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August 22, 2017

Virginia Benefits from Mortgage Interest Deduction, Ranks 3rd

Earlier this month, the Tax Foundation's Amir El-Sibaie posted an analysis at their Tax Policy blog showing the states that benefit most from the home mortgage interest deduction."

According to El-Sibaie:

"Earlier this week, we reported that the Trump administration may consider reducing the cap on the home mortgage interest deduction from a maximum of $1 million acquisition debt to $500,000. We estimated that this proposal could raise as much as $95 billion to $300 billion over the next decade, depending on how the cap is structured. We also found that the tax increase would primarily fall on high-income taxpayers because they are more likely to own larger homes and have more mortgage debt. Middle- and lower-income taxpayers would be much less likely to face a tax increase.

"Changes to the home mortgage interest deduction would also impact certain parts of the country differently. There is a large degree of geographic disparity in who claims the mortgage interest deduction. Below is a map that shows the average deduction amount taken per tax return, or the total amount of home mortgage interest deducted in a state divided by the number of tax returns in a state.

"The states that benefitted the most from the home mortgage interest deductions were Maryland ($3,175), California ($2,960), and Virginia ($2,931). The states that benefitted the least were Mississippi ($964), South Dakota ($867), and West Virginia ($856). (emphasis added)

"Two primary factors influence how much home mortgage interest is deducted in a state: state housing prices and state income levels.

"Regional housing prices directly impact mortgage interest payments. In areas where land is scarce, such as Hawaii, the low levels of supply will push prices up and increase the amount of interest paid on mortgages. The opposite is also true. In states such as North and South Dakota where land is plentiful, low land prices will directly reduce the number of individuals claiming the home interest mortgage deduction and the amount of the deduction.

"Income levels also impact the amount a state claims in mortgage interest. Higher-income taxpayers are more likely to purchase larger homes and have more mortgage debt. In addition, they are more likely to itemize to begin with because they pay more in state and local taxes and make more charitable contributions—the two other major itemized deductions available to taxpayers."

The following chart is from the Tax Policy blog post:

Wouldn't it be a whole lot simpler if we forgot about the home mortgage tax deduction, as well as the other deductions and so-called "tax expenditures," and adopt a flat tax, or the FairTax?

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Tell them whether you prefer a flat tax or merely a simplified version of the current tax system. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

To learn more about the Tax Foundation, click here.

August 21, 2017

Medicaid Payments Made to Ineligible Beneficiaries

According to Ali Meyer of the Washington Free Beacon today, "An estimated $72 million in Medicaid payments were made to potentially ineligible beneficiaries in Kentucky, according to an audit from the agency's inspector general."

She continued, writing:

"The audit found the state agency in Kentucky did not always determine eligibility status for Medicaid benefits in line with federal and state requirements and that the agency did not keep paperwork noting it verified citizenship status.

"In order to receive Medicaid benefits, the state must verify citizenship or nationality status and have documentary evidence. The state can conduct this verification process through the Social Security Administration.

"The audit found the state determined eligibility status for Medicaid benefits without having such documentation and could not show that they received a citizenship verification response from the Social Security Administration.

"The state agency did not always meet Federal and State requirements when making eligibility determinations because of both human and system errors," the report states. "The state agency did not always perform, or maintain documentation that it had performed, identity-proofing because of both human and system errors related to processes implemented in response to the ACA that affected eligibility determinations for non-newly eligible Medicaid applicants."

"In addition, when an individual applies for Medicaid coverage through the state marketplace, the individual must go through identity-proofing, which includes the collection of sensitive information such as birth date and Social Security numbers. The audit found the state did not conduct this process or provide documentation for this process for 13 beneficiaries.

"On the basis of our sample results, we estimated that during our 6-month audit period, approximately 8 percent of non-newly eligible beneficiaries in Kentucky were potentially ineligible, and approximately 3 percent of federal payments were made to those beneficiaries," the report states. "As a result, we estimated that Kentucky made federal Medicaid payments on behalf of 69,931 potentially ineligible beneficiaries totaling $72,763,721."

"Auditors recommend that Kentucky show it verified citizenship and identity by providing documentation. The state agency agreed with the recommendations."

The 20-page report by the U.S.Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Inspector General can be found here.

