Thursday, November 18, 2010

In an age when airlines nickel and dime you, how can you complain about free preventative health care?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Incentivizing Lousiville Cardinal Fans to Stay for the WHOLE Game

I think all of us Louisville Card fans are proud of our team's performance against the NCAA March Madness runner up Butler tonight. But if you were at the game, or my guess watching it on TV, you might not be able to tell in the last minutes. As I looked around the new Yum! Center, the arena appeared half empty. This wasn't some exhibition game, this was the first real game against a very real team. It was also, I call, a disgrace on a part of the fans who left early.

That's why I propose this or a similar system to incentivize ticket holders to be the loyal fans they are and pack the house at every game and support our team until the final buzzer ends, win or lose. Every ticket price should include a small deposit per game. For each game, when its scanned to enter the arena you would get a portion of the deposit credited back electronically to your account. But the real incentive would come at the end of the game. After the clock runs out, and only after the clock runs out, you could have your ticket scanned as you leave the arena and have a larger portion of the deposit returned to you electronically. This would reward people who stay and support the team rather than try and beat traffic. Although I have no statistics to back this up, I think having a packed house at the end each game would increase our winning record. It would keep the morale of the team up, thus making less likely them losing a lead if they have one and more likely of making a come back if they are behind.

I noticed another thing as I looked around, or rather up. The lower part of the arena was empty, but the top of the arena was still almost full. Now, unless I'm mistaken, that's because the fans in the upper deck for whatever reason can't afford what it takes to get good seats in the lower section (or simply haven't had season tickets long enough to get the points) but what they do pay is a greater percentage of their income than all the donations and ticket costs themselves are to fans in the lower deck and so are valued more. To help encourage our fellow fans in the lower arena and our loyal fans high up for each game when you scan your ticket after the game is over so many CAF (Cardinal Athletic Fund) points would be rewarded.

These proposals would both encourage fans to support the team to the end, like they should, and to reward loyal fans with better seats if those with good seats consistently leave early. If you couldn't make a game, you would have extra incentive to ensure you give or sell your tickets to someone you know will go. (In the case of giving them to someone you know, you could remind them to scan their ticket and login and view if they did. If they keep leaving early you would probably give them to another friend who would stay.) I don't know whether you would want to charge a small deposit for higher up seats and as the ticket price increases a larger deposit since a $1 fee for example wouldn't be enough to change behavior. There is precedence for revoking season tickets from people who don't use them. I know Churchill Downs at least used to do this with box seats, as my dad received boxed seats from my grandfather, sold them to his law office, and after a couple of years of them not being used enough lost them.

And remember, this isn't adding cost to the tickets. If you go to every game and stay until the end, or at least make sure your ticket is put to use when you can't, you would get back all your money. We could even keep in a savings account and you get the interest (doubt it would amount to much) it earned. If you really can't find anyone to take your tickets, you could turn them into the box office before hand and would automatically get your CAF points and your deposit back, and if the tickets are sold your money back. (Probably be best to use a site like FlashTickets to manage electronically and not worry about physical tickets.) I'm pretty sure there are 22000 Card fans that would gladly jump at a chance to go to a random game who can't afford season tickets and all the mandatory donations. But if for some not enough people can be found, by letting the box office your seats won't be used they could upgrade people from higher up to keep the lower section full.

Of course, there would be the question of what to do with the deposits that aren't claimed. Of course that could always be donated to a scholarship fund. Or perhaps to further incentivize every one who does stay would split the pot of deposits. (would work best if the deposit is the same for everyone, but could probably still be manged if otherwise.) If everyone stayed for the end of a nail-biting game, you'd just get your deposit back. But if people start leaving early, the amount you would get back if you stay would increase providing feedback to the crowd to keep the rest of the crowd there since they will earn more.

Finally, if just giving hard cash doesn't sound good, we could always link it to promotions and even make money off the sponsorship. Stay until the end of the game and when you leave you get 100 points on your Q-doba card for example. People are crazy about Q-doba. I however think just crediting cash back would be most effective since everyone likes money, not everyone will like any particular restaurant we let do a promotion.

(Don't get me started on UK fans in the student section during the UK game. I find that disgraceful. I think that as a condition for receiving student tickets so cheaply, part of the contract should be for that game you agree to wear red (or at least U of L gear, although for the UofL-UK game it really should be red.) You would agree that upon arriving at the section during the game, the school could challenge your wear, (aka UK or blue clothing) and give you a CardShirt to put on. If you really insist on cheering for UK (vomiting in my mouth as I type) you could take a seat in the upper deck and some lucky fan would get upgraded to the lower arena.) Something like that would be too late to put in a contract to receive tickets this year, but could be in place in two years. If its in a contract you sign when purchasing tickets I think it should be legal. It would be akin to the student section being extras in a movie and obviously being able to dictate what you wear or fire you. But that's another issue.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

New Congressional Draft Leads to Draft Dodging

You know what they say, those who deserve power don't want it and those that want it don't deserve it. This has never been truer than in politics. In 2014 we saw Congress swing back in control of the Republicans, after having swung in 2012 back to the Democrats, before that in 2010 the House going to the Republicans, and in 2008 and 2006 moving Democratic. This back and forth, back in forth has become the only change America could expect from Congress.

