When the snow melts, trees regain green canopies, and daylight extends evenings, millions of young boys and girls flood schoolyards, soccer fields, and baseball diamonds to begin a new season of youth sports. Surveys indicate that almost 70% of children between the ages of 6 and 12 participate in organized sports. This annual migration to athletic fields is a good thing because according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, sports help children exercise, make friends, have fun, learn to play as a member of a team, learn to play fair, and improve self-esteem.
By Michael Lewis
According to Forbes Magazine, an estimated $15 to $20 trillion is sitting in the “pirate” banking system today, a complex, interwoven collection of financial institutions domiciled in tax havens around the world. Nearly one-half of the funds are owned by less than 100,000 people, who comprise 0.0001% of the world’s population. These funds, shrouded in secrecy and protected by layers of anonymous owners, are immune from any government oversight and invulnerable to taxation, maintained by and for the super-rich, as well as multinational corporations.
Experiencing sadness during the holidays is not unusual. Fewer hours of sunlight, the often sharp contrast between the idyllic seasonal family scenes pictured in media and real life circumstances, and the impending conclusion of another year combine to make many people gloomy. The year’s end is a time of reflection, often accompanied by sadness, loneliness, loss of self-worth, and even anger. Sometimes, sadness is justified (the loss of a loved one, a job, or a marriage), but intensified due to the holiday season where others seem so happy and content. These emotions during the winter months have been recognized by the psychiatric community as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
The thoughts of the Grinch as he puzzled over the meaning of Christmas in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” are worth pondering in the coming season of excess, expectations, and exchange. Scholars trace the beginnings of Christmas to the winter solstice of Scandinavia, celebrated in early Rome as Saturnalia for the God of Agriculture, and by Christians as the birth of Jesus Christ. It was considered to be decadent by early Puritans, and was outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681. It was finally declared an American holiday by President Ulysses S. Grant on June 28, 1870, along with New Year’s Day, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving.
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.
By Michael Lewis
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.
By Michael Lewis
“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.
By Michael Lewis
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.
By Michael Lewis
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.'”
By Michael Lewis
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%.