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Tell them the states need to do a better job  of verifying the eligibility of Medicaid beneficiaries. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

August 20, 2017

Taxes Too High, Tax Code Too Complex, Majority in Poll Says

The Washington Free Beacon's Ali Meyer reported this morning, "A majority of Americans say that taxes are too high and the tax code is too complex, according to a poll from the American Action Network."

Meyer then added:

"The Trump administration and Congress are shifting their focus to tax reform and poll findings show that Americans support a redesign of the tax code that lowers rates and makes it more simple and fair.

"It's clear that Americans, regardless of ideology, widely support fixing our broken tax system," said Corry Bliss, director of the network. "Americans recognize the positive impact a tax code with lower rates would have on working families and small businesses competing with other countries like China."

And then provided some specific polling numbers:

"A majority of all Americans, 57 percent, believe that the tax code needs to be overhauled or revamped in a major way. Another 62 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of Democrats say that their taxes are too high.

"Ninety percent of Americans say that the personal income tax system is either very or somewhat complex and 60 percent of respondents say that they would rather a flatter and simpler tax code than one that increases taxes on the wealthiest and is more progressive.

"A majority of Democrats, 70 percent, say they want members of Congress to work across the aisle in a bipartisan fashion to get tax reform done.

"Seventy-seven percent of respondents believe that tax reform will impact them positively whether it be through economic growth, increasing jobs, or helping out their own finances."

She concluded, writing:

"Whether in California or Nebraska, Americans strongly recognize our outdated and uncompetitive tax code has left middle-class families behind," said Bliss. "These results send a loud warning that those looking to stand in the way of tax reform will pay a significant price."

"Congress must capitalize on this opportunity to deliver meaningful tax reform that will create more jobs, cuts taxes for working families, and empowers job creators to compete with countries like China," he said. "To succeed and enable growth for all, every member of Congress must prioritize reform that lowers rates, eliminates loopholes and puts American workers and job creators first."

The complete, 14-page American Action Forum survey results are available here.  One of the survey findings specifically said:

"When you juxtapose a conservative view versus a progressive view on tax reform, 60% say a simpler, flatter and fairer tax system is more important than one that is more progressive and increases taxes on the wealthiest."

We encourage Growls readers to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Tell them about the need to reduce taxes, speed up economic growth, and simplify the tax code. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

August 19, 2017

Former Representative Named July Porker of the Month

Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.

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 Citizens Against Government Waste  (CAGW), on July 25, "named former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) its July 2017 Porker of the Month for advocating for taxpayer-funded housing for members of Congress."

Here is how CAGW justified their selection of former Rep. Chaffetz:

"During an interview with The Hill on June 26, 2017, then-Rep. Chaffetz said, “I really do believe Congress would be much better served if there was a housing allowance for members of Congress.”  He admitted that the current political climate made such a proposal legislatively arduous, but claimed that, “A $2,500 housing allowance would be appropriate and a real help to have at least a decent quality of life in Washington.”

"Ironically, the interview was conducted four days before Rep. Chaffetz resigned from Congress and abandoned his chairmanship of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight in order to pursue a lucrative television career.

"Perhaps his time in Washington has clouded now former Rep. Chaffetz’s idea of what qualifies as a decent quality of life. For example, his annual House salary of $174,000 was nearly three times the median annual income of one of his former constituents.

"Furthermore, there are ample reasons why Congress does not deserve additional taxpayer benefits.  The national debt nearly doubled during Rep. Chaffetz’s time in Congress.  Government-wide improper payments have risen to $144 billion in FY 2016.  Congress has failed to complete its own budget process on time for 20 consecutive years, which mirrors Congress’s nearly 20-year failure to balance the budget.  A Gallup poll shows congressional job approval at an embarrassing 19 percent.

"Rep. Chaffetz is not the first congressman to propose additional taxpayer-funded benefits.  Former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) made a similar statement on April 3, 2014, just before his retirement.

'CAGW President Tom Schatz said in a statement: “Public service is about serving the public, not indulging one’s self on the taxpayers’ dime.  Members of Congress have shown themselves time and time again to be underserving of any pay raise, let alone additional perks beyond their free gym membership, subsidized health insurance, and substantial retirement benefits.  Instead of focusing on themselves, they should be completely focused on cutting wasteful spending, and CAGW’s give them the blueprint to do just that.”

Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government. For more information about the organization, click here.

