My Free Speech Political Quotations and Commentaries Directory and Log
If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't
George S. Patton
It's better to walk alone than in a crowd going in
the wrong direction.
You don't have to enforce the laws you disagree
Eric Holder, USA Attorney General
This former Secretary of State of the USA and expert on Russia is just not a
politically correct African American woman
Former Secretary of State and Stanford University
Professor Condoleezza Rice was invited to speak at the 2014 Rutgers commencement
ceremony. Now, a faculty board at the university is demanding the invitation be
Having no job gives women a lot more freedom.
Vice President Joe Biden
Local and state financial problems are accelerating, in large part because
public entities promised pensions they couldn't afford.
Shopping tor groceries in Venezuela is a lot like shopping for groceries in
the Soviet Union in the 19s0s ---
Democracy is Wrong for the World and Belgium is a Test Case ---
"Meanwhile, China Quietly Takes Over Zimbabwe," ZeroHedge.com,
March 2, 2014 ---
. . .
And now, as a result of the "Look East Policy", we
learn that China has just achieved what every ascendant superpower in
preparation for "gunboat diplomacy" mode needs: a key strategic airforce
base. From the Zimbabwean.
China is planning to set up a modern high-tech
military base in the diamond-rich Marange fields, says a German-based
website, Telescope News.
The news of the agreement to set up the first
Chinese military airbase in Africa comes amid increasing bilateral
cooperation between Zimbabwe and China – notably in mining, agriculture and
preferential trade. China is the only country exempted from the
indigenisation laws which force all foreign investors to cede 51% of their
shareholding to carefully selected indigenous Zimbabweans.
The airstrip at Marange has sophisticated radar
systems and ultra-modern facilities
The Marange story quoted unnamed military officials
and a diplomat admitting knowledge of the plan to set up the base. Efforts
to get a comment from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces were fruitless, as
spokesperson Lt Col Alphios Makotore was consistently unavailable and did
not respond to emails by the time of going to press.
The website speculated that China could be
positioning itself for future “gunboat diplomacy” where its military
presence would give it bargaining power against superpowers like the US. It
would also be safeguarding its significant economic interests in Zimbabwe
and the rest of Africa.
Veil of secrecy
Continued in article
Making Fun of Keynesian Economics ---
In fairness, some of the tongue-in-cheek criticisms of Paul Krugman are out of
Keynesian Economics ---
. . .
Public choice theory
James M. Buchanan and
Richard E. Wagner, in Democracy in Deficit: The
Political Legacy of Lord Keynes
criticized Keynesian economics on the grounds that governments would in
practice be unlikely to implement theoretically optimal policies. According
to them, the implicit assumption underlying the Keynesian fiscal revolution
was that economic policy would be made by wise men, acting without regard to
political pressures or opportunities, and guided by disinterested economic
technocrats. They argued that this was an unrealistic assumption about
political, bureaucratic and electoral behavior.
Classical Macroeconomics criticisms
Another influential school of thought was based on
Lucas critique of Keynesian economics. This called
for greater consistency with
and rationality, and in particular emphasized the idea of
rational expectations. Lucas and others argued
that Keynesian economics required remarkably foolish and short-sighted
behavior from people, which totally contradicted the economic understanding
of their behavior at a micro level.
New classical economics
introduced a set of macroeconomic theories that were based on optimising
microeconomic behavior. These models have been
developed into the
Real Business Cycle Theory, which argues that
business cycle fluctuations can to a large extent be accounted for by real
(in contrast to nominal) shocks.
Beginning in the late 1950s new classical
macroeconomists began to disagree with the methodology employed by Keynes
and his successors. Keynesians emphasized the dependence of consumption on
disposable income and, also, of investment on current profits and current
cash flow. In addition, Keynesians posited a
Phillips curve that tied nominal wage inflation to
unemployment rate. To support these theories, Keynesians typically traced
the logical foundations of their model (using introspection) and supported
their assumptions with statistical evidence.
New classical theorists demanded that macroeconomics be grounded on the same
foundations as microeconomic theory, profit-maximizing firms and rational,
The result of this shift in methodology produced several important
divergences from Keynesian Macroeconomics:
- Independence of Consumption and current Income (life-cycle
permanent income hypothesis)
- Irrelevance of Current Profits to Investment (Modigliani-Miller
- Long run independence of inflation and unemployment (natural
rate of unemployment)
- The inability of monetary policy to stabilize output (rational
- Irrelevance of Taxes and Budget Deficits to Consumption (Ricardian
"How a seemingly simple message to students brought digital-age disaster
for a Wisconsin professor," by Peter Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher
Education, March 10, 2014 ---
This reaction to Professor Slocum's message is disturbing to me, because on
occasion I'm cynical in my own messaging. I try to make it obvious that I'm
being cynical. I think it's pretty obvious that Professor Slocum was being
cynical, and I would hope that cynicism intended to be tongue-in-cheek humorous
is not dead in higher academe.
Having said that her message does reflect the left-leaning predominance of
faculty in virtually all global higher education, and the University of
Wisconsin is noted to be one of the more left-leaning universities in the USA.
Since the faculty at Rutgers wants to boot Stanford Professor and
former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a commencement speaker because,
even though she's an African American woman and expert on foreign relations,
she's just not politically correct for higher education honors. I propose that
her replacement be Rachel Slocum as a commencement speaker at Rutgers.
I'm a long-time advocate of nominating Dr. Condoleezza Rice for President of
the USA on a GOP ticket. She doesn't have a snowball's chance in Hell of
winning, but I like to watch politically-biased faculty on both ends of the
spectrum squirm. Why not? The GOP does not have a snowball's chance of winning
in any case until their leaders advocate food stamps for 99% of the USA
population rather than a mere 49% receiving food stamps today. The !% can pay
full price at the super markets. This is my kind of cynicism.
Liberal Bias in Academe ---
"Little Rhody, big debts," The Economist, February 22-28, 2014
WHEN Central Falls—a city of 19,000 people squeezed
into barely one square mile—filed for bankruptcy in 2011, it sent shivers
across Rhode Island and America. Some retired
civil servants saw their pensions cut from $27,000 a year to $12,000.
To stop the state from heading in the same direction,
Gina Raimondo, its treasurer (pictured), launched a campaign to overhaul
Rhode Island’s pension system, one of many that is in deep trouble (see
map). She went from town to town explaining why change was needed, earning a
reputation as a fiscally responsible Democrat with a bright political
future. The legislature passed reforms in November 2011. In this section
Taking aim at imports The drying of the West
Kinder, gentler Loving’s labour’s won Little Rhody, big debts The dangers of
dribbling The politics of little bricks Faith and reason Correction: Saudi
Reprints Related topics
Business Economics Cost of living United States
The sweeping changes included suspending
cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) until the pension scheme was 80% funded;
delaying retirement; and moving all public workers into a hybrid scheme,
under which workers kept the defined benefits they had already accrued but
would henceforth be switched into a defined-contribution plan. All this cut
the $8.9 billion unfunded liability almost by half. Not everyone was happy.
Pensioners bore the brunt of the changes, and some of them sued, along with
unions who represented 66,000 public workers. After a year of federal
mediation, a settlement was announced on February 14th.
