Transformational - A Perspective on Barack Obama from 2 Republicans

Former Secretary of State and decorated military man, General Colin Powell recently gave an eloquent talk on the American Sunday news show "Meet the Press" about why he is supporting Barack Obama.

Powell's endorsement of Obama along with his obvious distaste for the tactics of the McCain campaign, the direction of the Republican Party and the current administration speaks volumes about the change taking place in America.

Being a soldier, I never thought Powell would go against his own party and the numerous Republican presidents he has served by supporting Obama. His courage to speak from his heart is refreshing. He used the words "transformational" and "intellectual vigor", traits that are admirable in a world leader. He also liked the cohesive message that Obama has displayed about the economic and financial crises which will probably be the biggest challenge for the next president. If you have not seen the interview, I encourage you to click on or paste one of the two links below.

In addition, an article from another Republican caught my eye for it's passionate and heartfelt view of Obama. Not many people (Democrats or Republicans) have written such glowing prose on why Obama will win and become a great president. Judging from Obama's meteoric rise from 4 years ago, I suspect many in America and around the globe might feel the same way although they might not shout it to the world!

I enjoy those who are bold, provide "sizzle and style" and put themselves on the line for their beliefs. Even if you don't agree with Frank Schaeffer, you may view Barack Obama a bit differently after reading his article.

The entire article (and link) is below and can also be found on the popular blog, "The Huffington Post".

Happy Gswede Sunday!


Huffington Post, Posted October 8, 2008

Obama Will Be One of The Greatest (and Most Loved) American Presidents

Great presidents are made great by horrible circumstances combined with character, temperament and intelligence. Like firemen, cops, doctors or soldiers, presidents need a crisis to shine.

Obama is one of the most intelligent presidential aspirants to ever step forward in American history. The likes of his intellectual capabilities have not been surpassed in public life since the Founding Fathers put pen to paper. His personal character is also solid gold. Take heart, America: we have the leader for our times.

I say this as a white, former life-long Republican. I say this as the proud father of a Marine. I say this as just another American watching his pension evaporate along with the stock market! I speak as someone who knows it's time to forget party loyalty, ideology and pride and put the country first. I say this as someone happy to be called a fool for going out on a limb and declaring that, 1) Obama will win, and 2) he is going to be amongst the greatest of American presidents.

Obama is our last best chance. He's worth laying it all on the line for.

This is a man who in the age of greed took the high road of community service. This is the good father and husband. This is the humble servant. This is the patient teacher. This is the scholar statesman. This is the man of deep Christian faith.

Good stories about Obama abound; from his personal relationship with his Secret Service agents (he invites them into his home to watch sports, and shoots hoops with them) to the story about how, more than twenty years ago, while standing in the check-in line at an airport, Obama paid a $100 baggage surcharge for a stranger who was broke and stuck. (Obama was virtually penniless himself in those days.) Years later after he became a senator, that stranger recognized Obama's picture and wrote to him to thank him. She received a kindly note back from the senator. (The story only surfaced because the person, who lives in Norway, told a local newspaper after Obama ran for the presidency. The paper published a photograph of this lady proudly displaying Senator Obama's letter.)

Where many leaders are two-faced; publicly kindly but privately feared and/or hated by people closest to them, Obama is consistent in the way he treats people, consistently kind and personally humble. He lives by the code that those who lead must serve. He believes that. He lives it. He lived it long before he was in the public eye.

Obama puts service ahead of ideology. He also knows that to win politically you need to be tough. He can be. He has been. This is a man who does what works, rather than scoring ideological points. In other words he is the quintessential non-ideological pragmatic American. He will (thank God!) disappoint ideologues and purists of the left and the right.

Obama has a reservoir of personal physical courage that is unmatched in presidential history. Why unmatched? Because as the first black contender for the presidency who will win, Obama, and all the rest of us, know that he is in great physical danger from the seemingly unlimited reserve of unhinged racial hatred, and just plain unhinged ignorant hatred, that swirls in the bowels of our wounded and sinful country. By stepping forward to lead, Obama has literally put his life on the line for all of us in a way no white candidate ever has had to do. (And we all know how dangerous the presidency has been even for white presidents.)

Nice stories or even unparalleled courage isn't the only point. The greater point about Obama is that the midst of our worldwide financial meltdown, an expanding (and losing) war in Afghanistan, trying to extricate our country from a wrong and stupidly mistaken ruinously expensive war in Iraq, our mounting and crushing national debt, awaiting the next (and inevitable) al Qaeda attack on our homeland, watching our schools decline to Third World levels of incompetence, facing a general loss of confidence in the government that has been exacerbated by the Republicans doing all they can to undermine our government's capabilities and programs... President Obama will take on the leadership of our country at a make or break time of historic proportions. He faces not one but dozens of crisis, each big enough to define any presidency in better times.

