Friday, August 31, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Medicare has become a flash point for debate as the Presidential campaigns heat up. Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan has been criticized for his proposals to reform Medicare, and the Democrats and their allies in the mainstream press have all been screaming that his plan will gut Medicare and punish seniors.What you won't hear in the press is that the Medicare program has already been gutted. Obamacare, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will pilfer $716 billion from Medicare between 2013 and 2022. Additionally, there are more than 160 new regulations that are written into Obamacare that restrict Medicare. To make Medicare "work" after Obamacare guts the program, payments to health care providers have been slashed. The obvious outcome of that is that doctors and other health care providers are opting out of serving Medicare patients. Oh, yeah...Medicare has a long term unfunded liability of $37 TRILLION according to the CBO. So as you hear that the Medicare program is going to be ended if reform is attempted, know that Medicare has already been ended. The real debate is how are we as a country going to continue to provide health care coverage to our seniors. Do nothing, and Medicare crashes, leaving seniors in dire straits.

Lawyers are like a rhinoceros: thick skinned, short sighted, and always ready to charge.

We have been in an economic recovery since June of 2009 according to most economists. Yet our country still faces high unemployment and poor job growth, and our economy continues to limp along. Why? According to an analysis of Census Bureau data by Sentier Research, income in this country has declined more during this "recovery" than it did during the recession that preceded it. On an inflation adjusted basis, median household income has fallen 4.8% during the recovery compared to a 2.6% drop during the 18 month recession. Household income in this country is 7.2% below the December 2007 level. Add in the fact that the average duration of unemployment has increased to a record 41 months, and you can see why this recovery doesn't feel like a recovery. Incomes for all age groups below 65 fell, with those in the 55-64 age bracket falling the most, losing 9.7%. 25-34 year olds saw their income fall 8.9%. Almost every age group is worse off than it was three years ago, with only those 65 and above seeing their income go up. Since consumer spending accounts for 67% of our Gross Domestic Product growth, you can see why the economy is having trouble getting traction. This perfect storm of high unemployment and falling incomes has made this recovery the weakest in history. Keep these facts in mind when you hear politicians talk about raising taxes and taking more of your money to fund wasteful government spending. It is not a formula to get our economy back on track.

My wife told me I was driving her crazy. Apparently "it's a short drive" was not the appropriate response.

Britain is considering an "emergency tax" on the wealth of its citizens to fund budget shortfalls. The current rate is 50%, although it was recently lowered to 45% since many of the wealthy started to move assets outside the country. Francois Hollande, the President of France has proposed a 75% tax on the wealthy to do the same thing. And the response there has been predictable. The wealthy are taking steps to renounce their citizenship and are moving to more tax advantaged nations. Here in the U.S., you can see the same thing occurring. Companies are fleeing high tax states like California and relocating to states that have a less onerous tax structure. What politicians fail to understand is that those that have accrued wealth, whether individuals or companies, will not sit idly by and let the state confiscate their wealth. There is no doubt that every company or individual enjoys and benefits from the services that government provides, such as police and fire protection. What government fails to realize is that there are limits, both to what these entities are willing to pay and the services that government should provide. Part of the problem is that government programs, once instituted, are never curtailed and continue to grow and consume more resources. Until government recognizes those limits, there will continue to be steps taken by the wealthy to avoid these out sized tax burdens.

The cashier told me, "Strip down, facing me." How was I to know she meant my debit card?

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

If Congress fails to act- and they probably will not- taxes are set to increase sharply beginning January 1, 2013, when the current tax rates are set to expire. If- and when- that happens, the effect on our economy will be brutal. According to a report released this week by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the tax increase on January 1 will be the largest in the history of our nation, and the effect of this increase will be to not only negate any growth, but to actually SHRINK our economy. The CBO estimates that our economy will shrink by .5 percent. That doesn't sound like much, but the CBO says that a contraction of this level will cost our economy another 1.2 million jobs and spike the nominal unemployment rate to 9.1%. The additional lost jobs will be in addition to the 12.8 million jobs that have been lost since Obama became President. The CBO report emphasizes the importance of Congress taking action to prevent our economy from falling deeper into this economic funk we have endured for the past three and a half years. More importantly, it is time for Congress to set aside their partisan bickering and begin to work for the good of our country. If they fail to do so, you and I will pay a high price for their continued ineptitude.

I live in a two story house. One of them is, "It's all your fault" and the other is "Because I said so."

