March 30, 2007

Gun Control

The Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering stricter gun laws (House Bill 760)

In Summary the Firearm Registration Act states:

  • all firearms in PA will be registered
  • you will not be issued a registration certificate if you have been convicted of a violent crime or in the past 5 years of narcotic or other dangerous drug use or possession
  • each person registering a firearm will be photographed and fingerprinted
  • the registration will be renewed annually
  • require the owner to report the gun missing within 48 hours
  • require the owner to report any changes in their address or other information within 48 hours
  • require the owner to return the certificate for a firearm that is missing or sold within 48 hours
  • the fee is set at $10 for each registration and renewal

While to many people this Act may sound like a great idea, it is actually just another way for the government to intrude on the lives of private citizens. Oh and a way for them to collect more money too! If this Act is passed into law it will probably be contested and found to be unconstitutional.

I know many people that own guns, none of those people have ever murdered anyone or used their firearm to commit a crime. Most of the people hunt, others simply like to target shoot, while others just like guns! These are normal, ordinary, everyday citizens like me.

This should be a wake-up call to all Pennsylvanians. Pay attention to what the government is doing and tell them exactly what you think. Then use your power at the voting booth to get rid of the career politicians and put the government back into the hands of the citizens.

What’s next? Being forced to have some type of permanent id tattooed on our body in order to participate in the activities of society (check out Revelation 13:16-17 for more information on this).

Just for the record, I do not currently nor have I ever owned a gun. I don’t have anything against guns. I am just a sissy and have never found a gun (besides a .22) that doesn’t knock me over when firing! See Turkey Day 2006 for my gun story.

March 29, 2007

Solar Energy

In theory solar energy is a great idea, in practice however, it is unpractical to use on a large scale basis. It does work great for things like calculators, trickle charges, etc.

The average American household uses about 866kwh per month of electricity. A typical home solar system can product 1600kwh per YEAR in a sunny climate and only 750kwh per month in a cloudy climate. Most systems have a lifespan of between 10 and 20 years. As with anything, there are routine maintenance items that need to be considered in reality, but are excluded from this discussion.

The basic household solar system has an initial cost of around $10,000. Therefore it will take over 60 years to recoup your initial cost in a sunny climate and over 123 years in a cloudy climate. (Assuming $0.08 per kwh plus a $12 fixed cost for electric, the monthly bill would be about $81. $10,000 divided by $162 for sunny climates and $10,000 divided by $81 for cloudy climates).

Assuming a lifespan of 20 years, a $10,000 solar project would cost the homeowner around $0.31 per kwh in a sunny climate and $0.66 per kwh in a cloudy climate.

Why mention this?

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorizes funds for a solar panel wall project at the Department of Energy’s Forrestal Building in Washington D.C. The bill authorized the use of $20 million for this project in 2006. The project was put on hold. In February of 2007, HR 798 authorizes the use of $30 million for this project.

Do we really need the federal government spending $30 million on an inefficient way of producing electricity? The federal government already has enough inefficiency’s! We don’t need any more.

Just my thoughts.

March 28, 2007

Governmental Responses

It has been over a week since I sent a letter to the Pennsylvania legislators regarding Gov. Rendell’s tax increase proposals. The only response I have received is from the local rep, Dave Reed.

In short, he agrees that the proposed tax increases are “irresponsible” and will hurt the working families and seniors of Pennsylvania the most. He is against the proposal and also believes the government should live within its means.

The best part of the letter was the end. “PS. Good to hear from you again!” I guess that is good he knows who I am.

Hopefully, he is able to persuade some of his colleagues that Governor Rendell’s proposal is bad for Pennsylvanians.

March 27, 2007

Letter to the Editor of Money Magazine

Here is a letter I sent to Money magazine regarding a recent article in their April 2007 issue.

Underpaid? How to find out now by Sam Grobart

I work in a public school district. Each year our salaries are published in the local newspaper. Everyone in town knows what I make! Some people will comment on my salary, however, most do not.

Each year everyone is given an “across-the-board” increase, which usually amounts to little more than a cost of living adjustment. That is the frustrating part, no matter how hard I work, I know I am going to get the same raise as the guy in the cubicle next to me!

