Tag Archives: taxes

The curtain falls

A stunning – and stunningly disturbing – event took place this past weekend.  But unless you were scouring the news very carefully, chances are you didn’t even hear of it.

The annual Bravalla Festival, one of the most popular summer music concerts in Sweden, was abruptly canceled.  There will be no festival next year.

Or ever.

Given that tens of thousands of tickets were sold, the problem was not attendance.  Nor was there any difficulty booking big-name rap and rock stars.  No, this festival was canceled because of something far more ominous – Bravalla has become synonymous with rape and sexual assault.

Festival officials, as they announced the end of Bravalla, complained that “certain men” don’t know how to behave.  You might wonder if those “certain men” are strapping blonde Swedes with names like Erik, Viktor, and Gustav.

But in fact, the assailants are allegedly immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa, and other predominantly Muslim areas of the world.

One year ago the Bravalla Festival gained a measure of infamy when police reported five rapes and a dozen cases of molestation.  The story got minor coverage in some media outlets, including the New York Times, which described the assailants as “foreigners” and “refugees.”

Predictably, the Times also warned of a “far-right” backlash.

This year the situation was even more sickening, with four reported rapes and 23 instances of sexual assault.  And the Times?  The “paper of record” chose to run a brief Associated Press dispatch noting that the festival has been shut down.

Nowhere was there any mention that Muslim immigrants were the likely perps.

Sweden, like many European socialist paradises, has been in a state of deep denial about its refugee crisis.  If you believe authorities and tourism officials, immigrants are fitting in quite nicely in the world’s most liberal nation.

But what about those rumors of “no-go zones,” where crime is rampant and where police fear to tread?  Well, we’re assured that’s just “fake news” perpetrated by anti-immigrant groups.

But earlier this year a courageous British reporter named Katie Hopkins decided to take a look for herself.  She ventured into some of Sweden’s imaginary “no-go zones” and spoke with women who are absolutely terrified of going out alone, day or night.

They know that crossing onto the wrong street in some cities is an invitation to harassment, assault, even rape.

These women are also afraid of feminists and liberals, who accuse them of being racists if they speak the truth.  Hopkins wrote this about one woman she met in Stockholm:  “The migrant men scare her.  But it is the Swedish women who have silenced her.”

Bravalla is not the only music festival where women are in jeopardy.  There were dozens of rapes and assaults at another concert a few years ago, allegedly committed by young Afghan men who had been embraced by Sweden’s outstretched arms.

And of course it’s not just Sweden.  In Germany, New Year’s Eve of 2016 was marred by sexual assaults and rapes in many cities.  Police reported that more than 1,000 women were victimized by hordes of young men.

Again, the perps weren’t Wolfgang, Hans, und Dieter.  They were described by the women as men of “Arab or North African appearance.”

Governments in Europe and a compliant media do their best to ignore the unending and escalating threat of violence.  It simply does not fit the liberal narrative, which dictates that all cultures and all religions are pretty much the same.  But reality has a very harsh way of prevailing over fantasy.

Sweden has the highest rate of immigration in Europe, having taken in tens of thousands of refugees from Syria, Somalia, and elsewhere.  So you can think of the country as the canary in the coal mine.  That proverbial canary is now gasping for air as European bureaucrats turn a blind eye.

Most Swedes still embrace their reputation for tolerance and liberalism.  Many even seem quite willing to sacrifice a music festival or two if that’s what it takes to display their virtue.

And they willingly pay exorbitant taxes to subsidize refugees who despise Sweden’s libertine culture and sexual permissiveness.

Let’s put it this way:  The world’s most tolerant people are inviting the world’s most intolerant people into their nation and their cities.  The Swedes believe it’s a noble experiment.  But whether noble or foolish, it is an experiment doomed to fail.

The Bravalla Music Festival was just one casualty.  There will be many more.  Ironically, the festival urged fans to “choke hatred and violence and let the music win.”  Well, hatred and violence won and the music lost.

In the process, another small part of Europe has vanished, thanks to cowardly ideologues who so desperately cling to their open-border, one-world fantasies.  A once-great continent and its cultures are slowly dying.  To be more accurate, they are committing suicide.

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(The above was written by former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly. His excellent website is here.)

All shrugged out

I MET AYN Rand, briefly, at a talk she gave in 1963. It was in a smallish meeting room in a second-floor walk-up in San Francisco. I was 19 years old.

I do not recall the circumstances of being there. I had not read Rand and only knew she was famous, and the talk was free. She was there with her sidekick Nathaniel Brandon.

