Friday, August 26, 2011

Most people go home for vacation. A look at why Obama travels instead.

Most military personnel, college students, politicians, traveling salesmen, and people who work away, go back home on their leaves, recesses, and scheduled time off because:

home is where the heart is.
Oh, my home sweet home.

Even Harry Reid, who we like to criticize, lamented on August 1 about his upcoming recess:

“I have a home in Nevada that I haven’t seen in months, ..... My pomegranate trees are, I’m told, blossoming and have some pomegranates on them. I have some fig trees and roses and things that I just haven’t seen.”
“It’s been a pretty hard work period we’ve had, the last two weekends and working late, and I think the Senate deserves to be able to go home as soon as we can,” said Reid, ...
Source: Reid laments pomegranates, figs blooming without him

So why does the President and Mrs. Obama use these opportunities to travel to lavish locations and vacation in exotic environments instead of going back home?

My theory is that they have no home to go to. His parents divorced when he was very young and his father went back to Kenya. His mother remarried and the family moved to Indonesia. Later, Barak was sent to stay with his maternal grandparents in Hawaii. His mother died in 1995 and his biological father died in 1982. He has a half sister but not much is written about her (see Parents Of Barack Obama). Both of his grandparents have also passed away. Thus, he has no real roots or place to call home.

On Michelle's side, the family grew up in Chicago. Her father died in 1991 and her mother lives with the Obama's in the White House. Her brother is a basketball coach in Oregon, and the Obama's remain close to him and his family.

Together, Barak and Michelle purchased a Chicago house in 2005 when he was a senator. One would normally consider this to be called home, but the First Family rarely returns to their residence. Apparently, they do not feel a family connection to this location either since none of her immediate family lives in the Chicago area.

So because of their lack of geographic roots, the Obama's have nowhere else to go when they are on recess. The President feels a connection with Hawaii, and therefore they return there every year around Christmas. Like Bill Clinton, they have discovered Martha's Vineyard which they have also visited twice.

However, the image of Harry Potter having to remain at Hogwarts during Christmas break is rather sad. Everyone else was going home for the holiday. But, Harry had no real home to return to.

And, like Harry, President Obama has no real home either. Either he stays at the White House, or he gets away to a wonderful resort. At least when everyone else returns to Washington, the President can say he enjoyed the break as well.

It's sad when
You can't go home again.

For comparison purposes, the following summarizes where other Presidents went when they were on break:
  • Eisenhower: golfing in Georgia and Colorado
  • Kennedy: the family's Hyannis Port waterfront property on Cape Cod MA
  • Johnson: LBJ ranch in Texas
  • Nixon: homes in Key Biscayne FL and San Clemente CA
  • Ford: skiing in Colorado and relaxing in Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Carter: his home in Georgia
  • Reagan: his Santa Barbara, California ranch
  • G. H. W. Bush: Kennebunkport, Maine
  • Clinton: Martha's Vineyard, MA
  • G. W. Bush: Crawford TX ranch.


Reporter's notebook: When presidents go on "vacation," controversy follows
What President Took the Longest Vacation? (And Other Fun Facts)
President’s Vacation: Not Much of a Secret
Richard Nixon's High-Class Hideaways
Top 10 presidential getaways
Drudge, NY Post report Obamas' NYC trip cost, ignore Bush's Crawford vacations

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pop goes the weasel (why America is going broke)

All around the Congress' desks
The president chased the taxpayer
Round and round
Up and down
Pop goes the country.

Last week, we discussed the availability of the Federal Taxpayer Receipt which breaks down how our tax dollars are spent. This is a two edged sword because while it helps explain where the money goes, it reveals the entitlement spending that so many are worried about.