Remember during his Presidential campaign when then candidate Obama said that if he was elected President that anyone making less than $250,000 "will not see their taxes go up one dime." You know what? He was exactly right. Instead, if you make less than $250,000, you are going to see your taxes go up a whole lot of dimes. The Obama administration is already hinting at what is to come if he is re-elected. On ABC's "This Week" news show, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said, "We have to bring these deficits down very dramatically. And it is going to require some hard choices." Liberal mouthpiece The New York Times, ran an article this past weekend with the headline "The Rich Can't Pay For Everything". The article quoted Leonard Burman, who runs the Brookings Tax Policy Center and was an official in the Clinton Treasury Department, who said, "This idea that everything new the government provides out to be paid for by the top 5%, that's a basically unstable way of governing." Why the change of pace? Even raising taxes on January 1 will not provide enough revenue to keep pace with the out of control government spending. Raising taxes on the wealthy will not even come close to closing the spending gap. So where will the money come from? You guessed it. The middle class. Why? Because that is where the money is. The tax increase will not be an income tax, though. That is so politically unpopular as to be career suicide for a politician. No, what is being readied is a European style value added tax. This tax is easier to hide and therefore easier to implement and to raise at some point in the future. The VAT that is being considered by the administration is 10% on all goods and services as proposed by Ezekiel Emmanuel, a senior White House aide. If this tax is implemented, that money is coming out of your pocket, because the price of all goods and services will be taxed at every level of production or delivery. The fact is that many in our government want a European style welfare and entitlement state, and you can't have that without European style taxes. Pay attention to this, as Washington is going to try to slide this massive tax increase in under the radar.

The world would be a much better place if instead of a dog eat dog reality it was a man eat chocolate cake life.

Watch the discussion about taxes closely. To cure our financial woes, we must raise revenue, and a lot of focus in Washington is on how to raise revenue (read: taxes). But there are two components to curing our financial troubles, and the one that is getting short shrift is cutting expenditures. Admittedly, this is problematic, because so much of our spending is tied to social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. For many, these programs are considered to be untouchable. There are promises that have been made to current and future recipients, and those promises should be kept. However, doing nothing to change the way these programs are run dooms them to failure. If we were honest and accounted for the present and future liabilities the way businesses have to account for their liabilities, we would see that they are insolvent. Continuing with a "business as usual" approach is foolish and just deepens the financial hole that each of these programs faces. Rather than demagogue proposed solutions, no matter how radical, we should have an honest discussion about how to make them solvent and viable. If we do nothing, we will see these programs fail in our lifetime. It is time for us a citizens and taxpayers to engage in this process and demand that Washington put all options on the table to cut spending and make these programs fiscally sound.

Maybe the government should change its motto to, "Hi, I'm the federal government. If you think our problems are bad, you should see our solutions."

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One Timers

Some thoughts about the Predators and all things hockey...

Fisher signing sends a message

The signing of Mike Fisher to a 2 year, $8.4 million extension by the Predators was a good move by the team for two reasons. Fisher is one of those glue guys that can contribute in all zones on the ice and is a strong, veteran leader on a young team. Just as importantly, his signing is confirmation that the owners can and will continue to pony up the money to put talent on the ice beyond Shea Weber. While the Predators will rarely make a breathtaking financial move with player contracts (Weber notwithstanding), it is good to see that the team has the ability to sign the players they feel can contribute. Many in the hockey world had their doubts.

File this under "karma"...

On a very slow Saturday evening that probably serves as a prelude to some serious-ass CBA fireworks come Tuesday, the Pioneer Press’s Charley Walters suggests that the Minnesota Wild’s lockout-proofing of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter may require a lickety split infusion of bucks from the team’s various owners, Board of Governors negotiating representative Craig Leipold included:

The Minnesota Wild have to pay $10 million bonuses by Saturday, Aug. 18, to each of the star free agents they signed in July, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

With those bonuses due, a little birdie says, virtually all of the Wild’s 11 limited partners last week agreed to commit to a total capital call of $10 million. Principal partner Craig Leipold is expected to fund the remaining $10 million.

Parise and Suter each agreed to $98 million, 13-year contracts July 4, with the signing bonuses due within 45 days.

If there is a NHL lockout—the league’s labor contract expires Sept. 15—Wild investors could be asked to commit to another cash call. That could occur as early as November.

Who ya gonna believe?

It is precisely this signing, along with the enormous Weber offer thrown out by Ed Snider of the Flyers, and several cap circumventing contracts executed last season, that undermines the credibility of the owners when they say they are not making money and need the players to give up part of their salaries. I have no doubt that the revenue split will ultimately settle near the 50/50 range, but the owners have thrown away their ability to cry poor in their negotiations with the NHLPA.

Revenue Sharing is championed by...the players?

The problem for the League is that some teams are truly revenue disadvantaged and the League needs a better revenue sharing model. The players, lead by Donald Fehr, have shrewly positioned themselves as champions of revenue sharing and promoting the overall well being of the game. Right now, in the court of public opinion, they hold the upper hand.

Do you think...

The rush by a number of players to get long term deals done is a realization that those types of deals will no longer be available under the new CBA?

That the new CBA will exact tighter controls on the owners, who frankly need to be saved from themselves, in the area of contract term, bonuses, and front loading?

