Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Honoring Earth Day

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Our Bridgewater Foods Supermarket has a really nice tradition for Earth Day. The children in K-5th grade at the local elementary school decorate our paper shopping bags with an Earth Day theme. They return the bags and we put them on display at our checkout stands. Customers are free to use any bag for their groceries.

This tradition has gone on for many years and some of the customers come in specifically to use the colorful bags. Some parents and grandparents look for their child or grandchild’s bag to use. It is a fun activity and one that really promotes recycling and the spirit of Earth Day.

The bags are going fast, so stop on by if you are in the neighborhood. See below for a sampling of this year’s bags.

John Marklin

www.marklinfinancial.com

 

Our parent’s 9/11

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Debbie and I are in the Hawaiian islands with our good friends from St. Louis, Barb and Kevin Smith. We spent our first 3 days on the island of Oahu and devoted a whole day to sightseeing on Pearl Harbor.

We did the customary trip to see the sunken battleship USS Arizona, then a tour of the USS Missouri (Mighty Mo) where the war with Japan officially ended with the Japanese surrender. Next stop was a tour of the submarine USS Bowfin.

We ended the day with a tour of the US Veteran’s grave site (known as the “Punch Bowl”) where thousands of the deceased veterans of the wars in the Pacific were buried. We were on a mission to find the grave site of an uncle, my mother’s brother Richard Grosch, who was killed by a Japanese sniper on Tinian Island. We found the grave site, dusted it off, and gave remembrance to Richard and all the men and women who lay at rest in the Punch Bowl defending the American cause. The above photo is of his tombstone and the majestic tree that adorns his grave.

My mother had three brothers die within two years during the war (two in service and one right before enlisting). She occasionally told us stories about her brothers whom I never met. My mother has never been to Hawaii and thus never seen the grave. Hopefully she will feel some sense of finality now that I can bring a photo of Richard’s grave back to her.

December 7, 1941, was a day that will “live in infamy”. The rally cry from the Americans to defend our country after that brutal assault by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor was a signature event. It showed the strength, resiliency and commitment Americans had when our backs were against the wall.

Our tour guide on the Mighty Mo told of a story where a Japanese Kamikaze pilot tried to blow up the ship. The pilot was shot down just in time and diverted the plane which brushed the side of the battleship. The pilot was killed when his plane went into the sea. His body was recovered and the Captain of the USS Missouri ordered a full Japanese burial for the fallen man. He said this man was fighting for his country, no different from our men and women fighting for our country, and he deserved a proper burial. The US sailors later constructed a Japanese flag to be used in the burial ceremony and dropped it into the sea along with the body.

The captain of the Mighty Mo showed another side of America, compassion and dignity. It made me proud to be an American.

John Marklin

www.marklinfinancial.com

Thoughts on 9-9-9

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Some time ago, I wrote about our nation’s serious looming budget deficit and that it would take someone with a bold initiative and some guts to tackle the problem.

 

Herman Cain, a  Republican presidential candidate has proposed a 9-9-9 plan. This plan would get rid of almost all current taxes and replace them with a 9% flat tax on income, a 9% flat corporate tax and a 9% national sales tax.

 

Talk about simple, Cain has hit the nail on the head.

 

No one can argue that our tax code is too complex and difficult to understand. If you gave two different accountants your tax information for 2012 and asked them to prepare your return, chances are you would get two different answers as to how much you would owe. H&R Block has made a national campaign claiming they can save you taxes because they know of all the loop holes you should get!

 

And the code is not fair. Deductions are not logical. Why should I get a deduction because I own a house, but someone who rents does not? What started out as a stimulus to the housing industry years ago, like most tax rules, became a mainstay in our tax code and never came out.

 

And then there is the topic of compliance and tax avoidance. The deductions, exemptions and loopholes have produced a system where over 40% pay nothing and some of the very rich pay little.

 

The tax code is over 43,000 pages. Who can ever be expected to understand this and comply? Certainly not the tax payer, nor the millions who complete and administer the return. No one is that smart to comprehend it all.

 

Cain’s plan is simple. It will take away the loophole of those finding ways to pay less. It will be easier to administer and enforce compliance. And I believe it will produce more tax revenue in the long run.

 

I am sure there will be much to debate about this, and the lobbyists will come out of the woodwork to argue in favor of keeping special interests deductions and loopholes. But thank goodness we have someone with the guts to propose a bold and common sense plan to tackle our burgeoning tax code.

 

John Marklin

www.marklinfinancial.com

13 Folds Ceremony of US Flag

Monday, March 14th, 2011

A couple of years ago, a friend helped me put up a flag pole at Shadowood, our vacation home. When we are there, we make an attempt to always fly the American flag.

