Tax the rich.   I don’t agree with it, I voted against it, and I consistently argued that it would not fix our economy or lower the deficit; however, if the recent election showed us anything it is that the majority of the people in this country want just that.

As a citizen and small business owner, I am watching with great interest the current political wrangling and possible impasse regarding a solution to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff”.  As much as I had argued against raising anyone’s taxes, I have to concede the point that the re-election of President Obama clearly indicates that the majority of Americans want to impose a tax increase on those families with incomes over $250,000.   As a person who believes in the democratic process, I also must accept that this tax increase should be implemented as part of the sought after resolution of our fiscal crisis provided that any such resolution also includes significant and appropriate spending cuts.

I do not believe that such a tax increase will help the economy or have any meaningful impact on reducing the national deficit; however, I also believe that the people’s will must be fulfilled such that we have to take that plunge and hope that it has the desired effect.   If they are wrong, time can only tell and in that case there is always another election four years from now.

I am also unsure of the long term effects of “Obamacare”; however, with the Supreme Court affirming its constitutionality and a political reversal no longer a possibility, we must accept it as part of our permanent reality.   Even if there may be some business owners who are unable or unwilling to absorb the additional costs with the inevitable layoffs or reduced hiring, we should still try to make it work.   If the outcome proves to be detrimental to our economy and the business community then we can, at least, say that we gave it a fair chance.   For my part, the insurance coverage mandates of “Obamacare” are a non-issue since USFSB has always considered it an important part of its business practices to provide all of our employees with full health, dental and vision coverage and I would not want to conduct my business in any other way.

The policies and political solutions now being devised are not what I wanted, voted for, or believe are, necessarily, what is best for our country but I also understand that nothing is gained by becoming entrenched in a stalemate.   Life is full of compromises and now is the time to put our differences aside and work towards a solution that recognizes the will of the people.

By the way, I recently stated my intention to refrain from writing and posting any more blogs during my self-imposed hiatus so please do not consider this a blog in contravention of that stated intention but more of a business commentary.    Just as in politics I have learned that we can deny the existence of anything by simply giving it another name, for example, an insurance mandate penalty is not really a penalty if we simply call it a tax.

 Happy Holidays!


I wrote this post well over a month before the election and without regard as to who might win since I believe the sentiment to be valid no matter who, in fact, won. 

As you read this, the Presidential election is over and the people have made their choice.   Now, all of us must accept that choice and hope that our President does a good job and can find a way to fairly and equitably fix the economy as well as keep us safe from those that would seek to harm us.

When I first voted in a Presidential election, I was an idealist and voted for George McGovern who lost in a landslide to Richard Nixon.   I was devastated and felt like the country would never survive such a travesty.   Over the years, sometimes the candidate that I supported has won and sometimes he has lost.   In each case, the person elected was never as good as I had hoped or as bad as I had feared.   The power of the President is limited by the political process and by the checks and balances created by Congress and the Courts.   I also have learned that people who are elevated to such a lofty position usually rise to the occasion and try to do the right thing for the country and not just play favorites with their specific constituency.

Regardless of whether or not my candidate has won, I always try to remain optimistic about the future of our country in the belief that no one person, not even the President, can change who we are as a nation or irrevocably alter the things that make our country great.

Like everything in life, we all must take the good with the bad as nothing and no one will be perfect.  So, when it comes to politics you could say that every bowl of cherries also has some pits or sometimes we have to accept that every bowl of pits will also have some cherries depending on how we feel about who won.

On Monday, Joe comments on the need to make our Constitution more relevant to today’s world in “Is The US Constitution Still Relevant?”.



Election Day will soon be upon us and we will all have the opportunity to exercise one of the most important rights we have as citizens in a democracy, the right to vote for our elected officials, including our President.

I am not promoting in this post either candidate in this Presidential election.   Both men are intelligent, accomplished, and, hopefully, are well intentioned.   That is not to say that I do not have a preference; however, I also try in good conscience to vote for the candidate that I believe will do the best job for our country.  Of course, as we all do, I tend to follow my own self-interests but I also recognize that the outcome of any Presidential election is about all of us and is bigger than any one of us.

