For Pennsylvania’s high gasoline taxes, we sure don’t get good roads!

As I noted earlier, I had to take a trip from Pennsylvania to the Bluegrass State. One thing I noticed was that Kentucky and West Virginia had done a fine job taking care of the roads. The only roads I traveled in West Virginia were Interstates 68, 79 and 64, but all were in good shape, with the exception of a bit on I-79. However, the state has been working on I-79, and it was obvious that the sections in the poorer shape were simply next on the list for repair and repavement.

In Kentucky, Interstate 64 was in very good shape. There was one section between Louisville and Lexington that was next on the list for repavement, but it was still in decent shape. Another fairly short section between Morehead and Ashland looked like it would be repaved in a year or two, but most of the road was in top condition. US 60 between Frankfort and Lexington was in excellent shape, as was the section of the Mountain Parkway I used, between Winchester and Clay City. State highways 15 and 82 were well maintained, and a local road, Miller Creek Road — which runs in front of the farm I bought — had been repaved in August of 2014.

State gasoline taxes in West Virginia, not including the 18.4¢ per gallon federal tax, total 33.2¢ per gallon. In Kentucky, total state gasoline taxes are 26.0¢ per gallon.

Meanwhile, back in Pennsylvania, state gasoline taxes are 50.4¢ per gallon, and our roads here can best be described by the vulgar slang term for feces.

I have said it before: I do not object to gasoline taxes, because they are meant for building and maintenance if our streets and roads; fuel taxes are reasonably related to the use of the money raised. But I have to ask why our fuel taxes are so high, while our roads are in such poor shape. US 209 had a small section repaved in 2009, not with the fuel taxes, but as part of the 2009 stimulus bill; the rest of the road is getting in sad shape. State road 249 is showing significant wear, and PennDOT has been responding with a few patches. The local street on which I live needed to be repaved five years ago. Yet Pennsylvanians are paying through the nose due to fuel taxes, and getting very little to show for their tax dollars.

Locally, gasoline is running about $1.979 per gallon; I saw stations in Kentucky advertising unleaded gasoline for $1.499 per gallon.

Understanding a Will

Understanding Wills and Their Implementation After Death

Legal paperwork is often an intimidating subject in most circles. In fact, you may try to avoid any use of legal papers unless you absolutely have to deal with them. Everyone, however, should have a will. This legal document makes your passing an easier time for your loved ones. Assets and debts are quickly divided out so that your estate can be settled. It’s important to have and understand the last will and testament process. A long court process might be in the future without a legal, signed will.

The Purpose of the Will

A will is a list of your last requests regarding your assets. You can give any of your assets to your family and friends by listing your desires in this document. Without a will, your assets must be handled by a California probate lawyer in probate court. Within the court, general asset laws are followed so that your heirs are properly compensated. Spouses, for example, are usually given most of the assets as determined by the judge. If you wanted to divide your assets out in a different manner, only a valid will can change the judge’s mind.

Contesting the Will’s Text

If you have a will, your assets may still be contested by family and friends. In some cases, loved ones may not agree with your asset allocations, and they ask a judge to determine the fairest way to divide out the money. A contested will enters probate court, and the assets are subject to California probate attorney fees.

Hiring a Lawyer

Being concerned about these fees isn’t necessary. Unlike other legal situations, you don’t have to pay the lawyer upfront. These professionals only ask for payment after the assets have been divided out. In fact, they only receive a percentage of the will’s value as payment.

The Court’s Final Decision

The judge’s decision is final whether a deceased person has no will or it’s being contested. Assets are quickly released by the court, and allocated as directed by the court proceedings. Typically, there are no appeals against a court-ordered asset division.

You might be wary about hiring a lawyer, but these professionals are trained to help you within the legal system. They can decipher legal terminology and look after your rights as an heir. In the end, your lawyer is a partner who you can turn to whenever legal questions are raised.

From Around the Blogroll

From The Washington Post:

Everyone who thinks Carly Fiorina should be allowed to debate

By Elise Viebeck | February 5 at 11:50 AM

And now, a lesson in political mileage with Carly Fiorina.

