Please: read, think, enjoy, and possibly learn.
Disagree or agree, and comment at-will; I welcome discussion.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Taxes and the American Debt

Due to the current budget deficit and financial situation our Federal government is in, I’m ‘for’ three things: 1) raising my taxes a small percentage to assist with paying off our debts, 2) lowering entitlement programs across the board, and 3) require that the over-40% of Americans who do not owe Federal taxes annually start carrying their own load and chip in to help.

I will address each below:

1) No, I’m not rich. No, I’m not poor. Yes, I probably make more money than the average American. Yes, I’ve situated my finances (incomes and debts) such that I have a little left to save each month. Yes, I can afford to pay a few hundred dollars more a year in Federal taxes. If it’s for the good of the country and will ensure that we do not become insolvent, yes, I’ll buy in to the tax hike.

I will also say that in order for me to buy in to a small tax hike, the government MUST stop spending more than it can afford. Sure, we can take on some debt – a little debt isn’t bad. But if the debt is out of hand, as is the case in modern times, then we need to curtail our spending. And that starts first with our Representatives and Senators in Congress – we must let them know that we no longer want them to spend as if it’s going out of style.

2) In line with curtailing Federal spending in Congress, Congress must also reduce the amount of money spent on entitlement programs. No, I’m not saying take everything away the government has promised people. What I am saying is that many of the so-called ‘entitlement’ programs have gone too far in cost. These programs need to shape up or ship out. It really should be as simple as that. Find cost savings, reduce bureaucracies, eliminate redundant tasks, and become more efficient or risk losing funding down the road. Yes, some people need help and I am ‘for’ that. No, I don’t want my money to go into a pit with no bottom that seems to be eating every bit of green it can find.

3) According to reports, anywhere from 10-47% of Americans did not owe Federal taxes in 2009. Why 10-47% it depends on who you ask and who is doing the math. Some say 47%, but that speaks to Federal income tax only, not including payroll taxes. When you open the question up to those who did not owe BOTH Federal income tax and payroll tax, that’s where the number drops significantly. I have read anywhere from 10-24% of Americans fall into this category. (Go here and here for reference)

If you ask me, even 10% is too much. In a country as wealthy as ours, even the poor are wealthy compared to the poor in other countries. Why we have such a significant amount of our population getting a whole lot of benefit for such little cost? Call it ‘entitlement programs gone wild or: how Congress has promised and spent too much over the past several decades.

It should be quite simple, and without going off on a tangent, here it is: everyone should chip in pay taxes, no matter how much money they make; even the smallest amount of taxes can help with the greater good of the nation. If I have to pay, so should you. Will I owe more than those less fortunate? Yes. Is it fair that they should owe nothing while others foot the bill? Definitely not.

We’re all in the same boat. Start rowing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It seems politics has become sports

I don’t recall it when I was growing up, but that’s probably because I was young and didn’t pay attention. But now, it seems that as the days and years go by, politics is becoming more like sports than what it should be.

Politics should be the diplomatic process by which our society is governed. Politics should not be the betting and rooting for a team to win. At present, it seems that party lines have become teams, and votes have become bets. People, although disenchanted by the process at times (or because they’re disenchanted by the process at times) appear to bet blindly on the team they want to win, without any regard to the actual issues or the candidate’s stance on said issues.

I’ll be sure to instill within my children the true meaning of what it means to vote. I’ll be sure to instill within my children that they should think critically of the issues, the campaigns, and the people behind them. I’ll be sure to instill within my children a sense of respect and appreciation for their right to vote.

And I’ll make damn sure that my children don’t blindly bet on a political team they want to win, simply for the sake of being a fan.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What to do with the new healthcare law

Prior to the recent passing of the new healthcare law, I would have said as so many other people had: we need reform, we need change, we need something better.

The method by which the new health care law passed is not something I'm proud of for America; it's not the way it should have been done. Making such vast changes, writing perplexing laws, and creating legislation so large that most could not or did not read it prior to voting, and done so in such hastened fashion, is just wrong for the American people. We deserve better and should require better from our representatives in Congress.