On a day to day basis, the political process is a tug of war by and between such competing forces as lobbyists; private and public interest groups; political pundits, bloggers and media commentators; focus groups; protestors in the streets loudly shouting their point of view; and back room power brokers quietly whispering their point of view.   However, on Election Day, all of that becomes the sideshow and the only thing that matters is our vote, the power of the ballot.   For better or worse, on that day through the collective will and wisdom of the voters we choose the person who will lead all of us for the next four years.

On Election Day, don’t abdicate your rights and duties as a citizen, vote and be heard.

On Wednesday, Joe comments on the election in a post written well over a month before the election and without regard to who might win in “Every Bowl Of Cherries Has Some Pits”. 



There is an informative video making the rounds from Dick Morris, a former campaign manager for President Clinton.   This is of particular interest since it is a Democrat warning of the tax consequences if President Obama is re-elected.    The examples used in the video mostly pertain to a family with a combined income of $250,000 although the tax increases promised by President Obama will also have an impact on those making less than that amount.   Dick Morris asserts, for example, that a family with an income of $250,000 will pay about $37,000 more in Federal income taxes each year and that a family with an income of $150,000 will pay about $15,000 more in Federal income taxes each year.   Watch the video for the details.

Your first reaction may be that it is a great thing to increase the taxes on those that are perceived to be rich or, perhaps, you are simply indifferent since these taxes may not affect you.   I would suggest that this large increase in taxes should concern not only families making $250,000 a year and families who aspire to make $250,000 a year but everyone since the less expendable income anyone has will affect us all.   Dare I mention that there is also the notion of fairness since households with $200,000 or more in income earn about 26% of all reported income but pay about 47% of all Federal income taxes collected?*   This discrepancy gets lost in the hysteria over the claim that the so called rich do not pay their fair share.

Sure, the government will have more money from these taxes but when was the last time you actually trusted the government to use our money wisely or to directly help its citizens?   This kind of “trickle down” economics never seems to work.   Think about where all of that stimulus money went.   Whereas, people with expendable income spend it in their communities, buy large ticket items like houses or automobiles, buy more discretionary goods and services, go out to restaurants more often and, generally, spend that money for the benefit of small and large businesses.   All of this spending provides the residual benefit of increasing the sales tax revenues for state and local governments.   Also, people earning more than $100,000 a year provide a majority of all of the charitable contributions made in this country.**   Finally, these people are usually the ones who operate successful small businesses and who create a good deal of the private sector jobs in this country.

On a different but related note let’s look at the flak being generated over the news that Mitt Romney paid an effective tax rate of 15% on $20 Million of income.   First, let’s be clear that we are talking about $3,000,000 in taxes.   Just to put this in perspective, Romney’s taxes represent about the same amount of taxes paid by 400 middle class households assuming a median income of $50,000 also at an effective tax rate of 15%.   More importantly and what is never mentioned in the debate is that the 15% tax rate paid by Romney was on investment income at the Capital Gains rate and not on wages.

This is significant in that the money Romney used to invest and generate that income would be money previously earned and already taxed.   To compare his tax rate paid on investment income to that paid by a wage earner as if Romney is getting an unfair tax break is deceptive and dishonest.   There are valid reasons to impose a lower tax rate on investment income so as to encourage investments that help our economy, as an incentive to take the risks involved in any investment, to reward investors for holding the investment for a year or more in order to be entitled to the lower tax rate and in recognition of the fact that the money used to make those investments has already been taxed.

Do the math and decide if it really adds up to a better country.   Regardless of where you stand on the upcoming Presidential election, you should, at least, look past the hype, know the facts and understand the consequences of your choice.

*IRS data from 2009 the most recent year calculated on the IRS web site.   Also to be noted is that households making $1 Million or more have on average an effective Federal tax rate of 29.1% whereas households making $50,000 to $75,000 have on average an effective Federal tax rate of 15%.  (IRS data according to the Tax Policy Center as reported by Fox News)

**2005 Google study for the Center on Philanthropy, page 19

On Monday, Joe ponders the legalization of marijuana in “Hazy Dazes”.


Based on recent news, the post originally scheduled for today has been changed.


