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October 19, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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October 19, 2012
 

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PAGE 2B HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 19, ,2012 By Janet H. Rapp, CPA GellerRagans Do you consider tax plan- ning as part of your activi- ties in the last few months of each year? Have you started yet for this year? Any advisors out there indicating which way the tide will turn? Many of you knew our much esteemed partner Jack Oppenheimer, who recently passed. His philosophy, which contin- ues still, is plan, plan, plan and thoroughly strategize. The tax return then should display the results. However, the ever-present economic uncertainty, po- tential for vast tax changes, and inability of our elected representatives to resolve this are not conducive to a feeling of financial security or well strategized planning. For the past several years individuals and business owners have spent their en- ergy attempting to maintain their position and keep their expenses in check, particu- larly as income has yet to stabilize. Now we have the ,potential for drastic change and fears of the repercus- sions. To plan for this year and next is virtually guesswork. Congress is on vacation un- til Nov. 13; and will only be in session for four weeks before they break for an extended holiday. They notoriously move slowly through any is- sue. Is there any expectation of significant tax legislation in enough time for you to put into place tax planning opportunities? You can set the wheels in motion, yet wait to pull the trigger until mid-December, and hope two weeks is enough time. Here are some ideas to keep in mind based on pending changes: Accelerate long term capital gains-into 2012. The tax rates on net long term capital gains remain at historic lows (0 percent if you are in the lowest in- come tax brackets, and 15 percent if your tax bracket is 25 percent or higher). In 2013, capital gains rates will not only increase, they will also be included in the calculation for the new Medicare surtax of 3.8 percent on unearned income. Assuming capital gains rates do increase, and the Medicare surtax is not repealed, you may want to consider harvesting capital losses by year end, or into next year. These losses will offset other capital gains, re- ducing exposure to not only the higher capital gains rate but also the potential effect of the 3.8 percent tax. Make certain you are well versed in the tax implications for short term and long term capital gains prior to taking any action. Consider ROTH conver- sions prior to Dec. 31 of this year. The reportable income from a ROTH conversion in 2013 could drive total income into a higher tax bracket than expected as well as cause your income to cross the threshold where the Medicare surtax will apply. (The application is to single filers with income over $200,000 and married tilers with income over $25O,OOO.) In 2013 the old 'phase- out' rules come back. This means for higher income individuals, the personal exemption phase out re- turns as well as the itemized deduction limits [remember losing 3 percent of your itemized deductions be- cause your income level? That returns). Consider making your charitable con- tributions before Dec. 31. to avoid having any amounts disallowed due to income limits in 2013. Some items expiring this year or expired at the end of 2011 with the potential for not being extended of which to be aware: education credits for tuition and costs, sales tax deduction, mort- gage insurance premium deduction, teacher expenses deduction, and exclusion from income of discharge of 'qualified principal resi- dence indebtedness.' This information is not exhaustive. Educate your- self, keep abreast of legis- lation affecting your taxes, and talk to your professional advisor, be they a CPA or CFP. The better armed you are with information, the better you can strategize. By Richard Ries Don't think for a minute that Starbucks is just a cup of coffee. It's perhaps the most successful corporation in human history and is of keen interest to professors of business and marketing, economics and trade, sociol- ogy, labor law, zoning and public policy, organizational behavior, human resources, hospitality and cultural studies. In my studies of corporate hegemony, Starbucks, post- modernist hyper-consumer- ism and its accompanying alienation, I have found a consistent pattern of some of the most strident critics of Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Starbucks and other multi- national juggernauts: they are more often than not Jewish. It cannot be writteh off as mere coincidence. Naomi Klein, a Jewish Canadian academic and journalist, is a bit of a folk figure in the realm of cul- tural studies. Her book and DVD, "No Logo," explains how logos came to be so prominent. As the 20th century witnessed the slow destruction of traditional family structures and neigh- borhoods, and a seismic shift in purchasing food and cooking, Americans could no longer see local farm- ers or family members as sources of human familiar- ity and comfort. Enter the likes of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, Tony the Tiger, Ronald McDonald and the Quaker Oats man to assist in the transition to the purchasing of foods long distance. Now, logos and brands such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Polo and Tommy Hil- tiger are worn for the sake of being worn: there is no longer even a need to iden- tify the name with anything concrete--just avague sense of upscale superiority. At this point in human civ- ilization, we are bombarded if not brainwashed by logos (and.now apps) from a very early age on. How powerful can branding and symbols be? Hitler had an inkling. Kim Fellner, a Jewish activist from Pittsburgh who now works at the AFL- CIO in Washington, D.C explores in "Wrestling With