Posts Tagged 'jobs'

Muscle bound

Dick Shawn, who died on-stage in 1987, was one of my favorite actors and comedians.  His role in The Producers as the flower-power-hippie cast as the lead in Springtime for Hitler was classic.

Perhaps less well-known was Dick’s stand-up routine as a muscle-bound weight lifter.  Proud of his bigger than life physique, he was asked by his mother “So what good are big muscles?”  Stumped for an answer, he stumbled around giving inane responses to this simple question.

I was reminded of Dick’s routine as I watched the debate last night.  The first question posed by a young college student was “So, how are you going to create more jobs?”  Smiling as he stared into the young man’s eyes, Mitt attempted to lay out the specifics of his job creation plan.  Only there were none.  Dick Shawn had risen.

Next came a question from a motherly middle-aged woman.  “I understand that you want to simplify the tax code and give everyone a 20% tax cut.  And that you want to balance that cut by limiting deductions.  How will your plan impact my home mortgage deduction, charitable contributions and the deduction for  my kids’ college tuition.”  Mitt smiled and flexed his big muscles.  Dick Shawn was having a hell of a night.

When the debate took on the issue of women in the workplace, the two contenders tried their best to become the champion of the fairer sex.  Obama cited his signature support for the Lilly Ledbetter equal pay for equal work legislation and for Planned Parenthood’s myriad of services.  Mitt muted his promise to de-fund Planned Parenthood and chose to ignore his running mate’s vote against the Ledbetter legislation.  He instead cited his search for qualified women while Governor of Massachusetts.

When his closest advisers were incapable of identifying women for his cabinet, he said “Well, gosh, can’t we find some women that are also qualified?”  He was then presented with “whole binders full of women.”  With big muscles, I’m sure.

Another questioner asked “How will Mr. Romney’s presidency differ from that of George W. Bush?”  Mitt lamented Mr. Bush’s budget busting wars, crossed his heart and promised never to do that again.  Obama noting that in spite of his other failings Mr. Bush had never proposed Medicare vouchers, proceeded to chastise Mitt’s vaporous health plan, a scheme that according to a new study by the Kaiser Foundation would cause six in ten Medicare recipients to pay higher premiums.

And so it went.  In the end we were treated to interviews with ten undecided voters who had been gathered together in the studio to observe the debate.  The moderator asked  “So, now that you’ve seen the debate, which of you will be voting for Mr. Romney?”  One hand went up.  “And which of you will be voting for Mr. Obama?”  One hand went up.

The other eight were obviously living in some alternative universe.  Maybe looking for some guy with bigger muscles.

Save your old shoes

Headed down the hill today to visit John Long at Ojai Valley Imports.  Time for an oil change.  John was a bit scruffier looking than usual but, in his happy way, greeted me with “Hi Fred, how you been?”  For whatever reason, I still think an oil change costs $39.  And I’m always surprised to discover that’s only the half of it.  Must be an age thing.

Sort of like my view of buying shoes.  I remember when Florsheim meant something.  Spend $35 on a pair of Florsheims forty years ago and they were an investment that kept on giving until your wife ripped them off your feet and threw them in the garbage.  I always get wide-eyed at the cost of any kind of shoe, regardless of price.  Must be my upbringing.

I waited under that old fir tree on the corner of Summer and Ojai Avenue, trying to twist old, dead needles into a useful survival tool.  Mercifully, Don arrived and we drove to the Ojai Cafe Emporium for our usual coffee and half a sweet roll.  Like Florsheims, I think their cinnamon rolls have suffered a bit over time.  But their muffins are the best, especially pumpkin.  I could probably eat a whole one but I feel psychologically fitter if I only get a half ration of white flour and sugar.  Besides, I usually bring two home for Sweetie and help her with the eating part.

The place was nearly deserted at 8:15, an unusual event.  I asked the lovely lady behind the counter where everyone was.  No clue.  I joked “maybe they’re all staking claim to prime spots on the avenue for the July 4th parade.”  And then I remembered that the parade is on July 3 because the 4th is a Sunday.

I admit to a certain amount of bristling about the parade being moved to Saturday.  And I remember the brooha that ensued when the parade sponsors made the same decision a few years ago in order to let folks attend church.  Back then I almost wrote a letter to the Ojai Valley News to remind the sponsors that Saturday was a holy day for us desert wanderers.  But then I haven’t been to a temple Saturday service in a long time.  So why should I bitch.  Even so, a July Third parade seems all wrong.

