Category Archives: My World
In his new budget proposal, Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich calls for extending a generous 21 percent cut in state income taxes. The measure was originally part of a sweeping 2005 tax overhaul that abolished the state corporate income tax and phased out a business property tax.
The tax cuts were supposed to stimulate Ohio’s economy and create jobs. But that never happened once the economy tanked. Instead, the changes ended up costing Ohio more than $2 billion a year in lost tax revenue; money that would go a long way toward closing the state’s $8 billion budget gap for fiscal year 2012.
“At least half of our current budget problem is a direct result of the tax changes we made in 2005. A lot of people don’t want to hear that, but that’s the reality. Much of our pain is self-inflicted,” said Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal government-research group in Cleveland.
Schiller’s lament is by no means unique. Across the country, taxpayers jarred by cuts to government jobs and services are reassessing the risks and costs of a variety of tax reductions, exemptions and credits, and the ideology that drives them. States cut taxes in hopes of spurring economic growth, but in state after state, it hasn’t worked.
There’s no question that mammoth state budget problems resulted largely from falling tax revenues, rising costs and greater demand for state services during the recession. But questionable tax reductions at the state and local level made the budget gaps larger — and resulting spending cuts deeper — than they otherwise would have been in many states.
A 2008 study by Arizona State University found that that state’s structural deficits could be traced to 15 years of tax cuts, mainly income-tax reductions that “were not matched by spending cuts of a commensurate size.”
In Texas, which faces a $27 billion budget deficit over the next two years, about one-third of the shortage stems from a 2006 property tax reduction that was linked to an underperforming business tax.
In Louisiana, lawmakers essentially passed the largest tax cut in state history by rolling back an income-tax hike for high earners in 2007 and again in 2008.
Without those tax reductions, Louisiana wouldn’t have had a budget deficit in fiscal year 2010, the 2011 deficit would’ve been 50 percent less and the 2012 deficit of $1.6 billion would be reduced by about one-third, said Edward Ashworth, the director of the Louisiana Budget Project, a watchdog group.
These and similar budget problems nationwide are symptoms of a larger condition, said Timothy J. Bartik, senior economist at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Mich.
“If state and local taxes were at the same percentage of state personal income as they were 40 years ago, you wouldn’t have all these budgetary problems,” Bartik said.
Before California’s Proposition 13 triggered a nationwide tax-cut revolt in the late 1970s, state and local taxes accounted for nearly 13 percent of personal income in 1972, Bartik said. By 2007, it was 11 percent.
State corporate income taxes have fallen as well. Once nearly 10 percent of all state tax revenue in the late ’70s, they accounted for only 5.4 percent in 2010.
“It’s a dying tax, killed off by thousands of credits, deductions, abatements and incentive packages,” according to 2010 congressional testimony by Joseph Henchman, the director of state projects at the Tax Foundation, a conservative tax-research center.
Even now, as states struggle to provide basic services and ponder job cuts that threaten their economic recovery, at least seven governors in states with budget deficits have called for or enacted large tax reductions, mainly for businesses.
Five are newly elected Republicans in Florida, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey and Wisconsin. The others are Republican Jan Brewer of Arizona and Democrat Beverly Perdue of North Carolina.
Their willingness to forgo needed tax revenue is hard to fathom, as states face a collective $125 billion budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year, said Jon Shure, the deputy director of the State Fiscal Project at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a respected liberal research institute in Washington.
“To be cutting taxes when you’re short of revenue is like saying you could run faster if you cut off your foot,” Shure said.
“States have suffered an unprecedented collapse in revenue, and they are at the bottom of a deep hole looking up, and these governors are saying, ‘You need a ladder to climb out, but I’m going to give you a shovel instead, so you can dig the hole deeper.’ “
Tax Foundation President Scott Hodge said the governors were simply trying to improve their states’ business climates by lowering the tax burden.
“They’re trying to increase their market share and their attractiveness to business,” Hodge said. “And also, more importantly, they’re trying to prevent the attrition of business and investment to other states” that have lower tax rates.
Republican lawmakers and pro-business groups have long maintained that tax cuts help stimulate economic activity, while keeping businesses and wealthy individuals from leaving the state for lower taxes elsewhere. They also argue that business and personal spending increases after tax reductions, broadening the base to be taxed at the lower rate, which partly offsets the lost tax revenue.
So calls to balance lean state budgets through spending cuts as well as modest, revenue-boosting tax hikes haven’t resonated with Republican governors, who see tax relief as the key to reversing job losses in the Great Recession.