August 18, 2017

National Debt Now Exceeds GDP

 In yesterday's Washington Examiner, Paul Bedard reported in his Washington Secrets column, "When the House and Senate return to Washington after Labor Day they will be in a mad scramble to boost the debt ceiling, but look for some to balk for this reason: The U.S. debt is already higher than the country's gross domestic product." The specific numbers, Bedard says, are:

"According to government figures, debt is $19.8 trillion and the GDP is $19.2 trillion. In other words, debt is 103 percent of GDP."

He goes on to explain:

"According to the latest Pew Research Center analysis, "The nation's debt is now bigger than its gross domestic product, which was an estimated $19.23 trillion in the second quarter. Debt as a share of GDP rose steeply during and after the 2008 financial crisis. Since 2013 it has equaled or exceeded GDP, which had not been seen since the end of World War II."

"The interest on that debt is sky high: $276 billion this fiscal year. That's 6.8 percent of all federal outlays.

"But, said Pew, that's a good deal because interest rates are low, just 2.2 percent.

"And China doesn't hold a lot of U.S. debt. Said Pew, "mainland China only held about 5.8 percent of the total debt, or about $1.15 trillion. Hong Kong, a ‘special administrative region' of China, held another $202.6 billion. China was the top foreign holder of Treasury securities, ahead of Japan, which held just under $1.1 trillion."

The following chart, showing debt exceeding GDP, is from Bedard's column, but originally appeared in the Pew analysis:

 

In this  FactTank piece, the Pew Research Center's Drew DeSilver reports on "5 facts about the national debt."

For a helpful view of the federal budget picture, take a look at this infographic from the Congressional Budget Office. In a report on 'fiscal space, from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget we growled on September 27, 2016 whether the federal government has sufficient 'fiscal space.' The Committee concludes, however, the federal government is poorly equipped to handle the next recession.

We encourage Growls readers to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Ask them what they have done recently to encourage economic growth and reduce the national debt. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

August 17, 2017

Arlington Public Schools See Mixed Results on SOL Tests

A news item, yesterday, in the Arlington Sun Gazette reports "Arlington sees ups and downs on SOL results."

The Sun Gazette went on to report:

"The movements were relatively small, but pass rates for Arlington Public Schools students on Standards of Learning tests taken last spring were up in 11 cases, down in 12 and unchanged in six from a year before, according to new state data.

"The county school system met or exceeded statewide passing rates in all but one of 29 exams, and exceeded the statewide rate by 5 points or more on 17 of the assessments.

"State-mandated SOLs test student learning in coursework including math, reading, writing, science and social studies. Students are tested beginning in third grade.

"In recent years, the Virginia Department of Education has been ramping up the difficulty level on some tests; there were no major changes but some tweaks made to tests from the 2015-16 to 2016-17 school years."

The Sun Gazette concluded, saying:

"State Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven Staples said year-over-year changes were less important than the “long-term, upward trend” state officials were seeing.

"Scores on SOL tests are among the criteria used by state officials to determine accreditation levels for Virginia schools. Accreditation ratings for school districts and individual schools will be announced in September."

The Arlington Public Schools (APS) press release, discussing the test results in more detail, can be found here.

Growls readers who are concerned about the performance of the Arlington Public Schools are encouraged to write to the Arlington School Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the School Board office at (703) 228-6015

And tell them ACTA sent you.

August 16, 2017

A Thought about Equality

"There is, in fact, a manly and lawful passion for equality which excites men to wish all to be powerful and honored. This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom.”

~ Alexis de Tocqueville

Source: epigraph in Victor Davis Hanson's January 14, 2014 National Review Online column.

August 15, 2017

Federal Employees Earn Twice American Average

At the Daily Caller on August 1, 2017, Tom Phippen reported that "government employees earn almost double the average American." Here are the details, according to Phippen:

"The average government salary in 2016 was $83,072, according to a report on federal salaries from the Office of Personnel Management released in July.

"By comparison, the average wage index for the U.S. in 2015, the most recent available calculation, was $48,098, according to the Social Security Administration."

In providing context about the above facts, Phippen writes (emphasis added):

"Federal workers are also generally older, more educated, and more experienced than most workers in the private sector, according to a 2012 Congressional Budget Office study. The CBO also found that government employees make slightly more than their counterparts in the private sector on average.

"The disparity depends greatly on the employee’s level of education. Federal non-military workers with no education after high school earned 21 percent more than the average non-government worker. Employees with bachelors and masters degrees earned about the same amount in the government as in private enterprises. Government employees with a professional degree or doctorate, however, earned about 23 percent less than private sector counterparts.