Don and I began with an organ recital (how’s your health), a less than argumentative discussion of who’s really at fault for the state of the economy, Joe Barton’s whole-hearted but bonehead apology to BP, and a review of our latest literary explorations.  I was proud to announce that I was actually reading a piece of non-fiction.  Nothing to Fear by Adam Cohen (who probably would also be ticked at the thought of a July 3rd parade) recounts FDR’s first hundred days in office in 1933.  In the depths of the depression, here comes a guy who had an easy act to follow, Herbert Hoover.  Some would argue that Obama had the same advantage.

As I read the book, I found myself comparing then and now.  Killer unemployment, a banking system on life support, stocks in the toilet, a media that thrives on bad news, and conflicting views on the role of government in an economic holocaust.  FDR and the Democrats win the election in a landslide.  A lock on both houses of congress and the key to the Oval Office.  On Day One, FDR plops himself behind the desk and hasn’t a clue as to what specific steps should be taken.  All he knows is that the banks need oxygen and people need jobs.  And the rest is history.

The only difference between then and now is the sense of urgency.  Not enough people selling apples.  No army of the unemployed on the steps of Congress.  Too few market manipulators leaping from the fifth floor.  And an election cycle that has no beginning and no end.

Who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky and things will get worse.  Meanwhile, save your old shoes.

Flat Tax to the Rescue

Does it hurt yet?

11.6%.  One out of nine.  Two million one hundred and fifty-two thousand people.  That’s how many of your fellow Californians are out of work.  Sixty-six thousand more than last month.

Ho hum.  Another day at the office.  Harry Potter’s on the big screen.  The Dodgers are in first.  It’s cool at the Mall. The Governator and the legislature are arm wrestling.  Rome’s burning.  There must be someone who can put out the fire.

Maybe it’s the blue-ribbon commission that Ahnold and the Democrats put together this year to fix the state’s tax structure.  The world’s greatest newspaper, the Ventura Star, reported that the commission was about to hear testimony in support of a flat tax.  You know, that’s where everyone pays the same percent of their income.  The Star said, under a flat tax system, poor folks would pay more taxes while rich folks would pay less.  And all this time, I’ve been assuming that getting rich folks to pay more, not less, would help solve the state’s budget crisis.  Duh.

Alvin Rabushka, a Hoover Institution economist, has been trumpeting the benefits of a flat tax for twenty-eight years.  The Hoover Institution was founded by that great humanitarian and champion of the working man, Herbert Hoover.  For those of you standing in line for Harry Potter tickets, President Hoover presided over the Great Depression before being summarily dismissed by FDR.  The Institution’s mission statement includes…

Ours is a system where the Federal Government should undertake no governmental, social or economic action, except where local government, or the people, cannot undertake it for themselves.

In other words, fend for yourself, you wuss.  FDR is not on their list of distinguished fellows.  Condoleezza Rice and Ed Meese are.

According to the Star…

Rabushka…believes a flat tax is a prescription for prosperity because it would reduce the tax load on the very wealthy, freeing them to use more of their money instead for wealth-creating investment.

In other words, if less money is taken from the rich, they’ll use their new-found wealth to create more jobs and get you off your lazy, unemployed duff.  You’ll earn more, pay more taxes and restore California to its former glory.  Remember trickle down?

Not so fast says Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a nonprofit group that advocates for state policies that benefit low- and moderate-income families.

The Budget Project last month analyzed the most recent income tax data released by the Franchise Tax Board (for 2007) and found the income gap between middle-income Californians and the wealthiest continues to widen. Since 1995, it shows that incomes of the middle-fifth of state taxpayers have grown by 9.1 percent. The top-fifth of taxpayers have seen their incomes rise by 51 percent.

Jean thinks trickle down is really trickle up.

Joel Fox, president of the Small Business Action Committee, thinks the flat-taxers have a long road to hoe…

…a flat tax “would be an incentive for stimulating the economy,” but acknowledges it would be a hard sell to voters since it would result in most of them paying higher income taxes. “It’s going to be complex and difficult to convince people to make the move.”

OK, so if you don’t like the flat tax idea, why not get out of the Harry Potter ticket line and do something useful.  Like solve the California budget crisis.  I found this really nifty “You Balance the Budget” tool that will show you just how easy it is to find an extra $26 billion dollars.  Try it.

Then you can get back in the Potter line.

 flat tax


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