Thoughts on why 401(k)’s are a bad idea.

The following thoughts were posted at reddit by user /u/listenthenspeak, a millennial who has worked extensively in the financial sector. Reposting here as a signal boost for wider exposure. The writer’s thoughts are cogent and compelling, and backed up with ample documentation.

The original post at reddit linked to an article stating that millennials have little confidence in most major institutions.

The writer’s first comment was as follows:

I was born in 1977, it’s not just millenials. And for people who are teenagers now I can say at least in my experience that YES things are worse for everyone now than they were 20 years ago.

Even my parents who grew up in the 60s say that things are quantifiably worse for working Americans.

In the last 30 years we have witnessed (among other things):

  • The largest economic downturn since the depression
  • Skyrocketing housing prices that lock most families out of home ownership in major urban areas.
  • Financial scandals on an unprecedented scale (Arthur Andersen, Worldcom, Tyco, Enron) and hardly anyone was punished.
  • Two major wars. We fought in Iraq for 8 years and in Afghanistan for 13 years. We lost a combined 6,000+ soldiers with tens of thousands more wounded and spent 1.7 trillion dollars with 400 billion more that will be spent in the future.
  • The cost of education is becoming all but unobtainable. Rising education costs mean that millions are locked out of home and car ownership because of student loan payments.
  • The cost of medical care is unsustainable and out of reach for most families. A single illness even with insurance could bankrupt your family and decades worth of labor.
  • The loss of both unions and pensions. You can track the decline in unions and the decline in real wages across the decades along with the loss of benefits. If you want to chime in with “well I’m ok… have…” well good for you. Most people don’t. Most young Americans today simply will never retire even in their final years. A lack of social security, a lack of pensions, and a lack of viable options for saving (no 401k is not sustainable but that is a whole other rant) means that we will be able to save very little in our working lives.

For people that are curious, this didn’t just come about. This is a process that has been underway for 40 years. The top 1% of the country (and really its more like the top 1% of the 1%) have actively funded lobbyists and campaigns and laws at the local level all the way to DC to fundamentally strip workers of their rights, roll back protections for working families, undermine social safety nets, reduce their tax burden at the expense of everyone else, eliminate the ability for the elderly to retire in security, and have squandered trillions of dollars to “protect American interests” which basically means the interests of a few connected corporations.

So yeah…. it’s no wonder people don’t trust major institutions. Especially now that we’re witnessing a presidential campaign that consists of an almost Machiavellian woman running against a man who is almost literally insane.

The following segment was in response to a question about why 401(k) accounts are unsustainable.

Hey sorry it took so long to get back to you. Family stuff and I wanted to actually give you a good answer for this.

So to start I have to tell you a bit of my background. I worked in finance which among other things included working as a pension and defined contribution auditor along with working in a bank for a time.

I’ll start with my anecdotes and a bit of history. The piece of legislation that allowed the 401(k) was created in the 1970s as a way to offer more benefits to high-wage executives in lieu of additional payments. The intent was originally to create an additional way for high-earning executives to put more money aside for retirement as a BONUS to what they were already getting from their companies and from social security. It was never intended even from the start to be a replacement for pensions or social security. We have to make that very very clear from the outset.

It was designed to offer extra compensation to already well-off employees as a way to spruce up fringe benefit packages.

You can read a bit about the history of the plan here.

And you can check out the wiki here

Obviously by the 80s it didn’t stay that way and it soon became the norm to offer defined contribution plans to office workers.

Cut to today.

I worked as an auditor and saw the insides of plans for hundreds of companies and in my experience what I saw made me begin to question the viability and the sanctity of people always pushing the 401(k) as a way to retire. My anecdotal experience was that in a company of roughly 100 people you would have 1, maybe 2 employees who were maxing out their contributions. Those were always the higher earners, senior engineers, CFOs, assistant controllers, presidents, those types. The average account balance that I saw for employees was usually between 5 and $10,000 even after years of contributions. The average balance for executives (those 1 or 2 people) was around $100,000. My anecdotal experience seems to be a bit low according to stats because the average balance is actually all over the map.

Some figures that I’ve read say people have as little as $19,000 in their 401(k).

