Happy New Year America

The stroke of midnight came and went. 2013 snuck in the side door and the country is told that the leaders have come to some sort of agreement to “AVOID” the “FISCAL CLIFF”.  My first thought is “How much is this going to cost me and the rest of the middle class?” I suppose we will have to wait for them to pass it before we can read what is in it. Do you ever get tired of all this nonsense?  Forget labels for a while, no republican, democrat, or independent. Consider everyone equal for a few moments, there is no “Rich, Poor, Middle class, Upper class, or Lower class, just people! Americans (What a concept), Yes we are all Americans looking for the opportunity to live the American Dream. Now define what the “American Dream” is. That is where the vision starts to become blurred. I know what it means to me, but what does it mean to you? Is it the same for the person that has been elected to lead this Country or State or City? That is where Politics enters, and labels start being applied. The game is to try to get one set of people to believe that another group is against them and trying to take everything away from them. What would happen if we as Americans (yes it is a label to) simply refused to play the class against class game? What if we made sure that those people that we entrusted to “represent us” in government understood that they work for all of us! Some may have gone to a prestigious college but that does not mean they are any better than anyone else in America is. Speaking of labels, here is a label that most politicians and bureaucrats try to avoid, deny, or distance themselves from it. A very old label has been around for centuries. Politicians put us all into classes; we are either in the Lower class (Poor), the Middle class (Backbone of the economy), and the Upper class (Rich). Which class do politicians put themselves? Depending upon the definition being used at the time they will all try to claim that they are the middle class and understand the needs of the middle class. In reality, they truly believe they are in a separate class not mentioned. Before I go further, I will state that not everyone in politics plays this game so you understand that I am not using the broad brush a politician would use to label an entire segment of society. The Politicians that are in this class are easy to spot and very easy to detect based on their set of rules by which they play. This segment is the “Elite class”, or as it has known throughout the centuries the “Ruling Class”. Pretty Harsh terms, yet look at the results of legislation that exempts them from laws and rules that the rest of us have to follow. Take away those exemptions and their special benefits and I wonder if we would always be peering over the edge of that “Fiscal Cliff”. I have something to say to every elected official that feels that respect comes with the title. Respect is earned. The office you hold is not permanent. Every Politician is one election away from being unemployed. To all Americans I say, “May you have a Safe and Prosperous 2013”.

A to Z Bread

This bread recipe can be used to make any kind of bread where you are adding something to it (i.e. Banana Bread) The only fruit that does not work well is Pineapples. Enjoy experimenting from “A to Z”

Ingredients

  1. 3 cups all purpose flour
  2. 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  3. 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  4. 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  5. 1 Teaspoon Salt
  6. 2 Cups of Sugar
  7. 3 Whole Eggs
  8. 1 Cup Oil
  9. 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
  10. 2 Cups of Fruit or Vegetable mashed well
  11. 1 Cup Chopped nuts,  (can be left out if allergic to Nuts)

Mix all dry ingredients and set aside. In a mixing bowel combine sugar, oil, eggs and mix well. Add Vanilla. Stir in Fruit or Vegetable of choice. Add dry ingredients into the liquid moistened. Stir in chopped nuts (if using). Grease 2 loaf pans (8″ x 4″ x2″) Pour ingredients into both pans 2/3 full. Pre-heat Oven to 325°. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until done (use the toothpick test to check**) Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

** Toothpick test – stick a clean tooth pick into the bread and remove. If toothpick comes out clean bread is done. If bread is sticking to the toothpick return bread to oven and continue to bake recheck in 3 to 5 minutes..

Want to add a little kick to the bread? Experiment with the liqueur of your choice. Remember it is just for a complimentary flavor. One must pick what would compliment the fruit or vegetable being used and not fight with the flavor. An example would be adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of Bacardi Select Dark Rum to banana Bread or Applesauce Bread. I tried Kahlua in some applesauce bread and the coffee flavor was a little overpowering. It could be Less would have been better. Also thinking outside the box I added 1/4 cup of Cinnamon chips to the applesauce bread and that did compliment it.

