It should be easier to repurpose household goods for those in need

Downsizing

One of the many challenges faced by those who care for aging family members who are downsizing their home, moving to assisted living facilities or who pass away is the overwhelming task of sorting through and disposing of unneeded or unwanted furniture, furnishings, household goods and clothes.  Most of us spend a lifetime acquiring “stuff” with little or no thought to what will become of our belongings when they are no longer needed or when they simply won’t fit in a dramatically smaller living space.  When our elderly relatives face a move or when they die and all but a few sentimental items and family mementos need to be emptied from the home and disposed of a frantic search often begins for a suitable way to repurpose a relative’s property.

I’ve been dealing with this challenge as I take responsibility for helping an elderly family member move from her current home to a nearby assisted living community and into a space one third the size of her current home.  The task has been even more difficult because I live 2,600 miles from my family member.

Downsizing 2

After dozens of phone calls to thrift shops, consignment stores, charitable groups, religious organizations, downsizing advisors and estate liquidators I learned to my dismay that it is very difficult to give away someone’s households effects either for cash or donation.  As Richard Eisenberg writes in his recent article:  Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff ( https://tinyurl.com/mkrhx9g ) “the hard truth is that nobody wants the prized possessions of your parents — not even you or your kids.”

So what’s a caring family member to do?

There are businesses in many cities which will come to a home and clear out everything that is not bolted to the walls.  These entrepreneurs may try to place some of the more salable items on their showroom floor for consignment.  Despite the excellent condition of some furniture the reality is that many items are just not appealing to buyers.  I discovered that the table and chairs of a dining room set in absolutely perfect condition could be sold but the china cabinet is an anachronistic piece of furniture that hardly anyone wants.  The firms that clean out granny’s house may only consign for sale a handful of items.  They will arrange to donate rest of the furniture and household goods to charities with whom they work in exchange for a donation receipt.  But where those donated items wind up is anyone’s guess.  And those items which can neither be sold nor donated are likely to find an eternal home in a nearby public dump.

But what about the many individuals who are in desperate need for clothing, household goods and furniture?  Why is it so difficult to get those items from a vacated residence into the hands and hearts of new immigrants, refugees, or others living in poverty?  The sad reality is that there are precious few charities willing to take it all and then triage the items for distribution to those in need.  Most charities will select very few items and often don’t even have the facility to pick up things from the house.  They’ll accept what they have an immediate need for to put in the homes of a needy family.  But they have no capacity to warehouse items for those in the community to come and help themselves to clothes, furniture and household goods.

Charities that are in the business of providing social services would do well to collaborate and develop a shared facility and service capable of clearing out homes of ALL unwanted and unneeded personal effects making all usable goods available to anyone in their community in need of clothes, furniture and household goods.  By sharing the costs of warehouse space, trucks and personnel the burden can be shared and the costs spread among many faith based and secular organizations in a true co-op serving the poor and underserved.  It could be the ultimate Leave-a-Penny/Take-a-Penny system but on a much grander scale.  People with home goods and clothing to donate could bring the items to a central warehouse or have the items picked up.  And those with need for any of the items at the warehouse could receive what they need and either pick up the items or ask that they be delivered.

It shouldn’t be so difficult for donors to give and those in need to receive.  Give what you can; take what you need.

Take penny dish

Immigrants, refugees and others in our communities are in need and many of us have the ability to make things available to them that are no longer needed by our families but which could make a world of difference for someone else.  It’s time for the nonprofit community to step up and meet these needs in an unprecedented model of cooperation.  Private nonprofit organizations and faith-based houses of worship throughout the community should use this as a way for genuine ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, cooperation and service that no single organization could accomplish by itself.

Too much stuff

So what is the best advice for families who want to prepare themselves for the inevitable downsizing of a loved one or ultimately the final disposition of their property?  Immediately begin a process to dramatically pare down and get rid of items now that have not been used in a long time.  Don’t wait until you are under a deadline to reduce what is in your loved one’s home.  Repurpose items by working with charities, thrift shops and consignment shops.  As difficult as it is to convince a family member to let go of some of their belongings talk with them about whether many of their unused items can serve a higher purpose by giving them to others rather than by holding onto them.

Declutter

The transition of a loved one, whether to a new and smaller location or the inevitable and ultimate transition at the end of life can be physically and emotionally challenging.  Change is difficult.  Letting go of personal items is hard.  But the satisfaction that comes from repurposing personal items for the benefit of those in need can be very satisfying.  The knowledge that the lives of others can be made easier and happier with the gift of items of a family member can provide joy and happiness to both the donor and the recipient.

