The New York Times’ own wacky Tom Friedman *UPDATED*

This is the cozy mansion New York Times‘ columnist Tom Friedman calls home:

thomas_friedman_house

Judging by its size, it probably has a carbon footprint roughly equal to a small nation’s:

As the July edition of the Washingtonian Magazine notes, Friedman lives in “a palatial 11,400-square-foot house, now valued at $9.3 million, on a 7½-acre parcel just blocks from I-495 and Bethesda Country Club.” He “married into one of the 100 richest families in the country” – the Bucksbaums, whose real-estate Empire is valued at $2.7 billion.

Heating and cleaning the pool alone probably consume enough energy to power a factory.  The picture above is somewhat out of date, so things may have changed, but I’ll note that Friedman’s solar panels are, well, conspicuously absent.

All of which makes it screamingly funny when Friedman, after a first paragraph so profoundly ignorant its laughable (I’ll get back to it later), offers the following idea as a means for the Tea Partiers to gain the New York Times‘ seal of approval:

But should the Tea Partiers actually aspire to break out of that range, attract lots of young people and become something more than just entertainment for Fox News, I have a suggestion:

Become the Green Tea Party.

I’d be happy to design the T-shirt logo and write the manifesto. The logo is easy. It would show young Americans throwing barrels of oil imported from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia into Boston Harbor.

The manifesto is easy, too: “We, the Green Tea Party, believe that the most effective way to advance America’s national security and economic vitality would be to impose a $10 “Patriot Fee” on every barrel of imported oil, with all proceeds going to pay down our national debt.”

Friedman is right that America shouldn’t be dependent on foreign oil, but he seems to have forgotten that it’s his own party (and his own paper) that has made it virtually impossible for America (a) to drill, (b) to process oil shale or (c) to produce meaningful nuclear power.  Instead, he’s hooked his wagon to solar and wind energy, both of which are incapable of servicing America’s energy needs.  This means that Friedman wants to make us economically suffer by taxing us even more, without enabling us to have any viable energy alternatives.  (He also thinks a carbon tax is a hunky dory idea.)

A $10 a barrel tax  and a carbon tax may be irrelevant to a man living off of “one of the 100 richest families in the country,” but it will destroy America’s industry and, frankly, every thing else but for her wealthiest class.  In other words, Friedman has neatly spelled out the recipe for an economic meltdown similar to Zimbabwe’s and one that will leave the same outcome:  a poverty stricken nation, centered around a small, fabulously wealthy (and, inevitably, corrupt) ruling class.  We already know which niche Friedman has carved out for himself.

But really, what can one expect from a man who shows his profound ignorance and sneering disdain for America — not to mention his shallow intellectual dilettantism — in his very first paragraph.  (See, I promised I’d get back to it.) I usually wait until deep within my posts to sound this stupid:

I’ve been trying to understand the Tea Party Movement. Sounds like a lot of angry people who want to get the government out of their lives and cut both taxes and the deficit. Nothing wrong with that — although one does wonder where they were in the Bush years. Never mind. I’m sure like all such protest movements the Tea Partiers will get their 10 to 20 percent of the vote.

That paragraph has just got everything one would expect from someone living and work in the one of the ritziest, and most liberal, parts of the world.  In mere sentences, we get oozing condescension for the foolish, impenetrable masses; contempt for the anger that sees people taking to the street, Constitutions in hand, protesting a rapacious federal government; and, of course, the inevitable attack on George Bush.

As to that last point (“where the heck were they during the Bush presidency?”) I think this simple chart is a good starting point for explaining where these same frustrated (as opposed to angry) people were before Obama; or, more accurately, why they weren’t taking to the street to protest government overreach:

usgs_line.php

Need I say more?  No, I don’t think so.

UPDATE:  Turns out — no big shock here — that Friedman’s not the only green colored hypocrite.

Giving the Democrats more power in California — is that what we really want?

