Wednesday, January 25, 2012

All's Fair in Love and War, but not Politics

Ok—I’ve talked about this before, my feelings about fairness. But Obama brought it up again last night, so I’m going to comment again, too.

Growing up with lots of brothers and sisters, fairness was a pretty common theme in our everyday lives—take turns, ask before you borrow something, both the boys and the girls have to do housework and yard work, leave some for your sister—you get the idea.

Well, I’ve already said what I think about the general discrepancy between what people are paying into the system verses what they are receiving from the system. So, I’ll just address what I think both the media and the president have focused on—unfair taxing of the rich, namely, Mitt Romney.

Although I think we would all agree the tax code could use some serious adjustments, Romney has paid his “fair share” according to tax laws.

I agree with senior editorial writer, Philip Klein, of the Washington Examiner that in regards to his taxes, Romney “has absolutely nothing to apologize for.” In fact he put into perspective what $3.2 million in federal taxes—Romney’s estimated 2011 taxes—pays for:

-- The monthly food stamp allowance for about 23,909 people.

-- The cost of educating 302 elementary and high school students.

-- The base salary (before bonuses and allowances) of 178 privates in the U.S. Army.

-- The federal contribution to the benefits of 636 Medicaid enrollees.

In addition to his taxes, Romney has given around 16.4 percent of his income over the past two years to charity, and not just to the Mormon church.

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post put it this way:

“Another way of looking at it is that in 2011 the Romneys paid out 42 percent of their income in taxes and charity. Here’s how I got there: Total tax (line 60) + foreign taxes (line 47) + state taxes and real-estate taxes + other taxes (Schedule A, line 9) + charitable contributions (Schedule A, line 19) divided by Adjusted Gross Income (1040 line 37).

“Let’s compare this percentage to that of average Americans. A 2009 Urban Institute study found: ‘The average charitable contribution per return filed in 2009 was about 2.0 percent of [adjusted gross] income.’

As for the effective marginal rate, Jim Pethokoukis writes: ‘While Romney’s tax rate is — in his own words — ‘probably closer to 15 percent than anything,’ that’s still higher than the 8.2 percent average effective income tax rate (as of 2010) of U.S. households (once you factor in various tax credits). Indeed, nearly half of U.S. households pay no income tax at all. Their average effective tax rate is actually negative. Even if you add in the payroll tax, the effective tax rate of the middle fifth of U.S. taxpayers is 12.8 percent.’

“So, yes, Romney is much wealthier than most Americans. But he also gives away or pays in taxes in absolute and percentage terms far more than most Americans.”

The liberal rhetoric Obama uses regarding taxes not being fair, and that the rich don’t pay their fair share, and that the poor are treated unfairly, and that we need to all play fair, makes it seem as if the rich are just a bunch of lazy bums getting a free ride while all the rest of us are doing all the work and paying all the taxes.

Obviously, the rich have much more money and pay much more money into federal taxes. In fact, the top one percent pays four times more than the bottom 40 percent. Half the country owes no income tax at all. And as I said, although our nation has a progressive tax system, that system could use some adjustment. But we should be glad we have many wealthy Americans who are contributing so much (yet, taxing them higher isn’t going to solve the deficit problem as Obama suggested).

We should be lauding the kind of success the Romneys have achieved through hard work and ingenuity. We should be praising their generosity. Instead, the media and the president try to make out their success as somehow being unfair and immoral. If we are truly talking about fairness, I would say Mitt Romney does more than his “fair share” for society.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Welfare Reform Mormon Style

When Mitt Romney releases his tax information I think we’ll hear some discussion on the need for tax reform.

But, when people see his contributions to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I think we could have some serious discussion about welfare reform. I went to (the official website for the church, also known as the Mormon church) to see some of what the church does with its contributions. It’s impressive.

First, the church does not have professional, paid clergy. It is comprised of a huge volunteer force. Second, not only do they use tithing funds to build churches, temples, and help support their educational facilities, they have the LDS Charities and humanitarian services set up. What is so distinct about these humanitarian efforts is that 100% of the donations received to the humanitarian funds goes to the projects. The church absorbs all the overhead costs itself. And then there is the miraculous work they do throughout the world.

