Thursday, November 21, 2013
I visited ‘Dave’s Killer Bread’ bakery a couple of days back, and it appeared that it was business as usual. I, too, bought some bread.
Later, I talked to a few people about how they felt about Dave’s scrap with the Washington County Sheriff’s deputies and most seemed rather blasé about the subject. Oh, they considered it kind of serious, but no reason to stop buying his bread. Most appeared to want to give Dave the benefit of the doubt. One person said, ‘Well, if the CEO of Safeway had done the same thing, would you stop going to Safeway?’ My answer was, ‘No, I guess that wouldn’t stop me from going to Safeway – although, I don’t really go to Safeway that often; but that I get the point.’
But, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that the comparison of Safeway to Dave’s Killer Bread was something of a stretch. Dave Dahl is an iconic figure with a compelling story who is tied closely to his product. The CEO of Safeway, whoever that might be, is not.
Then my thought process was, if the public was not adequately concerned enough about Dave’s conduct to boycott or stop buying his product, what would it take?
What we know about Dave’s manic, out-of-control behavior is minimal – as far as his mental state or the causative factors are concerned. We do know that, in the process, he wrecked two Sheriff’s patrol vehicles and injured three deputies. Furthermore, he led them on a helter-skelter chase that theoretically endangered others in the public.
So, my question is what would it take? Most would offer that there is no good answer. It depends. Yes, I know; but what is the proper answer for the typical, honest, hard-working Joe. When would he or she say Dave’s conduct is bad enough that I will no longer buy a product with which he is so closely identified?
What if, instead of the above scenario, there was some other scenario? He ran down and injured a young boy riding his bike. He wrecked the car of a wounded veteran? He publicly burned the American Flag? He used words that were abusive towards minorities or gays? He spit on one of his employees? He beat-up his wife (actually I don’t know if he has a wife)?
I guess everyone has their priorities, their hot-button. I am of the opinion that cops and deputies have a pretty rough job; a job that most in the public would not care to do, even be afraid to do. I am of the opinion that when you harm someone in law enforcement it is very serious; and the consequences should also be serious.
Will the ‘system’ treat it seriously? I don’t think so. Will we ever know what precipitated Dave ‘wild ride’? No, I don’t think we’ll get the whole story? Will this all blow over and will it be business as usual at Dave’s Bakery? Yes, I think that may very well be the case. Will Dave be involved in something similar down the road, reminiscent of his current brush with the law? I hope not, but I am doubtful.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
It often seems, after publishing a blog post, I have some additional thoughts, even second thoughts, about what I said.
A couple of additional comments are in order:
First, I think Dave Dahl’s bail was way too low, if the reported circumstances are accurate. Bail was originally set at $250,000; but, subsequently, reduced to $20,000. The $20,000 figure is chump change to Dahl, who kicked in a mere $2000 (10%) with a bail bondsman picking up the rest. The theory behind bail is that the judge should set a sum that would insure, within reason, a subsequent appearance by the defendant in court. It’s meant to hurt a little – give the defendant some serious consequences if he decides to skip. As far as Dahl is concerned, $20,000 won’t cut it. He probably did more than $20,000 dollars in damage to the patrol cars and the required medical treatment for our deputies.
Furthermore, Dahl endangered lives as he attempted to escape capture. Additionally, he is an x-felon – a wealthy one at that. I’m not sure, but he might still be on parole status. The judge should have kept the bail high to emphasize the serious nature of his offense; and the judge should have made it clear to Dahl that he (Judge Eric Butterfield) considered the matter serious – which he did not.
Steve Houze, Dahl’s attorney, stated to the judge that Dahl’s behavior was “clearly a mental health issue.” My question would be; precipitated by what? I think most of us could make a pretty good guess. Houze even said that Dahl’s condition was “extremely fragile.” Does anyone honestly buy that? This guy survived fifteen years in the penitentiary. Come on Steve, you make the guy sound like he’s Miss Prim. I bet the boys in the joint didn’t consider him ‘fragile.’ Attorneys have such a way with words, don’t they?
Saturday, November 16, 2013
I guess that I wasn’t really surprised. The recidivism for x-cons, like Dave, is extremely high.
For those who haven’t heard, but are nonetheless familiar with ‘Dave’s Killer Bread;’ Dave Dahl, x-con, and co-founder of the aforementioned bread is in the slammer once again, at least temporarily. He posted $20,000 bond and was released Friday.
Thursday night, Dahl was involved in some sort of manic episode, slamming his Cadillac Escalade into two Washington County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicles and injuring three deputies. The deputies were pursuing Dahl due to his reported dangerous, out-of-control and erratic behavior. No, Dave didn’t kill anyone – at least this time.
Dahl had used his personal story of x-con goes straight and makes good as a selling point for his various bread products. Incidentally, it’s very good bread. I eat it on a regular basis.
