Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The National ID Act - Does it increase Security?

The News Sentinel had a decent editorial on the National ID act by Paul F. Double. It appears Paul’s point of view is that “Federally and state-imposed standards for drivers' licenses and ID cards make a mockery of federalism and the 10th Amendment.”

Paul correctly points out “The legislation also grants open-ended authority to the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, to require biometic information on IDs in the future. Your harmless-looking driver's license could contain a retina scan, fingerprints, DNA information or radio-frequency technology.

Has government ever stopped encroaching on freedoms once it has begun just picking at them? Let me take the first piece of information that is required under the National ID Act of 2005. The Social Security Act was passed in 1935. Social Security Administration Publication SSA-05-100023 states applying for a social security number is voluntary.

For many years the Social Security Card had printed on them “Not for identification.”

Internal Revenue Code 26 USC 6109(c) passed in 1961 states the Secretary is to assign an identifying number to any person. Section 6109(d) grants the Secretary authority to require those who have social security numbers to use said numbers as their taxpayer identification number or to use some other number at their discretion.

Now we are giving authorization to deny rights, privileges and benefits to those who do not want a social security number. Now why would a person not want a social security number?

  • Minimize identity theft. Without a social security number government agencies must create a unique number.
  • Might think Social Security is a fraud (won’t be there) and are planning on not receiving any benefits. The problem for many is it may be their plan, but in the back of their mind social security is a back up plan, crutch or safety net. It makes implementing their plan more difficult. It would be similar to being an alcoholic with a beer sitting in front of them tempting them to fall off the wagon.
  • Religious views.
The Social Security Number is the most common used identifier in the United States. It is also the most un-secure number as well. The VA lost 26.5 Million individuals’ data, insurance companies, colleges, public schools and health providers computers are routinely hacked for this information. The Indiana BMV denied a driver’s license to an individual because they had previously issued a drivers license to someone using his number. This person had not only waited at the BMV for hours the first time, but then had to come back and wait again after the BMV has figured out the problem.

Now in response to security concerns, our representatives choose the most un-secure number to secure our borders. How safe to you feel?

When you apply for a position at a company, the prospective employer normally asks you for references. The number of references generally is three or more. What do you think they would do if you listed the same person three times, but used different names each time? Is there a reason for asking for three separate references, yes? The purpose is to make sure the person you chose as a reference provides similar answers to the same question about the person in question. If three different people provide similar answers to the same questions, then this prospective employer can decide the credibility of the applicant.

Should it be any different for security? The primary document in many cases was obtained using a Social Security Number. The secondary document in many cases was obtained using a Social Security Number. If you are going to do this, why require the second document? Is it to make us feel better? Did it add another layer of security, no? Let’s face the reality of the problem and not sugar coat it. If someone has your social security number, date of birth and name they can get any of these documents and use them to get additional documents.

Just take a look at some of the identifications needed to secure a driver’s license. The National ID Act is a fraud and will not improve security one bit. It will increase the ability of big brother to keep track of you and also allow identity theives another access to your identity.

Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehical Idenfitication

SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER is required by Indiana State and Federal law for all License and Permit transactions Note: the state does not identify any federal statute or executive order as required by 5 USC 552a (e)(3)(A).

If an applicant’s Social Security number is not on the BMV internal record, proof of Social Security will be required.

Primary Identification:
  • US Birth Certificate with authenticating stamp or seal containing the applicant’s date of birth, place of birth, and parent’s names issued by:
  • A county department or county board of health from the applicant’s state of birth
  • A state department or state board of health from the applicant’s state of birth, or
  • A verified delayed birth certificate
  • Certificate of Naturalization/Citizenship
  • Certification of report of birth (DS-1350)
  • U.S. consular report of birth (FS-240)
  • Birth certificate issued by United States territories, including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands
Obtained with Social Security Number and Birth Certificate
  • U.S. Military/Merchant Marines identification card with photo
  • U.S. Passport
  • U.S. veterans universal access identification card with photo

Must present one (1) document

Any document from the list of Primary Documents may be used as a Secondary Document.

