Maas Media - Travel & Political Musings

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Why Rand Paul is right and Lawrence O’Donnell is wrong…this time!

In order to form an opinion about a political issue I tend to switch back and forth between Fox News and MSNBC whenever a hot political topic is being discussed.  Not that any one of these two networks does a good job at reporting the facts, but at least you get to hear the extreme side of the argument, which in turn allows you to make up your own mind.  Mind you, a lot of times I end up moving to the center in my conclusion as it not only is the most sensible solution to the issue on-hand, but also because it would have the most support among American voters and thus have the greatest chance of passing through Congress.Lawrence O'Donnell

Last night Lawrence O’Donnell decided to pick a fight with tea party favorite Senator Rand Paul about his filibuster show-boating the night before in the Senate.  Lawrence was livid that the Senator used extreme rhetoric in making his point through the filibuster and Lawrence made no excuse about it that he thought this was a pathetic display of partisanship by the Senator.  The issue on-hand of course was the fact that Senator Rand Paul was upset that the Senate was about to vote to approve the nomination of John Brennan, who had the backing of President Obama and the Democratic Party, but neither John Brennan nor the attorney General of the U.S. (Eric Holder) had answered the question as to whether the President of the United States has the authority to kill an American citizen on American soil via a drone strike!

The answers given over the past few weeks left open the question as to whether this would actually be legal.  It’s been known for over a decade now that the U.S. has been very active in assassinating Al-Queda members, especially in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.  But when the question arose by congressional members in hearings as to whether the U.S. government would ever consider assassinating a U.S. citizen it was never told yes or no, which…as you can imagine is an issue.

Predator DroneSenator Rand Paul is absolutely right in his argument that there needs to be a clear divide between assassinating Americans abroad or here on U.S. soil.  When a U.S. citizen is a suspect of aiding foreign enemies and he’s hiding out in remote areas of Yemen it’s a stretch to go ask the FBI to send a team over there to apprehend the suspect.  It’s simply to dangerous to go through that type of operation.  Just the fact that you would jeopardize other lives to capture this suspect doesn’t warrant the risk, hence why it’s much easier, cheaper and more efficient to send a drone instead and take out the suspect (American or not).  However, when the same suspect (American in this case) is wondering around on the streets of New York City it simply doesn’t make sense to target the suspect via a drone.  A special FBI team can do the job without risking lives, as they would operate in friendly territory as opposed to Yemen for example.

It seems straight forward that in these cases the U.S. President should not be allowed to send a drone over American airspace armed with a deadly hellfire missile.  A simple memo by the U.S. justice department would’ve been sufficient to put this dangerous hypothetical situation to rest, but no.  Neither the White House nor the U.S. Justice Department could muster up a simple memo to declare that they simply did not have the authority to authorize such strike on its own citizens without due process on American soil.

This is why Senator Rand Paul was so upset, and deservedly so.  He had every right to make his point by using the filibuster as his platform to get attention.  After more than 12 hours the spectacle in the Senate was over and Eric Holder relented by issuing a two sentence memo making it absolutely clear that under no circumstances the U.S. President would be allowed to order a drone strike over American soil against American citizens unless there is imminent danger, such as a terrorist strike in progress.

CASE CLOSED!!!  Rand Paul won, Eric Holder and the White House lost.  This was a blunder by Obama, make no mistake about it.  The fact that Lawrence O’Donnell can’t see that is a shame.  His hatred for the tea party is so great that his blinders refuse to see the fact that this was a good thing that Senator Rand Paul did and Obama failed to lead in this case.  Accept it…move on.

That’s why it’s a good idea to listen to both sides of the argument.  One side isn’t always right…

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Sequester not necessarily a bad thing!

Congress enacted a tough new law last year that would require the federal government to spend significantly less in current fiscal year and in the following nine years.

Time to cut costs
Time to cut costs

The cuts were supposed to be so tough that it would force both parties to come to the bargaining table and replace the drastic cuts with sensible cuts and revenue increases instead.  However, it’s starting to look like that neither congress nor the White House is in any mood to bite the bullet and replace the sequester.  So will the U.S. economy come to an abrupt end on Friday/Saturday this week?

The short answer: No!

