I Have a Gripe

August 6, 2011

POTUS, Congress and the S&P

It was announced last night after the markets closed that the S&P downgraded America’s “AAA” rating to “AA+,” claiming a variety of issues, including the political tone in D.C. and lack of specific plans to reduce the nation’s debt, to name a few. There was push back from the Obama administration, citing a potential “math mistake” in S&P’s calculations, however, the rating agency still moved ahead with the downgrade.

Now, in my opinion, there is plenty of blame to go around. You have the Congress, which is about as organized as a kindergarten class; you have our “Deflector in Chief,” who is the champ when it comes to blaming and delegating to everyone else; and finally, you have the S&P, who didn’t see the recent recession coming and thought all the questionable mortgages that got us in trouble was a great idea.

Here’s the best part of the whole mess – China took full advantage of this opportunity to lecture us on how we manage our bills. We are borrowing from our enemies and giving money to countries that hate us. Does anyone else see an issue with this?

What we should really do is take a hard look at where our funds are going and make a conscious decision to help our citizens FIRST. We also really need to look at the tax code and both really have everyone “pay their fair share,” to steal a phrase from our President. Right now, 51 percent of all citizens do not pay income taxes of any kind. So, our country is expecting 49 percent of the citizens to carry the load for everyone. This is an impossible task. By moving to a flax tax, everyone is truly part of the solution.

We also need to really address and develop a real immigration policy. Illegal immigration is a huge suck on the economy that is unnecessary.

So, where is everyone right now who should be handling this issue? Well, President Obama is at Camp David and Congress is on summer break. Awesome. Here’s an idea – how about you all come back to work, check your egos at the door and do your job!

July 15, 2011

The National Debt and Common Sense Solutions

OK, it is time for all the boys in D.C. to put their big boy pants on and use the common sense God gave them to resolve this budget issue. I have some suggestions; some are easy, some may take a bit of a spine, but they ultimately make sense.

First the easy ones…

The politicians keep talking about not being able to “cut checks.” I realized that they aren’t just using this figuratively. They are LITERALLY cutting checks! Who still does this? Transition over payments like Social Security and the like over to direct deposit.  How much could that save just in paper, printing and postage? If someone insists on getting a physical check, charge a $10 fee.

I mentioned previously about using technologies like secure Sharepoint instead of (again) wasteful spending, such as printing out the budget.

Now some tougher, but still common sense solutions…

First, MOVE TO THE FLAT TAX. Approximately 45% of the American population do not pay any taxes. That same 45% also utilize the largest majority of government resources. Everyone should pay something in taxes. While we are a very compassionate country, we need to switch from giving a handout to giving a hand up. By simply handing out money and/or services without actually helping to acquire something, those individuals are doomed to staying on the bread line. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Social Security needs help…a LOT of help. If you are under the age of 40, you should have the opportunity to opt out. Additionally, if you are under the age of 40, raise the retirement age to 67. When you reach your retirement age, you should get only what you pay into Social Security. If you didn’t work or pay into the system, then you get nothing. Period.

Take a hard look at “pet projects” to see which are working and which are not. Every project has its own set of fans, so some will be tougher to cut than others, but again, people must start to use the common sense God gave them.

Again, these are just a few places to start. Look at some of my other national debt common sense solutions to learn more.

What would you do?

April 23, 2011

The Truth About Property Taxes

Let’s face it, paying taxes is far from fun. It is, however, a necessary evil. This money goes to various local, county, state and federal needs and programs to help make sure roads are plowed, police are a moment’s notice away, and children are educated.

Now, we all have programs we want to see supported and ones we want to see cut. For example, I often hear people complain about how the majority of collected property taxes go to support the local school district when they do not have a child in school. There is something important to remember about this potential sticky point. The value of your home is in direct correlation with the quality of the local public education system.

Think back to when you were purchasing your home, what was one of the first questions you asked the agent? “How are the schools here?” Even when you are taken to a property by a real estate agent, they often start off with information related to the school system. They will even steer you away from certain towns because their school system may not be considered “of high quality.” Whether someone has a child or not, the answer to that question will definitely affect real estate buying habits.

Generally speaking, those who complain the most about their property taxes are the elderly and those without children. What the elderly forget is that when their children were going through school, someone else who didn’t have children in school was flipping the same bill. Maybe they forgot that little point. Others who do not have children are also paying towards that same school budget, which will help keep the value of their home up.

Now before you get a knot in your shorts…yes, there are certainly areas where money is wasted in the public schools and yes, as tax paying citizens it is our responsibility to understand what our tax burden is and how it is spent.

Why am I blogging about this? Well, if you live in New Jersey, like me, you know how high the property taxes can be. Due to the high tax burden in this state, many are moving away and some businesses have left for other states with a smaller tax burden. Add to that the current negative opinions of “those greedy, lazy teachers” and their union, there are many on a witch hunt to further vilify the connection between public education and property taxes.

