It’s that time of year again… the time of year that ordinary, docile, American citizens either become snarling, snapping, frothing-at-the-mouth, kick-the-dog lunatics or they walk around with boxes of papers and a perpetual look of confusion on their faces, entering and exiting tax preparers’ offices like mindless little robots. Aspirin and Tylenol sales go through the roof this time of year, and is it any wonder? Tax season makes the sanest of us just a little bit twitchy.
Today’s guest on the first half of Off the Grid Radio, Maurice Glazer, is the CEO of Glazer Financial Network and has been a financial advisor for over 40 years. Today’s broadcast gives our listeners information on some of the new tax changes that have come down the pike, and if you run a small business, is especially relevant for you. From passive income tax increases to Section 179 business deductions to tax havens, today’s show has a little bit of something for everyone.
And for the last half of our show, we have the second half of the previous week’s interview with Dave Eubank of the Free Burma Rangers organization. Our interview was cut short when the satellite phone connection dropped, but we were finally able to reconnect with Dave to finish the interview. From prayers to funds to congressional action to committed folks directly on the ground, the people of Burma are in need of it all. We hope you’ll join us for the conclusion of this interview and prayerfully consider how God wants you to answer the call of Burma.
Off The Grid Radio
Release Date February 14, 2013
Bill: Welcome indeed to another exciting episode of Off The Grid News—the radio version. I’m Bill Heid and today we’re talking about what time of year it is. And it’s winter, obviously. It’s that time of year. It’s cold. But it’s time to start thinking about taxes. Yeah, I know. And most people don’t want to think about this at all but you know we’ve got a new tax bill. We’ve got Obama Care. And so I thought I’d bring our good friend and expert in tax planning, expert in asset protection, Maurice Glazer on, just to sort of help us with just what to do next. I’ll bet you that not one business—one small business—in ten or one medium sized business in ten really knows what’s coming down the pike this year. So Maurice thanks for joining us today. It’s great to have you.
Maurice: Bill, I really appreciate the opportunity. It’s exciting times.
Bill: Exciting times indeed. And you know, like you and I talk about, for so many people these are just things that they read about in the news. And so I’m watching TV and oh, I notice there’s a new tax bill but at some point that tax bill has to hit home. It has to… Someone’s got to comply with it, right? So why don’t you kind of tell us a little bit about what your feelings are, what’s going on this year and what people really need to be on the alert for?
Maurice: Well, as everybody probably has heard at least, Obama Care had a lot of hidden taxes in it. The one that was going to create a lot of problems was 1099 and anybody, that any business or any deduction that we took, who earned over $600 was going to have to receive a 1099. So that meant if you went to Starbucks every day for the year you were going to have to 1099 Starbucks for that money that you spent. Fortunately, Congress got ahead of it and they renounced that. They took that off the record. But it still left some really serious planning. I know we had that fiscal cliff controversy. And the real issue is the fact that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
But the problem is there are two tiers to what is happening to us. Obama Care has added 3.8% tax for married couples earning over $250,000 and single people earning over $200,000. And I’m hearing all kinds of “Oh, we’re just not going to work as hard.” To me, that’s all stupid talk. I mean you go out and you do the same thing you did before and we will overcome if we do good planning. But the 3.8% is only on the passive income—interest, dividends, capital gains—if you earn over $200,000 as a single or $250,000 as a married couple. And that is only on the passive income that’s in excess of the $250,000. So if you made $200,000 as a married couple and your passive income was $75,000, then you would pay the 3.8% on the $25,000—not on the whole $75,000.
Maurice: Now in addition to that we got a 0.9% of additional Social Security if you earn over those amounts—0.9%. And that’s just on the Medicare side. That’s not on the… That’s not on the business side and the individual side. So we have a couple different scenarios there. Then we come to the fiscal cliff and the passing of the new tax bill. The confusing part is that they agreed on a higher amount for the fiscal cliff. So now it’s $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for married couples. So people might think, “Well, we’re going to forget about this $200,000-$250,000” and you can’t do that. So we’ve got two tiers of tax, as your income goes up over $200,000 or $250,000 or $400,000 and $450,000. And the new tax rates on earners over $400,000—there is an additional 5%. So it’s going to go up to 39.6% instead of 35% that we were paying.
Now I agree that’s a lot of money if you’re making $10 million but truthfully, what they were talking about was going to be a lot worse and yet we’re still going to have that additional 3.8%. So it’s going to get very confusing. If you’re not having someone to do the planning for you and doing your tax return and you’re making any kind of money, you really are going to get into a world of hurt. I mean because it’s going to create some real issues. Now anybody making less than that $200,000 and $250,000 and $400,000 and $450,000—nothing has changed. Interest and dividends are still at 15%. If you’re really a low-income earner it’s still going to be at 0. Capital gains are going to still be at 15%. But if you earn over that capital gains is now going to go to 20%. So anyway, it gets confusing just talking about it.
Bill: So Maurice, in a macro sense though, help me with this because it seems like, as you say, there are tax increases and sometimes productivity is on the margin. I like to think that what you’re saying is true, that people will go out and continue to try to… A lot of these people are the people that own the factories, they own… They’re doctors, lawyers—the higher income people. They’ll continue to work as hard as they would have normally. But is there…? It doesn’t seem like that raises enough money to sort of—just doing simple mathematics—to sort of cut the deficit that much, especially as… not enough affect the rate at which we’re sort of getting ourself in trouble. Do you want to speak to the more macro side of how much tax revenue is going to be brought in versus our crazy, out of control spending? It doesn’t seem like they’re even close.
