I Have a Gripe

February 27, 2010

Asbury Park and Eminent Domain

Filed under: Economy,government,Laws,New Jersey — alvb1227 @ 3:58 pm

Awhile back I saw a documentary about senior citizens being kicked out of their homes in Asbury Park under eminent domain. As I watched the story of Angie, a woman who has lived in Asbury Park for decades, my heart broke. As one neighbor’s home after another are bulldozed around Angie’s home, she continued to fight.

Asbury Park Tillie

Another Asbury Park landmark, Tillie, from the Palace Amusements building in Asbury Park.

I often think about Angie and her neighbors and the constitutionality of eminent domain. In the early 1990’s, there was another redevelopment plan in Asbury Park, but the developer filed bankruptcy and the unfinished Ocean One condo complex stands as a reminder of the past failures of this once great seaside resort.

While I can appreciate the ongoing efforts to restore Asbury Park, I have to question the constitutionality of this controversial law that gives the government the right to size private property as long as “fair compensation” is paid. I wonder if the government thinks this would be an easy kill because approximately 30 percent of the residents live below the poverty line and more than likely cannot afford to hire attorneys to go up against the millions available to the developers.

And what would happen to the fabled Stone Pony where Jersey resident Bruce Springsteen went from local musician to to legend.  From what I have read, there has been an offer to relocate the club, but in my opinion, it just wouldn’t be the same.

I don’t know what has become of Angie’s fight, but I hope she and her neighbors continue to work to keep their homes.

February 25, 2010

My Health Care Summit Review

Well, my eye hasn’t stopped twitching yet, but I want to get this down while my thoughts were fresh. I spent a large portion of the day watching and listening to the health care summit and wanted to provide my two cents, since Washington had their say. Last I checked, it is our opinions that count much more than the opinions of those in Washington.

I believe some type of reform is needed. However, I disagree with the direction this process is taking. So, as I give my review of today’s proceeding, I am going to provide my suggestions on what I think should be done.

First off, I hate the term “entitlement.” No one is “entitled” to anything. You work for what you get. Is life fair? Absolutely not. There are people we all know that we think, “man, they’ve got it easy,” regardless of whatever situation they may have. However, in this life, you pretty much pay your own way. For someone to think they are entitled to something is offensive and ludicrous. Despite what many parents are teaching their kids, not everyone is a winner.

Do I want everyone to have access to health care? Definitely. Should I have to pay for it? Absolutely not.  If someone is in a low-income situation, then they should be able to purchase a health care plan on a sliding scale. If someone doesn’t have a vested interest, which yes includes a financial interest, then they have no incentive to take an active role in anything, including their health care.

I believe that people should be allowed to purchase health care on their own across state lines in an effort to foster competition. Just like I can purchase car insurance from anywhere, I should be able to buy health insurance from anywhere.

I believe in tort reform. Period. There are a lot of legitimate medical malpractice occurrences and those doctors should be punished and that individual should receive financial support to help with ongoing medical costs related to the medical mistake they suffered. However, there are a lot of frivolous lawsuits which cause doctors to order more tests to make sure they are completely covered. Perhaps a rotating board of doctors, private citizens, attorneys, and insurance representatives should review “questionable” or “borderline” lawsuits to see if they warrant moving forward. Maybe if a lawsuit that goes through the legal system that is ultimately considered frivolous, the attorney should be forced to pay all related court costs in an effort to make ambulance-chasing attorneys think twice before taking a case that isn’t warranted.

I have to say I didn’t like the tone most of the time. I found it to be contemptuous, disrespectful and at times downright rude. The exchange between the President and Senator McCain was shameful. I often wonder if the President honestly knows that he got the job and isn’t campaigning anymore. By the way, you should look at whomever is speaking with you. Don’t talk “at” or “over” each other just because you don’t like what is being said. These are things we are taught in kindergarten. Some of these lawmakers need to be reminded of these simple courtesies.

As different people spoke, many channels put up graphics about who they were, the state they represent and when they were elected. I saw dates like 1950, 1970 and so on. Why are these people still there? I really think there should be term limits in Congress, but that’s a post for another day.

I agree we need more primary care physicians. They should be the coordinator of one’s health care. Due to the amount of loans many young doctors graduate with, however, many choose to go into lucrative specialties. If the federal government wants to “throw money at the problem,” how about providing loan payback assistance for doctors who become primary care physicians and serve their local communities? By developing long-term relationships with their primary care doctors, ultimately people will be healthier because they won’t wait until a serious problem occurs to seek medical assistance.

