90 Days of Rush Limbaugh: It’s Enough to Make Me Miss Dave Ramsey

It’s been 90 days since I first heard Rush Limbaugh come out of my radio where once Dave Ramsey had been.

Pre-2014, I’d been doing here and there 15-minute Dave Ramsey listenings as a part of my morning twa-let, and can quite unequivocally state that, even though I often disagreed with Dave, especially when he banged his one-size-fits-all debt-is-bad drum, I’m the better for it. Dave has a charm to him most of the time, and he knows how to give good radio. He’s a skilled pro.

Come 2014, though, the very moment I turned on the radio for that first work-a-day day of the new year twa-let, I thus did come to find myself abruptly thrust deep into EIB-land.

When you listen to Rush, you hear much mention of EIB. It’s all the EIB Network this, and the EIB Network that.

EIB stands for Excellence in Broadcasting — a label I always took to be the name of Rush’s distributor or syndicator or something or other, but which, after a couple of minutes of online research just now, looks to be a rather mysterious thing — more like a simple dba sort of branding term . . . or something or other. It’s not clear what it is. But he sure does say it a lot.

My initial impression back then was that the Excellence in Broadcasting phrase was terrifically ironic. Broadcasting? Yes, for sure this was that. But excellence in broadcasting? This was not that. Rush, as far as I could first discern, did not give good radio. I heard sloppy transitions and aimless monologues, and, for the life of me, it seemed like the only thing I could hear during any of the fifteen-minute chunks I caught was a swarm of commercials (a good many of which had an unintelligible hyper-fast-talk CYA legalese boilerplate blast at the end, part of which usually indicated that the advertised product or service might not be available in all states . . . ). Why, Dave didn’t have this many commercials! And Dave, he also spoke in paragraphs! And he — Dave — always seemed to have a plan for where he wanted the show to go during the rest of the hour, let alone during the next five minutes!

Thus did it come to be that the switch over at the new year, from Dave to Rush, was quite jarring. Dave was all tight language and tight radio. Rush was all blah blah blah blah and slop slop slop slop.

And so it doth came to be that, one month into 2014, after many an attempt to cozy up to El Rushbo in all his EIB’ness, I hadn’t caught much Rush content at all. Just empty calories.

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The Death Tax is Dead

Michael Kitces, presenting at the FPA of San Francisco this past week, unleashed a number that knocked my socks off. He said that the number of estates paying the estate tax in a typical year under our current estate tax regime is in the neighborhood of three to four thousand.

Then he went on to express sympathy for those working primarily in the estate tax-driven industries, such as estate planning lawyers (who help their clients structure their affairs in ways that can ease the estate tax hit at life’s end), life insurance salespeople (who sell the sort of life insurance that’s designed to pay that estate tax hit in a very efficient way — insurance that is quite expensive and therefore pays great commissions) and appraisers (who usually help people argue that the value of estate assets is lower than one might otherwise believe, all the better to lower the estate tax hit at life’s end).

And that got me wondering how many people paid the estate tax in the past. …more ►

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Our Healthcare System is Full of Traps for the Unwary, and Needn’t Be: Medicare Observation Status

If you should ever find yourself thinking that you know everything there is to know about a given part of our healthcare system, please, think again.

Think again because, at that very point in time, just when you least expect it and are at your most ultra-hubristic max, you just might find yourself — d’oh! – the subject of one great-big healthcare-system-comeuppance. And if, in spite of this friendly admonition, you nevertheless choose to go forth, plowing on, fully-forward-fast, thinking that you’ve got it down cold and nice ‘n pat, then please picture yourself hanging upside down, one foot in a fully-tightened jungle lasso, slowly twisting and gently bouncing, helpless and vulnerable and incapable of making things right, because you, my friend, just stepped into a healthcare system trap for the unwary.

(Sometimes we must give thanks to lawyers everywhere for coming up with great phrases; I believe this to be one of those phrases and therefore one of those occasions, so thank you lawyers for this wonderful trap for the unwary gem of an encapsulating phrase.)

One of the more amazing traps for the unwary making news these days occurs when a person on Medicare (generally, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident age 65 or older who’s also eligible for Social Security retirement benefits) is in the hospital but not, ya know, in the hospital. And being in the hospital but not, ya know, in the hospital, can change what you might know as that person’s hundred days — yes, for those who’ve been there, I’m talking about that hundred dayschanging it from being a marvel of American ingenuity and care-free, smooth-running healthcare delivery into a nightmare of a financial shellacking and foregone though much-needed healthcare.

