Friday, December 28, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

The nation is careening over the fiscal cliff like Thelma and Louise in a final desperate act as they flee from the law. Unfortunately for you and I, our elected leaders are not fleeing from the law but from responsibility. And in the end, it will be the taxpayers that are left in the mangled wreckage of our solons inability to shoulder their responsibility.

At this late stage, the best anyone can hope for is a continuation of the present system for a short period of time to give Republicans and Democrats more time to negotiate. If that happens, does anyone believe we will not be in this same position at the next deadline?

Know that on January 1, every taxpayer in this country is going to face a significant tax hike. The estimate is an average of $4,000 per family.

And as much as Washington talks about "raising revenue" ( which is politi-speak for raising your taxes), there is no serious discussion about cutting spending. That has to be part of the equation- a substantial part- if we are ever going to get our country on solid financial footing.

When you listen to the heated rhetoric and all the talk over the next few days, keep these facts in mind: we have run an annual deficit of over $1 trillion for each of the past 4 years; our national debt is now $16 trillion; and and now Washington is considering raising the debt ceiling again to increase our deficits and national debt.

Friends, the lunacy of this is simply that Washington cannot control their spending, and no amount of taxation or confiscation of our wealth is going to remedy the problem. Until there is serious discussion about curtailing out of control spending, there will be no progress made toward getting our country on the road to financial health. And more importantly, every year, Washington will greedily eye more of your money to continue their profligate ways.

So as we close out the year, I would tell you not to get discouraged, even in the face of these dire circumstances. Stay engaged in the process. Be a happy warrior and fight the good fight against the nonsense that is happening in Washington. Effecting change will require all of us to be involved, and most importantly, not just at the national level, but at the state and local level as well.

This is going to be a painful period, far worse than the presidency of Jimmy Carter, and I didn't think that possible. We will all feel the impact of the ineptitude from Washington. Our wallets will suffer. Yet we will get through it. It will be more difficult than it should be, and it will take more time, but we will do what we have always done as a nation.

We will persevere.


We bid farewell to our kibble focused dog that has graced the header of these Friday blogs. Look for a new mascot for 2013 next week.

Thank you to all who have graciously taken time to read the blog. Your support is very much appreciated, and readership continues to grow because of your kindness.

As 2013 unfolds, my wish for all of you is that the year holds many joys and blessings; that you find wonder in daily living; and that each of us can lift up a fellow traveler on the journey.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Friday, December 21, 2012

My View

All of us can probably recall a Christmas where we REALLY wanted a certain gift, one that was special to us. Simple or complex, big or small, in our minds, it was the item that would just make our Christmas the most magical Christmas ever.

As a child, I suppose every year there was some gift that was a 'must have' have gift for me. Every year, it would be something different, but whatever it was, it was THE gift that I just had to have.

Whatever the gift was, there was one consistent characteristic from year to year. It was a gift that I was unable to obtain on my own. It was forever out of my reach. I had to rely on my Mom and my Dad to supply that gift that was unobtainable.

And really, that is the essence of Christmas.

Christmas is a time to reflect and re-center our lives on the gifts we have been, gifts that were unattainable on the basis of our efforts alone.

Gifts of peace, joy, and abiding love.

Looking at our world and the tragic events that have occurred recently, we often wonder if those gifts really exist. Seeing death around us, especially innocent lives lost, we doubt they are real. When we or a loved one walk through the dark valley of illness or loss, peace, joy and love are often not to be found.

Yet when the light of Heaven pierced the dark night to announce the birth of the Christ child, the announcement also heralded the presence of the gifts that we could not provide for ourselves: peace; joy; and love.

They are here even today in our troubled world and frantic lives. The giver of those gifts calls us back during this season to know that He provides what we cannot provide for ourselves. Christmas reaffirms the gifts we have been given and the hope of a life and world that is forever changed by the receiving of the generosity of Heaven.

May Christmas bring peace, joy, and love to you and all your household and in the coming year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My View- Transcending the Tragedy of Sandy Hook

The horrific shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, has torn families asunder and unleashed untold grief. In a time of the year that should hold hope and joy, sorrow and unspeakable pain have become the emotions that are dominant. Grieving families and a shocked nation struggle to make some sense of this tragedy.

The answers will not come easy.

The appalling specter of innocent children being gunned down is beyond comprehension. Children that were focused and excited on Christmas were ripped from this life by an angry and deranged young man. They did nothing wrong, were not in harm's way. And that makes this tragedy more unfathomable. The shattering of their innocence in a violent end amplifies this tragedy.

We are speechless, our words fail us in times like this. As a nation, we are mourning with families that are trying to comprehend the enormity of their loss.When our words fail, we sit down- literally and figuratively- beside those that are suffering and offer the only thing we can offer, our presence. We embrace them in their suffering and let them know that they do not walk alone on this dark path.

Out of our grief and questioning why this happened, there comes another emotion, a burning anger directed toward the shooter, Adam Lanza. Heavily armed and wearing a bulletproof vest, Lanza broke into the the school and began his indiscriminate rampage before finally taking his life. In the aftermath, he is easy to hate, a deranged, troubled young man who is unlovable and loathed for the heartache he has perpetrated. Coping with the sorrow and shock of this tragedy, the anger and the hatred flow easily.

In the moments and hours after the shooting, many people were saying on social media that all of us should hug  those we love and tell them we love them.

Rightly so.

But what about those that are unlovable? The people that are different, those that are not like us, the outcasts.

Do we just love family? Those that have the sames likes and tastes as us? We would all admit that there are some that are more easy to love than other.


Less than 24 hours had passed since this horrific tragedy before some pundits began to attack the "gun culture" in this country as the major contributor to the shooting. Other pundits bemoaned the fact that we had forced God out of our schools and that created an environment ripe for a troubled young man to perpetrate this atrocity. Calls for stricter gun laws from one side and the necessity for God from the other.

The reality is that both sides are right- to a point.

There is a culture problem in this country, just not a gun culture problem. No, not that the ethnic or religious background of my neighbor is different than me. The culture problem that we face today is that we have generally lost our sense of transcendence, of things greater than ourselves. The common good has been supplanted by an ethic of "what's in it for me?" and "how do I get mine?" Make no mistake, I am working and trying as best I can to "get mine" and supply the needs of my family, but when that is my sole ethic, my sole motivation, my focus becomes very limited and self centered. And when we feel like we haven't gotten what is ours, it is easy to have anger and frustration become overriding emotions. 

We have all known people that that cause us to marvel because they think outside of themselves and seek the greater good of others. Dawn Hochsprung,  Principal of Sandy Hook Elementary, and Vicki Soto, a teacher, were just two such people. They were slain defending their students. Unarmed, they rushed into harm's way not thinking about their safety but instead intent on protecting their charges.

Perhaps the courage and character of people like these two heroes is drawn out in challenging times. Yet they lived every day outside of themselves. "What's in it for me?" was not in their makeup; instead they looked to the greater good of those around themselves.