As luck, fate or divine grace would have it (depending on one's personal theology) Obama is blessedly, dare I say uniquely, well-suited to our dire circumstances. Obama is a person with hands-on community service experience, deep connections to top economic advisers from the renowned University of Chicago where he taught law, and a middle-class background that gives him an abiding knowledgeable empathy with the rest of us. As the son of a single mother, who has worked his way up with merit and brains, recipient of top-notch academic scholarships, the peer-selected editor of the Harvard Law Review and, in three giant political steps to state office, national office and now the presidency, Obama clearly has the wit and drive to lead.

Obama is the sober voice of reason at a time of unreason. He is the fellow keeping his head while all around him are panicking. He is the healing presence at a time of national division and strife. He is also new enough to the political process so that he doesn't suffer from the terminally jaded cynicism, the seen-it-all-before syndrome afflicting most politicians in Washington. In that regard we Americans lucked out. It's as if having despaired of our political process we picked a name from the phone book to lead us and that person turned out to be a very man we needed.

Obama brings a healing and uplifting spiritual quality to our politics at the very time when our worst enemy is fear. For eight years we've been ruled by a stunted fear-filled mediocrity of a little liar who has expanded his power on the basis of creating fear in others. Fearless Obama is the cure. He speaks a litany of hope rather than a litany of terror.

As we have watched Obama respond in a quiet reasoned manner to crisis after crisis, in both the way he has responded after being attacked and lied about in the 2008 campaign season, to his reasoned response to our multiplying national crises, what we see is the spirit of a trusted family doctor with a great bedside manner. Obama is perfectly suited to hold our hand and lead us through some very tough times. The word panic is not in the Obama dictionary.

America is fighting its "Armageddon" in one fearful heart at a time. A brilliant leader with the mild manner of an old-time matter-of-fact country doctor soothing a frightened child is just what we need. The fact that our "doctor" is a black man leading a hitherto white-ruled nation out of the mess of its own making is all the sweeter and raises the Obama story to that of moral allegory.

Obama brings a moral clarity to his leadership reserved for those who have had to work for everything they've gotten and had to do twice as well as the person standing next to them because of the color of their skin. His experience of succeeding in spite of his color, social background and prejudice could have been embittering or one that fostered a spiritual rebirth of forgiveness and enlightenment. Obama radiates the calm inner peace of the spirit of forgiveness.

Speaking as a believing Christian I see the hand of a merciful God in Obama's candidacy. The biblical metaphors abound. The stone the builder rejected is become the cornerstone... the last shall be first... he that would gain his life must first lose it... the meek shall inherit the earth...

For my secular friends I'll allow that we may have just been extraordinarily lucky! Either way America wins.

Only a brilliant man, with the spirit of a preacher and the humble heart of a kindly family doctor can lead us now. We are afraid, out of ideas, and worst of all out of hope. Obama is the cure. And we Americans have it in us to rise to the occasion. We will. We're about to enter one of the most frightening periods of American history. Our country has rarely faced more uncertainty. This is the time for greatness. We have a great leader. We must be a great people backing him, fighting for him, sacrificing for a cause greater than ourselves.

A hundred years from now Obama's portrait will be placed next to that of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Long before that we'll be telling our children and grandchildren that we stepped out in faith and voted for a young black man who stood up and led our country back from the brink of an abyss. We'll tell them about the power of love, faith and hope. We'll tell them about the power of creativity combined with humility and intellectual brilliance. We'll tell them that President Obama gave us the gift of regaining our faith in our country. We'll tell them that we all stood up and pitched in and won the day. We'll tell them that President Obama restored our standing in the world. We'll tell them that by the time he left office our schools were on the mend, our economy booming, that we'd become a nation filled with green energy alternatives and were leading the world away from dependence on carbon-based destruction. We'll tell them that because of Pres ident Obama's example and leadership the integrity of the family was restored, divorce rates went down, more fathers took responsibility for their children, and abortion rates fell dramatically as women, families and children were cared for through compassionate social programs that worked. We'll tell them about how the gap closed between the middle class and the super rich, how we won health care for all, how crime rates fell, how bad wars were brought to an honorable conclusion. We'll tell them that when we were attacked again by al Qaeda, how reason prevailed and the response was smart, tough, measured and effective, and our civil rights were protected even in times of crisis...

We'll tell them that we were part of the inexplicably blessed miracle that happened to our country those many years ago in 2008 when a young black man was sent by God, fate or luck to save our country. We'll tell them that it's good to live in America where anything is possible. Yes we will.

