Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Memories, Bullets, Pain, and Crystal Balls

Writing a column for a weekly newspaper has many challenges.   The greatest of which is the “deadline.”  Ideally, I attempt to provide my readers the most up-to-date information on subjects I feel will be of the greatest interest that particular week.  I write and submit my column three days before you hold the paper in your hand and read it.  Therefore, sometimes I have to gaze into my crystal ball to avoid providing you dated information, or heaven forbid, erroneous information.  

THIS WEEK’S column is a perfect example of the conundrum I sometimes face.  I would love to tell you about my wonderful holiday with my family or impart a heartwarming holiday happening.  But, it hasn’t happened yet!  Christmas will be history by the time you read this, and your thoughts will be on the New Year that hasn’t happened yet, either!

SO, THIS is a time when I will dust off that crystal ball and make a prediction.  This year, your Christmas was either the best or worst you’ve ever experienced.  You may remember this past Christmas your entire life, or not even remember it at all.  You may have Christmas remorse when the bills start rolling in.  You are probably feeling the dread of taking down those Christmas decorations and finally decide it’s okay to leave them up until after the new year.  You are actually considering using that fruitcake as a door stop.  Your kids are already tired of their new toys and you are already tired of picking them up.  

I CAN make these predictions with near certainty because I’ve experienced all these things at Christmas over my many years on this planet.  I also know that while we are experiencing Christmas, we may think it is the worst, until years later you realize it created a lifelong memory. Your family will re-tell the story every ensuing Christmas.  I am reminded of my Christmas when I was four years old.  I was a born “giver” and my Christmas enjoyment has always been picking out that perfect gift for someone and watching their eyes light up.  More than anything, I wanted to give my Daddy a special gift that would make his eyes light up.  Boy did I!  I knew how much bullets meant to him, but having no way of buying some, I took five 22 cal. bullets from his box.  I wrapped them up and placed them under the tree.  

CHRISTMAS morning all the family sat around the fireplace and opened presents.  My Daddy seemed so happy to get bullets and said all the proper things a parent says when a child does something heartfelt.  Everyone pitched in to clean up and threw boxes and paper into the fireplace.  Suddenly, “Bang!”  Sparks and ashes blew out of the fireplace.  “Bang” again!  Everybody was scattering and yelling at me, “How many bullets did you give him?”  That’s when I knew I made a terrible mistake and said, “five” as I cried.  At the time, I thought that was the worst Christmas a person could have.  I could have killed someone in my family.  After the danger was over, I was amazed that no one was mad at me and they couldn’t stop laughing.  Over the years that story has been told by family members bringing much laughter and amusement to everyone.  I’m still a giving person, just not bullets.

ANOTHER TIME in my life I thought, “this is a horrible Christmas,” only to realize it was the most wonderful Christmas I would ever have.  Forty- two years ago, I was in agony, I thought I would surely die, then I was afraid I wouldn’t.  I was in labor 36 hours, but when I held my beautiful baby son late on the 26th of December, all the pain and bad memories disappeared.  Each year since, I have apologized to my son for his birthday being incidental to Christmas and forever doomed to a life without birthday parties and presents (except from Mom, of course).  Happy birthday, son!

IT’S A BIT easier to predict your New Years’ experience.  Unless you fall asleep on the sofa, you will watch a ball drop, toast the new year, and kiss your special someone.  Depending on how much you’ve had to drink, you may kiss everyone.  You may or may not awake with a hangover. You will watch football from the sofa all day.  If you’re old South, you will feast on black-eye peas, collard greens, hog jowl, and cornbread. If you’re not old South, I have no clue what you eat that day. Bless your heart.

OF COURSE, it would have been much easier for me to write a generic column recapping the events of 2017.  There is no way I wanted to relive the worst political year of my life.  Besides, I did not want to spoil this wondrous time of the year by evoking the “T” word.  I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me we’ll hear enough about him in 2018.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Republican Tax Bill is a "Pig in a Poke". Santa is Our Last Hope!

