Tag Archive: Christmas Spirit

After reading Forbes writer John Wasik article of how the GOP Tax Plan screws the middle class, I doth believe the Ghost of Christmas Hate has arrived.

First, the GOP argument is that an average family earning $60,000 annually nets a couple grand – roughly $2,100 – to which they get to choose how to dispense versus the U.S. Government selection. If you’re Republican, rejoice. Clap. Clap. Applause. Applause. Say, “Amen Brothers!” and “Praise Jesus.” If you’re Democratic, ‘Meh!

So how does the Ghost of Christmas Hate fit? Wasik noted that tax break comes with trade-offs. Two grand never comes free. Since the tax plan adds $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the imbalance is offset by cuts in “entitlement” programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid or tax increases. GOP Senators rarely mentions offsets.

  • Lower Social Security payments by changing payment calculations. Much of that money comes out of the pockets of middle- and working-class taxpayers.
  • As Trump and GOP allies crow about how middle class families will receive a tax cut, other current tax breaks — like personal exemptions and property tax write-offs — get cut.
  • By 2027, anyone making less than $75,000 will have their taxes raised.
  • GOP Tax Bill does not cut corporate loopholes, bring back trillions in offshore cash nor cut defense spending. GOP will reduce the federal deficit by slashing big programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. As such, there will be no help for families paying for long-term care, payroll taxes or college. Monthly Social Security Checks will decrease.
  • People ages 50 to 64 would face average premium increases of up to $1,500 in 2019. As a result, 4 million more Americans will become uninsured in 2019 and 13 million by 2025, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.
  • Even those who argue that the bill’s corporate and income tax cuts will spur economic growth can’t guarantee that any particular American will receive a raise.

Still, there’s positives to the GOP Tax Plan. The Ghost of Christmas Hate left wonderful rich boys and girls some benefits.

First, a quirk. The GOP Tax Plan exempts “private aircraft owners” from taxes on the “maintenance and support of the aircraft owner’s aircraft or flights on the aircraft owner’s aircraft.” I don’t know about you, but I’m glad Trump will not have to pay maintenance and support.

Second, Trump’s claim of “millions” of family farms and businesses suffering from the ‘estate tax’ (i.e., ‘Death Tax’) is not reality. There are no ‘millions.’ There’s no hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands. If the Ghost of Christmas Hate had repealed the ‘estate tax’ last year, approximately 80 of 5,500 of eligible estates would have benefited.

Why? Well, because only morons pay the estate tax.

Most fortunes amassed, like Trump’s, come from investment holdings, 55 percent of which were capital gains. They are rarely subject to tax. For these families, the first $5.49 million isn’t taxed, and careful tax planning can drastically reduce what’s owed on the rest. As Gary Cohn, the White House economic adviser, told a group of Senate Democrats this year, “Only morons pay the estate tax.”

Forbes notes wealthy people begin passing on their wealth to their heirs in the form of “charitable lead trusts” and other “exotic loopholes” long before the Angel of Death arrives. If Trump’s worth the $3.1 billion, as Forbes magazine says Trump is, by eliminating the estate tax excluding almost everyone, the Ghost of Christmas Hate saves Trump Jr., Eris and Ivanka $1.2 billion.

Third, Republicans are preparing to use the swelling deficits made worse by the package as a rationale to pursue their long-held vision: undoing the entitlements of the New Deal and Great Society, leaving government leaner and the safety net skimpier for millions of Americans. Speaker Paul D. Ryan and other Republicans are beginning to express their big dreams publicly, vowing that next year they will move on to changes in Medicare and Social Security. President Trump told a Missouri rally last week, “We’re going to go into welfare reform.”

Meanwhile, the $2,000 tax break you and I received is funneled back to the IRS, medical care, college costs, taxes, etc., etc., etc.

Happy Holidays from the Ghost of Christmas Hate!

img_0006At a rally in Wisconsin, Donald J. Trump stood in front of a line of Christmas trees and repeated a campaign-trail staple.

When I started 18 months ago, I told my first crowd in Wisconsin that we are going to come back here some day and we are going to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again,” Trump said. “Merry Christmas. So, Merry Christmas everyone. Happy New Year, but Merry Christmas.”

Mr. Bill O’Reilly returned to the War on Christmas this year, but with a triumphant tone.

That culture war issue ignited and we won,” he recently said. “Donald Trump is on the case.”

Question please. “What war?

There is no evidence on any type of organized war on Christmas, it’s simply personal ignorance used as a “device” to ensure bias and innuendo remain artfully sculpted by equally bias. Christmas war allies noted the 2016 naughty list included Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and Victoria’s Secret. Starbucks came under fire for seasonal cup designs that emphasized social harmony over Christmas greetings.

