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    Thursday, December 30, 2010

    Health Care Timeline

    This link is to a great chart from the Kaiser Family Foundation on the implementation timeline of ObamaCare. It includes when certain provisions go into effect, and their impact.

    Non-partisan, and useful to you.

    Monday, December 27, 2010

    Post Christmas Car Trip - Ridin' with my homey...

    Because a couple of my nephews are in the USAF, and one has managed to get himself stationed in England flying KC-135's older than me, and the other is now moving cross country from New Jersey to Seattle (to still fly C-17's.  Go figure), I have come into possession of a car. It's a 1986 BMW 325e.

    It was bought by England Nephew to use during his training stateside.  Since he dabbled in Land Rovers, the BMW was an economical way to get back and forth at a time when gas prices were $4/gallon (remember those days? They're approaching again).  When he left for the old country, his brother took it over and it has spent the last couple of years in occasional use in Phiily/Trenton.  Now that he's getting moved to Seattle, the car isn't going with him, so, enter me.  I'll soon have a second licensed teen driver, so, this will give us the extra car we may need for a while to tide the two over.

    In this scenario, there's only one slight problem.  The car is in Trenton, we're in Atlanta.  As luck would have it, one of my sisters lives minutes from my nephew, and so, they have agreed to be caretakers for a couple of weeks, get the car in smooth order (as much as a 200k miles, 25 year old car can be) and hold on to it for me.

    Thus, the concept of a Road Trip is born.

    Since I had enough vacation left to take two weeks this Christmas, I thought this might be the ideal time to get the car.  If I pick it up the week after Christmas, it gives me 2 or 3 days to get it back South, and with family along the way conveniently located, free sleepovers, if needed.

    A couple of weeks ago, after finalizing this deal, I started looking for flights to get to Philadelphia, and this week is an excellent time for low fares.  So low, in fact, that my youngest, 15 y.o. daughter decided she'd like to come along for the trip.  In her mind, I must confess, she loves to fly, so she was lured by the prospect of 2 hours in an airplane, and perhaps by the TSA spectacle.  I dunno on that one.  In fact, she likes air travel so much that she isn't fazed by the prospect of 850 miles with Dad in a suspect car, in cold weather.  I should remind my dear readers that in May 2009, the two of us road tripped to Cedar Point on Lake Erie in Ohio to go to an amusement park, so we've spent 10 pleasant hours in a car together.  So, it's not as unbelievable as you may think.

    Anyway, the trip is scheduled to start tomorrow.  Given the blizzard that just hit Philly and points north, I'd say our timing was incredibly lucky.  Air travel should be busy, but at full speed tomorrow (in fact, we're already checked-in) and the roads should be cleared by Weds all the way south for us, when we plan to begin our journey.  So far, all our luck has been good, which seems ominous.  The car has needed little work to make it roadworthy, the most major repair that it requires (a timing belt replacement) was done not too many miles ago, and the weather seems to be opening up for us.  Honestly, it almost seems too good, so please pray and keep your fingers crossed.  Of course, in this day and age of cell phones and credit cards, you're never too far from a qualified mechanic, should you need one.

    Our trip will take us from Yardley, PA, to Gettysburg, PA. Being within a couple hours of Gettysburg, I want her to see one of the most important sites in American history.  As a Southerner, I hope it'll hold special significance for her, as it does for me, where so many gallant and brave men on both sides fought and died, and where our Union was saved.  From there, we are going to turn south head for I-81, and take off for the longest segment of our trip, to my parents' home in Greensboro, where we hope to arrive Wednesday evening.  Just in time for a heaping plate of North Carolina barbecue.  If you're reading, Mom & Dad - have it  ready.

    After that, it's the relatively simple 300 mile trip home to Atlanta down I-85.  I plan to do some documenting on twitter along the way.  You can follow me, or, if you're familiar with Twitter, look for the hashtag, #bmwtrip.

    See you along the way

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    The Tax Deal: What's a Tea Partier to do?

    This week, President Obama and those dastardly Republicans reached a deal in principle, at least, on tax policy.