To get an understanding of the scope of our debt problem, we need to put hard numbers into the calculator. Using a variety of sources below, we learn a variety of facts. (While many sources use numbers from 2008 to 2011, the exact calculations are not determined. But, we believe that on the average, these numbers provide a good ballpark overview).
  • Annual federal spending = $2.4 trillion (source 7)
  • Approximate income tax received = 1.032 trillion (source 1)
  • 47% of population pay no taxes (source 3)
  • Annual deficit shortfall = $1.4 trillion (derived)
  • Average tax rate from all people = 12.24% (source 1)
  • Average tax rate top 5% from all people = 20.7% (source 1)
  • Number of  income tax forms received = 140 million (source 1)
  • Average tax paid by individual form received = $7,371 (derived)
Entering the average taxpayer payment of $7,371 into the taxpayer receipt calculator, we identify some startling facts.
  • Under Job and Family Security, we pay about $100 billion for supporting a portion of the poor (4.4% goes to unemployment insurance, 3.6% for food and nutrition assistance, 2.2% for housing assistance). This totals to $751 of our individual taxes.
  • Approximately 6.5 million people receive unemployment insurance per month (source 6). This means that the country pays about $45.4 billion per year to fund the unemployed (140M * $324 each taxpayer).
  • The average monthly food stamp payout is $133 (source 4). Since approximately 35 million people receive food stamps, we pay $4.65 billion per month or $50 billion per year for food stamps to support these people. As $265 is taken from each taxpayer for this, each taxpayer pays for 2 months of someone else's food stamps.
  • By comparison, we only pay $20 - $40 billion per year (source 5) for the nearly 1 million retired military and survivors. 
As we can see, a large portion of our tax dollars go directly towards entitlement spending of providing the unemployed and poor with spending money. At the same time, the country receives less than 50% of the money it spends from taxes. This means that we go deeper into the hole every year.

So, maybe President Obama is right: It's time for shared sacrifice.

In order to have enough money to cover our spending, we would need to double everyone's taxes. However, if we do that, those who are working will not have any money left.

Perhaps we can eliminate all the entitlement spending. If we do this, we only save $100 billion which is far from sufficient.

What if we required everyone to pay taxes? This would mean that the 47% who are getting a free ride will have to pay. If we do this, and require all corporations to pay taxes, then just maybe we can begin to get close to having a balanced budget.

Notice that I haven't advocated the government cut spending. While this is logical, the current administration would not consider this, even though it is a shared sacrifice.

Unless we get the economy going by creating more U.S. jobs, more and more people will become unemployed. The annual tax revenue will decline and our entitlement spending will increase. This means the federal deficit will increase.

And, if inflation kicks in and interest rates rise, then:

Pop goes the weasel!

  1. Summary of Latest Federal Individual Income Tax Data
  2. Gov’t handouts exceed taxes as percentage of average household income for first time since 1936
  3. Yes, 47% of Households Owe No Taxes. Look Closer.
  4. Food stamp list soars past 35 million: USDA
  5. Portrait of Retired Soldiers and Spouses
  6. Record number getting jobless benefits
  7. Federal Debt Ceiling


Friday, August 12, 2011

Where do my tax dollars go? Find out what the White House says.

In their commitment to bring more transparency to the American public, the White House recently launched its new taxpayer receipt calculator. The intention of the calculator is to help everyone understand where their tax dollars go after they are received. To access this calculator, you can visit their page:

To use it, you will need to enter 3 items from your 2010 tax return. These are your: Social Security, Medicare, and Federal Income Tax amounts. After entering, press the "Calculate Receipt" button and the distribution of your tax dollars will be displayed.

The receipt consists of three groups of data. The first two are: Social Security and Medicare Taxes. The output of the receipt for these categories simply duplicates the amounts you enter and provides no other information. So, it is not particularily interesting.