The White House was hoping that this sequester was going to push the Republicans over the edge and they would have to capitulate and agree to more drastic revenue increases (a.k.a. tax increases) and thus reduce the likelihood that the Democrats would have to cut too deep in Medicare and Medicaid.   The Republicans on the other hand are divided among its own ranks.  One side wants to make a deal, albeit not with the revenue increases the President is asking for, but the other side (Tea Party wing of the GOP) wants none of it.  They’d rather have this sequester go into effect, but in the end it’s a win for them the way they see it.  It reduces the size of government, it decreases spending and….it doesn’t increase taxes.  So like it or not…this sequester, pushed by Obama, will in the end actually end up benefiting the wishes of the Tea Party, not the White House, Democrats or Boehner’s/McConnell’s side of the GOP.  Who’s winning now?

Military Spending
Military Spending

So is a Tea Party victory good though?  Well, on one hand, yes!  It actually reduces the deficit, especially thanks in part to some big cuts in defense.  Let’s be honest, did you really think both parties were going to cut defense spending?  No of course not, but it will happen starting this Friday.  The Pentagon is too big, bloated and still outdated.  They’ve made progress in the past decade, by moving focus to special forces and drone warfare, which is the future of warfare to begin with, but its bloated size has never been diminished, which is a big burden on the U.S. deficit and national debt.  Therefore, for the first time in a long time these cuts will actually end up benefiting the country.

Of course it doesn’t solve the financial woes of the U.S. government.  Entitlement programs are in desperate need of reform, to sustain them, but also to keep them affordable without bankrupting the government.  Then of course there’s tax reform.  The government needs to streamline taxes by reducing the tax code, which can be accomplished by removing tax loopholes, lowering tax rates for both individuals and corporations, and then institute a fair tax rate by instituting a VAT on all goods and services.

For now….we’ll take the sequester as a start to cut wasteful spending.  I didn’t think I would ever agree with the Tea Party, but cutting something is better than nothing.  I’ll take it.



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Is Congress Missing the Big Picture?

It was refreshing to see Senator Marco Rubio (Republican from Florida) and Senator Chris Coons (Democrat from Delaware) appear on Morning Joe (MSNBC)  this morning.  They were promoting a new Job Bill (Agree Act)as an alternative to the President’s Job Bill that hasn’t gone anywhere.  The key difference between the Senators’ Job Bill and the President’s is that this bill covers items that both parties can agree on, which in turn they hope will result in passage of the bill in both houses.

Senator Coons (D) and Senator Rubio (R)

This bill does provide some positive news for America.  It does include items that would help the business community and job creation efforts, but it also shows bi-partisan efforts, which has been lacking in congress ever since Obama got elected to be President.  Some of the highlights of the Jobs Bill are:

1) Extend 100 percent bonus depreciation through 2012 for the full cost of qualified investments such as equipment and property

2) Extend Section 179 expensing levels for small businesses through 2012

3) Eliminate taxes on certain small business stock through 2012

4) Extend the Research & Development tax credit until 2013, increase theAlternative Simplified Credit (ASC) from 14 percent to 20 percent, and makes the ASC permanent

5) Provide veterans with a tax credit equal to 25% of the fee associated with starting a franchise up to $100,000

6) Provide a five-year exemption from Section 404(b) of Sarbanes-Oxley for the first five years of a company going public, or for those below $250 million in total gross revenue (whichever comes first)

7) Eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrant visas and adjusts the limitations on family based visa petitions from 7% per country to 15%

8) Protect intellectual property by clarifying the Trade Secrets Act, and making it explicitly clear that it is not a crime for federal officials, in the performance of their duties, to share information about suspected infringing products with the right holder of a trademarked good

Notice a theme in this job bill?  It costs money!  It takes tax revenue away and it increases spending at the same time.  Not something you’d like to hear in today’s day and age of $15 trillion national debt.
Now, I do give the Senators credit for putting forth a bill that actually has a chance of passing in congress and actually having a small impact on creating some jobs, but it doesn’t solve our financial situation.  The Super Debt Commission, which is supposed to provide us with a $1.2 trillion debt reduction plan by next Wednesday isn’t probably going to much better.  Remember, their target is $1.2 trillion, which only amounts to $120 billion per year in debt reduction.  Peanuts….when you compare it to the overall debt of $15 trillion and compare it to our annual federal budget deficit of $1 trillion over the past 3 years.
All these ideas (Job Bills, Debt Reduction, etc.) are nice starts and nice intentions, but they don’t resolve the big issues of annual deficit, which adds to the national debt.  We need a bigger plan, which is why many house of representatives and Senators in the past few weeks have openly asked the Super Debt Commission to go big!   I’m all in favor of it, but let’s do it right:
A) Tax Reform – cut tax rates, but close loopholes at the same time, which in turn will actually add revenue
B) Cut Spending – you’d be surprised how much money is being wasted.  No, keep the E.P.A. Rick Perry, because nobody likes to light their water faucet on fire…   Overhaul the healthcare system by replacing Medicare/Medicaid with private insurance regulated by the government for example
C) Combine # 1 and # 2 and create a 15% annual budget surplus.  Use 10% to pay down the principle on our debt and use 5% to invest in our infrastructure
Now that’s thinking big…!
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How can de U.S. win the war against drugs? Tax it!!!