They were transcendent in their thinking and in the way they lived.

In a culture that has become so inwardly focused, a culture that has abdicated the responsibility for living outside of ourselves to institutions and agencies, an environment has been created that allows those who are in trouble to be nearly invisible and for those slipping into madness to fall through the cracks, to surface once again in a breathtakingly demented act that stuns us.

Until the shock and pain diminish and we gravitate back to our normal routines.

Those that say that since we have taken God out of our schools and lives and have become a more secular nation, thus creating an environment for this awful event are right, too.

Up to a point.

I will speak personally on this point. I cannot presume to know what is on the heart of anyone that reads this.

If I rely on my own innate "goodness" to define right and wrong, I will often times fall woefully short of treating my fellow man as I should. I want what is best for me. Putting others and their best interest first is not natural. My reliance on my goodness is insufficient.

By living in a transcendent relationship with my God, I have a firm value system that is, in my mind, unwavering. There is absolute good, and there is absolute evil. More importantly, I do not define what is good and what is evil. "Do not kill" is an absolute, a line I would never cross. "Love your neighbor as yourself" is also an absolute, but much tougher for me to follow and live every day. In fact, if it were up to me, I wouldn't try that one. Yet, in a transcendent relationship, I am called to do that every day, no matter how miserably I fail.

But attempting to impose my belief system on others will also be an abject failure. And attempting to force God on an individual, a community, or a society that does not want him will, too, be an abject failure.

Instead, if  I live a transcendent life, one that puts the interests of others first, I will become the influence, the good, that can change those around me. Transcendent living is not often heroic, like what was done by Dawn Hochsprung and Vicki Soto, but is often very mundane. Yet, it is the sometimes mundane things that can make someones life a little easier and lets them know they are valuable, and in turn change a life.

Thankfully, we do not have to frequently witness the transcendent actions of those thrust into acts of bravery and heroism like Dawn Hochsprung and Vicki Soto. Yet I would submit that daily living in a transcendent manner is just as heroic. Treating those who are rude to us with kindness is difficult, and in this day, not something that I like to do. Transcendent living causes me to step outside myself and see the perspective of another, to walk in their shoes, and to feel empathy. That is, at times, painful. It is certainly not in my nature.

Looking beyond ourselves- transcendentally living- allows us to see the outcast, the hurting, and yes, the unlovable. More importantly, it calls us to action.

And that will change lives.


There is a call for more laws, more regulations, to limit guns. There will be heated debate about this. There will analysis and argument, no doubt volatile and angry at times, about the causes for this shooting. Angry accusations from left and right are already flying. There will be those who are fearful of an erosion of their rights. Even now there is a strong sense that as a nation, we must "do something".

If the debate is just about this tragedy and its causes and the laws we want to hide behind; if we are just content to "do something" so that we feel better; then the heroism of the staff at Sandy Hook and the tragic loss of the lives of so many innocents will have no lasting impact on our nation and on us as a people.

Laws will not eliminate evil, nor will they change lives. If we are going to change as individuals, as a society, it will be a change that occurs because we have begun to live outside of ourselves.

Heroically, in little daily actions that make a positive impact on others.

Loving the unlovable; overcoming evil with good.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

By now, the State of Michigan has a law pending the signature of Governor Rick Snyder that will make the state a right to work state. This simply means that a person that is hired by a company cannot be forced to join a union and have union dues confiscated from their paycheck. And the unions and their leadership are apoplectic. Violence has broken out and threats are flying from the unions. Even President Obama has gotten into the fray as he tries to protect his union cronies, stating that forced union membership means better wages and that this move is purely political and not economic. Once again, Obama is clueless. Right to work laws do not negate collective bargaining agreements; they prevent unions from imposing mandatory fees. And this frightens the unions, because those mandatory fees are used to bankroll Democrats in sate and national office for the promise of their political favor. Cut off that forced stream of income, and the unions ability to buy politicians and their favor is significantly diminished. How significant of an impact, you ask? A poll just before the vote of the Michigan legislature said that 25% of Michigan's government employees would opt out their union, costing the union over $100 million annually. Now you see why the Democrats and their machinery in the labor movement are fighting so viciously to  prevent the free choice of choosing union or non-union status. Remember: always follow the money.

Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while, I was a suspect.

Want to see what the United States will eventually look like with the Democrats in charge? Look no further than Detroit, or on a larger scale, the State of California. In both venues, government spending has burgeoned beyond any connection to revenue realities and as a result, pension obligations and salaries have become more than either entity can handle. The next step is obvious. A painful cutback in services and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life await those who cannot flee the mess around them. Higher taxes force businesses to flee to more favorable locales, leaving fewer jobs and generally lower levels of income. The economic death spiral continues as taxes are raised yet again and services gain cut back. Interestingly enough, when you look at both California and Detroit, nothing has been done to reform the massive pension obligations they face. And these pensions are the albatross around the financial neck of both governments. How does this relate to the U.S.? Higher taxes await all of us. Defense spending, infrastructure spending, and other "services" are being cut at the federal level. And yet again, more taxes are demanded. Notice what is missing? No discussion of entitlement reform, which is like the pensions that need to be reformed in Detroit and California. Until we have honest and meaningful reform, our nation is fast heading down the road toward economic calamity like Detroit or California.

Absolute power corrupts, but we still need the electricity.

Expect to go over the fiscal cliff at the end of the year. Obama is demanding his pound of flesh, financially speaking, by raising taxes on the "rich", and he is intractably dug in on this position. so be it. We SHOULD go over that fiscal cliff. yep, you heard that right. We should go over the fiscal cliff, and force the hand of those in Washington to consider meaningful tax and entitlement reform. Think the Democrats won't respond to the howls of their constituents when there is a massive cutback in their benefits beginning in January? Obama and the Democrats are not remotely serious about reform. They want to raise taxes and implement minuscule changes to entitlements that will occur 20 years from now. I say we happily dive over that cliff and enjoy the ride down. Maybe then, Democrats will be honest about the financial mess we are in and be willing to engage in meaningful reforms.

I have never been a big fan of camping. It is just too in tents.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

The intent, kibble staring dog that has graced the weekly View column will soon be entering retirement. he has served us well, and now it is time to find another pup that will be our 2013 mascot. If you have one that you want me to consider, let me know by sending a link in the comments section.

Did you enjoy your bowl of Corn Flakes this morning? Or some other Kellogg brand cereal? Know this: the Kellogg Foundation, founded by cereal magnate Will Keith Kellogg in 1930, joined the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in fighting voter I.D. laws in the past presidential election as well as other elections. The Kellogg Foundation committed $5.2 million to the Applied Research Center (ARC) between 2010 and 2012. This funding, along with $200,000 from the SEIU was used exclusively to fight voter I.D. laws primarily by filing legal action that claimed asking for proper I.D. at a polling place was racially discriminatory. While it has long been known that unions and Democrats have a sycophantic relationship, disclosure laws are revealing the extent to which companies are getting involved with elections and attempting to influence the outcome of the voting process. And it happens on both sides. If we want to have fair and honest elections, let's allow anyone or any corporate entity to contribute as much money to the process as they want. Just have full and immediate disclosure. Have a proper process to identify voters (and no, voter ID is NOT discriminatory as the left would make it out to be). Rather than hide behind shadow organizations and a convoluted contribution process, bring it all out into the open. Oh, and tomorrow for breakfast, you can be certain that there will be no Kellogg's cereal in my house.