    At its core, the deal extends the Bush Tax Cuts 2 years for all Americans, keeping income tax policy where it is. If passed, it will result in no income tax increases for everyone, while the economy continues to struggle in a very weak recovery, which has been completely jobless so far.  Many conservatives and economists have been arguing that the uncertainty around this policy has held back investment.  I agree with that assessment, but, is two years really enough certainty to cause the investor class (that would be "the rich" to you Libs out there) to change their current behavior?  I don't know, but I know that a longer extension would go a lot further to spurring investment.

    Just discussing this policy, let's all stipulate that these taxes add nothing to the budget deficit.  The meme of the Left that these cost us $70B/year for the highest rates (and $300B/year for the rest) is wrong and disingenuous.  The truth is that the Left can't wait to get their hands on the money that increasing taxes would bring them.  I suppose if there were some kind of promise that any increase in tax revenue from raising taxes would go towards deficit reduction, it would be an easier sell.  But that is not what is happening, nor is it what would happen in reality.

    This cycle, the American people voted, and they were serious that we need to see some serious efforts at cutting spending before we start making attempts to increase revenues.  History tells us that increased revenues will only result in more government spending.  The bottom line is - want less government - you have to starve the beast.  Paradoxically, if we actually lowered rates, we might see more economic activity, more GDP growth, and ultimately, higher tax revenues.  That's been the case historically.  We've only run up big deficits where we have overspent.

    Had this exercise only been limited to an extension of these tax cuts, I, and I believe most Tea Partiers, would have been happy.

    However, the President couldn't control himself.

    He decided that as part of this deal, he needed to add in yet another extension of unemployment benefits, adding another 52 weeks to the already long time that they have been available.  And, he sees fit to do this without any spending offsets.

    The deal also includes an INCREASE in the Estate Tax, from it's current rate of 0% to 35% on estates over a certain value.  While this should be considered in the same vein as the Bush cuts (i.e. not as a tax cut), Dems treat this as a deficit increasing event.  In reality, it will decrease the deficit, since it will raise revenue not being collected today.  Washington, however, is a mixed-up, crazy world.

    Amazingly, he also brought out a 2% reduction for 2011 in the social security tax on the employed.  Politically, this is to offset the loss of the "making work pay" tax credit that was applied as part of Stimulus.  That tax credit was worth $800 to married couples and if it was left out of this, it would result in a tax increase on working families.  If that happened, Obama loses his campaign talking point that he hasn't raised taxes "one dime" on those making less than $250k.  Faced with a failed Stimulus, he turns to tax policy to put another stimulus into the economy (and allow him to keep at least one campaign promise).  Hey,. personally, I am all for this.  It's worth a lot more than $800 to my family, and with us losing half the child tax credit (it's only for kids under 18), and that making work pay credit, it makes up for it.

    Obama has included in this an extension of the various tax credits that were part of Stimulus.  I haven't seen the details on those, but I assume we're talking the energy tax credits and the credits for purchases of hybrid/electric and high-mileage diesel vehicles.  There are probably others that are being extended, too.

    The net is all those, plus the 2% social security payroll tax reduction, plus the unemployment benefits extension will add to the deficit.

    These things we should all worry about, as I believe the total cost to the treasury will be about $500B.

    Were I in Congress, while I would have endorsed the S/S reduction 2 years ago (and would probably have argued for a greater reduction, perhaps of the entire employee portion), today, I think it may be too little, too late to save the Obama presidency, and I would probably vote against this package.  I would support, right now, an extension of the tax cuts, and that's all.

    If forced, here's what I'd like to do now:
    1. Extend the income tax rates permanently.  No deficit implications.  Government gets the same revenues.
    2. Reduce the SS tax rates by 6.2% (equally split between employer and employee contributions) for 2 years - this would be my sop to stimulative effects.
    3. Reduce cap gains tax to 0% for 1 year - get businesses to invest, and now!
    4. Reduce all non-defense, non-entitlement spending to 2006 levels (not 2008, as the GOP pledged)
    5. To facilitate 4, begin the elimination of the Department of Energy, the Department of Education, and defund various non-essential discretionary items - Public TV, NEA contributions, cut foreign aid (like to the UN) and other wasteful and stupid spending.
    6. Bring back all unspent Stimulus funds - apply back to the Treasury.
    7. Get rid of all the various tax breaks in the Stimulus
    8. No extension of unemployment benefits, unless done under Pay-go rules (meaning you cut somewhere to pay for it).