“Raising Ohio’s taxes even higher won’t bring those jobs back. Reducing costs so we can start reducing taxes is the key to our revival,” said Rob Nichols, Kasich’s press secretary. Extending the state’s personal income-tax cut will cost $800 million over two years.
Business tax reductions may be overrated as an economic stimulus because they’re so low on the totem pole of expenses. For most businesses, the cost of labor is probably 15 times the cost of all state and local taxes, said Bartik of the Upjohn Institute.
In his own research, Bartik found that a 10 percent across-the-board cut in state and local business taxes might boost employment by 2 percent, but it could take up to 20 years.
“Most studies indicate you might get 30 percent of the effect after five years and maybe 60 percent after 10 years,” Bartik said. “It takes a while because investment decisions are quite lagged and take place gradually.”
Compounding Ohio’s budget woes are 128 state tax exemptions, credits and deductions that drain more than $7 billion a year in would-be revenue. These loopholes make Ohio miss out on one of every four dollars it would otherwise collect in taxes, said Schiller of Policy Matters Ohio.
In Missouri, business and individual tax credits cost the state $521.5 million in fiscal year 2010, compared with $103 million in 1998, according to a state report.
Louisiana’s 441 individual and corporate tax breaks cost the state $7.1 billion last year. That nearly matches the $7.7 billion that all state and local taxes brought in.
Some of the breaks provide sales-tax exemptions on groceries, prescription drugs and residential utilities that saved Louisiana taxpayers $717 million last year. But another allows Louisiana companies to keep 1 percent of the state sales taxes they collect — about $34 million statewide — just for filing their tax returns on time.
Hodge, a conservative, said that closing loopholes and exemptions was less harmful to the economy than tax increases were. The Tax Foundation supports scaling back or closing tax loopholes, while lowering tax rates across the board.
“My argument to state lawmakers is that lower rates for everybody are better than tax incentives for some,” Hodge said.
That incentive-free philosophy was behind Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s call for a flat 6 percent corporate income tax to replace the current business tax system. But Snyder’s flat tax amounts to a $1.5 billion tax cut for businesses, paid for in part by education cuts, personal income tax increases and taxing public and private pensions.
“We think that’s the way to rebuild our state, and to get it on a path toward economic prosperity,” Snyder’s top economic development official, Michael Finney, said during a recent trip to Washington.
History suggests otherwise, however. After the nation recovered from the 1990-91 recession, 43 states made sizable tax cuts from 1994 to 2001 as the economy surged. Twenty-eight states, in fact, reduced their unemployment insurance payroll taxes after 1995.
But states that cut taxes the most ended up with the largest budget shortfalls and higher job losses when the economy slowed again in 2001, according to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
To be sure, states have made bad budget decisions on the spending side as well, said Robert Ward, deputy director of The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, a state-government research center at the State University of New York at Albany.
Part of the problem is that the public wants everything but doesn’t want to pay for anything, Ward said.
“People want something for nothing. They want big increases in education and health care spending. They want good roads. They want lots of parks, and they don’t want to pay more taxes,” Ward said. “But at the federal, state and local levels, we are hit with the reality that there is no free lunch.”
Organized religion will go the way of the dinosaurs in nine Western democracies, reports CNN. “Religion will be driven toward extinction” in Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, researchers conclude in a new paper. It will also fade in Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, and Switzerland, they predict. “If you look at the data, ‘unaffiliated’ is the fastest-growing group,” said the paper’s lead author. The U.S. could not be included in the study, because unlike the other countries, census data on religion was not available. The study began with two sociological assumptions. First, people want to be part of the majority rather than the minority, making it increasingly desirable to avoid church rather than to attend. “Just a few connections to people who are [religiously] unaffiliated is enough to drive the effect,” said the lead author. Also, there are social, economic, and political benefits to not being religious in these countries. “The utility of being unaffiliated seems to be higher than affiliated in Western democracies,” he said. Despite the lack of U.S. data, other studies suggest people who identify as “unaffiliated” are the fastest-growing belief group in the United States.
Abrams and his co-authors are not passing any judgment on religion, he’s quick to say – they’re just modeling a prediction based on trends. “We’re not trying to make any commentary about religion or whether people should be religious or not,” he said. “I became interested in this because I saw survey data results for the U.S. and was surprised by how large the unaffiliated group was,” he said, referring to a number of studies done by universities and think tanks on trends in religion.
Studies suggest that “unaffiliated” is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, with about 15% of the population falling into a category experts call the “nones.” They’re not necessarily atheists or non-believers, experts say, just people who do not associate themselves with a particular religion or house of worship at the time of the survey. Abrams had done an earlier study looking into the extinction of languages spoken by small numbers of people.