Dahl served fifteen years in prison for illegal drugs and associated criminal activity. When last released from prison, he joined his family business, became very successful on his own, and seemed to epitomize the redemption story of bad to good. A story that is extremely rare particularly involving success at his level. The public bought it and supported him and his product.
Whether or not we are seeing the end of Dave or his bread remains to be seen. Information has not been released as to whether or not his ‘episode’ was a mental breakdown or drug related. If it’s the latter, that will not bode well for the continued success of his iconic bread. Dave’s Killer Bread has outside investors that may not want to continue with Dave as their front man. And, I can’t blame them for that.
If Dave had a mental breakdown, I wish him well; and hope he gets the proper medical help. If Dave was flying on drugs and endangering the lives of others, the company has a real problem. The whole product theme and the product itself has just been thrown in the dumpster.
Dave Dahl has a very good lawyer, Stephen Houze. The other defense attorneys in the Portland area must be getting very envious. Steve seems to get all the high-rollers that get in trouble.
Will I continue to buy the bread? Yes, I suppose. However, Dave’s image and story are due for retirement. Don’t you think?
What about you readers? Any thoughts?
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Someone close to me, after reading the preceding blog post, felt I appeared a little cold-hearted. I don’t really consider myself as that; but, perhaps, my writing sometimes gives that impression.
“The questionable comment was as follows: “Such a system would instantly include all the tax freeloaders like those ‘working under the table,’ drug dealers and others involved in criminal activities, as well as the reported 50% of American citizens who currently do not pay any income taxes.” (Part of sentence underlined for emphasis.)
Now, I do understand that many Americans live near the poverty level through no fault of their own. Life sometimes can be very unfair – as we all know. To those who honestly struggle to get by day to day, I am truly sorry. I should not have included those good people in the same sentence with ‘drug dealers’ and those ‘working under the table.’
However, my post was not intended to describe an all-inclusive, fair tax system. My post was designed to highlight the reasons for the existing fraud and the obvious incentives for fraud in the present tax system. Even the act of exempting 50% of the population from paying federal income tax has created another incentive – the incentive to keep reported income and any possible documentable income below a certain amount. Are all of the 50% of Americans who do not pay federal income tax cheating? No, of course not. Are some of them, even many of them cheating? Yes.
Monday, November 11, 2013
There is an accepted premise in security circles, particularly attributable to the workplace but may be applicable here, that 10% of people are inherently dishonest and will steal from you regardless of security measures in place, 10% of people are inherently honest and will not steal from you under any circumstances, but the remaining 80% are prepared to go along with the trend or follow the herd. In other words, most people will start to feel that theft is acceptable under some circumstances if those in management or supervisory positions appear to not particularly care one way or another. Although this concept may seem like some sort of farcical generality, it is actually based on scientific research. And, I think it is applicable to many of the programs that are currently administered by the federal government.
Every new administration talks the good talk about waste, fraud and misappropriation, but they never seem to do anything about it. The only possible explanation is that, other than rhetorically speaking, they really don’t care that much about trying to solve the problem. Why? Perhaps any real corrective measures would be construed as politically insensitive, lead to adverse publicity and ultimately cost votes. That said, I do think that the priorities of the typical politician are mostly about promoting themselves. If one had a personality that did not fit within those egocentric parameters, it is doubtful that said individual would ever enter politics in the first place – and, if they did, they probably wouldn’t last long. So, the waste, fraud and misappropriation continues.
I would be willing to bet that most people have hedged, misrepresented, or lied on their federal and state tax return. Some even talk freely about how they have earned money under the table and didn’t report it or have paid someone in cash knowing that the money would never be reported as income by the recipient. Some accept social services while misrepresenting their actual income. Others, those that can afford it, hire attorneys and accountants to search for arcane loop holes in the tax code; loop holes that are not quite illegal, but certainly circumvent the code’s purported intent for fairness.
Does the government care? It doesn’t seem to. Do you feel like something of a sucker if you try to play by the rules? Well, no need to; go ahead and join the herd. You shouldn’t have to feel like a sucker. Our tax system is so complicated, convoluted and polluted that there is no reason to even bother attempting to fully comply. The income tax system doesn’t work and the federal government knows it. And, for the most part, the public accepts it and its many opportunities to cheat.
Oh, right, what about my suggestions for the Social Security Administration:
The Social Security Administration has a database for deceased persons already in place, but they claim it is not entirely accurate. Fix it. We do not live in a Third World country – at least not so far. People do not generally pass-on anonymously. If one does, he or she should be checked through the SSA database. How about getting a thumb print from everyone who signs-up for Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare? No thumb print, no federal money. Or, could it be said that thumb prints discriminate against minorities and the poor – an invasion of privacy? No, not really – but it will / does discriminate against those intent on cheating the system.
