How Do We Fix It? 2 Cheers For Compromise 

  
Ready for a word that Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders would consider to be an obscenity?  

Compromise.

Insults, anger and disgust are in, while deal-making, compromise and governance are so old school.  We’re all too busy having a national hissy fit to sit down and do the boring, important stuff. 

My friend Mark Gerzon, author of the fine new book, “The Reunited States of America“,  puts it this way. “We can’t solve any of the problems we face if we’re tearing each other down the whole time.”

Ratings for the Republican debates shot up this year and cable TV networks are loving the slugfest. Watching candidates exchange insults can be entertaining, even if we are appalled by the spectacle. 

But the news media obsession with clashes, controversy and contests only get us so far.  If politics is a permanent campaign, when is it time to govern?

“There’s a whole America out there that’s not getting any news coverage. And that’s the America where Americans work together,” Mark tells us in the latest episode of our podcast, “How Do We Fix It?

He’s right. My years of business reporting taught me that when successful executives face four bad quarters, they throw out the old rule book and re-think what they’re doing. Flexibility and pragmatism are essential to their survival.

Only if Congress would do the same.  

For the past 4, 8, 16 years, mainstream politicians have been fighting over the same old stuff. Their goal is simply to score points at the expense of the other guy. 

No wonder we’re fed up.  

But outrage will only get us so far.  What’s really constructive in the messages and speeches that we’re hearing from Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?   Beyond talk of building walls or making health care and college free, how will these “outsiders” turn their promises into reality? After all, the nation’s founders did invent separation of powers with checks and balances.

The first step to radical reform of government, Congress and our political culture is to reform ourselves. The most radical thing many of us could do right now is to ask questions.  

In business it’s often called brainstorming.  

“Do you want to get drunk on being right and enjoy that feeling of being with the people you agree with and bad mouth the people you don’t?,” asks Mark. Maybe yes. But a nasty hangover may be the result.

Perhaps we’re at a national turning point. It’s time to sit down and spend time with those we disagree with.  Listen and learn from the other tribe. Not declare and defame.

Smoke filled rooms, anyone?  

(If not, maybe vape-filled rooms would do.)

Hey Congress: The Playground Was Never This Bad!

  

The way Obamacare is being debated is infantile.  

Instead of a detailed prescription for change, we’re hearing slogans.

Despite claims to the contrary by Republicans and Democrats, The Affordable Care Act is neither an unmitigated disaster nor a glorious triumph.

The truth lies between the two extremes, which is so often the case. The delivery of healthcare is complex and the law was only passed after Democrats responded to widespread demands for fundamental reform of the previous system.

“We have decreased the rate of the uninsured by about a third,” says Megan McArdle, an Obamacare critic and columnist at Bloomberg View.  That’s an impressive achievement. More than 12 million people who did not have coverage before the reforms are covered now.

Nevertheless, McCardle told our podcast, “How Do We Fix It?“, Obamacare is “much more expensive and much less comprehensive than its architects and certainly the people who supported this politically…. were expecting.”

UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest health insurance firm, is losing money on the government-run exchange and has warned it may have to pull out if market conditions don’t improve.

“What people are doing is they’re gaming the system.” Some with health emergencies, who have inadequate medical insurance are “signing up for a few months, using a ton of services and then dropping it again,” says McArdle.

While Obamacare has lowered rates for many people with pre-existing conditions and helped millions of young prople under 26 stay on their parents’ plans, costs are rising and too little thought has been given to the efficient delivery of needed treatment. 

Demand for healthcare often exceeds supply. Many Americans have unrealistic expectations about the cost of coverage. Rationing, whether by insurance companies or government employees, is inevitable.

American consumers should be more involved in cost decisions. But the inconvenient truth is that whoever wins in November, there is little appetite in either political party to start all over again. 

It would help if the messy complexities of healthcare were more openly discussed.  We need serious fixes a lot more than catcalls from the political playground.

What I Learned About Money, Personal Finance and Podcasts From Farnoosh Torabi

  
I’ll never forget the first thing personal finance journalist and podcaster Farnoosh Torabi said to me a few months before I launched our new weekly podcast, “How Do We Fix It?”.

“What is going to be your target audience?” she asked, looking me straight in the eye as we sat down for lunch at a restuarant in Midtown Manhattan.

Well, I have to admit that 7 shows in, I’m still working on that.  

Unlike many podcasts built around niche markets, such as health, wealth, relationships, or being a great entrepreneur, ours is general interest.  Our listeners don’t have exactly the same interests, or three or four favorite Twitter feeds and Facebook pages that they all go to.

The community we are building week-by-week wants solutions to many different problems that bug all of us – whether it’s the challenge of raising kids with good values and curious minds, the struggle of getting out from under a mountain of debt, or how to end boredom in the workplace. 

We’re not in the blame game.  Our show has a positive, independent point of view that shuns the old left vs. right mindset.  

I’ve been watching my friend Farnoosh rather closely to see what ideas we can learn from her about growing an audience.  

The first thing I learned is that she’s a brilliant marketer, who does a great job of using Twitter and the So Money website to promote herself, her guests and ideas.  Farnoosh is also the real deal who cares about her listeners.  In a medium as intimate as podcasting, being authentic is vitally important.

This week I was a guest on her daily show.  After years of interviews where I ask the questions, it was a bit of a shock to have the tables turned!  And Farnoosh was very clear about she wanted from me:  life lessons and good stories about my experience with money.

Her show’s example has helped Jim, Miranda and I (The “Fix It” team) with our podcast.  How Do We Fix It? isn’t just about good ideas and concise solutions.  We also need to tell personal stories.  And we want listeners to give us guidance and suggestions about where our show should go next. 

Unlike the old days, when broadcast and print journalists simply put out a well produced finished product, podcasts are more spontaneous and part of a conversation.

To build support, we’ve just added a pop-up page at our website, urging listeners and supporters to sign-up and suggest ideas for future shows.  Having subscribers who rate our shows in iTunes is vitally important to us.  

In the near future, How Do We Fix It? may launch a Kickstarter page to raise funds to get the message out about our big idea. Our show is about solutions.  We welcome lively minds with fresh ideas, who want to make our country better. That’s why we also picked Farnoosh to be our guest this week.

   

 
Five years after the worst of the recession ended, tens of millions of Americans are still struggling to make ends meet.  For many the assumptions of a comfortable life were swept away with the mortgage mess and near financial collapse in 2008.

 Because the subject can be painful, it’s easy to be in money denial.  Farnoosh makes the case for making financial management a part of your daily life. “A lot of us don’t even take that first step of acknowledging money is important and that it can be a means to achieving a lot of life’s goals,” she says. 

“If you have a story in your head that says ‘I’m not good enough, I’m not rich enough, I can’t work the job that will pay me enough money… Those are just barriers that you’ve created in your mind that are keeping you away from being able to reach financial freedom.”

Farnoosh is not suggesting that we obsess about money, and give it primacy over love, relationships and family.  “You don’t have to give up your morning latte to achieve your goals.”