Frank Schaeffer is the author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.Now in paperback.

Gswede and one of his dearest friends in a state of wonder about something in the Swedish Air!

McCain vs Obama - Sometimes, it's all about the MONEY

Earlier this year, a childhood friend from Pennsylvania told me about his support for Barack Obama. He left no doubt in my mind that he was a firm believer like millions of Americans and practically everyone I encounter in Europe.

After John McCain’s Vice Presidential choice, Sarah Palin took America and the world by storm, I wondered if he was impacted like much of the country so I wrote an email to see if he was still an Obama man. Call it a premonition as I thought his opinion might have been altered; not necessarily because of the public relations brilliance of Palin. When I didn't hear from him promptly as expected, I was left wondering.

Last week, he sent me the following email:

"I was for Obama all the way. But here is my dilemma… he stated he will raise capital gains tax to 30% and more, McCain just said he will lower it to 7.5% - this will impact me directly by $70 to $80 K next year alone - so he is no longer my guy. Let me say that again – I will have to pay $80 K more in taxes next year…on one of my projects alone. That is more than most people make a year. So how could I vote for this guy – and many - many of my friends – by accepting this? My wife and I were for him until last week or so – but now it seems like a re-distribution of wealth. McCain-Palin is the way to go as I see it Now. CHANGE – my mind – or give me a reason better than $80 K why I should change my opinion".

Was I shocked by his abrupt change of heart? No but very surprised.

Was I disappointed by his abrupt change of heart? Yes, although not for his choice of McCain; the disappointment emanated from his "one issue" reason for McCain especially since it seems to be all about the money and less about what is good for America.

Keep in mind that this individual is a good man and dedicated family person who I have known for over 30 years. He is smart, interesting and enjoyable to be around along with having the rare ability to embrace and be comfortable around all types of people. In addition, he has traveled outside of America unlike the vast majority of USA citizens. I was a groomsman at his wedding and his friendship has been and will continue to be important to me.

Below is my open letter to him.

Happy Gswede Sunday!
Dear Friend:

Whether you vote for Obama or McCain is not the issue but I am disappointed in your approach as money seems to be the fuel for your decision. I realize we must take care of our families first as all good things in life start from a strong family unit. Right now, many families are hurting across America; much more than yours or mine abroad. How they got there is not so important at this point; what is important is this question. "What are we going to do as a nation in this election to help out our fellow citizens"?

You have made your money by being a smart and successful businessman and deserve to earn and keep as much as you can. What you may not know is those capital gains you mention are not so black and white meaning your losses could be less than what you expect. Information about this topic will be forthcoming.

I implore you to think seriously about who will be the best President for America 1st and the World 2nd; then base your decision on elements that support that criteria rather than money. Currently, our country is in a rough situation and could spiral into unimaginable chaos in the coming years. We have already experienced a taste of it in the last few weeks of the financial meltdown and you must feel the pain rampaging through our great country. My heart is heavy in Sweden.

Your life has been a shining example of the American dream and you have lived up to the wonderful values that your mother and father instilled in you including helping others and volunteering. Don't you want the same opportunity for your children? I know very few men as decent and loving as you. And your choice of a wife couldn't have been better! How can you discard all your blessings and base your vote for president on one issue that helps no one but your family?

Here are a few thoughts to ponder on who America needs as its next President:

-- We need a president who is respected AT HOME (America).

-- We need a strategic president who thinks about the issues surrounding America first and foremost followed closely by our neighbors around the world.

-- We need a president who is RESPECTED around the world and can make the AMERICAN BRAND stronger outside of our borders. As an American living abroad, I want cultures throughout the world to respect the leader of our country.

-- We need a president with intellectual or creative curiosity who has the ability to take the issues, think seriously about them and deliver that message to us so we know that careful thought has been applied.

-- We need a confident president who won't be detached or defensive.

-- We need a president who is not afraid to make the tough decision or call his own shots even if they turn out to be wrong.

-- We need a president with sound judgment who can decisively lead by playing a major role in avoiding or steering America through a crisis such as the financial implosion, Iraq war or tragedies like Katrina.

--We need a president who at the very least can be commanding and comforting in a crisis much like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani after September 11.

--We need a president who consistently puts family first, leads our nation, comforts us, inspires us and make us proud.

As you know, the last 8 years have not exactly been kind to America. They may have been good to you, me and most of our friends but far too many of our fellow Americans are in dire straights. They need and deserve our help in electing the best man to lead our nation during this critical period by thinking about the aforementioned criteria or at least more than one issue.