Flash forward more than half a century. About a month ago, I decided to read Atlas Shrugged, her magnum opus. I skipped the warm-up novel, The Fountainhead, which is somewhat less wordy, and went directly to the 1,188-page Shrug.

One of my few conscious objectives on retiring 17 years ago was to read more books. I have always been a reader, but I decided to do even more. Before retiring, I had generally avoided extremely long books for no better reason than shiftlessness.

Plus, it interfered with my drinking.

Since moving over the Rio Bravo, however, and sobering up, I turned to some really lengthy works. War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, etc.

All great books and, brother, are they long.

Tolstoy, I like. Dostoyevsky, not so much. I bogged down in Crime and Punishment. I made even less progress with One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I tried to read long before moving to Mexico. Maybe I should try again, but doubt I will.

Back to Ayn Rand. She’s famous, so I thought I should read her main work. I bought it on Kindle for under $5.

And I dove right in.

A wag described Rand’s works as twice as long as phone books and half as interesting. Shrug was interesting enough to hold my attention but just barely. A couple of times I decided to abandon the effort, but I soldiered on … and on … and on …

Until this week. I made it 67 percent of the way through. Kindle tells you that. I can go no further, pooped out.

Rand’s take on things is not complicated. She calls it Objectivism. You owe nobody anything, and nobody owes you anything. There is nothing metaphysical, no afterlife, no way to know anything except by reason. Your main interest should be yourself.

* * * *

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

* * * *

It was surprising to see her curse notions (in 1957) that today are known as political correctness. For instance, the requirement to embrace the “correct” opinions and even, to a degree, the proper personal pronouns.

Rand and I do, however, share quite a few values of the libertarian stripe —  an aversion to taxes, a love of capitalism, minimal government and a dislike of obligatory altruism, something that should be a personal choice.

But I also believe in an afterlife. Rand did not.

Rand and I are polar opposites of Pocahontas Warren, Red Bernie, Crooked Hillary, Screaming Dean, Weepy Barry and all the other heroes of today’s Democrat Party, the party of income redistribution and pink “pussy hats.”

But if you’re ever tempted to read Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, I suggest you go instead to CliffsNotes.

Ronnie knew best

I’M ALMOST finished with H. W. Brands’ biography of Ronald Reagan. I recommend it to you.

I invariably voted Democrat during Reagan’s times, and I wasn’t a fan of his due to being duped by the left-wing news media of which I was a card-carrying member. Oh, the shame!

But the dawn of the 21st century, my move to Mexico and my higher tortilla intake caused my intelligence quotient to soar, and Reagan now makes perfect sense.

This is one of those countless things from the past that seem so relevant today. The speech was delivered during Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. Reagan was simply stumping for Goldwater, but this speech put Reagan on the path that led to his own win of the presidency in 1980.

It is a famous speech with reason.

One wonders what Reagan would make of the tragic societal disintegration occurring in the United States as a result of political correctness and the glorifying of multiculturalism and its resulting and increasing bloodshed.

The Soviet Union did not threaten the United States half as much as “Black Lives Matter,” Weepy Barry and — on the horizon but creeping closer — savage Mohammedans who are endlessly discounted by America’s ruling class.

* * * *

(Note: There is a White House petition under way to formally name “Black Lives Matter” as a terrorist organization. Go sign right here.)

Socialism for dummies

(Thomas Sowell, the Black Knight of Intellect, returns today in the form of a guest column. Give him a big hand!)

* * * *

SowellSocialism sounds great. It has always sounded great. And it probably will always continue to sound great. It is only when you go beyond rhetoric and start looking at hard facts, that socialism turns out to be a big disappointment, if not a disaster.

While throngs of young people are cheering loudly for avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, socialism has turned oil-rich Venezuela into a place where there are shortages of everything from toilet paper to beer, where electricity keeps shutting down, and there are long lines of people hoping to get food, people complaining that they cannot feed their families.

With national income going down, and prices going up under triple-digit inflation in Venezuela, these complaints are by no means frivolous.

But it is doubtful if the young people cheering for Bernie Sanders have even heard of such things, whether in Venezuela or other countries that have turned their economies over to politicians and bureaucrats to run.

The anti-capitalist policies in Venezuela have worked so well that the number of companies in Venezuela is now a fraction of what it once was. That should certainly reduce capitalist “exploitation,” shouldn’t it?

But people who attribute income equality to capitalists exploiting workers, as Karl Marx claimed, never seem to get around to testing that belief against facts — such as the fact that none of the Marxist regimes around the world has ever had as high a living standard for working people as there is in many capitalist countries.

Facts are seldom allowed to contaminate the beautiful vision of the left. What matters to the true believers are the ringing slogans, endlessly repeated.

