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Where’s the love, chief?

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FromEditorsDesk Tony Croppedby Tony Farkas
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Sunday was the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death, so she already was heavy on my mind these last couple of weeks, especially when I was able to visit her grave in New Mexico recently.

My mother was something special. Everyone’s mother is, but for me, her journey was especially poignant, since she had to overcome hardships such as German and Allied bombings in World War II, Russian evil as they swept across Eastern Europe in conquest under the guise of being allied with the U.S., boat rides to Ellis Island and the subsequent citizenship process, and ridicule and hardship that comes with being right off the boat.

Even her name, Czarika, was changed because the immigration folks couldn’t pronounce it, and dubbed her Charlotte (it’s really Sarah, but hey, it’s America).

She embraced this country, though, 100 percent, and even though she was proud of her Hungarian heritage, she was more American than most Americans I knew, even serving as a civilian in the U.S. Air Force, and even became the first civilian head of Social Actions at Cannon Air Force Base.

The makeup of this country is of people with similar stories and similar circumstances, all coming together, differences and all, in the “melting pot” of American society.

It was incredibly puzzling, then, to hear our vaunted leader essentially tell half of this nation they were evil and must be destroyed, while at the same time claiming that we’re all about unity.

If you’re unaware, President Biden warned the country that MAGA (Make America Great Again) Republicans represent “an extremism that threatens the very foundation of our republic.”

He also said that Donald Trump was driving the Republican Party to that kind of platform — taking American society back to the Stone Age while completely disrespecting the Constitution by eliminating free speech, the right to choose, the right to privacy and the right (?) to contraception.

For a leader to put out that kind of divisive rhetoric, while simultaneously calling for unity (under questionable optics, such as being backed by uniformed Marines and a stage bathed in ominous red light) makes the people who became part of this country seem foolish for their beliefs, since they came here believing they would be embraced, since that’s supposed to be what we’re about.

Apparently, no longer. It’s OK to come here, as our porous border suggests, but only if you think (and donate and vote) to the powers that be. It’s no longer OK to have different beliefs, or to be what many perceive, the old guard of immigrants and leaders who regardless of color are white power brokers, eager to crush everyone under the bootheel of capitalism.

Change some of the nouns, and what  you really have is exactly what my mother, and millions of others, were fleeing when they left their homelands, and the kind of hate and rhetoric that led to Rameses, and Hitler, and Stalin, and Pol Pot, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

The old saying about the pen being mightier than the sword has been proven time and again, mostly with disastrous results. There are words and ideas out there, though, that can heal and unite. Let’s try some of those.

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How Inflation Reduction Act can help small businesses

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InflationReduction

By Ted James, 
Region 6 South Central Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will lower prescription drug, health care, and energy costs. It will lower the deficit and no one making under $400,000 per year will pay a penny more in taxes. It will also fight climate change. This is a pretty good deal for most of us dealing with our changing climate patterns: scorching temperatures, escalating damaging storms, new monsoon seasons and all the havoc they cause.  If we can slow climate change down, we all win.

Lower healthcare costs are a win, as well, for most, for both families and small businesses. If you are a sole proprietor getting your health insurance from the Affordable Care Act marketplace or have employees who use it, health care costs will go down, by up to $800 per year.  Because the Biden/Harris Administration has been successful in tackling the climate crisis, the IRA will reduce energy bills, saving families (and small businesses) about $500 per year. With just these two measures, we could save about $1300 a year.

But it doesn’t stop there. The IRA will also lower prescription drug costs by capping out of pocket expenses on prescription drugs for people on Medicare at $2,000 per year, cap insulin for Medicare patients at $35 per month and finally allow Medicare to negotiate prices. If you are an older business owner on Medicare, these direct cost savings are for you.

The IRA creates new avenues for small businesses to make profits if they advance in environmental businesses – making and servicing solar panels and wind turbines, retrofitting buildings with energy efficient windows, doors and HVAC units, or entering the supply chain for new electric vehicles, whose components will need to be made in America. And if they want to directly join the climate fight, small businesses can receive a tax credit that covers 30% of the cost of switching over to low-cost solar power – lowering operating costs and protecting against the volatile energy prices. Additionally, small businesses can deduct up to $1.00 per square foot of their business for making high energy efficiency upgrades. The per square foot deduction is boosted if the efficiency upgrades are completed by workers who are a paid a prevailing wage – helping businesses save even more money while providing good paying jobs.

