One Piece At A Time!

Good fences make good neighbors.

one piece at a time

There has been a lot said recently concerning the most recent partial shutdown of the US government.  Just before Christmas, on December 22nd, 2018 President Trump ordered the shutdown in order to secure the funding needed to complete a barrier wall that spans the southern border of the USA from Mexico. The  continental border between the two nations is extensive, spanning 1,954 miles (3,145 km). On our side, the area affects four US states: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. There are many sections of existing barrier wall, and even natural  barriers such as rivers and mountains. There are ‘virtual’ barriers policed by National Guard, SWAT teams, and video surveillance. Sections of the border have been fenced off one piece at a time over the years, and the US Border Patrol has been doing its part to stem the flow of illegal aliens.  Some sections of the existing walls are steel, some are concrete, and some are just barbed wire. The main point is that because of the piecemeal security measures   our southern border is currently vulnerable at some points to incursions by illegal aliens. A country without borders is NOT a country. President Trump understands this point and is committed to securing our border with Mexico, despite resistance from Democrats  and  constant criticism by liberal media outlets.  

One Piece At A Time

“I’d get it one piece at a time

And it wouldn’t cost me a dime

You’ll know it’s me when I come through your town

I’m going to ride around in style

I’m going to drive everybody wild

Because I’ll have the only one there is around.” – One Piece at a Time, song from 1976, lyrics sung by Johnny Cash

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The United States is a country that was founded by immigrants, and is a melting pot of cultures and ideas. Each year, we welcome new immigrants who enter our country legally, many of whom go on to become naturalized citizens. A foreign born person can become a legal US citizen, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is a process, and it does take time. Unfortunately, there are also foreigners who ILLEGALLY enter our country each year, breaking the law and sneaking across the border. The vast majority of illegal aliens are of Mexican origin. There are quotas for immigration. America is a great country which provides levels  of freedom and prosperity not found in other countries. We are the longest lasting constitutional republic in the history of the world, but we can’t fit everyone. By most accounts, there are over six billion people on this planet, and just 195 countries. One third of these people live in China and India, which have about a billion people each. The population of the USA is about 350,000,000. There are very few people who hate their homeland. If you ask Swedish citizen what the best country is, most likely they’ll say Sweden. A person from Wales will reply, Wales. A German will say Germany, and so on. It’s human nature to love your home, and I love my country very much. I firmly believe that president Trump  feels the same way and is doing everything he can to ‘Make America Great Again’.  There are various pieces of the wall that have been built, that are being built, and that still need to be built.  The government gets it’s income from taxes, I pay my fair share of taxes, and I want my tax money to be spent on the defense and security of my homeland. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t support the president, you don’t support this nation, and you are not a true American. You should immigrate to one of the other 194 countries, pick one I don’t care which as long as you aren’t living in mine.   

A ‘Mending Wall’

The phrase ‘Good fences make good neighbors’ is a line from the 1915 poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost. The poem concerns two neighbors who meet regularly to repair a stone wall that divides their two properties. The neighbor argues for the wall, stating that ‘Good fences make good neighbors’. Frost counter-argues that there is ‘something that doesn’t love a wall’, and that he wants to know what’s being walled-out and walled-in. That kind of sums up the mindset in the USA currently. One side (which includes most conservatives and Republicans) wants the wall. Democrats and other liberals, do not, and are strongly against it for various ’emotional’ reasons.  Democrats claim there is a small number of people who will be negatively affected, and somehow feel walls are ‘immoral’. Conservatives want protection for our legal residents, barring vicious criminal elements from entering our country. It’s becoming a battle of wills, and I for one am glad our President has the back-bone to stand up to these breeding heart liberals who have been systematically compromising tradition American values. In exchange for funding the wall,  Donald Trump has offered various compromises on other issues that Democrats support concerning DOCA and illegals currently living in the US, but Democrats refuse to negotiate, and try to blame him instead for the government shutdown.  This is now the longest shutdown in our nation’s history.

There is a basic goal of the US government stated in our constitution to provide for the general welfare of American citizens. We are entitled to health, peace, morality, and safety as cited in the preamble to the constitution, and as president, Donald J. Trump has sworn an oath to uphold the constitution and to  defend  our nation from all enemies,  both foreign and domestic. Nancy Pelosi must have missed that part when she read the same Oath of Office.

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Brick by Brick.

“I’m building a house where I can think

And have some balance and dignity

I’m building a house where no one can hurt me

I’m building a house where the weak are strong

I’m building a house with a real song

I’m using faith that is immortal

I’m building it with simplicity

And the way that we feel, you and me

I’m building it with what I believe in. ” – Brick by Brick song from 1990, lyrics by Iggy Pop

Walls exist not out of malice, but for compassion. They keep unwanted elements out, while protecting what lies within. The locks, doors, and walls of your home are there not because you hate the people outside, but because you love the people inside.  If you believe that barriers are somehow immoral, than you’re very naive and you’ve missed the point entirely.  Piece of mind is a wonderful thing to have and knowing that  one is safe a and secure is an essential component towards that feeling of tranquility.  As always,  I wish you success and happiness!