"While the federal workforce is hardly representative of the entire U.S., the gap disparity between average salaries has been growing for some time. In 2001, the average government worker made 1.39 times what non-government employees made, but that ratio grew to 1.58 by the middle of 2016, according to BLS data compiled by Bloomberg News."

The nine-page Office of Personnel Management (OMB) report, "Salary Information for the Executive Branch Fiscal Year 2016" can be found here. It contains six tables, which breakdown salaries by major agency, state, gender, ethnicity/race, and occupational category.

The average American wage is based upon the National Average Wage Index from the Social Security Administration.The indexing series provides 1951 -- 2015 data. You can find it here.

August 14, 2017

EPA OIG Audit Reveals Overtime Paid Without Justification

 At the Washington Free Beacon today, Elizabeth Harrington reports, "Environmental Protection Agency employees under the Obama administration earned emergency overtime pay without justification, in violation of agency policy."

Harrington continued her reporting, writing:

"The inspector general for the agency released an audit last week finding "numerous instances of noncompliance" of the emergency overtime pay system for employees in Seattle, Wash.

"Employees must receive a waiver from biweekly pay caps if they are to receive extra pay for working during a natural disaster, or for conducting "mission-critical" work. The inspector general found just a fraction of employees in the final three years of the Obama administration who received overtime pay had requested a waiver.

"For Region 10, we identified 79 instances where employees exceeded the biweekly pay cap during FYs 2015, 2016 and 2017 (through January 7, 2017), the Most of the 79 exceedances lacked a supporting waiver request," the inspector general said.

"The Pacific Northwest region could provide only 15 requests that cited emergency and mission-critical work.

"The Human Resources Officer for the region must sign off on waiver requests, according to EPA policy. Only one out of the nearly 80 instances of emergency overtime pay was signed by the HRO.

"In addition, 11 of 15 requests lacked adequate information to determine whether there was an emergency with a threat to life and property, or whether that the work was critical to the mission of the agency," the inspector general said.

She also noted, "The inspector general said without proper oversight, taxpayer funding could be wasted on overtime pay that is not justified."

The EPA Inspector General performed the audit because it "received a hotline complaint alleging mismanagement by EPA Region 10 of its biweekly pay cap waiver process. The complaint alleged that there appears to be an absence of management control for approving biweekly pay cap waivers that is contrary to agency policy. Examples cited included: approvals for non-emergencies, a lack of review by the human resources office, missing supporting documentation, and inadequate justifications." You can access the 18-page report by clicking here.

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Ask them to tell you what they have done to ensure agency compliance with laws and regulations. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

August 13, 2017

The Runaway Entitlement Train

In early April 2017, Investors' Business Daily (IBD) featured an editorial that warned America's taxpayers, "In its latest long-term budget outlook, the Congressional Budget Office warns that our budget is seriously out of whack and endangers our nation's future. While the report will likely be ignored in Washington by politicians who like spending your money, American taxpayers would be wise to heed its message."

The IBD editorial continues, saying:

"The CBO has its issues as a prognosticator, especially when it comes to "scoring" congressional bills. But its long-term forecast for the budget is the equivalent of a horn sounding on a faraway train coming down the track: If you're on the track, you ignore the sound of that horn at your own peril.

"In recent years, we have engaged in often-bitter political debates over what in budget terms is small change, without addressing the bigger issue that we've built an unsustainable mess of a budget.

"The CBO's numbers are persuasive — and more than a little scary.

"Right now, debt held by the public is about 77% of GDP. By 2047, if current trends hold, that will grow to 150% of GDP. Imagine having credit card debt more than 50% larger than your income. How would you pay it? That's where we'll be.

"We're being driven toward a kind of national bankruptcy, in which tax revenues over the next 30 years will rise from 17.8% of the economy to roughly 19.6%, while spending will soar from about 20.7% of GDP to a shocking 29.4%, leaving massive budget deficits of nearly 10% of GDP and soaring debts that will be difficult for an aging population with a shrinking workforce to pay off.

"From about $14 trillion now, our public debt would grow to over $90 trillion. Repeat: $90 trillion.

"What's driving this budget insanity? Entitlements. Social Security, Medicare, Disability, and interest on our growing debt. Those things together will grow from roughly 12% of GDP this year to almost 22% of GDP in 2047.

