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Eamonn

A Taxing Situation

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While it is still nascent, and a long shot, I will not be overly surprised if the drive for a rewritten constitution comes to fruition.

 

Well, THAT would probably be a complete disaster.

 

some kind of control on judges that make politically skewed decisions against the will of the people and not based on solid law.

 

I'm sure this would be a complete disaster also. The Lovings would be in prison, for one thing.

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I wouldn't have a problem with paying increased taxes if I actually got something for it! What's wrong with wanting the government to use the money we pay them via taxes for needed things! Raises are not needed things! Road repair, new text books, etc. In essence, as taxpayers, we are their employers. If they aren't doing the correct thing with our money, we shouldn't be re-electing this bozos! The real problem lies with not enough people taking their right to vote seriously.

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I think, Ed, the real problem is that MORE people exercised their right to vote. Whether they understood the issues and consequences or not. Whatever you think of Hannity, his "man on the street" interviews are eye-opening. Simple questions like "who did you vote for President" (Obama). "Who is the Vice President" (blank stare). "Who is Pelosi" (WHO?)...what does "cap and trade" mean (never heard of it). "Do you think everyone should have free health care?" (Sure) "How about free dental" (Sure) "How about free child care and transportation" (uh, yeah, I guess so)...

 

And these people have decided our future. Truly frightening.

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Ed, I can agree to a point but then we get to the real issue of where is the money going? I think a lot of times, if people better understood the budget, they'd complain less.

 

About raises. Well I guess one can argue they're not needed for a lot of folks on the higher end of the pay scale. On the other hand, there are MANY state employees, ranging from the folks who pave the roads to many of the folks teaching your kids in public schools/universities, who are not paid a glamorous salary. Not all of them, mind you, but a lot of them. They do not deserve to see their already modest salaries eaten away by cost of living increases, to the point where they could make a better living working at BOrders or Starbucks. There are people teaching full time at the public university where I work, people with PhDs mind you, who make less than $30,000/year. Yes, they could use a raise.

 

I guess this is a sore spot for me. Recently, many state universities in MI announced tuition hikes. Most were small, 3-5%. But this was not the first time in recent years that tuitions have gone up. There was a hue and cry about this. Newspaper editorials, letters to the editor, angry legislators, etc. And yes, our students are struggling to pay the bills and stay in college, but where do people think our schools get the money to operate?

 

What is news to a lot of angry taxpayers and a lot more angry parents of college kids, is that the state has either cut or failed to increase funding for its 15 state universities for practically all of the last 10 years. The percentage of state university budgets that is paid for by state aid has steadily declined (and this isn't just in my state, but a nationwide trend), meaning that the difference has to come from somewhere else - which turns out to be student tuition dollars.

 

Meantime, cost of operating has not held steady and certainly hasn't dropped. At the school where I work, faculty and staff members have been laid off or cut back to part time. People have given back scheduled raises and other perks. And of course, students (and their parents) increasingly expect dormitories that resemble luxury hotel suites and rec centers that rival elite private clubs - not just at the state's flagship campuses, either.

 

Looking at other schools, I'm sure you've seen that many K-12 schools are no longer offering summer school because it is too expensive. Locally, schools in our area have cut their bus routes back (some got rid of busing entirely and left it up to the parent to figure out how to get junior to the school they built on the edge of town). They've cut music, art, and other extracurriculars, increased fees for sports, reduced field trips, laid off teachers, cut janitorial services, increased class sizes, stopped buying textbooks and other supplies, and left the lights off in the classrooms during the school day.

 

Now beyond schools, I live in a state where the roads are literally falling apart because 10 years ago, our then-governor stopped funding bridge and highway repairs in order to give a "deserved" tax cut to folks! We are consistently rated in the top ten of "bad roads" in the country as a result. Thank goodness for the stimulus money, which is funding some much-needed repairs. I have lived and traveled in a number of states, including yours Ed, and I've never been anywhere with roads as bad as Michigan.

 

Again locally, some towns have closed or cut back hours at public libraries because there isn't enough money to operate them. I think that's a mark that we've really gone down the wrong path. Free libraries are a sign of a society that values access to information and culture for all. I guess we aren't that kind of society any more.

 

So sure, get mad. Be upset that governments don't always use tax dollars efficiently. But cutting more money from the budget to punish somebody really only results in punishing yourself, and all of the other citizens of your state too. I don't like taxes very much but I'd gladly pay more, in return for services that matter to me.

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Lisa;

 

You hit the nail pretty squarely. In Ca, the initiative process has severely damaged things too, as many of them were passed without thinking about how they would be paid. Of course, we also have more severe problems with illegal immigrants than much of the country, in that many of our laws allow them to receive services, even though they are here illegally. While most people understand that they do pay some taxes, they do not feel that offsets the cost of the services.

