This Year’s Election Results Today



After months of jockeying for headlines and attention by a gaggle of wannabe candidates, the real presidential election begins in Iowa on February 1, and it will be fast and furious until election-day in November. But you don’t have to wait all year to know the results.

You see, the other night when I stumbled home from one of those wild, naked-nude Key West drunken parties, I was disoriented and the whole house seemed to be spinning. Laying on the floor trying to hang on, I discovered it was not that at all. Instead, out of the clouds swirling in my head, the patron saint of elections, Saint Votimous of Pollestine appeared to me in a vision. She told me that God had called her in and told her to deliver the outcome of the 2016 presidential election to me, and only to me.  Saint Votimous did admonish me that if I tell anyone else the election results in advance, then when I die I would go straight to Hell. But I figure that since I live in Key West, I will anyway, so what the hell. I am going to tell you the election results before they happen, but just you; so don’t go around telling others, unless you want to go to Hell, too.

So Here is What is Going to Happen …

Despite the polls that indicate Donald Trump is pulling ahead of Ted Cruz in Iowa, he is going to flop badly in the caucuses. At best Trump will come in third – but probably worse – behind Cruz and Rubio. The reason for Trump’s failure in Iowa is that those who support him do so out of anger, and that does not motivate them to spend the hours needed to participate in the cumbersome caucus process. In other words, people identify with Trump’s sentiments, but not with him as a person they will go out of their way to vote for. This weakness is not identified in most polls and this results in a false-positive for Trump. On the other hand, Cruz support is based on mind-numbing religious beliefs and mind-altering emotions that do inspire people to make the effort to participate.

Trump will brush off the loss by railing against the “asinine” process in Iowa that was intended to mute his supporters. He will also complain that he lost in Iowa because the people are stupid farm-hicks who flock to these crazy evangelical churches and then go home and get drunk on corn-whiskey.

On to New Hampshire

In the time between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary on February 9, the media will focus more on Trump’s loss than Cruz’s victory. The media talking-heads will argue that while Trump can touch the voter’s anger with government, he is not electable because people just can’t bring themselves to vote for him.

When it comes to New Hampshire, Trump has what appears to be an insurmountable lead in the polls, but in the run-up to the primary, his lead will evaporate. Trump will again fare badly. Not only will he lose the primary, he will trail behind Kasich, Cruz and Rubio. And even Bush will make a surprising showing.  

After New Hampshire  

Coming out of New Hampshire the quest for the nomination will quickly narrow down to a battle between Rubio and Cruz. The so-called “establishment” of the GOP will rally behind Rubio and not so surreptitiously attempt to crush Cruz. If you think Obama is divisive because he could not work with Republicans, wait till you see how Cruz is portrayed as a mean-spirited, iconoclastic ideologue who will be unable to work with either Republicans or Democrats; and it will be the Republicans making that charge.

On to the Finals

The Republicans will nominate Marco Rubio, senator from Florida, for president. For vice president they will pick John Kasich, governor of Ohio. The symmetry of this ticket will be obvious. Both are from states that are crucial for the Republicans in any presidential race. Another strength of Rubio will be his appeal to the Latino voter. Though inexperienced, Rubio will bring a clear generational issue to the campaign – the tired-old against the fresh-new.

Kasich is added to the ticket, not just because he is a popular governor of Ohio, but to offset Rubio’s lack of experience in government and national leadership. (Much the same way Obama added Joe Biden to his ticket in 2008.) Kasich has been in elected office for 35 years; for 18 of those years he served in Congress.

Hillary Clinton, after a bruising battle with Bernie Sanders, will be the Democratic nominee. Her campaign will be based on her experience and readiness for the office of president – as opposed to Rubio – in a complicated and dangerous world. For her vice presidential nominee Clinton will select Julián Castro the current Secretary of Housing and Urban development. Castro’s strengths are that he is from Texas (an important state in the election), his grandmother was a (legal) Mexican immigrant; he brings the youth (41) of a new generation to the ticket and could offset Rubio’s appeal to Latinos.

And the Winner is … Rubio and Kasich

So there you have it. I take no responsibility for this prediction. It is only in the sense of public spirit and duty that I pass along what Saint Votimous of Pollestine passed on to me in a vision – it is a message from God.

Don’t Reform the Tax Code – Repeal It!



It’s tax season again – oh joy!

