Category Archives: Obama

Bullying

There was an article in the New York Times today that really hit home with me for a number of reasons.  It was about a 15 year old child, a sophomore in high school, who killed himself after the first day of school.  From what I read, he seemed like a good kid, active in scouting, clean cut, smart and in decent shape.  However, he was bullied at school.  Kids at his school were mean to him and gave him a hard time.

His killing himself didn’t happen immediately, he was tormented and bullied over a period of time.  His parents tried to help by talking to the school.  The school tried to help, but it wasn’t enough.  He even called out for help on social media.  Even with this, he must have felt a sense of hopelessness and nowhere to turn.

I have been bullied at different times of my life.  In middle school, in high school, and at various jobs, one in which I just left.  I know how it feels to be picked-on, to be called names, threatened, intimidated, and physically and/or mentally abused.

When I was young and living with my parents, I was told to ignore the bully, that he would stop if he didn’t get the reaction he wanted.  I was told that I should stay away from that person and they wouldn’t bother me anymore.  That didn’t work.  I am confident that many parents and educators give that same advice.  Ignore the bully, stay away from the bully, that will solve the problem.  I will say right here, right now… that is NOT the solution.

I know how the 15 year old in Connecticut felt.  I have felt hopeless, alone and that I had little or no options.  I can understand why he felt that way.  He asked for help, but not enough was done.  The situation wasn’t taken seriously enough.  In this child’s case, the school followed-up to see how things were going, and the child said everything was better.  The school didn’t understand, by doing that, they potentially made the situation even worse.  Of course the child is going to lie after initial attempts at getting help, went nowhere.  I am confident, the bullies felt empowered even more and ramped their abuse when they got a ‘talking’ to and nothing else happened.

In my recent job, I was mistreated, talked down to, and was criticized to other employees.  I was made to feel insignificant, unimportant and powerless.  I felt humiliated, degraded and worthless.  At my lowest moments, I did think about suicide as a means of ending the situation and abuse.  I felt hopeless.  I was dependent on my job for my livelihood  and didn’t have any other means of support.

I was lucky.  One day I stood up for myself and told the CEO that threatening me was not acceptable, that cutting my pay was not acceptable.  I felt empowered and energized that I could stand up for myself.  I was told to keep quiet and not complain and if I did again, I would be fired.  I didn’t keep quiet and I was fired.  Not everyone can learn how to stand up for themselves, I have.  It took two years of abuse from the CEO of my company before I said enough was enough. 

Not only are there bullies in school and in the workplace, but in governments and in positions of authority.  President Assad of Syria is a bully.  He used chemical weapons on his own people to send a message that they need to stay in line.  He wanted to bully his people into submission to stay in power and to put down his opposition.

So how do you deal with a bully?  You come down HARD.  You don’t ignore the problem.  You don’t try to appease the bully.  No child, no employee or citizen of any nation should feel helpless, to feel like they have no choice but to accept the treatment they are receiving.  In many cases, the person or persons being bullied are afraid and unable to help themselves.  It is up to us to step in and help, however possible, by any means possible.  To come down hard, the first time, so doesn’t happen again.

When there is a 15 year old child who needs help or a nation of woman and children who need help.  We all need to lend a hand.  We need to do whatever is necessary.  We need to step in.  We need to come down HARD on the bully so that they will NEVER treat someone in this manner again.  Bullying is serious.  Bullying happens in schools, companies and in nations.  We can not allow 15 year old children to feel so hopeless that they kill themselves.  We can not allow women and children to be killed with chemical weapons.  We can not allow CEOs to mistreat, threaten and abuse their employees.

Income Taxes

According to a recent article in CNNMoney, ‘a little more than 43% of U.S. households — or 70 Million homes will end up owing no federal income taxes for 2013.”  Of these households, 67% have incomes of below $30,000.  23 millions households pay nothing to the Federal government, when you consider payroll taxes to support Medicare and Social Security.

These statistics highlight a couple of problems that needs to be addressed.  First, approximately 33% of households with incomes over $30,000 pay NO Federal taxes.  This is due to, too many exemptions, exclusions, credits and deductions.  The Federal debt and deficit are too large and the need in America is too urgent for this to continue.  I am not advocating higher rates, just that everyone should pay something, every year, regardless of who they are of what they have.