 

There are no easy answers. But somehow we need to find solutions, or we will definitely find ourselves truly on a par with many less fortunate areas of the world. Obviously, some part of this will mean accepting reality.

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Yeah I love California. I use them as an example of how direct democracy (everybody gets to vote directly on policies) can be problematic sometimes. Voters get to require more and more and more services via referendum without a thought for how to pay for them, then they get all upset whenever anybody in the legislature talks about taxes and fee hikes to cover those mandated services. It's nuts. It only works if everybody is well informed and responsible, and we all know that's not the case. Politicians get the blame too though; how often do we hear folks from either party really explaining the trade offs and true costs of desired policies? At least Ah-nold tried that not so long ago but now everybody is mad at him! Go figure.

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What is news to a lot of angry taxpayers and a lot more angry parents of college kids, is that the state has either cut or failed to increase funding for its 15 state universities for practically all of the last 10 years.

 

Yah, no question your state is gettin' hammered, Lisabob. A state that's having its tax base evaporate is inevitably goin' to be taking big cuts.

 

Here's da thing for the rest of the nation, though. Tuition and funding for higher education overall have been outpacing inflation for decades now on the national scene. I can understand that zero increase or decrease is bad, but a lot of what's happenin' that way right now is the result of increases that were way too high for many years. Yeh can't expect people to forever devote a larger portion of their income to higher ed. Eventually they run out of money. And yeh can't expect all the rest of the citizenry to keep ponying up greater-than-inflation increases either, eh? Eventually they run out of money, too.

 

The attitude durin' up cycles always seems to be "get everything you can" rather than "plan for sustainable operations."

 

Now maybe direct democracy governance can be blamed for that in CA. But what's the excuse of professionals in higher ed administration?

 

Beavah

 

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Dunno Beavah, I am (thankfully) not one of them. And I have seen enough bad management to be sympathetic to what you are saying. Probably anybody working in higher ed has seen the same.

 

My point, though, was that we take a lot of things for granted as citizens of a state. We want, want, want but then on the flip side, we feel we "deserve" a tax cut! Can't have it both ways, at least not in the long term. That, to me, is why the Republican party (in the last 20 years or so) deserves the label "borrow & spend Republicans." They've led a lot of people astray. At least (some) Democrats are a little more up-front - hey, you want that? Great, somebody's gonna pay for it through taxes ! Then it just becomes a question of who that "somebody" should be.

 

Now Obama, I think he figured out a way to have the best of both worlds. You want this and that and the other thing, great, the wealthy can pay for it. We can argue about whether that will work, but I kinda don't blame him for trying. You can't win elections by telling people straight up that their taxes are going to increase if they vote for you. I think the last national candidate of note to try that was Mondale.

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I am often frustrated by public education being the sacred cow in budget cuts. Here in Iowa, the govenor has said that education will face no cuts but everything else will. Judiciary has been cut to the point some counties cannot hold court sessions! There are almost no court reporters left.

At the same time, here in our town of 60,000, our school superintendent is one of the highest paid in the region, more than even Omaha which is many times larger! I do not advocate cutting teacher's pay, but do we need all those administrators? Our bus routes here allow rides for anything over a mile.

We, as a family, have had to cut back on so much over the last year, but our government will not do the same.

Sometimes budget cuts hurt, but we cannot afford everything.

 

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The problem with looking at everything through one lens is that we become myopic and don't consider other causes and effects. For instance, as mentioned, tuition rate increases certainly outpaced the rate of inflation over the past 15 to 20 years or so - but if we only look at this through the lens of the put upon taxpayer, we come to the conclusion that the tuition increases are the result of an out of control administration and demands made by faculty/staff unions.

 

Yet if we become serious about looking at other factors in to account, the boogieman of out of control spending starts to go away. Lisa mentioned one cause - an expectation over the past ten years or so of more elaborate housing, more services in housing, etc. Twenty years ago, people were happy with a basic concrete block walled box with two beds, two desks and two closets, and hopefully enough outlets to plug in a refrigerator, hot plate/microwave, a couple of lamps, and a stereo. Ten years ago, the desks needed to be bigger, the beds more comfortable, the walls less institutional, and phone, cable and internet connectivity was required, with even more outlets to plug in televisions and computers. Now, students are expecting WiFi in all the dorm rooms and every common area on campus, and are expecting instant notification on problems on campuses with daytime populations the size of suburbs of Chicago.

