My Dad Vs. Donald Trump

Shortly after starting work at the Wisconsin Statehouse I talked with my Dad about a way to save some money on his state taxes.  With the 100 acres my parents owned, and the large number that were forested, they were a prime candidate for the woodland tax credit.  Decades later when my father was sick and nearing the end of his days we talked again about all sorts of things, including the woods located south of the house.  He told me never once did he take the tax credit for those acres, the same credit we had talked about so long before.

I was rather surprised and expressed as much.   It was a perfectly legal and appropriate way to file his yearly return.  When asked why the credit was never used he said it did not feel right.  He loved the woods, took care of them, and felt he did not need to be compensated for it by the state.

The general theme was one I had heard often in our home.  My Mom spoke of how she wanted him to take advantage of the G.I. Bill following the war.  He had told her it was enough for him that he had made it back home.   That was really how my Dad operated and lived his life.

I bring this all up now as earlier this week it was reported Donald Trump avoided reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income by using a tax avoidance maneuver so legally dubious his own lawyers advised him that the Internal Revenue Service would most likely declare it improper if he were audited.

I do not wish to make this post partisan as that really is not the basis for why I write it.  I think what this post showcases is the quality of character–or lack thereof–that dots our landscape.  It is true writing objectively about my Dad can be called into question.   But the facts of what I say are honest about him and also of Trump.  And readers surely know someone much  like my Dad and can switch names in this post and come to the same place.

The get-all-we-can cut-throat world that so many partake in, and that we read about every day is most real.  But what we do not know on a daily basis are those folks who play not only by the rules but also live by a higher standard.  Again place any name you want into that mix–other than my Dad–as I know there are so many that would apply.

I simply detest the corporate ladder world and the players who work at every angle to save a dollar in taxes and never seem able to recognize the need to share burdens as neighbors and citizens.  I simply reject that way of thinking and living.  Give me the guy in the rusted Ford who pays for the next in line behind him at McDonalds.   (That happened to me a couple weeks ago following a doctor’s appointment.)  He waved and drove off leaving me with a large hot coffee.  And then I paid for the car behind me.

That is the type of man my Dad was and the type of person Trump by his own actions has proven not to be.  Perhaps what is needed in this land are more of the old-fashioned traits that does not make one more financially stable but would leave our country nonetheless richer in a way that can not be measured with a dollar sign.

Train Whistles Not Appreciated By Some Folks In Madison

This morning I was greeted in my email with some folks who seem not to appreciate the train whistles that at times are heard in our neighborhood.  I just shake my head.

It is nearing a decade since I moved to Madison’s isthmus and can now say living within earshot of the tracks my love of the train whistle has only grown stronger.  When I lived on the west side of Madison, and the air was clear late at night so sound could easily travel, I would often hear the train whistle near Middleton.  The plaintive cry from the engine would sing-song its way over the neighborhood, and stir my soul.  There is a quality to the sound of a train in the night that conjures up images of adventure, romance, and history.

When we moved to our Victorian I was pleased to know that the train tracks were just a few blocks away, and I could hear the whistle almost daily.  In fact, on our many long walks through the neighborhood James and I have often walked towards the sound of the train whistle, only to stand near the tracks and feel the rumble and power as the cars roll on to their destination.

I admit there is real noise pollution in our city, and those disturbances should be curtailed.  Such things as car speakers with more bass and volume than brain matter in the driver’s head, or the need to talk louder when conversing on a cell phone while in a public place, are two issues the ‘no whistle’ crowd may want to deal with first.

However, in the still of the night as the train lumbers along in Madison and blows the lonesome whistle, think of those who once jumped on board and traveled as far as they could with a hope and perhaps an old harmonica.  The whistle is a call to reflect on the past, to dream of far of places, and faces of the past who also heard the whistles and took a chance on riding the rails.

Now go and enjoy a train whistle near you!

Markets Get Nervous Over Donald Trump Gaining In Polls

Did you see what happened around the world when one poll showed Trump with a one-point lead over Clinton? The dollar declined against the yen, euro, and pound while the Trump-proxy Mexican peso fell 0.8%. Most Asian indexes closed more than 1% down and European markets were also falling in early trade as I woke this morning.

Folks who have an information deficit like Trump, but the rest of us need to make sure this dangerous man does not enter the White House.

Can you imagine what will happen to stock portfolios and investments of all types should Trump win?  The red ink the morning after such a disaster could float an ocean liner.

Evolution Of Voting Booths

Fun read this morning.

Back in the 19th century, election day in America worked differently than it does now—there was even more drama, if you can believe that in 2016. There were no official ballots; political parties would print their own “party tickets.” Some states had standardized printing rules, but in some places voters could write down the names of whoever they wanted to vote for a hand that piece of paper in. Kentucky voted by voice almost to the end of the 1800s.

When parties printed up their tickets, each ballot listed the party’s candidates for all the seats at stake. Most voters accepted the pre-selected slate, rather than the candidates that most impressed them. There were measures one could take against an undesirable candidate, though, like physically cutting his name out of the party ticket.

Since the 1850s, Australian states had been pioneering a different method of electing leaders—they let people vote in secret. This system used official ballots and provided space for people to vote without anyone knowing who they had chosen. With no way of verifying who a voter had actually cast his ballot for, parties had less power to coerce or bribe people to choose their slate. After the close and contentious election of 1884, when Grover Cleveland won New York—then allocated the most electoral votes of any state—by just over 1,000 votes, American states started seeing the appeal. In 1888, Massachusetts was the first state to adopt the “Australian ballot” system, but it was followed quickly by Indiana, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Minnesota, Washington, New York, and other states across the country.