Those generally over age 21 will not have or cannot use these documents.
  • Certified academic transcripts from schools in the United States and it’s territories
  • School report card dated within 12 months of application
  • School identification card with photo or yearbook photo within three (3) years of application
Need a Social Security Number to obtain these ID’s
  • An identification card with photo issued by the federal government
  • An Indiana identification card
  • Indiana gun permit
  • Valid banking card or MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover card issued in the name of the applicant with his or her signature
  • Bank statement issued within sixty (60) days of application
  • Form W-2 (federal or state) or Form 1099 with applicant’s name and address
  • Computer generated pay check stub with applicant’s name and address
  • Valid employee identification card with photo
  • Valid Indiana professional license
  • Medicare or Medicaid Card
Stand alone documents if you are from another state or country
  • An identification card with photo issued by a foreign consulate
  • A driver license, identification card, or permit with photo issued by another state
  • Original driving record from another state
  • Valid form I-20 with a valid form I-94 and a F-1/F-2 status in passport
  • Valid form DS-2019 with a valid form I-94 and a J-1/J-2 status in passport
  • Valid insurance card
If you violate the law, you may have one of these documents and they use a social security number.
  • Indiana county pre-sentence Investigation report with clerk stamp or seal
  • Indiana probation identification with photo, name and date of birth
  • Letter from probation officer, caseworker, or social worker on official letterhead, certified with stamp or seal with the applicant’s name and
  • signature of the probation officer, caseworker, or social worker
  • Prison release documentation
  • U.S. district court pre-sentence investigation report with stamp or seal
If you have been in the military you may have one of these documents, but they also use a Social Security Number.
  • U.S. military discharge or DD214 separation papers
  • U.S. Uniformed services card
If you have been married you will have one of these documents and they use the social security number.
  • Divorce decree certified by court of law with stamp or seal.
  • Application of Marriage or Record of Marriage that is certified with stamp or seal
NOTE: Minors making application for an Indiana ID card may present acceptable social security documentation as his or her “secondary” document.


Must present one (1) document

All NEW issuance’s and Changes of Address

Any document from the list of Primary Documents or Secondary Documents may be used as proof of Indiana residency along with the following documents, as long as the document contains the applicant’s name and residential address. For the purpose of this policy, a Post Office Box is not an acceptable residential address.
  • Child support check stub from Indiana Family and Social Services Administration with name and address of the applicant
  • Bill or benefit statement within sixty (60) days of issuance
  • Indiana driver license, identification card or permit with photo
  • Indiana surveyor report
  • Indiana residency affidavit
Requires a State Issued ID – See list of acceptable documents (requires a social security number)
  • Voter registration card
Need a Social Security Number
  • Valid Indiana vehicle or watercraft title or registration

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Healthcare solution or just not thought out?

On July 12, 2006 the Journal Gazette printed an editorial by DEAN L. FRANTZ of New Haven. Dean supports Tom Hayhurst because he has a plan to fix one of the nation’s major issues: the health care crisis. Dean sets up the problem:

Unless you are Bill Gates, you are just one serious illness away from bankruptcy. Most of the medically bankrupt were average Americans who happened to get sick.

"what is Congress doing while our health care problem rages? Debating irrelevant issues and dumping $6-billion a month in a useless war."

"Why is America the only major industrialized nation that does not provide health care for all its citizens?"

