Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Costco Difference

As noted previously in this space, Walmart doesn’t pay its employees very well. Last spring it raised its minimum pay to $9 an hour and announced its intention to raise its minimum pay to $10 an hour in February of 2016. That $10 figure, though, comes with an asterisk: new employees in 2016 will receive $9 an hour to start and only see their pay rise to $10 an hour after they complete a six-month training program. Walmart also raised the minimum it pays its managers from $13 an hour to $15 an hour this year.

Contrast this with Costco, as Fortune magazine explains:

With starting hourly pay at about $11.50 and a company average of $22 per hour, Costco’s compensation trounces the competition. CEO Craig Jelinek says it can be more profitable in the long run by keeping turnover low and capitalizing on employee productivity.

Turnover stands at about 10%, compared with the industry norm of 55%. For employees who have been there for more than one year, turnover drops to just 6%.

The folks at Walmart would have us believe that their way is the only way – the only way they can remain profitable and the only way they can fulfill the fictitious “fiduciary responsibility” to their shareholders to squeeze every penny they can out of their business. But there’s another way: the Costco way. They pay their employees better, while they’re a much smaller company they remain highly profitable, their customers have a much better experience in their stores, and they don’t have full-time employees who need food stamps and Medicaid to get by.

 

 

 

 

 

Physician, Shut Thy Mouth

Some doctors find themselves struggling with innovations and requirements designed to help them practice medicine more effectively, and some of those innovations cut into their income. Woe is the poor doctor, struggling to get by on a quarter of a million dollars a year.

A while back National Public Radio reported that a special, limited-term federal program that offered bonuses to doctors to take on more Medicare payments was coming to an end and some doctors were none too happy about it. One doctor told NPR he’d need to see more patients to make up for the lost income: “We have to, when someone has five conditions and takes five minutes to get into the room. The basic office visit is 30 minutes.”

This is ridiculous in more ways than one.

First, as someone who has accompanied one of those very slow-moving patients to a doctor’s office – hi, mom – The Curmudgeon can tell you that it does not take five minutes to get a patient into the exam room.

Second, a well-run office – actually, even a not-so-well-run office – has those patients already in the exam room when the doctor arrives. It’s pretty standard. The bigger problem may be waking up those patients for their exams because they spend so much time in the exam room just waiting for the doctor that it becomes tempting to lie down on the big exam table and try to catch 40 winks.

caduceus_smAnd third, a doctor that spends 30 minutes on a basic office visit? In what alternative universe?

Doctors need to shut up and do their jobs or find another line of work – one that presumably pays more than the median of $180,000 a year that geriatricians earn.

The Silly Things On Which People Dwell

Or should it be round?

Or should it be round?

Those of us of a certain age may remember that before the Paris peace talks that led to the end of the Vietnam War there was a protracted period during which U.S. and North Vietnamese representatives debated the shape of the table at which participants would negotiate, who would sit where at that table, and who else would be permitted in the room while participants negotiated around the table.

It was ridiculous, and the world laughed at them. In hindsight, it’s too bad we didn’t have Saturday Night Live at that time because those folks could have had a lot of fun playing with that one. The West Wing, though, had a fun scene in which White House staff spent a protracted period discussing who would be sitting where for a meeting between the president and congressional leaders, and once everything was decided the White House communications director breezed into the room, looked at the group’s work product, and casually observed that the newly hatched seating plan didn’t include a place for the president.

Recently The Curmudgeon ran across proof that there are still people who care about who sits where – in this case, in a New Yorker article about the Ford Foundation which, following the path of foundation president Darren Walker, reported that

Arriving in his office, Walker found that it was filled with Kenyans. A Kenyan delegation was to meet with Michelle Obama there the following day, and an advance party of ten or twelve people had come to inspect the room. The advance party wanted to determine who would sit where: Would Walker sit at the head of the table, as he usually did, or would he sit at the side of the table, facing the First Lady, so that neither took precedence? And, if the latter, would the chair at the head of the table sit empty, or would it be removed and put somewhere else? The delegation wanted to know how many other chairs there would be around the table and, if more chairs became necessary, whether they would be added to the table, in ambiguous relation to those already there, or placed in an unequivocally secondary tier around the periphery of the room.

