A Saner Policy
People struggle with morality. You know, all it really boils down to is “do what’s right.”
Most of the time, when I’m confronted with a dilemma, the choices are pretty clear. At work I see a typo on a plate headed for the pressroom. Each plate costs time and money to make, enough so that the bosses get kind of upset when we make a bad plate. My choices are clear – do I pretend I didn’t see the typo? The customer will probably never notice anyway… Or do I risk the boss’ ire and take half an hour to fix the typo and remake the plate?
I almost always remake the plate. I know that if I were the customer, I’d appreciate knowing someone was watching out for me. And if my boss fires me for that, well, I probably don’t want to work for that kind of boss anyway.
I realize that things aren’t always that simple, but surprisingly often they are. All you have to do is look at it from the other guy’s point of view. Or ask yourself what your grandmother would want you to do. Do you return that wallet you found in the street? Of course. Do you help your neighbor? Sure!
Why can’t our politicians do this?
Seems we can’t see the forest for the trees. We’re so hung up in procedure and laws and rules and regulations that we forget the spirit of those procedures. The spirit of the tax code in the US is to take a certain percentage of our individual incomes and use it for the good of the people. That way we don’t each have to finance our own private sewers and our own private armies. So why is it so complicated? Well, because some people think they don’t need to pay as much as other people, because of their circumstances. “Well of course I can’t pay all the taxes I’m supposed to pay, I’m saving for retirement. That money shouldn’t count!” or “I have kids,” or “I have to pay for college.”
So now taxes are a game. A person would be whacked in the head if he didn’t take advantage of the deductions offered, so now it’s a matter of finding all the deductions you can.
A few years ago Dagmar and I had to pay in at the end of the year; we hadn’t had enough taken out of our paychecks each week, so we owed a couple thousand dollars. I mentioned this to a millionaire I know. “You mean you have to pay taxes?” he asked. “You need a different accountant. I didn’t pay anything in last year at all and I still got $25,000 back.” He didn’t understand it when I told him that we didn’t earn enough money to get any deductions so we had to pay more. The system is tilted against people like us.
As a culture we’ve forgotten the spirit of the law. Politicians argue back and forth about tax loopholes and who is exempt from what… They’re squabbling over details that can only hurt people at the lower end of the economic spectrum. What needs to be done is a return to the spirit of the law. Everyone pays a little so everyone can enjoy the same protections and benefits.
This concept applies to more than just the lousy tax code. Look at our system of lobbying. People get paid to hang around and try to influence our politicians, buying them dinners, taking them on trips… Sure it’s legal, but what’s the spirit of the law? On paper, lobbyists are allowed to peddle their influence in order to ensure that “America’s voice is heard.” But can’t the spirit of that particular law be better served if lobbyists were banned so that our politicians could actually pay attention to us average citizens?
We need a saner policy. We need simpler morality. We need to get back to the spirit of things.
This sucks when you own a motorcycle…
But that’s all I can think about! The monthly American Legion Riders meeting has been cancelled (it was supposed to be this coming Sunday), so I’m not gonna be able to hook up with my dirty nasty biker buddies to get my monthly fix of discussing the relative merits of Bridgestone vs. Metzler tires. (Go with the Metzlers.) For Christmas my wife and I bought each other a brand spanky new seat for our motorcycle (a Mustang Wide Studded, if you must know) so we’ll be more comfortable on longer rides, and I also got some engine guards and matching leather studded engine guard chaps for my birthday. My bike’s in storage at the bike shop, so I haven’t even SEEN all this new stuff yet. I’m just itchin’.
In the past year I’ve finally got some good cold-weather gear (notably some good leather gauntlet gloves that come over my coat sleeves, and a switch from contacts to glasses), which has effectively extended the riding season from May-September to March-November — provided there’s no slop on the roads. Now I just gotta wait for March. (Spring riding makes me nervous, though. Around these parts they put a LOT of sand and salt on the streets in the winter. When the snow melts, we’re stuck with patches of sand at almost every intersection. I’d bet a good majority of all motorcycle accidents in between March and June are a result of skidding on sand.)
