Monday, October 25, 2010

New York State of Mind

New York State of Mind

Former Harlem postal worker Jimmy McMillan stole the debate for New York governor last week by reiterating that the "rent is too damn high." He didn't stop there. In response to being questioned about gay marriage, McMillan responded that "if you were in love with a shoe, i'd marry you."
As the audience roared with laughter the moderator then stated "Next question goes to you Ms. Davis." At the time, I didn't know who "Ms. Davis" was so I googled her and discovered she was a former prostitute and madam. Ms. Davis opined about the need for legalizing all drugs and prostitution. It was at this point that I realized the reason why the county I live in was just ranked the highest in the country for property taxes. When you have unqualified people vying for state leadership positions and will be responsible for managing taxpayer dollars, there's no wonder why people are moving out the state of New York in droves.
Property tax data was released several weeks ago ranking the highest property taxed counties in the country. Monroe county (Rochester, NY) ranked 1st in the country. That's right...the highest taxed county in the country is not Orange county, California or Westchester county, New York. It's Monroe county. The county famous for "The Garbage Plate" rakes the highest for percentage of property taxes in the United States.
Normally I wouldn't be comfortable disclosing personal financial information but in this case, it's necessary to paint the appropriate picture for the reason of the exodus out of New York state. My wife and I purchased a home here in Monroe county this past April. Our home is a 4 bedroom, 3 bath colonial on less than half an acre. We paid $218,000. The yearly property taxes on our home are $10,200. Upon research, a nearly identical property in Virginia recently sold for $220,000, but the yearly property taxes on that dwelling were $2,400. Similar properties in Alabama had yearly property taxes under $1,000.
New York state has too much "overhead." They have tried, unsuccessfully, many times to trim state budgets, cut social programs, and make the necessary changes to government infrastructure that would equate to lowering state costs. But year after year, state budgets increase. When the state budget increases, taxes have to go up to cover the costs. When taxes go up, people start to leave the state for more affordable opportunities (see above). When taxpayers leave the state, the increased tax burden is shared amongst the remaining property owners. It's a cyclical problem that shows no light at the end of the tunnel.
Meanwhile, we have unqualified candidates debating about marrying a "shoe." These candidates are trying to take over the position that is currently held by a man who used his power to score 2009 World Series tickets for he and his son...and he took over for a man who was soliciting prostitutes.
Uncontrollable spending seems to be New York's state of mind. I think Billy Joel should re-write his song.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

RIP American Work Ethic

Judge Judy is my hero. I've watched her court show periodically since it came on the air. I'm drawn to her. She is one of a dying breed that calls people out, not only on their guilt in court proceedings, but their guilt in not contributing to the success of our country.

Our country's financial and global successes were built on an unbridled work ethic, something that has been buried along with the generation that was responsible for it. I remember my grandfather telling me how when he graduated from the University of Iowa in the late 1930's, he was unable to secure a job. At the time, our country was just starting to pull out of the Great Depression and most places still were not hiring. Unwavered, he went down to a local grocery store outside of Des Moines, Iowa and asked if they would allow him to work stocking shelves....for free. My grandfather, an intelligent man in his early 20's with a bachelor's degree in Accounting, asked the owner of this grocery store for a non-paying stockboy position, with the hopes that once the economy turned around he'd be in line for a paying position.

Fast Forward to 2010, Judge Judy listened to a civil suit where a woman in her late 20's was being sued for repayment of a loan. This woman folded under Judge Judy's questioning about her financial position, and admitted that she has never been employed. Additionally, the woman had 4 children. When Judge Judy asked if the father was in the children's lives, the woman responded "one of them is." "Explain that" quipped Judge Judy. The woman described that she has 4 young children by 3 different fathers. When asked how she supports the children financially she said "with my social security." Disgusted, Judge Judy responded "There are other things to do with your time besides making babies, GET TO WORK MADAM."