That's why after the 2014 Midterm Elections, (one might call No Real Decision 2014), many Americans had had enough. The grassroots movement to amend the Constitution, to select Congress members by a draft, similar to that used back in Vietnam, or jury duty, caught traction. As co-founder of the Congressional Duty movement Gerald put it, "Well, when I look around at the people I know, the only ones I would truly like to see in office don't want to touch it. So I thought, what if serving in Congress were like jury duty? A random selection of representatives is the only way to ensure we get qualified individuals into office these days." When asked if he wanted to serve, "Hell no! But that's the point. If my name comes up, I'll go though, of course."

Article 5 of the Constitution provides two paths for an amendment. One is for two-thirds of both houses of Congress to vote to propose an amendment. The other is for two-thirds of state legislatures to ask Congress to call a national convention to propose an amendment, never before used until now. Of course, the latter approach was necessary as Congress would never be willing to relinquish power. As Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi said, "We're doing great work. Why would we support some damn %$@ amendment from the same people who are in the Tea Party movement to stop us?" For the record, neither founder of the Congressional Duty movement are in the Tea Party. One was in fact a registered Democrat before becoming an Independent.

Co-founder Gerald may say "of course" he'll go, but that hasn't been the case with many who have received Congressional Duty notices. We talked to Vietnam historian Mark Porter. "What we're seeing is not un-akin to draft dodgers during the Vietnam War, although what is surprising is the rate of dodging going on. It's actually worse than that among those called to Vietnam, despite the ostensible lack of threat of death in the case today, and of course the Congressional pay and health benefits. (You can thank the 2008 Congress for ensuring that Congressmen enjoy their great benefits despite the changes forced onto the rest of Americans.) We've even seen the unemployed with homes about to foreclose dodge service, saying they'd rather live in a homeless shelter than move to DC."

Yes, across America, Americans are waking up to the fact that they may have to serve in Congress. One Congressional Duty supporter anonymously said "I was working hard to get the amendment path. I have more faith in the average Joe than the career politician. But then I realized I could receive that dreaded notice."

There are of course various requirements to be eligible to the Congressional Draft. The original age limits set by Constitution remain in effect. This means that at age 25, you must sign up with the Selective Service, whether male or female. What used to be a somewhat significant birthday only because of the promise of lower car insurance and the ability to rent a car has become absolutely dreaded. There are however exemptions for those pursuing higher education. I talked to head of admissions at Harvard University. "We've seen the number of applicants for our masters, doctorate, post-doctorate, and post-post doctorate programs skyrocket." The same holds true at universities across the country. Doctorate student Jessica Smith said "I was going to pursue a promising career in private industry. I had several job offers coming out of college, which is saying something considering the sluggish economy. But I realized if I left academia I would face the possibility of serving in Congress. I know the chance is slim, but I can't take that risk. I'll take the loads of debt for grad school any day." Asked about her plans after her doctorate, "Oh, I'm already looking at grad schools for my post-doctorate, and post-post doctorate after that."

Law school must receive special treatment. In order to reduce the likelihood of a would-be career politician ending up in Congress, the amount of persons in Congress with a Juris Doctorate have been capped at 5%. Law school advisor Karen McCormick said, "At first I had hope that this would mean we would start seeing only applicants to law school who were, you know, actually interested in practicing law and not doing it just to get into politics. I underestimated how much people loath Congress though when the number of applicants actually jumped. We're seeing people who just want a permanent way practically out of the draft. They're willing to take on huge debt with no promise of paying it off just to avoid the possibility." The sense amongst the newest class at Yale was hopeful. But amongst those third year, L3, students about to graduate, positively abysmal. Natalie Carneige said, "What am I supposed to do now? I did my undergrad in political science and got a law degree with no intent on practicing law so I could get into politics. The job that is being forced onto other people is out of my grasp. I got into politics because I saw there are two things that more money will be spent on, health care and political campaigns, and I don't like blood. But without elections all the political advisor jobs are drying up." This attitude seen here and especially at lesser law schools has led to an increase in suicides amongst law students. (If your son or daughter are in law and had political aspirations, we strongly advise you get them into therapy immediately.)

One of the other controversial requirements of eligibility is that potential draftees must be current on their taxes. As one anonymous farmer put it, "I don't see why we have to go punishing honest, tax paying individuals with the threat of serving in DC." Will he stop paying his taxes? "No, but that's because I hire illegal immigrants to work my farm, so I'm counting on that being good enough to get me out if my number comes up." The requirement was of put in to rid the potential pool of Congressmen from unqualified candidates, like the former Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner who somehow passed Congressional approval in 2009 despite having not payed self-employment taxes. I talked to tax attorney Richard Green. Would he say the amount of tax evasions have gone up. "Oh, most certainly. Business is booming, never better. I'm working 100 hours a week as tax day approaches. Our clientele used to be the rich who had money they wanted to hide. Now though, we're seeing Americans from every walk of life come in to evade taxes so to be ineligible from the draft. Of course, almost half of America doesn't end up owing the government money. The interesting thing is we even see those people come in. At first we turned them away but eventually caved in to pleas for help. I may be a lawyer, but I'm not so cold-hearted as to sentence them to serving in Congress."

Armed forces recruiters have started pushing to make military service an exemption to Congressional duty but so far no luck. They're banking on the horrors of possibly serving in Congress being perceived worse than going to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran. Our soldiers are brave, but no one can blame them for not being brave enough to serve in DC.