* * * *

The great promise of socialism is something for nothing. It is one of the signs of today’s dumbed-down education that so many college students seem to think their education should — and will — be paid by raising taxes on “the rich.”

* * * *

When Senator Sanders cries, “The system is rigged!” no one asks, “Just what specifically does that mean?” or “What facts do you have to back that up?”

In 2015 the 400 richest people in the world had net losses of $19 billion. If they had rigged the system, surely they would have rigged it better than that.

But the very idea of subjecting their pet notions to the test of hard facts will probably not even occur to those who are cheering for socialism and other ideas of the political left.

How many of the people who are demanding an increase in the minimum wage have even bothered to check what actually happens when higher minimum wages are imposed?

More often they just assume what is assumed by like-minded peers — sometimes known as “everybody,” with their assumptions being “what everybody knows.”

Back in 1948 when inflation had rendered meaningless the minimum wage established a decade earlier, the unemployment rate among 16- to 17-year-old black males was under 10 percent.

But after the minimum wage was raised repeatedly to keep up with inflation, the unemployment rate for black males that age was never under 30 percent for more than 20 consecutive years, from 1971 to 1994.

In many of those years, the unemployment rate for black youngsters that age exceeded 40 percent and, for a couple of years, it exceeded 50 percent.

The damage is even greater than these statistics might suggest. Most low-wage jobs are entry-level jobs that young people move up out of, after acquiring work experience and a track record that makes them eligible for better jobs. But you can’t move up the ladder if you don’t get on the ladder.

The great promise of socialism is something for nothing. It is one of the signs of today’s dumbed-down education that so many college students seem to think their education should — and will — be paid by raising taxes on “the rich.”

Here again, just a little check of the facts would reveal that higher tax rates on upper-income earners do not automatically translate into more tax revenue for the government. Often high tax rates have led to less revenue than lower tax rates.

In a globalized economy, high tax rates may just lead investors to invest in other countries with lower tax rates. That means that jobs created by those investments will be overseas.

None of this is rocket science. But you do have to stop and think — and that is what too many of our schools and colleges are failing to teach their students to do.

* * * *

(BONUS 1: A brother Black Knight of Intellect, Armstrong Williams, also addresses this issue in a piece titled Bernie’s Utopian Nightmare.)

(BONUS 2: Nicolás Maduro, president of the collapsing socialist nation of Venezuela, endorses Bernie Sanders, calls nutty Ole Bern a “revolutionary friend.”)

(BONUS 3: Ole Bern hems and haws when asked about the imploding socialist mess in Venezuela.)

(The Hacienda couple will be out of touch for a few days due to a vacation jaunt to Colima. ¡Hasta luego!)

Idyllic Sweden

TO COLLECTIVISTS, the perfect nation on earth is Sweden. They often point to it as Social Democracy in action. Sweden is the nearest thing to Nirvana for the Left.

It’s a nation of spectacularly happy people! Where taxes are high, everything is shared, and everybody smiles.

While that may once have been true, when it was still an homogenous nation, it is certainly not so anymore, not since Sweden dived into the Political Correctness Pond …

… and drowned.

This is a fun video. Unless you live in Sweden.

Paying the bills

IT’S JANUARY, and that means it’s time to pay the bills.

We have three homes and two cars, and annual bills are due. The bills on the three residences are property taxes mostly, but there’s also an annual bill for water at the Downtown Casita.

The water bills for the Mexico City apartment and the Hacienda are paid monthly, as are the electricity bills.

Lots of bills.

billBut they don’t amount to much compared to what they would be above the Rio Bravo where many of you po’ folks live. My heart goes out to you.

The property tax on the Mexico City place is payable online. A few years ago we had to do it in person, but modernity is arriving. Alas, it has not arrived here on the mountaintop. If there is an online way to pay property taxes for the Hacienda and Downtown Casita, I have not found it yet.

So we go to City Hall and stand in line. We have a new City Hall. For centuries, I imagine, it was in a colonial edifice on the main plaza. It was quite cramped there.

But City Hall recently moved to a spacious, new, three-story building just three blocks away, a huge improvement.

The new City Hall sits in the same block as the post office, so we pay that annual bill at the same time. We rent a mailbox, and it costs 300 pesos, about 16 bucks a year.

Mail service works well here. It’s just pokey.

One thing we do not have is a monthly phone bill. We have neither a land line nor cell contracts. Our two cell phones are pay as you go, and we don’t go far.

The vehicle taxes used to be the biggest headache. It entailed going to an office here and standing in a mob of people trying to reach the counter. It was chaotic and absurd.

