Month: July 2015

The Income Tax Issue in the United States

Let’s face it: taxation is a hot button for politicians and ordinary citizens alike. No one likes to receive less money than they earn, but we all need to contribute something in order to make this country operate.

Are the millionaires and billionaires paying their fair share in income tax? No. Not in this country. I’ll leave it at that. Just ask the Swedes, the Danes, the Dutch, the Japanese and citizens of other countries. I don’t believe — like Donald Trump once did, before running for President — in raiding a person’s wealth today to make up for our far-too-lenient tax codes of the past. Let’s educate the rich on becoming good stewards of their wealth — many already are — and reassure them that, no matter what they may believe and practice in the way of philanthropy, “you can’t take it with you.”

I believe in a consumption tax, in lieu of or perhaps in addition to a lower income tax, far greater than the current gasoline, alcohol, tobacco, and other such taxes already in place. I want to change the tax paradigm to look beyond income and consider consumption of our land, our water, our roads — our entire infrastructure — and ensure that everyone is paying their fair share. Look at your footprint on this planet and ask yourself, “Am I paying a fair amount for what I use?”

As an apartment dweller with a bicycle, yes, you probably are; as the owner of two homes, two cars and a pickup, an RV, a boat and a swimming pool, no, you probably are not. I know these are generalities, but I propose, in terms of taxation, to reward those who live simpler and more environmentally responsible lives and put a heavier burden on those live “large.”

This goes for businesses, too. A factory with a plant on ten acres of land using large amounts of electricity and water should pay a much higher percentage of tax than an internet darling operating out of a one-room office. How could a steel and aluminum and other such companies afford higher taxes, you ask? By passing along the higher price of doing business to their customers. Most of us blindly purchase items without regard for bigger and longer-range consequences of our decisions. I’m as guilty as the next person.

I’m thinking out of the box, here. I have not run financial models or spoken with implementers of such an idea. But I want to believe that, in some point in our future, those in charge of running our country will begin to think this way.

Stuart Hotchkiss
July 31, 2015

Help, when you least expect it (but really need it)

There comes a time in everyone’s life when the least likely of friends, or even acquaintances, steps up to lend a helping hand. It’s so unpredictable sometimes that it’s simply and prophetically precious.

Such is my experience with an old friend, Glenn Mason. We first met in 1987, when Glenn helped with my corporate relocation from Alexandria, Virginia to London, England. He was an accountant then, and several years later, he left the company to become a public school teacher in New York City. We stayed in touch, mostly through mutual friends, but months and years often went by without any contact between us.

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Glenn Mason

We were then and still are different men. Glenn has a phlegmatic personality; he is a northerner and a man of color, not a southern WASP like me; he doesn’t smoke or drink; he goes to bed way too early and only after eating a pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Yet, Glenn was the one person I knew I needed to contact when I moved to Boise, Idaho, six years ago. I can’t explain why; I just accept it as the will of God.

Here is an introduction I asked Glenn to write for my intended memoir after I finished a first draft over two years ago. It does not appear in the current published version of Southern Fried Fiction, but I plan to add it to my next update. Those of you reading this post are kindly invited to validate this intention.

“A phone call in spring 2010 started it all. Sitting in my classroom at the end of a long school day, I was happy to hear from my old friend, Stuart. I hadn’t talked to him in a while.

I had barely said hello when Stuart excitedly asked me to guess where he was living. I asked if he was back in New York, and he said no. “So you’re still in DC?”

“Nope, I’m in Boise, Idaho” he replied with shameless gusto.

After letting this news sink in for a moment, I cautiously asked if his wife was with him in his new home.

“No, she cut me loose!” he chuckled.

Over the next fifteen or twenty minutes, Stuart updated me on the recent events in his life. As our Q&A went on, I was filled with sadness, compassion and a degree of worry about his last couple of years. But I was also filled with a sense of admiration for his strength, courage and perseverance.

As we ended our chat, I observed that his life had been far from conventional; in fact, I said, it might be called unorthodox, atypical or even bizarre at times. So I encouraged Stuart to write about his experiences – the happy and the sad, the good and the bad.