Maurice: No. It’s not going to help a bit. On the Medicare side—and I say to everybody—on the income tax side I’m afraid we could be in for more increases. It could happen. I think we need to have spending cuts, of course, because you’re right—there is no way for what they’re doing… People making over $450,000 aren’t going to make a material difference. I think I heard a number of $86 billion or something. So it’s a low number. I mean we’re talking trillions in debt. $86 billion, even in the tax cuts, aren’t going to help us. On the Medicare side I think Obama Care… They stole $750,000… Well, I shouldn’t say, “stole.” They took $750,000 to use for Obama Care and they’ve got to put that money back so that’s where the 3.8%… That’s… I doubt if that will ever go away. That is going to be there… When the government adds something new, typically they’re going to keep it there forever.
Maurice: And on the tax side, I… All in the negotiations, right? Cutting the budget and… I mean cutting the deficit, cutting… setting up a new budget. If they ever get there… I mean they can’t even communicate so… I think it’s going to be a real issue and I think on both sides they’re going to have to compromise to get there. They’re going to have to have some serious cuts and they’re going to have to really consider probably some more increases in tax rates.
Bill: So when do you see that coming down the pike?
Maurice: Well, they…
Bill: ’14? ’15?
Maurice: Well, I actually think it’s going to happen before that. I really think in two months they’re going to start talking about solidifying, extending the debt limit, right? I think at the same time they’ll be talking about the budget and it would be nice to think that they would put a budget in that we could afford, right? Based on our tax revenue. And then I would think at the same time that they’re talking about tax cuts… You know the president is pretty insistent that he wants more taxes from the higher income people and I think he’s looking at 50%. Now we all might think that that’s obnoxious but when I started practicing a long time ago passive income was being taxed at 86% and believe it or not, it was a Democratic president—Kennedy—who cut that. And it’s an interesting scenario, even back then.
Bill: What did Kennedy cut it from?
Maurice: Where did they cut it…?
Bill: It was 86% and went… Was it Kennedy that cut it from 86% to 50%?
Bill: Okay. Well, he was more… He was a pretty conservative Democrat though. You have to admit that.
Maurice: Right. Well, hey, we need some conservatives thinking here, right? I mean I am very conservative so when I look at this stuff I just say, “Hey, don’t mess around. You’ve got to live with it.” I don’t even really believe that people should be leaving the country trying to find tax havens because I don’t… All these other countries—and I don’t know how familiar everybody is—but United States is negotiating with 50 countries to allow us to know who is in their countries and for us to know… to tell them who is in our country.
So things like in Mexico where they now have done something like the hire act where we have a 30% withholding on money transfers starting January 1 of next year, which is only withholding—it’s not tax. But Mexico has done the same thing so if they… the Mexicans send money into the United States they have to prove they paid tax on it. If they can’t prove that, then they’re going to pay a 25% withholding tax. And of course in Mexico I doubt if they’ll ever get it back but it’s going to be gone. But all the countries… England has agreed. Canada has agreed. I think Panama has agreed. So they’re all sitting there saying, “Hey, we’re going to comply with the US but the US is going to reciprocate.” So there are a lot of things going on, a lot of moving parts, as people say.
Bill: And Maurice, don’t you think too—as you’re saying—you get reciprocity agreements in terms of saying who’s got how much money where… I guess what both you and I are saying is there may be some reasons to sort of allocate assets in other places but don’t think for a second that you’re going to get away with sort of cheating somehow because you went to Mexico or Belize or someplace or Panama because the world is too small now. And wouldn’t you concur that that’s the case?
Maurice: They have 50,000 new agents. 8,000 of them were put in banks to check every transfer going back eight years, okay? So they’re uncovering a lot of things. Like that woman that I had mentioned to you—80 years old?
Bill: Yeah, tell that story.
Maurice: Yeah, 80 years old. She had $100 million… Or her husband had $100 million in Switzerland. He was uncovered, of course, when USPS or whatever it is agreed to turn everybody over to the US. In the meantime her husband died. Her professionals came up with the bright idea—“Hey, we’ll move it to Liechtenstein in a corporation. It’ll never be found there.” So the bottom line is she’s going to owe a considerable amount of tax, penalties, interest and on top of it, even though she’s 80 years old, they’re talking she could go to jail for five or six years.
So you don’t want to hide money and the government has collected $6 billion on the amnesty programs and they truthfully… They have extended the amnesty program to the point where now… I mean they could stop at any time. Now they’re saying, “If you don’t owe any tax, become compliant, get your forms in, let us know where the money is, let us know where your…” You know they’ve got that new form 8938—“We want to know everything—if you’re invested in a foreign corporate stock, you have foreign corporations, you need to disclose all that”—beyond the bank accounts you have to disclose all that. And you can’t mess around because I was down in south of the border here and I am sure we had an IRS agent in our midst. I think at least. I was considering that. And that’s okay. I just told everybody “Just don’t start talking about what you’re going to do… what you could do to move money offshore and not pay tax on it and no one will ever know” because that’s not true.
There’s a long arm of the law, as they said. They’ve arrested three people that I know of—arrested—coming back into the country or stopping, being even on an American plane. There was one lawyer that got arrested coming out of South American country to another one and they were waiting for him on the gangplank as he deplaned.
Bill: Well, and I think… And let me throw one in, Maurice. I mean I know of a case that I read where someone had sort of evaded something and they were in one of these countries and the government didn’t wait for them to… extradition or all those. And if you think that there is… that extradition’s needed, I think everyone’s really sort of messing with the way life was or talking about the way life was years and years ago because they went to this country, put a sack—a black sack—over his head, put him on a plane and sent him back to the country. So there’s no extradition because the United States is everybody’s big brother and there’s nowhere you can go where agents won’t get you if you’re running afoul of what the laws are. So I guess we’re not trying to scare the heck out of you. We’re just trying to get you to sort of play by the rules because the consequences, as Maurice so often points out when he’s on our show, are just more than you want to deal with.