March 26, 2007

Unbelievable or Totally Believable?

On Friday, the House passed the $124 billion emergency spending bill to continue to finance the war effort. That was quite nice of them, considering President Bush only requested $103 billion! Ahh, but wait there is a catch….

See the bill was doomed to fail, until that extra $21 billion was added. And what is that extra $21 billion for you ask? Here are some examples:

$283 million for the Milk Income Loss Contract program
$74 million for peanut storage costs
$60.4 million for salmon fisheries
$50 million for asbestos mitigation at the U.S. Capitol Plant
$25 million for spinach growers

**Source = Council for Citizens Against Government Waste**

But wait there’s another catch!

The bill also requires that the operations in Iraq cease on or before September 2008. The bill only passed by a small margin (218-212). The senate too, is struggling with their own version. President Bush has threatened to veto any artificial time line.

This bill once again shows you that these political leaders need to go! By voting for this, the leaders showed America that they don’t care what happens in Iraq or to American Soldiers as long as they get money to store peanuts or grow spinach.

March 23, 2007

Keeping up with the Jones’ or the Pennsylvanians

Even the states do it! As the avid reader of my blog is well aware, Pennsylvania has opened a few slot machine casinos. On Wednesday, the West Virginia governor signed a bill to allow the state’s racetracks to include parlor games like blackjack and roulette at their facilities.

The bill allows the counties that have racetracks (4) to determine whether or not they want to allow parlor games in their county. This sounds like a great idea, government on the local level not the state or national level. However, if this bill went to a statewide referendum it would probably fail and the government knows that. Therefore, the bill is worded so that only the counties that have racetracks will be able to approve or disapprove of the table games. Well, those counties already approve of racetracks, so more than likely they will approve the table games as well.

This is just a backend ploy to get table games approved in the state. West Virginia doesn’t like the competition from Pennsylvania, so they had to “one up” us.

Oh yes, there will be some jobs created, but gambling is an addiction and will hurt many more people than what it helps.

Talk about keeping up with the Jones’!

March 22, 2007

The "Science" of Global Warming

Today, I am still on this “An Inconvenient Truth” kick. Another item that Al Gore mentioned in his movie was in regards to the North American ice that was around many years ago (maybe 10,000 or more years depending on which scientist you talk to). When this ice melted it created the Great Lakes and other rivers in northern North America. The ice then cooled the Northern Atlantic Ocean causing problems for Europe and Russia.

Lets assume that this occurred as the scientists say. What caused it? Global Warming? Ok, what caused Global Warming then? People, no I don’t think so. Industrial Revolution, no way, it didn’t exist! It seems to be a natural process. Maybe that is what is happening again, a natural process of the Earth warming.

I find it funny that the liberal left are very conservative with regards to the environment and the conservative right are very liberal with regards to the environment. When I say I am relatively conservative, I mean in everything, politics, finances, environment, social issues, etc.

I do think we need to “protect” our environment from abuse. However, it is a resource that has been provided for us to use and we should indeed use it. The problem lies in defining what environmental abuse is. Until we can answer that question with clarity, there will be more “heated” debates about the environment.

Still no palm trees at Doe Valley.

March 21, 2007

Boiling Frogs

In “An Inconvenient Truth” Al Gore mentions that a frog placed in boiling water would jump out, however, a frog that was placed in water and then gradually heated to a boil would not jump out. It would boil and die in the water.

This morning, I decided to find out. Currently, it is too cold to catch frogs from our pond, so I was unable to actually perform the experiment. Therefore, I looked into the advice of the experts and here is what I came up with.

The consensus is that a frog would indeed jump out of boiling water as well as jump out of water that got too hot for it!

It is an amusing story, but we must not be optimistic or pessimistic, just face the reality.

It is funny to hear these scientists talk about how bad Global Warming is and will be and then read other information about evolution and how the species adapt to their surroundings. If evolution is correct and species can adapt to their surrounds, then Global Warming should be a non-event.

Waiting to see palm trees at Doe Valley!

March 20, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

I got to see this “documentary” last night. It really isn’t worth your time or money to see it. Al Gore doesn’t really have any new information or insight into the theory of Global Warming. I suppose if you knew nothing about the topic you would probably be very frightened after seeing this movie.