Investopedia has a decent breakdown of balances by age but point to the fact that it is always too low to sustain people in retirement.

The Economic Policy Institute

says the average balance is around $34,000 but this varies widely by race, income, and age so you have to dig a big, but again the takeaway is that Americans have almost nothing saved in their 401(k) plans.

Zerohedge (which I don’t consider a good source most of the time) has a fairly accurate stat in this case saying that the average contribution is a very low $2,700 a year, which is certainly not enough to retire on even with growth and dividends.

The GAO (which is a fantastic source) has a great read that is fairly dry. The tldr is that we don’t have enough saved for retirement and aren’t contributing enough

This talks about income from all sources not just 401(k)

So we’re contributing… not that much to our 401(k) plans so how will that affect us in retirement?

Well it won’t give us income.

Motley fool has a decent writeup saying that at current and average saving rates, the 401(k) will provide only around $4,000 a year.

That is supplemental income that might help you pay your electric bill or buy some extra groceries, but you certainly can’t live on that.

But that applies to everyone right? Everyone will at least have something in retirement right?

Not even close.

Around 50% of households in the US aren’t even eligible for a 401(k) and of the people that are eligible only a portion of them contribute. So you have close to 70% of Americans NOT contributing to a plan.

This is a structural crisis that needs to be addressed at the national level because more than 2/3rds of Americans aren’t putting money away for their retirement and of the ones that are, most will not have enough to do anything beyond supplement a very meager existence.

A full 30% of workers have literally zero dollars saved for retirement.

So at this point you could say, well why don’t people simply contribute more or get into a plan… there are Roth IRAs there are 403(b) plans there are ways to save right? And it’s because we simply don’t have the money. Families cannot afford to put aside even more money because real wages aren’t rising at the same time that housing, education, food, and healthcare are eating what we have left.

Most households don’t even have $1,000 in savings.

Most households can’t even cover an unexpected $500 bill

So how does that last part relate to my talk about 401(k) plans?

We as a nation are prioritizing the wrong way to save. The 401(k) is an addendum policy for wealthy workers that spread and became the “norm” but it simply doesn’t work when implemented as a main way to save. That is why I say that it is unsustainable. Of the people that do save (and you can watch the John Oliver on this) fees are a hugely contentious issue that can destroy people’s contributions.

It’s a broken policy for savings that needs to be scrapped.

So what is the solution? Well… as a former financial insider, banker, analyst, and auditor my take is this… we need a legally protected, quasi-independent nationalized system that everyone contributes to.

One of the biggest issues with social security is that it IS solvent but congress keeps borrowing from the trust with limited assurances that they can pay the money back. Social security DOES work if you don’t spend the money you collect for it on other things.

We need something held in trust that legally cannot be touched by Congress held in an entity similar to the Fed (quasi independent) that will hold individually numbered accounts for all of us. When we’re born you get something like $1,000 put into that fund and as long as your parents are working, from birth you get another $500 or $1,000 a year put into that fund until your 18th birthday. Then it’s on you and there would be 3 components. Your contributions, your employers contributions and the government’s contribution.

You could use actuaries to create a pension that has money coming from tax revenues (the government portion) you could include contributions you make to the plan (your side of the contributions) and your employer would contribute to your account at a rate that they could set (so this could be part of how they compete with other employers). You have a 3 legged stool basically. Three sources of money in and one source of money out.

That quasi independent agency would then have a fiduciary responsibility to oversee all of those assets (again just like a pension) and invest in AAA rated bonds, safe municipal projects, and a broad base of blue chip stocks and an index of all the funds on the market.

You could even offer a limited range of options like “low, medium, and high” for risk tolerance where the low would invest only in things like low interest treasury bills, municipal bonds, and AAA rated projects that pay a low but dependable amount of interest, medium risk could be a blend of index funds and bonds, and the high risk could all be stocks in an index fund. This would provide for growth and investment, ensure all Americans get a fair go at retirement, and ensure that Congress can’t purloin the proceeds with a promise to simply pay it back at an unforseen date.

We need to try something new and the private market is not the solution because when you try to separate people from their money you create perverse incentives. The government should ABSOLUTELY be involved in securing people’s retirements and ability to provide for themselves in their old age.