I found something Congressman Rangel said very interesting. He said “for many of us, this will be our last year here.” I found this to be very telling. Are they worried about their constituents or their political future? As I sent email messages two my two Senators and Representative, we are all watching what they do, how they vote and there will be consequences for their actions if they do not do what we voted them in to office to do instead of what is politically expedient.

I did not care for the President’s closing remarks. Personally, I often find they way he speaks to be similar to the way a mother lectures a four-year-old. When he “put it in terms people can understand” and used a credit card analogy, I took that to mean he thinks the majority of Americans are too stupid to understand this issue. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have found the American people to be extremely well informed on this issue, very articulate regarding what they oppose and why they oppose it and (unlike most of Congress) have actually read the proposed legislation and ask intelligent questions.

I truly hope this wasn’t just political theater and something useful will come of it. Unfortunately, my cynicism tells me this was another waste of time and the backroom deals will continue. We’ll just all have to continue to watch and see.

Teachers and “Their Kids”

Filed under: Education — alvb1227 @ 2:21 am

“Those who can do; those who can’t teach.”

“What are the best parts of being a teacher? June, July and August.”

“My taxes pay your salary.”

We’ve all heard these sayings and maybe some of you have said them. In many ways, teachers are like fire fighters and police officers. People complain that their unions are too strong, that their benefits are too good and they are allowed to retire too young and become a burden on a state’s budget. However, when an emergency comes into play (like 9-11 or Columbine), these people are quick to jump into action without even thinking of their own safety.

Not far from from Columbine today, a math teacher quickly jumped into action when someone opened fire at the middle school where David Benke teaches. Due to his quick actions, only two students were injured and no one was killed. As we all know, this could have turned out much worse.

Most teachers provide their own school supplies, take the extra time to help the struggling student and often times teach to very overcrowded classrooms.

We have all been inspired by teachers along the way. If you think for a moment, I am sure you can think of one of two teachers (if not more) that really made an impact on you in your youth.

Are their poor teachers? Yes. Just like in any career choice, there are those who go above and beyond and there are a few that bring shame to those who go in everyday and exceed expectations. Many teachers refer to their students as “their kids.” They remember them through their entire career. Like I said in the beginning, being a teacher is like an officer or fire fighter. It isn’t just a job or career. It is their identity and life force.

So next time you or someone around you may have something to say about what you think a teacher isn’t doing right, remember their dedication both in the responsibility they have and to “their kids.”

February 20, 2010

Hold That Tongue, Tiger

Filed under: Celebrity,General Annoyances — alvb1227 @ 3:41 am
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OK, I am annoyed that I am even wasting my time with this, but like the blog says, “I have a gripe…”

Today Tiger Woods gave an apology/press conference regarding his numerous affairs. I did not see it, nor did I care to. In my opinion, this is a personal matter that should stay just that…personal. Yes, he has endorsements and is a celebrity, but I think we as a society on the whole is entirely too focused on celebrity. If he needs to make amends with his endorsement companies, then it is up to him to handle it with those companies.

When every major news show leads with this story and spends four or five minutes out of a 30 minute news show on this story, there is something seriously wrong. Does anyone know that the U.S. was working with the members of the U.N. Security Council on hard sanctions for Iran today? What about the interest rate increase? Not much time was devoted to those stories, that are far more important, in my opinion.

So I say to those who are overly-concerned with this whole Tiger mess, I say think about how important this really is in the grand scheme of life.

February 15, 2010

Sledding, Safety and Stupid Lawsuits

Filed under: General Annoyances,Laws — alvb1227 @ 10:51 pm
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As the country is deep into winter and New Jersey continues to get snowstorm after snowstorm, kids of all ages think of one fun event…sledding!

However, if you are in Montville, your sledding options have decreased after the town’s insurance carrier advised that sledding be banned on the hill at Camp Dawson – a favorite place for decades.

Why you may ask? Apparently a few injuries have occurred at the hill over the last few years with one ending in a $25,000 settlement after a young girl collided with a frozen hay bale while sledding and injuring her leg. This was the final straw that caused the town to shut down the hill and outlaw anyone sledding there.