The movie is extremely bias to the liberal left environmentalists. There are also scenes in the movie that have nothing to do with Global Warming, such as the accident of his son and the death of his sister. No doubt, they were life-changing events for Mr. Gore, but they didn’t have anything to do with Global Warming.

There were charts in the movie that just showed zigzag lines going up, but there were no x or y axis or numbers on the chart, just zigzag lines going up! Talk about scientific!

The two main assumptions that you need to make are: One there is “Global Warming” and Two people are the cause of Global Warming. According to much of the research today, the numbers “prove” a link between Global Warming and humans. Read “Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt for more analysis of scientists drawing conclusions as soon as they see a good fit. There are also other books that demonstrate how you can use statistics to prove your point even if there is no point to prove!

I went to their website (Climate Crisis) to calculate my impact on Global Warming. The national average is 7.5 tons of Carbon Dioxide per year. Mine is 13.15 tons of Carbon Dioxide per year! Almost twice the nation average! Shame on me, what can I do?

Well, we already use some CFL’s, we have a programmable thermostat, the filters are changed regularly, the heat is set around 66, the a/c is around 78, we have a new energy efficient home, we don’t eat much meat, we recycle and reuse things, Doe Valley has lots of trees, we cannot possibly reduce the number of miles we drive, my vehicles are inspected weekly for efficient operation, there are no cost effective 4wd hybrid vehicles for me to replace my current vehicle!

Again I ask the question what can I do? I already conserve as much as possible and still I am almost twice the national average! The numbers don’t add up.

After watching the movie last night (with my winter hat on and a heavy blanket on me). I was very tempted to actually turn the heat up!

I am not against the idea of recycling, reusing, and reducing our waste. In fact, I think America really needs to be more conservative with their resources. Indeed, there does need to be a change in American lifestyles, however, that has nothing to do with Global Warming.

March 15, 2007

Letter to the State Representative's

Below is a letter that was sent to the Pennsylvania House leadership, Governor Rendell, and Dave Reed, our local representative. I encourage all PA residents to send their own letter to their representatives or simply modify mine with your information! Remember, our government should be "by the people and for the people." The government works for us, we don't work for them!

Hello, I am writing to you today to voice my opposition to Governor Rendell’s tax increase proposals. His proposed increase in taxes and fees make it increasingly difficult for working families. Many families already have two working parents. Hurting the future of our children. I was blessed growing up, I had my mother at home to teach me about life and values and influence me in a positive way. Unfortunately, most children today do not have those benefits. We were never rich, but we always had what we needed, not necessarily what we wanted! We learned to live within our means. I believe people need to go back to the idea of living within their means, not always trying to keep up with the neighbors.

To that extent, I believe our government must set a good example and learn to live within its means, just like my family. We do not need a bigger government with more taxes that will hurt the working families. We need to encourage family values and reduce the size of government to promote responsible stewardship of the things we are given.

I hope that you will vote no to the governor’s outrageous tax plan. Please support our working families and struggling seniors across the state and vote NO on the governor’s enormous tax increases! The future of Pennsylvania depends on it.

Thank you,

March 14, 2007

Hallelujah for slot machines!

Once again slot machines have saved PA! Thank you Ed Rendell for your genius plan. Why didn’t anybody come up with such a glorious plan years ago! Not only will we have lower property taxes, but we will still have the Pittsburgh Penguins and they will be playing in a new arena for the next 30 years! All thanks to Slot Machines! (Let’s just forget about and minimize all of the down falls of slot machines and gambling in general.)

It is good to know that the people of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County (which are really the only people who may benefit) won’t have to pay for the arena. The only “losers” here would be all the gambling addicts oh and of course their families!

The details in case you haven’t heard:

30-Year Agreement

The expect cost of the new arena will be $290 million.

The Penguins will pay $4.2 million per year ($3.6 million until the arena opens and then a $400,000 parking surcharge is added.)

Don Barton (slot owner) will pay $7.5 million per year.

The state will pay $7.5 million per year.

This money will be used to pay the bond payments each year.

Rendell claims the $7.5 million per year the state is to pay will come from slot machine revenue. Until then, the money will come out of an economic development fund (read tax payer money)!