I didn't want my message to be your only input so I shared your words with a close network of friends and readers of my blog (Obama and McCain supporters in America and abroad) and the response was swift and lively. The range of emotions was all over the map including anger, disbelief, not surprised, factual, agreeable, disappointment and calm eloquence. The quality and effort of the emails genuinely moved me and displayed the passion that our Presidential election has inspired.

Below you will find a few of those responses (all Americans) that I hope will give you some food for thought. The first should make an impression as the writer lives a short ten minute drive from your house.

One thing any caring or sincere person should believe is this.....America needs a change or new direction. If you think McCain is that change, vote for him. If you think (like you did previously) Obama is the new direction, vote for him. It is easily one of the most important choices of our lifetime. The choice will always be respected if it is properly evaluated.

And remember, if we make the wrong choice as a nation; that mistake could cost America, its families and the world years upon years of grueling pain and put your family in a position where the money you might lose from capital gains could be the least of your worries.

I wish you and your family well.

Warm Regards,


1st - From Pennsylvania:

It is tempting to base a vote on one criterion. In fact, I would argue most people choose in this way since it's the easiest way to select things when accounting for the multitude of choices takes patience and study. Unfortunately, for the single issue voters of 2000 and 2004, like those who were pro-abortion and liked George Bush, they now have had to face very real second thoughts. For example, how many of those voters sent kids to Iraq only to see them not return? Or how about those who invested heavily in the stock of Washington Mutual or Lehman, only to have their portfolios shrink to nothing? If a more thorough examination of Bush from the perspective of his pre-emptive war view or his anti-regulatory stance had been added to his other views, I suggest his support would have been greatly reduced. Now I know that 80k sounds like a lot of money, and it is. But I would argue that life is more than short term profits and losses. Life is also about the hope for a better future, a more secure retirement, and more affordable health care and higher education costs.

I would argue that the savings they believe they'll yield in capital gains will be more than chewed up if McCain and the Republicans begin taxing health care benefits. If education reform doesn't take hold, and soon, the cost of a secondary education will be unattainable for the majority of Americans. In addition, with borrowing costs going up or worse, not available due to the credit market meltdown, students and families won't even have the chance to go on to college. Make no mistake, college is an investment in the long-term future of America. If you gut this precious American asset, capital gains taxes will be thing of the good old days.

Two ideas at the base of Obama's economic philosophy:


Reduce Income Inequality

"For decades, America has been victim to an anti-tax sentiment that has led to tax cuts that favor wealth, not work. And for decades, the gaps in wealth in this country have grown wider, while the costs to working people have increased. This year alone, the average person in the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans will receive more than $55,000 from the Bush tax cuts, while the average person in the bottom 20 percent of Americans will get about $70." Obama Tax Plan


Raise capital gains taxes for fairness, not revenue.

Q: You favor an increase in the capital gains tax, saying, "I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton, which was 28%." It's now 15%. That's almost a doubling if you went to 28%. Bill Clinton dropped the capital gains tax to 20%, then George Bush has taken it down to 15%. And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28%, the revenues went down.

A: What I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. The top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year--$29 billion for 50 individuals. Those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That's not fair.

Q: But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up.

A: Well, that might happen or it might not. It depends on what's happening on Wall Street and how business is going.

Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary Apr 16, 2008

The final word. Tax policies vary by President. Many of us have benefited handsomely over the past few years from increased stock valuations and real estate transactions that were, it turned out, too good to be true. As Obama stated on April 16, 2008, "it depends (capital gains) on Wall Street and how business is going". For a guy who many suggest is not ready or too green, it's interesting that he could be this much on point six full months before this unfortunate scenario of Wall Street's demise surfaced. Hearing that McCain wants to drop the capital gains rate is nothing more than saying he wants to reduce the tax rates on the top 1%. This has helped America? Clinton raised taxes in 1992 and used the funds to pay down the deficit. This reduced US government borrowing in the capital markets thereby providing money to Main Street for the capital it needed to invest in America. Finally, how many would now say that it was a good thing for America that we were able to flip houses at will only to now find some of the houses we thought we could flip still sitting without buyers and without a prospect for buyers in the near future? Heck, McCain wants to give money to homeowners who are upside down on their mortgages because "the devaluation of their homes is affecting their neighbors." This is a sensible McCain solution? Business is cyclical as is life. Throwing the baby out with the bath water, as your friend suggests he would do with Obama, is too high of a price to pay - even for a few extra dollars.

2nd - From New York City:

Here is the sad thing about Obama's plan – lowering the capital gains tax rate has added money to the treasury. Raising it will not only effect your friend the way he says, but it will decrease the amount of money to pay for these billions and billions of new obligations.

Why do it one may ask? – because it gets votes from people it doesn't affect – 75% of the population that is always looking to tear down the successful and look for something for nothing.