I hate preparing tax returns.  I am a nervous wreck waiting for the calculations to show “Amount Owed”, or hopefully “Amount Refunded.”  When I spot an envelope in my mailbox from the Internal Revenue Service, I begin to shake and sweat cause they don’t send greeting cards.  So, nobody wants reform more than me, but I don’t fool easily.

 THIS TAX BILL that the Republican legislators and the President are selling us is the biggest “pig in a poke” in the history of this country.  For you youngsters, a pig in a poke describes something that is sold or bought without the buyer knowing its true nature or value, especially when buying without inspecting the item beforehand. 

FEW HAVE read this tax bill. Tax experts have not inspected this entire tax bill. This tax bill is being changed every few minutes. Other than what the President has told us (and he is prone to tell fibs), we know little about what value we will receive from this tax bill.  So, let’s use our common sense and what we have learned through our life’s experience with how taxes really work.  

LAST WEEK Trump made his pitch to the middle-class while surrounded by Stepford families.  After all, when two-thirds of a tax cut is going to the top 1% of Americans, and not scrap damn doodle for the bottom 3rd, you have to sell the middle class a pig in a poke to help pass it.  Trump said, “The typical family of four earning $75,000 will see an income tax cut of more than $2,000, slashing their tax bill in half. It's going to be a lot of money. You're going to have an extra $2,000!” Let’s see.  Based on a 40- hour work week, a person will work 2,080 hours a year.  That means you will get less than a dollar per hour.   It begs the question, why not raise the minimum wage and trash that tax bill?  Oh, I forgot.  The big Republican donors would never allow that.

EACH FAMILY spoke of their gratitude for their hand-out from Trump and told how they were going to spend the lots and lots of money they were going to get.  One family getting a refund of $700 said they were going to “pour their money out in their community.”  My favorite was the family that was getting a $2700 tax cut.  They said, “We have a lot of people going to school. My wife and I are both in graduate school, finishing up, and we still got three other -- four other kids to get through college.”  What planet….? But in fairness, these middle-class people need a pay increase and how bad they need it is demonstrated by how happy they are with just a pittance.

ON THE other hand, a person making $5 million a year will get an average of 3% tax cut, or $320,640, compared to those making $54,700 to $93,200 a year (most of the people I know), who would get only a 0.5 percent income boost.  

TRUMP announced if they hurry and pass the tax bill this week, we can start getting the money in February by way of a reduction in with-holding tax.  We all know that if we reduce with-holding, we run the risk of owing IRS at tax time.  

THIS TAX BILL will increase the deficit by $1.46 trillion in ten years.  However, in order for the Senate to meet the requirements of only having 51 votes instead of 60, the deficit cannot extend longer than ten years. Therefore, your tax cut is temporary, for only ten years.  The massive corporate tax cuts responsible for the huge deficit are permanent.

THE INDIVIDUAL mandate has been removed from Obamacare which kills it, with no replacement in sight.  After this bill is passed and signed, we will slowly learn how hard the elderly, poor, and children will be devastated by this poorly thought out plan to help the rich.

THERE IS one good thing I can say about this tax bill; the Johnson Amendment stays in place.  That’s the law that does not allow churches, synagogues, mosques and other nonprofits to be political and endorse candidates in elections. It was only left in place because removing it did not comply with the rules of the Senate.  Hallelujah!

Dear Santa:

This is an emergency!

It’s been decades since I’ve written you. That does not mean I stopped believing that you have a little village at the North Pole where little elves build toys all year.  And, of course I believe you have reindeer that pull your sled through the skies and you deliver gifts to children all over the world in a matter of hours.  I know that you can place your finger beside your nose and magically go up and down a chimney carrying a big pack of toys.  And, if a house does not have a chimney, only YOU know how to deliver those toys through a locked door with an ADT alarm system.  I believe you have magic sleeping dust to sprinkle on dogs like the ones I have that bark at strangers and flying deer.  Of course, I believe.  Who wouldn’t?

