Monday, December 31, 2012

Fiscal Cliff? No Way...

Fiscal cliff? Now way, here is what will likely happen.   A last minute deal will be negotiated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Joe Biden.  It will achieve almost $800 billion in revenue over the next decade. However, some of the revenue will be spent to pay for extensions of tax credits and other stimulative policies.  In theory about $600 billion in debt reduction may be accomplished over the next ten years.  Expect the Bush-era tax cuts to be extended permanently for individuals at $400,000 and joint filers at $450,000. The top rate on ordinary income will go back to 39.6 percent and raise an estimated $370 billion in revenue over 10 years. Expect the same thresholds to be applied for capital gains and dividends, with the top rates in that case going up to 20 percent.  (The rate on dividends was set to return to 39.6 percent.) Both sides will argue a bit longer on what and when cuts will take place.

In the mean time, tax benefits will decrease for high-income earners, with respect to their personal exemptions and itemized deductions. Personal exemption phase-out would be capped at $375,000 for individual filers and $425,000 for joint filers. The limitation on itemized deductions would be set at $250,000 and $300,000 respectively. This means the tax bill paid by those taking the exemptions and deductions goes up. These provisions could raise an estimated $185 billion over 10 years.

Expect a five-year extension of stimulative tax policies, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and the college credit expansions. The policies will lapse in years five through 10.There may also be a one-year extension of the 50 percent bonus depreciation provision introduced in the American Recovery Act, which enables small businesses to deduct up to $250,000 of the cost of machinery and other equipment.

In the end, expect no jumping off any cliff and in Washington it will be business as usual.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Senator Crapo, Sometimes a Name Says it All!

Sometimes a name says it all!  Alexandria, Va. Police Department arrested Idaho U.S. Sen. Michael Crapo. Crapo early Sunday morning, Dec. 23, 2012 and charged him with driving under the influence in a Washington, D.C., suburb.  Crapo was pulled over after an officer saw the senator run a red light. Police spokesman Craig T. Fifer said that Crapo failed "several field sobriety tests," reports CBS News. The Republican Senator was later released on an unsecured $1,000 bond. He will have to appear in court on January 4th. Crapo was slated to take the top GOP spot on the Senate Banking Committee. He also belongs to "a bipartisan group of senators who came together to work on a budget deal to avoid the upcoming 'fiscal cliff."  (Sounds like he is lucky he did not drive over the cliff!)

Not to worry, Senator Crapo says he is sorry and it won't happen again.  (He would have been better off to claim that the political haggling over the budget drove him to drink.) 

P.S., Crappo says our government is in good hands.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Saturday Night Live Recognizes That There Is Nothing Funny About the Connecticut Shootings

Saturday Night Live recognizes that there is nothing funny about the Connecticut shootings.  The father of the alleged shooter in the Connecticut school massacre has broken his silence, expressing condolences to the families of the victims.  In fact, Saturday night, the Children's Choir opened the show in tribute to the children who lost their lives.  Peter Lanza, the father of the psychotic killer, summed up the feelings of the country, "Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are. We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can."

And what more can be said about the senseless killings perpetuated by Adam Lanza, 20.  What possible explanation is there for killing twenty 6 and 7 year old children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut?  20 children and six adults were murdered before Adam took his own life. (Adam also killed his mother Nancy Lanza at another location. The Lanza's were divorced in 2009. But many families go through divorces without turning into killers.  Peter Lanza and Adam's older brother Ryan were questioned by the FBI.  Neither man is a suspect.  Yet law enforcement was hoping to find answers.   Investigators claim that they have "very good evidence ... as to how, and more importantly, why, this occurred" yet the State Police didn't provide any further explanation.

Possible copycats?  A northern Indiana  man was arrested after allegedly threatening to "kill as many people as he could" at a local school.  Von I. Meyer, 60, allegedly made the statement during a heated argument with his wife.  He also allegedly threatened to set his wife on fire. Meyer was arrested Saturday on seven felony charges.  Meyer's wife works at the Jane Ball Elementary School  cafeteria. Although police found 47 guns and ammunition in Meyer's two-story home, most of those weapons were antique collector guns.  Authorities believes Meyer was probably not serious about his alleged school threat.
Apparently Meyer's marriage is a volatile sometimes turbulent relationship.  Furthermore, Meyers is to be presumed innocent unless otherwise proven in a court of law. In the mean time, there is nothing funny about killing children or adults.  Its time to place law enforcement in schools so that teachers and students can return their attention to education.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ellen DeGeneres Unfazed by Protest?

One Million Moms may be done with Ellen DeGeneres and J.C. Penney. The group founded by an anti-gay, conservative Christian group is apparently ending its feud with J.C. Penney who used DeGeneres as a  spokesperson.  One Million Moms initially blasted a J.C. Penney Christmas ad featuring DeGeneres. The group had criticized DeGeneres' holiday commercial, in which she makes "big" jokes in front of three tiny elves.  Since JC Penney is marketed as a family store, the group did not approve of the store embracing  non-traditional family lifestyle.  

DeGeneres was apparently not harmed by the criticism.  She got support from both fans and friends.  In fact, Executive Producer of "The Ellen Show," Andy Lassner, vocally gave his support to the comedian. At the time of this writing, no public word from the elf union. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How Often Do We Agree With the ACLU?

A West Virginia middle school believes that students perform better when boys and girls are taught in separate classrooms.  The ACLU opposes the controversial theory that kids perform better when they are segregated from the opposite sex.   A lawsuit is causing the debate to surface and stimulating experiments with less than traditional classrooms.  Is such practice based on harmful stereotypes or are girls and boys motivated differently? The American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against Van Devender Middle School and its administrators in Parkersburg, W.Va., may answer the controversy.

The lawsuit claims that segregated classrooms constitute gender discrimination. The suit, filed on behalf of a mother of three female students, contends that the school lights its classrooms more brightly for boys and allows boys more freedom to move around freely. Amy Katz, an attorney working with the ACLU, apparently thinks its classic discrimination. But Leonard Sax, a psychologist, physician, and author of three books on kids and education, including Why Gender Matters disagrees. Sax argues that same-sex classes help students shed inhibitions and stereotypes. Sax shared his theories with teachers at Van Devender in 2009.   The next year they apparently incorporated some of his ideas into practice.

Is Sax right about same sex classrooms? Perhaps the wisdom of our legal system will soon provide an answer.