3rd - From an American in Sweden:

That's pretty simple. McCain is running off of the "proven" republican ticket but with the current financial crisis at hand there are a few facts that have to be considered:

1. taxes will be raised no matter who is in office.

2. Confidence in the US dollar will improve immediately with Obama taking office due to the resurgence of the American Dream.

3. The Republican "lower taxes policy" has ALWAYS led to worst overall financial situations while the Dems "more taxes and government intervention" has ALWAYS lead to the better times for everyone.

4. McCain has proven his lack of leadership qualities and inability to stay on message mix that with a Democratic congress and you have the perfect mixture for a lame duck -- not to mention he'll lack confidence since the Bradley Effect will be in play if he wins at this stage.

5. Palin brings in yet another round of neoconservatives hell bent on pushing their proven-to-fail agendas which will eventually bog down the White House's ability to lead and god forbid he dies in office...

6. If all else fails higher taxes for a few years compared to the long term effects of a McCain presidency should be the deciding factor for sane people.
4th - From Maryland:

Sadly, we don't all develop the same way at the same time, or along the same lines. He has been blessed to be able to earn a living at a level which most American's will quite literally NEVER SEE (Amazingly, the same can be said for both you and me). Yet, your friend has become so comfortable in this situation that he seems to be taking it for granted. If it's really just about the money there may be no argument which will convince him that McCain is a bad choice. Money is a strong motivator when you allow yourself to get lost in the pursuit of materialism. But McCain can't be serious or taken seriously when he says he'll cut taxes. We are spending $10,000,000,000 per month on the war in Iraq. We have an $11,000,000,000,000 national debt. Our infrastructure is in disrepair and social security is in jeopardy. We spend the largest portion of our national budget on health care through Medicare and Medicaid, and that percentage is not going to get smaller for at least another 20 years as the last of the baby-boomers hit retirement age. Given our policy shift and McCain's' support of the Bush Doctrine, we'll need to increase defense spending as we gear-up for pre-emptive strikes against anyone we perceive as enemies.

But we are still comfortable at this point and the politicians who are desperate for our votes know we are suckers for comfort. Because comfort feels good and we don't want to change. When some of us get comfortable in our situation we may tend to forget that not every one is similarly situated. We may also feel that those who have not been as fortunate as us are at fault for their situation and perhaps don't deserve our respect, our compassion or our assistance. We may forget the basic tenets we were raised with or the precepts we learned later in life about caring through sharing or about realizing that those to whom much is given, much is expected. We may forget that we are all children of God and as such we are all truly our brothers' keepers. We may forget that we have been blessed to be part of a nation and a society so blessedly abundant.

Recent stats from Dept of Labor and the Census bureau show that in 2007 the median household income was $50.2K. That's for the entire household! By the way, the average household has 1.8 salary earners and 2.3 people in it. You'll see variances in these numbers depending on where you look, but they are all in the same range. The average income for a household in the U.S. in 2007 was $53K. Let that settle in for a moment and think about what it means. Compare that to the $70-$80K your friend may have to pay in taxes. Doesn't that mean he earns at least 3 to 4 times that much in before-taxes base salary? Does that not give you enough to live so comfortably that even while sending two kids to college, you can afford a home in a safe and clean neighborhood? How much does one have to earn to not care about how much one is being taxed? Let me put this another way: Understanding the differences in the candidates, isn't it worth the extra increase in taxes to have our infrastructure and schools refurbished? What about our standing in the world, or the way in which America is perceived? If taxes are cut can we really wage war on two fronts? If we cut taxes, wage simultaneous wars, keep social security afloat, continue to fund Medicare and Medicaid and increase defense spending can we still rebuild our infrastructure while paying more for gas? Do you see the dichotomy in McCain's plans? If we are thinking clearly, can we take anything McCain says seriously? Remember George H.W. Bush's pledge of "Read my lips: No new taxes!?" Remember how his world crumbled when he couldn't deliver that pledge and had to eat his words as he raised taxes?

All of that aside, a vote for Obama should be because he's the better candidate and not because McCain is a daft old man. Obama is asking Americans to step up and make some sacrifices for the good of the nation and for the good of mankind. Our soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen should not have to bear the burden alone. We too can make sacrifices of some sort. $80K in taxes is a small price compared to losing ones' limbs, eyesight or life. We can finally be part of a generation that makes a difference. We can be the generation that finally allows America to live up to her promise. We can be the generation whose grandchildren can honestly feel pride when they read about us in their history textbooks. I want to be a part of the generation that says instead of being a part of history, we made history. I refuse to stand on the sidelines and let McCain cruise into office without a fight. I don't want to have to look my son and grandchildren in the eye and say that when that pivotal moment in history called, I refused to answer. In this election we have two distinct choices: We can look like the generations that blew it during reconstruction and the birth of Jim Crow or we can follow the example of the generations that fought WWII or marched with the freedom fighters of the sixties. I know which side I'm choosing and I don't care about the cost.

