Something For Nothing…

2015-08-12_18-19-20But since Piotrowski describes property taxes as “unethical, unchristian-like” and a form of “financial slavery,” he decided to make a statement.

“Since I’m being forced to pay for something against my own will, I’m paying in pennies,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

SOURCE: This man collected 50,000 pennies to make a statement about paying his property taxes – Yahoo Finance.

QE BannerI don’t know about you but these sort of stories get on my nerves but kind of like a train wreck I just can’t seem to look away. This guy claims paying taxes is “unethical, unchristian-like and a form of financial slavery”. Oh come on…. Paying taxes is a very necessary part of living in a democracy. Who does this guy think builds our bridges, maintains our police and fireman forces, and a myriad of other services we come to expect? Those things don’t come free and I’m sure this guy’s eyes glaze over when someone tries to explain that to him.

Its bad enough that he is ignorant enough to think paying his share of taxes is unethical and financial slavery but he had to add his religious leanings too. Yeah I know there are a lot of conservative, especially evangelical, Christians out there that don’t want to be forced to pay for things like helping the needy, infirm, or mentally challenged. Jesus Christ made it very clear that we are to be our brother’s keeper and since  religious organization don’t remotely begin to meet that need we should happily support our government do so in our place. But again, I’m sure this guy’s eyes also glaze over when that is explained to him.

I kind of put this guy in the same league of all those millionaires who have off-shore accounts to hide their money so they don’t have to pay their share of taxes. Both are shameful.  Before you say I am painting with too broad a brush here I will say that fortunately this guy does not represent the majority, or even a slight minority of Christians  with this behavior the same as that rich guy doesn’t represent everyone who has more money than they know what to do with… I kind of hope this yahoo got a hernia from lifting his 50,000 pennies 🙂

About Those Greeks…

I see where the Greeks elected a new government this week to help them reduce austerity that was forced upon them by the European Union bailout.  This reminded me of a book I read a few years ago entitled “Boomerang” by Michael Lewis. One chapter in the book was about Greece. The book is very enlightening and well written. Here are some selected snippets about Greece.

The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns 65,000 euros a year…. The Greek public-school system is the site of breathtaking inefficiency: one of the lowest-ranked systems in Europe, it nonetheless employs four times as many teachers per pupil as the highest-ranked, Finland’s. Greeks who send their children to public schools simply assume that they will need to hire private tutors to make sure they actually learn something.  The retirement age for Greek jobs classified as “arduous” is as early as fifty-five for men and fifty for women . As this is also the moment when the state begins to shovel out generous pensions, more than six hundred Greek professions somehow managed to get themselves classified as arduous: hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on…. The Greek people never learned to pay their taxes. And they never did because no one is punished. No one has ever been punished. It’s a cavalier offense— like a gentleman not opening a door for a lady.” The scale of Greek tax cheating was at least as incredible as its scope: an estimated two-thirds of Greek doctors reported incomes under 12,000 euros a year— which meant, because incomes below that amount weren’t taxable, that even plastic surgeons making millions a year paid no tax at all…. The problem wasn’t the law there was a law on the books that made it a jailable offense to cheat the government out of more than 150,000 euros but its enforcement. “If the law was enforced,” the tax collector said, “every doctor in Greece would be in jail.” I laughed, and he gave me a stare. “I am completely serious.” One reason no one is ever prosecuted— apart from the fact that prosecution would seem arbitrary, as everyone is doing it and that the Greek courts take up to fifteen years to resolve tax cases.  Lewis, Michael (2011-09-28). Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World – Norton. Kindle Edition.

The quotes above give you an idea as to why Greece might be in the troubles it is. As the book implies actions have consequences and Greece apparently needs to learn that lesson.

Greece is the birthplace of democracy so let’s end this post with a quote from the ancient Greek philosopher Isocrates:

“Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress.”

Sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it?

Republican leaders to block US immigration measure

Despite a wide coalition of business, labor, religious groups, farmers and others pushing for an immigration overhaul, many individual Republican House members who represent largely white districts have been unmoved. SOURCE: Republican leaders to block US immigration measure – Yahoo News.