With one off the cuff comment from Mitt Romney, the 99% suddenly became the 47% as the rallying cry of the liberal media, pundits and President Obama supporters.

Let’s get to the truth behind the comment.   Mr. Romney is correct in stating that those people who, for whatever reason, have too little income to pay income taxes and, more to the point, rely on the government for support and benefits in one form or another would never vote for a candidate that wants less government involvement in so called entitlement programs.   This is simply a fact of life and not a moral judgment on this portion of the electorate.   Why should Romney care to tailor his campaign toward those who would never vote for him?   Do you suppose that the Obama campaign spends any time on the concerns of the rich and successful business community?

It is no more appropriate to say that Mitt Romney does not want to lead low income people if elected than it is to say that President Obama does not want to lead the high income portion of the electorate even though he wants to stick them with higher taxes and impose more governmental control over them.   The fundamental difference between the two, as I see it, is that Mitt Romney wants to create a climate where people can work to achieve their own prosperity whereas President Obama wants to dispense with that effort and simply redistribute that prosperity from those who have already achieved it to those who have not been able to achieve prosperity on their own.    Each candidate is framing their message accordingly not based on being judgmental but on the reality of who constitutes their core supporters.

What I hate about the political process in this country is how contrived it can be when people cynically and deceptively try to exploit any comment or remark into an agenda to discredit the candidate they already don’t like.   It becomes gotcha politics as each side waits to pounce on any real or perceived misstep of the opposing candidate instead of carefully weighing all of the pertinent and relevant facts to determine who truly would be the best leader for our country.

I don’t care who anyone votes for but what I do care about is that people make their choice wisely and not based on sound bites, contrived hysteria and outrage, or pseudo-scientific charts and graphs plastered all over social media trying to define the now slighted 47%.

On Monday, Joe reflects on the fact that we all benefit from each other in “Nothing New Under The Sun”.



I have reached the point where our country is becoming less and less recognizable to me as the great country that once nurtured the entrepreneurial spirit to new heights of prosperity, that spawned a wave of technological advances and industries, that had a no nonsense approach to fighting crime, that had the will and fortitude to wage and win a world war on two continents, and that celebrated freedom, independence and self-reliance.

What are we today?   Have we become a country too fearful and timid to aggressively fight and protect ourselves from foreign enemies sworn to destroy us, a country where there are too many of us no longer willing or able to build our own futures and create our own prosperity, a country where we are afraid to take a stand and decisively protect our society from the enemy within, and a country where we have become so ultra sensitive that we are willing to give up our freedoms so as not to offend anyone?

When confronted with a fanatical enemy who will use any means necessary to wage a war of terrorism and destruction against our country, I would rather unleash our own whirlwind of destruction on the terrorists and terrorist countries as I stated in “Reign Of Terror” than  kneel in submission for fear of inciting others to become terrorists+ or be concerned about the opinion of other countries or be hesitant to deal harshly with captured terrorists or refrain from being aggressive in our efforts to find and punish our enemies wherever they may hide.  

When confronted with a severe downturn in our economy, I would rather work harder to restore my own prosperity and maintain my independent and self-reliant spirit as I stated in “Take Back The American Dream, Part 1” and “Take Back The American Dream, Part 2” than feed off of the wealth and prosperity of others or become sheltered and supported by the government or change the rules so that we destroy the incentive to take risks and create wealth.

When confronted with rampant violent crime, I would rather take swift and decisive action against those that would commit the ultimate harm to society as I stated in “Death Penalty, A Personal Statement” than worry about their troubled lives or indulge their self-serving psychological defenses or put up with endless procedural delays or worry about being cruel to the wanton purveyors of cruelty.

When confronted with censorship in the name of sensitivity, I would rather honor our freedoms and be less concerned about offending someone as I stated in “Political Correctness” than stifle anyone’s free speech just to maintain a sense of civility, harmony, or cordiality.

When confronted with ever more rigid and entrenched ideologies, I would rather strive for a healthy balance of ideas and ideals as I stated in “A World In Balance” than follow any one agenda or choose one set of extreme doctrines over another.

I want to live in an intelligent, strong, decisive, courageous, purposeful, free, and success oriented country.

What country do you want to live in?