Here’s the back story: Fiorina is up in arms because ABC News is excluding her from Saturday night’s Republican presidential primary debate. According to the criteria, candidates must place among the top six Republican candidates either nationally or in New Hampshire (calculated by polling averages) or have placed first, second or third in Monday night’s Iowa caucuses. Fiorina didn’t do these things, which means she won’t be on the stage. John Kasich and Chris Christie did, however, which means they will be — even though Fiorina technically beat them in Iowa.

Part of the problem is the elimination of the so-called undercard debate, where Fiorina faced off against other low-polling candidates like Rick Santorum, who has now dropped out. As the Republican field winnows, it becomes harder to make the debate stage, at least when ABC is in charge, and there’s the rub for Fiorina.

Lucky for the former HP executive, she has prominent friends ready to assist her campaign for inclusion. (Not so for Jim Gilmore, the other Republican candidate who didn’t make the cut.) And as a result of their advocacy, she’s receiving more attention than she has in months.

Fiorina doesn’t seem to be backing down. We can expect to hear about this until the moment the debate starts Saturday night. But regardless of whether she makes the stage or not, one thing is clear: she’ll be getting as much mileage out of this controversy as she can.

There’s more at the link.

Carly Fiorina is ahead of Ben Carson in the polls in New Hampshire, though Dr Carson is on the stage by virtue of his fourth place finish in the Hawkeye State. It was on the merits of her performances in the first two debates that she got a surge in popularity last fall, but her campaign has fallen off since then. I believe that she ought to be on that debate stage tonight, though if she is excluded, it will be because she and her campaign have simply not performed well on the campaign in areas other than the debates. Mrs Fiorina has been running more of a national campaign strategy, as opposed to focusing in as stronglly on individual states, and that does not seem to have served her well; she’s not getting the free press that some of the other candidates have earned. I hate to say it — and hesitated before writing this sentence — but it looks very much like she is running for Vice President.

And now, on to the blogroll!

Reporting live from the Bluegrass State! I’m heading back home tomorrow.

Rule 5 Blogging: Off we go, into the wild blue yonder!

It’s the weekend and time, once again, for THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL’S version of Rule 5 Blogging. Robert Stacey Stacy McCain described Rule 5 as posting photos of pretty women somewhat déshabillé, but, on this site, our Rule 5 Blogging doesn’t put up pictures of Amanda Seyfriend in her summer clothes, but women, in full military gear, serving their countries in the armed forces. The terribly sexist authors on this site celebrate strong women, women who can take care of themselves and take care of others, women who have been willing to put their lives on the line in some not-so-friendly places, women who truly do have the “We can do it!” attitude. Today: some of our pilots!

Captain Katherine Gaetke, F-16 pilot from the 523 Fighter Squadron, and Crew Chief Staff Sergeant Michael Brooks from the 524 Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare to fly dissimilar aircraft training at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, December 4, 2006. (US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Christopher L. Ingersoll)

Continue reading ‘Rule 5 Blogging: Off we go, into the wild blue yonder!’ »

This was still up today on msn.com

It’s almost as though they were trying to embarrass the reporter!

The most respected Iowa pollster’s final caucus poll is out. Here’s what it says.

Andrew Prokop | 2 days ago

The Iowa poll the political world has been eagerly awaiting is finally here — and it has great news for Donald Trump.

On Saturday evening, Bloomberg Politics and the Des Moines Register released the results of their final Iowa caucus poll, which is conducted by by widely-respected pollster Ann Selzer and has been extremely accurate in recent years.

For the Republican race, the poll found Trump in first among likely caucusgoers with 28 percent, Ted Cruz in second with 23 percent, and Marco Rubio in third with 15 percent. No other candidate topped 10 percent support.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is ahead with 45 percent among likely caucusgoers, followed by Bernie Sanders with 42 percent. Martin O’Malley is very far back, with just 3 percent.

In a live event announcing the poll results, Selzer said there was no indication that Thursday night’s GOP debate (and Trump’s failure to attend it) led to any serious movement in the numbers.

The Iowa caucuses, explained

Selzer has a very good track record of polling the caucuses

Polling the Iowa caucuses is extremely difficult. These events aren’t like ordinary primaries — they take place at a specific time in the evening and can last hours. So predicting who will show up is extremely difficult, and has led many pollsters astray in the past. Plus, many voters end up deciding quite late, so it’s a challenge for a pollster to detect if any one candidate suddenly surges in the final days.

