The Boston Marathon Bombings

So its been awhile since I updated this blog. Life is busy and what not, but I thought I’d take this time out to address for me personally what this bombing at the Boston Marathon has meant to me.

Last Monday (April 15th), the Boston Marathon was bombed by two Chechnyan brothers, who set off two pressure cooker bombs in backpacks that went off within 10 seconds of each other. Surprisingly only 3 people were killed in the blast, but 178 people were injured. These bombs seem meant to maim, not kill people. Most victims suffered lower leg injuries and shrapnel wounds. I saw many of these injuries in pictures that were posted all over the internet. To see lost legs, foots, arms was frankly disturbing.

What I couldn’t believe for myself and I kept questioning myself throughout the whole entire manhunt for the two brothers, is why I was so attached to this event. Yes, I had been to Boston, yes I have walked down Boylston Street, where these bombings happened, so I did have a personal connection to it all. I felt much the same involved after 9/11, given I had gone up in the South Tower of the World Trade Centers in 1998 and was probably my favorite part of that trip. So, I guess I had a reason to feel involved, but it was kind of taking over my life.

After Monday’s bombings it was simply the recovery effort. Many videos were posted of the event, and many pictures posted that showed things I wish I never had to see. Then shortly after started the witchhunt for who the bombers were. With the new age of social media, information was coming in faster than ever before. That information also was not filtered, being a lot of things said were no confirmed, they were just simply things heard on the police scanners or what not. Old media would filter that out and try to confirm from sources if things really happened or not. The problem was that when a confirmed report did happen, social sites such as Reddit, would harp on how terrible traditional media was because these stories or updates were already old. Several times though, Reddit got information wrong and spread misinformation. CNN did royally screw up on several occasions such as when they spread there was a suspect in custody, when there was not. Reddit also led many witchhunts in sifting through photographs of people who look suspcious. They accussed many innocent people of being the bombers. It turns out they never once accused the actual bombers of being the bomber (The actual bombers never looked that suspicious, the younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev seemed to look rather smug in his face, a sense of arrogance). So that of course shows the danger of these social sites taking over. The cable news networks did not help in also jumping on some of these leads, but they’ll do anything for some “karma”

Things changed Wednesday night when the FBI released photographs of the two suspects they were chasing (They have since said this was in part due to the internet and media accusing non-suspects). That evening, after I had fallen asleep on my futon at 9:30 (CDT), a shooting broke out at MIT campus, a carjacking then took place and a shoot out with local police in Watertown, MA took place. I woke up at 2:30 AM to quite a lot of new news, and it was just being confirmed that the shootout with these two were indeed the two suspects they were after.

The city then went on complete lockdown. Something occurred that we have never seen in America before. A police military-like occupation of an entire city in the name of national security while they were in a manhunt. Most citizens were very okay with this, but on a whole level, its quite scary looking. The manhunt had 30 Federal, State, and Local agencies all on the hunt for this guy in the town of Watertown, about 10,000 law enforcement officers were on the scene. All-in-all, Dzhokhar was able to avoid detection during this entire lockdown. It was only shortly after the lockdown ended that Dzhokhar was found because a resident who had been told to stay indoors, finally came outside to get some fresh air. It was then that he noticed the tarp of his boat had been disturbed and then he noticed blood on the boat, he promptly dialed 911 and 10,000 law enforcement officers showed up in response. Dzhokhar surrendered about an hour later.

The shootout with the other brother was also not in front of the 10,000 law enforcement officers but mostly just local Watertown police.  As the shootout went longer, more and more agencies showed up, but that show of force never once located the suspect. Perhaps the United States just wanted to have this show of force to show people who attack our country that we will hunt you down and find you, but to me the show of force was over bearing and gave Americans an idea of what a true police state looks like. Watertown was essentially under martial law.  To me, we didn’t need all these Federal agencies hunting this one man. To me this could have simply been done by the FBI, Mass State Police, Boston PD, and the surrounding suburban PDs. The National Guard would have simply been used for crowd control and guarding mass transportation entrances and what not.

The American Psyche

Next, I’d like to talk about the American psyche. Many people around the world, or even those in America (mostly those who criticize our country’s government and policies and even its society constantly) don’t like the idea that this was made to be such a big story when only 3 (four if you include MIT campus police officer murdered Wednesday night) died in the attack. Meanwhile a bombing (actually a few over the past few days) in Iraq killed over 27 people, an explosion in West Texas pretty much destroyed a town and killed 15 people, but yet we give more and more coverage to the Boston Bombings. Why is this?

