Monday, December 31, 2012

Higher taxes…it's about time

No Republican in Congress has voted for a tax increase since 1990.

That's not fiscal responsibility, it's insanity.
Inflation in the U.S. has averaged about 2.7% every year since 1990. It's hard to believe, but prices in general are up more than 80% in the last 22 years.

The stuff that governments buy or pay for, like Medicare health costs, highways, bridges, armies, food inspections, education, snow removal, and all that other stuff, gets more expensive every year.
Yet, Congress has repeatedly cut tax rates in the last two decades.

Our federal deficit has been growing every year.
Yet, Congress has repeatedly cut tax rates in the last two decades.

Both Democrats and Republicans have been going in the wrong direction on taxes.

We all want all the stuff and services that government provides. Most of us want to reduce the federal deficit.

It's about time that we start raising taxes on everybody.

OK, we'll exempt the very poor.

But let's be honest, a lot of folks who make less than $250,000 need to pay more taxes too.

And the very wealthy need to pay a much bigger chunk of their fair share.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Republicans forcing "fiscal cliff" dive?

It's appalling.

Yes, yes, of course it's true that both Republicans and Democrats are refusing to reach an agreement to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" disaster that is looming over America with a deadline tomorrow (Dec. 31).

Yes, yes, it's also true that the Republicans are the ones throwing the wrenches in the works. The blame is all theirs if the hated (by some) tax hikes and hated (by some) spending cuts all happen on January 1.

Let's just say it straight: the Republicans at this point apparently want the "fiscal cliff" disaster to happen, so they can claim that they're riding to the rescue of the country by approving tax hikes on the very wealthy.

It's obvious, at this point, that too many Republicans don't want to sign on to a negotiated compromise package  ---  heck, the GOP backbenchers wouldn't even pass their own Speaker's deceptively partisan proposal in the House.

Our government is in disarray. It's not functioning. Members of the Senate and the House are fatuously failing to do what's right for America right now, and yet they know they're going to do some version of it within a few days, after a politically-motivated delay.

It's appalling.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The wisdom of Charles F. Kettering

"Nothing ever built arose to touch the skies unless some man willed that it should, some man believed that it could, and some man willed that it would."
American inventor, engineer

This guy made your life easier and smarter and healthier.

He held 186 patents. He invented the electric starting motor for cars, developed Freon for air conditioning systems (he built the first air conditioned house in America in 1914), and he patented the incubator for premature infants.

Kettering developed ethyl gasoline, diesel engines and early solar energy systems. He made a lot of money doing all this, and in 1945 he helped to found the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Re-read his aphorism above....he reached high, and he had a long reach.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The wisdom of Winston Churchill (part 4)

"Diplomacy is the art of telling plain truths
               without giving offense."
Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
British prime minister during World War II

We need more diplomats who can tell plain truths.

Mostly, we need to hear more plain truths from everyone.

Do you know where your child's head is?

When you take your family to the zoo, you need to remember to tell your 6-year-old that he has to take a step back when the camel starts to swallow his head…

I mean, most grownups know this, I least I think I've always known it, but kids might not think, at first, that there's anything weird about having their heads inside a camel's mouth, so you have to make a special note to remind them before you start the trek through the Large Mammal section…

And here's a tip:  Always make sure your child's head doesn't smell like hay or carrots.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The wisdom of David L. Thompson

David L. Thompson was a brave New Yorker who went to war to serve his country after the shots were fired at Fort Sumter in 1861.

He marched with about 110,000 of his countrymen, to Antietam Creek in Maryland on September 17, 1862. On that grisly day, nearly 23,000 men fighting under blue and gray flags were killed or wounded in vicious, up-close combat…

"In a second the air was full of the hiss of bullets and the hurtle of grape-shot---the whole landscape for an instant turned slightly red. We heard all through the war that the army 'was eager to be led against the enemy.' The truth is, when the bullets are whacking against tree trunks and solid shot are cracking skulls like egg-shells, the consuming passion in the breast of the average man is to get out of the way."
                                 David L. Thompson, Company G
                                 9th New York Volunteer Infantry

A salute to Mr. Thompson and all those like him who have served our country.

