On The Third Day of Christmas, AT&T Brought To Me, Twelve Distress Calls!

     Sadly,  this December 22, 2011 was a typical day. Perhaps hyped somewhat by the "season", but none the less, just an ordinary day for a "pay-forward liberal" living in Branson, Missouri, the celebrated capitol of the "traditional value/tea party conservative" Ozarks.  I missed no phone calls. My most worthy achievement was that I answered them all.   Gout pain having tethered me to the house, I was compelling  to hobble to the first hello at 7a and the last goodbye at around 9p.  Each petition was unique but the common theme was unmistakable, i.e. "Let me tell you about my problem".  My today's gaggle of problems will, by next week, either have withered or inflated, and regardless will by then have been overshadowed by a new gaggle.  Before this happens, I am posting herewith a a brief summary of each "PROBLEM"  Reading these as a collection, I believe, reveals a disturbing portrait of life in the Ozarks, circa Christmas 2012.  You decide!

     1.  Distressed call from Charlotte:  Her 88 year old mother, living with her, in that no other sibling will put up with her, because she is, simply, "mean".  "Mother is threatening, without cause, to move to a Senior Care Facility. If she inquires tell her NO.  She is a horrible person, but she has no reason to move. P.S. She has lots of money".

     2. Threat from Unum Insurance:  Sophy, a Sales Associate from a Maine Insurance Company called to obtain a Medicare number from a Home Health Agency so that her sale could be recorded in December.  When the information was not yet available she became indignant and threatened to file a complaint with Medicare.

     3.  Serea strikes out:  Serea, single mother of two children under 10, called to report that the"disability check" belonging to her roommate had not shown up.  Regrettably she would not be able to reimburse me for the October electric bill at the Mobil home rental unit where she is 3 months behind on rent, and unable to secure electric service.  The roommate had been arrested for parole violation.  Th children's father, in prison, was ineligible for family assistance payment.  She was out of food stamps, ineligible for "unemployment benefits" from last waitress job in July, could not get tags for car with missing window, and hd no job hopes until March 1, when tourist return.

     4.  Mrs Smith's Money:  Pleasant little lady residing at a Senior Care Residence, called to report that for the second time this month, she had had money missing from her well hidden purse, the location of which was known only to her son.  Her son and daughter are estranged. Son visits often.  An out of state Trust Company that manages her affairs relies on a family friend for expenditure control to avoid family issues.

     5. Kent's Overdraft Protection:  Kent, a late 70's "post open-heart surgery patient" residing at a Senior Care Residence called seeking intervention with Great Southern Bank.  He had been having staff supplement the nutritional meals served with twice daily runs to Taco Bell for Chili Cheese Burritos, not realizing that his account was being overdrawn with each $3.00 purchase resulting in a $35 protection charge.  He could not pay the facility monthly service fee, in that he had spent more than $600 on burritos. 

     6.  Helen escapes from Louie:  Much yoked 80's couple residing at Senior Care Residence, called to see if their residence status was in jeopardy.  Helen, burdened by moderate dementia, has been daily leaving there apartment to wander the Resident Common Areas, prompting strong checks from the staff.  "After 65 years of marriage, she is still always mad at me", said Louie.

     7.  Ellen has a driver:  Forty something, recently divorced cook, called to report that she was going to drive to Nashville for Christmas after all.  She had decided not to make the long drive, given her severe back pain, but had met a nice guy at the Rusty Beaver last night who said that he would be happy to drive her.  Just a little cash advance and away they went.  Hope she makes it back!

     8.  For Seth, more seemed better:  Seth, a long term acquaintance, whose life has been an uninterrupted regulatory affair, called to report a plumbing problem at the "trailer park" where he has lived since second prison release for train robbery and parole violation respectively. At 24 after a life of abandonment, foster care and prison, he started September with a clean slate.  Newly remodeled mobil home with utilities paid, an unlimited cell phone, gratis, a functioning car with insurance, a job with meals and take home extras.  What to do?  Swipe a debit card with a pryed pin number and get a $100.  Of course it makes no sense,' not even to Seth, now exempted from police complaint, but facing "total bust" at January.