Easy Recipes To Make

I enjoy cooking! Before being put on the disabled list due heart problems, I would enter an annual Chili Cook-off at the Presbyterian Urban Mission. I managed to take away a few awards and to this day have a chili recipe that might be worthy of taking to the International Chili society cook-off to win there. That is a completely different type of competition. I have cooked for my church doing a Bean dinner one year to conclude the stewardship campaign; I have cooked turkeys twice for our annual Thanksgiving Dinner the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I worked with the youth group in the 1990’s to do a fund-raiser for their annual mission trip. We took orders from the congregation for submarine sandwiches to have ready on Super Bowl Sunday. Of course, that was when the Super Bowl was still around the last week of January. The youth actually looked forward to it every year (and so did the congregation). We were selling $5.00 foot-longs long before Subway started. I have cooked for the Men’s’ Breakfast on the Third Saturday of the month, and recently I requested and was given permission to restart the first Sunday Breakfast every month. This is beginning to sound as if it is all about me. Let me clarify that I am but one of many members that love to cook for the church. I do not care which denomination You belong to, having a meal together as a congregation is part of worshiping together as a family. It is also a good way to reach out to the community around the church to bring them into that warm family environment, to share your faith with them. Whenever we would have significant leftovers, we have taken them to one of the shelters in the area.

Enough of the “Why” I like to cook and share with others. Many friends have asked me for my recipes to different dishes and I have always said, “yes I will share them”. I never figured out how the best way to do this until last Sunday, I was being asked for a specific cake recipe and I realized that having started this site as “a daily dose of common sense”, what better way to share with everyone some of my favorite recipes. Let me first state that most of these come from so great sources such as the Chef’s on The Food Network, some passed down in the family and others were done as an experiment to explore the subtle differences in the use of spices to enhance the enjoyment of devouring a good chili or salsa. As is the disclaimer for this site “treat this as a buffet, take what you like, and leave what you do not care for”. As always, I will accept comments as well as any different ideas. So let us begin I will categorize each recipe in the group it belongs. Bon Appétit…

 

Entitlement programs; what are they and why are they so expensive?

Every day the media reminds us that so many people depend upon government programs to exist and that one group wants to do away with them and see “old people eat cat food, Small children die of disease, and People starve to death…” You get the point. Sadly enough, and not that I am suggesting it, the food we feed our pets has to meet a higher standard than the food we feed our families. However, what does that have to do with the question of “What is an Entitlement Program“? According to dictionary.com the Definition is, “a government program guaranteeing certain benefits to a segment of the population; the right to benefits offered by a government, esp. as compensation”. That answers the “What” part of the question, now the “Why” part.

Let us consider some of the most common entitlement programs that we hear about on a regular basis and some we did not know existed;

  1. Social Security
  2. Medicare
  3. Medicaid
  4. WIC (Women, Infants and Children)
  5. Food Stamps
  6. Family Planning Services
  7. Training and Fellowships for the Environmental Protection Agency
  8. Safety Incentive Grants for Use of Seat belts
  9. Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation
  10. Labor-Management Relations

For a complete list and the amounts that our elected officials have budgeted for them click on this link: http://funding-programs.idilogic.aidpage.com/

I was surprised at the titles of some and aghast at the amounts at which some are funded. The question now becomes “why do people believe they are entitled to this money?” For many years throughout the development of this nation, the government stayed out of the charity business leaving it up to the organizations that were best suited for handling it. There were good times and bad, sometimes the poor increased faster than the donations, but the fraudulent use of the charitable funds was minimal. The great depression began to change all that. The government felt it could better care for the people and started programs that would appear on the surface to do just that. Promise made by politicians that everyone DESERVED a better life and that the government could help provide that. The welfare system was born and flourished. Some found that it was easier to have babies to collect more money while others figured out how to scam the system. Soon there were third and fourth generation welfare recipients. It was easier to not work and draw that welfare check, get food stamps and yes even commodity food from the government. One problem was that the commodity foods were not that healthy. Obesity is now rampant in society from the lack of exercise and the poor dietary decisions we have made all of our life. Before you stop reading this, Understand that, I do not hold anyone that truly needs help a hand up. I do not believe in something for nothing. Social security was a program that was started to help the agricultural folks with a retirement supplement. It was never meant to be the sole source of retirement. In addition, a funded source as everyone works pays into this fund. In fact many of the people have paid in five times over what they would ever receive. Medicaid was designed to help the Senior Citizens with the rising cost of medical care, and again is a funded program. Unfortunately, the government has used those two accounts to fund other things and continue to write “IOU‘s” to those programs. The high cost of these two programs has been because the programs were not meant to support people who did not ever pay into them and draw from them because they cannot work. Social Security Disability, SSI and others sometimes go to people who have never paid a penny into the system. Our generous politicians continue to turn a blind eye at the problem and continue to include more and more people into programs that are already broken. They have forgotten what their responsibility is and to whom they are to be looking out for. They continue to buy votes with promises that cannot be kept. Eventually the majority of people will wake up from their apathetic slumber and when the call for real change is sounded those that are truly tuned into the will of the people will stay and those that have been sucking from the special interest groups will be standing on the outside looking in. I only hope that we have a country left when that happens.