His kneejerk response was to say, “no.” Furthermore, he added, “Who would want to read about me?” The simple answer was that his life has been interesting and that I thought others would enjoy discovering it on a page. But more important, I said, why not just write it for yourself? I thought he might get some comfort or better understanding about himself if he simply put pen to paper. While I wasn’t trying to be an armchair psychologist, I was certain he’d benefit from the exercise.

But he wasn’t willing to commit. At least not yet.

So I took a different tack. I wrote an introduction to his life’s story as I understood it and emailed it to him. He called me right away and asked if it would be alright if he made a few changes to what I’d written. Happy that he was on some level intrigued with what I’d sent to him, I told him to make whatever changes or corrections he saw fit to make.

He rewrote much of what I had written and sent it back to me. Reading the introduction, now in Stuart’s words, I was pumped, and I could tell he was, too. Most important, he indicated a readiness to continue writing about his life and asked if I would be willing to read what he wrote.

And so began the process of exploring Stuart’s life, a process in which I was, at times, Stuart’s writing instructor, editor and muse. Some ingredients of Stuart’s story were easy for him to write about; other, more painful, parts of his life proved difficult to draw out of him. But eventually, his rollercoaster journey spilled out onto the pages.

Stuart’s journey was exciting and revealing for us both. Now I invite readers to try and share our experience.

They’ll find, in these pages, a man who has had more than his share of tragedy, adventure, love, heartbreak, and disappointment. But each time life knocks him down, Stuart eventually dusts himself off and starts all over again. As his life journey continues in Boise, I wish for more happiness and adventure to return for Stuart. I want this for my friend and so much more.

God willing, he’ll have it all once again.”

Glenn Mason
New York City

Finding Nonnie Jules

A week ago, I was sent a friend request on Goodreads from a fellow author named P. H. Solomon. Mr. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, Alabama, area and strongly dislikes yard work. Voilà, an instant bond! Furthermore, his profile revealed that he had been chosen as a VIP member of Nonnie Jules’ Rave Reviews Book Club.

Nonnie Jules was a name I did not recognize. I admit that I am rather new at marketing myself as an author, so I did not judge. I simply researched. My first stop was to one of Nonnie’s Web sites, RaveReviewsByNonnieJules.wordpress.com. (By the way, Merriam Webster suggests capitalizing Web if using two words, and no capital if using one word, website.) Nonnie is not only an author herself (3 titles on her own, co-authored another, and a contributing author to RRBC’s Rave Soup for the Writer’s Soul Anthology, 1st Edition), but she is also committed to helping other authors thrive—a bona fide author advocate!

I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. And there was a lot to see. Nonnie has more information packed into that site than a tin of expensive caviar! Sixteen tabs and a bunch of sidebars with links and news got my attention alright. And so did the offer of a book review! Not some namby-pamby, sugarcoated review, but a real and raw, tell-it-like-it-is one. Only for authors with strong constitutions. And meant for those who want to join the Rave Reviews Book Club and take an active interest in such.

I joined. Easiest commitment of $25 I’ve ever made. Heard back from Nonnie the same day and sent her my book, Southern Fried Fiction, to review. Yes, indeed, I hope she likes it. But if she doesn’t, I equally hope she points out its strengths and weaknesses. I’ll listen and react. I’ll improve my story if it helps to reach a broader audience. That’s one of the benefits of going the self-published (CreateSpace), on-demand printing route.

Tomorrow, July 25, I will tune in to AUTHOR SCOOP! with Lead Host, Harmony Kent, at 12 Noon (CDT). It’s held the 4th Saturday of every month to dish out scoop on RRBC members. I’m expecting a range of news, from Blog tours, book releases, cover reveals, author events, book signings, awards won…even the birth of a new baby, marriage proposal, job promotion, etc.

Here’s my scoop: despite all my past mistakes and imperfections, the former Lisa Crandlemire agreed to marry me on July 11, 2015, at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Boise. I’ll post a copy of the amazing homily delivered by Bishop John Thornton as soon as I receive a digital copy!

Stuart Hotchkiss
July 24, 2015