Ok Dean, I agree Healthcare is a big problem, but you have not identified the root cause only a symptom. I do not know one politician who does not support affordable healthcare. This is just a two-second sound bite that is totally meaningless without any substance at all. As for $6 billion a day, we are talking $72 Billion a year. What would $72 billion buy in terms of healthcare in the US per person? There are just over 290 million in the US. Because less than about 100 of us are even remotely like Bill Gates spreading this among every American would provide $248.28 each. My family doctor charges $70 per visit. This $248.28 would pay for the first three visits for each of my children. This would help, but my kids are fairly healthy and over the past year have not yet had to go to the doctor. So let us use it to pay catastrophic coverage. Let us define catastrophic at $50,000. We could cover 100% of 1.44 million individuals . But for those who have less than $50,000 it provides no coverage. They could still be wiped out financially. So let us lower it to $10,000. We could pay the first $10,000 of bills for 7.2 million and they would be responsible for the rest. But wait this would still wipe people out financially.

Before a person goes off asking why America does not provide healthcare for all its citizens and other industrialized nations do, they should find out what problems those other industrialized nations have restrictions. For example, in Canada they have to wait for some treatments. Canada does not cover many treatments at all that the state of Indiana requires insurance companies do. Other countries are also finding it more difficult to pay for their national health care. In England where gasoline is well over $6 per gallon a large portion of the tax is used to subsidize healthcare. In simple terms these other industrialized nations have created a payment system that their citizens pay for through a host of different taxes.

One solution would be to tax every American an extra $2,000 a year to cover national healthcare. A family of four would send this new government agency the first $8,000 they make every year. This would provide every American with healthcare. Many would bulk at paying this tax, but it could be disguised by adding a $1 tax to every gallon of gas, increasing the FICA tax from 15.3% to 25%. In other words take the money out before you have chance to spend it. These other industrialized countries have less disposable income while Americans have more.

Another solution is insurance. Basically insurance is shared risk. It works best when the risk of an occurrence is rare, but the cost if it should occur is great. Let us look at home owners insurance where a home let’s say costs $200K. 1,000 people combine together to collectively promise to help pay to rebuild anyone in the group’s home if it should burn. Let us also say the chance of fire is 1% every year. For 1,000 people to collectively pay to rebuild a $200K home requires each to contribute $200 yearly. If the rate of fires were to increase the contribution from each would have to increase. Like wise if the rate of fires were to decrease, the contribution rate would likewise drop. In addition to cover the cost of contents at 50% would add another $100. Adding storm damage, loss/temporary living expenses and theft would increase the risk to the insurer more adding to the cost of the coverage.

Health insurance works the same way. The cost of Health insurance is based on the potential of having to pay a claim. The more claims, the higher the cost. Insurance companies calculate the risk of having to pay covered claim and set the premium high enough to cover these claims. If they do not, then they go out of business and leave you with the remaining unpaid bill.

In the state of Indiana, a significant amount of health insurance cost is due solely to the state requiring specific coverage for what I consider non-medical coverage, mental health to name one.

The cost of healthcare for any person is the sum total of all costs for their insurance premiums, deductible, co-pay and government subsidization (taxes). These combined must equal the total charge of the medical bill. If they do not, the healthcare provider looses.

The problem with this is hospitals treat all, which means those without insurance or ability to pay, get treated and those costs get shifted to others. Insurance companies fight back by reducing the risk the insured's bill will not be paid. Healthcare providers knowing there is less chance of not getting paid by those with insurance will negotiate a reduction in fees. This means that those without insurance who have a higher chance of not paying their bill will be charged a higher fee.

Hayhurst will push Congress to provide affordable health care for all Americans” this is very admirable, but what is the plan? Dean states Tom’s plan is:

requiring the federal government to negotiate the lowest cost medications for the 41-million seniors on Medicare who are often forced to choose between food and their prescription medications.

This appears to be cover just seniors only, no one else. What about the rest of the country? Even if the drug companies provided these Rx drugs free of cost, it would save just $50 billion this year. We saw how far $72 billion goes. Besides that the worker is paying 2.9% or about $1,000 per year of their wages towards a senior’s healthcare bill. Why not stop this and let the worker use it to fund their healthcare for their family?

Because advertising of prescription medications only adds to the cost of health care, Hayhurst would end that immediately.

