April 30, 2007

Three New Bills for Taxpayers of Pennsylvania

Three bills were recently introduced in the Pennsylvania House. If passed, these bills will actually help the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.

HB 1092 will reduce the state income tax back to the rate before Gov. Rendell raised it.
HB 188 will require voter approval for any increase in local school or municipal taxes.
HB 1100 will limit the spending increases of the PA government to the rate of inflation plus the population growth rate for PA.

These bills are a great start for taxpayer reform, however, more progress needs to be made. The size of Pennsylvania’s government is too big and should be reduced to make Pennsylvania more attractive to businesses and families.

I recently received my spring local per capita tax bill. I wasn’t surprised to see a change in the bill, I was surprised at the magnitude of the change! They dropped the millage portion of the tax and converted to a flat rate. This tax almost doubled without me even knowing about it and I pay attention to these things.

Pennsylvania needs real tax reform, not just tax shifts. Act 1 needs repealed, as it is a complete failure before it is even implemented. The 2007 Primary election will be held on May 15. There will be a question on the ballot regarding the implementation of an Earned Income Tax or a Personal Income Tax to reduce property taxes. I highly recommend voting “NO” for this tax shift. This is part of the Act 1 legislation. To read more about Act 1 click on the link labeled Act 1 on the right side of the screen.

April 27, 2007

Tax Freedom Day

Today is Tax Freedom day for Pennsylvanians. We have worked this entire year so far, just to pay our tax burden (Federal, State, and Local). 117 calendar days (85 working days) almost 1/3 of the year!

The average Tax Freedom day in the nation is April 30. While Pennsylvania is slightly “better” than the national average, Governor Rendell wants to create new taxes, which will push Pennsylvania’s Tax Freedom day further into the year and expand the size of the government.

I have stated it many times before, over taxing the people is not the way to a prosperous nation. We need a smaller, more efficient government to minimize the burden to the people and to stimulate the economy.

For more information on Tax Freedom Day or to find out when Tax Freedom Day is for your state check out The Tax Foundation’s website.

April 26, 2007

Letter to Governor Rendell

Here is the letter I sent to Governor Rendell regarding my wife's recent experience at the Doctor's office and the Governor's plan to establish health insurance for all Pennsylvanians. I have never received a response from Governor Rendell and I don't expect a response to this letter either, however, if my some chance I do receive a response I will post it here.

Governor Rendell:

I support the attempt to fix the issue of healthcare in Pennsylvania. However, your plan of health insurance for everyone does not attack the problem. The problem is higher healthcare costs not health insurance!

My wife and I have excellent heath insurance through my employer. However, we rarely use it. Why? Because we are both healthy young adults! We exercise, eat right, and avoid those harmful activities such as drinking excessive alcohol and smoking.

Last week, my wife went to the Doctor and wanted complete blood work done to check for various health problems (cholesterol, thyroid, diabetes, etc). The Doctor would not order the complete blood work and would only write a prescription for the cholesterol portion of the test. The Doctor was not sure if our insurance would cover the test and a complete blood test is apparently expensive.

The Doctor gave her an advertisement for a multiphasic blood test sponsored by a local hospital. The test only costs $25 and covers everything my wife wanted tested for in the first place! How is it possible that this complete test only costs $25 when not going through insurance, but costs several hundred dollars when using insurance!

Therefore, my point of this letter is to tell you we don’t need health insurance for everyone as much as we need lower healthcare costs!
We used to receive great, affordable healthcare at a local clinic. However, a few years ago that placed closed because the doctor’s claimed that their patients were going to the clinic rather than the doctor. We need more of these low cost, high quality clinics that can take care of simple ailments for healthy people.

April 25, 2007

Banning Guns or Saving Lives?

What is the purpose of the anti-gun lobbyists? Is it to ban guns or save lives?

Before we put a ban on guns, there are a few other steps we should take to save even more lives!

Here are a few brief statistics on deaths in the United States. The data can be found at the CDC and Vital Statistics website for verification. (Note: these statistics do not include abortion, if they did the numbers would be much, much higher, in fact about 11 million deaths higher!)

Cause of death for 2004 (most recent data available):

Total Deaths 2004 2,398,365
#1 = Heart Disease 654,092
#2 = Cancer 550,270
#3 = Stroke 150,147
#4 = Lower Resp. 123,884
#5 = Accidents 108,694

What are the leading causes of heart disease?
Mostly poor lifestyle (bad diet, lack of exercise, smoking, drinking alcohol, and illegal drug usage.)

What are the leading causes of cancer?
Tobacco (mostly lung cancer associated with smoking)

What are the leading causes of strokes?
High cholesterol, hypertension, smoking, and illegal drug use.

