Thursday, July 28, 2005
In Support of the Fair Tax
Everyone would agree that the federal government needs to collect certain revenues to sustain itself. Now how much it really needs to do this can be argued but this discussion is not about that, but rather about the method used to collect this revenue. The current IRS tax code has undergone so many alterations that it bears absolutely no resemblance to the original income tax code. The tax code is changed nearly every year and is used more for social engineering than for collecting a tax in a fair manner. It should not be used for these purposes!
What is the goal of the Fair Tax Plan? Simply put, to replace the income tax, social security and medicare taxes, capital gains taxes, corporate taxes, imbedded taxes with one, clear, simple tax rate levied on retail purchases payable by everybody regardless of status, income, race, sex or whatever. It is collected at the retail cash register on all goods and services. It is not collected on any used purchases and there are no goods or services that are exempt from this tax for anybody no matter who you are are where you are from.
The biggest immediate benefit I can see is the fact that you will receive the entire amount of your paycheck on payday. There will be no withholding tax, no payroll taxes whatsoever at the federal level and there will be no reporting your income on cumbersome IRS forms at the end of each year. No more saving of receipts for things that you may itemize on your tax return because there is no more tax return. Period. Compliance with current federal tax laws cost our economy billions of dollars every year. This cost is eliminated completely.
Now immediately what jumps into most people's minds at this point is the fact that it will hurt the poor more than it will hurt richer folks. The crafters of this ingenious plan have taken that into consideration and have made allowances for it. Each month everyone will receive a "rebate" check for the amount of taxes that would normally be paid by yourself up to the poverty level. Currently that works out to about $400-$450 per month per person. Everyone receives this rebate thereby canceling out the taxes that they would pay for the coming month. So this is not in any way a regressive tax. It does not affect the poor any more than it affects anyone else.
With the Fair Tax Plan in effect, you can choose to buy something new and pay the retail sales tax or you can buy something used and not pay the retail sales tax. This choice is up to you, therefore you actually will have a say in how much tax you will be paying. You actually have NO say in how much income tax you will be paying unless you elect to lower your income. The Fair Tax Plan puts more control into the hands of the individual.
The numbers I've heard concerning the percentage of the tax is around 22-23% which sounds like an incredibly high amount for a tax. But what you must consider is the amount of imbedded taxes that are a part of everything we buy currently. Most estimates state there is about 22-23% of taxes imbedded in each and every item or service that we currently purchase. These are taxes paid by companies/businesses along the product chain that become priced into the product or service and passed along eventually to the consumer. No business or corporation actually pays these taxes. They are all passed along to the end user, the consumer, and all taxes are ultimately paid by the individual.
There can be no argument on this issue. Every tax levied against a corporation is priced into their product or service and is paid for by individuals who purchase said product or service. Taxes are simply a cost of doing business to a company and reflected in the retail price.
These imbedded taxes will disappear. Corporations will not be required to pay income taxes so the imbedded taxes will be phased out of their products and services. There will be pressure in the market place to reduce retail prices to reflect the fact that imbedded taxes are eliminated. This will push prices down by roughly the same amount as the imbedded taxes, or 22-23%. And since the Fair Tax Plan percentage is about the same amount, there will be a wash in retail prices. Sales tax is collected at the point of sale on lower prices due to the elimination of imbedded taxes and the total price with the new sales tax will be roughly the same as before.
So we will have prices that are roughly the same, yet we are keeping our entire paycheck, not paying any payroll taxes at all and in addition receiving a rebate check for the amount of sales taxes that a poverty level person would be expected to pay. And you never have to fill out another Income Tax Form 1040 again! It's a win-win-win proposition!
Implementing this plan would make the United States a very desirable country to do business in. Instead of hearing people grouse about large corporations moving overseas to avoid paying our excessive taxes, we will see corporations clamoring to come into this country to enjoy the benefits of the reduced accounting, lower taxes and simplified method of collection and compliance of any country in the world.
I see no valid argument against this Fair Tax Plan. There is nothing logically incorrect about its' thesis. It will work as advertised and everybody in this country will be better off because of it. Neal Boortz has written a book about this plan called simply "The Fair Tax Book" and it is due for release on August 2. I have my copy on order plus an additional one for my daughter. He has co-authored this book with Congressman John Linder from Georgia who has sponsored this bill for the past several years.