What about all the tens of thousands who earn their living in advertisement? They print material, lease buildings, and consume material and energy. The number affected from banning prescription ads is enormous. But this is waste and we should eliminate waste. Why not ban all advertisement?

  • The price of a car could fall tremendously.
  • Grocery store adds in papers would save paper and reduce garbage.
  • The post office would no longer deliver junk mail advertisement reducing garbage even more.
  • People would have to learn about products through trial and error as well as word of mouth. This would improve personal communication skills, a good thing.
Think of all the waste there is in advertising. Simply eliminate it and our problem is solved. Wait, what about all the people who work in advertising, they will be out of job. But hey, we solved the healthcare crisis let someone else now solve the problem dealing with the newly unemployed.

The problem with healthcare is serious. To solve the problem, one needs to look at how this problem developed. To do this does not require a lot of work. Was healthcare a big problem in 1960, no? Doctor’s made house calls. We had X-ray machines and guess what, little else. The thermometer was a glass cylinder with mercury inside. Penicillin was the do it all drug. When someone broke a bone, they set bone and that was it. There were no implants for replacing hips or knees. For those with liver problems there was dialysis. Basically speaking if you came down with a serious illness like cancer, you died shortly there after minimizing hospital stays and treatments. In simple terms death was healthcare’s way of keeping the cost low.

Then someone decided to study a different way of looking at the body instead of using x-rays. They came up with a CT scan. This reduced radiation, created better and more finely detailed images with better resolution. The problem was these machines cost $1 million versus $25K for an x-ray machine. These machines made it possible to see other illnesses and treatments were developed for them. This increased use of these machines and help pay for them at the same time. Every time we were able to determine a cause, a treatment was developed. In simple terms we cheated death by fixing our health care problems.

But cheating death has a price. Doctors want to be paid for seven intense years of college, years as an intern and the cost of all that equipment they use to help you cheat death is not cheap. Is it unfathomable that with college costing $25K a year that a doctor could have $200K in loans when they graduate? Companies risking billions on finding new treatments want a return for this risk. Healthcare is expensive.

Then there is the cost of healthcare because of improvements in other products. Prior to the interstate highway, travel by car was limited. But when our roads improved, Americans began to drive more. As Americans drove more, there were more accidents. How much of our nations healthcare bill is related to automobile accidents?

Then there the single largest contributor to the problem, Medicare. Medicare does not reimburse doctors 100% of their costs. To make up for this, doctors charge the rest of us more. This is called cost shifting.

If you want affordable healthcare there are ways you can help minimize your costs:
  • Eat healthier foods
  • Exercise
  • Don’t take risks such as playing sports where injuries can occur
  • Don’t travel in a car, walk
  • Wear a seat belt
  • Use a helmet when riding any type of bike
  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t drink alcohol
  • Don’t go to the doctor at the first sniffle or running nose.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

401-K Accounts - Beware!

If you do not learn something new at least every day, then something is wrong. 401-K accounts have been offered by employers for some time now. I never questioned their status until about three years ago. I have always invested my portion in non-company securities and gone for a mutual fund. When I left one company, I did not think too much about the security of my 401-K. It was in a well-managed Fidelity fund. I did have one problem that I could not seem to correct and that was, I never received a quarterly statement.

I would call the toll free number of the institution that held the funds and ask for a statement and also to find out if they did indeed send a statement. The company I had worked for went bankrupt and I thought that the reason why I never received a quarterly statement was because the company was defunct. However the well known institution which actually held the security assured me they were responsible for sending quarterly statements and would send me one within two weeks. The problem was, over three years I never received one quarterly statement. I was not too worried since I had over a decade to correct the problem. However, I wanted a statement showing the number of units so that when I rolled the amount over, Fidelity would give me credit on the fees they charge on the units I held in my 401K. However, I gave up on this course of action.

