Wednesday, November 28, 2012

fixing America's problems

fiscal cliff, tax hikes, taxing the "wealthy" their fair share...UGH!!

Alright, I'm probably going to piss off a few folks with this post, but I have to say what I'm going to say buckle up. I'm not asking anyone to agree with me, though if you do, that's fine. I am merely offering a humble opinion based on what I deem to be common sense. If you disagree with me, that's fine as well, you are more than welcome to your own opinions...this one happens to be mine.

Here are some light facts that have gone grossly undisputed: America has borrowed trillions of dollars, our politicians regularly spend way more than is brought in, and a fiscal cliff is looming in the distance.

What exactly is a fiscal cliff? I sincerely have no idea. It probably is some random term created by a spin-saavy politician to inject fear into our hearts and minds. What it means, however, is that the country is in a world of shit, financially speaking, if we don't truly fix the problems that have created it.
When the deadline arrives, if there isn't policy in place that changes the course of things, taxes will go up (for all of us) and spending cuts are eminent. This is going to happen because we will have no choice. The "bills" are coming due and there will be no other way to pay them if these things don't happen. As I understand it, these things were postponed by policies put into place during President Bush's term. This only postponed the problems, pushing them all to a back burner until they simply had to be dealt with, and by someone else entirely.

So what are our duly elected leaders doing about it? Well...negotiating, which means, for the most part, not much of anything. More than ever before we need for our politicians to put the needs of the country as a whole in front of the needs of the handfuls of constituents that will potentially re-elect them. We need for our elected officials to step up and do the right things. Instead, what we will more than likely get will be a bunch of political rhetoric that passes blame back and forth, and nothing will really be done to solve the problems...which generally seems to be overspending. There will also be lots of "negotiating" that will, in reality be the result of several politicians bickering over whether or not they want to make key spending cuts that will most certainly affect their ability to get re-elected.

The finger pointing needs to stop...along with several other things.

So let's look at the tax situation...
There are miles and miles of tax code. If you have ever tried to read any of it, you know exactly how dizzying and overwhelming it can be to understand it. Our taxation system is completed screwed up, and keeps getting worse by the year from all of the loopholes, and the loopholes to close the loopholes that are created by politicians so that everyone feels like they are getting pinched but no one really gets pinched too bad as to want to not live here anymore.
The guidelines by which the multi-tiered system we have in place now is...well...highly antiquated. I'm sure that at the time it was all laid out, there was far less inflation and the threshold for the upper tier of taxable income seemed like a whole lot of money to make on a yearly basis. Perhaps the entire thing should be re-scaled to accommodate and account for all the years of gradual inflation. To simply say that we need to tax the "wealthy" so that they will be paying their "fair share" is childish and ludicrous at best. For many hard working Americans who find themselves in the position of making just enough money to be in that upper tier, the thought of paying more in taxes is downright painful. Those particular people who just barely make enough to be taxed at the highest levels, they find themselves in the awful position of finally, after years of hard work and dedication, being able to comfortably provide for their families, only to hear that they are considered to be (overly) "wealthy" and now have to be taxed even more. I can assure you that those who find themselves just above that threshold don't consider themselves to be "wealthy" by any stretch of the imagination; especially if they have kids of any age, but even more so if those kids are getting their college education on mom and dad's tab.
For years when I was much younger, I made shit money. I doubt that I broke the poverty level for several of those years. During those years when I was somehow getting by on less than 15K a year, someone who made over $50K a year seemed "wealthy". I'm sure that to someone who is barely getting by at $50K, the appearance of wealth begins at $100K. To someone at $100K, that semblance of wealth is $200K. However, wealth is all relative to what you are currently making versus what financial commitments you are responsible for versus how much you are actually able to save and put aside for savings and/or retirement.
Truth is, I don't have that much more financial flexibility now than I did when I was earning below the poverty level many years ago. I still have bills that still have to be paid. I still have to budget my money wisely. What little bit of financial flexibility I do possess is not as a result of making more money than I used to, but rather the result of wiser choices and greater responsibility with my finances. As far as taxes go...because I have always been considered "self-employed", I have always been hit with the highest tax liability allowed...which translates into losing over half of my income to taxes by the time federal and state agencies got their share of my hard-earned money.
True, we need tax reform...but not in the way that Capitol Hill would have you believe is fair and just taxation.

To better describe where we currently are, I think a decent analogy is in order...