Our Legislative brand looks at each “special” tax break in a silo, in many cases ignoring the compounding of these breaks.  Households can and do take multiple breaks to minimize their tax liability.  The Legislative branch needs to consider the bigger picture and how these combined breaks impact households.  The Legislative branch needs to take support the view that ‘everyone’ pays someone (with perhaps the exception of the elderly and disabled).

Additionally, there needs to be either a “cap or ceiling” on deductions taken each year.  This cap should be a percentage, thereby making sure that everyone pays something.  So that taxpayers do not feel like they are being shortchanged, I would allow the “excess” tax break to be rolled forward for 3-5 years.  Thereby, bringing in more tax revenue while at the same time, not ‘taking’ away anything from taxpayers.

Another option is to create a minimum tax that everyone pays, a floor.  It can be something modest, to pay for the military, national parks, food inspectors, and etc.  For example, every household in the U.S. must  pay a minimum of $500 in taxes.  You might exempt the elderly and those with a disability.  The idea being that everyone pays something.

There will be those who say that the poor would be paying a higher percentage of their income than those at the higher income brackets.  In an ideal world, you would incorporate both the ideas.  Put a cap on tax breaks, combined with a minimum tax that everyone pays.  This will bring in more revenue and be must fairer to everyone.

The second issue that these statistics highlight is there are far far too many households in the U.S. making below $30000 a year.  Too many families are having to support themselves on an income with no room for savings, emergencies or the extras that make for a good life.  Higher quality, higher paying jobs is the solution for this.  Some might believe that businesses should be ‘forced’ to pay more, I don’t think that is the solution.  A thriving economy and manufacturing jobs would help.  If this were to be improved, the Federal government would also bring in more revenue.

The U.S. can’t ignore these statistics any longer, something needs to be done.  The Congress and the President needs to take action.

 

 

Fast Food Restaurant Protests

One of the big stories over the past few weeks is protests going on around the county by fast food workers demanding higher pay.  In some cases, these people are walking off the job in protest.  Fast food workers are protesting at McDonalds, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC and others.  Many of these workers are upset because they believe they should be paid more, in some cases more than double what they are being paid today.

I think the workers have every right to protest, find other jobs or quit.  The business model at these restaurants will not adequately support higher pay.  The jobs are lower wage because they are repetitive in nature, requiring only basic skills.  The jobs were designed for employees with limited training and that can be done will little supervision.  Further, the customers of these fast food restaurants want low cost food.  They want the restaurants to continue promotions, to continue their $1 menus and continue their discounted ‘combo’ offerings.

The real problem with this scenario is the people who are now working these low skilled, entry level fast food jobs.  Traditionally, most of the fast food jobs were taken by high school and college aged students who might be living at home and in a position to make minimum wage.  They were gaining good experience while at the same time wanting a flexible schedule where they might be only working 20-30 hours per week.

If you go into most fast food restaurants today, the employees are people in there 20s or 30s, sometimes older, who have children and families to support.  No longer are these employees wanting to work part time with flexible schedules.  They want to work 40 hours a week, have benefits and be paid a wage that will allow them to support not only themselves, but their family.

The real problem is the people who are in these jobs are low skilled workers who are unable to find other employment.  Companies don’t want to invest in training.  They want to hire people ready to work and contribute day one.  Further, there are a limited number of higher paid jobs, there are not enough manufacturing jobs in American that pay higher wages.

The real long term solution is to create an environment where companies can afford to manufacture goods in the US again.  This will create higher demand for skilled works and will result in employers willing to hire and train the people they need.

There are many things that the President and Congress can do to improve the economic conditions and jobs in the United States.  I hope that rather than make it more difficult for businesses to operate, with programs like Obamacare, they should be making a concerted effort to make it easier and less expensive.  This will result in more higher paying jobs, this is the real solution that these fast food workers want and need.

 

 

 

 

Syria

The use of chemical weapons in Syria must be verified and proven, beyond a doubt, before deadly force is used against government forces.  We need to learn from our experience during the George Bush administration, when the United States went into Iraq over the “belief” they had weapons of mass destruction.  President Obama and United Nations must verify before any action is taken.

