Good Billionaires

On Monday a person named Anand Giridharadas wrote a scathing New York Times op-Ed piece about “good and bad” billionaires. Actually, he considers all extremely wealthy Americans to be scalawags, who don’t give a damn about anything but accumulating wealth.

I enthusiastically want to express my disagreement with this man’s uninformed, and poorly researched perspectives. The Times should be more discerning about sensational essays that misstate the actions of others in an effort to appease the most radical left-wing elements in the country. The paper will never change its stripes.

Yeah, his concern is that many billionaires have increased their wealth over the past few years, while paying relatively minimal taxes to the government. [You guessed it. They don’t pay their “fair share of taxes!” Whatever the hell that means.]

The author spends little time explaining the nature of Warren Buffett’s wealth and the that of others in his stratosphere. It’s really pretty simple. Billionaire investors like Buffett have accumulated wealth on a pretax basis in the form of assets that will eventually be taxed when sold for a profit. They usually have relatively little current income. Someday the government will receive a large payment if the money is not given away to charity.

Also, Mr. G did not focus on the amount that Buffett has donated to charity. He pointed out that Buffet’s wealth “soared” by $24.3 billion from 2014 to 2018, but he paid only $23.7 million in taxes. However, it was not mentioned that Buffett gave $37 billion to charity since 2006. And he is the founder of the Giving Pledge and promised to give away 99% of his fortune before he dies. This year, Buffett is donating another $2.9 billion worth of Berkshire Hathaway stock to the needy.

“The Giving Pledge is an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their will.”  As of 2020, 211 individuals signed the Pledge representing approximately $600 billion.

Buffet, Gates and Bezos really don’t need me to shield them from overzealous, ill-informed commentators. None of them have anything to be ashamed of. Since when is success a deadly sin? Why do people write things that are misleading and besmirch the reputations of the most generous people in the world? At least, this guy should have Googled Buffett to see that maybe Buffett is not rolling around in a pile of Benjamins. But rather, he’s trying to figure out how to give away his wealth before he dies.

Just so there is no misunderstanding, simplistically, when Buffett dies, the remaining money in his estate will be taxed at over 50%.

Progressives are revving up to try to enact a law that taxes the wealth of billionaires as opposed to their current income. They have every right to pursue such a strategy. I hope that before they embark on this unfair odyssey, they calculate and recognize how much billionaires donate on top of the actual tax payments they do make each year.

I Repeat, Manchin For President

Senator Joe Manchin III (D-WV) is the most powerful person in Washington. His support is critical to Joe Biden on several fronts. His potential value to Republicans could be astronomical. Note: This essay was inspired by a New York Times article on Manchin.

Softball politics recently suggested Manchin should consider changing parties giving Republicans control of the Senate, and then run for president as a Republican. This suggestion is becoming a more a viable option for the lawmaker with every passing day.

Currently, the Senate is evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans, 50 each. The former is in a control position because the vice president votes when senators are deadlocked. Manchin is one of the Democrats, but he has stated that he is against enacting certain legislative initiatives unless there is bipartisan support for them.

In particular, Manchin will not vote for a bill by Democrats to battle alleged voter suppression. These would include mandates for early voting, absentee ballots, voter ID’s, gerrymandering and such. Democrats say they want to make it easier for every American to vote, while Republicans want to ensure that elections are fair without a bias towards Democrats.

By not supporting the bill, the vote would be 51 Republicans against passage and 49 Democrats for passage. The bill would be defeated. Moreover, even if Manchin would vote for the bill, Republicans could filibuster which would necessitate 60 votes for passage.

Regarding the last issue, Manchin continues to be in favor of most Democratic initiatives, but not elimination of the filibuster. It is feasible that Democrats would attempt to eliminate the filibuster so lawmakers dealing with policy issues would no longer need 60 votes, but rather only a majority for passage.

At this time, the filibuster is no longer available to the opposition for Supreme Court justice confirmations, confirmations of judges on lower courts and cabinet selections by presidents. By eliminating the filibuster for all legislation, a party that controls the presidency, the Senate and the House would be able to pass all legislation with no recourse by the opposition. Note: Bills involving taxation and the like are also not subject to filibusters.