A deeply respectful salute to all those in the American armed forces who went to war and weren't able to get out of the way.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"All I want for Christmas is……"

Buying Christmas gifts for me isn't a complicated process. Just gimme a book, or a Barnes & Noble card, or a library card….

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The "Lincoln" movie…

I finally made it to the cinema to see "Lincoln" with Daniel Day-Lewis.

It's compelling, I want to see it again.

I'm pretty sure you'll be like me, you'll learn more about the 13th Amendment to the Constitution than you ever knew.

The amendment is surprisingly concise:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

It was speedily endorsed by the states and was finally approved on December 6, 1865, when Georgia ratified it.

It was the first step of Lincoln's plan for "reconstruction" of the South after the Civil War. Too bad he never had the chance to implement the rest of his program, which would have been considerably more reasonable than the harsh and careless policies adopted by the Radical Republicans after the assassination.

A side note about the movie: Wow, it was dark at night in 1865. Gas lamps and candles don't throw much light. It was shadowy indoors after sunset, and, to our modern sensibilities, gloomy. A little creepy…

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Boehner's GOP majority slinks away….

According to Reuters, about 60 of the 234 Republicans in the House would have voted "No" on Boehner's failed "Plan B", and most of the rest were reluctant "yes" votes.

This is not respectable minority leadership by the Republicans.

We all know that we have to raise taxes as part of the very important determination to get federal spending and revenue in balance. Congress will never ever cut enough spending to do the job without tax hikes, because Americans want most of the federal government services and benefits that we presently have.

Look, plain and simple, too many Republicans in the House were just afraid to vote to raise taxes on ANYBODY because they didn't want to have to stand up for it at the next primary election.

That's not vision. That's not leadership. That's just sloppy, dangerous, self-serving ideology.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Boehner's "Plan B" would raise taxes on the poor

Boehner's "Plan B" would raise taxes on the poor.

Why hasn't this bombshell been the headline for the last several days? If your income is under $200,000, "Plan B" would have RAISED your federal taxes.

Look, I'm not going to waste time complaining about the disastrous and disingenuous failure of the House Republicans to do anything that's even close to being good government for America and Americans.

I'm complaining today that Boehner's "Plan B" would have raised taxes on folks earning less than $200,000, and THAT hasn't been the big story this week. For instance, folks in the $10,000-$20,000 income bracket would have had to pay an average $262 more in federal income tax next year.

The Tax Policy Center crunched the numbers on "Plan B" and I saw this semi-obscure story on Yahoo Finance on Friday morning.

Boehner's "Plan B" notoriously raised tax rates on the very wealthy making $1,000,000 or more. We all know that.

But it also eliminated deductions and tax credits that help low-income taxpayers, like the 2009 enhancements to the child tax credit. Where did  you see that detail reported in the news media or by the cable TV talking heads?

Because of the abandonment of the tax credits, the Boehner "Plan B" actually would have RAISED federal income taxes for the average household reporting up to $200,000 in income. And the biggest bite, in percentage terms, would have been on those in the $10,000-$20,000 bracket.

The Republicans of course planned to raise taxes for millionaires by an average of $72,360, and households earning $200,000-$1,000,000 would have seen a tiny tax cut of a couple hundred dollars.

The Republicans deliberately planned to raise taxes through the back door for everyone else.

Which income group are you in?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Open carry for Miss Jeppers?

Some gun advocates are openly calling for administrators and teachers in our public schools to be armed, allegedly as a defense against a future massacre like the one at Sandy Hook that killed 20 first graders.
This idea is damnably obscene.

I don't want to hear that the best we can do for our six-year-old children is to say:

"Kids, we love you so much, we want to keep you safe in school with your teacher, so what we're going to do is give Miss Jeppers a 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistol and an easy-draw holster, so if a bad man breaks into your classroom with big rifles, Miss Jeppers can slap leather, drop to one knee and pump two or three slugs into his chest so he won't hurt you."

We love our kids more than that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The wisdom of Woody Allen......(part 2)

"If it weren't for problems, the work day would be over by 10 a.m."

