New Years Resolutions

Gulfport   I can’t remember when there was so little on the news and the daily papers. I do the “Peoples’ Daily News” for a bunch of radio stations. Luckily, I’m one day ahead, already loaded in the chamber, because scouring the Times, Journal, and Washington Post, got me nothing.

I ended up passing the time reading BuzzFeed’s story, highlighted in a Times’ column called “**** the Gator” based in the Golden Triangle of Orange, Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, an area and people, I know pretty well. It was a tragic story of a miscalculation by a young man trying to live life as best he could on the edge of what was available, whose miscalculation led to a big alligator killing him in the bayou abutting the marina and bar where he, his girlfriend, twin brother and others spent “years,” as his twin reported. This was the first gator killing in Texas in more than 150 years, but as habitat has been squeezed by expanding growth, there have now been several more since this ill-time, beer-soaked swim.

Makes you think. How lucky we often are, and despite how much all of us think we are masters of our own fate, how much the luck of the draw shapes our lives. My daughter gave me a testing kit for Christmas. You send them a tube filled with your spit after you register on-line and fill out their questionnaire over 15 or 20 minutes. Supposedly, they then get back to you and tell you how much you might be German or Irish or African-American or Native American or whatever. Scrolling page by page to answer the form though felt like health care Russian roulette. Every time I was able to check “No” on the boxes as one horrendous or unknown malady or disease or whatever after another was shot at me from the page, I felt like it was only a matter of time before one of them hit me. I also felt lucky or blessed or whatever you might want to call it when I got to the finish line and only had sleepwalking, migraines, and cholesterol lightly sticking to me over all my decades.

I like New Year’s resolutions. It’s like making a “to do” list for the year. I’m not confused that I’ll get it all done, but I like reminding myself what was on the list and forcing a bit of a reckoning on what lies before me. I enjoyed reading a psychologist’s advice recently on resolutions, where he tried to balance the need for self-discipline and control with compassion, generosity, and the like as the formula to achieve any of your resolutions in the future. I’ve got tons of discipline and self-control, but I like the notion, also common in organizing, that we celebrate the struggle along with the wins, recognizing the fight it takes to get there.

Mainly, I hope my luck – and yours – lasts through the next year, and that we are able to work hard enough to make it happen.

My companera sent me these notes this morning. They sound a bit like something from a Hallmark card, but that doesn’t take away their value, and how they might work as solid resolutions for living in the New Year: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To your community, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.

And, to all of you, good health and good luck in the new year!

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Whining of Charities is Unseemly

Gulfport  The recently approved tax bill is an abomination without any doubt. It’s claims of reform are a poorly crafted mask for a transfer of wealth from virtually all of us over the coming years to the coffers of the rich and corporations. Despite a couple of public relations stunts based largely on favorable tax savings when Verizon and Wells Fargo offered raises and bonuses to their workers, most economists are skeptical that any of these huge corporate savings will trickle down. Polls indicate that Americans think the bill stinks, and President Trump thinks it’s wonderful, so there we have it.

Nonetheless, one thing that is clear for individual and family taxpayers is that the standard deduction will rise for individuals from $6000 to $12000 and for couples to $24,000 beginning on January 1st, 2018. Without a doubt there are going to be some people who begin this roll with a smile on their faces.

There has been a quiet, but steady hum in the background though from charities of all places. Very little of their complaints are full voiced because the whining seems so unseemly, but increasingly some of the larger ones are wringing their hands more loudly because they aren’t happy that their appeals for tax deductible contributions will be so meaningless to those largely middle class families who might have made contributions thinking they would benefit by itemizing, but now won’t bother.

Me thinks they protest too much, even if this is only some static accompanied by the strident pitches of nonprofit public relations and marketing mavens. Particularly ironic are the voices of local community foundations since they are favored by the wealthy, who will do very well with these tax cuts, thank you so much. Itemized deductions were already largely a wealth preserve. The nonprofit Tax Foundation doesn’t mince its words on this issue, saying, “While the federal tax code generally imposes a much higher burden on high-income households, itemized deductions are an area of the tax code that mostly benefits the wealthy.”

The numbers bear that out. Only 6.5% of families making $25,000 or less itemize. According to the Tax Foundation, the vast majority don’t itemize:

30.1 percent of households chose to itemize their deductions (44 million returns). 68.5 percent of households chose to take the standard deduction (101 million returns). 1.6 percent of households had zero or negative adjusted gross income, and were unable to take any deductions. (2 million returns)

Additional research by the Foundation indicates that a majority only itemize once their income hits the $75 – $100,000 per year range, with 78.8% itemizing between $100-$200,000, and 93.5% itemizing over $200,000 per year. Pretty clear where these benefits lie. The impact of these Republican tax giveaways likely just means that more families with less than $100,000 to $150,000 won’t itemize, but those making $150,000 or more will still be doing so.

Lower income families already give a higher percentage of their incomes away according to most research, regardless of the tax benefits. Perhaps it is time for charities to start making their appeals based on their programs and benefits regardless of the supposed tax benefits, so that people give because they believe in the nonprofit’s mission rather than trying to stiff Uncle Sam. At the least they need to stop whining, because they are clearly crying wolf way too often since their rich donors will be doing very well thanks to the Republican’s special care for their interests.

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