As I have said before, never repeat yourself.

The federal debt has now grown to $16 trillion dollars. But that is not the full story. Washington has promised future generations that they will receive benefits under the various entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. Unlike most businesses, the federal government does not account for future liabilities on its balance sheet, but if it did, the numbers would be shocking. Conservative estimates are that the unfunded liabilities of our federal government are $87 trillion. Let that sink in... the future commitments of our government are $87 TRILLION dollars! Let's put that in perspective. To account for our current expenditures and the accrued expenses of our entitlement programs- not pay off the debt- the tax collections would need to be $8 TRILLION per year. Here is a little more perspective: if the IRS confiscated the total income of everyone in the U.S. that makes more than $66,000, they would have $5.1 trillion. Add in the total corporate profit of every company in the U.S., and you would get another $1.6 trillion. You see where this is heading, don't you? You can take all the income and still not be able to service the total growth in our entitlement liabilities. A final bit of perspective. The President is adamant about taxing "the rich" and getting the pound of flesh out of those that make more than $250,000. Remember what I said last week? That will yield $84 billion, just 3 days of government spending. See how petty and futile that is? Our nation needs real leadership and honest dialogue about our financial situation, and more importantly, legitimate solutions. Unfortunately, this current administration is providing none of that.

No sense in being a pessimist. it doesn't work anyway.

One of life's truisms is that eventually, economics trumps politics. When the economic realities set in and become so weighty, the political charades stop, oftentimes painfully. We are seeing one of those charades begin to grind to a halt. Congress finally agreed to end the $6 billion in annual tax breaks to the ethanol industry. Now, you are a reasonable individual (you are reading this blog, after all), and you might say that the ethanol industry needed those subsidies to get up and running, and now should be able to stand on its own without those breaks. Well, you would be reasonable, but the ethanol industry isn't. They are clamoring for a reinstatement of those subsidies, even though ethanol has been shown to damage automobile engines and decrease fuel efficiency. And by diverting food stock (corn) into the energy stream (ethanol is derived from corn), you and I paid higher prices for many foods. So now that artificial price supports and subsidies have disappeared, the ethanol industry is in dire financial shape. Once again, economic reality cuts through the charade of a politically sought end result. Only after we managed to waste millions of dollars.

My wife is like nature. She abhors a vacuum.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Money, or capital, is agnostic. What do I mean by that? Simply put, capital is going to be employed or used where there is a high probability of safety and the best return possible commensurate with that safety. Those who make decisions about where to employ capital are not going to put it at risk without an appropriate return, and they are going to work to protect that capital. One way that capital is protected is to minimize the effect of taxes. Keep as much of your capital as possible without having it confiscated by the government. Now many of you may have read that last statement and said that is typical of a cold hearted conservative, but a funny thing has happened this week. Costco Wholesale Corporation, whose principals Jeffrey Brotman, James Sinegal, and Craig Jelinek were all large contributors to the Obama campaign, has declared a special $7 per share dividend, costing the company over $3 billion dollars. That dividend will be paid before the end of the year, when taxes are expected to go up and dividends are projected to lose their favorable tax treatment and be taxed as regular income. What this company has done is pay their principals and shareholders in the most tax efficient way possible, thereby preserving the greatest amount of capital for those beneficiaries. And Costco is not alone, as Tyson Foods (another big financial supporter of the Democrats), Wynn Resorts, and other companies look to preserve capital and avoid taxes. And there is nothing wrong with this. It is this fact that Washington continually fails to grasp: that capital will be employed in the most efficient way possible and will be used in the most tax efficient ways possible. Raising the tax rates will result in no more revenue coming in to Washington than currently does for this reason.

My mind works like lightning: one brilliant flash and it's gone.

While there is a lot of focus on income taxes and the impending "fiscal cliff" that happens December 31st, look for the Obama Administration to raise other taxes to siphon off more money from American workers. One area to pay attention to is the resurrection of the global warming hoax and the attendant taxes that will be implemented to arrest climate change. One of those taxes that will probably come up soon after the income tax issue is resolved is a carbon tax. This tax would be used to fund more green energy projects- as if 34 failed green energy companies in the first term of the Obama administration weren't enough- and more importantly, to force less automobile use because of the price of gas.  Stephen Chu, Obama's Energy Secretary, has made it his- and by extension- the Obama Administration's- stated goal to have the price of gas match what Europeans pay. If you didn't know, that is well over $5 per gallon. Stay aware of what happens once this fiscal crisis is past and see if we don't have another "climate change crisis" as a way to raise more tax revenue and to change your lifestyle.

I recently went to a very emotional wedding. Even the cake was in tiers.

Elections have consequences, and almost immediately after Obama was re-elected, companies began laying off large numbers of workers. Why? The hope was that if Mitt Romney won the election, there would be a serious effort to repeal Obamacare or gut out the most expensive parts. The election results meant that would not happen, so companies, faced with a staggering increase in health care costs that have been mandated under Obamacare, began to cut their workforce to contain those costs. To date, over 70,000 announced layoffs have occurred, and many more are expected. Couple these layoffs and those to come with an increased tax burden, and the economy is going to have a difficult time growing. You know... it sounds so academic to say "the economy" is going to struggle. The reality is that this election meant that you and I, the producers, income earners, and job creators, are going to struggle. Our communities are going to struggle. Charitable organizations are going to struggle. Prepare for a long trek through a dismal economic period. Elections do have consequences.

Build a man a fire and he will be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he will be warm for the rest of his life.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Thanksgiving Day has come and gone with copious amounts of food consumed and an orgy of shopping has begun. For many of us, we have spent time with family and now the focus shifts to shopping and preparing for Christmas. The hum of daily life now turns into a roar as we shop and spend.

The beauty of Thanksgiving is that it calls all of us to focus, even for a brief time, not on "things", but on what we really deem to be important, the aspects of our life for which we should be thankful. Family, health, and daily provision move to the forefront.

Those transcendent blessings are often drowned out by daily life, by the choices we make and the demands forced upon us. We often bemoan the pace of life which crowds out a sense of peace and thankfulness.

Although our times are hectic, one of the most tumultuous times in the history of our nation was the Civil War. In the midst of this ferocious internecine strife, Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation that calls to us today to remember the transcendence of the blessings that the nation enjoyed in that difficult time. That proclamation speaks to us today.

Here it is in its entirety:

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

As we move back into the rhythm of our daily lives, we are faced once again with struggles, political strife, and financial challenges. The call of Thanksgiving is to remember that despite these challenges, we are a blessed people. We have blessings that are bigger than daily life and its struggles.

