« March 2009 | Main | May 2009 »

April 30, 2009

Higher Taxes, Lower Growth! Who Would Have Known?

New research from the National Foundation for American Policy “finds U.S. metro areas with lower taxes have higher employment growth and income growth, attract more residents,” according to the press release  (requires Adobe) introducing the study. The author of the study (requires Adobe) is Dean Stansel, an economics professor at Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers, FL.

The analysis uses data from all 381 U.S. metropolitan areas, consisting of 352 metropolitan statistical areas and 29 metropolitan divisions. In a nutshell, the report shows:

“metropolitan areas with lower taxes exhibit higher employment growth, faster population growth, and greater increases in real personal income than areas with a higher tax burden. These findings are particularly relevant at a time when many states and cities are proposing to raise taxes to address short and long-term budget problems. This research found areas with higher taxes had lower employment growth, smaller personal income gains and slower growth of population.”

Several of the study’s findings include:

  • Employment growth between 2000-2006 was 54 percent higher in the 50 metropolitan areas with the lowest tax burden than in the 50 highest-tax metro areas (measuring the tax burden as state and local taxes as a percent of personal income in 1997 for all 381 metropolitan areas).
  • Real personal income growth was 80 percent higher between 2000 and 2006 in the 50 areas with the lowest state and local tax burden (as a percent of personal income in 1997) than in the 50 highest-tax metro areas.
  • In the 50 lowest-tax areas, population growth at 8.6 percent (between 2000 and 2007) was more than three times higher than in high-tax metro areas (2.6 percent).
  • The results suggest a clear negative relationship between state and local tax burdens and local economic growth.
  • The tax burden was nearly 50 percent higher in the 50 highest-tax areas than in the 50 lowest tax areas (13.1 percent of income vs. 8.8 percent of income).

What explains the higher employment growth or higher growth in personal income? According to Stansel:

“Taxes remove money from the hands of private individuals and place it in the hands of government agencies. Those private individuals have a stronger incentive to use that money productively because they directly bear the cost of not doing so.  In contrast, government employees do not as directly (if at all) bear the cost of wasteful spending, nor can they legally reap the benefits of keeping those costs low.  That’s not to suggest that government spending produces no benefit at all; however, it is likely to produce a smaller benefit than if that money were left in private hands. High taxes not only take excessive amounts of money out of private hands, they also make the jurisdictions levying those high taxes less attractive places to live and thereby put them at a competitive disadvantage.  The mobility of taxpayers gives them an opportunity to “vote with their feet” by moving to more attractive places to live.  Statistical evidence confirms that.”

In the conclusion, Stansel writes:

“ . . . These findings have clear policy implications for local politicians (and for those at all levels of government).  Economic prosperity is more likely to occur if tax burdens are kept low, especially relative to neighboring areas.  This requires a strong emphasis on spending taxpayer resources wisely.  However, that’s no different than what private businesses must do.  Just like businesses must keep costs low in order to successfully compete with other businesses for customers, governments must keep spending and taxes low in order to successfully compete with other governments for mobile residents and businesses.  This is particularly true in periods of economic downturn when taxpayers are especially sensitive to the various costs of living . . . .”

April 29, 2009

FY 2010 Budget Hardest Ever?

The Arlington County Board adopted the Fiscal Year 2010 budget last night, approving 24 individual budget resolutions -- from the budget and appropriations resolution (agenda item 46A) to the affordable housing resolution (46X). The Board balanced the budget by approving an increase of 2.7 cent increase in the real estate tax rate, which will now be 87.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, plus a large number of fee increases.

The budget represents an increase of 0.6%, as described in an online article by the Arlington Sun Gazette:

“The total rate of growth in the budget, 0.6 percent over the current fiscal year, is “by far the lowest budget growth in the modern era of Arlington,” County Manager Ron Carlee said. Until the recent real estate bust and economic downturn, the county government’s tax coffers have been filled to overflowing, due largely to increasing home assessments.”

In comments, both during and after final adoption, Board chairman Barbara Favola said it was the “hardest budget yet . . . she has worked on.” Does that mean that budget-cutting is hard work while ladling out taxpayer money over the past decade was easy work?

Here is the county’s press release and the Board’s webpage where you can find the Board reports for items 46A through 46X. In addition, visit the Department of Management and Finance's webpage for the FY 2010 budget, which provides a wealth of information about the adopted budget, e.g., budget fact sheet, a 25-year history of budget growth, table of position changes, and a regional comparison of taxes and fees.

We’ll have more to growl about on the adopted FY 2010 budget in the days to come as well as in the next newsletter.

April 28, 2009

Taxpayer Watchdog Names April Porkers

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has named their April Porkers of the month. They are “freshmen Representatives Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), and Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) as its April 2009 Porkers of the Month.  The three members of Congress broke their signed earmark reform campaign pledges with CAGW’s lobbying arm, the Council for Citizens Against Government waste (CCAGW).”

In their statement, CAGW said:

“Every year members of Congress betray the taxpayers’ trust by bloating the budget with earmarks, but this betrayal is particularly acute because these three representatives broke their signed campaign pledges just a few months after being sworn into the 111th Congress,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz.

“Specifically, the three pledged “not to request any earmarked funding or targeted tax benefit that does not serve a federal interest and/or have a federal nexus.”  Contrary to this pledge, all three requested multiple earmarks in the FY 2010 appropriations bills that violated that plank of the ten-point pledge.  The earmark requests are listed on the members’ websites, as required by recently passed earmark reforms.

“Among the requested items violating the earmark pledge:  Rep. Hunter requested $2 million for the Shoal Creek Pedestrian Bridge in San Diego, noting that “completion of the bridge will conclude an effort that has been ongoing over 10 years supported by the local community and elected officials,” as well as $250,000 for the Boys and Girls Club Teen Center in Santee; Rep. Jenkins requested $2 million for reconstruction of Kasold Drive in Lawrence, Kansas and $500,000 for water conservation research at Kansas State University; and Rep. Lance requested $896,400 for downtown streetscape lighting upgrade to energy efficient lighting in the township of Cranford; $350,000 for the hike and bike path in Bedminster Township; and $225,000 for the Hunterdon Family Dental Center.

“These three have broken their word,” Schatz continued.  “They have joined the politics-as-usual crowd by talking like fiscal conservatives on the campaign trail, but spending like Washington insiders once they’re safely in office.”  Copies of the members’ signed pledges are available to members of the media.”

The CAGW press release provides contact information so taxpayers can express their opinions regarding the behavior of the three porkers.