"So 75 cents of every dollar the government collects will go to those three programs. That doesn't leave much room for stuff like defense, infrastructure and all the other things government now does. And our national politics will turn into a long, vicious battle between those who get checks from the government, and those who don't. It won't be pretty."

The IBD editorial provides this additional warning, "As the CBO notes, if we wait even 10 years to address runaway spending, the tax increases or spending cuts required will have to be 50% larger than today to get the same results."

IBD provides the following very scary chart:

 

One of the items on Congress' schedule when they return from their August recess is raising the debt limit. According to an August 1 article by Niels Lesniewski in Roll Call:

"One motivating factor for addressing the approaching debt ceiling as soon as possible is the mounting list of items on the Senate’s agenda.

"Several GOP senators, however, expressed the consistent Republican desire to make adjustments to the mandatory spending side of the federal ledger in any bill addressing the debt ceiling. Though some recognized the difficulty in doing so when bumping up against a possible default by the U.S. government.

"This place up here is sick; both sides spend money that they don’t have and we’ve got to stop it,” Sen. David Perdue of Georgia said. “You’ve got to fund the government. You’ve got to get past it, and the sooner we get past it, the better.”

"Historically, Republican leadership has relied on Democrats to help pass a debt ceiling increase. Some Democrats, when asked, said they had not yet discussed as a conference what to do."

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Ask them to tell you what they have done to reduce the national debt. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

August 12, 2017

A Thought about Conservatives and the Constitution

"The Conservative does not despise government. He despises tyranny. This is precisely why the Conservative reveres the Constitution and insists on adherence to it.”

~ Mark R. Levin, "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto"

Source: Quotes at Goodreads.com.

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For other books by Mark R. Levin, click here.

August 11, 2017

CAGW Finds "USPS is in Financial Distress"

According to a press release today from Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), "Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) expressed continued frustration following the release of the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) third quarter financial report for fiscal year (FY) 2017."

The CAGW press release added:

"The agency reported a loss of $2.1 billion in the third quarter, which was $573 million higher than the same period in 2016.  Over the last decade, USPS has lost a total of $63.6 billion.

"CAGW Vice President for Policy and Communications Leslie Paige said in a statement:

“As massive losses continue for USPS, the agency seems to be in a state of denial.  The Postmaster General and USPS’s unions are pressuring the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to allow substantial price increases for first-class mail customers in another desperate attempt to avoid reforms that are long overdue to address the USPS’s broken business model.  The PRC should resist any pressure to alter what little fiscal discipline currently exists at USPS.  Until Congress institutes stringent market-oriented reforms and the agency makes hard financial choices, USPS will continue to dwell in financial purgatory.”

Here are eight points of concern (verbatim) that CAGW has about the U.S. Postal Service:

  • USPS is currently in the midst of its 11th consecutive year of net losses.
  • The agency has reached its statutory debt limit of $15 billion and has more than $120 billion in unfunded liabilities.
  • USPS also announced it will, “likely default on up to $6.9 billion in payments for future retiree health and pension benefits for the fifth straight year.”
  • USPS has already defaulted on a total of $33.9 billion of benefit payments.
  • On July 11, 2017 USPS bowed to union pressure and agreed to an across the board pay raise and added benefits.
  • The Postal Reform Act’s costshifting of retirement funds to Medicare would further damage a program that will be insolvent by 2029.
  • A March 2015 report by Sonecon CEO Robert Shapiro found that USPS has an $18 billion advantage over similar private sector companies.  Even with these enormous financial benefits, massive agency losses persist.
  • The Government Accountability Office has consistently placed USPS on its High Risk List.

The U.S. Postal Service 3Q FY 2017 results are available here.

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Ask them what they have done recently to hold the U.S. Postal Service accountable. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

Kudos to Citizens Against Government Waste for their work in holding government accountable. For more information about CAGW, click here.

August 10, 2017

Six Arlington County Schools Win Top Honors from State

According to yesterday's Arlington Sun Gazette, "Six Arlington public schools have been named to the top tier in the Virginia Board of Education’s annual awards program, comprising two-thirds of all the schools that received the award statewide."

The Sun Gazette explains in part:

"Arlington Traditional; Jamestown, McKinley, Nottingham and Taylor elementary schools; and Williamsburg Middle School earned the 2017 Governor’s Award for Educational Excellence, the top level in the annual awards program.

