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.