Woody Allen, aka Allan Stewart Konigsberg  (b. 1935)

That's assuming you get in on time, which of course sometimes is a problem….

But otherwise Woody's statement seems to be right on the mark.

Hit problems with three times the resources you think you need to fix them, and watch many of them go away…..

Monday, December 17, 2012

Some people have too much money….

Well, at least one person has too much money.

One of the two pianos used in the classic 1942 film Casablanca was auctioned last week by Sotheby's for $600,000…..and jeez, it's only an upright.

An anonymous Japanese collector sold it.

Somebody with too much money bought it. I guess he or she has the jones for old pianos.

Of course, it's his or her money to do with as he or she pleases.

If I had that much unneeded cash to toss around, I'd think of something different to do with it.

Oh heck, I might buy 60,000 books to distribute to poor kids…

Or maybe 600 mules for poor farmers somewhere…

Plow it, Sam.

$4.4 million for a shirt?...........

Sunday, December 16, 2012

1 gun death every 20 minutes…

I said my piece about guns and gun control yesterday, read it here. For me it's this simple: too many guns, too many dead people, let's do something about it.

Today Nicholas Kristof says his piece about guns and gun control in the Sunday New York Times. Read it here.

He mentions that OSHA publishes five pages of federal safety regulations about ladders….about 300 people die each year in ladder-related accidents.

About 30,000 Americans die of gunshot wounds every year.

Kristof mentions an anonymous Facebook follower who said "It is more difficult to adopt a pet than it is to buy a gun.”

Kristof makes a realistic point: we're not going to abolish guns entirely—but if we require background checks on every gun buyer, and sharply limit multiple gun purchases, and make automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines illegal, then we can make a big dent in the number of people who are shot and killed every hour of every day.

And maybe we could make sure it's a long, long time before another crazy kills 20 first graders in their schoolrooms.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Too many guns….

Everything I write now is posted on my website:


Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut….it's not too disgusting for words.

Try these words.

Imagine 20 dead kids sprawled on the floors, with bloody bullet holes in their little bodies.

Imagine 6 dead adults crumpled in pools of blood right next to them.

Imagine the legally smiling face of the legal gun dealer who's going to sell a legal gun to the next crazed mass killer.

Imagine yourself letting this happen.

We're going to let this happen unless we start doing something different.

If you're not going to do something about it, you're not going to do anything about it.

Too many guns.

Too many dead people.

Too many tears.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Health care reform…the ups, the downs

Seems like a whole lot of Republican-led states have decided to let the federal government run the "health care exchanges" that are mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Only 18 states have set up their own exchanges, says The Washington Post, the other 32 just shoveled all or part of the job off to the feds.

Hard to understand the reasoning here….many of these Republican leaders blasted away in public against ACA, "government intrusion" in health care, etc., and now they're rather casually giving away control to Uncle Sam. Isn't that a little cockeyed? They're INVITING the federal government to take charge?..........

Oh, wait, somebody just whispered this is a continuation of the Republican blocking move, Republican governors don't want to take responsibility for any part of ACA…

In my mind, maybe it's just another example of politicians letting ideology get in the way of common sense and what's good for the people they represent.

I support the affordable Health Care Act, I'm happy to see the federal government in control in states where the Republican leadership has done everything to block ACA implementation...

Health care reform, coming slowly…

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Workin' 9 to 5.....NOT

As you start thinking about whether you should dust off Uncle Terry's eggnog recipe this year for the holidays, just take a minute to think about this:

Only 44% of Americans are working full time. The Gallup organization says its November survey shows that well under half of American men, women and children—God bless us every one!—are in the full-time workforce.

If you include the millions of part-timers, about 59% of Americans who are 16 or older are working (and paying their payroll taxes).

Those of us who aren't working should give a respectful salute to those who are!

Let's salute workers everywhere who are making our world go 'round!

And let's salute non-working retired folks everywhere who did their stints in the salt mines (or other career fields) and who are now enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Now, if only Congress would get its act together and start doing the work it needs to do to boost our national economy and help create jobs for those who want them…

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ravi Shankar, R.I.P.