I know this is a long answer but I hope this was a well-thought out response to your question and I hope it encourages you to do further reading. This is only my opinion based on my experience in industry but I feel it is a valid opinion backed by economic data and experience.

No further comment needed by the Old Wolf.

Advertisements

To the millennials of this election.

Reblogging this with the kind permission of the author, David Gerrold. I saw this on Facebook, and felt it was so relevant that it deserved a wider audience.

So … I think I’ll blur the details here.

There was this person who was expounding on the upcoming election and why he wasn’t going to vote for Hillary Clinton. It was his first time voting, you see, and he wanted someone who understood and represented his generation.

He said to me, “You don’t understand — ”

And that’s where I had to stop him. “Look, I do understand. Really.”

“How can you understand? You’re too old.”

“Do you think I was born old? Y’know, I have pictures. Here’s me at thirteen — ”

“But times were different then — ”

“Yes, they were. You could get polio and measles and smallpox. An appendectomy was a serious operation. People smoked everywhere, there was no getting away from the smoke. In school, they taught us to duck and cover in case of a nuclear attack. Whites and blacks still had separate restrooms and drinking fountains. Women couldn’t get a legal abortion. Gas had lead in it. Vegetables were sprayed with DDT. You could be arrested for being gay. Yes, times were different.”

“No, I meant that protesting was a fad, not serious like — ”

“Excuse me? Do you want to see the scar on my scalp where I was hit by a thrown bottle at the first gay rights march? We also had civil rights demonstrations, anti-war marches, and rallies for women’s rights as well. That was no fad. People were dying — ”

“No, look, man — it’s the establishment. That’s what’s wrong — ”

“And you want to replace the establishment with what? A different establishment? Listen — when I was your age, when my generation was your age, we were just as frustrated and just as impatient as you are now. Honest. Am I saying we were wrong? Hell, no. We were right. Better than that, we were so right, we were self-righteous. We went around saying, ‘Don’t trust anyone over 30,’ as if somehow when you turned 30, you became one of them. Y’know?

“You know what we missed? We missed the obvious — that there were a lot of good men and women over 30 who understood the issues, and the complexities of the situation better than we did — because they’d been fighting that fight for a lot longer. We had emotion, we had energy, we had spirit — but we didn’t have enough experience, enough history, enough of everything we needed to effect real change.

“So we didn’t turn out for Hubert Humphrey and we handed the country to Richard Nixon. And a generation later, other people didn’t turn out for Al Gore and handed the country to George W. Bush. And what was missed — both times — was the fact our impatience was the single biggest mistake we could make.

“Hubert Humphrey had experience, he had wisdom, and he shared our goals. Al Gore had experience, he had wisdom, and he shared our goals. But somewhere, enough of us decided that he was too old or too much of the establishment or didn’t really represent us enough, or would just give us more of the same when what we really wanted was more, better, and different, even if we couldn’t define it — enough of us felt that way to hand the presidency to a much worse administration.

“So, no — it isn’t that you’re wrong. It’s that there are people who’ve been down this path before. We know where it leads. And it’s not a good place. We know what this mistake looks like. Because we’ve made it ourselves — and we’re asking you not to make the same mistakes we did, because each time we make this mistake, everyone gets hurt.”

And he said, “So that’s a fancy way of saying ‘suck it up, buttercup, you can’t have what you want.”

And I said, “No, but if that’s the way you want to hear it, then that’s the way you’re going to hear it. The way government works, nobody gets everything they want. The way government is supposed to work, everybody negotiates — and eventually everybody gets a piece of what they need to keep going. Nobody likes that, but consider what the alternative is — if some people get everything they want, that means a lot of people are going to get nothing at all. We keep trying that, it doesn’t work. Let’s go back to the stuff that does work.”

“But I don’t like her — ”

“I’m not asking you to like her. I’m asking you to respect that she knows how to do the job. He doesn’t. You can have your protest vote, that’s your right, but that’s letting everybody else decide who gets the oval office. And you might want to think long and hard about which of the two will build on what President Obama has accomplished and which of the two will tear it all down with no idea of why it worked in the first place. Your choice.”

And he said, “That’s not much of a choice.”