A friend emailed me with a question about an initiative poised for California’s November ballot, called the “Simple Majority” initiative.  I’ll let the Wall Street Journal explain:

Two groups are pushing ballot initiatives they say would purge that chaos from Sacramento’s budget process. A bipartisan group, California Forward, is pushing a reform to let legislators pass budgets by a simple majority instead of the current two-thirds threshold. Repair California, which is affiliated with a pro-business group, is gathering support to hold a constitutional convention to rewrite state laws. Such a convention could alter the budget process and other facets of governance in California.

The recession has pinched state budgets across the nation, prompting legislatures to enact tax increases and spending cuts. California has an especially tough time solving its fiscal woes because it is one of only three states that require at least two-thirds of its state legislators to approve a spending plan. That means budget negotiations usually stall as Democrats, who make up 64% of California’s legislature, struggle to win Republican votes.

[snip]

California Forward hopes to place a measure on the November ballot that would alter the budget process both for the state and local governments. It would let state legislators pass budgets by a simple majority, while maintaining the two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes. The measure would also institute what is known as a pay-as-you-go system, in which lawmakers must identify funding sources for any new programs.

“We just have to stop the madness of these IOUs being issued and these horrible budget delays,” said Bob Hertzberg, a former Democratic speaker of the California Assembly who is co-chair of California Forward. “It sends a message…that California is dysfunctional.”

The local-government part of the proposal would make it easier for municipalities to raise sales taxes, by one percentage point, to fund education and other services. It would also prohibit the state from tapping the coffers of local governments during budget emergencies, as it did last year.

My response to my friend was that, because the Democrats are the majority in the California legislature, anything that gives them a simple majority gives them powers that have the potential to be imminently destructive to our economy. While the initiative, on its face, looks as if it would force Democrats to keep their budgets in line because they wouldn’t have concurrent taxing power (with tax increases still requiring a 2/3 majority), I’m suspicious.

Think about what’s happening in San Francisco.  As I blogged yesterday, San Francisco’s school district, which is facing a huge shortfall and is considering cutting all sorts of academic programs, is simultaneously seriously considering a significant budget increase in the form of a program that would collect statistics on gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual students, as well as helping education discrimination. The current level of discrimination is not from assaults from other students, or insults or discriminatory treatment from teachers. It’s verbal taunts, especially from the elementary school crowd – ungracious, hurtful and mean-spirited to be certain, but hard to use to justify this kind of expensive government intervention during a time of financial crisis.

It’s this fantasy PC rule-making that makes me loath to make it even easier for the pro-government crowd to pass more insane budgets. Even if they have less money, they’ll still spend it foolishly.

I’m not the only one suspicious that this is a Trojan horse that will redirect public spending away from infrastructure and towards politically favored victim groups. Republicans are also worried:

Statehouse Republicans will fight California Forward’s initiatives, said Tony Strickland, the state Senate’s Republican assistant minority leader. If the budget-approval threshold is lowered, then Republicans would lose their outsized influence in the statehouse because Democrats could pass budgets without GOP votes. The California “Central valley, the farmers, agriculture”—constituencies typically represented by Republicans—”will lose their voices,” Mr. Strickland said.

The antitax Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will oppose any effort that would ease local governments’ ability to raise taxes, said Jon Coupal, the group’s president. He and Mr. Strickland said they will also oppose Repair California’s constitutional convention because it could result in a repeal of Proposition 13, a 32-year-old law that caps property-tax rates.

If you’re a Californian, I’d urge you to think very seriously before voting yes on this initiating, assuming that it makes it onto the ballot. The only thing that’s truly going to save California is for voters to throw the Democrats out (along with any spend, spend, spend Republicans). Unless California brings down its spending, most of which goes for government employee pensions and politically correct funding, nothing will save us.

The morality lurking behind the taxes that fund government spending

Yesterday I wrote a long post about the fact that the abortion debate, at least on the pro-choice side, ignores social and medical advances that should make it a very different debate from the one that led to Roe v. Wade.  I think this is an important conversation, because of the fact that ObamaCare would have us pay for other people’s abortions.  Despite the fact that taxes triggered my post, they don’t figure into it.  The Anchoress, however, took the argument to the next logical point, and does discuss the nexus between taxes and abortion.