Its pretty simple actually. America is not use to terrorism. While we saw 9/11 happen on our soil, there really has not been an act of terrorism since 9/11 conducted on US soil. A few things have been tried, a few planes have been targeted, but the plots have always failed for whatever lucky reason (None of them have ever involved the FBI stopping the plot, it has always been a vigilant citizen calling it  in or people tackling a suspect on an airplane as he attempted to commit the act). America doesn’t suffer terrorist attacks on an almost daily basis like Iraq does. Our equivalent to bombings in Iraq is pretty much school shootings. They are ingrained in our life, happen all the time, while the worst ones are more uncommon, nearly ever week you hear of an incident of a kid or someone walking into a school and shooting a few people. You can pretty much quote our psyche in the movie The Dark Knight as the Joker talks to Harvey Dent in the hospital:

I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm? You know… You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan”. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!

To add on to this, America is also rather though of as a paradise to us. Even if many of us know it is no where close to paradise and our sense of freedom is extremely misguided and always has been. Other parts of the world still view America as a sense of paradise as well (The land of opportunity) even if that is misguided. We are also the world’s biggest super power, even if that is starting to change, we still are the big guys on the block.

Terrorist attacks like this are an attack on the American psyche. Its essential a “shit goes to shambles when they don’t go according to the plan” Terror isn’t normal here and it creates a ton of chaos. The way this story also unfolded down the stretch reminds a ton of a people of a Hollywood movies. It has a exposition, a rising action, a  climax, a falling action, and then the end story. That makes for much better TV to the media than simply a few videos of a fertilizer plant exploding or the aftermath of a bombing in Iraq, in which the media doesn’t show the blood and carnage caused by those bombings in Iraq. Couple in the fact that these things happen all the time, we get what we get. Terrorism is not.

The second aspect of this is the personal attachment of people to such things. Many Americans have been to Boston, many Americans have not been to Iraq or West Texas. To put it in perspective for myself, do I care more about gang violence in Detroit, or the southside of Chicago? Should it matter? They are both terrible for the country. But guess what? I care more about gang violence on the southside of Chicago. Why? Because its closer to home. I also visit Chicago. While downtown is relatively safe, there’s a chance a gangbanger could come up to the loop or northside and start shit. You never know. But I don’t care about Detroit’s violence. Why? Because I have no desire to ever go there. Its also a sense of homeland pride. You don’t attack us and get away with it mentality.

The bombings occurred in a safe area of a city, it occurred with plenty of security around as well. It also makes you think that this really can happen anywhere, which it indeed can. No one is ever going to be 100%, but you can make good efforts to become safer without ever compromising yourself. The wrong response is to shutdown such public events, the wrong response is limiting the amount of people who can show up to such an event as well. While things change, they don’t have to be ruined. More and more vigilance is all we need, but at the same time, we don’t need to suspect or trust no one. Terrorism causes such fear in this country that we start accusing anyone who looks middle eastern as terrorists. That is wrong.

America is not perfect people, and it never has been. We’ve always been a rather arrogant country, but to be honest most countries that have a huge piece of the pie in the world usually are. We Americans do act like drama queens in this and say things like “WE GOT ATTACKED! SOMEONE ACTUALLY ATTACKED US! WE CAN’T BELIEVE IT! PAY ATTENTION TO US AND OUR PROBLEMS NOW!” And the world buys it up and listens (most of it anyways). America likes to force these issues upon everyone and tells everyone to pay attention. That is the problem with national pride as well. But, that is difficult to change. As much as I may disagree with many things in this government, this society, and this country, I still love being an American. Things are also not SO bad here that my number one priority is fleeing. Could things some day get there? Yeah. Would I think twice about moving to another western country given the chance? Probably not. But I will always be an American and I will always have a great connection to this country, for better or worse.

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An update on whats going on?

I died, murdered this blog and didn’t follow through with my election material. Oh well. It isnt the first time I’ve done that. I’ve noticed this blog is still getting a bunch of traffic? Are people waiting for me to update or are they just that interested in Back to the Future?

Its safe to say I’ve done my best to try and keep myself very occupied since September. I started temping at the headquarters of my old nemesis, Inland Real Estate (they own the bank I was employed and dismissed at)…I knew this was a short assignment, but I simply just wanted to do something. It turned out to be the REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) that one of my friends had just left. Funny story is my first day I ended up in his cubicle….The job itself was terrible and not exciting at all. My assignment ended, which I was glad, but then they wanted me back due to my awesomeness (I was told this) so I worked another two weeks before my staffing agency called me saying they had a temp-to-hire job at another REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust, because I’m sure you forgot :-)) that previously said friend currently works in. So in October I started temping there and was that way until a week ago when I started full-time there. So now my friend and I work together, though on different floors. Its cool though.

So I finally accomplished getting a full-time job. It only took 3 years, 10 months and 6 days, but I finally did it! (That was when I graduated in case you were wondering). It isn’t my dream job (I still don’t know what that is) I still haven’t focused my abilities together to find out what my best job would be. Given my loves are history, sports, psychology of people (despite me hating people…), financial planning (newly discovered that one), genealogy, politics, and drinking beer, I would say my dream job is… writing! But I would have to find a niche of some kind.