The IRA extends the qualified business income deduction, the pass-through deduction, from 2025 through 2027, providing a 20 percent deduction on business income and extends the popular research and development tax credit and increases how much can be applied to payroll taxes. The R&D credit gives businesses of all sizes the opportunity to reduce the taxes they owe based on a formula calculated using expenses they’ve incurred to develop new products. If the new products fight climate change, it’s a double win.

Rural communities, finally, are not left behind. The IRA will help up to 280,000 farmers and ranchers apply conservation to approximately 125 million acres of land, provide relief for distressed USDA borrowers whose agricultural operations are at risk through loan modifications or payments and provide financial assistance to farmers who have experienced past discrimination in USDA lending programs. We need every farmer to contribute to reducing food inflation and feeding the nation and the world.

Together with his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and American Rescue Plan, President Biden’s economic plan is showing that we have the courage to build a future where every American has a fair shot!

Ted James is the Region 6 Regional Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, overseeing SBA programs and services in the states of Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arkansas. 

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Fear and loathing in a small Idaho town

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers

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Bonners Ferry, Idaho is a small town with a public library, which is always an asset to a community. And the residents are glad it is there. Sadly, there are some folks, though, who believe that books are a threat, rather than an asset, and they have put the continued existence of that library at risk.

A group of Christian activists have lately descended on the community and started showing up at the local library board meetings, guns on their hips, and demanding that the library remove a list of 400 books that they oppose. And despite the board telling them that the library has none of the 400 books they want censored, they just keep disrupting the board meetings.

You might ask why, other than making for some long board meetings, that there is a problem. If they don’t have the books, it’s no harm, no fowl. Well, the company that carries the library’s insurance has informed them that because of the threat of violence from all those folks showing up with guns they will not renew their insurance. Without insurance, they can’t continue to operate. They will have to shut the library down.

While you may not like the word, there is a simple term for folks who use threats of violence to get their way. They are terrorists. Terrorists acting in the name of Christianity. And it looks like they might win.

I have a lifelong love of books. I’ve read thousands of books over the decades. Had a personal library of thousands of books. The accumulated knowledge of billions of people over thousands of years is accumulated in those books. A record of every moral, social and political failure of mankind. We have a roadmap of mistakes we made and need never repeat. There are religious and political terrorists whose agenda is being thwarted by that knowledge, and they want to destroy it.

Those who want to destroy books are far more dangerous than the books they want to suppress. Demanding libraries remove books you do not agree with is removing books others do agree with. We have no right to censor ideas. Let them live or die on their own merits, not through misguided religious crusades. 

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Political spectrum argues about the wrong things

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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A friend of mine, obviously on the opposite side of politics from me, has adopted an attitude of apathy toward the recent action on student loans taken by President Biden.

In case you were more worried about the rise in consumer prices on everything and missed it, the president announced a plan to forgive $20,000 in student loans for around 8 million borrowers, providing they meet certain income criteria.

As with just about anything political nowadays, there’s two trains of thought on this — for it or against it.

Some think this is charity, which will put the burden of paying for the plan on all taxpayers, especially those who did not take out any such loans, and those who did and paid them off according to the signed contracts.

The other side of the camp thinks that since the burden of paying loans in a rotten economy is too much, and the amount of loans needing payment is overly large, that this is just the kind of help governments should be giving their constituents.

The arguments put forth by the anti side include personal responsibility, waste of taxpayer dollars, and playing those who paid loans off as fools.

The other side has even gone so far as to use the parable of the loaves and fishes from the Bible as an analogy to prove the anti crowd’s argument to be ridiculous, before just giving up completely and ignoring anyone who hates the idea.

According to White House fact sheets, there exists around $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, and the president’s plan will forgive about $4 billion. The reasoning is that skyrocketing education costs combined with the costs of living in this fine country is terribly burdensome.

I’m in the anti camp, but not for the normal reasons. I’m particularly bothered by the fact that the government has loaned so much money — about 28 percent of what the government spends each year, by way of example, when there is nothing anywhere that gives the federal government the power, authority or even permission to be a banker, loan officer, loan guarantor, or educator.

