I Have a Gripe

February 22, 2011

The American Labor Movement – A Brief History

All that seems to be on television lately is the “war against the unions” and how they are bankrupting our country. I thought I would take a moment to remind everyone about what unions have done in the past and continue to do now.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have several family members who are in a union. I am not and was actually turned down for the typographer’s union after graduating college because I wasn’t a “traditional typographer.” I believe the unions have done and continue to do a lot of good, however, at the same time, they have not kept up with the times. My rejection is a perfect example.

The first labor law to protect working children was first put into law in Massachusetts in 1836. Massachusetts’ chief justice, Lemuel Shaw ruled in 1842 that a strike for a closed shop was legal. By 1886, the Knights of Labor was a champion for the unskilled laborer and encouraged and fought for its African-American membership.

Since then, unions have fought for safe working conditions, the eight-hour working day, supported equal rights and equal pay in the workplace for minorities and women, a minimum wage, healthcare and more. The concept of the “weekend” is because of unions. The entire country celebrates “Labor Day.” Whether or not you participate in, or agree with, the union and labor movement, you have benefited from it.

That is what they have done right. Unfortunately, there are plenty of things they have done wrong. I don’t believe that a majority of dues should pay for supporting political candidates. They have not kept up with the times in areas of education and training, technology, accepting membership from technology-based changes in the industry (like me) and of course, contributions to healthcare and pensions.

What is going on in Wisconsin, Ohio and my beloved New Jersey is shameful. I would think most reasonable people understand they have to contribute more to their pensions and healthcare benefits. It is disingenuous, however, to expect unions to give up collective bargaining or make a union member make a huge jump in contributions in one year when so many families are already hitting tough times and barely hanging on.

These Governors don’t understand that their hateful comments about “union management” ultimately hurt those who actually do the work every day. I guarantee, this is the new class warfare.

So both sides are right…and wrong. All this back and forth isn’t helping anyone. To quote my Grandmother: “fight nice children.”

February 16, 2011

My Perspective on the Budget

So the President released his budget plan this week and of course the GOP has their own plans. Of course, this lead me to want to jot down my thoughts on how to handle the budget.

Now first and foremost, I am far from a financial genius. I do, however, have a brain and on occasion, have been known to use common sense. To me, this is a common sense approach to spending.

First, can someone explain why the budget is still printed…on paper and ink? Anyone ever hear of a secure sharepoint? They definitely need to look at Congressional/Presidential printing. I would think that could save a nice chunk of change.

Next, look at all the places around the world where we have military bases. Do we really need all these different bases? Close some of those bases and reassign those troops stateside. That would both save money and bring home our wonderful military so we aren’t spread so thin.

Third, address illegal immigration. Now, before you go off the deep end on me, hear me out. Illegal immigration goes beyond an immigration policy or national security. It sucks up valuable resources, such as public education, ER care and other social resources. This all costs money. If we get our act together by resolving our illegal immigration policy, it will solve multiple problems at once.

Now, let’s address Congress. First, they should stop automatic pay increases. Whether or not they vote on the increase, they get it. Additionally, in order for Congress and the President to get what we “common folk” have been dealing with, they should each take a five percent paycut. Additionally, everyone is complaining about public employees, their benefits and other so-called perks. In order for a member of Congress to be vested FOR LIFE, they must serve for five years. New Jersey teachers must teach for 25 consecutive years to be vested. How about some outrage on that? Five years? Seriously? Also, upon retirement, they receive 80 percent of their salary as a pension. For starters, drop it to 70 percent. Finally, they should contribute three percent annually to their healthcare coverage both while in Congress and when they “retire.”

Moving on to the Department of Education. Cut it out completely. It isn’t needed and all it does it use its funding to stick its nose into local affairs. It just makes things more complicated.

Next up, Social Security. Let’s face it, more people my age believe that Area 51 exists than they believe that they will get what they have paid into Social Security. And to be clear, Social Security, like unemployment, is not an entitlement. An entitlement is a gift from the government. Welfare and Medicaid are entitlements. Our taxes go to social security, therefore, it is not an entitlement. The President should follow the recommendation from his debt own commission and raise the retirement age. Additionally, you should be allowed to “opt out” of Social Security. I would rather have that money in my check and decide how to invest it than leave it to the government.

Finally, move to a flat tax system. This way there are no loopholes, everyone pays in, regardless of their income level and has a vested interest in what happens to our nation. Currently, two percent of the wealthiest individuals pay over 40 percent of the taxes and will never use any of the services they support. Everyone, regardless of income level, should pay taxes. Otherwise, it is just a handout, which prevents people from feeling the pride of providing for their well-being. Additionally, just think of how many jobs could be cut. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see a smaller IRS?

