long-running robbery of taxpayers will get another free pass from the Democrats during their wingding in Charlotte, N.C.
The two presidential candidates dare not call attention to the corn-ethanol scam despite the drought that is ravaging the Corn Belt and sending corn, and other grain prices, to record highs. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama apparently want voters to forget that last month both the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Food Policy Research Institute called on the U.S. to suspend the mandates that require gasoline sellers to blend increasing amounts of corn ethanol into their fuel. (This year those mandates will require those fuel sellers to mix 13.2 billion gallons of corn ethanol into our gasoline. By 2015 the mandate will increase to 15 billion gallons.)
On Tuesday the FAO, in conjunction with the World Food Program and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, warned that because of soaring grain prices, the world faces “a repeat of the 2007–2008 world food crisis.” The nations of the world need to “act urgently to make sure that these price shocks do not turn into a catastrophe hurting tens of millions” of people. The statement said the countries of the world “need to review and adjust” policies that “encourage alternative use of grains” including, of course, “biofuel mandates.”
While Romney tries to juke the ethanol question, President Obama has been helping the moonshiners since his days in the U.S. Senate.
What accounts for the silence of the candidates in the face of such urgent appeals? One logical answer can be found in a simple number: 27. That’s the number of Electoral College votes at stake in three key states: Iowa, Minnesota, and Indiana. Those three states, which account for more than one third of all domestic ethanol production capacity, have exactly 10 percent of the electoral votes needed to clinch the race for the presidency. And those 27 votes are critical for both candidates.
Iowa, the country’s biggest ethanol producer, has six electoral votes and is considered a “toss up” state. Minnesota, with 10 electoral votes and 1.1 billion gallons of ethanol production capacity, is leaning Democratic. Indiana, with 1 billion gallons of capacity and 11 electoral votes, is leaning Republican. These votes could easily make the difference in November. If you believe the electoral map being tallied by The New York Times, Obama has likely corralled 237 electoral votes and needs 33 more to clinch four more years in the White House. The Times figures Romney has 206 and needs 64 to clinch. Karl Rove’s tally (it’s on an iPad app called You Decide 2012) finds Obama has 247 electoral votes right now while Romney has 191. Both Rove and the Timesscore Iowa as a toss-up. (Rove sees Minnesota as leaning Democratic and Indiana as solid Republican.)
Given his free-market positions on energy, Romney should be—repeat, shouldbe—the candidate challenging the corn lobby. But in his much-discussedenergy plan released last month, the Republican candidate doesn’t use the words “corn” or “ethanol.” The word “biofuel” occurs only once, and it’s only made in reference to Romney’s claim that “states are far better able to develop, adopt, and enforce” energy-related regulations than the federal government.
Romney’s clearly reluctant to admit that he supports the corn-ethanol boondoggle. The document says Romney favors “increased market penetration and competition among energy sources by maintaining the RFS.” RFS, of course, stands for renewable fuel standard. The standard, created by Congress in 2005 and enforced by the EPA, requires fuel retailers to blend ethanol into the gasoline supply.
While Romney tries to juke the ethanol question, President Obama has been helping the moonshiners since his days in the U.S. Senate. In 2006, Obama, along with four farm-state senators, sent a letter to President George W. Bush asking him to ignore calls to reduce import tariffs on Brazilian ethanol. During his first year as a member of the U.S. Senate, Obama twice used corporate jets that belonged to agribusiness giant ADM, one of the world’s biggest ethanol producers.
Last year, during his State of the Union speech, Obama even made the preposterous claim that “we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels.” And under Obama, the EPA has been ever so eager to accommodate the ethanol industry even though the agency’s own scientists have determined that increasing the amount of ethanol in our fuel makes air quality worse. The agency has twice issued reports that state that increased use of ethanol will increase the emissions of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. Those substances, when mixed with the right amount of sunlight and heat, turn into smog.
And what about food prices?
At least 17 studies—done by organizations ranging from Purdue University to the World Bank—have exposed the link between increasing biofuel production and higher food prices. Last year the Farm Foundation, a nonprofit entity formed in 1933 that focuses on agriculture issues, issued a report saying that the ethanol mandate creates a “large, persistent and non-price responsive demand for corn.” The report went on, saying “there is little doubt that biofuels play a role in the corn price level and variability, and this has spilled over into other commodity markets.”