April 27, 2009

Big Dogs And Big Fleas

In a column last Friday at National Review Online, Don Luskin says that “TARP is looking more criminal by the minute. NRO adds the subtitle, “The issue of TARP corruption may now extend from corporate CEOs and federal regulators to New York’s attorney general.”

Luskin writes that when he was invited to debate that question on Larry Kudlow’s CNBC show last Wednesday, he “thought the allegation was ridiculous. How could the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled Assets Relief Program to rescue the banking system possibly be compared to the Sopranos?”

But then he writes that was before TARP’s Inspector General released a report last Wednesday (link to report is available in the article):

“ . . . disclosed that “nearly 20 preliminary and full criminal investigations” are underway, including “large corporate and securities fraud matters affecting TARP investments, tax matters, insider trading, public corruption, and mortgage-modification fraud.” When I first read that I rolled my eyes and said to myself, “Hey, what do you expect?”

“But then I started thinking a little more deeply and realized there’s something more here — even before the controversy about Bank of America became known. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how that enormous pot of TARP money has in fact corrupted both the private and public sector.”

And just how large is the honey pot taxpayers are providing? CNSNews.com reports today:

“For many Americans, the $700-billion financial bailout was a tough pill to swallow, but the cost to taxpayers could reach $2.9 trillion – nearly on par with the entire federal budget – according to the watchdog agency charged with oversight of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

“Although the Treasury Department is only authorized to spend the $700 billion approved last year by Congress and signed by the president, the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) will invest up to $1 trillion each in partnering with the Treasury Department’s TARP.

“So the “total projected funding” for TARP is estimated to be between $2.47 trillion and $2.97 trillion, according to the TARP special inspector general’s report . . . .”

But, wait, what about the claim of public corruption? Here’s what Luskin writes:

“(T)he Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, the statute that authorizes TARP, doesn’t give the Treasury the power to make direct investments in banks at all. It gives the Treasury the power to buy troubled assets and to write insurance against losses in troubled assets. But there’s not one single solitary word in the act that authorizes the Treasury to buy stock in banks.

“And there’s not one single solitary word in the act that authorizes the Treasury to do anything at all for auto companies like General Motors and Chrysler. The act only authorizes helping “financial institutions.” Yet billions of TARP dollars have gone to the two automakers.

“Is that the “public corruption” (TARP’s special inspector general) Barofsky is talking about?”

Want to fight that corruption? Listen to this video of Dan Mitchell of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation explain “The main lesson from this video is that influence peddling and other sleazy behavior in Washington is the symptom. The underlying disease is excessive government."

And yet, liberals are confused about the motivation in the grassroots tea party movement? Oh, and about the title, Luskin closes his column by writing:

“A $700 billion budget buys one heck of a big dog — apparently a dog that attracts some pretty big fleas.”

April 26, 2009

Federal Gravy Train Gets Longer

The number of federal subsidy programs has topped 1,800, according to Chris Edwards, Director of Tax Policy Studies at the Cato Institute in the Institute’s April 2009 Tax & Budget Bulletin. He writes in the introduction:

“Federal spending is growing by leaps and bounds. The budget hit $3.9 trillion this year, double the level of spending just eight years ago. The government is also increasing the scope of its activities, intervening in many areas that used to be left to state and local governments, businesses, charities, and individuals.

“By 2008, there were 1,804 different subsidy programs in the federal budget. Hundreds of programs were added this decade—ranging from a $62 billion prescription drug plan to a $1 million anti-drug education grant—and the recent stimulus bill added even more. We are in the midst of the largest federal gold rush since the 1960s.”

Edwards writes, “It is very sad that the nation founded on individualism and limited government has more people than ever sucking at the federal subsidy teat.” He then warns:

“Americans need to wake up and fight back before the addictive drug of subsidies puts individualism in a permanent coma. People should start using new Internet tools, such as www.usaspending.gov, to research recipients of all these subsidies and complain to Congress about the abuse of their tax dollars. There is no time to lose for taxpayers to make their voices heard in Washington because the spending increases envisioned by President Obama are truly frightening.”

The Bulletin contains several informative graphics.

HT Taxing Tennessean

April 25, 2009

The County Board Protests

With the Arlington County Board set to adopt the FY 2010 budget Tuesday evening, April 28 that is expected to include a real estate tax rate increase of 2.7 cents, ACTA’s president spoke at the Board’s public comment this morning. He compared the per capita general fund spending in the the County Manager’s proposed FY 2010 budget to that in Fairfax County’s proposed budget. (Video available at the Board’s webpage)

Wise said the difference is stark. The Arlington County Manager’s budget proposes spending $1,259 more per capita in Arlington County than is proposed in Fairfax County. On a percentage basis, that’s 40.1% more per capita than in Fairfax County.

Wise’s comments drew a response from Board member Chris Zimmerman and Manager Ron Carlee. Apparently the stark difference unfairly implies that Arlington’s per capita spending is lavish and/or excessive. Zimmerman said the $1,259 difference “no doubt . . . is true,” but complained that ACTA made no mention of the year-to-year comparison in the relative tax burden and said that people in Arlington expect a higher level of public service. Another point of difference between the two counties, he noted, was the difference in the size of the commercial tax base, i.e., 17% to 18% in Fairfax compared to almost half in Arlington.

Carlee noted the daytime population of Arlington is about equal to resident population, which is not the case in Fairfax, and thus the commercial tax base supports those nonresidents.

They also noted that the higher proportion of the tax base being commercial, which presumably has relatively few direct votes, Arlington is able to provide county services at comparatively lower real estate tax rates. The argument offered was somewhat incomplete, in that the example of better services offered was the more generous library coverage in Arlington than Fairfax, but which accounts for only a little over 1% of Arlington's budget.

So although the difference in per capital spending is “undoubtedly true,”  it “can be misleading,” Zimmerman said. Admittedly, differences in per capita spending is just one way of comparing the spending by two counties, however, it behooves the political class to explains those differences. And indeed, Mr. Zimmerman said that at another time, he would “take-up the challenge,” and explain how Arlington benefits from the greater spending.

Hopefully, there are greater benefits to living in Arlington County other than living adjacent to the national pork farm on Capitol Hill.

April 24, 2009

Scoring Arlington’s Members of Congress

Arlington County taxpayers will need to vote differently if they want to be represented by Defenders of Economic Freedom. That’s certainly one observation from a review of the 2008 Congressional Scorecard, which was released yesterday by the defenders of economic freedom at the Club for Growth.