Maurice: Well, and the cost of defending yourself is exponential to whatever you’re going to say. To pay a tax attorney $5,000 a year to try to win the case is ridiculous. It’s much better to spend $500 a month or whatever it might be to do good planning, do good bookkeeping, report everything, get your… If you have foreign accounts and haven’t been reporting, got foreign corporation, partnerships or gifts or whatever it might be, come to a firm like ours and let us get you into the amnesty program, get it reported, amend the tax returns and then start to do good tax planning. Good tax planning means if someone was saying to you “Well, I’m not going to… There might be a way.” I just picked up a case that’s a restaurant business and he’s being audited right now for underreporting the cash, right? And it was stupid. Now it’s going to cost him a lot of money, a lot of tax and if he’d just done good planning… Why not put in a defined benefit plan? Let’s reduce our income by good tax planning. Let’s buy new assets. He’s in the restaurant business. Leasehold improvements are good special deductions. Equipment… That’s one of the things that was good in the new tax bill is they not only extended the bonus depreciation in the section 179 for new equipment, new cars, cars over 6,000 pounds, etc., etc. They also… I mean those are good things.
Bill: But Maurice, stop for a second and tell everybody what that means. In the old days we had to do depreciation schedules and you had to put stuff out over five, six, seven years—whatever it is. What’s…?
Maurice: It depreciated over 29, 39—whatever it might be.
Bill: Yeah, yeah, yeah—whatever it is. And there was different scheduling. But what’s changed? Tell us again about that.
Maurice: What’s been in effect for a long time is section 179, which allowed you to buy up to $2 million of equipment where you could deduct like—I don’t know– $200,000 or whatever that number is for the new equipment that you purchased. What was going to happen was it was going to be reduced to $139,000 for 2012 and $25,000 for 2013 and forward. And what they did in the new tax bill—they said, “No, we’re going to go back to the 2011 numbers.” So they went back to the higher number and that was… We were planning, thinking we were going to lose that section 179 depreciation and we have one client that had bought a bunch of equipment and we went back and saved him a couple hundred thousand because he buys tons of equipment. And so we went back and we… If you’re planning… In January we were able to go back and we saved him $150,000-200,000 of tax by going back and adjusting it for what the new tax bill said was going to happen for 2012.
Bill: Well, let’s go back… Maurice, go back to your restaurant guy, for example, just to give everybody a really easy to understand example. This restaurant guy was pocketing cash. We all understand that. We all understand the temptation to pocket cash. But what’s foolish about it is why not report the cash and then get…? I’m not sure how much an Escalade weighs but I’m just being hypothetical—why not pocket…? Why not declare all of your income and then just drive an Escalade?
Maurice: Or a Suburban or whatever.
Bill: Or whatever. I mean it’s just… It’s a ridiculous thing to not know and understand this and think that you’re getting away with something and then you have to always be looking over your shoulder. I’d rather look over my shoulder in an Escalade than look over my shoulder constantly because I’ve done something wrong. I hope everybody can see just what you’re trying to tell them here.
Maurice: Yeah, and not only that, but restaurants get some really favorable depreciation on their improvements even. Normally improvements are the same age… same years as the building—29, 39—whatever it might be. And they get 15 years for all improvements to their restaurant. So there’s things you can do and if you have good, professional help, then we can plan and we can decide what to do during the tax year so that we don’t have to wait until the tax year is over and then be messing around trying to figure out what we’re going to do to not pay tax.
Bill: Is there anything…? Is there any other good news, Maurice that came out of this? In other words, we’re sort of shelling people with all of the “Be careful. Don’t cross this line or somebody’s going to put a black hood over your head” but I think last time you were on we were talking about just a few good things. Is there any other thing that has happened positively?
Maurice: Yeah. The new amnesty program that they came out with… They collected $6 billion so they’re going to keep asking people to please come forward and get things straightened out. So what we do… We’re very good in the tax area so what we do is if there’s no income that you didn’t… If you reported all the income, then all we have to do is do the amnesty program and just submit the forms that were required for the foreign assets and the foreign whatever. If there is income tax that is due, then what we have to do is we have to amend the returns and pay back tax and penalty and whatever and send it in through the amnesty program.
So the point is that yeah… The good news is the government isn’t out there trying to hassle everybody. They’re saying, “Hey, just come forward and get things… Become compliant.” We just had two doctors—they’re married—who owed a million dollars back three, four years ago and it’s taken us three years but we just yesterday were able to get the last $250,000 paid and get the lien off that they’ve had on their huge house and what we did is we went in and… I mean they have four kids in private schools. They live in a $5 million house. So there are some big issues. And if you work with the IRS and you’re… We’re very soft spoken. We know what they want to do. The bottom line is when they went to pick up the check… deliver the check to the IRS, the agent said to Gary Shearling, who is my tax manager, he said, “Hey, you guys really do it right. You worked with the client…” We got them current on their current taxes and then we went back and we worked on trying to get the old paid and by getting them compliant upfront, that takes the pressure off of the IRS having to come in and audit.
So the goal is good planning. I don’t know if you remember when we were down in Belize. I talk about planning and everybody says, “Oh gee, we don’t need to do that.” Yeah, you do. You do good planning, you’re talking to professionals who know what they’re doing, then you’re able to say, “Hey, let’s set up a new retirement plan. Let’s buy new equipment. Let’s buy the new Escalade. Let’s…”—whatever it might be. At least you’re talking and you’re making decisions and if you know what that tax is going to be, even if you can’t pay it, then you can make arrangements how you’re going to pay it going into the future. So I really feel like people just… They panic. They fall behind and the next thing you know they’re doing all kinds of crazy things.
Bill: And Maurice, don’t you think sometimes people think…? They get scared. They think the government—and you made a good point and I think we all know how… We know stories about how ruthless the government can be. We do know those stories. We hear them. They’re real. But I think some people would say, “You know what? I’m not going to declare just because all this stuff’s going to come falling down on my head” but I think it’s easier to compare the United States government with just another… like a big company. They want to negotiate something with you. They’d rather see a little than nothing. And so I don’t think people should be as frightened of coming clean as what they are because they feel like a guillotine is going to fall over their head if they come clean and that’s just not the case, is it?
