Posted By: Francis Koster Published: December 12, 2020

When I was a kid, my mother used to start all serious conversations with some remark about “The only certainty in life is death and taxes”. I did not like hearing this, because it was usually followed by some explanation of why some exciting planned trip to the beach was not going to happen. Now I learn she was wrong (one of only a few times, I must admit.) Turns out for an astonishing number of Americans, even having to pay taxes is not certain. The IRS estimates that individuals and corporations fail to pay one dollar out of every six that should have been paid to the federal government.[1] This is enabled by our Congress who cut funding for law enforcement audits and collections. Starting in 2010, Congress has reduced the IRS law enforcement budget by millions of dollars each year. It is now only 80 % of what it was in 2010. The number of employees was also reduced by one fifth. [2] In 2019 the IRS had 8,004 auditors – less than it had back in 1953 when the economy was about one-seventh its current size.[3],[4],[5] As a consequence, three major bad things happened.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: December 6, 2020

My father was a fireman and ambulance driver in a small town in Ohio. I have clear memories of going to the funeral of a fireman killed in the line of duty in a neighboring town. I was very young and had to hold my dad’s hand when we walked from the church to the cemetery. Flags at half-mast still have a powerful impact on me. Over Thanksgiving, I had a chat with a friend who is a lifelong member of the law enforcement community. We were discussing the existing and expanding stresses on First Responders as Covid-19 explodes around the coming holidays. I was explaining how awful the next few months are going to be, given the fact that it took 3 months for the first one million Americans to be infected, and 6 days for the latest one million, and the rate is rising.[1] I said I was worried about the stress on our doctors and nurses. He replied, “Do you know that more law enforcement officers die by suicide than are killed in the line of duty?” I did not. After we parted, I could not shake the emotions that statement caused in me. Got out my laptop and started researching. He was right.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: November 22, 2020

There are four facts in this article you do not know. Our population of Covid-19 infected people is split into two groups.  The first group is those who have developed symptoms and are now visible and counted.  That number is growing about 162,000 per day in America.[1]  That highly visible group is spawned by a second invisible group – those who are infected but do not know it.   Scientists have shown that during last week, 3,600,000 Americans had the virus, did not know it, and each of those will infect about 3 others during the next 10-day window.[2],[3],[4],[5] We live in a country that is #1 in the world both in the number and the percentage of our population of `Covid-19 infections.[6]  Our hospitals are already overwhelmed, do not have enough doctors and nurses, and patients are in beds in parking garages, tents, and hallways.[7]

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: November 15, 2020

Our country is having two epidemics, not one. The first one is Covid-19. In the past eight months, the Covid-19 virus has infected almost 11 million Americans and killed four times more than were killed in the entire Vietnam war. [1],[2] The projections are that by the end of February 2021, the numbers of infected will double to more than 22 million, and the number of dead will equal that of those Americans killed in WWll.[3],[4] Family members of patients who have Covid-19 are also learning that it can cause long term damage to the heart, lungs, brain, and other parts of the bodies of those who survive.[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10] Depressing, isn’t it?  And that is just the first epidemic. The second epidemic is actually impacting far more people, but almost no one is talking about it. Chances are you have it or know someone who does. It is called Depression.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: November 1, 2020

We can look at the state of our nation through two lenses – The state of our economy, and the state of our happiness. The United States has the #1 ranked economy in the world.[1] Turns out this does not have much to do with our state of happiness. For almost a decade, researchers have been studying annually the happiness of 156 countries, looking at citizen’s perceptions of their happiness in many areas including their sense of freedom, their economy, education, the ability to improve oneself, healthcare, life expectancy, and lack of public corruption. Using these indicators, our United States ranked only 18th for happiness. [2] Among all the countries in the world, we rank number 35 for life expectancy and falling. [3] Even among just the richest countries in the world, our life expectancy ranks 12th in the world and is falling.[4]

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: October 25, 2020

When compared to other wealthy countries The United States has a life expectancy that ranks 35th in the world, and it is falling. If that was not bad enough, among the 50 states in America, the life expectancy of citizens of North Carolinas ranks 37th.  [2]  Why is that? When I was still working as an administrator in pediatrics, I would often pass through waiting rooms full of mothers holding crying children who had a birth defect.  With proper care during pregnancy, much of this damage was preventable.  These memories still break my heart. A key tool that prevents these birth defects and raises life expectancy is health insurance. As my dad used to say, “All behavior has consequences – good behavior, good consequences, bad behavior, bad consequences”.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: October 19, 2020

I have powerful memories of my mom, the mother of six, counting money at the kitchen table, sighing and scratching items from her shopping list because she realized we could not afford them. Sometimes she cried. While shopping, she taught me how to look out for overpriced items.  If her suspicions were aroused, she would do something like take a five-pound bag of potatoes over to the meat department and ask them to weigh it.  She was usually correct and they would have to reduce the price.  After a series of such events, we switched to another market. All behavior has consequences.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: October 15, 2020

I am one of six kids. My father was a very good man – but he was not what you would call “warm and huggy”. He expected us to pitch in and carry our weight in household chores from about the time the broom was twice as tall as you were, and heaven help you if you didn’t. One of his favorite lines was “All behavior has consequences – good behavior has good consequences; bad behavior has bad consequences”. When a bad consequence arose, he would often remind me and my brothers and sisters of the behavior that got us to it. Didn’t do homework? When report cards came around you were reminded of “All behavior has consequences….” Didn’t tie your shoe? Didn’t check your backpack for your lunch? Late for school because you didn’t keep your bicycle tires pumped up? “All behavior has ……”. I must confess I heard it a lot.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: October 4, 2020

Imagine an evening (pre-COVID-19) where you take your family out to dinner and all order a family-sized meal of seafood gumbo full of clams, shrimp, and other delights.  Yous.  You may get more than you bargained for. Turns out that when someone throws a plastic bottle into the ocean, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces until it becomes invisible to humans – but it does not go away.[1] Most of the plastic made in the world winds up in water where it breaks down into invisible but long-lasting pieces which gets eaten by wildlife.  The bodies of fish, clams, crabs, and other water critters consume these microplastics contain plastic they ate.  Bigger fish eat the little fish, you eat the big fish and when you eat the seafood, you also get a dose of plastic.[2]  No charge will appear on your bill - but you will pay for it in your healthcare bills. If you ordered hot tea with dinner, things could get worse because a surprising number of brands of tea have plastic in the teabag dissolving astounding amounts of invisible microplastics into the hot tea water which wind up in your tummy.[3],[4]

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: September 28, 2020

Some years ago I took my son and young grandson fishing on Lake Norman here in North Carolina, near where we live.  Lake Norman had a historic reputation for big record setting fish, and I wanted to give him a chance to make a grand memory.  As I planned the trip, I had a fantasy of him standing with his arms outstretched as he bragged to his buddies about the one he caught. What surprised me as I was planning that trip was learning that the breed of big fish (striped bass) that set all the size records back in the day no longer survives in Lake Norman. Between 2000 and 2010, due to climate change, the lake water got so warm the traditional breed of striped bass could not survive. After they all died out, new breeds of fish had to be transplanted in Lake Norman that can survive these still rising temperatures.[1] Why do I tell this story? Because in my grandson’s lifetime, the same thing that killed off the fish can kill him, and many of his generation.  And it is not rising temperature.


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