Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rapid Fire Randomness Vol 1...Music Edition

Satellite Radio rocks...but it confirms I have least when it comes to music.

Listening to a Counting Crows song on said Satellite Radio and thinking how the hell did the lead singer hook up with Courtney Cox AND Jennifer Anniston...I'd be really pissed if I found out it was at the same time!!

So SIRI goes up b/c the rumor is Howard Stern is re-upping for 5 more years or something like that...who cares? It's not like he's made a big difference either way -- SIRI is still burning cash...but I do LOVE my Satellite Radio!

Speaking of cash...Am I the only one who never has any on me? Ever. Maria thinks so. Please help me with this argument...I'm not lazy, am I???

I've used my debit card to buy gum and a bottle of water at the gas station on more than one occasion...well, it does cost over $1 now for a pack of gum you know...

On a side note, however, it is a good way to get cash back somewhere without having to pay the $2 charge at a non-account ATM...unless you are a BOA customer...those ATM's are everywhere.

If anyone ever decides to make a Layne Staley or Alice In Chains biopic I have the perfect guy to play him in the movie...

Freddie Kruger, aka Robert Englund! Right?! Tell me he is not a doppelganger for Layne Staley.

What a waste Layne Staley was, because Alice In Chains rocked!!

Speaking of wasted favorite Nirvana song is Come As You Are; Lithium is right behind...1A and 1B.

So, I was very disappointed to find out that Mumford & Sons are not Irish...can't you picture sitting in an Irish pub -- in Ireland of course -- watching them play? Perfect. But, At least they are not French!

I really fucked it up this time, didn't I my dear? Didn't I my dear?

Speaking of the Irish...I hope UM beats them down...although I will admit I am not very confident -- these current players at the U are soft.

Ireland is on my bucket list of places I have to visit before I die...

One of my top-5 all time favorite guitarists because of his unique sound and style is from an Irish band, although he is not surprisingly (again)...The Edge. Plus, it's a pretty cool name for a guitarist.

BTW, The Unforgettable Fire is one of my all-time favorites. Very underrated. Extremely so.

Rounding out the top five in no particular order: Alex Lifeson (RUSH), Robert Smith (The Cure), Andy Summers (The Police), Eddie Van Halen (duh?).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Screw you Kardashian's

Let me get straight to the point; I hate taxes! There, I said it. I feel better already. I wish it were that simple. But did you know that as of 2009, the tax code is approximately 67, 204 pages, about twenty times the size of a Harry Potter book, and much less entertaining. So, with all this talk about extending the Bush tax cuts or not; unemployment up today to 9.8%; extending unemployment benefits forever, etc. the thing we ought to do is reform the tax code by eliminating the income tax and implementing the Fair Tax. By the way, I support the Fair Tax!

Since that is not going to happen overnight (if it ever does), what should we do today? It's not a zero-sum game solution. Nevertheless, both Washington and Wall Street operate in that manner, which probably explains why the entire system is rigged. But I digress...So, the Democrats want to limit the Bush tax cuts to those individuals making less than $200,000, or couples making less than $250,000; while the Republicans want to extend all Bush-era tax cuts and make them permanent for even the 2% of households earning more than $250,000.

I hate the IRS and hate the income tax I have to pay to those SOB's every year on top of what gets deducted from my family's paychecks every other week. But $250,000 doesn't go very far when you have 3 or more children, private school, groceries (don't tell me there isn't inflation) and extra curricular activities (sports, music lessons, etc.). It doesn't go very far at all even if you have none of these things but live in San Francisco or New York City. Lincoln, Nebraska with $250,000 in household income is A LOT different than $250,000 in Manhattan, New York. I dare someone challenge me on that. Heck, I submit that $250,000 in Marietta, GA is different than the two cities I just mentioned. The point is that looking at a static household income like that is part of the problem. With the Fair Tax it doesn't matter how much one makes or where you live.

It shouldn't be viewed as a zero-sum game by the politicians. Good ol' Chuckie Schumer (D-NY) should know better than to say the Republicans want to "Give tax breaks to millionaires". Last time I checked millions had seven digits, not six. And like I said about New York City...So, this is where I tread lightly...I can't believe I am going to suggest this but this country is so screwed that we need to make some sacrifices, so I say tax the rich! Make them pay their fair share. However, my definition of rich is much different than the politicians or elites that debate this stuff. I am talking about wealthy, uber rich individuals and households. Especially people like Paris Hilton and The Kardashians who provide no value to society. I dare someone challenge me on this too! I'm talking about people that make more than $1,000,000 in annual income. I call that rich, no matter where you live.

