The Princeton Tiger growls from former Secretary of State George Schultz’s backside, a ship’s anchor decorated the right arm of the UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and a family crest on the chest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt sustained a family tradition.
The current tax system in the United States is based upon the Revenue Act of 1913, which replaced the high tariffs of that period with a personal income tax system. Since that time, there have been numerous amendments affecting the definition of income to be taxed, the rate of taxation, as well as exclusions and deductions from taxable income.
Personal income taxes, while existing in every industrial nation, are and have been universally disliked, with one aspect or another constantly being challenged in court. Despite the complaints and challenges, income tax is the main source of revenue for the Federal Government. As Congress deals with the escalating annual deficits and national debt, it will review, and possibly amend, the country’s current tax philosophy to better fit the needs of the future.
“Debt” is one of the most frightening words in the English language, conjuring up visions of peonage, deprivation, and prison. Caricatures of debt collectors, such as the mafia shark who breaks the legs of delinquent borrowers, or Shylock, the moneylender of the “Merchant of Venice” who required a “pound of flesh” as security on a loan, haunt our dreams and reinforce Benjamin Franklin’s advice that one should “rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt.”
The fiscal cliff is getting closer, and unless action is taken, the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 will go into effect at midnight on December 31, 2012. Congress’s inability to resolve the last budget crisis in August 2011 and the burgeoning national debt led to the passage of the Act to avoid the catastrophic effects of a government shutdown.
Parents share a universal hope that their children will live happily ever after, with minimal worries and the ability to be successful as adults. Every parent tries to give their child a strong moral foundation, as well as the necessary life skills to thrive and be independent.
Unfortunately, raising a child is akin to painting a picture stroke by stroke, in strange combinations of colors and hues, without knowing how the final image will appear when complete. We have our children for only a brief moment, and can only hope that our gifts to them will be sufficient to sustain, protect, and comfort them when we are gone.
As we wrestle with the economic problems facing the country, it is important to understand the reality of budget surpluses and deficits, their relationship to national debt, and how the level of national debt affects average Americans and the economy in general.
However, few discussions generate as much heat or confusion as those dealing with the annual federal budget deficit – and it is often a single misunderstanding of the budget that drives most misinformation.
As the father of four and the grandfather of eight, I have purchased, crafted, and created more than 1,000 gifts in the past 45 years. The gifts have ranged from very expensive ski trips, to a homemade set of steps that allowed my oldest daughter to climb three stairs on one side, descend three stairs on the other side, and repeat until she was exhausted. I’ve paid for lessons of every sort, attended concerts to see Big Bird and the rock band Kiss, and have been a passenger, along with my kids, in cars, airplanes, boats, and trains across the country.
Becoming and being a good parent isn’t automatic, particularly in the modern world. New parents in previous generations benefited from extended families of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who were generally a part of the child-rearing process. But today, many families are miles away from relatives and parents have to go it alone, learning ”on the job” and hoping their decisions will teach their child skills to have a happy and successful life.
Contrary to popular opinion, American presidential politics have always been rough-and-tumble, highly emotional affairs as far back as the election between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the sitting president and vice president, who opposed each other in 1796 and 1800. Jefferson characterized President Adams as a “blind, bald, crippled, toothless man who is a hideous hermaphroditical character with neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
A popular Uruguayan child’s tale illustrates the value of being bilingual: “A skinny cat stood for hours waiting for the mouse to walk out from behind the hole, so he could nab him. He was having little success. A fat cat walked by, inquired about the nature of the difficulty, and volunteered to show the skinny cat the ropes. First, he had the skinny cat move out of the way where he could not be seen and did likewise himself. Next, he barked, “Woof, woof.” The mouse, thinking a dog had scared the cat away, and it was safe, ventured out only to be nabbed and devoured by the fat cat. ‘You see,’ explained the fat cat, ‘it pays to be bilingual.’”
Most people assume that a federal income tax cut means more money in their pockets. It’s a time-honored political tactic to sway voters, and is in heavy use this election cycle. In 2012, we have a major difference between the parties’ positions. Republican Governor Mitt Romney has proposed that the 2011 tax rates, sometimes referred to as the “Bush tax cuts,” be extended and reduced an additional 20% with the top rate declining from 35% to 28%.
“Leadership” has become the buzzword of American boardrooms, political back-rooms, and educational halls. Often, success is limited to those who can inspire their associates, employees, customers, and the public with his or her ideas and drive.
Unfortunately, the ability to lead, though highly desirable, is often elusive, as evidenced by the thousands of articles, books, videos, and training classes available over the Internet dealing with the subject. Whether leaders are born or trained remains a subject of controversy. However, there is no dispute that all leaders share certain skills that can be identified and developed.
Throughout history, there have been individuals blessed with a unique, special quality. They stand apart from the rest of humanity, larger than life itself, as if endowed with supernatural or superhuman abilities with unlimited capability and potential. As natural leaders, they inspire those in their presence and stir deep emotions with their eloquence, appearance, and manner. They share the gift of charisma.
Not all leaders have that spell-binding, electric presence. Power doesn’t create it, but flows from it. Kennedy had charisma; Lyndon B. Johnson did not. Ronald Reagan had it, as well as Bill Clinton. Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. had it . Sports figures like Arnold Palmer and Muhammad Ali have it, as well as talk show host Oprah Winfrey and pianist Van Cliburn.
It is increasingly likely that you will suffer the consequences of an incorrect or denied insurance claim within the next five years. In 2011, erroneous claim payments increased by more than 10% over 2010; almost one in five claims are currently adjudicated incorrectly, according to the American Medical Association’s 2011 National Health Insurer Report Card.
It is probable, if not certain, that you too will eventually be the victim of an outmoded, inefficient payment system, increasing complex and confusing reimbursement requirements, and over-worked, poorly trained health insurer employees. Knowing how to properly contest a claim payment decision is the key to maintaining your sanity and your financial health.
The costs of healthcare in the United States is a potent issue in the forthcoming election. Both political parties agree that immediate steps must be taken to reduce the proportion of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) dedicated to healthcare, but approach the problem from vastly different perspectives and, as a consequence, propose equally diverse solutions. In particular, prospective changes in Medicare – the public health insurance program for people age 65 and older – has become a battleground as both parties seek to capture the senior vote.