Bah humbug Trump would metaphorically say, “Maybe we should boycott Starbucks.”

Thank God for Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly claimed “The Donald” is on the case. So much so that he declared the war on Christmas officially over. ”We won,” O’Reilly claimed. After hearing that, I hurriedly rushed to the streets. Each corner brought a sense of excitement. “Celebrations Everyone.” “Celebrations,” I yelled. “The War on Christmas is over.”

Yet, not one corner yielded singing in the streets. There were no pictures of home bound sailors kissing women in New York’s Times Square. There were no pictures of Christmas War soldiers raising the U.S. flag, like that of Imo Jima. Did the Christmas war even have a flag? Sorry, I digress.

I FaceTime’d a friend in Finland. Surely, Finland will be celebrating? Surely? Right? “What the f…?” He said. “What? What war? Call me when you’re sober” Then I reached out to another friend in Norway. Christmas War? Nope. Nada. No celebrations. Nothing. Finally, I called the big man at the North Pole. Yes! As in the North Pole, Alaska (actually south of Fairbanks, AL). No war there either.

I perused the BBC, Yahoo, MSN, MSNBC and Associated Press (AP). No war. No war memorials to the lost and fallen, no one to lay an annual Christmas reef on the Tomb of The Unknown Christmas War Soldier Memorial and no evidence of any Christmas War veterans waiting in line at the Veterans Administration hoping to get aid for Christmas War PTSD.

Once Again, all of this begs the question, “What war?

Seriously, the only war won was where sensible men and women allowed ignorance an upper hand. As a Buddhist, I’ll take the harmony Starbucks offers. We need more of that.

Pass The Hamm’s

Hamms-beerVisiting octogenarians often holds its own rewards. And like stories passed from one generation to another, I often find octogenarians equally humbling and thought-provoking. Thus, yesterday’s visit with my parents proved no exception. The following is a summary of questions these octogenarians exposed.

Huddled in the retirement center’s clubhouse, an enclave of retirees parsed stories from the local daytime temperatures, events and best salad bars within five miles. Some octogenarians had voice capabilities of 350 words per minute, with gusts up to 500.

Suddenly, one octogenarian caught a local televangelist program storming up God’s salvation and heaven.Oh good God,” he exclaimed.All I want to know is whether there’ll be Hamm’s Beer? If they (sic) ain’t no Hamm’s, why go?”

This seemingly funny comment set off a firestorm of comments.

Better yet,” piped another,What will we do in Heaven? Do we just sit and sing wonderful songs to God?  If we do, that could get tedious. I mean, singing for the first thousand or so years sounds great, but that third thousand … man, that will suck. I’d probably go to God and say, “Got anything else?””

Everyone burst into laughter.

Won’t be tough if you have some Hamm’s.”

Another pondered out loud,Wonder if they’ll have the New York Times? I have to have the New York Times to do my morning constitutional?  Hey, do you think they’ll have gold toilets?”

Everyone erupts in laughter.

Hell, I’d settle for constitutional.”

Another bout of laughter.

Hey,” interrupted another.How come there’s no pictures of heaven? Think about it, if a hacker can bypass China’s state censorship, how come someone up there can’t sneak the world an old photo. If Snowden can get U.S. secrets out, how come no one has gotten photos out of heaven? Why can’t someone pass the Archangel Michael a note on the side …. Hey deliver this to my stupid neighbor on Elm Street –  your dog still sucks.

Yeah, what’s the deal with that,” another affirmed.

What about Lawrence Welk,” queried one?Does he still play?”

Absolutely not,” confirmed an octogenarian in the corner.I heard Welk was playing and God fell asleep. So he was never asked to play again. I’ll have ah-one, ah-two, ah one, two, three, four…..zzzzzzzzz

Laughter filled the room.

Truth be told, octogenarians have a point.  What exactly is heaven like? Likewise, each person provided some interesting questions of my own:

  • If a good Catholic married a good Buddhist and they lived happily ever after, when they died were they going to the same place?
  • Where did all the Buddhists, Hindus and goddess worshipers go before Christ came to the world? Was the Christian heaven already in place even before Christ was born? Or Have all the pre-Christians ended up in Christian hell?

At the end of the day, maybe we just need to think like Steve Jobs, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.

Maybe we all need a Hamm’s?

Christ CompassionSitting without power in a northern Vermont/New York town, a few of us huddle against the hotel’s fireplace and embrace the radiant heat. And thus, another Christmas Eve stands firm at my door. Here in the woods, there is no Santa, no ghost of Christmas past and even Marley has been placed upon the back shelf of many a mind.

