Monday, May 25, 2015

Talking taxes benefits

"In matters of truth or justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same."
~Albert Einstein

A discussion erupted in my home city Calgary recently because a local law enforcement officer was written about because she has gone on record to having to leave our city because topped benefits isn't good enough.  For most Canadians, they are given a percentage of their wage for a certain number of months leading up to and after giving birth.   What topped up benefits means is getting the company or organization to add to that based on tenure and wage -- sometimes in return for the mother to agree to return to her same job, responsibilities, title and wage she had before leaving on maternity.  In addition to  her federal benefits.

An article was posted by MetroNews Calgary inspired me to respond with my own opinion under their comments:

Having your benefits topped up is a dangerous precedent and expensive one.  It is one thing to be pro-women and pro-mothers, I applaud that.  However, we need to take a look at the big picture -- how realistic is it for mothers to gain the same benefits city-wide?  I like the discussion simply because it is about how our taxes are being used.  When I had my THREE kids maternity leave went from 3 months federal benefits to 6 months.  We've come a long way to allowing a year.  However, topping up is not something that every new mom is afforded.  Unless it is legislated for everyone, it shouldn't be an elite squad's right.  Once again, do I have to repeat ... it is our taxes that we're using to support this.  There are far many ways this could be coordinated ... like, child bearing aged moms and pops put into a fund (like we older folks do for retirement) and that fund is used as child benefits.  A la carte, chosen based on needs i.e. maternity or child care.  The young'uns don't want to fit the bill for retirement unless it is their own, then us elders, don't want to fit the bill on what we cannot benefit from.  Perhaps benefits and tax breaks should be chosen by each citizen based on where they need the help?  Just thinking out loud (which is more than I can say for those that come up with buying votes and managing our tax dollars).

Like it or not, we all have to face it that our population is widening between generations with major age gaps.   It is going to become an ever-increasing dilemma to any governing organization trying to please the populous.  When you have a broad gap between Baby Boomers (age 55 plus) and their kids of Gen-X/Melinia (ages 18-35 specifically), you're going to have a nightmare trying to keep everyone happy (and get the votes centered).

I'm just about smack in the middle.  I had my child-bearing years and am now facing the daunting task of looming retirement.  Safe to say, both milestones in life are important.  We need to keep the young people working while the older ones keep saving as much as they can for safekeeping and to avoid being a burden to the tax base in 10 to 15 years.

I was even at the tail end of child extra-curricular tax benefits.  When the Harper government in Canada introduced a tax credit for parents of children who are enrolled in sports mainly were given a break to compensate for fees associated.  I applauded the idea because, although I had had to pay for that on my own, I also recognized that kids who are in sports tend to stay out of trouble which can be a burden on resources and funds.  I always said that being a figure skater for many years, was an expensive way for my parents to keep me out of trouble.  Later on as my skills improved, the cost for ice time, coaching, private lessons, competitions, shows, skates, etc. got really expensive, I got a PT job to contribute.  I think that was a brilliant move on my parents' part because it demonstrated how keen I was to skate because I loved it, not because my parents could afford to give me the best tools to become good at it.

We should all look at the big picture.  If the government funds a select group, the other groups will want their own piece of the benefits.  Like I said, although I don't argue with the many merits of the various tax breaks, I have been disappointed to miss the mark to gain any pay off.

Let's take a look at just voting.  Statistics were given that in Canada only 34% of the age group of 18-24 vote, whereas 65% of the 65 plus age group do.  That is a huge balancing act to be sure.  So what do politicians do?  They appeal to the segment that garners the most votes.  That isn't rocket science.  Then they poll and speculate that they had better appeal to the other age segment that may wake up and realize that their vote can cause change and make a difference in their present lives in their future. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon where you fall, many of the benefits fall in the middle.  The child-bearing, child-rearing age group, child care paying, population.... who get maternity benefits, child care subsidies (in some areas), and parents of kids 8-16 year olds get breaks for being a model parent.  Ironically, my math shows they represent 1% of the voting populous while reaping a good 85% of the tax funding.

Then there is the 18-24 year old group that get breaks to squirrel away to put a down payment on buying a house.  Again, I'm saying that is a good idea because real estate transactions fuel the economy -- buyers get loans from lenders, builders get funds generated by building which sweetens the economy.  When buyers stop buying, the economy rolls to an abrupt halt or swiftly slow downs.

Sounds like a lot of imbalance if you ask me.  Then there is the other part of the equation.  The one group that tends to help the investment community is from the older age segment.  Then investment, gives money for banks and such to lend money.  A different spiral.