Selzer, though, seems to be an expert at both modeling turnout and picking up on this late movement, as her track record shows:

And I’ll let the reader follow the link to see how the author told us that Ann Selzer has been so good, for so long, on getting the caucus results right! :)

Instead, she told us that:

  • Donald Trump was likely to score a strong win over Ted Cruz; and
  • Marco Rubio was going to be a distant third, with around half the votes that Mr Trump would get.

Realistically, this is falling right into the same path as all of the other bum polling data over the past several years, not just in the United States, but in many foreign democracies.

Something has changed dramatically — in my opinion, the disappearance of the ‘land line’ telephone, with more and more people going cell phone only — and it has led to the pollsters being just plain wrong, and wrong a lot.

When my cell rings, I look and see who’s calling. If I’m busy, and it’s a number I don’t recognize, I don’t answer it. If it is a blocked or withheld number, I will never answer it. And if I do answer a call from an unknown number, and it begins with a computer voice, I hang up immediately. I cannot be the only person who does this.

Does that kind of behavior skew the polls? I don’t know in my case personally, but I’d bet that overall, it does.

It occurred to me that ‘Ted Cruzes to victory’ would be an interesting headline . . . . . . but that would indicate that it was easy, which it wasn't.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) won the Iowa Caucuses by a wider-than-anticipated margin — the polls had been all over the place, with the latest one showing Donald Trump in the lead — and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) came in third. With 99% of the precincts reporting, Mr. Cruz led the GOP field as the top pick of 27.7% of Republican caucusgoers, followed by Mr. Trump at 24.3% and Mr. Rubio at 23.1%.

Senator Cruz worked hard in Iowa, but that’s not saying something exceptional: every candidate worked hard in Iowa. My candidate, Carly Fiorina, finished with a very poor 2% of the vote; if she doesn’t do a lot better in New Hampshire, she’s done. Democrat Martin O’Malley is reportedly dropping out, and I would expect a couple of Republicans to fold up their campaigns as well.

The cost curve has been bent, but it sure hasn’t been bent downward Health insurance premiums are skyrocketing under the 'Affordable' Care Act

Remember when we were told that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would “bend the cost curve downward”? From The Wall Street Journal:

ObamaCare’s Wallet-Buster Health Plans

While insurance premiums and deductibles soar, Hillary Clinton takes credit for the president’s mess.

By Nathan Nascimento | January 31, 2016 6:22 p.m. ET

On the campaign trail in Iowa, Hillary Clinton claimed that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is little different than her health-care plan in 1993. “It was called HillaryCare before it was called ObamaCare,” she told supporters on Jan. 21.

Her timing was awkward. That same day, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that health-insurance premiums on the Affordable Care Act exchanges rose an average of 9% between 2015 and 2016.

But the HHS data account for less than half of individual-exchange consumers buying coverage only on the 38 states using the federal exchange. The overall premium increases were significantly higher.

Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, where I work, has analyzed all publicly available information for health-insurance premiums from healthcare.gov and state insurance departments. It then calculated the weighted averages for all health-insurance plans available on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. The weighted average gives a more accurate view of overall premium increases, because it takes into account each insurance plan’s market share.

The findings: Nationally, premiums for individual health plans increased on average between 2015 and 2016 by 14.9%.

Consumers in every state except Mississippi faced increased premiums, and in no fewer than 29 states the average increases were in the double digits. For a third of states, the average premiums rose 20% or more.

There’s a lot more at the original, much of it the individual state data, but it all boils down to what we have said before: you cannot add millions of people who could not previously afford health insurance rolls to the insurance rolls, with subsidized if not outright paid-by-the-government premiums without increasing costs. The lovely Mrs Clinton is trying to claim some share of the credit for Obaminablecare; the question becomes whether more people will see an increase in the number of people insured as a better thing than the increased costs that they are bearing due to the program.