I attempted to roll over this 401-K directly twice into my IRA, but the plan administrator never would process and/or approve the paper work. This past January I called the well known financial institution for my quarterly statement and to again complain about never receiving a statement. They did provide me with a balance, which was greatly different from what I showed. They then told me my account had been liquidated and I was sent a check. I never received a check nor did I receive a 1099 form.

Over the course of four months, I spoke with many people. One said the check was never cashed and they stopped payment on it. One told me the state of Indiana had it in unclaimed funds, but the state of Indiana did not have it. Then in late March I received my very first statement in a hand written addressed envelope. Rather curious as to why it was hand written rather than computer printed, but it was a statement none the less. The problem was it was only a balance, not a detailed statement listing transactions. I called again and finally received a detailed transaction. It showed some disturbing information. The administrator had been charging a very high fee. Then I received written communication that the institution had the funds. But when they were called, they said the State of Indiana had them.

Had I received a statement early on, I would have been notified that fees were being accessed and been able to take action immediately, but without a statement, it is difficult to validate anything.

Today the well-known institution with the help of one of their agents was able to track the problem down.

  • They verified that I had called many time about not getting a statement.
  • The institution still had the funds, but it took two hours to find them.
  • The institution’s computer system for mailing statements does not use the same database as that used for mailing quarterly statements. When I called all these past years, they verified the correct address by phone, but for some reason this was different from the address they had for mailing statements. They then sent quarterly statements a second time to the wrong address. They told me the plan administrator had given them the wrong address originally and this was the reason why I never received a quarterly statement. This came as a shock to them as well.
My question now is, was the plan administrator for the company I worked for perpetrating a con? Was he deliberately doing this in order to milk employee’s 401-K accounts? He is not returning phone calls.

The lesson I learned is do not leave funds with in a company's 401-K account when you leave the company even if the funds are in very good mutual funds. Roll them directly into an IRA as quickly as possible after leaving. Put them in an account you control!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Which interpretation do you think is correct?

June 23, 2005 the Secretary's Interpretation

"Section 6109(d) specifies that the SSN issued to an individual is the identifying number of the individual, except as otherwise specified under applicable regulations. The regulations provide that an individual required to furnish a TIN must use an SSN unless the individual is not eligible to obtain an SSN"

I myself disagree with this interpretation based on:

Section (d)
"Use of a Social Security Number. The social security account number issued to an individual for purposes of section 205(c)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act shall, except as shall otherwise be specified under regulations of the Secretary, be used as the identifying number for such individual for purposes of this title."

In construing a statute, courts generally seek the plain and literal meaning of its language. See United States v. Locke, 471 U.S. 84, 93, 95-96 (1985); United States v. American Trucking Associations, Inc., 310 U.S. 534, 543 (1940). For that purpose, courts generally assume that Congress uses common words in their popular meaning. See Commissioner v. Groetzinger, 480 U.S. 23, 28 (1987), affg. 771 F.2d 269 (7th Cir. 1985).

In deciding whether the regulation comports with the statute’s plain language, we look to the ordinary usage or settled meanings of the words used in the statute by Congress. See Lynch v. Alworth-Stephens Co., 267 U.S. 364, 370 (1925). There is a strong presumption that Congress expresses its intention through the language it chooses. See INS v. Cardoza- Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421, 432 n.12 (1987).

A regulation may not contradict the unambiguous language of a statute. See Citizen’s Natl. Bank v. United States, 417 F.2d 675 (5th Cir. 1969); Hefti v. Commissioner, 97 T.C. 180, 189 (1991), affd. 983 F.2d 868 (8th Cir. 1993).

Where the statute’s language is plain, the language is where the interpretive task should end, and the sole function of the courts is to enforce such language according to its terms. United States v. Ron Pair Enters., Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 241 (1989); United States v. Merriam, 263 U.S. 179, 187-188 (1923)(stating that tax statutes are not to be extended by implication beyond the clear import of the language used).