It is likely that any number of Democratic initiatives dealing with immigration, voting rights, treaties, entitlements, redistribution of wealth, forgiveness of student loans, commerce, union rights, civil rights and so on would be very difficult to pass unless the filibuster is eliminated. Manchin is the key to this drama.

Metaphysically, Manchin’s heart is in the right place. He longs for the days when senators debated and passed legislation without the venom mistrust that exists in Congress at this time. Members would orate and disagree and have a cocktail after legislative sessions ended. No more.

Washington is partisan and members are power hungry. Manchin is risking his career trying to bring comity back to Capitol Hill. If he is successful, he should be rewarded. And the only way he can be successful is if he changes parties and forces all lawmakers to work together. Think about Manchin. He really does have all the chips and could very well be our next president.

***MANCHIN FOR PRESIDENT***

Senator Joe Manchin III (D-WV) is the most powerful person in Washington. His support is critical to Joe Biden on several fronts. His potential value to Republicans could be astronomical. Note: This essay was inspired by a New York Times article on Manchin.

Softball politics recently suggested Manchin should consider changing parties giving Republicans control of the Senate, and then run for president as a Republican. This suggestion is becoming a more a viable option for the lawmaker with every passing day.

Currently, the Senate is evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans, 50 each. The former is in a control position because the vice president votes when senators are deadlocked. Manchin is one of the Democrats, but he has stated that he is against enacting certain legislative initiatives unless there is bipartisan support for them.

In particular, Manchin will not vote for a bill by Democrats to battle alleged voter suppression. These would include mandates for early voting, absentee ballots, voter ID’s, gerrymandering and such. Democrats say they want to make it easier for every American to vote, while Republicans want to ensure that elections are fair without a bias towards Democrats.

By not supporting the bill, the vote would be 51 Republicans against passage and 49 Democrats for passage. The bill would be defeated. Moreover, even if Manchin would vote for the bill, Republicans could filibuster which would necessitate 60 votes for passage.

Regarding the last issue, Manchin continues to be in favor of most Democratic initiatives, but not elimination of the filibuster. It is feasible that Democrats would attempt to eliminate the filibuster so lawmakers dealing with policy issues would no longer need 60 votes, but rather only a majority for passage.

At this time, the filibuster is no longer available to the opposition for Supreme Court justice confirmations, confirmations of judges on lower courts and cabinet selections by presidents. By eliminating the filibuster for all legislation, a party that controls the presidency, the Senate and the House would be able to pass all legislation with no recourse by the opposition. Note: Bills involving taxation and the like are also not subject to filibusters.

It is likely that any number of Democratic initiatives dealing with immigration, voting rights, treaties, entitlements, redistribution of wealth, forgiveness of student loans, commerce, union rights, civil rights and so on would be very difficult to pass unless the filibuster is eliminated. Manchin is the key to this drama.

Metaphysically, Manchin’s heart is in the right place. He longs for the days when senators debated and passed legislation without the venom mistrust that exists in Congress at this time. Members would orate and disagree and have a cocktail after legislative sessions ended. No more.

Washington is partisan and members are power hungry. Manchin is risking his career trying to bring comity back to Capitol Hill. If he is successful, he should be rewarded. And the only way he can be successful is if he changes parties and forces all lawmakers to work together. Think about Manchin. He really does have all the chips and could very well be our next president.

***MANCHIN FOR PRESIDENT***

Senator Joe Manchin III (D-WV) is the most powerful person in Washington. His support is critical to Joe Biden on several fronts. His potential value to Republicans could be astronomical. Note: This essay was inspired by a New York Times article on Manchin.

Softball politics recently suggested Manchin should consider changing parties giving Republicans control of the Senate, and then run for president as a Republican. This suggestion is becoming a more a viable option for the lawmaker with every passing day.

Currently, the Senate is evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans, 50 each. The former is in a control position because the vice president votes when senators are deadlocked. Manchin is one of the Democrats, but he has stated that he is against enacting certain legislative initiatives unless there is bipartisan support for them.

In particular, Manchin will not vote for a bill by Democrats to battle alleged voter suppression. These would include mandates for early voting, absentee ballots, voter ID’s, gerrymandering and such. Democrats say they want to make it easier for every American to vote, while Republicans want to ensure that elections are fair without a bias towards Democrats.