Here is what they say about the LDS Charities on their website:

“Helping People Help Themselves”

Jesus Christ told those who would be His followers that they were to give meat to the hungry and drink to those who thirst. His is a gospel that includes taking in the stranger, loving neighbors as self, and visiting those who are sick or imprisoned. He taught while He lived on the earth—and has since taught through modern prophets—that we are to love and care for each other, that we should visit the fatherless and the widow in their afflictions, and lift up those whose hands hang down and whose knees are feeble.

“Latter-day Saint Charities, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is an application of this admonition of Jesus Christ to help others in need. We have sponsored relief and development projects in 167 countries. This assistance is rendered without regard to race, religious affiliation, or nationality and is based on the core principles of personal responsibility, community support, self–reliance, and sustainability.

“Unique in its support structure, Latter-day Saint Charities has access to the resources of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which include food production and processing, grain storage, vocational rehabilitation, donated used clothing, and employment and social services. Largely run with volunteer labor, Latter-day Saint Charities operates both independently and in cooperation with other charitable organizations and governments. Last year, over one million man–days of labor were contributed by volunteers in support of welfare initiatives.

“Latter-day Saint Charities provides emergency relief assistance in times of natural disasters. In addition, our primary community development programs include clean water, neonatal resuscitation training, vision care, wheelchairs, immunizations, food production, and other health programs.

“The assistance we render is made possible by generous donations of cash and in–kind materials from members and friends of the LDS Church.”

The Church provides food, and other relief supplies as needed. In 2010 alone the Church provided relief to people affected by 119 disasters in 58 countries.

Here is some of the work they’ve done:

  • In Haiti, after their massive earthquake two years ago, the LDS Charities provided over one million pounds (25 semi–trucks) of food, hygiene kits, water filtration bottles, water systems, and medical supplies such as medicine and wheelchairs. Two thousand seven hundred tents were distributed to families forced to leave their homes.

  • In Japan, after last year's tsunami, in the first few days the Church provided more than 135,000 pounds of food, water and supplies, 10,000 liters of fuel and 15,000 blankets. Local Church leaders created an emergency response committee, which met daily to identify and respond to community needs and to organize volunteer efforts. Over 40,000 hours of service were given by more than 4,000 Mormon volunteers. Hundreds of congregations in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka established plans to assemble hygiene and cleaning kits. Members also delivered aid by scooters provided by the Church to areas too difficult to reach by car. In addition, the Church made a substantial financial donation to the Japan Red Cross.

W This sort of organized assistance from the LDS church can be seen at almost any disaster any place in the world. Many of us have seen the bright yellow T-shirts or vests with the Mormon Helping Hands logo on it worn by local volunteers helping with disaster assistance or just community clean-up.

Some of the church's on-going efforts include:

Training –The church provides programs to train and provide equipment for health care providers to help save the lives of newborns in resource limited countries. Since 2002, over 193,000 health care workers have been trained in these life-saving techniques.

Wheel chairs—The church provides mobility devices including wheelchairs for rough terrain, hospital wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, and canes. Since 2002, over 415,000 people have received one of these devices.

Immunizations—Church financial contributions and help from 59,000 local Church volunteers have supported campaigns in 35 countries since 2003. As a result of these international efforts, there has been a 92% reduction in measles deaths in Africa and a 78% reduction worldwide. An estimated 4.3 million lives have been saved.

The church also has programs for building water systems, personal food production, and vision assistance. Just in Africa they have hundreds of projects in every country from pineapple farming and clean water projects to animal husbandry skills training and remodeling school classrooms. They have over 600 projects in Asia, over 300 in South America, and hundreds more world-wide.

But the general theme throughout all of their efforts is helping people to help themselves. This is something the church believes is critical in strengthening individuals, families, and communities.

We’ve heard the saying, “Give a man to fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and feed him for a lifetime.” The LDS church seems to push that even further to include, “Teach a man to teach another to fish, and feed a village for generations.”

How's that for welfare reform?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Forget Grandiose, Return to Simple Basics

My husband and I have been discussing how Gingrich has embraced his being "Grandiose" with grandiose ideas. Well, here's our conclusion:

We don’t need grandiose ideas.

Grandiose ideas are expensive. Remember FDR and the foundation of our grandiose, excessive entitlement state? Look at Europe and their grand experiment in economic equality where the government takes care of you, cradle to grave.