Some also complain that their property taxes are too high. Well, that may be true, however, it is important to remember every home will be assessed differently. Do you live in an urban area or a small rural town? Do you have a McMansion or a small two bedroom colonial or condo? Do you live on the waterfront or on a small piece of property with no “major amenities” to speak of? All these issues are taken into consideration and go into the tax assessment on a property. If you disagree with your assessment, you are completely within your right to challenge it. It is important to remember, however, that if you go from a small house to a giant McMansion, don’t be shocked when you get a major increase.

To steal a line from our President, “let me be clear;” I am far from advocating for MORE taxes. Additionally, I don’t particularly mind paying my taxes. I just want to reduce the amount of waste involved and look at what taxes are being spent on – such as healthcare for illegal aliens. Cut that out and we could save billions.

Ultimately, by spending more time examining how to eliminate waste, instead of going on a wild witch hunt spending money unnecessarily, the taxes collected can go towards important things, like our police, fire department, school systems, infrastructure and more.

April 8, 2011

If I Controlled the Federal Budget…

So yet again, we sit and watch the children down in D.C. fight over spending, saving and the federal budget, real people understand what is involved in living within a budget. We all talk about “if I controlled the budget, I would do THIS.” So, here is the way I would control spending and the federal budget.

First, cut financial support for the following: Planned Parenthood, NPR, National Endowment for the Arts and ALL earmarks. If a project or plan needs funding, it should be able to stand on its own merit instead of being snuck in without notice.

Next, if an individual is in need of a program like Welfare, Food Stamps, WIC, etc., you need to show positive proof you are here legally. This will cut down on those who shouldn’t be here fraudulently taking advantage of a system in place for those at risk.

Third, change how Social Security is managed. You only get back what you pay in. You get one lump sum, tax free, at age 65. Period. If you didn’t work and didn’t pay into the system, you get nothing. Again, you need to show proof positive who you are in order to prevent fraud and identity theft. If you decide to work after age 65, Social Security will not be taken out of your paycheck.

Eliminate Obama’s so-called “health care reform.” Allow people to purchase across state lines and let the market set the rates. Let’s face it; if the feds can’t manage Medicare, how will they manage health care?

Secure the borders and deport all illegal immigrants. Now you may be asking what this has to do with the budget. Well, we spend billions on policing, arresting and housing illegals in jail. They enroll their children in our public schools and fraudulently collect entitlements. They cost us money. We would save money by securing our borders and shipping them back.

If you collect Welfare, you should “pay back” eight hours of work time for each week of entitlement you collect. This time could go to help out in their local community, such as working in the public library or planting flowers in a park.

Most importantly, move to a flax tax. This way everyone pays their fair share. Besides, if Timothy Geithner and Charles Rangel can’t pay their taxes properly, what chance do we mere mortals have? Yes, that was meant to be sarcastic.

One important change I believe should take place is that if a government shutdown takes place, military should be paid. Period. Right now, if the government shuts down, they aren’t paid. These individuals are putting their lives on the line and their families struggle without them. The very least we can do is make sure they are properly paid.

Well, there’s my “off the top of my head” list on how I would handle spending and the federal budget. What would you do?

January 26, 2011

2011 State of the Union Address

So last night was the 2011 State of the Union Address. I will admit that my eye wasn’t twitching quite as much as last year, but I still have issues with a number of the items that were discussed.

I think the President started out well by acknowledging the empty chair for Gabby Giffords. The ribbons everyone wore I thought was a nice touch. He also discussed a new level of civility in light of the shooting in Arizona. Call it the Jersey cynic in me, but the “date night” and new bipartisan effort just felt fake to me. I still get the feeling of a “hand slap” by the left and blaming the Tea Party movement, even though the nut job in Arizona didn’t appear to have a political affiliation. I find it funny that now the President wants to not think about winning an election, but doing what is necessary to pull the nation together.

I liked what the President said about simplifying the tax code, but fell short of calling for a flat tax, which would ultimately save billions by either cutting or completely eliminating the IRS. I really believe that moving away from the current complicated tax code will both save money on the federal level while making sure everyone pays their fair share.

He cited a quote from President Kennedy that “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Well, I disagree with that sentiment. The future is a responsibility; first and foremost. I think we as a nation have really lost the concept of personal responsibility. Should we take care of those who need assistance? Yes. Should there be a level of personal responsibility associated along with that? Absolutely!

I found his more business-friendly tone encouraging. Again, I hope it isn’t just rhetoric and real action will follow. This means getting the government out of the way of private industry and let them do what they do best; innovate and create jobs. Remember, it is not the job of the federal government to create jobs. It is the job of the federal government to create conditions that are favorable for private industry to create jobs.

The President is still pushing green technologies, which is certainly laudable, however, I again wonder if this should be the business of the federal government. I point to California’s recent light bulb issue as the exact type of government intervention that while positive in concept can be negative in the long run.

From an education standpoint, I was very encouraged to finally hear someone (and I mean anyone) acknowledge that parents need to take a more positive role in the education of our nation’s children. For far too long, schools have been trying to be both educator and parent. Ultimately, they will fail as both. I also ask that while math and science are incredibly important, that the arts and music are not left on the side of the road. There has been study after study citing the importance of music and the arts in fostering a child’s creativity and improving math, science and language skills. I am the adult I am because of my involvement in the music program in my public school system.