 

Looking over the Fiscal Cliff

Is the Economy recovering? Does anyone in Washington really care about the rest of the country? Pushing past all the political rhetoric, do any of the elected officials have the guts to do what is right? Any answer I give would be on man’s opinion. However, would that one opinion resonate with more than one man or women? I quit watching the national news on three of the major networks, not because I did not like what they said it was the fact that they did not report the entire truth. They overlooked mistakes by the administration that they took the previous administration to task. I could care less about a birth certificate when the Commander-in-chief demonstrates a lack of knowledge and makes announcements of timetables to withdraw from areas of conflict. The first two years he had control of everything as his party had majorities in the House and Senate. What did they accomplish? That is was politics as usual for the left and what was supposed to be the most Transparent Administration in history, was playing the same elitist power games as they always have done. The economy had tanked in 2008, The TARP bailout did not do what it was supposed to do, The Wall street bailout did not bring about the proper reforms, two of the big three Motor companies sought bailout money to keep from going Bankrupt. Then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi informed the country that congress would have to pass the Health Care bill before we could read what was in it. In addition, unbeknownst to the general population the ATF and the FBI were running a program (Fast and Furious) that knowingly put automatic weapons in the hands of the Mexican Drug cartels. We were being told that our borders were more secure now than they had ever been. Every December we would come toward the end of the year and the Senate had not passed a Budget. Therefore, they would tell the House that we would need to keep the Government open or our brave troops would be without a paycheck and others depending upon government subsidies would go without. They would Raise the Debt ceiling and pass what is called a Continuing Resolution. Congress, those people who were elected to represent us, Continue to pass all kinds of legislation that sounds like worthy bills until you read them and discover that the original title has little to do with all the amendments and riders that had been attached to them. Two years passed and the economy did not turn around. The Mid-term elections brought about some new blood to Washington in the form of a conservative grass-roots group called the Tea Party. The ideals that they stood for was to end this uncontrolled spending and restore the nations fiscal sanity. The Left, for every evil thing that has come down the pike, has blamed the Tea Party. Two years had passed and the country was headed for fiscal disaster. The Fed decided to continue to print money so that there would be enough to cover the debt… After three years, the Fed has printed so much that the value of the Dollar has fallen as well as the United States Credit Rating. The 2012 election cycle brought out the true colors of the Democrats seeking re-election. The Republicans began to gain support when the message was final getting out to the public. No thanks to the Mainstream media, the message about the dangers of continuing down the current path and the looming of approaching the Fiscal Cliff was becoming quite disturbing. Harry Reid‘s leadership has a Senate that has not done its job and passed a formal Budget in over 1000 days. Their answer to the upcoming fiscal challenge is of no surprise, Raise Taxes. At first, it was just let all of the Bush Era Tax cuts expire. That drew some very angry response from Their base as well as the rest of the country. Therefore, they said they would only Tax the “Rich”, anyone making over $250,000 dollars per year. That put the bull’s eye on the majority of the small business owners, and was just as problematic. No compromise has been completed, they are on break. January 1 is getting closer and here is what you can expect when you wake up New Years day. The triple whammy, your income tax will return to the previous levels of the Clinton era with the TOP Business rate going back to 39%, OBAMA-CARE begins, and that is going to increase the cost of Health Insurance and penalize the small business owner financially requiring them to provide healthcare for their workers. This will begin to cause many that have been struggling to keep the doors open to go ahead and close them. That in turn will cause the unemployment rate to start climbing and the system cannot even afford to continue to pay those currently unemployed for much longer much less sustain and increase in those seeking benefits. That will cause the Unemployment Tax to be increased, and yes, more small businesses will again have to shut down due to the increased Tax burden. The Senate has still not passed a budget, but will be looking to raise the debt ceiling. Since a budget has yet to be passed, this will cause the automatic cuts to start taking place. The biggest will come from the Department of Defense. With our Armed forces, still fighting in Afghanistan and even with the withdrawal this will seriously jeopardize their safety and their mission. The next area is the Department of Human services; you know the agency that controls Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security… In 1981, Ronald Reagan made a speech about the economy and the government’s role. He said “I this desperate time, the government is not the solution to the problem. The Government is the Problem!” Raising Taxes is not the answer to the Fiscal problem cutting spending and balancing the budget is the only sane answer. Oh, but we do not have a budget because Harry Reid will not bring any proposals to the floor for a vote. I have some advice for those in both the Senate and the House. The trust that voters put in you to do the job is waning, you could be recalled, and you can be replaced. I know that this idea has passed around the internet several times but I think it would be very interesting to see how quickly some problems would get solved were this to happen. A strong block of Representatives and Senators get together and submit legislation to remove all the waivers given to everyone on Obama-Care especially to the Pro Tem of the Senate and staff and the Speaker of the House and their Staff. Of course some amendments would also be added (as they always are) to eliminate the retirement system for the Congress and place everyone on Social Security. Eliminate the Healthcare program for the congress and make them buy their own and pay for it out of their own pocket. Eliminate the 100% vesting in their retirement for serving one term. Here is another good one, No Senator can serve more than 3 terms (12 years), and the same goes for The House of Representatives (a total of 12 Years). The Executive Branch already has a two-term limit, but the postage right and Secret Service Detail should end after they leave office, security would be provided by The TSA. The First family should have to Pay for their airline flights whether the fly commercial or on Air Force 1. Vacations should be for immediate staff only no 50-person entourage. The First Lady should not be able to take Vacations that cost the Taxpayer. It should come out of the Presidents pocket. This President spends more time playing Golf than working; it should come out of his pocket!