A lockout of any length will be detrimental to growth of hockey in the non-traditional markets? My belief is that, yes, it will hurt momentum and perhaps alienate the casual fan. But the damage will not be as great as it was after the last lockout because the roots of hockey are more established in these markets.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Predators Play a Pivotal Role In Our City

During the management presentation at the Skate of the Union, Predators Chief Operating Officer Sean Henry complimented the fans for their support of the Predators Foundation. Henry stated that last year, the Foundation had given out $750,000 in grants and donations to charitable enterprises throughout middle Tennessee.

That number is stunning.

Stunning not only for the sheer dollars that were given this past year, but for the impact that the Foundation has in our communities and cities to better the lives of our citizens.

Over the years, there has been debate about the economic benefit of the team to Nashville. Studies have been completed that show the positive effect of the team on the revenues that are generated on game nights and the sales taxes that are created by the spending of fans. Arguments have been made on both sides as to the extent of the economic benefit that the team creates.

What cannot be argued is the the economic benefit of the Predators Foundation.

From the beginning, the ethos of the team and the organization has been to be a good corporate citizen. Through silent auctions at the games and various fund raising endeavors, the Foundation has gathered funds and in turn delivered those funds to organizations that are changing lives for the better. Every year, the amount given has grown, and in turn, Nashville and surrounding cities have been the beneficiaries of this generosity.

Like the team, the Foundation is striving to be an even bigger player. Henry stated that the goal is for the Foundation to double the amount they are distributing to charities.

That means that the Foundation will be involved in more fundraising activities, and of course, it means that the Predator fans will have to continue to support the Foundation.

The next opportunity to do so will be on September 17th as the Foundation in conjunction with the Peterson for Parkinson's Foundation will host "Petey's Party" at the Bridgestone Arena. There will be great auction items, a fantastic dinner, and opportunities to interact with the players and coaches. This event is an opportunity to meet the players in a relaxed setting before the rigors of the season (hopefully) begin the following weekend.

More information about the event are to purchase tickets can be found here.

To give you an idea of  the kind of night you can expect, I have some photos from last year's party:

Some of the auction items on display

Gnash made an appearance as only he can
Over 900 people attended last year's party
Fans have an opportunity to visit with Head Coach Barry Trotz
Brent Peterson speaks to the audience
Carrie Underwood performs for the crowd
The Foundation is also hosting a golf tournament the next day, and the field is almost sold out. You can also register for the golf tournament at the site that was linked above.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Predators Skate of the Union

Even though we are a long way from the start of hockey, the Nashville Predators organization gave their fans an opportunity to interact with several players and with management at their annual "Skate of the Union" address. The event has expanded with a public skate and a lengthy question and answer session with several players and management and the ownership group as well as an update on various business and off ice activities of the Predators.

One question that has hung over the Predators organization since the signing of Shea Weber to the second largest contract in NHL history has been, "Will the Predators have the resources necessary to sign other players that can contribute to the continuation of their success?"

That question was addressed by General Manager David Poile as he announced that the team had signed Mike Fisher to a two year contract extension. That announcement was received with rousing applause by those fans in attendance.

The formal proceedings started with a question and answer session with five players: Mike Fisher; Paul Gaustad, Colin Wilson; Hal Gill; and Chris Mason.

The radio team of Tom Callahan and Stu Grimson handled the questioning of the players.  Here are some of the highlights of the players comments:

Paul Gaustad

"We can win here. This team will be in the hunt for years to come. After the season was over, I knew I wanted to come back here."

Hal Gill

"I wanted my family to be in a good spot that they would enjoy living in and would be good for them. Nashville is certainly that place. Important for me was to be in a place where we had the ability to win. We can do that in Nashville."

Gill talked about coming to the team in February and getting on the team plane and looking across the aisle and seeing Shea Weber. "Here is a guy who is a stud, the best defenseman in the League, and he is playing a video game. And I realized he is a 'vidiot'." (According to the guys on the panel, Shea really enjoys playing his video games).

Chris Mason

"I have been in Nashville longer than any other place in my career. There is a trust and familiarity that has been built over the years. I want to win and play for a winner, and we can win here. My role is to be able to come in and give the team quality starts and give Peks some rest."

Colin Wilson

Wilson jokingly said that he wasn't going to sign a contract extension unless the team signed Hal Gill because he needed someone that would make fun of him in the dressing room. Wilson said that his off ice training has been rigorous. "I have trained at Jonathan Toews' gym for a while but am now going into a phase of extensive on ice training. That is where the intensity really picks up, and I am going into that phase of training now."

Wilson was excited and pleased with the contract extension that he signed in the off season and the faith the organization has shown in him and his development.

Mike Fisher

Mike spoke about some of his off season activities, including some time he spent in Sydney, Australia. Mike also spoke about some of his charitable endeavors and continues to be very involved in the community.