The new deal rolls back some of the reforms. COLAs
are no longer based on investment returns, but half on returns and half on
the consumer price index; and they can be made even if the plan is less than
80% funded. Employees with 20 or more years of public service can move back
into a defined-benefit plan. Workers can retire at 65 instead of 67. In
return, contributions go up slightly for most workers. The state’s pensions
are now 56% funded instead of 57%—a shortfall of $5.05 billion instead of
$4.8 billion. Without any reform at all, they would have been only 42%
The basic structure of the earlier law remains. The
new tweaks “make it more palatable to retirees who felt hard done by,” says
Alicia Munnell of Boston College’s Centre for Retirement Research. Michael
Downey of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees was
pleased with the deal but has heard grumbles from the rank and file that it
is not enough. “Had we not taken the state to court, we wouldn’t have gotten
anything,” he says. The union will hold workshops to explain the deal to
The six groups, made up of pensioners and unions,
which challenged the 2011 legislation still have to approve the settlement.
If even one group says no, the lawsuit will proceed. If they do approve it,
the state legislature must still review the settlement and it must approve
the 5% increase in unfunded pension liability.
John Simmons of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure
Council, an independent research group, still has many questions. “This
settlement is more complicated than the 2011 legislation, much more
complex.” He is worried about the additional burden on municipal
governments, many of which are already stretched. Municipalities are not
happy. They were not part of the settlement talks, yet now carry more of the
pension costs. And Josh Rauh of Stanford University suspects the state’s
unfunded liability is much larger than people think.
The settlement preserves 95% of the law’s savings
and much of the reform, says Ms Raimondo. Never mind the millions in legal
fees. “Rhode Island is still a trailblazer,” she says. This has never been
about politics, adds the treasurer, who is running for governor. “It was
about fixing a fiscal crisis.” But it is not fixed.
"'Zombie' pensions: when accounting practices hide the truth from
taxpayers," by Bill Bergman, State Data Lab, March 6, 2014 ---
"With so many governments' public pension funds
woefully underfunded, there's little doubt that some asset managers are
taking higher risks with the funds' assets as they seek higher returns. The
similarities to the evolution of the 1980s savings and loan crisis are
troubling. Are we heading for an era of
"zombie" pension funds?"
As financial troubles intensified at S&Ls, their
managers had an incentive to make bigger bets on risky investments. This was
possible because private funding continued to flow into troubled banks.
After all, government safety nets, such as deposit insurance, had the S&L
managers' backs and it was other people's money that was on the line. Edward
Kane, a professor of finance at Boston College, called these troubled
financial institutions "zombie banks." They were in essence financially dead
but were allowed to continue operating. Managers were, in Kane's terms,
"gambling for resurrection." … Kane's careful history indicates that this
risky behavior and the financial conditions of these zombie banks were
hidden by less-than-truthful accounting
practices. There are alarming parallels to
the financial crises faced by many state and local governments today. …”
'The Hidden Danger in Public Pension Funds: Their investments expose
government budgets and taxpayers to 10 times more risk than in 1975," Andrew
G. Biggs, The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2013 ---
The threat that public-employee pensions pose to
state and local government finances is well known—witness the federal ruling
earlier this month that Detroit's pension obligations are not sacrosanct in
a municipal bankruptcy. Less well known is that pensions are larger and
their investments riskier than at any point since public employees began
unionizing in earnest nearly half a century ago.
Public pensions have long been advertised as
offering generous, guaranteed benefits for public employees while collecting
low and stable contributions from taxpayers. But with Detroit's bankruptcy
filing, citing $3.5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, and with four
of the five largest municipal bankruptcies in U.S. history occurring in the
past two years, reality tells us otherwise.
How much riskier are public pensions now? According
to my research, public pensions pose roughly 10 times more risk to taxpayers
and government budgets than in 1975. And while elected officials—a few
Democratic mayors included—are now pushing for reforms, even they may not
realize the danger.
In 1975, state and local pension assets were equal
to 49% of annual government expenditures, according to my analysis of
Federal Reserve data. Pension assets have nearly tripled to 143% of
government outlays today. That's not because plans are better funded—today's
plans are no better funded than in 1980—but mostly because pension plans
have grown as public workforces have aged.
The ratio of active public employees to retirees
has fallen drastically, according to the State Budget Crisis Task Force.
Today it is 1.75 to 1; in 1950, it was 7 to 1. This means that a loss in
pension investments has three times the impact on state and local budgets
than 40 years ago. Enlarge Image
In a photo from Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, an empty
field in Brush Park, north of Detroit's downtown is shown with an abandoned
home. Associated Press
And pensions can expect to take losses more often
because of increased investment risk. Public plans have historically assumed
roughly an 8% rate of return. But thanks to falling yields on safe assets,
pensions must invest in riskier assets to have any hope of getting 8%
returns. A one-year Treasury bond in 1975 yielded a 5.9% return. In 1980, it
offered 14.8%, and in 1985 an investor could expect 6.5%. Today, the
Treasury yield hovers at 0.1%.
Meager yields leave America's enterprising
public-pension plan managers with a choice: Accept a lower return—forcing
higher taxpayer contributions—or take on more risk to keep 8% returns
flowing. My estimate, based on Treasury yields and analysis from economists
at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, is that a pension today
must build a portfolio with a standard deviation—how much returns vary from
year-to-year—of 14%. Such high volatility means that a fund would suffer
losses roughly one out of every four years.
By contrast, in 1975 a plan could achieve 8%
expected returns with a standard deviation of just 3.7%. Those portfolios
would lose money once every 65 years. This level of risk varied little
through the 1980s and 1990s: An 8% return portfolio in 1985 would require a
standard deviation of 2.7%, and 4.3% in 1995. Risk began inching upward
after 2000 and has increased rapidly since the recession as low-risk assets
continue to fall.
These figures aren't theoretical. They represent
public pensions' decades-long shift from safe bonds to risky stocks, along
with the recent growth of "alternative investments" such as hedge funds and
private equity. These alternatives are, according to Wilshire Consulting,
60% riskier than U.S. stocks and more than five times riskier than bonds.
Larger pensions and riskier investments combine to
increase risk to state and local budgets. The standard deviation of public
pension investments equaled 1.8% of state and local budgets in 1975. That
figure crept upward to 2.2% in 1985, and reached 5.8% in 1995. Today it
stands at 19.8%. Pension investment risk to budgets has risen roughly
tenfold over the past four decades.
As pension plan managers in Detroit, California and
elsewhere can attest, there aren't easy solutions. Mature pensions should
move their investments away from risky assets, but many plan managers are
doing the opposite in a double-or-nothing attempt to dig out of
multitrillion-dollar funding shortfalls. In most instances, significant
benefit cuts for current retirees who made the contributions asked of them
is difficult to justify and legally problematic.
The only real option, then, is to make structural
changes, including more modest benefits and increased risk-sharing between
plan sponsors and public employees. But that will only happen if elected
officials accept that they can't continue with business as usual without
accumulating tremendous risk.
Having paid off bond holders for one penny on the dollar, what fool would
loan it another dollar to pay its bloated unfunded pensions?
"California City’s Return to Solvency, With Pension Problem Unsolved,"
by Rick Lyman and Mary Williams Walsh, The New York Times, December 3,
Before Detroit filed for bankruptcy, there was
Battered by a collapse in real estate prices, a
spike in pension and retiree health care costs, and unmanageable debt, this
struggling city in the Central Valley has labored for months to find a way
out of Chapter 9. Now having renegotiated its debt with most creditors,
cobbled together layoffs and service cuts and raised the sales tax to 9
percent from 8.25 percent, Stockton is nearly ready to leave court
But what Stockton, along with pretty much every
other city in California that has gone into bankruptcy in recent years,
has not done is address the skyrocketing public pensions that are at the
heart of many of these cases.