Thanks to Obama’s EPA, the food-versus-fuel problem is going to get worse. The agency is expected to approve the use of sorghum for ethanol production. Like corn, sorghum is a feed grain. But the agency is planning to designate ethanol made from sorghum an “advanced” biofuel, which will allow distilleries to sell it for a premium price. (Sorghum requires less water than corn but yields about the same amount of ethanol per bushel.)
Of course, lobbyists for Big Corn continue to claim that their industry isn’t affecting food prices. But that risible assertion can’t pass the smell test. This year, thanks to the ethanol mandates, the American automobile fleet will consume about twice as much corn as is grown in the entire European Union. Put another way, the U.S. ethanol sector is burning about as much corn as is produced by Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and India combined.
So let’s summarize. International food agencies are asking the U.S. to suspend the ethanol mandates. Those same mandates are making our air quality worse and causing food prices to rise. Yet during the highest-profile quadrennial events in our political system, the most powerful politicians in our country won’t even mention the matter. And they wonder why people are tuning out the conventions.
Robert Bryce Speaking
September 4, 2012 in Guest Bloggers
I keep advising my personal trainer that she needs to get an iPhone. She shrugs, noting that there is a queue in the family for the next mobile upgrade, and her 14 year old daughter might have more of a claim in the line than she does.
Hogwash! There is an absolute revolution going on involving the “consumerization of fitness and wellness” — and this super long blog post will put into perspective why. And maybe this will help to sort out some of her family politics over the ‘next phone.’ The fact is, the very nature of the future fitness opportunity is changing ….
Update: After I wrote this blog post, Adweek ran the article, “Nike+ Officially Turns Your Workout Into a Video Game” – you want to read it.
Here’s the main gist of this post — In May and June, I spoke at a tremendous number of corporate, association and private events; it was a busy couple of months, and hence the lack of regular postings to the blog.
Three of these were events related to the issue of corporate wellness programs.
It was the perfect timing for such a keynote; through the last year and I half, I’ve been following what I believe to be a fairly aggressive personal fitness regime, with the help of my personal trainer, as well as personally exploring the wealth of new fitness and wellness mobile applications that are flooding the market.
The entire premise of my keynote? At this moment in time, we are witnessing the perfect confluence of several major trends:
- the first signs of the reality of the massive scope of the health care crisis (both disease, lifestyle and funding related) as baby boomers begin to flood the health care system with requirements for extra care
- a renewed and significant focus on “preventative” health care concepts” ;
- structural change aimed at wellness programs so that people work harder to avoid or reduce the impact of lifestyle disease;
- and the rapid emergence of new technologies — many involving the smartphones that have become a ubiquitous part of our lifestyle – that can motivate consumers to do so much more with their personal fitness and wellness.
Why a keynote on wellness? Because companies are recognizing there is a big opportunity to be innovative with managing healthcare costs through a proactive approach that involves wellness. It’s a good example of the deep, transformative thinking that is occurring with many organizations in the healthcare system worldwide . Organizations are moving beyond the endless political debate, and are instead, putting in place practical, innovative programs that can help organizations manage healthcare costs, and employees can actively work at improving their overall health and fitness.
Let’s consider the trends which are all coming together.
1. It’s crisis time!
Throughout the western worldwide, the obesity, diabetes and lifestyle health care crisis is really making itself felt with massive demands being placed on the system. The future is stark ; if something is not done, we will continue to see:
- a continued rapid increase in lifestyle disease, resulting in even more massive future demands on the system
- a bigger demographic challenge – more boomers placing demand on the system, with fewer workers to support the massive uptick in spending that results
- a resultant massive supply / demand imbalance
- and an expectation gap likely to increase scope of challenge : a trend I wrote about in my “Trending in 2011: 10 Major Trends to Start Thinking About Now.” It’s worth a read — check the first big trend in the list.
Clearly, something needs to be done. Hence, a lot of innovative thinking!
2. A massive shift to preventative medical concepts
Given that the Western world has such a big problem, it’s also fascinating to note that there is a huge amount of innovation occurring in the health care system now – and it has absolutely nothing to do with the raging (and now seemingly pointless) political debate occurring in the US.
What is happening is this: we are in the midst of a long term trend in which “preventative medical care” will come to exceed what we spend on “reactive medical care.” Preventative care takes many forms, from genetic testing (to determine what conditions people are likely to develop in their lifetime) to wellness and other preventative programs. Simply put, let’s fix people before they are sick, rather than treating them after they’ve developed a condition.
We’ve got a heck of a long way to go with this trend: according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report, “a mere 3% of spending goes towards prevention of chronic disease among industrialized countries.”
