The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘fairness’

CHUMP CHANGE

Before he went into business for himself, I remember the night that we were having dinner and my dad made a big announcement to the family.  He had been offered a new sales position with a firm that was a competitor to his present employer and he had accepted it.  But the big part of the announcement was, “If I exceed my quotas, I can earn twenty thousand dollars in my first year.”  A hush fell over the table as mom, grandma and I were awestruck as we tried to contemplate  that massive amount of money.

To put that into perspective, a candy bar cost a nickel; a newspaper cost a dime; and a ride on either New York’s busses or subways cost fifteen cents.  As you’ve guessed, dad’s announcement was a few years ago – when being a millionaire meant being a person who could just about afford to buy or do almost anything.

The way the government throws money (yours and mine) around, we regard hundreds of thousands of dollars as mere rounding errors.  Millions barely get a second look and until we get to billions it doesn’t seem that we want to be bothered with much oversight of how we’re spending the taxpayers’ wealth.  Perhaps that’s how we’ve gotten to a debt that is in excess of seventeen trillion.  That’s seventeen thousand billions – or seventeen million millions.  However you slice it, that’s a whole lot of zeroes.

Now the reason for putting this all in perspective is so that I might mention what in my childhood would have been a massive amount but today is viewed as little more than chump change – the sum of $608,000.  What is this number and why devote a post to it?

Washington, D.C. businessman, Jeffrey Thompson, originally a Jamaican national, is alleged to have raised that sum to benefit a number of our politicians including the candidate-presumptive for president on the Democrat ticket in 2016, one Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Now fundraising isn’t in and of itself illegal if it’s done properly – in fact Obama is in New York today on exactly the same mission.  But what is illegal is for an agent or officer of a campaign to solicit illegal contributions.  Enter Minyon Moore, a top operative in Mrs. Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 nomination bid.

Thompson, who pleaded guilty today to illegal fundraising activity with respect to the 2010 election of D. C. Mayor Vincent Gray, apparently told federal prosecutors that he had been approached by Ms. Moore and was asked by her to conduct illegal fundraising activities in four states and in Puerto Rico.  The investigators went quickly on to add that “there was no evidence that Mrs. Clinton had any knowledge of this activity.”

Now think back a few months to that event in New Jersey known as “Bridge Gate” with which the media had a field day and which is being investigated by a committee of the New Jersey legislature.  In that event, one of Governor Chris Christie’s top aides apparently decided, out of political retribution, to constrict the traffic on the George Washington Bridge to “punish” the mayor of Ft. Lee because she did not endorse her boss.

One of the comments that came from the lead investigator looking into this matter was, “It’s hard to believe that the governor didn’t either direct this or at the least he should have known that it was going to happen.”   Christie in a now famous news conference accepted full responsibility for the event although he denied having any personal knowledge of it.  He fired his aide immediately.

I am inclined to believe Christie’s profession of ignorance.  However, I am also inclined to agree with the investigator’s comment that, “he should have known about it.”  It is exactly for that reason that I discredit the president’s statements that “he didn’t know about the insurance policies that would be cancelled; the fact that everyone is not saving $2,500 a year and people are losing their doctors because of Obamacare.”  It is exactly for that reason that I would not support Chris Christie for president.

But if we apply that logic fairly, how should we be disposed to the potential candidacy of Hillary Clinton?  Should she not have had knowledge of impropriety that was ongoing during her campaign and take responsibility for her staff’s activities?  Or would even raising this issue be nothing more than another assault in the “War on Women?”

I guess if we want to be “gender blind” and fair we should remember the old adage,  “What’s good for the ganders should be good for the goose.”  Even if that goose is Hillary Clinton.

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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

A graveyard.

Some believe it is a testament to the end.  Others believe it is the marker of a new beginning.    Without doubt, in the wink of an eye, we will all find out the truth, or not, depending on which view is correct.  In this matter there is uncertainty.

But about one thing there is no such lack of clarity.

History teaches us that when a people and those in political power abandon principle and virtue and morality; when common courtesy and compassion have no bearing on the way they conduct themselves; when truth is something that can be manipulated and falsehood is something that falls from everyone’s lips, it is a sign of the beginning of the end.

It happened in Rome, the Byzantine and Ottoman and Mogul Empires.  And now is it happening in America?

That is a disturbing question and not one that I pose easily.  It is or at least should be disquieting to every thoughtful American.  Indeed, I believe that every thoughtful American recognizes the potential for disaster should we continue down our present path.  But how many among us are there who consider the perils ahead – and how many simply go through their lives, persuaded by the mass psychology and desire to be part of the group and, like the lemmings follow each other over the cliff – taking down the rest of us with them?

