Ideas To Make America A Better, Stronger And Safer Place
DAVE RAMSEY FOR PRESIDENT?
Click on Image to hear Dave Ramsey
December 27, 2012.
Hi. My name is Les Fox. I've been a coin dealer and art dealer for more than 35 years. I've also been an American for more than 65 years. I'm pretty smart and very logical. Based on these "credentials" I would like to throw my hat into the political arena as a commentator on what's happening in the world, what it all means, and what you and I can do to make things better. Let's start with the so-called "Financial Cliff" which is always just about to happen. First, in my opinion the United States went over the financial cliff a long time ago. Thanks to the National Debt, we owe ourselves $16.4 trillion and climbing. By the way, that breaks down to over $52,000 of debt per person for every single person in the United States. Hey, when you've borrowed that much money, you really can't claim you're only "approaching" the financial cliff. But what politicians really mean when they use the term "financial cliff" (a clever phrase) is the inability of the federal government to pay all of its legal obligations due to a lack of officially authorized funds, or rather additional credit, by Congress and the President.
So, how do we solve this problem? Well, some people think we can't. An accountant has created a video (click on the fractured dollar bill below to watch it) in which he states that the Federal Government cannot balance the budget --- for the simple reason that entitlement expenditures alone are greater than the $2.5 trillion in revenue we take in from taxes each year.
As our accountant friend points out, it would be extremely painful for millions of people if we made serious cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and all of the other social help programs designed to keep Americans afloat financially until such time as we all get back on our feet. (Exactly how or when that is supposed to happen is vague.) During the 2012 election, Mitt Romney promised to create 12,000,000 new jobs, but he never said exactly how he would do it. I like Mitt Romney. I believe he is basically a good and honest person, despite concealing certain information about his finances (which probably would have been used against him, so he wasn't going to look good either way). I voted for Romney, despite the fact that he never put forward a specific plan to save America, because I believe we need a good businessman to run the country. On the other hand, I was critical of Romney for not having a plan that could be presented on a chart, the way Ross Perot used to show people the facts, and I believe that until someone tells the American people the truth, we're not going to solve our financial problems. President Barack Obama also promised to create jobs, but his claim that this would be accomplished "from the bottom up" instead of "from the top down" (meaning giving priority to the middle class rather than the rich) is just another clever political tactic. I don't think Barack Obama has the slightest idea what would happen if Republicans passed his Jobs Act "right away", and part of me wishes they did just so we could see what would really happen.
Paul Ryan was another big disappointment in 2011. Billed as a "math genius", I never heard Paul Ryan utter a single brilliant word about how he would actually balance the budget. Like Romney, he promised to stimulate business by keeping taxes low, which he said would result in more businesses and more jobs. On the surface, this makes sense, and I like it better than Barack Obama's strategy to suggest that if rich people would just pay their fair share of taxes, then we could improve America's education system, and suddenly there would be tons of new businesses and jobs. Hmmm. It sounds to me like these guys all have theories involving 300 million Americans that may or may not work. Again, I believe in the free enterprise system, so I favored Romney and Ryan. But to me they never clearly demonstrated how businesses would grow. In my opinion, tax rates are not high enough to discourage people from starting or running businesses. Yet we're in a huge mess. No thanks to Barack Obama. No thanks to George Bush either, who never told the American people what a mess Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were and how they could create an economic disaster, which they did. And possibly even no thanks to Bill Clinton, who might have been as lucky economically as he was personally in his role as U.S. President. The truth is, none of these guys are telling us the truth! And it's time to face the music. The U.S. Government is spending too much money, plain and simple, and everyone knows it. We just don't know exactly what to do to fix the problem.
Now, even though I voted for Mitt Romney, that doesn't mean I'm cruel and heartless and I do believe the government should be helping millions of Americans in need. Even though he did a lousy job of expressing himself (not to mention his idiotic 47% comment), I think Mitt Romney believes in helping people, and he should have spent more time clarifying that. But at the same time, there is a limit to how much we can help poor and middle class people, just as there is a limit to how much rich people should pay in taxes, as well as how some of them get away with not paying their fair share of taxes. So, what is the truth?
