Boomers Make Poor Legislators…

The 70th anniversary of D-Day got me thinking about our parents’ “Greatest” generation, what they lived through, and how bad Congress has become.

The connection?

bob doleWhen they were in Congress, bi-partisan work got done, taking care of our needs seemed to more often trump taking care of their own careers, they were not quite so easily bought.  Nothing like making it through a great depression and a world war to build character…

In contrast, today’s Congress is made up of mostly Boomers… best at living up to our “me” generation moniker.  Now Congress gets john-boehnernothing of import done from a preference for over-the-top partisanship, takes care of their own careers rather than the country’s needs, and are quite easily bought.  For those of us who like our Social Security and Medicare, be grateful those programs were created during our parents’ tenure.

The conclusion: Boomers make poor national leaders.  In Florida, our children as leaders aren’t faring much better.

I’ve always believed that anyone wanting to run for Congress is most likely not a good candidate because the ego it takes to want such a thing will most likely outpace his/her ability to truly lead.  And the folks I’d like to see in Congress don’t want the job.

Ah for the Founders’ concept of “citizen legislators” – folks who had a life (other than politics), went to Washington for short periods (Jefferson envisioned terms of no more than 9 years, with Representatives rotating out every 3, similar to the current practices of Boards of Directors) to represent their constituents’ needs, then returned home to continue their real lives.  Here’s an example provided by Thomas Jefferson in 1797:

“All [reforms] can be… [achieved] peaceably by the people confining their choice of Representatives and Senators to persons attached to republican government and the principles of 1776; not office-hunters [stressor mine], but farmers [the main vocation of the day…notice he didn’t say lawyers and doctors, who make up most representatives today] whose interests are entirely agricultural [eg of their main profession]. Such men are the true representatives of the great American interest and are alone to be relied on for expressing the proper American sentiments.”

He also envisioned representatives be uncompensated, to ensure their motives were to serve, not to become enriched themselves:

“I have the consolation of having added nothing to my private fortune during my public service and of retiring with hands as clean as they are empty.”
Jefferson to Diodati, 1807.

Let’s find a bunch of the latter (true citizen legislators) and convince them to run, so we can eliminate the former (what we have now).

Some of them may even be Boomers.

 

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Forget “Voting “Em Out”: Here’s the Real Remedy for Bad Legislators

cleaning up Washington DCI think we know now that we can keep ’em in, or vote ’em out, and still get the same result:  our legislators do whatever they want once they’re in office…which is most assuredly whatever their highest bidders demand, no matter what was promised us on the campaign trail….right?

That’s because we’ve been approaching this from the wrong perspective: we’ve been “treating the symptom” rather than curing the disease.

And what is the disease that, if cured, will make our legislators much more beholdin’ to us, more connected to our reality vs. their insular world, and get them doing something of substance once in office?

I call it the “Royalty Syndrome.”  If we eliminate it, we will see the kinds of action we so deserve from our elected officials.

The Royalty Syndrome is based on the following facts of public office in the U.S., particularly on the national level (but we see it on the State & Local levels too, just to a degree that diminishes the farther from Washington they are):

  • Legislators are treated like…well…royalty…with all sorts of perks, assistants, deference, and special programs (like their own terrific health-care plan)
  • With such treatment and expectations, they quickly and easily lose focus on their constituents, replaced by a sense of self-importance
  • Once they’ve had a taste of such royal treatment, no way do they want to lose it…so they’ll do anything/everything to avoid that

Here’s the cure:

  • Eliminate their perks, from special health-care plans to town cars & loads of assistants (they can have one…just like other managers in the real world)
  • As a Legislator, your children must attend public school
  • Pay them the equivalent of the average wage-earner’s salary in the US, which is $81,400 according to the Census Bureau (members of Congress currently make $174,000)
  • They cannot travel by means other than public transportation (cabs in town, commercial airlines across country) and they must fly coach
  • They must read all bills before voting on them; “I didn’t know what I was voting for” can be grounds for serious sanction (after all, this is the main part of their job)
  • They must poll their constituents no less than 2X per year to get our input to all main issues before them for a vote.