Maurice: No. And the other real problem is there are so many of the professionals out there… I pick up clients all the time from people… from accountants, attorneys—whatever—who… and they say to us “My accountant said he knows nothing about that. He doesn’t care to learn about it and he’s not going to help us so we’ve got to leave him. We’ve been with him a long time.” I just picked up a client from South Texas and so we… It’s not a big deal. I read every day. I know… I carry around a sheet… I’m going on a cruise tomorrow and I’ll take a bunch of reading material because I need to stay up-to-date. We need to keep going. I make sure all my employees do the continuing education and learn about all this stuff. We constantly are talking about what we need to do. Not… We’re not trying to be smart alecks.
What we’re trying to do is just be aware of what the rules and regulations are so that we can do—and I’m going to say the word again—good planning because if you start at the beginning of the year and you do the planning, then you can decide how to handle it—what to do. If we’re having a bigger year, hey, we’re going to have to pay more tax. How are we going to do it? And the same thing if we have a bunch of returns that we haven’t filed. We’ve been getting… Believe it or not the IRS is really going back eight years. If they find that you haven’t reported, they’re coming on strong. But even those… We can… You can win those battles and… To go to a tax attorney is $5,000 a month is sort of silly. It’s better to try to do the planning. You contact the IRS. We say, “Hey, we’re going to get them current. We’re going to start with today and then we’re going to start paying on the old.” There are things you can do so you don’t have to be frightened. You just have to work at it.
Bill: Maurice, now I know your idea of a cruise. You’re going to go on a cruise and you’re going to take a whole bunch of tax planning stuff with you and when everybody else is out on the deck you’re going to be in there poring over all those manuals, right?
Bill: I know that because I know you and you really will do some version of that. I’m sure you’re not afraid to go out and have a drink or something but you are a guy that’s pedal to the metal and hand’s firmly on the wheel. So how can people get more information about your company if they want to come clean on something, if they want to do some… if they’re worried about their current accountant not being understanding or being aggressive enough or if they want to come clean through the amnesty program, if there’s any kind of questions people might have, how can they get a hold of you?
Maurice: Well, the best way to call me… Well, the best thing to do is email me at [email protected]. The telephone numbers are either 972-385-0007 or my cell phone, which is 469-358-2818 and I’m sure I’m going to surprise you but my cell phone and my email will be working on the cruise ship so… Well, because if it’s urgent, I don’t want people to panic and I can always call my son and get one of the accountants or someone to jump on it if the IRS is knocking at the door. But more importantly is let’s not get to that point. Let’s try to… Let’s look at what the situation is and try to come up with solutions. Our job is to give the client options. We do a free three-year analysis and when we look at the returns we come up with ideas, where we’re at, what we need to do and then we give an engagement letter and say, “Hey, here’s what we’ll charge you.”
But more importantly is I’m more concerned… I do these seminars. I do these radio programs. But I have an article in the New York Times here and the goal is to say to people “Hey, I’m willing to… It’s not going to cost you $1,000 for me to look at it. Let’s first find out what we need to do. Then we’ll determine what the cost is. And then we’ll correct it. And if we have a plan…” We all have to have a business plan, a lifestyle plan and a lot of people going offshore and I say to them “Hey, where do you want to go? What do you want to do? How are you going to get back if you—God-forbid—get really sick? How are you going to go visit grandkids?” and all those issues. You’ve got to have a lifestyle plan. You have to… And you can’t leave the United States if you’re not compliant. So even if you decided, “Well, I’m going to leave the United States,” you can’t just go. There’s a whole process.
I’ve had two or three that I’ve done this year—and of course I have maybe 200 that are coming into the country under programs—but there’s two or three that did give up their citizenships. I think it’s sort of silly. But you can live offshore without giving up everything. And I just say, “Hey, let’s do some planning. Let’s do some lifestyle stuff.” Bill, people like yourself who give out good information and are constant look at what’s going to happen in this country of ours and whatever, people need to know that you’re a resource. You’re not out there to do anything other than try to help them get to where they want to go.
Bill: Well, there are a lot of places that you… roads that you don’t want to turn down onto Maurice, aren’t there?
Maurice: Right. No, I think… Yeah, I think it’s time… I really think it’s time for everybody just to… I’ve been through… I’ve been practicing 55 years so when I think about it it scares me. I used to not want to say that because I didn’t want to tell people how old I am but I used to weigh 358 pounds and I weigh 130 right now and I’m not sick. I’m very healthy. I work out almost every day. And the point is if you make up your mind to do things, you can do it and then you have to get your options, get your plan done and then do it.
A lot of people… I handle a lot of people… I’ve been getting a lot of calls from people—“I want to go to Panama. I want to go here. I want to go there.” And it’s good to look through the sequence. I’ve got clients all over the world so it’s good to look at “Well, what do I have to do? How do I do it?” Well, the first thing you need to do is be compliant. You don’t want to be coming in or going out of the country and having them stop you because you haven’t filed tax returns or owe a bunch of money. So need to plan it out, be good, talk to the resources and I’m available. You know me—I work… I really do work seven days a week, ten or twelve hours a day. I mean if you’d have seen me yesterday, I was in Austin in the morning and back in the office in the afternoon for an interview and then I just came back and was in New York Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and visiting clients and whatever.
I get all over the place. We’re doing a seminar. Lee Goldblatt’s [sp] going to go do a seminar about real estate depreciation in San Francisco. And yeah, so we’re out and about and trying to spread the word and trying to tell people that things are good. And hopefully—like we did last time—I’m going to send this out to my whole email base to get Bill Heid in your network, some exposure on my side because I really think you do good work.
Bill: Well thanks, Maurice.
Maurice: Of course I’ve known you for a lot longer than the business you’re in today. Didn’t we know each other 30-some years ago or whatever?