Ravi Shankar (1920-2012), R. I. P.

Pandit Ravi Shankar is gone. If you were fortunate, like me, to hear him play his sitar in concert, then you can easily recall the pacific thrill of listening to that marvelous musician and watching his marvelous fingers on that marvelous instrument. 

I saw and heard the music man—he was born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury—at Lehigh University many years ago with his very talented daughter, Anoushka. They made beautiful music.

When I was very young I wrote poetry inspired by a piece Ravi described as "Bhimpalasi, a most beautiful raga of the late afternoon…" It was one of my first poems, it came easily to me….listen to "Bhimpalasi" here

Ravi got together with George Harrison in 1971 to play the first blowout star-studded benefit concert, The Concert for Bangladesh. The audience applauded after he finished tuning his sitar, and Pandit Ravi Shankar politely invited them to "wait until I play something." If you've heard his voice, you can imagine the utter civility of his words…

Ravi Shankar. Requiescat in pace.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I can't brain today...

I can't brain today….

Yeah, no kidding, I have the dumb.

It's hard to put it into words.

Give me a minute…

Do not spindilate, y'know?.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Will Madonna run for president in 2016 ???

Will Madonna run for president in 2016  ???

Yeah, I know, ewwwwwww!

But seriously, speculating about the one-time Material Girl's chances for the White House is just about as useful as guessing whether Hillary will run, or whether Rubio will be the GOP's champion…

No one knows who the Democratic and Republican nominees will be four years hence, and no one can make a good guess…too many variables, too much time….

Now if old Hillary wants to make a public announcement saying she's throwing her hat into the ring, I'm all ears……if Marco wants to make it official right now, I want to know that…

But I'm promising myself that I just won't pay any attention at all to the endless pundit speculation and blogosphere gossiping about who might run and who might win, it's all bellywash, it's nothing but ignorance wrapped up in ephemeral bloviation…..

I'm going to do the smart, healthy thing:  ignore it.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

The wisdom of Bobby Knight

"The will to succeed is important,
            but what's more important is the will to prepare."

Bobby Knight (b. 1940)
Legendary NCAA basketball coach

Good ideas: grab the ring, walk through the open door, live your dream, try one more time

Better ideas: get the best seat on the merry-go-round, figure out which door to open, stay awake to plan your dream, prep now for a second try later, look farther ahead, get strong, get ready

What to do when you're on the right track.....

Try one more time, says Thomas Edison

Francis Bacon on "opportunities"..

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dave Brubeck (1920-2012), R. I. P.

David Warren Brubeck, 91 years. American progressive jazz pianist and composer, died December 5, 2012.

Dave Brubeck was an active musician to the end of his life. You really can't like jazz if you don't like at least some of Brubeck's work. Or all of it. Take your pick.

I read through some of his biography, here's an interesting item: he served under Gen. George Patton in Europe in World War II, mostly as an Army musician….his "Wolfpack" band was the only racially integrated unit in the American army. Good one, Dave.

I wonder how "Take Five" sounds when it's scored for massed harps? Click here for the earthly version from 1966, with Brubeck on piano and Paul Desmond on alto sax. Desmond wrote the sax melody.

Dave Brubeck. Requiescat in pace.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The wisdom of Will Rogers (part 3)

"Even if you're on the right track,
        you'll get run over if you just sit there."
Will Rogers (1879-1935)

Get a move on!

…and by the way, there's more than one right track…..

another taste from Will Rogers

and more Will Rogers....

Monday, December 3, 2012

The wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Our lives begin to end
      the day we become silent about things that really matter."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

A good start would be to say out loud, right now, what MLK said.

Then do it again.

In the 18th century, Edmund Burke said it this way....

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"A glee for Christmas"…..

"Nowell sing we…"

"Green groweth the holly…"

"Gloucestershire Wassail…"

"Sweet was the song the Virgin sung…"

"A glee for Christmas…"

When was the last time you listened to music that was composed by England's King Henry VIII?