The United States, France and Arab League are talking the lead in denouncing the potential use of chemical weapons on civilians.  I am glad to see that it isn’t just the US and that other nations and organizations are being vocal on what is going on.  While this ‘civil war’ has been going on for months, it wasn’t until recently that high level attention has been redirected to the situation.

I find it interesting that it is all coming to a head only after a short time that Angelina Jolie visited a refugee camp and publicly came out with a statement that something needed to be done to end the suffering.  It shouldn’t take a celebrity to call attention to a major world problem before something is done.  It shouldn’t take the use of chemical weapons before something is done.

I hope that chemical weapons were not use in Syria, but if they were the world needs to step in and force a change in the leadership of that country.  No one should be allowed to stay in power who may have committed mass murder of innocent, helpless people.  The world must not look the other way and allow this to continue.

Beau Biden and ObamaCare

This past week, Vice President Joe Biden spent several days with his son in Houston at one of the best cancer treatment hospitals in the world.  He was there with his son who recently experienced some medical issues.  After seeing his own doctors, they decided to seek out the best care possible at the Houston facility.

Several years ago Beau Biden had a minor stroke and they clearly were all concerned about his health.  Beau Biden is a public official himself, serving as Attorney General of the State of Delaware.  I can understand and respect the fact that they wanted the best possible care.  Years ago, Vice President Biden lost his first wife and a daughter.  Beau Biden is a husband and father of two.

As Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden has unlimited access to financial resources and medical professionals.  Doctors around the world would be waiting in line for the opportunity to treat the Vice President’s son.  Treating Beau Biden would bring positive press and prestige.

The Vice President and his son have every right to use every means possible to obtain the best possible care to treat his condition.  They have every right to travel across the United States to visit the best hospital and be seen by the best medical professionals.  They have every right to chose what care they are getting.  Every American should have that same right.

Under ObamaCare, many Americas will be giving up some of that same choice the Vice President and his son have.  They will be forced to pay for a health care plan that limits their choice or they will be forced to pay a tax to the Government for not having a required health care plan.  ObamaCare is forcing employers to provide health care to its employees or face penalties.  Businesses and workers should have a choice.  If workers, want their employer to provide health care, they can get a job that provides it.  If a employer wants to provide health care for its employees they should have the choice to decide how to do that.

One of the founding principals of the United States is choice and personal freedom.  ObamaCare takes away some of these choices.  I know the Vice President and his son are happy they had the choice to get the best possible treatment without restriction.  It was a choice in their total control.  All Americans should have the same choice to get the medical care they desire.

Leading by Example

I read recently that the White House is having solar panels installed to help power the complex.  I have to commend the President and the government’s landlord, the General Services Administration, for undertaking this ground breaking effort.  While the President promised this over 3 years ago, I’ll give him a pass for moving it along.  I’m fairly confident the delay was a result of planning to make sure the right system was selected, that the location would not cause a structural or security issue, etc.

Several years ago, the First Lady decided that her family was planting a vegetable garden on the White House grounds.  She used this to tout the benefits of a healthy diet, the outdoors and exercise.  The First Lady invited children and her daughters to help.  This was covered by a wide number of media outlets.

Growing up in Western New York, my family always had a vegetable garden.  My grandfather always had tomato plants, string beans and pepper growing.  My mother had us dig up a large plot in our back yard to plant vegetables.  Our next door neighbor was from Cuba and he had 6 children, he dug up 90% of his back yard to grow food for his family.  Over time, I believe we have moved much too far away from our agrarian roots as a society.  While it may not be feasible it all parts of the country, I do believe the First Lady reminded up all that we can move closer back in that direction.

Both Solar Panels on the White House and vegetable gardens, may seen like unrelated topics, however, I believe that they are very much related.  The President and First Lady are using the traditional power of his office to promote change in our county, without forcing it.  Without a new government program, without a mandate or new laws.  Without new taxes and without new government spending.

This is leading by example, this is leadership.  Hopefully these efforts will make a difference in improving two very significant issues facing America, our dependency on fossil fuels and the obesity epidemic.