Grandiose ideas only serve to self-aggrandize the person behind the grandiose idea. Fancy that sort of thing coming from Gingrich.

The problems we face do not call for grandiose ideas.

What our nation needs right now is not grandiose ideas, but a return to simple, foundational principles – principles recognized by our Founders:

  • Liberty--freedom is good.

  • Work--hard work is good.

  • Opportunity--opportunity to succeed on one's own merits is good.

  • Success--of course, success is good.

  • Charity--charity, person by person, is good.
  • Smaller government--States and local governments (closer to the people) can generally do things better than the federal government, and that is good.

So, instead of coming up with attention-grabbing, expensive, grandiose ideas, what we really need to do is remember and get back to our simple principles. Those are largely what is required to return to the America we believe in and love.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Media Made Me Do It

In the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Adam and Eve, remember what Adam said after he ate the fruit? Eve made me do it—and it’s sort of Your fault, too, for giving me that woman. Well, Adam may have been the first to try to blame someone else for his actions, but he certainly wasn’t the last. We saw it again last night.

Newt Gingrich is a master at spinning negative attention from himself and putting it back onto someone else.

So, when CNN asked Gingrich about his open-marriage request and affair with Callista, Newt went into a tirade. Not about the corrupt morals of government officials, not about the devastating pain and anguish such behavior causes to families and society. No, he blew up over how the “Destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the media makes it hard for decent people to run for office.”

Hold on. I assume he is lumping himself into the “decent people” category. But what about the “destructive, vicious, negative nature” of his behavior and its “destructive, vicious, negative” effects on his family?

And he thinks ABC’s actions are “despicable.” Do a kettle and a pot come to mind here?

But he topped all that when he blasted the moderator for choosing to start the debate with such a question and what a horrible a beginning it was. “Don’t try to blame somebody else,” Newt warned.

Wow. Here it goes, stating the obvious, but Newt, YOU are the one who CHOSE to lie. YOU chose to deceive, and cheat with your wife. YOU. Don’t try to blame somebody else.

Here’s the really ironic thing about Gingrich complaining that the media brings all this up again right before a big vote—he did the exact same thing.

Here’s a headline from a Washington Post article dated Oct. 30, 1998: “Gingrich Orchestrated GOP Ads Recalling Clinton-Lewinsky Affair.” This multimillion dollar ad campaign was devised by Newt Gingrich. The ads revived the White House scandal with President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The ads were about Clinton lying and denying the affair. And—I like this one—one had two mothers discussing “What did you tell your kids?” Guess when these ads aired—that’s right, just a few days before election day.

Do I even need to point out the hypocrisy of Newt leading the charge against Bill Clinton while he himself was having an affair with a Congressional aide?

But, to be fair, in an interview with James Dobson Newt explain he was moving forward with action against Bill Clinton, not because of infidelity, but because, “You cannot accept…perjury in highest officials.” I think what he’s saying here is that it’s ok to cheat and lie, as long as you don’t get caught doing so in front of a sitting federal judge.

Remembering back to Newt’s ads against Clinton has made me do some thinking. Now I ask myself, if Newt and Callista get into the White House, what am I going to tell my kids?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No Desperate Housewives, Just Desperate Politicians

In a desperate attack against Mitt Romney, a Gingrich super PAC recently released a film trying to disparage Romney’s work at Bain Capital. However, today Fox news showed an interview with two men featured in “King of Bain.” Tommy Jones and Mike Baxley were “angry” and “frustrated” with how their words had been twisted and taken out of context to attack Mitt Romney and Bain.

Neither man was informed that their comments were being used in a film about Bain and Mitt. Both men had worked at Unimac, a company taken over by Bain. Tommy and his wife were shown talking about their fears of not having insurance or income, as the ominous voice-over explained how “their brush with Mitt Romney and Bain nearly tore their family apart.” Well, in the Fox interview Tom explained that those clips were completely out of context. Tom had been talking about his experiences of later trying to go out on his own to start his own business years later. In fact, once Bain took over the company, Tommy said, “Everybody at the company received raises.” He said he went through “two promotions while it was under Bain.”