If you have two spirals working in opposite ends of the economy it is no wonder the ones in the middle get a lot of dust.  But then again, that is where the government focusses a lot on their funding and tax breaks.

Okay, so I've gone on and one and painted a very real picture.  What do we do?  Seems pretty simple to me.  Take an example from an employee's insurance benefits offered by the best corporations:  you get a certain percentage of your wage to be used as YOU wish it to be used.  You have a say in how much you contribute (usually between 1-5%) which the company matches.  Sounds like the ideal company to work for doesn't it?

I'm getting to my point:  why doesn't the federal government use the same process.  Instead of the expense, studies and pushback on deciding on where tax breaks go, let the individual citizen make the decision themselves.  For example, everyone gets 5% of their wage to go into a federal tax fund/break.  Each individual gets to decide themselves where that fund goes:

  • 18-24 year olds into education, saving for a house, starting a business, saving for when they have a child (income top up and child care)
  • 25-40 year olds can put it towards putting their kids into sports programs, buying down their mortgage, saving for their retirement
  • 40-55 year olds use it for paying off their mortgage, to give them more disposable income to do other things that fuel the economy, like make investments, plan their retirement, buy a vacation property
  • 55-65 will hopefully have paid off their mortgage and use the left over funds for investment and planning their retirement
  • 65+ are allowed to spend their hard saved cash with little penalties because they do not burden the rest of the tax system, they are rewarded if they help their kids or grand kids buy a house, pay for their education -- all which society benefits from.
Sometimes you can't see the forest because you are only looking at trees.  Let's pressure our politicians and leaders to have more integrity and use our votes to the benefit of everyone, not a select few. 

The onus would then be on citizens to elect those that appeal to the big picture, not greedy with power or backfilling their own agenda. 

Sounds like Utopia to me.  Doesn't sound too difficult to me either.  What may be the most difficult would be to hold ourselves accountable on how we vote, who we vote for, and then only approve those that have the integrity to benefit society as a whole. 

This is not socialist thinking or communism.  We would still be using the democratic process.  The pay off would be when everyone, not a select few, gets a piece of the action and benefits.

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
~George Orwell

Friday, May 15, 2015

Need for Weed?

Cannabidiol | Weed | CBD Hemp Oil CNN Special Dr Sanjay Gupta 2014 Documentary

“Federal and state laws (should) be changed to no longer make it a crime to possess marijuana for private use.”
~Richard M. Nixon

I have reservations about going against what I grew up believing and taught that weed is illegal and bad news.  However, one can't help wonder and re-evaluate their stand after watching CNN's series on Marijuana helping with seizures, pain and numerous other ailments.  We're no where near where Colorado is in acceptance here in Alberta or Canada.  Yet one can't help but reconsider the merit when one reads after a story like this.  

Is marijuana a gateway drug? 

Many consider marijuana the"gateway" drug:  meaning once you're established with marijuana, you will go on to the more nastier drugs like cocaine or crack to get a better high.  That is a major leap! 

 I do wonder what Canadians really think about the whole legalization of marijuana for medical purposes?  I do agree with the argument that must has been said about alcohol being addictive and carrying detrimental consequences whether it is health or coping in life ... yet it is perfectly legal. 

At what point will alcohol become illegal? 

 There is convincing data that it is unhealthy, destroys lives, ruins finances, tears families apart, contributes to job losses.  Again, it is perfectly legal.

“I cannot find the harm in it.”                                                                                                                                                        ~Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Dr. Gupta told Katie Couric that he didn’t see much danger in recreational marijuana use, especially considering the fact that alcohol and tobacco are legal for adults.
Recently, I had a conversation with someone  (name reserved due to privacy) who drinks way too much.  I know this person has a birth defect, and been contending with scoliosis his whole life.  I know he battles pain every day, and more often all day.  He admitted to me that one of the reasons he drinks as much as he does is to cloak the pain.  One can't wonder aloud with him that it eventually will compound health issues with his liver, kidneys, other organs.  Along with hamper his performance at his job eventually.  People more than likely can smell the fumes from the night before by body odor.

Once, as a manager, I did have to manage someone who battled alcoholism.  Most employers do.  He was a super star contributor with customers loving him.  It all started to unfold for him long after others could smell the alcohol fumes from his body, not just the hangover breath.   He started to call me almost daily around 5 or 6 o'clock, after the other employees had left, and he knew I was going to be in finishing up paperwork.  His calls started out to be conversations rehashing the day's events and what we did well, spilling with ideas on making improvements.  

