Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Simple Tax Plan for Everyone

OK, I terribly neglect my blog in favor of short statements and discussions. This one needs to be finished and thankfully it doesn't have to be that long. We spend so much time arguing over raising or lowering taxes and the truth is, our tax code is way to complicated for anyone to make an educated assessment of how it could be "reformed" - which in and of itself is a joke. Here's my plan, which is still somewhat a work in progress but I think I've covered most everything.

Tax "reform" is a very complicated issue which really doesn't have to be. The left has created class warfare by vilifying the rich for a tax code which favors them in many ways but also completely exempts the poor. Of the two, I guess the latter is more palatable but it is not acceptable when you consider how many people who receive benefits do nothing in return and don't try to move beyond them. The rich definitely use the system as it is to keep more of what they have but so does everyone else - this is human nature. Even my uberliberal parents deduct every single thing they can and spend hours, days, WEEKS doing so.

I am a firm believer that we have a moral obligation to take care of those truly in need but we have a moral and practical obligation to not provide long-term handouts for those who don't; otherwise we won't be in a position to take care of anyone.

We can argue about what is "fair" - is it "fair" to take more of what a rich person earns? I don't know - but I do know it is the right thing to do. It is certainly more "fair" to the country that helped create their wealth and they can indeed afford it and it is income that is not entirely taken up by basic necessities. However, paying nothing is not an option. Even if you just pay a filing have the same protection of our military and the use of our roads. Perhaps if everyone has to pay even a nominal filing fee it will encourage more people to have a stake in their government and hold it accountable for wasteful spending and tolerating fraud and abuse.

The tax code is an abomination and it is so complicated we cannot make an educated decision on anything. My solution is simple and the tax code could be reduced to a flyer:

1) Graduated, semi-flat tax
2) Little to no deductions, no loopholes
3) Everyone pays a little; the more you earn the higher your percentage
4) All income treated the same whether earned, capital gains or other
5) Similar measures for corporate taxes
6) Small national sales tax to garner revenue from the underground economy
7) Eliminate cap of FICA tax (social security contribution)
8) Eliminate or drastically downsize the IRS, saving taxpayers billions
9) Reduction in the death tax except perhaps for the VERY wealthy - it's already been taxed and is a burden on those who aren't wealthy and inherit property

As a side note, I also advocate resurrecting the WPA. If we are going to spend money supporting people who aren't working, why not have them work if they can or train them for other jobs or to go back to school? It beats having them sit around. Even many disabled people are capable of some kind of work.

Unintended consequences: CPA's and tax attorneys may have to find more productive work than helping citizens forced to negotiate with an egregious and immoral tax code. Sorry guys - the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Live long and prosper.

Any questions?

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Attention Sports Fans: Avoid Cliches Like the Plague

It’s hard to argue too much with the success of the Dallas Mavericks over the last decade, although until 2011 we certainly saw a lot of goodness rather than greatness.   The championship seemed to turn on the light of hope that Dallas might be moving into the elite category of teams such as the Spurs.

Unfortunately things didn’t work out that way due to interest in the future free agent market and many are finding themselves realizing that hindsight is 20/20.  However for some of us, this old adage is not the cliché’ that stands out the most, as the course Mark Cuban and the team chose to take brings up at least two other time-tested truths that should have been followed:

#1:  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  

Since when does a championship team, albeit an aging one, merit rebuilding?  Doesn’t that usually happen after there is some sort of decline?   A championship team is not just personnel –  it is a team that has chemistry making it greater than the sum of its parts…which means, assembling another group of comparable talent is no guarantee of success.

Dirk is not young but he is still playing at an MVP level and even in 2011-2012 the only downside was due to injuries.  Arguably the second most important cog in the wheel, Tyson Chandler,  was only 28 last summer.  In fact, of the most important members of the team, only Jason Kidd has shown a significant decline in production.   One would assume a solid basketball operation could not only win another championship but continue to find good veterans and draft picks year after year to keep the franchise playing at a high level without having to dump half the team chasing the two biggest free agents everyone else wants too.

Which leads me to #2 :  A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

Quality big men are a rare commodity in this day and age and along with the reasons listed above, Tyson Chandler in particular stands out as someone you don’t let walk, particularly from a team historically devoid of even passable centers.   Defensively he is on par with Dwight Howard and while he is not as strong offensively, he is certainly solid.  Perhaps more importantly, his enthusiasm and attitude are a huge plus for any team.  Contrast that with Dwight - often regarded as selfish and a drama queen.  

Deshawn Stevenson and JJ Barea similarly brought intangibles to the team that can’t be easily replaced and even Caron Butler, though not a part of the championship run, was the Mavs’ second leading scorer prior to his injury and proceeded to score even more this season with two primary scoring options ahead of him in L.A.

Overall when you have this type of team at the pinnacle of success and a strong possibility of a repeat, throwing it away on a pipe dream of obtaining the market’s two most coveted free agents doesn’t strike me as being necessary or even good planning for the future.  The competition for signing superstars in fierce and while the chances of nabbing Deron Williams are decent it is certainly not a lock.  Meanwhile,  Dwight Howard spent the season throwing his team into emotional turmoil and ended up injured with a herniated disc, which is no small problem in the long term.   Trust me --  I have 3 of them. 