May this time of Thanksgiving be a time of thankfulness that continues throughout the year.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Even Without Hockey, Predators Keep Making an Impact

Even though the NHL has taken a hiatus, that doesn't mean that the Nashville Predators have stopped being deeply involved in our community. The organization continues to make an impact in the lives of middle Tennesseans through numerous outreach efforts and by just being a good citizen.

As most of you know the Predators brought the entire game experience to a house league Pee Wee game at A-Game Ice Rinks in Franklin. You can watch the video of the Smash Mob here.

The event may appear on the surface to be just a fun gathering of Predator fans with nothing to do, but have no doubt that these young players and their families were positively impacted by the support of the Predators and their fans.

While the activities centered around the ice are fun and provide a positive experience to young hockey participants, the Predators continue to to impact lives that are far away from the hockey rink. The DNA of the organization has the team and its charitable foundation focused on the needs of those that are less fortunate and need a boost.

Today, the Predators Foundation and members of the front office and coaching staff delivered turkeys and food baskets to families at 9 organizations around the area. I caught up with several of the Predators at Community Child Care in Franklin.

Some of the sacks of food prepared by the Predators that were being delivered to Community Child Care Center. Along with the food sacks, each family also received a whole turkey.

In the foreground is the Director of the Predators Foundation, Rebecca King. It is not just the Predators Foundation that gets involved with these worthwhile activities, however. Joining Rebecca at this location were Predators Special Assistant Brent Peterson and Strength and Conditioning Coach David Good.

Gnash was there to make a grand entrance as well.

Gnash was there to entertain the kindergarten class and...

once they warmed up to him, the children had a great time with Gnash, Coach Peterson, and Craig "Partner" Baugh

Community Child Care was established in 1971 to serve the needs of the low income community in Franklin by providing a safe and nurturing environment. Currently, Community Childcare has 73 children enrolled , all from families that receive some form of public assistance.

The Predators "Partner" Baugh, Community Child Care Directors Matthew Cochran and David Praet, Gnash, Predators Special Assistant Brent Peterson, and Community Child Care Board Chairman Mark Blake.

Two very disparate events, yet two similar outcomes. Lives impacted by by an organization that has shown time and again its commitment to making a difference in our community. Young hockey players that were awed at a spontaneous show of support. Families that without this generosity would have been wanting in this time of celebration. Both groups touched and lives positively impacted by the Predators.

Yes, hockey as a game has frustrated many fans because we don't get to see our game, the sport we love, on the ice.

Yet the Predators organization has shown that they recognize that life and its needs do not stop even when their sport has.

And for that, we in Nashville are thankful.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Just over a week after the election, and Obama has ramped up into full class warfare mode. In his first press conference, he said that the recent election has given him a mandate for raising taxes on the rich. He is insisting that those households that make more than $250,000 should pay higher taxes. This is his first step in "curing" our deficit problems. By not extending the tax cuts for those making more than $250K, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that in 2013 and additional $42 billion in taxes will be collected and in 2014 the amount will be $38 billion. Folks, our government spends $3.6 TRILLION per year. The increased tax collections from taxing the "rich" amount to 3 - yes, THREE, days worth of government spending.  And understand that there are implications to increasing taxes, one of which the CBO calculates will cost the economy 200,000 jobs. I have no doubt that to move toward curing our nation's financial problems, there will have to be tax reform (not necessarily increases. More on that in a moment), but there has to be serious discussion about entitlement and spending reform, none of which have occurred. Look past this charade and realize that we have a spending problem in this country that has to be addressed if we are going to get back on sound financial footing. No amount of class warfare and demagoguery by Obama or the left will change that fact.

My new dog is a rescue dog. He rescues food from the table, socks from the laundry room, and my shoes from the closet.

There is going to be significant and often heated discussions about taxes in the coming days and weeks. Here are some things you should know (WARNING: ECONOMICS AHEAD) about what is being discussed and how it impacts you. The nominal tax rate is the stated tax rate for a particular income level. For example, if a household has a gross income of $70,701 to $142,700, you are in the 25% tax bracket. The marginal  tax rate is the rate that applies to earning one more dollar of of income. It is the change in our tax obligation if our income rises. For instance, if a family has an income of $142,000 and they have an opportunity to increase their income by $10,000, the tax on that will not be 25%, but 28% as the additional income moves them into a higher income tax bracket. The effective rate is how much of the income does the government actually capture. For instance, my family that was just getting ready to move into a higher tax bracket may offset that move by increased deductions, such as moving to a bigger house and paying more mortgage interest or increasing charitable contributions. All of us try to legally lower taxes by lowering our effective rate. We may contribute more to charitable enterprises and claim as many legal deductions as possible so that we are paying less in taxes. As we debate tax increases, be aware that most families have a limited ability to manage their effective tax rate. Our ability to make certain deductions and legal tax saving moves is limited and will be further limited if certain deductions are lowered or eliminated. And this means that raising tax rates will fall squarely on our shoulders, not the "rich" that Obama was to punish.

My fitness goal is to weigh what I told the DMV I weighed.

While there is a lot of focus on rising tax rates if Congress fails to act by January 1, there is an aspect of the fiscal cliff that hasn't been discussed very much. But it will be. That discussion will center around the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Currently, there is a patch in place that keeps most taxpayers from being affected by the AMT. If the AMT is not extended or modified, approximately 33 million taxpayers will fall under the AMT. What does that mean? A very large- and unexpected- tax liability for the current tax year. If Congress does not act on extending the AMT, then it becomes retroactive for 2012. What happens then? It creates a minimum tax rate for filers of 28%. Not only that, but child care costs are no longer deductible. Charitable contributions will not be deductible (think that will crush non-profit organizations?). Real estate taxes will not be deductible. State income taxes will not be deductible. These are standard deductions that many taxpayers claim to lower their federal tax liability. The effect of this is to increase marginal tax rates well beyond the 28% level (see the item above for the discussion of marginal tax rates). The effect to every tax payer is going to be more of their income subject to taxes. Think that is going to help a struggling economy? Pay attention to the battle that is occurring about how to deal with the fiscal cliff. All of us that are paying taxes are going to be dramatically impacted, and not just by raising tax rates.

My cooking is so awesome even the smoke alarm cheers for me.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My View

The recently completed national election is one of the best examples of our numerous freedoms. All of us had the opportunity to vote without oppression, and our nation enjoys the freedom to elect the leaders we feel will best lead our nation or to peacefully dissent from those results.

Those freedoms and all our liberties were purchased at a great price. Throughout history, men and women have valued our freedom and defense of this great nation more than themselves. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedoms. Some have suffered physically. All have sacrificed time away from their family and their physical comfort in service to their country.

On this day where we honor our veterans, join me in thanking those veterans that are with us and remembering those who have gone before. We thank those that even now are defending our country and bringing the light of freedom to oppressed people. We stand on the shoulders of these giants. We enjoy a free society that is the envy of the world because men and women have sacrificed and are sacrificing for our safety and our freedom.