There is little disagreement that the Federal Tax Code – at least as it applies to individual and corporate income taxes – is complicated, confusing, inequitable and prone to abuse. The disagreement and debate is over what to do about it.

Soon after the 1913 passage of the Sixteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution that authorized a federal income tax, Congress passed the United States Revenue Act of 1913. Federal income tax has been with us, in one iteration or another, since then. At the time of its passage, the federal tax code was 27 pages in length. Today the lineage of that code has grown to 73,954 pages, contained in 25 bound volumes; and it’s still growing.

Despite the obvious complexity of the current tax code there is a relatively simple structure. One percent of the 73,954 pages deals with the rate at which individual income and corporate profits are taxed; the remaining 99 percent of the code deals with ways an individual or business can circumvent the code in order to reduce or even eliminate the amount of taxes due. Taken as a whole, the tax code spells out the tax to be paid and then offers copious ways (loopholes) to avoid paying the tax.

As a result, the tax code has become fertile and profitable ground for a boundless array of accountants, lawyers and lobbyists to find, use or expand these loopholes in order to reduce the amount of tax due by their clients. Hundreds of thousands of people have come to depend on the complexities of the tax code to earn a very cushy living. For them, the more byzantine the tax code is, the more they like it, because their livelihood depends on it. (It should go without saying that this convoluted tax system works best for those who can afford to pay those who will find loopholes, while the rest are left to fend for ourselves.)

Nevertheless, with every election cycle there arises a great hue and cry for “real” tax reform. The abuses of the system are decried and promises are made to fix them, but nothing happens. There is an interesting dynamic that comes into play when the idea of “tax reform” comes up. Those who are supposedly the most “burdened” by the highest rates of taxation – wealthy individuals and corporations – are the ones who surreptitiously resist any reform. They may publicly wail about high taxes and call for reform, but anytime there is an effort to change the system, they send in their lobbyists to kill it.

Why do you think that is? It’s because the current tax code is so voluminous, convoluted and riddled with loopholes the wealthy and large corporations are able to “game” the system and end up paying at the lowest rates of taxation; or often nothing at all. In the meantime, the rest of us and small businesses are left holding the bag.

Don’t Reform It … Repeal It

Even if the powers that be wanted to actually reform the federal tax code (and they don’t) the effort would fail under the weight of the challenge. That’s because there is a tendency to respond to complicated problems with cautious timorousness or complicated fixes. What is needed is bold reinvention of the tax code, not faint-hearted re-engineering. All too often when people fixate on the problems, as happens in the tax code debate, they are prevented from focusing on the solution.

What is needed is boldness not timidity. The federal income tax code is beyond reform and so the best way to fix it is to repeal it. I accept that in the current environment the idea of repeal is considered Pollyannaish thinking, but if it could ever be brought up for serious debate, people might be surprised to find how simple and effective a tax system could be.

The highly respected, non-partisan American Institute for Effective and Fair Taxation (AIEFT) has recently released a report – five years in the making – that makes the case for a complete repeal of the individual, business and corporate tax code. In its study AIEFT simply ignored the existing tax code and started with a clean slate to design a revenue-raising system intended to be fair and equitable, while maintaining the current levels of government revenue.

AIEFT identified what they see as the most serious flaw in the current tax system: Taxes are based on “net income” rather than “total income.” This opens the door for all the loopholes and abuses as wealthy individuals and corporation attempt to make their “net income” seem as low as possible. That explains why some can take in millions in income and and pay little, if any, taxes.

Certainly AIEFT’s ideas are revolutionary and can stir heated debate, but that is the point. Any debate would be over finding a solution, rather than tweaking to a bad system.

Here are some of the suggestions made in the AIEFT report:

  • Eliminate all taxes on individual earned income; including capital gains and investment income. Replace it with a “wealth assessment” of 1.25 percent of an individual’s total net worth over $100,000.
  • Eliminate all taxes on business and corporate profits. Replace it with a “revenue tax” equal to 2.3 percent of gross business revenues over $250,000.
  • Institute a national “sales tax” of 2.7 percent on all goods and services. Those with total earnings of less than $50,000 would receive a refund of any sales tax paid.

The AIEFT calculated that if these proposals were adopted now, total revenues would be slightly higher than those being collected by the federal government in the current fiscal year.

