Each year my wife and I make a trek down to the Strip to play "tourist" to enjoy the beauty of the holiday decorations that adorn The Entertainment Capital of the World, and 2017 was no exception !
Getting out of of the boundaries of Sun City Anthem is a passion we've shared since we arrived here from the Chicago area in 2005.
Let's just say...
... it's the time of the year to forget the nasty association politics, the insults so often received from another blogger and many of his nameless followers, the senseless and boring meetings watching others make attempts to control our lives as if we were children needing some kind of guidance in our senior years... ... and instead... ...remember what should really should count in this world...
...sharing that belief with family and friends both associated with our past, as well as, those we've made since we arrived in Sun City Anthem.
And...in spite of what some may read elsewhere...
We have many !
...so many that this is my Christmas card to them and you...
... those who take the time to read Anthem Opinions on a regular basis.
At last count we have now exceeded 2,200 registered active subscribers and by the end of 2017, will have had in excess of2,000,000 visits to our site in the 5 years of our existence.
We have NEVERmade an attempt to seek POWER of any kind and have always encouragedINTELLIGENTcommentary, rejecting those who needlessly insult others.
But enough of that...
Today is my day of...
I am one of the luckiest human beings to have had a wonderful life...and...wife...a woman whom I have known for 31 years, a lady who has shared the "ups and downs" of a time journey with a guy who likes people, and at times embarrassing her, due to my never being afraid to "speak my mind"...
...and was fortunate to make a living never accepting monetary reward at the expense of sacrificing honesty and/or integrity, thereby allowing us to retire at a young age, and relocating to Henderson a few years later after both my wife and I lost a surviving parent, our moms, who were the highlights of our lives.
While I experienced my mother's sudden death; my wife, three times a week for 9 years, drove 25 miles each way, often in the rain and snow of the Chicago winters, to spend an entire day with hers, while she lingered following a devastating stroke those many years before her death. There were no exceptions, no matter how severe the weather; she was always there for her mom demonstrating the unconditional love her mother had always given her.
...and that...was perhaps a time in our lives, after so many years, that I realized God had given me the gift of the most generous, kind, and compassionate person I had ever known.
We are what some refer to as a "mixed" couple.
While I pride myself in my devotion to Catholicism; my wife, Marla, shares every bit the same love and respect to her Jewish faith.
That, I might add, has allowed us to enjoy the holiday season as so few do.
For years, our Chicago fireplace would have a red stocking with Santa and a blue one with dreidels surrounded by a Christmas tree and Menorah.
To this day, I still get my annual "Christmas concert" as she plays the old out of tune piano I bought her as a gift some 25 years ago after she overcame the symptoms of a disease that robbed her of the ability to play, as well as, the many beautiful art works she drew...and...professionally sold...following years of doctor after doctor searches...
...until God sent us one physician who gave her "creative art" life back to her.
And...it was that "melting pot" that allowed us to make so many friends over the years, no matter what their faith or nationality.
Since we arrived here in Sun City Anthem, that "people person" in us continued as we met numerous giving individuals who have tried so determinedly to make life an unselfish and giving experience, while some others have so often rebuked them for reasons I have yet to understand...
...and to those people, I am so proud to call them "friend" for the many obstacles we have faced trying to make Sun City Anthem a better place where the words...
...really do have a meaning in their unselfish and giving hearts.
And with that in mind, may I wish all of you, no matter what faith, the warmth that the Hannukah and Christmas season is supposed to represent... ...with this newest and touching holiday song...
So...enjoy this time of year; and if you can, "play tourist" in the few days remaining in 2017.
It will make you appreciate the wonderful things we have "living the dream" in the greatest country in the world, allowing you to forget...even for the shortest time... some of the heartaches all of us have endured.
Here's a couple of spots that make our "must see" list each year.
Anthem Opinions sends our special thanks to Sun City Anthem's John Schmidt for sending this to us.
While so many of us enjoy the warmth of family and friends, let's not forget there are so many of our country's "finest" a long way from home allowing us the peace and freedom we so often take for granted...
The bill preserves seven tax brackets, but changes the rates that apply to:
10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%.
Today's rates are 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6%.
Here's how much income would apply to the new rates:
(income up to $9,525 for individuals; up to $19,050 for married couples filing jointly)
(over $9,525 to $38,700; over $19,050 to $77,400 for couples)
(over $38,700 to $82,500; over $77,400 to $165,000 for couples)
(over $82,500 to $157,500; over $165,000 to $315,000 for couples)
(over $157,500 to $200,000; over $315,000 to $400,000 for couples)
(over $200,000 to $500,000; over $400,000 to $600,000 for couples)
(over $500,000; over $600,000 for couples)
2. Nearly doubles the standard deduction:
For single filers, the bill increases it to $12,000 from $6,350 currently; for married couples filing jointly it increases to $24,000 from $12,700.
The net effect: The percentage of filers who choose to itemize would drop sharply, since the only reason to do so is if your deductions exceed your standard deduction.
3. Eliminates personal exemptions:
Today you're allowed to claim a $4,050 personal exemption for yourself, your spouse and each of your dependents. Doing so lowers your taxable income and thus your tax burden. The GOP tax plan eliminates that option.
For families with three or more kids, that could mute if not negate any tax relief they might get as a result of other provisions in the bill.