But what is happening is an acceleration of the trends that take us to a world of preventative healthcare. Consider the trend line with genomic medicine:
- it took $3 billion to sequence the first human genome
- by 2009, that was down to $100,000
- it’s now under $10,000
- and it is estimated by the end of 2012, $1,000
Give it a few years, and you’ll be able to go out and buy a $5 genomic sequencing machine at Radio Shack! That might seem like a joke, and it is. But the significance of a cost curve such as this is that it accelerates a significant shift in spending.
It isn’t occurring with genomic medicine — its happening everywhere throughout the world of healthcare. Last year, when I keynoted one of the largest seniors care conferences in the US, I noted the same type of focus on preventative thinking was becoming routine:
- “Identifying dementia early can cut the cost of care by nearly 30 percent … routine screening that identified patients with early signs of dementia helped cut average healthcare costs by nearly $2,000 per patient in the first year, often by eliminating money spent on unnecessary tests and treatments. Early diagnosis can cut Alzheimer’s costs, Reuters Health E-Line, July 2010
The health and wellness theme fits into this agenda as well, which have undergone very much a sea-change in the last, in terms of perception, importance and approach:
- “In businesses across the nation, workplace wellness has morphed from a “nice-to-have” fringe benefit to a “must-have” cost-containment strategy.” 23 April 2012, GlobeNewswire
- Employers determined to contain medical costs must focus on creating a culture that supports healthy behaviors. If they can do that, they can enhance not only their bottom lines but also transform the lives of their workers. 28 April 2012, Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week
- “In businesses across the nation, workplace wellness has morphed from a “nice-to-have” fringe benefit to a “must-have” cost-containment strategy.” 23 April 2012, GlobeNewswire
- “64 percent of employers surveyed indicated that wellness initiatives are among the top three most effective tactics for controlling health care costs” 2012 Annual Plan Design Survey, National Business Group on Health
Studies show that for every $1 spent on a wellness program, medical expenses fall by at least $3.
Part 3: Time for some more aggressive action!
What is interesting is that in corporate organizations throughout the Western world, wellness programs are rapidly shifting : they’re going from a “nice-to-have” type of program, to a “we really need to see some results!” approach. Consider the trends; certainly many more organizations are putting such programs in place:
- A recent study by Willis North America’s Human Capital Practice found about 60 percent of the companies surveyed have wellness programs, an increase of 13 percent from 2010. Companies encourage wellness, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 22 April 2012
But not only are more organizations adopting wellness programs: they are working to put in place structures, methodologies and measurement technologies that can help to ensure that employees are benefitting from such programs:
- One of the fastest-growing categories of new insurance includes significant penalties for those who don’t participate or backslide on targets – penalties that may include deductible spikes or loss of health-savings accounts. Workers’ wellness can turn a profit Insurers offer incentives for health and penalize workers who can’t meet goals, The Denver Post , 25 December 2011
- A national survey of large employers by the National Business Group on Health found that 80 percent plan to offer financial rewards for health in 2012, up from 54 percent this year. Workers’ wellness can turn a profit Insurers offer incentives for health and penalize workers who can’t meet goals, The Denver Post , 25 December 2011
And this is where tech comes along at the perfect time!
4. In comes technology – and the new consumerization of health care!
Technology is going to provide for more creative disruption in the world of healthcare than we’ve ever seen. Simply put, it changes everything.
- “Imagine a far more extreme transformation, in which advances in IT, biology and engineering allow us to move much of health care out of hospitals, clinics and doctors offices, and into our everyday lives.” Our high-tech health care future, New York Times, 10 Nov 2011
Cast your mind out 5 years or more, and we will see significant change in everything we do in the world of health care:
- “…. you’ll be sitting in front of a big multitouch screen actually watching what’s going on in your body in a very intuitive, fun kind of animation. When you leave, the doctor will download prescriptions and treatments onto your cellphone – which not only remind you, but encourage you to follow the medicine’s or other lifestyle procedures. [You'll see] a periodic video message from the doctor to encourage you if you’re doing well or maybe to encourage you if you’re not. It’ll be continuous care rather than the episodic, periodic care that occurs today.” Better living with technology, The Boston Globe, 21 November 2011
Extend that type of thinking, and we are headed to a future in which we literally have a dashboard for the human body…..