FREE LUNCH?

Beware of wide-eyed loons!

freelunch

Exposing the dangers of wealth redistribution.

There is an old adage about  ‘being too young to know any better.’   The average millennial was born after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and there are really only four true socialist nations following Marxist-Leninist principles  remaining in the world today. They are:

  • the Laos People’s Democratic Republic
  •  the People’s Republic of China
  • the Republic of Cuba
  •  the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

I am not including countries that have multi-party systems where a socialist faction has taken control of the government like in like Venezuela or Greece.   

There has been a dangerous trend among young people in the USA to idolize socialism as being morally and economically superior to capitalism.  The vast sea of young idiots on campuses across the county have been duped by the unsubstantiated claims of ‘true equality’ which can be achieved by embracing socialism being spouted by the likes of newly elected NY state rep Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, or Bernie Sanders, the failed presidential hopeful. For me, the truly amazing thing is that in the USA, more people than not possess powerful hand-held computers, AKA ‘smart-phones’, which could be used to research the truth  behind these fictitious claims. Instead, these young empty-headed numbskulls use their ‘toys’ only to text, watch videos, or play game apps. When I was a young boy, we didn’t have smart-phones.  You either learned the information to succeed in life, or you didn’t, and chose instead to blame others for your shortfalls.  

The only place you’ll find success before work is in the English dictionary.

“In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.” – Leon Trotsky

Leon Trotsky was a Russian revolutionary, Marxist theorist, and Soviet politician. Despite helping create the Soviet Union during the October Revolution of 1917, he was exiled after the death of Vladimir Lenin 1924, and ultimately assonated under orders from Joseph Stalin in 1940.

To explain socialism in very simple terms, the Government owns EVERYTHING, and distributes it equally i.e, a re-distribution of wealth to insure fairness. Under such an assumption, if a man worked hard his entire life to save a million dollars, and he had 999,999 penniless neighbors, it would be just for the Government to seize his million dollars, and give everyone one dollar so they could all ‘share the wealth’ and all be poor together. Does that make sense? Where is the incentive to work if all my assets will be seized, and given freely to people who don’t work. Under such a ridiculous system, it would behoove me to not be productive and receive my ‘free’ dollar instead of working hard to earn a million dollars and being punished for being successful.

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Socialism pretends that it can solve all of humanity’s problems by ensuring ‘equality’. Socialism only works by stealing from successful people, and giving it to lazy, stupid people because ‘they’ are ‘entitled’ to it. Only a wide-eyed loon would believe such non-sense. Recently the aforementioned NY State Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez proposed a 70% tax on the rich to fund her ‘free’ programs. This is the same woman who after winning her $174,000 a year job whined that she couldn’t afford an apartment in Washington D.C.  How is she going to afford anything once she pays the $121,800 in taxes under her 70% rate? A better question to ask would be how much of MY money does the government feel actually belongs to me? Taxation is theft!   

Free does sound good, but there is another old adage, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is a lie.’ There is no such thing as a free lunch. Socialism promises omelets for all, but only delivers broken eggs, and dead chickens.

Knowledge is power.

Capitalism by comparison, rewards the intelligent and hard-working with  success and financial gain. Individuals own everything, not the Government. You get to own private property, such as housing complexes which you can rent out, business which create both goods and jobs. Quality and value are rewarded by the accumulation of capitol. Competition drives the successful to new heights while punishing those who can’t or won’t compete. If you’re stupid and lazy, you won’t go far in life.  Free market capitalism is the number one system for building wealth. Socialism only creates poverty. Last year, President Trump was lambasted by both the liberal media and celebrities for referring to Haiti as a ‘Shit-hole country’. Haiti is one of the poorest nations on Earth, and is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Eighty percent of its citizens live in poverty, and live on under $1000 per year. Certainly doesn’t sound like a place where I would hang my hat. Beginning in December 1972, a stream of Haitian “boat people” fled the brutal Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti for the United States. Desperate Haitian refugees braved a  dangerous  830 mile ocean trip to seek refuge in the USA, albeit illegally. Needless to say  Cuba, a Socialist nation was only 250 miles from Haiti, and they passed right by it. If a socialist nation is such a great idea, why risk life and limb to travel over three times the distance to escape to the USA? Answer number one: Because The USA is better than Cuba. Answer number two, because Capitalism is better than Socialism. Answer number three, because we wouldn’t shoot them like the Cubans probably would.

