The women’s march was a top 2017 story

I noticed an important story missing from a few year-end lists of top news stories for 2017. The women’s march did not make it to most lists. It could be because the list makers, news writers, and news media owners are mostly men. Maybe it is because it happened at the beginning of a year filled with so many news stories.

The women’s march was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. That is a fact which can be ignored but it can not be changed and it means something.  Here in St. Paul there were so many marchers that the space between the beginning and the end of the march route was filled with people. The organizers were expecting about 20K marchers but there were 100,000 of us. 

“According to data collected by Erica Chenoweth at the University of Denver and Jeremy Pressman at the University of Connecticut, marches held in more than 600 US cities were attended by at least 4.2 million people.” [VOX]

Many people do not realize that it did not end with the single march. The march started a movement and as a result, more women will run for office in 2018 as they did in 2017 and more of them will win.

Time magazine recognized the “Me too” movement as the person of the year. In 2018 more women are likely to come forward.

2018 is likely to be a year of change. Here in St. Paul we have a new mayor and I think he will lead some positive change in the city.

It is starting with some  “out with the old” and “in with the new” as our new mayor makes his appointments. St. Paul may even become less parochial and more progressive and inclusive.

We will likely elect our first female governor in 2018 and I am excited about the number of women who are running and the choices we will have.

When I look back on 2017 I will remember it as the beginning of an era of activism change. It is even possible that the power of the women’s march has been under-estimated. If you marched you won’t forget it.

Minnesota is the best run state

MN state capital building
Minnesota State Capital

According to 24/7 Wall Street, Minnesota is the best-run state in America.

  • 2016 Unemployment: 3.9% (13th lowest)
  • Pension funded ratio: 79.8% (18th highest)
  •  Credit rating and outlook: Aa1/Stable
  • Poverty: 9.9% (6th lowest)

We have jobs with decent wages and more than 10,000 lakes. Yes, we pay state income taxes but we get a lot in return. We also have a beautiful newly renovated State Capital building.

Winter isn’t so bad if you dress for it. Spring, Summer, and Fall are amazing. We don’t have hurricanes and wildfires and earthquakes are rare. Mosquitoes are abundant but never in the winter.

Covered under the first amendement

 

American flag
American Flag

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Passed by Congress September 25, 1789. Ratified December 15, 1791. The first 10 amendments form the Bill of Rights
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When I look at the first amendment it is clear to me that no one in this country has to worship the flag of this country. We are free to worship and kneel or not kneel or stand or not stand before the flag. We are also free to believe in God but we don’t have to.

This truly is a great country. Let’s keep it great.

How tax bill may affect the housing market

tower
Turret

It is really too soon to tell how the tax bill will affect the housing market. On the one hand, it shouldn’t have much of an impact on housing that is costs less than 650K because the mortgage interest on a mortgage up tp 500K will still be tax deductible, for those who itemize.

If the tax bill passes as is  95% of taxpayers will claim the standard deduction rather than itemize, according to experts because the standard deduction will almost double.

That means that mortgage interest will not be deducted for most. Currently according to the IRS about 31% of taxpayers itemize, and can deduct mortgage interest.

If higher priced homes decrease in value that doesn’t mean that lower-priced homes will follow. The demand for homes at the lower end of the price spectrum is very high and I can’t see that changing.

There is some speculation that if interest on loans used to pay for second homes is not longer tax deductible that prices of the summer cabins in Northern Minnesota will go down. I will believe it when I see it.

The five of eight rule may have an impact.  Under current law, you can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for married taxpayers) in capital gains from the sale of your home so long as you have owned and resided in the house for at least two of the last five years.

That rule is going to change to five of the last eight years. The rule will make homeownership more of a long term proposition and home sellers may want to consult a tax advisor if they wish to sell before they have owned the home for eight years.

People used to move about every 7 years but in the last decade, that has changed to about every 10 years so it is hard to say what kind of an impact the new five of eight rule will have on the real estate market.

I remember the big tax cuts during when Reagan was president. At the time we were in a recession. I don’t really understand why a tax cut and jobs bill is being passed during a time of high employment. In fact, we may not have enough workers to fill more jobs.

It isn’t clear to me right now as a business owner if my taxes will go up or down. The tax cuts are aimed at large corporations not at small businesses like mine that make up 99.7% of all U.S. businesses.

The Republican party used to be against running huge deficits but now they are in favor. Here is a link to a list of how they voted.

The bill will not be made into law until it is reconciled with the House bill and signed by the president who will sign anything he is asked to sign . . . or at least he has so far.

There are still numerous advantages to home ownership as opposed to renting. Interest rates are likely to continue to rise so buying a house now might make more sense than buying it later.

Real estate has been a tax favored investment for decades yet homeownership is currently at a 50 year low last July and has started to go up again. Will new tax laws cause home ownership to fall again?

Something to be thankful for

turkey
Wild turkey

I have a lot to be thankful for. Right now I am especially thankful for the fact that I don’t have to go out and catch a turkey and get it ready for the oven.  I find turkeys in the woods and along the bike paths in Lilydale regional park. They can run pretty fast and they look big and mean. Sometimes they hang out in gangs and block the bike path.

If you are preparing your first Thanksgiving turkey this year, don’t worry. Turkeys are easy to roast, and yes I know they can be deep fried but I like roasted turkey. Just remember to calculate cooking time based on the weight of the turkey and a low temperature, like 325. Cook the bird until the meat thermometer reads 165.

One member of my family has celiacs disease and another has food allergies. I am happy to report that turkeys are naturally gluten-free and don’t seem to trigger allergic reactions. I am thankful for that too.

Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving.

Shipping season on the Mississippi River

Barges
Barges on the Mississippi River

Barges on the river near downtown. The buildings in the background are in downtown St. Paul. You can take a picture like this from the MRT bike trail in between Warner Road and the river.

There are no ice cutters on the river. The shipping season starts each year when the barges can get through the ice. The river near St. Paul does not freeze solid but can ice over on the surface. There isn’t any ice yet.

The Mississippi is a wonderful natural resource but it is also an important shipping corridor. The shipping industry provides jobs too. Those barges need to be loaded and unloaded and the tugboats and towboats that push the barges need pilots and crews.

Barges are fun to photograph because they often have rust on them.