And it is starting to happen now — with a flood of new mobile and other healthcare technologies that help consumers to take more of an active role in their level of wellness and fitness. Consider the current trends:
- 78% of consumers are interested in mobile health wellness fitness solutions
- medical fitness health care apps are 3rd fast growing category for iPhone and Android phones
- the Apple App store now has 17,000 health care related apps, 60% of which are aimed at the consumer
- sports, fitness and wellness apps will grow from 154 million downloads in 2010 to 908 million by 2016
- the number of wearable wireless “gadgets” will grow from 8 million to 72 million over the same period
I’m using a number of mobile wellness and fitness apps — for example, MapMyWalk, which I use to track the pace and timing of the five mile — or more — walk that I do while at home or travelling. I’ve also got a Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale — which tracks weight, BMI and body-fat mass, transmitting those details to a personally-password protected Web site. Utilize such technology, and all of a sudden you’ve got the opportunity to be more involved in your own well being.
Or, as I commented in New York at the keynote the impact of consumer fitness, wellness and healthcare technologies is that “...they increase how often individuals think about their health…”
And clearly, it’s a pretty big trend:
- “500 million mobile users, or about 30% of an estimated 1.4 billion smartphone subscribers worldwide, will be using health/fitness apps by 2015. Healthcare in your hands?International Herald Tribune, March 2011
It isn’t just consumers who are rapidly adopting such technology — so are doctors and other professionals throughout the healthcare system.
- By the end of the year 90 percent of physicians will have smart phones. Health apps soon will get an incubator, The San Francisco Chronicle, 11 April 2011
We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the innovations that will occur here. I’ve been suggesting that one of the biggest trends to sweep the world of healthcare and medicine will be that of ‘bio-connectivity,’ a phrase I coined well over a decade ago. Consider this post which I wrote before keynoting the World Healthcare Innovation & Technology Congress in Washington.
Bio-connectivity provides huge opportunity for innovation in the space of healthcare. The same company – Withings — has brought out the Withings iPhone Blood Pressure Monitor — seen on the right. All of a sudden, someone working to manage their blood pressure doesn’t need to rely on pencils and paper to track their progress — it’s automatically captured through the smartphone which is becoming an integral, everyday part of their life.
Not only that, but they can transmit their blood pressure readings and charts to their doctor or other health care provider via email. This provides for the virtualization of healthcare ; no longer are hospital or doctor visits restricted to actual physical locations known as hospitals or doctors offices — instead, it becomes a part of the global Internet. If you think about what is happening here: there is a change in the centuries old relationship between doctor and patient!
Did you know that researchers have already figured out how to make an ultra-thin heart monitor that goes on like a tattoo? Talk about a trend that is going to drive a lot of change!
Link all of these trends together, and the simple fact is this: we are going to witness more change in the world of healthcare, wellness and fitness in the next five years, than we have seen in the previous one hundred years.
And if you follow that path down the road of wellness and fitness — the very nature of fitness is changing. Ten years out, most folks going to the gym will have a smartphone attached to their hip, and will be working with their trainer on a regimen that includes this type of personal fitness tracking.
Sure, it sounds odd, but ten years ago, we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or many other of today’s life changing technologies.
My personal trainer really needs to get an iPhone!
Professional speaker, Derek Daly will turn the clock back to his professional race car driver days when he makes a return to racing September 15th-16th in Goodwood, England, after accepting an invitation from Lord March to take part in the annual Goodwood Revival. The Goodwood Revival, regarded as the most prestigious historic motor racing event of the year, relives the glory days of Goodwood Motor Circuit between 1948 and 1966. Just about everything that the eye can see will have an authentic period look. Because of Derek’s notoriety after racing in Formula One and the Indy 500, he has already been called one of the “Star Attractions” of the weekend by specialty sports magazines. Derek will race a 1963 Sunbeam Rapier in the classic event.
Derek testing the 1963 Sunbeam Rapier at Goodwood in July.
Derek’s famous anecdote, “How Fast Can You Get Fast” will be put to a practical test.
Derek Daly Speaking
July 20, 2012 in Guest Bloggers
Roth IRA conversions: Tax rates are likely to rise at year end as Washington considers whether to permit some or all of the Bush tax cuts to expire. On the other hand, tax reform efforts in 2013 could reduce rates. Fluctuating tax rates provide an interesting arbitrage opportunity for Roth IRA conversions in 2012. Investors who expect to remain in the same tax bracket in retirement might wish to convert their IRA to a Roth IRA this year so that they can receive future earnings tax-free. If tax rates then fall next year, they can act before October 2013 to re-convert back to the traditional IRA. A new white paper on the site discusses the rules governing Roth IRA conversions (and re-conversions) and identifies the types of investors who might be well-advised to pursue this strategy. Members can access the paper by clicking here.