And I said, “The hell it isn’t. It’s a choice between experience and ignorance. That’s the clearest choice I’ve ever seen in an election.”

He didn’t have an answer for that.

And that’s the point —

‘I might be old, but I’m not stupid. And I suspect that a lot of other members of my generation feel the same way. We remember when we were impatient. And we remember the mistakes that our impatience created.

“Old people don’t tell young people what to do and what not to do because we want to control your lives — we just want to warn you not to make the same mistakes we did.

“But you will. Or you won’t. Because it’s your choice. Always.”

As a coda, another comment from a good friend of mine, Jeremy Grimshaw, also quoted with permission:

I’ve got an anxiety in my gut that makes it impossible for me to watch the presidential debate in real time tonight–not because I worry Hillary will do poorly or that Trump will do well, but because I fear that it doesn’t matter how well she does or how poorly he does. The fact that nearly half of all Americans take a person as cruel, crass, immoral, fraudulent, oblivious, and arrogant as Trump seriously as a potential national leader, that they have dimmed and warped their epistemic lenses so terribly that they aren’t appalled by the mere fact of his sharing a stage with her, fills me with despair. What could he say that is worse than he has already said? What depth of depravity remains for him to sink to? It’s not a matter of cringing at the content or tone of the trash he flings or wringing my hands about her responses being forceful enough. I just can’t bear to watch people watching him as if he were a valid option, as if he even belonged in the same arena as her. Remember, when she was in the war room helping call the shots that killed Bin Laden, he was touching up his spray-tan for the reality-TV cameras. We are about to offer the decorum of potential presidentiality to a man who raided the coffers of his charity to commission a gigantic painting of himself in a suit of armor to hang on the wall of a golf resort bar. The most absurdist comedy writers in the country could not conjure a more outlandish parody of the Presidency than the one the Republican Party has nominated to the office.

I can’t watch the debate because I can’t bear to watch America being so incredibly stupid. At a certain point, ignorance, made willful by moral and mental neglect and partisan indolence, crosses the threshold into blasphemy.

Two candidates. Neither perfect. One with decades of experience in governance, the other with nothing but bluster and xenophobia.

Please, please… consider so carefully what kind of a world you want to build, and vote for the candidate who most closely mirrors your values, even if it’s not a perfect match.

The Old Wolf has reposted.

Microsoft “non-support” – I’m not just blowing smoke here.

In my previous post, I ranted a bit about Microsoft’s efforts to alienate their customers by making competing or foreign programs (like Chrome – horrors!) incompatible or forcing them to ask permission to run, every time. We’re talking Windows 10 here, the latest and greatest.

Here’s an old joke, but one which remains totally valid in the 21st century:

A helicopter was flying around above Seattle when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft’s electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter’s position and course to fly to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter’s window. The pilot’s sign said “WHERE AM I?” in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign and held it in a building window. Their sign read: “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER.” The pilot smiled, waved, looked at her map, determined the course to steer to SEATAC airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER” sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded “I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because, like their technical support, online help and product documentation, the response they gave me was technically correct, but completely useless.”

One would think that after all these years as the 900-lb gorilla in the software space, someone at Microsoft would wake up and realize that this is a critical failing that generates massive ill will toward the company.

No, I’m not blowing smoke. Here’s an example, related to my last post.

I went to the Microsoft support site today, and asked a simple question: “Why does Windows Firewall in Win10 block Google Chrome?”

Here’s the page that comes up – one relevant to Windows Vista, dated 2011.

Someone named “Samuthra G,” tagged as a Microsoft agent, replied:

Hi,As the issue is with Google Chrome I would suggest you to post your query in the Google forum for better assistance:
http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Chrome

And this was designated as the “most helpful” response. Thank you so much, Microsoft and Samuthra G; nothing like blowing an unhappy customer’s problem off by blaming someone else.

Two months later, a user named “Karmana” followed up with the perfect response:

Why is it, over the years, that I have noticed the vast majority of supposed Windows or Microsoft higher-certified helpers cannot seem to actually read the questions asked by the original poster?  Samhrutha, your answer to QW_895 is not only unhelpful, but if you were/are a Microsoft employee, then it is also highly irresponsible to blow off the OP by saying, “It’s not our problem.”  Taking responsibility for one’s own products is a strong first step in positive Public Relations!

