Friday, July 29, 2011

My Kind of Sports Town

Let’s talk sports. Particularly baseball, but maybe hockey as well. Born and raised in St. Louis, membership in Cardinal Nation is pretty much automatic; you just have to love the “Birds on the Bat.” Frankly, I could not see myself as anything other than a fan of the Redbirds. When I was younger, there was the chance we would move to Kansas City and Milwaukee, respectively, for my dad’s work. Thankfully, that never happened. Royals? Brewers? Yuck. I love being a Cardinals fan – the great teams and players, the storied history and championships. This is the city of The Rajah, Dizzy, Ducky, The Man and Gibby. Damn the Yankees, and their Babe, Clipper, Mick, Chairman and Mr. October. (Sports certainly has its nicknames!)

I was also lucky as a kid. I had two parents – originally from New York – who were baseball fans. Dad, though growing up in the heart of New York City, became a Red Sox fan, while mom rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers in opposition to her Yankee-loving father. Of course, all three hated the cross-town Giants – a familial sentiment that still exists. As the stories go, grandpa, Yankee fan or not, always enjoyed attending a baseball game whenever his travels brought him to St. Louis. Fenway, Ebbets Field and Sportsman’s Park…now that’s old school tradition!

Starting in 1967, when the Blues joined the National Hockey League, St. Louis also became the home of Red, The Battling Plagers, Bernie, The Golden Brett and Big Mac. (There it is again, with the nicknames.) Unfortunately, my dad was a football and baseball guy. Frankly, despite being an accomplished ice skater and growing up near an “Original Six” team in the New York Rangers, I don’t think he understood hockey – at least, to the point of being able to pass any knowledge on to his children, like he could with football, baseball and even skating – and thus never developed an interest in it. Consequently, I turned to hockey on my own in my early teen years.

Depending on the month and/or post-season situation, a St. Louisan can attend a baseball game in the afternoon and a hockey game later in the evening. What other cities can provide that kind of sports entertainment? A few, but your main choice of poison is New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago or Boston. Or boast of legendary broadcasters like the late Jack Buck and the late Dan Kelly, who at one point in their careers did play-by-play for both teams. The mere mention of the name Buck or Kelly conjures only one of two things:  Cardinals baseball or Blues hockey.

Thanks, but I’ll stay in St. Louis – it’s my kind of sports town.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Monday, July 18, 2011

Taxing The Taxed With Proper Representation

The British colonies, as the United States was called prior to independence, fought for "taxation with representation." Guess what, we won the right...and for the last two centuries into the third we have since debated exactly how much everyone should pay. There is little argument that everyone - from the lower to the upper class - should pay taxes in support of our "great experiment" in democracy and capitalism; it's a matter of what constitutes a fair share, flatly across the board. (See what I did there? Fair Tax/Flat tax. Never mind.) Until the politicians in Washington heed the calls for change, American taxpayers will continue to suffer from the hardships of the current tax system and the bankrupt economy.

"Pro-Con:  Should The United States Adopt A Flat Tax" (Kansas City Star)

"How The Debt Tussle Can Help Move Toward A Flat Tax," by Thomas Miller (The American Magazine)

"Would Adopting A Flat Tax Benefit The United States:  Yes," by Peter Rush (Deseret News)

"Entitlement Reform And Tax Structuring," by Robert Bennett, former U.S. Senator (Deseret News)

"I'd Replace The Income Tax With The Fair Tax," by Herman Cain (The Daily Caller)

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's Your Money, And You Should Keep It Now

The economic landscape has changed drastically since the 1930s. At the time, there were few options, let alone the means, for saving for the future and retirement, especially for the lower class; that is no longer true in today’s virtual world of 24/7 internet trading and investment. Implemented at the height of The Great Depression, Social Security's original purpose was as a “social insurance” program for senior citizens facing poverty caused by the likes of retirement, unemployment and spousal disability or loss. Though amended over the years to include more people, qualifications and benefits, the concept is still the same today.

Since the first payout in 1937, total benefits paid have risen from $35 million in 1940 (adjusted for inflation, equivalent to roughly $538 million) to $702 billion in 2010. The money comes from the individual workers and employers who pay into the system in the form of payroll taxes, an increasingly-shrinking funding base due to current economic conditions and early retirees – a key argument in the dispute over the future of the program, seen as reaching its zenith as it goes bankrupt.

Payroll Taxes, Costs & Benefits Paid By Employers (

Social Security:  More Going Out Than Coming In (CNN Money)

2010 Social Security Trustees Report Continues to Show Urgency of Reform (The Heritage Foundation)

How can the government fix the situation? Easy – eliminate Social Security. Return what has already been collected from workers and employers to fund the program, and allow them to keep what would be collected to invest in private savings and business. Almost like a stimulus plan. A stimulus that would not cost the government – because, unlike income taxes, it’s not their money in the first place – while decreasing the federal deficit and stabilizing the economy through new investments. 

After all, it’s no longer the 1930s.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Friday, July 1, 2011

Since Days Gone By

My 20th high school reunion is in a few weeks. Surreal not only from feeling so far removed from that period, but because I do not feel that old. I also know how much I and the world in general has changed since even the 10th reunion. Nowadays, I think in terms of “pre-” and “post-”:  ten years ago, it was a pre-9/11 world; today, and probably forever, it is a post-9/11 one. (Presumably, a similar mindset will come to pass after December 21, 2012, in a pre- and post-apocalyptic world, but that’s for a later discussion.)

Though an enjoyable evening reconnecting with old classmates, I admittedly was at a crossroads at the ten year reunion. A defining juncture in that I had ended any intentions of pursuing a teaching career, and had only just entered graduate school and barely commenced a writing career. In essence, despite the paths that were open to me rather than closed, I was in a state of limbo about my life. Having continued on that path and accomplished much over the last ten years – becoming a published journalist, historian and writer – oddly I am feeling the same a decade later. In a different, post-9/11 way though; not so na├»ve or optimistic, more chagrined and disillusioned.

Again though, I do not feel all that changed. After all, I am still me. Perhaps more grown and experienced, as opposed to more mature and responsible, yet at times regressing back. My smug, almost pseudo, intellectualism alone a pretense for the dictates of my age and educational achievements, in the attempt to allay doubt as to my faculties only because I believe myself to be smarter than I was ten or twenty years ago. I still do stupid things though, only at a more sophisticated level of stupidity because, rather than in spite, of my self-alleged superior development both intellectually and socially.

The real question bothering me I think, more so than at the ten year, is whether there still exists a sense of commonality, and perhaps even a familiarity, with former classmates of yesterday who have now become the parents, educators and business leaders of today? As I fit into none of those categories, yes and no; it all sounds impressively mature and responsible. Absolutely, I still cherish the friendships that have endured, and have been reconnected, over the past twenty years. Just seems that it already has been a complex journey since days gone by, and an extensive path ahead yet to traverse – without any clear indication how or when that occurred.

©2011 Steve Sagarra