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By Josh Hoxie
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Listening to so-called fiscal conservatives like Representatives Kevin Brady and Mike Kelly, you’d think we were in a desperate fight for survival, with the national debt threatening our future.
“I cannot in good conscience support adding more debt to the backs of our children,” says Kelly, a Pennsylvania Republican.
“Make no mistake,” agrees Brady, a Republican from Texas. Debt is “the most pressing issue of our day.”
As someone who is less than half the age of those gentlemen, I see hidden motivations when I watch these Republican lawmakers in action.
They’re doing the bidding of the ultra-wealthy and leaving it to my generation to pick up the pieces of the broken public sector. Those of us who will be around long after these aging statesmen retire will inherit a nation that’s unable to close the widening gap between the obscenely wealthy and the rest of us.
Case in point: The House voted to repeal the estate tax. That’s the only federal levy on the transfer of immense wealth from the likes of the
Adelsons, the Waltons, and the Kochs to their heirs. Only the wealthiest 0.2 percent of American households have to pay this tax, yet its repeal would cost a whopping $269 billion over 10 years. If you add interest, draining this revenue stream could add $320 billion to the national debt.
And House lawmakers handed this giveaway to the richest Americans without saying how Congress could pay for this bill. Tell me again, Mr. Brady, how the government is broken and how “we’re just all going to have to tighten our belts.”
As a millennial, I take this push to ditch the estate tax personally. Consider what that $269 billion could mean for my generation.
For starters, Uncle Sam could cover the cost of tuition for every student who wanted to go to community college. That would cost only $60 billion over 10 years.
What about picking up the tab for tuition at all four-year public universities? That would cost $15 billion annually over a decade, not counting what the federal government already spends on higher education.
Alternately, Congress could use that money to plug the $164 billion gap in the Highway Trust Fund. Maybe driving across town wouldn’t feel like a trip on the moon, hitting pothole after pothole.
The House members who voted for estate tax repeal took in $56 million in campaign contributions from special-interest groups who demanded it. Maybe that’s what helped these lawmakers decide that instead of funding education, infrastructure, environmental protection, food safety, and disease prevention, they’d give multi-millionaires a tax break instead.
I wish they’d listen to some wealthy people with a conscience. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who made a fortune creating the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand, for example, say thanks but no thanks to this giveaway.
I’m tired of being told to “tighten my belt” while conservative lawmakers continue to take from the poor and give to the rich.
Josh Hoxie is the director of the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies (ips-dc.org).
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Three years after my divorce I met a really nice man. I am 34 years old, financially secure with no children. So far we make each other happy and get along really well. We both pay for things when we go out. I own my stuff, condo and car, and so does he. When we go out, never dutch, one or the other picks up the tab and it’s never been a problem. Here is my issue: He invited me to go with him to meet his family. Then he said the other night, “When are you going to get your ticket? Let me know so I can make sure we’re on the same flight.” I was appalled that he wants me to pay my own way. I think that’s totally wrong. What do you think?
V.B., Shreveport, La.
What? He wants you to pay your way. Girl, can you hear that chirping chickadee, “cheap-cheap-cheap-cheap!!” LOL!! All I can say is, you’ve got an extremely fugal brother on your hands. To the left, to the left, I hear you and I totally agree. On the other hand, my sane mind, to the right, to the right, is tugging at me saying, “If he has a serious savings account and meticulously maintains his finances, that might be a good thing for you.” I mean, really; he’s not asking you to go in half on his root canal. It’s a trip. Maybe he sees it as a vacation (you know how men are). Which I’m sure you do not (you know how women can be). Seriously, tho, going to visit your companion’s family is not a vacation, and you need to clarify.
Unless you decide to have a straight-up conversation with him, I’d say give him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think there’s any intent of wrongdoing here. Since you guys share the cost most of the time anyway, and since it bothers you, make this a teachable moment in your new relationship and explain it to him. Let him know that visiting his family is like buying a special gift. And you’d rather not have to go in the store and get it yourself. Ask him to cover the cost of the flights and you volunteer to cover the hotel. If you’re staying with family, you can cover food and entertainment expenses. Don’t be mad; if things work out between you two, you’ll be glad he’s frugal, especially during your retirement years. In this economy, a man that resists unnecessary spending and prefers to save his coins is a keeper.
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It all started in a small town nestled between the Barrington Farm and the Jordan Creek along the banks of the Brazos River – that’s where the early seeds of the Lone Star State were planted.
If you’re from Texas, you’re probably familiar with names like Davey Croettck, Sam Houston, and Steven F. Austin. It would be hard to grow up here without repeatedly hearing the story of how our ancestors beat oppression, won the Texas Revolution, and declared independence as the Republic of Texas.