     9.  Lloyd's $20:  A nice young man, reported to have prospered during the "Branson Good Times", out of work, luck, transportation, shelter and utilities, trying to rebound with part time waiter job, called to pride fully acknowledge inability to repay last weeks "gas money for borrowed car".  Advised 3 days cold at his severly disabled fathers disrepair trailer.  Did not ask for cash/asked for work.  None in sight.

    10.  No Grace for Grace:  Scott, a CNA assigned to care for Grace, an 80 year old recent widow living in a delapidated trailer on a back road 10 miles outside of Lampe, called to inquire what, if anything, we might do to assisted Grace in recovering her house from the bugs and cats now in control.  Although she has  $2500 per month income from Social Security and 30 year teachers pension, she owes twice the value on trailer and has no savings.  Dead brother and husband, plus live son, daughter,grandson and nephew support mentioned as possible explanation. Only family asset, $100,000 of land, willed to retarded nephew and being "tended to" by Branson lawyer.  Living conditions at Somalia level.  Who to call? Not an easy call!

    11.  Shelata & Todd need presents:  A nuclear family with children named Rooster, Serenity and Patience, who are not unemployed because they have ceased to look for any wage source for several years, called to borrow a car so that "the kids" might get to see the Christmas lights, and to further, without direct request, make me aware that, if "the kids" were unable to buy their parents Christmas gifts, that they would be very sad. The call was after lunch, in that the parents, free from employment, rent, utilities, taxes, insurance and school lunches, sleep peacefully until aroun noon. PS, Shelata & Todd, like virtually everyone of their peers, have a working cell phone.

    12.  My sister, Sara:  As she often does my sister, Sara called late in the day to muse rhetorically as to why she and I spends 14/7 fighting the above exampled economic/cultural black-hole with but, metaphoric, only a  slingshot. I don't speak for Sara, but to acknowledge my personal motivation, it is not because I am so blessed with compassion.  It is more that, siding with underprivileged/underachievers is the best way I know to "heep burning coals on the head" of all the self absorbed middle class "proper people" who  can't  imagine an "AMERICAN SPRING" and will be mortified when it arrives!



Branson Edge: Liberal/Conservative "Trash Talk"

     Darin, the relentless dude, who hates Mayor Presley, and forever is perplexed as to how to vilify her, today in a long and convoluted piece on his "Branson Edge" blog settled for "fiscal liberal" and "sustainability" cloaking as a frame for her most recent misdeeds.  Because Darin's blog is so feverish to support "traditional values", he accepts only comment posts with which he agrees, so I guess I will have to post/twitter his editorial with reply included!


Branson Mayor and the Anti-Tea Party Movement (Editorial)

An acid test for modern conservative and liberal politicians can most easily be found by how the term "sustainability" is defined. For an economic conservative the term sustainability refers to fiscal restraint. The battle cry of the current tea party movement requires government to respect the right of persons to maintain their acquired wealth without the impediment of government interference.

For the liberal, private property rights are nullified by the greater good of the community. The extreme is socialism whose tenants state that all land is the public domain. Branson's current mayor and by association Branosn's current Board of Alderman have taken an extremely liberal  leaning perspective on economic policy, and development.  You can read the full Editorial at his blog site.


Perhaps you see some traction in using the conservative/liberal model to illuminate a local government regime with questionable intentions, but, it just doesn't sell. Your use of terms such as "fiscal liberal" and "sustainability" just confuse.  My sense is that every time you want to expose what you believe are unworthy and cloaked agendas, you call every offender in sight the worst publishable name you know, i.e."liberal". All thinking people who live in this little racist, bigoted, hypocritical, pretentious and under-educated "our town", know that it's just a garden variety "cronyism" that you see!  In fact there are plenty of conservatives (you) and liberals (me) who would like to see a community with a robust working democracy at its core.  Unfortunately we would also like to see cheap gas, more jobs, better health care, etc.  So, how about changing your context?  Think how pointless it would be to have framed Gadaffi, or Mubarak, or Assad as "liberals", when the whole world knows that they are/were just "self-indulgent assholes"!