Do you happen to recall the last time you heard music and song that was first performed about the time that King John signed the Magna Carta (1215) and the last Crusades were getting under way in the 13th century?

Perhaps you missed yesterday's tender offerings by My Lord Chamberlain's Consort at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem, PA. The concert was part of the Moravian College Undergraduate Conference in Medieval and Early Modern Studies.

It was indeed "A glee for Christmas"….the Consort performs medieval and other early European music that is cheering, friendly and by turns delicate, robust, quiet, hearty, and, you know, hold the heavy metal please…

Pat O'Brien, the Consort's lutenist/cittern player, mentioned that in the 14th and 15th centuries there most likely was a lute hanging on the wall in every barbershop and tavern, so anyone could grab it and play and sing for anyone who would listen…hey, that sounds downright neighborly…

I imagine that some of the boys headed down to the King's Arms Inn or maybe to the Sign of the Laughing Donkey on Friday nights to drink ale and get up on stage for the air lute contests…..

King Henry could compose and play this kind of music with some skill.

The Consort makes it look easy, and they love what they're doing, every minute of it.

I loved it too.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

You didn't rebuild that…..

There's always bold talk about rebuilding during cleanup of major storm damage. Many thousands of homes and businesses, and miles of highways/bridges/utility lines, were severely damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Governments, business owners and homeowners in several states have already begun the daunting and terribly expensive cleanup chore.

And of course there are calls from every quarter for government assistance, disaster relief, temporary free housing, low interest loans….

In other words, the folks and the regions that were devastated want everyone else to help pay for restoration and rebuilding.

I'm certainly not opposed to that in principle. I think an important advantage of being part of a society is that everyone pitches in to help after natural calamities. That means, of course, that government assistance comes into play. And of course, government assistance means your tax dollars and mine are being spent to help those who got hurt.

Just for the record, I think any homeowner or business owner should be required to have sufficient private insurance to cover the costs of rebuilding after a devastating storm hits. Hurricane insurance will cost about 13 cents a year in Kansas, and flood insurance will cost about the same in the Berkshires….

And I also think that the folks who are handing out the government aid to those homeowners and business owners should remember to say, from time to time, "you didn't rebuild that."

President Obama was right when he talked during the campaign about our social, economic and physical infrastructure that is essential to our manufacturing, our commerce and our lives, and when he said to private business owners "you didn't build that."

For those who will drive on new roads and new bridges, and for those who will receive government aid to get back on their feet after Sandy, it's fair and it's important to say "you didn't rebuild that all by yourself."

Storm costs and global climate change....

Friday, November 30, 2012

We're cooking the planet (part 7)

Billions for storm cleanup, but not a dollar to fight global warming?

Some governors are calling for $100 billion of federal disaster aid to clean up after Hurricane Sandy hit the mid-Atlantic coast.

I'm waiting for them to ask for another $100 billion to start addressing bandaids and fixes and remedies for the human impact on global climate change and global warming.

Of course the storm cleanup has to be done, the politicians agree. Why don't we have equally strong political leadership calling for a matching commitment—dollar for dollar—to scale back global climate change?

Are we just going to keep paying, over and over again, for the storm damage that's being made worse by global warming?

A recent piece on makes this point: the sea levels have been rising faster than even the concerned climate scientists thought they would. Rising sea levels mean that storms will bring even more water inland when they hit.

How many times do you want to spend $100 billion to clean up the Atlantic coastline?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

OK, let's talk about the "fiscal cliff"….

Too bad this really goofy and meaningless name got attached to the tax/spend debate that's going on now…

Yeah, they're two scary words that lend themselves nicely to the sound-bite journalism that pretends to be news coverage….but it doesn't convey any clear notions of meaningful choices or consequences…

Let's just call everything a spade:

The so-called Bush tax cuts never were a good idea for America, they need to be phased out because we have to start actually paying more right now for all the government services and benefits that we all want.

The partisan haggling about where to make spending cuts obscures some basic facts:

Yes, we have to scale back future Social Security benefits and we have to increase the revenue base (payroll taxes ) for Social Security benefits because present contributions won't cover future benefits—and we have to raise the "Social Security retirement age" because people are living so much longer.