Moreover, there is nothing in the Constitution that even allows the government to have anything to do with education at all. The Department of Education was elevated to Cabinet status in 1980, the new kid on the block, so to speak. 

Now, of course, it’s a massive endeavor that comes complete with its own police force (which raided a home in California because of someone thought to have been cheating on student loans).

This money should never have been given out, instead used for other necessities. This renders the idea of whether forgiving loans is good or bad moot.

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Reports released on Uvalde tragedy

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082522 my five cents

By Sen. Robert Nichols
Representing District 3

Sixty-four years ago this month, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, which established NASA and emphasized our commitment to space exploration and manned space flight. NASA later elected to build a new flight-control center outside of Houston, making Texas an essential piece of the space race.

Here are five things happening around your state:

1. ALERRT and House Committee release reports on shooting in Uvalde

This month, both the Advance Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center and the House Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting released reports on their assessment of the tragic shooting in Uvalde. Each report highlighted different parts of the overall response. The ALERRT center covered the timeline, a physical assessment, and a tactical assessment. The tactical assessment spoke to their expertise on strategies used during the shooting and different strategies that could have been used in this situation. Their expertise lies in responder training and their report reflected deficiencies in training and execution of that training. To read the report, visit https://alerrt.org/.

The House Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting released their report a few weeks after the ALERRT Center’s report. The House report detailed an extensive timeline of the events leading up to the shooting, during the shooting, and after the shooting. They delved into the attacker’s family life and background, the school’s security and facilities, the law enforcement response, and drew several factual conclusions. I commend my colleagues for their important work on this issue and look forward to working with other House and Senate members to develop recommendations moving forward. To read the full report, go to https://house.texas.gov/_media/pdf/committees/reports/87interim/Robb-Elementary-Investigative-Committee-Report.pdf.

2. Suicide hotline number changes to 988

This month, the Federal Communications Commission implemented a change to the national suicide hotline number. Instead of the old 11-digit number, the new number is just three digits and easier to remember. Now, calling 988 will give you resources for immediate mental health emergencies, such as people at risk of suicide and other crises. The hope is that calling 988 for a mental health crisis will become just as instinctive as calling 911 in an emergency. Those who call the hotline will connect directly with a crisis center staffed by trained professionals that offer free and immediate help at any time. The line offers communication options in several languages and is now available. People in distress can also chat with a trained counselor by visiting www.988lifeline.org.

3. Universal Service Fund rates will increase on some phone lines

Beginning August 1, telephone customers will see an increase in monthly bills due to a court ruling that state regulators must fully fund the Universal Service Fund (USF). The USF was created to ensure that Texans in rural areas have access to phone services, which is legally a public necessity. Each telephone customer’s bill has a line item for the USF which has charged a 3.3 percent fee of the cost for intrastate voice service. That percentage is now going up to 24 percent. For many single-line customers, that charge was as low as 30 cents a month. That cost could rise to about $2 per month or more. This change comes after the Public Utility Commission, which oversees the USF, rejected a more modest increase in 2020, which would’ve brought the assessment to 6.4 percent. In 2021, Governor Abbott vetoed a measure aimed at addressing the issue, as well.

4. Tax free weekend for back-to-school

This year’s sales tax holiday weekend for back-to-school was Friday, August 5 through Sunday, August 7. Texans saved money on tax-free purchases of most clothing, footwear, school supplies, and backpacks during the annual Tax-Free weekend. Qualifying items were purchased in-store or online. The exemption applied to each eligible item sold for less than $100 and there were no limit to the number of qualifying items Texans could buy.

5. Texas Parks and Wildlife accepting drawn hunt permit applications

Texas Parks and Wildlife opened applications for drawn hunt permits for the 2022-2023 hunting season in July. There are almost 10,000 permits in 62 hunt categories. The permits allow drawn hunts on public and private land, including hunts for white-tailed and mule deer, pronghorn, turkey, alligator, dove, and some exotic species. An online interactive map shows all drawn hunt opportunities by category or area. All applications, fees, and permit issuances are handled online. Permits are open to resident and non-resident hunters. The first application deadlines are in August. For more information, visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/public_hunt_drawing/.

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