"These schools are shining examples of what can be accomplished when there is a schoolwide commitment to high standards, teamwork, academic excellence and innovation,” Gov. McAuliffe said in a statement announcing the awards. “I congratulate each of them on going above and beyond to prepare their students for a successful future in our new Virginia economy.”

"Statewide, only nine schools earned the top honor in 2017. In addition to the Arlington schools, they included Cooper and Longfellow middle schools in Fairfax County and Short Pump Middle School in Henrico County.

"Arlington Science Focus School, Ashlawn Elementary School and Discovery Elementary School were among 145 schools statewide to receive the 2017 Board of Education Excellence Award, the second tier in the annual awards program."

Given that Arlington continues to have the highest cost-per-student in the region, as we growled on November 21, 2016, we are happy to learn that some of the Arlington Public Schools are doing so well.

Additional information about the awards, including schools and school divisions receiving them, can be found in this August 8, 2017 press release from the Virginia Department of Education.

Kudos to the students of the six APS schools who helped their schools win 2017 Governor's Award for Educational Excellence.

August 09, 2017

Personal Income Grew in Most States in 1Q 2017

At the Washington Free Beacon today, Ali Meyer reports, "In 42 states, personal income grew from the past year, even after adjusting for inflation, according to a report from Pew Charitable Trusts."

She explained further, writing:

"Personal income includes wages and salaries, benefits from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, as well as employers' contributions to retirement plans, contributions to health insurance, and income from property and rent.

"On average, personal income grew across all states by 1.8 percent, but some states saw growth as high as 2.9 percent.

"Compared with the previous year, Idaho, Washington, and Utah saw personal income grow by 2.9 percent. According to the report, personal income fell in Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alaska, Vermont, Iowa, and West Virginia, due to manufacturing, farming, state and local government, and construction weaknesses.

"The study also evaluated how personal growth has fluctuated since the recession began in 2007. The group found that personal income growth has recovered unevenly since this time with certain states growing faster than others.

"For example, there were 17 states in which personal income grew faster than the nation as a whole since the end of 2007. North Dakota's personal income has grown 4.2 percent since the recession, Texas's has increased 2.9 percent, Utah's has increased 2.6 percent, Colorado's has increased 2.3 percent, and California's has increased 2.2 percent.

"One of the longest U.S. economic expansions has lifted personal income in all states above pre-recession levels," the report states. "But growth has varied, ranging from a constant annual rate of 0.7 percent in Illinois and Nevada to 4.2 percent in North Dakota."

The Pew Charitable Trusts report, "Slow Growth for State Personal Income Persists in 2017, " provides even more detailed data, including downloadable data, which includes data by state.

For example, personal income grew, nationally, at a 1.7% annual rate since Q4 2007. By comparison, Virginia's personal income grew at 1.6%.

Over the past year, however, the growth of personal income in Virginia did much better than the national average. While the national growth rate over the past year -- Q1 2016 to Q1 2017 -- was 1.8%, Virginia's personal income growth was 2.4%.

[Map showing the 42 states whose personal income grew over the past year was deleted, but is available in the Pew Charitable Trusts report. here.

Growls readers who are concerned about Virginia's economic growth should take a few minutes to write to Governor McAuliffe. Click-on the following link:

Growls readers may also want to write to their state legislators. The following legislators represent Arlington County in the Virginia General Assembly: Senators (Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, or Janet Howell) and Delegates (Rip Sullivan, Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez, or Mark Levine). Contact information for members of the General Assembly can be found here  -- use one of the "quick links" to locate the senator and delegate who represent you.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

To learn more about the Pew Charitable Trusts, click here.

August 08, 2017

A Thought about Citizenship

"Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations."

~ George Washington

HT Founders' Quote Database, The Patriot Post.

August 07, 2017

Fiscal Responsibility and the Arlington Public Schools

Two items in this week's Arlington Sun Gazette (August 3-9) are worth the attention of Arlington County taxpayers who believe in fiscal responsibility. They involve the proposed purchase of the single-family property at 1721 North Culpeper Street.

The first, on page 7 under School Notes, says. "Arlington School Board mulls purchase of home adjacent to Glebe Elementary." The Sun Gazette staff news item provides the context:

"Arlington School Board members on Aug. 17 will consider a staff proposal to purchase a single-family home adjacent to Glebe Elementary School, which would be torn down and the lot used for emergency-vehicle access to the elementary school.