Click on Dave Ramsey (right) to hear America's smartest financial advisor
Click on Image to hear Dave Ramsey
The truth is, we need to look at all the facts and figures so that we can begin to understand them. That may not be easy, and we may not have the time to do it, but the truth is if we don't do it the United States of America is not just headed for one of these so-called Fiancial Cliffs that can be temporarily overcome with a vote to extend ourselves another trillion dollars of credit (or "fake money"). We're headed for a National Debt so large that it will destroy the greatest economy in the world. Think about it. As radio talk show commentator Dave Ramsey points out, spending $4 trillion a year when your income is $2.5 trillion is exactly the same as a family spending 60% more than their income. It's like a family spending $120,000 a year when their income is $75,000. How long do you think that family will remain solvent? In 10 years, they will spend $1,200,000 vs. earnings of $750,000. That's a $450,000 family debt. In 20 years, $2,400,000 vs. $1,500,000. That's a $900,000 family debt. It's no different just because a family might be only 4 people and the United States is 300 million people. It's exactly the same thing.
So when people say they don't have the time, or the interest, to understand the national budget, the truth is they don't have the time not to understand it.
I recently called the Dave Ramsey show, and suggested that Dave should spend one day a week talking about the U.S. budget, and how we can begin to balance it. On his show, Dave advises individuals on how to become debt-free, and he is currently America's spokesperson for people getting out of debt. If you listen to Dave's show, he is amazingly perceptive in explaining to people why they don't need three cars, or such expensive cars, or why they should work a second job for a year to pay down their mortgage, or why they shouldn't take an expensive vacation without realizing how badly it could impact their financial future. Dave is great at helping people understand their own budget, which is simply their personal revenue (like U.S. Taxes) vs. their personal expenses (like the U.S. National Expense Budget.) So when I called the Dave Ramsey Show to suggest that Dave is the guy to get this "truth ball" rolling, a very pleasant woman told me she would pass this along to Dave but that he didn't have time to fit it into the current program. I have no idea if Dave will ever address the National Budget in a serious, relentless way. But someone has to. So I guess I've elected myself (and Dave Ramsey) to start the truth ball rolling. I have a lot of ideas, which will presented here in an honest and non-partisan way because like they say, this is not a Democratic or Republican problem. This is an American problem. And since I am an American, if I'm not part of the solution, then I'm part of the problem!
Step 1: Publish a 10-Page Annual Report for all U.S. Citizens
Hey, Dave, Barack, John and Harry, what do you think of this idea? When people buy shares of stock, they get an annual report, right? Okay, so why don't the American people get an annual report? Not just taxpayers. But all U.S. citizens. And instead of the confusing 100-page, or 1,000-page, or 10,000-page annual reports like the ones produced by the government which are available on various websites (and which don't always agree with each other), wouldn't it be nice if the President, the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House personally reviewed and signed their names to the official "U.S. Citizens Annual Report Of The United States" which showed, in simple terms and easy-to-understand graphics (like those neat looking pie charts) the most important facts that Americans need to know, like: (1) How many taxpayers are there, and how much are they paying based on income categories? (2) How much money did we take in from taxes last year? and (3) How much money did we spend? Plus - and here is the really Big Apple - why are we not making any progress toward a balanced budget, and what will we do differently next year to start to make that happen?
Don't tell me this can't be done with all of the millions of people working for the U.S. Government. Don't tell me it can't be simple and undertandable to everyone. It can be. And don't tell me it can't be condensed into 10 pages. Yes it can! If eBay, Amazon, G.E. and all of the other public companies can create people-friendly annual reports, so can the United States!
In my opinion, this is the starting point. Looking at these facts and figures will open a new dialogue among Americans, the majority of whom want to know why we're in such a mess and how we can get out of it. Even people who get large financial "entitlements" from the government should want to know how to fix America's budget crisis - or one of these days they may stop getting anything if the United States declares bankruptcy. Remember that family who earns $75,000 and spends $120,000. America is that family. Giving all Americans an annual budget to look at, and to compare to last year's and the years before, will begin to shed light on the problem. It's the beginning of the answer. The truth may hurt. But not knowing the truth is worse!
