The day before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest travel days of the year.
Figure in the new security measures bogging down the flow at many of this country's airports and my guess is, both travellers and those meeting friends and families at their destinations best prepare for delays.
Whether waiting to clear security or waiting in the lobby, I'll throw out a few topics to help pass the time.
Israel Airport Security
Many Americans--on their last nerve regarding body scanners and pat downs of their person--have deemed the Israelis as the leading experts of airport security. With TSA Under Fire, is Racial Profiling on the Table? (CBS News, 11/23/2010)
As the New York Times reported Monday, some are looking to Israel - where profiling is just one among the many airport security tactics that make civil liberties defenders cringe - for guidance on airport security. The system is extremely restrictive by American standards, and stories of over-the-top searches and overzealous questioning are common. (Here's one that involves a murdered laptop.)
"My experience leaving Tel Aviv was by far and away the most unpleasant encounter I've ever had with airport security officials in the decade," blogger Matthew Yglesias wrote. "As best I could tell, things went pretty smoothly as long as you were (a) Israeli, (b) traveling with an Israeli, or (c) traveling with some kind of well-established tour group."
Yglesias said that it took three hours for him to get from his initial security check to the airport's food court, and added that the Jewish member of his group "had the easiest time" while the black woman in the group "had the hardest time."
Sort of like Lent, what have you sacrificed because of the economy? Personally, I've cut having my eyebrows waxed from my must-have list.
As far as others, More American Expatriates Give Up Citizenship (The New York Times, 4/25/2010)
Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.
“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue.”
The Federal Register, the government publication that records such decisions, shows that 502 expatriates gave up their U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status in the last quarter of 2009. That is a tiny portion of the 5.2 million Americans estimated by the State Department to be living abroad.
Still, 502 was the largest quarterly figure in years, more than twice the total for all of 2008, and it looms larger, given how agonizing the decision can be. There were 235 renunciations in 2008 and 743 last year. Waiting periods to meet with consular officers to formalize renunciations have grown.
Anecdotally, frustrations over tax and banking questions, not political considerations, appear to be the main drivers of the surge. Expat advocates say that as it becomes more difficult for Americans to live and work abroad, it will become harder for American companies to compete.
American expats have long complained that the United States is the only industrialized country to tax citizens on income earned abroad, even when they are taxed in their country of residence, though they are allowed to exclude their first $91,400 in foreign-earned income.
One Swiss-based business executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of sensitive family issues, said she weighed the decision for 10 years. She had lived abroad for years but had pleasant memories of service in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Yet the notion of double taxation — and of future tax obligations for her children, who will receive few U.S. services — finally pushed her to renounce, she said.
“I loved my time in the Marines, and the U.S. is still a great country,” she said. “But having lived here 20 years and having to pay and file while seeing other countries’ nationals not having to do that, I just think it’s grossly unfair.”
“It’s taxation without representation,” she added.
The Bush Tax Cuts
Hate to break the news, but the end of the year is within sight. If Congress allows the Bush tax cuts to expire, what changes could be in store for taxpayers come the new year? (The Christian Science Monitor , 9/13/2010
•The 10, 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent rates would all rise. The new tax rates would be 15, 28, 31, 36, and 39.6 percent. This would cost taxpayers about $157 billion per year.
•The indexing of the alternative minimum tax for inflation would end. The AMT, which provides $66 billion in annual relief for taxpayers, attempts to ensure that individuals who benefit from itemized deductions or credits pay a separately calculated minimum tax.
•Taxes on capital gains and dividends would rise, meaning that investors could potentially pay about $35 billion more.
•Married couples would go back to paying higher rates than today, at a cost to them of $32 billion per year.
•Expanded tax credits – such as the child tax credit, which went from $500 to $1,000 – would end. This would cost families $26 billion per year. Some taxpayers would also pay an additional cumulative $1.5 billion in education costs.
•The estate tax, which has already expired, would go back to its 2009 level, costing heirs at least $26 billion.
•Higher-income households would see the dollar value of their personal exemptions phased out and would have a lower value for certain itemized deductions. This would cost those people – most of whom make well over $170,000 a year – about $21 billion.
Did Sarah's daughter win Dancing with the Stars? (Media Decoder, 11/23/2010)Happy Trails.
Labels: body scans, Bristol Palin, Bush tax cuts, Dancing with the Stars, privacy rights, Sarah Palin, Thanksgiving 2010