“No city wants to take on the state pension system
by itself,” said Stockton’s new mayor, Anthony Silva, referring to the
California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or Calpers. “Every city
thinks some other city will take care of it.”
While a federal bankruptcy judge ruled this week
that Detroit could reduce public pensions to help shed its debts, Stockton
has become an experiment of whether a municipality can successfully come out
of bankruptcy and stabilize its finances without touching pensions. It is an
effort that has come at great cost to city services and one that some
critics say will simply not work once the city starts trying to restore
services and hire 120 police officers it promised to get the sales-tax
“They wanted to get out of bankruptcy in the worst
possible way, and that’s just what they did,” said Dean Andal of the San
Joaquin County Taxpayers Association, which fought the sales-tax increase.
“If they go ahead and hire those new police officers, the city will be back
in insolvency in four years.”
Stockton declared fiscal emergencies in 2010 and
2011, giving it the power to renege on annual pay increases for city
workers. City services were slashed. Hundreds of municipal workers were laid
off. And many retirees who had been promised health coverage for life
learned that they would have to begin paying for it.
“That was the hardest part,” Councilman Elbert
Holman said, “looking people in the eye and telling them sorry, you are
losing your health care, but it’s absolutely necessary.”
By the time the judge found Stockton eligible for
Chapter 9 bankruptcy on April 1, the city had about $147 million in unfunded
pension obligations and about $250 million in debt from various bond issues.
The years of fiscal emergency and bankruptcy have
left their mark, including a skyrocketing crime rate, which city officials
and many residents attribute to staffing and service cuts in the Police
“I suddenly realized a few years ago that, just in
my tiny, two-block neighborhood, there had been 11 residential burglaries in
the previous nine months,” said Marci Walker, an emergency room nurse.
Cities go bankrupt for many reasons: a collapse in
real estate prices, a spike in pension and retiree health care costs, a
burden of debt from expensive city projects. Stockton has experienced all
When real estate prices shot up in Silicon Valley
in the last decade, many commuters decided that Stockton’s cheaper housing
was worth the long commute to the Bay Area. That drove up local housing
prices, so when the bubble burst it had a bigger impact, giving Stockton one
of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates.
City leaders had also gone on a construction spree
during the flush years, building a new sports arena, a minor-league baseball
stadium and a marina. Citizens still bitterly mention the 2006 concert that
opened the arena, where Neil Diamond was paid $1 million to perform.
And through it all, the pension costs for city
workers — particularly for police officers and firefighters, who can retire
early and draw on those pensions for decades — kept going up.
No part of the city has been left unscathed. Ms.
Walker’s comfortable neighborhood near the University of the Pacific campus
was hit with rising crime almost immediately after the police layoffs. “When
the economy got bad and we lost police officers, it all started,” she said.
So she started the Regent Street Neighborhood
Watch, the first of more than 100 such organizations to sprout up in the
city in the last few years.
“We don’t confront anybody, we just let them know
that we know they’re there,” Ms. Walker said. She added, “Criminals do not
like eyeballs on them.”
Continued in article
Off the cuff Governor Brown complained that California has to deal with a
trillion dollars in unfunded pensions (he may have exaggerated). The sad ttruth
is that many of these were fraudulent pensions with criminal amounts (e.g., the
pensions of Bell, California) and absurd early retirement provisions at age 50
City of Bell Scandal ---
Bob Jensen's threads on pension accounting ---
Bob Jensen's threads on the sad state
of governmental accounting ---
Bureaucrats Covering Up for Each Other
"The EPA 'Spy' and Double Standards: Gina McCarthy gets a pass, while
Mark Townsend gets a threat." The Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2014 ---
The official story about the Environmental
Protection Agency fraudster who pretended to work for the CIA has collapsed.
It turns out that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy not only didn't uncover
John Beale's crimes. She helped him collect extra taxpayer money and appears
to have ignored critical evidence of his fraud more than two years before he
left the agency. Meanwhile, in another EPA case, the government has
threatened an employee with prison time for alleged management errors that
appear far less serious than those of Ms. McCarthy.
Faux spy John Beale bilked taxpayers out of almost
$900,000 as he pretended for years to be a CIA agent frequently away on
secret missions. In reality, taxpayers were funding travel and time off from
his job at the EPA. And for years managers including Ms. McCarthy allowed
him to get paid as if he was working full-time at the EPA.
In January 2011 Ms. McCarthy ignored a staff
recommendation to cancel Beale's annual retention bonus. Then in 2012, after
staff informed her that he was still on the payroll after he claimed to have
retired, she waited seven months before referring the matter to the EPA's
general counsel. Yet Democrats like
Senator Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) have praised Ms. McCarthy for her
handling of the Beale disaster.
Now look at how the feds are treating another EPA
manager accused of failing to appropriately document an employee work
schedule. Mark Townsend is a career scientist in the EPA's Office of
Pollution Prevention and Toxics. In July 2012 he received a visit from the
staff of the EPA Inspector General's office. The IG staff wouldn't tell him
the reason for their inquiry but asked about various personnel matters. They
eventually focused on one particular staff scientist and demanded that Mr.
Townsend write out and sign a statement about his management of this
A year later, the Department of Justice threatened
to charge Mr. Townsend with various crimes because he had filled out
electronic time cards attesting that the scientist had been on duty, and had
also signed off on regular summaries of days worked. The scientist whose
time cards the DOJ considered fraudulent had not been at the office.
Continued in article
Update: The DOJ decided to let Mr. Townsend off the hook as well.
Stealing is not a crime in most governmental agencies when it's only taxpayer
Forwarded by Auntie Bev
Ten Things That Will Disappear In Our Lifetime
This is USA oriented, but Canada & the rest
will not be far behind. Whether
these changes are good or bad depends in part on how we adapt to them.
But, ready or not, here they come.
1. The Post Office
Get ready to imagine a world without
the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is
probably no way to sustain it long term. Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have
just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office
alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.
2. The Check
Britain is already laying the
groundwork to do away with check by 2018. It costs the financial system
billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online
transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. This plays
right into the death of the post office. If you never paid your bills
by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would
absolutely go out of business.
3. The Newspaper
The younger generation simply
doesn't read the newspaper. They certainly don't subscribe to a daily
delivered print edition. That may go the way of the milkman and the
laundry man. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it.
The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the
newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met
with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a
model for paid subscription services.
4. The Book
You say you will never give up the
physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages I
said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I wanted my
hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I
could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the
latest music. The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a
bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And
the price is less than half that of a real book. And think of the
convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead
of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see
what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead
of a book.
5. The Land Line Telephone
Unless you have a large family and
make a lot of local calls, you don't need it anymore. Most people keep
it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double
charges for that extra service. All the cell phone companies will let
you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against
This is one of the saddest parts of
the change story. The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just
because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music
being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it.
Greed and corruption is the problem. The record labels and the radio
conglomerates are simply self-destructing. Over 40% of the music
purchased today is "catalog items," meaning traditional music that the
public is familiar with. Older established artists. This is also true
on the live concert circuit. To explore this fascinating and disturbing
topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by
Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."
