Christmas joy, Apocalyptic pain, and Taxes

Dec. 26, 2010

COLUMBUS: I hope your Christmas and other holiday celebrations were fruitful and all presents were appreciated. The perfect Christmas present this year might have been His and Her snow shovels. But don’t call it a present when you hand it to her. Be sure to include a pair of insulated designer gloves. And fur-lined boots, too, without high heels. This may not be the most romantic ensemble, but it’s practical. From Atlanta to Maine it was a White Christmas weekend. In the Midwest, it has been a White December.
As the new year begins you’re gonna hear a lot of optimistic predictions from business leaders and bankers and politicians. But today on Fox News, Senator Tom Coburn said that if we don’t change our ways and get our finances in balance, then we’re in for “apocalyptic pain.” He said we have to cut spending or in the next 3 or 4 years production will drop, unemployment could double, and hyper inflation would hurt everybody, especially the poor. If you’re wondering how a Senator knows anything about apocalyptic pain, well, Coburn is a medical doctor, in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He has delivered 4000 babies and the mothers of many of those 4000 have gone through apocalyptic pain, at least for a few hours. He says if we keep acting like Greece and Ireland our apocalyptic pain will last a whole lot longer.
The tax bill just passed by Congress gave a nice present to rich old men (and women). Unless you have more than $5 million the inheritance tax won’t apply to you in 2011, the same as this year. If Congress had not acted, I was concerned the Obituary pages would be filled this week with members of the wealthy class whose heirs kinda nudged them along into the Hereafter.
Of course if you are above $5 million in assets, the government will grab 35 percent after December 31. In that case, when one of your offspring hands you a glass of eggnog be sure it don’t include some tainted moonshine.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“Well, Christmas has passed. I was just thinking if there was some way to make the Christmas spirit continue during the other days of the year, why we would be the most happy and wonderful Nation on Earth. Gosh, if all of us that was able would just feed and do things for folks without waiting till Christmas. I think we mean well, but we just sorter got in our heads that about one day a year pays our obligations off, then we swell up and hide our Conscience till the next gift day comes along.” WA #628, Jan. 6, 1935

“They have passed the big inheritance tax, and that gets you when you are gone. You used to could die and be able to beat taxes, but not now. The undertaker don’t go over your body as carefully as the assessor does your accumulated assets, and he gets his before the undertaker. They have it on these big fortunes now where they pay as high as 60 to 70 percent of what they leave. That’s mighty expensive dying when it runs into money like that, and you won’t see ’em dropping off as casually as they have been.”
 WA #594, May 20, 1934.

Florida oysters and New Jersey berry breeders lose in Congress

Dec. 19, 2010

COLUMBUS: Congress has been rushing around this week to make up for two years of procrastination. A couple of important bills passed.

But a Trillion dollar appropriations bill failed. It was so loaded down with Christmas presents, it never got off the ground. Six thousand pork barrel projects were wrapped and loaded in the back of Santa’s sleigh, and all it could do was slide down Capitol Hill and crash into a pile of stunned lobbyists. No doubt some of these earmark requests are valuable, but when you know $ 8 Billion would have to be borrowed from China, it puts these projects in a different light.

New Jersey asked for $500,000 for cranberry and blueberry breeding. Is that for people who want blue cranberries to go along with the red ones?

Retiring Ohio Senator, George Voinovich, asked for $20 million for a Coast Guard station in Cleveland, apparently to protect Ohio from an impending invasion of Canadians. There was $10 Million earmarked to build a Ted Kennedy Institute. The Kennedy family still has over a Billion of old Joe’s bootlegging profits, so they can easily build it themselves.

Florida requested $500,000 for “oyster safety”. You know, the best way for a Florida oyster to stay safe from human hands is to claim it’s a close relative of Rocky Mountain oysters. Get a YouTube video showing how “Uncle Rocky” gets harvested and peeled, post a few photos on Facebook, and believe you me, Florida oysters will be safe from consumption by Easterners.

The whole tax argument is over who gets to play Santa Claus. Congress wants you to give ‘em a big chunk of what you earn so they can decide who gets a visit from St. Nick, and how much will be in each stocking. On the other hand, most folks would kinda like to keep most of what they earn, and make up their own mind on spending, investing, or what needy person or charity to give it to.

Merry Christmas everybody, including Congress. Let’s pray the Lame Ducks get out of town before turning into Turkeys. Or mountain oysters.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“Taxes is all there is to politics. You take taxes out of politics, and you don’t have any politics, or taxes, either.” WA #161, Jan. 10, 1926

 “Merry Christmas, my constant readers, both of you… Men, act surprised this morning as if you didn’t know the tie was coming.”  DT #121, Dec. 24, 1926

 “Generally speaking, we do have good cheer in our hearts on Christmas. ‘Course, we can’t hardly wait till the day is over and to get back to our devilment again.” DT # 1379, Dec. 24, 1930

A better plan for Social Security contributions

Dec. 12, 2010

COLUMBUS: The tax deal between the President and the Republicans would leave income taxes where they are, but workers who pay into Social Security will end up with a 2% raise for a year. That may be the only raise they get, so it’ll be appreciated. But the problem is, that means Social Security will go broke sooner.