I can hear the argument from my Republican friends that small business owners fall into this bracket and they are the engine of the economy and if the Bush-era tax cuts expire for the wealthy that jobs will be affected. In the past, this would be my argument as well because those are the talking points of conservatives. I listen to Hannity, Limbaugh much less, Neal Boortz and others. I agree with a lot of what they say. But I'm not dumb and take what they say as gospel either. Let's not kid ourselves -- both sides have their talking points. I agree that small businesses are the engine of this economy and they create more jobs than large companies. I want to be my own boss more than anything, so I'm coming from what I think is a fair and educated support for taxing the uber rich.

So, back to the argument of small business owners being hit hardest. Most small businesses are S-Corporations or Partnerships. S-Corporations and Partnerships do not pay income taxes. Instead, income is passed through to its owners and taxed on their individual income tax returns. Owners of pass-through entities receive income from their businesses in primarily two ways. The first way is through salaries and wages, and the second is through K-1 distributions. Salaries and wages are reported on W-2 Forms and are subject to withholding, social security, Medicare, and federal and state unemployment taxes. K-1 distributions are reported to the shareholder on Schedule K-1, and are not taxable, nor subject to withholding or payroll taxes. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center analyzed IRS data in March 2009, looking to see how many wealthy tax filers could say that half of their income or more came from business income. The center found that, among the wealthiest filers -- the top 1 percent -- only 32.5 percent earned more than half their income from business-type income. The percentages for non-wage income were even smaller among taxpayers earning less. In conclusion, do many wealthy tax payers report types of business income that might be from owning a small business? Sure. But it's impossible to tell how many meet the definition of what most of us think of when we think of small business owners. Other data indicate that among all tax payers who might be small business owners, most would not see taxes go up if the Bush tax cuts for the highest earners are allowed to expire.

What I am suggesting, besides scrapping the whole tax code, is to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making less than $1,000,000 in annual household income for two-years. Increase the tax rate for anyone who is on The Kardashian's reality tv show or any of those Housewives reality shows or anyone that does not contribute any value to society like Kate Gosselin. Increase the tax rate to 50% on Hollywood actors who make terrible movies yet get paid more than $5 million for it. Increase the tax rate to 75% on Hollywood actors that not only get paid a lot of money to make terrible movies but also hold telethons for other countries and insinuate that Americans (not Democrats of course) are arrogant and selfish and think that America is exceptional. This is tax policy that I can believe in. Besides, I think I just solved the fiscal mess by raising taxes.

If that fails, there is always another option. Fair Tax!!!!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Morning QB

Now that the mid-term elections are over and the people have spoken that they are tired of our government spending our children’s money and its intrusion into our lives, will things change with the newly elected? I want to say yes; a resounding YES in fact! But, I do not believe it will. Why? Because nothing has really changed – except for a new nameplate outside of the door of the offices of the newly elected. Let’s not kid ourselves that things are going to be different this time around. Not as long as special interest money still exists; not as long as the politicians start thinking about the next election; and not as long as they are preoccupied with the talking points of the establishment on both sides of the aisle. No one is really interested in making the necessary and difficult decisions to right the ship. Sure, some will say cut spending and cut taxes; others will say that we need to increase government spending and tax and regulate, and tax some more just to be safe. The truth is that both are correct to some extent, although I am much more inclined to go the route of the former. Why does it have to be an all or nothing solution for every problem? Life isn’t black or white. You may be able to get away with “because I said so” with your children, but that is not going to cut it in the real world.

We need people that are going to roll up their sleeves, work together to come up with solution(s) and make the difficult decisions – the right decisions. I hope Marco Rubio is someone like that. He appears to be. We need them to do the job they were hired for and we need to hold every single one of them accountable. How about just a modicum of common sense? Is that really too much to ask? I suspect that if Term Limits existed they would all act in a different manner. No more career politicians is a good start IMO!