There is a specific phenomenon which caused me to write this post.  That is the campaign ads which are currently being broadcast – specifically, some of the President’s ads.

I realize that in any campaign the opponents are going to manipulate facts to their own personal advantage.  Although I don’t like that I do expect it.  But when outright lies about an opponent are broadcast it is time for any and every person of conscience to cry out – STOP!  THIS IS TOO MUCH.

Sadly, there are very few in the Peanut Gallery shouting that.

There is a reason for that – a sad reason.  We elect people whom we think of as being like ourselves – who thus will be able to represent us and our interests.  So if we as individuals have abandoned principle and decency – if that is how we conduct our personal lives – it is only reasonable to expect that we will vote for people of the same ilk.  And we have.

The President’s camp quickly distanced itself from a PAC ad which accused Governor Romney of indirectly causing the death of a woman to cancer by denying her health insurance benefits.

(First fact, we lose thousands of people a year to cancer who are fully covered with insurance benefits).

“The Obama campaign didn’t write that ad or have knowledge of it.”

(Second fact, they met with the husband of the deceased several months earlier and heard his story – which has changed a few times in the telling).

Is there no longer a requirement to report news events honestly?

(Third fact, this is one of the worst examples of “yellow journalism” and any reporter who published this sort of unsubstantiated story would well deserve to be fired by the editor of his newspaper).

This sort of campaign is one that small, spiteful people, bullies conduct.  Find a victim, run in and throw a few stones and then run back into hiding, denying any knowledge of how the victim got her bruises.

It is the same response we would expect from a person at a party to exhibit who suffered from flatulence, releasing the gas in his body and then looking around the room to see who is the source of the odor.

This is not the campaign of a statesman.  It might not even qualify to meet the low standards of a politician.  It is the campaign of a self-absorbed thug who has no greater goal than to achieve his own objectives, whatever the cost or by whatever the means.  It is unworthy of a person who either holds or aspires to the office of President of the United States.

Rome, the Byzantine, Ottoman and Mogul Empires and now, perhaps, America?

“Ask not for whom the bell tolls.  It tolls for you and me.”

I DID THE MATH

And the answer is 92,690.  I checked my calculations several times and I am certain this is correct.

You may ask, “What was the question?”  So here it is:

“What is the grand total of all the numbered IRS forms which Mitt Romney and his wife Ann had to include in their 2011 Individual Income Tax Return in order to comply with the Internal Revenue Code for filing?”

Yes the Romneys, with the assistance of Price Waterhouse Coopers had to file fifteen separate forms, each bearing its special IRS identification number and if you add the numbers on the forms up you get 92,690.  (In addition there was an alphabet soup of other forms included).  The total number of pages for this return was 104.

I have to admit that my favorite was Form 8082.  It is entitled, “Notice of Inconsistent Treatment or Administrative Adjustment Request (AAR).”  What in the name of all that is holy does that even mean?  Was this form invented by a psychopath whose real goal in life is to confuse us with his mind games?

But back to our subject …

While this number of pages might not have been sufficient to call for the downing of one of the ancient redwoods in the Pacific Northwest, I suspect the axe fell on at least one small birch or elm to provide the sacrifice and the paper to complete the return.

If you choose to review the return you will find out something we already knew.  Mr. and Mrs. Romney are successful people – at least as far as we measure success by the amount of money a person earns.  They reported an Adjusted Gross Income of $20,908,000 for year 2011 and paid Federal Income Tax in the amount of $3,227,000 on that.

I can hear the groans from the left of the auditorium.  That is only 15.4% of their income paid in tax.  That doesn’t seem fair when the average taxpayer pays at a higher effective tax rate.  Much could be said in favor of that point of view.  A flat tax would make it “fair” in an absolute sense for each of us.  We would all pay the same rate.

However, the problem with that is that paying 15% of your income as a minimum wage earner has a far more dramatic effect on your ability to live than it does for a person who earns millions per year.  (And I think we would get a lot of flak from CPA firms like Price Waterhouse Coopers, not to mention all the folks at IRS who suddenly would be out of a job).

There is one other item in the Romneys’ return that I would like to point out to my readers.  They voluntarily donated $4,020,680 to charity.  Their $3 Million payment in tax was compulsory.  Their donation of $4 Million was voluntary.  If you consider both of these in toto as a “payment to American society” – the percentage of their income which they handed over to others represents 34.6% of their income.

One of the allegations leveled against candidate-presumptive Romney is that as a wealthy man he has no concern for the ordinary person.  The amount of his and his wife’s charitable donations suggest otherwise.

I did the math.  Feel free to check my figures.

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