DO WE REALLY KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE U.S. BUDGET?
Or do we just think we know everything? After all, what else do we really need to know except that revenue is $2.5 trillion and expenses are $4 trillion and little can be done to change the $1.5 trillion shortage (or whatever the actual number is) except to make rich folks pay more taxes, cut military spending and maybe take away benefits from millions of seniors, poor folks, students and sick people?
Well, for starters, how much do we really know about any of these things? For example, how many rich folks are there and how much more money could we get them to pay in taxes? Liberals say rich people aren't paying their fair share. Conservatives say they're paying too much. I read that there are 1.4 million Americans who earn over $1 million a year in taxable income, and that their average "effective tax rate" is either 24% or 20.4%. According to Warren Buffet, rich folks pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, but that does not seem to be the case. It would be nice to see all of these statistics in one place, and correctly stated. Including how many Americans don't pay any taxes, and how much middle class Americans pay.
I'd like to know the truth about military spending. According to my research, there are 2.5 million men and women in uniform (army, navy, air force and marines) most of whom who get paid salaries of $15,000 to $35,000 per year. Yet the military budget breaks down to $450,000 per person. It certainly seems like we could save a little money here, but not necessarily by cutting salaries. However, I'd also like to know what all these people are doing, where they're stationed, and what would happen if we only had 2 million people on active duty. I'm not saying we should have only 2 million people. I'm just asking what the difference would be so we can have a meaningful discussion of this significant portion of the national budget. Oh, by the way, there's like another $550 billion in "discretionary spending" that goes to the defense budget, but is technically not categorized as "Defense Spending." That makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?
Next, there's the issue of how many people get entitlements. Seniors on Social Security, poor folks on Food Stamps, Welfare and Unemployment, students getting cash benefits from the Federal Government (do they?) and sick people getting Medicare and Medicaid. The truth is, I don't have the slightest idea who all these people are (like the 50 million people getting $200 billion a year in Food Stamps) or exactly who qualifies for all this stuff. I'm sure there are millions of people who legitimately need help. But what percentage could make it on their own, or with less help? And why don't all able-bodied or technically-skilled unemployed people work for the government on infrastructure projects, like Roosevelt's WPA Project? Since they are getting paid until they find work, it seems like they could help their country on the days they're not able to actively seek other employment. Am I being callous, or realistic? This should be part of the "national conversation", empowered by an enlightening Citizens Annual Report.
As to Medicare and Medicaid, again, who are all these people and exactly what medical procedures are being covered by the billions or trillions of healthcare dollars allocated to this national expense? It would be nice to see a list of how many people are being treated for cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and what all of the specific costs are. That's exactly what you'd ask if you had to pay for the healthcare needs of a number of people out of your own money. Well, guess what? This is your money! Yours, mine and everyone else's. So why shouldn't we know exactly where it's going? And does anyone yet know how Obamacare will actually work? I don't. I guess Nancy Pelosi was right. We'll find out what it is, and how much it costs, someday.
You get the idea. Please, Mr. President, and all you guys in Congress earning pretty good salaries and nice benefit and retirement packages. Humor us. Give us the actual numbers. We deserve to know how much we're spending on everything, and where the money is coming from, so we can figure out how to behave like a responsible family who realizes the need to balance its budget before we fall into a financial Black Hole. Thank you.
And here's the most amazing thing. In all of the zillions of debates, commentary and news reports on TV and radio about the looming Financial Cliff, what is the one thing no one discusses? (Not the Democrats, not the Republicans either.) The answer: The actual numbers. It drives me crazy, day after day, to hear all of the great journalists, the politicians, and the financial experts, all talking about how we should try to avoid the Financial Cliff. But none of them - no one - ever puts up a white poster board and starts using a magic marker to explain exactly why we're in a financial bind. "Okay, folks," says Wolf Blizter (in my dreams), "On today's show we have Paul Ryan, the former Republican Vice Presidential candidate, and Tim Geithner, America's Treasury Secretary. And today, they're going to show you exactly how we could attempt to balance the budget. They're not going to solve the whole problem. But they will explain to you precisely what the problem is. It's as simple as a family budget, and the same principles apply, but on a much larger scale. And we also have Dave Ramsey on the show to make some suggestions about which expeditures can be reduced or eliminated without destroying the country, as well as how we can increase our tax revenue without destroying the economy. Good evening, gentlemen."