Still, if I had to explain what Christmas is all about, I would summarize by using the word “love” or “compassion.” Certainly, we can see Christ’s compassion. He had many faces; some fierce; some wrathful; some tender; some wise. Dalai Lama once said, “Love and compassion are necessities. Thus, without them, humanity cannot survive.

Without becoming religious, I have been lucky to see Christ everywhere. There are so many whose hands and eyes have touched me. And in an unceasingly unending river of love, they continue to embrace my soul today. They touched me when I was partially paralyzed after a military accident some 30 years ago. And because of my caregiver’s strength, her strength became the kind of mudra and imprimatur that now guides my life. She could clearly see into the nature of my suffering. And she stood strong, recognized that I’m wasn’t separate from her and transformed my suffering.

But Christ’s compassion has another component: the seeds of compassion require watering. Several weeks ago, I attended a healthcare fair in East St. Louis, Illinois. Anyone traveling through East St. Louis would say that this is the land God forgot. The seeds of their own compassion had rarely been watered. But the conditions for compassion must be activated, they have to be aroused. Each us can activate an amazing abundant amount of compassion throughout our life, but we choose otherwise. Why?

Sometimes we hinder love through our own self-pity, our higher-than-thou moral outrage, or simple fear. We look unto the world and see a world paralyzed by fear. And in that paralysis, our capacity for compassion also becomes paralyzed. Instead, we harbor a “scarcity mentality” and shrivel in the face of trial. Thus, compassion drains us.

But I promise you the type of love and compassion Christ delivered can be truly enlivening.  We can open the world and have an undefended heart. The archetype of this in Buddhism is Avalokiteshvara, Kuan-Yin, she who perceives the cries of suffering in the world. We can stand with 1,000,000 others, hand-in-hand, and embrace the powerful instrument of love.

This Christmas, I ask you to come out of the cave. Be compassionate, remove one another’s problems and transform yourself into the Buddha of love, into the Christ of compassion.

We can be powerful partners of life – we can be compassionate fathers, with sons who are loved, with daughters who are honored, with mothers who are proud. We can embrace the plumber, the road builder, the caregivers, the doctors, the lawyers, the president (faults and all), and with all beings.

This Christmas, sit in the lotus sea of love and actualize the potential for all mankind. That’s what Christ accomplished. And we can as well.

Have a wonderful and blessed holiday.

VermontThe window overlooking Vermont is surrounded by oceans of trees. Looking upon Nature’s marvel, I realize she gave nothing without labor. I remain utterly speechless and in awe.

Here in the deep woods, I can dust snow from tree branches and ponder the struggle. Yes, she struggled. In love, she forged and bored through listless rock to create this world, the world in which we live.  Each of us on this island earth are connected, born from that very labor of love. And everyone needs to understand our earth, this spirit of life, this beauty of creation loves everyone given life.

Over the years I have traveled to and fro, from Asia to Africa, from Canada to South America. In all those travels, I am not unaware of the encircling power of love – the love of people; the love of potential and the love internal peace that only someone who truly loves another gives. There is a tremendous power within unabridged love, in drawing life’s breath from one another. Those who share the depth-less, that someone so deep, so encompassing, there is no other.

Even I found the richness of God’s creation in my love, I now understand God’s true love includes both power and strength: the power of a received kiss and the foundational strength forged year after year.  Yes, my love knew me. She understood my significance and stirred life through a simple touch. In her hand, the key of the lonely heart trembled and the simple twist of her wrist unleashed the magic of Christmas. Agape love understands, for everyone needs someone to set them afire.

This Christmas, give the power of love.  We need NOT be independently wealthy. Nor does being a rich Scrooge to make a difference. Surely there’s something about our service that doesn’t require having an enormously rich neighbor to facilitate?

This type of glory is not about recognition. It’s about assisting those in need. Thus, this Christmas, remember those who’ve not had the opportunity to receive this power of love.  Understand one in six children live below the poverty level. 1.6 million children are homeless and represent 38% of the entire homeless population. Somewhere in your neighborhood, there is an elderly man or woman who believes they are alone.

Together, we have the power to reach unto those in need.  While shopping for the holiday, drop a toy in the collection box, pay someone’s monthly heating bill or sit and listen to their life story. There is nothing like the power of listening. All of these souls have the same right to kiss their dreams just as you or I. Awake from the slumber, come to them as a friends. Regardless of fault, each person is worth knowing.

While I lost my love to my own ego, I look through the forest onto Lake Champlain and I hope somewhere she searches for me.  Regardless, were she here, we would embrace the community and acknowledge a power greater than any CEO.

All of us can be the Christ in another’s life.

Live … love … offer peace and comfort. That is what God’s love is all about. It is very Buddhist and very Christ-like.

And to Ms. K. … Merry Christmas … wherever you may be.

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