And now to this quarter’s mailbag:
Is there a chance that Congress will repeal or ameliorate the alternative minimum tax?
The alternative minimum tax has become a chronic headache for many taxpayers. The AMT was enacted to ensure that wealthy individuals pay their “fair share” of taxes. Over the years, due to tax cuts and bracket creep caused by inflation, the AMT has crept very much into the middle class, affecting an ever increasing number of taxpayers.
Given outsized federal budget deficits, the government cannot afford simply to repeal the AMT and lose the significant revenue it raises. Although this inability may frustrate affluent taxpayers, the alternative could be worse. If Congress were to repeal the AMT, it would need to recoup the lost revenue. It likely would do so by raising further the taxes imposed on the people the AMT was initially intended to affect — namely, the wealthy. So affluent taxpayers may be better off with the current system, under which middle class taxpayers contribute to the revenue raised by the alternative minimum tax.
Although Congress is unlikely to repeal the AMT as a standalone “rifle shot”, there is some prospect that next year Congress will tackle tax reform — eliminating loopholes, simplifying the tax code, and reducing the top tax rates. Part of reform likely would be the elimination of the AMT. Whether Congress can agree on tax reform legislation in today’s partisan atmosphere is far from certain. Absent successful tax reform legislation, the AMT is here for the foreseeable future.
Ironically, the AMT may offer affluent investors some salvation from higher tax rates. The Bush tax cuts are slated to expire at year-end. The Obama Administration is proposing permitting the tax cuts to expire only for families with income over $250,000 (individuals with income over $200,000). Either way (whether the cuts expire for everyone or only affluent payers), higher-income taxpayers face the prospect of increased tax rates next year. But many taxpayers’ alternative minimum tax will continue to exceed their regular tax, even when regular tax is computed at the new, higher rates. These taxpayers will feel no effect from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Other taxpayers will move out of the AMT position as the regular tax rates rise; that is, their regular tax computed at the new, higher rates will exceed their AMT. Taxpayers in this position, however, are permitted to carry forward the AMT paid in prior years and offset that amount against regular taxes due. For these taxpayers, the carryforward of prior AMT paid will blunt the effects of the tax increase.
One final point. Every year, Congress keeps the AMT from expanding even further into the middle class by passing an “AMT patch.” Currently, there is no patch in place for 2012. Congress is likely to seek to enact this patch in the lame duck session at year-end or, failing that, early next year on a retroactive basis.
Are we likely to see Congress enact a value added or national sales tax?
Heightened concern about the budget deficit has led to talk of the need for a federal “consumption tax”, perhaps in the form of a value added tax (VAT) or a national sales tax. Among other advantages, such a tax would address the revenue loss from the “underground economy” by imposing tax when unreported income is spent.
Both parties have rejected a national consumption tax, albeit for different reasons. Even small increases in the consumption tax rate would bring in billions to the federal government. Republicans thus reject a consumption tax as a money machine that inevitably will lead to less fiscal discipline and higher government spending.
Democrats, too, have concerns about a consumption tax. A consumption tax falls most heavily on the Democrats’ natural constituency: middle- and lower-income taxpayers, who spend a greater portion of their income. So Democrats do not want to tax what people spend; they want to tax what people earn that they don’t spend. Thus Democrats want to keep the income tax and further stratify it, raising rates on the wealthy to capture some of the money they are earning but not spending.
In 2010, the Senate passed a resolution against a consumption tax by a vote of 85-13. The Simpson Bowles deficit reduction panel viewed the enactment of a consumption tax as so politically unlikely that it did not propose such a tax in its final report. Given this sentiment, a consumption tax is unlikely to be enacted anytime soon, regardless of which party is in power.
Neither the author of this paper, nor any law firm with which the author may be associated, is providing legal or tax advice as to the matters discussed herein. The discussion herein is general in nature and is provided for informational purposes only. There is no guarantee as to its accuracy or completeness. It is not intended as legal or tax advice and individuals may not rely upon it (including for purposes of avoiding tax penalties imposed by the IRS or state and local tax authorities). Individuals should consult their own legal and tax counsel as to matters discussed herein and before entering into any estate planning, trust, investment, retirement, or insurance arrangement.
Copyright Andrew H. Friedman 2012. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.