Even today, Nero continues to fiddle while Rome burns.

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Get When You Freeze Out Planned Parenthood?

More babies.

More babies born to Medicaid moms.

Possibly even more abortions?

Those rocket scientists who run the state of Texas were wise to those evildoers at Planned Parenthood long before the recent controversies that have erupted surrounding the organization.

A few years back Texas tried to cut Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid-covered family planning efforts but the feds didn’t let that happen. Undaunted, the state created a new program that excluded organizations affiliated with Planned Parenthood. In all, 82 family planning clinics in the state closed because of the program.

Did it have any impact?

Oh yeah.

According to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, women living in areas that lost Planned Parenthood-affiliated family planning programs had reduced access to long-term birth control methods and relied more on short-term contraception approaches.

Okay, in theory a problem, but did it turn out to be a problem in reality as well?

Oh yeah.

Assuming, that is, that you think low-income women with a history of using birth control generally don’t want to have babies, because in the Texas counties that lost the Planned Parenthood programs, the rate of Medicaid-covered births rose.

Rose 27 percent.

Because of reduced access to birth control.

So Texas state policies are now effectively encouraging poor women on Medicaid to have babies.

And what about abortions?

Well, the study didn’t get into that, but you have to figure that if more women are getting pregnant because of reduced access to birth control, more women are seeking abortions, too.

So it looks like Texas state policies could now be driving up the abortion rate in Texas as well.

Oh, Texas!

So The Latest Turn in Trump vs. Cruz Is…

“My wife’s prettier than your wife.”

“Is not.”

“Is too.”

“IS NOT!”

“IS TOO!”

kids“IS NOT!”

“IS TOO!”

The Curmudgeon’s not sure whether we should laugh or cry.

“Patrol and Secure”

As a conservative, Ted Cruz is the kind of guy who rails against what he views as unnecessary and wasteful government spending.

Yet this past week he proposed some pretty wasteful spending himself when, in response to the ISIS bombings in Brussels and heightened sensitivity to the possibility of such an attack on U.S. soil, he wrote on his Facebook page (because isn’t Facebook the forum through which we all want to hear from our presidential candidates?) that

We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.

Patrol and secure?

Patrol? Secure?

armbandWhy bother with such an old-fashioned, expensive way to track potentially dangerous people when Cruz can just adopt the much cheaper, tried and true practice of a head of state from another era and just require the people he hates and fears to wear an arm band or some other kind of identifying symbol or garment when out in public so he and his police can know where all those dangerous people are at all times?

 

badges

For the Well-Dressed Man

As he has written in the past, part of the legacy of The Curmudgeon’s late father is a never-ending stream of catalogues that come to his son’s door. One is from an outfit called Heartland America, and The Curmudgeon has to confess that it’s useful for one thing: passing the time when seated upon…the throne.

vestWhile thumbing through the Heartland catalogue recently The Curmudgeon came across what he quickly learned was no ordinary vest for men.

Here’s how the catalogue describes it:

Look cool while packing heat in this classic Milwaukee Performance denim club vest!

 There’s only one thing more intimidating than a tough guy with an attitude: a tough guy with an attitude who’s packing heat! This club vest is crafted from 14.5 oz. 100% cotton denim that’s cooler than leather and has two inside pockets that let you conceal your handgun and extra magazines. And if you don’t carry a firearm, they’re great for your cell phone, wallet and other essentials. Also features classic 4-snap front, 2 lower front coin pockets, soft satin inside liner for comfort and side lace detailing for a perfect fit.

If I were alive today I'd definitely want one of these babies.

If I were alive today I’d definitely want one of these babies.