Imagine that you and ninety-nine other random people of all demographics, creeds, and age are standing at the edge of a very large field that contains tons of fruit and vegetables that are ripe for the picking. The farmer who owns the farm has agreed to allow every person one full hour to go out and pick as much produce as they can carry, and that produce shall be what they use to provide for their families for an entire year.
A small number of the one hundred people are elderly, sickly, or with small children and are basically unable to work so it is agreed that everyone who is going out and picking will collectively contribute to the welfare of those who cannot fully provide for themselves.
You, and everyone who is picking, go out and pick your produce. Everyone who goes out and picks brings back varied amounts of produce. Some only bring back fifty pounds. Some manage to bring back over a hundred pounds. You happen to be very smart and strong and drag a small cart out into the field and manage to bring back over two hundred and fifty pounds of fruit and vegetables back to the edge of the field. It seems that several others were very enterprising as well and have brought similar amounts.
You already were aware that you would be giving away some of your produce to help those truly in need, but upon returning to the barn, the farmer informs you that there were more than several able-bodied people who simply refused to go out and work. Instead, they sat back and did nothing, all while claiming to not be able to go out and work. The farmer informs you that you and the few others that picked over two hundred and fifty pounds of food will have to give over one hundred pounds (that's 40% by the way) of the produce you just picked to help compensate and feed those who simply decided they wouldn't go and work. This, of course, leaves you with just one hundred and fifty pounds of produce to feed your family with for the whole year.

A flawed analogy, I know...but it does illustrate a few simple points. you still think that the wealthy are not paying their "fair share" of taxes? For some of you, I will concede to the notion that we will have to agree to disagree.
So let's approach it this way...Why don't we all pay the same percentage amount in taxes? Do you get pissed when someone in church tithes less than you (provided, of course, that everyone is tithing 10%)? No. Of course you don't. You understand that ten percent is ten percent no matter what.
What if we used a similar approach to taxes? How about an amount that manageable by all...say 15%? No exceptions. Everyone would be paying the exact same percentage...and regardless of how the money was made.

Only then would everyone would be paying a fair share.

The formula for calculating it all would be simple...
Question A: How much money did you make last year?
Question B: What is 15% of the answer to question A?
Ta-daaaaah! The entire U.S. Tax code could be reduced to one, mind-numbingly simple page.

What about corporate taxes, you ask?...Almost as simple.
Question A: How much money did your company make last year?
Question B: How much money did your company have to spend to earn that money? (and corporate profit bonuses paid to executives don't count!)
Question C: Subtract answer B from answer A. This is your company's taxable income.
Question D: What is 15% of the answer to question C?

Damn...I think I just used common sense to reduce both the personal and corporate tax codes to one short page of mind-numbingly simple, logical rules.

Ahhhh....but this leads us to the next part of fixing America's issues...SPENDING CUTS!!!

We, the people, in order to have a better grip on our lives without having to rob Peter to pay Paul, have to budget ourselves. We know about how much money is rolling in on a regular basis. We know about how much money is going to be rolling out. We know that we have to set some aside for that rainy day. We know that we can't spend more than we bring in...
Common sense, right? I agree.
Why can't our politicians do the same thing with our national budget? Oh's because they haven't balanced a budget for our country in twenty years!! Yep, that's right!!
I'm not saying we should do away with some of our entitlement fact I'm saying we should keep them, provided that we can find money in the budget to pay for it all. The basic problem is this...our politicians keep finding more ways and places to spend our tax dollars. However, we don't really have any more money coming in than we did last year. If we ran our household budgets like our government runs our national budget, we would all be homeless, unemployed and broke as hell by now!! If our elected officials treated our national budget with the same care that some of us have to treat our personal budgets, we would see a whole lot less unnecessary spending. Some senator would go to the hill demanding money for his new entitlement program, and the folks in charge of the dough could tell that senator the same thing that was told to to Kevin Klein's character in the movie "Dave"..."Find the money in the budget, and you can have your program."

Sure, this country needs to have a budget and stick to it. Sure, there are plenty of government programs to cut money from. Sure, we could make military cutbacks, however, I don't believe it would be prudent or wise to cripple our military's ability to properly defend our great nation. Sure, we could cut and cut and cut...but the inherent problem still remains. Politicians are not being forced to maintain and live by a balanced budget. They are also not stopping the creation of new entitlements. We need to quit creating new ways to spend the tax dollars that are not coming in. We have allowed a new, socialized health care system to be passed and soon to be put into action, but with no real way to pay for it. I'm not going to argue whether we do or don't need ObamaCare...I'm simply going to point out that our politicians allowed it to be passed without first having the funds to pay for it.
When will our politicians learn to use good judgement and common sense, and quit approving spending for new entitlements? Hopefully before we are all being taxed at much higher than 40%.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Black Friday...
Hell no I don't participate in it. Do you think I'm crazy?!?