Fareed Zakaria's interview with James Dyson and Michael Spence

    Yes, we all know that Fareed and the "$250k+ people" like to talk about how better science/engineering education will redeem America.  This morning James Dyson, of vacum cleaner fame, added his sensibility to this restoration talking point.  However; after Fareed's next guest, Michael Spence, the Nobel Economist, spoke to America's "manufacturing wage disparity conundrum", the Dyson amplified education/invention prescription seemed to loose it's luster.

     Let's assume that somehow the US education systems is overhauled and the US is able to turn out large numbers of inventive technocrats, such that continuing and increasingly the "stuff" needed/desired by humanity is design emergent in the US.   So what?  Surely, Apple, GE, Northrop, etc. will not require multi-millions of these technocrats to explore/invent//design this awaiting  "stuff".  Indeed, we all know that in our "www.culture" the creative force is essentially free to Corporate Interests, who need only refine/optimize the ideas happening "out there in cyber space"  

    So, the inescapable catch is:  .... so what if we add a few million more technocrat elites to the Corporate Rosters, how the hell is this going to help the rest of our children who didn't  get a Masters from MIT.  American Corporations can only pay these new technocrats if they make a profit, which they can only achieve if they use cheap foreign labor to produce that which their "homie technocrats" claim they invented.  Anyway you cut it, it's better for Elites, but worse for Main Street .

    Fareed must of course know that this "science achievement strategy" is a "red herring" solution.  Michael Spence suggested to Fareed that perhaps the US government could ask, the Corporate  World to investigate if there were any products where that the wage disparity was relatively low, implying that perhaps the US Government might consider subsidizing some "least unattractive"  domestic production.  His inflection suggested that it would be a short list.  Otherwise he saw only the short term necessity  to extend/expand unemployment.

    I don't know Fareed's audience profile, except to note that today's presentation was apparently paid for by an Import/Infomercial Company selling foreign made pillows in four sizes.  Regardless, my sense is that not only Fareed's audience, but everyone out here on Main Street, already knows that it's about time to choose a new irreversible path.  The choices appear to be two.  First, we can accept the tide of Globalization, negotiate our wages down toward parity with the rest of the world labor pool, and start competing, even if "reduced living standards" are the consequence.  Or, second, we can lock our borders, both geographically and digitally, toward an experiment to prove that America is a sufficiently robust  "evolutionary space" that we can go "full isolation" and still prosper.  Either way, we will manifest more  John Wayne/ Galt self-satisfaction than by perpetuating this self deluding dream state we now embrace.



Branson's Great Southern Bank: A "Loan Standards" Case Study

     Finally, on November 14, 2011, my assigned Great Southern Bank, "Senior Loan Officer", Tenya Trivitt,  advised that, again, after the Bank's "Underwriting Department" had reviewed the additional documentation requested, the Bank would still not commit to fund my "Home Equity Loan" request.  Certainly, here in the Ozarks, we are Capitalist at heart and honor a private companies right to set whatever policies they choose, so long as the policy is legal.  As such Great Southern Bank was perfectly entitled in choosing not to make me a "Home Equity Loan".  Further, the Bank should be under no obligation to publicize their policies regarding "Loan Standards", if to not do so is in their best interest.       However, what should be so, in today's " digitally enhanced" free market economy, is that responsible consumers should make "open source" their good/bad encounters with businesses offering goods/services in their communities.       Angie's List is a notable ungrade from the tainted Better Business Bureau, and Facebook/Twitter offer enormeous potential for leveling the Business/Consumer playing field, but no channel will protect consumers who don't speak up and out.   It is with this motivate that I below share the essential elements of my unsuccessful request to obtain a $50,000 Home Equity Loan from Great Southern Bank:

  1. Location:  Branson, Missouri
  2. Years Home Owned:  5
  3. Owner Occupied:  Yes
  4. Purchase Price:  $180,000 (+$30,000 in upgrades)
  5. Present Mortgage:  None (paid cash)
  6. My Age:  58
  7. My Credit Score: 708
  8. My Assets:  $600,000  (Home plus "free & clear Rental Property & Equity in ALF Business)
  9. My Liabilities:  $28,000 (credit card debt/to have been retired with proceeds)
  10. My Income:  Year 2009/$65,000    Year 2010/$33000   Year 2011/$46000
  11. My Profession  Own/Operate an Assisted Living Facility in Branson
  12. My Education  BA, University of Kansas
  13. My Health:  Excellent
  14. My Civil Record:  Clear
  15. Reason for Loan:  Pay "High Interest Rate Credit Card Debt"/"Create Business Cash  Reserve" 
  16. Length of having been a Great Southern Bank Customer:  5 years
  17. Deposits to Great Southern Bank while a customer: $2,000,000 (including construction funding)
  18. Contingent Liabilities & Guarantees:  $6000  (sons car loan)