It was also nice to hear there should be more respect for teachers. As someone who is married to a public school teacher, I say it is not as easy as many may think. We should be encouraging our teachers, not putting them down. Otherwise, no young individual will want to become a teacher. And that will be truly sad and detrimental to our future.

I almost fell off the couch when the President actually used the term “illegal immigrant” and not “undocumented” or other term. Whether the individual is a child or an adult, they are here illegally and thus breaking the law. They shouldn’t be here sucking up resources like locusts they have no right to access. And these aren’t all the wonderful young individuals looking to better themselves the President mentioned. They are often gang members trying to sneak people and drugs into our country. This is the single issue that will kill us as a nation if it is not dealt with, and I mean NOW.

Infrastructure “investments.” OK, moving on…

Social Security? Well, let’s just say I believe that Area 51 exists. I don’t believe the money I have been paying, and will continue to pay, into Social Security will ever come back to me. My eye is starting to twitch, so moving on…

I also agree the federal government should reorganize and streamline, however, again, call me a cynic, I really don’t see this happening. I hope I am wrong.

I found it interesting that the President is open to make some of the very healthcare bill changes the GOP suggested originally and he wouldn’t he even consider. Amazing what a shellacking can do for bipartisanship. And by the way, I hadn’t heard that word since I was a kid and my Uncle Sonny would threaten us with a shellacking that would never appear. If anything, he was the one to protect us all from the shellacking.

Of course, no State of the Union would be complete without a discussion of our military. Again, I refer back to my previous thoughts about illegal immigration. These two issues go hand-in-hand in my opinion. Illegal immigration is a serious national security issue.

So, as usual, I am hopeful, but not betting the house on it. The only reason the President has moved to the middle, I believe, is because he got beat and I mean seriously beat. I would like to see him not spend on infrastructure and instead let private industry develop tomorrow’s high speed railways. Again, just allow for private industry to do what they do best and get out of their way.

Only time will tell…

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.

October 1, 2010

Feds Consider Buying Flood Zone Homes in NJ

So, I just saw a report on  my local ABC news station that there is a plan underway to either purchase homes that repeatedly flood in Little Falls, Pompton Plains and Wayne, NJ and level them in order to return the area to the marsh land it originally was or to raise the foundation of these homes, both at the cost of the taxpayers.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing so I did some additional research online. Lo and behold, I found an article online about a grant that will raise the foundation of 34 homes. The real kicker to me is that people who are not eligible for this grant opportunity are actually complaining! A quote from the article reads: ‘Lisa Shoaib has one such home, directly on the banks of the Passaic. She is disappointed, asking “If it’s not the ones who are directly on the river like us, then who’s getting it?” ‘

Now, this is simply ridiculous. These people knowingly purchased a home in a flood zone. Now tax dollars are going to be used to purchase their homes or help raise their foundations? I’m sorry, but if you purchase a home in an flood zone, I have absolutely no sympathy for you. You rolled the dice. I’m not going to pay the bet when you loose.

We are not talking about some freak flood that reached an area that has never flooded before and these people need help. We are talking about people who were dumb enough to buy in towns like Pompton Plains, Little Falls and Wayne in NJ. Since I was a child, I watched flooding near the Willowbrook Mall. Flooding in this area is never a shocker. There are additional areas that flood regularly, but it seems the focus is always on these towns.

So, wise up people. You don’t want flood damage? Don’t buy a home on the banks of the Passaic River in a flood zone.

March 27, 2010

A Physician’s Letter on Healthcare Reform

Recently, a letter to the president written by an Emergency Room physician was published and is now making its way around the internet. When I first read it, I wanted to stand up and applaud. However, I did what I normally do when I receive one of these email messages…I checked it out. And guess what? It is true! So, I wanted to print it here. I think it really sums up what a lot of people are thinking. You decide…

Dear Mr.  President:
During my shift in  the Emergency Room last night, I had the pleasure of evaluating a  patient whose smile revealed an expensive shiny gold tooth, whose body  was adorned with a wide assortment of elaborate and costly
tattoos, who wore a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and who chatted on a  new cellular telephone equipped with a popular R&B ringtone.

While  glancing over her patient chart, I happened to notice that  her payer status was listed as ” Me dicaid”! During my examination of her,  the patient informed me that she smokes more than one costly pack of  cigarettes every day and somehow still has money to buy pretzels and  beer.

And, you and our Congress expect  me to pay for this woman’s health care? I contend that our nation’s  “health care crisis” is not the result of a shortage of quality  hospitals, doctors or nurses. Rather, it is the result of a “crisis of  culture”, a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money  on luxuries and vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. It is a culture based in the irresponsible credo that “I can do whatever I want to because someone  else will always take care of me”.

Once you fix this “culture crisis” that rewards irresponsibility and dependency, you’ll be amazed at how quickly our nation’s health care difficulties will disappear.

Respectfully,
STARNER JONES, MD

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.

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