Umm...Don't answer that yet...

I choose to not participate in it. Not because I don't like finding great stuff on sale (I do love to buy stuff at a great price), more because I hate being in the middle of large, unpredictable crowds. People watching is always fun however, but only from a safe distance of the actual crowd itself.

I'm sure that at some point in the coming days and weeks I will hear a news report of someone getting trampled because they hesitated when the doors flung open or beat down because they tried to take the last sale item from the shelf at the same time that another exhausted, disgruntled shopper did.

While there are aspects of Black Friday that can be saddening, I'm almost ashamed to say that I find certain aspects of Black Friday comical in some ways.


Don't misunderstand me...I hate to see people getting hurt while innocently trying to fulfill the Christmas wishes of a loved one, however the absurdity of the scenario can be bewildering and laughable if your humor is twisted enough. Why anyone would feel the need to ignore the basics of humanity and good nature all because they feel bizarrely entitled to purchase that item at that time is beyond me. Incidentally, for those of you who haven't figured it out yet, anyone crazy enough to spend several days camped out in the parking lot of a store, depriving themselves of rest, decent nutrition, and sanity, all so they can get inside and start shopping at the stroke of midnight is...well...probably crazy enough to beat you down for trying to take that last sale item on the shelf and probably is too exhausted and malnourished to realize that the manufacturers have made more than is physically there at that time. And who is more at fault...the naively deranged shopper that sincerely thinks that they won't get beat down over that stupid toy or flat screen tv, or the other deranged shopper that feels it's necessary to beat someone down because they themselves weren't quick enough on the draw when reaching for the shelf? And what about those half-crazed folks that do the Black Friday shopping because they see it as a challenge? When did shopping become a competitive event? And exactly how do you win? Is there a Black Friday Shopper's League? Are there unified rules that apply everywhere? Can these rules apply in a regular grocery store or convenience store? What about all of those Black Friday deals...why don't liquor stores have them? Is there a required uniform for team play? Where are the referees during all of this shopping?
All of these Black Friday shoppers...Don't they all realize that there is a thing known as the internet, and on that thing called the internet there are online vendors that are more than happy and willing to sell those same items for the same price AND guarantee delivery well before Christmas? Aren't they aware of the money they would save by not burning gas driving to the mall, buying camping supplies, buying overpriced fast food, etc.?
You're right...they probably aren't all that aware. Maybe they aren't all that into actually saving money after all.

However, in spite of it being Black Friday, and in spite of our general distaste for getting in the midst of the insanity, Holly and I did do a small bit of shopping today...
We went and purchased our Christmas tree for this year. This, has become a bit of a family tradition at our house. For us, Black Friday means it's time to go to the local Christmas tree farm, pick out a tree that we deem to be cute and full of personality. It doesn't have to be the perfect tree; anything between the one at Rockefeller Center and Charlie Brown's puny little tree will always do.
Today we went and picked ours out...not too tall, not too full, not too thin. Later, we strung the lights and decorated the tree with ornaments. I even got crafty and actually made some of the things we put on the tree (though, at one point Holly was laughing to the point of me. Still not sure why, but it did involve a me, a step-ladder, a giant bow that I helped make, and deciding whether or not to have a "pokey-stick-thingy" protruding through the top of the bow). Holly also pulled out various decorative items to place around the house...'s definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas. At least around here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Day 2012

Well, today is Thanksgiving. A day during which we all are supposed to be thankful and remember all that we are thankful for. It is also a day for a big, televised parade, classic rival football match-ups,  as well as being a day during which extreme gluttony not only is also greatly encouraged.
Of course, we all know that Thanksgiving started many years ago when the pilgrim settlers from the "Old World" had a big feast with the Native Americans after the harvest season. I'm not sure what the Natives were thankful for back then...but I'm pretty sure that the Pilgrims were thankful to have not ended up at the wrong end of an atlatl flinging a spear. Not sure if they had a parade that year either...however, I'm pretty certain that the department store had not been invented yet. I suppose that year Santa had to sit on the old Macy's tree stump and convince small Quaker children they couldn't have a new Red Rider Bow&Arrow with the compass in the stock because they could shoot their eyes out...I'm sure he suggested something along the lines of suitable food and shelter instead. After the big feast, I'm sure everyone sat down together and in a sloth-like stupor watched the Redskins whip much ass...though I'm not sure there was actually a football involved at that time.