I started up Speak Back again. It’s on a separate website which I haven’t promoted. I’m a terrible marketer, I know that. I’m about as good at that as I am sales. I found a person in Iowa to be my future marketer though.

I guess with no postings this fall and into winter, you missed any chances I may talk about the Chicago Bears. They started 7-1, finished 10-6. Pissed me off, but at least they fired Lovie Smith. GM Emery decided it best to interview pretty much everyone, I was waiting for my call, but then he seemed to call in 3 finalist, so there went my shot at becoming head coach of the Chicago Bears. I guess thats kind of like when my sister wanted to be head coach of the Charlotte Hornets…actually not, thats not the same at all, I know much more about football than she did basketball. Speaking of which, Derrick Rose come back please! You gave me a sad on April 29th while I was in Alaska and the news was broken to me that you tore you ACL. It ruined my day. That commercial that Adidas came out with this fall gave me chilling memories of that day. I felt like all those people.

Moving on to more happy thoughts, now that I am employed full time, I can finally move on to my number one dream of homeownership (well, its ranked anywhere from #1 to #3, for awhile I thought I could be in the NBA). I plan to buy my house on a Sunday (if thats possible) so it will fit into my old man narrative. HA! My mind is young at heart, but hot damn my body is falling apart. I was diagnosed with a herniated disc this December which has been all kinds of fun. Its been deeply bothering me since October, shortly after I was dropped in a bathtub at an event that I don’t want to talk about (it involved lots and lots of alcohol). It really hasn’t gotten better even with a month of physical therapy under the belt. Soooo its tough to say. I finally put together an exercise regiment to deal with it at home. Something to stick to other than just saying “well lets do some exercises”. But it takes 8-12 months for a disc to fully heal, so that will be fun. I thought this was the happy thoughts paragraph.

So moving happy thoughts here, back to housing. I would like to have a place by summer and then move in shortly after (I plan to move in on that 107 degree day, it seems like a wise decision). What am I looking for?Ideally? A townhouse with 2 beds, 2 baths and a basement. OH YEAH! Of course that involves this long process of getting approved for a loan, saying goodbye to my stockpile, and living poorly for the rest of 2013 (It’ll be fun!). So it’ll be interesting to see how this all goes about.

Social life is fairly good. A few friends moved or are moving away. Thats sad, but I figure is a part of a life and what allows for new relationships to spurn and grow into something amazing (or something terrible, however I think at 25 years of age, I can recognize those quite well). I’m still trying to spread those proverbial wings of mine as well lol. Still plenty of time to meet new people (there is always time). So it shall be interesting to see where the rest of 2013 goes. Hopefully there will be plenty of really good things that happen, better yet…plenty of good things will happen! Yeah, thats the attitude I want.

To all, may it be awesome for you as well.

Politics: The Tale of Two Pictures

Obama started a rift in the country about a month ago over this speech 

His exact remarks are:

If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

Now, did Obama word part of that speech poorly? Yes, but he basically said government helps businesses along the way and helps start-ups and the government has provided the basis of the internet, though it was founded originally by the private sector (more on that later).

I intend to look at two pictures, which are nearly identical, but one is a liberal point of view and a libertarian point of view.

Most, but not all, Libertarians believe that the government has little to no business telling us anything and should never force anything upon us. They believe taxes are stealing peoples money and people should only pay for services if they use them. While it sounds good in theory, it is not by any means practical.

Now the fun part:

Points:
#1. Trademarks – the Libertarian states that trademarks only implicate government “assistance” if it is registered with the USPTO. This point is valid in a sense, and it doesn’t really mean he had government assistance in building his business, however I look at it as government protection, and he has the right to sue anyone who uses his trademark for potential damages.
#2. Importing – Fails to explain how importing works without government assistance. Every business usually wants trade laws enforced and shipping regulated so it is most fair to them.
#3. Electricity – Government regulations provide the method and standards for which electricity is provided. Otherwise we would have 27,000 competing systems and people would be beyond frustrated in this instance (This is a case where a complete free market does not work in the service industry)
#4. Currency – I would say bankers have done more to destroy the currency than the government, this includes those who are employed at the Federal Reserve, which is not technically part of the government.
#5. Fair Electric Rates determined by Public Utilities Commission – Electricity must have a standard
#6. Fair access to electricity. Libertarians make a point of having fair access increase prices and damages the business’s revenue. Without this, who’s to say any private industry would pay to have electricty installed where his business is. It looks like he lives in a rural area, there is not much profit there. A competing electrical grid is also unworkable as you would have 27,000 companies competing, which I’m sure at one point would lead to an monopoly anyways.
#7. Fire Departments: The liberal was attempting to make a joke here, but failed on most accords. The libertarian makes a point that they have to pay for a fire department they may never use. If that is the case, I will make it a point to burn down every libertarians business, because they don’t believe in paying for the fire department. They will lose everything. I think their tune would change then.
#8. Trade Agreements: Whether or not you believe in trade agreements, other countries cannot raise tarrifs on US exports because of those trade agreements. These trade agreements have allowed access to cheaper goods (whether or not that is a good thing is another story)
#9. Standard of Time.  This point is entirely true.
#10. The Internet: Government had a lot of say in what happened with the internet. It was first developed by the private sector, but eventually was furthered by the government and eventually went back to the private sector. To me, it was more of a mutual marriage of ideas.
#11. Radio Waves: If the government had not set the standard for the technology of radio to be used in the 1920’s, it likely would have never happened. Again, rural areas would never see the light of day of a industry without standard as there is no profit in providing cell service to rural areas. It is entirely too expensive.
#12.  Police: While the police certainly have plenty of error, many departments care more about numbers than actually protecting and servicing, police are still a necessity in society because you never know what is going to happen.
#13. Driving Standards: Almost all regulations are written by private enterprise. They are either demanded or specially created by special interest groups. Consumers themselves often create regulation.
#14. USPS: The founding fathers provided a mail service that will get you mail anywhere and anyhow for relatively the same price. No matter where I mail a letter it will be 44 cents. Am I open to competition today in this area? Absolutely, but the USPS must still exist to provide services to rural areas. Again, there is zero profit in traveling long distances to mail things, it is entirely too expensive.
#15. Roads: The libertarian makes a point that government roads are terrible. It is true that construction inhibits a business for a short time, but that would happen with a private road as well. Private roads would have to be profitable as well. Do you honestly want a toll booth at the beginning of every intersection? Traffic would be an outright nightmare. You want an I-Pass or EZ-Pass system? Well… then you’re forcing someone to buy something to travel the road. That system is not practical in any way.
#16. Same as #6 and #11.
#17. The US school system is a failure because forces elected to our government have been doing everything they can to unravel it. They also meddle in way too many of its affairs. Making the freedom of choice of whether or not to go to school is not an option if you want a well informed nation. Whether or not we have charter schools or a choice is an entirely different matter.
#18. Ditches near roads are always built by DOT for drainage produces, they can’t have a road completed until that is done.

This entire argument basically states that government isn’t need for anything. We would live in a very chaotic world without a set of standards and services. Could some of these be reformed? Absolutely. But to go from one extreme to the other is not the solution, especially in the name of absolute freedom.

2012 Political Issue: The National Defense

The Present State of the Defense Budget

The defense budget is approximately between $1.030-$1.415 trillion. This includes the DoD, FBI Counter-Terrorism, International Affiars, the Energy Department, Veteran Affiars, Homeland Security, NASA’s satellites, Veterans Pensions, mandatory spending, and interest from past wars. The majority of the budget is over $700 billion for the DoD.

Until recently, defense spending was the biggest piece of the pie when looking at the Federal Budget. However, Social Security and Medicare recently over took defense spending. Defense spending was not always so high though.

Before World War II, defense spending was in the gutter, and it was not until after World War II that the U.S. felt a need to spend vast amounts of money on defense. Most of this had to do with the Cold War vs the Soviets in which it was essentially an arms race to see who could destroy the world the most times.

Because of this we have the military industrial complex, in which private contractors profit off the making of weapons in the United States. It is theorized that the industry will often get government officials to start wars with other nations so that they can have an increase in defense spending.

At current the U.S. is still fighting a war in Afghanistan against Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives. The operation is rather small and could honestly be fought with a bunch of droids and Special Forces. Instead we commit a large sum of money to the entire operation. The U.S. military budget is currently 6-7 times larger than the military budget of China. It is bigger than the next 20 military spenders combined. Why is there such a stark difference?

On the topic of China, it is my belief that we are often behind on our military security systems and I believe Chinese hackers could shut down our technology without even a minutes notice. That would leave our communication network in shambles. All that money invested and we can’t even secure our own networks.

Former Security of Defense, Robert Gates, appointed by George W. Bush, and kept on by President Obama, suggested numerous cuts and cleansing programs to outdated or extremely over budgeted government projects with in the Defense Department. This met a lot of resistance from Congress either in the form of representatives worried about losing jobs in their districts or states, or the overall belief that any decrease in overall defense spending created a weakness in our national defense. He also called for spending to be more towards less of a conventional military and towards special programs that targeted the tactics our enemies use.

Personally I see the defense budget of something that can be cut by a couple hundred billion. The defense department should end several programs and move money towards new R&D projects. The size of the Navy can be vastly decreased as well as our Navy is larger than the next 13 navies combined. With the increased use of drones, our Air Force could likely be shrunk as well as it seems that many in the Air Force don’t really do a whole lot of work.

Research and Development; Procurement Over-haul

R&D and Procurement in the DoD has needed an overall in decades. Former Secretary of Defense Gates started many of these overhauls, but his work was cut short by a lot of politics. The military has spent a lot of money on rather failed R&D projects or projects that had so much political clout that they proceed despite their faults and over budgets in development.