When we have friends on special weekends, we sometimes gather around the pole while taking the flag down. We show our respect to the flag and the symbol it represents by following the “13 Folds Ceremony”, described below.

Have you ever noticed during a Military Funeral or Flag Lowering Ceremony the honor guard pays particular attention to the folding of the American Flag?  Just like the 21 gun salute was determined by adding the digits 1776 together, there is a reason they fold the American Flag 13 times.

In addition to symbolizing the first 13 states, each fold also has a meaning:

1st fold = symbol of life.

2nd fold = symbol of our belief in eternal life.

3rd fold = honor & remember the veterans who gave all or some of their lives defending our country and to attain peace throughout the world.

4th fold = symbol of our weaker nature as humans & American citizens trusting in God, whom we turn to in times of war and peace for his divine guidance.

5th fold = tribute to our country.

6th fold = symbol for where our hearts lie because it is with our heart that we “Pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States Of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”

7th fold = tribute to our Armed Forces, through which our country and flag are defended against our enemies within our boundaries and in the world.

8th fold = tribute to the one (Jesus) who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day (Salvation).

9th fold = tribute to womanhood; who mold the character of all the men and women who have contributed to this great country.

10th fold = tribute to the fathers; who have given their sons and daughters to defend our country.

11th fold = symbol of the Star of David which glorifies the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

12th fold = symbol of eternity and glorifies God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

13th fold = as the flag is now completely folded the stars are shown which remind us of our motto: “In God We Trust.”

Folded it is in the form of a cocked hat to remind us of the Revolutionary soldiers who, under George Washington, granted us freedom, liberty and rights we have today.

John Marklin

www.marklinfinancial.com

A look into global development

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Statistics come to life when Swedish academic superstar Hans Rosling graphically illustrates global development over the last 200 years.

Here are my takeaways from this video:

-The east is catching up with the west at breakneck speed in health as well as income.

-The internet and rapid transit have sped up a growing global economy.

-In the near foreseeable future, most countries will be improving and converging in trade, aid, and green technologies.

-Mastering a foreign language and the willingness to relocate can jumpstart a career into emerging industries.

The days of thinking that the US will forever dominate health and wealth statistics are vanishing.

John Marklin

www.marklinfinancial.com

Improving the food stamp program

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Since I have clients in the retail food industry, I am acquainted with the federal government food stamp program that is run by the state or local agencies.

The food stamp program helps low-income and disabled people buy food. States distribute food stamp benefits by depositing cash into a Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. Each state differs in the day that the food stamps are deposited into their account. Once deposited, the eligible person can use the card like any debit card to buy groceries.

The amount deposited depends upon the number of dependents in your household. The more dependents, the more the monthly benefit.

The food stamp program is one entitlement program that directly helps those in need by supplying the most basic of benefits, food.

Yet, in Virginia, all food stamps benefits are deposited on the first day of the month, challenging the recipient to make the funds last 30 days. This is very hard to do. I believe the people would be much better served to get weekly or semi-monthly deposits onto their EBT card, reducing the chance of running out of food at the end of the month because all benefits were spent 3-4 weeks prior. Additionally, this switch would save the state sorely needed cash flow from their strapped budget.

John Marklin

www.marklinfinancial.com

Our nation’s debt

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

I listened with interest to the President’s State of the Union address last night to hear how he was going to address our burgeoning debt. Sadly, I heard very little.

Our nation is in a crisis. Our accumulated debt is growing so rapidly it is frightening. It is roughly 80% of our total GDP. It has never been that high since World War II (over 100% of GDP), when the entire nation was truly focused on doing nothing but borrow funds to produce whatever it took to defeat the enemy. But here is the difference between then and now; when WWII was over, the spending spree virtually stopped and the debt declined rather rapidly. Today, our spending is so huge and so tied to entitlement spending that there is little chance for a similar drastic decline. It will take prolonged, smaller cuts here and there to alleviate this problem.

Recently, this news bulletin was released:

“The Congressional Budget Office is warning that unless the federal government can control its appetite for deficit spending, the accumulated national debt could spark a fiscal crisis similar to those experienced by Greece and Ireland earlier this year.”

This did not hit many headlines that I saw. Why? Because, it is an uncomfortable and unpopular topic to discuss since it hits at the core; that entitlements might be taken away from me to reduce the nation’s debt. Most politicians run away from that solution.

During the State of the Union, congressmen were focused, rightfully so, on the tragedy in Tucson and most wore pins as a remembrance. Republicans and Democrats sat next to each other in a show of support and civility.

