Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The Slippery Slope of Freedom

January 18th, 2012

“Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety.”Benjamin Franklin

“… God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty…. And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334 (C.J. Boyd, Ed., 1950)

“If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained _ we must fight!”  Patrick Henry

“Can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are a gift from God?  Thomas Jefferson

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”

Patrick Henry

“The citizens of the U.S. are responsible for the greatest trust ever confided to a political society”

“Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”  Thomas Jefferson

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.”  William Pitt in the House of Commons November 18, 1783

“We must all hang together, or, assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”  Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicity.  Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address.

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”  George Washington

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Politics ,

Would You Pay For Your Grocery Bags?

April 23rd, 2010

Last week I went to Washington, D.C., with my wife and mother-in-law.  As a political science major and later law school graduate, surprisingly I’d never been to our nation’s capital.  I had a wonderful time, and hopefully came up with a few blog posts about my trip.

Waiting In Line

There’s no getting around it — when you go to Washington, D.C., you’re going to wait in lots of lines for tickets to enter museums and tours.  On the last day of our trip, I was in line at 9:00am to see the Holocaust Museum, which opened at 10:00am.  We were cold and hungry, and luckily there is a cafeteria next to the museum, so I went inside to grab some coffee and bagels while my wife held our place in line.

You Want Me To Pay For A Paper Bag?

After getting two coffees, a bagel, a doughnut, and a cookie (I know, I know.. not the healthiest food to eat when you’re out of town!), I realized I needed a bag to carry all that stuff outside.  When I asked the clerk, she said she had to charge me 5 cents for a paper bag.  Seeing the perplexed look on my face, she further explained that D.C. had become the first American city to institute a bag fee.  The effort would help reduce waste, and the money collected by the fee would go to help clean up the nearby Anacostia River.

Rationally Irrational Behavior

Instinctively, I declined to pay for a paper bag.  Why on Earth would I pay extra for it?  But once I realized I couldn’t physically carry two burning hot coffees with sketchy lids plus our snacks, I decided to have a moment of clarity and decided to drop a nickel on a paper bag.

Behavioral Economics

It is funny how even the smallest monetary charge deters us from a purchase.  Reports have D.C.’s plastic bag consumption down 60%!  This means people have gone with reusable grocery bags or just try to carry their groceries out by hand.  Of course, it also can have negative economic consequences — there are some people who have chosen to pick up groceries in nearby Virginia or Maryland, with possible higher sales taxes, just to avoid paying 5 cents for a bag!

I find it fascinating that the deterrence has nothing to do with the amount of the charge, but in confronting citizens and forcing them to choose to accept an additional 5 cents/bag on each transaction.  Similarly, we are manipulated when we use plastic over cold, hard cash.  Plastic is painless to swipe, but cash is more of a physical & mental transaction, and you are likely to spend less money when using cash.

Point is, we are all human beings, and subject to subtle manipulation in our financial habits, which have an effect on our lives in different ways.  If this new bag tax doesn’t affect D.C.’s economy, I think it was a great way for the District to promote conservation & recycling.  Of course, it’s a bit IF, so we’ll see how it shakes down.

What about you — would you pay 5 cents per bag?  Are there other instances of ‘behavioral economics’ where you are encouraged/manipulated into making certain financial choices?

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Don’t be April Fools Fodder for the U.S. Government

April 1st, 2010

April Fools!

It’s April 1st, which means you have to read everything twice to make sure it’s real and you weren’t the victim of an April Fools prank, like the ones that Baker at Man vs. Debt pulled, or the light-hearted piece PT from ptMoney penned today.

“I’m From The Government, And I’m Here To Help.”

Not quite as funny is the increasing level of dependency we have on the government to care for us when the chips are down.  With the “Great Recession” and a concerns of a double-dip housing collapse, there have been numerous federal incentives to stimulate and inorganically sustain the economy.  The necessity of these programs are debatable, but programs like Cars “Cash for Clunkers”, Appliances “Cash for Clunkers”, and the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit have brought extra money to the pockets of consumers.  It is redistribution of wealth at its finest! :)

Don’t Depend on Government!