The meat of the calculator is in the Income Tax breakdown section. Using its predefined percents of income, the receipt calculator shows how your tax dollars are allocated across 14 different categories:
  1. 26.3% - National Defense
  2. 24.3% - Health Care
  3. 21.9% - Job and Family Security
  4. 4.8% - Education and Job Training
  5. 4.1% - Veterans Benefits
  6. 2.1% - Natural Resources, Energy and Environment
  7. 1.7% - International Affairs
  8. 1.2% - Science, Space, and Technology Programs
  9. 2.0% - Immigration, Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice
  10. 0.8% - Agriculture
  11. 0.5% - Community, Area, and Regional Development
  12. 0.4% - Response to Natural Disasters
  13. 2.4% - Additional Government Programs
  14. 7.4% - Net Interest
Based on our first impressions, we must commend the Administration for creating this valuable tool. It provides a great overview of where our dollars go. We encourage all of you who pay Federal taxes to take a look at this tool and get a little more clarity about your tax dollar distributions.

However, like all good things, it can be criticized. For example, there is at least one item missing, and not enough clarity as to many of their descriptions.

Next week, we will take a deeper look into some of the individual line items and explain what we believe is missing.

On the overall, we believe this is a great start and a valuable tool for the American taxpaying population.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Will I continue to get my Social Security now or after I retire? Is Social Security safe?

On August 14, 2011, the country will mark the 76th anniversary of Social Security. Since it was first enacted, those who retired were able to count on the government providing much (or even all) of their financial support.

However, the recent debt crisis heightened awareness that Social Security payments may be in jeopardy. Thankfully, the bill that the Congress and Senate passed, and the President signed protects our citizens from future Social Security cuts should the newly formed bipartisan financial committee fail to make agreements.

During the past few years, a number of proposals have been raised that would change Social Security. President Bush favored privatizing it, meaning that our funds would be invested in the stock market. But, given the up and down volatility of the market, Democrats opposed this concept. Last year, in August 2010, President Obama recorded this message.

In the above video, the President vowed to keep Social Security safe and out of the hands of Wall Street. Thus far, he has kept his word.

However, many now realize that the Social Security Trust Fund contains no cash. The taxpayer dollars collected are used to purchase US Treasury bonds. This means that if the Government has fiscal or budget difficulties, then redeeming the bonds for recipient payments could be difficult.

The country is getting older, and with the Baby Boomer generation beginning to retire, there will be increased demands to redeem the bonds. Further, the poor economic climate and high unemployment rates are limiting the amount of new money that is entering the Social Security Trust.

Will you continue to get your Social Security payments?
Most likely yes!

However, Social Security, as we know it now, will have to change. When Social Security was created, the life span was shorter. Retirees were expected to live for only five years on average. Today, they will live at least three times longer.

To fund these payments, the government will most likely raise the retirement age for future generations.

In addition, they will limit the amount of increases that recipients get. This means that while your payments are safe, you cannot count on the amount that you may receive.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

DMCA Warning: the site may be stealing your content

I ran a Google search for this blog this morning and found the entry:

Ask The Blogster - Blogs Directory Hub

This is an illegal copy of my blog. All my posts since January 28, 2011 are there. The site reformatted all posts and all article links have been changed to point to their internal copy of my posts.

Typically with RSS feeds, the title links back to the original feed article. But, this is not the case. Thus, there is a copyright infringement.

Additionally, their Terms and Conditions section states that they only contain blogs and articles from those who have joined the site, become members, and gave permission to reprint the articles.

I have not joined this site and I have not given permission to reprint, use, or steal my content.

This site appears to be a duplicate copy of a site called, except that their database of articles is not as extensive. That old site was removed from Google and later delisted entirely. At that time, I wrote an article:

Is thebloghub Stealing Your Content? Don't Fall for the Trap!

which describes the situation and what to do.

I now recommend that everyone check this site ( ) to see if you site's content has been stolen. If so, you should file a DMCA complaint as explained in my previous thebloghub article.

Lastly, I am writing this post with the intent that it will be copied in its entirety by as evidence that content is indeed being illegally copied and distributed.

PS: As quickly as I published this article,  it immediately appeared on
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