But, when are we finally going to get serious about the looming debt? When is it going to be on the lips of every American, like it was when we fought the enemy in WWII? If we don’t seriously address this issue, it will be forced on us, like Greece and Ireland. The CBO goes on to say:

“Actions taken later, particularly if there was a fiscal crisis, would need to be significantly greater to achieve that same objective. Larger and more abrupt changes in fiscal policy, such as substantial cuts in government benefit programs, would be more difficult for people to adjust to than smaller and more gradual changes.”

It would be nice to see every American wear a pin that said, “Reduce our Nation’s Debt.”

John Marklin

www.marklinfinancial.com

A look at the effect of taxation on performance

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

In the past, I have been a resident of Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The state in which I lived the shortest period of time was New Hampshire, only one year. But I remember so much about my brief stay in the Granite State. One thing that sticks with me is that it  did not have a state income or a sales tax, unlike the other three states.

In 1986, I lived in Hudson, NH, just across the Massachusetts state line. At the time, MA had some of the highest state income and sales taxes in the country. As a result, residential housing sprung up just across the MA border into NH. Additionally, large shopping malls were built in NH literally a few hundred feet from the MA state line.

Back then, I worked in Andover, MA, but bought a house in NH. This decision was made in part because of the tax friendly environment in NH.

I remember buying a lawn tractor back then. It cost about $1500. My decision to buy it in NH was driven by the fact that I could save over $75 by not paying sales tax.

The state of Washington, previously a no-income tax state, is voting this November on adopting an income tax. And a robust tax it will be: 5% on those earning $200,000 per year, and an additional 4% surcharge on those earning over $500,000 per year. There are some who believe that the state of Washington is shooting itself in the foot based upon the trends of other states enacting a state income tax.

The following link shows some economic performance (before and after) of the 11 states that have adopted a state income tax in the past 50 years. In every situation, performance went down compared to the period prior to enacting the tax. Particularly, look at the performance of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana.

11 states enacting state income tax

When looking at a change as dramatic as what the state of Washington is proposing, it is helpful to strip away the emotional aspect of tax vs. no-tax and look at the numbers. Examine the track records of previous performance to assess the future results. In this example, 11 out of 11 states have performed worse with a tax than without one. That is a trend that the voters of Washington should look at very closely before going to the polls in November.

John Marklin

www.marklinfinancial.com

The Hoover Dam finance formula

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Each time that I visit Las Vegas, I make a point to visit the Hoover Dam. Last weekend’s trip was no exception.

The Hoover Dam, built in the Thirties during the Great Depression, is a majestic structure and considered by experts to be one of the five greatest building projects ever. It was conceived by a small group of people with three objectives:

  1. Control the flash flooding in the late spring caused by melting snow in the mountains
  2. Provide a consistent supply of water to seven states along the Colorado River
  3. Provide electricity to the fast growing southwestern US

The Dam was built primarily with private money by Six Companies, Inc at a cost of around $42 million. It was completed in 1935, two years ahead of schedule and $2 million below budget. The sale of electricity to surrounding areas since completion of the Dam has paid off the debt as well as covered the annual maintenance and operating costs.

Today we constantly hear about our government providing stimulus money to fund projects to help jumpstart our economy. Often times the stimulus funding is a full payment by the government with no payback scenario. This type of project funding does nothing but add to our ever increasing budget deficit.

Instead of our government strictly subsidizing projects, it would be nice to see other funding examples like the Hoover Dam, where the project is paid for by its derived benefits.

John Marklin

www.marklinfinancial.com

One Question to Ask of a Small Not-For-Profit Organization

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Many of my friends are involved with Not-For-Profit (NFP) organizations. It usually starts with a phone call from a neighbor, friend, family member or co-worker asking them to get involved with an NFP about which they are passionate.

Oftentimes, my friends end up on the Board of Directors or as Officers of these NFP’s, work hard and make a difference in the community. This is all very good; giving back to society for a good cause.

An NFP is a special entity exempt from paying taxes. The NFP has to request permission from the IRS in order to become an NFP and obtain a Tax Exempt number. Most NFP’s that I am associated with know to do this.

Recently however, the IRS changed a little known rule. Previously, if the NFP’s total annual revenues were less than $25,000, the NFP did not have to file a tax return. Now they do.

The IRS has made this new requirement relatively easy by allowing you to fill out a Form 990N, or an e-Postcard.

If the NFP doesn’t file an e-Postcard for three consecutive years, it can lose its tax exempt status.

So if you are on the Board, or are an Officer of an NFP, ask a simple question. Have they filed a tax return?

John Marklin

www.marklinfinancial.com