Bottom line, if you want to be rich, work for it, and don’t take candy from strangers. The USA is a wonderful land of freedom and opportunity. If you feel the need to back political candidates who offer you ‘free stuff’, it’s because you lack the backbone to work for what you want in life. Don’t be the type of person who believes they are only entitled to the scraps someone else offers them. There is opportunity everywhere   in this country as long as you are willing to work for it, because fortune favors the bold.  Like Napoleon Hill once wrote, “THINK AND GROW RICH”. As Always I wish you success and happiness.  

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?

A handout or a hand up?

brother can you spare a dime

A popular song  from 1930 was ‘Brother, can you spare a dime?’ sung by Bing Crosby.  During the Great Depression, many Americans were down on their luck and struggling to make ends meet. (The ‘Fellow American down  on his luck’ was later personified by Humphrey Bogart in the film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 1948, later spoofed in the 1950 Bugs Bunny cartoon short  8-Ball Bunny.)  A dime doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but when you get enough of them they do add up. It was probably  a combination of this song on the radio, and the movie newsreel serial THE MARCH OF TIME that inspired Eddie Cantor to coin the phrase ‘The March Of Dimes’ to help raise donations for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938, for his National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, to combat polio. The catch phrase eventually replaced the clunky name of the foundation, which has been know as The March Of Dimes ever since.  The poorly run charity still exists today despite the near extinction of polio, having changed its mission to fighting birth defects.   More than 80% of funds collected go towards overhead,  and the CEO of the charity  is paid over $500,000 annually. What started out as a good intention morphed into a bureaucratic nightmare that doesn’t seem to help anyone except the staff.

The American Dream vs. the Welfare State.

Americans are guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nowhere in the US Constitution is it listed as being the job of the government to provide any form of  social welfare assistance, cradle to grave healthcare, cheap housing, free phones, or free food.  

Following the stock market crash of 1929 and the resulting Great Depression, certain well-intentioned government officials began creating the modern welfare state that exists in our country today. The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. The WPA, Works Progress Administration, put unemployed and unskilled Americans to work in return for temporary financial assistance from 1939 to 1943. For four years during the Depression, the first Food Stamp Program fed 20 million people at one time or another in nearly half of the total counties in the nation.  Food stamps were eliminated in 1943, but in 1961 they were revived when President Kennedy signed his first executive order bringing back the program. Food stamps would also eventually be re-branded as SNAP, a Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, with benefits being distributed electronically on a EBT card to reduce ‘social stigma’.     

Government entitlement programs account for more than half of the national budget.  Whenever we reduce taxes, we also have to make  corresponding cuts to the budget, and associated entitlement programs.  The problem is there is a large portion of the population that has become entirely dependent upon the existence of those same entitlement programs which must be eliminated.  Ever since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt offered Americans his New Deal, the cornerstone of the Democrat political party platform has been to eliminate poverty through widespread, government social welfare programs. As a result of the created dependency generated from these same welfare programs, poverty has actually increased while the Federal budget deficit has skyrocketed. We have also created generational welfare dependency with children living in the same housing projects on public assistance as their parents and grandparents.  It is impossible to eliminate poverty, and believing that poverty can be eliminated amounts to calling Jesus Christ a liar.

“The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me.”– Jesus Christ,  The Bible written in John 12:8,  Mark 14:7, and also Matthew 26:11

Charity begins at home.

​“With great power there must also come — great responsibility!” —Stan Lee

Besides being God, Jesus Christ was a rabbi, or teacher. By speaking that the poor will always be among us, He brings to mind other scripture verse.      

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be…For the poor you will always have with you in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (Deut 15:7-11)

Before the government social welfare reforms of the twentieth century were instituted, taking care of the poor was largely a function of the Christian Church. Churches had ‘poor boxes’ with the donations collected destined directly for the poor.  Even today, churches provide free meals, food pantries, and other donations for the poor. As Christians living in the most prosperous country in history of the world, it is OUR responsibility to pass on our blessings as we have been blessed. With all the opportunity and freedom abundant in the United States, there really is no reason to be poor unless we choose to be. According to motivational expert Brian Tracy, “The sad fact is that people are poor because they have not yet decided to be rich. People are overweight and unfit because they have not yet decided to be thin and fit. People are inefficient time wasters because they haven’t yet decided to be highly productive in everything they do.”

I grew up poor, both my father and step-father died when I was a young boy. My mother never worked to better herself and always relied upon social welfare programs.  As a result, I grew up in a roach-infested apartment in NYC, eating Government cheese, getting food with food stamps, and eating free meals at school. My mother died in the same poverty she chose to embrace, but I made a vow long ago to never be poor when I was an adult.  Success is always present, but never given, you have to work for it if you really want it. Doing so places you in a position to help the less fortunate, offering a hand up instead of a handout.  There are many worthy charities for every sketchy one that claims to help the poor, and if you do your research, by separating the wheat from the chaff your donations will do the most good.  A good rule of thumb is to focus locally and give what you are able to give freely and gladly. You should take care of your family, friends, and other people who live close to you before helping people who are living further away or in another country.  If every Christian in the USA did their fair share, there would be no need for government welfare programs. As always, I wish you success and happiness.