I digress...

Where was I?...Oh yeah...Today is Thanksgiving.

Today also happens to be my birthday.

It happens occasionally, my birthday coinciding with Thanksgiving...about once every 7 to 11 years. When I was a young kid, I remember thinking that my birthday was such an important day that my mother felt compelled to cook a feast fit for a king...
Boy was I disappointed the next year.

This year, I was rather insistent that Holly and the girls not make a big deal about my birthday. No cake. No celebrating.
It's not that I'm against having birthdays...or celebrating them. It's just that I didn't feel like making too big a deal of it in front of extended family during our hosting of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, which, by the way, was fantastic, even if I do say so myself!

So how did it go?

Well...there was singing...there was a lit candle in a small serving of dessert food...there was a gift...
And all after everyone had left. Just me, Holly, and our girls...celebrating my birthday in exactly the low-key way I wanted.

True, there is lots to be thankful for...

I'm thankful for having a great place to live. Not only in regards to the house itself, but also in regards to the community in which I live.
I'm thankful for having a great job. I get to do what I love for a living.
I'm thankful for being able to pay my bills and still do what I love for a living.
I'm thankful for having a reliable vehicle to drive.
I'm thankful for being married to my long-time best friend, Holly. (My wife is awesome by the way!)
I'm thankful for having her and the girls in my life. (Our daughters are also awesome by the way!)
I'm thankful that they remembered me on my birthday...and in such a beautiful and perfect way.
-- Holly, Ashley, Allison...I love you!! --

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, November 12, 2012


Here's what happens. We (my bandmates and I) go out and play shows, and usually there is a review of the show the next day in the local newspaper of the town we just played in.
Some reviews are good. Some are not so good. It's all subjective. We know that we can't possibly please everyone. We don't even try to please everyone. We make the kind of music that we love to make and hope for the best in terms of crowd response. The same for our shows...we play what we love to play, to the best of our collective ability, and do our best to put on a great show. And, we understand and embrace the idea that not everyone will like us or our music.

Recently, we got a really horrible review after a show in the midwest. The guy who wrote it clearly hates the band and our music. Not sure why (it was a pretty damn good show if I do say so myself). He had even "tweeted" earlier in the day that he needed to be drinking heavily so he could write a "fair" review of the show. He had also clearly made up his mind about us and our show and how terrible it was going to be for him to be in attendance...never mind the fact that it was sold out show at a major venue and you have to be doing something right to be able to pull off such a feat as an artist. Never mind the fact that we've sold shitloads of records and had a string of very successful hits on the radio. Never mind that the place was filled with fans who were happy to be singing along with damn near every word of every song we played.

Now, I'm no writer. I certainly don't claim to be. However, if I were to be trusted with the task of writing a review of a show, I would certainly approach the whole thing with the mindset of providing a clear, unbiased opinion of what went down. Isn't that what good reporting is all about?

Maybe he's not into the style of music we play. Maybe he is one of those idiots that claims to be a music lover but only wants to hear a band mindlessly regurgitate their hits exactly as was done on their records. Maybe he hates writing show reviews. Maybe he isn't really a reporter. Maybe he still lives in his mother's basement and took a gig at the local paper to help pay the bills while he sluggishly attempts to carve out a plot for that best-selling novel that he will one day finish.
Maybe he was having a bad day or a bad week. Maybe he just simply is a chronically unhappy person. Maybe he is one of those people who could never be matter what.

That having all been said, I can simply say this to the man who gave us such a bad review...

I am sorry that you didn't have a good time (especially given the fact that you more than likely didn't even pay for the ticket yourself). Hopefully we will do better to make a good impression on you the next time around. In the meantime, try your hand at writing songs, making and selling records, winning over fans, and selling tickets to your shows. Maybe someone will write a "fair and unbiased" review of one of your shows. Let me know how that all works out for you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Everyone knows by now that our Commander in Chief will remain in office for another four years. Personally, I didn't vote for him, I am still of the opinion that he has absolutely no clue how to do the job properly and effectively, and I am still of the opinion that the most powerful guy in the free world is more interested in being famous than he is being an actual leader. I also believe that he has yet to prove that any of his policies are substantive and good for our country. However, that having been said, the American people have voted, their voices heard, and our President will be around for another four years. This is the hand that we collectively have chosen, and consequently, this is the hand that we shall be forced to deal with.
I consider myself to be a very patriotic person. I believe that we each have a civic duty to do what we can to uphold the principles upon which our nation was founded. To quote Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