The Fiscal Cliff should have been dealt with during the past four years. It is unfortunate that common sense in government is an oxymoron and is not at all common. The Fed did do one thing partially correct. To cover a portion of the cost of the money that was printed, they began selling Treasury Bonds with a decent rate of return. The only problem is that the largest purchaser of these bonds was the Federal Reserve… Print Money to buy bonds that back the money that was printed. It does not take a Harvard Business School Graduate to figure out that this is just bad. Try that same philosophy in your own business and you would end up in jail for Fraud. In the 1980’s that practice was called the buying and selling of Junk Bonds and lead to big financial disaster for many investors. I would think that as a country we would avoid things that would devalue our currency and cost us our freedom. One of the major investors in American T-bills is the Chinese Government. Soon the interest payment alone on the debt is going to be greater than the GDP and that will be the signal for the investors to pull out leaving Us with nothing and becoming just like Greece. Bankrupt and looking for someone to bail us out! Unfortunately, if we go, the global economy will follow suit and the depression that follows will be worse than that of the 1930’s.

If you have made it through all of this, are still thinking I am not some pessimistic believer in Gloom, and Doom, shouting, “The End is near!” Congratulations, Welcome to the latest reality check. It is easy to write something like this if all you are doing is complaining, but that is not my purpose. Citing a problem is one thing, offering a viable solution is altogether different. Here is a solution that while can be a stretch in some area’s can be fiscally prudent. Politically it is probably not viable due to the content. Too many Politicians have gotten rich and powerful and this would end that.

  1. Reestablish the Gold Standard for backing or currency. Problematic because, we currently do not own enough Gold to do it at the current time.
  2. Enact legislation that would prohibit the printing of money without the means on hand to back it. Then enforce it!
  3. Review all Foreign Aid programs. Stop all aid to countries that is in the form of currency! All humanitarian aid in the form of Food, Medical supplies, and equipment except Military equipment shall be distributed by a reputable organization such as The Red Cross.
  4. Stop the sale of weapons to countries that are dictatorships or do not support our views of the rights of all men and women.
  5. Stop the sale of anything to any country that supports Terrorism or the destruction of Israel.
  6. Stop Importing Oil from nations that are violating current sanctions on Iran or are selling weapons and nuclear technology to non nuclear-countries
  7. Demand that the European countries that have not done so, repay their World War II debt with interest.
  8. Inform the UN that we will no longer pay more than any other country to support its operations and that if they do not like it, Move to France or Germany. Let Europe and the rest of the world know that we will no longer provide Military support free. The UN countries will need to Pony-up their fair share of soldiers and Military equipment for all of their Peace keeping missions or pay the cost of renting ours.
  9. The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) and the GAO (Government Accounting Office) will review the cost to the American Taxpayer of the retirement system and the Healthcare system of the three branches of Government. Recommendations to convert both over to direct contribution system like any other retirement system. The three branches would also begin paying for FICA and Medicare. No Breaks for Elected officials or their staff. The Perks for a retiring president to maintain a fully staffed office with Secret Service will be reviewed and revised.
  10. The Tax Code will be thrown OUT!!! The IRS will be disbanded. In Place Of Personal Federal Income Tax, we will convert to either a Nation Sales tax or a flat tax. One that everybody pays.
  11. Entitlement Programs shall be eliminated. The following Programs are not entitlements (Social Security & Medicare) The Welfare programs WIC Programs, Food Stamp Programs, Earned Income Credit Programs, Farm subsidy programs, Unemployment benefits for people that quit looking, Business Taxes, Gone. Redundant programs in multiple agencies shall be eliminated.
  12. The National affordable Healthcare act shall be repealed.
  13. Tort Reform shall be completed. Nuisance suits shall be disallowed. Caps on Punitive damage and Pain and Suffering shall be set. Activist Judges shall be removed from the bench.
  14. Immigration Laws shall be enforced and illegal immigrants will be deported. Illegal immigrants will not be eligible for Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. Drug Runners shall be dealt with swiftly. Repeat offenders (Drug Dealers) will be jailed as terrorists and sent to GITMO.
  15. The Senate will submit and Pass a budget by June 1st of each year and it must be balanced or it will stay in session until it is completed. No more spending more than is taken in. Each budget shall include a substantial repayment portion of the national debt. Congress must stay in session until their work is completed.