When he saw the religion data, his co-author “Richard Wiener suggested we try to apply a similar technique to religious affiliation,” Abrams said. The paper, by Abrams, Wiener and Haley A. Yaple, is called “A mathematical model of social group competition with application to the growth of religious non-affiliation.” They presented it this week at the Dallas meeting of the American Physical Society. Only the Czech Republic already has a majority of people who are unaffiliated with religion, but the Netherlands, for example, will go from about 40% unaffiliated today to more than 70% by 2050, they expect. Even deeply Catholic Ireland will see religion die out, the model predicts.
“They’ve gone from 0.04% unaffiliated in 1961 to 4.2% in 2006, our most recent data point,” Abrams says. He admits that the increase in Muslim immigration to Europe may throw off the model, but he thinks the trend is robust enough to withstand some challenges. “Netherlands data goes back to 1860,” he pointed out. “Every single data that we were able to find shows that people are moving from the affiliated to unaffiliated. I can’t imagine that will change, but that’s personal opinion, not what the data shows.” But Barry Kosmin, a demographer of religion at Trinity College in Connecticut, is doubtful.
“Religion relies on human beings. They aren’t rational or predictable according to the laws of physics. Religious fervor waxes and wanes in unpredictable ways,” he said. “The Jewish tradition that says prophecy is for fools and children is probably wise,” he added. And Abrams, Wiener and Yaple are not the first to predict the end of religion. Peter Berger, a former president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, once said that, “People will become so bored with what religious groups have to offer that they will look elsewhere.” He said Protestantism “has reached the strange state of self-liquidation,” that Catholicism was in severe crisis, and anticipated that “religions are likely to survive in small enclaves and pockets” in the United States.
He made those predictions in February 1968
Read original story in CNN | Thursday, March 24, 2011
Here is the enlightened comment on the story on CNN’s website:
Ummm…Francis Bacon’s three goals were to uncover truth, to serve his country, and to serve his church. FACT CHECK I can not stand people who use someone’s name to bolster their cause without knowing if that person would have really backed the cause in the 1st place. Idiots.
1) No matter how much you plan, someone named Murphy will screw it up
2) If your haircut, doctor’s appointment, or dentist appointment is at 2:00 p.m. feel free to arrive at 4:00 p.m. – You will not be seen on time.
3) I like Space Invaders, however I do not like personal space invaders (See Awesome Illustration)
4) All people want 3 things: Respect, Understanding, and whatever you have in your left back pocket
5) A good pen is worth its weight in gold and will be stolen,lost, or destroyed within 5 minutes of you discovering its true worth
6) People are thinking about you right now- the IRS, Donald Trump, and Dionne Warwick to name a few
7) You do not have enough money.
8 ) Neither do I
9) I love food and food loves me – that is why it hangs around so long.
10) I do not like “customized stickers” on crappy cars…maybe buy a hubcap instead of a sticker that reads “Juicy” for your back windshield
11) If you make fun of a poor, homeless, or disadvantaged person around me expect to be humiliated- I have no patience for that
12) My wife saved my life and she doesn’t know it
13) I have great parents
14) My daughter is perfect
15) I am too fat
16) I need to be more active, eat less, and pay more attention to “adult things” in order to prolong my life- or so I am told
17) I wish there was a rule that you must have a working driver side window to use a fast food drive through
18) I should not ever go through a fast food drive through
19) There are things in my house that have not moved since we moved in
20) I have owned every model of iPhone through no fault of my own*
* they all still work, how sad is that?
Dear Abbott Labs,
I would like to start by saying “Thank You” for making Similac Sensitive. It is a cornerstone of my child’s meals. She loves it and is a healthy baby girl. Sadly, this is not the point of this letter. The reason I am moved to write to you is there is a horrible flaw in what would be a wonderful product. The foil liner inside the sealed lid is absolutely a pain in the tail to remove. It appears to be
glued secured welded attached under a lip that protects it’s edges.
I don’t know if you put that pull tab on there as a joke or if it is just poorly designed, but it is absolutely useless! Of the many, many containers just like the one above I have opened- I have yet to pull that tab and remove the foil liner. I understand that the foil is to protect the product and I appreciate that. However, I have to remove it in order to use the product my child so loves and that is no easy task. When you pull on that tab it simply rips off. I have tried every manner of removal- from slow and steady to quick and furious. All with the same outcome- a hole in upper left corner of the container.