What are the leading causes of accidents?
Vehicles, in particular speed associated with the crash (speed kills).
Part of the 108,694 includes 29,569 deaths by guns.

So if we really want to save lives, then the first step would be to promote a healthy lifestyle, eat right, exercise, stop smoking/drinking/drugging.

That would take care of the top 3 or 4 reasons for death.

Simple lifestyle changes can save the most lives! Not banning guns! Gun deaths only account for around 1% of all deaths.

If these anti-gun groups are really about saving lives, then don’t go after the 1% cause, go after the top causes that constitute over 60% of all deaths in the United States!

April 24, 2007

Health Care Fun

I will be 30 this year and my wife will be 29 in a few weeks. My health insurance may or may not be changing in July, so we decided to go get the recommended annual check-up for 30 year olds.

She made her appointment and explained to the Doctor the recommended blood tests to be performed. The Doctor refused, saying she was healthy and didn’t need those tests done. But then decides to approve the cholesterol test, but she would need to contact the insurance company to make sure it is covered since she didn’t have a diagnosis for coronary artery disease. Then the Doctor gives her a hospital sponsored advertisement for a multi-phasic blood test that screens everything she wanted tested in the first place! The multi-phasic test of course is not covered by insurance and you need to pay for that on your own. It is only $25, but the point is I have insurance to pay for this type of thing.

The insurance company was contacted regarding the cholesterol test the Doctor approved, they were not sure if it was covered or not and said she should contact the Doctor!

Can you believe it? My new daily pray now includes, “Lord, don’t let me get sick!”

I decided I don’t need to go to the doctor. I am planning to pay for the multi-phasic test and then if something looks abnormal, then I will take the results to the Doctor and tell them what I want done.

Oh and the health insurance I have is actually pretty good. It costs the school district about $1200 a month!

April 23, 2007

Book Review

I was so excited; I purchased “The MacArthur New Testament Commentary” a few weeks ago. It finally arrived. I tear open the package to check out my new purchase and what do I find?

The most disappointing book ever with John MacArthur’s name on it! It is little more than the notes from his study bibles.

Normally, I recommend most of his writings; this one however can be skipped over if you already own his study Bible. I do highly recommend his study Bible.

April 20, 2007

Privatization of Liquor Sales

There is a push for privatization of liquor stores here in Pennsylvania. Currently, you must purchase wine and liquor from a state run store. The push is on to enable licensed businesses to sell beer and wine in their stores (gas stations, super markets, etc).

Normally, I support privatization and limiting the government’s involvement with business activities. However, this is one area where the government should maintain control.

The advocates claim the privatization of liquor sales poses no threat to society and in fact benefit the people through lower prices.

Poses no threat to society? I find that hard to believe and even harder to quantify! While it is true, prices will probably decline, I don’t necessarily view that as being a benefit to society. To me, that just means people can get “drunker” for the same amount of money!

Yes, sales volume would probably increase, which would generate more revenue for the government. However, do we really want or need to make it easier to provide alcohol to the people of Pennsylvania? I vote no! Pennsylvania has enough problems; do we really need one more?

Besides, the places I shop at are already jammed full of groceries and other items. If beer, wine, or other liquor is added to the shelf that means those other items will be reduced or eliminated thereby limiting my choices of the normal items I purchase!

April 19, 2007

My Quest Continues

One of my "goals" is to get a comment published in one of the many magazines I get each month. I have posted a few of the comments on this blog in the past and here is another one that sent to Money magazine this morning.

In the May 2007 issue there are two articles about saving for retirement. One states that some people may be saving too much based upon the online calculators. The other article says that saving the traditional 10% of your income may not be enough.


Now we are all confused!

I agree with Laurence Kotlikoff in “The Nest-Egg Philosopher” interview by Josh Hyatt in the May 2007 issue of Money magazine. Those online retirement calculators are a good way to get an estimate of what you will need to save, but there are many more factors that need to be taken into consideration when planning for retirement.

Of course, about 25 pages later, Walter Updegrave gives his view on how only saving 10% is not enough, which again may or may not be right depending on the individual’s situation. So what are we to do?

The best advice is to figure things out for yourself. If you do not have the ability, then find a trusted professional retirement planner that can review your situation and create a customized plan for you. It may cost a little bit of money for the advice now, but it is much better than being in a lot of trouble later in life!

Not my best thoughts, so I doubt that this one will get published. At least I tried though!

April 12, 2007

The Covenant People

I finished reading the three book series entitled “The Covenant People” by Mordecai Soloff. This series is geared toward the younger Jewish student and I was really hoping they would provide a good foundation of Jewish history.