So, let’s identify the problems we face:

  1. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.
  2. The economy.
  3. National Debt.
  4. Entitlements (Medicare and Social Security)
For those that are unemployed, jobs are the number one issue they face and rightfully so. For those that are employed, you still may be feeling some anxiety because the economy is not exactly robust because there are so many still unemployed which has a trickle down effect due to little to no demand for products or services. So it comes back to jobs. I believe that the government is not responsible for creating jobs – it is up to small businesses and corporations. The Progressives (Liberals) however, believe the opposite ---- they believe the government should be responsible for creating jobs. We have bloated governments already at all levels – local, state and federal. We need less government workers not more. So, how do you create jobs if not for the government you ask? I have some thoughts and will share those on my next post and will address each in subsequent posts. But I will leave you with this to ponder until the next post…the best thing for government to do is get the F out of the way!!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Deficits...and the Culture of Dependency

I am currently reading a book titled "I.O.U.S.A.", which as the name implies is about the amount of debt this country has saddled American citizens with over the last 40 years with no end in sight. In the book the authors refer to four deficits: The Federal Budget Deficit, The Savings Deficit, The Trade Deficit, and The Leadership Deficit. To read more on the four deficits click here.

The number people (government officials) throw out when talking about our budget deficit is currently $12.7 Trillion; which incidentally is a hell of a lot of money. But that figure does not account for the gap between future promised and funded Social Security and Medicare benefits, as well as a range of other commitments and contingencies the federal government has pledged to support.

As of 1 April 2010, the Treasury Department spent so far this year $202 Billion of your money on interest payments to the holders of the National Debt (mostly China and Japan). Compare that to NASA at $19 Billion, Education at $53 Billion, and Department of Transportation at $73 Billion. Those numbers are scary in itself but our REAL national debt is more like $62.3 Trillion, or almost 5 times as much as the $12.7 Trillion number you usually read or here about. As of September 30, 2009, each American’s share (every man, woman and child in this country) of the $62.3 trillion national fiscal burden was over $200,000. And every year in which no down payments or reforms are made to these obligations and promises, the total grows by at least $2 trillion to $3 trillion – or $6,500 to $10,000 per person – on autopilot. I am not going to bore you with the details, but if you are interested in more details read here. Suffice it to say, SCARY, FREAKIN' SCARY.

I am working on a future blog post that will get into the "meat and potatoes" if you will, of the fiscal mess we have allowed our elected officials to get us into. In the meantime, I want to discuss the deficit in leadership and the culture of dependency they have burdened us with.

I came across the following video from a post on Facebook from a friend, Jason Guest. I don't think Obama even needed to be edited into the video to have the same effect on me as it did. It just seemed so relevant to the issues of today. Jason, I agree, I miss that man. Check it out:

I will repeat, our current two-party government system is broken. I wish the same Republicans who today are shouting about programs that we can't afford, would've had the balls to shout at the ridiculous amount of spending when Bush was president. I wish Democrats AND Republicans would not look at every issue as either black or white; or all good or all bad. More importantly, I wish there were term limits so maybe, just maybe, our elected officials would make the right choices even if they are difficult. As Ronald Reagan once said, "A leader, once convinced that a particular course of action is the right one, must be undaunted when the going gets tough". For politicians, throwing money at an economic crisis is far easier than creating a long-term model for growth that is less dependent on debt. For leaders in democracies it is always difficult to get elected on a platform of austerity and more difficult today, as many of their constituents have grown accustomed to government largesse.

That the leadership deficit now seems so chronic suggests that the problem goes deeper than the quality of the individuals who come to power. There is something in the culture that makes leadership even tougher and more perilous than it should be. Why, asked Thomas Jefferson, did the American Revolution create a budding democracy while the French Revolution—coming at virtually the same time and with similar values—ended in tyranny? The answer, he thought, could be traced as much to the quality of the followers as to that of the leaders: American citizens were more accustomed than the French to responsible self-government.

Today it is much different. The only time the word self is used is in the word selfish. Self reliant -- say what? Self-government -- who? Public policy helps determine the kind of society we are. The Obama Democrats, Progressives or New Democrats; or whatever, see a society in which ordinary people cannot fend for themselves, where they need to have their incomes supplemented, their health care insurance regulated and guaranteed, their relationships with their employers governed by union leaders. That is the culture of dependence. Obama Democrats are trying to permanently enlarge government and increase citizens' dependence on it.

And, invoking the language of the Founding Fathers, I believe that this will destroy the culture of independence that has enabled Americans over the past two centuries to make this the most productive and prosperous -- and the most charitably generous -- nation in the world. Seeing our political divisions as a battle between the culture of dependence and the culture of independence helps to make sense of the divisions seen in the 2008 election.