We need everyone who knows anything about this plan to spread the word to anyone who knows nothing of this plan. Once you analyze all aspects of this bill, you will see that it really has no flaws and will be a boon to our capitalistic economy unlike anything we've ever seen, except for maybe the boom years of the dot-com era. But unlike the dot-coms, the Fair Tax Plan will benefit this country and the world for many, many years to come. All we have to do is convince our Senators and Congressmen that this is the way to fix forever our dilapidated Income Tax system. We need them to listen to us on this matter and leave behind forever the notion of social engineering through the Internal Revenue Service.
Shout out this message to anyone who will listen. Implement the Fair Tax Plan ASAP.
Monday, July 25, 2005
It's All in the Attitude
On many mornings as I walk the 5 or 6 blocks from my car to my work place, I think about how I feel and how I expect my day to go. Many mornings I feel physically and emotionally tired and when I find myself thinking that it is going to be a long day, I stop myself and take a look at my attitude. I have found that I can change it almost at will. I can simply say to myself, I feel good physically, put a bounce in my step, straighten out my shoulders, walk briskly, smile widely and I can actually feel myself perking up, losing the tension in my shoulders and feeling a smile on the inside.
Affecting my attitude in a positive way makes my day go by much easier and pleasanter. After all, it doesn't help me at all to dwell upon how tired I feel or how much I would like to be back home in bed when I have other things I need to be doing. It is far easier to control my attitude than it is to control anything else around me. All it takes is practice, practice, practice.
I don't know exactly when I realized I could affect my attitude in a positive way but it is a profoundly eye-opening experience. No longer do I need to spend a depressing day grousing about how bad I feel or how I wish something else was going on or whatever. Everybody needs a down day from time to time and feeling badly isn't necessarily the end of the world. Sometimes it can be healthy to think depressing thoughts or to bemoan your troubles or to think things are going badly for you as long as it doesn't become a habit. Not all things are roses, besides, thorns accompany roses. Pat yourself on the back for feeling bad then change your attitude and start feeling good again.
There are cycles in life and feeling good and feeling bad is one of those inevitable cycles. Accept the bad feelings for a time but never let it dominate your being. Focus your thoughts upon good things, simple things, enjoyable things. Make your mouth smile and feel your face as it brightens up. You can influence your physical well-being just by changing your attitude to positive from negative.
As I grow older I notice more and more aches and pains. My body is slowly breaking down and it hurts to do so. I notice these pains and it bothers me that I notice them more and more as the years go by. It would bother me more, however, if I let these aches and pains affect my daily life. Sure, there are things I used to do when I was younger that I can no longer do. There are things that cause me hurt that never used to do so. I could focus on these negative feelings and compain about them. Or I could ignore them and focus on feeling good instead. It doesn't help me to feel bad therefore I choose to feel good and forget about the aches and pains.
When I was going to Alcoholics Anonymous, they had a saying that I really like. "Suit up and show up." It means, no matter how you are feeling, get dressed and go to work or to wherever you are supposed to be going at the time. Don't make excuses! Nike says it a little more simply, "Just do it." It's the same thing. You have things to do in life, so get up and go do them. No excuses. How to deal with bad emotions? Change your attitude. Force that smile on your face. Think happy thoughts and get on with your life. Suit up, show up and just do it!
Complaining will get you nowhere. No one likes to listen to a complainer. Everyone has complaints from time to time and it is OK to voice these complaints sometimes. It is not OK to dwell on your compaints and to let it influence your attitude. Like water off a duck, you need to learn to let bad things roll off your back and not get you down. Life rolls on and we have many challenges to face before we pass on. Face them with a good attitude and you will be more successful and happier in the process.
Just my nickel for the day,
Monday, July 18, 2005
I Hate Rude People
I drive on a 4 lane highway going in to work whose speed limit is 65 mph. It is a divided highway, two lanes each direction with great visibility, good pavement, not crowded with traffic but crowded with rude drivers. One would think a highway like this would be ideal for driving to work but one would be wrong.