+   Fighting a limited war without a lasting and decisive victory as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan only breeds contempt for us with our enemies.   A case in point, the recent attacks on our Embassies in various Middle Eastern countries and the murder of the American Ambassador in Libya even though, ostensibly, over a religious insult is, in reality, born out of that contempt and might not have happened if we had pursued the war on terrorism throughout the Middle East with greater intensity and resolve in the first place.

On Wednesday, Joe offers a whimsical look at the possible end of the world in “The End Is Near”.



I have started to take shooting lessons at a local gun range with the idea in mind that I may, eventually, buy a gun.   I am talking about a semi-automatic pistol for home security and not a rifle or anything that would be suitable for hunting.  I am not a hunter and I do not have any interest in going hunting.

I understand and accept that many people feel strongly about the right to own guns and believe that gun ownership is essential to protect their safety from those criminals who are also armed with guns.  There is a strong tradition in this country to guard our personal freedoms and gun ownership is always on the list of many people as one of their most cherished rights.

Having said that, I wish that no one, except military and law enforcement personnel, owned or had access to a gun.  I have a lot of trouble accepting the argument that the Right to Bear Arms as stated in our Constitution has any relevancy to today’s culture in which people feel they can and should own extremely lethal weapons for private use.  Let’s face it, in addition to violent criminals, guns are also owned by nitwits, the irresponsible, and the marginally intelligent.   I believe we would all be better off and a lot safer if no one had a gun instead of everyone having a gun.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution says “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”   Despite the US Supreme Court decisions in which the Court interpreted this Amendment to go beyond the needs of a Militia and to justify private gun ownership for personal safety*, I submit that the better reasoning would recognize that this right to bear Arms existed solely because of the necessity of having a well regulated Militia.

The Founding Fathers lived in a time when we did not have a large standing army and the average citizen could be called upon to come forward in time of need to defend their country or protect their community and family.  In all of those situations they would need to bring their own weapons.   We now have a large, permanent military complex and extensive National Guard and there is no need for a Militia nor do we have a Militia.

I understand the argument that owning a gun can provide for greater home security, particularly, since many criminals are armed and you cannot always depend on law enforcement to be readily available when you need them.  Yet, I also understand that if it was possible for no private citizen to own a gun, then there would be no risk of having a gun used against you or your family.   The playing field, so to speak, would be level for both the criminal and home owner.

We all recognize that gun violence in this country is rampant compared with the rest of the civilized world where access to guns by private citizens is much more difficult.   I never bought into the catch phrase that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.   I think it is much more accurate to say that “people with guns kill people” and in alarming numbers.

Before anyone goes off the deep end about this, let me be clear that I understand that the Supreme Court has spoken and the general right to own guns is the law of the land irrespective of the fact that Militias no longer exist in this country; however, I don’t like or agree with it and I still wish that we, as a society, did not have any guns in the hands of private citizens other than, perhaps, legitimate hunting rifles.

So, why am I taking shooting lessons and contemplating buying a handgun?   If everyone has a right to own a gun, then I’m going to get one and protect myself from all those other gun toting citizens.

* District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 US 570, decided June 26, 2008, and McDonald v. the City of Chicago, 561 US 3025, decided June 28, 2010.

On Wednesday, Joe questions those who feel the need to change the world in “Keep Your Passion To Yourself”.


This is the second part of a two-part series. Click here to read Part 1.


Social Security benefits extend to your spouse and children.

Widows and widowers can begin receiving benefits from their deceased spouse’s retirement at age 60 or age 50, if disabled, and can switch to their own retirement benefits, assuming their rate is higher, as early as age 62.

If you are receiving retirement benefits, your family can also receive benefits.   Your spouse age 62 or older; your spouse under age 62, if he or she is taking care of your child who is under 16 or disabled; your former spouse age 62 or older, as long as you were married for 10 years or more and the former spouse has not remarried; your children up to age 18 or up to age 19, if full time students; and your children over age 18, if they are disabled.

A spouse receives one-half of the retired worker’s full benefit unless the spouse begins collecting benefits before reaching full retirement age.   If you are eligible for both your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a spouse, Social Security always pays you your own benefit first.   If your benefit as a spouse is higher than your own retirement benefit, you will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit.  Your eligible children may also receive up to one-half of your retirement benefit; however, there is a limit to the amount of money that can be paid to a family.

