Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Need for Vision

       I don’t believe many people would pack up the family and head off on vacation without knowing where they were going. Most likely an individual is not going to leave to go to someone’s house without knowing where they live. A business will most certainly have a better chance of success with a vision of where it wishes to go and accomplish. Basically speaking it is always better to know where you are going before you set out on a journey. Sometimes I feel that American does not know where it is going. America seems to be split up into different factions all pulling in different directions. Each division is trying to sway the decision makers that their plight, issue, or concern, is most important without regard to the larger picture. America in my mind suffers from a lack of unified direction and without it we will continue to scrap over solutions to smaller problems without fixing what I believe is a major concern, a united path for America’s future.
          Where is America going? What kind of country do we want to be? What should our roll be in the international community? How do we as Americans define success for America? Our country has been at its best when faced with a challenge and a unifying goal. When Japan attacked our Pearl in the Pacific, America responded by putting forth an effort that ultimately led to freedom from oppression and tyranny for millions around the world. In the height of the cold war, America’s response to the presidents Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon in a mere decade, gave birth to a focus that led to technological breakthroughs as we developed answers to problems that had never even been conceived before. America is the richest country, not only in personal worth but most importantly in capital. No other country can match our amount of factories, equipment, buildings, land, resources, and the most highly trained work force in the world, and the world knows it. That’s why they keep loaning us money because they believe in the potential that America possesses. Currently a much underutilized potential.
          At present America faces some very critical choices, large unemployment, huge budget deficits, shrinking middle class, large trade imbalances, military conflicts and obligations worldwide to just to name a few. All these are difficult and complicated issues that will employ many complex and overlapping responses to deal with as America goes forward. The only way that I believe that America can solve all these issues are if they are addressed within the context of larger goals. Larger goals let you prioritize the smaller accomplishment needed to reach the ultimate destination. This prioritization allows for the logical allocation of the resources needed to solve the problems we currently face. Currently we fight over budget dollars and resources, in what amounts to a haphazard me first way that delivers little direction to our country as a whole. The challenge in America as I see it is finding a vision that most can agree upon for the future direction we wish to head.
          I believe Americans love to win. We love to be the first at something, the inventor of something great, leaders in our chosen fields. Our past is literally a tapestry of accomplishments and firsts spanning the last two centuries that can attest to the advancement of society as a whole. Americans have harnessed the power of lighting, and the atom. We were the first speak to “Mr. Watson” on the telephone and the first to take flight among the clouds. Time and again American ingenuity and know how has made the world a better place to live. Well I believe it’s time for America to lead the way once again. It’s time to give this great American potential something to organize around and focus on. But what should it be?
          For me the answer is energy. As this world continues to grow and the demand for energy rises, the country that leads in the production of energy will be the country with the best economy, the lowest unemployment rate, healthy tax base etc. Now we all know that fossil fuels are bad for the environment and finite in their numbers so the future must be in the form of renewable sources. For my dollar I would love to see a push in this country for renewable energy that would rival the national effort it took to go to the moon. We can all agree that we send too much of our wealth out of our country each year to import foreign oil. We should be able to agree that the development of these resources is happening worldwide whether we do it or not. This type of national effort could grow jobs that will last well into the next century not just some short term answer that we will have to pay for later. I would be interested in a goal of reducing our demand for foreign oil by 50% in ten years and by 100% in twenty. Some might see this as too aggressive of an approach, but it often takes bold vision to lead through tough  times.
          If this country could focus on such goals it could prioritize spending on projects that develop new industries that would employ Americans in quality jobs for decades to come. We could center the efforts of our financial institutions to support business development in these areas with all the bailout money there sitting on. We could bring down our trade imbalances by exporting the solar and wind power to developing nations around the world. All without the threat of socialism or the loss of entrepreneurship that has led this country to greatness. We need quality leadership that can instill this type of long term vision in America. Without a long term vision that we all can agree on, America will continue to be at the will of the same old short term solutions to long term issue that never fully solve anything.  I’m sure energy alone isn’t the solution but we need long term goals like this to capitalize on the incredible advantages that this country still has over the rest of the world. The challenge will be to find the leadership that can unite America in a common purpose, for when we are united, Americans have time and again have made this world a better place for everyone.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bush Tax Cuts