There’s more we can add to the list, be these are great starters.

This does a number of things to hit the proverbial “reset” button back to true representation of us, not special interests:

  1. Eliminates those who run because they love power and prestige (which right now is almost everyone…I’ve always believed that anyone who wants the office is someone I wouldn’t want in it, because they desire it for the wrong reasons…)
  2. Replaces them with folks who don’t mind hard work, are not in it for self-aggrandizement, and will want to get in, get the job done, and get out
  3. Eliminates what is right now a very insular culture within the ranks of Legislators, fed and magnified by their “royal” treatment – when they are treated like the rest of us, they will act like “regular folks”
  4. Serves as a constant reminder that they are servants of the people, not Emirs

Only when our legislators are treated like the rest of us will they remember who we are, what their real purpose is, and what is needed by the majority of citizens.

So, my fellow Boomers, this is what you want to be pushing for, rather than staying with the same tired approach we’ve been using all of our adult lives, that simply hasn’t worked.

How’s that for change?

An Open Letter to My Peers…And Congress

I am:

  • a business owner
  • a centrist Democrat
  • a woman (we are still the gender majority and statistically the greatest users of healthcare)
  • a Boomer (we too are a large number & statistically the ones who have the most to win/lose w/any reform)
  • a member of the middle class (ditto above)
  • self-insured (e.g. not through my business)

As you see, I represent a broad cross-section of those most impacted by any healthcare reform, and as a Centrist Democrat, I believe in fiscal responsibility while helping my fellow Americans who fall ill and/or die every day because they have no insurance.  Useful reform requires thinking and/both, not either/or.

I wish to speak directly to each constituency, member to member.

To my fellow business owners:

When we want to address a problem that only our company/industry is in a position to resolve, we would not ignore it – we would most likely take out a loan (or shall I say would like to if banks were lending…), and get to work on expanding what we must to take advantage of a window of opportunity.  We would carefully calculate the risk and determine that if we do it right, we will not only be able to pay back that loan, but make a profit. 

The “problem” that needs to be resolved here is that clearly the competition created between private insurers alone has not only not reduced customers’ costs, but continues to increase them, so that model has not worked in our market place.  Therefore a new model is called for.   Applying this business model to reform, the Feds would become an insurer so that we “customers” can then reap the benefits that such good ol’ American competition would generate with private insurers (because they are the only “industry” in a position to do so).  There will be an upfront cost – of course.  But using that as a reason for not doing it at all doesn’t make sense.  Doing it in a way that will ultimately pay back the “loan” and then remain solvent, does.

We say that compelling private companies to compete with the Federal Government is not fair competition, thus insurers will be placed at a huge and unAmerican disadvantage.  After all, without significant government subsidies, no insurer has attempted to provide coverages that compete with Medicare.  That said, however, this model has worked in other industries.  The best examples: public and private colleges/universities; what has compelled the US Post Office to work more effectively (or at least try…) has been the private company competition to it.  There is simply no well-thought reason this model cannot also work with health insurance. 

As for co-ops, those few in existence work so well because they are non-profits – like the government, they are not in it to make money, but simply put their earnings-above-expenses back into improving their services.  Therefore, isn’t that unfair competition to for-profits that must pay huge salaries and give shareholders returns on investment?  Either way, private industry will be competing with a not-for-profit entity of one sort or another, so in essence, co-ops would be equally “dangerous” as competitors.  Then, there is the icing on the co-op concept-as-misguided cake: the fact that the plan being considered right now would be in very few States/areas, and most likely would not be available to the majority of Americans in our lifetime.   There is another glaring flaw to the co-op concept, and that I’ve covered in “to my fellow self-insureds” below.

To my fellow Centrist Democrats (&  you, too, Republicans): 

Given the above formula, you disappoint me greatly by not seeing the fiscally responsible window of opportunity here to both improve competition/significantly lower insurance costs for us with a public option, and do so in a way that will pay for itself so any upfront costs are “repaid” and on-going costs offset.  That is both social and fiscal responsibility… which is what you purport to be all about.