I’m sorry, but this is downright stupid. Kids play, kids get hurt. Period. We all had our share of bumps and bruises growing up, but our parents told us to “shake it off” and didn’t look to blame others. If the parents were really going to make a stink about this, what about them not potentially watching their child? Maybe DYFUS should be called for possible neglect? Sounds ridiculous, right? Just as ridiculous as the parents suing perhaps?

We are now living in such a child-stile world and overly-litigious society that kids don’t know how to handle getting hurt, standing up for themselves or even failing a test. Every child isn’t “the best” and they need to learn that everyone falls down and everyone needs to get back up again, shake it off and press on. Maybe that sounds cold, but that’s the way life works.

The fact that this lawsuit even made it as far as the lawsuit and settlement phase is ridiculous. This is a perfect example of frivolous lawsuits jamming our courts and parents looking for money. So when my cousin did an “Evil Kenevil” impersonation by going off a ramp made from a garbage can, should my Aunt have sued the garbage can manufacturer? The same stupidity applies to this lawsuit. I even remember as a child sledding down a well-known hill in Branch Brook Park in Belleville and flying head-first into some car’s hubcap. Did my parents rush over, carry me back to the car and call the police to file a complaint? Hardly. They waited for me to get up, get my bearings and drag my sled back up the hill. I think I even have it on old 8mm film.

I hope that those who live in the neighborhood and know who these parents are and let them know how their greed ruined a fun place for generations past and generations to come.

February 10, 2010

The Patriotic Retirement Plan

A friend sent me this email recently and I wanted to share with everyone. Recently, the St. Petersburg Florida Times Business Section asked their readers to send in ideas as to how they would fix the economic issues we are facing here in the United States. They received many very intelligent ideas, but this one caught the attention of many and became one of those chain email messages. While somewhat simplistic in nature, it does make a lot of sense.

Just another example that common sense thinking trumps those in Washington every time!

Dear Mr. President,

Please find below my suggestion for fixing America ‘s economy. Instead of giving billions of dollars to companies that will squander the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan. You can call it the “Patriotic Retirement Plan”:

There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force. Pay them $1 million apiece severance for early retirement with the following stipulations:

1) They MUST retire. Forty million job openings – Unemployment fixed.
2) They MUST buy a new American CAR. Forty million cars ordered – Auto Industry fixed.
3) They MUST either buy a house or pay off their mortgage – Housing Crisis fixed.

It can’t get any easier than that!!

P.S. If more money is needed, have all members in Congress pay their taxes.

Mr. President, while you’re at it, make Congress retire on Social Security and Medicare. I’ll bet both programs would be fixed pronto!

February 7, 2010

The Price of Fame

Filed under: Finances,General Annoyances — alvb1227 @ 9:13 pm
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As the majority of the U.S. stops today for an “unofficial holiday” called the Super Bowl, one must stop and wonder what are these players really worth.

Peyton Manning has one year left on his contract and speculation is already starting about what his extension will be worth. A signing bonus of $50 million? A possible $22 million per year? Really? And that doesn’t count any endorsements he may have.

Now I’m not one to say we should limit anyone’s potential to earn a living, however isn’t this a little excessive? This is a big part of why the average fan can’t afford to attend a game. I watched on the news as senior citizens who have had Giants or Jets season tickets for decades are forced to give them up because in addition to the cost of the tickets for the games, there is now a “Personal Seat License” (PSL) with a price tag in the multiple thousands. This is why you see men in suits and ties at games sitting in corporate-owned seats instead of a father taking a son to his first football or baseball game.

And then there is the regularly reported embarrassing behavior of some of these players. Whether they like it or not, they are role models. Yet we hear over and over again about players getting arrested for weapons possession, domestic violence and more. We were all sickened by Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring, yet in his first year of eligibility, he’s snatched up by Philadelphia. Obviously, there are a lot of players who lead decent lives, work to give back something to their communities and stay under the radar of poor personal behavior.

I say the heroes and role models are the people we meet every day. The fire fighters, police officers and teachers. Those that are in the military putting their lives on the line keeping our country safe. The parents who work multiple jobs and sacrifice day after day so their children can have a better life than them.

Sports reporters talk about “the pressure” of the game. What about the pressure of going to a job you hate every day making way less than you should? So I ask while you watch the game today, remember who the real heroes and role models are and what they should be earning versus a guy who throws a ball.

