Monday, October 15, 2012

Hard earned money

Is anyone else tired of hearing about how tax hikes will hurt "hard working" Americans and take your "hard earned" money?  Guess what.  There are lots of people who don't work hard for their money.  Donald Trump inherited a fortune from daddy; hard earned money? I don't think so.

Taxes take money from everyone, hard working and the not so hard working.  The most important thing is to know whether taxes are used for the benefit of the public or for the benefit of a chosen few who often aren't very hard working at all.  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Treat the disease not just the symptoms

When we experience symptoms such as pain, dizziness or shortness of breath, we seek medical help. We want relief from our symptoms but we also expect the doctor to diagnose the underlying illness and treat it.

Our state and communities have lots of serious issues; high unemployment, crumbling roads and bridges, high taxes, unfunded pensions, population loss and political corruption to name a few. Are they diseases or are they symptoms of underlying illnesses?

Like the doctor whose waiting room is filled with patients needing attention, legislators scramble to put out a myriad of fires all at once. Despite their efforts, (in some cases, because of them) the underlying illnesses are often never fully diagnosed or treated.

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PENSION REFORM's $2 billion unfunded liability. A symptom or disease? If we miraculously received $2 billion, the immediate problem would be relieved, but have we achieved a cure or just alleviated the symptom?

Governments and unions, when crafting pension contracts, MUST work together for the benefit of everyone instead of their own constituencies and narrow interests as they have often done in the past.

A start might be to publish the names of those people who craft all employee contracts so that the public always knows who was actually responsible for them.

Perhaps if people knew that their prior actions would not fade with time, they might think more carefully about their legacy and future reputation.

JOB  CREATION GOP director Patrick Sweeney said, “The ... issues I believe that are most pressing.... addressing the business climate in this state which means helping out small business to help create jobs”. I would respectfully disagree with this assessment. Businesses don't create jobs. They create services and/or products and if the public wants them and can afford them, businesses will hire more workers. In other words PEOPLE create jobs.

Any business that hires workers it doesn't really need because of a tax break will let them go when the tax break ceases or they'll soon be out of business. Yet another example of treating a symptom and not the disease.

EDUCATION: Rhode Island per pupil spending is higher than 45 other states but student performance is just in the middle of the nation. Symptom or disease?

“If we focused on waste, we could provide more resources to our children in the classroom” says one party spokesperson.

But we're already spending much more than most every other state but with only mediocre results.

“We need to stop treating corporate education like it is special and we need to stop giving corporate CEOs tax breaks. Reversing these two trends will be key to revitalizing Rhode Island” says an NEA director.

Nearly every conversation about education focuses on money and taxes. These are extremely important but  the crucial element in a child's academic success is the attitude of parents and family. Until and unless this is addressed, financial "solutions" alone will fail to achieve the desired results. When our children grow up in a home environment that values education, nothing will hold them back.

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Changing our habit of treating symptoms instead of diseases isn't going to be easy and all sides need to listen to one another. We have to take the best ideas, regardless of whose they are, and working together, use them to do the right thing for all of the people.

These are only one person's ideas after hearing the same tune played over and over. I'm hoping we 
at least change the station. They did it in Tahrir Square. I hope we can do it here.

Continuing to take only aspirin for that chest pain symptom could be a killer.

Maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Underwater mortgages

I'm confused. A person borrows money to buy something (if it's a house it's called a mortgage). If the value of the purchase drops, the lender is being asked to decrease or forgive the amount borrowed ("principal forgiveness").

But what if the value of the purchase were to increase instead of decrease, as it often did in the recent past? By the above logic, a lender should be entitled to get more than the amount that was borrowed. 

What does the change in the market price of the purchase have to do with the amount of money that was borrowed? It's a loan and needs to be paid back.

Now, if a buyer borrowed more than he or she could afford to repay in the hope that the value of the home would rise and be sold for a profit, that's gambling. Why should the lender be on the hook for the buyer's speculation?

On the other hand, if the lender deceived the buyer in some way, in order to make a sale or get a fee for refinancing a mortgage, the lender should be prosecuted.

Sensible, fair, regulation of banking (among other things), administered by honest and competent people is the only real solution to the problem that got us to where we are. 

Unfettered free markets as touted by the far right Tea Party and libertarian ideologues might eventually self regulate but not before destroying a lot of people in the process.

The right thing for the wrong reason

On Sunday, Dec 9, Pg B7 of the Providence Journal there was an article, "Ending death penalty on ballot".  California's Proposition 34 would change the death penalty to life without parole even for those those who are already on death row.

The reason stated is "the entire process is far too costly, and that scrapping the death penalty could save millions of dollars."  Excuse me, but that's a terrible reason to justify not putting a convicted murderer to death.  Using such logic, why not save even more money by limiting the trials for accused murderers to two days?  Now that would really save tons of money.

I have no emotional or ethical problem with the death penalty for someone who has demonstrated he or she is unfit to live among civilized people.

However there is a far more compelling reason to eliminate the death penalty and it has nothing to do with compassion or sympathy. Juries are people and one undeniable characteristic of each one us is that we can make mistakes. Even judges can make mistakes. Believe it or not even lawyers can make mistakes.

Until we the people become infallible, putting someone to death is simply wrong because courts can make mistakes. And saving a few bucks wouldn't hurt either.