To my fellow(?) women:

As the greatest users of healthcare, from child-bearing to the ever increasing incidence of breast cancer, we have the most to lose with reform that does not create real and significant competition – it is only such competition that will lower costs…that is capitalism…that is the American way and it works.  As I mentioned above, relying on insurance companies, even if you can purchase “across state lines”, to lower your costs as a result would be continuing to trust an industry that clearly does not have our ability to afford them at heart.  For example, they can simply congregate in states that have far less stringent laws for coverage, and then offer a lower premium…for less coverage – this is not a savings.  They will continue to do what they do now:  the two largest health insurers held half or more of all enrollments in 40 of the 42 states studied just last year by the American Medical Association.

Without an outside force keeping their prices in check, they have proven to us over almost a century that they will simply find ways around any lesser legislation, and we will continue to pay for it.

To my fellow Boomers:

All of the above in the “women” section, plus as we age we will be the major users of healthcare, and many of us have miles to go before we qualify for Medicare (the other “public option” of which we will happily avail ourselves).  That means years of exorbitant premiums, even if insurers can no longer drop us when we get sick or refuse to cover us with a pre-existing condition.  Great – we qualify – but we still can’t afford it….

To my fellow Middle-Class:

The poor will be covered – the rich can afford designer care so they don’t care – we’re the ones who will be left to live with the final results of this legislation.  So, what will reduce our costs without sacrificing the levels of coverage we need to stay healthy…or survive a devastating illness?  We’ve said we don’t trust the government to do a plan right…do we really trust insurance companies more…?  With reforms to Medicare to bring its spending under control, it becomes an excellent model to replicate. Apparently even without those controls everyone on Medicare loves Medicare and the rest of us can’t wait to get on it… If Medicare is that effective, useful, needed, it is worthy of replicating for younger Americans as an alternative to private insurance for those who qualify (which, like Medicare, would hardly be “everyone” but in fact quite limited – enough to make a real difference without creating an unfair advantage).

There is only one way we will realize not just immediate but on-going cost reasonableness while not sacrificing our coverages.  We can have both – this is America – when we want the best approach badly enough, we make it happen.

To my fellow self-insureds:

You, like me, have most likely at some point had insurance through an employer prior to buying your own for whatever reason.  Back in 2000 when I worked for someone else, I was given a choice of diminished coverages for the same employee share cost, or increased costs for keeping the same coverages.  This trend has continued and worsened for those with employer provided coverage.  To quickly emphasize this with a real example: Dawn Smith is an aspiring writer living in Atlanta; four years ago, she was diagnosed with a rare, but treatable brain tumor; her doctors are ready to remove it, but they can’t because CIGNA refuses to pay for the surgery.  This is a battle happening right now.

We know that this is then magnified 100% when we pay the entire bill ourselves, and with no more guarantee than has Dawn that we will be covered when we need it the most.

I have seen my insurance bill rise by 33% over the past 1.5 years.  This is simply unacceptable.  Yet I have the lowest-cost insurance available to me here in Florida, and the bare minimum of coverage (“catastrophic” only).  Of the “cost-reducing” options being forwarded in lieu of a public option by some members of Congress, one is the ability for us to go across state lines – in reality, that would reduce my premium very little (I’ve checked) and “co-ops” would take years to develop to the point of efficacy – that’s only after the years it will take to get them up and running…the existing co-ops being used as models have taken as long as 20 years to get to the point where they are now the models to be emulated.  You truly want to wait 20 years? 

And as for cost, co-ops may have premium increases that are less than their competition’s, but that doesn’t make those increases necessarily affordable. Washington State’s Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound had annual increases for averaging 12.3 percent since 2000; they were 24.2 percent in 2003.

My fellow Centrist Dem’s/Biz Owners/Boomer Women/Self-Insureds, I ask you to consider my words to you peer-to-peer; they are long in coming and carefully thought out, I promise.  I have done my homework – do my own fact-finding rather than relying on pundits with a clearly self-serving motivation (ratings) on both sides of the issue.  I, like you, have the most to gain or lose if this is done…or not done…right.  I ask you to not only refuse to dismiss a public option, but insist on it. In fact, it is our only chance for reform that will be both meaningful and lasting.