Today, I say repeal the new healthcare law, de-fund portions if repeal is not possible, or go through the behemoth legislation with a fine-tooth comb reading every line to make sure everyone understands how it all works BEFORE any portion of the law goes into effect. This will at the very least give everyone a chance to make adjustments and changes as necessary, and to prevent anything the American people don’t want.

I am not saying, however, that we do not need healthcare reform; we certainly do – we just need proper reform, not just any reform we can get in a few-month's time. And it has to be reform that the people want, not what Congress or a President tells us we want.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An open letter to Republicans in Congress:

Dear Republicans,

1) Please do not rush through any horrible pieces of legislature which are designed to forever reform a significant portion of our economy in only a few-month's time that the American public does not want.

2) Please do not take it to heart that you now have the House; again, it is not a mandate for, it is a referendum against.

3) Please DO listen to your constituents. That means Republicans, Independents, AND Democrats, all of whom voted you into office.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I think we're in a good position as a whole

I think we're in a good position as a whole.

Yes, they swept the US House of Representatives. Yes, they cleaned shop around the country in state-level positions, too. No, the Republicans did not win the US Senate as well. And that's why I say I think we're in a good position as a whole.

And by "whole" I mean the United States of America.

One caveat: the Republicans must not make similar mistakes as the Democrats & the President made after the 2008 elections; no, this is not a mandate for blanket Republican policies across the board, where in turn the Republicans ram through a one-sided agenda with little give-and-take from the opposite side.

When I say that I think we're in a good position as a whole, I mean that at this moment it's good that both parties are in power within Congress. It's good that they both have a say, and that both parties are now represented in Washington: one in each chamber of Congress.

I say that I think we're in a good position as a whole because we now have a balance of power in our (the people’s) representation in Washington. A true check and balance. I hope that it's not too far of a pendulum swing to the Right where we'll need another election cycle to get back to middle, because it’s the middle where things work together the best. And ‘together’ is the key for continued success and the future prosperity of America.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The current state of American politics

Headline: 66% Angry at Government Policies, 60% Say Neither Party Has Answers.

Problem: the current state of our political system and those running the political machine.

Resolution: replace Congress with representatives of the people, by the people, and most importantly FOR the people.

Right now, our representatives have allowed the public perception to become such that they cannot be trusted with much, and especially not our money. In recent years we’ve seen Congress move in ways that are significantly against the will of the people, seemingly to only promote agendas that are not shared by the public as a whole.

Special interests, backdoor deals, and an increasing lack of transparency has become the political machine and the people want nothing to do with it anymore.

66% of those polled by Rasmussen Reports are angry at government policies and 60% believe that neither party has answers. This is a significant problem, one that should not be taken lightly. Yet, with Congress’ approval ratings at serious lows (11% APPROVAL in July 2010, down from 17% in 2009), it seems as if no one is listening and they haven’t been listening for a long time.

It is this non-listening that will result in a good-sized portion of current members of Congress in trouble this election cycle.

Congress somehow has become so blinded by their own personal interests and of those standing next to them in the halls of DC, that they seem to have forgotten about their constituents ‘back home’ – the REASON they are in DC.

Somehow, they’ve forgotten they are NOT there to serve other districts or other states or other Congress members; they are there, in fact, to serve the people who sent them to Washington in the first place, hold THEIR interests in the highest regard, and act as THEIR voice in Washington.

The American people, more specifically the Independent voter (aka those who do not affiliate with a specific party), have finally had enough. I can’t blame them, or you, for being angry with government policies. I can’t blame them, or you, for having faith and trust in Congress that seems to be disappearing as the days go by.

I can’t blame them, or you, for wanting real change to our current state of political affairs.

Only you can affect that change.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Media and America’s Distrust of It

A recent Gallup poll claims that “the majority of Americans say they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.” 57% to be exact. (Gallup poll with annual chart here)

Dear Media: WAKE UP! When the majority of America doesn’t trust you, you’d better listen and clean up your act.

I’m not one of those people who distrusts the Media and thinks it all should be burned to the ground. I am, however, one of those people who realizes and comprehends the Media is slanted, or flat-out biased at times.

