Will New Year Bring New Solutions?
December. When did that happen? In little more than a blink of an eye, 2010 will be mixed memories - some good, some awful.
December: glowing evidence that, as you grow older, the years zip by with increasing speed. We still have Christmas to plan for - cards to write, presents to buy and wrap - and this year we are determined to get it all done minus that last day panic and rush. But don't bet on it.
We also have to plan financial things in the face of continued uncertainty. If we own stocks, some of them are probably up and some are down. Do we sell the good ones before the capital gains tax goes up? Do we sell the losers and take the deductions? Who can best advise us?
The gurus are fascinating in their disagreement. Watch one of those financial TV programs and wait for the final moments when each expert tells us what to buy next week. Note that, no matter what one recommends, the others will state they would not touch that company with an 11-foot pole. Maybe buy-and-hold is the best policy, after all. But don't bet on it.
As I write this, the lame duck Congress has made no move to resolve the Bush tax cuts. If they don't, we shall all feel the brunt of higher taxes as 2011 comes in. And even if they give the middle class a cut and leave the over-$250,000 folks high and dry, we will still be affected because the so-called wealthy are the ones who hire people and, if they have to pay bigger taxes, forget about reducing unemployment. And that's just a beginning. Almost 100 taxes are scheduled to go up.
It is time to open the door to a new tax plan that eliminates the uncertainty that is shaking many of us up now. It also takes the power away from the Barney Franks and Nancy Pelosis of the country and puts it back where it belongs: with us, we the people.
Actually it is not a new tax plan but one that some of us have advocated for a long time: the Fair Tax. Some sneer at it and call it a 23 percent sales tax, but that is far from the truth. If you study it, you'll quickly discover that the Fair Tax is first and foremost fair. Because it eliminates the IRS, it also eliminates December pressure from trying to squeeze all these deductions into the last three weeks.
Read up on it, and I think you'll agree that it is long overdue. Its biggest plus is that we would be in control of the money we earn. Congress could concentrate on spending less.
There are other areas in which we may never have control. In truth, anything that happens anywhere affects all of us. North Korea is way over there, but unprovoked attacks on South Korea affect us. Israel is way over there in the opposite direction, yet Iran's threats affect us.
Ireland's bailout, Greece's bankruptcy and Spain's dire straits - they are all direct links to where we stand and how we react. This is why we have to pay attention to things that seem not to be our problems. We can no longer crawl under a security blanket and say, "That's not my table."
What next? As usual, the answer to that question is impossible. Just two days from now is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor - which hindsight says was predictable. Yet, at the time, it caught us totally unguarded. It could happen again, despite the pat-downs and scanning most of us find objectionable.
Nonetheless, we cannot spend all of our time under the dark cloud of fear and pessimism. We have our chores cut out for us but we are entering a joyful time of the year and the emphasis must be on the countdown to visits from family, friends and, of course, old St. Nicholas.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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