The Path to Prosperity!

Keeping America Great!

The Path To Prosperity

An Editorial opinion–

“Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.” ― Thomas Sowell, Knowledge And Decisions

Full disclosure, I am a conservative Republican and Christian, and I fully support President Trump. 

We the People of the United States

Tuesday November 6th 2018 is Election Day in the USA this year. Registered voters will be voting across our great nation to elect representatives to legislate on our behalf. With the power of our votes, we have the ability to support or change the current socio-economic state of our country and pass on to future generations a country we believe they will want. Because our votes are crucial to this process, it is imperative that we fully understand the ramifications of our political views, and how they are shaped.  In the USA, our capitalist economy, our religious freedoms, and the laws of our land are all entangled forming a tightly interwoven way of life. Changing one aspect threatens the other two legs of the platform, and many uneducated persons are in danger of making ill-conceived decisions based upon poor information.

“The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.” ― Thomas Sowell,  noted economist

in Order to form a more perfect Union

Ayn Rand was a Russian-American writer and philosopher who wrote two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. She was an atheist with little use for religion. Although her fiction is interesting and some of her ideas have merit, she really didn’t understand people much because she lacked the critical spiritual component needed to fill the God-shaped hole ever-present in the hearts of man. Although she passed away in 1982 at the age of 77, many libertarians, and some  right-wing conservatives are still intrigued by certain aspects of her personal philosophy, which she termed ‘objectivism’. Objectivism is fully secular and absolutist; it is neither liberal nor conservative nor anywhere in between. In a perfect world,  objectivism might work, but we do not live in a perfect world. Nevertheless, she had some good ideas. She supported laissez-faire capitalism, believed facts were facts independent of a person’s feelings or wishes, felt that reason was a man’s basic means of survival, and held that we ourselves were responsible for perusing our own self-interests and happiness.

UNFORTUNATELY,  many people today lack the discernment needed to sail through the vast sea of information, and lack the skill to avoid being blown off course by the hot air and smoke of certain politicians and entertainers as they try to steer for those islands of reason. Truth is always true, and it can stand up to criticism. If it is YOUR ‘truth’ and you have no evidence to back it up then it is not truth, but rather your feelings based on an emotional response.  As long as you continue to make snap emotional decisions to immediate problems, you will continue to make the wrong choices and will suffer greatly in the long term. I can’t tell you who to vote for, or what to believe, I only ask that you examine your convictions to see why you believe what you believe, and be certain that your ideology is fact based. The road to Hell is paved with ‘good intentions’.

“Socialism is a wonderful idea. It is only as a reality that it has been disastrous. Among people of every race, color, and creed, all around the world, socialism has led to hunger in countries that used to have surplus food to export…. Nevertheless, for many of those who deal primarily in ideas, socialism remains an attractive idea — in fact, seductive. Its every failure is explained away as due to the inadequacies of particular leaders. ” 
― Thomas Sowell

Establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

Our government is based upon three principals:

  • Inherent rights:  Rights that anyone living in America has.
  • Self Government: Government by the people.
  • Separation of Powers: Branches of government with different powers.

It is NOT the job of the government to run businesses, provide welfare subsidies, or redistribute wealth. Your ‘feelings’ are not the concern of the government.  Its only job is make sure that its citizens are safe, healthy and prosperous. Citizens have a legal right to live in this country,  Illegal immigrants do not. If they entered this country illegally, they do NOT belong here. A country without borders is not a country.  This is a great country and we have the freedom to live as we chose and pursue our own interests.  There is no reason to be poor in this country where every opportunity is available for you to pursue. BUT YOU HAVE TO DO IT, no one can make you do the right thing. According to a report by the Brookings Institute ( https://www.brookings.edu/research/work-and-marriage-the-way-to-end-poverty-and-welfare ) published in way back in 2003, if you don’t want to be permanently poor in this country, you only have to do three things:

  1. Finish High School
  2. Get a job
  3. Don’t have children out of wedlock.

The only thing preventing you from being successful is you yourself. Don’t blame anyone else for your bad choices.   If people don’t agree with you, it’s called disagreement, not hatred, sexism, or  bigotry. Mature adults don’t insult or attack people who disagree with them. 

This Tuesday I will be voting straight Republican. I’m doing this because I fully support the current President, and totally agree with him 100%. In the past two years since he won the 2016 election, my net worth has skyrocketed. To give a comparison, my investment gains since Trump became president less than two years ago  have nearly equaled the total gains earned over the entire 8-year Obama administration.   I dare you to tell me the economy is not booming.

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I am financially stable, I am debt free, I have cash on hand to do with as I please. This includes charitable giving and I am not bragging when I say I willingly donate thousands of dollars each year to worthy Christian charities, and other concerns.

