Friday, November 30, 2012

Time For A Tax Partner Law?

          
      When I was running for Congress several years ago, I was often asked whether I was in favor of making same sex marriage legal. The answer,
     "No, it shouldn't be legal. It should be compulsory."
      The idea was that if couples like Joe and Bill got up each morning and began the day by apologizing to each other for the things they did, said, should have done but didn't do, were about to do, etc., it would give them a certain commonality with couples consisting of one man and one woman (now often referred to as 'mixed marriages') and we'd all get along better.
      Ok, it was only a joke. Ha, ha. Nobody laughed and so here I am in Brooklyn, writing articles which are occasionally amusing, instead of being in Washington writing laws which are never amusing.
      Anyway, I've got another idea. If you don't like it, don't worry. A Tax Partner Law would be simple, easy to understand, probably help a lot of people and require no new bureaucracy. In other words, it has no chance of passing.    
      Though regulating marriage is clearly a state function, the federal government could allow same sex couples (partners) to file federal tax returns jointly, have the same federal estate tax benefits as married couples, and be entitled to spousal (partner) social security and medicare benefits. These all fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government and would, therefore, not present a constitutional problem.
      And besides, why not give same sex couples these rights? Fair is fair. If you pay the same taxes as everyone else, you should get the same tax benefits as everyone else. There's no tax deduction for being gay. Why should there be a penalty?
      And it would be easy to administer. Just pick up a 'partnership' application at any post office, get it notarized, and bring it back. No more complicated than getting a passport. It would be like a marriage without in-laws.
      Everything else about marriage should be left to the states where it belongs. States that have estate and income taxes could decide for themselves whether or not they wanted to have a state 'tax partner law.' Same thing with same sex marriage, purely a state matter.
      And, of course, every couple could make their own decisions as to where they wanted to live or to retire. Let the states, through their tax laws, compete for these folks. No different from what straight couples do now.
      Tax Partner Laws, a perfect solution to a complicated problem? No, probably not. But better than the mess we have now? Maybe. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Blowin' In The Wind

     
       Last week, the federal government granted a lease to NRG Energy Inc. to build a wind farm off the coast of Delaware. As a result, it soon will be generating lots of clean, cheap electricity? And producing lots of 'good, well paying, green jobs?' Well, maybe...or maybe not.
      Apparently, no one is willing to put up the money to build those things unless the government, i.e. YOU, guarantees the loans and grants tax credits so they can be guaranteed a profit. 
      Huh?! Nice work if you can get it. But why does anyone need a guarantee? Henry Ford never needed one and he did alright. So did Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, and many, many others.  'Renewable and cheap  and  clean and  green'...sounds like it ought to be a winner of an investment. 
       Well, wind is definitely renewable but maybe not so 'cheap.' It's expensive to build those towers in the middle of the ocean. And building on land, while also not so cheap, may not really be all that 'clean and green' either. Turbines vibrate. People who live close to one complain about the noise and 'wind turbine syndrome' - sleep deprivation, anxiety, dizziness...
      And those whirling blades also kill an awful lot of birds. What did you think all that fluffy stuff around the base of  the poles was? (Although, as we say in Brooklyn, "Dere's plenty more where dos' come from.")
      And finally, remember, the wind doesn't always accommodate us by blowing whenever we need electricity. Wind turbines, which on average, operate at 30% of maximum capacity, still need backup for when there's no wind. Building a wind farm? Don't forget to throw in a couple of gas turbines too.
      Altogether, not so cheap...and maybe not so 'clean and green' either. 
                                                                          ***
Also in the News Last Week: Lot of stories about David Petraeus and his 'mistress' Paula Broadwell. How come nothing about Paula Broadwell and her 'boy toy' David Petraeus?  Maybe next week.                                                        

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sandy's Law

 
                                                                        