We have to continue to reform health care so that everyone buys insurance (the "individual mandate") because America isn't going to stop turning away poor people from our emergency rooms.

We have to continue to reform health care so that doctors and health care providers are paid first for keeping people healthy and then also paid to make them well when necessary.

For the rest of federal spending, the first items that should be on the block are all the special interest exemptions/credits/loopholes that benefit the politically privileged few—unfortunately, there are a lot of them.

An aside on the federal income tax.....

Monday, November 26, 2012

The wisdom of Marcel Proust

"Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
  they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
French novelist, critic, essayist

Well, this is a light touch, "charming gardeners" caught my eye and tripped the "blossom" switch in my mind, I like the notion of having charming gardeners around me, I like the thought that I can be one of them…

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Drug companies "own" the N. E. Journal of Medicine

Remember Avandia? The diabetes drug that was taken off the market a couple years ago?...the Food and Drug Administration estimated Avandia had been linked to about 83,000 heart attacks and deaths.

A 2006 report in the New England Journal of Medicine described clinical trials that pointed to Avandia, a GlaxoSmithKline drug, as the best performer. Those clinical trials were funded by GlaxoSmithKline, and the NEJM report had 11 authors, each of whom had been paid by GlaxoSmithKline. Four of the authors were Glaxo employees who held company stock.

I guess you're thinking "conflict of interest"… I know I am. I guess you're thinking "why would the NEJM publish a report with such a provocatively apparent conflict of interest?"…. I know I am. If the NEJM isn't going to uphold its role as a guardian of academic and medical objectivity, then how is a drug report in the NEJM different from a magazine ad?

Who will watch the watchdogs?

Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post's investigative story (click here for full text):

"Over a year-long period ending in August, NEJM published 73 articles on original studies of new drugs, encompassing drugs approved by the FDA since 2000 and experimental drugs, according to a review by The Washington Post.

"Of those articles, 60 were funded by a pharmaceutical company, 50 were co-written by drug company employees and 37 had a lead author, typically an academic, who had previously accepted outside compensation from the sponsoring drug company in the form of consultant pay, grants or speaker fees."

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

watchdogs part 3

watchdogs part 2

watchdogs part 1

Saturday, November 24, 2012

That pesky national debt thing….

China ain't the problem, folks.

It's more or less guaranteed. When someone starts to talk about the U.S. national debt that pesky bugbear China will be mentioned along with some version of "China owns our national debt, China owns us."

Now, I'm not trying in any way to whitewash the issue of the national debt. We owe too much and it's getting bigger every day. We don't want to keep adding to the national debt for the next 100 years….

But China's ownership of U.S. government securities, and thus, a piece of our national debt, isn't really the problem. China owns about 10% of our national debt, Japan owns a little less than that.

I bet this surprises you: Americans and American financial institutions like banks and mutual funds and the Social Security Trust Fund own most of the national debt. Yup, "we' own about 75% of the national debt.

Of course we need to stop spending a whole lot more than we're taking in, as soon as the economy gets rolling again. In the meantime, government stimulus is still a pretty good idea, and the only short term way to make sure that we start creating a lot more jobs now.

In the short run, the only good way to tackle the issue of the national debt is to raise taxes so we all start to actually pay for the goods and services we bought on credit in the past.

..more on the national debt

Thursday, November 22, 2012

White voters who didn't vote for President Obama….

Millions of American voters had a great many reasons in mind on Nov. 6 when they voted for Romney and not for President Obama.

Let's just put a frame of reference on the possible motivations of white voters in, say, Mississippi.

Exit polls done on election day suggest that about 90% of white voters in Mississippi voted for Romney. That is, Mississippi white voters were more than twice as likely as white voters everywhere to vote for the Republican challenger….nationwide, President Obama got the support of about 39% of white voters.