Items that are not wanted by trendy or kitschy consignment shops, or rejected by charities that have no immediate need in site, could make individuals grateful and happy.  But the burden and responsibility of creating the right kind of co-op environment for all of your loved one’s rummage which could be turned into someone else’s treasure should be a shared priority for every community.

Ann Frank

The time has come for single payer universal health care

Health care 4

The failure of the Trump administration and the House of Representatives to Repeal and Replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) should be a clarion call for a different approach to bringing the United States into the community of developed nations which provide universal health care to their citizens.  The time has come for a single payer universal health care system to cover all Americans.

Health care 7

Now, here’s an approach that should get support from those on both sides of the aisle.  Those who want to see universal health care coverage for all.  And those who would like to give a giant economic shot in the arm to American businesses.

In 2015, the average company-provided health insurance policy totaled $6,251 a year for single coverage. On average, employers paid 83 percent of the premium, or $5,179 a year. Employees paid the remaining 17 percent, or $1,071 a year.  And for family coverage, the average policy totaled $17,545 a year with employers contributing, on average, 72 percent or $12,591. Employees paid the remaining 28 percent or $4,955 a year.

The U.S. is the only developed nation where most health care costs are absorbed by employers.  Imagine the economic impact to American businesses if the responsibility for health care costs was removed from their financial statements.  Those savings could be used to reinvest in corporate expansion creating the resources for the largest job creation initiative in modern history.

Health care 2

So who would pay for the health care costs for the majority of Americans who currently receive health insurance through their employers?  The answer is the same way that health care costs are paid on behalf of citizens in all other developed nations…a single payer universal health care system paid for in large part by the U.S. government.  In short, a Medicare for all program with limited financial participation by citizens for basic health care coverage and the opportunity for supplemental insurance coverage paid for by Americans who want additional levels of coverage just as optional medigap policies are purchased from private insurance companies to pay health care costs not covered such as co-payments, deductibles, and prescription drugs.

Health care 5

Medicare gets universal high satisfaction grades from seniors who, it should be noted, consume a disproportionately high percentage of health care services.  The individual payment for basic Medicare coverage together with the optional costs for supplemental policies require far less investment by individuals 65 and older than the out of pocket costs for premiums, deductibles and co-pays by those on traditional employer sponsored health plans and even less than the costs of those whose health care premiums are not covered by their employer.

Individual contributions to help pay for a nominal portion of the cost of health care coverage should be means tested.  Those living in poverty would not be expected to contribute to the costs of their health care coverage.

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For those who think that such a plan would cripple the insurance companies nothing could be further from the truth.  In the same way that insurers sell Medicare recipients supplemental policies that could sell similar optional medigap policies.  But it is likely that the exorbitant health insurance company CEO compensation may be flushed out of the system.

Health care 3

It seems to me that a social contract with all Americans to provide comprehensive health care coverage is part of the basic rights which is implied in the words of the Declaration of Independence:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In the modern era, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best:  “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Seven years ago, the passage of the Affordable Care Act represented the greatest contribution to the health of the American people since the first attempt at healthcare reform in the post-war era occurred during the administration of President Harry S. Truman.  President Truman recommended to Congress a proposal for universal health insurance coverage, administered and paid for by a National Health Insurance Board. (The article: “A Brief History on the Road to Healthcare Reform: From Truman to Obama” is an excellent resource for those interested in tracing the path of health care reform over the past 72 years.  This article can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/kxtpwbq ).

The ACA is clearly an imperfect provision.  It was flawed in many ways from the time it was signed into law.  But it may also be one of the most politicized social reforms in the history of the nation.  Congress and the new administration had no appetite to fix what was broken.  They wanted it gutted, repealed and replaced.  But they were not able to get that done.

So now is the time for a bold approach to health care reform which will ensure that every American will be treated fairly, equally and humanely with the assurance that they won’t die because they cannot afford health care and they won’t go broke because they get sick.  A simple compact that embodies the spirit of the Declaration of Independence…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Now is the time for America to adopt single payer universal health care because NO ONE SHOULD DIE BECAUSE THEY CANNOT AFFORD HEALTH CARE AND NO ONE SHOULD GO BROKE BECAUSE THEY GET SICK!

Health care 6

My offer to write Donald Trump’s resignation letter

Signing a document

Let me say from the start that as much as I would like to see Donald Trump impeached and removed from an office he has disgraced and which he repeatedly disrespects I don’t believe that is likely to happen.

To bring articles of impeachment against a President requires a majority vote in the House of Representatives. When the case is tried by the Senate, a vote of at least 2/3 of those present is required to convict and remove the president from office.  The political reality suggests that this is an unlikely way to remove Trump from office.