If you are jealous of wealthy successful people, you are in serious need of a reality check. I grew up poor and worked hard for everything I have. I was not poor because someone else was rich. Wealthy people create jobs and opportunities for others, they don’t take them away. There is no ‘white privilege’, no ‘glass ceiling’. They are just figments of the imagination created by the real enemies who want to destroy this great nation.  Don’t allow yourself to be misled by their lies. You can rise to greatness   if and only if you wholeheartedly decide to.

This coming election, ( as well as all future elections ) is about safety and prosperity. President Trump has Made America Great Again, and we now have the lowest unemployment rate in the history of our country and things are getting better every day. On Tuesday November 6th 2018, you need to make the correct decision and vote Republican, it is the only way to keep our citizens safe, prosperous, and free. For the sake of our freedom and for future generations we need to keep the momentum going and Keep America Great.  As Always, I wish you success and happiness.

Do You Wanna LYFT?

Is using your new car as a taxi really a good idea?

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I grew up in New York City which has an extensive public transportation system that covers a significant area. However there were times when waiting for a bus or train were not optimal and then we used taxis or private cabs. These drivers had CB radios in their vehicles, displayed their operator’s license, and had a meter ticking up your fare as you drove to your destination. Occasionally, some enterprising individual using his own personal vehicle would cruse the bus and taxi routes offering his car for hire. These ‘gypsy cabs’ were illegal and you always took a chance when getting into these stranger’s cars. It was like paying to be a hitchhiker. But if you didn’t have the money to pay for a real taxi, these mostly harmless entrepreneurs were there to fill the gap. Most of them were just trying to earn a living, albeit in a dodgy manner.   

As I stated in a prior blog, owning a car is expensive. If you have car payments and full coverage insurance, you still have to factor in vehicle maintenance and fuel costs.  One way or another if you want to keep your car on the road, you need to have some way of paying for it all. Enter Uber and Lyft.

 Uber (founded 2009) and Lyft (founded 2012 and pronounced lift, get it?) are companies that make ridesharing available through downloadable smartphone apps.  You simply download the app, request the car, and the Uber or Lyft drivers show up in their personal vehicles to drive you to your destination, much to the dismay of taxi and cab companies. Unlike the gypsy cabs of yore, these drivers are registered with their respective companies, and all payments are made via credit card to Lyft or Uber using your smartphone upon reaching your destination. You may opt to tip the driver in cash, or you can just include the tip (if any) in the credit card charge. This is all great for the passenger, but what if you’re the owner of the car?

Whether you choose to work for either Uber or Lyft or even both of them, you will need to meet some basic criteria.

You’ll need to display signage indicating that you are a driver for Lyft, Uber or both, and you’ll need to follow all the rules of the road. Tickets for speeding, not wearing seat belts, transporting children not in car seats, etc are the responsibility of the driver and will negate any income earned from ridesharing.

 Document Requirements

  • Driver’s license
  • Vehicle registration
  • Personal vehicle insurance
  • Driver photo

Vehicle Requirements

  • 2004 or newer
  • Fewer than 350,000 miles
  • 4 doors
  • 5-8 seats, including the driver’s
  • No limousines

Both of these companies do have liability insurance that covers the driver and rider during the trip with certain restrictions and conditions. Unless you have that rare rideshare-friendly policy, the only time you can count on your personal insurance is when you are driving for strictly personal reasons and getting into a accident while hiring out your car could end up costing you big time. All personal car insurance policies contain a clause that specifically excludes using your vehicle for commercial activities. Your personal insurance company may deny your claim as a result and refuse to pay. In a case like this, the Lyft company will cover you with their insurance, BUT they have a hefty $2500 deductible that you will be required to pay. Similarly Uber has a $1000 deductible. The ONLY way to be fully protected while using your car for rideshare services is to carry a commercial insurance policy which will run you $5000 and up.    

The Passenger from Hell

 As an independent contractor providing rides for your clients you may encounter many people of questionable character. Unlike a traditional taxi, there is no Plexiglas window dividing the front and back of the vehicle. You are alone in your vehicle with who-knows-what type of person and are opening yourself up to all sorts of potential verbal and physical abuse. There are numerous accounts of both Uber and Lyft drivers being attacked by the passenger from Hell. For this reason it is a good idea to have dashcam recording devices in your vehicle for your own personal protection. Obtain a GPS unit to track and record your comings and goings. If your passenger is involved in illegal activity, this may clear you with the police, and protect you from legal action. Some of these people may try to get you to break the law, like transporting their young children without a car seat.  Intoxicated passengers may vomit in your car. You name it, it can happen so make sure there is some record other than just your word vs. their word. Also inform any passengers the moment they enter your car that the trip is being recorded for safety reasons because failure to inform them that they are being recorded may get you into hot water. If they are resistant to that idea, they are free to hire another car, but if they have nothing to hide, they should be understanding. Also, keep conversations to a minimum and avoid personal information or hot topics. You are a driver, not their friend. Additionally, these people rate your performance and bad ratings could reduce the number of future fares.  