Certainly, you ‘Remember the Alamo.’
For two weeks, Mexican soldiers had been launching attacks at Texas’ southern border in attempts to squander our budding independence. They quickly drained our resources and numbers. But they could never drain our spirit.
In the midst of the fight, five newly-elected Texas delegates hunkered down along the Brazos’ banks and rushed to put pen to paper. Time was of the essence. Messengers reported that just 350 miles south, the number of remaining Texan soldiers had dwindled into the double-digits. They were desperate to defend the Alamo against an onslaught of thousands of fresh Mexican soldiers, and they were failing. The five delegates burned the midnight oil – literally – jotting down ideas that would soon change history.
The next morning, the other 54 delegates returned to what we now call Independence Hall to make it official. It was March 2nd, 1836, and the first lone star had just been hoisted into the sky as a symbol of Texas freedom and the now independent Republic of Texas.
For ten years, the Republic thrived on the same ideals that still drive our state: freedom, personal responsibility, and plain old hard work. On December 29, 1845, Texas became the 28th state to join the United States – the first state with history as its own independent nation.
Although the Republic of Texas was short-lived, the Texas spirit lives on. Look around, and you’ll see we’re still Texans undeterred, working hard to provide for our families. Our state’s employment boasts the fastest growth rate of all 50 states, and creates the most international trade of all 50 states. And we still fight just as hard to protect our ideals and our neighbors.
County Commissioner Ben Perry hit the nail on the head when he told me what we Texans know too well: “Being a Texan doesn’t describe where you’re from, it describes who your family is.”
So as spring comes along and we celebrate new beginnings of all kinds, I know across Texas we’ll all be celebrating the beginnings of our great state, right here in Washington-on-the-Brazos, nestled between the Barrington Farm and the Jordan Creek. That’s where Texas became Texas.
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Someday soon, will all our jobs involve keeping extraordinarily rich people entertained? These days, that prospect doesn’t seem all that farfetched. “The rich,” as journalist Chanelle Tourish notes, “seem to be willing to pay almost any price for outstanding service and experiences.”
And plenty of people are rushing to provide them. Tourish, a reporter who watches wealth in the Middle East luxury hub of Dubai, recently gave us a peek at how inventive today’s serve-the-rich set can be.
In Dubai this month, for instance, one gilded hotel is bouncing guests — by helicopter — from one local restaurant to another for an evening of fine and flying dining. Just $5,000 per couple. Some super rich don’t particularly enjoy going out on the town. These homebodies can now bring the town — or at least the world’s top celebrity chefs into their own homes. For the right price, agencies in the United States and the UK will arrange for the world’s top cooking superstars to cater your next dinner party.
The right price? That can run up to $65,000 per meal. But food only takes you so far. You need music, too, to pull off a memorable soirée. Not a problem if you have the bucks. Lots of bucks. Talent agencies no longer just book their clients into arenas and nightclubs. They book their talent into mansions, too.
Want a stud like Ed Sheeran singing at your personal shindig? Count on paying somewhere between $300,000 and $500,000 for the privilege. Or you can go in a slightly more ambitious direction. You can book a superstar for your own private party and then reserve an entire nightclub as your party site. One club in Dubai even offers a valet service for helicopters. Match that, Manhattan! A really rich life, of course, must have more than parties. Today’s ultra rich have a serious side, too. They like to reflect on the lives they’re leading — and make sure the rest of us realize just how diligently they’ve been reflecting. A company called My Special Book can help here. The expert staff at this global service will actually write your autobiography for you. This book-birthing process typically takes six to ten months — for just around $150,000.
And if you’d rather birth a kid than a book, the serve-the-rich crowd has another innovative little service for you. A Swiss company, Erfolgswelle, will happily research a unique name for your new addition to humankind. This name comes guaranteed not to belong to anyone else on Earth. Expect to pay north of $30,000 for your one-of-a-kind moniker. How many people can afford services like these? Researchers at Wealth-X and Sotheby’s International Realty have just counted up 211,275 people worldwide with personal fortunes over $30 million.
These “ultra high net worth individuals” — the financial industry’s polite label for the filthy rich — typically hold about 30 percent of their net worth in houses, yachts, and other fixed property assets.That leaves a lot of liquid assets sloshing around in their portfolios for renting divas and figuring out what to name their kids. Do these ultras, we wonder, ever stop to think about the millions of people on our planet who can’t even afford to adequately feed their kids? Probably not too often. Fortunately, we have other people on our planet who do think about this stark contrast between the super-rich and everybody else — like the folks at the global charity Oxfam.