4. Caps state and local tax deduction: The final bill will preserve the state and local tax deduction for anyone who itemizes, but it will cap the amount that may be deducted at $10,000.
Today the deduction is unlimited for your state and local property taxes plus income or sales taxes.
The SALT break has been on the book for more than a century.
The original House and Senate GOP bills sought to repeal it entirely to help pay for the tax cuts, but that met with stiff resistance from lawmakers in high-tax states.
Residents in the vast majority of counties across the country claim an average SALT deduction below $10,000, according to the Tax Foundation.
So for low- and middle-income families who currently itemize because of their SALT deduction, they're likely to take the much higher standard deduction under the bill unless their total itemized deductions, including SALT, top $12,000 if single or $24,000 if married filing jointly.
Preserving the break -- albeit with a cap -- is likely to provide more help to higher income households in high-tax states.
5. Expands child tax credit:
The credit would be doubled to $2,000 for children under 17. It also would be made available to high earners because the bill would raise the income threshold under which filers may claim the full credit to $200,000 for single parents, up from $75,000 today; and to $400,000for married couples, up from $110,000 today.
6. Creates temporary credit for non-child dependents:
The bill would allow parents to take a $500 credit for each non-child dependent whom they're supporting, such as a child 17 or older, an ailing elderly parent or an adult child with a disability.
7. Lowers cap on mortgage interest deduction:
If you take out a new mortgage on a first or second home you would only be allowed to deduct the interest on debt up to $750,000, down from $1 million today. Homeowners who already have a mortgage would be unaffected by the change.
The bill would no longer allow a deduction for the interest on home equity loans. Currently that's allowed on loans up to $100,000.
8.Curbs who's hit by Alternative Minimum Tax:
Earlier bills called for the elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax. The final version keeps it, but reduces the number of filers who would be hit by it by raising the income exemption levels to $70,300 for singles, up from $54,300 today; and to $109,400, up from $84,500, for married couples.
9. Preserves smaller but popular tax breaks:
Earlier versions of the bill had proposed repealing the deductions for medical expenses, student loan interest and classroom supplies bought with the teacher's own money.
They also would have repealed the tax-free status of tuition waivers for graduate students.
The final bill, however, preserves all of these as they are under the current code. And it actually expands the medical expense deduction for 2018 and 2019.
10. Exempts almost everybody from the estate tax:
Unlike the House GOP bill, the final bill does not call for a repeal of the estate tax, but it essentially eliminates it for all but the smallest number of people by doubling the amount of money exempt from the estate tax -- currently set at $5.49 million for individuals, and $10.98 million for married couples.
Even at today's levels, only 0.2% of all estates ever end up being subject to the estate tax.
11. Slows inflation adjustments in tax code:
The bill would use "chained CPI" to measure inflation, which is a slower measure than is used today.
The net effect is your deductions, credits and exemptions will be worth less -- since the inflation adjusted dollars defining eligibility and maximum value would grow more slowly.
It also would subject more of your income to higher rates in future years than would be the case under the current code.
12. Eliminates mandate to buy health insurance:
There would no longer be a penalty for not buying insurance.
While long a goal of Republicans to get rid of it, the measure also would help offset the cost of the tax bill. It is estimated to save money because it would reduce how much the federal government spends on insurance subsidies and Medicaid.
The Congressional Budget Office expects fewer consumers who qualify for subsidies will enroll on the Obamacare exchanges, and fewer people who are eligible for Medicaid will seek coverage and learn they can sign up for the program.
But policy experts also note that the mandate repeal could raise premiums because more healthy people might decide to skip buying insurance.
For Businesses & Corporations
1. Lowers tax burden on pass-through businesses:
The tax burden on owners, partners and shareholders of S-corporations, LLCs and partnerships -- who pay their share of the business' taxes through their individual tax returns -- would be lowered by a 20% deduction, somewhat less than the 23% called for in the Senate-passed bill.
The 20% deduction would be prohibited for anyone in a service business -- unless their taxable income is less than $315,000 if married ($157,500 if single).
2. Includes rule to prevent abuse of pass-through tax break:
If the owner or partner in a pass-through also draws a salary from the business, that money would be subject to ordinary income tax rates.
But to prevent people from re-characterizing their wage income as business profits to get the benefit of the pass-through deduction, the bill would place limits on how much income would qualify for the deduction.
3. Slashes corporate rate:
The bill cuts the corporate rate to21% from 35%, starting next year.
That's somewhat higher than the 20% called for earlier. The increase was made to free up some revenue to accommodate lawmaker demands on other provisions.
The bill would also repeal the alternative minimum tax on corporations.
4. Change how U.S. multinationals are taxed:
Today U.S. companies owe Uncle Sam tax on all their profits, regardless of where the income is earned. They're allowed to defer paying U.S. tax on their foreign profits until they bring the money home.
Many foreign governments only tax profits made within their respective country. This is known as a territorial tax system.
The final GOP bill proposes switching the U.S. to a territorial system.
It also includes a number of anti-abuse provisions to prevent corporations with foreign profits from gaming the system.
In the meantime it would require companies to pay a one-time, low tax rate on their existing overseas profits -- 15.5% on cash assets and 8% on non-cash assets (e.g., equipment abroad in which profits were invested), slightly higher than the rates in the Senate- and House-passed bills.