 

Let's also not forget that 20 years ago, the precentage of high school graduates planning on going to college was much, much smaller than it is today. Taking into account the much larger number of students today, the tuition rate may not seem as bad - sure, it may have outpaced the rate of inflation, but likely has barely kept up with the number of students. There are consequences for increased number of students - and one of those is increased expenses, which need to be paid for somehow.

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"You want this and that and the other thing, great, the wealthy can pay for it."

 

So, who decides what "wealthy" is? I've heard six different definitions since the start of the campaign. Everyone always thinks "wealthy" is anyone making more than them. Well, the reality is, everyone is going to be hit. You tax the small businessman, he will just lay off people to compensate...if he can stay in business at all.

 

Yes, I am relatively "well off". I was born to a Navy Enlisted man and stay at home mom. We didn't have much, but I didn't notice. I went to college (state school and lived at home) and got a Masters all on my OWN nickel, while working a "part time" job of 38 hrs a week. I had two kids and my wife stayed home to raise them while I worked a "white collar", but entry level state job (I thought I was rich when I broke 5 figures). We sacrificed to do it...no new cars, no cable TV, no eating out. If cell phones had been invented, we wouldn't have had them either. We saved for our kids educations and with help from my parents' meager inheritance, I sent them both to college WITHOUT the benefit of any financial aid. Since then, I have doubled up on my retirement savings, only to see half of it evaporate in the last year. And now, OBAMA and PELOSI want to take what I have left and "redistribute" it to those who won't work and have 6 illegitimate kids all with different last names??? I'm sorry, but I am OUTRAGED. Nobody ever gave me a DIME. And yes, I give liberally to charity...but that's MY BUSINESS...not yours, not the Liberals (most of whom don't have any "skin" in the game anyway), not the GOVERNMENT's, and NOBODY has a God-given right to the fruits of MY labor and sacrifice, unless I consent to it. And THAT's in the Constitution.(This message has been edited by scoutldr)

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scoutldr, I get that you're outraged but I am a little puzzled. When did Pelosi and/or Obama say they wanted to take away your retirement savings?

 

 

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That "wealth redistribution" thing that got them elected. I realize that my loss was due to the stock market crash, and being a good Conservative, I take full responsibility for that risk-taking and don't want nor expect a "bailout" from my fellow citizens. I'd just like to hang on to what's left so I can support myself when I'm too old and sick to work. Self-sufficiency, ya know? It's a wonderful concept. ;-)

 

(I do feel better now, thanks.)

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Glad you're feeling better.

 

Honestly, I don't know that it was the "wealth redistribution thing" as you phrase it, that got Obama elected. I think there was a whole lot of other stuff going on, ranging from a deep anger at the Republican party (even within their own base), concerns about McCain's age + Palin's readiness and both of their temperaments, Obama's gift for public speaking, and a positive tone to Obama's campaign. I know many of my students - even the ones who didn't like Obama - felt that his "yes we can" message, while perhaps short on specifics, was at least an improvement over the incessant negativity of so many other politicians.

 

Then too, the economy was in free fall, the war in Iraq had never been less popular, and trust in Bush's alleged "leadership" was at an all time low. Take almost any Democratic presidential candidate in the last 20 years and practically any of them would have had an excellent chance of winning in that climate.

 

THe only people I know who chalk up Obama's win to "wealth redistribution" and such are the Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck types, who use the scary "socialist" boogey man argument to boost their audience ratings.

 

 

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Let's also not forget that 20 years ago, the precentage of high school graduates planning on going to college was much, much smaller than it is today. Taking into account the much larger number of students today, the tuition rate may not seem as bad - sure, it may have outpaced the rate of inflation, but likely has barely kept up with the number of students.

 

Yah, hmmmm....

 

I reckon there's a law of economics missing in that somewhere. Usually having more customers allows you better economies of scale by filling up your classes and distributing fixed costs among a larger pool of people. It would be really odd if havin' more students increased da per-student costs.

 

But I suppose that's higher education for yeh! :)

 

I'm with Lisabob, eh? I reckon California's plight is just a small version of da nation's. Vote yourself benefits, and vote yourself low taxes. The borrow-and-spend routine that's ramped up over the past 8 years to hit a maximum this year as we bail out all of those wonderful private-enterprise risk takers.

 

Problem is, that urge to borrow and spend can be exploited by the dishonorable as a darn effective wealth redistribution scheme. Rob from the average middle-class taxpayer and give to the wealthy. Multiple times! Crash his investments, crash his home value, reduce his job prospects, devalue his currency, sell him worthless companies, saddle him with a share of the national debt, and send his sons into harm's way without adequate support.

 

I reckon dat's the only "wealth redistribution" that's been goin' on and that's worth worryin' about.

 

Beavah

 

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