To the networks are down dramatically. Not
just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed
from their computers. And they're playing games and doing lots of other
things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime
time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common
denominator. Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about
every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I say good riddance to most of it.
It's time for the cable companies to be put out of our misery. Let the
people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.
8. The "Things" That You Own
Many of the very possessions that we
used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in
the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud." Today your computer
has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and
documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always
re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple,
Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud
services." That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet
will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the
Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon,
it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it
will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee
to the cloud provider. In this virtual world, you can access your music
or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device.
That's the good news. But, will you actually own any of this "stuff" or
will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big "Poof?" Will
most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It makes
you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book
from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.
9. Joined Handwriting (Cursive Writing)
Already gone in some schools who no
longer teach "joined handwriting" because nearly everything is done now
on computers or keyboards of some type (pun not intended)
If there ever was a concept that we
can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. That's gone. It's
been gone for a long time anyway.. There are cameras on the street, in
most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell
phone. But you can be sure that 24/7, "They" know who you are and where
you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View.
If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and
your ads will change to reflect those habits.. "They" will try to get
you to buy something else. Again and again.
we will have left that can't be changed are "Memories," but they can fade away
There are other possibilities. Genetic engineering will eliminate many birth
defects and crop defects. Illiteracy will one day be eliminated among athletes
at the University of North Carolina. Dying bodies will be harvested for vast
storehouses of body parts that compete with parts made in factories. More and
more people will follow Colorado's lead on "living high."
One of the last things to go will be cash due to political resistance to
elimination of financial fraud and many other types of crime. But cash will
eventually become fuel for fireplaces.
The USA will soon lose its courage and will to save Democracy at home and
abroad. Democracy, feminism, and law as we know it will give way to global
when King Putin's successors are overthrown:
Democracy and Feminism are Wrong for the World and Belgium is a Test Case ---
Dartmouth College’s radical students threaten “physical action” to get
their way ---
I did not verify all of these many demands. One demand confuses me:
"Ensure that 47 percent of post-doctoral students are
people of color”
Why 47% and does this and their other quota demands satisfy the recent
affirmative action court cases of the U.S. Supreme Court?
I would hope that the Dartmouth Medical School, for example, would admit
post-doctoral residents on the basis of credentials rather than color since
those residents essentially practice medicine in the various departments served
by the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. For example, is a colored medical
school graduate from Ghana to be give priority over a medical school graduate
from Yale simply because of a color quota to be met?
I would be disappointed in Dartmouth's administration if they met these
demands because of fear of "physical action." I don't think this will happen,
because it would set a very unhappy trend of yielding to physical threats to
achieve affirmative action quotas.
Bob Jensen's threads on affirmative action ---
Nobel-Winning Economist Krugman to Leave Princeton for CUNY ---
As long as it has the liberal, albeit less scholarly Alan Blinder, Princeton's
Department of Economics will not be less liberal.
Princeton's Nobel Laureate economist and political activist Paul Krugman is
sometimes known to cherry pick data or even invent data in order to make a
political point ---
Paul Krugman ---
. . .
Krugman's columns have drawn criticism as well as
praise. A 2003 article in The Economist[ questioned Krugman's
"growing tendency to attribute all the world's ills to George Bush," citing
critics who felt that "his relentless partisanship is getting in the way of
his argument" and claiming errors of economic and political reasoning in his
columns. Daniel Okrent, a former The New York Times ombudsman, in his
farewell column, criticized Krugman for what he said was "the disturbing
habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that
pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assault.
"The Missing Data in Krugman’s German Austerity Narrative" Daniel J.
Mitchell, Townhall, February 25, 2014 ---
There’s an ongoing debate about
Keynesian economics, stimulus spending, and
versions of fiscal austerity,
and regular readers know I do everything possible to explain that you can
promote added prosperity by reducing the
burden of government spending.
. . .
But here’s the problem with his article. We know
from the (misleading) examples above
(not quoted here) that he’s complained about
supposed austerity in places such as the United Kingdom and France, so one
would think that the German government must have been more profligate with
the public purse.
After all, Krugman wrote they haven’t “imposed a
lot of [austerity] on themselves.”
So I followed the advice in Krugman’s “public
service announcement.” I didn’t just repeat what people have said. I dug
the data to see what
happened to government spending in various nations.
And I know you’ll be shocked to see that Krugman
was wrong. The Germans have been more frugal (at least in the sense of
increasing spending at the slowest rate) than nations that supposedly are
guilty of “spending cuts.”
From the CPA Newsletter on February 25, 2014
Public pension shortfalls keep building
In recent years, more than 40
states have taken action to bring rising public pension costs under control,
but experts say that in many cases,
politicians have merely deferred costs.
None of the states is eliminating its funding shortfall fast enough to keep
up with an aging workforce.
The New York Times (tiered subscription model)
The percentage of the working-age population in
Illinois that is employed fell by 5.6 percentage points, from 65 percent in
January 2008 to 59.4 percent in December 2013
"What's Behind the Employment Collapse?" Illinois Policy Institute,
February 24, 2014 ---
smaller and smaller percentage of adults are working to support the entire
state population. Why does this matter?
Because a booming economy provides the benefits of
opportunity and upward mobility. But not only that. Growing the number of
taxpayers is essential for funding core government services and
pension bills. The only other tools legislators
have are tax hikes, which have done more to
chase away taxpayers than to fund the government.
The percentage of the working-age population that is
employed fell by 5.6 percentage points, from 65 percent in January 2008 to
59.4 percent in December 2013. This percentage, called the employment ratio,
described by economist Paul Ashworth as the “best
measure of labor market conditions.”
Great Recession hit the jobs market in January 2008. Since then, Illinois
has seen a greater decline in its employment ratio than any other state in
working-age Illinoisans leave the ranks of the employed, they fall into two
categories. The first is the pool of the unemployed. When workers are
discouraged enough to stop looking for work, they leave the labor force
Illinois has 380,000 fewer people employed now than before the recession.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment is still up by
nearly 200,000 people, and at least 185,000 people have given up and left
the labor force.
There is no solution to the state’s fiscal problems
without a booming economy and a growing tax base. Job No. 1 for Springfield
is to create a business-friendly environment. That begins with cuts to the
fourth-highest corporate tax
ninth-highest tax burden nationally.
Reforming the ninth most expensive regulatory system
and the fourth most expensive
system would lead to welcome opportunities for job
Indiana and Michigan have led the Midwest in
pro-jobs labor reforms
by allowing their workers to choose whether or not to
join a union.
Illinois is surrounded by states making positive reforms. It’s time for
officials to get in the game
See more at:
It gets a little more complicated because Illinois is one of the most notorious
states for handing out tax concessions to business corporations. This is not the
best approach in many instances where such concessions can be taken away at any
time or double crossed at any time.
The States Most Dishonestly Hiding Their Debt
"Chart of the Day: Who is Chopping Down the Kids' Cherry Tree?,"
State Data Lab, December 15, 2014 ---
California and Illinois have the most devious accountants.
There's a bit of possible deception here and the chart should probably be
revised to hidden debt on a per capita basis. There's a huge difference in state
populations with Vermont and Wyoming having less than a million people versus
millions of people in the states hiding the most debt. Still I suspect the
outcomes would still look bad for California, Illinois, New York, etc. Most of
the problem lies with tens of billions in unfunded pensions for current and
former state workers, including teachers.