RE: "An Open Letter to Obama" by Lou Pritchett

This letter, originally written to the NYTimes by businessman & author Lou Pritchett, but not printed there, has been recently picked up by bloggers in search of material to keep their base “mobilized” and as a result, email-forwarders…which is how I learned of it. 

So…here is my take in the hope of providing some needed perspective, on Mr. Pritchett & his letter.

On Mr. Pritchett’s “living legend” status:

Lou Pritchett did write a very successful book, and has made a fortune as a result, but that doesn’t make him the “living legend” he is purported to be.  By all accounts by the giants of commerce, the true legend of American innovation and business management is Peter Drucker, known as the “father of modern management” – to support this:

“The world knows he was the greatest management thinker of the last century,” Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric Co. (GE ).

“(Drucker) was the creator and inventor of modern management,” said management guru Tom Peters. “In the early 1950s, nobody had a tool kit to manage these incredibly complex organizations that had gone out of control. Drucker was the first person to give us a handbook for that.”

Adds Intel Corp. (INTC ) co-founder Andrew S. Grove: “Like many philosophers, he spoke in plain language that resonated with ordinary managers. Consequently, simple statements from him have influenced untold numbers of daily actions; they did mine over decades.”

Now, on to Pritchett’s fears:

You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you.

A simple search on Webcrawler brings up 3 pages in information on Obama the man, the Senator, the Pres, etc. – much more w/a basic Google search – and that doesn’t include two well published books he wrote about his life & beliefs, which no other modern President did prior to holding office – the only thing missing is an invitation to dinner…there is just as much, actually more, information about Obama as there is/has been for any other President, living or dead – so we all know no less, and in fact more, about Obama as we did other Presidents

You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support.

Go to http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/money.asp for all the information you want on how he paid for everything;

You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America and culturally you are not an American

The first 6 years of his life (considered to be the most formative by any psychological standard) were spent in Hawaii; he spent 4 years (from age 7-11) in Indonesia, and the rest back in Hawaii – Hawaii is still a State in our Union last I heard…in comparison, John Quincy Adams spent 8 years in France & Russia with his father, Barry Goldwater was born in an AZ territory that at the time was not part of the US, & John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone Y there has still been no resolution as to whether that makes him a “natural born citizen”.

You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.

Neither did Ronald Reagan…

You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don’t understand it at its core.

Neither did Clinton (who the military loved…),  Roosevelt (FD) Hoover, Coolidge, Harding, Wilson, Taft, Cleveland, VanBuren, JQAdams, and John Adams, the man without whom we would not have attained American Independence when we did.

You scare me because you lack humility and ‘class’, always blaming others.

I’m guessing, then, that your fellow corporate CEO’s/CFO’s etc., like the Enron & Countrywide guys, also scare you, as they became famous for passing the blame and some of the classiest are now in prison or dead…

You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.

John Adams was considered a radical extremist by his fellow representatives in the Continental Congress, for having the audacity to insist on American Independence…

You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the ‘blame America’ crowd and deliver this message abroad. 

Humility, which includes admitting mistakes as Obama has done, is difficult for most of us, but here’s a few folks you’ll recognize who believe doing so is not only right, but expected by our highest power:
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
(Matthew 23:12)
Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.
(Proverbs 27:2)
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
(Matthew 5:5)
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
(Matthew 23:12)

You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of the private sector. 

In fact, the only Western European country that has a government dominating all commerce (socialism) is….none…Eastern European countries rely much more on the old socialist style left over from their communist days, but they too are quickly changing to a Western (starting in Western Europe) economic system, based in capitalism.  Having a government run healthcare system, as does England & Canada for instance, does not logically translate to all commerce being government run….

You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one. 