Sadly, I hear of so many of these situations. People choosing to live off the taxpaying system, rather than paying into it. It's frustrating watching my hard earned money going into a tax system that increasingly supports social irresponsibility. I saw a commercial the other day for a "free cell phone program." Apparently, our tax dollars now go into giving free cell phones and 200 minutes a month to those who meet certain financial requirements. Since when is a cell phone a basic necessity?

We have become a true Socialist system. Think about this...if you don't work, our government will potentially pay for your housing, heat, electric, food, health insurance, health insurance of your kids, college education, transportation (county funded bus token programs), cell phone service, garbage collection service, AND will give you additional money (monthly stipends) for personal spending.

With all those handouts, I can certainly see why so few people in this country have any desire to abandon the taxpaying trough. Judge Judy's verbal tirades at least force these people to hear the voice of the taxpayer, even if it doesn't force change. After all, why would they change when it pays not to change? In the words of Dire Straits, "Money for Nothin' and Chicks for Free."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Welcome Shareholders!

I'd like to welcome you all to our annual shareholders convention. Shareholders of what you ask? Shareholders of Bank of America, Citigroup, Merril Lynch, Citifield (new baseball park of the New York Mets), and the Suleman name just a few.

Yup, the stake we share in these very public holdings was not chosen. None of us asked the banks to invest in risky loan programs. None of us asked the Mets to build a new stadium and sell the naming rights to Citigroup (which just received around 30 billion dollars under the TARP fund). None of us asked a 33 year old woman, with questionable mental status, to bear 14 children. The depths of this irresponsibility erode the fibers of our country that were built by hard work and pride.

Nadya Suleman, a 33 year old woman from California is not married and lives at her parents house. She worked at a (ironically) mental health state hospital in California up until a several years ago, when she was injured on the job and received a worker's compensation settlement of over $100,000. She hasn't worked since due to her "disability." What did she do with that chunk of change? Move out of her parents' house perhaps? no. Invest it in furthering her education? no. She spent all that money on freezing her embryos.

Her sperm cocktail resulted in 6 children. I repeat, 6. 6 Kids without a job, a home, a father, etc. So, what better way to remedy the situation but to have 8 more children. As you are well aware, she gave birth to 8 more children in Januay of 2009. Due to the complexity of the delivery and the babies' low birth weight, they've now been in pediatric intensive care for over a month.

For those of you keeping score at home (or even if you are by yourself....citation to Keith Olberman on that one), that makes 14 children, a single mother, no father, and a partridge in a pear tree. Some experts have estimated the cost for the 8 babies in ICU so far to be around $200,000.

Have fun with that California taxpayers! Keep busting your tail at work and watch the taxes dissolve your net pay, while Ms. Suleman plans phase 3 of her birthing plan.

Why is it that this country continues to enable system abusing bottom-feeders like this? And how fitting is it that, while those 8 newborns will be suckling the teet of their mother, the mother is suckling the teet of John and Jane Doe taxpayer.

Monday, January 5, 2009


As "Auld Lang Syne" chimed in the new year and the emanation of soon-to-be broken resolutions permeated every party, I sat watching the ball drop in Times Square like everyone else. And, like everyone else, I announced my own resolution of eating healthier and dropping a few pounds.

Reading the news the first few days of every year, there are a plethora of stories about weight loss, "biggest losers", and even the urbanized version of going "From Fat to Phat." But this year more than any other, i've read numerous amounts of stories about how fat our children are. That they are the fattest kids in the world, how they don't get any physical activity, and how all they do is eat and text, text and eat. I read so much about childhood obesity that I was ready to drink the Kool-Aid (no pun intended...ok, yes, a pun was intended) on this issue being of "epidemic proportions."

I purposely spent the first 5 days of the new year making an effort to observe kids, observe their activity levels, and to notice what they were eating. What I saw was the vast majority of kids being active, skateboarding, having snowball fights, sledding, and eating fairly well. I thought to myself "where are these huge, inactive, super-sized generation kids that I read so much about?"