By not supporting the bill, the vote would be 51 Republicans against passage and 49 Democrats for passage. The bill would be defeated. Moreover, even if Manchin would vote for the bill, Republicans could filibuster which would necessitate 60 votes for passage.

Regarding the last issue, Manchin continues to be in favor of most Democratic initiatives, but not elimination of the filibuster. It is feasible that Democrats would attempt to eliminate the filibuster so lawmakers dealing with policy issues would no longer need 60 votes, but rather only a majority for passage.

At this time, the filibuster is no longer available to the opposition for Supreme Court justice confirmations, confirmations of judges on lower courts and cabinet selections by presidents. By eliminating the filibuster for all legislation, a party that controls the presidency, the Senate and the House would be able to pass all legislation with no recourse by the opposition. Note: Bills involving taxation and the like are also not subject to filibusters.

It is likely that any number of Democratic initiatives dealing with immigration, voting rights, treaties, entitlements, redistribution of wealth, forgiveness of student loans, commerce, union rights, civil rights and so on would be very difficult to pass unless the filibuster is eliminated. Manchin is the key to this drama.

Metaphysically, Manchin’s heart is in the right place. He longs for the days when senators debated and passed legislation without the venom mistrust that exists in Congress at this time. Members would orate and disagree and have a cocktail after legislative sessions ended. No more.

Washington is partisan and members are power hungry. Manchin is risking his career trying to bring comity back to Capitol Hill. If he is successful, he should be rewarded. And the only way he can be successful is if he changes parties and forces all lawmakers to work together. Think about Manchin. He really does have all the chips and could very well be our next president.

A Great Commencement!

Last week we celebrated a child’s graduation from business school. It was a very emotional and enjoyable experience.

The celebration was online, which was a bit of a disappointment. Essentially, a photo of each graduate appeared on screen and names were read. I feel that the extraordinary cost of said education is so great that parents deserve to sit among thousands of others in the scorching heat for three hours and watch the dean hand their children a diploma. It was not to be because of the damn COVID pandemic. I hope and pray that future graduates and their parents are not deprived of this momentous experience.

I prepared myself to hear ubiquitous ranting by ultra-liberal administrators, deans and selected students. Given what has taken place recently, I expected a full-fledged attack about how America is no longer as great as it was because of income inequality, too many affluent people, too many poor people, overzealous police activities, racism, nativism and support of Israel. I must apologize to the university, the administration and the students because this was not what took place.

The principal speaker, a CEO of one of the largest companies in the world, spoke about his career and the responsibility of all businesses to be diverse, fair with employees, concerned with the environment and to speak up against injustice when it arises anywhere in the world. I thought the presentation was appropriate, balanced and inspirational.

Speeches were also made by the President of the University and Dean of the College. Both were informative for the graduates and parents. Of course, they encouraged the graduates to “make something happen,” a common theme throughout the day. The quid pro quo for all this education should be a vow by graduates to strive for greatness in an area they are passionate about. Entrepreneurship and social consciousness were themes of all the presenters.

The student speakers were outstanding orators. One gave a lecture in Latin. Maybe two or three people knew what he was saying, but fortunately, subtitles were provided. The young man could have been addressing Julius Caesar and the Senators in Roman. I wondered how long it took him to memorize and hone his presentation.

The most eloquent speech was offered to us by a Shakespearean connoisseur who could, and probably has, played a major role in one or more of the Bard’s plays.

The event was noteworthy for what did not take place. There was very little bitterness and resentment. There was practically no bashing of one political group or another. Significant issues were gently and tastefully touched upon as one would expect in a bastion of liberal thought and achievement.

I award the graduation ceremony an A plus. I didn’t perspire or feel uncomfortable in the heat, but I thoroughly enjoyed the encouragement for the graduates to be great and make a real contribution to society.

The spirit and attitude of the speech-givers and the recipient students was a welcomed divergence from the destructive politicization of societal issues taking place every day in our nation’s capital and around the country. I hope that a number of graduates someday take the place of self-centered political hacks that today represent us in Congress and other parts of the government. My optimism has been restored to an extent.  