 Where am I?

 A passenger not used to driving may tell you to drive to a certain road and then make a turn which would be the wrong way up a one way street. You may be totally unfamiliar with the area and have no idea where you are going. Speed limit signs might not be obvious. Having a GPS unit in your car will help to avoid these situations when driving in unfamiliar areas.  

 The Tax Man

 Keep in mind that income is INCOME and is taxable! You will be required to track all of your income and expenses and will be expected to reconcile these come tax day. Many of the items you need for operating your car as a rideshare vehicle may qualify as legitimate business expenses so contact a certified public accountant to learn what may or may be covers, then keep records and receipts. Always remember that your money is YOUR money and you want to keep as much of it as possible

 I made HOW much?

 Although it seems like using your own personal vehicle as a rideshare sounds like a great idea on the surface, when you break down the costs, it’s not really worth the hassle in my opinion. According to the IRS, using a vehicle for commercial purposes averages about 54¢ per mile.

 This breaks down to:

  • Fuel 12¢
  • Depreciation 24¢
  • Repairs and Maintenance 9¢
  • Insurance and Paperwork 9¢

Considering this, at best case, you’ll be earning about minimum wage for all the trouble you’ll be going through. Wouldn’t flipping burgers at McDonald’s be easier? As always I wish you success and happiness.    

Be American, Buy American!

Is there really a trade war?

When I was much younger, there was a period where I lived with my aunt Arleen and uncle John. This is a long story, but the short and simple version is that my mother couldn’t even take care of herself, let alone me. My uncle John was a retired union employee. A popular slogan used in advertising at the time was ‘Look for the Union Label’. This was meant to encourage consumers to buy not only domestic goods, but domestic goods produced in union shops which supposedly provided better conditions, benefits, and higher wages for employees.    

My uncle had a coffee mug which I really, really liked. The mug had pictured upon it The Great Seal of the United States (used to authenticate certain documents issued by the U.S. federal government), and the phrase ‘Be American, Buy American!’ But, in tiny print under the last word was printed ‘Made in Japan’.  It was a novelty mug meant as a gag, but I laughed so hard the first time I saw it, that it stuck with me all these years.

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Nowadays, cheaply made products come to the USA more from China than from Japan. We import goods nationally to provide alternatives to local varieties, or to give consumers an item not locally produced, for instance Australian  Vegemite  or its cousin British Marmite.  I like them both, but they are strictly foreign goods and sometimes hard to come by, as well as expensive.

Consumerism is driven by both supply and demand,  as well as wants and needs. I may want Vegemite, but I don’t need it. And if it’s in low supply and priced quite high, I’ll settle for the lower costing Marmite which is more readily available. In the case of similar products both in high supply, it comes down to preference. Bottom line, you can have anything you want in the world, as long as you are willing to pay the price.

Which brings us to such topics of importing, exporting, free-trade, and tariffs.

 Importing and exporting are easy enough to understand. We export or ship-out goods to foreign countries where there is demand for the good, and at the same time import exotic items like Vegemite and Marmite from overseas. It gets trickier when the items are ‘the same’ though.  I might be tempted to buy a foreign good over a domestic good if the foreign product is significantly cheaper.   If free trade exists between countries, a foreign country which can produce goods at a lower cost can flood the other country with its goods.   This is where tariffs or duties come into play. A tariff is a tax imposed on a foreign good. Tariffs are bad for consumers. They are mostly good for domestic companies, and the government.     Tariffs increase the cost of foreign goods and decreases consumption of the lower priced import. Let’s say the US decided to slap a $5 per jar import tax (tariff) on Marmite, raising the cost from $5.99 to $10.99. The one jar a year I currently buy would drop to ZERO. I REFUSE to pay that much for a mere 4.4 ounces of something I like, but don’t necessarily need.

Types of tariffs

There are five main types of tariffs, protective, prohibitive, specific, ad valorem, and revenue:

  • – Protective Tariff:  These push up the price of imported products as a protective measure against foreign competition.
  • – Prohibitive Tariff: the tax is so high that it makes an import far too (prohibitively) expensive.
  • – Ad Valorem – the tax applies to a percentage of the imported good’s value. For example, an ad valorem of 10% would mean that a product costing $100 would sell in the market of the importing country for $110.
  • – Specific Tariff: A tax is levied on the specific amount – which could be the good’s weight, number, or other measurement.
  • – Revenue Tariff:  Imposed solely to raise government income rather than to protect domestic producers.

In each of these cases, the consumer will pay more for the good, or discontinue its use all together and the only one really benefiting is ‘The Tax Man’. Taxation is theft! 