Another question I would like to see brought into the public square -and bear with me, for a moment, as I play Devil’s Advocate: if pro-life advocates (like me) object to their tax dollars being used to fund abortions under Obamacare (and I do), and if they want their objections to be seriously considered, then why shouldn’t those who are anti-war object to their tax dollars being used to fund the effort in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the multi-fronted war on terror?

Now, the argument will be made that a strong national defense is necessary to the survival of a nation, while legal abortions are not, strictly speaking, “necessary,” (except, for some, to the survival of a mother). But if the pro-lifers manage to keep their tax monies out of the reach of the abortion industry, they can expect to see a similar effort made about funding the “military-industrial complex.”

Although it will be very interesting to see under what sort of president, and what sort of congress, such arguments are made.

I urge you to read the rest of the Anchoress’ post, which is every bit as thoughtful and thought-provoking as the part I just quoted.

I would add to the Anchoress’ suggested rationale for funding war, but not abortion, the fact that, traditionally, America has distinguished individual freedoms (and, currently, abortion is one of them) from specific powers that have always been reserved for the state (such as the power to wage war against an enemy to the nation).  Just as we have never before used federal power to force people to buy a product from a third party vendor (which is what ObamaCare does), so too have we never before forced Americans to fund a neighbor who is exercising an individual freedom that we find morally objectionable.

Incidentally, Thoreau wrote his treatise on Civil Disobedience when he went to jail for refusing to pay taxes to support the 1848 war against Mexico.  The effort went nowhere, although his treatise entered history, because rich friends simply went ahead and paid the taxes for him.  I suspect that, ultimately, Thoreau’s is the correct answer.  If the government is truly spending your money in an intolerable way, one that makes you complicit in a crime that destroys your own moral standards, than you have to become disobedient, and stop paying your taxes.

So far, interestingly, none of us law abiding citizens have done that as a political statement.  Having the weight of the federal government bear down upon you and your family, stripping you of every material thing and threatening your individual freedom, is a very big price to pay to make a stand.  We keep thinking that, through the ballot box and the blog, we can make the change — and maybe we just can’t.

I wouldn’t care if Glenn Beck made tax mistakes

Just in case he actually runs for office, the Leftist media is already planning one line of attack against Glenn Beck.  They’re thinking that they can nail him on taxes, just as he went after so many Democrats who were found, wittingly or not, to have underpaid their taxes:

No one has been less forgiving than Glenn Beck when it comes to Democrats with tax problems. Not just the well-known ones like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner but also less serious ones such as Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, whose husband only recently paid off $6,400 in tax liens on his auto repair business, and Nancy Killefer, who withdrew her nomination to be White House chief performance officer, citing a $946.69 tax lien on her Washington home.

Their tax issues are just one indicator of “a culture of corruption among some of the left,” Beck declared just last month in a segment on his hugely popular Fox News television show, in which he branded Geithner, Killefer, Solis and a handful of other Obama nominees “tax cheats,” whom he wouldn’t trust “with my children, let alone my children’s future.”

Mocking the excuses offered by the nominees, Beck sarcastically intoned: “Oh, the tax thing, it was an accident. It was my husband’s fault. I didn’t do it, he did it. I didn’t mean to do it. I was just working hard for the people.”

So what to make, then, of the fact that Beck has had his own minor tax problems over the past few years?

As Beck evolved from a medium-market local radio personality to a one-man media empire with top-rated radio and television shows, best-selling books, a monthly magazine and a traveling one-man comedy tour, his production company, Mercury Radio Arts, has at times struggled to keep up with the heightened tax and filing demands accompanying his success.

The same article goes on to explain, at some length, the nature of Beck’s problems, and to point out that they parallel the problems many on the Left had in trying to comply with their tax obligations:  the tax code is so complicated, it’s hard to get it right.

And it’s that last little point that makes me think that I wouldn’t care, and most people wouldn’t care, if Glenn Beck ran (which I think is a bad idea for other reasons) and the Left tried to smear him with tax issues.  You see, what distinguishes Beck from the Left is that Beck, as a pro-individual, anti-government guy, he isn’t in favor of constantly increasing the tax burden on ordinary Americans.  Likewise, Beck, unlike Charles Rangel, isn’t writing the tax code.  Also, Beck, unlike Tim Geithner, isn’t being put in charge of America’s economy.  So yes, Beck has in common with Leftist politicians the fact that he too can’t figure out what the heck is going on tax-wise, but he parts ways with them in that he is neither a government employee, nor is he a big government maven.  Someone who works for the government, and wants to increase the tax burdens the government places on ordinary citizens, has a much, much higher duty than anyone else to get it right.