Starbucks" the ruthlessness of Starbucks' marketing plans, its anti-union stance ("we aren't anti-union: we're pro-partner") and how com- panies such as Starbucks call employees "partners" (Wal-Mart calls employees "associates") to provide a sense of belonging that do riot really exist in the ac- tual hierarchies. (A barista making $8 an hour plus tips cannot rightfully be called a "partner" of billionaire Howard Schultz.) Robin Leidner, a University of pennsylvania sociologist, also Jewish. writes about the subjugation processes that McDonald's foodservice workers undergo (uniforms, trained responses, a docile worker personality, cleaning of public toilets, and an emphasis on clean cut looks that echoes practices of the military). Perhaps most impor- tantly, George Ritzer, a Jewish sociologist from the University of Maryland, examines modern life in "The McDonaidization of Society." He charts the rise of McDonald's and later Starbucks and demon- strates how McDonald's formula for efficiency, con- venience, predictability and calculability has permeated society. The human act of eating a repast with family and lingering over conver- sation is to be replaced by an alienated experience, emotionally detached from the food server, and is to be over quickly the same formula that fuels our sec- ond biggest industry after automobiles: pornography. Ritzer contends that only a society that has adjusted to bureaucracies, Obedience, efficiency, predictability and calculability is a soci- ety capable of perpetuating genocide on the organized level of the Holocaust. We are taught in school that feudal kings and Rus- sian czars had serfs, that Southern plantation owners had slaves and that such institutions are parts of history. They are not. The implementation of hyper-consumerism and franchising, as replacements for religion and community, has created corporate fief- doms the czars would envy. Today's corporate czars wield enormous power over employees, consumers, and society. Millions of service workers don Target red, Wal-Mart blue. Home Depot orange, or Starbucks green and practice obedience on a daily basis for low wages and without the benefit of a union. They enter regimes where all of their activity is tracked on videotape, where freedom of expression is suppressed, where track- ing headphones are worn. They unwittingly enter empires that have much to do with ownership of the earth's natural resources. its creation of pollution and the exploitation of workers overseas who manufacture our clothes, pick our coffee beans and extract our oil. Franchises destroy hu- man culture and history and repackage it as a consumer need. After local independent stores and neighborhoods are demolished, displaced workers are rehired at lower wages. Then the new chain is reinforced through heavy ad- vertising. That's the playbook. Mayflower resident Annette Rosch with daughter Jeannie Leavitt and son-in-law Mark Leavitt. The Mayflower. Smart. Secure. And Spectacular. For Annette Rosch, moving to The Mayflower from St. Petersburg was a family decision. Her daughter, a physical therapist, and her son-in-law, an attorney, wanted her to live closer. "We visited various communities and talked to people who worked in the industry and who had older parents. The Mayflower name kept coming up," says Jeannie. "From the first minute of our initial visit here, we knew this was the place. All levels of care are right here." - That, as things turned out, was a good thing. Justprior to moving in, Annette broke her arm and wound up going straight to The Mayflower's 5-Star, Gold Seal Health Center, followed by rehab and physical therapy right on-site. "It was a wonderful experience," she says. "The staff was very gracious; I was well taken care of." Now Annette is settled in her new apartment and couldn't be happier. For her daughter, it is a huge relief. "Morn is in good hands," adds Jeannie. "She has peace of mind and feels secure. And so do we." What's your plan for t he future? Call today, and let's talk about it: 407.672.1620 THE MAYFLOWER www.themayflower.com 1620 Mayflower Court Winter Park, FL 32792 The corner diner becomes Denny's; the local barber (where folksy conversation would take place) becomes Supercuts; the general store becomes Wal-Mar t; the local bookstore becomes Barnes and Noble. We are repeatedly told this is progress until we all beliege it. It is called "glocaliza- tion." Ethnicity becomes- homogenized, sanitized and militarized through Taco Bell. Pei Wei and P.F. Chang's, Einstein Bagels. Dominoes, Carrabba's and the Olive Garden. When you're here. you're family. Not really. Jews in academia are concerned about chains and franchises because they re- inforce the totalitarian val- ues America fought against in World War II. This new consumer totalitarianism gainsays the fabric of what creates a democracy. These workplaces are Orwellian worlds of obedience, same- ness, monotony, docility and heavy surveillance that subjugate individuals and quell the human spirit. This is as true of seemingly politically correct places like Whole Foods as it is of Wal-Mart. You can make a state- ment about yourself and do something about it. You can wear fewer logos. You can shop and dine less at corporate outlets and patronize independent retailers, cafes, hotels and restaurants more espe- cially family owned ethnic ones. You can cook more and eat out less. You can utilize the Asian and His- panic greengrocers more. You can find bargains at flea markets. I know it's sometimes hard to avoid chains in Florida. But each time you do, you can take a small and very personal step against the forces of obedience, conformity, militarization and subjugation that should exist only in science fic- tion not in the nation envisioned by Jefferson, extolled by Whitman, and defended by so many who gave their lives to defend its most fundamental huma~a values. Richard Ries studies writ- ing and sociology at The Uni- versity of Central Florida.