So get yours now; it’s what all the well-dressed terrorists, mass murderers, and psychopaths are wearing this year.

Trump Speaks Out of Both Sides of His Mouth

After watching people associated with his campaign assault anyone who disagrees with him and is willing to say so aloud, Donald Trump recently became acquainted with the other side of that equation when a planned rally in Chicago was canceled after his supporters clashed with people who came to the event determined to offer their two cents’ worth on the carnival barker’s latest rantings and ravings.

From there it was onto Air Trump – oh, that’s right, Trump’s airline venture failed – to Ohio, where at another rally his attempts to speak were interrupted by protesters, including one who jumped a barricade before being hauled away by local police.

Trump’s reaction?

“We cannot let our first amendment rights be taken away from us.”

trump and constitution

We don’t need no stinking constitution

That’s pretty rich, coming from a guy who just a few weeks ago was talking about weakening federal libel laws so he could abridge the free speech rights of reporters and chill their willingness to write critically of him.

In Trump’s world, the only good deal is a deal in which you fleece the other guy, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised when he views free speech as something to which he alone is entitled. This is still more proof that the guy who says he wants to make America great again doesn’t even understand what made America great in the first place.

An Open Letter to Candidates for Public Office

(While this letter is addressed to politicians in New Jersey, The Curmudgeon suspects that residents of many other states share the same sentiment.)

Dear Candidate,

I’m tired of being on the outside looking in when our country picks its presidential candidates and I want to know what you plan to do about it.

Congratulations on running for mayor/town council/state legislature/Congress, governor. Good luck in your campaign. Sooner or later you’re going to be asking for my vote, and when you do, there’s one question you’re going to need to be able to answer, because unless you do, I won’t even consider voting for you.

That question: If elected, what are you going to do to give me and my neighbors a voice in the selection of our parties’ nominees for president?

Here we are in late March and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have chosen their nominee.

In most presidential election years the decisions have been made long before our state’s traditional June primary, so the people of our state have no voice – zero, zilch, none, nada – in who is going to run for president.

voting machineThis time around, both parties are having highly contested races and it’s possible that no one will have clinched a nomination by the time our New Jersey primary rolls around. Every week a few more states get their chance to influence the course of the race, yet here we sit, on the sidelines, voiceless, just as we do every four years. When it comes to national politics, the residents of our state simply don’t count.

And I’m sick and tired of it.

Sick and tired of the yahoos in New Hampshire and Iowa being the most important people in the country.

Sick and tired of that damn Super Tuesday, when people in the south, with whom we have absolutely nothing in common, get to cast votes that send some candidates skyrocketing in the polls and send others back to their old day jobs in defeat.

Sick and tired of seeing candidates I’d consider voting for having their hopes dashed months before I have a chance to make that decision for myself.

And I want to know what you’ll do about this if I vote for you.

Before you respond, understand this: the answer “People in the office I’m seeking have no voice in when our state holds its primary” won’t cut it. If you’re an elected official you’re part of a major political party and you’re part of what that party does. You do have a voice, and I want to know how you plan to use it.

Because I’m sick and tired of being on the sidelines while voters across the country get to play in the game, and if you don’t tell me what you plan to do to get me and my neighbors into the game, too, you’re going to have the same chance of getting my vote as I currently have of selecting my party’s presidential nominee.

And in case you missed it, that’s “Zero, zilch, none, nada.”

Yours,

The Four-Eyed Curmudgeon

Trump and Violence

Let’s see if The Curmudgeon has this straight:

trump angryJust days after denying that his smash-mouth style of campaigning and incendiary rhetoric are inciting his supporters to acts of violence, Donald Trump warned of riots by those same supporters if he arrives at the Republican convention with the most delegates but without enough delegates to win the nomination and then the well-established process for choosing a nominee under such circumstances doesn’t choose him as the nominee?

Yet he insists that he’s in no way responsible for inciting violence among his supporters.

What’s wrong with this picture?