Incentives from the government are nice to those benefiting from it, but the minute you begin to expect the assistance, you run into the problems, which at least are minor inconveniences and at worst horror stories.  Here’s a few examples:

  • Home Buyer Tax Credit — A buddy of mine just bought a house last year, after living in his previous home for 5 years.  When tax time came around this year, he expected that $6,500 rebate from the government.  Awesome, right?!?  Wrong, because he bought the home before November 6, 2009, which means he doesn’t qualify.  Luckily for him, he has a decent emergency fund and wasn’t depending on the money.
  • Appliances “Cash for Clunkers” — There was a fellow Personal Finance blogger who had a parent that purchased a new dishwasher under the guise of the Appliances “Cash for Clunkers” program.  Turned out, their state was not a participant in the program.  So an old appliance was replaced, but no tax rebated given.  I couldn’t find the link to save my life, so forgive me this once for poor journalism.  Just remember to check local laws and stipulations on which appliances qualify for tax rebates.
  • State Pension Plans — Government jobs used to be looked at as secure jobs even if the pay was below market value.  Now, teachers are being laid off by the thousands, and pension plans are going broke.  Chickens are coming home to roost with the excessive benefits offered to public employees, and aren’t sustainable at current levels.  If you are a public employee, you can’t solely rely on a pension to provide for your retirement.
  • Income Tax Refunds — Ahh, there’s nothing like getting a HUGE tax refund, right?  All that money that would’ve been spent is now saved up and sent directly to you in one fell swoop from the IRS and your state government… unless, of course, you live in California.  Last year, the Governator and his Golden State legislative compadres faced a budget shortfall, and considered issuing IOUs because the state had no money.  Maybe that’s a good reason to argue that “Size Does Matter” with Tax Refunds.
  • Social Security — The jokes about Social Security have been around for at least an entire generation now.  The bottom line is, you simply can’t depend on Social Security to be there for your retirement.  Consider it a nice bonus, but don’t rely on it, because it may not be there when you retire.
  • Unemployment – I can’t forget my recent battles with being denied unemployment benefits.  Just remember, you don’t always qualify for the benefits.  Pay close attention and follow all the proper procedures, otherwise you may end up with nothing to fill the gap between employment.


What do you think?  Have you expected something from the government and it didn’t come through?  Do you budget or plan to include government incentives, or consider them an added ‘bonus’ if they come through for you?


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Politics, taxes

Did You Fill Out Your 2010 Census?

March 30th, 2010

In case you haven’t noticed (dripping sarcasm), the 2010 Census is upon us.  Really, who hasn’t noticed?  There’s been a barrage of advertisement reminding us to fill out our census form.  ”10 Years.  10 Minutes.  10 Questions.”

Who Do These Census People Think They Are?

Well, the short answer is, they are the federal government.  Y’know – the same people that brought you the IRS and the Marines.  Some point, at some level, you probably ought to at least listen to what they have to say.

The slightly longer answer, is that our forefathers, in their infinite wisdom, thought it would be a good idea to keep track of how many & where people were living.  Here’s what the United States Constitution has to say:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers… .  The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

– U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2, Clause 3

The basic responsibility of the Census is to take a head count to determine (1) congressional representation and (2) direct taxes.  We do this so representation and taxation will be proportional.  In our contemporary America, however, the Census asks a few more questions to gather statistics that help formulate public policy and most effectively distribute federal funding for educational and entitlement programs.

There are many groups out there that disagree with the extra-curricular activity of the Census, and argue that anything past a head count is beyond their duties as proscribed by the Constitution.  I’m not here to have a Constitutional debate, but if you’re so inclined you can read more about opposing viewpoints from the Tenth Amendment Center, SHTF Plan, and the U.S. Census website.

The 10 Questions of the 2010 Census

Taken directly from the U.S. Census website’s interactive sample form, here’s the 10 questions asked on the 2010 Census:

  1. How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home as of April 1, 2010?
  2. Were there any additional people staying here as of April 1, 2010, that you did not include above?
  3. Is this house, apartment, or mobile home: owned outright, owned with a mortgage, rented, occupied without rental payments?
  4. What is your telephone number?
  5. Provide information on each person living here (Last Name, First Name, MI)
  6. What is the person’s sex?
  7. What is the person’s age and date of birth?
  8. Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?
  9. What is Person 1’s race?
  10. Does Person 1 sometimes live or stay somewhere else?

Duty of the Citizenry

That’s it – 10 questions.  I filled mine out easily in under 10 minutes.  So take the time to fill out the census, lest our government run even less efficiently and effectively than it already does!

Have you returned your 2010 Census form?  Was all the advertising overkill, or necessary?  Any questions you feel were overbearing, or perhaps other questions they should have included?  Let us know in the comments below.