I believe it is far more likely that Trump will resign the Presidency rather than suffer being ousted through impeachment.  As hard as it is to believe, my theory is shared by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) who has said: “Donald Trump is going to get himself out of office soon.”  Senator Feinstein suggested the President would quit before he was potentially forced out of office after anti-Trump protesters in Los Angeles demanded to know why more wasn’t being done by Congress to remove him from office.  And Senator Feinstein is not the first to suggest that the billionaire tycoon may decide to quit the White House of his own volition.

So when the day comes that the thin-skinned Trump ego can no longer endure the daily pummeling he gets from Members of Congress including members of his own party; the media (fake or real); the endless commentaries and memes that daily spread virally over the internet or the criticism and barbs he gets from foreign leaders it will be at that point that I believe he will decide to quit his part-time job as POTUS and retreat to his gold man caves in Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago.

And when that happens he’ll need a well-crafted statement explaining and spinning his reasons for giving up the most coveted and powerful political job in the world.  And that’s where I could help him out.  And by out, I mean way out.  But out in classic Trump style which would enable him to leave The White House with his reputation and image not only intact but actually embellished.  After all, that’s the real end game for Trump – to burnish his brand.

I’ve served as the public spokesman for many major organizations which, from time to time, required me to issue very carefully written statements that were designed to say a lot without saying much.  So I am happy to offer this suggested draft statement for Mr. Trump to use when he inevitably decides to resign as President:

My fellow Americans: 

While I am proud and honored to be your president nothing is more important to me than my children, grandchildren and my dear wife, Melania.  And as much as you may need me to lead our country I have discovered that my family needs me even more.  It has been especially difficult to be away from Melania and Baron.  The prospects of uprooting them from the home and community they love to move to Washington would be a very difficult transition for them.  It has also been very difficult for my adult children and grandchildren to not have the head of the family close by and involved in their lives.

 I am happy that I was able to win The White House, bring victory to the goal of a Republican led Congress, and advance a nominee for the Supreme Court that will strengthen the conservative values on the bench.  I’ve laid out a clear agenda and put in place mechanisms which will return the government to the party of Lincoln with a strong conservative agenda.  So I think I’ve done as much for you as you need from me.  Now it is time for me to return to my family and business, both of which need and depend on me to be present.

 I am confident that Vice President Pence will succeed me admirably and capably and he will make an excellent 46th President.

 Thank you for the honor you have bestowed upon me.  Now that I have set the nation on the right path I feel that my work in Washington has been completed and I have done all I can do to assure the future success of our country.

 Thank you and God bless the United States.

 Donald J. Trump

Now it is worth noting that the only other American President to resign while in office was Richard Nixon whose letter of resignation famously only included eleven words:

Nixon resignation letter

Trump loves to set records so he could one up Nixon with an even shorter resignation message should he choose to just say these six words: “You can’t fire me, I quit.”

But that’s just not the Trump way.  Walking away from a failed project or suddenly shutting an enterprise down is his way.  He has abruptly shut down many of his businesses leaving behind vendors, employees and others stakeholders with nothing but an Out of Business sign and a padlock to remember him by.  Here are some of the Trump businesses from which he has walked away:

  • TRUMP AIRLINES
  • TRUMP BEVERAGES
  • TRUMP: THE GAME (a board game in partnership with Milton Bradley)
  • TRUMP CASINOS
  • TRUMP MAGAZINE
  • TRUMP MORTGAGE
  • TRUMP STEAKS
  • TRUMP TRAVEL SITE
  • TRUMP COMMUNICATIONS CO.
  • TRUMP TOWER TAMPA
  • TRUMP UNIVERSITY
  • TRUMP VODKA

So if Donald Trump needs a resignation letter written I’m his guy.  I’d be very happy to do it.  And by very happy I mean ecstatic.  And because Trump always likes a deal or is unphased when he stiffs his vendors I’ll make it easy for him by waiving my usual fee.

Mr. Trump, the letter is ready for you as soon as you are ready to order the packing boxes and call the moving vans.  And one more thing, sir, for the sake of the nation, the sooner the better.