The law of unintended consequences

I don’t know if it’s a local, state or federal tax, but when I go into a restaurant that provides both eat-in and take-out services, I always order take-out, regardless of whether I plan to sit at one of their tables or hit the road.  Why?  Because the government imposes a tax on food that’s eaten on the premises.  I don’t know why.  But there you have it; that’s what the government does.  It’s common nowadays to sit at a restaurant and see people hunched over their foam containers at one table, while the unwary, paying a significant premium, sit at the next table eating off a plate.

What’s doubly funny about this stupid system is the fact that it ought to enrage the greenies.  You see, it creates vastly greater amounts of trash.  My plate doesn’t get rinsed and reused.  Instead, it goes straight into the garbage, expanding landfill use and requiring the constant creation of new disposable cups and plates.

My weekend, much of which was spent in San Francisco, has me thinking more than ever about government interference in day to day life, and all the costs, both obvious and hidden.  I’ve got a post slowly growing in my mind, but I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do with it.  I know I’m going to borrow heavily from the comments many of you left in my earlier post about the insanity that is San Francisco.

In SF Bay Area, stimulous creates 7 jobs at a cost of $16,142,857 per job — sort of

The Chronicle was always first in line for the Obama slobber fest, but the bloom is apparently wearing off of that well-drooled upon rose too.  Today, the Chron has a front page story vigorously attack the myriad accounting errors on the administration’s boastful website about its economic chops:

Nine months after President Obama promised that his $789 billion stimulus package would be the most transparent spending bill in history, much of the information available to the public for the Bay Area and the rest of the nation is incomplete or inaccurate.

The White House’s Recovery Act Web site – www.recovery.gov – shows that $660 million has been awarded to Bay Area transportation projects to create 997 jobs, which amounts to a staggering $661,986 per job.

Last week, the site showed that California Congressional Districts 00 and 99 received millions of dollars in stimulus funding even though neither district exists.

The Bay Area’s total also included $1.8 million to purchase buses in Duluth, Minn., which the federal Web site pinpointed with a dot just below San Leandro, and $4.8 million for road work in Laredo – which is in Texas.

[snip]

A month ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger traveled to the White House and stood beside Vice President Joe Biden as Biden proclaimed that the stimulus had created 110,000 jobs in the state.

But it would take hundreds of clicks on the interactive map to verify the claim, and even then there is no accounting for the quality or duration of the jobs.

[snip]

However, a $65 million BART “tunnel hardening” project and a $48 million grant to the Santa Clara County Transportation Authority have so far created only seven jobs. State officials said that is probably because the money has been awarded but not yet spent.

Overall, the White House claims the stimulus is creating far more jobs than it had expected. The initial estimate was that 396,000 jobs would be created in California. The White House says 110,000 jobs have already been created although only a fraction of the stimulus dollars have yet to reach the state.

Job numbers are squishy, and there is disagreement over what should count. The White House counts not only new jobs but also those that might otherwise have been lost. They also include short-term employment in their totals.

Read the rest here.

Apropos the highlighted language above, I’m no math whiz, but I’m calculating that this means the American taxpayers are on the hook for $16,142,857 per job over the last nine months.

I’m not a fool, and I’m not being intentionally naive here.  I appreciate that, as the article itself says, the jobs may yet be created because the projects are still theoretical, not real.  I’m also willing to concede that the projects may be good ones, and that people currently employed may have stayed employed as a result of the project awards.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that Obama promised us that his stimulous would immediately save and create jobs.  The key was immediate relief, not long-term relief.  And yet here we are with $113 million promised — meaning $113 million ear marked in the public coffers and needing to be paid for by taxes — AND NO JOBS.