Bob Jensen's threads on pension accounting controversies ---
Bob Jensen's threads on the sad state of governmental accounting ---
"Higher Ed's Illusions Academics think their students are prepared for the
workforce," The Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2014 ---
For years, polling data has shown
that Americans hold the U.S. Congress in low esteem, with the
Members' approval often sinking into the teens. So guess which
American institution is on course to join them? It's our colleges
and universities. Congress at least admits it's doing a poor job.
The colleges don't.
This surprising result emerged
this week in a news report in the Chronicle of Higher Education,
which noted the vast disconnect in two recent surveys on the value
colleges are providing:
"The survey, conducted by Gallup
in partnership with the Lumina Foundation, indicates that just 11%
of business leaders 'strongly agree' that today's graduates have the
skills and competencies that their businesses need. In contrast, a
recent Gallup survey found that 96% of college and university chief
academic officers said they were 'extremely or somewhat confident'
in their institution's ability to prepare students for work-force
As the famous movie line put it,
what we seem to have here is a failure to communicate.
The Gallup-Lumina survey revealed
that 88% of business leaders would like to have more collaboration
with the schools, presumably to help improve the mismatch between
knowledge learned and skills needed.
Among the general population, the
survey found a remarkable amount of common sense. Some 95% think one
needs a certificate or degree beyond high school, and 75% know
employers are looking at the actual skills a college degree confers.
These people understand the realities of the new American workplace.
Whether welding materials or writing code, one needs higher skills.
Asked if higher education institutions need to change to meet these
needs, 89% said yes.
We're going to guess that most
U.S. college administrators aren't as oblivious as that 96%
we're-doing-fine figure suggests. But they do have something in
common with government: Many have become terrible bureaucracies and
hard to change.
A staple of speeches on the
American future is that the U.S. higher-ed system is still the
world's greatest. That may be true. But it's time for these
institutions to recognize they are getting a wake-up call from the
world beyond the ivy-covered walls.
"AAUP Leaders Face Backlash Over Unionization Emphasis," by Peter
Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 26, 2014 ---
Two former presidents of the American Association
of University Professors, Jane L. Buck and Cary Nelson, have put together a
four-member slate of candidates bent on ousting the association’s current
leadership, which they say is too focused on union organizing and neglectful
of its historical mission.
Members of the group challenging the AAUP’s top
officers in the association’s coming national elections call themselves the
Unity Slate. They
argue in a manifesto posted on their Facebook page that those now in charge
of the organization have “sought to divide the association against itself by
creating a false dichotomy” between its union and nonunion chapters, to the
detriment of the latter.
Ms. Buck, who served as the AAUP’s president from
2000 to 2006 and is seeking election to that position once again, argues in
her own candidate statement that the association is making a mistake by
failing to vigorously represent members who do not belong to a unionized
chapter or any chapter at all.
“It would be a tragic loss if we were to weaken our
historic commitment to academic freedom, shared governance, and tenure—a
commitment that distinguishes us from other organizations,” her statement
The four top AAUP officers that the new slate is
easily won office in 2012 as part of a slate
called Organizing for Change and who are now seeking re-election under that
issued statements accusing Ms. Buck and Mr. Nelson
of “falsehood and distortion.” They argue that if there is division within
the AAUP, its source is “the persistent and groundless fear-mongering about
a phony collective-bargaining takeover spread by Buck, Nelson, and their
shrinking group of supporters.”
In an interview on Tuesday,
Rudy H. Fichtenbaum, who is running for
re-election as the AAUP’s president, said the real choice before its members
was whether the association would continue to build a national network of
activist chapters or retreat into being a group focused on running a
Washington office that weighs in on few controversies each year.
Continued in article
Review of the Book: Are Professors Liberal and Why Do
"Self-Fulfilling Professorial Politics," by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher
Education, April 9, 2013 ---
Conspiracy theories abound when it comes to
professors and politics. To hear some conservatives tell it, a
liberal-dominated professoriate attempts to brainwash students and to keep
out of the faculty club any who challenge leftist orthodoxy. Ph.D. programs
in the humanities teach some sort of secret handshake that lets those with
politically correct views land the best jobs. To hear some liberals talk
about it, there is no such thing as a liberal professoriate. Rather, a
well-financed group of conservatives and their foundations use the politics
issue to trash higher education. If there aren't more conservative
professors around, it's because those on the right prefer the world of money
to the world of ideas, and flock to Wall Street.
Neil Gross will disappoint most of the conspiracy
theorists with his new book,
Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care?,
which is being released today by Harvard University
Gross has spent years conducting research --
large-scale national surveys and smaller experiments and focus groups -- on
professorial politics. And the book combines many of his studies, interviews
with players in the debate, and a mix of history and sociology.
From the part of the book title that asks "why are
professors liberal," it's clear that Gross has no problem saying that
faculty members are in fact, on average, to the left of most other
Americans. The degree to which this is true may differ by institution and
discipline, and there are of course plenty of exceptions. But Gross cites
his own past research to show that professors do
indeed lean to the left. But that same research shows that most faculty
members are not as radical as many believe and that there is a large
center-left following in the academy.
Gross himself fits into that group. A professor of
sociology at the University of British Columbia, he notes that he is an
American expat and a Democrat. He writes that he has "very liberal social
attitudes and more center-left views when it comes to issues like government
regulation of the market and criminal justice policy." He writes that he
tried not to let his politics influence his research or the writing here --
and the tone of the book, even when criticizing various ideas, is not
dogmatic or partisan. (In a sign that he succeeded,
The Weekly Standard published a generally
positive review of the book by Mark Bauerlein, an Emory University professor
who has written critically about ideological trends in academe.)
But while Gross doesn't view it as a particularly
difficult question to determine whether professors are disproportionately
liberal, he acknowledges the difficulty of explaining why, and he reviews
various approaches to answering the question. He cites a series of studies
he has done that suggest a self-selection at play in explaining why liberals
are more likely than conservatives to gravitate toward Ph.D. programs that
will lead to the professoriate. (Some of his past work that relates to this
theme may be found
And one way Gross backs up his theory of
self-selection is by analyzing the potential for discrimination in graduate
programs. With colleagues, he conducted an "audit" of graduate programs,
sending off e-mails to graduate directors of programs in a variety of
disciplines, posing as undergraduates looking for the right place to apply.
The messages were similar in describing academic backgrounds, but some
mentioned nothing about politics, while others briefly mentioned past
experience working for either the Obama or McCain campaigns. (This project
was done following the 2008 presidential election.) The idea was to test
whether students might receive more or less encouragement based on their
politics -- and
no bias was found.
While some of the book explains and analyzes these
findings, Gross also considers why the idea of a liberal professoriate is so
powerful with some conservatives. He includes history of the William F.
Buckley critique of professors as liberal and anti-religion, and notes that
much of the frustration has come from people who care about ideas and who
(in the case of Buckley and some of the National Review crowd) can
hardly have been called populists.
But he also notes the strong resonance for many in
the general public with the idea of professors as elite, liberal and
disconnected. While he reviews the extent to which conservative foundations
have funded organizations that have made a big deal out of professorial
politics, he suggests that the views of many people about academics operate
independently of anything David Horowitz said or did.