Bill: It’s been a while. Yep, it’s been a while.
Maurice: And yeah, because I grew up in Chicago so… And I think that’s where we met—in Chicago. But anyway, the point is that we’re of same mind. How can we help you do it correctly? How can we help you protect yourself? How can we help you set up a lifestyle plan? What can we do? Where are we headed? Don’t just think you’re going to pack up your bags and drive across the border. It’s dangerous. Don’t do that—for many reasons. Let’s think about where we’re going, why we’re going and then make sure that we’re not going to be stopped along the way because truthfully—I’ll use the word—don’t be stupid. Plan and get it done correctly. Got plenty of resources out there. I know you know lots of people and so do I that can help.
Bill: Well, that’s a good place to end it, Maurice. I think people really need to pay attention and I’d agree with your assessment. They used to say James Brown was the hardest working man in show business. I think you’re probably the hardest working man in tax planning and so Maurice, I know your time—like you’ve said—is valuable and we thank you for spending some of it with us today and we also would like to thank our audience for spending some of their time. We just know everybody’s working hard and we value that as well. So Maurice, God bless, take care and we hope to talk to you soon.
Maurice: Okay. If you need me, please call.
Bill: Thanks again.
Bill: And we are back with the second part of our show today. If you remember the last time we were talking to Dave Eubank, he was in the jungle and lost his cell phone or his battery-operated phone of some type. He was standing on top of a truck. And we’ve caught him again. We had to wait a day and catch up with Dave and I thought it would be really great to listen to that interview—at least the second half of that interview. Let’s listen.
Bill: And I think you got cut off. We hadn’t discussed really the macro issues and I kind of wanted to cover that with you. Macro issues—in other words, what is the nature of what’s going on in Burma? And then of course I’d like to finish up by how can people sort of help you and help these people? So I think help you help these people. So that’s how we’d kind of like to finish. I always like to have a call to action, give them something to do that’s positive. So I guess one of the questions that… I guess one of the questions I’d like to ask you is—and we can just mix this into the copy so we don’t even have to start over and I’ll just… We’ll do the editing and it’ll all come out great—so the question I’d like to ask is Dave, what’s the macro situation in Burma, politically, that tends to just create the ongoing conflict? And you mentioned some cases it’s been mitigated but some cases it continues. It seems like what they do is they go from people to people and province and almost rotate who they’re mad at. Is that a…? Is that a good…?
Dave: Well, can I make an attempt to answer at least part of that question?
Dave: All right. I would like to back up a little bit. The earliest people to move into Burma was the ethnic minorities and then the Burman population came a little bit later and up until the early 1800s the Burmans and the Burman kings controlled all of central Burma, the lowlands, where the ethnics were—many of the ethnics—were in the highlands, in the mountains. And there was generally enmity between them. The Burma kings would try to take territory from the ethnics and the ethnics would fight back. The Burmans would enslave some of the ethnics. And that kind of went on back and forth. Then the British took over Burma and united the whole country under their rule, which was mostly appreciated by the ethnic minorities because they finally felt they had justice and they were free from the oppression of the Burman majority.
But many Burmans, of course, felt oppressed by the English just because they were there. And in World War II when the Japanese invaded Burma, many Burmans joined the Japanese because the Japanese said they would have complete liberation from the English where the ethnics stayed on the British and the American side and fought against the Japanese. And many ethnic peoples in Burma would say, “England is our father because they brought law and justice. America is our mother because they brought the gospel and education.” And so anyways, they fought against the Japanese. So when the Japanese were losing the Burmans switched sides, joined the allies and fought the Japanese also. Burma got its independence but shortly after independence, because of their oppressive tactics, war broke out between the Burman majority and most of the ethnic groups—1949 to this day.
So Burma has had historically two main problems. One—lack of democracy among the Burmans themselves, a series of kings and dictators—in the modern era, dictators. And then lack of ethnic rights. So you have an ethnic rights issue and oppression against the ethnics as well as a democracy issue. Now the last year Burma took some steps towards a democracy. There still is yet to have been a complete free and fair election but there has been some smaller elections that seem to be fair and on the positive side right now, the government of Burma say they are going to have full and free elections in 2015. They have allowed the main opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest for 15 years and won the Nobel Peace Prize… They have allowed her to run and hold an office in Parliament, which she does right now and they’ve reached out to different ethnic groups for cease-fires. And there has been an easing of travel restriction in most of Burma as well as release of most but not all political prisoners and ease of censorship and these are some of the good steps.
But on the downside, even in the cease fire areas the Burma army has built up their positions and strengthened all of their routes and improved their roads and their access into the ethnic areas using the cease fire as a cover to do that. And I don’t mean that it’s an invisible cover. It’s very open. They’re just using the fact they’re not getting shot at to build their camps up and improve their roads. But then at the same time, in the ethnic areas in the north—with the Kachin in particular—they’ve launched an all-out attack with major resources and real national will and communion behind it, which has displaced over 100,000 people right now. So you have these two things going on. You have some movements toward democracy, some opening up, some cease-fires. At the same time you still do not have a true democracy and ethnic groups, by turn it seems, are attacked at the Burma army’s will.
Now I’m not sure all the reasons they are attacking the Kachin right now. I think one reason is because the Kachin would not negotiate on the terms the Burma army wanted to negotiate on. The Kachin would not give up some of their resources as well as some of their business deals, like a major hydroelectric dam that they and the Chinese had built. The Burma government wanted more control of that and the Kachin would not give it to them. Also there is a major gas pipeline that runs from the Indian Ocean—the Andaman Sea—just off the shore of Burma, through Burma and into China and the Chinese have built this pipeline. And it is a way to circumvent the straight to Morocco and any unfriendly fleets that might disturb oil coming from the Middle East or Africa to China and it goes through Burma and into China and part of that goes through a corner of Shan State and close to the border of Kachin State but an area where the Kachin administer. And so the Kachin are standing in the way of that as well. So I think these are the different reasons why there is ongoing conflict.