How about those receiving federal payments being required to certify annually that they are still entitled to benefits, and that the residence and banking information is accurate. If the SSA can’t contact the recipient through normal channels, stop sending money to a bank account – or require the bank to contact the recipient. Compliance with the law shouldn’t be that difficult. If recipients have the where-with-all to sign up for public benefits, they should certainly have the where-with-all to comply with certain requirements for continued payments.
How about prosecuting those that commit fraud? I suppose it goes without saying that enforcement would require a good-faith effort to investigate potential fraud? But, as we know, the relevant federal agencies always cite lack of resources for investigative efforts while they squander hundreds of millions of the taxpayers’ dollars. Although the Fahrenthold article states the amount of theft from the government in dollars, he fails to note how many prosecutions resulted. I would be willing to bet that the number of arrests and convictions is very small. If the SSA, can’t handle the investigations (odd, don’t you think, considering the thousands of employees within their organization), how about turning it over to a private contractor to prepare preliminary investigations of wrong-doing? Let the contractor be paid based on projected savings and recoveries.
I could go on, but I will jump to the bottom line. Our governments, state and federal, have almost unlimited resources. Self-serving politicians buy votes by doling out money to various voting blocks. When the tax dollars run short, politicians simply ask for or demand more tax revenue citing potential, largely fabricated, dire circumstances. Honest citizens, hardworking citizens get ‘hosed’ in the process. It is as simple as that.
In my opinion to minimize fraud, in addition to the above:
Greatly reduce or eliminate the current corporate tax, with all the associated, phony tax exemptions now used by corporations. Corporations do not pay taxes. People pay taxes. If a corporation pays a tax, it must pass it on to the consumer, or go out of business. The public should understand that corporate taxes are a hidden tax on the uninformed consumer.
Discontinue income tax reporting for those earning less than $1 million per year. Go to a national ‘value added tax,’ which is a consumer tax similar to a sales tax. If you buy something you pay a tax. If you want to save your money for retirement, your kids’ education, etc., you don’t pay any taxes on those dollars. You can just stash your money or invest it. Necessities, like food, would be exempt from taxation. Such a system would instantly include all the tax freeloaders like those ‘working under the table,’ drug dealers and others involved in criminal activities, as well as the reported 50% of American citizens who currently do not pay any income taxes.
I know this is overly simplistic; but my point is we need a fair, transparent tax system with easy compliance and required enforcement - but does, nonetheless, make it difficult to cheat.
Let’s all join the 10% of inherently honest people.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
I liked David Fahrenthold’s (Washington Post) opening sentences to his recent article. “The US Government has a problem with dead people. For one thing, it pays them way too much.”
That has to be one of the classic understatements that I’ve heard recently. He goes on to state that:
- The Social Security Administration, in the past few years, paid $133 million to beneficiaries no longer among the living.
- The federal employee retirement system paid more than $400 million to former retirees who were dead.
- And, a federal aid program paid approximately $4 million in federal money to pay heating and air-conditioning bills for more than 11,000 dead people.
Apparently, our federal government is incapable of determining who died and when. Personally, I don’t buy it. I think that, in their efforts to dole out money, where the money goes and whether the money is appropriately allocated is really a rather low priority. After all, the government is printing money night and day to ‘stimulate the economy’; and they must disseminate it somehow.
Some of you might say, True, you know nothing about politics and national economics or the Social Security Administration – just put a sock in it.
You might be correct, but I do know something about fraud, embezzlement and theft, and the motivations there of. And, I do know something about the facilitation of fraud, embezzlement and theft. And, I do know that if the above statistics are accurate, the federal agencies indicated are either grossly incompetent or a committed facilitator of fraud and theft.
Furthermore, isn’t it ironic that the federal government is in the process of assuming control of our healthcare when they apparently can’t seem to handle the social services that they already control? Fraudulent healthcare claims will be infinitely more complex than simply verifying that someone passed-away.
Why, you may ask, would said federal agencies facilitate theft? Well, let me ask you this. The Social Security Administration has approximately 65,000 employees with multiple offices in every state. Doesn’t it seem logical that they could dedicate say 50 or 100 employees, even 200 employees, to establish a database of people who have died – if the SSA decided that they actually wanted to do that? Presumably, the SSA already has a database of all those who are receiving federal benefits. Can’t they figure any way to periodically check to see if recipients of social services are still alive; in this day and age with all the technology available? Can’t they cross-check data with other agencies like the IRS; and, if not, why not? What about state records? Certainly the states keep track of bodies left here and there? The states even make an effort to identify them? At least I thought they did.
What about getting some help from the NSA? (Question meant as sarcasm - for those who thought I might be serious.)
What about getting some help from the NSA? (Question meant as sarcasm - for those who thought I might be serious.)
Well, I have some simple suggestions for the SSA and other federal agencies. But no doubt it will fall on deaf ears.
To be continued…