Allow me to explain . . .
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Our Healthcare System is a Battlefield, and Needn’t Be: Dying from Cancer in the U.S. vs. Dying from Cancer in France

Making the blogosphere rounds this past week was a very interesting article by Anya Schiffrin.

The article compares what it’s like having stage 4 pancreatic cancer in the U.S. healthcare system vs. what it’s like having stage 4 pancreatic cancer in the French healthcare system (for those who always have to think about what cancer stages mean, the higher the stage, the worse the medical condition, so stage 4 pancreatic cancer is the worst stage of one of the worst kinds of cancer).

Ms. Schiffrin knows of what she speaks, because throughout much of 2013, her father, Andre Schiffrin, received chemotherapy treatment for stage 4 pancreatic cancer in both Manhattan and Paris, and, as is the loving baby-boomer-child’s wont, Ms. Schiffrin was directly involved in helping her parents deal with the nuts ‘n bolts and the comings n’ goings and the whatnots ‘n wherefores of that whole thing. So the Schiffrin family was conducting, by happenstance, something akin to a controlled experiment, as seen through the eyes of a terminally ill patient and his family.

Here is a triplet of paragraphs from Ms. Schiffrin’s piece that well-summarizes the jarring differences between the two systems: …more ►

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Job Lock: It’s Real, and Obamacare Reduces It a Lot

How many people do you know who truly love their work? My hunch is that your answer to that question is, at most, something in the neighborhood of “oh, maybe a few.”

And of those few, how many do you think would continue in their work if they had some million of dollars stored up, floating their boat, and knew with 100% certitude that those dollars were enough to last them a lifetime, even if they lived to be a hundred and fifty? My hunch is that your answer to this question would now be something in the neighborhood of “oh, quite probably not a single one of ‘em.”

So let’s assume that most people work because they have to work — that they have to work because they have to make a living.

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Now, contrary to some numbskull sort of logic, by no means is this most-people-work-because-they-have-to-make-a-living idea tantamount to saying that people don’t find value in being productive, or that they’re lazy. To the contrary, as best I can tell, just about everyone feels at least a bit off-kilter, and some people just fall to pieces entirely, when they’re not endeavoring in one way or another. After all, even stone-cold slackers come to know, at some point, perhaps later rather than sooner but eventually, that stone-cold slacking is not all there is to life, my friend.

This concept comes up often enough in my work with clients that I’ve come to encapsulate it within the phrase fish gotta swim. So, just as fish gotta swim, you, I suspect, gotta do something that you find productive — something that feels worthwhile, something that helps you feel good about yourself, something that naturally finds your internal self just a’whistlin’ a happy tune just because. I in turn encapsulate this concept within the phrase worthwhile endeavoring, to connote that, yes, it’s doing that we’re talking about here, but, yes again, it’s doing that, for you, constitutes something much more than merely doing. And, yes yes yes, I s’pose you can also think of this in terms of self-actualization and the like, but I much prefer to make up my own lingo, ya know?

So, just as fish gotta swim, you, I suspect, gotta do something that, at its core, has an element, hopefully major, of worthwhile endeavoring. And if you don’t, why, then, pretty soon you just might find yourself — your entire self — feeling detached from something important, at which point you might feel like a big ol’ bump on a log, just takin’ up space and killin’ time.

For most people, then, making a living and pursing their worthwhile endeavoring are the two birds that hopefully one stone — their job — doth simultaneously check off.

And so it behooves all of us to be making our livings via something that is also a just-right-for-us sort of worthwhile endeavoring — something that approaches the perfect swim for each of us particular fishies, so that we can happily be productive all the live long day — rather than making a living doing something that finds us biding our time while we work, so that we can rush home afterwards to do the swimming we needs to be doing.

There is a righteous conjunction, then, where making a living and worthwhile endeavoring can come together for each of us.

The problem is, though, that it’s hard — very hard – for most of us to find that conjunction; that’s what the questions in the first paragraph above were all about. So it makes sense that we as a society should do our best to make it possible for more folks to find their ways ever-closer to these sorts of conjunctions, yes? Because the more we can structure our economic system to allow these conjunctions to flourish as deeply and as widely as possible, the more happiness among the all the little swimming fishies – us – there will be, and, with that result, the more evolved and beautifully-designed will our economic system also be, right?

For our economic system would then be a vastly improved system for allocating our most precious, most unique, most oft-wasted natural resource: our human capital. …more ►

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