After the tab is removed, I can then attempt to remove the rest of the foil that is in a semi-permanently attached state. I am a pretty handy man. I can use tools, navigate my way through crib assemble instructions, and unwrap the smallest of nic naks. However, This ordeal involves razor sharp foil that has to be manually removed piece by pains taking piece. The removal of said razor foil is akin to -I don’t know- removing razor wire from a top of a fence while on stilts. Needles to say this practice is not that easy when you are holding a 5 month old child that wants his bottle something fierce.
Not only is it annoying and difficult- it is dangerous. I mentioned the razor sharp foil that you have to manually remove…well, I will just show you.
Yep, it cut me as I was trying to remove the foil, after the handy dandy pull tab had ripped free. I never thought that could happen but, it did.
In conclusion, I would like to request that the design of that foil pull tab be re-looked at, redesigned, or done away with. Maybe my friends at Babycenter.com can use some baby muscle about this. It is truly a pain in the…finger.
As the days draw me closer to
retirement my golden years a bedpan, my body and mind are developing a list of things they really do not enjoy. Here is a sample of the myriad things that make this pre-middle aged man grumpy:
- Random Joint Pain: When did my left knee start hurting? I haven’t injured it, I haven’t smashed it into anything- Yet, It aches.
- Dull Aches: Vague pains in potentially any part of my body is depressing.
- Grunting When I Stand Up: I make an audible “UGHHH” when I stand up from a seated position. How sad is that? Is that a sign the AARP flyers are being addressed as we speak?
- Kids Driving Fast In My Neighborhood: Really, Matt? Yeah, I cant help it. It drives me insane to hear kids driving the cars and trucks their parents bought up and down my street. I can’t help it…I just can’t help it.
- I Said “That’s just vulgar” And Meant It: This was a shock. I have unknowingly developed a “appropriate or not radar.” If I knew this was happening I would have vetoed it, but its here. SIGH
- I Actually Used The Word “vulgar” In Public: That just speaks for its self.
- Inability To Open Glass Jar Twist Off Lids: Latest proof- Marinated Peppers- Small Jar, easy to grip, no excuses- Completely failed. I made a prolonged “AGHHHH” sound as I struggled in vain to “pop” the top off. Weakness, utter weakness.
- Lack Of Cool Clothes: My closet looks like a L.L. Bean, Gap, and Sears threw up in it. Nothing is wrong with those clothes, but we can all agree that they are far from…hip?
*I felt odd using the word “hip” in that last example. That’s exactly what I am talking about. The only way I feel comfortable using the word “hip” is in reference to the part of my body that aches when I get out of a car that sits lower than a Ford F-150.
Where is my warranty? I need see if I am still covered.
The tree has been put away or discarded. The newly untangled lights start their year long re-tangling process. The plastic Rudolphs, Santas, Jesuses ( I admit I do not know the plural of Jesus.), and plates with Frosty on them are all put into their storage containers and forgotten about by everyone for another 11 months. Everyone except my wife.
As you know, if I see or read something that makes so much sense that I have to share it – I will. This comes from Keith Olberman on MSNBC’s Countdown. It is about the Tea Party and its agenda for America. Please read it, think about it, and check the facts contained within it – then decide for yourself if the Tea Party is something that you truly feel is good for this country. Don’t decide solely because of this Special Comment from Mr. Olberman, but look around and educate yourself from the myriad of reports and analysis that draw the same conclusions. These are important times my friends…get smarter. I now yield the remainder of my time and my blog to Mr. Olberman. Read the rest of this entry
Cornel West is a philosopher, author and the University Professor at Princeton University. A widely cited figure in a variety of fields, he is the author of the new memoir, “Brother West: Living & Loving Out Loud,” as well as “Race Matters,” “The Future of Race,” “Democracy Matters: The Battle Against Imperialism,” among many others. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised in Sacramento, California, West graduated Magna Cum Laude Harvard University and went on to complete his Ph.D at Princeton. The winner of numerous awards, including the American Book Award, he has also received more than twenty honorary degrees.
Here is a video of Dr. West speaking on how the poor have suffered from the idea that an “unfettered market” was good for America. Click here to watch Video.
This and other completely smart, mindblowing, and relevant interviews are on BigThink.com. I have attached a transcript of the video for those without speakers.
READ, WATCH, GET SMARTER
Transcript of interview:
Question: Why are we no longer concerned with the working class?
