Dec 272012

In the hit movie The Fugitive, a greedy pharmacuetic company, Devlin MacGregor, fakes clinical studies of their new wonder drug, Provasic, in hopes of profiting from its sales. The fraud results in the death of Dr. Richard Kimball’s wife, and creates a great tale well worth watching if you have never seen it.

One of the reasons that plot works so well is that it might not be far from the truth. While I’m quite positive that big pharma companies are not killing off the wives of surgeons around the globe, the bias toward positive drug studies vs negative drug studies is very real, and is a very real problem. What it means is that quite possibly half of the $300 B the United States spends on prescription drugs is based on, well, fraud by another name. In even worse cases, some portion of those drugs might in fact be causing more harm than good.

Please watch this video, then take a look at your own medicine cabinet. Hard to know what is real and what is a mirage, isn’t it?

There is no true problem solving, no real progress, until we actually face the brutal realities of it all. When billions and billions of dollars are at stake, there is plenty of motives to not act in the best interest of Joe Patient. I believe optimistic problem solvers can solve many issues, including this one, but we need to wake up to the realities of the problem first.

I.M. Optimism Man


Dec 152012

I think most of us feel a bit stressed and harried by the standard modern day workplace — too many emails arriving minute by minute in the inbox, too many text messages, too many instant messages, too many meetings that take too long and accomplish too little, too many conversations that distract us from the critical items that must be done, and too many forays onto the internet that wind up in diverting us for dozens of minutes at a time.

In short, distractions are killing our productivity, which dominos into greater frustrations and feelings of stress.

I noticed years ago, how I usually did my best creative work of the month while sitting at 38,000 feet, bound for Boise or Jacksonville. Being cut off from other people for a few hours, has its merits.

Try this simple idea: Do not check your e-mail and don’t wander anywhere off topic on the internet until 1 pm, right after lunch, for just one week. Consider activating the auto-responder feature on your email system so that it tells those who email you that you are unable to check email until “late this afternoon” so that those folks that expect realtime responses are placated. If possible, respond to every text message with a standard message too. If you promise “late this afternoon” and then get back to someone before 2 pm, you will have under promised and over delivered, a great little benefit while reducing your stress.

I believe you will find that carving out distraction-free (or at least distraction limited) zen work time each morning before lunch, then beating back life’s little urgencies in the afternoon, will bring new order, new peace, and a new level of productivity to your day.

Why not give it a shot? You have the power to choose, to design your own life, and this is but one small step. Send me an email and let me know the results of your experiment, using the contact form above.

I.M. Optimism Man


Dec 112012

There are a lot of experts — but experts are rarely the world-changing entrepreneurs. These experts often sport IQs that make them puff up quite proud of themselves, whenever they admire themselves in the mirror. Why do most experts fail at changing the world?

Ernesto Sirolli gives us one of the most important missing components to being truly smart, not just book smart. A lot of money has been poured into lots of truly BIG issues by a lot of well-intentioned experts — sub-Saharan Africa a prime example — trillions in fact. Watch this talk. It will open your eyes. It is the best 20 minutes I personally have invested this week.

ernesto sirolli

The Missing Component - Listening

Listening is everything. Listening will help you succeed. Listening will help you become special. Listening will help you change the world. Listening is magical. Listening makes your smarter than 99% of the experts.

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 102012

Few people understand the magic of persistence. Most people will take one shot, maybe two, at something at some point in their lives, and then quickly retreat back to the safety of their everyday rut. Why is the everyday rut such a draw? I think it’s because it is mental-state-of-mind safe… when you are in your daily rut, you don’t have to evaluate whether you are succeeding or struggling, winning or losing. You don’t have to make any truly difficult decisions where there are no clear-cut answers. You can do the same’ole things without ever thinking about your personal scorecard.

The truth is that there is no failure, if you get up each morning and try again, giving it your best effort. There is only success in your future, with the only unknown being “when” the breakthrough will happen. Those independent souls who decide to believe, to go for it, to remain positive, to adapt and overcome, do win in the end.

Here is a fantastic truth that all of us should remember and take to heart:


Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

— Winston Churchill




Becoming unstoppable — and remaining enthusiastic during the ever-present struggles — are choices each of us can make.

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 072012

Much was made out of who to tax and how much, in the last election. Those who voted for President Obama, at least the ones that I personally ask, generally said they supported him because they were comfortable about where and how he was spending “the money.” Since the election, the call for bi-partisanship has grown in volume as both sides try to work out a deal.

Anybody that has been a reader of my blog knows by now that I believe in spending reduction first and foremost as the solution to America’s fiscal issues. But, to solve any problem, the first step is to ask the right questions and face the brutal facts. Right now, it seems that few in Washington, especially those that support few reductions in spending programs, are facing the realities of the USA’s accounts.

Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal well worth reading twice. Facing reality must be step numero uno. First understand the problem, then discuss how we take steps to solve it:

Why $16 Trillion Only Hints at the True U.S. Debt

Hiding the government’s liabilities from the public makes it seem that we can tax our way out of mounting deficits. We can’t.


Mr. Cox, a former chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee and the Securities and Exchange Commission, is president of Bingham Consulting LLC. Mr. Archer, a former chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, is a senior policy adviser at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

A decade and a half ago, both of us served on President Clinton’s Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform, the forerunner to President Obama’s recent National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. In 1994 we predicted that, unless something was done to control runaway entitlement spending, Medicare and Social Security would eventually go bankrupt or confront severe benefit cuts.