Unfortunately, the more I listened and the more habitual those calls became, they deteriorated.  He started to rant.  I continued to listen.  I reached out to HR and who I reported to to express concern with what I perceived to be a deteriorating situation.  The catapult was when he came in one Monday, barely being able to move, stating that he had injured himself while helping neighbors move.  I had a flashback to a few years back when there was a company party and I offered to drive him home or share a cab home because he was wasted.  He insisted on going on his own -- the next time I saw him at work, he was in crutches and had injured his leg.  He didn't report to me at the time.  I instinctively knew his injury was from stumbling or falling while drunk.

I did try to ask if he needed help gently during one of those rants.  Thinking that the environment was appropriate to start questioning and helping his declining performance and impact of his drinking.  I was so empathetic because I knew he lived alone, was in his 50s and his work was his life.

The situation did not improve.  The rants turned into flipping out at employees that he supervised.  That caused mistrust and wariness of his colleagues.  Being the manager, I was disheartened to see someone so talented digging his own grave both employment and health wise.

It all came to a head when he started to call in sick.  He had said that he had had a flood in his apartment and had to wait for the cleanup and insurance.  After a few days, he did come to work, worse for wear saying that he had broken his ribs slipping on the wet floor.  I offered to drive him to emergency at the hospital.  He wouldn't hear of it, insisting he take a cab.  The next day he didn't even call in and there was no answer when I tried calling.  Alarmed, I was worried that he was admitted to the hospital.  Nope, no person at the hospital.

Reviewing the situation with my boss, he became alerted.  You see, this same employee had worked for the company years passed and had ended up being fired.  Something about an identical situation about a flood.  His supervisor discovered it was a lie.  My boss, demanded that I call him on it.  Offer to send someone over to help with clean up.  It was declined.  

It continued to escalate.  The work attendance became spotty, calling in to say he wouldn't make it became obsolete, and the excuses became weaker.

Under my boss' direction, I let this fellow go.  Yes, I treaded carefully per Human Resources guidance.  Long before it reared its ugly head and came to a stand off, he was offered time off to get rest and referred to company benefits that could help him.

Some 6 months later, I was picking up my daughter from the C-Train and was driving by him in the parking lot and stopped to ask how he was doing.  He looked horrible, like a homeless person.  I later found out that was exactly what happened to him.  I blamed myself.  

It was after counseling from others, including my boss, I stopped blaming myself entirely.  I did realize that I was not responsible for this person drinking himself into a life nobody would have predicted of someone so talented, important to customers, and genuinely liked (before he became moody and a hot head:  outcome from alcohol abuse).

Is marijuana a miracle drug? 

I started to write about weed and its supposed holistic benefit.  I got sidetracked on alcohol and the damage it does to people's lives and health.  

Where I was going with this?  I can't help but wonder if the employee had smoked weed, would it have mellowed his personality from erupting, silenced his demons, and allowed him to cope with living alone and deterred him from drinking alcohol that ended up causing him to lose his job and become homeless?

I guess what I am asking is which is worse: 

smoking weed to help with pain or

drinking oneself death?

I ran across this article from Canada's Globe and Mail about the impact of marijuana ... some interesting insight:  The real effects of marijuana on teens

“The United States government also owns a patent on marijuana as a medical application.” 
~Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Spring's eternal bloom

"There are always flowers for those who want to see them."
~ Henri Matisse

Flowers start to bloom in each spring regardless of the winter past.  They don't curl their leaves from disappointment, fatigue, stress or discouragement.  Flowers are eternally optimistic.

 As  the sun shines on them, they blossom with optimism to brighten our lives, give pollen for our bees, who work hard on our crops, so that we can harvest the food to eat among our assembled friends and family. 

"The earth laughs in flowers." 

~Ralph Aldo Emerson

How can we not be more hopeful when we see a flower?  How can we not feel love when given to us by loved ones on occasions?  We should feel  inspired by flowers' optimism that even as the cool winter air befalls them and they curl and become hidden ...  spring will renew it once again to bloom and bring beauty, love to our world.  

Flowers show us that even should we crumple and hide, whither with disappointment, feel pain, battle depression ....  Spring allows us to bloom with new life and beauty to share with others. 

Do not be shadowed by rain showers in spring ... be rejuvenated and happy to know that the sprinkles are washing away what was before, to bring new life, new optimism, new flowers.

"Keep love in your heart.  A life without it is like a sunless garden when all the flowers are dead." 
~Oscar Wilde

Being attracted to beautiful imagery inspires me and reminds me that creativity doesn't always have to be by one's own hand, recognizing another's talent is rewarding and rejuvenates ones eyes Esmat Morshedy provided the image above and below which I loved because of the quality and it is also my favorite color:  purple  I hope others are as thankful as I am to be able to share in the joy you find in your passion whether it is art, photography or writing.