A prime example of this is the F-22 Fighter plane. It had been in development since 1981 when the military was looking for ways to already replace the F-15 and F-16 which had just recently went into service. By 1997 the plane model was finally released. By 2003, the first production of the plane was delivered.

Production of the plane was spread out over 46 states, a strategy to increase Congressional Support for the program. This alone lead to a massive increase I nthe production of the plane as parts had to be shipped all over the country for assembly. Each aircraft itself had over 1,000 subcontractors and suppliers and it took 95,000 workers to assemble the plane. The plane was in production for over 15 years.

Each plane costs $361 million. This is not an efficient way to produce a military plane at all.

So, this area of the military could really use an overhaul. Many production jobs will be lost, but like most things, they can be reassigned and retrained to perform another task. Retraining factory workers would be much cheaper than the procurement costs of the F-22 alone.

Cuts to the Base Budget

The DoD’s base budget could use a reduction as well. This would not end operations or put a strain on our forces. Simply put, we would act more like a defense department than an offensive-minded military machine that we currently are.  Fighter Jets and Space-based weapons would receive a reduction as well as a reduction to our nuclear arsenal.

Other wasteful spending the military produces are just the offices and facilities the military has in the United States. We often have facilities that get new furniture all the time, no matter what the cost, many have flat screen TV’s installed all over the hallways. Many veterans, who barely served will claim lifetime benefits because they were discharged for something as stupid as acne (of course this is a very small percentage of people who take advantage of the system and much of this will be difficult to weed out anyways). But this alone can help save a bunch of money.

2012 Political Issue: Jobs and the Economy

Don’t think the Government creates jobs?

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The government has been creating jobs since its inception. The problem is that government often gets carried away from its job creating and many jobs simply aren’t permanent.  The government can create jobs; often times many of these employees get necessary experience then to apply elsewhere.

However, government is not the permanent solution. The private sector must step up and answer the call. Often times employees of such projects as infrastructure aren’t even employed by the government, the government simply gives funding to a private contractor who then employees the people. Chances are they will get contracts elsewhere, which then takes the same employees with them.

So, the solution to our unemployment issue has been what it’s always been. Simply put, America needs infrastructure and innovation reform.

America’s infrastructure has been falling apart due to decay for decades. Funding has not be allocated for such rebuild of projects. Our roads, bridges, ports, airports, light rails need to be rebuilt. New systems need to be instituted. I am in favor of America having a high speed railroad from New York to L.A. Regional light rail need to be rebuilt and reinforced. I live in the Chicago Suburbs; I would love to see an expansion of Metra, and also one that allows me to travel to the Northern Suburbs without having to go downtown first.

Where Does the Funding Come From?

The millionaires and billionaires tax, closing tax loopholes, eliminating tax breaks and tax credits, and most importantly, eliminating subsidies for extremely profitable industries (oil and agriculture). There is no reason why the company who has the largest profits every quarter in the country (and world) should be receiving government subsidies. Subsidies are meant to help a company get back on its feet or those in a startup. Are there oil companies that are startups or quite small? Yes, but they would only account a small amount of subsides. Agriculture subsidies are the same. The majority of them go to the same three companies (Monsanto, Cargill, and Archer Daniels). These companies do not need subsidies by any means.

So the Jobs?

Government can supply jobs for construction projects of fixing and upgrading our infrastructure. Government can also get us started in alternative energy projects. Alternative energy is something that I thought Obama would take care of with his ambitious Apollo Space Program style talk for it. But it appears all of that was simply talk.

I think it would be something amazing to go about a program as such. We put a massive amount of resources forth, make many deals and contracts with the private sector to help out and we can accomplish something essential to the future of our society. This plays into many other political topics I have or will cover as well such as improving education and energy independence.

The Economy at heart

The economy is the way it is over probably a million factors. Everyone wants someone to blame whether it’s Wall Street, Congress, The President, Unions, Government Workers, the sky, or just the forces of nature.

We look at all those issues and see many things.

On the issue of Wall Street and Businesses in general, we can see that corporations all around have consolidated greatly over the past 20-30 years. Many of them became too big to fail which is what helped lead to the 2008 collapse. There is also less in the ways of privately owned businesses. Every megacorporation takes their company public at the chance to raise more revenue and increase profit. This itself makes them more a slave to their shareholders, who only care about profit, than anything else. Also many companies that are already publicly owned are simply buying up smaller privately owned companies in mergers. Is this all bad? No, but it leads to less competition in the country and less jobs to be had in the country. Small businesses usually care more about their local environment and care to give back to the community, while large corporations could really give less a hoot. Some do donate money, but its only to further advance their name.

Competition is also limited by regulation. It is very expensive now days to start a small business due to regulation. This isn’t just regulation that says you must do this or that to start a business. This is pro-big business regulation that simply states things that you can’t start a business. Big corporations lobby Congress for such actions so no new competitors can start or operate within their region. It leads to a monopoly.