Cornel West: I think one was, there was an idolizing of unfettered markets. And much if not most of the intelligentsia were duped. I recall traveling with my dear brother Michael Harrington and talking with brother Stanley Aronowitz years ago. And you know, here we’re engaged in critiques of unfettered markets, and it looked as if we were medieval thinkers. Everybody was saying, we’re followers of Milton Friedman. Everybody was saying Frederick Hayak got it right. Everybody was saying marketize, commercialize, commodify, and we were still reading Lukasch. And Lukasch was saying commodification is not simply an asymmetric relation of power, of bosses vis-à-vis workers, so workers are being more and more marginalized. Profits are being produced, wealth is being produced, hemorrhaged at the top, no fair distribution of that wealth or profit for workers. Poor are being demonized because they are viewed as those persons who are irresponsible, who will not work, who are always looking for welfare; i.e., failures in the society of success. And we reached a brink, and the chickens came home to roost. And a few years ago the unfettered markets led us off and over the brink.
And all of a sudden, very few intellectuals want to be honest and acknowledge the greed with which they were duped. Don’t want to talk about the inequality that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the demonization of the poor that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the politics of fear that produced a Republican Party that was more and more lily-white, using not just race but also demonizing gay brothers and lesbian sisters, you see. Don’t want to talk about the indifference toward the poor, and greed being good and desirable and so forth. Now is a very different moment, and it’s not, you know, just about pointing fingers, but saying somebody’s got to take responsibility. This was a nearly 40-year run. Who paid the cost? As is usually the case, you know, poor working people paid the cost, disproportionately black and brown and red, you see.
Question: Is this changing in the age of Obama?
Cornel West: So in the age of Obama, we say, okay, can we have a different kind of discussion? And that’s what we’re trying to do, but of course you’ve got two wars going on; you’ve got still Wall Street in the driver’s seat in the Obama administration when it comes to the economic team, you see. And you’ve got very — you know, I think in some ways unimaginative thinking when it comes to foreign policy, be it the Middle East or be it European Union or be it Latin America, you know, calling Chavez a dictator; the man’s been elected! If he’s calling into question rights and liberties, criticize him as a democratic president. We did the same thing for Bush. Bush was calling into question rights and liberties; we didn’t call him a dictator. We said he’s a democratically elected president who’s doing the wrong thing. Chavez ought to be criticized. He’s not a dictator; the man’s been elected.
But it’s that kind of demonizing that obscures and obfuscates the kind of issues that are necessary, because Chavez is also talking about poor people. So of course I want libertarian and democratic sides. I want right and liberties and empowerment of poor people. But talking about poor people is not a joke; it’s crucial, it’s part and parcel of the future of any serious democratic project. The fundamental question of any democracy is, what is the relation between public interest and the most vulnerable? That’s the question, you see. That is the question. The test of your rule of law is going to be, how are the most vulnerable being treated? It’s not whether the torturers are getting off; we know the torturers don’t have the rule of law applied to them. The wiretappers, they’re getting off scot-free. What about Jamal with the crack bag? Take him to jail for seven years. Oh — so you’ve got a different rule of law when it comes to Jamal on the corner versus your torturers and your wiretappers? Torture is a crime against humanity; it’s not just illegal. Wiretapping is illegal, you see. Now, it’s not a crime against humanity, because I mean, I’m sure I’ve had my phone tapped for years. I don’t think they committed a crime against humanity; they just ought to quit doing it God dangit.
Question: How can we strengthen the demos?
Cornel West: Well, you — I think you keep in mind — I mean, the demos is always a heterogeneous, diverse — got a lot of xenophobic elements among the demos — a lot of ignorance, a lot of parochialism. You also have a lot of cosmopolitanism, a lot of globalism, a lot of courage, moral courage. So the demos is not one thing. But when it comes to the ability of the demos to organize, mobilize and bring power and pressure to bear, we certainly are in a crisis; our system is broken. We’ve got seventy one percent of the people who want universal health care, and you can barely get through a reform bill with a weak public option. It’s clear lobbyists from the top, pharmaceutical companies, drug companies have tremendous influence, much more than the demos from below, you see. So that those preferences don’t get translated easily because our politicians are beholden to that big money and that big influence. But I mean the demos is still around, thank God. You’ve got your own institution. Dialog — dialog is the lifeblood of a democracy. You’ve got to allow ideas to flow. You have to expose people to different visions, alternative arguments and so on, to try to keep the torch of the progressive demos alive. But it’s very difficult to organize it. Complacency is deep; apathy is deep; people are wondering how can you confront, you know, big finance, big government tied to big finance, when all you’ve got is these little people, who are willing to talk and so forth, but have tremendous power bringing serious pressure to bear. We can march; you know, we marched against the war by the millions. We were ignored by the Bush administration. Some of us went to jail. We were ignored; we couldn’t translate into foreign policy. That happens sometimes. It was **** Vietnam.
Recorded on: November 3, 2009
100% of this post was taken from http://bigthink.com. Just thought you needed to see it.