As Iowa voters go to the caucuses this evening, it’s time to point out that Iowans saw an average increase of 22.0%, ranging from a 9.4% increase on the low end, to 28.7% for the people hit hardest. Remember, these are premium increases over just one year, while the inflation rate for 2015 was a whopping 0.7%.1

Think about that: every state except Mississippi, which saw a slight decrease of 0.2%, saw health insurance premiums rise in excess of the inflation rate. Indiana, which saw the second lowest increase still averaged a 1.0% increase in premiums, higher than inflation. Not only are people going to see higher taxes, as government spending to pay the premium subsidies — an expense which was zero prior to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — increases, but their own insurance premiums are increasing as well. Call it a one-two punch.

Well, the tax increases haven’t happened yet, for most people — the top producers have seen tax increases under the ACA — but they will, because eventually taxes will have to be increased to pay for all of this, but the premium increases have already hit.
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Cross-posted on RedState.
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  1. While health insurance costs are rising faster than the rate of inflation, medical care costs are also included in the official inflation rate. Thus, the official inflation rate is higher in part due to the increased health insurance costs.

Rule 5 Blogging: Americans serving their country!

It’s the weekend once again, and time for THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL’S version of Rule 5 Blogging, for which he should be severely criticized! Robert Stacey Stacy McCain described Rule 5 as posting photos of pretty women somewhat déshabillé, but, on this site, our Rule 5 Blogging doesn’t put up pictures of Kate Bosworth in her summer clothes, but women, in full military gear, serving their countries in the armed forces. The terribly sexist authors on this site celebrate strong women, women who can take care of themselves and take care of others, women who have been willing to put their lives on the line in some not-so-friendly places, women who truly do have the “We can do it!” attitude. Click any photo to enlarge. This week: more Americans serving their country, happy to know that Barack Hussein Obama will be their Commander-in-Chief for less than another year.

Sgt. Jennifer L. Ramsey, explosive ordnance disposal technician with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 looks on as Royal Australian Air Force Sgt. Adam Griffiths, senior non-commissioned officer for operations at the Delamere Range Facility inspects the results of a cutting line-charge detonation on a practice bomb at the DRF Sept. 28. The practice bomb is being cut in half to be mounted and used as a training aid.

Continue reading ‘Rule 5 Blogging: Americans serving their country!’ »

From Around the Blogroll

I noted, two years ago to the day, President Obama’s proposed myRA plan, one in which employers who do not offer either 401(k), 403(b) or traditional retirement plans would set up myRA accounts for employees. Employees could then have no fee, Roth style individual retirement accounts. The main points:

  • All workers may invest in the accounts, as long as they are paid via direct deposit, including those who already have an employer-provided 401(k) plan, as long as their household income falls below $191,000 a year.
  • The account will function as a Roth IRA rather than a traditional IRA. This means that participants will not be able to deduct the savings from their income at tax time, but will may no taxes on the principle or investment earnings upon qualified withdrawal. Anyone who withdraws the interest earned in the account before age 59½ will get hit with taxes and a possible penalty, just like a Roth IRA.
  • The myRA accounts will solely invest in government savings bonds. They will also be backed by the U.S. government, meaning that savers can never lose their principal investment.
  • Unlike IRAs at private investment firms or banks, the myRA accounts will have no administrative fees.
  • Once the account reaches $15,000, it must be transferred to a private Roth IRA; it can be transferred at any time before it reaches the threshold.

There are some silly restrictions in this. First, there is no particular need for an employee to have his paycheck directly deposited to contribute to a standard or Roth IRA; why must the government mandate this? And why must the employees transfer the accounts to private Roth IRAs after reaching a fairly low threshold? It would be a greater benefit to the employees at whom the plans are aimed — those who are not good savers or understand much about such plans — to continue in accounts in which they don’t have to pay administrative fees or bother with setting up new accounts.

Of course, the plan is really meant to benefit the federal government! Because the plans will invest solely in government savings bonds, the plans would help fund government spending! “Encouraging” small employers — the vast majority of such accounts would go to workers at small businesses, the ones which do not already offer 401(k) programs — to get these things set up for their employees would be encouraging their employees to, in effect, pay more in taxes, for the promise of a fairly small retirement account many years later.

Let me be clear here: I do not trust the federal government when it comes to any plans to mess with people’s money! The myRA plans, on their face, don’t strike me as harmful, if not particularly helpful, either, but the last thing I want to see is yet another way for the federal government to stick its wet nose into people’s personal finances.

And now, on to the blogroll!

That’s it for this week!