Then this is where tax credits and subsidies play a role. These all end up being used or given to the big corporations, but on the surface are meant for smaller companies. Also many large corporations operate as subsidiaries. I have mixed feelings about that because while a subsidiary operates differently, they still get commands from the big bosses upstairs. I feel like this should be written into Anti-Trust laws and enforced by the government.

But What About Unions?

Unions are not a problem in the country. Do some union leaders become corrupt and act just as bad as corporate people? Yes. That is the price that comes with power and money in any position. In general, corporations have sold the country the spin on unions that they are not a good thing. Corporations stifle unions at any chance they get, because it allows them to roll back benefits and cut salaries.

If your company is struggling that should be allowed (even with a union), but it’s being done within profitable organizations, and companies where the CEO decides to be paid 75 times the average worker. We hear that they put their backs into building the company and that they deserve all that money. If they don’t get paid that money they will take their talent elsewhere. If no one is paying them that kind of money, they can’t go anywhere else for that kind of money (simple logic).

Most of them didn’t even bring up the company. They were hired by the Board of Directors. Many of the Board of Directors is their friends from other big corporations. These guys are hired just like anyone, because they have a connection.

Many blame that the wages and benefits that unions were getting were causing corporations to send jobs overseas. No, that is not true at all. Publicly traded companies such as GM wished to expand shareholder profits and thus decided to ship jobs overseas where there was less wage control, less labor laws, and less of pretty much everything. This helped save them much money and thus gives profits to their leadership for doing such a great job of shipping jobs overseas and then creating dividends for their shareholders.

So What Should We Do?

We need to streamline regulation. Find out what works and doesn’t work and find out what is necessary and is not necessary. This alone can help bring down the cost of starting a business. Also we need to level the playing field. We should only extend any tax credits (those not eliminated in reforming taxes) and subsidies to those that are privately small businesses that have no ownership from any publicly traded corporation.

As far as controlling the shipping of jobs overseas, incentives made to small business as stated in the previous paragraph would help. You could still manufacture in this structure. Even if the now unemployed were part of a union and wish to still be, they could be. Will they get the same wages as before? Not likely due to competition from the old mega corporation. There would have to be sacrifices anyways, but a company could get a jump start on a local area.

Government itself needs to stop appealing to the “too big to fail” crowd. No company should be too big to fail. State government should also stop giving tax breaks and subsidies to large corporations who threaten to leave. This just creates unnecessary revenue drain to states and basically makes a large corporation hold the government and its people hostage. Most of the times those companies end up leaving in a few years anyways.

The Government should enforce Anti-Trust laws. They should break up all the big banks in this country, they should break up any struggling big company, and they should break up any company that seems to not have much competition. More companies always means more competition which always means more jobs. Over time, competition will eliminate a company or two, but the key it to constantly grow through innovation.

The Government instead should focus on promoting small business growth, and strictly limit the size of small businesses in which they help. Basically we have a lot of things like this already on the books, but we also have stifling regulation that discourages people.

By closing loopholes and eliminating many special exemptions, the corporate tax rate can be lowered overall. I’m not sure on what percentage it would be, but that would be decided by a tax policy commission (attempted to be bipartisan or non-partisan…Ha!)

Conclusion

Again, not an easy fix is the nature of the economy. I think several of these actions can lead to considerable change. The role of the government is to jump start the economy and then let the private sector do its work. A restoration to the middle class will signal the beginning of a healthy well oiled economy.

2012 Political Issue: Foreign Policy

How Involved Should America Be?

At present, America is very involved in world affairs. They also give a lot of aid to various countries. They give aid to various countries for a variety of reasons, even if they are completely unethical. America has also led the fight in military operations while most other nations do not commit much man power to any operation. The U.S. is asked to fight every battle and initiate every battle.

I believe this all needs to end. The U.S. should stay involved in NATO, but the U.S. should not be the sole initiator of any defense or attack on anyone else. Great Britain or France are perfectly capable of stepping in and stopping the infighting in Syria per say.

The United Nations

The U.S. should also become more involved in the United States. Neo-conservatives in the past 20 years have done numerous efforts to undermine the U.N. Many of them are in favor of expelling the U.N. from U.S. soil. While the U.N could use much reform, ridding us of the U.N. just speaks to our upmost ignorance, arrogance, and selfishness.

I would be in favor of an effort to reform the United Nations by first and foremost reforming the Security Council. One of the biggest issues facing the U.N. is the veto powers on the Security Council. In recent years it has made it next to impossible to accomplish anything. With The U.S., Russia, China, Great Britain, and France having veto power, it basically says any of them can run the show. Security Council should be a majority opinion (Or a 2/3’s majority) on what kind of actions are taken, not left up to 5 countries in the world.