After so many years of a stalemated government there are so many things that need changes. We are stuck in the 20th century practices due to a small number of our congressional representative being frozen with the fear of change? There are just too many of us old white folks who are trying to hold back the tide of change when in comes to the demographics of our country. There are too many arthritic fingers stuck in the holes of the dam trying to turn back the inevitable.

I for one believe that our increased diversity as a nation is a good thing. Our country has always been defined as a nation of immigrants. That is what makes us unique in the world.

Another topic that needs some severe change is our tax system. It needs a complete overhaul in order to address the ever-increasing inequity of opportunity in this country. Until that is done the 1% will continue to gobble up what once went to others as their rightful portion of economic gains they help generate. Since the Reagan years too much of the tax code has been targeted at allowing the most wealthy among us to pay less and less taxes. The faulty idea was that if we gave the ultra-rich more money they would invest it and create new jobs.  In reality what has happened is that they park that extra wealth in off-shore accounts and then get into a bragging contest with others as to how much they have accumulated. One aspect of change that needs to be addressed immediately is how we fund our government.

Surprisingly I just might sound like some of my conservative friends with the remainder of this post.  It is just a matter of degree I suppose. Many of them see things in black/white where I see shades of grey.

Change is also needed at the other end of the economic spectrum. There are too many among us who don’t contribute at all to paying for our country’s expenses. Everyone should have some degree of ownership of our country.  I believe that everyone who earns a wage, or for that matter any income, should contribute to the tax base that keeps our country running.  And yes, there are too many who are gaming the system at both ends of the spectrum and they should be brought to task.

It does my heart good to see our government go after the Swiss banks who are helping the rich avoid paying their fair share. As the bible says to whom much is given much is expected. To shirk that responsibility is loathsome. Our government needs to go after these tax dodgers with an increased sense of seriousness.

There are too many people who are living off government doles who could easily join the rest of us as tax paying citizens. They fake back injuries to get on social security disability. They don’t really look for a job but instead collect unemployment. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not labeling everyone in these programs as gamers anymore than I am saying that all affluent people hide money from taxes.  We need to take a serious look at how these programs are administered in order to make sure that those who are truly in need get what they need but not those who are freeloading.

Those who are holding up these necessary changes due to their stiffing fear need to step aside and let us get that work done… The sooner the better…

Tax code changes will hit high-income Americans hardest

On top of that, higher-income taxpayers could see their itemized deductions and personal exemptions phased out and pay higher capital gains taxes — 20 percent for some taxpayers. And there are new taxes for them to help pay for health care reform.

There are different income thresholds for each of these new taxes. An additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax, for example, kicks in on earnings over $250,000 for married couples filing jointly and $200,000 for singles and heads of household.

Same for a 3.8 percent tax on investment income. But the phase-out of personal exemptions and deductions doesn’t begin until $300,000 for married couples filing jointly and $250,000 for singles. Taxpayers will still be able to deduct their medical expenses, but it will be more difficult for many to qualify.

The threshold for deducting medical expenses now stands at 10 percent of adjusted gross income, up from 7.5 percent. There’s an exception, though, for those older than 65. For them, the old rate is grandfathered in until 2017.

SOURCE: Tax code changes will hit high-income Americans hardest | PBS NewsHour.

It is good to hear that at least some things are changing when it comes to asking the wealthy to pony up a little more of their mammoth discretionary income for the good of the country and for the basic welfare of its citizens. While these gains (you probably say loses if you are on the receiving end) are notable they is still a long way to go in this area…

GOP Is Not A Real Party…

“The Republican Party is not really a party. It doesn’t stand for anything except re-electing itself,” Stockman, who directed the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, tells Newsmax. “The neocons are only oriented to an aggressive, imperialistic foreign policy of big defense establishment and suppression of our civil liberties. That’s bad.

“The tax cons want to just cut taxes — any time, any day — regardless of the fiscal situation,” Stockman adds. “That has gone to an absurd length. The social cons, social policy people — the right-to-life issue and gay marriage and all of that — that’s irrelevant to governing a democracy in a free society.