Thank you to our veterans. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice. On this special day and every day, we honor you and remember you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My View: The Real Impact of this Election

The passion that the election stirred still runs high. One side exults in victory, while the other examines what went wrong and tries to improve. Snark reigns on both sides. Reasons for victory or defeat are analyzed and dissected.

Yet in a few weeks, the election will be behind us and we will get back to business as usual.

Only this time, it will be in an environment that has permanently changed.

We can talk about women's rights to abortion and their reproductive systems. We can talk about the U.S. being less jingoistic and a good world citizen. We can talk about "fairness" and the government providing a level playing field.

And none of this matters.

Because we as a nation are heading toward bankruptcy.

And we have done it to ourselves.

Now before you say this is sour grapes from a conservative that saw his candidate lose; before you say it is an alarmist reaction to take the sheen off an Obama victory, consider this: we now have an electorate that has control of the purse strings with the power to vote themselves continuing increases from your wallet.

Abetted by an indifferent body politic over the years, we have created a dependency class in this country that now has grown to the point that it can control an election. More importantly, it controls the access to your earnings. That control will not be relinquished by those that have it. They have seized control and they have no skin in the game. Your money is now theirs.

That is a formula for economic ruin.

Here is an excerpt from an essay by Porter Stansberry. He says it about as concisely and clearly as anyone:

This kind of progressive tax structure, where a tiny fraction of the population pays for essentially all of the government's spending, creates the illusion that the government and its services are free. Our system is a lie. The lie is that you can live at the expense of your neighbor.

Yes, it sure seems true right now. Today, about 10% of the population pays for roughly 75% of all income taxes. Looks like everything is working out the way the voters want… They want more government services… They want free "Obama phones"… and EBT cards that can purchase luxury items and booze… and discounted housing… and cheap mortgages… and free education… and free health care…

They want it all. And they will vote for it every time. More and more.

By 2011, 49.1% of American households received some form of direct benefits from the federal government. As a result, more than 60% of Americans now receive more benefits from the federal government than they pay in taxes.

Folks who are the recipients of this largesse have developed sophisticated arguments to explain why this is "fair" and "right." But the truth is, it doesn't really matter what they say. In a democracy, every argument about what's legal eventually comes down to the ballot box. And there's no way the 10% who have to pay can compete with the 90% who don't when it comes to a vote.

And so… since 1960, the average federal tax burden per family in the U.S. has soared. In real dollars (indexed to 2011), the tax burden in America has gone from $11,500 per household to almost $25,000 annually. Just ask yourself this question… how can the median household, which earned $50,000 in 2011, afford to spend half its income on taxes? Obviously, it can't. And by having sharply progressive taxation, it doesn't have to… at least on paper. We'll come back to this in a minute.

First… even though the mob can clearly vote itself whatever tax structure it wants… the tax burden is now painful enough to seriously harm the economy. That is, even though the political feedback loop is broken (the majority of voters don't have to pay the taxes, so there's nothing to stop them), the economic feedback loop can't be subverted. So the government has begun borrowing enormous amounts in order to satisfy the demands of the mob. Specifically, the federal government is now spending $3.5 trillion a year. Income taxes only raise $1.1 trillion a year. Thus, even if you doubled income taxes, we'd still run a deficit every year.

My friends… that's pure insanity. That's why every time there's a committee of one kind or another that's tasked with solving our government's giant fiscal problems, it always comes back with nothing. No one in Washington wants to admit how much trouble we're in. There's no way to fix the system. The hole is far, far too big.
No government can survive long when it spends more than twice what it collects in tax revenue. Not even when it holds the world's reserve currency and has the world's most powerful armed forces. Just ask the Romans.

Yes, I know, the feds also collect about $250 billion in corporate taxes, but that doesn't change the math in any material way. And yes, I know all about the payroll taxes that support Medicare and Social Security. But you can't count those funds against the current spending because all that money ought to be going toward the future obligations of those programs.

The problem is that our political process – where the masses are allowed to vote themselves nearly unlimited benefits – masks the underlying economics. While any given individual might not have to suffer these burdens, everyone lives within the same economic sphere. We, as a nation, have a limited amount of economic power. We have a limited amount of opportunity. We have a limited about of credit (believe it or not). And right now, the government is taking up a huge amount of these economic assets, an amount that can't possibly be sustained.

We are now spending $6.3 trillion a year on government at every level. That's $55,000 per household in the U.S. In other words, if we all paid equally for the burden of government on a per-household basis, the average household would owe the government more than 100% of what it brings in.

Obviously, if everyone had to pay these taxes… if everyone had to share equally in the burden of the government… then none of this spending would have happened. None of these debts would have accrued. And we would have never ended up in this position.

Politics masks these costs for the individual, who believes he won't have to pay. He thinks he can simply vote… and make people like me pay. But what he doesn't understand – and never will – is that the politics can't change economics.

Our economy can't afford our government. Our economy can't afford these debts – or even the debt service at any legitimate interest rate.

At some point very soon, this economic reality will overwhelm the political charade.

All of us want a nation that is strong, one that will provide opportunity for both us and our children and future generations. We want opportunity to succeed. Over the years, though, this mindset, which was the distinct majority, has been replaced with a notion that I have to "get mine" and the other person has "mine". Initiative and effort have been replaced with entitlement.

Stansberry is right- our political system is a charade that if not changed will come to a painful and calamitous end.

In this election, we have chosen to continue the charade, for in the past four years we have seen no substantive approach to addressing our fiscal crisis. In fact, we have made it markedly worse. If the charade is going to stop, you and I have to engage our elected representatives and begin to change our culture of dependency to one of independence and freedom.

Fail to do so, and eventually economic reality will overwhelm the political charade.

And it will be awful.

Like Stansberry says, "politics can't change economics." We can debate forever the role of government in our society. We can argue about the projection of American military might. We can fight over societal norms and the laws that legalize one form of marriage or the other.

None of that matters.

Because we are going to face a daunting economic reality, that if not addressed, will swamp our country.

So as this nation moves forward after the election, we have to be neither Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal.

Instead, we have to honest.

The decisions that we face are going to be tough. The solutions will be tougher.

And if we choose to ignore them, it will not matter who is in the White House or who controls Congress.

And that, my friends, is my view

Friday, November 2, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Tuesday is election day, and some are calling this election one that will be a turning point for our country. Those of a conservative bent say that if Obama is re-elected, our nation will further deteriorate and slip deeper into a socialist economic quagmire. Those with a liberal persuasion say that if Romney wins, we become a callous nation that cares only about the wealthy to the detriment of those that are disadvantaged.

Regardless of your political beliefs, this election is very important.

But not for those reasons.

Political passions have been stirred, and voters are engaged in an attempt to get their candidate elected.

That is good. That is the way the system is supposed to work.

The importance of this election is not in having your candidate win, though. It is not in having your "side" emerge victorious when the votes are counted.