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A Spirit of Fear

February 26th, 2010

Here in Texas, the big political battle of the day is the Republican Gubernatorial Republican Primary between U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and incumbent Governor Rick Perry.  The ads used by both parties insult my intelligence.  Just so you know where I’m coming from, here’s one from the Senator:


Whether it’s a political attack ad that lacks substance, or the 24-hour news network constantly trying to hook you into a story, this trend of negativity isn’t going anywhere soon.  Why?  Because fear sells.  Fear gets ratings.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins often said that FEAR is an acronym for “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Once consumed by F.E.A.R., it leads you to make irrational choices, including in your financial life.  Here’s an examples of F.E.A.R.

Instance of F.E.A.R. — “I’m driving a 3 year-0ld minivan and have two kids.  I need a new van — I mean, I just couldn’t imagine being stuck on the side of the road with a broken down old car!  Besides, this new minivan has more safety features.  You don’t want our children to be in danger, do you?”

Reality – You rarely drive outside the city limits in the kid-toter.  Your minivan has plenty of room and is reasonably reliable.  Breaking down and needing a tow truck is not the end of the world, nor is it scary, especially with cell phones available to call for help.  There is no way the new minivan is THAT much safer to justify the extra cost.  Getting a brand new minivan with brand new payments upwards of $500-$600/month, just to avoid an off-chance instance of breaking down?  Illogical.  Don’t let F.E.A.R. dupe you into a financial hole that will take 36-72 months to pay off.

Beating F.E.A.R. Into Submission

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

F.E.A.R. so easily creeps into our consciousness.  How to we counter it?  Well God and the Apostle Paul are pretty good authorities, and they say the opposite of fear is power, love, and self-discipline.  Work on identifying when someone is playing on your fears.  Identification of F.E.A.R. is empowering. It allows you to compare it to your judgment and self-discipline to see how this F.E.A.R. should apply to your financial life.  When you have a financial plan (self-discipline), you will be empowered to make the right decisions by those habits, rather than reacting to F.E.A.R.


Can you identify any instances of F.E.A.R. in your life?  What self-disciplines have you used to overcome these F.E.A.R.s??  Meantime, early voting ends today — I’m off to go vote.

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The Credit Crisis Visualized

February 18th, 2010

Economics 101

After foreclosures, increased unemployment, and a recession, we all have at least some idea of the “Credit Crisis”, and how it continues to affect our lives.  But if you’re like me, then a little visual learning never hurts!

“The Crisis of Credit Visualized” is a video by Jonathan Jarvis, who has some great videos over at Vimeo.  Take a minute and look at this great compilation.  Thanks goes out to Kevin McGill, who originally posted this video for Koine Church, a church plant in Dallas, Texas.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Do You Agree?

Do you agree with Jonathan’s assessments? Would you explain the credit crunch any differently? Let me know in the comments below.

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#045 — Tax Day TEA Parties

April 15th, 2009

Party Like It’s 1773!

Today, thousands if not millions of people are expected to turn out to local Tax Day TEA parties.  The Tax Day Tea Party is a national collaborative grassroots effort organized by Smart Girl Politics, Top Conservatives on Twitter, the DontGo Movement and many other online groups & coalitions.

TEA stands for “Taxed Enough Already”, and these grassroots protests are in response to reactionary and excessive tax & spend policies by the U.S. government prompted by the recent bailouts and stimulus plans passed by Congress & signed into law by President Obama.  The TEA Party is analogous to the Boston Tea Party of 1773, a protest over the American colonists being subject to British taxing policies without any representation.

Here’s the video that started it all:

CNBC\’s Rick Santelli\’s Chicago Tea Party

Where’s The Party?

Thousands of Tax Day TEA Parties are scheduled today in many cities around the country.  For more information on a TEA Party in your local area, visit the Tax Day Tea Party website.

I’m Busy, How Can I Follow Today’s Events?

There are many political pundits, bloggers, and organizations covering the events nationwide.  Here’s a few I’ve seen:


Many people are covering local events real-time on Twitter:

You can also search Twitter for comments using the following search tags:


Nationwide Tax Day Tea Party


Do a search for “Tea Party”.  Plenty of attendees in numerous cities are posting their videos throughout the day.

Report Back to MyMoneyMinute!

Are any of you attending a Tax Day TEA Party today?? Please leave comments below about your experience, as well as links to pictures.  I may do a follow-up post if there’s enough reports generated.