But now I get those bills online. I print them and go to the bank and pay a cashier.  This is one example of how Mexican life has improved during my 16 years (today!) here.

If memory serves, when my last wife kicked me out into the street in 1995, the annual property tax on our rather routine, three-bedroom ranch house was over $2,000 a year.

It’s gotta be far more now. Somebody must fund those fat American entitlements and freebies.

For our three places here, the dollar equivalent of the property taxes is $83. That’s eighty-three U.S. bucks.

Interestingly, the total water bills for the three homes total $140. The annual prices are set, not metered.

Until a few years ago, the taxes on the cars were high, but for some reason the car tax was eliminated on most cars in my state, and now we just pay for the window sticker.

The total for the two is $70. The charge is the same for both even though one car is five years older than the other.

These dollar equivalents are helped by the very sweet exchange rate we’ve enjoyed for the past few months.

To sum up, the outlay for the three houses — property tax and water, both set figures — and the car “tax” total $293. Oh, heck, let’s toss in the post office box’s $16, to reach $309.

I might as well mention the light bills. These are monthly charges based on usage, but since the Mexico City place and the Downtown Casita are usually unoccupied, those two bills are often a base charge. The total for the three places is $36.

* * * *

LOTS OF BACK PATTING

I enjoy looking at these figures every January. They cause me to pat myself on the back for being so wise as to move over the Rio Bravo these 16 years ago. Best decision ever.

I wonder how many thousands my ex-wife is paying in property tax on the Houston ranch house alone these days.

At age 68, she is involuntarily retired due to the lackluster Obama economy that Weepy Barry brags about.

I’ve told her to sell and move south, but that’s too much for most people to do, especially after a certain age. We get set in our ways even though the sun is shining brighter on the other side of the mountain — the Mexican mountain.

Gone fishing — for good

fishing

LOTS OF PEOPLE dream of early retirement, and some even plan for it — giving the middle digit to The Man.

The traditional age is 55 because lots of corporations will start a pension at that point just to get rid of you. Retiring before 55 is possible, sure, but only if you’re fairly rich and have planned well.

Due to the aging of the Baby Boomer Generation, magazines and newspapers frequently run articles about retirement in general and even retiring early. These articles often say how difficult it is, that you gotta have 10 million bucks under the mattress. Baloney.

Even though I did little dreaming of early retirement and even less planning (think zip), the stars aligned, and I bailed at 55.

It was the best move of my life. The year was 1999.

And I’ve earned nary a penny or a peso since. At least, not from any effort on my part. Capitalism is a godsend. You stick five bucks in an account, and later you have seven bucks — or sometimes four, depending on which way the wind blows.

Lots of those magazine and newspaper yarns tell you the best towns in America to retire. And they can be great places, but not if you are living on my income, which is about $24,000 a year. That’s just $8,000 over the 2015 official poverty level in America for a two-person household.

Living in the United States these days on $24,000 wouldn’t be much fun.

Doing it in Mexico, however, is easy as pie.

So here is my recommendation if you want to leave the workforce at 55: Have no debt and enough money to make it to 62, praying that Social Security will not increase that age before you get there.

Probably won’t.

When you hit 62, start Social Security payments, which will likely be more than enough to live sweet in Mexico. An additional corporate pension, even a puny one like mine, is even better.

So come on down. The fishing is good.

* * * *

P.S.: Contrary to what’s been hammered into you, living in Mexico is safer than today’s United States of America. Plus, Mexico doesn’t do Big Government, disruptive diversity-worship, #brownlivesmatter, high taxes, and you’re not called racist every day by stupendously silly people.

We’re mellow. Bring a hook, line and bait.

President Paul?

RAND PAUL is kicking off his presidential campaign tomorrow, though it looks like he’s already done it.

America could do worse, is already doing far worse.

Sure, Paul’s daddy is a kook, but let’s assume the fruit has fallen far enough from the tree. Rand has exhibited some kookiness of his own in the past, particularly in the area of foreign affairs. Isolationism’s time has passed, but Rand seems to have cooled on that stance, thank God.

Which brings me to one of his most attractive features: He’s not thumping the Bible. Even my boy Ted Cruz’s first campaign video was chockablock with Bible talk.

And Ben Carson? Lordy.

Now I have absolutely nothing against the Christian tradition — quite the contrary — but I want a candidate who keeps it to himself for the most part. We live, alas, in increasingly secular times, and the Church Lady talk turns off too many “independents” these days.

It’s time for practicality, time to send Democrats packing.

Now that things are warming with Communist Cuba, maybe we can ship them all to Havana. They think they would like it down there. But they wouldn’t.