Even though President Richard Nixon introduced us to the infamous ‘War on Drugs’ in 1971 the U.S. government has been officially battling illicit drugs since 1914.  The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 was the first federal law written by congress to control the distribution of illicit drugs in the U.S. (and tax it).  So it’s fair to say that the government has been waging a ‘war’ on drugs for almost 100 years now.  If this were a war between countries we’d be about to make history by overtaking the war between the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet (100 years war) as the longest recorded war in human history.

Global Drug Route Map

Why did the U.S. create laws against distribution of drugs to begin with?

Unfortunately it can be contributed in part to racism and protectionism.  According to the New York Times it was estimated that 1 in 400 people (0.25%) had become addicted to drugs by 1914, especially opium.  For the most part the ‘addicts’ were women, who had been legally prescribed some form of opiate by their physicians to treat ailments such as menstrual pains.  Since legally prescribed opiates or marijuana had to be bought from Chinese immigrants (opiates) or Mexican immigrants (marijuana) it stirred racists overtures by politicians, especially from the south, who were looking to grab some easy votes from the white majority.

The politicians objected to the lucrative trade without the federal government being able to collect taxes on it and used unfounded crimes committed by minorities to blame it on drugs.  Racist articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association back in 1900 added fuel to the fire and helped push the first federal law against the distribution of certain drugs through congress.  Never mind that physicians were making a lot of money prescribing the drugs to their patients.  Even companies such as Sears Roebuck got into the act; in the 1890s in its catalogs you could buy syringes and a small amount of cocaine for $1.50.

Has this law or subsequently other laws reduced the distribution of illicit drugs?

Of course the answer is no.  In fact the distribution of drugs has never been this high in recorded human history.  1% of global GDP can be contributed to the drug trade.  In 2003 the U.N. estimated that $321.6 billion in drugs was traded worldwide.

Mexican Drug Trafficking Activity

Many experts compare the ‘failed’ war against drugs to the prohibition period in the U.S. from 1919 to 1933.  The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution made it illegal to manufacture, sell and distribute alcohol.  Sadly, we all know the unfortunate consequences of this ‘experiment’ in U.S. history.  It was the driving force in expanding organized crime and resulted in mostly low income people being thrown in jail for violating the prohibition laws, which is exactly what’s happening with the war against drugs.

How much does the war on drugs costs the U.S. annually?

It costs the U.S. government (federal, state and local) about $40 billion per year.  To give you an idea of the astronomical dollar impact fighting this war, in 2008 1.5 million Americans were arrested for drug violations; of those, 500,000 ended up going to jail.

US Incarceration Rate

It costs between $25,000 (federal prison) and $26,000 (state prison) per person to incarcerate someone for one year.  An average drug violator costs the government (federal , state and local) about $450,000.  This covers the costs of arrest, conviction, room and board.

Besides the cost of imprisoning a drug violator, the federal, state and local governments spend billions for treatment programs, educational programs and supporting foreign government in their fight against drugs.  In 2008 alone, congress appropriated $1.6 billion in aid to central American governments over three years in order to assist them in the fight against drugs.  Let’s not even go into the billions of dollars wasted in lost productivity due to drug abuse and the war against drugs.

So how do we win this war against drugs?

Tax it!!!  Of course in order to do that you’d need to make the drugs legal for manufacturing, sale and distribution.  I know, it’s highly controversial, but in today’s budget crisis (federal, state and local) it makes financial sense to legalize it.  It’s no wonder states are slowly adopting marijuana as a legal form of trade in order to fill the state coffins with tax revenues.