There are a number of key elements in these proposals:

  • Taxes are shifted from the poor and middle class to the wealthy, but in a way that is equitable. The more you have and the more you spend, the more you pay.
  • Taxes are based on “gross” rather than “net” value or earnings. This eliminates the chief area of abuse caused by the current tax code that bases taxes on “net” rather than “gross” earnings; which opens the door to the thousands of loopholes that allows individuals and corporations to seek the lowest possible “net” earnings.
  • These proposals favor and encourage small businesses that have been overly burdened under the current system.

The real value to be gained by these proposals is simplicity and the elimination of the ability to “game” the system that is so prevalent now. Of course, taking into account the power of the wealthy and large corporations, there is little likelihood there will even be a debate over these proposals, let alone seeing them pass. But it would be nice to have a real, open and honest debate over tax reform.    


Vision Is Not A Team Effort



Rarely is there a discussion about leadership – successful or failed – that does not include what President George H W Bush once referred to as “the vision thing.” President Bush snapped off this phrase in frustration to criticism of his perceived (which in leadership becomes reality) inability to express a clarity of goals and principles that would allow him to shape public opinion and influence action. In short, Bush was chastised for lacking vision. Fair or not, if a leader is unable to effectively define and communicate a clear and concise vision of where and why they are seeking to lead others, they will ultimately fail. An individual who lacks vision can be a good manager, but they make for lousy leaders.

And that’s the point: If a leader’s success is going to rise or fall on the basis of the “vision thing,” shouldn’t they make sure that it is their vision and not the product of “group-think?” Vision is the responsibility and domain of the leader; it cannot be the product of a committee.

Despite this, there are still many in the business world who believe that a vision – cloaked under what is called a “mission statement” – should emerge from the ideas of a group. Business consultants are famous for setting up a series of “planning sessions” that discuss, dissect and debate what the “vision” should be. I was serving on the board of directors for a company when the chairman of the board decided that it was the purview and responsibility of the board to develop a “corporate vision” for the CEO. The results of these efforts always end up with a long complicated, convoluted and superficial “vision” for the company. One that is rarely understood and soon forgotten.   

The Work of an Artist

Ask yourself this: How many great works of art are the product of a committee? What many fail to understand is that in essence the successful leader is an artist. They paint the picture – a vision – of what the future will be under their leadership and then they hang that picture in front of their followers so they can see, understand and be constantly reminded of what their efforts are building toward.

The truth is that the vision of a leader comes more from their heart and soul, than from the brain. A vision is something they are passionate about; something they believe in down to their core. True leaders don’t lead because they want something, but because they want to do something. It is this passion that inspires the individuality of their vision. A leader’s vision can be created for a group, but it can’t be created by a group.

The leader’s image of what they want to do is so vivid and so alive for them, they can communicate it in such a way that followers can not only understand it, but can believe in it. That’s why a vision that expresses a clarity of the goals and principles of the leader is so critical to effective leadership. Once the leader has captured the hearts and minds of the followers with their vision, the brain takes over to determine and implement the ideas and actions that will make the vision become a reality. If you understand this, you can understand why the vision must be the domain of the leader, not a committee.

Visions of the Past

In 1962 President Kennedy famously outlined his vision for the American space program as “landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade and returning him back to earth safely.” This vision was clear, concise and easy to understand. Once the vision was laid out, the challenge was to figure out how to make it happen, but there was no confusion as to the intended goal. Can you imagine when, if ever, we would have landed a man on the moon if Kennedy had turned to Congress or some highfalutin special panel to create a vision for the space program?

When I led the founding of LifeUSA – a startup life insurance company in an industry dominated by giants – my vision message was simple: “Within five years LifeUSA would be competing successfully, on a national basis, against the very largest companies; and all those who contributed to achieving that goal would share in the success.” Everyone who joined with LifeUSA clearly understood what we were about and the benefits of achieving that vision. With the vision in place any and all ideas and actions could be measured against the vision to be achieved.

Maybe the most famous business vision of a leader might be the one Bill Gates had for Microsoft when in 1980 he said his goal was to “have a computer on every desk and in every home.” At the time computers were housed in warehouses and only an inspired individual could dare to have such a vision of universal expansion. We know the rest of the story.

What this boils down to is that those with a true, deep-seated, achievable vision lead, while the best the rest can do is manage the achievement of the vision. It is the passion of an individual’s vision that creates leadership and ultimately drives success. Doing what needs to be done is often done best as a team effort, but visualizing what has not been done, but could be done, can never be done by a committee.