In an interview, Gross discussed why he sees it as
crucial for academe to have a better handle on issues of faculty politics --
and it's not because it answers critics who say that academe imposes an
ideological litmus test on professors. Rather, he thinks the findings pose
challenges for those across the ideological spectrum.
For those who are conservative, and profess to care
about a partisan imbalance in academe, Gross said, there is the question of
whether their own statements are discouraging young conservatives from going
to graduate school to prepare to become professors. The conservative
undergraduate who reads about alleged liberal academic outrages all the time
may simply come to view academe as a less-than-hospitable employer -- even
if that's not necessarily the case.
But cutting back on the rhetoric may be easier said
than done. "Among some conservatives, opposition to the liberal
professoriate has become part of the identity, part of what it means to be a
conservative," he said.
Perhaps, he said, now could be a time for such a
re-evaluation. After all, some Republican leaders are arguing in the wake of
President Obama's re-election that the party has been hurt by its image of
being intolerant of immigrants and various other groups. "Higher ed is no
less of a high-profile issue than immigration," Gross noted, and many
Republicans have expressed concerns about voting trends (away from the
party) by young voters. If conservatives were to tone down rhetoric about
higher education, he said, they might see more people they agree with try to
Gross acknowledged seeing no signs to date that the
conservatives are moving in this direction.
Continued in article
Bob Jensen's threads on the leaning political tower of higher education in
"The IRS Scandal, Day 294," by Paul Caron, TaxProf Blog, February 27,
"Connecting the Dots in the IRS Scandal The 'smoking gun' in the targeting
of conservative groups has been hiding in plain sight," by Bradley A. Smith,
The Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2014 ---
The mainstream press has justified its lack of
coverage over the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups
because there's been no "smoking gun" tying President Obama to the scandal.
This betrays a remarkable, if not willful, failure to understand abuse of
power. The political pressure on the IRS to delay or deny tax-exempt status
for conservative groups has been obvious to anyone who cares to open his
eyes. It did not come from a direct order from the White House, but it
didn't have to.
First, some background: On Jan. 21, 2010, the
Supreme Court issued its ruling in Citizens United v. FEC upholding the
right of corporations and unions to make independent expenditures in
political races. Then, on March 26, relying on Citizens United, the D.C.
Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the rights of persons (including
corporations) to pool resources for political purposes. This allowed the
creation of "super PACs" as well as corporate contributions to groups
organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code that spend in
The reaction to Citizens United was no secret.
Various news outlets such as CNN noted that "Democrats fear the decision has
given the traditionally pro-business GOP a powerful new advantage."
The 501(c)(4) groups in question are officially
known as "social-welfare organizations." They have for decades been
permitted to engage in political activity under IRS rules, so long as their
primary purpose (generally understood to be less than 50% of their activity)
wasn't political. They are permitted to lobby without limitation and are not
required to disclose their donors. The groups span the political spectrum,
from the National Rifle Association to Common Cause to the Planned
Parenthood Action Fund. If forced out of 501(c)(4) status, these nonprofit
advocacy groups would have to reorganize as for-profit corporations and pay
taxes on donations received, or reorganize as "political committees" under
Section 527 of the IRS Code and be forced to disclose their donors.
Now consider the following events, all of which
were either widely reported, publicly released by officeholders or revealed
later in testimony to Congress. These are the dots the media refuse to
• Jan. 27, 2010: President Obama criticizes
Citizens United in his State of the Union address and asks Congress to
"correct" the decision.
• Feb. 11, 2010: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) says
he will introduce legislation known as the Disclose Act to place new
restrictions on some political activity by corporations and force more
public disclosure of contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations. Mr. Schumer
says the bill is intended to "embarrass companies" out of exercising the
rights recognized in Citizens United. "The deterrent effect should not be
underestimated," he said.
• Soon after, in March 2010, Mr. Obama publicly
criticizes conservative 501(c)(4) organizations engaging in politics. In his
Aug. 21 radio address, he warns Americans about "shadowy groups with
harmless sounding names" and a "corporate takeover of our democracy."
• Sept. 28, 2010: Mr. Obama publicly accuses
conservative 501(c)(4) organizations of "posing as not-for-profit, social
welfare and trade groups." Max Baucus, then chairman of the Senate Finance
Committee, asks the IRS to investigate 501(c)(4)s, specifically citing
Americans for Job Security, an advocacy group that says its role is to "put
forth a pro-growth, pro-jobs message to the American people."
• Oct. 11, 2010: Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) asks
the IRS to investigate the conservative 501(c)(4) Crossroads GPS and "other
• April 2011: White House officials confirm that
Mr. Obama is considering an executive order that would require all
government contractors to disclose their donations to politically active
organizations as part of their bids for government work. The proposal is
later dropped amid opposition across the political spectrum.
• Feb. 16, 2012: Seven Democratic senators— Michael
Bennet (Colo.), Al Franken (Minn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Mr. Schumer, Jeanne
Shaheen (N.H.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)—write to the
IRS asking for an investigation of conservative 501(c)(4) organizations.
• March 12, 2012: The same seven Democrats write
another letter asking for further investigation of conservative 501(c)(4)s,
claiming abuse of their tax status.
• July 27, 2012: Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) writes
one of several letters to then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman seeking a
probe of nine conservative groups, plus two liberal and one centrist
organization. In 2013 testimony to the HouseOversight and Government Reform
Committee, former IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller describes Sen. Levin
as complaining "bitterly" to the IRS and demanding investigations.
• Aug. 31, 2012: In another letter to the IRS, Sen.
Levin calls its failure to investigate and prosecute targeted organizations
• Dec. 14, 2012: The liberal media outlet
ProPublica receives Crossroads GPS's 2010 application for tax-exempt status
from the IRS. Because the group's tax-exempt status had not been recognized,
the application was confidential. ProPublica publishes the full application.
It later reports that it received nine confidential pending applications
from IRS agents, six of which it published. None of the applications was
from a left-leaning organization.
• April 9, 2013: Sen. Whitehouse convenes the
Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism to examine nonprofits. He
alleges that nonprofits are violating federal law by making false statements
about their political activities and donors and using shell companies to
donate to super PACs to hide donors' identities. He berates Patricia Haynes,
then-deputy chief of Criminal Investigation at the IRS, for not prosecuting
• May 10, 2013: Sen. Levin announces that the
Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will hold hearings on "the IRS's
failure to enforce the law requiring that tax-exempt 501(c)(4)s be engaged
exclusively in social welfare activities, not partisan politics." Three days
later he postpones the hearings when Lois Lerner (then-director of the IRS
Exempt Organizations Division) reveals that the IRS had been targeting and
delaying the applications of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt
• Nov. 29, 2013: The IRS proposes new rules
redefining "political activity" to include activities such as
voter-registration drives and the production of nonpartisan legislative
scorecards to restrict what the agency deems as excessive spending on
campaigns by tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups. Even many liberal nonprofits argue
that the rule goes too far in limiting their political activity—but the main
target appears to be the conservative 501(c)(4)s that have so irritated
• Feb. 13, 2014: The Hill newspaper reports that
"Senate Democrats facing tough elections this year want the Internal Revenue
Service to play a more aggressive role in regulating outside groups expected
to spend millions of dollars on their races."
In 1170, King Henry II is said to have cried out,
on hearing of the latest actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, "Will no
one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four knights then murdered the
archbishop. Many in the U.S. media still willfully refuse to see anything
connecting the murder of the archbishop to any actions or abuse of power by
Mr. Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, is
chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics.