Is The War With Covid Ending? Nope!

Warm temperatures have arrived, restaurants and bars are open for business, Americans are making plans to travel this summer and the scientists have given us a green light to reconnect with family and friends.

All these things and more have become a reality, but there is a certain amount of reticence that makes us just a bit skeptical that everything is really safe. This essay is about those things that everyone should keep in mind as the war on Covid comes to an end.

Probably the most prevalent thing we have done during the pandemic is wear masks. Just about everybody was masked for the last year or so. We really couldn’t go into any stores, businesses or schools without a mask that supposedly decreased the spread of the virus.

Now that medical advisers have said masks are not needed any longer, for the most part, are we going to give them up? What are the potential risks? Well, the experts are not sure if having Covid or being vaccinated means we will never contract the disease again. So, you should keep that in mind when you go to a crowded bar, Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden or travel commercially on trains, buses, subways or airplanes.

Most Americans seem inclined to get vaccinated. But there are many people who are not convinced the vaccines are safe and effective. Some think it’s all a hoax. Some believe it’s a Big Brother ploy of a sort. Anyway, a percentage of Americans will not be vaccinated. Are they endangering the rest of us? If 20% of Americans do not agree to be inoculated, does the risk of a recurrent pandemic increase? And, if the world does not get vaccinated, are we in danger? Keep in mind many foreigners visit the US annually.

It’s interesting to think about the speed at which Americans will return to normalcy. Will you throw your masks away today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year? Will you wear a mask in crowded places prospectively? Will you send your children back to school? With or without masks? Will the teachers teach them in person? There are a lot of decisions to be made about how we lead our lives post Covid.

The most informed analysts believe that the road back to normalcy is a long one, even if there is a lot of action now. For instance, if you wash your hands ten times each day during Covid, will you reduce down to five or six times? Will you wipe off the equipment at your gym before exercising? Will you continue to carry wipes to restaurants to sanitize your hands before eating? I suspect most people will continue to be somewhat diligent, although eating inside restaurants seems to be picking up steam.

Of course, there are other issues that must be considered. How about your place of work? Will everyone be vaccinated? Is it illegal to force people to be vaccinated? Will un-vaccinated people be required to wear a red “V” on their shirts? Can you be required to work near an un-vaccinated coworker? Will there still be limited numbers of people on elevators? Can companies demand every employee come to work at the office? Will companies be flexible about stay at home worker preferences?

And finally, there are the federal, state and local government leaders. Will they try to influence how we live or allow Americans to make up their own minds about how much risk they are willing to assume. Or will leaders issue mandates.

But most important, how do we avoid another pandemic that might kill us all? Are we spending enough on research relating to deadly viruses, as compared to research for cancer another types of diseases?

I recommend that scientists spend more time thinking about existential risks to mankind.

The Deadly Struggle Continues Between Israelis and Palestinians

A great worldwide controversy has been reignited as Israel and Palestinians relentlessly attack each other with missiles and rockets. Israel claims that its onslaught is directed only at Hamas and other violent terrorists, while Hamas viciously launches missiles into civilian areas. Both combatants have killed innocent women and children, which in itself is a reason for an immediate cease fire. Note: On Thursday the sides agreed to cease hostilities.

There are greater, more existential issues at stake in this terrible and extended conflict between Israel and Palestine. For Jews, there are over 6,000,000 reasons why they need to pursue their right to call Israel their home. Granted, Palestinians have suffered difficult times and their death toll is great. But those who say that their losses are comparable to the Jewish community are misguided.

During World War II, no nation seemed particularly interested in what was happening in Germany and surrounding countries at concentration camps. Most of the world was too busy fighting Nazis in Europe and the Japanese in Asia. I asked my mother, why didn’t the US come to the rescue of Jews? She said no one knew of the brutality and murderous activities. It was not reported in the press or by government officials at the time, I was told.

When the war ended, sympathetic nations sanctioned the establishment of the State of Israel. It was to serve as a place for persecuted Jews to immigrate to and find a better life. Most thought that Jews had suffered enough, and many still needed protection.