This is a perfect paradigm of the problem with government works programs.  They are too slow.  Had Obama taken a leaf out of Bush’s 2001 tax refund plan, and instantly gotten money into the hands of American citizens, people would quickly have created jobs.  The market is enormously responsive; the government is not.  All we get are higher taxes, more government control — AND NO JOBS.

Steve Martin has a Tim Geithner premonition back in 1977

Yes, it is old news now that Tim Geithner and a whole lot of other Obama officials forgot to pay their taxes.  Nevertheless, when I heard this monologue that Steve Martin did on Saturday Night Live back in 1977, I just had to include it here.  It’s perfect:

You . . . can be a millionaire . . . and never pay taxes! You can be a millionaire . . . and never pay taxes! You say.. “Steve.. how can I be a millionaire . . . and never pay taxes?” First . . . get a million dollars. Now . . . you say, “Steve.. what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, ‘You . . . have never paid taxes’?” Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: “I forgot!” How many times do we let ourselves get into terrible situations because we don’t say “I forgot”? Let’s say you’re on trial for armed robbery. You say to the judge, “I forgot armed robbery was illegal.” Let’s suppose he says back to you, “You have committed a foul crime. you have stolen hundreds and thousands of dollars from people at random, and you say, ‘I forgot’?” Two simple words: Excuuuuuse me!!”

Considering that most of our current administration officials are my age, give or take a few years, and therefore came of age during Martin’s comedic ascendency in the 1970s, I suspect they learned their lessons well.

Just a quick thought about the UC tuition hike

The UC regents voted for a steep increase in tuition.   Some have pointed to the unedifying spectacle of whining middle class students taking to the streets to protest the tuition increase, since they prefer to have California’s working class, most of whom will not attend the school, bear the financial burden.  Although I agree in principle about California’s spoiled brats, I’m not sure that’s the right argument for the UC problem.  The point of public education is that everyone pays so that some may benefit — on the theory that those who benefit will contribute to society for the benefit of all.  Of course, what we actually have in California is a punitive tax system that means that those who actually benefit, if they’re smart, promptly leave the state, taking their skills, education and tax dollars with them.  But still, the theory is that the tax payers get a secondary benefit from having an educated class within their midst.

The real problem, I think, is the UC system itself.  I’ll freely admit that I last attended a UC college more than two decades ago, but I’m assuming the situation then has gotten worse, not better.  With the exception of three hugely talented teachers who brought their subjects alive, my Berkeley professors could easily be lumped into a single descriptive class:  Except for the three mentioned, none could teach worth a damn — that is, those who bothered teaching at all, as opposed to handing the task off to grossly underpaid graduate students, many of whom had only a limited grasp of the English language.  The professors would read from yellowed notes, or waffle on in monotones, sucking the life out of everything.  Despite their manifest limitations, because they published (remember:  publish or perish), they were tenured, and their pathetic inability to teach was irrelevant.

The beauty of tenure was that they were paid sooooo well.  Professors didn’t live middle class lives — they lived upper middle class lives.  They had houses in the Berkeley hills with expansive views of the San Francisco Bay.  Their kitchens were cleaned by the Hispanic help and their gardens groomed by the Japanese.  The fact that so many of these professors were Marxists was irrelevant to these delightful living arrangements.

If one queried the lavish way in which these state employees lived, one was told that Berkeley, to keep its world standing, needed to compete with such private facilities as Harvard or Yale.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that many professors at City College in San Francisco were doing a much better job teaching.  At the same time I took a mind-numbing art history class at Berkeley, my mom took the identical class (at least in terms of subject matter) at City College.  My teacher was a mumbling, boring drag.  Her teacher was a dynamo, who brought the class to life.  Whenever I had time, I’d go to his class, not my own.  He wasn’t at a world class institution, but he was a world class teacher — and there were so many like him.  Unburdened by the cachet of Berkeley, and the “publish or perish” imperative, these people simply got down to the job of actually teaching.

Another problem with Berkeley and tuition is the absolute garbage being taught.  Should anybody be paid to teach, on the taxpayer’s dime, the politically correct effluvia that flows from the Gender Women’s Studies department:

The Department of Gender and Women’s Studies offers interdisciplinary perspectives on the formation of gender and its intersections with other relations of power, such as sexuality, race, class, nationality, religion, and age. Questions are addressed within the context of a transnational world and from perspectives as diverse as history, sociology, literary and cultural studies, postcolonial theory, science, new technology, and art.