Bob Jensen's Fraud Updates are at
"Is New York’s Charter-School Era Waning?" by Derek Kravitz, The
New Yorker, November 18, 2013 ---
At Harlem Success Academy 5, one of the newest in
the expanding network of New York City charter schools, students can earn
“scholar dollars” by staying on their best behavior, turning in assignments
on time, and getting good grades. In the school store, students can use
these scholar dollars to purchase, among other items, candy (thirty scholar
dollars), temporary tattoos (forty-five), and a trip to a nearby Chuck E.
Cheese’s (six hundred).
“They are going to be competing for spaces in
colleges and universities across the country,” Khari Shabazz, the principal
of Success Academy’s fifth Harlem location, told me. “Coming from the
socio-economic background that they’re coming from, it’s important to learn
to be competitive. And none of us work for free.”
Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City has
become a powerful incubator for the charter-school movement. The number of
charter schools citywide has grown from seventeen in 2002 to a hundred and
eighty-three this year. Charter schools now represent an unorthodox second
school system where several Wall Street hedge-fund managers sit on boards of
directors. (Success is the city’s largest charter network, with twenty-two
schools.) Many charters are housed in the same buildings as public schools.
The city’s charter schools enroll six per-cent of New York City’s 1.1
million students; that figure is more than twenty per cent in areas of
Harlem and the Bronx. Now, though, with Bill de Blasio’s incoming
administration talking about capping the number of new charter schools, that
pro-charter era could be waning.
Charter schools are independently run but receive
funding from the New York City Board of Education, along with other city,
state, and federal monies—roughly thirteen thousand five hundred dollars per
student last year. Charter schools housed (or “co-located”) in public-school
buildings don’t have to pay for rent, utilities, janitorial services, or
school-safety officials. (Charter schools not housed with public schools
The public-private connections can be tangled: the
C.E.O. of Success Academy, Eva Moskowitz, sat on the City Council with de
Blasio for four years in the mid-aughts; Moskowitz chaired the body’s
education committee, of which de Blasio was a member, before founding
Success Academy, in 2006. But de Blasio, a vocal supporter of teachers’
unions, has said that he would end free rent for some co-located charter
schools. At a June forum, when asked about the existing rent-free
agreements, de Blasio said, pointedly, “There is no way in hell that Eva
Moskowitz should get free rent, O.K.?”
Moskowitz told me that she was surprised when de
Blasio invoked her name. “It doesn’t seem mayoral to be personalizing things
in that way,” she told me in a recent interview. She added, “I’d prefer,
everything else being equal, not to be the punching bag for anyone.”
Since then, Moskowitz has waged a very public fight
against de Blasio’s charter-school rent plan. In September, she published an
op-ed in the New York Post titled “BILL DE BLASIO'S WAR ON GOOD SCHOOLS,”
and, last month, she helped to stage a massive rally at which seventeen
thousand people marched across Brooklyn Bridge.
The fight has to do with a philosophical
disagreement about the role of charter schools in the New York City school
system. Critics say that they pull far too much money away from needy public
schools, and that they lack the oversight which applies to traditional
public schools; supporters say the public-education system is outdated,
broken, and in need of an alternative.
At Success, the school year is ten months longs and
the school days stretch from 7:45 A.M. to 5 P.M. for those in fifth grade or
higher. Students are encouraged to talk as much as possible. (“We’re not big
on hand-raising here,” Moskowitz said.)
Parents with children in kindergarten, first, or
second grade sign a contract saying that they will read to them for an hour
each night and keep a log tracking their progress. Recently, a science class
examined the engineering principles behind the Brooklyn Bridge, and a math
class next door used building blocks to teach students abstract
This model has been popular with parents. Last
year, Harlem Success Academy 5 (better known as Harlem 5) received two
thousand six hundred and sixty-five applications for a hundred and
twenty-five open seats. That's an acceptance rate of 4.7 per cent, lower
than that of any Ivy League university. Like all New York City charter
schools, Success-school administrators select students through a random
The city’s most well-known charter schools also
have remarkably high test scores, although it’s hard to make
apples-to-apples comparisons. Last year, sixty-four per cent of Harlem 5’s
third graders passed the state English exam and eighty-eight per cent passed
the state math exam. At P.S. 123, the Mahalia Jackson School, which is
located in the same school building as Success, only eighteen per cent of
students passed the English test and only five per cent passed the math
test. (Citywide, charter-school students outperformed students in
traditional schools in math but were slightly behind in English, according
to state-exam data from last year.)
De Blasio’s team told me that the mayor-elect
doesn’t want to get rid of charter schools altogether. Rather, he plans to
reverse many of the bolder changes that Bloomberg made, including closing
more than a hundred and sixty low-performing public schools and stressing
the use of report cards and data to rate teachers and schools. De Blasio’s
most headline-grabbing proposal thus far has been to expand public education
through a tax on New Yorkers who make more than five hundred thousand
dollars a year, which would pay for citywide pre-kindergarten.
De Blasio and his advisers are still figuring out
how much rent to charge well-funded charter schools, his transition team
told me. “It would depend on the resources of the charter school or charter
network,” he told WNYC, in early October. “Some are clearly very, very well
resourced and have incredible wealthy backers. Others don’t. So my simple
point was that programs that can afford to pay rent should be paying rent.”
(In an October debate with the Republican candidate Joseph Lhota, he put it
more bluntly: “I simply wouldn’t favor charters the way Mayor Bloomberg did
because, in the end, our city rises or falls on our traditional public
On the surface, many of the better-funded charter
schools appear to be doing well financially. Success Academy Charter School
Inc. had more than eight and a half million dollars in savings and temporary
cash investments in 2012, and it spent at least 1.3 million dollars on
outreach and consulting services (which, Success officials say, is critical
to educating parents about charter schools), according to a tax filing last
year. But Moskowitz says that she runs deficits at most of her schools, and
that the imposition of rent would devastate the charter-school network’s
budget, potentially resulting in cuts to teacher and administrator salaries,
special-education services, books and other supplies, and would increase
Many of those who oppose charter-school expansion
point to the extra financial backing that they get from wealthy private
donors. Success Academy, for instance, was started by Moskowitz and two
hedge-fund managers, Joel Greenblatt and John Petry. (Success officials say
that parent associations at schools in affluent neighborhoods, like Park
Slope and the Upper East Side, don’t face the same scrutiny when it comes to
Continued in article
"Mayor de Blasio Kicks 700 Kids Out of Over-Performing Schools," by Michael
Schaus, Townhall, March 2, 2014 ---
I don't know why analysts are so down on the free public schools run by the
teachers unions in New York City. Over 90% the children in all those union-run
schools are earning an A or B grade averages.
There's nothing at all wrong with NYC schools --- they're all doing a
Wow: 97% of Elementary NYC Public Students Get A or B Grades ---
"City Schools May Get Fewer A’s (and more Bs)," by Jennifer Medina, The New
York Times, January 28, 2010
I'm a big fan of the AMT and hope that it will become even more taxing in future
tax reforms. The AMT should also apply to giant corporations like GE AND
Starbucks that pay almost no corporate income taxes.
"Beware the Stealth Tax: How to Minimize the Damage of the Alternative
Minimum Tax," by Laura Saunders, The Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2014
Lee Linton never dreamed he would owe the
alternative minimum tax, a levy first imposed nearly 50 years ago to keep
the wealthy from overusing tax breaks.