          The next election will be dominated by the economy, and the deficit. One of the major political battles is being waged over the expiration of the “Bush Tax Cuts”. Many agree that the economy is too fragile to repeal any of the cuts. While others believe that only the cuts for the wealthiest of Americans should be allowed to expire whereas cuts for the middle class and the poor should be extended. Some even believe that we should make all the Bush tax cuts permanent.
          What does this all cost us? The cost of making the cuts permanent for all Americans as estimated by the US Treasury at 3.7 Trillion dollars over the next ten years. This is a hefty price to pay considering the political wrangling over deficit spending and its continuing negative effect that deficit spending has on the economy. What seems more likely is that some scaled down version will be extended and those figures vary from 300 – 500 billion depending on what cuts are allowed to continue and for how long.
          There seems to be growing bipartisan support for extending the cuts for poor and the middle class. The debate seems to be centered on extending them for the wealthiest of Americans. Most Democrats oppose tax cuts for the wealthy including the Obama administration. Many Republicans and Tea Party candidates support the continued relief for the wealthy claiming a failure to do so would hurt small business and hurt job growth. The left claims that the wealthy don’t need the money. Many Republicans do admit that they would not hold up extensions for the poor and working class just to extend them for the wealthy. The Tea Party seems to be the wild card in the debate with some not wishing to stray from the hard right position.
          So let’s take a look at some of these arguments in further detail. The one that strikes me the most is that the wealthy don’t need the money. Seems vague and for me, it needs some sustenance before I agree so I did some research. According to the Christian Science Monitor to qualify as one of the top one percent of wage earners in America you must earn $600,000 annually. Currently approximately 120,000 Americans fall into this category and earn on average an astonishing $8.637 million each year. These Americans account for less than .04% of the population but garner an unbelievable $1,036,440,000,000. That’s 1.03 trillion annually. Repealing the bush tax cut for these individuals would result in a tax increase on average for these individuals of approximately $310,140. A lot of money to most of us but for these households not much would change if anything.
          Raising taxes on the wealthy will hurt small business. This seems to be the battle cry behind many of the supporters of extending the cuts for the wealthy.  Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) stated recently, that allowing the cuts to expire would amount to "a job-killing tax hike on small business during tough economic times." This claim is nothing if not misleading. A report in the Washington Post cited that less than two percent of tax returns of individuals in the top two tax brackets even report income from small business. An expiration of cuts for the top two tax brackets would leave 98% small business virtually unaffected and have no bearing on job creation. Many believe that the money would be better off spent helping the states recover by extending unemployment insurance benefits and tax credits favoring job creation.
          Ultimately as I see it the tax cuts are like a fiscal band-aid. Though they might help in the short term they must eventually be paid for. The economic recovery is slower than most would like so a short extension of some of the cuts might help, but in the long term as we try to pull ourselves out of this financial crisis, we need the tax revenue to help end all this deficit spending that leads to higher interest rates and hurts long term growth.
          What I would propose is a phase out of the cuts over time. I would suggest immediately starting with the top income brackets and working downward over time and phasing out all the cuts over the next few years. As we try to reverse the trend of deficit spending and putting our country back on the path to fiscal responsibility we must realize that we can’t have our cake and eat it too. We must strive to end our live today, pay tomorrow attitude and understand that we must pay for these cuts eventually and the longer it goes the higher the bill will be.

Bush tax cuts 101: What changes could be in store for taxpayers?
By Ron Scherer, September 13, 2010, CSMonitor.com, accessed 10/21/10

Five myths about the Bush tax cuts, William G. Gale, Sunday, August 1, 2010, Washington Post.com, accessed 10/21/10

Bush tax cuts: What you need to know, Jeanne Sahadi, September 15, 2010, CNN Money.com, accessed 10/21/10

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thanks for the help!

I must hand it to the first two individuals who left comments in reference to my inaugural blog entry. Sometimes coming up with an inspirational subject matter to write about can be difficult. So many issues out there that deserve attention it’s good to have such an important problem brought to light. These two individuals though passionate in their replies, supply no facts, offer no solutions, nor do they raise any real questions. They simply supply disrespectful, political rhetoric, designed to incite anger in their perceived political opposition. This will not help fix anything. In order to do what is inherently American, and come to a compromise that will move this country forward we first must speak to each other with respect.
          This has been a growing problem within our country’s political process. The two parties have waging all out political war on each other at the expense of the American people. Both political parties have spent many hundreds of millions of dollars on negative ads that smear reputations not spread facts. They both have taken sound bites out of context and used them to tell anything but the truth. Political shock jocks who rule they air waves in order to insure ratings result to name calling not fact recital. These hosts spread disrespectful catch phrases that their clones love to recite in response to anything that might be alleged as political opposition. Most of these clones have little or no answer when you ask them why they support what they do.  What once was a political debate in this country has often deteriorated to the point it resembles something that stinks and that we all don’t want to step in.