That’s funny!  Adding to the humor of this one is that many of those polled who are against any health care plan under government control are on…Medicare…a “socialist” government controlled health care plan…or happily took (or will take) advantage of the GI Bill that offered government stipends & “unemployment funds” – government run…

You scare me because you prefer ‘wind mills’ to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.. 

It surprises me that someone who is known for thinking progessively, changing the way corporate America operates and which even more ironically is about change management, is holding onto energy producing technologies developed in the late 19th Century.  Taking carbon from the ground, and ultimately placing it in the air, makes as much sense as smoking, or inhaling fumes from a burning building – this is why people can kill themselves by turning on the car in a closed space…and waiting… The virtue of these energy sources (oil/coal/shale) is none more than “it’s how we’ve always done it” which not only flies in the face of his corporate thinking, but shows an unfortunate desire to stick with “technology” founded during a time when they also used mercury and lead to “cure disease”…

You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest standard of living in the world. 

When he wrote this, we were in the thoes of the worst financial/economic melt-down since the Great Depression as a result of unregulated corporate shell games founded in greed that left millions losing their homes and jobs… and this is telling coming from a man who is a member of the 1% of the population for whom that goose lays those eggs (according to the most frequently used gauge of income distribution, the Gini coefficient, the top 1% of Americans take in 22% of all income, that figure was 7% in 1976; between 1967 & 2007, the lowest earners’ income increased approxmately 25%; the highest earners’ increased approximately 43%; the middle class fared the worst with an increase of approximately 24%).

The problem is not captalism, but captialism run amok, which is what Obama has stated clearly he wants to fix – this does not constitute elimination of it.

You scare me because you have begun to use ‘extortion’ tactics against certain banks and corporations. 

See “capalist goose” above

You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.

Gee, didn’t we say this about the Republican party when they were in power…which is why they were ousted by a majority of the US electorate?

You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people. 

Not considering and not agreeing are two very different things…he clearly considers…unless you include in this group of intelligent people the “birthers” and the “tea-baggers” and then most of us tune out, too…  In fact opposing points of view are aired and considered regularly, which is why the HC reform package did not go through when Obama wanted it to, too much opposition from both the Republican & “Blue Dog” Democrat representatives, and if you follow the progress of the bill closely, you will see the numerous changes made to the bill as a result of listening to these opposing views

You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient.

You know, the saying goes that Caridiologists think they’re God, Neurologists and Bankers KNOW they’re God; from the economic facts before us with which we “common folk” must now live, it was in fact Pritchett’s fellow Corporate folks, particularly bankers & insurance company execs, who thought of themselves as God-like, making broad and dangerous decisions for us all, the price for which we all now pay dearly with our homes and incomes

You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do. 

I guess Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, The Free Republic, and the Washington Times, to name the 4 most recognizable outlets of the 34 most read/heard outlets (e.g. there’s many more on local levels, such as WGUL in Tampa Bay) don’t count as media…?

You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O’Relllys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view. 

Wait…I thought the news media gives him a free pass?  And last I saw/heard, all of these individuals were soundly viewed/heard daily on their respective shows; Obama has spent little if any time speaking about these folks.

You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing. 

There is no such thing, as Republicans learned the hard way, as “controlling” much legislatively, particularly for the President – our Founding Fathers saw to that.  And Obama has a long way to go to match let alone surpass truly controlling behaviors like we see when health insurance companies refuse treatments just when folks need them, or cancel policies because a person has gotten an expensive diagnosis.

Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8 years. 

Finally, given the flack he is receiving from the extreme right (see “non-existent conservative media sources” above) after just 8 months in office, if Obama wins a second term, Mr. Pritchett and folks who agree with him will know clearly that their notions are not sustainable, so will have no need to write something like this…again.

Lou Pritchett 
Terri Benincasa

This Boomer's Idea of the Perfect Bail-out Package

The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!!

 

Or, more accurately:

 

The stock market’s crashing, the economy’s tanking!!!

 

The former, I think, is true only in that as we continue to pull lots of carbons out of the ground and spew them into the air, the sky falls ever closer to levels of damage beyond repair in this century.