The importance of this election instead rests in the continued engagement of the electorate as difficult issues are addressed. The difficulty of the issues that we face as a nation cannot be understated. High unemployment, out of control spending, bankrupt social programs, and the lack of political will to have an honest dialogue about our problems are just some of the issues that we must confront.

Recent history has shown that we talk at each other rather than honestly discuss the issues. Scoring political points, whether one is an elected representative or a concerned citizen, is the norm. The sound and fury of this type of engagement signifies and accomplishes nothing.

The energy of this election has to continue in the form of honest discussion of the problems we face and potential solutions to those problems. The solutions will not be easy. No, they will be painful, and they will require sacrifice. Business as usual from Washington will not suffice. Trying to find political solutions that protect a party or a position will not work.

We as citizens have to stay engaged in the process. We have to demand more out of our elected representatives. Our voices must be heard and must be part of the dialogue. We have seen that Washington, left to its own devices, operates in its own best interest, which often does not coincide with the best interests of you and me as citizens.

Honest dialogue does not mean we set aside our principals. It does mean that we listen to divergent viewpoints. It means that we weigh alternatives, even if they come from political opponents. Honest dialogue transcends party or political platform. The problems we face as a nation are bigger than a political party or platform.

Harry Reid has already said that Senate Democrats would not work with Mitt Romney if he is elected President. There are Republicans that feel the same way about working with President Obama if he is re-elected.

That is not a formula for finding workable solutions to our problems, which continue to grow in severity.

This election is about direction. One side believes that government is the solution to all our problems. One side believes that the government should be limited.

We will choose that direction on Tuesday.

What happens after the election- no matter which side wins- will really determine the direction of our country.

It is up to us as citizens to be involved in the process and to determine to be heard as our nation confronts the challenges ahead.

It is too important for us not to be involved.

And that is the importance of this election.

That, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

We often refer to the federal government as the "nanny state" because it is so intrusive into many areas of our lives. This is especially true when it comes to business in this country. According to government data compiled by the National Federation of Independent Business, there are over 4,000 regulations that are in the pipeline that will affect business of all sizes. Just the 13 largest or most impactful regulations that are set to be implemented will cost businesses $515 billion over 4 years. All of these regulations are on hold during the campaign, but one can be certain that if Obama is re-elected, they will be implemented. Among the regulations that are ready to implemented are new smog compliance rules that will put most electric utilities out of compliance. The estimated cost of those new regulations are $90 billion per year. The FDA has crafted new food safety rules, and while they are hesitant to put a price tag on the cost of implementation, they have said they will "be significant". And there are a multitude of pending regulations waiting to be instituted. Guess who will bear the cost of all those new regulations? That's right, it will be you and me. And the impact on business will be to continue to extend the hiring freeze that most companies have implemented in the face of regulatory and economic uncertainty. If we are going to get our economy going and companies hiring, a good first step would be to remove some of the unnecessary regulatory burden and uncertainty that businesses face.

Forget beauty sleep. I want skinny sleep.

We now have more people on welfare than we ever have in the history of the country. Part of that is due to the poor economy. Part of it is that is that under the Obama administration gutted the work requirement to receive welfare aid. During the Clinton presidency, welfare was reformed to require a work or education component. The old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was replaced with a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and one of the central tenets of TANF was that able bodied adults should be required to work or prepare to work by engaging in educational programs in order to receive aid. The program has been wildly successful, moving 2.8 million families off welfare and into jobs to provide for themselves. The Obama administration gutted those work requirements this summer, and you know what has happened. Welfare rolls have burgeoned. Welfare spending has grown over the past two decades more rapidly than spending on Social Security, education, Medicare, and defense. Removing work requirements to receive aid has rapidly increased the rate of growth for welfare spending. What is the logic of making more people dependent on the federal government. If you are cynical like me, you will say it is to buy votes and increase dependency. The fact is that we cannot continue to spend on social programs that have runaway growth and ever get our economy healthy. It doesn't matter who is in the White House or who controls Congress, the need to control spending on social programs is a pressing problem that must be addressed.

Intelligence is like underwear. It's important to have it, but there is no need to show it off.

This election is about direction. The direction that our country will move over the next four years and beyond. As the last two items point out, our government has grown to Brobdingnagian proportions, sucking more people into a vortex of dependency and onerous regulations. Make no mistake, turning around the direction of our country is like turning a battleship. It doesn't happen easily, and it takes time. But that is what we as a nation are deciding in this election. We can chose more of the same: more government regulation; more intrusiveness; and more of our tax dollars siphoned off in massive wealth transfer programs. Or we can begin to make a philosophical turn toward less regulation and more freedom, more independence, and a more responsive government. The choice is ours. The move to a more responsible government rests with us, and we have to be engaged long after this election and no matter who wins the White House. If we are going to return to a path of fiscal stability and limited government, we must hold our elected officials accountable. We must be involved long after the election. Our current path is unsustainable. Correcting it will be painful. And the responsibility rests with us.

I want my children to be independent and strong willed people. Just not while I am raising them.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Stewards Struggle, The Game Suffers

Fans of hockey talk reverently about "the game". The game is its history, the storied venues, and the players past and present that display their athleticism and skill on the ice. It is a father that instills the love of the home team to his child. The game is a team that unites a city behind their quest for a Cup.

The game ignites passions rarely seen in sports. It takes participants and fans to the pinnacle of joy and the depths of heartbreak.

To say the game is special is an understatement.

It is sacred.

For the game to grow and to thrive, it needs good stewardship. That is leadership that looks to the good of the game as a whole, not just a particular team. It is visionary, examining where the game is today and optimizing the potential to make it better, both on and off the ice.

The stewards of the game are the owners and the players. The financial wherewithal of the owner is the foundation of the individual franchise, and their investment makes the game possible in their market. The players and their effort on the ice are the draw, the attraction for the fan.

Ask the 30 owners (or ownership groups) and the players what their vision is for the game. What do you think would be the response from most? I think most would say something like maximizing profitability for their team or making the most money during their playing days.

And therein lies a fundamental problem with the the NHL and the game.

It is the "I have to get mine" mentality.

For the NHL to be successful, all its teams have to be financially viable and on sound footing. Yes, there are differences in markets due to size and other entertainment options. There are differences with respect to the longevity of the sport. Revenues in Toronto, for example, will be different than they are in most markets.

But if Toronto is only worried about the financial health of their team and not the rest of the markets, the League and the game suffers.

There is nothing wrong with the profit motive, but if owners view profitability primarily through the lens of their team, then the game is in trouble.

This singular focus on their team has led to the owners operating in the vacuum of their own self interest and sets up the conflict with the players that the League and its fans endures on an all too frequent basis.

And the players are as guilty as the owners with the "I have to get mine" line of thought.

Unlike players in the other professional leagues, NHL players have other options if they are locked out in a labor dispute with the owners. We saw many players leave for teams in Europe and Russia in the last lockout, and we are seeing it again in this labor dispute. Because there are other options for playing and drawing a paycheck, one has to wonder if there is the sense of urgency on the part of the players to resolve this dispute.