They awarded 53 members of Congress with the Defender of Freedom award because they “scored 90 or above on the Club’s scorecard.” According to Club for Growth president Chris Chocola:

"A lot of members of Congress talk about fiscal responsibility and limited-government, but many of them fail to live up their campaign promises. The Club for Growth scorecard allows taxpayers to see how their senators and representatives are performing in Congress and find out who is truly fighting for pro-growth, limited-government policies. It allows taxpayers to hold these congressmen accountable."

According to the Club for Growth, “The ratings are based on a comprehensive examination of votes in the House and Senate pertaining to key economic issues, including taxes, wasteful spending, entitlement reform, free trade, and regulation. Each lawmaker is given an economic growth score ranging from 0 to 100, with a score of 100 indicating the highest support for pro-growth policies."

Arlington County taxpayers’ representatives in Congress in 2008 did not score very high. In the Senate, now retired Sen. John Warner (R) scored 31% and ranked #47 while Sen. Jim Webb (D) scored 3% and ranked #84. In the House of Representatives, Rep. Jim Moran (D) scored 8% and ranked #263 out of 435 members of the House.

According to some number-crunching by Andy Roth:

“Republicans are still the party that respects economic liberty the most. This is evidenced by the fact that most Republicans occupy the top half of the Club's scorecard while Democrats occupy the bottom half. But the really interesting part of the scorecard is where members of both parties mingle together in the middle.”

For example, the lowest scoring GOP senators ranged from 48% (Sen. Elizabeth Dole, NC) to 12% (Sen. Olympia Snowe, ME) while the top scoring Democrat senators ranged from 33% (Sen. Mary Landrieu, LA) to 15% (Sen. Claire McCaskill). In the House of Representatives, the same pattern emerged where the lowest scoring GOP members’ scores ranged from 32% (Rep. T. Murphy, PA) to 18% (Rep. Gilchrest, MD) while the top rated Democrat members’ scores ranged from 46% (Rep. Lampson, TX) to 21% (Rep. McIntyre, NC).

After crunching the numbers, Andy wonders:

“Did you figure it out? The uniting factor among all 40 of these "moderate" lawmakers is that they have failing grades. By any reasonable interpretation of the scores, they are not supportive of economic liberty. So when you hear someone praise a lawmaker for being a "centrist" or a "moderate", think twice before assigning them any real merit on economic issues.”

For more information about the Scorecard’s methodology and previous Scorecards, check here.

April 22, 2009

Earth Day & Lenin's Birthday, Too

What better day to celebrate capitalism? An editorial in today’s Investor’s Business Daily points out that all the hoopla over Earth Day today will “ignore the real truth,” which is the Earth is cleaner today because of capitalism.

First,the IBD editorial shows that today’s environment is cleaner, as documented in the Index of Leading Environmental Indicators (available here). They conclude the editorial writing:

“We won't discount the (environmental) movement's contribution. Four decades ago, it helped show the world the value of global stewardship. But that movement is no longer interested in a cleaner world.

“Filled with extremists and anti-capitalist crusaders, its primary goals have changed. Topping the agenda of today's environmentalist groups is the pulling down of market economies, the raising up of central planning for egalitarian goals, forced lifestyle changes and the vilification — in hopes of the elimination — of signs of wealth.

“None of these advance the planet's environmental health. But capitalism has. Through wealth generated by the free market, we have enough resources to move beyond the subsistence economies that damage the environment, enough disposable income to fund clean-up programs, enough wealth to scrub and polish industry.

“Only in advanced economies can the technology needed to recycle hazardous waste or to replace dirty coal-fired power plants with cleaner gas or nuclear plants be developed. That technology cannot be produced in centrally planned economies where the profit motive is squelched and lives are marshalled by the state.

“There's nothing wrong with setting aside a day to honor the Earth. In fairness, though, it should be complemented by Capitalism Day. It's important that the world be reminded of what has driven the environmental improvements since Earth Day began in 1970.”

At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux has an essay describing what Earth Day means to him. He begins by writing:

“Earth Day, to me, means an opportunity to express thanks for all the ways that capitalism makes our lives and environment cleaner and healthier.”

Rush Limbaugh also provided a special Earth Day salute to capitalists today, including such pioneers as the first coal miners and Charles and Frank Duryea, who constructed and tested the first gasoline powered automobile. Thank you all!

April 21, 2009

Not Just Staglation, But Massive Stagflation?

That is the warming in this week's issue of The Lighthouse from the Independent Institute from the current "federal spending binge." The weekly newsletter features opinion columns from two Institute fellows, Richard Vedder's in the Columbus Dispatch and Dominick Armentano's in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. From the e-newsletter:

"The Obama economic plan will transform the U.S. economy as significantly as did LBJ’s Great Society, if not FDR’s New Deal. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it will increase federal deficits by more than $1 trillion annually for the next decade. How exactly will it be paid for?

“The idea that the rich can pay for much of it through higher taxes is fantasy,” writes Richard Vedder, a senior fellow at Independent Institute, in a recent op-ed. “Until recently, the government never had borrowed $500 billion in a single year.”

Overseas purchasers of U.S. debt will be harder to find. Asian investors are troubled with their own faltering economies, and oil-rich Arab countries have been hit by falling oil prices. “To sell all the debt, interest rates likely will have to rise—perhaps substantially,” Vedder continues. “To deal with that problem, the Fed might agree to buy most of the debt, roughly equivalent to printing money, which almost always sets off inflation.”

In a related op-ed, Independent Institute Research Fellow Dominick Armentano exposes some of the theoretical flaws of the Obama bailouts (formerly known as the Bush bailouts). Bailing out large institutions, he explains, “weakens both the information and incentives necessary for efficient production.” Second, bailouts delay tough decisions by corporate managers regarding product development, employment, store closings, future investments, and even bankruptcy. Third, bailouts for unhealthy companies weaken the ability of healthy ones to compete effectively. In addition, bailouts often come with political strings that tie up efficient resource allocation and effective decision-making.

“Bailouts delay and distort this adjustment process and thus make the recovery longer and more difficult,” writes Armentano. Vedder is no less bleak in his assessment: “We have the prospects of high inflation and high unemployment—1970s-style stagflation on a bigger scale.”

Any wonder there has been such a large turnout for the tea parties? And how many generations of our descendants will be paying for the disastrous spending plans of the Obama administration and their Congressional colleagues?

April 20, 2009

Moral Hazard and the Cultural Center In Rosslyn

As described in last week’s Arlington Sun Gazette, “ Backers of the proposal to create a countywide cultural center in Rosslyn won a big tactical victory April 7, as delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation decisively rejected a resolution calling on the county government to abandon the project.”