“Taxation is theft, purely and simply even though it is theft on a grand and colossal scale which no acknowledged criminals could hope to match. It is a compulsory seizure of the property of the State’s inhabitants, or subjects.” ― Murray N. Rothbard

 FREE TRADE

NAFTA, The North American Free Trade Agreement is the largest free trade agreement in the world. It was negotiated by three US presidents (Regan, Bush, and Clinton) before it was finalized and signed in  1993 by President Bill Clinton. NAFTA became law January 1, 1994.

This is great for consumers in North America because it keeps the costs of goods low. But with free trade, if a product can be produced cheaper in a foreign country, there is no need for local production.  This resulted in a loss of US jobs when companies like HERSHEY CHOCOLATE shifted production to Mexico where non-union labor was much cheaper.  (Unions, like tariffs can also kill local production, but that’s another topic altogether.)  If a company can import a product cheaper than they can produce it, and still turn a profit, they will shut down plants, slash jobs, and shift their business model from producing to simply shipping. Business is business. Here’s your pink-slip, nothing personal.  

So it falls back to the consumer to ‘vote with their wallet’ if they want to protect American jobs and products. If you like a band and want to see it flourish, buy it. If nobody buys the products a company produces, they will either change their products or cease operations. Successful business rarely shut-down overnight without some long-standing cause.  Many times there is an American made item that is comparable to the foreign produced good. Often the cost is same, but occasionally even  a little cheaper. Sometimes not.  Many domestically produced goods will sport an American flag and proudly proclaim made in the USA.

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I buy Pepsodent toothpaste, Pennsylvania Dutchman Mushrooms and often check the country of origin. If it’s made in the USA, I’ll buy it over a foreign brand. Even if it’s just assembled in the USA, it still means American jobs. If there’s no readily available domestic equivalent, I will only then purchase the foreign import.  For me, it’s patriotism and I have the means to support my spending habits.  I do understand that there are many cash-poor people in my country for whom every penny counts, and they MUST buy whatever is cheaper, but if you live in the USA and you are in a financial position where you can support the US economy by purchasing goods made in the USA, I encourage you to do so. The job you save may be that of a friend or relative. There are many companies online that sell US made products like  http://madeinusaforever.com/ for one.  

As for the manufacturers of Marmite and Vegemite, no worries mates. 

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As always, I wish you success and happiness!

Will You Outlive Your Money?

Exactly how much money will you really need by retirement? The Million Dollar Answer!

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There are two inescapable facts of life: death, and taxes.

When I was a young boy, it seemed like the number of people who lived to the century mark was so small, the average person only heard about someone achieving about it in the news. If you were lucky you might reach the 80’s but living past that was extremely rare.  In most cases, you were going to die sometime in your late 60’s to mid 70’s, and that was that. No one lives forever. We may not like it, but we do have to accept it. None of us are making it out of this world alive.

No one in my family has ever reached 80 , although my aunt has outlived everyone in the family thus far, and will be 77 in November 2018. That’s eleven years longer than my mother, her oldest sister who died at 66, and two decades longer than my father who died at 57, less than 2 months shy of his 58th birthday.   

I’m no fool, no siree I want to live to be 103

Unlike my late father who never lived long enough to retire, I do NOT plan to work until the day I die. Accidents do happen, but failing that I’m in far better health than my late parents due to changes in diet and medical advances that keep extending life expectancy in the USA.

Growing up, one of the things I remember is Jiminy Cricket singing the song  I’m No Fool for a series of educational safety cartoons on the Mickey Mouse Club TV show. He sings the chorus four times, staring with “I’m no fool, no siree I want to live to be 23, I play safe for you and me ’cause I’m no fool!” The age changes as the song goes on, changing to 33, then 53, and ultimately, 103! I always remember thinking to myself that no one lives THAT long.   Now, I’m encountering many people in my day job who are well into their 80’s and 90’s and more and more people are closing in on that mythical 103 from that song. With advances in health science, medicine, and technology progressing at its current rate, I could possibly even live to be 123! Who knows?

That being said, will you have enough money saved for retirement to cover you and your spouse and bridge the span from your last day at the job to your last day on Earth? For most people in the USA, the answer seems to be no. A deafeningly loud, resounding, emphatic NO! According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the  average retirement savings of all working-age families, which the EPI defines as those between 32 and 61 years old, is $95,776. So that’s about less than 2 years salary for the average American worker.

A fool and his money are soon parted.

If you’re not saving for retirement in a combination of 401k type plans or IRAs, you’re a fool who’s depending on a government ‘safety  net’ which will not allow you enough money to live on comfortably, and probably won’t even exist several decades from now. This past Friday April 6th 2018, I got into an argument at work with a social justice warrior who basically said moving away from Social Security into the stock market was ‘madness’ because the Dow closed down almost 600 points and he was citing everything from the 1929 Stock Market Crash to a total economic hypothetical meltdown where the market hit ZERO and starving people are wandering the countryside to find blades of grass to eat.  There was no reaching the poor fool. Every explanation I offered was met with another wacko hypothetical theory. He even brought up concentration camps!  It is NOT my job to give history, economic, or civics lessons to people who have the sum total of human knowledge at their fingertips, yet prefer the mindless indoctrination that they have willingly subscribed too. All I can do is worry about myself and watch the tragedy unfold around me by all those fools living in a Utopian dream world.  