The $7.5 million will (eventually) come from slot machine revenue (if there is any ever available). Remember, only a certain percentage of revenue is guaranteed to be used for property tax relief. The rest will be used at the governor’s discretion.

All in all, the outcome isn’t as bad as what it could have been. At least at this point in time it does not appear as though the taxpayers will get stuck with the entire bill for the new arena.

On the other hand, the state will not significantly benefit from the new arena. The local area will benefit (at least during the hockey season), although I am sure homes and other buildings will need to be demolished before construction of the new arena begins, the plans are still being reviewed.

We will just need to see what the future brings.

A penny for your thoughts or $7.5 million for an arena…. Either way slot machine gambling saved the day!

(Just in case anyone doesn’t understand sarcasm, I do not support slot machine gambling!)

March 13, 2007

What would you do with $125 million?

I can think of a few things I would do…pay off my mortgage, get high speed internet access, not worry about working for someone else, donate to some worthy charities, etc.

Not the guy featured on the last page of the April 2007 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine. He won $125 million in the lottery. His plans…. Turn the money into $2 billion for him and his extended family to enjoy!

This is just another great example of greed in America. $125 million isn’t enough, I need $2 billion!

March 12, 2007

EIT and PIT and Act 1

The question has been asked several times, "What is the difference between EIT and PIT." EIT is short for Earned Income Tax. PIT is short for Personal Income Tax.

With EIT you are taxed on items such as: salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, stock options, incentive payments, fees, tips, and net profits from a business. Basically, you are taxed on any money you earn.

The PIT taxes everything included in EIT, but also includes items such as: interest, dividends, capital gains, rents, gambling, and lottery winnings. In other words, it includes all of your earned income plus any income you received, but didn’t work for.

Neither EIT nor PIT taxes Social Security payments or retirement pension payments.

At least one local school district is considering the PIT. Homer-Center school district is proposing a personal income tax rate of 1.3%. The real estate tax reduction will be between $202 and $225. This will replace their current EIT.

Using the spreadsheet I created for the Act 1 Analysis, we can’t really determine what is best for you because they currently have an earned income tax. However, I will say most older people that have “unearned” income will pay more in the way of taxes. The only people that will be better off are those that don’t make much money and don’t own a “valuable” house or property.

With a PIT usually investors/savers are penalized the most. Therefore, you can guess why I am against a PIT. Why tax the people that have spent years investing their money for a secure future rather than blowing it on frivolous things of everyday life.

In my opinion, the only way ANY of these taxes will be approved is if the voters don’t truly understand what they are voting for! But don’t rely on what I say; run the numbers yourself, it’s easy.

Please, pass this blog link on to your friends and family living in Pennsylvania.

March 09, 2007

PA Windfall Taxes on the Oil Companies

Ed Rendell wants to tax the profits of the big oil companies with what is commonly referred to as a windfall tax. A windfall tax is implemented by the government on businesses in specific industries (usually commodities). These taxes are implemented simply because the government feels these companies are making too much money, so they need to give some of the profit back to the government, over and above what they are already paying in income or other taxes.

My analysis focuses on Exxon-Mobil. All data is taken from their 2005 Summary Annual Report. Last year they made a profit of $36 billion ($36,130,000,000). Their total revenue was $370,680,000,000. Their total taxes were $95,598,000,000. This includes excise, duties, income, and other taxes. The percentage of taxes paid for 2005 equals 25.79%. In other words, on their revenue of $370 billion they paid about 26% of it in taxes.

It is interesting to note that in 2003 they paid about 29% of their revenue in taxes. In 2004, they paid about 28% of their revenue in taxes. The tax rates are similar to other business and industries. The businesses would probably argue they are too high, whiles government would say they are not high enough. In reality, they are probably reasonable amounts.

While a PA windfall tax probably would not significantly hurt the financials of the oil companies, it will not help the people of PA. The oil companies will simply charge more for their oil. The local gas stations will simply pass that cost on to the consumers. The only winner would be the government who would get the tax. Thereby enabling the government to grow bigger and bigger, wasting more of the working classes hard earned money.