The title of Section (d) is "Use of a social security account number." "Use" infers a privilege. Prior to being able to use something, that something must exist. The title of Section (c) is "Requirement of Information." "Requirement" infers mandatory or necessity. Clearly Congress knows the difference between requirement and use. Had Congress intended the Social Security Account number to be mandatory, they would have used “requirement of” instead of “use of” a social security account number. Use infers a privaledge, not a requirement.

Statute 6109 section (d) has key words with simple common meanings. The word "issued" means to publish. "Individual" is normally used to refer to an individual person as opposed to a larger social group or as distinguished from others by some special quality. "Purpose" is what something is used for; intent. "Except" means to exclude from a list, statement or category; a change to the rule. "Otherwise" means not the same one or ones already mentioned or implied; something else, anything else, contrary to.

The phrase “The Social Security account number issued to an individual” clearly refers to an individual who has been issued a social security number. It separates or distinguishes an individual who has a SSN from a larger group such as "anyone." The phrase ”for purposes of section 205(c)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act” clearly identifies the intent of the social security number. The intent of this section is to have the Commissioner of Social Security keep track of wages earned with the intent of determining benefits if any. The Social Security Administration publicly states applying for a social security number is voluntary and that there is no federal law requiring an individual apply for such number.

Requiring an individual apply for a SSN under IRS regulations would no longer be for purposes of section 205(c)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act, but for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code.

The phrase “be used as the identifying number for such individual” when combined with the previous phrases, clearly means an individual who has a social security number shall use such number as their identifying number. In plain language, the default identifying number for those who have been issued a social security number is their social security number. Section (d) does not cover nor includes those who do not have a social security number.

The plain language is clear. Combining the phrases yields “The social security account number issued to an individual for purposes of section 205(c)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act shall be used as the identifying number for such individual for purposes of this title.” These combined phrases require the secretary to require an individual who has been issued a social security account number to use said number as their identifying number.

The IRS alleges the phrase “except as shall otherwise be specified under regulations of the Secretary” is its legal authority to write regulations that require an individual eligible for a social security number to use such number as their identifying number. There are two words that contradict this meaning. The word “except” means to exclude from a list, statement or category. “Otherwise” means not the same one or ones already mentioned or implied: something else, anything else, or contrary to. The Secretary is authorized to make an exception to the rule of requiring those who have been issued a Social Security Number. The secretary is authorized to exclude the social security number from the list of identifying numbers and regulate something different or something else as the identifying number if the secretary chooses to do so. It does not authorize expanding the requirement to those who are eligible for a social security number, but have not been issued one or who do not want one. The plain language meaning of this phrase authorizes the Secretary to regulate the non-use of the Social Security number for those who have been issued a social security account number. The secretary is given a choice: Use the social security number that has been issued to individuals or regulate something else.

Section (c) Requirement of information. For purposes of this section, the Secretary is authorized to require such information as may be necessary to assign an identifying number to any person.

The word “any” means to include all, nothing is excluded or exempted. The plain language of this section requires the Secretary to assign an identifying number to any person.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Meijer - higher Standards?

How many are getting tired of bait and switch tactics by stores? Meijer’s on Lima Road repeatedly uses misleading store advertisements. On July 1, 2006 I was in shopping and saw they had a sale on 7-up products. Meijer’s uses a “yellow” colored sign to highlight a sale item. I look for these “yellow” colored advertisements. This particular one advertised a 12 pack of 7-up products was $2.00 save 98 cents.

I looked carefully for any clarifications (small print) such as limits and found none. My son even read the large yellow sign and saw nothing mentioned about a limit. I proceeded to place six 12-packs in my cart. At the check out the first five rang up at $2.00 each and the second rang up at $2.98. No some may call this picky on my part, but I feel a seller should clearly identify the price of their products they are selling. I do not like wasting my time or theirs in having to return items I find later were “overcharged.”

