Trump’s tweets continue a presidential tradition

“Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!” “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!”                                                             Tweets attributed to Donald Trump Over the past week or so, Donald Trump has taken aim at two companies, the entire health sector, and a union boss. The media and the financial community are in an uproar over his statements. Should they be? Actually, ‘jaw-boning’ industry and labor is a time-honored tradition among America’s leaders. Some presidents have done much worse. The fact that president-elect Donald Trump is using social media is about the only thing new in bashing the private sector. The stock market, however, is acting like this is a blatant and irrational act by someone in power; not so. Consider Theodore Roosevelt’s actions at the turn of the Twentieth Century. “Teddy,” young, brash and every bit as outspoken as “The Donald” in his own way, tangled with none other than the all-powerful, John D. Rockefeller, whose company was supplying 90% of America’s oil. It took years, but Roosevelt, the first president to take on Big Oil, managed to break up the Standard Oil Company in 1911.Since then a long line of presidents have challenged various oil companies and their managements with varying success. This week’s vow by Trump to “control drug prices” in a Time Magazine interview sent pharmaceutical and biotech stock prices down 2% or more. This caused a chorus of complaints from investors. But it isn’t the...

The Affordable Care Act won’t go away

Throughout the presidential campaign, our president-elect, Donald Trump, bashed Obamacare at every opportunity. But don’t assume that just because he doesn’t like it in its present form, it’s the end of America’s first attempt at solving our universal health care issue. “Its gotta go,” said Trump, during a CNN interview during the presidential campaign. He promised to “repeal and replace it with something terrific.” If those words have filled you with dismay, they shouldn’t, because even the creator of the healthcare act, Barak Obama, warned us at the outset that the first version of the legislation would need to be adjusted and changed. It wasn’t perfect six years ago and it isn’t now. Why am I so sure that Obama’s legacy will remain? It’s simple: the act brought over 20 million Americans into the health insurance net. That means that those same 20 million people won’t be showing up in the emergency rooms of the nation’s hospitals in the future without any visible means to pay for the health services they will desperately need. And if they can’t pay for them, who does? Well at first they become losses on the hospital ‘s books but they then deduct that from their taxes and by the time all is said and done, it’s you and me, the taxpayers, who will pay and pay dearly. And despite Trump’s and the Republican Party’s rhetoric, every one of them is well aware of that fact. But it goes even deeper. Even Trump sees the wisdom in insisting that insurers cover people with pre-existing health conditions. As a survivor of cancer, I am well-aware...

The VA–If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it

In the heat of presidential campaign rhetoric, the quality of care given to our veterans has become a popular topic. Needless to say, neither candidate has received care in a Veteran’s hospital and probably does not know anyone who has. Actually, few of us know anything at all about the Department of Veterans Affairs medical capabilities. Most Americans have never served in the military. Fewer still have ever been inside a VA facility, and if they have, it was to see a relative or friend. As such, our ignorance breeds a whole host of misunderstandings about how good or bad our veterans are being treated. Critics are quick to point to the 2014 scandal where some Veteran facilities were found to be denying care to service members and covering up those failures as well. But is that scandal enough to completely revamp an organization that has been serving our countrymen through countless wars? As a vet who has experienced VA medical treatment, I can tell you that I found my treatment both professional and given with a high degree of care. There are plenty of other veterans who have had the same experience.  But don’t take my word for it. There are at least 60 recent studies (since 2014) done by a variety of medical and other organizations. The results indicate that the care our Vets receive at VA facilities is comparable to (or superior to) that offered by private providers. In areas such as mental health, preventative care, outpatient processes and outcomes, VA treatment was superior to that received in the private sector, according to these studies. Their...

Health Savings Accounts are a good idea

Does your employer offer a health savings plan? Many do, especially if your company’s health insurance has a high deductible. If you aren’t taking advantage of it, you should and here’s why. Health Savings Accounts (HSA) were created as a way to help control rising health care costs. An HSA is an account, similar to a personal savings account or an IRA that you can open at work or on your own. Employers consider it a supplement to their high deductible employee health insurance plan (HDHP). How do you know if your health insurance plan qualifies as a high deductible? Usually HDHPs won’t start paying out until after you’ve spent at least $1,300 (individual) or $2,600 for a family in expenses with your own money. HSAs are used to pay for things your employer plan doesn’t cover. Qualified medical expenses such as co-pays, health plan deductibles and other non-insurance covered medical expenses such as dental and vision expenses. You—not your employer or insurance company—own and control the money in your HSA. The government and the health insurers believe that most people will spend their health care dollars more wisely if they’re using their own money. HSAs function somewhat like a 401(K) or 403(B) plan. You can make contributions from your paycheck on a pre-tax basis. Your employer can also match some percentage of your contributions. No matter how much you make, you can open a HSA plan. Even though you may have already maxed out all of your other available tax-deferred savings plans, you can still open a HSA. Health Savings Plans offer a triple tax advantage in an...

How to mess up an inherited IRA

Whoopee, your great aunt died and left you her Individual Retirement Account (IRA). The first thing you want to do is cash the check and take the family out to dinner. Wrong! The first thing you should do is read the rest of this column. An inherited IRA can be a tricky. It requires some knowledge of estate, financial and tax planning. If you are not familiar with any of the above concepts, meet with a financial advisor or send me an e-mail. You see, one wrong decision can have expensive consequences. For most people, the worst thing you can do is cash out the plan before seeing an advisor. Know this: the money in an inherited IRA must be taken out eventually. How much and how soon depends on a number of variables. The best case scenario tax-wise and (probably worst emotionally) is that you have inherited an IRA from your deceased spouse. In this case, there are no tax consequences and you are not required by the IRS to withdraw taxable distributions until you reach the age of 70 ½. But let’s say that you are a non-spouse and the money came from your great aunt. You have two options: you can choose to take distributions over your life expectancy. It is called the “stretch” option and would allow the remaining funds in the IRA to grow tax-free for as long as possible. Each year the required distribution, which is computed based on a life expectancy table generated by the IRS, is taxable at your current income tax bracket. The second option is to liquidate the account...

The candidates and the economy

As the GOP political convention winds down and the Democrat convention gears up, we continue to hear a steady stream of economic ‘one liners’ from the candidates. We all know that fixing the economy is one of the major issues of this campaign but so far the candidates are long on words and short on specifics. “If I’m elected,” promise both candidates, there will be more jobs, trade, wages and growth. According to them, all we need do is check the right boxes come Election Day and the rest will be a foregone conclusion. Historically, Wall Street and corporations vote Republican because the GOP is good for business, while labor, minorities and the “have nots” back the Democrats. However, times and the issues are changing and so are the candidates. Take the banking sector, for example, both parties and candidates this year have targeted Wall Street as a villain in need of chastisement. The GOP has made a re-instatement of the Depression-Era, Glass-Stegall Act a plank in their platform. Repealed under the Clinton Administration, the Act had prevented commercial banks from entering the capital markets. Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (as well as the public) have blamed the banks for the entire financial crisis fiasco which was brought about by the repeal of the act.  The banking sector’s involvement in capital markets and the creation of derivative products such as mortgage-backed securities in large part brought down an enormous financial house of cards that threatened to sink all of us. Free trade is another area where roles appear to be reversed between the candidates, if not the parties....