Seems as though more of us should think about that one. There is a growing movement in this country in which constituents are casting their votes for the candidates that promise the most free perks. There seems to be a huge wave of voting people who are eagerly waiting for the government to give them a free place to live, free food to eat, free health care, free training, and even jobs. While that may seem like a great idea, the truth is, what the government will actually be able to deliver to these people will be far less than par when compared to what they are promised. It seems to me the vast majority of this particular group of people appear to feel that they are entitled to be given all of these things. But they don't seem to want what will be provided for them...they want to be given the best that is out there.
What ever happened to working hard and earning something? What ever happened to ambition, and the drive to achieve more for oneself?

While the government can certainly align itself in such a way as to "freely" provide jobs, training, education, health care, food, lodging, etc. for its citizens, it is important to keep in mind that that particular way of doing things is destined for failure. At some point, the entire population of that type of system is completely dependent upon the opposed to the entire government being completely dependent upon the population that it governs. I'm not sure exactly which President said first, but Gerald R. Ford is quoted as having said this, "Any government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away from you everything you have."
Some of you that may read this are either too young to remember or have simply forgotten about the U.S.S.R. as it existed back in the 70's and 80's during the Cold War era. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republic during the height of the Cold War era was the shining example of what socialism truly looks like when in full implementation. I remember being a child and hearing news reports and seeing news reel footage of people standing in long lines for hours on end (sometimes days on end) to receive the one loaf of government provided bread that would have to carry them over for an entire week. I can remember hearing the news stories of Russian citizens defecting to the United States because they were not free to choose what they wanted to do for a living, but rather were dictated to by the government based on the needs of the general workforce. I remember the news reels showing many Russian citizens living in extreme poverty, receiving poor health care, and crying out to the world for help. The socialist government would provide for its wealthiest citizens first and best, while allowing the poor and less desirable citizens to suffer. While there were Marxist and Communist principles at work, the USSR was a socialist society. How long did this particular system of socialized "everything" last until it completely collapsed? Approximately forty years.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Post-Halloween Crud and the Election...

Where did Halloween go? Did it ever really arrive? It came and went and I barely noticed. We had no Trick-or-Treaters this year. It seems that serious Trick-or-Treating has become a lost thing of years gone by. Maybe some of the big neighborhoods still have a few costumed candy crusaders here and there, but it seems as if the numbers keep dwindling down each year. I can remember being a kid and going to every house in my neighborhood, and then to every other house that was within hiking distance. Between my little brother and myself, the take was anywhere from 15 to 20 pounds of candy...each! We would pile it all up in the middle of the den, and then divide it evenly between us both. We would chip away at that pile of candy until well past Thanksgiving and usually finish off the last few morsels just in time to be enjoying the sweet delights of the Christmas holiday season.

I've been fighting the crud over the past seven or eight days. It got really bad a few days ago...bad enough for me to willingly take cold/sinus meds.
--Those who know me really well, also know how much I loathe taking meds of any description.--
So...I've been laid up on the couch, dizzy with sinus headaches and congestion, and, whilst in my haziness, I have been watching election coverage. All I can say is...WOW!
Depending on which network you watch, one or the other of the Presidential Candidates is going to have a landslide victory. Of course, we all know that this election is going to be very close. Possibly the closest election ever in terms of the popular vote.
I won't get into the nastiness of talking politics...especially via a blog. However, I do encourage everyone to go vote.
Let me say that again...

GO VOTE! It is your civic duty as a citizen of the United States of America.

I don't care who you choose to cast your vote for. I would like to think that each and every one of us has the good sense to cast our votes as well-informed voters. (Chances are, most of us unfortunately won't take the time become informed voters.) I sincerely believe that it is our civic duty as American citizens to exercise our right to vote during elections. There are still some nations out there that do not allow their citizens to vote for their leadership. We are very blessed to live in a country that allows for us to have that particular right. We should exercise that right...and with great regularity...

Will I say for whom I am casting my vote? Absolutely not. Suffice it to say that I have my political views, I have taken the time to become as informed as I can about the issues that our country faces, and I will cast my vote for the candidate that I believe to be the best person for the job.

I strongly recommend that you do the same. Either way, well informed or not, at least take the time and the opportunity to do your civic duty and exercise your right to voice your opinion...
If you don't vote...then you don't have a right to bitch about it later!

---  "Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government." -Thomas Jefferson  ---

---  "A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have." -Gerald R. Ford  ---