Trump Moving Van

Is the Ship of State sinking?

the-white-house-mess

On September 27, 1995 I had the honor and privilege to be invited by President and Mrs. Clinton to a black-tie dinner at The White House.  It was an evening to celebrate the generosity of major philanthropists who had supported the leading children’s hospitals in North America.  I was asked to bring along to be recognized our hospital’s largest donor, David Packard, founder of Hewlett-Packard, whose contribution dedicated the new hospital for his late wife, Lucile.  During the cocktail reception I sat with Mr. Packard and we chatted for a while about the evening.  I told him that I knew of course that he had served in the Nixon administration as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense and that he no doubt had been to The White House for countless dinners.  As a life-long Republican and no stranger to The White House I asked Mr. Packard why at his advanced age and with obvious physical difficulty getting around had he decided to travel from California to Washington for a dinner at the Clinton White House.  I assumed that because of his obvious political differences with Clinton that he would have declined the invitation.  Packard told me that indeed he had been to more black-tie dinners at The White House than he could count and that yes, he was also not a fan of Bill Clinton’s politics.  But, he told me, I have reverence for the Office of the President.  And when the President invites you to dinner you set your political differences aside and accept the invitation out of deep respect for the Office.  I’ve never forgotten that lesson from Mr. Packard.

And yet, while I too revere the Office of the President, I don’t think that the worst of its previous occupants have so stained and shamed the office in such a short period of time as Donald Trump.  Clearly I will never be invited to dinner at the Trump White House but even if that were to happen I would respectfully ignore the lesson David Packard taught me and never cross the threshold at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue while Trump was in residence and while he occupied the Oval Office.  There are just too many smells there that even a pinched nose prevent you from breathing.  The rot that is underway by the current President is a stench I just could not stomach.

The Washington Post’s coverage of Donald Trump’s Tweetstorm in which he accuses Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower is a comprehensive account of Trump’s most recent and bizarre child-like meltdown:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/03/04/trump-accuses-obama-of-nixonwatergate-plot-to-wire-tap-trump-tower/?utm_term=.c01cf19816cf

Dan Rather’s commentary  http://occupydemocrats.com/2017/03/04/dan-rather-just-said-thinking-trumps-wiretap-scandal/ seems to sum things up on what I thought could not be yet another colossal embarrassment by Trump.  But I was wrong.  He never fails to plumb new depths of self-humiliating, paranoid, and disgusting comments.  Read Rather’s commentary and see if it resonates with your own thoughts about today’s pre-dawn Tweets from Trump.

And then, read this commentary by Robert Reich:

This morning Trump went berserk, tweeting a series of bizarre accusations charging that former president Barack Obama orchestrated a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election. Citing no evidence, he said the former president was a “Bad (or sick) guy!”

Folks, we’ve got a huge problem on our hands. Either:

1. Trump is more nuts than we suspected — a true paranoid.

2. Or he’s correct, in which case there’s probable cause that he committed treason. No president can order a wiretap. For federal agents to obtain a wiretap on Trump’s phone conversations, the Justice Department would first have had to convince a federal judge that it had gathered sufficient evidence that there was probable cause to believe that Trump had committed a serious crime or was an agent of a foreign power, depending on whether it was a criminal or foreign intelligence wiretap.

3. Or Trump’s outburst was triggered by a commentary on Breitbart News reporting an assertion Thursday night by rightwing talk-radio host Mark Levin suggesting Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team’s dealings with Russian operatives. If this was the source of Trump’s ravings this morning, we’ve got a president willing to put the prestige and power of his office behind a baseless claim emanating from rightwing purveyors of lies.

So there you have it — either he’s paranoid, he likely committed treason, or he’s making judgments based on rightwing crackpots. Each of them is as worrying as the other.

What do you think? 

Either:

1. Trump is more nuts than we suspected — a true paranoid.

2. Or he’s correct, in which case there’s probable cause that he committed treason. No president can order a wiretap. For federal agents to obtain a wiretap on Trump’s phone conversations, the Justice Department would first have had to convince a federal judge that it had gathered sufficient evidence that there was probable cause to believe that Trump had committed a serious crime or was an agent of a foreign power, depending on whether it was a criminal or foreign intelligence wiretap.

3. Or Trump’s outburst was triggered by a commentary on Breitbart News reporting an assertion Thursday night by rightwing talk-radio host Mark Levin suggesting Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team’s dealings with Russian operatives. If this was the source of Trump’s ravings this morning, we’ve got a president willing to put the prestige and power of his office behind a baseless claim emanating from rightwing purveyors of lies.

The stain and stink on the Presidency created by Donald Trump will last for generations just as Richard Nixon’s desecration of the Office of the President created by Watergate.  Nixon and Trump have and will have soiled the Presidency.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  I hope Americans will learn a painful lesson from the behavior of this current President and will never be duped again.

I wish I could look at the current President the same way David Packard looked at Bill Clinton in violent disagreement with him politically but with respect for the Office.  But for me, that’s just a bridge too far so I’ll have to wait until the next occupant of the Office of President comes along before I can look at the Presidency again with respect and admiration even though I may not care for or agree with the holder of that sacred office.