To this day, this is my boilerplate experience with Microsoft forums. First of all, the people who answer never give a relevant answer – it probably has to do with the fact that their first language is not English, and that they’re paid pennies per hour to respond to these questions. Second, if they do give a response that’s even on-topic, it’s almost always so technical as to be incomprehensible or un-implementable by the average user.

Today I tried contacting the Microsoft support site, just to see what happens:

support

Having already tried a search without success, I figured I’d take advantage of their offer:

support-2

So I entered my question again: “Why does Win10 firewall block Chrome?” What I got was a list of articles – and once again, the most relevant hit is the worthless exchange I referred to above.

support-3

So I clicked the “Talk to a person” link, and was connected via Chat to a friendly Microsoft agent somewhere on the other side of the world.

“Clarisse” asked me some questions about which version of Windows I was using, provided a case number, and ended up suggesting that I uninstall and reinstall Chrome. So just for the hell of it, I gave that a try – predictably, without success. These agents in India or wherever are minimally trained, minimally paid, and working from scripts without much understanding of what’s happening under the hood.

If I wanted, I could pay $149.00 per year for premium Microsoft support, which would allow me to ask questions at any time and also enable remote desktop support, but I somehow feel that paying for support to solve problems that Microsoft generates is probably not the best allocation of my resources.

The challenge is that Microsoft is so widely accepted as the de-facto standard in the business world that people need it to conduct their daily affairs, and most people would rather muddle along with the best they can do rather than delve down into the guts of an operating system to try to find a fix or a workaround. Microsoft knows this, and based on results, they don’t care to spend any time, effort, or money to improve their byzantine and useless support system.

It’s sad. For myself, I don’t really feel like facing the Linux learning curve, and I’m seriously afraid of something like this:

cautionary

As for Apple, I love the idea of the Macintosh platform, but unless the company brings their prices in line with PC hardware, I won’t be able to justify the expense. From a functionality standpoint, the lines between PC and Mac world have blurred considerably since 1984 when the Mac was introduced as the sexy computer for the rest of us, so the draw has diminished substantially.

Still not a happy camper.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Dear Microsoft, are you *trying* to piss of your user base?

Really, this is beyond stupid.

Example 1:

chrome

Google Chrome? Really? Is it not enough that the entire world knows that IE and Edge are the most execrable browsers around, now you have to block Chrome in Windows 10 every time it launches?

How hard would it be to do something like this?

chrome2

How screeching hard would it be? Unless someone with a brain the size of a walnut and the ethics of a honey badger sitting in some conference room somewhere said, “No, let’s make it as hard as possible for people to use competing products.” Oh wait, Microsoft would never do something like that.

Microsoft initially tried to eliminate the threat non-Microsoft browsers posed to the applications barrier to entry by attempting to bribe, and later threatening, Netscape into giving up its core Window 95 web-browsing business. Had Netscape accepted Microsoft’s market-division proposal, Microsoft would have succeeded in killing the browser threat in its infancy and likely would have acquired a monopoly over browsers. (US Department of Justice, U.S. v. Microsoft)

The only option is to modify your global security settings, which is generally a crappy option. There are reasons why this security warning is in place, and it can protect your machine from malicious things, so that’s a poor solution.

account-control

Example 2:

A popup I get when I try to run older software that used to work well in Win7 (these examples are for msiexec.exe, but the name changes depending on the program selected):

msiexec_exe_trojan

Again, Microsoft: would it have killed you to put something like this in your code?

msiexec_exe_trojan-2

This solution would be so simple, and yet in its absence, the solution is terribly complex and ultimately unsatisfactory. Microsoft support websites are typically run by people in other countries whose first language is not English, who have poor understanding of the questions asked, and who provide generally useless information.

Given these frustrations with Win10, I find this old gag somehow more relevant than ever.