Peace and blessings.
5th - From an American in Sweden:

If it’s just about money etc .... You can tell him this: There are more people without financial and health care means today then ever before since the great depression. The other fact is that McCain's 90% support for Bush policies are a direct result too! I respect a man who does what’s best for his family BUT that won't make a difference in the bigger perspective in a global economy.

If I were him I'd start thinking globally by spreading 30% of my investments out into new markets i.e. emerging economies and realize that at the end of the day there are more people without then there are with livable means. He has the right to vote however he likes but it won't change much because it’s more than likely he will be reversely effected anyways!

6th - From Massachusetts:

Ask him how much he's going to make when we're at war with three or four different countries, people are in the streets without a pot to piss in, and his assets investments are vaporating. How much will he make from his projects, then? Your friend is looking at the small picture just like the banks, investment firms and Bush did. He's about getting his. He was never for Barack, he was for himself. The sooner you and he admit that, the clearer your friendship will be.

Sorry to be so harsh, but at a time when the greed of a few have touched the lives of so many who simply go to work and do the best they can within the parameters of moral fortitude, it's hard to hear some self-centered, short-sighted, (I'll refrain from what I want to call him because he's a friend of yours) person rationalize that he'll vote for a candidate who's straight-up admitting he has no clue how to fix the economy because he's potentially gonna save some money despite the fact that it would devastate the country as a whole.

That's just unbelievable to me, G.

7th - From an American in Sweden:

Don't think I can help. If he's a one issue voter, and less capital gains tax is his issue, then the R's are right. If he thinks the government should pay for wars, social security, national security, crime fighting, disaster relief, etc., then he should consider the Democrats, who in recent history have proven to be the more fiscally responsible party, while still funding critical government services. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said: "I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization."

8th - From New York City:


First, I love challenges like this. How I started to go about tackling this issue is to find out one thing: What are the facts?

Your friend's statement demonstrates a wild disparity in the figures 30% vs. 7.5%. This incurs some suspicion.

Firstly, directly from the IRS, here are the facts:

The first diagram shows that in 2006 only 12.9% of all tax returns produced capital gains.

The second diagram shows distribution of capital gains across the entire income spectrum in 2006.

The third diagram shows who would pay the most should capital gains increase. Basically more than $8 in $10 in capital gains goes to those making more than $200,000 year - these are the people who acquire the most capital gains income.

I don't know where your friend's numbers come from, but I'll assume that they are generated from Obama's proposed highest (which includes no deductions), versus McCains calculated lowest number (that person at the $200,000 income with all possible deductions).

Now, here's the kicker. Below info (click on link) cited from Wikipedia sourced from the IRS.

Capital gains tax in the United States

Year 2008 income brackets and tax rates

Short-term capital gains are taxed as ordinary income rates as listed above. Long-term capital gains have lower rates corresponding to an individual's marginal ordinary income tax rate, with special rates for a variety of capital goods.

So, as you can see, the capital gains tax is already above 30% under the George W. Bush administration in both Short and Long Term Capital Gains!

Both Candidates use the current capital gains figure of 15% but that's the figure for middle income. In other words under the McCain to cut capital gains (more accurately from 15% to 7.5%), we would take the table and slide it down below the bottom rate (currently 10%). If we subtract the difference of 2.5% (keep in mind the other tables above - the proportions will be the same) we get a McCain real tax decrease to 32.5% for the top bracket.

So, my conclusion base upon the facts are this:

If you make more than single and make more than $357,000 the max you'll save 2.5% before deductions under McCain's plan.

Since there are a gazillion types of taxes that the treasury collects, Capital gains should not be the only tax increase/decrease to be concerned with. I have attached a link to the following graphic from the Washington Post comparing the two tax plans base on family income.

An interesting statue of contemplation (an admirable trait in any leader) in the small town of BorĂ¥s, Sweden

World Financial Crisis - Are you swimming or sinking?

I have a friend living in a small Pennsylvania town who not only is smart but very worldly in his thinking. He should live in a major city like New York City (NYC), San Francisco or Chicago. Being so unique, his perspective never fails to be interesting.

Recently he sent me these words via email:

"I've got to tell you, though, people here are in tremendous denial regarding the financial meltdown. It's odd. Some will talk about it, but it really hasn't hit them yet".