Well, that’s where I would start. I think these cuts would provide a solid start in getting federal spending on a real cost-cutting plan.

What would you do?

November 11, 2010

The Debt Commission Proposal and Common Sense

This week the Debt Commission released its preliminary findings and suggestions and as many said, there’s something in it to offend just about everyone. I am one of those people.

As usual, this proposal hits a disproportionate population. The top earners in this country already pay close to 40 percent of the taxes. This hits them even harder. The Commission also calls to eliminate several tax deductions the middle class utilizes regularly, such as the mortgage interest deduction and the child deduction. They have also proposed a 15 cent increase on the gas tax. They are claiming that this is not their complete findings, but a way to start a conversation.

This hits the middle class hard. Unless you live in a major metro area like New York City, you have to drive to work. While the mortgage interest deduction isn’t huge, it is a nice incentive to those who purchase a home. The so-called rich already pay a ridiculous amount of taxes and they are more often than not the small business owners who work to grow their businesses and create jobs. Additionally, while they pay into social programs the most, the large majority will never utilize the programs they fund.

I still say people are overlooking some key points. First, we need to go back to some core principals. Should the federal government really be providing healthcare, a retirement fun (i.e, Social Security) and other social programs? I say no. For example, if Social Security is cut, that can put a substantial amount of money back in people’s pockets, which they will have the option to put back into the market through product purchases, save for a down payment on a home or save in their own retirement fund.

When it comes to healthcare, we should absolutely provide whatever care our vets need. Period. However, Medicare and Medicaid should be eliminated over the long-term so as to not jar our current elderly that rely on those programs. Instead, how about allowing individuals to purchase health insurance over state lines in order to find the most competitive price? This allows the free market to be more competitive so individuals can shop and compare to find what they need.

There needs to be a limit to what social assistance individuals receive. We have all  heard of families on Welfare for generations and the current idea being floated around Washington to have open-ended unemployment. I believe this nation should provide a hand-up, not a hand-out. Give people the tools to learn a skill, get a job and take pride in themselves by becoming a contributing member of society, and ultimately pay taxes to help sustain the nation.

I also believe illegal aliens are sucking up a huge amount of local, state and federal resources. From having to educate illegal children to  employers not checking identification to ensure they are hiring legal Americans. There should be stiff penalties for companies who hire illegal aliens and we need a tougher immigration policy. This directly affects the size of different programs and the costs associated with them.

I also think we should consider going back to the gold standard. Prior to the gold standard, we had no debt. It forced the government to live within their means and set a budget. Just like families all over America. There were times in the past it was suspended, such as during the Civil War, but it was reinstated.

Finally, I still say we should go to the Flat Tax (also called the Fair Tax by some). This makes sure everyone plays an active role in keeping our government moving forward. Currently, close to 50 percent of Americans do not pay income taxes of any kind. They have no personal stake in the federal government. I find this completely unacceptable. This would eliminate the IRS, saving millions upon millions while taking in more taxes from the population. According to individuals like Tim Geithner and Charles Wrangel who have claimed ignorance due to the complicated tax code. Why not simplify that code by using the Flat Tax? Problem solved.

Now I am hardly a financial scholar, but I think we as a nation are making a huge push to find common sense solutions to these seemingly complicated problems. Sometimes the answers are right in front of us if we have the intestinal fortitude to take the step and develop them into real solutions.

November 3, 2010

2010 Election Wrap-Up

Well, the 2010 elections are thankfully over. Robo calls will stop invading our homes and those ridiculous commercials will finally go away. However, before everyone starts to look at the 2012 election, I thought I would do a “wrap-up” of the elections that took place yesterday…of course in my own personal opinion.

The Good…
First off, I am thrilled that Nancy Pelosi will no longer be holding the gavel. I’m sorry, when I look in her eyes, you can just hear the Loony Tunes theme. She is seriously a few fries short of a happy meal. I think Ohio Rep. John Boehner will do a good job, as it is presumed he will be the Speaker of the House, but as I am sure all those who were elected last night, he needs to proceed with caution and know that all of America will be watching.

I am personally very pleased that my Representative, Rodney Frelinghuysen defeated his two opponents to claim a ninth consecutive term in the 11th Congressional District. While he is an incumbent, I believe he has done an admirable job representing his constituents. No matter who I have ever asked about his, regardless of party affiliation, they all say the same thing about Rep. Frelinghuysen; he works incredibly hard to represent his district and makes sure he says in touch with everyone who takes the time to write, call or email.

