Reforming Reform

Tax reform is on the minds of many Republican candidates, and that’s a good thing. Donald Trump revealed a plan, suggesting he may be a serious candidate after all. This announcement came as his poll numbers were slipping, so we may have a hint what voters think about actual policies. Jeb Bush released his plan earlier this month with the distinction of being called “weird”.

The point is that we are talking about taxes and serious tax reform, which is good. No one should expect one plan to suddenly spring forward and cut through the elaborate mess we have. Then again, once the knife is out, you could carve a better tax code out of a banana. But what really is needed? What is “simplification” or “reform”? Let’s start at the beginning.

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Exit Boehner, Enter …. ?

When Pope Francis came to visit Congress, everyone knew something big was going to happen. Causing Speaker Boehner (R-OH) to have an epiphany and resign was not on anyone’s list.

But, there you have it – a Pope that works strange miracles.

To say that in the aftermath all Hell will break loose depends on whether your definition of Hell is complete inaction (it probably should be). By that standard Congress has been deep in the fire for a long time so we can’t blame Boehner for seeking a cool escape once he was touched by His Holiness. But is there a way out for the rest of us?

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Good News! It’s Good News.

Before we can call the economy “good”, we have to be in a situation where good news is taken as unvarnished good news. And that seems to have finally happened.

Janet Yellen outlined in great detail exactly why interest rates not only have to start rising by the end of the year, but why they have to go up to around 2% before the Fed is done. The market responded positively, getting another shot of good news this morning. Has the monkey of cheap money finally been scraped off their backs?

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Pope Francis, Teacher

Pope Francis has arrived in the United States.

The focus on his Holiness revolves around his challenges to the American right, something that largely misses the point. There will be admonishments to the left as well when he addresses Congress and the people of our nation – and those will likely be reported with a hint of glee in the press as they search for an “objective” sense of “balance”. But that, too, will miss the point.

Francis challenges all of us to step outside of our bizzy lives and see the world as a beautiful place. The message is that it is time to stop and see creation for what it is.

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Read Their Lips

The long election season should, if anything, bring clarity to what we can expect starting in 2017. The next year will give us a lot of information as the campaigns coalesce. The candidates should at least give us the boundaries of what we can expect in terms of policy regardless of who is elected.

There are many things that are well known already, such as the retirement of Baby Boomers and a lot of reasons to believe that this will be a relatively good time economically. Add to that list a lot of reason to believe that taxes will rise. Why? Because the pressure is completely off the Republican Party to hold the line.

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S-s-same As It Ever Was?

September is a month of change, but you’d hardly know it this year. The weather is warm, the Fed still hasn’t raised rates, and the Republican debate still focused heavily on one person (who will remain unnamed).

But that last one is where the more things change the more they stay the same.

My famously conservative friend Mitch Berg complained on facebook about a diatribe regarding parenting responsibilities by a childless 20-something associate, which sounded like an ugly situation. Turns out it was very ugly – it started as a discussion on defunding Planned Parenthood. The young woman in question, described as normally very level-headed, had a serious fire under her that needed venting. It’s a passionate issue, for sure. Mitch and his more conservative friends rolled their eyes as well as anyone can in English prose.

But they shouldn’t have – this is important stuff. Why? Because I think we’ll see a lot more of this in coming months as the Republicans do what they have to do, thus doing a lot of the work that Democrats need to do. It deserves examination.

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More than Sculpture

A lot has been going on, so I need this repeat from 2010.  Back live on Friday.

Cities mark the landscape across this nation and all others.  Images of the handiwork of a culture often define the people who come to inherit the space and, in turns, mark it with their own generation’s values.  Yet they are so much more than static collections of icons – they are where people come together and live their lives right now.  They are always ultimately about the connections that make them alive.

Even the bricks and mortar or glass and steel is ultimately a connection across time to what made the city what it is today.  Though it’s the stuff that makes up a city which gets photographed and noticed, they are much more than that.

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