The undergraduate program is designed to introduce students to women’s studies, focusing on gender as a category of analysis and on the workings of power in social and historical life. The department offers an introduction to feminist theory as well as more advanced courses that seek to expand capacities for critical reflection and analysis and to engage students with varied approaches to feminist scholarship. The curriculum draws students into interdisciplinary analysis of specific gender practices in areas such as feminism in a transnational world, the politics of representation, feminist science studies, women and work, women and film, gender and health, and the politics of childhood.

The department offers an undergraduate major and minor. It also houses an undergraduate minor in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies, a program whose courses overlap productively with feminist and gender studies. Faculty in the department collaborate with an extensive group of extended faculty through the Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender and Sexuality, which provides graduate students across campus with a site for transdisciplinary learning and teaching. The department is now in the process of developing a Ph.D. Program in Transnational Studies of Women and Gender, which will involve faculty from a range of departments. The department fosters connections with scholars in feminist and sexuality studies throughout the campus by cross-listing courses, collaborating in research, and participating in the Gender Consortium, which links research and teaching units that focus on gender.

African Studies is equally bogus, functioning, not as a way for African-Americans to learn about their culture, but as an umbrella for Marxist theory. You don’t have to believe me.  You can convince yourself with a visit to the UC Berkeley African-Studies Events link.  Scroll down and click on “Robert Allen Celebrated: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to Black Awakening in Capitalist America.” I optimistically thought this would be a program about the benefits of capitalism for African-Americans (because I believe capitalism benefits all people, just as a rising tide lifts all boats). Silly me. At that link, you can hear audio files from the celebration. I know you’re hungering to hear about:

“Malcolm X and Robert Allen on Domestic (Neo-)Colonialism and Revolutionary Nationalism, and Black Awakenings as a seminal bridge between the ‘organic’ and ‘traditional’ intellectual traditions of activist-scholarship.”

or perhaps

“Colony Over-the-Rhine: Gentrification and Econocide.”

or even

“Social Justice and state crisis: Lessons for the future from the 1960s Black Liberation movement.”

This scholarship isn’t about enabling blacks, at taxpayer’s expense I might add, to advance in American society. Instead, it’s firmly intended s to keep blacks locked in the perpetual victim servitude of identity politics.

This kind of “academic material,” if I can dignify it with that title, is for hobbyists and obsessives, not for people nominally being educated for the benefit of (and at the expense of) the people of the State of California.  It’s equally easy to attack the other “politically correct” departments that populate the school, all providing the “mick” classes (i.e., Mickey Mouse or easy classes) that people with a high tolerance for BS will take, and that have absolutely nothing to do with a classical education of great thought, science, languages, history and, perhaps, world culture.

Students and taxpayers alike would benefit substantially if the UC system, rather than repeatedly imposing an ever greater burden on students and taxpayers alike, would actually examine its own flaws.  It should purge those who can’t teach (or at least stop pretending they’re teachers), and it should peel away the politically correct classes that weigh down the curriculum (at great expense) and focus on core education that benefits, not just the students, but the long-suffering people of California.

Here’s the way I would do it:  I would create a two tier UC system.  The bottom tier, primarily funded by taxpayers, would offer the same core curriculum that existed before the free speech movement, before Marxism and before political correctness ate away like a canker at the heart of the system.  This tier would focus on science, mathematics, history, languages, etc.  It would pretty much resurrect the 1958 (or thereabouts) catalog.  In this way, the state would still get the benefit of an educated class that, in theory, would then raise the whole tone of the state.

All other classes at UC would be a la carte, with students interested in them paying extra for the privilege of learning something outside of the core curriculum.  Those who want a basic education would get it.  Those who want more, would pay, either out of their parents pockets or, if they approached college as I did, by getting a job.  This approach would bring the marketplace into the mix, and allow the Regents, the state and the taxpayers see just how many people are actually willing to dig into their own pocket for “womyn’s studies” and Afro-centric Marxist victim classes.

