Monday, May 24, 2010

#68 - Something About Nothing

I realized tonight it has been three weeks since my last entry, so I thought I ought to write something. Like all great writers (so I'm told, not being one myself), I've perhaps been suffering of late from writer's block.

Or rather, I haven't been able to come up with a theme for an entry. So I have decided to write a little something about nothing. That is, I am going to write a bit of stream of consciousness about what has been going on in the last three weeks.

For a week or so, Spring teased us here in Idaho and acted as if it had finally decided to make its entrance, somewhat like a diva arriving fashionable late to her own party. Temperatures reached the upper 70s and low 80s, and we marked the occasion with a weekend at Bruneau Dunes State Park joining a local chapter of the Good Sams Club.

About a month and a half early, we had made the decision to join this chapter of the national RV group because we decided that sometimes it would be nice to go out with a group, and none of our friends seem all that much into camping or RVing.

We're kind of the youngsters in the group, but they all seem like nice people, and they seem for the most part more alive when we are out in a campground somewhere. Which is also how I feel a good deal of the time.

We've made two campouts with the group and plan to make at least three more. It's nice to have that variety of occasionally joining a group and sometimes going it alone. Variety does spice things up a bit, if you recall the old quote.

Since that outing to Bruneau Dunes, winter has tried to reclaim its position of control over Idaho's weather. We actually had snow on Saturday and a couple of days of rain before that. It may not be global warming, but it sure is not normal.

On the subject of not being normal, I continue to wage my battle with my childhood demons. I do feel like I am winning that war, but the only war making slower progress might be the war in Afghanistan. Still, progress is progress, and knowing how long the demons have ruled my life, I realize victory will not be achieved overnight. Getting out in the RV helps me in that fight, so I am glad every time we are able to get out, and we try to do that often.

Something we maybe don't do enough is bathe our beagle, Oliver. Tonight, though, it was decided that he had gone long enough. Bathing the dog is a two person job because, unlike most dogs I've ever seen, Oliver does not like water - except to drink - and does not like getting wet. If he has to go to the bathroom but it's wet outside, he will hold it.

So, I tried to hold Oliver steady while Teresa bathed him. Afterward, we dried him as best we could, then got out of the way. If you ever want to see a dog imitate a bat out of hell, come to our house and watch Oliver after he has had a bath. I swear, in that state, Oliver could possibly outrun the horses at Churchill Downs.

Before that, we had decided to hook up an old DVD player to see if it still worked and could be used in place of the one now somewhat inoperable after the recent break-in of our trailer.

We set it up on the kitchen table and put in a DVD to test in. Then we got absorbed in the movie. (I'll admit it, it was "Mamma Mia," and I am a big ABBA fan.)

So, there we are, sitting in the kitchen, watching a movie. Also not normal but perhaps definitely us.

In between, I've had a chance to visit with a friend and former co-worker during his visit from Arizona. I've taken our truck back to the shop for the third time in three months. And I've argued a little politics on Facebook and tried to learn to enjoy each and every day instead of saving it all up for "someday."

Perhaps my title, "Something About Nothing," was a misnomer. Each item, in and of itself, might seem like nothing or at least like not much. Taken together, however, they add up to nothing less than life itself. And that is nothing if not something.

Monday, May 3, 2010

#67 - If I Were King

I've been involved of late in a running Facebook debate generally about immigration reform and specifically about the Arizona immigration law. Facebook is probably not the ideal place for discussion matters of substance, but that is perhaps a debate for another time.

As part of that ongoing discussion, I was asked for my suggestions. I thought to myself, why stop at immigration reform. So, here are some of the things I would do if I were suddenly in charge. Not that anyone asked me about these other areas, of course.

1) Institute a tax credit for companies creating new jobs in America. The size of the credit would be based on the number of new, above minimum wage jobs the company creates, with extra credits going to those companies that create jobs in areas with unemployment rates above 10% and those companies creating new jobs in fields involving renewable resources.

Such a step would reward companies who step up to help the economy while leaving out those who seem intent merely on sending jobs overseas in order to boost profits.

2) Simplify America's income tax code. I would have two, maybe three tax rates, say 15 and 25% (or 10, 15, and 25%), with those having family incomes under $30,000 a year exempt and those with family incomes of $200,000 or more a year paying 25%. In addition, I would eliminate all tax deductions with the exception of allowing a deduction for charitable contributions for individuals of up to $5,000 or 5% of gross annual income, whichever is greater, without creating a negative tax balance. I would also leave the Earned Income Credit in place and perhaps expand it to include a scaled credit for child care for people earning up to $75,000 a year.

3) In line with that, I would create a tax credit for people who spend at least 100 hours a year in volunteer service.

4) Institute a 25% corporate income tax, again eliminating all deductions, with the exception of a deduction for charitable contributions of up to $1,000,000 or 2% of gross annual income, whichever is greater, again without creating a negative tax balance.

5) Institute a corporate tax credit for investment in infrastructure: new buildings, equipment, training programs, etc. of up to 25% of the cost. Companies would only be eligible to take such a credit once every five years.

6) Make all earned income subject to Social Security tax, with perhaps a sliding tax scale, say 2.5% on income up to $30,000 a year, 4.5% on income of $30,001 to $75,000 and the current 6.2% of income of $75,001 or more. Rich people collect Social Security regardless of their need; I think they can afford to help fund it a little better.

7) Speaking of Social Security, I would again make the Social Security fund off limits for all uses except the funding of Social Security payments.

8) Since the Facebook discussion had to do with immigration reform, here is what I would do in that area: Impose a fine on businesses caught and convicted of hiring illegal immigrants. A first offense would net a fine of $1,000,000 or 1% of gross revenues, whichever is less. A second offense would result in a fine of $5,000,000 or 5% of gross annual revenues, whichever is less. A third offense results in the seizure of the company's assets, a sort of corporate "three strikes and your out" program.

9) On the immigrant side of the equation, I would institute a temporary amnesty for any illegal immigrant, to last only for the extent of that person's application for citizenship. Under certain documented instances, such a person might be allowed to continue to work (if the person is the sole support for a family that includes one or more underage children, for instance) while the application process is underway.

Such people would not be denied citizenship solely on the basis of entering the country illegally. However, their fingerprints would be taken and, if they are caught re-entering the country after having an application for citizenship rejected for other reasons (previous criminal record or caught committing a crime in this country), they would be automatically deported with no right of appeal.

10) Finally, I would push to have a voting Representative for the District of Columbia. My reasoning is that, as things now stand, residents of Washington, D.C. are subject to "taxation without representation," one of the concepts that helped to galvanize the colonists prior to the American Revolution.

I'm sure I could come up with some other ideas if I were king, but that's a start.