Meijer’s has now pulled a new one. On 7-7-2006 they advertised that if you spent $25 on P&G (Proctor & Gamble products) you would receive a coupon good for $5.00 off Meijer’s gas. If you spent $50 on P&G products you would receive a coupon for $10 off Meijer’s gas. Saving 20% basically on a product normally catches my attention. The only hitch was the P&G items were hard to find and which ones were they? Meijer’s had promotional signs up, but the location and which products one had to purchase were unknown to me. I went to the service desk to find out exactly which products were included.

The service desk directed me to the last page of the Meijer’s flier. I generally do not look at this because it is too busy and the print is too small. I tend to just go trhough the aisles looking for their "yellow" sales signs. On the back page listed items covered and additional savings. Because this included products I do not use, but my wife does, I was going to need help. My wife pulled out $11 worth of coupons for the products listed. Fantastic, P&G was going to contribute $11 to buy their products using coupons. I went through, filled my cart, paid special attention to container size and/or quantity and filled the cart. I dutifully pocketed a coupon when I put the item in the cart. I kept track of my total bill throwing in a few extra boxes of Puffs Tissues, which were a good buy just to make sure I was over the $50 threshold. At the register total P&G products before tax was $53.24 and after in-store savings. The register showed I saved $5.39 with in-store savings. In simple terms Meijer’s had valued the P&G products in my cart at $58.63 before taxes and in-store savings. Any way you slice it, dice it or cut it, Meijer’s showed I had $53.24 worth of P&G products.

I was feeling pretty good, get $10 off Gas and now I was going to save more. I handed my coupons to the cashier who scanned them. P&G was going to pay $10.00 of my bill. In addition Meijer’s doubled three of my coupons and was contributing $1.00 towards my $53.24 before sales tax bill. Meijer’s showed on my cash register receipt that Indiana sales tax was $3.13. The sales tax is 6% which means Meijer’s was reporting a total sale of $52.24. Total bill was $56.37. The sales tax was applied to coupons, but not the Meijer’s $1.00 contribution. Clearly Meijer’s was going to report to the State of Indian my total bill before tax was $52.24.

Here I thought I would now be eligible for a $10.00 off Meijer gas coupon, but what printed out was a $5.00 off Meijer gas coupon. I went to the service desk and asked why this sale only printed out a $5 off Meijer gas coupon. The answer was I did not buy over $50 worth of P&G products, but only $42.24. If I had only bought $42.24 worth of P$G products, why did I pay $3.13 in sales tax and not $2.53?

Proctor and Gamble on the back of their coupons state clearly that the merchant accepting the coupon will be reimbursed the full price plus a handling fee for accepting the coupon. Rather like a check. When I write a check and the store accepts it, the bank reimburses the store the full amount of the check. Does anyone think this means the bank paid the bill? Coupons are payment in kind, good for the face amount if used in accordance with the terms. In some cases companies will send you a free coupon to replace a bad product you bought previously (a refund). Meijer’s practice of subtracting coupons from the total in this case in my opinion is Bait and Switch. They bait you with a nice advertisement and then switch the terms to their choosing without informing the customer.

Meijer’s service desk hand wrote me a $5 off gas coupon, stamped it with the store seal and said to present it to the Meijer’s gas station. I went to fill up at the Illinois road station ($2.98) on the way back from a wedding and they would not take it. They said I had to use it at the Lima Road station ($3.06). But it does not end here. The coupon that was printed out says one must buy a minimum of 8 gallons of gas. The Meijer flier and advertisement within the Lima Road store never stated anything about buying 8 gallons of gas.

Meijer’s could have easily said Spend $50 or more on P&G products after coupons and receive $10 off Meijer gas with the purchase of 8 gallons or more. Would it have been that difficult?

Friday, July 07, 2006

How do you interpret this?

Federal statute 26 USC 6109 Identifying numbers is short and sweet. It has two basic short paragraphs. If you would take a minute, read them and write what your interpration of them are, it would be greatly appreaciated.