Yeah, right. Or maybe: "Yeah! Right!"
Click on Photo to hear Dave Ramsey
MSNBC vs. FoxNews
December 29, 2012
I was just flipping back and forth between Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC and a panel of four business people on FoxNews / Saturday morning. Interesting contrast. Unlike many people, I watch all three of the major Cable TV News channels, MSNBC, who is ultra-liberal, CNN, who is semi-liberal, and FoxNews, who is ultra-conservative but who is certainly the most "fair and balanced" of the three news channels even though they have their moments of Right Wing Insanity. (Of course, MSNBC has even more moments of Left Wing Insanity, in my opinion.)
So, this morning, the day after President Obama "invited" Harry Reid and Mitch O'Connell to a special meeting at The White House to buy some time to prevent American from falling off the Fiscal Cliff (I've already expressed my opinion that we fell off trillions of dollars ago), here's what they were saying on MSNBC and on Fox. The Fox business people were focused on the $16 trillion National Debt and the $4 trillian annual budget deficit. No matter how you "resolved" the current Fiscal Cliff problem, they agreed, that only "kicks the can down the road" in terms of solving America's true financial crisis, which is over-spending and not balancing the budget. On MSNBC, the panelists were complaining that "as usual" the Republicans were gumming up the works by refusing to vote yes on any of Barack Obama's "reasonable" tax and spend proposals, which was going to hurt the country, and especially lower and middle class Americans when nothing happens by January 1st and everyone starts to get smaller paychecks thanks to the elimination of all of the Bush Tax Cuts, payroll taxes going up, etc. During the entire show, I never heard anyone on MSNBC express their opinion on the need to cut spending, reduce the National Debt or balance the budget. Just to raise taxes on the "elite" 1% or 2% of Americans earning $250,000, $400,000 or $1,000,000 per year and authorize whatever means are necessary to keep writing checks to everyone the government pays. Okay, here's the point. Even if you raise taxes on rich folks, and if that doesn't solve the financial crisis (which it doesn't), then what? No answer from the MSNBC group. But no real anwer from the FoxNews group either! On Fox, all they kept saying was we have to do something. Does that mean a 10% reduction in Social Security payments? (Works for me.) No one suggested that. A 10% reduction in all U.S. Federal Government spending? Or even a 5% or a 1% reduction just to see what happens when we try to spend less money? No one suggested that. Then what, FoxNews people and MSNBC news people?
It would be interesting, wouldn't it, to see what happens if we cut all U.S. Government expenses by let's say 1%? Which means if a 67 year old senior has been receiving $1,500 a month, now he or she would start getting $1,485 a month. (With a 5% cut, he'd get $1,525, and with a 10% pay cut he'd get $1,350.) Now, I'm not saying millions of people wouldn't be upset, and some would be hurt financially by a Social Security "pay cut" of $15, $75 or $150. But have you ever heard anyone - a Republican, a Democrat, a Liberal, A Conservative, or the President of the United States, even talk about exactly what we "could" do to reduce spending? The answer is no. So, in the words of the outspoken and Conservative talk show host Mark Levin, "There! I said it! Sue me!"
Well, not surprisingly, on FoxNews they were upset, specifically, with some of the new taxes that are apparently scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2013 (like taxes on medical equipment and increases in investment income taxes). And they were worried about all of the new taxes and rules that would start kicking in under Obamacare. One of the Fox guys did point out that millions of people would be helped by Obamacare if the new law allowed them to buy affordable health insurance, and that this was a good thing. But basically they were obsessed with the growing size and power of the U.S. government, and how all Americans, not just the business community, is being strangled by Uncle Sam's tentacles (yes, I spelled that correctly.)