I’m not writing because I want you to bring me something.  I am pleading for you NOT to bring something.  On behalf of all the poor and working middle-class in our country, please DO NOT bring us this tax bill.  I know it’s probably all wrapped up, loaded on the sled, and it may be too late.  If that’s the case, please make a sharp turn over Moscow and dump it on top of the Kremlin.

TO ALL my readers, have a wonderful Christmas and I hope you make a memory.

Monday, December 11, 2017

FOX Attacks Mueller and FBI for Trump

Buckle your seat belts, here we go folks!  As Independent Counsel Robert Mueller gets closer to the truth about the President, his son, and son-in-law, Trump’s allies on the conservative right are launching a last-ditch effort to end the Russia investigation.  They are all singing from the same hymnal-- Mueller is biased and the FBI is an organization in tatters.  Really?  In fact, just a few months ago they were singing from the hymnal that Robert Mueller was the most qualified, most fair person that could be appointed to this position.  So, what is happening to make the right-wingers run around with their hair on fire?  The truth is happening, that’s what!

IF YOU GET your news from FOX, you know what I’m talking about.  It’s so obvious what they are doing, even Stevie Wonder can see it.  Right-wing conservatives are conspiring to weaken Robert Mueller, the Justice Department, and FBI so that when Trump fires Mueller, it will be a knock-out blow.  When they say the FBI is a sick agency, they have no evidence to cite.  When they say Mueller is biased, they have no evidence to support that either.  They are using the same Russia propaganda technique of saying it loud enough, over and over again, until people start believing it.  They do internal polls to determine what will work and what is working with these baseless allegations.  

ROBERT MUELLER is living up to this reputation.  He is being very thorough, leaving no stone unturned.  We, as Americans, should expect no less.  We have absolutely no evidence that this is a “witch hunt” by Mueller.  He was hired to find out if Russia interfered in our Presidential election and to what extent our current leaders may be indebted to Russia for their assistance.  If by “witch hunt” Trump means that only his close advisors are being targeted, he is correct.  Who else should he be investigating?  If the people who are being investigated are innocent, then they have no worries.  But, like the old saying, “a hit dog hollers.”  

WE’VE ALREADY heard enough evidence for any reasonable person to know Russia did interfere with our election.  We are just waiting to hear who, what, when, where.  Like Trump, I want this investigation over, but I want it finished, not diminished.  

THIS INVESTIGATION by Robert Mueller is the most important one in our country’s history.  If we are to remain a country of free democracy, we must stop these foreign agents and sympathizers in their tracks.  If this investigation is allowed to be thwarted, we will look back to this time in history and know this was the turning point.  

THINGS ARE about to turn nasty, real nasty.  It’s time to start thinking which side you will come down on…either on the side of people you know will sell their souls for one seat in the Senate, or on the side of truth and preservation of our democracy.

AS I WRITE this, I just returned from the funeral of former Monroe County Commissioner Joseph Proctor, Sr. of High Falls.  I assure you, Mr. Joe was not your average “joe”.  A native Monroe Countian, Mr. Joe has played a major role in developing Monroe County and High Falls into the great place it is today.  When we moved to High Falls eighteen years ago, Mr. Joe was a godsend to us.  He took us under his wing and guided us through the many issues of relocating to a new county.  We also owe Mr. Joe for the water we drink and the road we drive on.  We all appreciate animal rescuers, but Mr. Joe was special in that he was a squirrel rescuer.  When road crews, utility companies, and neighbors found a baby squirrel in need, Mr. Joe would patiently nurse them until they were well enough to be released.  Mr. Joe was also an historian of Monroe County.  While I loved his stories about High Falls in its hay-day when business was booming during the days of the railroad and grist mill, I neglected to document his stories.  I will always regret that.  If High Falls was a town (and it should be) Mr. Joe would have been the Mayor.  In Mr. Joe’s absence, I now nominate Mr. Billy Powell for that prestigious title.