Arabs were not enthusiastic about Jews immigrating into their region. Rightly so, they felt persecuted and abandoned. Over the years, Palestinians responded with violence led by a number of terrorist groups that were funded by neighboring Arab countries. The loss of land and religious sites infuriated Palestinians and their supporters, and unfortunately, it led them to increasing violence over time.

Along the way, Israel considered how to deal with Palestinians in both one state in two states scenarios. Agreement was elusive as Arab terrorists failed to keep promises and to guarantee Israel’s security.

The past is important to Israel for many reasons. Young Jews, who don’t have a vivid perspective of what happened to their ancestors during World War II, have not been looking over their shoulders, even as anti-Semitism still pervades the world. No Jew is ever totally safe, even in this day and age. The plight of the group is far greater than any other minority group in history. And yet, there is little empathy among many younger people and other oppressed groups.

Jews have struggled to survive for thousands of years. The least the US can do is to be supportive of Israel’s right to exist. Of course, this can only be done successfully if Israel is empathetic towards the needs of the Palestinian people.

There is absolutely no reason to think that the conflict between Israel and Palestine will not continue into the foreseeable future. There is great support brewing throughout the world regarding the plight of Palestinians and the treatment they are receiving from the Israeli government.

It’s ironic that Israel’s alliance with the US works against it to a certain extent as we have many enemies. It will take great minds and noble men and women to ultimately figure out how these two groups can live together in peace. But, US support of the State of Israel should not wane in the meantime.

Radical Elements Will Drive Elections

There are several festering political issues which could have a dramatic effect on both the midterm elections and the presidential election two years later.

As a reminder, Barack Obama was handcuffed politically by a change of one seat in the Senate. He lost a filibuster proof majority that completely derailed his agenda.

What are the most important controversies, and how are politicians on both sides of the aisle gearing up to deal with them?

Inflation. It’s been a long time since this destructive economic phenomenon has plagued America. It saps the buying power of average Americans. The outrageous spending affiliated with the pandemic, coupled with a shortage of available workers is wreaking havoc on prices across the board for consumers and distorting employment statistics.

Oil prices have increased dramatically during the past year. Food prices have spiked. Many kinds of building materials have skyrocketed. And, unemployed workers are not responding to demand for new workers as the economy heats up. Many people are holding off taking new jobs because handouts by the federal government are greater than what they would receive in low-paying jobs.

Of note, inflationary pressures coupled with higher oil prices and a shortage of every type of fuel brought down the Jimmy Carter administration in 1980. Americans will not accept lines at gas stations.

Immigration. Biden is attempting to brand US immigration as a kinder and gentler system compared to the previous administration. It hasn’t worked. Illegal aliens misread the president’s message and are flooding across our borders, overwhelming our border officials and cities close to the Mexican border. Even worse, immigrants are being treated like refugees in poorer parts of the world.

The US has been unable to pass US immigration reform because the political parties have different objectives. Republicans want a fair and reasonable inflow of new future citizens, while Democrats are attempting to buy future votes from those who are entering our country illegally. The successes of the former administration have been highlighted by the problems of the Biden administration. Voters are becoming increasingly impatient with the inability to stem the tide of interlopers who are putting a strain on our social and economic infrastructures.

Defending and reforming the police. A majority of Americans are strongly supporting reform of the police but are not in favor of taking away police funding or eliminating departments altogether. Our country cannot operate without federal, state and local law men and law women. In fact, the poorest of our neighbors have the most crime and need for protection.

The war between the ultra-right an ultra-left. If the former president becomes active and influential in the impending elections, Republicans will pay a high price. There is a huge silent group of restive Republicans that don’t have the backbone to tell the departed president to take a hike. Fear of being called out by the former loudmouth-in charge is preventing a complete break with what will happened between 2016 and 2020.

On the one hand, ultra-left socialists, anarchists, spendthrifts, anti-Semites and troublemakers are driving the nation towards the Republican Party. Every day the Squad, a group of four radical, left wing congresswoman, are doing everything possible to guarantee Republicans a victory in 2022 in 2024.

The war against Covid. Progress is being made in the fight to eliminate the flu. But there is great confusion and many mixed messages coming from Biden’s sycophants.  To make matters worse, different governmental and medical authorities are flooding the airwaves with contradictory mandates. This is causing many Americans to eschew vaccines altogether, which will prolong our torment. If the disease persists into voting periods, Democrats will suffer.