Mike’s clip in the film was his talking about how Bain shut their doors and he lost his insurance as his daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. Mike explained that the time he was talking about was after Bain had sold the company and he was going out on his own as well. He was talking about entrepreneurship, and had made that clear to the filmmakers. They took it out of context completely. They even had him sitting in an “extremely hot room” where he had to wipe a bit of sweat away, making it appear Mike was crying.

It was a bit maddening watching this interview. In fact, my teen-age son watching with me said, “Shouldn’t that be illegal to twist people’s words like that?” But I admit I laughed out loud when Megyn Kelly asked if the two men had decided who they were supporting. Tommy is undecided, but Mike got a big smile on his face and declared that, although he’s still planning to wait until Mitt gets down to Florida, after a lot of research he is really leaning toward Mitt Romney. Oh, the irony. Can we call that poetic justice?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2012

Time for a Time Out

Have you ever watched toddlers play? When they want something they may ask for it, even try “working things out,” but in the end they just grab it or go crying to Mommy. We seem to have seen this same kind of play this week when Obama made his recess appointments when there wasn’t really a recess.

President Obama just named Richard Cordray as director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and also appointed three other people to the National Labor Relations Board. All of this was done while the Senate is actually in session (according to the Constitution). The Constitution requires that if the Senate is in session, the President must have their advice and consent for the appointments.

Forget checks and balances in the three branches of government—what about the presidential oath to defend the Constitution?

This was a sort of power play—I want it, and I will get it, no matter what. But in what he may have intended to be a show of stubborn strength, Obama just ended up showing desperation and childish weakness (not to mention lack of understanding and upholding the Constitution).

When a child grabs a toy away we cut him some slack because he hasn’t fully learned how to take turns and act rationally. But he still might get a time out.

When the president just grabs what he wants he’s showing similar traits. He is demonstrating his lack of ability to work together, follow the rules (Constitution), negotiate properly, and in general play fair with the other kids.

Well, the consequence is obvious--I think it’s time our president had a good long time out.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Choose Freedom

This year we are not just voting for a president, we’re voting for freedom. Freedom to choose.

Currently we have a president who just doesn’t trust us to make our own choices. He doesn’t trust us to choose our own health care. He doesn’t even trust us to choose our own cars. He treats us as if we are unable to function properly without a government agency to tell us what to do and how to do it.

It is as if the president wants all citizens to be on equal ground with equal reward regardless of effort, education, risk-taking, or commitment.

But America has always been the land of opportunity, innovation, and dreams. Only if people are free and have limited government can they truly choose to pursue those dreams.

As the government continues to grow our individual freedoms shrink. We are Americans. Freedom is in our blood. Our history has been made by people who love freedom, even more than their own lives.

If we want to keep that freedom, if we want to remain free to choose, now is the time to exercise that freedom and choose to end Barak Obama’s time as our president, before it’s too late.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Anything But Chocolate?

I took a few research methods classes and statistics in grad school, but I guess I missed the whole discussion on the “anything-but-that” interpretation chapters.

If I take a survey that asks me if I like chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla ice-cream best, I’m going to mark my favorite choice, which, by the way, is chocolate. But just because I mark “chocolate” does not mean that I’m only marking chocolate simply because I don’t want “strawberry” to get the most votes. It actually means I like chocolate the best that day.

The truth is, I like chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice-cream. But if I have to choose, I’ll take chocolate first. If, for some reason all the chocolate disappeared off the planet, I’d take vanilla (then I’d make sure all my affairs were in order, because that would be a sure sign that the end of the world was near).

So why do we keep getting so many poll interpretations saying that people want anyone but Mitt? Isn’t it possible that there are people out there who maybe just happen to like another candidate for some reason or other, and they aren’t just voting for someone simply because that someone isn’t Mitt? Frankly, if I were Rick Santorum right now I’d feel a little offended (and worried). These people are telling us that the real reason anyone voted for him, or five of the other candidates, in Iowa was simply because he wasn’t Mitt, not because they actually like him.

The other candidates have all had their surges in the polls. They have all had spurts of momentum when people suddenly give them a lot of attention. But it dies down. Mitt Romney has remained the constant through it all. And just like how I occasionally will eat strawberry ice-cream, or maybe vanilla just for a little change, I always go back to chocolate, and I believe people will rally around Mitt in the end, when they’ve tried the other flavors, but make Mitt their final decision.