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Monthly Archives: April 2009

Remembering Beth Bryan

Over the last few days, I have tried my absolute best to get my arms around my sadness over the death of friend and despite my best efforts, I am still struggling with that today.  I have experienced the passing of loved ones before, so I struggle with why I have been so profoundly impacted by the loss of Beth Bryan.

After much reflection, I believe I am starting to understand…

Beth was an extraordinary woman.  She was everyone’s friend.  She was the neighborhood mom that every kid felt comfortable with, looked up to, and loved.  She was a loving wife to her husband Mike, and a dedicated, passionate mother to her own children.  She was a devoted daughter and sister.  Beth was a woman of faith, a teacher, a Scout Leader, a Swim Coach – and the list goes on.

Beth had a way with making anyone feel comfortable no matter what the circumstances.  She was warm and welcoming.  As a matter of fact, she had a signature smile that attracted return smiles like bees are attracted to honey.  Even if you did not see Beth on a daily basis, you would see her walking her dog or at the pool, and the first thing out of her mouth was always, “Hey Darlin’, how are you?” 

Beth was that rare individual that you come across on this all too often short life journey and you instantly want to be friends with.  Beth touched more people than I think she perhaps even realized, from neighborhood friends who first met nearly 20 years ago putting their eldest children on the bus for the first day of school, to the countless families and friends she touched in her capacity as a swim coach in Northern Virginia.

This was no ordinary life.  This was indeed an extraordinary person. That realization and the impact she had not only on me, but on all those around me, is perhaps the reason why her death has been so difficult to process.

Today Beth is embraced in the arms of angels and those of us left behind will never forget the impact she had on us.  The community of friends that remain on the journey are better off for having known Beth and we will all need one another as we continue to grieve and attempt to adjust to the daily routines in our lives. 

I am reminded of a song by the Eagles and the refrain truly summed up my feelings… “There’s a hole in the world tonight, There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow, There’s a hole in the world tonight.”   Beth’s passing leaves a profound hole in all of our worlds. 

Until we meet again friend, know that you are loved and missed dearly.

 

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Posted by on April 21, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Happy Tax Day!!

Well, I procrastinated about doing taxes longer this year than I can ever recall in the past and I am not sure why. And when I say procrastinate – I mean like I am still working on the returns!!

I’ll be honest…in 2008 I heard lots about taxes and how no family making less than $250,000 a year would see any tax increases. And sitting here today seeing my income stay the same as 2007 but my tax liability increase, gives me great pause about whether that statement is true or will be factual as I sit down to complete my 2009 tax return a year from now.

On this Tax Day, I think all taxpaying Americans should be concerned that our leaders are actually poised to enact runaway tax hikes over the next few years and this “tax train” is speeding down the tracks without any ability to slow down or stop.

So, what is all the fuss about? I decided to track down some facts about the tax situation for people like me. Here is what I have discovered so far…

  • On April 2, 2009, the US House of Representatives passed H.Con.Res. 85, the Democrat budget resolution, by a vote of 233-196. The budget increases taxes by $574 billion over five years and $1.154 trillion over ten years.
  • Days Spent Working to Pay Taxes in 2009: US Avg. 103.
  • Americans will pay more in taxes than they will spend on food, clothing and housing combined.
  • The Democrat budget recently passed by Congress will double the national debt in 5 years and triple it in 10 years.
  • Every American child born this year will owe $70,000.
  • The President recently proposed his first budget, which includes the following:

Cap & Tax: The President’s budget proposes a national energy tax that would cap greenhouse gas emissions from regulated entities and require businesses to purchase permits or “allowances” for their emissions-an effective tax on all energy consumption. This proposal is commonly known as “Cap and Tax,” and according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study, this tax will cost the average American household up to $3,128 per year in increased energy costs.

Health Care Taxes: President’s budget proposes more than $630 billion in new spending on health care reform as a mere “down payment” for additional spending to come.

Small Businesses Taxes: In 2010, the President’s budget will increase taxes on all taxpayers that earn more than $200,000 individually, or $250,000 as a couple. The majority of the burden for this $637 billion tax increase will be borne by small business owners (who pay taxes on this income as part of their individual returns). Small businesses create 60 to 80 percent of all new jobs in America. These new taxes will stifle job creation and economic growth in the midst of a recession.

Capital Gains and Dividends Taxes: Under the President’s budget, taxes on capital gains and dividends would increase for individuals with an income over $250,000 (married) and $200,000 (single) from 15 to 20 percent, increasing taxes on investors by $338 billion over ten years.

Charitable Giving Tax: The budget caps the value of itemized deductions at 28 percent for those with an income over $250,000 (married) and $200,000 (single), which will reduce charitable giving by $9 billion a year.

Death Tax: The President’s budget reinstates the death tax scheduled to be fully repealed in 2010.