"School-system staff has proposed purchasing the home at 1721 North Culpeper St. for $525,000, while setting aside an additional $50,000 for closing and demolition costs.

"Currently, the only vehicular access to the school is via an easement from Capital Life Church, which funnels traffic to and from North Glebe Road.

"If the home is purchased, the land would be used only for access by emergency vehicles, school officials said.

"The prospective purchase drew some pushback during a public-comment session, in part because the school system plans on spending nearly $125,000 more for the property than it sold for this past January, when a Falls Church-based investment firm purchased it for $403,655, according to county-government records.

"John Chadwick, the school system’s assistant superintendent for facilities, said the purchase made sense, since the school system has no vehicular access outside the church easement."

The second item, the more important in our humble opinion, is the first "Highs & Lows" on the opinion page. The editor uses the space to argue against the staff proposal -- "no doubt well-meaning" -- "from Arlington Public Schools staff to purchase a single-family home adjacent to Glebe Elementary School," for use "as an emergency-vehicle-only access point to the school."

Here's the editor's argument, which should cause the the Arlington School Board to give serious consideration to voting against the proposed purchase. According to the editorial:

"Call us fiscal reactionaries if you will, but given all the current and pending capacity needs the school system must contend with, spending $575,000 on this seems decidedly in the “nice-to-have” category rather than the “must-have” category. Student safety will not be endangered if the purchase doesnt take place, and will be only marginally enhanced if it does.

"School Board members are slated to vote on the matter on Aug. 17. It will be a very good test to see whether board members simply talk the talk of pinching every penny, or will walk the walk of tough decisions."

Growls readers who are concerned about the priorities and fiscal responsibility practiced by the Arlington Public Schools are encouraged to write to the Arlington School Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the School Board office at (703) 228-6015

And tell them ACTA sent you.

August 06, 2017

Cost of ObamaCare Enrollment Lowballed

ACTA apologizes for the technical difficulties experienced over the past two weeks, which prevented your humble scribes from growling. We look forward to growling for you.

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In last Thursday's Washington Times, Stephen Dinan reported, "The Obama administration “misled” Americans into thinking signing up for Obamacare would be cheaper than it really was, according to an inspector general’s report Thursday that said the IRS dramatically understated the actual cost of enrolling."

Dinan went on to explain in part:

"But as part of the letters, the IRS said most people could find plans for $75 a month or less once government subsidies were figured in.

"That was untrue — in fact, the average cost was more than twice that figure, at $168 a month, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said.

"Many of the nearly 7.5 million taxpayers who receive letters and seek insurance may feel misled if the actual cost of their insurance is much higher than the $75 per month detailed in their notification letter,” the inspector general concluded.

"The IRS said it was only using numbers provided by Department of Health and Human Services and verified by the Treasury Department. They said the $75 figure was true for some taxpayers.

"The inspector general said it asked for that documentation but never received it.

"Auditors said their own analysis found the HHS studies were based on a smaller sample and was limited to those who chose lower-coverage plans with fewer benefits.

"According to the new audit, federal regulations require agencies to present accurate information.

"Investigators uncovered the misleading information as part of a broader audit about how the IRS was handling its role in alerting Americans who aren’t complying with Obamacare’s mandate to hold insurance.

"Some 19.3 million Americans ducked the Obamacare mandate in 2016, with 12.8 million claiming an exemption and 6.5 million paying the tax penalty."

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) issued a press release about the report, pointing out, "Although required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to do so, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) did not issue notification letters to taxpayers without Minimal Essential Coverage (MEC) for Tax Year 2014 by the statutory June 30, 2015, deadline."

According to the TIGTA report, the "audit was initiated to assess the IRS’s processes for identifying and notifying individuals who file an income tax return and do not have the required Minimum Essential Coverage under the Affordable Care Act. This includes assessing whether the IRS complied with Affordable Care Act Section 1502(c)."

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few extra minutes to write or call your Congressional representatives. Ask them what they are doing to hold the IRS accountable. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov website. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

August 05, 2017

Arlington Made the List

The Center for Immigration Studies reported that AG Jeff Sessions is getting serious about cutting federal funding to sanctuary cities and counties. Arlington stands to lose $44k.

https://cis.org/Map-Sanctuary-Cities-Counties-and-States

https://cis.org/Vaughan/AG-Sessions-Set-Block-Millions-Funding-Sanctuaries