These good people have launched an international Even It Up campaign that’s seeking — through vehicles like taxes on financial speculation and wealth —to put some of those dollars now spent on helicopter joy rides to some more productive uses. More productive uses, I suspect, won’t be especially hard to find.
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By Khalil Bendib
When I was growing up, my older Mexican-American relatives had an expression: “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
It was my family’s way of making me careful about choosing my friends.
Even then, I could see they were right. The smart kids mostly hung out with other smart kids. The athletes stuck with other athletes. The troublemakers befriended other troublemakers.
That saying comes to mind when I think about the Iowa Freedom Summit, a big gathering in Des Moines that basically launched the 2016 Republican primary. Many potential GOP presidential candidates journeyed to the Hawkeye State to give speeches and shake hands.
What could be wrong with that?
For starters, the man behind it: Representative Steve King. He’s one of the nation’s most divisive immigration hardliners. It was a mistake for so many potential GOP candidates to associate with him.
King made headlines last January, when President Barack Obama delivered his latest State of the Union address. In a tweet about the speech, King called a young undocumented woman who was brought to this country as a child “a deportable.”
Ana Zamora, the college student he insulted, had benefited from Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Zamora was also one of First Lady Michelle Obama’s guests.
Thanks to DACA, the government can’t deport Zamora. But King’s slur highlighted his longstanding hostility toward immigrants.
In 2013, for example, he explained his opposition to the DREAM Act — a bill that would have given certain young undocumented immigrants the right to live and work without fear of deportation — by likening them to drug smugglers.
“For every one who’s a valedictorian,” King told the conservative news site Newsmax, “there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
He’s also compared undocumented immigrants to dogs.
Despite King’s bile, plenty of potential GOP candidates took part in his summit. Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson all showed up.
That they would associate with a lawmaker who makes such offensive remarks raises legitimate questions about their judgment and whether they’re presidential material.
By largely letting hardliners like King dictate its immigration policy, the GOP alienates Latino voters. It makes the Republican Party long on ugly rhetoric and short on real solutions.
King has become so toxic that some Iowans are now lamenting his prominence in the GOP.
They’re worried that King could diminish Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses if he continues to be such a die-hard opponent of immigration reform, as Matt Hildreth warned in a recent Des Moines Register op-ed.
Most Americans support reform. In fact, a 2013 poll showed that most voters in King’s own district favor it, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people like Zamora.
To be fair, not every potential GOP presidential candidate attended the Iowa Freedom Summit. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul passed.
But hold your applause.
They missed King’s event because they were in California meeting in private with the billionaire Koch brothers — who just announced that their network of donors plans to spend a record $889 million on the 2016 election cycle. That staggering amount more than doubles what the Republican National Committee spent in 2012.
Ted Cruz actually made it to both the Iowa Freedom Summit and the Koch brothers’ event.
So there you have it. The next crop of Republican presidential hopefuls is either allied with anti-immigration extremists or at the beck and call of the richest 0.1 percent of Americans.
Or in Cruz’s case, both.
With friends like Steve King and the Koch brothers, Republicans need no help proving that they’re anti-immigrant, elitist, and out of sync with American values.
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Story By Jill Richardson
‘Tis the season for mindless consumerism.
I love giving gifts when they’re from the heart. But I hate giving or receiving presents if they’re things nobody needs, given out of a sense of obligation.
Here’s a story that illustrates what I mean. Back in college, a friend of mine approached me and said, “I just want to give you a heads up, my new girlfriend bought you a gift.”
Uh-oh, I thought. I didn’t even get him a gift, let alone her. But without missing a beat, I replied, “Oh, that’s so sweet! Well, I got her something too.”
Now I had to get them both something.
I rushed off to Target to see what I could find. These were two people I didn’t know very well. Umm, how about a nice Christmas-scented candle for him, and some shower gel for her?
A week later, the fateful gift exchange took place. In place of the candle and shower gel I gave, I received… a candle and shower gel. I don’t know if they had any burning need for more candles and shower gel in their lives, but I sure didn’t.
From my point of view, the three of us enacted a hollow ritual: I ended up with some junk I didn’t need and the candle and shower gel industries made a few bucks. Multiply that times many millions, and that’s what happens each December.
When people find gifts that uniquely symbolize their friendship or their gratitude for one another, that’s touching. It’s what gift-giving should be.
A good gift sends a message: “I love you.” “I appreciate you.” “You matter to me.”