Here’s the math as proposed by Harvard Economist Jeffrey A. Mirron: $44.1 billion in savings by no longer having to spend money on law enforcement fighting the war against drugs and $32.7 billion in tax revenues for federal, state and local governments.  That’s a total savings of $76.8 billion per year for the U.S. alone.  Of course you’d need to use a portion of the savings to fund treatment programs to get people off of drug addiction, but the savings should still add up to well over $60 billion per year.

The federal government should spend $13 billion on drug treatment programs and the states should chip in $6 billion.  This would still generate about $43 billion in added revenues to the federal government, $10 billion for state governments and $4.8 billion for local governments.

Top Benefits for taxing it:


Drug Rehab

1) Reduces Drug Abuse – the government will actually have money to treat people that it spends now fighting a losing battle.  This should ease the concerns of many more conservative groups that advocate against legalizing drugs.  Treatment is proven to be more cost beneficial versus imprisonment.  It saves $4 for every $1 spent according to an independent study at UCLA.  Again, I’m not advocating drug use, but by making it legal the government will be able to afford treatment for every addict and thus reduce drug abuse over the long run.  This is clearly a much more cost effective way to reduce drug use.

2) Revenues For Cash Strapped Governments – it would help alleviate budget deficits for many states and local governments, which in turn will help other programs such as education and public transportation.  They’re taxing addictive substances such as cigarettes and alcohol, so why not for cocaine or marijuana?

3) Reduces Crime – By taking billions of dollars away from organized crime it would destroy the income for many crime syndicates.  Neighborhoods become safe again, especially in low income areas as there’s no longer a need to protect a territory.  500,000 current drug violators going to jail will no longer end up in jail, but instead have a better chance of becoming law abiding citizens.  The prison system breeds criminals.  It’s well documented that without an effective treatment program prisoners being paroled end up going back to jail and actually become more violent in many cases.  Most drug offenders in prison/jail are non-violent anyway.  Instead, require them to go to treatment and you won’t see that many repeat offenders come back into the judicial system as you do now.

Final Thoughts…

It’s not a very popular stand to take as a politician as it can be seen as being soft on crime.  However, in today’s age wherein all forms of U.S. government is strapped for revenues, crime is relative high to other industrialized nations and the current war against drugs has no end in sight, it only makes sense to start exploring the possibility to legalize the trade in drugs.  States such as New Jersey, California and Colorado are already experimenting with legalizing marijuana.  The first results are encouraging, but a lot more work needs to be done.

Bear in mind again, I’m not advocating the use of drugs.  Companies should still be allowed to test employees for drug use and fire them if caught using drugs against company policy.  Law enforcement should still arrest people if caught driving while under the influence of a substance, but legalizing will reduce the overall number of drug users in the long run.  It will reduce crime and create a much safer society that will only make the U.S. more competitive.

Share your thoughts.

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What’s wrong with our highways?

I live in northern New Jersey with my wife in a small town surrounded by woods, hills, streams and lakes.  Not the typical New Jersey people are accustomed to, but that’s why I love surprising first time visitors to the Garden State.

Once a year my wife and I drive to Old Orchard Beach, Maine to visit my in-laws who make an annual pilgrimage from Quebec to Old Orchard Beach.  Apparently it’s been a long tradition for people from Quebec to spend their construction vacation in Maine.  If you look at the map it’s actual the closest beach for most people living in Quebec, which is why half the population in Maine during the summer speaks French.

Eisenhower Interstate System

If you mapquest the drive from northern New Jersey to Old Orchard Beach it will tell you that it’s only a 5 hour drive.  However, over the years I’ve learned that it takes me at least 7 hours to get there, unless I’m willing to get up at 2am, in which case I could make it in 4 ½ hours.  Why does it take that long?  It’s because the Eisenhower Interstate System was built for traffic in the 50s, not for traffic in 2011.  It’s frustrating as hell to be stuck in traffic, pretty much all the way up.

So what’s the solution?

I’ve been telling you on my blogs that we need to at least triple the transportation budget in conjunction with spending cuts and revenue increases to balance our federal budget, but also to keep America working and in order for America to maintain its number one status as an economic power in the world.

So what’s wrong with the highways and what can we do to fix it?

1) Lack of lanes

If you’ve ever driven through Connecticut between I-684 and Hartford you will understand my frustration with having a highway that only has 2 lanes on each size.  It should be against federal law to have an interstate designation if you only have 2 lanes on each side.