Interestingly, Barack Obama carried voters with incomes under $50,000 and those with incomes over $200,000 and lost those with incomes in between. He won large margins from those who never graduated from high school and from those with graduate school degrees and barely exceeded 50 percent among those in between. The top-and-bottom Obama coalition was in effect a coalition of those dependent on government transfers and benefits and those in what David Brooks of the New York Times calls "the educated class" who administer or believe that their kind of people administer those transactions. They are the natural constituency for the culture of dependence.

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson initiated the War on Poverty. Thus began the ever-expanding Welfare State. Today, 46 years later, we are no closer to winning that war. Instead, the “war” created a vast and ever-growing constituency that perpetuates the Welfare State — a permanent underclass, a network of government bureaucracies and bureaucrats to administer the welfare state, and, most toxic of all, a culture of dependency.

"My friends, some years ago, the Federal Government declared war on poverty, and poverty won. Today the Federal Government has 59 major welfare programs and spends more than $100 billion a year on them. What has all this money done? Well, too often it has only made poverty harder to escape. Federal welfare programs have created a massive social problem. With the best of intentions, government created a poverty trap that wreaks havoc on the very support system the poor need most to lift themselves out of poverty: the family. Dependency has become the one enduring heirloom, passed from one generation to the next, of too many fragmented families." ~Ronald Reagan from the State of the Union address in 1984.

And to sum it up...a letter (which some of you may have seen via chain emails)to the editor that was published by a Jackson, Mississippi newspaper, Clarion Ledger, on August 23, 2009. The writer is Dr. Roger Starner Jones, a physician who specializes in emergency medicine at the U. of Mississippi Medical Center. This is genuine, verified by

Dear Sirs:
During my last night’s shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with an expensive shiny gold tooth, multiple elaborate expensive tattoos, a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and a new cellular telephone equipped with her favorite R&B tune for a ringtone.
Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid.

She smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy beer. And our president expects me to pay for this woman’s health care? Our nation’s health care crisis is not a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. It is a crisis of culture — a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. A culture that thinks “I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me.”

Life is really not that hard. Most of us reap what we sow.

Starner Jones, MD

I'm out...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The case against Republicans...AND Democrats.

A lot has happened since my last blog post...I wish I could say for the better, but not so. So, personally all is well -- we have our health, which is the most important thing; we have good jobs and are successful -- but not rich Mr. Obama. But I worry. I worry about the future of my family. I worry how much more the government is going to steal from my paycheck. I worry about the financial burdens that are being placed on us by OUR government today and the ones on my children and my children's children tomorrow. Ironically, I still have hope. I have hope because the American people are fed up with the status quo in Washington. I think (and hope) that people do not want to be classified as Republican or Democrat; or red or blue. We are free. We are Americans.

In a recent USA Today Gallup poll on April 20, 2010, the following are some of the findings that help confirm my hope:
  • 3 out of 4 Americans polled say they are dissatisfied with the country's direction.
  • A record low 28% say most members of Congress deserve re-election. The percentage who say their representative deserves re-election drops to 49%, only the second time it has dipped below 50%.
  • For the first time, both major parties are viewed unfavorably by most Americans. The anti-tax "Tea Party" movement has a favorable rating nearly as high as they do — 37% compared with 41% for Democrats and 42% for the GOP.
  • Fifty percent say Obama doesn't deserve re-election, and 26% say he deserves "a great deal" of the blame for the nation's economic problems, double the percentage in July.
  • And my favorite...the nation's fastest growing political party is "none of the above". The number of independent voters has grown faster in the past two years than Democrats and Republicans in at least 14 of the 28 states and the District of Columbia that register voters by party.
Will any of this translate to "real change"? I doubt it. As long as the two-party system exists, the system is rigged. Special interests run the show. And for my liberal friends, special interests do not only include "big business" or the military industrialized complex. It also includes Progressive organizations such as, etc. Understandably there are pitfalls with a third party -- especially for challengers of the incumbent. But I think times have changed. Geez, just look at the Tea Party movement.

Term limits would work for me in lieu of a third or fourth party or whatever. Power begets more power. And whomever is in charge would like to remain in charge, even if it is not part of the "establishment". So truly, we need to blow the system up and eliminate the two-party system. We need to enact term limits. We need campaign finance reform. Then maybe will we get a government for the people, by the people.