Now, Mississippi is not a bastion of the very wealthy, it's not the headquarters of scads of major hedge funds or big banks, it doesn't share a border with Mexico, it's not a thriving capitalist stronghold of entrepreneurial enterprise—no one ever heard of "Mississippi Valley"—it's not a natural breeding ground for small government enthusiasts, it's not obvious that Mississippians as a group would want major cutbacks in government spending……

See, here's the thing: Mississippi is one of the states that sucks up far more federal spending per capita than it pays in federal taxes – and that's big time, Mississippians get almost $3 worth of federal spending and benefits for every dollar paid in personal and corporate federal taxes. Only two states (New Mexico and Alaska) get more.

De facto, in the simplest terms of pocketbook politics, Mississippians actually love the federal government. In this simplistic view, they should be loving President Obama down in Mississippi.

I wonder why 90% of white voters went for the other guy?

Taxes in, benefits out, by state....

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Birthday to the income tax !?

Mark your calendar for next year, the federal income tax will be 100 years old. Celebrate in whatever way seems appropriate to you.

I should say, the current version of the federal income tax will be celebrating a 100th birthday.

There was no income tax during the Revolutionary War era. During the War of 1812, the U.S. government prepared to impose an income tax to help pay war bills, but the fighting ended and the tax idea was shelved.

The first federal income tax was voted in by the (Northern) Congress during the Civil War, again to pay the costs of the fighting. This 1862 tax included a 3% tax on incomes of $600-10,000, and 5% on incomes above $10,000 up to $50,000. In terms of the purchasing power of a dollar today, folks with income less than about $11,400 wouldn't be taxed, and the top rate of 5% would be imposed on incomes of approximately $190,000-$950,000.

This Civil War-era income tax was modified repeatedly, and finally expired in 1872.

Subsequently Congress tried dozens of times to re-institute the federal income tax but was stymied by provisions of Article 1 of the Constitution which limited the right of Congress to impose a "direct tax."

The ratification of the 16th Constitutional Amendment in 1913 paved the way for the modern income tax, which was adopted in the same year.

The first set of tax rates was pretty simple: a 1% tax on all income above $3,000, and surcharges ranging from 2% to 7% on income in the $20,000 to $500,000 range. By the way, the average annual income of Americans in 1913 was $2,367, so an awful lot of ordinary folks didn't have to pay the tax at all.

Ah, the good old days….

More info on the income tax

...and more....

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Another point on "job creators"….

Some Republican leaders love to repeat the politically-charged canard that raising taxes on folks making more than $250,000 a year is a slam at "job creators."

Just not true. The Kauffman Foundation, an advocate for entrepreneurship, says that the great majority of entrepreneurs are middle class folks.

Anyway, 97% of small business owners make less than $250,000 a year….and, anyway, 3 out of 4 small business owners are sole proprietors who have no employees, these are folks who are in business for themselves, who like to "be my own boss," who have no intention of hiring the millions of people who are out of work right now.

And here's another point: the folks who are millionaires and billionaires have invested more than 90% of their wealth in financial investments: bonds, money market funds, stocks and real estate. Most of their wealth is not being plowed into a business that creates jobs.

And one more point about business taxes: forget about the public hubbub over America's "high corporate tax rate." says that in the 1950s, corporations paid $3 in taxes for every $1 paid by their employees through payroll tax withholding. Today, U.S. corporations are paying an average of 22 cents in taxes for every $1 of payroll tax withholding.

Corporate taxes are NOT too high, and the very wealthy should be paying more of their fair share to support the government services that all of us need and want.

Just think about where you're going today….are you going to drive over a bridge that needs repairs?

What are the so-called "job creators" doing.....?

Monday, November 19, 2012

We're cooking the planet.....(part 6)

The plain and simple truth: the planet is getting warmer, and it's not a random blip.

Human beings are cooking the planet—this is the only planet our grandchildren will be living on.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the average global temperature in October was the 5th warmest October on record. We got the hottest October in 2003. The coldest October in the record book was in 1912, exactly a hundred years ago.

But this is the ominous news from NOAA: in every single month since February 1985 the average global temperature has been higher than the average for all of the 20th century. That's 332 months in a row with elevated temps around the world. That's not a statistical oddity, it's a scientifically confirmed, enduring pattern. It's reality.