     OK, so why did the well paid Great Southern Bank "underwriter" reject the loan?  Because I had too much Credit Card Debt and because, although my prior year income was supported by Tax Returns, my 2011 year to date income was only supported by "unaudited financial statements" evidencing that I had received $46,000 in LLC Member Distributions for which I did not yet have K-1 Form evidence, nor had I completed my 2011 Tax Returns, neither of which could be prepared by my accountant until after December 31, 2011.   

     The logic seems absurd, but then again, I am not a well paid and experienced Loan Underwriter.  What I do know is that I should find a new bank, and that others within the Branson Community should consider that Great Southern Bank may well not have any strategic interest in Branson except to generate the greatest deposit balances with the least loan exposure to the local community.  Perhaps we can change this view by "making apparent policies public".  In fairness, Tenya Trivitt's supervisor, Mary Hogue, who represented that she was responsible for 26 Banks, in three states, did respond by phone to my complain.  She said that she would "look into it".  Isn't that what they always tell Anderson Cooper!



Get Ready China.....One-Third of America is Going on Disability!

    Back in the day, I owned  a Nursing Home in McCallen, Texas.  One Fall it came to my attention that every Tuesday night many of the Aide Staff were mysteriously absent, as were many of  the staff at other area Nursing Homes.  Nominal investigating revealed that a Non-Profit Community Improvement Organization was teaching a class at the local Junior High School on Tuesdays.  For twenty years, I have told the story, to mostly disbelieving friends who thought that the story was an " Urban Legend".  Actually it was true.  The class was offered to help Nursing Home Employees strategically "Slip & Fall" while at work.
     I no longer own Nursing Homes, and I no longer live in Rick Perry's Texas.  Perhaps today's methods of coping  in McCallen are not so jaded, but, I suspect not.  As I survey my current hometown, the TV Ads are uninterrupted "Disability Law Is All We Do" siren songs wooing the disenfranchised.  E-mail solicitations are even more blatant, culturing a naive audience to believe that a "free benefit evaluation" is much like playing Monopoly at Micky-D's; who knows, you might win big.  Sadly, here in the Ozarks, and I suspect virtually everywhere in Small Town, America, playing the "Disability Card" has turned into a "mid-life passion".  Culture pundits call it the "Disability by Design" phenomena.  We are on a fast track to an economy where one-third produce, one- third live entitled, and one-third supervise the entitled.
     You see, by 40, in Small Town, America, no less than one-third of the population have had 25 years of experience in coping with unemployment, alcohol, drugs, affairs, divorces, rehab, child support, restraining orders, Medicaid, and unending family fights.  Their teen/twenty "clone children" are now "partying hard", adding liabilities as well as varying configurations of "step-grandchildren" to their parents next to impossible lives.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, the "40 somethings" have usually wised up along the way and accordingly choose against coping by running-off with the next door neighbor, buying into a Tech-School Hustle, or aimlessly dreaming about winning the lottery.  
     For many the only sensible escape route with a semi-safe future is "Disability by Design".   In our compassion com modified culture, it turns out that this has an easy receipe. Add a Headaches, back-problem, chronic fatigue, rage episode, depression, or some combination of the above, fold in a few Medical Practioners compelled to provide patient validating free treatment, top off with legions of predatory Disability Lawyers  and shazam, $1500 a month for life...not Kardashian, but better than the alternative.
     In today's cyber world "Disability by Design" has clearly gone viral, putting the culture on a collision course with both solvency and sovereignty.  If there is a solution, it almost certainly will not be political.  It will, I suspect require a societal restructuring of epic proportion. What that might entail, I have no idea.  What I do know is, that in the near term, the Chinese had better bring their "A GAME", because we're gonna need all the fucking wealth that they can create.