I must say, they were very disappointing. They read more like propaganda than a history book. The copyright on these books seems more restrictive than others, therefore, I will not quote any material from the books. In fact, in my opinion, the books are not even worthy of debate or discussion.

That being said, I found several inaccuracies in the books that made me question the validity and accuracy of the series. The inaccuracies ranged from the view of Abraham and Moses to events happening around World War II. There is an obvious bias to these books.

This is one series of books that you can safely skip over. I have one more book to read on Jewish history titled “A History of the Jews” by Solomon Grayzel.

April 10, 2007

1.4 Million Outstanding Warrants in PA

Pennsylvania implemented a new statewide computer system to keep track of arrest warrants issued. The total number of outstanding warrants is over 1.4 million!

According to the census bureau, Pennsylvania’s population was about 12.4 million people for 2006. That means about 11% of Pennsylvania’s population consists of criminals on the loose!

Actually, most of the warrants (1.2 million) are for minor offenses (failure to appear, traffic violations, drug offenses, etc). But, that still leaves 200,000 violent offenders out there.

This morning I decided to help out. I went to PA Crime Stoppers and searched through the listings. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize any names.

April 05, 2007

Diversification in Investing

Today’s topic is about investing and how simple it can be for you. I strongly recommend people under the age of 40 invest money on their own. At the very least, they need to take advantage of any retirement savings through their company.

The easiest way to invest is through Mutual Funds. I recommend no-load mutual funds and low expense funds as well (no commissions, no sales fees, and less than 1% management fee (even lower for straight index funds).

I recommend for the average person to keep the following allocation:

  • 50% Large Cap
  • 20% Small Cap
  • 20% International
  • 10% Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT)

This will create a well-diversified portfolio, which should compete rather nicely with the market while minimize the risk to any one segment of the market. I started using this strategy in 2002 and have matched or beat the market as measured by the DOW and S&P 500 each year.

You can easily open an account with a mutual fund company and have your money invested into funds according to the allocation above.

Several good companies to invest with are:
T. Rowe Price
ING Direct

A simple way to start would be to take $1,000 and invest $250 in each type of fund mentioned above. Then add a set amount each month (say $100) according to your allocation. Each company has its own minimum investment requirements so you will need to observe those restrictions.

Once a year adjust your holdings so they are close to the desired allocations. You can do this all at once, by selling those holdings which have risen above your desired allocation and purchasing those holdings which are below your desired allocation. What I do, however, is simply adjust my future allocations by putting more money toward those holdings which are below my desired allocation level.

The complaint I hear most often is, “I don’t have $100 a month to invest!” Most people do, they just don’t realize it. Get rid of the $50 a month cell phone bill that you don’t really need and replace it with a tracfone. Then get rid of the $50 a month cable bill and get a subscription to an interesting magazine and join a library. Two slight changes to your lifestyle will get you that $100 a month.

Finally, you need to remember that this plan will probably not make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. It is a simple way to provide a retirement income for yourself.

April 03, 2007


I just finished reading an article about some schools in the United Kingdom that are removing the Holocaust from their history lessons so as not to offend Muslims and other Holocaust deniers. I have never thoroughly studied WWII. I really only know the basic facts that everyone knows or at least I thought everyone knows. From my very limited knowledge, I don’t understand how anyone can deny the Holocaust! As for teachers and schools not wanting to teach a part of history just because it might upset a group of people is outrageous.

This past weekend I also finished watching the Band of Brothers mini-series. I do not know how accurately the movie portrayed the book nor do I know how accurately the book portrayed what really happened, but even if it was only half true it is really incredible what those men had to go through to fight for the freedoms of not only Americans but the rest of the world as well! I still have the bonus material DVD to watch, so that may provide some more insight into the movie, book, or actual events.

April 02, 2007

Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave

I finished reading the book “Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave” by Dave Breese. The book is about seven people who changed the way the world thinks about life and how their ideas still resonate today.

You may not have heard of these people before, but I’ll bet you are familiar with their ideas!

The seven men and their ideas are:

  • Charles Darwin – Theory of evolution
  • Karl Marx – Communism
  • Julius Wellhausen – Biblical “scholar” who created a “new” way of looking at the Bible (Religious Liberalism)
  • Sigmund Freud – Psychoanalysis of people and how sexual instinct controls all beings
  • John Dewey – Educational reform by encouraging a child to “grow” as apposed to learning
  • John Maynard Keynes – Economics and governmental influence on society
  • Soren Kierkegaard – Existentialism (each person is responsible to themselves)

If you have any interest in the characters mentioned above, I would highly recommend reading the book or at least the chapter on the person you are interested in. Essentially, the conclusion is the same, each of these people moved the thinking away from God and towards man, government, and other worldly things.