Watching the players interact with each other, it is apparent that there is a strong sense of camaraderie among these guys. They are not just team mates, but there is a genuine appreciation for each other as people. And newcomers Gaustad and Gill fit right in with their team mates. Gill in particular is gregarious and laughs easily, and it is obvious why the players in the locker room look to him for his leadership.

The SOTU then moved to a panel discussion with management and the coaches. In this group was: Tom Cigarran, Team Governor and President of the ownership group; Jeff Cogan; President; Sean Henry, Chief Operating Officer; David Poile, General Manager; and Peter Horachek, Assistant Head Coach. The panel was moderated by Predators Play by Play announcer Pete Weber.

Here are the highlights of their comments:

Tom Cigarran

"The last season was the best in franchise history. For the first time, the team went through the entire season without any mention in the national hockey press about the franchise possibly relocating. For the first time, the local press didn't mention hitting the 14,000 mark in attendance. The team averaged over 16,000 in attendance, at 97% of capacity not counting the playoffs. Bridgestone Arena is ranked 6th nationally in terms of venue usage and revenue. And we are going to get better as a team. We were disappointed to exit the playoffs in the second round, and we think we can go farther. Our goal is simple, we want to bring the Stanley Cup to Nashville."

 Jeff Cogan

"Our season ticket base will be over 10,000 for the upcoming season, and we have very good momentum with ticket sales. We have made significant inroads into the corporate community as well. Two years ago, we had 60 corporate sponsors. Today, we have 100 and are working to add more. Some are very significant. Bridgestone has extended the naming rights on the arena for an additional 5 years. Nissan has expanded their corporate sponsorship."

"We are no longer striving to survive. We are competing both on and off the ice."

Sean Henry

"The new lease that has been signed by the team and the City of Nashville is significant because it shows the City believes in what we are doing. The way we are running the arena is good for Nashville, and the cornerstone of the lease is to bring more people into the arena  not just for hockey but year round."

"We are partnering with the City to build another rink. When that is successful financially, we will work on building another rink to meet the demand for ice time."

"We are working to make the arena the best it can be for hockey. We are installing humidifiers and a new HVAC system so that we have good ice. We are spending $6 million on upgrading the arena, not just for the fans, but for the players as well."

"To that end, we have constructed a new shooting and skills facility in the arena for the players. This facility will be for their use even when the ice is not down. They can work on their skills or their shot and not have to be on the main rink. Our goal is to make this a top flight facility for the fans and for the players."

Henry also talked about the work of the Predators Foundation and the generous support that the fans have provided. "Last year, the Foundation made grants and charitable gifts in the amount of $750,000. Our goal is to double that."

David Poile

"This is a more veteran team. We have 19 players returning that played significant time for us this past season. That experience is invaluable. We also have lots of depth in our system, with some very talented players in Milwaukee that can be contributors if they are called up. We have talent in our system that is continuing to develop and this is good for the organization. The core of players that we have in Nashville is good enough to win in the NHL. We are not surviving, but being very competitive."

Peter Horachek

"The depth and experience among our 13 forwards is very good. The experience that some of the young players got this past season is going to lead to improved play. Some of the younger players are going to impress you. One is Ryan Ellis. He has been training hard and is ready to make an impact. The experience a player like Gabriel Bourque got will be good for him."

"You can't replace a player like Ryan Suter, but we have the depth and talent to do so by committee. Roman Josi will take up some minutes.The coaches will have to get players on the ice in the right situation and with the right combinations."

While they could not specifically discuss the on going Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, Poile said that the team is preparing as normal for the start of the regular season. They would adjust, Poile said, if the start of the season is delayed.

For the fans in attendance, this was and informative and entertaining evening.

And all of us hope that David Poile is right.

And that the season starts on time.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Predators Sign Scott Hannan

The Nashville Predators have signed defenseman Scott Hannan to a one year contract. Here is the press release from the team:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed defenseman Scott Hannan to a one-year, $1 million contract.

Hannan, 33 (1/23/79), has amassed 197 points (33g-164a) and 522 penalty minutes in 908 regular-season games and 15 points (1g-14a) and 89 penalty minutes in 82 playoff games with San Jose, Colorado, Washington and Calgary since the 1998-99 season. The 6-1, 225-pound blueliner enters the 2012-13 season having played more games than any NHL defenseman in the last 10 seasons (798). Hannan dressed for 75-or-more games for the 11th consecutive season (78), and averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons (20:21) with the Calgary Flames a season ago.

The Richmond, B.C., native was drafted 23rd overall (first round) by San Jose in the 1997 Entry Draft, and was part of the gold medal-winning Canadian squad at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. He joins captain Shea Weber as Kelowna Rocket alums in the Predators organization, having posted 139 points (46g-91a) and 339 penalty minutes in 235 games with the club from 1995-99.

