Saturday, September 22, 2012

The 47 Per Cent

With a little more than forty days left in this heated presidential election campaign I have started paying close attention. This week I learned that I was part of Mitt Romney's 47 per cent who paid zero Federal Income Tax in 2011. However, for 2010 I did pay some income tax. Since Governor Romney only considers these past two years important for tax records, I looked no further. This makes me something of a dependent guy - not taking much responsibility himself. Possibly so, when you ignore the sales taxes we pay, and the property taxes on real estate and farmland that I own. With only 17 years of federal service in the U.S. Navy I cannot claim a pension for my military career. As a college NROTC midshipman, my four years of Naval Science and Summer Active Duty Training didn't count as service time. My shipmates from the Naval Academy started their commissioned service with a full four years, even though we were commissioned regular officers on the same date. Since I paid no federal tax last year let's see how I have made out as a veteran and a retiree. My wife and I collected about $25,300 from Social Security, and it was not taxable income. We paid the government $2,316 for our Medicare cards. (We are over age 65 and "retired.") This brings us to Gov. Romney's age, 65 years. I guess his primary job in recent years has been "managing his personal investments." Apparently this has paid him pretty well. But it puts him in the lowest tax bracket with geezers like me who have plenty of deductions to keep our taxable income down. Maybe I have more in common with the GOP candidate than I thought.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


This morning I listened to former Ambassador Ryan Crocker pay tribute to his friend Chris Stevens, new Ambassador to Libya who has just been killed in mob violence in Benghazi, Libya. Federal Service runs in my family - State Department, Defense, CIA, Management and Budget. In a movie that inspired me back in the 1950s, an Admiral asks aboard his aircraft carrier (it was the Essex) "Where do we get such men?" Chris Stevens was one of our very best; helping execute our foreign policy in Libya, a policy that is helping the Arab world reach for their freedom. Serving in this theater is full of risk. Even as four lives were just lost in the service of our country, U.S. political sharpshooters were on the scene looking for partisan advantage. It is hard not to be discouraged about trends in world events and in national governance. At times like this I think that maybe we have reached a "Tipping Point." Perhaps we have been on a downhill slide for a number of years, such that "The last best hope on earth" offers not much hope anymore. Let's look at some indicators: A Congress unable to pass a budget or agree on a jobs bill and a deficit reduction package. A Supreme Court that has overturned decades of campaign reform with a decision allowing corporate money to flood our elections. A housing collapse brought about by fraudulent lending - banks that hold up their customers! With a global population growing past seven billion inhabitants, we see enormous disparities world-wide in wealth and availability of resources. Shortages of fresh water and food coincide with dozens of conflicts between tribes and nations. And the USA profits from arming all sides in these wars. How will we know when we have fallen from our summit? How do you ask a warrior to be the last to die in an unjust war? There are no answers that are easy or simple. I grew up pledging to a nation with justice and liberty for all. One nation, not divided. I don't see that nation today. I am afraid that we have passed that tipping point already.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Both political conventions are now over. Billions of dollars are flowing, and the fighting is fierce - on TV, billboards, radio, yard signs, and bumpers. The language is intemperate. Lies, fact-checkers disparaged, "socialists, radicals," on and on. Is the two-party system beyond repair? The other week a friend repeatedly referred to his opposition as the "enemy." I tried to protest, but he continued with more insults. Plainly, many partisans cannot talk to others with anything like civility. Every day I receive emails telling how much money is needed to counter the hundreds of millions that a few billionaires are pouring into the campaign against Democrats. When I watch the blizzard of negative TV ads I think of all the better uses for my money than to fuel this fire. When neither federal nor state legislators can agree on whether government is necessary, or how it might be funded, we have lost our way. The way that children in America are taught about how democracy and representative government are supposed to work. Compromise is weakness? My way or else? I think I have already made enough contributions to the candidates who have demonstrated some common sense. I cannot abide any more partisan food fights.