Truck traffic alone slows these lanes down, so for automobiles it’s frustrating that there’s not a designated car lane, which you can have in the left lane if you had 3 lanes going in each direction

Eminent Domain is warranted here.  Highways should have a minimum of 3 lanes going in each direction and wherever traffic numbers are too high it should be increased to at least 4 lanes

2) Ramps need to be doubled/tripled in size

One of the most frustrating parts of a traffic slowdown is when traffic backs up for a mile or more because you’re leaving one highway to go onto another highway

US Interstates

A minimum of 2 lanes should be mandatory for ramps connecting highways at intersections, and one of the ramp lanes should be transitioned into a regular lane, not a merging lane

This would keep traffic flowing freely

3) Enforcement of passing on the left

I just came back from a business trip in England.  I’ve also had the luxury of having driven on the Autobahn in Germany and on the Autostrasse in Italy.  The beauty about highway driving in those countries: peddle to the metal in the left lane at 100mph+

The problem of doing that in the U.S. (besides running the risk of getting a speeding ticket); idiots not knowing traffic rules that clog up the left lane by going the speed limit without passing anyone

I believe I was given the finger by at least 6 people on my way up to Maine, when I was able to go 90mph on short stretches, but then got stuck behind some %@#$% idiot in front of me

Instead of police enforcing speed tickets they should instead focus on ticketing people in the left lane that do not pass people!  The ticket should be at least $300 and hopefully that will send a strong message to get out of my lane…

4) Speed up tolls

It’s nice to have an EZ-Pass in the Northeast, because it allows you to go through toll-boots without having to stop, or so the thinking goes.  The problem is that most toll plazas are still set up in such way that a car will need to slow down to 15 mph in order for the meter to pick up your pass reading

Install high speed systems at every toll boots, so that traffic doesn’t have to slow down

5) Wider emergency lanes

3 times I got stuck in traffic because a friendly state trooper had pulled someone over or he/she was assisting an unlucky motorist with a flat tire, etc.

The problem is that it slows traffic down, because safety is important of course and nobody should be hitting the broken down motorist or the trooper trying to assist

Wider emergency lanes would help alleviate the situation as it would give other motorist more leeway with passing the emergency vehicles and traffic (although slowed down) could still move at a relative descent speed, 50 mph versus 15 mph for example

6) Block view

We don’t like to admit to it, but everyone likes to look at someone else’s misfortunes such as a bad traffic accident.  It’s human nature to slow down and get a quick peek at those unlucky people

The problem is that it slows down traffic, even for traffic going in the opposite direction

The solution?  Put a barrier in between, high enough that car drivers cannot see the other side of the road, which should help keep traffic moving during accidents on the opposite side

Now if we could only cut spending by about $500 billion per year, increase revenues by another $500 billion per year and then spend $250 billion per year on transportation then I can get to Maine in 4 hours or less next summer…

Share your thoughts?

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Where are the jobs in the ‘recovery’?

Unemployment is at 9.2% according to the U.S. Labor Department, while real unemployment is actually closer to 20% if you count people that have given up looking for work, college kids working at Starbucks and part timers looking for full time jobs.  The President talks about giving it more time for the economy to get out of this mess he inherited and his opponents (Republicans) blame the high taxes and regulations for this mess.

But what’s really missing are concrete solutions from both parties!

Let’s get a few things straight first.  Both parties talk about cutting the federal budget deficit and hopefully paying off the national debt in the long run, but both parties vary on how to go about it.

Democrats want to cut some spending, but would rather see revenue/tax increases by closing loopholes and tax subsidies.  Call it whatever you want, but in the end it closes the budget deficit.  Republicans would rather cut spending and use that to cut the budget deficit.  Republicans accuse Democrats that if taxes were increased it would hurt the economic recovery.  Democrats on the other hand accuse Republicans of much the same by telling them that too much cutting will hurt the economy as well.

Guess what?  Both are correct; if you cut spending by $4 trillion over 10 years (latest proposals floating around) you take $4 trillion out of the U.S. economy.  That’s probably going to cost us about 2.8 million jobs in healthcare, education, state/federal workers, etc.    On the other hand if you raise taxes by $1 trillion (suggested by some Democrats) you will also cut employment by roughly 600,000 workers.  In either case, it’s a tough pill to swallow!  We have to cut the budget deficit, I don’t think anyone is arguing about that, but how do we do it without destroying America’s economy?