Remember the Johnstown Flood of 1936? Of course not! Most of us weren’t born, but we are still paying for it through an alcohol tax. My point is, once taxes are created, people often forget about them and the government uses that money for its own interests, not for the reason the tax was established in the first place.

The government of Pennsylvania doesn’t need any more money, they just need better management of the money they have! The only way the people can get this is to vote for fiscally responsible representatives. May is the next voting opportunity for PA residents. Don’t miss it! There will be at least one topic on the ballot that WILL directly affect you! See my ACT 1 discussion for more information.

March 07, 2007

Let’s Go Pens! To K.C.?

Should they stay or should they go?

As many of you are aware the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for a new home. Will it be Pittsburgh or another city? We will soon find out.

My take on the subject is simply this: If Pittsburgh wants the Penguins, then Pittsburgh will need to do whatever it takes to keep them (read lots of money). Notice, I said Pittsburgh, not Pennsylvania!

I don’t want to pay more taxes or fees just to keep the Pen’s in Pittsburgh. The team has a history of poor financial management, what is going to stop them from wasting more money. Some argue, “but they bring money into the city.” Ok, sure, so do parking garages, so tear down Mellon Area and build a big parking garage. That will bring money into the city.

The other argument is the fact that the Steelers and Pirates got new stadiums (I was against those stadiums too, but the city of Pittsburgh ended up paying for those.) They don’t need a new arena just because the Steelers and the Pirates got new stadiums. They may need a new arena because of the poor condition it is in. To that I say, whose name is on the outside? (Hint it is called Mellon Arena). Let them pay for it.

To the Pens and their fans: If you want a new arena, fine. Just don’t use my money to build it!

Leave your comments to show your support for or against the new arena.

March 02, 2007

Act 1 of Pennsylvania – Property Tax Relief

Today’s post is regarding Act 1 of Pennsylvania, which is supposed to bring the taxpayers of Pennsylvania some property tax relief by shifting the taxes to an Earned Income Tax or a Personal Income Tax structure depending upon what the voters of the district decide in May of 2007.

Many people have asked me to make a recommendation if they should vote for this tax shift in May. I have created a spreadsheet for you to enter the numbers to calculate for yourself if the tax shift is in your best interest. The spreadsheet is located at Google Docs and Spreadsheets

Act 1 Analysis

To use the spreadsheet simply enter the new additional Earning Income or Personal Income tax, the estimated reduction in property taxes, and your salary. It will automatically calculate what you will save or (mostly pay) in taxes. It will also calculate a breakeven point which shows who benefits and who pays more in taxes.

If you cannot get the spreadsheet to work, don’t worry. It is easy to calculate your own analysis.

Take your salary and multiply it by the proposed additional tax rate then subtract the expected property tax reduction. This will be the amount of taxes you will pay.

The example below uses data for the Blacklick Valley School District, which was recently published in the Nanty Glo Journal Newspaper.

The proposed additional earned income tax rate is 0.2%.
The expected property tax reduction is $44.
I will assume a salary of $50,000 and $25,000.

$50,000 * 0.2% - $44 = $56
$25,000 * 0.2% - $44 = $6

What does this mean?
The person earning $50,000 will see their property taxes reduced by $44. Their income tax will increase by $100. Their net effect will be a $56 increase in taxes.

The person earning $25,000 will also see their property taxes reduced by $44. Their income tax will increase by $50. Their net effect will be a $6 increase in taxes.

Renters will not win, since they do not pay property taxes. They will simply pay more in Earned or Personal Income Taxes.

As more school districts release their ballot questions I may update the analysis for those schools or you can calculate the results and post them as a comment to this blog.

REMEMBER! This is a temporary “fix.” If an earned income or personal income tax is approved this year, that tax will not go away. It will still be there next year when your property taxes are raised again!

There is much more to Act 1 than what is mentioned here. That being said….

In my opinion, most people should probably not vote to raise the earned income tax or create a personal income tax. Even if you think you will benefit from it, it will most likely only be a temporary “benefit” to you.

Comments anyone? I am especially interested in hearing from people that fully support the tax shift!

UPDATE! Here is a link to a spreadsheet on PDE's web site regarding what your school district might be doing for Act 1.