Invariably there will be two or three cars travelling side by side at about 55 mph with no intention of getting up to speed limit or moving over so faster cars can pass. No, they are satisfied to be moving, however slowly, and 9 times out of 10, talking on their cell phones. I don't have anything against people talking on cell phones while they're driving, as long as their primary focus is on the driving. If you can't talk and drive at the same time, quit talking! Don't quit paying attention to your driving. Use some common sense, please.
Or how about the express checkout lane at the super market? 10 items or less, no checks. Easy to understand. Hard to get people to follow. It's an EXPRESS lane, for crying out loud. Make it fast. Is it too much to ask that you actually have your money ready when you are being checked out unstead of waiting til the cashier has it all rung up and then opening your purse, digging for your money and then paying with EXACT CHANGE. Geez! Does it surprise you that you actually have to pay for your purchase? Get your money ready!
Some folks like to have their posse, kids and spouse, continue to shop the store while they wait in the express lane and then continually add items to their stash even after the final tally has been rung. They can get 12-15 items through in this manner. And they haven't a care in the world that they have forced everyone behind them to wait for them. Are they really that special that they can use other people's time this way?
Let's take golf. Golf is a gentleman's game. Sorry ladies, but that's the phrase. You are quite welcome and encouraged to play. But by gentleman's game, I mean it is a game of honor. You are on your honor to keep your own score. There is no other sport where this happens. Golfers have their own etiquette and anyone who plays should quickly learn this etiquette and you are on your honor to be courteous to other golfers.
This includes letting faster players play through your group. It is up to the slower group to allow the players behing them to play through. I played behind a group last Friday, two men and a woman, who had me waiting at least 5-10 minutes on every hole for them to finish with never an acknowledgement for me to play through. Until the 7th hole. At that time I was told by one of the women that I could play through if I want. Too late, I was already steamed at them for all the wasted time and by then there were only three holes left. What's the point.
Rudeness is rampant in our society. It bothers me and I very much dislike selfish people. Yes, we should treat ourselves right and we should be number one on our own list, but that doesn't mean we can ignore people around us. We do live in a society which means we interact with other people all the time. There is a de facto standard for behavior in social situations. My mom would have called it common sense. Perhaps we need more lessons in common sense these days. Most people don't have it anymore.
I can live without people having common sense actually. As long as they behave civilly and don't expect their needs to come before all others. I just detest all the rudeness that I see around me everyday. Relax, slow down, learn to think before you act. Quit behaving like a spoiled, selfish child. There are other people in this world and nothing revolves exclusively around you. Nothing.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Why do we have borders?
A border defines the physical boundaries of a government's jurisdiction. Within those borders there are certain uniform laws and standards that govern the people and activities. Outside the borders there may be another set of uniform laws and standards that are far different from those within. Borders allow those who think somewhat alike and pledge affinity to each other to co-exist in mutual harmony while setting themselves apart from those who are within a different set of borders.
One primary task and responsibility of our Federal Government is to protect and defend our country's borders from negative outside influences. I think this task had been taken far too lightly. We have a rather unique form of government in this country. We were a true experiment 200+ years ago and this experiment is a work in progress. Methinks the experiment has gone awry.
Opportunities in the USA are a primary reason why so many people come to this country from some other country. Freedom and liberty afford anyone willing to put in the time and effort the chance to make something more out of themselves. Small businesses fuel this economy far more than do the major corporations. Lots of people want the chance to build their ideas into a profitable business and to reap the resulting benefits of good decision making.
Social programs are another reason why many people come to this country. Since the Great Depression era many social programs offering government sponsored assistance have become entrenched in our economy. However good intentioned these social programs were in the beginning, they will inevitably become a haven for laziness and a poor work ethic. Why not get it from the government if it is being offered rather than work hard and suffer to achieve success?
We are a nation of immigrants. This is for certain and is often used as an argument for keeping our borders open and accessible to anyone to live the American Dream. (Of course, anyone who achieves the American Dream of success has to start defending his success to the underachiever crowd crying that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.)
Anyway, I used to have the belief that our borders should be wide open to anyone as long as they behaved like good citizens and didn't break our laws. I no longer feel this way. There is a process for immigrants to follow to join our country. In this age of global insecurity due to increased terrorism, we cannot afford to have open borders any longer. Open orders assume the best in people, that people will obey our laws and be good citizens. All well and good for most people, but not anywhere near good enough to combat terrorism. And fighting terrorism is job number one for our Federal Government.