SOURCE:  Former Reagan Budget Head Stockman Critical of GOP.

I have long agreed with Will Rogers when he said “I’m not a member of an organized party I am a Democrat”. The Democrats have always be a coalition of many factions.

  • There are those who think government is the solution to all problems.
  • There are those who want to give help to everyone whether they want it or not. 
  • There are those called “blue dogs” who want less government but not be destroying the social safety net. 
  • And finally there are those who want abortion to be easily obtained for those who “want to control their own bodies”. 

This hodgepodge of associations has long been the face of the Democratic party. Except for the last item they all seem to share a basic empathy that we should be there for one another. We should have each other’s back. The safety net that protects those caught in some bad times should be strong so that no one is totally destroyed either by their own actions or the actions of others.

And then there are the Republicans of the last couple of decades. You would think that the words in the quote above were spouted by one of the talking heads over at MSNBC but you would be wrong.  They came from one of the chief aids to then president Ronald Reagan. David Stockman invented “trickle down economics” or at least the current version of it. Trickle down is widely believed to be one of the primary reasons Reagan was elected. Give money to the rich and it will eventually trickle done to the poor. The other economic thought was that in order to raise tax revenue you must lower taxes.  Don’t ask me to explain that one but Mr. Reagan and Mr. Stockman thoroughly believed it. Of course it didn’t happen and Reagan turned out to be the first big deficit spenders of our time.

It is enough to say that Stockman was one of the founders of conservatism as it is practiced  up until recently.  The words in the quote are  pretty blunt that the GOP stands for nothing except getting re-elected. But of course that could also be said for the Democrats in congress as well. As Stockman points out

  • The neocons are only for a big military establishment and suppression of civil liberties.
  • The tax cons are only for cutting taxes even if it means stripping our safety net in the process. That fact does not concern them at all. 
  • The social cons are so fixated on “below the belt” issues that nothing else really matters to them.

The source article goes on to include several other dark sides of the current GOP but I will leave it up to you to see that if you want.  As for me I will stick to the first group with my tenuous political allegiance. At least until the GOP comes back to something resembling any level of compassion.

Swiss, U.S. reach deal on outing tax evaders

Pile of MoneyThe U.S. government and Switzerland have reached an agreement that could expose Americans who have used Swiss banks to avoid paying taxes….

The crackdown began in 2009 after a whistleblower notified U.S. authorities that UBS, the largest Swiss bank, was enabling Americans to evade taxes.

UBS settled the case later that year. It turned over account records on 4,500 U.S. customers and paid a $780 million fine

SOURCE:  Swiss, U.S. reach deal on outing tax evaders – CBS News.

I have absolutely no sympathy for those caught trying to hide their wealth in swiss banks in order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  It is about time that the Swiss were held accountable for their part in this activity. I certainly celebrate those who through their own initiatives have become wealthy in the country. For the most part they deserve to have the fruits of their labor. But as the bible says for whom much is given much is expected.

Prior to the establishment of personal income taxes in 1913 (yes, just a hundred years ago) almost all the money needed to run our government in doing the people’s business came from inheritance taxes and import taxes. I wonder what this country would look like today if that means of funding had continued? I kind of think we would probably be  better off than what we are now.  Instead of taxing those who have little or no discretionary income why not depend on wealth returning to where it came from after someone dies?

Getting back to the point of the post, it seems that the more money someone has just increases their fixation on getting more and more and paying out less and less. They let money become the idol of their lives. In that regard  the sickness is much worse than the cure. It does my heart good to see that those who try to hide their wealth in order to avoid taxes are getting caught more frequently today thanks to the revised Swiss practices. But I’m sure there are many more than the 4,500 who were turned over. Probably orders of magnitude more…..

Lawmakers say Apple dodged billions in taxes…

Apple CEO

A Senate panel late Monday accused Apple (AAPL) of using what it called a “complex web of offshore entities” to dodge billions of dollars in U.S. income taxes.

Source: Lawmakers say Apple dodged billions in taxes – CBS News.