With the Hannan signing, the Predators now have two defensemen with more than 800 games of NHL experience for the first time in franchise history (Hannan, 908gp; Hal Gill, 1,070gp). Both veterans – in addition to top-four blueliner Kevin Klein – also perennially rank among the League leaders in average penalty kill time on ice and blocked shots. That trio joins the two-time Norris Trophy runner-up Weber and talented, offensively gifted under-23 NHLers Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, giving the Predators both three left shooting and three right shooting defensemen among their balanced top-six corps.

Predators Skate of the Union Schedule

The Nashville Predators have set the date and the schedule for their annual Town Hall Meeting known as the Skate of the Union. The Predators do a very good job with these events by allowing questions from the attendees and a frank and honest discussion from all involved. If you have not had an opportunity to attend a SOTU, I would strongly encourage you to do so.

The schedule for the SOTU on Monday, August 20th is as follows:

• 4-5:30 p.m. – Open skate

• 4:30-6 p.m. – Photo opportunities with select players

• 5-6 p.m. – Player autographs on concourse

• 6:15-6:45 p.m. – Q&A with select players on stage

• 6:45-7:45 p.m. – Town Hall meeting with Tom Cigarran, Jeff Cogen, Sean Henry, David Poile and Peter Horachek. Questions may be submitted online via social media and at main doors of event

The meeting will be held at the Bridgestone Arena and the Predators are providing free parking in the 6th Avenue garage attached to the Arena (corner of 6th and Demonbruen).   Leading up to the SOTU, there will be a chance to select your seat for season tickets, discounts at the Pro Shop, auction items for sale, and a demonstration of the Smashville rewards program.   Questions for the players, executives, and coaches can be submitted at the door or via social media to the Predators.   Players scheduled to appear are Mike Fisher, Paul Gaustad, Hal Gill, Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Brian McGrattan, Chris Mason, and Jonathan Blum.   The event is free.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from you resident curmudgeon...

One of the loudest and most consistent mantras from the Obama administration has been that so many of the problems that we face today were inherited, that they were the fault of former President Bush and that Obama has been working diligently to get us out of this mess. Oh really? As you know, your faithful curmudgeon is not afraid of the truth and certainly not afraid of exposing the lies of those in Washington. So let me ask you, do you remember January 3, 2007? That date is important because it was the date that the Democrats, as a result of the mid-term elections during the second term of President Bush, took control of both houses of Congress. For the first time since 1995, the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate and exerted great influence and control over the federal legislative process. Let me refresh your memory about a few things. In January 2007, the GDP for the recently completed 4th quarter of 2006 was 3.5%; unemployment was 4.6%; and the U.S. had just completed a record 52 straight months of net new job creation. Also in January 2007, Barney Frank took over leadership of the House Financial Services Committee and Chris Dodd took over leadership of the Senate Banking Committee. Under the leadership of these two men- both Democrats-  within 15 months the financial services industry melted down and created a recession from which we are yet to recover. The last budget that was passed by Congress- again under the control of Democrats- was in 2009 with the passage of a massive omnibus spending bill that included "stimulus dollars" that turned out to be mere payouts to the allies of the Democrats. No budgets have been passed by Congress since then. Oh, and that unemployment and GDP? Unemployment is now 8.2% (real unemployment continues to hover around 16%) and our nations economic output as measured by GDP has shrunk to an anemic 1.5%. Many of these problems are the making of the current administration or the exacerbation of existing problems that are now much worse. Remember that when you hear the current administration say they inherited these problems.

Sometimes I wrestle with my inner demons. Most of the time, we just hug.

We are now finding out that the bailout of the auto industry is going to cost the U.S. taxpayer more than was originally projected. A lot more. The current estimate is now $25 billion, according to the Treasury Department. That is an important number for two reasons: obviously it is money that you and I as taxpayers must bear since those dollars are coming out of the public fisc; but here is the other interesting thing about that number. According to labor researchers James Sherk and Todd Zwywicki, the Obama administration redistributed $26.5 billion more to the United Auto Workers than that group would have received if they had been treated as any other creditor in normal bankruptcy proceedings. When Chrysler and GM were bailed out, the bankruptcy proceedings were anything but normal, as the administration interjected itself into the process and manipulated the law to favor one group of creditors. Even Obama's "car czar" Stephen Rattner has admitted "We should have asked the UAW to do a bit more. We did not ask any UAW member to take a cut in their pay." No, and they certainly favored the UAW over other workers. 20,000 Delphi non-union employees lost heir pensions while the unionized employees were made whole. Fair? Equal treatment under the law? Absolutely not. And this administration confiscated your tax dollars to pay for this travesty.

They say that managing people is ultimately about the carrot approach or the stick method. I try to play it safe and use carrot sticks.