Not a problem on MSNBC. Over there they were worried about the price of gallon of milk going up from $4 to $6 or $8 because we haven't fixed our national farm policy since 1949 or something. Melissa Perry Harris herself complained that she had "teen type people" in her house who drank a lot of milk, and that she wasn't the only one concerned with this potentially huge increase in milk prices, which we should fix once and for all. Hey, no offense, Melissa, but I don't think the price of milk is really going have a big effect on your life. Like most popular TV commentators, you probably earn a mid six-figure salary. Which means, even if your kids drink a gallon of milk a day, and milk doubles in price to $8, it will cost you $1,460 a year. No, that's not chicken feed, but you can probably afford it easily. And most likely your kids only drink a couple of gallons a week, so your extra expense is probably more like $416 a year. And I'm sure there are other things we can drink instead of milk that are just as healthy or healthier without sacrificing our daily calcium needs.
Melissa also complained that the current Congress, thanks mostly to the Republicans, has not proposed nearly as many bills or passed as many new laws as Congress usually does. She threw some numbers up on the screen, I think it was 400 new bills compared to the usual 1,300 new bills, proposed by Congress last year, or over the last 4 years, I'm not sure which. Oh my goodness. That's the problem with America! Not enough laws, right? Gee, if we had only passed 900 more laws in 2012 (or from 2008-2012), imagine what good shape we'd be in. Of course, Melissa didn't specify which laws would have really helped. I assume she meant the laws proposed by Democrats. If the Republicans had passed 400 to 1,300 new laws, obviously that would have further destroyed the fabric of America, crippled the already weak economy, and made it even more difficult for the poor to become middle class, and the middle class to become rich, while the rich just got richer and richer and bought more planes, boats, houses and jewelry like the Kardashians, Jay Zee and Beyonce, and all of the billionaires except for Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who are just wonderful.
Speaking of billionaires, someone on TV this week (probably FoxNews) suggested that rich folks only get social praise for the money they donate to charity. Yet Bill Gates has probably helped many more people in all economic classes through the millions of computers sold thanks to Microsoft technology. Bill's profitable businesses have helped to create millions of jobs, and trillions of dollars in new business, and also improved the world's education and healthcare systems, business and government efficiency in general (we hope), and all aspects of human existence. In addition to computer sales, Microsoft (and Apple, HP, Samsung, Oracle, etc) have exploded business opportunities and employment in computer stores, computer supplements, cell phones, digital TV's and all of the other endless electronic products we now use daily.
But do you ever hear about the good things that business men and women do on MSNBC? No, they just give people like Bill Gates credit for providing free computers to Third World nations (which is a wonderful thing to do, and which will help the world) - as well as for supporting international health programs, which is also a wonderful thing to do. But where do you think Bill got the money to be able to do this wonderful humanitarian stuff? Yup, from creating and building the Microsoft brand. But you don't hear much about the good that comes from people building successful and profitable businesses on MSNBC. Just like you don't hear much on FoxNews about all of the wonderful things people do (including the government) to help the poor, the disabled, the unemployed (or at least some of the unemployed), seniors, sick people, minorities, students, teachers and other public and non-profit workers. True, the Fox people like to praise firemen, police officers and the armed forces. But Fox (and Republicans in general) need to say more nice things about average Americans, Americans in need and people who help American in need (including the government) to show that we're all on the same team. And MSNBC (and Democrats in general) need to say more nice things about business minded Americans. On MSNBC, they are far more likely to publicize an anti-Walmart story than a pro-Walmart story. In fact, we all need to say good things about all Americans.
I'd like to see a "Love Thy Neighbor Day" on FoxNews, MSNBC and CNN, on which everyone praises the other channels and the other political parties for trying to help the people of the United States. Democrats and Republicans, and Liberals and Conservatives, earn their living by criticizing "the other side". It's time to find more common ground. Republicans don't want to push granny off the cliff (another cliff?) and Democrats don't want millionaires to go broke. At least I hope not.
"Meet The New Republicans" - My Idea For An Ad Campaign
MEET THE NEW REPUBLICANS
We care about a balanced budget,
but we also care about the poor, the sick, the elderly and the unemployed.