      'Hate crime laws' add an extra layer of punishment for crimes committed against individuals solely because they are members of various religious, ethnic, or racial groups, etc. Maybe it's time to try something similar for crimes committed during a national disaster. Maybe there are some things that even the most humane societies don't have to put up with.
     How about tacking another 5 or 10 years onto the sentence of anyone convicted of committing a crime in any place declared to be a disaster area. Think that this is too harsh a penalty, especially for crimes that are merely crimes against 'property?'  
      If you think that, take another look at those pictures of people refusing to leave the wreckage of their homes after Sandy passed thru, living without electricity, heat, or hot water, because they wanted to protect from looters whatever was left. Take a good look and see if you still feel the same.
      Or talk to the business owner who's just lost his or her life's savings and maybe a business that took a lifetime to build. Is there any punishment too great for preying on people in a situation like that? Not everything in life is 'covered by insurance.'
      Think the problem is just poor mothers stealing food for their kids? Think again. Very few of the stores vandalized during hurricane Sandy were grocery stores. Much more likely to have been sporting goods, jewelry, or appliance stores. What was that recipe for 'Sneaker Fricassee' or 'Toasted Flat Screen TV a l'Orange?'
       A disaster 'hate' law? Maybe an idea whose time has come. The price of living in a civilized society is, or at least ought to be, living like a civilized human being.
 
 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Don't Mix In

      My Grandmother and Thomas Jefferson would have been good friends. They would have agreed on the important stuff.
       'Don't mix in' was my grandmother's favorite way of saying 'no entangling alliances.' Let them fight, argue, whatever. Not your business.
        And 'no entangling alliances' was Thomas Jefferson's way of saying 'don't mix in.' Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all.
        But then what do we do when governments in Syria and Egypt and Libya and who knows where next 'massacre their own people?' How can we just stand by and watch?
        Well, the fact is that there is no country, NO country, in the world whose government will tolerate an armed insurrection, whether justified or not. Take up arms against the government and you've got a pretty good chance of getting yourself shot.
        Think it only happens in 'brutal dictatorships?' that it couldn't happen in a democracy? Think again. How do you spell 'Fort Sumter?'
        And the South didn't even want to take over. They just wanted to leave. "Slip out the back, Jack. Hop on the bus, Gus...." 
       Maybe the best and only presence we should have in places where we're not the ones being threatened should be a hospital ship stationed off the coast to help the wounded on both sides. Grandmothers and Founding Fathers know about these things.
 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

When An Apple Is Not An Apple

       In a kingdom far, far away, there lived a king who was sure that he always knew better than anyone else what was best for his people. 
       "I know better than anyone else what is best for my people," said the King.
       One day, the king learned that the lowly apple actually had magical powers.
      "Sir Axel of Rod," he called out to his trusty assistant, "issue an edict to my people that each must eat an apple a day because it will keep the witches and warlocks away."
      "But Sire," replied Sir Axel, "though this may be a noble goal, I am not sure that it is within your power to issue such an edict. You see, it says right here in the Book of Majestic Powers, 'A king may command his people to eat oranges but not to eat apples.' "     
       But the king was very insistant, as kings often are, and so Sir Axel issued the edict.
       When the people heard what the king had done, they were very unhappy. Most did not like apples because the peel was always getting stuck between their teeth and because apples were very expensive in the kingdom.        
      And so, the people did the only thing they could do. They petitioned Lord John of Roberts and his band of merry Court Jesters to come to their aid.
      The Merry Jesters listened attentitively to the people explain why the king had no right to make them eat apples and then they listened to the representatives of the king explain why he did. And then they pondered.
       Finally, the Jesters announced that they had reached a verdict and that they would announce it on the last day before they were to leave for vacation and would be "outa' here" for three months beginning right after the verdict was announced.
       "A King clearly has no Apple Power," announced Lord John.
       And the people cheered.
       "However," he continued, "I have studied the apple carefully. It is round, has a sweet taste, and is red which, when combined with yellow, produces an orange color. Therefore, I have concluded that the apple is really an orange and the King does indeed have the power to compel his subjects to eat apples under the 'Orange Power'."
         As the people began filing out of the courtroom in a dejected state, the Merry Jesters suddenly stood, linked arms and began kicking their feet in the air as they sang,
         "We are the Merry Jesters. We played a joke on you. You don't have to eat an apple. Not one or three or two."
          Now, if only life would imitate art...