What’s at stake? According to the Sun-Gazette:

“The county government has obtained a long-term, low-cost lease on the Wilson Boulevard space formerly occupied by the Newseum, part of a deal with a Rosslyn developer. Among amenities planned for the cultural facility are two theater spaces, a ballroom, restaurant, art gallery, centralized ticket office and a host of other facilities as part of the project.

“But the government also has an out: If it abandons the plan by June, the government will collect up to $10 million from the developer. Those funds could go a long way to ease the current county government fiscal crunch, opponents said.”

According to the report of the Revenues & Expenditures Committee presented to the Civic Federation delegates, the space is being provided “rent free” by a developer as part of a so-called “community benefit package.” However, the report emphasizes that “rent free” does not mean “cost free.” The county would be responsible for about $4 million in capital costs and perhaps $500,000 for rent in year 11 of the lease and $1 million in rent in year 12 and thereafter. As the R & E committee's report points out:

“We have yet to see a proposed budget that has the Center breaking even operationally, even during its “free rent” period, even with annual support of $200K from the Rosslyn BID. Even accepting the budgets as presented – and we are skeptical of how achievable the revenues are – the projected annual operating shortfalls are about a quarter of a million dollars per year. Additionally, annual debt service on the bonds for the upfront renovations would come to another $290,000 in the initial years.” (emphasis in the original)

The committee’s reports points out in their recommendation:

“While we have some concerns about the viability of the Newseum location for a cultural  center, we do not even need to reach that analysis to form a recommendation. It may be the wrong place – but given the budgetary situation and outlook, it most certainly is the wrong time. We do not see a plan that involves a $14M front end investment and probable operating subsidies as being appropriate in the current economic climate.”

So how does “moral hazard” enter the picture? As Bert Ely writes in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics:

“Common to all government insurance and guaranty programs is “moral hazard,” the risk that the insured or guaranteed institution will make economically unwise bets because severe losses from these bets will fall on taxpayers, while owners and managers will profit from winning bets. As insurers learned long ago, properly priced insurance premiums are key to minimizing moral hazard. This moral hazard was the main cause of the S&L crisis in the 1980s. Unfortunately, government insurers cannot charge truly risk-sensitive premiums without experiencing severe political opposition from those who would pay high premiums because of their riskiness. Hence, moral hazard will continue to plague government insurance and guaranty programs.” (emphasis added)

This 2007 report from the National Endowment for the Arts (requires Adobe) describes how the United States funds the arts. Noteworthy is that:

“ . . . in 2004 about 44 percent of the income generated by American arts organizations came from sales or the box office. The rest was donated -- overwhelmingly from the private. Only about 13 percent of arts support in the U.A. came from the government, and only about 9 percent from the federal government . . . “

For the record, the arts are a good thing and offer a multitude of benefits. However, support for the arts should be provided by private sources rather than by government. And taxpayers should not be responsible for the “moral hazard” involved.

Full disclosure: This citizen journalist/blogger served on the R&E committee, and wishes to thank Wayne Kubicki, committee chair, for his wealth of knowledge and hard work in preparing the committee's report. 

April 19, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Rampant redistribution of wealth by government is now the norm. So is this: It inflames government's natural rapaciousness and subverts the rule of law."

    -- George Will

HT Townhall.com 

April 18, 2009

What You Breath Endangers Public. Really?

The Washington Post reported today that what you breath is a danger to the public’s health and welfare. How’s that? Here’s the newspaper’s lede paragraph:

“The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday officially adopted the position that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions pose a danger to the public's health and welfare, a move that could trigger a series of federal regulations affecting polluters from vehicles to coal-fired power plants.”

Ben Lieberman, an environmental expert at the Heritage Foundation reacted to EPA’s announcement as follows, according to this press release:

"This clears the way for the most expensive and expansive environmental regulation in history. The EPA approach to regulating COs will dramatically affect the lives and day-to-day practices of all Americans... all for a change in the Earth's temperature too small to ever notice.

"The finding opens the door to federal regulation of almost anything that emits carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. That includes virtually everything that moves, from cars, trucks and ships to lawn mowers and tractors. The agency could also go after things that stand still—regulating millions of emissions-producing hospitals, restaurants and other commercial buildings, and perhaps even eying backyard barbeques.

"Even advocates of the finding recognize that a harsh regulatory regime would yield only negligible benefits—reducing greenhouse gases worldwide by less than TK percent. Yet the proposed regulations carry tremendous costs.

"The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis has found that, in just 20 years, the proposed carbon dioxide rules alone would lower gross domestic product by $7 trillion, with single-year GDP losses exceeding $600 billion. Job losses would exceed 800,000 annually for several years. The already-struggling manufacturing sector would be hit especially hard.

"Today's announcement, though expected, is a tremendous disappointment for those seeking policies that will improve the environment without devastating our economy."

A search of Growls for “global warming” resulted in at least 20 “hits.” Since EPA’s “finding” could result in massive tax increases for the American public, there will likely be more growling.

April 17, 2009

Effective Federal Tax Rates

Early last week, the Congressional Budget Office released an update of their “estimates of effective federal tax rates, which include date for calendar year 2006." According to the CBO director’s blog, “(t)he effective tax rates in 2006 differed only slightly from those in 2005.” The director listed the following points from their analysis (emphases added)

  • The overall effective federal tax rate (the ratio of federal taxes to household income) was 20.7 percent in 2006. Individual income taxes, the largest component, were 9.1 percent of household income. Payroll taxes were the next largest source, with an effective tax rate of 7.5 percent. Corporate income taxes and excise taxes were smaller, with effective tax rates of 3.4 percent and 0.7 percent.
  • The overall federal tax system is progressive—that is, effective tax rates generally rise with income. Households in the bottom fifth of the income distribution paid 4.3 percent of their income in federal taxes, while the middle quintile paid 14.2 percent, and the highest quintile paid 25.8 percent. Average rates continued to rise within the top quintile, with the top 1 percent facing an effective rate of 31.2 percent.
  • Higher-income groups pay a disproportionate share of federal taxes because they earn a disproportionate share of pretax income and because effective tax rates rise with income. In 2006, the highest quintile earned 55.7 percent of pretax income and paid 69.3 percent of federal taxes, while the top 1 percent of households earned 18.8 percent of income and paid 28.3 percent of taxes. In all other quintiles, the share of federal taxes was less than the income share. The bottom quintile earned 3.9 percent of income and paid 0.8 percent of taxes, while the middle quintile earned 13.2 percent of income and paid 9.1 percent of taxes.
  • Effective tax rates in 2006 changed only slightly compared with their levels in 2005. There were no significant changes in the tax law between those years, and changes in the income distribution were not enough to cause large movements in effective rates. The overall effective rate was 0.1 percentage point higher in 2006 than in 2005. And the effective tax rate for each of the four taxes was within 0.1 percentage point of its 2005 level. Similarly, no income quintile saw its total effective tax rate change by more than 0.1 percentage point, though in some cases the rate for specific taxes differed by 0.2 points. On average, the top 1 percent of households saw their effective tax rate decline by 0.4 percentage point (from 31.6 percent to 31.2 percent), primarily because of a drop in the average rate for their individual income taxes.