February 6, 2010

A Tax Reminder for Both State and Federal Governments

A recent study done by the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College has found that between 2004 and 2008, wealthy households left the Garden State at an alarming rate. The study was reported on this week on NJ.com.

New Jersey lost $70 billion during the studied time period. Where did they go? States with more favorable tax laws like Florida and Pennsylvania. The bigger issue is that the wealth is not being replaced.

Between 1999 and 2004 there was a huge influx of wealth into New Jersey of $98 billion. So why the mass exodus? Economists concluded that the issue is directly related to the changes to the tax structure in the state, which included increases in property taxes, sales tax, income tax and the so-called “millionaire’s tax.”

Many will say this is just greedy rich people not wanting to pay their fair share. Well, I completely disagree. What was happening was a pure redistribution of wealth. What governments either fail to see or refuse to realize is that the wealthy people are generally the ones that own companies, create jobs and hire people for those jobs. By unfairly taxing the wealthy, the government has put the entire future of New Jersey in jeopardy.

These findings reinforce an earlier study conducted at Rutgers by Jim Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and fellow Rutgers professor Joseph Seneca. According to Hughes, the top one percent of New Jersey’s residents pay more than 40 percent of the taxes.

So why should other states and the federal government care about this study? Well, they should consider this a shot across the bow that people are sick of being overtaxed. The government needs to stay out of people’s lives and eliminate the nanny state they have created. I think the IRS should be put out of business and everyone should move to a flat tax model (one the main reasons I supported Mike Huckabee for President and Steve Lonegan for Governor).

Why will people want to be successful and entrepreneurial if all that will happen is they get stuck paying a bigger and bigger tax bill? This is what my husband so aptly refers to as the “sea of mediocrity,” which is exactly what this country was not founded on and certainly doesn’t need now. We need people willing to strive for success. Instead of the government demonizing these people, they should be working to help them succeed.

So be warned state and federal governments. Don’t make the same mistakes the state I love has made.

February 2, 2010

The Budget, the Deficit and Monopoly Money

Filed under: Uncategorized — alvb1227 @ 3:01 am

By the time I got home tonight, my eye was twitching again. Why you might ask? The latest proposal to come from the White House…the 2011 budget.

President Obama is proposing a mixed bag budget totaling $3.8 trillion dollars. Now, I do agree with the President that the tax payer’s money shouldn’t be spent like “Monopoly money,” but this proposed budget will increase the deficit by $1.56 trillion. Depending on how the budget evens out, and who you believe, this will result in 10% – 25% of our  GDP will be deficit. Most economists are saying the GDP related to the deficit will be approximately 10.6%. Those same economists say anything above 3% is unsustainable. The President says it will result in approximately 3% of the deficit related to the GDP and will more than likely stay that way for the foreseeable future. If this continues, we will wind up becoming part of China, since they own a large amount of our debt. A perfect example is what is going on with the Taiwan arms sale. Anyone see the issue here?

Now, I’m the first one to admit that I am far from a math scholar, but I don’t understand how you can increase the budget and the deficit and lower the GDP related to the deficit. The White House is talking about making “hard choices,” like the nine million that were cut from the Parks Service. Meanwhile, they boast the biggest budget ever for the EPA, most of which is related to clean energy technologies.

Now this is where I really get annoyed. The President wants to develop a deficit panel to establish a hard plan to control and ultimately reduce the deficit. Republicans rebuffed this idea. When President Bush suggested the same idea, the Democrats rebuffed. I ask…why? This is where I say the President doesn’t need to lecture us like four-year-olds during the State of the Union, but we should be lecturing those in Washington. Why was this idea OK with one side, but not the other and now the same idea reversed?

In my opinion, this is where egos and political parties should be checked at the door. Our Representatives in Washington are supposed to represent all of us, not their party. I am a registered Republican, which is no great secret, and I want to smack them all upside the head like an Italian grandmother would and tell them to wake up! This includes Bob Beckel and Sean Hannity, who I am watching at the moment. Normally I like listening to you two spar because you have thought-provoking, informed opinions. I hate this “well, they did this” and “well when your party was in power, blah, blah, blah.” This back and forth exemplifies exactly what is wrong with Washington.

Didn’t the President just talk about PAYGO (pay as you go) during the State of the Union last week? If the American public can’t pay bills with Monopoly money, neither should the federal government.

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