Here’s the solution:

1) Cut spending by $600 billion per year (defense, healthcare, social security, debt and discretionary spending).  It’s a very painful and austerity measure, but it needs to be done

2) Raise revenues by $500 billion per year (VAT at 7%, social security taxes for income $100k+, raise federal gasoline taxes by $0.80 over 4 years per gallon, etc.)

3) Put it all in a Balanced Budget Amendment so that government will have to stick regardless of what party is in power

The above will cost the economy about 3 million jobs and will dramatically change the landscape of the U.S. economy.  However, to offset the massive job losses, the government will need to invest heavily in infrastructure projects.  A proposal to spend about $300 billion per year directly into projects would put millions back to work.

It would offset the job losses from the austerity measures described above and America stands to benefit long-term by getting a first rate infrastructure in return, which in turn will help foster millions of jobs and set up America for a prosperous long term future.  Infrastructure spending should be focused on massive job creation projects such as:

US Infrastructure Spending

1) Upgrading the Eisenhower Interstate System.  It was build for 1950s capacities in most cities and needs to be dramatically upgraded10,000+ miles of high-speed rail that for example can bring a passenger from New York City to Atlanta in 5 hours, with stops in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington

2) Expand the nation’s airports.  They were also built for a different era, most of them before WWII and is in desperate need of expansion and modernization.  Landing at LaGuardia in NYC feels like landing in Lagos, Nigeria…

3) Upgrade the power grid.  More nuclear power-plants are needed and the grid needs to go underground so the power can stay on in Joplin, MO or in Galveston, TX next time mother nature strikes

4) Desalination plants in California and in Texas to feed the Southwest of America with much needed fresh water to expand the agriculture business, keep local economies growing (Phoenix, Las Vegas, etc.)

The travel industry would be very pleased with these upgrades as will the transportation industry, utilities, states, etc.  It’s short term pain for long term gain, which is difficult to comprehend in D.C., but it’s the only sensible way to get us out of this recovery (if you can call it that way…).

Agree, don’t agree?  Share your comments

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How do we get out of this federal financial mess?

For the third year in a row the U.S. government is about to run another trillion dollar plus budget deficit!  Yes, you’re reading it correctly.  The federal government has succeeded in running up almost $4 trillion in national debt in just over 3 years.  Our current national debt stands at $14.3 trillion.


To put this in comparison; the average American household earns over $49,777 per year.  The average household would’ve had to have a credit card debt of $220,000 to match the ratio of debt the U.S. government is carrying compared to its annual earnings.  If this were reality, needless to say, this household example would’ve filed for bankruptcy protection a long time ago!

Since the U.S. government can’t file for bankruptcy as they ‘own’ the bank that prints its own money many people argue that this debt is not that big of a deal.  Under a strong healthy economy that would grow at 5% annual GDP with a 4% unemployment rate I would almost agree with those people, because if you keep that growth up and spending under control at some point your debt to earnings ratio would drop dramatically in which case managing the debt isn’t so bad.

Reality being reality, we’re far away from that!  Trillion dollar budget deficits put a strain on any economy.  It hurts long term growth and it puts the U.S. dollar in a bad position, which makes us uncompetitive in a global market.  On top of that we spend close to 20% of government revenues on national debt payments and that’s money wasted down the drain, which could be spend on badly needed infrastructure projects.

So what are the solutions?

1. Reform the Tax Code

  • Lower corporate taxes from 35% to 18%
  • Maintain individual tax rates for people earning over $100,000, but lower tax rates by at least 5 points for everyone else
  • Remove 95% of all tax deductions and subsidies.  This includes mortgage deductions, child deductions, medical deductions, but also ethanol, oil, gas and sugar subsidies for companies
  • Social security and medical taxes to be taxed on 100% of earnings (no longer capped at $120,000)
  • Institute a 7% VAT

2. Overhaul Healthcare (including Medicare and Medicaid)

  • Require all medical institutions (hospitals, clinics, physicians, medical supplies, etc.) to be hooked up to the same federal computer system
  • Doctors/nurses are required to fill out patient information on tablets, not charts/paperwork, which are hooked up to the federal computer network
  • Sell insurance across state lines
  • Tort reform to protect physicians and lower insurance rates
  • Penalize unhealthy people (smokers, obese people, etc.) by taxing them, but provide them with a one year waiver to allow them to become healthy
  • Everyone is required to carry insurance.  You’re allowed to decline, but you’re penalized with 7 basis points on your individual income taxes.  An insurance pool is created, which is regulated by the government, but run by private insurance companies to provide insurance to the poor, self employed, etc.  Insurance rates cannot surpass 5% of gross earnings for people making less than $20,000/yr.