Both political parties are playing with fire led by the radical elements of their caucuses. The parties that emasculate the loudest and most destructive elements in their caucuses will likely take control of the federal government prospectively.

US Must Support Israel

I’m sad and disappointed that recent peace advances between Israel and Palestine have been torn to shreds. Once again, peace in the Middle East seems so remote.

It’s difficult for people around the world to appreciate the frustration that must exist among Jews and Arabs in the region surrounding Israel. Both groups have continuously lost land and have been persecuted in so many ways over the years.

Jewish persecution has taken place for several millennia. Time and time again, Jews have been enslaved and forced to move from place to place throughout the world. It all culminated during World War II when millions of Jews were sinfully murdered by Nazis and other enemies.

This tragedy of epic proportions led farsighted Jewish leaders to seek out a place where Jews could escape bigotry and murderous threats. The place is now called Israel. Why not Israel? It has an enormous religious draw for Jews going back to biblical times.

When one group moves into an area occupied by another and the parties have completely different customs and religious beliefs, conflict is inevitable. Beginning in 1948, Jews surged into Jerusalem and environs, built homes, erected synagogues and started new lives.

But what about the Arabs inhabiting the area? Over the years, they have increasingly resented Zionism, the loss of homes in many cases and the religious practices of the interlopers. Soon after, Palestinian Arabs began to rebel against the government of Israel led by the likes of Yasser Arafat.

The similarities between Jews and Palestinian Arabs are ironic. Both are/were nomadic. Both were religious. Both had many sacred religious sites around Jerusalem. Both had land and valuables stolen from them. Both have been persecuted unmercifully. And now, they have been at loggerheads with each other for years, unable to divide up Israeli and Palestine and live peacefully.

There exists great animosity between the Israelis and Palestinians. Both groups resent how they have been treated by others throughout history. Of course, Jewish persecution is much older. One would think that both groups would appreciate the plight of the other and be more tolerant and constructive.

Israel has been called an evil government that treats its Arab neighbors poorly, reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa. In that situation, Europeans colonialized a relatively uncivilized area of Africa and a few white men reigned over the multitude of natives. Ultimately, democracy won out, and the majority took control.

There is a correlation between the hostilities in Israel and the ultimate outcome in South Africa. The ruled class was in the majority and eventually usurped power from the minority government. Overtime, it is likely that the same will happen in Israel and Palestine, where the Arabs population is growing rapidly, and the Israeli population is stagnant.

The US has been supportive of Israel since its inception. The ties between our countries are very strong. Both are democracies. Both are capitalistic societies. Both are strong militarily. Both countries are influenced to a great extent by Jews. The bonds are sacred. Israel would not survive without US support. And, the US influence in the Middle East would be much less without Israel intelligence.

Unfortunately, it seems like it is the world against the US/Israeli relationship. Israel supporters believe that the existence of the country is critical to the security of Jews worldwide. I agree with this perspective. They have a place to migrate to if they ever encounter persecution. Yet, when Israel defends itself from aggression perpetrated by Palestinians, Iran and other Arab countries in the region, the world sees fault in its actions.

The current conflict that has arisen is a perfect example. Hamas, supported by Iran, began to fire missiles into highly populated, civilian areas of Israel. Israel responded by attacking Hamas military installations. Civilians have been killed by both sides, but Hamas is intentionally trying to terrorize noncombatants.

Why shouldn’t Israel be able to protect itself from attacks on its citizens? As usual, Israel, the more powerful and better armed side, is being degraded by Arabs all over the world and by faux peace activists that blame the violence on Israel. This is unfair and unjust. The president was correct by saying that Israel has the right to defend itself. I would question why the Biden administration continues to negotiate with Iran, given that Hamas is receiving money and missiles from the rogue government.

The violence is going to continue until a long-term ceasefire is negotiated. It’s not likely at this time. Provocateurs like Iran and other militant nations must stop antagonizing Israel and providing arms to the its enemies. The US must in no uncertain terms back Israel with whatever arms and political support is necessary to fight existential threats. Israel is our only real friend in the explosive area known as the Middle East.