Monday, September 22, 2008

Nothing good ever happens on a Compound

So this weekend there was another headline in the news, "Arkansas Evangelist's compound raided". Which raises some good questions. Why didn't the town know something was wrong the day someone said they wanted to "start a compound".

If you are single, looking to pick up some girls - just try to ask them to come home to your compound - see what happens.

If you are looking to build a house - and blue prints for a compound show up - you might want to think again.

If your realtor invites you to an "open house" on a compound - get a new realtor.

If you get a phone call from the parents of your children's friends - asking if your children could come over for a "play date" and their address ends with the word "compound" - you might want to reconsider.

If you ARE a compound - consider changing your name to estate, facility, union hall, or congregation. It's just good Public Relations.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More Political Outrage

If you are paying attention - you need to be outraged by this election. I am sick sick sick of hearing politicians running on platforms of tax cuts. You know why? It's a gimmick that works because most Americans are either 1) too dumb to figure it out or 2) too selfish to care about the consequences of continuing our tax cuts. I am all for getting government spending in check and cutting out the "pork" - however ignore all of that because it is too small to matter. We are on a path where by 2030 ALL taxes collected at our current rate won't cover mandatory (non-discretionary) spending (Some estimates put it closer to 2044 before this occurs - but does it really matter? It's bleak!).

This means if we want to keep Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid dolling out the same benefits as we are today, we won't have any money left over for ANYTHING ELSE in 2044. We won't have money left over from taxes collected for a military, education, interest on our mounting debts, we won't have money for ridiculous government bail-outs, NASA, transportation & infrastructure (want a bridge repaired in the next 50 years? Even if it goes to nowhere?), unemployment benefits, congressional salaries and perks, etc. In my opinion we need to step up and say "we F-ed up our calculations" and start cutting social security benefits - but imagine running on a platform of taking money away from retired seniors!

Our government is running a company that brings in 2.4 Trillion dollars per year (that's $2,400,000,000,000.00) and they can't figure out how to balance the budget. Forget about AIG - Someone ought to bail out the United States! And I am paying into social security (and P&G is matching it) and all of that money is being spent by the government instead of being put aside for my retirement. You may have heard that our national debt is now over 9 trillion dollars, but I just read that it's really only 5 trillion as debt held by the public. The remaining 4 trillion wasn't borrowed as debt, it was taken from previously collected social security payments with a 4 trillion dollar IOU from the government!

So back to the campaign. When either politician says "I want to cut taxes" you should be booing. Why? Because we are just literally robbing money from future generations and it's a joke that American voters are not informed enough to impact this with their votes. All a candidate has to do is promise tax cuts and people flock to them with their votes. Imagine if the democrats (traditional tax raisers) had Obama go out there saying he'd raise taxes because it's the responsible thing to do as a country? The very next day McCain would slam him for being non-patriotic and a tax and spend liberal - and then win the election in a landslide. Well - the problem has been that the conservatives have been tax and spend liberals just without the taxes! (OK maybe not the liberal part too - but you get the idea - Tax and Spend panderers to the Wealthy!).

So I'll end my rant with the recent analysis of McCain and Obamas tax plans. Remember how McCain keeps saying Obama wants to raise taxes - an effort to scare people into voting for McCain. Well that is true but only for the top 1% of wealthy income earners. If you make under $100,000 per year you really need to ask yourself why you'd vote for a Republican because they have continually cut taxes predominantly for the wealthy. In that case I can only imagine that the middle class voting republican are doing so for more of the social issues than their own personal economic situation. I don't have a problem with the Republicans making the rich richer - especially since they keep convincing 50.5% of the country to agree with them. Americans get what they vote for in my opinion - here's the recent data of how the rich are getting richer.

Source: Congressional Budget Office, Historical Effective Federal Tax Rates: 1979 to 2004, Table 1C, December 2006.

Source: Economic Policy Institute, State of Working America 2006-07, Table 5.1, citing Wolff (2006).

What's funny is that this data doesn't outrage me either. In fact I may shock some people by stating that I think this trend would be true regardless of what the government was doing - only maybe to a lesser extent if we weren't continually putting tax plans in place to favor the rich. But then again I am not sure we should be taxing the rich at a higher rate to begin with but the flat tax will be another blog all together.

Back to the candidate's tax plans. Read 'em and weep.

To balance my argument - I think Obama's plan of raising taxes for the wealthy while cutting taxes for most americans (90-95%) is an interesting spin on a Democratic position because they could get the majority to decide to Tax and spend with the rich footing the bill! And the rich are too small a voting pool to stop it - so the rich they smartly hold onto social issues with broader appeal (or continue to lie and have people think Obama is raising taxes on everyone) in order to gain favor of their economic agendas. Obama's plan - however - in my opinion is still irresponsible and continues to push the burden back to later generations.