Bill: Well answered, Dave. Let me ask you… Let’s try to dig beneath a little bit. Just you sort of mentioned a little bit of the thought system or the anthropology of some of the ethnics. Who would you say the mother—figurative mother and father—of Burma proper is then? What are the religious beliefs? What is their sort of political and cultural beliefs about mankind and who are we and so forth?
Dave: About the Burmans?
Bill: Yeah, the Burmans in general. In other words, I’m trying to get to what creates the antagonism.
Dave: Okay. Burmans in general, in terms of religion, are Buddhist and probably the most popular person in Burma right now that’s Burman is Aung San Suu Kyi—one, because she’s a great woman and a good leader. The other reason is—in other words she’s a good person—the other reason is she is the daughter of the first leader of Burma after World War II. When Burma finally got independence from England her father, Aung San, was their leader. And so he has that kind of revolutionary, founding father kind of respect and so because of who she is and also because who her father is, she is the most revered person among the Burmans. And she’s also respected by most of the ethnics. And again, but the foundation in terms of religion is Buddhism and the… Burma never really has had a democracy. They had one in 1990 for about a couple weeks but they’ve never really had a democracy. They’ve always been under one rule or another. I don’t know if that’s getting to your question.
Bill: No, no, that’s helping. That’s helping a lot. I think in some cases—not to be too politically incorrect—but with Christianity you have sort of a rulebook for how to live. In other words, whether it’s the Ten Commandments or so forth and someone says, “Thou shalt not kill…” I mean is there…? You’ve been around for a long time. In Buddhism… I mean I’m familiar with Buddha’s Eightfold Path and so forth but it doesn’t seem to me that there is anything really concrete to sort of provide a sort of transcendent law and order maybe that would create the blessings that we enjoy here in this country.
Dave: Well, yeah, those are… Those are dangerous waters.
Bill: Yeah, well…
Dave: I guess I would say this—that in God we have a personal… We have the possibility of a personal relationship with our creator who in spite of our sin forgives and loves us and who sent His son and who surrounds us with His Holy Spirit that we can call upon any time so that we can know when we’ve done wrong and we can ask forgiveness and we can start again and can help us navigate and make good government. Obviously Christian… Majority Christian countries have come up with some pretty horrible governments and Nazis would be one of them and who obviously stopped listening to the Holy Spirit at some point, at least enough people did, that the Nazi government rose up.
I think in Burma that the greatest need in Burma, which is the greatest need anywhere, is that people would come to the Lord and know, “God loves me and I can be free from spirits; I can be free from my sin and I can know how to live with my fellow man and God will help me do those things” and that’s the basis upon government is—I think on good government—is a relationship with God, first that we can see in our own sin and not just act out of our own selfishness or our tribal selfishness but look at how God cares about everybody and actually, is enough for everybody. And I feel the greatest liberation that Burma needs is the same thing America needs and the same thing I need and that is a relationship with Jesus of love and thus, of loving other people.
Bill: Yeah, I think you’re right on. And then the implications of that relationship sort of can be culture-building tools but you have to get the order and the chronology right and I think that’s where… I guess my point, Dave, was that Buddhism being sort of a religion of… an imminent religion… In other words, the appeal to sort of right and wrong stays inside a sort of box of the universe and all that exists is inside a box where our forefathers in this country would carry placards… And their appeal against King George wasn’t “Well, we’re inside this box and we just want to be stronger than you.” They carried placards that said, “Appeal to heaven,” which meant their appeal to George doing something wrong was outside of that box and to a God that was transcendent. It’s a very different kind of worldview and it creates a very different type of political system and cultural system, I guess was the point I’m making.
I don’t know of a case where Buddhism… And you may… Christianity doesn’t stay all the time culturally where people actually believe it. It becomes hardened and I think we’ve all seen that with churches and governments as well but just this concept of being able to appeal to a transcendent God is an amazing thing in and of itself, both individually, as you’ve said, as well as culturally, as well as politically. So the hope if Christ, as you said, and there’s no freedom or liberty outside that. Americans need that just as much as the Burmese nationals and ethnics and everybody else. So another question that I have for you is your thoughts on who’s arming who? Is that dangerous water?
Dave: Hey, it’s all dangerous water. What I mean by “dangerous water” is I want to be respectful of everyone and… But that doesn’t make me shy away from what I believe and I just wanted to follow up on what you said because I think it’s true. I think a relationship with God then means that we are not just at the whims of nature or at the whims of our karma or the whims of whoever is in power. And we’re not even at the whims of our own sin. We’re not stuck there. We have the right and freedom as God’s children to rebuild this world in His image, in His way and that gives us the power. It’s His power—not ours. We’re operating in His power and that’s how we can transform society, no matter what our karma is or what we’re born into or how bad we’ve been and I think that is the power that… for good that we have when we follow Jesus and…
So I don’t… I’m not trying to shy away from that. That’s my only hope personally, I think, and corporately and the Free Burma Rangers—we are open to people from every religion. You don’t have to be a Christian to be an FDR. You can be Buddhist, Animist, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic—you can be anything. You only have to have three things to join us. One—you have to be able to read and write because we do medical work and reporting and mapping and you’ve got to be able to read and write, two—you have to do this for love because there is no pay and number three—you have to have physical and moral courage, means you cannot run if the people can’t run and if people are dying and under attack and even if you’re unarmed, you have to stay until the last person escapes. So if you can do these three things—courage, love and read and write—you can be a ranger. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman or what your religion is.