Since this can be a very complicated and important decision making process, it is recommended that you discuss your retirement plans with your Social Security representative, at least, one year in advance.



When you work and pay Social Security taxes (usually called FICA), you earn Social Security credits.   Most people earn the maximum of four credits per year.   In order to be eligible for retirement benefits, you need to have earned at least forty credits during your working years.   Your benefit amount is based on your earnings averaged over most of your working career.   Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits.

Your benefit amount also is affected by your age at the time you start receiving benefits.   If you start retirement benefits at age 62 (the earliest possible retirement age) your benefit will be lower than if you waited until a later age.   For people born between 1943 and 1954, the retirement age is 66 and for people born in 1960 or later the retirement age is 67.  Social Security calls this “full retirement age”, and the benefit amount that is payable is considered the full retirement benefit.   For example, if your full retirement age is 66, the reduction in your benefits for starting your Social Security at age 62 is about 25 percent; at age 63, it is about 20 percent; at age 64 it is about 13-1/3 percent; and at age 65, it is about 6-2/3 percent.

You may decide to continue working full time beyond your full retirement age.   In that case, you can increase your Social Security benefit in two ways.   First, each additional year that you work adds another year of earnings to your Social Security record.   Second, your benefit will be increased by a certain percentage if you choose to delay receiving retirement benefits.   These increases will be added in automatically from the time you reach your full retirement age until you start taking benefits, or you reach age 70.   For example, if you were born after 1943, Social Security will add 8 percent per year to your benefit for each year you delay signing up for Social Security beyond your full retirement age.

On Friday, Joe continues his comments about Social Security benefits in “Social Security And You, Part 2”.



Annemarie and I attended the Presidential Inauguration for President George W. Bush’s second term in January, 2005.  I understood that there would be protests in and around Washington, DC; however, I did not expect to see the extremely virulent, vile, abusive, and totally disrespectful display of protest signs, including suggestions of violence as well as explicit and profane epithets directed personally at the President.   

It is not that I was surprised that the mob of unruly protesters was capable of such rude, obnoxious, and distasteful behavior but that they did not have the good sense to understand that while asserting their right to protest they should have also exhibited some respect for the Office of the President of the United States if not the man himself.   It is one thing to disagree with the government, as represented by the President and his policies or decisions; it is quite another thing to reduce your protest to a personal attack on the person of the President.

It is a sign of the times that people in general and those that feel the need to vent in the streets, in particular, have lost all sight of the social restraint that comes when you have respect for authority.   I am not suggesting that as a free society we should not openly question authority; however, there is no value in simply lashing out at authority figures on a personal level as if berating, belittling, and insulting them will make things better or effectively advance your cause.

As an aside, for several years before I retired from my law career, I did defense work representing police officers who were sued for alleged civil rights violations, usually based on allegations of excessive force.   It always amazed me how many of these litigants fought with, cursed at, spit on, and generally were abusive to the police officers before, during, and even after their arrest, much of which was caught on tape.  It always seemed to me that it would take an incredibly disrespectful not to mention reckless individual to engage in these antics with an armed police officer.  Again, a sign of the times.

As far back as the protests over the Vietnam War, there has been a new breed of protestor that is extreme, disrespectful, impatient, and prone to reduce everything to a catchy slogan or “sound bite” instead of developing real ideas in a positive manner.   My theory is that the post war baby boomers were the first generation raised in an environment of instant gratification and slick advertisements on television where every concept was reduced to thirty seconds of jingles and Madison Avenue slogans and nothing has changed ever since.

I am part of that post war generation and yet I grasp the idea of showing respect where it is due even when I disagree.   I have not agreed with or liked every President, for example, but I always respected both the Office and the abilities of anyone who can rise to the highest pinnacle of his chosen profession.  Respect for our elected officials, the police, or authority figures, in general, may be hard to come by these days; however, we all need to understand that there is nothing wrong with showing a little respect even when we disagree or as we air our grievances.

On Monday, Joe makes some personal observations in “Let Me Get The Door For You”.        


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