"I thought the AMT was for people with stock
options or fancy tax moves," says the 55-year-old utility engineer, who
lives in Crystal River, Fla. "But I'm single and take the standard
Yet when Mr. Linton recently figured his 2013
taxes, he owed $3,000 of AMT on top of his regular tax bill—probably because
he took $90,000 of capital gains last year in rearranging his portfolio for
retirement. He says his marginal tax rate on the sale topped 27%, nearly
double the 15% rate he expected to pay on his long-term capital gains.
"If I had seen it coming, I would have spread the
sale over two years," Mr. Linton says. Now he is warning friends that "the
AMT isn't just a tax for the 1%."
Indeed it isn't. According to estimates by the Tax
Policy Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, the alternative
minimum tax will raise about $26 billion from four million taxpayers in
2013, nearly two-thirds of them with incomes between $200,000 and $500,000
(see chart on this page).
(Bar chart not shown here)
The average AMT paid by those subject to it was
$7,212 in 2011, according to the most recent data from the Internal Revenue
The levy these taxpayers face is one that National
Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson calls "a Rube Goldberg contraption of
unnecessary complexity." In essence, it is a flat tax that rescinds valuable
benefits, such as deductions and exemptions, and eliminates the benefit of
lower brackets in the regular tax.
Taxpayers have to figure their tax under both the
AMT and regular systems and, if the AMT exceeds the regular tax, pay the
Years ago, say experts, the AMT was typically owed
by wealthy investors or executives who had benefited from breaks for
incentive stock options, accelerated depreciation on assets, intangible
drilling costs and the like.
But not now. Lawmakers enacted adjustments that
prevented 28 million new taxpayers from owing AMT for 2013 in last year's
fiscal-cliff legislation. But they didn't undo the effects of many earlier
years of inflation that still pulls in many others, says Roberton Williams,
a Tax Policy Center expert.
As a result, the AMT now applies to eight times as
many taxpayers as it did 20 years ago, and common AMT "triggers" often are
less esoteric than in the past. "They can be as simple as having three or
more children, taking a large capital gain, or—especially—deducting state
and local taxes," says Dave Kautter, managing director at American
University's Kogod Tax Center, who studies the AMT.
Some taxpayers, like Mr. Linton, are blindsided by
the AMT because of this expansion. Others don't see it coming because the
levy's impact is unpredictable, the result of odd interactions between two
utterly different systems.
Larry Gottlieb, an 83-year-old retired pathologist
in Madison, Wis., says he will owe AMT for the first time this year. It will
add $900 to his regular tax bill, even though virtually all his income is
from an individual retirement account and his modest deductions have changed
little since last year.
"My frustration is, I can't figure out what
triggered it," he says.
For taxpayers struggling with the AMT, there is
some good news: Congress's top tax-policy makers—House Ways & Means
Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee
Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Ore.)—both advocate ending the levy, and AMT repeal
is included in Rep. Camp's tax-overhaul proposal, which he released
But that could be long in coming, especially as
lawmakers will need to make up lost revenue from elsewhere. Until then, here
is what taxpayers need to know about the AMT to help minimize or even avoid
What's the rate?
The AMT's rate isn't always what it is advertised
to be, and neither is the exemption. Its top nominal rate is 28%, and the
2013 exemption is $80,800 of AMT income for married couples filing jointly
($51,900 for single filers).
But taxpayers should take those numbers with a
grain of salt. Because the AMT's exemption phases out starting at $156,500
for couples and $117,300 for singles, a taxpayer's marginal rate can be 35%
during the phaseout.
"This can be a trap for people who assume their AMT
rate will be 28%," Kogod's Mr. Kautter says. Once the phaseout is complete,
the taxpayer may return to a 28% AMT rate or re-enter the regular tax
Taxpayers also should be aware that "AMT income,"
and therefore the AMT exemption, often bears little relation to figures
appearing elsewhere on the tax return, such as adjusted gross income or
taxable income, because the AMT is a separate system with a different
definition of income.
Some write-offs are more equal than others.
The AMT allows some deductions, clips others and
disallows others entirely.
Deductions allowed by the AMT include charitable
contributions and mortgage interest—but not home-equity-loan interest, with
Curtailed deductions in 2013 include some medical
and dental expenses normally allowed for people over 65, plus a variety of
business items, such as depreciation and net operating losses, that are
postponed until later years.
Disallowed deductions include those for state and
local taxes, plus miscellaneous items such as unreimbursed travel expenses
and investment fees.
Experts say that high state and local taxes are one
of the most important AMT triggers for many people, either alone or in
combination with others. High-tax states tend to have the highest
percentages of AMT taxpayers (see chart on this page). A small consolation
for this large deduction loss is that often all or part of a state tax
refund isn't taxable under the AMT, either.
For a full list of AMT "preferences," as the
disallowed benefits are called, see
IRS Form 6251 and its
There's nothing standard about the standard
Taxpayers who don't itemize their deductions
separately on Schedule A typically claim the standard deduction instead. For
2013, it is $12,200 for married couples and $6,100 for single filers.
But the standard deduction is disallowed under the
AMT. Thus Mr. Kautter advises AMT payers who usually take it to see whether
they could save tax by itemizing deductions such as mortgage interest and
charitable contributions on Schedule A—even if the total comes to less than
the standard deduction would.
"It could be the difference between getting a
partial deduction and none at all," he says.
The AMT is family-unfriendly.
For 2013, each personal and dependent exemption is
worth $3,900 under the regular tax. (A dependent is typically your child or
someone you support by paying more than half their expenses.) Under the AMT,
these deductions aren't allowed.
While family size obviously shouldn't be determined
by the AMT, experts say that taxpayers with large families should remember
they are more likely to owe the tax than others, especially if they have
Beware of investment income.
Long-term capital gains aren't a formal trigger for
the AMT, and long-term gains and qualified dividends remain taxed at lower
rates even for AMT taxpayers. And no, the AMT doesn't limit the use of
But taxpayers shouldn't ignore the potential for
investment income to act as an informal AMT trigger.
Continued in article
I'm a big fan of the AMT and hope that it will become even more taxing in future
tax reforms. The AMT should also apply to giant corporations like GE AND
Starbucks that pay almost no corporate income taxes.
"G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether," by David
Kocieniewski, The New York Times, March 31, 2011 ---
General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation,
had a very good year in 2010.
The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2
billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the
Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed
a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.
That may be hard to fathom for the millions of
American business owners and households now preparing their own returns, but
low taxes are nothing new for G.E. The company has been cutting the
percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for
years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies.
Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive
strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting
that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax
department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels,
is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s
slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes
former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and
virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.
While General Electric is one of the most skilled
at reducing its tax burden, many other companies have become better at this
as well. Although the top corporate tax rate in the United States is 35
percent, one of the highest in the world, companies have been increasingly
using a maze of shelters, tax credits and subsidies to pay far less.
In a regulatory filing just a week before the
Japanese disaster put a spotlight on the company’s nuclear reactor business,
Continued in article
Bob Jensen's taxation helpers ---
Mental Health Insurance and Elimination of Preconditions Requirements Will
Just Have to Wait until
There's too much worry about election outcomes (especially Presidential election
in 2016) and unemployment