This CBO webpage provides access to the entire set of data for the CBO’s April 2009 update. Below is a graph from that page:

Could the tax eating, income redistributionists tell tax earners just what they think these effective tax rates should be? 

April 16, 2009

2009 Pig Book Released

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released their latest annual expose’ of pork-barrel spending on Tuesday. In this year’s effort, CAGW revealed 10,160 earmarks worth $19.6 billion. Examples of the wasteful spending cited by CAGW:

•    $3.8 million for the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy in Detroit

•    $1.9 million for the Pleasure Beach water taxi service in Connecticut

•    $1.8 million for swine odor and manure management research in Ames, Iowa

•    $380,000 for a recreation and fairgrounds area in Kotzebue, Ala

•    $143,000 for the Greater New Haven Labor History Association in Connecticut

•    $95,000 for the Canton Symphony Orchestra Association in Ohio

•    $71,000 for Dance Theater Etcetera in Brooklyn for its Tolerance through Arts initiative.

Here’s a summary of the effort: “The Congressional Pig Book is CAGW's annual compilation of the pork-barrel projects in the federal budget.  The 2009 Pig Book identified 10,160 projects at a cost of $19.6 billion in the 12 Appropriations Acts for fiscal 2009.  A "pork" project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures.  To qualify as pork, a project must meet one of seven criteria that were developed in 1991 by CAGW and the Congressional Porkbusters Coalition. ”

Nationally, per capita spending was $29.60 with Alaska and Hawaii leading the pack at $322.34 and $234.96 per capita. Virginia ranks number 38, receiving $24.24 per capita. The Commonwealth dropped 15 positions from the previous year.

Arlington, which is one of the richest counties in America, received several pieces of pork, thanks to U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D, including $712,500 for the Georgetown-Roslyn Connector and buses and bus facilities in the county. Explain that one to your grandchildren who will be paying for it.

You can access the entire pig book and the searchable database here. And bookmark the CAGW homepage.

April 15, 2009

Why Politicians Like The Current Tax Code

As America’s taxpayers complete their federal tax returns today, they may wonder why completing IRS Form 1040 has to be so difficult, or why the tax system is so complicated. In his RealClearMarkets column today, Steven Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, explains it this way:

“Because legislators of all stripes like the code the way they now use it. They have turned it into an agent of cultural change which they employ to make political promises and payoffs, in the process making simplification unattractive to them and the tax code ever more painful to us.”

Discussing complexity in more detail, Malanga writes:

“About the complexity of the code there is little debate. In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece Nina Olson, the IRS’s taxpayer advocate, noted that 80 percent of all filers now require some help, either using paid tax preparers or software, to complete their forms, and as a country we spend (waste) an extraordinary 7.6 billion hours on tax compliance, which now costs us nearly $200 billion annually. So complex is the system that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to judge whether inaccuracies on forms are intentional efforts to cheat or legitimate errors. Even the percentage of forms signed by paid preparers which have mistakes on them is growing rapidly, something that should be a source of embarrassment and concern to the profession.

“What’s worse is that we’re going in the opposite direction from the rest of the world. A survey of the 30 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development found that most enacted some type of simplification of their tax systems in the current decade. We haven’t simplified ours in 23 years. That’s one reason why another study ranked the U.S. as 122nd in tax complexity out of 175 nations.”

He explains that a “problem with complexity is the cost of unintended consequences in a system where change is so common,” and explains why this way:

“Exhibit A is the Alternative Minimum Tax, enacted in 1969 to target 155 high-income filers whom news reports said were benefiting from huge deductions. The original AMT raised just $122 million in income (the equivalent of $671 million today) by capping the value of certain deductions, according to the Tax Policy Center. But because the AMT was not indexed to inflation and has progressively applied to more and more taxpayers, some 3.8 million filers now must pay it, to the tune of $30 billion. In two years, that sum is projected to rise to $100 billion. The AMT has grown so large that Washington can no longer afford simply to repeal it, even though it was never designed to operate as it now does.”

Malanga closes his essay saying, “There’s only one reason not to change the system. The pols love it.”

April 14, 2009

Not Just Tax Day, But Protest Day, Too


It started with a “Porkulus” protest in Seattle. And tomorrow, organizers are planning “Tea Party" protests all across America, according to the editorial in today’s DC Examiner although some will say the modern movement started in California in the 1970s.

For more information, see the Examiner editorial, this Examiner article, or this Washington Times story.

In addition, you can find locations and organizing information at the following two websites:

Locations of tomorrow’s protests in the District and Virginia, as listed in the Examiner article:

Washington

  • Lafayette Park: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Pennsylvania Avenue and Jackson Plaza. Speakers, music, open microphone for public
  • Treasury Department: Noon to 2 p.m.at Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street NW

Closest Metro stops to both: Federal Triangle, Metro Center, McPherson Square and Farragut North

Virginia

  • Reston, Lake Anne Village Center: 6 to 8 p.m. at 1609 Washington Plaza
  • Woodbridge, McCoart Administration Center: Noon to 2 p.m. at 1 County Complex Court

April 13, 2009

Celebrate! It’s Tax Freedom Day®

That would be the day of the national celebration this year, i.e., April 13 this year. However, thanks to past plundering by Virginia General Assemblies, in Virginia, Tax Freedom Day is celebrated on April 16 this year. The Tax Foundation calculates the day each year, which answers the question:

“What price is the nation paying for government?" An official government figure for total tax collections is divided by the nation's total income. The answer this year is that taxes will amount to 28.2 percent of our income, and the stretch of 103 days from January 1 to April 13 is 28.2 percent of the year. Income and tax data are then parsed out to the states, yielding 50 state-specific Tax Freedom Days.”