I think we have done an extremely lousy job of monitoring and protecting our borders. 10-20 million illegal aliens in our country today? Why have we let this happen? Why do we continue to let this happen? We spend precious time and energy debating a flag-burning amendment, trying to ban gay marriage or keeping a brain-dead woman alive. Why can't we spend time closing and defending our borders or rounding up some of the millions of illegals already here and sending them back home? After all, that IS the Federal Government's job.
It is hard to separate politics from political decisions. This may sound extremely stupid but let me explain. Political decisions are any decision made by our politicians. Politics is the art of someone convincing/deceiving people into thinking that what the people believe/want is exactly what the politician believes/wants even though he/she may have an entirely different agenda. It is walking on a thin line. Politics is a game people play. Political decisions are not a game at all but fall prey to politics all the time.
I say this to explain that politicians cannot be taken at face value. Ever. One needs to know a politician's hidden agenda, and they all have one, in order to judge what they say as opposed to what they mean. Politics keep our borders porous. Kowtowing to Vicente Fox, for instance, is politics. Mexico receives a whole lot of money from the United States. Their economy is horrible to begin with but if the flow of money from illegal aliens in the US to families in Mexico were stopped, their economy would be in far worse shape. Politics keep this money flowing by refusing to make the political decisions necessary to stop illegals from entering in the first place and by not exporting these illegals in the second place.
The term "political correctness" is one of my most hated terms. PC sucks and I refuse to conform to its' rules. Call a spade a spade and realize that terrorism is terrorism, not insurgency. A terrorist is not an insurgent, not a bomber, not a freedom fighter. A terrorist provokes terror and calling it something else does not change that fact. A person who entered this country illegally is an illegal alien, not an undocumented alien. The key word is illegal and illegal has become victim to political correctness, yet this person is still an illegal alien.
Turn your head and ignore the situation. It will go away eventually. As an avid procrastinator, I can relate to this philosophy. But NOT when it comes to protecting our national security. All politicians are aware of the weaknesses we have at our borders but none of them want to suffer the political consequences that may come as a result of dealing with the issue head on. But this is exactly the kind of issue that politicians SHOULD be paying attention to.
Protecting our borders, defending our country and its' interests overseas and providing a court system to settle disputes are the PRIMARY functions of our Federal Government. What can we, as concerned citizens do if our elected representatives are not addressing their primary functions. In the business world, those people would be fired. And while we cannot simply fire them, we can choose not to elect them again. The problem with this approach seems to be that once someone is elected, they tend to remain in office until they choose not to be. People tend to think that all the elected representatives are corrupt and only concerned with their own political success except for the ones that represent me. So they will re-elect their "good" rep and cry for everyone else to not re-elect their "bad" rep, but everyone else is preaching the same mantra, so the situation doesn't change.
This is like the Law of Inertia, a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside influence and conversely for a body in motion. So the make-up of Congress is basically governed by the Law of Inertia. This makes it really easy to sidestep any issue that will put their political career in jeopardy. And if everyone sidesteps the issue of border security, border security will continue to be a problem.
So I ask the question again, Why do we have borders? They really don't seem to be of concern to the powers in charge. If the leaders of our government won't address border issues, how can the citizenry do so. Quite rightly this was attempted earlier this year when hundreds of volunteers positioned themselves along the Mexican border and intercepted people trying to enter illegally. And these thoughtful citizens were branded as vigilantes by our own president himself. Government is inert on this issue because politics get in the way.
Yet many people throughout the nation applauded these fine folks' efforts at bringing some semblance of protection where very little exists. If common, ordinary people can take action like this and make a difference, there is no reason why we, as a nation, cannot enforce the existing laws on immigration and restore our border security to actually secure our borders. We should demand this from our politicians. Politics be damned!
Monday, July 11, 2005
Growing Older and Wiser
There are days when I feel like I'm 25 again and other days I wonder if I can even get out of bed and face the world one more time. It's odd. Time is relative, of course. All things are. Time is tricky. It heals all wounds and it causes anticipation. It plays tricks on the mind and never seems to go along as you would like. Work takes too long, play is too short.