That’s how I felt when a friend gave me the latest book from my favorite author last year. I was overwhelmed with love. And I hope that’s how my mom felt when I gave her a carefully selected a bird feeder and seeds to attract her favorite birds (cardinals) while keeping away greedy squirrels.
A bad gift sends a message more like “I didn’t feel like putting in any effort,” or “I felt obligated to get you something.”
The end result of thoughtless gift-giving is waste. Think of all of the fruitcakes, ornaments, tchotchkes, and, yes, candles and bath products that are produced and exchanged for no good reason.
Sometimes these items are given in thoughtful and loving ways, like a panda-shaped ornament given to someone who collects panda bear trinkets, or a Christmas decoration given to someone who lives for decorating for Christmas.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are ornaments and Christmas decorations given to Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim people who don’t celebrate Christmas. (Yes, that really happens. A lot.)
Each of these items requires materials to produce, more stuff to package, and energy to ship. Plus, you spend money to buy these things to give to people who have no use for them. What a waste.
The spirit of the season is wonderful. Its mindless consumerism is not. This year, why not take back the meaning of our gift-giving tradition?
Before you give a diabetic a batch of sugary sweets, a Jew a Christmas tree ornament, or anyone else something thoughtless and unnecessary… stop. Think. And put your money to better use instead.
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Thanksgiving is much more than a big meal with family and friends. It’s a time to reflect on, and be thankful for, all of the good things you have. Even with all of the uncertainty and turmoil in the world, you have so much to be thankful for. It’s important to be grateful, not just on Thanksgiving, but each and every day.
Rather than lamenting what you feel is lacking in your life, begin each new day by developing an attitude of gratitude. Take inventory of your blessings and you will be surprised at just how much you have to be thankful for.
If you have enough to eat, a place to live, a way to get around, people who care about you, or people you care about, then you are wealthy. If you lack any of these elements, you must still be grateful for what you do have, while striving to obtain whatever is absent.
Focus on all positive aspects of your life. Take nothing for granted. Every morning, recharge your appreciation. Be happy for everything there is, not upset over what you feel is missing.
Dreams of the future shouldn’t diminish appreciation for the present. If all you do is concentrate on what you want, you won’t enjoy today. Don’t be jealous of others; what they do or have has no bearing on you.
You can feel bitter or resentful for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you feel something is missing from your life, things aren’t going your way, or you have been treated unfairly. You may wonder, “Why do these things always happen to me?”
Life’s problems tend to dominate your thoughts, turning your focus to what you feel is wrong. You may start to resent those who appear to be better off. You’re apt to dwell on things you think would make your life better if you had them. If only you had more money, more time, a bigger house, a different car, a different job, a different boss, had picked a different career, etc.
Once your attitude becomes one of deficiency instead of abundance and appreciation, you can become overwhelmed by feelings of frustration and feel like a victim. As this happens, a consuming vicious cycle starts.
Being bitter or resentful blows situations out of proportion. People who are bitter frequently find that their situations deteriorate and their mental and physical health decays.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to achieve your goals while you are bitter or resentful. Regardless of what challenges might befall you, bitterness makes finding solutions much more elusive.
There is no point to feeling bitter since it accomplishes nothing, harms you and makes things worse. Filling yourself with gratitude on a daily basis makes you feel good, while driving out negative feelings.
Begin your practice of gratitude each morning as soon as you wake. Every day is a great day. If you have any doubts, try missing one. Take inventory of everything, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, that is good in your life.
If it helps, make a written list of all things you are grateful for. Read your list every day. As you do this, you will build and reinforce your attitude of gratitude. Don’t waste any time with what you feel you don’t have.
Keep things in perspective. Consider all the people who have overcome difficulties far worse than yours. Don’t be consumed by your problems, there is always a solution. Maintaining an attitude of gratitude allows your mind to devise a resolution for your circumstances.
Make everyday a day of Thanksgiving and you will be amazed how much better your life will become.
Bryan is the author of “Dare to Live Without Limits.” Contact Bryan at Bryan@columnist.com or visit www.DareToLiveWithoutLimits.com Ó 2014 Bryan Golden
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By Nicole McCann and Anna Meyer
Despite all the panic, Americans don’t face any great risk from Ebola right now. But we do need to worry about a home-grown medical catastrophe of our own that we’re failing to address: the erosion of antibiotic effectiveness.
Doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat a broad array of infections that can otherwise prove fatal. While the drugs are being grossly overused, diminishing their power to heal, hospitals aren’t to blame — factory farms are.
Most U.S. livestock are being raised today in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). At these factory farms, antibiotics get routinely doled out to stave off the diseases that might otherwise quickly spread due to overcrowded, unnatural, and unsanitary living conditions.