Things could be worse, though. You could live in Connecticut where residents won’t celebrate Tax Freedom Day until April 30, later than New Jersey (April 29), New York (April 25), California (April 20) or Maryland (April 19).

The Foundation points out that Tax Freedom Day is eight days earlier than in 2008 and two weeks earlier than in 2007 “for two reasons: (1) the recession has reduced tax collections even faster than it has reduced income, and (2) the stimulus package includes large temporary tax cuts for 2009 and 2010. Nevertheless, Americans will pay more in taxes than they will spend on food, clothing and housing combined.”

A front page article in yesterday’s Washington Times about Tax Freedom Day notes, “Some economists say the measure is misleading, and overstates the amount of time needed by many Americans to pay his or her tax bill.” The Times article also contains the following paragraph:

“Robert Greenstein, executive director of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the notion of Tax Freedom Day is problematic because "over the years, many journalists and policymakers have misinterpreted the Tax Foundation's report as reflecting the tax burdens faced by typical middle-income workers." Mr. Greenstein cited "CBO data [that] suggest that 80 percent of U.S. households pay federal taxes at a lower rate than the Tax Foundation's estimated 'average' federal tax burden."

Let’s enjoy those extra eight days! And remember it could be 2007 when we’d be working another two weeks to pay for government.

April 11, 2009

Federal Income Taxes Are Too High. Who Knew?

A poll commissioned by the Tax Foundation and released on Thursday says the tax code is too complex and federal income taxes are “too high.” The news release begins:

“A new national survey commissioned by the Tax Foundation and conducted by Harris Interactive® shows a majority of U.S. adults think that federal income taxes are "too high" (56 percent), while four in every five adults say the federal tax code is complex (85 percent) and say that the tax system needs to be completely overhauled (82 percent).

“Despite the recent political and economic shakeups, the Tax Foundation's 2009 Survey of U.S. Attitudes on Taxes, Government Spending and Wealth Distribution shows that American opinions on tax issues have not changed markedly since 2007, the last time the survey was done. Issues of tax complexity, fairness and burdens continue to be important to the American people.

“To test whether U.S. adults view their tax burdens as too high or too low, the poll asked what the maximum percentage of a person's income should go to all taxes-federal, state and local. This year, the average response given is 15.6 percent.

"This average is significantly lower than he Tax Foundation's estimates of the nation's actual average total tax burden: 28.2 percent of income," said Matt Moon, the Tax Foundation's Manager of Media Relations, and author of the report on this year's survey, Tax Foundation Special Report No. 166.”

Jillian Bandes, at Townhall.com, comments on the Tax Foundation findings thus:

“If you're educated, there's a better chance you're in favor of higher taxes. If you're a man, you're more likely to be amenable to higher taxes than if you're a woman. And no matter who you are, you're probably estimating your overall tax burden to be 5-10 percentage points less than it actually is, meaning that a large majority of Americans are paying far more than they think they're paying.”

In what is claimed to be “(t)he most comprehensive collection of polls ever compiled on the subject of taxes,” Karlyn Bowman, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute wrote in an opinion study the following about the tax burden faced by Americans:

“In seventy years of surveys, we can find no instance in which more than a tiny percentage of Americans said the amount they paid in taxes was too low. In most polls, pluralities or majorities say the amount is too high. In 2008 Gallup data, 52 percent said they paid too much and 42 percent about the right amount. On ten occasions since 1959, Gallup has asked people whether their taxes would rise or fall in the next year. On each occasion, more than 60 percent said that their taxes would rise.

“Surveys suggest that the local property tax is now seen as more onerous than the federal income tax. Thirty-six percent in February-March 2003 told Kaiser/NPR/Harvard that local property tax was the tax they disliked the most, followed by 29 percent who chose the income tax. Gallup shows a substantial jump since the late 1980s in the proportion of people mentioning the local property tax as the worst or least fair tax. In their April 2005 poll, 42 percent gave that response. Twenty percent said the federal income tax was the worst tax. Harris Interactive, in a 2009 online poll for the Tax Foundation, asked about federal and state/local taxes separately.  The state and local gas tax was thought to be ―not at all fair,” by 30% of those surveyed followed by local property taxes (25 percent).”

Finally, on January 8, 2008, Neal Boortz interviewed presidential nominee Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) on his WSB 750 AM radio talk show in Atlanta. Boortz wrote the following in his Nealz Nuze the following day:

“Kucinich started rambling about getting rid of the Bush tax cuts and making the rich pay their fair share of taxes, so I decided it might be time to see if this 10th District Congressman from Ohio actually knew what he was talking about.

“He didn't.”

Boortz then explains:

“ . . . Kucinich doesn't have any idea in the world how much of the total taxes are paid by the top one percent of income earners ... so I asked him two questions:

  1. What percentage of total income is earned by the top 1% of income earners?
  2. What percentage of total federal income taxes are paid by the top 1% of income earners.

“The answers were astounding. Congressman Dennis Kucinich thinks that the top 1% of income earners earns about 60% of all income, and he thinks that they pay about 15% of all income taxes. The fact is that the top 1% of all income earners pull in about 18% of all income and pay 38.8% of all income taxes.

“This is an astounding level of ignorance on such an important statistic . . . .”

And Kucinich wanted to be America’s president? Sheesh!

April 10, 2009

Another Tale Of Two Counties

Yesterday, we lauded the accomplishments of two Arlington County Civic Federation committees (Revenues & Expenditures and Schools) to craft a budget that balanced the FY 2010 county budget that met the guidance laid down by the Arlington County Board last November. The County Board directed the Manager to produce a balanced budget at a tax rate that kept the average residential tax bill flat, unchanged from CY 2008.

The picture is significantly different in Arlington’s Northern Virginia neighbor Loudoun County. The Tax Foundation’s tax policy blog noted yesterday, including a reference to this story in the Washington Post’s Loudoun Extra:

“Forty miles northwest of Washington, D.C. lies Loudoun County, Virginia, home of Dulles International Airport, Verizon Business, and 19 wineries. Between 1998 and 2008, the county's population grew 98% as Washington-area workers spread out into the exurbs in search of cheaper, newer, and bigger houses. That flow has now reversed, with Loudoun taking one of the biggest hits in the bursting of the housing bubble.

“Loudoun County may have been America's fastest growing county, but it now has a few other records it might be less proud of. On April 7, Loudoun County supervisors voted 6-3 to approve a 9% increase in property tax rates for the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, taking the rate to $1.245 per $100 in value, the highest of any Northern Virginia county. (Tax burdens for many will drop due to the collapse in home values, though overall spending is still going up from 2009.)