When I read this, I was more perplexed than shocked. How could the USA and World financial crises not hit an average American? It hit me like a "ton of bricks" although thankfully not financially. From my experiences, many have been careless or uninterested when it comes to saving and MONITORING their money particularly for retirement. Some were admirable savers but had it negated by irresponsible oversight so it is not surprising to hear about people in denial or unfazed in this environment. That attitude will change when they read their current retirement or private investment statements. Hopefully, they have checked it by now!

If there are lessons to be learned from the destruction of numerous USA financial organizations, European and global companies along with one of the worst 8 days in USA stock market history, it is this:

Part 1: One should consistently save money. Even if only $25.00 a month, that money will be useful at some point. Save as much as you can as soon as you can. Frivolous spending has no place in one's life if you want to save in a productive manner.

Part 2: Investing in a company 401K retirement plan (or similar) is not only wise but should be profitable. In order to see future gains and avoid losses, one must pay attention to the the stock or funds (shares of stocks) you are invested in. To pay attention means MONITORING your plan weekly or monthly so you always know how your funds are performing. Many retirement plans are online so you can check them daily if you want. Specifically, you can usually view performance of your plan "year to date" or see the past 1, 3 or 5 year history. If your plan is not doing well, change the elements to those that are less risky or where the downside is nominal.

If you own individual stocks or funds outside of a retirement plan, those can be converted to cash or CD's when your feel or see that the economy might affect their performance. If you don't pay attention, how will you know? If you care about your money, you will monitor it with extreme care.

The problem becomes tumultuous when one checks investments rarely (i.e. once a year) and has no idea how their retirement fund or private investments are performing. I know people who often neglect their 3 month retirement statement after receiving it in the mail. If you fall in any of those categories, you probably have unimaginable losses after the last few weeks.

Part 3: Investing in your company's stock is a good idea especially if you buy it at a discounted price but never put "all your eggs in one basket". An acquaintance of mine worked for a high flying health company in the 90's and was an extraordinary saver for her future but made the grave mistake of only putting her funds into the company stock. She never invested elsewhere and was riding high for many years until the unthinkable happened; the company fell apart and she lost 80% of her retirement. I will never forget the moment she shared that story with me.

Part 4: Diversify. A quality life should include diversification in friendships, experiences and relationships as that gives one a life that is interesting, exciting and well-rounded. Similarly, a quality financial portfolio should be diversified in order for assets to grow effectively. If your money is invested in a variety of ways (safe, risky, medium risk,etc), that is usually a strong formula for success. Why? If one investment type is not performing well, you have others to rely on. The opposite of "all your eggs in one basket" from point 3 above is to diversify. If you don't, chances are you will experience some of the aforementioned pain.

Part 5: Getting financial guidance is important for success. I am not a big believer in having a paid financial representative as many of those individuals are out for themselves and not their clients. I do believe that one should learn from friends, family or colleagues who you trust that have been in the field of finance or are smart about investing. I learned most of my financial strategy from a close friend in NYC. I listened, watched and absorbed from this person for years and it paid off handsomely in the form of strong and consistent savings and retirement gains. For most, without some form of guidance, it is difficult to win in the savings and growth game.

One of the sports and technology world's most interesting personalities is Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks Basketball team. In his blog (, he gives some sound advice for anyone but especially for those who are not comfortable with investing or are simply not interested in the time it takes to monitor. Below are a few paragraphs from a recent blog of his called, "I'm going long right now". The full story can be found on

"Unless you know a company and industry as well as anyone, PUT YOUR MONEY IN A CD. Buying and holding a CD that you renew every 6 months or so, and letting interest compound lets you sleep at night AND lets your money go up.

If you put your money in a CD, you have outperformed 99pct of fund and hedge fund managers around the world over the last 3 months and probably longer. Thats how smart you are. If you put your money in a CD, YOU MAKE MONEY EVERY SINGLE DAY OF YOUR LIFE. You never lose money. EVER. The NASDAQ is below where it was about 10 years ago. It is 65pct below its all time high. You are smarter than the market when you put your money in a CD".

Part 6: Cash is King. When times are bad or you sense that times are bad, it is a good idea to convert non-cash investments to cash or cash-like funds if possible. This is important when the economy goes sour as one will need cash to take advantage of the inevitable bargains available. I have done this several times since I started my career and a) waited for the good times to return or b) invested during the bad times. Now is a wonderful time to invest (primarily for the long term) as no one can predict how long this crises will last but most agree that if you have money you don't need for some years, there is an abundance of opportunity.

Finally, when times are good financially one shouldn't get overly EXCITED or EMOTIONAL as a dear friend did recently. Before this crises, I advised him on a stock transaction where he made a 30% return on a large investment in a few weeks. He was beyond ecstatic! What he didn't realize was he chose the right stock at the right time and the market isn't usually that kind. Not long after, he went for more success without my guidance and gave those incredible gains back rather quickly. I fear he is in a BIG hole after the last month.