          The answers to the problems that face America and its citizens are not all red or all blue, all liberal or all conservative. But rather these difficult answers will be most certainly found through the collective ideas of many, working together in compromise. Compromise is the basis of democracy and it’s through compromise that our founding fathers first lit the fires of freedom. But none of it would have ever been possible without respect. We most certainly will not agree on many things but we cannot move forward as a people and a country without respect.
          We must raise real issues and put forth truth if we are to do our part to insure success in this continuing experiment in democracy. Many generations of Americans have sacrificed so much so that we have the opportunity to speak freely as we do here. All of us should be willing to sacrifice some pride and realize that none of us have all the answers, but through intelligent respectful debate we might find the ones we need.
          So with all this in mind I ask either of these two individuals (or anyone else) to come up with one issue, one problem, and come up with possible solutions and put it out there for an intelligent respectful debate!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

We Need Each Other!

The headlines of the county’s financial pages are etched with tales of financial meltdowns, recessions, and corporate corruption. Political battles wage in halls of government and thru the media over deficit spending, tax cuts, health care, jobs creation, and more. We are currently engaged in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as tracking down a worldwide network of terrorist, and all we seem to do is yell at each other. In a time in which this country needs us to come together to solve some critically important issues all we do is scream….
” My ideology is better than yours is!”
    ……and frankly folks it’s time to grow up.
          The main problem as this writer sees it is that we have lost our common bond. That connection that binds us together for no other reason than ultimately we are all in this together. The revelation that as individuals we are all part of something bigger than ourselves and that for any of us to climb to the highest of heights we must help each other because collectively we can rise so much higher than we can individually.
          Currently the largest division that divides our country is one of color, not black or white, red or yellow, but rather green. It is no secret that the division of wealth in this country has changed. The wealthy in America have grown wealthier in the past thirty years than in any time in this country’s history and the middle class continues to shrink as more and more fall into poverty. In the US the top one percent of America currently own over forty percent of the country’s assets and earn over forty percent of the country’s annual income, further widening the gap year after year.
          Politically the two sides are traditionally represented by our two political parties, Republicans the wealthy and Democrats the American worker.  The interesting thing is how the two sides depend on each other but yet politically the two are at odds over just about everything. The wealthy are wealthy because the average American buys what they’re selling and the workers have the money to buy because they are employed by the wealthy. A symbiotic relationship if ever there was one.
           This being true, why have the two sides become so far apart politically? Why do our politicians spend so much time screaming how the other side is wrong rather than coming up with political compromise that would benefit us all? It is not hard to see that our two major political parties the DNC (Democratic National Committee) and the RNC (Republican National Committee) have become extremely powerful and self serving. Both parties control the massive amounts money that is needed for election to political office. They have put their own political power above the good of the country. Their goal is not to make America a better place for all, but rather how many seats they fill in the next election cycle. They will not support any candidate that does not tow the party line and further the party’s agenda. If you step out of line and attempt compromise the money dries up and so does the hope re-election.
          The media can often fuel the fire in the way they report on this clash of political power hungry behemoths. The days of double checking sources and confirmation of facts has given way to biased based reporting that cow tails to a certain demographic to generate ratings to sell more advertising.
Media outlets now pay millions of dollars to political shock jocks like Rush Limbaugh to call opposition leaders names and provide one sided opinions that fuel the growing anger that is welling up between the two sides. This is the way many of Americans now get there political input and ultimately this type of one sided reporting serve little good helping anyone make informed political decisions.   
The problem now becomes how as a nation, do we bring to a halt what has become a lucrative and powerful status quo. Media outlets enjoy the ratings that bring large advertising dollars and the neither party is willing to be the first to compromise for fear of losing power to their long time rivals. In my opinion this is all very short sighted. In the end both sides need each other and this growing gap in America will cause us all to suffer. Strict adherence to either party’s ideology will ultimately lead to further strife and anger between our citizens and not lead to a brighter tomorrow for our children.
The first step in my opinion to bring to an end this senseless power grab is true campaign finance reform. Some type of public funded campaign system which removes the control that our parties have on our elected officials. Let’s let political ideologies go back to being simply a guide for our politicians rather than a set of shackles that bind their ability to lead this country. As far as how to control the media’s influence in all this it’s simple, just change the damn channel!

Monday, August 30, 2010


Before I start to ramble endlessly about issues that concern, frighten, bother, and annoy me, it seems relevant to give some background information about the journey that has led me to this point. Though prospective would make me think that my voyage is unique, I am positive that mine is quite similar to that of millions of Americans across this nation. None the less a backdrop of the environment that helped shape the ideas and beliefs that I will begin to expose seems appropriate.

It all began back in 1966, the healthy son of proud parents in Walla Walla Washington. Only nine months later my parents divorced and in an unusual twist for the times, it was decided that I was to live with my father. My mother, who had three children from her first marriage (widowed) would continue to care for them. Unfortunately nobody discussed it with me so the reasons behind these events are still not known to me.