Players have limited time to maximize their income from their playing days, and it is understandable that they want as much money from the owners as possible.

There is no problem with that thinking, but when it becomes centered solely on what is good for the players, the confrontation with the owners becomes inevitable.

And the game suffers.

The problem that the NHL faces is that the stewards of the game are fighting over who gets the most of the revenue pie rather than growing revenue as much as possible. The thinking is about what is good for me rather than what is good for the game.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has said that even if there is a lockout, the fans will come back. That may be true, but that comment alone is indicative of the the narrow thinking that has lead to a lockout to begin with. Where other sports leagues worry about the impact of a labor dispute on the fans, the NHL treats them as an afterthought.

Hardly what I would call visionary thinking.

There is no doubt that there are serious issues to be resolved in this CBA negotiation. Revenue sharing, length of contracts, and defining hockey related revenues are just some of the significant items to be negotiated.

But with both sides intractably dug in, defending their position, resolution seems a long way off.

And the game suffers.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

The political season is a time of claims and counter-claims and positioning by the candidates. Accomplishments are touted and refuted, and we as voters are left to sort out the truth from all the noise an political spin. Well, here is some truth, and it is pretty grim. According to the Congressional Research Service, spending on social welfare programs is approaching the $1 TRILLION mark. Stunningly, nearly one-third of the U.S. population- 100 million people- receive some form of aid from a means tested welfare program each month. Under the Obama administration, federal welfare spending has increased more than a third. CAUTION: do not read this next sentence if you have a weak heart or are prone to high blood pressure. There are over 80 federal welfare programs that provide assistance for food, housing, medical care, etc. and only two- TWO- of those had any kind of a requirement that the recipient work or look for work. Now before you say that I am just a hard hearted conservative that doesn't care if people starve, let me be clear that I believe there is a place for these programs that assist those individuals and families that are genuinely in need. Welfare spending as constituted today has gone far beyond all of that and has become a massive entitlement game that is transferring the wealth of the productive to those that are not. Now that statement may sound harsh, but consider this: if we converted all the welfare programs to cash and distributed it to the recipients, it is more than FIVE times the amount of cash needed to eliminate all poverty in the United States. Let that sink in for a moment.  Here is the reality we face- spending on social programs has exploded because it gives those in Washington the power to collect votes and control people. This has to be changed, not only for the betterment of all our citizens but because economically, our nation cannot continue on this course.

Would you call an eye doctor in Alaska an "optical Aleutian"?

We all know how liberals love to characterize themselves as tolerant and accepting. Take a look at the following sample of tweets off the social media site Twitter:

Sorry for the unfiltered language, but you can see the level of venom and vitriol from the so-called tolerant left. And make no mistake, I am certain that you can find similar remarks about Obama from those on the right. So what is the point? Simply this: until we learn to talk to one another again and thoughtfully engage competing ideas, we will further fragment as a nation. And in so doing, we make it more difficult to make the hard decisions about what is right for our country rather than for a narrow self interest group.

Women love men with confidence. At least, I think they do.

One of the objectives of the Obama administration was to move the country toward "green energy", and there is nothing wrong with that. Except when the government is picking the winners and losers- mostly losers- in this area. Since Obama became President, the federal government, primarily through the Department of Energy, has been picking companies in the green energy market to receive government grants and loans. So far, 36 companies that have received taxpayer dollars have either filed bankruptcy or have laid off most of their work force as they head toward bankruptcy. And this has cost you and me billions of dollars. Oh, yeah, most of these companies are donors to the Obama campaign and Democratic causes. The latest bankruptcy filing came from automobile battery maker A123 Systems, whose President David Vieau has received 5 invitations to White House functions with President Obama and is a notable contributor to his campaign. These green energy fiascoes demonstrate that the government shouldn't be picking winners and losers in any industry, and when they do, the potential for corruption is incredibly high.

If you drink, don't drive. Don't even putt.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Friday, October 12, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

During this silly season leading up to the Presidential election, you will hear a number of claims and counter-claims about a variety of political issues. A hot button, sound bite issue for those on the Left is to have the rich pay their "fair share" in taxes. Beyond the disquieting notion of having those in Washington determine what is a "fair share", one must ask the fundamental question of who is actually paying the taxes in this country. According to the Tax Foundation, the richest 10% of all households in this country pay 45% of all the taxes collected. Let that sink in for a moment... the richest 10% of all households pay 45% of all the taxes. Despite being demonized by those on the Left and their mouthpieces in the mainstream press, the reality is that the "rich" are paying more than their fair share. Way more. By the way, the average tax burden for the richest 10% in the world's developed nations is 32%. It is time to look past the class warfare rhetoric of the Left and understand that taking more of the wealth of the "rich" and re-distributing it through the bureaucracy of Washington is not a formula for growth or long term economic health.

I still have my looks, I just can't find them.

Lots...LOTS of focus on the fact that the unemployment rate was reported earlier this week to have fallen under 8% to 7.8%. This was seen as a sign that companies have started hiring and that finally we were seeing a turn in job creation. Not so fast, my friends. Seems that a rather large state *cough* California *cough* didn't report all their unemployment claims, skewing the number. Oh yes, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) economists that compiled the data- Obama supporters and contributors to his campaign. Here are the two salient points about this: REAL unemployment as measured by the U-6 measurement compiled by BLS is 15%. This includes individuals that have stopped looking for work; that have stopped collecting unemployment or are under-employed. That number hasn't changed significantly over the past 18 months and is more accurately indicative of the condition of our work force. The other point to keep in mind is that government data is now being skewed to achieve a political end. Perceptive people know that the mainstream media is in the tank for the Democrats and liberal causes. They are past the point of trying to hide their support of those candidates and causes. Now government information is being manipulated to support a political viewpoint. Why? The only sector of the economy that has been growing over the term of the Obama presidency? You guessed it. Government employees. Readers of this blog know that I exhort you to always follow the money, and for government employees, supporting a candidate  in any way possible that wants to grow government is in their interest. Take the data from various government departments with a grain of salt. Just like you do with any news item in the mainstream press.

Love is grand. Divorce is at least a hundred grand.

As we watch the debates and listen to the campaign rhetoric, we are going to hear the candidates make their case for the Presidency. Part of what we hear is playing to the audience, part political theater. We have gotten to the point now that we have fact checkers validating or disproving the sometimes outlandish statements by the candidates. many individuals just tune out this noise. But here is a suggestion: listen to which candidate and which party is addressing the fundamental issues that must be addressed for the betterment of our country. I believe there are six issues that we as a nation have to address to improve and continue our way of life. Which candidate offers a vision, a plan to deal with the looming fiscal crisis; the explosive growth of government; the culture of dependency on government handouts; the failure of our public education system; the antipathy toward work and companies that create jobs; and the forces that are destroying our families? That candidate that can address those issues with clarity is the type of leader that this nation needs. And we desperately need leadership.