“Inconvenient for the argument that tax rates must go up to avoid painful budget cuts is the fact that between 1996 and 2008, Loudoun County government spending grew 466% (from about $230 million a year to $1.1 billion a year), while inflation went up 39% and population went up 146%. In only three years was the growth inflation+population—which were in double digits many years—less than the growth in government spending. That difficult to sustain, especially if you understood that housing growth was not sustainable.”

The Tax Foundation post includes two charts, including the following one, that illustrate the growth in county government spending contrasted to the growth in inflation and population. A chart of the growth in Arlington County spending over the same period would likely show similar differences.

April 09, 2009

An Important Annual Arlington Budget Effort

At it’s monthly meeting Tuesday evening, the Arlington County Civic Federation (ACCF) adopted a FY 2010 budget package in what the Federation president, Larry Mayer, called “an important annual effort,” according to the the Arlington Sun Gazette, which reported in its lede:

“A county budget that keeps Gulf Branch Nature Center open, closes three branch libraries for part of each week and keeps the average real estate burden stable for homeowners won approval of delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation on April 7.”

The news article by the paper’s Scott McCaffrey went on to point out:

“The package, which will be forwarded to County Board and School Board members as they head into the final stretch of budget deliberations for fiscal 2010, didn’t make everyone happy. But the 44-3 vote, with five abstentions, suggested federation delegates were pleased with the general direction of the proposal.

“Drafted by the federation’s revenues-and-expenditures and schools committees over several months, the budget package proposes an increase in the real estate tax rate of 1.7 cents per $100 assessed value, to 86.3 cents. That’s lower than the 2.7-cent increase proposed by County Manager Ron Carlee and below the 3-cent increase advertised by the County Board.

“A 1.7-cent increase would mean no change in the average tax bill for county homeowners, something County Board members last year said they favored - but something they are unlikely to deliver on when they approve their budget later this month.”

Kudos to ACTA delegates to the Civic Federation Wayne Kubicki and Beth Wolffe who chaired the Federation’s Revenues & Expenditures (R&E) and Schools committees, respectively. McCaffrey noted the effort by writing:

“Kubicki, who probably spends more time dissecting the county budget than anyone outside of a few government analysts, praised county staff as being “incredibly cooperative” in providing the Civic Federation with information and updated financial data.”

The complete report of the Federation’s R&E committee is available at the ACCF website.

Full disclosure: having been a member of the R&E committee, as well as the Schools committee, I can attest to the knowledge and hard work of both Mr. Kubicki and Ms. Wolffe.

April 08, 2009

Throwing Good Money After Bad?

Yesterday’s USA Today reported, “The federal government will soon send more than $300 million in stimulus funds to 61 housing agencies that have been repeatedly faulted by auditors for mishandling government aid, a USA TODAY review has found.” The list features three in Virginia, including the “stimulus grant” amount:

  • Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority -- $1,791,960
  • Petersburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority -- $1,071,310
  • Newport News Redevelopment & Housig (sic) Authority -- $4,858,857

USA Today went on to point out:

“The money is part of a $4 billion effort to create jobs by fixing public housing projects that have fallen into disrepair. Recipients include housing authorities in 26 states that auditors have cited for problems ranging from poor bookkeeping to money that was spent improperly, according to the review of summaries the agencies must file with the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

“The government has promised to closely monitor how the agencies spend the money. Still, some watchdog groups are concerned. "I think taxpayers are going to have to steel themselves to hear that a lot of this money has gone down the tubes," says Leslie Paige of Citizens Against Government Waste.”

"Congress gave the Obama administration permission to withhold stimulus aid from housing authorities that the Department of Housing and Urban Development lists as "troubled" because of factors such as poor maintenance and financial management. But HUD decided to release the money to these authorities because they "should have the opportunity to improve their housing," spokeswoman Donna White said."

The newspaper pointed out there are some 175 housing authorities on HUD’s troubled list. Kudos to USA Today for the their work in developing this story, which they described as:

“USA TODAY reviewed OMB data summarizing thousands of audits completed since 2004 with help from Boston College business professor Elizabeth Keating, who studies audits. The review identified authorities receiving stimulus aid despite having been cited at least three times for problems managing federal money.”

Seems HUD's position is that it's better to plunder taxpayers than force housing authorities to better manage  the resources taxpayers provide to them. Finally,before Arlington County’s own Industrial Development Authority obtained permission to provide funding for affordable housing, Arlington County officials went to the Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority.

HT Taxing Tennessean and Government Bytes. As Demian Brady of NTU quipped at NTU's Government Bytes, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

April 07, 2009

A Bit of History

"(I)n the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the Statists successfully launched a counterrevolution that radically and fundamentally altered the nature of American society. President Franklin Roosevelt and an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, through an array of federal projects, entitlements, taxes, and regulations known as the New Deal, breached the Constitution's firewalls. At first the Supreme Court fought back, striking down New Deal programs as exceeding the limits of federal constitutional authority, violating state sovereignty, and trampling on private property rights. But rather than seek an expansion of federal power through the amendment process, which would likely have blunted Roosevelt's ambitions, Roosevelt threatened the very makeup of the Court by proposing to pack it with sympathetic justices who would go along with his counterrevolution. Although Roosevelt's plan failed, the justices had been effectively intimidated. And new justices, who shared Roosevelt's statism, began replacing older justices on the Court."

   -- Mark R. Levin, "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto," pages 6-7

HT Mark Levin Show

April 06, 2009

Is $12.8 Trillion Even Comprehendable?

Last Wednesday, Bloomberg News published what can only be a mind-boggling number, writing:

“The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have spent, lent or committed $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches the value of everything produced in the country last year, to stem the longest recession since the 1930s. (emphasis added)

“New pledges from the Fed, the Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. include $1 trillion for the Public-Private Investment Program, designed to help investors buy distressed loans and other assets from U.S. banks. The money works out to $42,105 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and 14 times the $899.8 billion of currency in circulation. The nation’s gross domestic product was $14.2 trillion in 2008.” (emphasis added)

They added that amount has increased 73% since November when they “first estimated the funding, loans and guarantees at $7.4 trillion.” Bloomberg provides a table that “details how the Fed and the government have committed the money on behalf of American taxpayers over the past 20 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.”

Considering that the current federal budget is north of $3 trillion and that the Obama  administration has proposed a budget of $3.6 trillion for the FY 2010 fiscal year, the number $12.8 trillion is nothing short of mind-boggling.