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#016 — The MyMoneyMinute Stimulus Plan (Part 2)

February 18th, 2009

The M$M Economic Stimulus Plan

This is Part 2 of 2 in this series.  Click on this sentence to read Part 1, which covers what fundamental principles should be a part of any government stimulus plan.

Yesterday, President Obama signed the $787 billion economic stimulus into law.  I think it misses the mark and violates in many respects the fundamentals of spending taxpayer money to stimulate the economy.  My alternative proposals are below; all proposals must satisfy Fundamental #1 by being targeted, specific action to seek a particular goal.

1. Incentives

Following the guidelines of Fundamental #3, it must be government economic policy must encourage good personal financial behavior.  Therefore, instead of direct stimulus checks, I propose stimulus matching funds be used on home down payments, pre-paid tuition, and health savings account deductibles (HSAs).

The best type of government stimulant is one that provides it’s citizens incentive to save up and pay for their shelter, education, and health care.

Real Estate. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll propose that for every dollar you save for a down payment up to 10% of purchase price, the government will match your down payment.  This could also be a graduated, tiered incentive (save 10%/match 5%, save 20%/match 10%, etc.).  It can also be capped at a specific dollar amount (match up to $25,000), or the cap can vary by market depending on cost of living.  Other stipulations:

  • No credit cards, cash advances, or 401(k)/403(b) withdrawals will receive matching funds — it MUST be cash earned & saved. You will not be able to rob Peter to pay Paul and expect government to support your behavior.  Do it on your own dime.
  • No 80/20s, ARMs, interest-only, or HELOCs allowed.  If you want the matching funds, it must be a 30-year or less mortgage with a fixed interest rate.

Point is, you stimulate the downtrodden real estate market, and most importantly, the benefits go to those that have been fiscally sound and did not overbuy during this last real estate bubble.

  • They were the victors because they DID pay their bills and WERE responsible with their finances, while most of us were not.
  • Allow the victors in our economic crisis be the ones to bring us out of the recession.
  • Reward their good behavior & provide incentives to the rest of us to copy it so we don’t end up down this path again.

Education. If there’s one area that’s exploded over the last decade, it’s college tuition.  The burden of student loans has grown exponentially since the early 1990s.  The education cartel increases in power with each new academic year.  If anyone knows the burden and risk it is yours truly.  Unfortunately, I have more student loan debt than anyone I know, but I also have a plan to get rid of it faster than anyone I know!

  • I propose matching funds for pre-paid tuition to any accredited institution of higher education.
  • Reward parents with 529s, and reward students that are working while putting themselves through school.
  • Again, no credit cards, cash advancements, or 401(k)/403(b) withdrawals will be matched.

Health Care. Medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy, and a drain on our economy.  Health Savings Accounts are becoming vastly popular, because it can be obtained outside the employment environment at a decent cost.  I propose matching funds for deductibles on HSAs.

  • Provides incentives to save money for when emergencies happen.
  • Reduces the amount of bankruptcies caused by medical bills.
  • Provides incentives toward the HSA and away from COBRA & the employment-based health care model.

2. Direct Investment

In compliance with Fundamental #2, direct government investment should have long-term benefits.  My answer is to (a) build and improve infrastructure & (b) invest in our children’s future.

Infrastructure. If we’re going to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a stimulus, do it with specifically-targeted projects that will provide long-term benefits, that get people working immediately.

  • Fix bridges, overpasses, and roads.
  • Build & expand light rail systems. I know here in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, our light rail network could be extended into the suburbs to ease traffic congestion.  This would be money well-spent, because it is near-term jobs with long-term benefits.

Children’s Future. Each child that is born in the U.S. receives a one-time $2,500 investment into a personal retirement account at birth.

  • 4 million children are born in the United States annually = $10 billion investment/year.
  • Unlike 401(k)/403(b), no withdrawal allowed for any reason until person reaches retirement age (65).
  • An 8% annual growth rate = $445,000 retirement account for each citizen at age 65.
  • Parents allowed to match initial $2,500 investment + $1,000/year into each individual account until age 25.

This promotes both parents & children to save for retirement, and shifts our paradigm to thinking about the future.

3. Tax Cuts

We also need to provide incentives to our businesses and those with entrepreneurial spirit.  Ideas & small business are the true backbone of the American economy.



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The My Money Minute Stimulus Plan (Part One)

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#015 — The MyMoneyMinute Economic Stimulus Plan (Part 1)

February 17th, 2009

Congress has passed a $787 billion economic stimulus bill, much to the disapproval of many Republican leaders.