That being said - given the fact that in my opinion the current econimic crisis fundamentally is due to the fact that the middle class can no longer spend enough to grow our GDP. And we have probably tried for enough years to see if any money trickle's down from the top. I'd rather give a better tax break to the middle class and have the rich get richer selling them goods through their businesses than through taxes. In my opinion the rich know how to make money, so if you empower the middle class with a little more money to make them feel better off - they will then spend it at the rich people's businesses (if you think this is some generalization, just know that 80% of the wealthiest americans have some amount of busines ownership contributing to their income. Find me someone in the Forbes 400 that isn't a business owner (though a few in there inherited the money from a business owner - see the Walton family).

It is funny to think that when politicians talk about wasteful earmarks and spending, the fact that they can say that one party is asking for a BILLION dollars in pork spending - and it sounds terrible (he said BILLION), but it's really invisible (most people estimate all pork barrel spending at ~1% of the budget) compared to the 9 Trillion dollar debt.

What's the point of all this? I guess I just want to raise awareness that in order to be elected, politicians use gimmicks to get your vote that are really only hurting the country. These gimmicks could be lowering taxes, gimmicky vice-presidents (couldn't resist), or blocking free trade (but that's a whole other blog too!).

Isn't this just a symptom of the broader issue Americans have of not being able to save money? I mean really - the fact that people too often focus on short term gratification versus long term well-being is why these gimmicks work, and why personal spending rates outpace personal incomes.

You just want to yell STOP THE MADNESS...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Congress: Throw the bums out!

In case you still believe Congress is working for you the regular Joe. Here's a great summary of their busy calendar.

This is why I am a supporter of term limits. Of course - many people argue that we don't need term limits because these politicians are up for re-election, however relying on the american public to know enough to figure this out is probably what got us here in the 1st place!

Perks of being in congress:
1) free from arrest in all cases, except for treason, felony, and breach of the peace
2) a member of Congress may not be sued for slander because of remarks made in either house
3) As of 2006 rank and file Members of Congress received a yearly salary of $165,200, this puts each of them in the top 5% of all income earners in the US.
4) Congressional members are covered by the Federal Employees' Retirement System. In 2006, the average annual pension for retired senators and representatives was $60,972 for life (still the top 25% of income earners even after they stop working)! This of course includes governmental health insurance & benefits - all on the tax payers dime!

I hate to sounds like Lou Dobbs (the grumpiest man on TV) but how can you not read this an be outraged! When the poeple in congress are the financial elite - no wonder the average american is not at the center of their work.

Don't even get me started on lobbying.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Day 3 without power

So after "high winds" from Ike did some pretty good damage to Cincinnati (though no rain) we are now on day 3 without power. 750,000 customers lost power and so far over 550,000 still don't have it. But here are a few things I have learned.

1) Thank goodness the iPhone has the internet to keep me busy after I get sick of reading by flashlight.
2) The cats are unphased by the power outage. Really. They can't tell anything is different.
3) Cold showers do not give you much motivation to get up in the morning.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vote 2008

I thought I'd present an independant view on the election - as represented by a few bumper stickers.

Vote Obama
Obama is reaching out to the religious right with this latest campaing ad:

Vote Palin
After beating out McCain in the primaries - Sarah Palin gets my vote!

Obama's Energy Plan
Obama takes the energy crisis head-on!

John McCain
How does the saying go - "too much of a good thing is a bad thing"

Monday, September 08, 2008

Here's a story about a man named Brady

Probably the only thing I can say on the matter is when you lose a guy like Brady, it really makes you appreciate how good he has been for so long. We have been spoiled to have him play so well and so consistently. Hopefully he has a speedy recovery and we have him back at 100% next year.

As for this year, it reminds me of a story...

Backup quarterbacks are told to always be prepared, for they are only one snap away. But Tom Brady could have been forgiven for ignoring the advice. A sixth-round pick out of Michigan in 2000, Brady had done well to even make the Patriots' roster his rookie season, and work his way up to second on the depth chart the following training camp.

Drew Bledsoe probably expected to finish his career in New England.
Playing behind Pro Bowler Drew Bledsoe, one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league, Brady was unlikely to see significant playing time in 2001. But that all changed in Week 2, when Bledsoe was drilled by New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis as he ran upright trying to make it out of bounds.

The hit caused Bledsoe to suffer internal bleeding, leading to a change at quarterback, and, ironically, the begining of the Patriots' championship run. Brady displayed so much composure in his first few starts, when Bledsoe finally returned, he was the one relegated to the sideline.

Brady capped off an improbable season by leading the Patriots on a game-winning drive against the Rams in Super Bowl (XXXVI). His success made Bledsoe so expendable, the nine-year veteran was dealt to divisional rival Buffalo following the season.

Brady has added two more Super Bowls to his collection (XXXVIII, XXXIX), winning a place in the hearts of all New England fans. But it is worth remembering that place once belonged to Bledsoe, and it's also fair to wonder how long things might have stayed that way, had it not been for one vicious hit.