Somehow, though, I think both taxpayers and students are going to be gouged in perpetuity in order to fund a significantly large group of Marxist professors intent on teaching identity politics papulum to our poor, vulnerable youth.

Almost $3,000,000 in stimulus money goes to one of the richest towns in America *UPDATED*

The Marin IJ reports that almost $3,000,000 in stimulus money Americans will help the public school district in Ross, California:

Ross School has won the federal stimulus fund lottery.

School officials learned Friday they would receive a $2.85 million school construction bond tax credit as part of the federal stimulus bill – a credit Superintendent Tammy Murphy believes will save Ross taxpayers $5.4 million in interest.

“We were so fortunate. It’s just a wonderful story,” Murphy said. “This would have been a 25-year term for our bond. Now we’ll be able to pay it off in 15 years at zero to little interest. It’s just great.”

[snip]

Because so many applied for the limited funds, the state Department of Education held a lottery Friday, choosing 43 school districts and county offices to receive the funds. The single-school Ross Elementary District, which is overhauling Ross School at a total cost of $39 million, was the only district in Marin County to apply for the program.

Ross was smart to apply for funding, and I certainly can’t blame it for being lucky enough to win a random lottery. However, I think that you, as a taxpayer, should know a little bit about Ross.

Ross, in Central Marin County, California, is a small and very pretty town, with a population of about 2,300 people.  The 2000 census reveals a little bit about that population.  It’s lily white; heavy on the stable, two parent homes (although rumor has it that wife-swapping is big in the town); and rich, really, really rich.  The median income for a family in Ross is around $102,000.  That median number doesn’t quite do justice to the wealth oozing out of Ross, since it’s brought down by the 5-6% of the population who are poor — elderly people living in decaying mansions and students living in squalid apartments (because the College of Marin is in neighboring, and even more wealthy, Kentfield).  A decade ago, Ross was the 20th richest town in America.  Indeed, some of the richest people I’ve ever met in my life, including the single richest person I’ve ever met in my life, live in Ross.  Here in Marin, its name is as synonymous with wealth as Kentfield, Belvedere and Tiburon, all of which are some of the richest communities in America.

What this means is that, even though the Ross School district is a public school that’s dependent on government funds, it also has an enormously wealth community shoring it up.  The public schools in Ross, Kentfield, and Bel-Tib don’t look like any public schools you’ve ever seen.  Thanks to generous support from families in the community, they have the same polished gloss that pricey private schools offer.  The only difference is that, unlike private schools, Marin public schools are in thrall to the wacky curriculum mandates perpetually emanating from Sacramento.  To give you an idea about the school’s high quality (despite those government diktats), I know several wealthy familes that, having looked at every private school within a 25 mile radius, concluded that their local public school was completely comparable, and would save them a tiresome commute.

Again, please understand that I don’t think the Ross School did anything wrong or that it should be forced to give the stimulus money back.  Its administration was intelligently proactive in seeking funding for a legitimate construction project, and it won the money fair and square.  Nevertheless, as a taxpayer being squeezed to death by an avaricious and incompetent government, I find it outrageous when I see my tax dollars go to one of the wealthiest communities in America.  That type of wealth distribution reflects a profound failure in the way in which the federal government, which takes my money essentially at gunpoint, is managing that same money.  It has nothing to do with stimulating the economy and everything to do with politics and bureaucracy as usual.  Stories such as this should elicit outrage from taxpayers, outrage directed not at the lucky fund recipients, but at the federal government itself.

UPDATE:  In a striking irony, today’s Marin IJ also reports about massive fund cuts to those in need:

Six years ago, Herschel Ferguson’s life took a devastating turn for the worse. The Santa Venetia resident, now 65, returned home from his San Francisco State internship, felt light-headed and passed out. He’d contracted acute disseminated encephalomyelitis and spent the next three months in the hospital, briefly slipped into a coma and lost feeling in his left arm. His memory often fails him.

Ever since, Ferguson has received 15 hours a week of assistance from a caregiver in his home through the In-Home Support Services program, which is funded by federal, state and county money and is facing a rash of cuts in the wake of the state budget deal reached last month. The cuts were supposed to have taken effect Sept. 1, but have been delayed indefinitely by the state.