3. Defense Budget

  • Close unnecessary military basis around the world
  • Immediately nullify all contracts for unnecessary weapons systems not requested by the Pentagon, but forced on the Pentagon by congress
  • Reduce total troop levels by 20% over 6 years without firing anyone
  • Modernize the military.  For example:

    Predator Drone

    • Replace 100 F-16s with 1,000 predators and you will still save money on equipment, training, maintenance, etc.
    • Expand special forces, but reduce size of regular army troops
    • Expand on space systems, but reduce cold war relic weapon systems such as tanks, aircraft carriers, etc.

4. Social Security

  • Increase the retirement age by 3 years for all three categories for people 49 years or younger
  • People with a net worth of $5 million or more are not eligible for social security (adjusted for inflation every year)
  • Social security taxes to be taxed on all incomes, no caps on high incomes
  • Increase social security payments by 10 basis points (one time), then increase it based on cost of living increases every year

5. Education

  • End tenure for all teachers in public schools (new federal law)
  • Fire immediately all teachers ranked in the bottom 10% of performance
  • Salary for teachers based on performance.  Salary plus bonus will be the new form of earnings for teachers.  Teachers can earn as much as $130,000/yr in public schools based on rankings and can earn tenure if they maintain a ranking of 80% or better
  • Institute new teaching techniques that work

6. Infrastructure

  • Double spending of infrastructure by increasing the transportation budget from $72 billion to $144 billion
  • Increase spending based on mathematical formula for budget surpluses

The action items mentioned above will result in the following:

  1. It cuts spending by $470 billion
  2. It increases tax revenues by $680 billion
  3. A net result of $1.15 trillion for the federal budget
  4. Stimulation of the economy as efficiencies will create new businesses by shifting resources and an influx of new infrastructure spending will put blue collar workers back to work

In order for this materialize we need two very important things to happen in U.S. politics.  First of all, we need a balanced budget amendment.  Congress unfortunately cannot be trusted to balance its own books, therefore a new amendment is required to ensure that politicians will no longer look out for their own interests but rather put the interests of the United States of America first.

Secondly, we need a third political party in congress.  It would almost guarantee that no political party will have a majority in congress (house and senate) and therefore compromising will become a necessity within the restrictions set forth by the balanced budget amendment.  One can no longer create a spending bill without having a way to pay for it (cut spending or increase revenues will be the only way, and for that you’ll need to compromise).

Reform Party anyone…?




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Congress can’t multi-task?

It’s astounding to me that many members of U.S. congress have criticized President Obama for going to Latin America while the earthquake/tsunami disaster unfolded in Japan, the crisis in Libya erupted and the U.S. economy continues to be sluggish at best.

President Obama and President Dilma Rousseff

Pundits were very critical of the President that he left the White House at all.  “How dare he leave Washington D.C. on a trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador, while 15+ million Americans are out of a job, the bombs are dropping in Libya and a potential nuclear crisis is going on in Japan?”  The best part of the critique is that not only was he being criticized from the right (GOP), but also by members from his own party.

Let’s get a few things straight:

1) 21st Century Communication – The President doesn’t leave his laptop or Blackberry at home on Pennsylvania Avenue.  I mean, does it really matter if he calls President Sarkozy from the White House or from a secure room in Rio de Janeiro?  They have satellite connections in Latin America and state of the art communication equipment on Air Force One so he can be up-to-date 24/7 from any place in the world.  For crying out loud, George W. Bush pretty much governed from the West House (his ranch in Texas) during his 8 years as U.S. President.

2) It’s the Economy Stupid – Pundits wanted the President to go to Michigan or Ohio instead.  They argued that there is where the jobs are needed the most since so many manufacturing jobs have been lost over there in the past few years.  Aren’t we forgetting something?  It’s a global economy in 2011.  In order to create jobs at home you will need to trade with other nations; hence the trip to Brazil, which is rapidly becoming an economic powerhouse in the world.  No trade agreements, no jobs in Michigan or Ohio.

3) Multi-Task – Since when can’t a President multi-task on the job?  Isn’t just everyone with a white collar job these days multi-tasking at work?  I mean, he’s the President of the United States!  He has a support staff that will give him a daily rundown of what’s going on in the world and at home.  The President can make multiple decisions in one day and thanks to modern communication (see above) he can relay his message to anyone in the world within seconds from any place on earth.