If you are not brave of heart, you may want to avoid this next item. If you earn one more dollar of income next year, what is your marginal tax rate? Your marginal tax rate is simply the tax assessed on earning one more dollar. Now all of use want to see a raise and have more money in our pockets, and if we get that raise, how much of it will disappear in taxes? Why don't we do a little exercise. Many taxpayers are in a 25% tax bracket (oops- there goes 25 cents of your raise right off the bat). Next, we have to factor in the Social Security and Medicare payroll tax of 13.3%, of which 5.65% is removed from your paycheck and your employer pays the remaining 7.65% (here is what you need to know: you are really paying that 7.65% because without it, your wages would be that much higher. The payroll tax does not affect the cost of labor. Oh yeah- if you are self employed, you are paying all of it anyway). So now with income taxes of 25% and payroll taxes to fund Social Security and Medicare, we have given up 38.3% of our new dollars we obtained in our raise. Wait... don't forget state income taxes, which nationally average 4.82%, bringing our total to 43.12%. But wait- in January, that 25% income tax bracket is going to automatically rise to 28% if Congress doesn't extend the current tax rates, and the payroll taxes are scheduled to rise from 13.3% to 15.3%. Now we are looking at just over 48 cents of every new dollar you earn beginning January 1, 2013 being siphoned away in taxes. Go back and read the item just above this one. Now doesn't this make you concerned about what Washington is doing with your hard earned dollars and angry about why they keep asking for more?

I told my wife I would go through anything for her. She said, "How about the door?"

And that, my friends, is my view. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Conversation with David Poile

I had the opportunity to join several of the outstanding bloggers that cover the Predators for a round table with Predators General Manager David Poile for a wide ranging discussion of various topics that covered the gamut from player development and negotiations on contracts to the impending expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.

Poile answered questions frankly and was candid about his assessment of the team and individual players. Here are some of the highlights:

On the Predators as a team

"Last year, we were one of the youngest teams in the NHL. This upcoming season, we will still be a young team, but more experienced. That experience, plus the presence of veterans like Hal Gill, Paul Gaustad, and others will benefit the team. When things go bad for a young team, it takes a while to get their confidence back. Veterans can provide the guidance to younger players to get them through those rough stretches, and this squad has a good mix of youth and experience."

"When you look at a player like Hal Gill, other players on the team gravitate to him. He is a great leader; he is steady and has seen it all. He is the only player on the team that has a Stanley Cup ring, and he knows what it takes to win the ultimate prize. That experience is invaluable to our team. Plus, he is a solid player. Having a veteran like Gill in the line up is important, especially with the departure of Ryan Suter."

The departure of Ryan Suter

"Right or wrong, I reacted when he called and told me he was going to Minnesota. I was emotional. When we discussed the variables about his decision, family was not mentioned as a critical factor. That was surprising."

When asked whether he had been mislead by Suter, Poile responded, "that is in the eye of the beholder."

Poile was asked if he would have done anything differently in his negotiations with Suter, he said, "No regrets. I really thought we were going to sign him. Our negotiations were positive and open."

"Now, it would have been better for the team if we could have gotten Suter and Weber signed earlier in the process, because the team was in limbo and could not go after other free agents that were on the market. As it was, they were our priority."

The effect on the defense

"Without Suter, defense combinations will be rotated to situation and to manage ice time. It will be up to the coaches to determine Weber's defense partner. It could be Roman Josi. Perhaps it will be Ryan Ellis. The team has the talent to replace Suter with current players, but we are still in the market for a veteran defenseman.

"This is a great opportunity for Ryan Ellis. If he is ready, he can secure a spot in the starting line up. He has to show the coaches that he is ready."

"Jonathan Blum has been in Nashville all summer working out and is looking to get his game back on track. This is a big year for Jonathan and it is time for him to prove that he belongs here on a regular basis."

"Joonas Jarvinen is a big body with potential. Mattias Ekholm can be a player for us. We made a mistake with Ekholm last season. We tried to force him into an NHL role even though we agreed when we signed him that he would go back to Sweden for another year because of his age and another year of development was needed. He played very well once he went back. His development will probably take him to Milwaukee first."

Anders Lindback and Chris Mason

"Lindy asked to be traded to a team where he would have the opportunity to be a starter. That was not going to happen here with Pekka. The trade with Tampa was good for us because we got draft picks back, and since we had traded draft picks for our acquisitions, it was important for us to re-stock our picks. We felt like we got good quality in this draft and we had the quantity of picks we needed."

"Having a veteran like Chris Mason is good for the team. He wanted to be here, he is familiar with the organization and many of the players, and is a good teammate. Last season, Pekka played 73 games. It is up to the coaches, but I would expect Mason to get in the neighborhood of 25 starts to keep Pekka fresh."

The Radulov/Kostitsyn playoff incident

 "You just look at that incident and ask 'Why?' I wish it was something that never had happened. And you have to look at what occurred and balance the morals of the welfare of the team with a win at all costs mentality. We handled it in the way we thought was appropriate.That incident didn't cost us the series. We outplayed the Coyotes in several of the games, but Mike Smith did what a goalie is supposed to do- he won some games for them."