    Some number crunching:

    • If we can reduce spending to 2006 levels, we could probably balance the budget given revenues return to their pre-recession levels.
    • Discretionary spending is slightly more than 1/3 of the total budget.  Since 2006, however, it has increased twice as fast as non-discretionary spending (Social security, medicare, medicaid).  Non-discretionary spending increases about 10% every two years, but discretionary spending is outpacing it.
    • Defense spending is about half of that discretionary spending.  From 2006 to 2008, it accounted for nearly all the increase in discretionary spending.   From 2008 to 2010, however, it only accounted for one quarter of the increase.The big increase in that time frame was in a category labeled other (was this elements of Stimulus?).
    Anyway, take it for what it's worth.  Not much.

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Dec 7, 1941, A Day That Will Live in Infamy

    Today marks 69 years since we were viciously attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, costing over 2400 American lives, and plunging us into WW2.

    If you know any WW2 vets, take a moment to thank them, or say a prayer for them.  They put to death two horrible regimes in Tojo's Japan and Hitler's Germany.

    A year ago, I posted this about important places for Americans to visit.  It bears a re-read.

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Muslim Brotherhood Front Group Trains Airport Screeners - HUMAN EVENTS

    Remember the initials MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Council). MPAC is one of many Muslim Brotherhood front groups operating in the US as "outreach" organizations. Also among them are ISNA, and CAIR.

    When you see members from these organizations on TV, supposedly trotted out as "moderates," recall that their organizations were trained and usually founded by people dedicated to the spread of Sharia Law. By force, if necessary, by other means, if possible. The bottom line is - you WILL submit.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    You can't make this sh%t up department...(NSFW)

    This weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing the first of my nephews married.

    It was a fun experience, and a great getaway for the wife and I.  We traveled to Philadelphia, my nephew's most recent stop on his world tour courtesy of the United States Air Force (and home to one of my own sisters) and a place where I spent a few weeks as a youth.

    All in all, despite what W.C. Fields said, Philadelphia is a great city to visit, a wonderful Northeastern city with a vibrant urban life, lots of unique and good food, and history to rival few other cities.  It may be the most important city in Colonial America.

    I recommend Philly as a great place to visit.  Maybe you'd prefer it in warmer weather, but, hey, we don't schedule these things.

    In the you can't make this crap up department, the wedding was held at a South Philly establishment known as the Magic Gardens.  You can read all about the Magic Gardens and how it and the artists who were inspired by it and for it saved South Philly from becoming an expressway here.  The Magic Gardens is such a part of Philly lore and South Philly culture, that they were visited by First Lady Michelle Obama and the First Daughters back in August 2009.  The liked it so much, they penned this letter:

    The letter says:
    "Thank you so much for passing along the clay tiles and the terrific photos from our trip to Philadelphia's Magic Gardens.  It is such a special place, and it is exciting to hear that our tiles are now on display as part of your beautiful public art.  The girls and I had a wonderful time visiting Philadelphia and we won't soon forget your truly unique contribution to your community.  Thank you again for everything and I wish you all the best"
    Michelle Obama

    I'm going to say that, as a wedding location, despite being eclectic, perhaps it could best be described as an appropriate place due to its ability to promote fertility.  And by fertility, I mean the chief artist, Isiah Zagar and his followers clearly have an emphasis on the male and female sexual form - sometimes cleverly, and oftentimes not-so-cleverly embedded in the art at Magic Gardens. I also find it interesting that Michelle Obama and the Obamakids found this place so interesting, too.  Let me tell you, I won't soon forget my visit to the Magic Gardens either.

    Here are some NSFW examples of the art, again, IN PLAIN VIEW, and in not-so-plain view in this place (and, folks, it ain't that big of a place). Beware, penises ahead (oh, there are many more, I just got tired of taking pictures of penises, lest someone think I was a lecher):