If you’re going to criticize the American President do it because of his policies, but don’t do it because he decided to take an important trip to allies in Latin America that could help the U.S. economy and certainly don’t criticize him for being a multi-tasker.  If only congress were able to multi-task then we wouldn’t be bogged down in ‘waste-of-time’ conversations about cutting funding to NPR, Planned Parenthood, Obama Care, etc.  Instead they should be multi-tasking and discussing solutions to Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, defense spending and the national debt/deficit.  Those are topics worth discussing for the future growth of America!

The President could play a round of golf every day of his presidency for all I care, provided he is able to do his job in between the rounds of golf then who cares?

Share your thoughts


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Taste Challenge – Twitter Wine Tasting

My wife and I have attended a few wine tastings hosted by the friendly folks atWineTwits and I’m happy to see and hear that they are putting together some tasting events available to the public.

The events, named Taste Challenges, compare wines of the same varietals or made in a similar way, against one another in blind tastings (my favorite part of the tastings). The purpose of this type of event is to allow wine fans to taste the wines, share their thoughts on them via Twitter, see what other tasters have to say and pick their favorites. The Taste Challenge series begins with a tasting of two Italian DOC Pinot Grigio wines on 3/24 at 8:00 PM EST.

WineTwits is promoting a neat giveaway associated with the event – a chance to win a trip for two to Venice, Italy (see details at

Anyone interested in participating in the upcoming Taste Challenge can take advantage of free shipping on all orders of the Taste Challenge Tasting Kits ($30 per kit). The kit includes the two wines being tasted, which have a retail value of $40.

To register for the event, and for details on the Venice trip giveaway, visit


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Wouldn’t you love to wow your friends with wine knowledge or have more confidence ordering off a wine menu? Then don’t miss the 4th Annual New York Wine Expo ( featuring wine tastings from around the world and educational seminars that can turn even the most inexperienced wine lover into a seasoned connoisseur.

The New York Wine Expo is on February 25th and 26th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The Grand Tasting offers attendees a chance to sample more than 600 wines from over 150 winemakers from around the globe. Attendees can casually sip and stroll through old world Italian, French, German Austrian, Spanish and Portuguese wines then let their taste buds lead them through the new world wines of South America, AustraliaCanadaSouth Africa and the United States.

“Wine makers love to come to New York because the attendees are eager to try new varietals and blends as well as share their personal passion for wine,” said Ed Hurley, New York Wine Expo Show Director. “It is an exciting time for the wine industry, with every region of world now offering unique and flavorful wines at affordable prices, and the Wine Expo is the place to be to see them all in one place.”

Attend the Expo not just for the sampling, but for the learning experience as well. To date, seminar presenters will include Gloria Maroti Frazee, who oversees Wine Spectator School and Leslie Sbrocco, award winning author, and Founder of “Thirsty Girl” a multi-media company focused on wine, food and travel.

New York Wine Expo: Hours & Ticketing:

  • Friday, February 25, 2010, 6:00 – 10:00 PM;  One-day ticket – $80 prior to 2/18/11/$90 after that date
  • Saturday, February 26, 2010, 2:00 – 6:00 PM; One-day ticket – $90 prior to 2/18/11/$100 after that date.


  • Friday, February 25
    • 6:00 – 7:00 pm: Taste Wine Like A Pro: Learn the Secrets Behind How to Taste Wine Through a Blind Tasting
  • Saturday, February 26
    • 12:30 – 1:30 pm: “Wine 101”– A Fun-Filled, Crash Course on Wine Basics with Leslie Sbrocco
    • 3:00 – 4:00 pm: Wine Spectator Presents The ABCs of Argentina

For tickets, an updated seminar schedule and event information, or call 800-544-1660.

Note: Sunday, February 27 is dedicated to trade representatives. Liquor licensees from throughout the region are invited to attend on Sunday along with attendees of the co-located International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York. The Wine Expo is not open to the general public on Sunday.

About the 4th Annual New York Wine Expo

The New York Wine Expo is produced by ResourcePlus Shows & Events.  The company specializes in management services for consumer/trade shows, meetings, and special events. In addition to the New York Wine Expo, ResourcePlus’s portfolio of events includes the Boston Wine Expo, The Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival, Build Boston and Residential Design and Construction. Located in Boston, Massachusetts, ResourcePlus is a business unit of Seaport Companies.


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