Eighteen years later, nothing has been done. Why? The usual reason is that entitlement reform is the third rail of American politics. That explanation presupposes voter demand for entitlements at any cost, even if it means bankrupting the nation.

A better explanation is that the full extent of the problem has remained hidden from policy makers and the public because of less than transparent government financial statements. How else could responsible officials claim that Medicare and Social Security have the resources they need to fulfill their commitments for years to come?

As Washington wrestles with the roughly $600 billion “fiscal cliff” and the 2013 budget, the far greater fiscal challenge of the U.S. government’s unfunded pension and health-care liabilities remains offstage. The truly important figures would appear on the federal balance sheet—if the government prepared an accurate one.

But it hasn’t. For years, the government has gotten by without having to produce the kind of financial statements that are required of most significant for-profit and nonprofit enterprises. The U.S. Treasury “balance sheet” does list liabilities such as Treasury debt issued to the public, federal employee pensions, and post-retirement health benefits. But it does not include the unfunded liabilities of Medicare, Social Security and other outsized and very real obligations.

As a result, fiscal policy discussions generally focus on current-year budget deficits, the accumulated national debt, and the relationships between these two items and gross domestic product. We most often hear about the alarming $15.96 trillion national debt (more than 100% of GDP), and the 2012 budget deficit of $1.1 trillion (6.97% of GDP). As dangerous as those numbers are, they do not begin to tell the story of the federal government’s true liabilities.

The actual liabilities of the federal government—including Social Security, Medicare, and federal employees’ future retirement benefits—already exceed $86.8 trillion, or 550% of GDP. For the year ending Dec. 31, 2011, the annual accrued expense of Medicare and Social Security was $7 trillion. Nothing like that figure is used in calculating the deficit. In reality, the reported budget deficit is less than one-fifth of the more accurate figure.

Why haven’t Americans heard about the titanic $86.8 trillion liability from these programs? One reason: The actual figures do not appear in black and white on any balance sheet. But it is possible to discover them. Included in the annual Medicare Trustees’ report are separate actuarial estimates of the unfunded liability for Medicare Part A (the hospital portion), Part B (medical insurance) and Part D (prescription drug coverage).

As of the most recent Trustees’ report in April, the net present value of the unfunded liability of Medicare was $42.8 trillion. The comparable balance sheet liability for Social Security is $20.5 trillion.

Were American policy makers to have the benefit of transparent financial statements prepared the way public companies must report their pension liabilities, they would see clearly the magnitude of the future borrowing that these liabilities imply. Borrowing on this scale could eclipse the capacity of global capital markets—and bankrupt not only the programs themselves but the entire federal government.

These real-world impacts will be felt when currently unfunded liabilities need to be paid. In theory, the Medicare and Social Security trust funds have at least some money to pay a portion of the bills that are coming due. In actuality, the cupboard is bare: 100% of the payroll taxes for these programs were spent in the same year they were collected.

In exchange for the payroll taxes that aren’t paid out in benefits to current retirees in any given year, the trust funds got nonmarketable Treasury debt. Now, as the baby boomers’ promised benefits swamp the payroll-tax collections from today’s workers, the government has to swap the trust funds’ nonmarketable securities for marketable Treasury debt. The Treasury will then have to sell not only this debt, but far more, in order to pay the benefits as they come due.

When combined with funding the general cash deficits, these multitrillion-dollar Treasury operations will dominate the capital markets in the years ahead, particularly given China’s de-emphasis of new investment in U.S. Treasurys in favor of increasing foreign direct investment, and Japan’s and Europe’s own sovereign-debt challenges.

When the accrued expenses of the government’s entitlement programs are counted, it becomes clear that to collect enough tax revenue just to avoid going deeper into debt would require over $8 trillion in tax collections annually. That is the total of the average annual accrued liabilities of just the two largest entitlement programs, plus the annual cash deficit.

Nothing like that $8 trillion amount is available for the IRS to target. According to the most recent tax data, all individuals filing tax returns in America and earning more than $66,193 per year have a total adjusted gross income of $5.1 trillion. In 2006, when corporate taxable income peaked before the recession, all corporations in the U.S. had total income for tax purposes of $1.6 trillion. That comes to $6.7 trillion available to tax from these individuals and corporations under existing tax laws.

In short, if the government confiscated the entire adjusted gross income of these American taxpayers, plus all of the corporate taxable income in the year before the recession, it wouldn’t be nearly enough to fund the over $8 trillion per year in the growth of U.S. liabilities. Some public officials and pundits claim we can dig our way out through tax increases on upper-income earners, or even all taxpayers. In reality, that would amount to bailing out the Pacific Ocean with a teaspoon. Only by addressing these unsustainable spending commitments can the nation’s debt and deficit problems be solved.

Neither the public nor policy makers will be able to fully understand and deal with these issues unless the government publishes financial statements that present the government’s largest financial liabilities in accordance with well-established norms in the private sector. When the new Congress convenes in January, making the numbers clear—and establishing policies that finally address them before it is too late—should be a top order of business.

Mr. Cox, a former chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee and the Securities and Exchange Commission, is president of Bingham Consulting LLC. Mr. Archer, a former chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, is a senior policy adviser at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

I suggest subscribing to the Wall Street Journal. Too much of the media just don’t print reality in their quest to support their philosophies.

I.M. Optimism Man