Now to the title of this article. Are you swimming or sinking?

There are very few good things about this disheartening financial crises and it will strongly affect many people and countries for years to come. If you adhered to most of the aforementioned lessons, your pain is probably at worst bearable. If not, your pain is at best bearable and at worst a hole that you will never financially recover from.

Personally, I am on the sideline with only a "small toe in the stock market". I am waiting for a sign of improvement before I jump back in.

We should look at our finances in the same way we take care of our children and keep them safe. Both are extremely important to the well being of our daily life and the so called "Golden Years" of retirement.

I wish you well.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Walkers, Bikes and Young Children - 3 things that are always plentiful on a lovely fall Sunday in Stockholm, Sweden

Fundraising - A 7 step approach

October is "Breast Cancer Awareness" month which is a perfect time for me to do Fundraising for a worthy cause.

This particular cancer touched our family with the 1999 death of my 44 year-old cousin. She was married with two young children and a genuinely sweet person. It was difficult to see someone so young and vibrant go so quickly. Her brother gave a wonderful eulogy at her funeral that still resonates with me today.

Fundraising effectively is never easy so if you want to raise money for any cause or have struggled with it in the past, I have an approach that has worked well for me. Before I share it with you, keep in mind that the most important part of fundraising is to BE PERSISTENT and to CLOSE THE DEAL.

People often start well by telling an effective story and getting a person/corporation emotionally ready to give but fail to complete the task by asking for and receiving the desired funds (closing the deal). Whether in Sweden or the USA, people can be hesitant or stubborn in parting with their money even though they might want to. Those you feel would like to give should be persistently pushed to do so in a pleasant and strategic manner.

Fundraising is one of my passions and I am involved in some aspect of it every year. I wrote an extensive fundraising strategy for WWF (Sweden's World Wide Fund for Nature) in 2004 and not long after they closed a big corporate deal. I also closed a 10,000 Euro sponsorship in 2005 for UNICEF Belgrade when they hired me for a 2 month assignment in Serbia. In addition, all funds for my basketball youth program ( are raised through my network of business and personal contacts.

If you would like to raise money for Breast Cancer this month, below are two fine organizations (one in Sweden and one in the USA) to contribute to. I have given donations to both in the past.

In Sweden - Cancerfonden (

In USA - National Breast Cancer Coalition (

Below is my 7 step approach to fundraising.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

7 step approach for fundraising
(# 7 being the most important)

1) Plan Carefully

There are many elements (who,what,where,why, how much,goals?) involved and having a solid plan is crucial to success.

2) Target your Donors & Corporations precisely

A fundraiser must have a prospect target list. Without precise targets, a fundraiser tends to waste precious time. Going to your "low hanging fruit" (friends, people or companies you know personally and can ask and get a commitment from quickly) first is essential.

3) Convey the Importance of the Cause

Conveying the cause must be heartfelt and passionate and presented often. Important issues about specific projects and history need to be told with similar themes and talking points.

4) Seek out Needs and Desires

The needs, goals and desires of donors or corporations must be known before asking for their financial support. Knowing what a person/company likes or is passionate about will prove invaluable.

5) Be Credible and Trustworthy and Inspiring

A successful fundraiser must be credible and trustworthy. Coming across as just "out for the money" or not caring about the individual can be detrimental to the cause.

6) Relations are Important

Relationships are important in every part of life but in fundraising they make the difference between "Great" and "Good". If people like you, the chance for fundraising success jumps significantly.

7) Close the Deal

A fundraiser cannot be afraid to be persistent and ask for the money needed. Networking and having good relations with potential clients/friends/corporations is fine but "closing the deal" should always be top of mind. "No" doesn't always mean "No" when appealing to prospective givers; it might mean that you have not convinced them them thoroughly enough.

The Michael Jordan of Serbia, Sasha Djordjevic. He is pictured with the former head of UNICEF Belgrade (far right) and two young fans. This was after a UNICEF news conference to promote Sasha's Farewell game as he was soon to retire from Professional Basketball in Europe

Serbian star and current Los Angelas Laker (NBA) player, Vladimir Radmanovic (yellow shirt) along with 2 friends from the USA participated in a 3 on 3 basketball tournament arranged by Gswede (far left). It was raining slightly outside but the games were played!

The most touching and energetic "Farewell Basketball Event" I have ever experienced. The love for Sasha Djordjevic in that arena of 6000 was magical! UNICEF Belgrade was the organizer and the money raised went to the "Schools without Violence" program in Serbia.