Unfortunately, it seems news organizations have always been used for political and personal gain. Yes, there are plenty of cases where the news and information is given to us straight; I’m not throwing the baby out with the bath water. However, the fact cannot go unnoticed that the Media is human and can be persuaded by many things, including personal opinion and bias.

Yes, Fox News provides its viewers with right-leaning programming. Yes, CNN and MSNBC provides its viewers with left-leaning programming. And then there’s the BBC, which depending on the day, story, topic, and writer, can be any of the above or more.

Yes, Fox News has plenty of commentary and pundit broadcasts that result in a veil of conservatism across their network, justly or unjustly so; likewise, CNN and MSNBC have plenty of commentary and pundit broadcasts that result in a veil of liberalism across their networks, again, justly or unjustly so.

You, fortunately (or unfortunately, as the Media and some politicians would have it), are an individual; you gather information from multiple sources, you think things through before you offer up a knee-jerk reaction, and you form your own opinion.

Unfortunately, though, you may not be any of that. You may very well be a person who reacts mostly on emotion and feeling, rather than logic and truth. If so, unfortunately for you, the Media and some politicians prefer your type and are quick to take advantage.

Ask yourself this:

-Do I distrust the Media?

-Do I even think twice about what they tell me?

-Do I ever consider secondary or additional sources?

-Why or why not?

I must add the following statement: if you’re watching ‘the news of the day’, which more of less repeats the goings-on of the day while you were at work, and tends to be more bad news than good, you’re probably safe in choosing any news organization.

However, if you’re listening for facts and stories, ultimately the information which will help form your opinion, and the subject brings with it a potential gain of any kind, consider your source and get a second opinion.

There’s no harm in due diligence. In fact, it’s best.

And it’s OK to turn the channel to ‘the enemy’ on a regular basis; over time you’ll probably start to realize that you’re becoming your own individual, thinking for yourself and forming your own opinion.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Congress and budgeting. Or not budgeting, as it seems...

I’m no fool, and neither are you. Yet, we both allow our elected officials to skimp on their most basic of duties.

For some reason, balancing a budget is the hardest thing Congress can do (or don’t do, as is the case on a regular basis). I get that – somewhat – but I find it totally inexcusable for the House and Senate to blatantly decide not to even put a budget together, or hold it off for a later date.

What benefit does this have for the American people? Why choose to pass a stop-gap budget? I understand the need: because Congress doesn’t do their job properly, spends money they do not have, and forces the American public to live beyond their means.

Now, if you were to do this, you’d probably be in jail by now. No person can continue to rack up such debts and spend an absurd amount more than what they take in for income. Eventually, your bills would catch up to you and you’d go under, so to speak.

Fortunately though, our government gives its best attempt at running like a business – although it can’t run as efficiently or effectively as a business – because it’s too big. There are too many parts, too many people, and too large of an organization to get in order. Fortunately the government can take out debts, much like a business; unfortunately the government can’t control it’s spending habit, much like business can.

Many, if not most politicians are not executives of anything. Sure, they run an office. Sure, they ran a campaign. Sure, they can lead a team. Sure, they may have been a doctor, or a lawyer. But many doctors and lawyers will tell you: “I’m not a business person, I’m a doctor/lawyer.”

I’ve gone on my tangent long enough; I hope you get my point.

We need to seriously consider who we elect to represent us and run OUR nation. Leaders and representatives who have even a little executive experience is better than one who has none in my opinion. At least they can say for a fact they have experience in particular areas and know what it’s like – opposed to simply “hearing” what it’s like from others.

We need to start taking seriously our local and national politics; we’re getting to an age of celebrity representatives, a condition that has little benefit to our country and the American people.

We need to, at the very least, hold Congress accountable and demand they perform the most basic of their duties:

1) Make a budget.

2) Balance it. Or make it look like you’re trying.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Issue of Term Limits

Term limits is a subject of great debate and political thought. Though there has been significant discourse throughout the history of the United States, most recently to note in the 1990’s, there still lacks a rule of law.