If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1. For no reason at all, your car would crash twice a day.
2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you would have to buy a new car.
3. Occasionally, executing a manoeuver such as a left-turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, and you would have to reinstall the engine.
4. When your car died on the freeway for no reason, you would just accept this, restart and drive on.
5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought ‘Car95’ or ‘CarNT’, and then added more seats.
6. Apple would make a car powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would run on only five per cent of the roads.
7. Oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single ‘general car default’ warning light.
8. New seats would force every-one to have the same size butt.
9. The airbag would say ‘Are you sure?’ before going off.
10. Occasionally, for no reason, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key, and grabbed the radio antenna.
11. GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of road maps from Rand-McNally (a subsidiary of GM), even though they neither need them nor want them. Trying to delete this option would immediately cause the car’s performance to diminish by 50 per cent or more. Moreover, GM would become a target for investigation by the Justice Department.
12. Every time GM introduced a new model, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
13. You would press the ‘start’ button to shut off the engine.

Oh yeah, and all the owner manuals would be written in Danish.

Yarg. old_wolf_angry

The Old Wolf has spoken.

An old scam, resurrected

I previously posted about the most deceptive ad I had ever encountered in an article entitled “Selling It.”

Hall of Shame Advertisement

Take away all the mummery, and the thrust of the ad was, “throw away your old rabbit ears and buy our pretty rabbit ears.”

When it comes to separating suckers from their money, old ideas die hard. I mean, why throw away such a good concept if it works, right?

Saw this in WalMart just the other day:

20160914_161116

20160914_161101

Other than the fact that the old one was analog and this one is digital, it’s the same marketing pitch, with the same marketing weasel words. But the summum bonum of the product? “Works just like your old antenna, ONLY NOW with a sleek design.”

Well, that’s certainly sufficient incentive to throw away my old digital antenna and buy this one. Except for the fact that I haven’t watched broadcast TV for over 20 years, but that’s another story.

Save your money and don’t buy camel ejecta like this.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Maine’s Ballot Initiatives

The following six questions will appear on Maine’s ballots this fall:

Question 1 Marijuana Legalizes, regulates, and taxes marijuana as an agricultural product
Question 2 Education Establishes a 3 percent tax on household income over $200,000
Question 3 Firearms Requires specific background checks for gun sales and transfers
Question 4 Minimum Wage Increases minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020
Question 5 Elections Establishes statewide ranked-choice voting
Question 6 Bonds Issues $100 million in bonds for transportation projects

Here’s how I stand at the moment, and why. Opinion subject to change based on additional data.

Question 1: Marijuana: Legalizes, regulates, and taxes marijuana as an agricultural product
Prospective vote: Yes
Reasoning: The war on drugs has clearly failed. While I believe that human beings would be generally better off if they used no mood-altering substances, the social costs of legalization vs. prohibition and enforcement of marijuana specifically must be weighed. FBI data shows that of the roughly 700,000 arrests for marijuana-related charges in 2014, about 90 percent were for possession only, and while an arrest does not always lead to jail time, these arrests can have radiating consequences. Alcohol leads to far more societal costs in terms of violence, abuse, and other anti-social behaviors, and we saw how well the Eighteenth Amendment worked. What is needed is legalization and control in the same way alcohol is legal and controlled, taking revenue out of the hands of the cartels and crime syndicates. This would also clear the way for the legalization of industrial hemp, an astonishingly useful product which has vanishingly small quantities of THC (less than the amount of alcohol in NA beers, for example) but which has been lumped together with cannabis by government regulators out of fear and/or ignorance.

Question 2: Education: Establishes a 3 percent tax on household income over $200,000
Prospective vote: Yes
Reasoning: 1) Funding education is good. Schools are generally underfunded and teachers generally underpaid. This initiative would require a 3% surcharge on portions of income over $200,000, meaning if you earned $280,000 in a given year, you’d see your taxes go up by $2,400. If I had an income like that, I’d gladly pay double that as a surcharge and think I was getting off easy. 2) Anything Paul LePage opposes is most likely a good idea.

