Tag Archives: Obama

Obama takes aim at loophole

I was greeted this morning by one of the most welcome stories I’ve read in some time.  US President Barack Obama has signaled his intent to close some infamous gaps in our byzantine tax code.  Specifically, loopholes that allow US corporate entities as well as individuals to evade their fair share of taxes.

In my opinion this is a good move for the US in general, as one goal is to remove incentives for US-based companies to create jobs overseas rather than onshore.  I’m not against multinationals per se, but on the other hand the extreme loss of our manufacturing base has troubled me for some time.

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Liberation of the media?

Maybe it’s just me, but lately I’m noticing a greater swaggering amongst the US mainstream left-of-center media.  Some of it can be of course attributed to the euphoria of Barack Obama’s election, but I think for the most part it is collective relief after eight years of news oppression.

This is where the diehard fans of former President George W. Bush begin protesting, but the facts are indisputable.  The chill over the news outlets was obvious from the start; the massive protest and subsequent abuse of protesters during Bush’s 2001 presidential inauguration was largely ignored by the mainstream media.  To this day one has to veer off the beaten path to find any details.  Wikipedia glosses over the incident… but findings of Washington DC police spying on activists show that the subject is certainly deserved of more attention.

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The Great microSociety, part 1

In the 1960s former US President Lyndon Johnson signed off on laws to create what he called “The Great Society“, his follow-up to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.  There are mixed analyses to this day over the effects, some pro and some con, but his ostensible goal was “the elimination of poverty and racial injustice.”  Most of this change attempt was orchestrated through legislative means.

We’re not there yet, and perhaps never quite will be, but the ideal itself is certainly worth pursuing.  Opponent criticisms are tempered, I think, by the fact that the following two administrations (Nixon and Ford) extended the programs further.  Now current US President Barack Obama is touting yet another stage to this social progression, although couched in necessary contextual terms such as recovery and the ambiguously-useless change.

It is with that foundation in mind that I began wondering what a “great society” should look like presently given our opportunities and advancements, especially in medicine, agriculture and high technology.

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A taxing task for Obama

President Obama set a high bar for himself with promises of integrity and transparency in his administration. That didn’t stop him from bumping up against his own goals, though; in addition to sidestepping his own administrative guidelines on hiring former lobbyists, we are now up to three major misfires on the subject of unpaid taxes.

First, Timothy Geithner. Next, Tom Daschle. More recently, Nancy Killefer.

Treasury nominee Geithner has so far survived a minor bruising over his ironic tax issues. Daschle appears to be honestly apologetic over his own but that isn’t stopping the New York Times from calling for him to withdraw… even as Businessweek more-or-less defends him (update: Daschle pulled out soon after I wrote this). Killefer had the decency to bail soon after her skeletons fell out of the closet. That just makes the president’s earlier statement announcing her selection all the more interesting:

“We can no longer afford to sustain the old ways when we know there are new and more efficient ways of getting the job done,” the president said in announcing [Killefer’s] nomination.

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A plea to our president: unlock the 401K

Some days ago I wrote on a revival in entrepreneurship in the US largely initiated by massive job losses and corporate failures.  In the article I briefly mentioned Retirement to Franchise Transfer Plans, a means of using one’s 401K retirement to purchase stock in a franchise.  This is in essence a stock transfer, and no penalties are incurred.  Oddly, my Google search on that phrase only turned up 5 distinct hits!  That leads me to assume the option may not be exercised by many.

Maybe that last detail has to do with low awareness, or perhaps many cannot realistically employ it.  This alternative funding vehicle may work well for those with monster 401Ks, and a desire to fund their own business, but it is useless for someone like myself with a tiny (and shrinking) tax-deferred investment along with no access to other working capital.

So I’d like to propose something blasphemous to our current national leadership: create a temporary moratorium on 401K and/or IRA early withdrawal penalties and taxes (note: see update below for an embarrassing admission).  Continue reading

A working vacuum

Those who know me are already aware that my global position at Nokia was eliminated, and I am looking for my next employment opportunity.

I’m certainly not alone, as I mentioned in an article on open source software a few days ago.  People are being laid off in frightening numbers, even by companies that are doing relatively well (like Hewlett Packard, which is also freezing salaries after buying EDS) in this economic mess.  I believe most of the cuts to be an overreaction that will eventually backfire.  Read on.

That article also briefly mentioned US president-elect Barack Obama’s proposal to focus inward and create long overdue public works programs.  An official analysis shows how needed such efforts are, describing a potential of 1.8 million jobs (a bit less than the 2.5 million Obama has cited).

Jobs creation gives me hope, and I’m daring to wonder if there’s opportunity for my skills in there.  But what I’m really curious about is what such programs will do to the private sector.

There’s already evidence that, in many cases, companies are better off keeping their strategic talent through turbulent times and thus being prepared when the inevitable upswing arrives.  Instead, many are now engaging in a wholesale human dump.  If enough of those unemployed people are then sucked up by a federal civil works program, a shortage for the commercial sector may develop (in at least some areas) that in turn increases wages as companies later aggressively compete to lure castoff talent back.  Which of course drives up inflation.  Which leads me to suspect that any economic recovery may be ironically dampened and/or delayed a bit as the folly of mass layoffs boomerangs.

Time will tell.

More Gore?

No, that’s not a plea for an increase in movie or video game violence (sorry fans).

Instead, it’s a question around Al Gore’s future.  Yesterday I offhandedly told my wife that it would be interesting to see the former Vice President and recent Nobel prizewinner selected as EPA head.  That turned out to be amazingly prescient, because now CNN reports that Gore is meeting with Obama, and at this point that can only mean one thing: a job.

However, perhaps a cabinet slot such as Energy Secretary makes more sense, given Gore’s post White House projects.

Regardless, a Gore appointment somewhere would only add further intrigue to what is already shaping up as one of the most interesting White House assemblies since the Reagan years.  Stay tuned!

Is 2009 the year for open source?

Companies are shedding jobs like crazy, including strategic ones in IT (which to me IS crazy) and of course my own recentlyNovember 2008 job losses indicate the United States may soon be retesting near-Depression era unemployment rates. President-elect Obama says he has an ambitious infrastructure-oriented plan (which we desperately need) that in part addresses our nationwide broadband capabilities as well as energy-savings potential.  But why not go further in that area?

A surefire way to get operating costs down is to incorporate more and more open source tools into the systems backbone.  This includes Linux on servers and the desktop for starters.  Purchasing Maemo Linux-driven Nokia internet tablets to replace desktop phones (using Voice over IP, or VOIP) is a good next step– especially since the tablets are essentially highly mobile mini laptops with myriad uses.  The N810 WiMAX Edition model would be perfect for the DC area since the service is being deployed there.

The US government is the ideal candidate for this sort of move for many reasons, cost savings to taxpayers just being one.  The fed is said to still employ many antiquated systems and software so there is far less legacy and inertia involved in going open than in a commercial situation.  In addition, taking the open source route could remove at least one layer of potential conflict-of-interest that may lie with vendors who have contributed to political campaigns.  I doubt open source developers and distributors contribute on the same scale!

There is encouragement to be found in analysis showing open source enterprises to be prospering in this economic downturn.  I would view that as common sense, but it’s good to see validation.

If incoming president Barack Obama is serious about putting Americans to work, saving energy and cutting cost, it’s time the fed took open source seriously.  That would be change we geeks can believe in.

Update: the N810 WiMAX Edition tablet has been cancelled by Nokia.