We believe in the right to bear arms,
but we want to protect America's children and citizens from harm.
We support a strong military,
but we prefer to win hearts and minds through peaceful negotiation.
We love American Immigrants
but we believe in a legal acceptance process.
We think all U.S. citizens should pay fair taxes,
the rich, the poor and the middle class.
EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW
ABOUT THE GRAND "OLD" PARTY (G.O.P.)
Except our commitment to the American People
And The United States Constitution.
THE NEW REPUBLICANS. Join Us.
Dear Fellow Taxpayers,
Here are some financial statistics that I need to "fact check" for inclusion in my U.S. Annual Report.
This comes from USA today. Interestingly, they report that the vast majority of millionaires pay a 30% tax rate compared to the average middle class tax rate of 15%. So Warren Buffet's claim that millionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries appears to apply to a very small percentage of cases. In 99% of the cases, rich people currently pay twice the tax rate as middle class people! Which means that President Obama's case for the Buffet Rule (minimum 30% tax for rich people) is already in effect for 99% of rich people, and the Buffet rule might not generate a great deal of additional income compared to the current tax code.
According to U.S.A. Today, people earning $40-$50,000 a year pay a 12.5% tax rate, and people earning $20-$30,000 pay a 5.7% tax rate. Far less than the rich.
I am now looking into exactly how many taxpayers there are, and what rates they actually pay, and how much total revenue is generated.
Facts count, and are necessary to form meaningful opinions.
Rush Limbaugh, Sub-Prime Mortgages & National Taxpayers Union
January 13, 2013
I was listening to Rush Limbaugh the other day. Rush is brilliant, and he occasionally reveals or clarifies important issues on his radio show that other people (like Romney and Ryan) miss, or just don't want to tackle. Rush also says some pretty idiotic things, like joking that Sandra Fluke is a slut for supporting free birth control. Part of my message to Republicans is that constantly being (or sounding) unsympathetic and sarcastic does not impress most people or change their minds. Truthfully, I don't remember Rush Limbaugh (or Sean Hannity or Mark Levin) ever saying anything nice about Planned Parenthood, poor people, the social security system or anything else supported by Barack Obama, the Liberals and the Democrats, with the possible exception of the death of Osama Bin Laden. In any case, credit where credit is due. Rush recently explained how the Sub-Prime mortgage situation (initiated by Bill Clinton in 1998) led to the 2008 Debt Crisis, and he's absolutely right. There were certainly other factors, too, but encouraging millions of people to buy homes they couldn't afford, backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and forcing banks to participate in this scheme, played a key role in the mess that exploded during the last year of the Bush Administration, and into the Obama Presidency.
As Limbaugh explained in general detail (we need to analyze the exact facts and figures, which I will do), arranging for millions of people to borrow too much money to buy homes, so everyone in America could be a home-owner, was a recipe for disaster. As the loans started to go bad, the banks re-packaged them (again with U.S. Government backing) as "Mortgage Backed Securities" which were bought by unwary investors, and even foreign governements, who eventually got stuck with "bad paper" and had to write off billions or trillions of dollars. Undoubtedly, this is one of the major reasons why the United States is now in a recession and why the $16 trillion National Debt continues to increase.
Of course, Rush blames the Democrats for sabotaging Bush's attempts to curtail sub-prime lending, which may be somewhat true. But I don't remember George Bush going on TV and explaining to people how potentially dangerous this situation really was. If Bush had been more aggressive, maybe the Democrats (and Republicans) would have done something sooner, and the economic crisis we're in wouldn't be quite as bad as it is. I'm also curious as to why Romney and Ryan (the math genius) did not harp on this issue during the 2012 election. While they kept insisting that George Bush could not be blamed forever for Obama's decisions, and the bad economy, they failed to explain exactly why the 2008 financial crisis happened, and how it was related more to Clinton's decisions than Bush's.
PROGRESS ON ANNUAL REPORT TO U.S. CITIZENS
Coming Soon: Gay Marriage, Iran, Israel and Unions