The impending expiration of the collective bargaining agreement

Poile had to be careful about what he said here, since both sides are in the negotiation process. His sense was that the CBA needed some "tweaks" to continue to make it workable for the players and all teams. He said that there was no sense that these negotiations were different from previous CBA negotiations, and that everyone was waiting to see the response from the NHLPA to the owners proposal on Tuesday (8/14). 


After recently completing two high profile negotiations, Poile was asked about the team's relationship with the agents for players around the League.

"Agents know Nashville and how we operate. Sometimes, you can get a reputation, such as not having resources or a willingness to spend. At one time, that was how we were perceived. We don't have one owner with big money, but our ownership group has given me the resources necessary to build the team. Agents know that and that we are competitive when it comes to contracts."

On Shane Doan

"We all want to see Shane sign with the Coyotes. If that doesn't work out, though, we are definitely interested and in if he is available. And Shane has told us that Nashville is a team that would be on his short list."

The experience of Poile as the General Manager of the Predators is a lot like the veteran leadership that he referenced with the team. Having over 30 years experience means that he has seen most of the ups and downs that a can affect a team. His steady hand is a benefit to the franchise in managing not only the current roster but in developing young talent in place that will develop into NHL caliber players.

Thanks, David, for your time and your insight into what is happening with the Predators.

Friday, August 10, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Have you heard of "baby hatches"? As the debt load of countries and individuals has exploded across the Eurozone, these devices have popped up in 11 different countries. A baby hatch is a box where an unwanted infant can be left anonymously, typically by a family that can no longer afford to raise the child. Once the baby is placed in the box, a sensor notifies authorities and a caregiver is sent out to retrieve the child, who then becomes a ward of the state. Currently, baby hatches can be found in countries such as Germany, Italy, and Portugal. In countries where baby hatches are prohibited by national law, the number of infants abandoned at hospitals and churches has also risen. According to SOS Villages, a European charity that works with families with children that are encountering dire financial hardship, 1,200 children were abandoned in Greece last year and 750 in Italy. I mention these two countries in particular, because they are the furthest down the road to financial disaster in the European Union. In particular, Greece now has 27% of its population that is facing bankruptcy and poverty. So what do baby hatches have to do with Greece, Italy, and other countries and their economic policies? The economic policies of any nation are often theories about how certain actions will affect growth, inflation, or a host of other financial measures. But the reality is that economic policies intersect with the lives of real people and have a dramatic impact on them. Profligate spending got the Eurozone in dire financial distress, and as they attempt to work out of it, painful austerity measures have collided with families and their means of support as jobs have been lost in startling numbers. One result is the advent of baby hatches and the practice of abandoning children because they cannot be afforded. So the next time you hear a politician talk about economic programs, government spending, raising taxes...whatever, understand that these actions can have real and damaging consequences. Maybe not now, but ultimately, there is a price to be paid for our spending and lack of discipline. And often that price is a human toll on society.

Unfortunately, there is no 12 step program for stupid.

As we get closer to the national election, campaign ads get more untruthful and vicious. Lies, half-truths, and political spin dominate the airwaves, but you, my friends know that in this blog, I deal with facts and always cite my sources. Now here is a fact that you will not hear from the mainstream press or the Democratic Party...wait, I repeat myself. Anyway, here you go: in the 2010 mid-term elections, 17 states elected new Republican governors, most of whom campaigned on reducing taxes, regulations, and putting their citizens back to work. How have they fared? Every single one of those states- EVERY ONE- has reduced unemployment . The average drop in unemployment in all 17 of those states was 1.35%. Three states that has been dealing with intractably high unemployment- Michigan, Florida, and Nevada- saw their unemployment rate fall by over 2%, according to data compiled by the There has been no magic to these results. Instead, these 17 governors have freed local businesses to begin hiring again and new businesses to start by lowering taxes and getting the state government out of the way of these job creators. Seeing these kind of results and comparing them to what is happening nationally leads me to believe that our elected national leaders should sit down with these governors and take some notes. Because what is being done in Washington to stimulate the economy and create jobs is failing miserably.

Some say life is like a box of chocolates. I rather think it is more like a jar of jalapenos- what you do today may burn your ass tomorrow.

Want to see what government looks like when it claims absolute power? When it positions itself as the only source of knowledge and decision making? Hang on for a few absurdities. In Europe, the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that if a worker gets sick during their 4 to 6 week annual vacation leave, they are entitled to take another vacation. The Court ruled that the purpose of a vacation was to enable the worker to enjoy a period of rest and leisure, and that an illness compromised that enjoyment. So, the workers can claim illness and receive additional time off for the time they were sick. Never mind what it does to an employer and trying to schedule workers around ever growing vacations. Or consider in the U.S. where the EPA requires that oil refiners use a substance- cellulosic ethanol- in the refining process. The only problem with this requirement? Cellulosic ethanol doesn't exist. Yet refiners are having to pay fines for not using a product that has not been commercially produced. In fact, the Congressional Research Service says that cellulosic ethanol will not be commercially available until 2015. The absurdity of these situations is laughable except for the fact that it is costing taxpayers and businesses millions of dollars in fines, taxes, and fees. And the root cause of these laughable and ludicrous situations is the arrogance of those in power, divorced from the realities of daily living, who think they know best what you and I need.