Carried Interest Tax: The budget would more than double taxes on carried interest, increasing taxes up from the capital gains rate (15 percent) to the income tax rate (39.6 percent). Carried interest is interest gained on profits from investments and is generally used to pay investment fund managers based on the fund’s performance for investors.

Energy Producer Tax: The President’s budget imposes $31 billion in punitive new taxes on domestic energy production over the next ten years, encouraging U.S. companies to move jobs overseas and increasing our overall dependence on foreign energy supplies.

LIFO Accounting: The President’s budget proposes repealing the first-in, first-out (LIFO) accounting rule which allows businesses to assume the most recent inventory item purchased is the first sold. According the President’s budget, the change would result in a $61 billion tax increase over ten years, borne mainly by manufacturers and small businesses that purchase a great deal of inventory each year.

Wow – just a little research unearthed this non-exhaustive list!

It is time to stop procrastinating, complete and file my 2008 return, and start saving for my 2009 tax bill!

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Place the AIG Blame Where it Belongs….

The same people yelling about bailing out private insurance businesses are the people screaming about efforts to collect and control the use of taxpayer funds at these very same companies.

Words like “outrage,” “incomprehensible,” and “offensive” have all been used to describe the AIG mess and I don’t disagree with those characterizations. I just wish my fellow Americans would look a bit closer at the way Washington works and understand the use of legislative tools and strategy before criticizing every action taken. Americans need to do a little research, comprehend “strategy” votes, understand procedural maneuvering and avoid the far too frequent knee-jerk criticism and condemnation they so easily dish out to our elected officials. At the end of that analysis, if you still believe the actions taken were wrong, by all means criticize with a passion.

However, in the case of the AIG bonus situation, instead of being angry at Congress for casting what I could best describe as a “no-confidence” vote in the administration’s handling of the AIG bonus issue, I believe anger and “outrage” should be focused at the correct players – namely the White House and the Treasury Department.

Facts are a stubborn thing and a quick review of the facts sheds some much needed light on this issue. On March 19th, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1586, the first legislative response to the public outrage surrounding battered insurance giant American International Group, Inc. It targets a narrow group of individuals, topped by executives and other employees at AIG on the receiving end of $165 million in bonus checks. The final vote was 328-93, surpassing the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill under suspension of the rules, an expedited procedure that bars amendments and limits debate.

The legislation would impose a 90 percent tax on the bonuses, targeting a narrow group of individuals at about a dozen firms that have received more than $5 billion in federal aid, including AIG. It is important to note that AIG is now 80 percent owned by the federal government and on the receiving end of $170 billion of taxpayer bailout money.

It is equally important to understand that the bonuses were allowed as a result of a Democratic decision to remove a tax proposal similar to the one included in H.R. 1586 from the economic recovery legislation. Instead of including this language in the recovery legislation, House Democrats replaced it with language that specifically prevented restrictions on bonuses paid pursuant to contracts signed before Feb. 11. Leaders stated that this provision was added at the request of the Administration.

So, if you are in the minority and have no control over the legislative agenda and wish to make a point, what do you do? You use every legislative tool you have to send a strong message and in this case that message was a “no-confidence” vote in Secretary Geithner and the Administration for negotiating the exclusion of restrictions on taxpayer funds in the Economic Stimulus legislation.

Should the AIG Bonus legislation, as passed by the House, ever become law, I think there is a good chance it could be declared unconstitutional. And I think lots of smart Republicans and Democrats realized that when they cast their “yes” vote. The ultimate fate of the House bill is not clear. The Senate version of a bonus tax differs in some key ways from that of the House. And while the legislation feels like “justice” to those outraged, it is at best bad public policy and at worst, unconstitutional. But I believe it is so much more than that. I think frustrated members of Congress wanted to send a message.

While I believe a strong message was sent to Administration, a stronger message was sent to those receiving our tax dollars. That message was “finally someone is looking out for us and you should take caution when taking these valuable resources from hard working Americans.”
Surprisingly, that message was sent, received and apparently processed by those on the receiving end.


A final version of the legislation has not been signed into law, but just look at the results so far. First of all, Secretary Geithner recently stated that he will deduct $165 million from the next $30 billion that AIG is slated to receive. Secondly, Edward M. Liddy, the government-installed chairman and CEO of AIG, has asked employees to return portions of their bonuses and said that at least some are doing that. And finally, according to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, nine of the top 10 bonus recipients have already agreed to return the money, and half of the total $165 million may be retrieved.

I would suggest that those “outraged” by Congress’ action take heart and understand that sometimes Congress works the way it was intended. I would argue that in the case of the AIG bonus mess created by the Administration, they did just that. This legislation is bad public policy and hopefully will never become law. But the threat of that possibility has sparked the right outcome.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2009 in Uncategorized