(c) Requirement of information.
For purposes of this section, the Secretary is authorized to require such information as may be necessary to assign an identifying number to any person.

(d) Use of a social security number.
The social security account number issued to an individual for purposes of section 205(c)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act shall except as shall otherwise be specified under regulations of the Secretary be used as the identifying number for such individual for purposes of this title.

Background Information:

SSA Publication 05-100023, page 3, states applying for a social security number is voluntary.

VA Medical Center and Information

Government Agency’s get into a rut where individuals fill out forms just for the sake of filling out forms. Over the years I have questioned many requests for information. In more cases than not, the information being requested was not required, but the government employee vigorously stated it was.

Some time ago I went to the Fort Wayne VA Medical Center for treatment for my service connected injuries and was denied treatment. The reason was I had to update my information. This information required I provide a list of all assets, IRA, 401K, equities, collections (coins, stamps), jewelry etc. This information I was told was required and if not provided, I would not receive treatment for my service-related injuries.

The privacy act of 1974 requires any government agency requesting information to first identify if the request is voluntary or mandatory and if mandatory, the federal statute or executive order that authorizes it.

I called Washington, DC and was told I did not have to provide financial information to be seen for my service connected injuries. However, providing this information would allow me to be seen for treatment not related to my service connected injuries based a means-tested basis or ability to pay.

I called the local VA Medical Center and was told to come in Thursday morning and Glenda would help process my paper work. When I got to the VA Medical Center, the same woman who would not help me the first time was there. She stated the same BS this time as she did the first time. She said Glenda would tell me the very same thing. Glenda was a very nice and helpful person. She took my information that was need, excluding financial and I was done. My old purple and white plastic ID card that said “Priority Service” was replaced.

The "moral" of this is question what information people request from you. If they say it is, question why and what authorization requires it. Just because a government agency says it is required, does not make it so. More often than not I find government agencies requesting more information than they actually have authorization to collect. Be vigilant.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Wind Power used to Make Hydrogen

This past weekend I went with my son and his Cub Scout pack to the USS Silversides on Lake Michigan. I rode with another family to save energy, minimize pollution and to save some money. Ray, the adult driver I rode with told me he was in the submarine service. I responded quickly and told him I had spent a day on the George Washington Carver when it was at Cocoa Beach, FL. The George Washington Carver was the first SSBN. The hull was originally to be the Scorpion, but congress authorized the building of a boomer and they renamed the boat, cut it in half, inserted a missile section and it went to sea.

We were trading navy stories and then we got on the subject of energy. I wanted to go with Wind Power and he wanted hydrogen power. Well the two actually go hand in hand.

Electricity can be used to split water molecules into their basic components—hydrogen and oxygen. This process of running electricity through a solution to separate materials is called electrolysis. This is the way nuclear powered submarines stay submerged so long.

Back in 1839 Sir William Grove demonstrated that if hydrogen were mixed with oxygen the process would release electricity. In other words run the electrolysis process backwards.

Windmills make electricity and it would be easy to then split the water molecules and get hydrogen. The process is very efficient with little energy loss than any other energy conversion. Use this hydrogen to power a fuel cell and you now have a very compact fuel. In fact more compact than gasoline. This higher energy concentration then would allow a much smaller tank to be built. A smaller tank would be safer and lighter. It would also eliminate the other option of using electric batteries that are heavy, costly and have limited storing capacity reducing driving range considerably.

He told me that pilot projects had developed a safe method of dispensing hydrogen into tanks. You would need a good seal, stop the transfer process when a set pressure was reached, purge the space between the filling nozzle/valve and the cars valve before disconnecting. This might be done by drawing vacuum. In the nuclear industry we used quick hydraulic and pneumatic disconnects that were leak free.

I see this as the right step towards energy independence. This Bio fuel is not the way to go. With limited funds available, it makes sense to pursue those energy sources that are viable, cost effective, available today and do that now.

NBC-33 Debate poll results from 2002