I can’t believe this had to even be a question on the ballot, but only in NJ. New Jersey voters approved a ballot measure to prohibit the state from diverting money from its unemployment-benefits fund, after governors and lawmakers took $4.6 billion from it between 1992 and 2006 to plug budget gaps. So basically, they are now forced to follow the law. Imagine that.

In the governor’s races, I would like to congratulate Rep. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, a Republican, who has become the state’s first female governor as well as Tea Party-backed South Carolina Republican, state Rep. Nikki Haley, who was elected to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, also her state’s first female governor. I am also very pleased that Republican Jon Kasich, a former chairman of the House Budget Committee, defeated Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. I think these are great choices for their respective states that will help begin to move their states forward.

I am also very happy to see that Marco Rubio won in Florida. In my opinion, he truly represents “the American dream.” He started from meager beginnings, the son of immigrants who fled Cuba. He never forgot his roots, which to me, is incredibly important. I would definitely keep an eye on this guy. He is bound to do great things for our country.

The Bad and the Ugly…

First off, I can’t believe Senator Reid from Nevada, Representative Rangel from Harlem and Rep. Barney Frank of the fourth district of Massachusetts  won back their seats. I have to tell you, if those districts and states continue to go down in a giant ball of flames, I have absolutely no sympathy for their constituency. They get what they deserve.

I really don’t see Jerry Brown doing a lot for California to help pull them out of the rut they are in. I hope I am wrong, but I am sadly, not very hopeful. I am equally disappointed that Barbara “Call me Senator” Boxer was re-elected. This woman is incredibly smug and way too liberal for my tastes.

Speaking of California, I have to say I am sorry they voted down Prop 19. Now, for the record, I am not this major pot-head some believe, but let’s face it, one of the real reasons marijuana is illegal is because William Randolph Hearst owned major forests and wanted to make sure they were used for paper manufacturing. For those who use pot, if it is taxed and controlled like a business, it would generate funds for California, which are definitely needed, and the marijuana would be of higher quality because it would be grown in a controlled manner, thus avoiding potential purity issues. I hope they give this another try in the future.

It is About “We the People…”

Ultimately, I hope those who were elected to office last night remember one thing; it is about “we the people,” and not “we the politicians.” I am reminded of a scene in an 80’s Goldie Hawn movie “Protocol.” We will be watching you all…like a hawk.

October 30, 2010

Should the President Stump for Fellow Dems?

So, here I am watching President Obama stumping for Dick Blumenthal in Connecticut. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and I would love to hear from my readership on this thought.

I know that both parties have sent the President and/or First Lady to stump for their fellow party members during a campaign. However, should they be doing that? Let’s face it, it isn’t cheap for the President to fly around and when he goes anywhere, it is on the taxpayer’s dime, not the party or the candidate. The same should go for the First Lady. We pay for her travel as well.

The President is supposed to represent all Americans, not just those in his party. Therefore, I really believe once he gets into office, he shouldn’t be allowed to stump. Regardless of party. Period. When the President partakes in partisan rhetoric, he only represents those in his party and potentially alienates the rest of the nation.

So, am I being overly-sensitive? I would love to hear the thoughts of my readers.

April 23, 2010

Another Example…It Isn’t the Teachers

Filed under: Education,New Jersey — alvb1227 @ 3:51 pm
Tags: ,

Just reported on NorthJersey.com, the executive director of the B J Wilkerson Memorial Child Development Center received a salary of more than $300,000. Most of the funds for the center are from the government.

Ron Williams first began the center in 1991 and claims he received no salary the first three years of the center’s existence. Even so, with all the proposed cuts in New Jersey education, is this a realistic salary? In comparison, City Schools Superintendent Donnie W. Evans makes just over $200,000 a year to run an entire school district.

According to research by NorthJersey.com, the most recent tax filing for the B.J. Wilkerson Memorial Child Development Center show that more than $4.2 million of the organization’s $4.3 million in revenues in 2008 came from government funds. The center raised the remainder through school tuition and donations.

Now, many complain about high salaries for educators, but I believe the majority of the money is sucked up by administration and NOT school teachers. I certainly do not begrudge anyone for making a competitive, or even lucrative, salary, however, when there is such animosity right now against teachers, I think people often lump teachers and educators together and that is completely wrong.

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 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.

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