 

The latter, I think, is more a matter of melodramatic, histrionic thinking seeded by failed but still very powerful bankers/corporations who don’t want to be held fully accountable for their bad behavior and exceptionally poor business practices like they will be if they have to handle this all by their weeny little selves.   They know that a “bail-out” will save their beautifully-clad asses and shield them from losing their personal shirts. 

 

They also know that the alternative will NOT cause the economy to collapse albeit the process won’t be pretty, for sure, but WILL force them to face and deal with the collossal pig-sty they created (my apologies to pigs…), with all the lost compensation that goes with it.  Over 200 very credible, highly regarded economists and scholars agree: this mess might get a little ugly, but will work itself out without one penny of government “bailing” money.

 

Finally, they are banking on (pun intended) the demonstrated m.o. of Americans these days, led by we Boomers (and unlike our parents); that we are not much for sacrifice on any level, are driven by the need for immediate gratification regardless of its long-term consequences, and therefore we will fall for anything that will keep us from the pain associated with atoning for our own glaring mistakes (making unabashedly bad if not somewhat greedy decisions to take on mortgages we couldn’t afford, with incomes that didn’t warrant the amount we borrowed, gambling on a big pay-off in a few short years as though our homes were a mini Vegas….).

 

Are they right?  Well, so far, they’ve completely underestimated the American public.  One point for us!

 

But the “bail-out” package is still worming it’s way through Congress (having at this writing won support in the Senate and now on its way to the House), and given Congress’ indebtedness to the bail-outees, will most likely pass.  One point for the bankers.

 

So, given that we Americans have a poor track record of holding our representatives closely accountable for their actions/lack thereof, an equally poor propensity for voting at all let alone voting anyone out of office for glaringly self-promoting performances, and our representatives’ certainty of this, what we want at this point really doesn’t matter. 

 

I guess you know that by now, given that an overwhelming majority of Americans are against the bail-out and it’s going to happen anyway.  Congress’ justification: we’re just too uninformed (read stupid) to know what’s really best for ourselves…and I have to admit they have a point as it relates to who we’ve chosen through our own apathy as our government leaders….  But they’re more than willing to accept our exceptional thinking prowess when we do vote and cast one for them, so I guess that’s where our brain power really lies…(?!)

 

Anyway, back to the bail-out.  Since it will happen, here’s a list of revisions to the provisions that I recommend Boomers insist upon when (and I hope it won’t be “if”) you call your Congressman today and tomorrow morning:

  • The amount not be a flat $700B with a phase-in component ( we know from experience that they will spend it all, and more…), but instead be authorized for only the first “phase in” amount of $250B: anything thereafter must be subject to Congressional vote, just like this was;
  • The “requirement that the Treasury Dept. make rules to prevent excess executive compensation” have a specific time-line by which that report will be due; the same goes for the President’s “established plan to recoup the cost from the financial industry if, after five years, there are any losses”;
  • “Cap deductibility of executive’s pay packagesfor firms that get $300M or more from the program…”?! I DON’T THINK SO….  Cap executive compensation period, at $500K for firms who get any bail-out money whatsoever
  • Oh, and the whole idea of raising the FDIC guarantee amount to $250,000 from the current $100K?  That is simply a ploy to get some folks to vote for this package.  It is not something that will ultimately benefit any more than 5% of Americans (personal or business), and it will simply increase what we’ll have to “bail out” when banks behave badly again…and I promise you, without serious regulation/oversight, they will – their historical track record proves it.  Eliminate this provision;
  • As for the ever-present and quite predictable throwing-in of all sorts of items that have nothing to do with the activity of “bailing” – inasmuch as I agree with most of them, particularly insurance coverage parity for mental illesses to physical ones, and tax breaks for clean, home-grown energy alternatives, they have no business in this bill and need to be handled separately, where they belong.

Well, that’s it, guidance from your Boomer Coach, whose job it is to provide you with all the relevant information you need to make a fully informed decision, do the research/compile the facts to that end, and be completely honest with you even when some of that feed-back isn’t a happy meal.

 

I’m Terri Benincasa, and I wrote this message.