Question 3: Firearms: Requires specific background checks for gun sales and transfers
Prospective vote: Yes
Reasoning: This is a hot-button issue in Maine, where concealed carry doesn’t even require a permit. Lots of “yee-haw ‘Murica” sentiment up here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fervent 2nd Amendment supporter, and I won’t support any effort by any candidate to “come get your guns.” But I’m also a fervent supporter of common sense. The right to drive a car isn’t enshrined in the Constitution, but in order to drive a car, the following things have to happen:

  1. Driver must be of age, have operator training and be licensed
  2. Vehicle needs to be registered, inspected, taxed, and insured. Every vehicle, every year.

Once these requirements are met, you can own as many vehicles as you want. Why firearms should be exempt from the same type of safety-oriented requirements simply makes no sense.

Question 4: Minimum Wage: Increases minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020
Prospective vote: Yes
Reasoning: I support this because we probably won’t get anything better through legislation in the near future, but I feel that it doesn’t go far enough. $15.00 would be better. And it’s being phased in too slowly. To have a minimum wage that people can’t live on is unconscionable, particularly when so many families are trying to get by on two wage-earners at this level.

Question 5: Elections: Establishes statewide ranked-choice voting
Prospective vote: Yes
Reasoning: From the League of Women Voters:

  • RCV allows voters to vote for their favorite candidate without fear of helping elect their least favorite candidate. It minimizes strategic voting and eliminates the spoiler effect.
  • RCV is most likely to elect a candidate with broad appeal. It ensures that winners enjoy majority support when matched against their top opponents.
  • RCV encourages candidates to run with new ideas and dissenting opinions.
  • It promotes civility in campaigns and encourages winning candidates to reach out to more people, reducing negative attacks.
  • Unlike traditional runoff elections, it accomplishes these goals in a single election. Traditional run-offs require candidates to raise much more money and are much prone to negative attacks ads.

Question 6: Bonds: Issues $100 million in bonds for transportation projects
Prospective vote: Undecided
Reasoning: Economic issues are complex. Clearly America’s transportation infrastructure is crumbling, and woefully underfunded. Maine’s roads are in poor shape, in part because of harsh winter weather. The bond has a lot of support; Mark W. Anderson, an economist and a writer for the Bangor Daily News, calls for an increase in fuel tax to more fairly distribute cost to heavy users of roads. I need to think about this one some more, and it’s not easy for a Wolf of Very Little Brain to get his head around things like this.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Stop what you’re doing!

“Please stop what you’re doing and listen to this very important message. I’m going to give you access to a pre-recorded message that’s going to show you exactly how to start putting $10,000 or more in your pocket in the next 10 to 14 days and $10,000 or more every 10 to 14 days after that. This message will absolutely blow your mind! So press 1 right now if you want to find out exactly how to put $10,000 or more in your pocket every 10 to 14 days. I guarantee you have never seen anything like this up until now. So press 1 right now to get all the details, or press 9 to guarantee that you’ll never hear from us again.”

robocall1

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had this robocall, along with “Hi! I’m Kelly from Credit Card Services!” and a handful of others. But this one is especially obnoxious.

First of all, these calls blatantly ignore the National Do Not Call Registry. Second, pressing “9” only serves to guarantee that your number is registered as a “live” number, and will then be sold to other telemarketers. Lastly, they’re selling a weak-sauce multi-level marketing package of informational and motivational material for $1,000, plus a $299.00 annual membership fee, with a no-refund rider attached. You shell out, you’re sunk. This particular dodge is being run by Exitus, but I suspect the same come-on is being used by a number of shady operators. [Note: Here’s a breakdown of how the Exitus plan works, astonishingly without a link to “another, better system” as is common with so many of these affiliate marketers. Bash the competition, and then sucker people into your own nearly identical scheme.]

They claim you don’t have to do any calling. But you will need to send referrals to your own marketing page, for the automated system to work for you.

How are you going to get referrals? Clearly, by using one of those never-suffiently-to-be-damned robocalling systems that will bother millions of people in clear violation of the law.

If you are looking for a business model that depends on a foundation of not caring how many people you piss off, or leaving countless broken bodies in your wake to get one customer, then this opportunity is for you.

If you have ethics and morals, compassion and concern for the well-being of your neighbor, better look elsewhere.

Every time I get one of these calls, I have visions of lowering the person behind it into a wood chipper, slowly – despite working hard on being charitable to all. That tells you how annoying I find these seedy scams.

The Old Wolf has spoken.