Mark Twain once said something like, when I was 18 I couldn't believe how stupid my father was but by the time I turned 21, I was amazed at how much the old man had learned. Time makes us older and it should make us wiser. Of course, it will only make us wiser if we heed life's lessons. Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is one definition of insanity. Time makes us adjust.
When I was a young boy growing up in the coal mining region of southern Ilinois, I would wonder at the year 2000. I would be 49 that year and it seemed like a millenium away. At this point, the year 2000 almost seems like a millenium away. Time acts that way. It stretches itself and seemingly lasts forever yet at the same time it can fly by in an instant.
They say when you are close to death, say in a car accident or something, that all major events in your life pass by your mind's eye. A kind of quick review, if you please. That can be a mind-opening experience. I have never had a near-death experience in which I remember seeing my life flash before me so I cannot testify to this effect. It sounds logical, however.
I do try to burn certain events into my memory intentionally. Some things are worth remembering in detail. Every memory becomes faded over time and each time we think a certain memory in the present, we actually tarnish the memory with other knowledge that we currently have. The memory is rewritten with current knowledge attached to it. This makes our memories cloudy and hard to remember what was real and what we added to the memory later on simply by thinking about it. So simply remembering something can make the memory less accessible and less real. Eventually the memory may no longer even seem real to you.
When I was a drinking man, I would sometimes suffer blackouts. These are not good things but I had many of them during my alcoholic career. I did many things that were very funny during these blackouts. I know because the people I was with on many occasions would tell me about them and we all would laugh. On occasions like these, I can't say what I actually did or didn't do. I had to take other people's word for it. Mostly it sounds like me, though. I was a very happy drunk.
But I don't miss the feeling of drunkeness at all anymore. I did a lifetime of drinking in 20 years and it was more than enough to last me. I like to think I became wiser as I became older. I like to think that but I didn't get there on my own. It took a stern boss practicing tough love to get me to change my ways and quit drinking before it killed me. Literally. I can't thank Jack Crosetti enough for what he gave back to me, my life.
But I know now that I am who I am. Today I am not the same person as I was yesterday. Not a whole lot different but different just the same. Growing older and wiser is a constant, gradual change. Alcoholics Anonymous taught me to take one day at a time. That is more than just a mantra. It is a way of life. While I was kicking the alcohol habit, it was often one minute at a time. Changing behavior is not an easy thing. Especially when the love for the old behavior is still strong.
So my birthday this year was no big deal. It was a rainy, hurricane-passing, nasty kind of a day outside. No chance to play any golf which is really my only passion these days. It was what I would term as just another day. I have pretty much felt this way about my birthday since I turned 30. That birthday was my last traumatic one. 30 hit me hard and I started improving my life because of it. That year I started running distance races and eventually finished the 1982 Honolulu Marathon in about 3 hours and 40 minutes. I did that because I wanted to, because I could.
I didn't quit drinking then, however. I didn't consider that a bad habit at the time. In fact, running actually increased my desire for beer. It's amazing how much beer is consumed at a road race event in Hawaii! I ran to get healthy and then drank to stay in touch. Another shitty day in paradise.
Anyway, I have come a long way in my life. I suppose I am over the hump and on my downhill slide to the end days. I hope those days will be long and time will be on my side. I have many more places I want to see before I leave this earth, like 3 more states and 16 more baseball stadiums. Many more things I want to experience and lots more laughing I want to do before I am, myself, just a memory.
It happens to us all. No one can escape death. I don't want to. I do, however, want to postpone it as long as possible. At least as long as I have my reasoning ability. If my mind starts to go, I would rather just cash in my chips and quit the game. The rules keep changing and sooner or later I won't want to learn the new rules anymore.
I like growing older and wiser. If I begin to grow older and dumber, then you can shoot me.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Perhaps our great country is really not so great anymore. Maybe we could learn a few lessons from our ancient forefathers. Perhaps we could think a bit more clearly about our government's role in our lives. Maybe we should demand less from our great government and expect more from our great people. After all, it is always people who do things. Governments can do nothing on their own. Only people act and only people can steer government to do anything at all. Ever!