I went to a general store this past week, but they wouldn't let me by anything specifically.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

One of the negative aspects of socialized medicine that experts (and your humble blogger) have warned about is rationing. With limited dollars and growing demand for services and medications, the only way to make a socialized health care system work is to ration. Even though Obamacare has not been fully implemented, rationing is beginning in the U.S. health care system. According to Kaiser Health News, 16 states have now set limits on the number of prescription drugs that they will cover for Medicaid patients. This is significant, because under Obamacare, more patients will be forced into Medicaid as their primary insurance program. For instance, Illinois has limited Medicaid patients to four prescriptions as a cost cutting move. Drug costs make up a significant portion of the total costs of Medicaid, and this push is a necessary reaction to limited dollars covering a larger number of patients. Many states are also moving patients to generic drugs, which may not have the same efficacy as certain brand name drugs. As you can imagine, this puts doctors in a quandary with their patients, as they may be forced to prescribe drugs that have limited effect or forced to decide which drugs are going to be prescribed due to limits of coverage. The simple economic fact is that when there are limited dollars available under a government program and a growing number of participants, rationing is the only way to keep the system solvent. Government interference in our health care system is dangerous to our health, and will only be more so as time goes by.

I can start a fire with two sticks. As long as one of them is a match.

The latest unemployment numbers show that unemployment continues to hold steady at over 8.2% and a real unemployment rate (the U-6 rate) at over 16%. Unemployment seems to have become an intractable problem in the U.S. But is it? Are there steps that the policymakers in this country can take to reverse this toxic situation? I'm glad you asked. According to the Index of Economic Freedom, published by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation, Hong Kong has the number one economy in the world for growth, growing at an average annual rate of 7%. The U.S. is number 10, with an average annual growth rate of 1.9% One of the reasons is that the top corporate tax rate in Hong Kong is 16.5%, compared to 35% in the U.S. That is the highest corporate tax rate of all the industrialized countries. Hong Kong has a zero tariff rate which encourages free trade and foreign investment and a regulatory environment that according to the study, is "highly supportive of business efficiency." By contrast, the U.S. has some of the highest tariff rates in the world and a stifling regulatory environment. Additionally, our deficit spending is a drain on our economy. In 2011, the U.S. ran a deficit of $400 billion, which was financed by foreign investors buying our Treasury securities. Put another way, the U.S. borrowed $400 billion from foreign investors, which all of us would agree could be better used in our country. If we want to begin to effectively create jobs in this country, there are three steps Washington needs to implement: make corporate tax rates more competitive; reduce the excessive regulatory burden on all businesses; and begin to get our fiscal house in order by reining in the prolific level of government spending. Until Washington recognizes that jobs are not created by government and gets out of the way of the real job creators, we are going to continue to struggle with high unemployment.

How can my mirror and my camera have such a different idea of what I look like?

Have you heard about Green Jobs, Green New York (GJGNY)? This is a company that created "shovel ready", environmentally friendly jobs that was in the sweet spot of President Obama's stimulus funding. Stimulus that has added markedly to the burgeoning debt in our country. James O'Keefe, he of the Project Veritas undercover video renown, went undercover and asked how effective is GJGNY in creating productive jobs. GJGNY is heavily tied to labor unions, and according to the video, John  Hutchings, Director of the Laborer's International Union of North America (LUINA) New York State Laborer's Organizing Fund (NYSLOF) explained, "You know, the Green Jobs, Green New York, between us, a lot of it is bullshit." Uh...say what? Why would he say that? Because GJGNY is basically an environmental program that basically digs ditches and then fills them in again. Hutchings goes on to say about GJGNY, "Well, I think the key thing is, even if it's bullshit, I think as long as people are working, that's not bull, you know what I mean?" Not exactly. On the surface, it sounds good that people are working, even if it is doing nothing but digging holes and filling them in again. But here is the problem: your tax dollars were confiscated to transfer funds to unions and their workers who are almost unanimously ardent supporters of Democrats who continue to "reward" their union voting blocs with more confiscated tax dollars. This vicious cycle does nothing to create new jobs- it rewards union cronies with make work projects- and it takes tax dollars from other productive sectors of the economy and re-routes them to low productivity sectors. This is one of the problems with the government trying to "create" jobs. The government decides who will receive the benefit of the confiscated tax revenues, and it always rewards those that will deliver votes. For the health of our economy, we must change this notion that government can create jobs and we must certainly stop the process where elected leaders reward those that vote for them.

My idea of curls is eating the cheesy kind.

And that, my friends, is my view.