Now I myself am a person who attempts to follow Jesus, as most of our leaders are, but we’ve got about 20% of the rangers who are not Christians and we operate like a family. As you can imagine, man, if you’re getting shot at, you’re like, “That’s my brother” and I always share what God has done for me to anybody who will listen and my prayer is that everyone on our teams—like everyone I meet and myself—will become closer and closer to the Lord and be the people He made us to be and from that will become the countries that He wants us to be. So that’s a long answer you didn’t ask for but that’s what I feel and so in all that, I have forgotten what you just asked me.
Bill: No, you’ve… Let me just segue just a little bit because when I was talking to Tera Dahl she had mentioned that she had signed a form when she came over there that you, the rangers, wanted to make sure if she came to visit she had to pledge that she would not leave if you guys came under fire. She told me that and I thought, “This is amazing.” So is that just part of who you are and you’re a little bit like Gideon in the sense that you wasn’t people there who are committed and the fodder really doesn’t need to be there because it just gets in the way. In other words, if you flee—if that’s your makeup—then you’re going to create problems for everybody and as a military man you would know that much better than myself. But that’s a pretty intense situation that you have.
Dave: Well, you know… Yes. That’s the deal. And one thing I know is this—that I have experienced in my own life—when you are afraid ask for love and go in the power of that love and it’s amazing that when you are afraid, if you ask for love, you look around and go, “You know, I’ve had this experience before, man. I want to get out of here. Everybody’s going to die. Not me, dude. I’ve got a wife and kids over there, over the next hill”—because usually they’re with me in Burma, maybe in a slightly safer place—“I’m going to live through this, man. I’m a highly trained soldier and more importantly, I am highly motivated. I’ve got my family and I probably can run faster.” All of those thoughts come surging up inside me at times.
And then I look and I say, “Lord, give me love. Give me love.” And then I look and I see some IDP—displaced person, some family, some kid—and man, I just suddenly feel this love and that’s from God and I go, “That could be my kid.” Then I think, “You know what? It’s okay. I’m going to stay with this person and if I die here it’s okay. I don’t want to die here.” We have zero martyr recruiting or ideas in our group, man. We’re like Patton, you know? Make the other guy die for his country. But that’s kind of a joke because we don’t go after the other guys. But we also…
Bill: But I remember what Patton said. Do you want…? You’re probably not a guy that likes to cuss but in… But remember everybody what Patton said, “The idea is not to die for your country, it’s get the other poor, dumb, blank, blank, blank to die for his.” And as crude a guy as he was, he sort of hit the nail on the head, Dave. I mean you’re not on the offensive in this case but I think we all know what you mean and that is the case. You’ve got a family to raise.
Dave: Right. And so when you look and… We just tell our guys—because we’re all human—some days you’re brave; some days you’re not brave. And when you’re not brave you say, “God, give me love. Give me love.” And when you have love, then “Okay, I can stand here” because all of us… If we saw a stranger walking down the street and a ten ton truck was just barreling at him and it was one second to decide to jump and push the stranger out of the way and then die as your family watches, how many of us would do it? I don’t know. That’s really tough. But if your kid was on that street in the same scenario, none of us would hesitate. Not because we want to die but because we love our kid so much. And so when we see a stranger our natural reaction is “Well, unlucky him” but when God gives you that love, which I have to ask God for because it doesn’t come a whole lot from me “Help me love” and then I’m not afraid anymore. And man, it’s a great feeling not to be afraid. I mean we’re not crazy. There’s a lot of bullets flying around and we try to get out of the way. But that’s just something that I’ve learned being here.
Bill: Great observations and… I guess when you get bullets shot at you one of the questions I had and I wasn’t sure if you wanted to answer that but where are those bullets being made?
Dave: Well, most of them are being made in Burma.
Dave: Burma has had many countries help them in the past but now they mostly make their own rifles, their own ammunition. Now they… Some of the high tech weapons like the Hind assault helicopters—attack helicopters they have been using up against the Kachin—those are Russian imports. Some of their jet fighters are Chinese. And some of their other aircraft are from Eastern European countries. And so they get a variety of weapons. The high tech weapons are from overseas but the mortars and mortar rounds and machine guns and rifles and bullets, hand grenades and even landmines they make themselves.
Bill: Okay. Are there anybody…? Another quick question for you… I mean you’ve been so close to this situation. Is there anybody in our country, sort of a politician or a media person or someone that’s trying to bring light to this or has mentioned this at all? To me it seems like whether it’s “not important enough” or spiked or something, it’s not part of our news cycle ever. So is there anybody else standing up and kind of saying, “Hey, here’s what the situation is in Burma”?
Dave: Well, there’s Tera Dahl so I’m glad for her and there’s… In terms of US government the people that we know… I mean a lot of people stand up for it that we don’t know. The people we know and we’ve heard a lot from—Louie Gohmert from Texas, Congressman Joseph Pitts from Pennsylvania, Dement before, I think Wolfe, Mitch McConnell, McCain has spoken out—those are the main ones that come to my mind. My apologies for all those that are fighting for Burma that I forgot to mention. Those are the ones I hear the most of or I’ve met myself—some of them. And those are the main ones that I hear standing for the people of Burma.
Bill: I had lunch with Louie and I talked to Louie quite a bit about it and Frank Wolfe… You probably don’t get a lot of media from here because you’re busy but Frank Wolfe wrote an article in the form of a press release or something not too long ago and he really, Dave, called out some religious leaders—Rick Warren and people like this—the people sort of that might have some say and some play and somebody that could get some traction going and he said, “Why don’t you care? I try to get you guys involved in this”—the Joel Osteens and all those people that seem to have national following—and he says… And he wrote a letter and says, “This is really… This really sort of torks me off”—that’s not the language he uses—“But this is really annoying to me is that none of you care about this issue.” And he was talking about your situation and a couple of others. Why do you think that there is not… people don’t really—sort of “religious leaders”—take an interest in it?
Dave: Well, I’ve got to throw in there Frank’s also… He’s been a big help and I know I’m missing a bunch but…
Bill: From Arizona, yeah.