I’m hoping to do an Iron Butt ride this summer (long-distance motorcycling). I hope to do this every summer. It’s never happened yet. To do an Iron Butt, you need to choose your ride (there are different classifications – a Saddlesore is 1,000 miles in less than 24 hours, a Bunburner is 1,500 miles in 36 hours, a 50CC is from coast to coast in less than 50 hours, Ultimate Coast to Coast is from Key West to Deadhorse, Alaska in less than 30 days, etc.), find some witnesses to see you leave, document your trip with gas station receipts and photos, then hope the committee approves you to wear the Iron Butt patch on your vest. I wanna do the simple Saddlesore.
I figger from Sioux City to Fargo to Minneapolis to Des Moines to Omaha to Sioux City is right at 1,006 miles, all interstate… Not much time spent riding into the sun, either, except for the leg from Des Moines to I-29 north of Omaha. I figure if I do it at the end of June the weather should be fairly warm, and daylight will last longer. Since it’s interstate, it can probably be done in 14 or 15 hours if you do it on a weekday when traffic’s light, but I’d aim for 18, just ’cause I like to take a break every hour. Then if I wake up the next morning and go to St. Joseph, Missouri and back I might even qualify for the Bun Burner!
Most people who do this ride touring bikes, not cruisers like mine, so it’ll be a bit of a challenge. (Many of them attach external fuel tanks on their bikes so they don’t have to stop every 150 miles for gas. Myself, I need to stop about once an hour to stretch my legs. They’ll need to be short stops!) Cruisers are comfy bikes indeed, but the BMW’s and Goldwings are truly made for distance riding. (A quick look at the stats shows that 6,650 Harleys have completed the task, followed closely by Honda Goldwings at 5,917 and BMW’s at 4878. Kawasakis are fourth at 1,472. So, it’s easy to tell that Goldwings and BMW’s are probably the best distance bikes. Harleys are first on the list simply because they outnumber other bikes on the road by a considerable margin (I think), so proportionally more Harley owners give the Iron Butt a shot. There’s a BIG drop off from 4,878 BMW’s to third place 1,491 Yamahas.)
Dagmar’s not happy about any of this, though. She worries.
Valentine’s Day. Oh yay. I’m supposed to be nice to my wife ONE DAY A YEAR? Wow… What have I been doing the other 364 days? If someone needs to tell me to treat my wife nice, I have problems. Dagmar feels the same way. We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because we love each other all year long.
The problem is that she’s sitting at work watching all her co-workers get flowers, and all she got was a stupid little card I made her. As intelligent and strong as my wife is, I can’t blame her for feeling a little overlooked. But still I refuse to buy her flowers on Valentine’s Day. It’s too expected. I just can’t do it.
If I break down and buy her something on Valentine’s Day it implies that I only value her on that one day. I can’t do that. I just can’t. I hope she understands.
But, on the bright side of a cold February 14, happy birthday, Pops! I hope your day is going well!
Oh! Speaking of which…
It’s my birthday Saturday. (Happy Birthday To Me! Happy Birthday To Me!) The tentative plan, if anyone wants to join in the festivities, is to head to hometown LeMars whereupon we shall feast upon steaks at the Legion Club’s monthly steak fry ($10 a person, serving from 5 to 7 p.m. if I remember right) and hang around in the Legion’s bar chatting and socializing for a while afterwards. We plan to eventually make our way back to Sioux City to catch a band play later than night, either at the Chesterfield or at Rhonda’s, most likely, depending on who’s playing. (Looks like Adam Douglas and the Deacons are at the Chesterfield Saturday night. That should be good! Just noticed that one of my favorite bands, the Chris Duarte Group, is playing there on Friday. That kinda sucks – finances force me to make a choice, and I’m not gonna skip my own birthday. Oh well… I don’t think bassist John Jordan plays with Duarte any more anyway, and for me he was two-thirds the fun of watching the band.)
Feel free to come and hang out with us! We’re plannin’ to have fun!