Jump forward about nine years, my father and I are living in San Francisco and he marries a beautiful woman from Queens New York who I would eventually be proud to call my Mom. My father and she went on to have two sons who are the two best friends I shall ever have and who both continue to inspire me to this day.

We moved around from California, to Ohio were my brothers were born then onto Vermont. It was here were I first left the nest, dropped out of high school and eventually found my way into the US Navy.

Basic training was tuff, and military life can be demanding, but it was truly what I needed because I was not ready to go it alone (though you couldn’t tell me that) and the military gave me a safe place to grow up. Like a family, the military offered discipline, a sense of belonging and most importantly they taught me to get up and go to work every day and handle my responsibilities. The military helped me realize that with the right inspiration a person can often achieve much more than think they can. I witnessed firsthand that individual motivation coupled together with unselfish teamwork can accomplish amazing results.

The navy showed me the world. While on board the USS Antrim I had the distinct pleasure of visiting seventeen different countries, four continents and sailed some of the most pristine oceans in the world. I first hand got to see how shop keepers in Spain enjoy siesta every afternoon, watched monkeys and cobras duel it out on the streets of Karachi Pakistan, and partied with the super wealthy in the private marinas of the Caribbean. I've seen a great snapshot of many individuals throughout the world and I have come to realization that we are far more alike than we are different.

Although I enjoyed some professional success in the second half of my enlistment I was restless and didn’t or couldn’t see myself as a career military man so I got out of the navy in March of 1988 in Jacksonville, Fl. I bounced around form job to job for several years, never settling on a certain career or path. I worked jobs such as a car salesman, technician in a Styrofoam cup factory, assembler of electrical enclosures, car parts puller in a auto salvage yard, you name it I tried it. My experiences took me to places like Reno Nevada, Omaha Nebraska, Waterloo Iowa, and Vinton Virginia. I have always been one to get excited over a fresh new direction or a well marketed can’t miss business idea which has led me into things like telemarketing promotions for minor league baseball, started a non-profit corporation, helped to bring to market a new and innovative product, and worked on live shows with stars such Liza Minnelli and the Pointer Sisters.

It’s funny how life can bring you in circles. After drifting across the country for several years I found my way back to Florida. At the time Florida was growing at a tremendous rate so there was some money and steady employment in the construction trades so I settled into a life as a construction worker. I worked in trades such as metal framing, drywall installation, painting, and HVAC and more. My restlessness had me attempt to get out construction a few times, an associates degree in recording engineering (working in rock and roll man!), and a shot as a salesman in a wholesale buyers’ club, complete disaster by the way with the exception of meeting my soul mate and best friend for the past twelve years.

Together we have built a life together that is who I am. She has shared with me the dearest gift any one could ever share in her daughter and together the three of us have become a family. Collectively the three of us traveled an adventure that has been ours and love has seen us through. Along with the normal ups and down of family life we persevered through the tragic loss of my mother to a violent crime and the subsequent trial and public attention that went with it. In the Spirit of my mother we have moved on, and taken stock in what’s truly important in our lives. Amidst our family darkest hour we became the recipients of love and support that came our way in the form of friends and strangers alike who held us up when our need was greatest. If this tragedy taught me anything it is that there is far more good than evil in this world.

For the last twelve years I have worked in the construction trades in one capacity or another, as an owner, superintendent, lead, technician etc, and have somehow managed to eke out a living. Each year is seems to get to tougher and tougher to do so. As if the fight that is surviving on a blue collar income wasn’t difficult enough unforeseen events like 911 which brought my panting business to a standstill and the housing market crash which crushed the Florida economy have contributed to a fifty percent decrease in my income. It had become glaringly apparent to me that a real concrete change was needed if our family could have any sort of financial future. In summer of 2008 I enrolled in college to seek a bachelor’s degree in Technical Management, in hopes of taking the next step to become a certified Project Manager.

I am currently one semester away from graduating and have already been accepted to graduate school to earn my MBA. I have really enjoyed learning and the process of producing written material more than I would have ever imagined. I thought I was a fairly well informed individual but my education has filled in a lot of the gaps that life experiences failed to reveal. Don’t get me wrong the school of hard knocks serves up lessons that will be ever engrained in who I am, but as they say the devil is in the details and the more I learn the more questions I have.

So it is here that I find myself with something to say and if nobody reads it then at least I said it. I have seen much change in America, some good, some not and I feel the need to climb on my soap box and speak my two cents worth. Maybe there are some like minded individuals who will like what I have to say and I sure there will be many who will think I’m nuts but that’s ok it should make for some great give and take and maybe we will all learn something!