 I am the RICHEST man in my family. I attained my WEALTH not by theft, or deception. I EARNED MY MONEY. I did not inherit it, win it in a lottery, or receive it through a fictitious privilege. I worked for DECADES and invested 10% of my income from DAY ONE! No one held a gun to my head and forced me to do this, I did it. ME, MYSELF, I! Just as I took responsibility for MY choices, you must be accountable for your own decisions. Sitting around waiting for someday and spouting what-if scenarios are what fools do.

Social security is NOT the answer. Everyone in my family who depended on social security, (or still does as is the case of my last living aunt) has lived and ultimately died in poverty.  According to Social security, based on my current contributions at my full retirement age (67 years), my payment would be about $ 2,342 a month. If I wait until 70 I’ll get about $ 2,906 a month, but if I jump the gun and snag early retirement at age 62, it would ONLY be $ 1,641 a month. But here’s the real kicker: My estimated benefits are based on current law. Congress has made changes to the law in the past and can do so at any time. The law governing benefit amounts may change because, by 2034, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 79 percent of scheduled benefits.  79% of $1,641 is about $1300 rounded up.  I’m certain my rent will be more than that in 2034. If I rely on social security I’ll be the starving man roaming the countryside eating grass.

The Millionaire at large.

The Millionaire Next Door is a 1996 book by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. It details the financial habits of wealth Americans. These are people who did their ‘homework’ and don’t have money troubles. Although it is over two decades old at this point, the basic wisdom has not changed. Live within your means, don’t spend all your income, don’t waste your money, and invest! Fascinating as the Millionaire next door may be, he or she does not interest me. I’m concerned with the Millionaire under my roof. The Millionaire at large, A.K.A.  Michael James Oetting. At current projections, my 401k type retirement account balance should exceed a million dollars by the time I retire. I plan to retire LONG BEFORE 62, so I’m not even considering Social Security. I’m also probably going to retire before 59½ the minimum age you can make withdrawals from a 401k or regular IRA without incurring a 10% early withdrawal penalty. Now with a million dollars, if I maintain an average annual interest rate of 5% or greater, while making withdrawals of 4% annually, that would come to $40,000 per year without diminishing the million dollar balance which would still be increasing at 1%. This could continue up until the year I turn 70½ at which point I would be required by law to take the RMD or face the 50% penalty imposed by the IRS  on what I fail to take. That’s because, upon reaching this age, the IRS requires you to withdraw at least a minimum amount each year from all your IRAs and retirement plans—except Roth IRAs—and pay ordinary income taxes on the taxable portion of your withdrawal. If you don’t take withdrawals, or you take less than you should, you’ll owe a 50% federal penalty tax on the difference between the amount you withdrew and the amount you should have withdrawn. And you’ll still have to withdraw the required amount and pay any income tax due on the taxable amount. IF you ‘forget’ to do this, you can extend it to the following April 1 of the year after your turn 70½ as a ONE TIME late disbursement, but you’ll have to take out double that year, and pay double taxes should you do that because you would have to account for both the prior (late) year and the current year RMD. Failing that if you STILL missed your RMD, the IRS can waive the 50% penalty for good cause. To have the 50% penalty waived by the IRS you must correct your error. You must take the RMD amount that was not taken and file the IRS Form 5329, Additional Taxes on Qualified Plans (Including IRAs) and Other Tax-Favored Accounts. When you file this form, you do not have to prepay the penalty, but if the form is filed without payment of the 50% penalty and IRS determines that the penalty is owed, you could owe interest on the penalty payment. Form 5329 must be filed to start the statute of limitations clock. Attach a letter of explanation to Form 5329. The letter should include why the RMD was missed, the fact that it has now been taken, and that you have taken steps to be sure that future RMDs will be taken as required. This is also a onetime thing.  Do not make a habit of accidentally ‘forgetting’ either on purpose or by accident, because the IRS does not play games, and you will get financially burnt if you play with fire.

Just because you have to take the RMD doesn’t mean you have to spend it, you just can’t keep it in your retirement account. You can buy investment properties, put it in bonds or stocks in a brokerage account, donate it to charity for a tax-write-off, etc. Just don’t let the IRS take half of it away because you ‘forgot’. You can set up most plans to automatically issue the RMD and I would encourage you to also have them withhold the taxes on each disbursement so you don’t  end up owing the government taxes you don’t have the cash to cover. If you follow all these suggestions, your money should last as long as you do!    As always, I wish you happiness and success!