I am sure that this will rankle the feathers of more than a few on the Hill and across the country. Those that think this is crazy ask yourself this one question, Why do elected officials want to stay in office for 20 plus years? What repercussions do elected officials face for pork barrel spending and fleecing the American people? During founding of this nation the continental congress was meeting daily trying to agree on the framework of this country, A women asked Ben Franklin What kind of government did we now have? His reply was priceless, “republic if you can keep it.”

The founders knew what could happen if time was not taken to make it clear that, this was a government Of the People, For the People, and by the people. I would not take much to see the Government step in and start controlling every aspect of life, just as it has tried to do now.

Think about this and comment as you wish.

 

Families and the Holiday Season

Here it is almost the beginning of a new year and families are coping with many stressors. Some are trying to get home after traveling for Christmas, some are waiting for loved ones to make it home after weather delays, and some are dealing with other type of issues. I met a friend in Sam’s Club the Saturday before Christmas and they were feeling a little down. I knew that they had lost their mother back in October and this was the first Christmas since then. The family seemed disorganized as to where Christmas was going to be. I reassure my friend that the first Christmas is generally the hardest and things will get better. Am I an expert? No, I have had the loss of loved ones around the holidays. I am not anyone special, as I know that others have lost loved ones this time of year as well. I want to share the loss with you so that you can understand some of my comments. In 1974, My Father passed away suddenly in mid-October, I was stationed on the East coast when that happened, and I had to fly back to the ship before Thanksgiving. Mom had it rough although she did fly out to be with me for Christmas that year. That helped her a lot more than I ever knew. My Dad’s Sister and Mother were in Connecticut and My Mom’s relatives were in Kansas City. After the Funeral It was just My Mom and I. We discussed what Dad would have wanted me to do and carried on with that in mind. In 1976, I was in the Mediterranean on the USS Nimitz. It was our first Med Cruise. I took leave over Christmas and New Years to travel to Wales from Italy to visit My Dad Sister and Mother. My Uncle had received a transferred to a little Welsh town named Abergavenny, to Manage a Plant for The American Can Company. It was great until December 27th when I received a call from my mother to tell me that My Grandfather had passed away suddenly on Christmas Eve and the Funeral was that day, (December 27th). The other side of the family did not understand why I had not flown home for the funeral; My Grandmother never told them that I had not been called until the day of. Mom’s family took his death hard and Christmas was never really the same and My Grandmother’s house. As I stated I am no different from anyone else that has lost loved ones, especially around the Holidays. In 1994, we lost my Dad’s Mother around Easter and My Mothers Sister passed away in about the same year. The one that really hit this family was the loss of My Mothers Mother on December 21st, 1996. It was not a pleasant time, but time heals all wounds… Does it really? This year, the week before Christmas, I was informed that one of my cousins was very sick. She was in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator due to a problem with her organs shutting down. She was in liver failure and needed a transplant. My information is sketchy at best on dates, but the fact remains that this lovely soul has left us. She was a Mother that loved her family and one of her greatest joys was being a Mom. I am saddened that we have lost another beautiful person. I pray for her children and her husband that God may comfort them during this time of mourning. I must remind everyone that there is good news in losing her, for she is in no more pain, and is with my sister, her mother and youngest brother and our grandparents. All of them are in a better place now and they will be with us always in our hearts. To my cousins I pray for each of you to hold each other up and to take solace in your grief that they are in a better place. Be strong for one another and take care of your father.

To those that have had personal tragedies during the Christmas seasons in the past, present and those that may occur in the future. Rejoice, and know that your loved one(s) are with Christ and with God. For as long as you hold them in your heart they will always be with us.

As tiny Tim from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” said “God Bless us EVERYONE!”