Yes, I saw a young girl at Home Depot with her mother that looked significantly overweight. Besides that, the kids appeared to be at a healthy weight. Then, this past Saturday, I attended a swim meet that my two nieces were competing in. There were probably 100 kids at the meet. 90% of these kids were in great shape with the remaining few probably classified as overweight, but even they were racing these swim heats and being active.

Sometimes, it seems like we are inundated with "facts" that we forget to look around us to compile our own representative sample of the areas that we live in. The way the media paints the image of our kids' health, you'd think the sky was falling. Maybe the only thing falling is the credibility of these major news companies. After all, when was the last article you read about how active and healthy nearly 90% of kids are?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Beyond The Grave

I'm intrigued by death. I can't help it. Maybe it's because my family has been involved with running and operating a cemetary since I was a kid. Death, was, and remains, the ultimate unknown. My religion tells me that living a good life and doing the "right things" will be rewarded upon death by entrace into "heaven." But I don't know what "heaven" is. Maybe it's the achievement of eternal tranquility for someone's soul. Maybe it's not a place or destination, but instead a concept that one's spirit will rest peacefully after doing "the right thing" during our physical existance.

All types of death seem to have made their presence in my life. Cancer, heart attack, stroke, suicide, car accidents, etc. Everytime we hear about the passing of someone we know, it usually results in the contemplation of our own mortality. It makes me wonder when I will die and how I will die. Do you go to heaven? hell? Is there reincarnation? Who knows. I'm not sure there is alot of value trying to determine those things, since there seems to be a power greater than us that is controlling the action. When we are born, we are born with an expiration date. At least, that's what I'm believing more and more as the years go on. It's the only way I can make sense of seeing people die prematurely.

After my last few breaths have been taken, I hope i've lived a life that has made a positive impact on others and that I reach my spiritual destination of "heaven." Oh, and if "heaven" happens to be a place where the Mets always win the World Series and I can TiVo Celebrity Rehab, that'll make it all the better.

By the way, if you want to see a riveting and dramatic portrayel of the dying process, check out "Dying at Grace", a documentary on the Sundance Channel.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Burning the Career at Both Ends

You really get to understand what certain people are made of during times of crisis. Maybe that's where the idea of "fight vs. flight" originated. When times are tough, people will usually either "fight," with determination to push themselves and do whatever it will take to persevere, or they will opt for "flight" and obsolve themselves of any responsibility and resign themselves to a fate, they believe, is unchangeable.

Lately, every day starts with the same news. More layoffs.....oops..i mean "corporate restructuring." Companies are implementing strategies of stop-loss, the work force has been decimated by job loss and financial loss, and all this has likely resulted in confidence loss.

People commonly (mistakenly) identify themselves through their career. Take away the career, and these same people are left to put the remaining square pegs into downsized holes.
When i was informed of my job loss in 2001 due to corporate restructuring and the closing of our office, I immediately left work and started developing a plan. When I say I "immediately" left work, I mean literally. The company announced the office was closing in 60 days and I left before he could finish his announcement and went home to work on my "workforce re-entry plan" (sounds militaristic, doesn't it?). Updating resumes, hitting the pavement, working with job recruiters, etc. Doing whatever it took, I dedicated all available time to marketing my skills. The payoff, was when i landed a new job, 45 days later.

Sadly, there are those affected by layoffs that may experience symptoms of depression, anger, resentment, and lack of motivation that become an obstacle for them re-entering the work force. What was a month, quickly turns into a year without a well designed plan. When I went through the layoff process in 2001, I networked with all resources available. Family, friends, colleagues, etc. It was "all hands on deck" and sitting at home comfortably collecting unemployment was not an option I was comfortable with.

For those people who are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, congratulations, at least you are preparing. For those people hoping for the best and assuming the know what they say about people who "ass-u-me", right?