You should always follow your dreams. Except that one where you are naked at work.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Friday, October 5, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Are you familiar with the WARN Act? The Worker Adjustment and Re-training Notification Act is a law passed by Congress in 1988 that requires companies that have more than 100 employees to give those employees at least 60 days notice if the company is planning to conduct layoffs. This is to give the affected employees time to adjust financially and begin the process of looking for other employment. Why mention this? Several large U.S. manufacturers, lead by Lockheed Corporation, were preparing to send out WARN notifications to their employees because Congress has failed to act on renewing the current tax rates or coming to an agreement on a new tax structure. Failing to do so would mean that a significant portion of the Department of Defense budget would be sequestered and unavailable for spending beginning January 1, 2013, along with curtailment of social spending. And who is one of the largest defense contractors? You guessed it. Lockheed. CEO Bob Stevens was prepared to send out notices to 123,000 employees in compliance with the WARN Act, but the Obama administration urged the company not to do so. You and I both know why. Those notices would have gone out November 2nd, four days before the election. You know how that would look to voters. Oh yeah... not only has the Obama administration asked Lockheed to break the law, the White House has said that if the company was fined for breaking the law, the administration would pay those fines and the cost of employee terminations. Folks, that is you and me as taxpayers paying those fines and termination costs so that the negative impact will not affect the election chances of the incumbent. The audacity and outrageousness of this action is beyond words. Well, I can think of one: corrupt. I guess you can take the politician out of Chicago, but you can't Chicago out of the politician.

If my memory gets any worse, I am going to be able to plan my own surprise party.

Earlier this week, Government Motors announced that their electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, had  a record number of sales. I have written in previous blogs that there would be no sales of this vehicle if it was not heavily subsidized by you and me as the tax payer. Now the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has weighed in and confirmed the fact that the cars would not sell if it was not for significant government subsidies. According to the CBO, in an audit of the Federal Financing Bank, a government entity that is providing loans to automakers for electric automobile development, "Given current prices for vehicles and fuel, in most cases the existing tax credits do not fully offset the higher lifetime costs of and electric vehicle compared with those of an equivalent conventional vehicle or traditional hybrid. The tax credits would still need to be about 50% higher than they are now to fully offset the higher lifetime costs of an electric vehicle." (emphasis mine). So the cars are not efficient to operate with gasoline prices at current levels, but smart people that you are, will say that if gas prices rises, then these cars make sense. And you are right. Where does the price of gas have to rise before the operating costs of an electric vehicle get to a break even point? Again, according to the CBO, at $10 per gallon. Why mention this at all? Electric vehicles are a consumer choice and you, Mr. The View, are all for choice, aren't you? Yep. As long as those choices are not supported or subsidized with our tax dollars. You see, those incentives and subsidized costs are paid by you and me, the taxpayer. And that is only going to increase, as the federal government is prepared to continue to provide subsidies for the purchase of these vehicles. And those subsidies will continue indefinitely. And that is your money and mine supporting a product that is inefficient and will not stand on its own merits.

Does it concern you that when scientists search for "intelligent life", they leave the earth?

As you can see from the item above, when government intervenes in the market place, there is a displacement of resources and a skewing of results. If Government Motors or any car company had to develop and sell an electric vehicle WITHOUT the government subsidizing the price, the product would either be developed and brought to market in a cost efficient manner or it would eventually be scrubbed. However, because the government has intervened, a costly and inefficient product is still being produced and sold. Think those resources that GM is using for the Volt could be better used elsewhere in the company? What happens in this specific situation is what happens when government intrudes into different sectors of the economy. Resources get mis-allocated and used inefficiently. Do you honestly think health care would cost as much as it does or be as burdensome as it is for all of us if we did not have such heavy government intervention? (I know there are arguments about safety nets and other complicated matters, but I am speaking of the general health care product/delivery system). The conceit of those in power is that they believe they can control best the levers of the economy. They cannot. And one of the choices we are making in this upcoming election is how much control we want to give those in Washington.

I get enough exercise pushing my luck.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

If you follow the release of government economic data, you know that data is released and then is usually revised a short time later as the information is further refined. Case in point: the second quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2012 was revised downward from 1.7% to 1.3% Now this doesn't sound like much, but when you are talking about an economy that is nearly $15 trillion, it is a very significant number. Why is this important to you and me? It simply means that as our economy limps along with a miniscule rate of growth, new jobs are not being added that would help reduce unemployment. Our economic malaise is going to continue for a while. Orders for durable goods slumped 13% in the second quarter, and this means that many factories will be curtailing production and the corresponding hours for their workers. There are many reasons that we find our economy in this situation, and the road to recovery will require that Washington loses its antagonism toward job creating businesses and creates an environment that fosters job growth.

Do pyromaniacs wear blazers?

About that environment for job growth... According to a poll of small business owners and manufacturers by the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 69% say that the regulatory policies of the Obama administration have hurt their business. More ominously for job growth, 67% say there is too much uncertainty to expand their business and hire new workers. Why is this ominous? 85% of the new jobs in this country are created by small businesses, defined as companies that employ 50 people or less. When these employers are in a pull back mode, new jobs are not going to be created. By the way, do you think the massive tax increases on small businesses and individuals scheduled to happen January 1 are helping the situation? Neither did I. Here are two other responses from the survey that stand out to me: 55% said they would not start a business today given the current environment; and 54% said  China and India are more supportive of their small businesses than is the U.S. Friends, unless we get real leadership in Washington that will work to reverse these negative trends and improve the climate for the business community, our economy is going to continue to shrink. And we will all suffer.

Issues? I don't have issues. I have a full subscription.

As part of the problem with our sluggish economy, consumer spending has been declining. The main reason for that is that personal incomes are falling. Significantly. The latest data from Sentier Research shows that personal income fell 1.1% in August, to a median household level of $50,678. Since the economic "recovery" began in 2009, personal incomes are down 5.7%. Since President Obama assumed office, personal incomes are down 8.2%. Why is this important? Besides having less money in your pocket each month, we are spending more of our income on necessities- food, gas, utilities, health care- and have less disposable income to spend on things like movies or dining out. This is significant, because 70% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is driven by what you and I do with the spending of our income. Since we have less, the economy contracts and unemployment goes up. You can see the vicious and downward spiral that quickly can (it has already occurred) occur. This is why it it so important to realize that high taxes and burdensome regulations that stifle job growth contribute mightily to economic stagnation if not outright decline. January 1, taxes are going up dramatically unless Congress acts. If taxes rise and pull more money out of your control, do you think it is going to foster an environment for growth, or will it further cripple the economy? I think you know the answer. This election is about deciding our future economic trajectory- we can continue to slip to a lower standard of living or we can reverse course and begin to lift the regulatory and tax burdens that are crippling our job creators and in turn put more money in our wallets instead of Washington.

I don't have to worry about going through a mid-life crisis. I have been in crisis mode since I was a teen.

And that, my friends, is my view.