A better plan would be to eliminate ALL employee contributions to Social Security for a year. But in return, everybody would have to wait a year later to start drawing out their SS checks. The workers won’t complain because they get the money . They can spend it, like the Democrats want them to, or invest it as the Republicans prefer. They’re gonna raise the age anyway, why not do it at once and get it over with.

President Obama had President Clinton join him for a news conference. That went over so well, don’t be surprised if the next one, he’ll invite President Bush. Can you imagine the questions the White House press corps would fire at him? Are Sam Donaldson and Helen Thomas still around?

The President’s supporters are howling that he’s being too easy on the Republicans, giving in on taxes for the rich and estate taxes. Well, all he has to do is point to the election results. A bunch of these folks have been asleep since the election, and most of them were asleep during it. If they had all voted Nov. 2 Obama wouldn’t be in this predicament.

Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve fired up the old printing press. He got tired of waiting for the rest of us to spend some of the money we have stashed in the cookie jar. So he’ll run off $600,000,000 in new bills and spread them around the country. I know that Mr. Bernanke is a smart man, but it has me puzzled how this differs from your local counterfeiter. Either way, if the Xerox is working perfectly, these fresh bills spend the same as the real ones you’ve been hoarding. And the ones you’re been hoarding won’t buy as much as they used to.

John Boehner says that he’ll cut the budget for Congress by 5%. Makes you wonder why the whole federal government can’t do the same thing. At least it’s a start.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

 “Congress put a tax as high as 72% on some incomes. Of course for a man to give up three million out of four is tough; but, on the other hand, 90 percent of our people would be willing to give up 99 percent of a million if allowed to make one… The crime of taxation is not in the taking it, it’s in the way that it’s spent.” DT #1764, March 20, 1932

(On inflation) “There’s two different schools of thought in this country on the value of money.  People who have money are against the printing press.  They’re against printing any more money.  And people that haven’t got any are in favor of it, you see?  That’s the two schools.  Both of them, mind you, are equally honest.  It’s awful hard to reconcile two views like that.  The only way I see for folks to ever view the money question alike is for everybody not to have any.  Then they’ll all look at it the same way; or go the other way and let everybody have some, and then they’ll all look at it the same way.  But if nobody’s got any, the old printing press will look pretty good. But if everybody’s got some, in the ash can goes the printing press.” Radio, May 26, 1935

End of Prohibition could balance budget, and more

Dec. 5, 2010

COLUMBUS: Here’s good news from Washington tonight on WikiLeaks. President Obama has ordered all Federal employees without a security clearance to “avoid reading any classified documents from WikiLeaks.” Six billion other people have read them, but for government workers they are off limits.

I want to assure our federal workers that nothing in this column is classified. You’re free to keep on reading. It is pure coincidence if any of my disparaging or humorous remarks about a foreign dignitary sound like they were uttered by an Ambassador.

On this day 77 years ago, Prohibition ended. The 21st Amendment wiped out the 18th Amendment but it had little effect on the amount that was drunk. After fourteen years, Americans could once again “have a sociable drink without watching the door.”

This got me thinking about other things we Prohibit. What if we took off the prohibition of marijuana? I ain’t in favor of it, but imagine how it could turn out. California held a vote to legalize it November 2, but it failed because too many proponents started celebrating early and totally missed the election. If California farmers started growing thousands of acres of it like they do alfalfa and other crops, they could make a good living selling it for $200 a ton. California could tax it a dollar an ounce and balance the state budget.

The big city legislators would be overjoyed and vote to give the farmers all the irrigation water they need.  Minnows be damned. All those tunnels under the Mexican border would come in handy to ship it the other way.

We export 80 percent of the cotton we grow and if we took over the world market in marijuana we could wipe out the trade deficit. If we expanded this idea to include Opium poppies, why it might even stop a war. Afghanistan poppy growers couldn’t compete with American farmers, and without those profits the Taliban is out of business.

Of course, this is foolishness. But no more foolish than some of the blabber coming out of Congress on why they can’t pass an income tax bill, an appropriations bill or an estate tax bill.

Oregon and Auburn finished undefeated and will play for the football championship. TCU was also unbeaten but they’ll have to be content trying to knock off Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Our system of deciding a football champion may have its defects and flaws, but at least we won’t make them fight it out in 120 degree heat in Qatar.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

“(Here’s) what is happening to the youth of this country through drugs. Talk about our crime waves, it’s nothing but Heroin. They have got to rob to supply the dope. Talk about profit. Opium from the time a certain amount leaves its original owner until it is split up into all its various ingredients and passes through all the hundreds of hands, increases in value nine thousand times. Talk about bootlegging and doubling your money.” WA #242, Aug. 14, 1927