While the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution poses term limits on the office of President, and a sizable portion of state legislatures have a provision within state constitutions or through statutes for term limits on its members, and many local-level government bodies have laws in place which limit terms of a political office, the largest and most powerful governing body in all of the US, the United States Congress, does not.

Note that the terms of state Governors are more readily regulated throughout the US than those of Congress. This may quite possibly be due to the fact that the position of Governor is most like that of President, whereas the positions within Congress are not like that of President (one is an representative; one is an executive).

Also note that a person who is not well-educated on the topic of term limits, admittedly such as myself, would have a difficult time researching the subject in order to find the real reason for or against Congressional term limits, or to find any mention of the subject at all (outside of those mentioned above).

Logically speaking, because the positions within Congress are not executives, but instead representatives of the public body, perhaps they should not be limited on the number of terms they serve. After all, each member of Congress is effectively chosen, or dealt his/her term limit, every two or six years (US House of Representatives are elected every two years; US Senators are elected every six).

Yet, it still seems desirable to have term limits for this level of government. Political corruption, growing out of touch with constituents back home, and becoming too comfortable with the power and position within Congress are just three reasons why term limits are desired - not to mention the benefit of having fresh faces and ideas representing the public in Washington, DC.

I, for one, sway between the two logics above; I can see value on both sides of the issue. On one side, voters have a choice of who they send to Congress and are able to elect a different person to represent them in Washington every two or six years; on the other side, members of Congress may develop undesired habits while serving in Washington (which the public may be unaware of) and out of an abundance of caution should be forced out of office, in good faith, when they reach the limit of their term.

However, after presenting out the two sides of term limits above, and when looking at the political realities in today’s environment, perhaps the ‘abundance of caution’ reasoning is the most reasonable of roads to choose in the argument. What harm can be done if we were to limit the number of terms a member of Congress may serve?

At least for now, fortunately, there is in effect a referendum of the record of each member of Congress every two or six years; a real opportunity for the people’s voices to be heard, and a regularly-scheduled opportunity to enact change and rid Congress of undesirable members.

Please exercise your unique right to vote. Please perform your due diligence on those whom you vote to elect. And please engage in your local, regional, and national conversations – our country will be better for it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Stephen Colbert Debacle

Stephen Colbert, the Comedy Central host of The Colbert Report, made an appearance in Washington today… right in front of Congress.

Apparently, Mr. Colbert was asked to testify in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee by its chairwoman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., to discuss his one day (yes, one day) in the shoes of a migrant worker in NY state. Somehow, Rep. Lofgren saw him to be a fitting match as a so-called expert on migrant workers and immigration, with the keen ability to offer his personal experience and thoughts on the AgJOBS bill and the like.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. Colbert was testifying before Congress – in character… the very same satirical character he plays on TV. Why Rep. Lofgren felt this was appropriate is beyond me.

So what came of this event?
1) Mr. Colbert offered images from his colonoscopy to Congress
2) The statement he submitted to Congress prior to taking the floor was allegedly much different than his in-character speech
3) Made a mockery of Washington (quite possibly mostly-so of Rep. Lofgren, D-Calif.
4) Turned a Congressional subcommittee into a visible joke
5) (Expectedly) turned the event into a publicity stunt, and most importantly of all:
6) Wasted your and my money

I submit to anyone who was ‘for’ Stephen Colbert testifying before Congress on this matter: how could you have expected anything else? Did you really think such a character would be a productive addition to the immigration discussion?

Mr. Colbert lacks expertise and real knowledge (other than the one day spent on a farm, and other stories he’s possibly heard) that should be required in order to testify on the subject of migrant farm workers and immigration. Mr. Colbert lacks the status, experience, and expertise which many other celebrities exude (such as Bono) which would warrant his testimony on the matter before Congress.

Dear, Mr. Colbert: Thank you for your jokes and a the few laughs I expressed when listening to your testimony. While I agree that you are a comical, satirical character which I enjoy to watch on TV from time to time, I just wish you hadn’t made a mockery of an institution that is already so heavily mocked, wasted the time of Representatives, and subsequently wasted taxpayer money. Please refrain from conducting similar stunts in the future, and please reserve your comedy for our televisions… or anywhere other than a Congressional hearing.