Grassroot Perspective: Taxmageddon Price Tag, Pensions Drain Ed Funds, and More

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Scanning the week’s national news, views and clues with you and yours in mind

By Malia Hill


Quote of the Week:
“The chief embarrassment in discussing the office is that in explaining how little there is to say about it one has evidently said all there is to say..”—Woodrow Wilson, on the Vice-Presidency

Each week, we’ll be monitoring the web to find the most interesting, challenging, or important items for those who are concerned about liberty, accountability, and big government.  Here are some of the highlights from the past week:

You weren’t going to use that $2995, were you?

Taxmageddon is coming.  The largest single-year tax increase in history—approximately $494 billion, in fact.  And contrary to the Administration’s rhetoric, this is a burden that is going to fall especially on middle- and lower-income families.  That’s because a large portion of the increase comes from the failure to renew the Bush tax cuts, which were specifically targeted at middle and lower-income taxpayers. The Heritage Foundation has calculated what families in each state might expect to see as their tax increase, and those in Hawaii can expect to see an average increase of $2995 per tax return.  On the bright side, that’s slightly lower than the national average.  On the other hand, who cares about what the average is?  Do you have a bunch of extra money lying around to give to the government?

And then there’s the worse news: that figure only considers the individual effects of Taxmageddon.  Meaning that it doesn’t take into account the accompanying impact on the economy, businesses, job growth, and so on.  Since tax increases are not exactly good for business, we’re certainly not going to see an accompanying economic boom.  The only question is going to be how much damage will Taxmageddon cause, and how much longer we can afford to bear with the President’s explorations in financial mismanagement.

Pensions vs. Education

There are a number of difficulties inherent in reforming public employee pensions, one of which is the general goodwill of the citizenry toward public servants like teachers, firefighters, and DMV clerks.  (Okay, maybe not the latter.)  People recognize that this is an untenable system that is slowly destroying the state/local government budget, but they still hesitate to take the necessary steps to fix it.  (The union pressure and intimidation don’t help much either.)  Even the knowledge that failure to act can lead to layoffs or the loss of core services isn’t enough.

Which leads to absurdities like that in Illinois, where a new study finds that the state is on track to spend more on government pensions than on education.  Putting aside, for the moment, the argument about whether the answer to better education is more money, one can almost guarantee the answer is not to cut education funding (which will be the ultimate result if the state cannot reform its pension system) in favor of propping up a failed system that threatens to consume itself.

Running in a Cloud of Rhetoric

No sooner had Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate than the smear campaign began.  Fortunately for those of us who are tired of such tactics, the Olympics were still going and there were basketball medals to be won.  (USA! USA!)  But when I emerged from my London-based fog, it was to discover that the Obama campaign had adopted the curious tactic of labeling fiscal conservatism as some sort of inexplicable and dangerous behavior.

I suppose I should cut them some slack—for them, it probably is.

But as Thomas Sowell explains, the Ryan pick just further exposes the divide that is likely to characterize this campaign—rhetoric versus hard facts, style versus substance.  With luck, Ryan’s no-nonsense approach will start cutting through the campaign clutter and allow voters to make an informed choice about which candidate’s economic policy holds the most promise for the future.

Giving some control back to parents and students

The myth that all teachers are wonderful, noble, self-sacrificing, and accomplished is one that everyone repeats and no one believes.  Not even the teachers themselves.  And yet, across the country, collective bargaining agreements, union pressures, and the like have stymied efforts to introduce merit-based systems meant to reward exceptional teachers (or remove disastrous ones).  To my mind, this is a practice guaranteed to burn out good teachers, protect bad ones, and drive the entire school system towards a mediocre middle.

But a bill introduced in Michigan would take the extraordinary step of giving an extra level of input to parents, requiring a school to get written approval from parents if their child would be assigned a teacher rated “ineffective” by a rating system implemented last year.  Needless to say, the bill faces some serious opposition.  The irony, of course, is that in a private school system, the poorly-rated teacher would be long gone.  Of course, public school parents pay (via taxes) for their children’s education too—but consider how hard they have to fight to get a say in its quality.

Illustrating the Voting Public

Do statistics interest and then overwhelm you? Do you wish that someone would present them in a coherent and related way, preferably with the use of bright colors and some level of wit?  Then you, my friend, need some infographics.  Fortunately, Resurgent Republic has some great ones on the current state of the campaign.  A picture may be worth 1000 words, but an infographic has to be worth at least 1475.

Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.

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