Military Bases Around the World

The U.S. should also end the policy of foreign military bases. We do not need bases in all parts of the World. Due to the past, I am in favor of bases in Japan and Europe, but our ability to reach all parts of the World with ease is established. We do not need bases located in the Middle East or any other parts of Asia. Our base in Germany should be the only European base, while our base in Okinawa should be the only one located in Asia. We have allies in the Southeast in Australia and at present we give plenty of money to Israel and they protect themselves in the Middle East. Our presence in other parts of the world is what makes us have enemies and that is what leads us to these numerous wars.

Therefore, I am in favor of bringing most of the troop’s home. There’s little reason not to at this point. After this point, I would analyze foreign aid we give to countries. Most of the time we’re giving foreign aid to a nation is simply because they have an economic interest. If we could get ourselves off foreign oil, we could quit giving aid to several Middle Eastern countries.

Foreign Aid

Then there is the issue of foreign aid for Israel. I have never understood our continued efforts to beef up Israel. They seem to do a fine job by themselves. All I can think of is the Pro-American-Israeli lobby groups in Washington D.C. here.  To me, it’s a cool $3 billion that can be best spent elsewhere.

So not too much on this topic, other than America should quit being the police of the world. Should they be involved in foreign affairs? Absolutely, but I look much more towards diplomacy than having a military presence everywhere.

2012 Political Issue: Everyone’s Favorite Topic, Taxes

Taxes are a Necessary Evil

Taxes pay for many of the services you use. Taxes are used for roads, street lights, sidewalks, public safety, safety inspections, transportation systems, city infrastructure, schools, libraries, parks, museums, zoos, garbage, and numerous other things. Taxes are meant to pay for the common good of society. Do they always pay for the common good of society? No, but with anything there is always going to be corruption.

Until recently, the middle class paid the majority of taxes in the United States. After Reaganomics went into effect, the rich paid a greater share of the taxes in the country while their rates were cut. A lot of this is because of new exemptions and deductions that were put into place. A lot of this is also because wages did not increase much with inflation during the 1980’s and while the rich got richer; the money did not fall down to the middle class.

The middle class has been broken since 1980. The middle class was at its height in the 1970’s and frankly people still weren’t happy. While I have yet to figure out the 1970’s economic scale on much of any level, I believe that there reaches a point where an economy quits growing even when everything is good. This is when enough people have enough of everything they need and businesses have increased prices steadily and this results in what is called Stagflation.

While there are numerous factors into why our middle class is broken, the number one reason why we are still in an economic funk is because of the ever decreasing size of the middle class. The country and its people have a lot of debt, no jobs, low incomes, and depressed home values. Credit is entirely too widely used, there are a low number of manufacturing jobs, once a staple of the American economy, and most importantly our tax code is complicated beyond anything.

The tax code was rather simple before the 1980’s. There tons of income brackets. There was a millionaire’s tax. At this point in time, I still support the progressive income tax. I fail to see a reason why anyone needs to make an ungodly amount of money, so why not put that money towards the common good instead? Selfishness and greed is the only reason why people feel the need to be paid $50 million/year.

But the income inequality has grown substantially since the 1980’s when the tax code was change. While there are of course other factors involved, I do believe the changes are a big reason why.

Today, the top 1% of households controls most of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 80% controls fewer than 10% of the nation’s wealth. The tax code is a major reason why.

Does Anyone Really Understand the Tax Structure?

I am amazed at how many people do not understand our tax structure. People think if you make $50,000/year you are taxed at 20% on that $50,000. The way this works is your first $10,000 you are not taxes, your next $10,000 is taxed at 5%, your next $10,000 at 10%, etc. So those who make over $250,000 currently are only taxed at 35% once they cross $250,000.

What is the Solution?

Because what a person needs to live on isn’t taxed at an ungodly number that is why I favor more tax brackets on higher income. 35% at $260,000 is not the same as 35% at $120 million. We should have multiple millionaire brackets.

If you look at the past, up until the 1960’s the income tax for the richest 1% and those who made over $1 million a year was taxed at 90%. So every rich person, once their income crosses 1 million, that money after 1 million dollars was taxed at 90%. The rich were still rich; they had no problem with still being rich.

I would not return to those exact rates today, but I would make more brackets within the millionaire’s bracket. After a certain amount, I would essentially tax it at 90-99%. This money would have to be an insane amount of money such as $50 million.

The idea of taxing an individual who tries to pay himself such a huge amount of money is that they will no longer want to pay themselves that amount. Why? No one likes paying taxes. They will keep that money within their businesses and essentially invest it. Corporations would either have the largest profits ever, and if they still wish to not pay their workers, well then, I can truly say Corporations are evil creatures.

And to those that say the rich will leave the country if they have to pay more taxes? Let them. We need less greedy selfish people in this country. There are plenty of ambitious people to take over their jobs and likely do a better job than they were doing anyways. We need people with a heart, not a heartless, soulless, greedy, selfish person who does nothing for the greater good.

What are the Alternatives to the Progressive Income Tax?