Dave: Those are the ones that come to my mind. You know there are religious leaders—Franklin Graham has been personally and organizationally a help to us as well and to the people of Burma. Not just us but the people of Burma in many different ways. So he’s one of the… I don’t know if he’d call himself a religious leader but he is certainly a Christian and a leader of an organization that helps lots of people and helps lots of people in Burma and he… Man, they help them everywhere in all different kinds of ways. So that’s one. In terms of why don’t other people help? My only thought about that is when Jesus told the story about the widow appealing to the judge, I think, man, we’ve just got to keep praying. We pray and write those letters. Pray and write those letters. And then let God convict them which one of those needs to do something. Some God will tell them, “You know what? You don’t have to do that. You’ve got other things to do” but I think that letter that was sent… I think that’s needed. Send a letter and pray and watch what God does.
Bill: So what would one put—and we’ve only got a few minutes here—but what would one put…? Let’s say you’re in Louie Gohmert’s district or something and you could write a letter encouraging him, thanking him for what he is doing, stances that he’s taken and of course if your congressman really is one of those folks that maybe we haven’t mentioned or whatever, you could say… What would you have them say, basically, Dave?
Dave: Well, I’d say vote for Louie Gohmert for president, man. That’s what I’d say. I love him.
Bill: I love him too.
Dave: What a great guy. One time he… Well, I don’t know if he… I might have gone down this road but he told me… He said something once. I gave this big interview… I mean this big briefing about Burma and he was looking at me, his big old boots on the table, looking at me, leans back and goes… Actually, his boots weren’t on the table. That was a different time. He just leans way back in his chair and he goes—at the end of my briefing on Burma—he said, “Well, if I was an atheist I’d think you’re crazy but I’m not an atheist.” And so I appreciated that but I don’t think of it as crazy. I think it’s of God and it’s very sane and the sane thing is this—every human being counts.
And in my letter I would write, “Every human being is made in God’s image. Every war is really a civil war. These are all my brothers. It doesn’t mean I have to be a pacifist. Doesn’t mean I have to roll over when people attack. But it means that people… everybody counts. And in Burma the people… Burmans are still oppressed, ethnic minorities are oppressed and we have one life—each of us—to live and God has limitless capacity of love and resources that if we ask Him how to use them we can help lots of people. You can’t help everybody but we can help lots of people and the people of Burma are some of those people. And they themselves are already helping themselves and there are organizations like ours and other people in there engaged and so if you can’t go, you can pray and you can send funds and you can put political pressure and you can visit yourself or you can have your government people coming to visit—not just the government in Burma but the people getting beat up. Anybody who wants to come—we’ll get you in—by foot or by mule or somehow.” And that’s what I would say.
Bill: So how can they…? Let’s say somebody wants to give you money. If they want to pray for you, they should go to your site and look at what you’re doing. Well, let’s say they want to give you money. How could one of our listeners give you money? Through the website, obviously, would be one connection. Is that the best way for someone to connect up with you?
Dave: Yeah, I think the first thing I’d say is if you gave money, good—thank you—but first, before you give anything pray. Pray and say, “God, do you want me to give this?” because He might tell you to give it somewhere else or He may tell you you need to go somewhere. And so I’d say very first thing—pray. Don’t give anybody money until you pray about it and certainly us. And then if the answer is yeah, give them and we’ll say thanks and we’ll put it right to work. And the easiest place is the website and they can give directly there or you can email and say, “Hey, I want to do… I want to send a check or I want to send…” because all the money will end up coming to a 5013C foundation either way but at the website you can pay directly there. There is like a network for good, which is kind of like PayPal or you can email at the email site there and say, “Hey, how else can I give?” and then you’ll be given an address to send to. So either way.
Bill: Well, let’s do something kind of fun.
Dave: You’re all straight with the IRS and everything else.
Bill: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let’s do something kind of fun that we can do. If you donate to Dave’s cause and you say, “Look, I’m going to spend some money. I’m going to go ahead and donate,” we’ll go ahead and match anything that our listeners send to you but you’ve got to make sure—so that Dave gets double duty on this—you’ve got to make sure that you mention that the donation came from listening to this interview and then we’ll work something out with Dave where we’ll go ahead and match that and that’s just one good way to help. If there is… If someone wants to… Actually, if they’re crazy enough—like Tera—and they want to come there on a donkey and you’re going to make them sign a form that says they’re not going to… that they won’t run away when someone’s shooting at them, you do that through the site too?
Dave: Yeah, you can email us and again, pray. Don’t come here unless you’re supposed to come but pray and come and don’t run… Don’t worry. We’ll run away with you but we’ll be the last people to go. And again, yeah, you can do that. You can find out more through the website.
Bill: Okay, Dave. I am just… We’re working on a little bit of a care package for you as well so… with some of our solar generator technology, some lanterns, some blankets and a bunch of stuff that Jesse requested so we’ll have that over to you shortly.
Dave: Thank you. Thank you.
Bill: And is there anything else you want to say in closing?
Dave: I want to say thank God for you, Bill and your program and all the listeners and I thank God for our country that can freely talk about these kinds of things and God bless America and God bless the whole world and I thank God that through many people and through our country in America we do help people all over the world and even though I’m far away out here, I love you all. I’m part of your family and thank you.
Bill: Well, you bet, Dave, and God bless you and your work and stay safe man and we’ll be in touch with you. So thanks so much for taking the time and we really, really appreciate it.
Dave: Hey, thank you and I’ll send you photos of that solar stuff in action, man. That’s how we power everything. So thanks for that very practical help.
Bill: You bet. God bless, Dave.
Dave: God bless you too. Bye.
Bill: Bye now. All right, there you go. Thanks for everything. Thanks for listening. We really appreciate Dave’s checking in with us for part two of that interview and we know his time is valuable, as we always say and we know your time is valuable as well and we just appreciate you spending it with us. Give Burma some thought. Give Dave some thought and God bless.