Sunday, September 21, 2014

To Work or Not to Work

Why would a nation that is deeply in debt punish those who work, and reward those who don’t?  Wouldn’t it get deeper into debt?

Why, surely. And then? Simple! It will print more money.

Indeed, our printing presses are vigorously at it. Soon people may need a wheelbarrow full of money to buy a loaf of bread. It happened in Germany in the thirties and it can happen here. Work needs to be rewarded and encouraged, so people find pride again in their civic responsibility. John F. Kennedy put it so well, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Sadly, today’s employment agencies go begging for qualified applicants. They say that those who receive unemployment benefits would jeopardize them if they’d return to work. So many don’t. Even their medical benefits are better than those of the working middle class, who pays a high price for them.

In an attempt to refute the accusation that the United States is becoming an entitlement society where social programs undermine work ethics, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed where the benefits go. Among its charts is one entitled: "Wealthy Households Receive Disproportional Share of Tax Expenditures." According to this chart 21% of the country’s top earners receive a 90% “Share of Tax Expenditures.” Unfortunately, the meaning of tax expenditures is not defined. (Figure 3, ),

Yet, many people do take pride in their work. Actually, honor and ethics are an innate trait of most people—well, for some it may be hard to resist the lure of government handouts. Would job training improve the situation? The job market is changing faster than ever.  Skills needed today did not exist twelve years ago.

Those who do work, tend to work hard and long hours to make ends meet because the government must take the money somewhere. That somewhere is the American working middle class. They are punished with higher taxes, increased medical costs, and endless restrictions affecting their business.

In 2013, an extra 3.8% Medicare surtax was levied upon people who have an annual income of 200,000 a year or more.

Since 2014, there’s a stiff “Marriage Penalty.” For example, a single person earning $300,000 a year will be in the 33% tax bracket; if both husband and wife earn that amount, they’ll pay 39.6%, a difference of $39,600 a year in higher taxes (U.S. News & World Report Mar 12, 2014 ).

One could go on and on, but enough. Who would forgo that grand feeling of having done a great job? The joy of accomplishment is often worth every drop of sweat and sweeter than government handouts.

Until next time,


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Meaning of Peace

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No word carries more cherished meaning for me than Peace. I endorse it with all my heart. Having grown up in Germany during World War II, the horrors of war are still vividly in my memory—spending nights in cold, dark, damp air shelters, always being hungry, destruction all around us, the air heavy with grief, the wounded and many deaths.

Peace. What glory to savor life!

Yet, scholars of history point to the indisputable perils of peace.
Peace brings abundance and comfort, enjoyment and pleasure, something we want to hang on to and safeguard. Yet such comfort leads to extravagance, privilege, lethargy and inertia.

After the First World War, Europe was tired of the horrors of war and desperately wanted peace.  Do you remember Mr. Chamberlain, Prime Minister of the Great British Empire “where the sun never set,” flying to Munich? He wanted to meet with the leader of his neighboring country and make sure that Hitler was on the same page and could be trusted.

After long chats with Adolf Hitler he returned home and pronounced to an eagerly waiting and delighted world: “There will be Peace in our time!” And the world eagerly cut back on defense spending.

Theodore Roosevelt would not have approved of Chamberlain’s political philosophy. “Speak softy and carry a big stick,” was his approach. In 1901 he sent his Big White Fleet, sixteen fine battleships around the world on a peacetime tour — to let the world admire the prestige and power it implied.

Throughout history, civilizations have risen to power and then reclined in the glory of their might — unaware that others have dreams of glory too. Predators always, always abound, waiting to jump upon the unwary.

In Europe of the thirties, the idea of appeasement was coined, the idea of ignoring unreasonable actions and demands in order to avoid confrontation and preserve the peace. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect—appeasement became an invitation to attack. It’s been proven over and over again. As long as mankind is endowed with a lust for power, carry that big stick or be willing to crawl into the dark!

Peace by all means, but balance it with muscle to protect against the hungry world of predators.

Until next time,