This year has been more about reading than writing.

I appreciate the notes I get from time to time, from people asking what’s going on with my site.   The past couple seasons, I haven’t been so moved to post because I have been on a pretty busy schedule.   But additionally, content is multiplying all over the internet.   The amount of stuff that “electronic connections” throw at you is insane.    It’s a vast effluent where you need to pick out the gems—and good luck doing it.

So what time I do have has been going into reading.   My key issues, straddling the Pacific, are still these:

Concerning Japan:

1)  Equal protection and fundamental fairness for non-Japanese expats in that country.   There has been some talk about “remarkable Shinzo Abe” making changes, or liberalizing either employment rules or visa restrictions, but it sounds like a big flurry of nothing.  Like what the Japanese government usually does.   They must have hired a new stateside PR firm / lobby firm / law firm.

2)  Bright spots on how the Heisei generation is changing Japan at the level of ordinary people.  When you get to know everyday folks there, you realize that “Japan cool” is not simply a slogan.   As I am always telling people here, the people of Japan are mostly very nice, it’s the people running the show that are usually the problem—and it’s always been that way.

Concerning the US:

1)  As you know, I spent a lot of time on the Affordable Care Act, having been one of the few people regularly blogging about it from March 2010 on.   I am really happy to see Charles Gaba’s and I like to visit it, because Gaba is the clearinghouse for news about how the ACA programs are growing in the 50 states.   The other site, which is the most useful tool outside of the government’s own (or state’s own as the case may be), is: .   In the tax practice, I am often pointing clients to that site, just to get an idea of what health insurance should cost them.    Pennsylvania got 318,000 signups in the Marketplace, and this would have easily been 500,000 more if our unpopular governor, Tom Corbett, had expanded Medicaid like every other state surrounding Pennsylvania.

2)   Student loan reform.   It’s good to see the President taking executive action, which was provided within the 1965 Higher Education Act, to adjust repayment terms on these loans, which all they are really is asking people who go to college to pay taxes twice:  pay for the borrowing that was done for the prior generation of the 1970s to go virtually free to college, and then pay for their own through another loan.   Plus pay progressive tax rates if they hit it big on income (which fewer and fewer do), but not get anything from government in return—unless you consider paying for needless wars to be getting something.   There is a much broader discussion that needs to be had about whether colleges should be allowed to hold on, tax free, to multi-billion dollar endowments while kids are asked to borrow at rates that USED to be standard, but now are more like subprime.

Every time the topic hits the news, which it does regularly now that the 2000 generation is being squeezed, the same old canards and saws, the same noises, get made by the people who don’t want an open higher education system in America.   They want to buy entree for their own children, and deny to someone else’s at the same time.   They think that’s going to work in a country with such a long history of violence.   It’s wild to see this play out.   Same arguments about how “the situation really isn’t that bad”  and “why should Joe Six Pack have to subsidize out of hard earned money!” when it’s really that the people with money in this country feel that education is something that should be bought.  (Same with health care.   The prime objection to Obamacare, as we now see, is that people get to pay different prices for it, based on income.   It had nothing to do with the liberty and being free to go without, without government there “telling us”.   It had to do with other people getting.   Boo hoo!  Other people are getting!   We’re supposed to base policy off that sentiment.)

The education industry hardly wants the student loans to go away either, but they’ve hit the point where the smell from them is bad enough that it discourages youngsters from going into hock to buy the overpriced product.   There should be more discussion about that.

3)  Temple Japan, IBM etc. projects still out there, with more to say sometime in the summer!