If we could just manage to get a Centrist party in control of those folks in Washington one of the first things I would want them to attack is our bloated tax code. The 10,000 plus pages of rules are at the core of the above article. Of course businesses want to minimize their tax load in order to increase their profits.  That is, after all, what the free enterprise system is all about. Profits are the sole driver.

One of my major themes in my life lately has been around the word “Simplify”. Our world is just getting too complicated when it doesn’t have to be. Let’s throw out those 10,000 pages and replace them with just a handful. Let’s take away the means for corporations to move massive amounts of their income into tax exempt entities.

Let’s just make income well, income. If it comes in it is income and you pay a certain percentage of it as taxes to support our government and its business. For the individual that means you pay the same rate for income for profits from your investments as you do from the sweat of your brow. That means if you inherit income you pay your taxes on that amount in order to pass part of your windfall on for the common good.  You didn’t earn it so it is taxable income to you. For corporations money coming in is income; doesn’t matter if it was from a foreign sale or one in the U.S.

Lets Get a Centrist party in power and direct them to simplify our tax code. After they accomplish that then I would want them to give us “real” universal healthcare; not that pretend extremely watered down version called Obamacare. But first things first I guess and that is getting centrists into power in our government. Click on the logo below to see more about that.

Centrist Party

Power To The People….

Our financial ills will never be settled till you fix it so every man will pay an income tax on what he earns, be it a farm, grocery store or municipal or government bonds   — Will Rogers  March 21,1933

Will’s words above were spoken during the heights of the depression but even then the rich were finding loopholes to avoid paying taxes.  I have never understood how “unearned income” is treated any differently than the income the average guy has to sweat in order to earn. But for some reason, and I’m sure the politicians had their hand in it, “unearned income” is taxed at a lower rate called capital gains than when it is earned by the sweat of your brow.

vote 55To take advantage of this loophole most wealthy people do not actually have much income that is “earned”. That is they get their income from the wealth they already have. For instance more than 80% of Mr. Romney’s income was considered capital gains; that is how he and so many other rich guys can get away with paying less percentage of taxes than most of us.

I am going to go back to something I blogged about a year or more ago and say that as far as taxes are concerned that income should be considered income no matter where it comes from. If we just made that change it would go a long way toward reducing our deficits. It doesn’t matter if you got the money coming in because it was interest on bonds, dividends on stocks, or work digging a ditch; income is income.It doesn’t matter that your income is an inheritance, it is still income to you.

One of the things I like to emphasize on this blog is “Power to the people”. That is if we working stiffs would finally come to realize it we have the power to change many of these things that are currently so skewed toward the upper 1% of our population it could easily happen.  That power is called the vote. I simply can’t understand why so many, especially those in the lower income levels vote in such low numbers.  If only people realized the power they would have if they voted! Instead they let others convince them that “having their say” via the ballot box is a fruitless thing so why even bother.  I am not a big believer in conspiracies but if I did this would be one of those areas.

As they say, it is just a matter of numbers.  The very idea of democracy is that the power resides in the people. When one percent of the population have so much more say than the rest of us something is very wrong. They can and do control most of the money but they only control one percent of the vote. How can they maintain power with those odds?

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….

If Government Treated You As Well As Amazon….

Banner -Off The Top

DeliveryI must admit that I am a loyal customer of Amazon. I pay an extra $79 a year to have two-day free delivery of almost everything I buy and I buy quite a bit from them. I get many things the next day. It amazes me just how quickly they can get my order to me!

Another company that amazes me is Google. If I have a question on just about anything I can get many different views on the subject usually within a minute or two.  I can remember in high school and even college spending hours in the library scouring through twenty-four book encyclopedias and many other books to find a minute amount of info I can now get in seconds.

Read more

The Slippery Slope…..

 


Slippery
I am totally sick of the “slippery slope” that my conservative friends so often cling to!!

If I hear another person give me a slippery slope story I just might punch them. The idea of the slippery slope consumes so much of their lives. It is the center point for their current stands against gun regulation. It is the center point for their current stands of excluding anyone from their religious circles who don’t totally align with them.  It is the center point of their current stands on taxes.

Read more