While some of the stop-gaps worked out reasonably well (Delonte West, Vince Carter) we all know the big #FAIL that no one could have imagined; however the type of anomaly that is Lamar Odom is exactly why this adage applies.  The Mavs gambled and lost.

Even now the Mavericks would do well to what can bring success without bolstering one position at the expense of every other.  The CBA will come around to bite everyone in the league sooner or later and well…I suppose patience will have to be a virtue.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thoughts From Far West Berlin: Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Thoughts From Far West Berlin: Why Can't We All Just Get Along?: One description of Juan Williams book Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate reads: "Only those towing the party line—the screaming v...

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

One description of Juan Williams book Muzzled:  The Assault on Honest Debate reads:

"Only those towing the party line—the screaming voices of the extremist—get airtime and dominate the discussion in politics and the media. Each side, liberal and conservative, preaches to a choir that revels in expressions of anger, ideology, conspiracies, and demonized opponents. The result is an absence of truth-telling and honest debate about the facts."

Politicians are bad enough but is amazing how the general public drinks their preferred Kool-Aid.  As a lifelong centrist I am continually amazed by the refusal to acknowledge common-sense compromises.  Have we completely lost our ability to see that there is rarely ONE philosophy or ONE style that ALWAYS works ALL the time?  Apparently the insanity of the political arena is seeping – or pouring - into everyday life.

The partisan rancor surrounding the Bush-Gore campaign soured me on politics for years.  How could liberals uniformly support Gore and conservatives uniformly support Bush when the issues relating to counting the votes in Florida had NOTHING to do with ideology.  "Oh well if that's what THEY want then it has to be wrong."  It's as if we're stuck in a football game and we don't care if the referee makes a bad call so long as it's in favor of OUR team – and moreover, we can't objectively evaluate the call.  

This election season may be the most worst ever and with social media, everyone feels free to speak his/her mind.  I have the unfortunate tendency to chime in much of the time.  I get called a lot of names for disagreeing with people – thankfully, most are open to civil discussion, although I've been unfriended by more than one person who made it quite clear that if I didn't agree with them 100% then I can just go away.  Others prefer to let me hang around so they can make sure everyone else knows I'm a Nazi.

I'm not a big fan of the modern far-left and our current President has his share of shortcomings.  That being said, do we really need to attack every facet of his personality just because we don't agree with his politics?   I've heard him called everything from Socialist to idiot to America hater and the list goes on.  He's got no experience, no integrity, no leadership, blah blah bah.  The  #SOTU message was remarkably centrist and advocated, among other things, dramatically increasing offshore drilling and teacher accountability (rewarding good teachers and firing bad ones), two things alone that will surely infuriate his base.   Sure the proof is in the pudding but we ought to at least give him the benefit of the doubt.  Instead, Sean Hannity immediately comes on and makes it clear that there was nothing in the speech but more of Obama's Big Government agenda.  Seriously Sean?  Were you actually LISTENING or too busy writing your critique?

There are plenty of things to criticize this President about – what is it that keeps us from sticking to what's really wrong and acknowledging anything he does that has merit other than getting Bin Laden, which is rightfully deemed to be the result of years of intelligence and pursuit by multiple administrations.

With an election coming up and multiple members of the opposition vying for the right to face-off in November, the bile from the left is even more plentiful.   I'm not going to go on about all of them, so let's talk about Mitt Romney.

I'm not sure what to think about Romney – he's had at least two conversations that screamed "douchebag" at me…so I'm not here to defend him either.  That being said, he has had a successful career, made a lot of money honestly and donated a great deal to charity.  So why all of the sudden is it a PROBLEM that he's rich?   Barack Obama is no pauper and for that matter, neither are John kerry, Al Gore or other prominent Democrats.  

There is an article on the far-left website entitled "What Romney Money Could Do for the Average Family."  Seriously?  Well, the author says he made it without lifting his "beautifully manicured fingers" and paid only the capital gains tax.   Gee, that sounds like MOST investors, which is not a crime.  Even my uberliberal parents look for tax-smart investments and why would ANYONE take a salary when they can take a capital gain?  Saving money is human nature.

The author goes on at length to describe what the rest of us could do with that kind of income – as if that is somehow relevant in contrast to what we could do with the income of say, George Soros, Michael Moore, the Kennedys, Alec Baldwin, ad nauseum.    If you have a problem with conservative financial principles that's fine – but ostracizing Romney because he is a successful business man is just plain stupid, not to mention hypocritical unless you want to say the same thing about every liberal who's made money the same way.  Somehow THAT part of the "1%" doesn't count.  

Our incessant need to go beyond finding fault with only specific aspects of someone's policies and instead, throw a blanket criticism of every aspect of their being is disheartening and doesn't bode well for the elusive idea of working together.  People need to realize that solutions are largely a matter of blending of left and right, conservative and liberal, public and private and so forth.    Maybe if we dig deep we can think beyond what we're fed by "The Liberal Mainstream Media" and "Faux News" and remember that we don't prosper by applying absolutes to everything.  That just leaves a lot of people still asking "why can't we all just get along."