To see who Congress thinks will pay for it, see Michael Ramirez’s April 7, 2009 cartoon. And it’s not the current generation, either!

HT Mark Levin's reading list for 4/1/09

April 05, 2009

Arlington and Virginia Education Dollars Being Wasted?

On Wednesday last week, the Washington Post reported:

“Nearly 9 percent of Virginia public school students in the Class of 2008 dropped out during their high school years, most showing warning signs such as missing class frequently and repeating grades before giving up on school, state education officials said yesterday.

“In Northern Virginia, Alexandria had the highest dropout rate, with 11.1 percent. Loudoun County had one of the lowest, 3.3 percent. The rate was 5.6 percent in Fairfax County. Statewide, Hispanic students were among the most likely to fail to graduate, with nearly 20 percent dropping out.

“The Virginia Department of Education data, which offer the most detailed picture of the state's dropout problem to date, will allow schools to help those students who are most at risk. Previously, state officials had estimated the dropout rate.”

Arlington’s drop-out rate was 9.4%, according to the following graphic that accompanied the Post story.

However, the number varies widely based upon the Arlington high school. A report compiled on March 3, 2009 (requires Adobe) by the Virginia Department of Education for school year 2007-08 shows 42 dropouts at Washington-Lee HIgh School, 17 at Yorktown H.S., and 81 at Wakefield H.S.

The Post reported that “Virginia officials said they are unhappy with the number of dropouts and will work to fix the problem.” The newspaper added:

“Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright called for school leaders to place a "laserlike focus" on students who are at risk of dropping out. But she steered clear of prescribing solutions, saying that individual school systems would know what is the best way to help struggling students.”

Perhaps the Virginia Superintendent should focus her “laser vision” on another equally, if not more, troubling problem, which is in the words of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) “the number of first-time, first-year students, having graduated at a Virginia high school in the previous 12 months, enrolled in remedial coursework during their first year of enrollment.”

According to SCHEV research, between school years 2001-02 and 2007-08, the number of first-time students who graduated from Virginia high schools ranged between 5,127 and 9,191 while the “percentage of students in at least one remedial course” ranged between 17.2% and 23.4%. A SCHEV report published December 9, 2002 (requires Adobe) shows that for the school years 1996-97 through 2000-01 shows the same percentage was either 20% or 21%. Not very much improvement despite a significant “investment” (as liberals like to say) since 1996-97 it seems.

In their 2002 report, SCHEV suggests five “other important areas” be considered for further analysis, before ultimately concluding “the results of the above analyses could be helpful in identifying certain characteristics, trends, and problem areas for consideration of policymakers, and educational professionals.”

At some point in the 1990s, SCHEV published a report that identified the Virginia school division where students taking remedial classes graduated. My best recollection is that when the report was published it identified the Virginia school districts, and the APS percentage differed little from the overall Virginia results. However, in a 2005 e-mail, the director of policy research at SCHEV wrote:

“The report you are referring to was discontinued in 2000 for a variety of reasons, with staff and budget reasons being at the top. We have recently begun working with VDOE to develop a new approach to that report that will essentially cost less to produce, solve a number of data problems that existed within the old report, and provide more useful data back to the schools.

“I expect it will be sometime in 2006 before we release a new version.”

More recently, e-mail correspondence with SCHEV, the director of communications wrote:

“SCHEV no longer publishes the report to which you refer in your email. However you might be interested in a report that addresses remediation state-wide.”

Arlington and Virginia taxpayers “invest” a great deal of taxpayer money in K-12 education. While there may have been data and other methodology problems, SCHEV needs to work with the Virginia Department of Education to overcome the problems, and provide both taxpayers and education professionals with accountability information about remediation rates not just by school district, but also by high school.

April 03, 2009

Quote of the Day

"In the name of "economic justice" and "equality" the Statist creates the perception of class struggle through a variety of inventions, including the "progressive" income tax."

    -- Mark Levin, page 63, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto

For further information, visit Mark Levin Show

April 02, 2009

The Hardworking U.S. Senate. Not!

Jeff Dircksen writes at the National Taxpayers Union’s blog, Government Bytes, that the Senate's budget committee chairman is urging senators to avoid asking for recorded votes on pending amendments to the budget. Specifically, he writes:

“Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad has been on the floor today urging his colleagues not to ask for recorded votes on the 230 or so pending amendments to the Senate budget resolution. Conrad estimates that if every Senator insisted on a roll call vote that Senators would have to spend the next three days voting to get through all of the amendments. Instead, Conrad has asked that Senators accept voice votes or attempt to attach the amendment to some other piece of legislation.

“I'm sure that it's tough waiting on the Senate floor for someone to call your name and then wandering off to the cloakroom, but it is the budget of the United States after all. What's wrong with spending a little extra time -- or a couple of extra days -- working on it? Maybe it will give everyone a chance to read the whole thing.”

Don’t you just the like the ways that politicians have of avoiding accountability? Add a comment to the Government Byes post if you think it outrageous that members of the U.S. Senate can so easily avoid accountability.

And take a few minutes to call Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb on Capitol Hill -- switchboard phone number (202) 224-3121. After all, if you can’t be accountable for $3.5 trillion, when can you be accountable?

April 01, 2009

Congratulations, Arlington School Board

Tomorrow evening, the Arlington School Board will volunteer the Arlington Public School to an efficiency review, according to a report posted by Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun Gazette. The decision will be the second “action item” on the School Board’s April 2 agenda. According to a FAQ that is part of agenda item F.2:

“The Virginia Department of Planning and Budget manages the School Efficiency Review program. Using funds appropriated by the General Assembly, DPB hires educational consulting firms to conduct these reviews. DPB is careful to select firms with experience in performing this type of work with local school divisions.”

The first such efficiency review was completed January 6, 2004 of the New Kent County Public Schools. The completed report as well as the others completed since then are available at the Virginia Department of Education’s website. ACTA has been urging such a review of APS since then. In our questionnaires submitted to School Board nominees in competitive races, we have included a question asking whether the candidates supported efficiency reviews. In their responses, Ed Fendley, School Board chair, Vice-Chair Sally Baird, and School Board member Abby Raphael supported conducting efficiency reviews.

When asked for comment by the Sun Gazette, ACTA’s president told the newspaper the School Board should be congratulated for seeking such a review. In addition, Tim Wise said:

“Since Arlington Public Schools has among the two or three highest costs per student in the commonwealth - occasionally changing places with Alexandria and Falls Church - it will be interesting to see the amount of ‘efficiencies’ the review team is able to identify,”