In my humble opinion, this stimulus package, due to be signed by President Obama today, misses the mark.  Lots of money is being spent on projects that either (a) provide only temporary jobs or (b) provide no employment whatsoever.

“So what would you do, Jason?”  Well, glad you asked..

Part One:  Fundamentals

Before any specific proposals are given, a stimulus plan should first begin with basic, fundamental philosophies.

Fundamental #1

This is the taxpayer’s money.  Be efficient, not frivolous.

If it’s one thing we can learn from government spending, throwing money at a problem without a clear objective will not solve the problem.  For a Republican “I told you so”, bring up our education bureaucracy.  For a Democratic “I told you so”, point out no-bid contracts in our War on Terror.  Money is needed for both education & defense, but the point remains we are often inefficient with how we spend it.

Fundamental #2

Short-term cash injections must have long-term benefits.

I understand that unemployment is rising and near-term jobs would help significantly.  Even if the jobs do not last forever, the money should be invested in projects that help our nation & economy long-term.

Fundamental #3

Economic stimulus funds must reinforce & encourage good financial behavior.

In other words, no more blanket stimulus checks where we send $600 to every taxpayer.  You know what I did with my stimulus check?  Paid off debt.  So did many others.  Those that did spend their stimulus check only contributed to a temporary fix to a long-term problem.  Now the money’s spent and our economy is still sluggish.  Worst of all, the government reinforced bad financial behavior by giving people money and telling them to spend it instead of taking care of their household first.  Encouraging the citizenry to buy a flatscreen instead of paying down a credit card is not sound financial policy.

Come by tomorrow and see specific proposals in Part 2 of The MyMoneyMinute Economic Stimulus Plan!

Tim Duncan

The Big Fundamental

Are there other fundamentals you would add to a government stimulus plan?

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The My Money Minute Stimulus Plan (Part Two)

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#012 — The Mark Cuban Stimulus Package

February 11th, 2009

While the U.S. House and Senate near a deal on the 2009 Economic Stimulus plan, looks like the private sector is not waiting around for the government to fix all our woes.

Enter Mark Cuban, dot-com billionaire, HD television entrepreneur, and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.  He has proposed to invest his own money into private-sector ideas that need funding to get them over the hump and begin making money.

Open Source Funding

To get the economy moving, there are a few stipulations attached to submitting a proposal for funding.  Primarily, it involves an open source funding environment — you must make available your business plan details for all to see online.  Also, business ideas must break even after 60 days and become profitable in 90 days.

Here is Cuban’s “rules of the game”, if you will.  Violate these, and receive a double-technical and get ejected from the game:

1. It can be an existing business or a start up.
2. It can not be a business that generates any revenue from advertising. Why ? Because I want this to be a business where you sell something and get paid for it. Thats the only way to get and stay profitable in such a short period of time.
3. It MUST BE CASH FLOW BREAK EVEN within 60 days
4. It must be profitable within 90 days.
5. Funding will be on a monthly basis. If you dont make your numbers, the funding stops
6. You must demonstrate as part of your plan that you sell your product or service for more than what it costs you to produce, fully encumbered
7. Everyone must work. The organization is completely flat. There are no employees reporting to managers. There is the founder/owners and everyone else
8.  You must post your business plan here, or you can post it on , or google docs, all completely public for anyone to see and/or download
9. I make no promises that if your business is profitable, that I will invest more money. Once you get the initial funding you are on your own
10. I will make no promises that I will be available to offer help. If I want to , I will. If not, I wont.
11. If you do get money, it goes into a bank that I specify, and I have the ability to watch the funds flow and the opportunity to require that I cosign any outflows.
12. In your business plan , make sure to specify how much equity I will receive or how I will get a return on my money.
13. No mult-level marketing programs.

The Beauty of it all?

The beauty of it all is the private sector trying to come up with the solutions to economic problems.  Fundamentally, it just makes sense to allow the private sector to flourish before the government invests or spends taxpayer money.  Also, this is open to anyone who has an idea and a plan.

On Mark Cuban

Cuban is a very polarizing figure.  As full disclosure, I am a huge San Antonio Spurs fan.  My favorite basketball franchise has been the bane of Cuban’s existence for a decade now.  I do love his passion for the Mavs, HDNet, — he puts his heart & soul into his projects.

Love him or hate him, I can appreciate his entrepreneurial spirit.

Cuban Economic Stimulus?

So can your business plan impress Mark Cuban enough to receive investment seed money??  Let me know about it in the comments!

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