Friday, September 07, 2007

Fair thee well

I am off to Washington, D.C. tomorrow morning and will be interning there for the fall. Hopefully, I will have time to blog during the time I am there. Don't worry about me missing the run-off election, my wife and I already voted for Becker.

Since the people at my job find blogging to be a chore, and I have enjoyed it for five years now, you may see me posting over at CLCblog, but my views and their views are totally separate. As a person, I may endorse someone like Ralph Becker, but they do not and cannot. They are completely non-partisan and above board (one guy who works there is legal counsel for a top presidential candidate, and won't even sit in meetings if people idling chatting about the election). If it is jargon-filled, please forgive. I may get a job out in the Washington area, who knows.

No matter what happens, Utah will always be my home. And Salt Lake my home town.

looking out for the fat cats

First here's the depressing economic news that has sent the Dow into a tailspin this morning:
Employers sliced payrolls by 4,000 in August, the first drop in four years...
The latest snapshot of the employment climate, released by the Labor Department on Friday, also showed that the unemployment rate held steady at 4.6 percent, mainly because hundreds of thousands of people left the work force for any number of reasons.
Job losses in construction, manufacturing, transportation and government swamped gains in education and health care, leisure and hospitality, and retail. Employment in financial services was flat. The weakness in payrolls reflected fallout from the deepening housing slump, a credit crisis and financial turbulence that has made businesses more cautious in their hiring.
It sure is a great time to graduate and be looking for a job! So what does $250 Millioniare Willard Mitt Romney propose to help stimulate the economy?
Posted: 7:18 AM- CONCORD, N.H. - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is filling in the blanks in his proposal to eliminate taxes on interest and dividends for families earning less than $200,000 a year.
Romney, who previously has talked about his desire to eliminate such taxes, said the plan would encourage saving. He was explaining the details during an appearance Friday in New Hampshire.
"You're creating a dramatic new incentive to save, which is savings will be tax free. ... Your interest, dividends and capital gains will be tax-free, which will allow people to establish pretty substantial nest eggs," said Romney, who previewed his speech in a telephone interview Thursday with The Associated Press.
"Any tax reduction means more money in our pockets to invest in our country, and tax reductions stimulate our economy in general," he said.
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom, said the proposal would cost $32 billion, to be paid for through economic growth, and by holding non-defense discretionary spending to inflation minus 1 percentage point.
I love the magical presidential candidate "paying for it" by making assumptions that will never ever happen. Could the press please stop asking how a candidate "is going to pay for that?" We all know it is a sham, and I would love it if some candidate would just admit that whatever plan they are proposing is a mere outline of what might someday become law. And that they have no intention of really balancing the books and no way of doing so other than cutting popular programs or defense spending, neither of which are politically possible to do.

But let's get to the larger point, that Romney's plan for cutting dividend and interest taxes will magically eliminate the looming recession is lie to cut taxes for plutocrats like himself.

While nearly half of all American families own stock, they do so in their pensions (AKA IRA's or 401(k)'s). This means that at worst, the own tax deferred stocks (you aren't taxed until you start to access the portollio, which is hopefully when you are retired--which should be decades from when you first started putting your money into the investment vehicle). So the marginal tax rate will provide no incentive for a middle class worker to plunk down more money into their retirement plan. Even assuming he knew what the marginal tax rate was now and knew it went down, it wouldn't matter because the tax rate that matters is the one that exists when that worker retires. For me, that is in the 2040s or 50s. For my parents (who are roughly speaking baby boomers), that is in the 2010s or 2020s.

Now let's turn to the tax on interest...which I assume is taxing money one has in a normal bank savings account.
The Commerce Department reported Monday that the savings rate fell into negative territory at minus 0.5 percent, meaning that Americans not only spent all of their after-tax income last year but had to dip into previous savings or increase borrowing.

The savings rate has been negative for an entire year only twice before — in 1932 and 1933 — two years when the country was struggling to cope with the Great Depression, a time of massive business failures and job layoffs.
The Commerce report said that consumer spending for December rose by 0.9 percent, more than double the 0.4 percent increase in incomes last month.