And by the way, check out the chart on this link – so far this year, the northeastern United States has been one of the hottest places on the planet, with consistently record high temperatures month after month.

We're cooking the planet, folks. We can't undo the damage that's already done.

For the sake of our grandchildren, we should be working at lot harder right now to slow down the human activities that are causing ever higher temperatures and global climate change.

It's going to be expensive.

Think of it as a gift to your grandchildren.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2012 All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Twinkies, Twinkies, little star…..

How I wonder….what's all the fuss?

For starters, I never was a Twinkies fan, not too sure I actually ever ate one of those little yellow spongy things…

And if your Twinkies experience over the years was similar to my experience with my all-time fave, Tasty Pies from Tasty Baking Company, then the Twinkies-lovers among you can just go about your business, no tears, the long dying has come to an end…

I'm guessing that in the good old days, Twinkies were bigger, moister, sweeter, spongier, creamier and tastier than they are now (or were, if your local dealer ran out recently…)

The sinister and unending conviction of consumer product marketing managers--that making a product slightly less everything in order to maintain a price point is a great way to maintain customer loyalty--is, well, sinister and unending.

For example, if you ate a Tasty Pie 30 years ago, say, as I did with passion, then you wouldn't be caught dead or alive eating the desiccated over-baked hunk of artificial dough with some flavoring smeared in it that comes in the Tasty Pie box now.

I don't eat Tasty Pies any more.

Sorry about your Twinkies.

Requiescat in pace.

Hostess pulls the plug on Twinkies....

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Job creators…..revisited

President Obama's tax plan won't affect most small businesses, and won't affect most of the so-called job creators. Plain and simple.

In the past week I've read a couple interesting facts about small businesses and the so-called job creators that I wish had been given widespread news coverage during the presidential campaign.

Turns out that the Republican mantra that "we can't raise taxes, that will hurt small businesses, they're the job creators" was mostly malarkey.

Let's talk about small businesses and jobs and taxes – here are a couple points that Romney and many Republicans forgot to mention, and for that matter, I'm mystified by the failure of President Obama and many Democrats to mention them…..

About 97 per cent of small businesses have less than $250,000 annual income. Thus, allowing the so-called Bush tax cuts to expire for high-income taxpayers won't affect most small businesses.

About 75 per cent of small businesses have no employees and are never going to have any. Why? About 75 per cent of small businesses are sole proprietorships, that is, they are one man or one woman who set up his/her own business so he/she could "work for myself, be my own boss." These people have no intention of creating the millions of jobs that we need to bring down the current high unemployment rate.

One of President Obama's high-profile policy commitments is to raise taxes on the very wealthy and the highest-income folks, to ask them to pay more of their fair share for all of the government services that we all need and want. Most small businesses and most of the so-called job creators won't be affected. Plain and simple.

And anyway – just to make the point – what are the so-called job creators anywhere thinking? what are they doing? Taxes haven't been raised on job creators (or anybody) for the last decade – I really haven't seen those alleged job creators hard at work anywhere…..

Friday, November 16, 2012

The wisdom of Thomas Edison

"The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)

This piece of advice certainly has merit…..give it one more try…..

Lincoln on personal resolve....

The wisdom of Francis Bacon

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The wisdom of the Orient

"A man grows most tired when standing still."
Chinese proverb

Ain't it the truth?

When I was younger, without consciously thinking about it, I believe I was more willing to "stand still"…in many ways I believed I was satisfied with my life, and status quo felt real comfortable.

Life has changed for me, or, rather, a combination of circumstance and desire has changed my life.

A half-dozen years ago I reached the end of my working career, an explicitly bitter-sweet experience, I had a job that I loved, I worked closely and productively and wisely with a compadre who is still my very good friend, but my company (and industry: daily newspaper) was beginning to visibly implode….

Retirement put the status quo out of my life and out of my mind.

And I changed my outlook. I started working more with people, and enjoying the camaraderie, and I began to have some positive impact with organizations I'm involved in, and I made up my mind to do only the things that I want to do.

I'm not standing still, and I haven't gotten tired of it yet….