Many people in this country these days are trying to steer our government into becoming all things to all people worldwide. We are the givingest folks on the planet. But we get no credit from the rest of the world for any help we try to bring to the table. They can only ask for more. Hell, even many folks in this country demand that our government give more aid, assistance, help, MONEY, to the continent of Africa. Money will not help Africa in the end. It is always up to the people. Always!
I tuned in briefly off and on, to the Live 8 shows on MTV and VH1. I was sufficiently unimpressed. Perhaps the show was better on the internet, but the hosts of the TV shows seemed to be so enamored of the event itself that they could only gush platitudes about what a great event it all was instead of letting the performers speak for themselves with their music. I like good music and would have been happy to watch some of the musicians practice their trade. I think music is a great thing and an event with such top name acts is a wonderful way to entertain.
What I don't like is the insinuation that Americans do not give their fair share to the poor countries of Africa. Africa needs a lot of help but it must begin with the African people themselves. Leaders like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe will not help make Africa a self-sustaining or even a stable continent by confiscating land from "evil, rich" landowners and giving it to poor people who have no concepts of what it takes to be a successful farmer. Or by forcing poor city dwellers to move to the countryside and become farmers when they have no knowledge or means to make a piece of land productive.
Africa is in trouble because Africans have continued to make the same mistakes over and over again, expecting a different result apparently. This is insanity. And no amount of money from the USA or any other country will make this situation better. They need freedom and they need liberty. The people need to be taught how to fish. There are plenty of organizations, people, corporations, charities, whatever who would gladly help these people learn how to fish. But what the do-gooders of the world are expecting is more fish to give to the African people. .7% of our GDP to go toward African aid? I don't think so! Not from our tax dollars! Give from your own pocket, if you are so inclined, but keep your sticky fingers out of the taxpayer slush fund.
Africans need to help themselves first. We should stop giving them fish at all. It's time they started fishing on their own. Doesn't every parent eventually let their child walk, however unsteadily, on their own the first time? Focusing on Africa's poverty will not make it go away. You cannot eliminate poverty by wishing it so. And you cannot make poverty disappear by throwing money at it, even though it would seem to be that this is the exact way to end it, but it does not work this way. Only the people of Africa can make it go away. Only Africa can save Africa.
I don't mean to be a hard-nosed individual. I will gladly help out with donations but I think I need to see some more effort from the people affected trying to help themselves out first. They must love liberty and freedom and have a desire to pick themselves up by the bootstraps, expend the necessary effort, and become self-sufficient on their own. They will appreciate it and they will fight for it once they understand it. You cannot force freedom and liberty and prosperity on anyone. They must achieve it for themselves.
The African people need to want freedom and liberty. Some do, of course, but more are needed. The bleeding hearts who cry for more help for the African people do them a grave disservice by pleading for more and more assistance. They should be encouraging the Africans to educate themselves, to learn farming techniques, to figure out ways to feed their people by their own devices. They need to yearn for liberty, they need to yearn for their own freedoms. They need to learn to do for themselves, and then do it, rather than begging for outside help to get them out of a jam.
Africans should be hopping mad! Not because they are not getting enough financial aid from the rest of the world. But because they are not getting enough credit from the rest of the world for being able to take care of themselves. They should be hopping mad and ready to end the idiot government regimes, like Mugabe's, that keep their people down and oppressed. Oppression should be a fuel to the desire for freedom. Let them get hungry enough for liberty and maybe they will destroy the rulers who keep their people oppressed for the ruler's own benefit.
And if the African people are not mad enough to grab the freedom and liberty they desire and to unseat the ridiculous rulers who keep them down, then I say they are not ready for the results of freedom and liberty. Let them simmer a while longer until the passion is strong enough for them to do what needs to be done. We cannot give them freedom, it must be won. And it must be won by the African people.
I am very pleased and thankful for the actions of the dreamers back in the late 1700s. A small minority of forward thinking, smart folks laid the framework for the greatest country in this world's history. I still believe that even though I don't like the path we have taken in the 20th century towards socialism. I think that path can be altered and we can get back on the right track for ensuring freedom and liberty for all in this nation. Let the rest of the world learn it for themselves. It is the only way.