A price gauge that excludes food and energy rose by a tiny 0.1 percent in December, down from a 0.2 percent rise in November.
So in short, Americans are happier to plunk down money for a flat screen tv, a new iPod (I am guilty of this one), a new car, etc. rather than put money in the bank. And since the interest rate on savings accounts is low--Zions for example is .20% for a checking account, according to lack of savings has more to do with consumerism and low interest rates than the tax rate on said interest. And how could average Americans save more when they are earning comparatively less, what with the skyrocketing cost of health care combined with flat-to-negative wage growth?
Both hourly and weekly earnings of production non-supervisory workers—the vast majority of workers—increased by 0.3 percent in August before inflation is accounted for. It remains to be seen if these growth rates are enough to let wages rise even after accounting for inflation. After all, in the first seven months of 2007, inflation-adjusted hourly earnings dropped by 0.6 percent and weekly earnings by 0.9 percent.

Thus, Romney's tax cut plan is more Bushonomics. Help the rich, and shift the tax burden to the poor.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

a tale of two newspapers

Both Thomas Burr and Suzanne Struglinski went to the same Senate hearing on the Crandall Canyon mine deaths yesterday, but you wouldn't know that by reading their articles. First, the Utah Republican Party Morning News
Subcommittee members, as well as Utah's U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, asked MSHA head Richard Stickler for details on what happened in the mine, what can be done in the future to avoid other accidents and how MSHA should handle accidents in the future.
Next, the Salt Lake Tribune.
"What the hell is the problem at MSHA?" Byrd asked rhetorically, as several audience members erupted in applause.
"It is past time - way past time to take the gloves off," Byrd told Stickler, advising him to "crack some heads" at the agency to make improvements.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, stood up for the embattled witness.
"It's always easier after the fact to come in and find fault," Hatch added. He later told reporters that MSHA did the best it could with the knowledge it had and it is "pretty tough" to have the foresight to see a bump would occur.
Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, asked Stickler why rescue operations weren't halted earlier as Bennett had been told was the case. "It was with great feeling in the pit of my stomach to hear that rescue operations had begun again and three rescue workers were killed," Bennett said. Stickler said the experts thought it was safe for rescuers to re-enter the mine.
Guess which one has ex. Utah State Party Chair Joe Cannon as their editor-in-chief. And guess which one is still angling for that Attorney General job?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

theocracy via charter school

(© 1998 Utah State University Press)

"[A] perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters," wrote James Madison in 1822, is the best course, for "religion & Gov. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together." In 1832, the author of the First Amendment wrote a letter to Rev. Jasper Adams further explaining his position. "The tendency to a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded against by an entire abstinence of the Gov. from interference in any way whatever..."

"Beliving with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God," President Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association on January 1, 1802, "...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

And yet the theocrats down at Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy have an LDS seminary built right into their taxpayer-funded-school. So there's a wall, architecturally speaking but there's a door too.
A new publicly funded charter school and an LDS seminary share the same roof in Lindon, but they're entirely separate institutions, educators say.
"It's not accessible from our school," he said. "You have to go outside and go around to get to it."
But he acknowledged Maeser Prep students, who study liberal arts using the Socratic method, benefit from its location.
"It's convenient to have it close," he said. "Students go back and forth from [seminary] time to our classes."
Locating a seminary and public school in the same structure could cause some people to believe the school is subsidizing the church, said Carol Lear, director of school law and legislation for the Utah Office of Education. Being across the street from a public school, which is typical for an LDS seminary, gives a different appearance.
"There certainly is an issue of perception," she said. "It does matter that they're in the same building. Does it make it illegal? I'm not sure I can say that."
I believe even the across the street seminaries already are skirting too close to the line, especially when students used to get course credit for attending them. Which is why the Utah Supreme Court ruled in 1981 that "students could be released from school for religious programs, but the instruction needs to take place separately, funded with separate resources."

When people accidently enter into the seminary thinking they are entering into the charter school, it is a problem. I hope somebody sues them.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

put two and two together

I think if you read these two articles together you will get my argument without me having to make it. I love it when that happens.
Neighborhood schools serving minorities and the poor in the U.S. are losing teachers to wealthy districts, according to a study.
''High-minority'' districts are almost twice as likely as richer areas to struggle at retaining math and science teachers, according to the report, released today by the American Institutes for Research, a nonprofit group based in Washington.

Recently released results of such college prep tests as Advanced Placement, ACT and the SAT, show Utah minority students largely still lagging behind their white peers both in scores and participation. The achievement gap, both in Utah and nationwide, is nothing new, but experts say the recent results reflect the challenges many minority students face in getting to college. They're difficulties that arise from cultural differences, a lack of opportunities and economic pressures, experts say.

Cultural differences my ass.