I was an advocate of Fair Tax in 2006. Fair Tax was essentially a national sales tax on the goods bought in the country. It would be applied to anyone who ever bought anything. However, I saw a counter point made to them which made me believe this would simply make the rich richer and the poor poorer. The rich can buy everything they want within a day’s pay. There is also no incentive for the rich to pay their employees anything if they believe they can just horde cash. They horde all the cash, the middle class still has no money to buy goods, thus the sales tax coffers run dry.

Another idea is a flat tax in which everyone pays the same rate across the board. This creates a problem for people as say 10% for a person making $50,000 a year is much different than someone paying 10% at 10 million/year. Yes the millionaire pays more, but it’s more of a hardship for someone making $50,000/year.

So What about the Huge Tax Code?

I would simplify it. Most tax credits and tax deductions just favor the richest 1% at the moment. It’s in a way that they only end up paying a low 10-15% in taxes while someone in the middle class can pay 25% because they don’t qualify for any deductions.

Simply put, many of these credits and deductions need to be eliminated and many tax loopholes closed. Congress should be able to close a loophole any time it is discovered. However, I know the forces that be are always going to demand a loophole stay put for corruption reasons, but let’s hope that after we reform our government that the Representatives are much more in tune with what is best for the country.

There is also the issue of the Estate Tax and the Capital Gains/Dividends Tax. To be sure, Capital is mostly owned by the rich. Many middle class families can’t even imagine being involved in the stock market. The rate was lowered from 25% to 15% during the George W. Bush era and the Death Tax was lowered from 55% to 0% in 2011 (In the Tax Cut laws passed in 2003). This is just gross negligence and doing nothing but favoring people who already have more than enough money.

As far as the Estate Tax (Also known as the death tax), it is a tax on money inherited by those who relatives died. The amount currently is only taxed after $5.12 million at 35%. Next year, unless the current tax structure is extended, the tax will jump to 55% at $1 million, which is what it was during the Bill Clinton era. There has been an effort to keep the 55% rate, but raise it to $5 million.

The 1% in this country has made many efforts to eliminate the death tax for years. For someone who claims they worked so hard for their money, they sure as hell don’t want their inheritance to work hard for money. The Estate Tax should stay, and should be rather high on incomes after $5 million. They have also spewed a misbelief that people who will inherit little money will have to pay an insane amount of money. I have corrected two people who have had deaths in their family since then that believed all the money they were getting was going to Uncle Sam instead. The reality of their situation? They did not pay a dime to Uncle Sam.

As far as investments, I believe it should be tied to income. If a person is making millions on capital gains and dividends, they should be taxed as such based on the Progressive Income Tax. If they don’t make much from it, they are taxed less. There is no reason why a person should be able to make their millions are 15%, while in reality not doing much of anything, while a hard working person can barely makes ends meat and pays more in taxes than them.

How Do We Allocate Federal Tax Dollars?

This is a problem that has plagued us for years. Why should all of us foot the bill for pet spending projects of a Senator in Oklahoma and Missouri while I live in Illinois? The ways to fix this is often to simply send Federal Tax Dollars to states and their legislatures then decide on how to allocate the funds. There should still be Federal projects that are funded by everyone, such as the Interstate Highway System, but basically it should always be viewed as projects that will benefit everyone. Transportation is often within that realm.

Other more ambitious funding projects can receive Federal Donations, such as Federal museums. Not all of them are located in Washington D.C. I am also in favor of Federal Dollars still going to NPR and PBS as I find them essential to an informed public.

Will there still be lobbying for special projects? Yes, but most of that lobbying should then end up in state governments after they received their pool of funds from the Federal Government. Of course how this is divided up between each state, I have yet to decide. Population base would seem most fair as the money would be equivalent between tax payers. Of course costs associated also play a role in this, but it is no secret a building in Chicago is going to cost more than a building in Coffeyville, Kansas.

Conclusion

Taxes are something that no one is ever going to truly have an agreement on. There are those who fit the political spectrum line of having more taxes for more services, less taxes for fewer services, and then there’s the fringes who want to tax the hell out of everything and the other side who wants absolutely no taxes.

From my view on the history of the 20th century though, the Progressive Based Income Tax System is a good model, it just needs to modification and restoration (such as going back to a more simple system like we had before 1980. It will never be a perfect system, but changes can be made, it can be tinkered with, and made into an efficient model. Not everyone will ever be happy and in total agreement, but that is what being American is all about.

(*Side Note: I do not despise or hate all wealthy. There are some wealthy that may have fought and lobbied hard to maximize their income by fighting the income tax system and the government and then settle down and begin to do great things for the world and are doing the greater good for the country (Bill Gates for example), but it is not a one size fits all approach to this. Some will be charitable, some will not be. However, as someone who cannot stand selfishness, I can’t stand those who say it’s all theirs; they earned it all by themselves without the help of anyone and thus should be able to keep their entire stock of income. This simply is not true by any measure what so ever and just magnifies their overall selfishness.)

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