This overuse is rendering these lifesaving drugs less effective by accelerating the evolution of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
Now that they’ve infiltrated our food system, those bacteria are endangering human health and are taking a bite out of the national economy. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause prolonged infections in thousands of Americans each year, resulting in $20 billion in annual health care costs and over $35 billion in lost economic productivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Nearly a quarter of these infections originate from food-borne pathogens.
It’s not like no one warned us this might happen. In 1945, Alexander Fleming — the biologist who won a Nobel Prize for discovering penicillin — cautioned that misusing antibiotics would spur the development of superbugs.
As U.S. agriculture became increasingly industrialized, its leaders ignored Fleming’s warning.
Agribusiness now uses antibiotics with abandon. Livestock and poultry consume an astounding 80 percent of the 29 million pounds of antibiotics used each year in the United States. Entire herds receive daily doses to stave off disease and promote growth — two things that would happen naturally if animals had better living conditions and weren’t crammed into factory farms.
Antibiotics abuse reflects the truly awful conditions farm animals endure today.
The extreme crowding of livestock increases animal stress, produces vast concentrations of manure, and makes good hygiene virtually impossible — all of which invite pathogens to multiply.
Throw in vast quantities of antibiotics, and it’s no surprise that factory farms are hotspots for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Moreover, since manure from factory farms is often used to fertilize fruits and vegetables, these bacteria can be delivered straight to the mouths of consumers.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have become so prevalent that even animals raised without antibiotics may still be carriers. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control, along with many medical organizations, are calling for an end to the “non-therapeutic” use of antibiotics.
Many European nations have seen antibiotic-resistant bacteria decline since implementing such bans. The United States should follow their lead before we wind up facing an epidemic.
As a consumer, you can do your part by choosing to buy certified organic dairy products and meats, as the farmers who sell them don’t use non-therapeutic antibiotics. Everyone has the power to put stores, brands, and lawmakers on notice that we need to save antibiotics for treating illnesses.
Anna Meyer is the Food Campaigns Fellow at Green America. Nicole McCann is the Food Campaigns Director. www.greenamerica.org
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We say we have “voting power,” but we have settled merely for the “power to vote.” We fight for the “right to vote” but we fail to “vote right.” Voting is a means to gain political power, not an end that simply allows one to participate in the act. As true as those statements are and as many times as we have heard the phrase, “This is the most important election of our time,” and as much as we can see our lack of political reciprocity for our precious votes, we continue to fall for the same old tired political clap-trap prior to every election.
Today, Black people vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, as opposed to pre-1933, when the vast majority of Blacks voted for Republicans. Talk about a schizophrenic voting bloc, that be us, y’all. And what do we get in return? A good feeling, that is, until the next election rolls around and the usual suspects return to tell us how important “this” election is and how we should vote their “straight ticket” once again. They want us to believe that all Dems are good and all Repubs are evil. That’s insulting to Black voters.
All the Black electorate does is provide jobs for politicians, some of whom care nothing about us and haven’t done a day’s work in office since we put them there. To make our political situation even worse, many Black voters simply, and I do mean “simply,” vote for anyone who claims to be a Democrat. They vote for the party rather than for the person. Quite frankly, and I say this in love, that’s just stupid.
Why do we keep falling for this hype? We achieved what most Black people considered the ultimate level of political victory when Barack Obama was elected, yet, since 2008 Black folks have made little or no progress; we still languish at the bottom in the most important category: Economics. Locally, we have elected and supported Democrats who have run our cities into the ground and left their constituents, Black folks, frustrated and marginalized. Yet, we continue to subscribe to the “Vote Democrat!” mantra.
The way we participate in politics is shameful and childish. All we want is the right to vote, which we couch in terms of “voting power.” If it were power we’d be getting something in return for our vote. Regardless of how much we are taken for granted, we keep coming back, subjecting ourselves to it like a bunch of masochists.
Some Black folks say they do not vote for the party, rather they vote for the person. That’s easy to say, but in the voting booth it’s obviously a different story. I wonder if Barack Obama would have won if he had been a Republican.
As I said, the Black electorate, after all of these years in the political game, is still naïve and amateurish. We are still playing just to play and not to win. We remain in the clutches of talking-head commentators who carry the water for the party and instruct us to vote the way they tell us. And we do it!
Before any of you dyed-in-the-wool Democrats get angry because I downed your party, understand that I have the same thing to say about the Republican Party. I believe we must be independent, not necessarily as a structured political party. We should be independent in our thinking and reasoning. That’s what the game is really all about. If we are not getting anything from the game, why are we playing?
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