“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be able to get through life,” Ferguson said of his caregiver. “It gives me an idea of what day it is when she comes. I couldn’t get along without her.”

The IHSS program pays caregivers to help low-income elderly and disabled people whose needs range from bathing and grooming to laundry, shopping and meal preparation. More than 1,600 Marin residents receive such services through the program, and a comparable number of people provide them, according to Kara Beuerman, acting program manager for adult and aging services with the county of Marin. Roughly 250 recipients face losing those services; another 200-300 people could see their service reduced.

Read more here.

UPDATE II:  As one of my friends commented, it’s staggering that the Department of Education was incapable of rousing itself to look at the various school district’s economic needs, as opposed to throwing things open to one giant, undifferentiated lottery.  Do you really want a government that is this lazy and unresponsive to be in charge of your health care?

President Obama breaking his tax promise

With his typical clarity, Karl Rove explains that it is impossible for President Obama to stick to his “no new taxes” promises if he continues on this ruinous path of government spending:

The campaign team is intent upon protecting a pledge driven by its 2008 campaign polls: Mr. Obama promised never to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year to avoid being labeled a tax-and-spend liberal.

Even so, Mr. Obama has already broken his no-new-taxes pledge. On Feb. 4, Mr. Obama signed a $33 billion cigarette tax increase, which fell disproportionately on lower- and middle-income individuals. And the “cap and trade” energy bill, approved by the House on June 26, is a tax on anyone who owns a light switch, uses a car key, or has bought anything manufactured, shipped or sold in the U.S.

The House version of Mr. Obama’s health-care—excuse me, “health-insurance”—reform already has four taxes that will largely be paid by people making less than $250,000 a year. There’s $8.2 billion in taxes for using health savings accounts and other tax-free medical savings vehicles to purchase over-the-counter drugs. There’s an 8% tax on employers who don’t offer insurance: The Congressional Budget Office says workers in those businesses would pay the $163 billion cost via lost wages.

There’s a 2.5% “Tax on Individuals Without Acceptable Health Care Coverage” in the House bill that applies to people who either don’t have insurance or whose policies the government deems inadequate. Finally, there’s a $2 billion “Comparative Effectiveness Research Tax” on all private and “public option” insurance policies.

If some version of ObamaCare is passed, the president will break his tax pledge several more times while adding trillions to the deficit, dismantling the best elements of our health-care system and slashing Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars.

Almost 20 years ago, that broken promise doomed George H.W. Bush to a one term presidency.  Will it do the same to Barack Hussein Obama?

Objection, your honor! Non-responsive

If you are a young lawyer, struggling to learn what a non-responsive answer really looks like, you can’t do better than this question-and-answer session between Jake Tapper and Presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs.  If Gibbs were any slicker, he’d just ooze right out of the room:

TAPPER:  Robert, in terms of what Geithner and Summers had to say yesterday [stating on the Sunday news shows that there would be middle class tax increases, talk the Gibbs said was "hypothetical"], it really wasn’t too much of a hypothetical back-and- forth.  It was about do they think it’s possible to do deficit reduction.  But that’s not…

GIBBS:  Well, we can quibble about whether the word “possible” or the word “hypothetical”…

TAPPER: Is it possible to do everything the president wants to do without increasing revenues from the middle class?

GIBBS:  Right.  And I want to just state again clearly here that the president has made a very clear commitment to not raise taxes on middle-class families…

TAPPER:  But economists, including the president’s own economists, don’t necessarily think that it’s possible to do so without raising taxes on the middle class.  How is that dealing candidly with the American people?

GIBBS:  Well, again, there are a series of things that have to be done.  I think you’ll actually hear an announcement from Treasury later this afternoon about how much money has to be borrowed versus what they thought was going to have to be borrowed and what will have to be borrowed as a result of financial stabilization in terms of cutting the amount of money that’s needed. Again, I think the president has been clear on this.  The first thing that we can do — the most important thing that we can do right now is get our economy growing again.  We know that the deficit — part of the reason that the deficit is up right now is that the economy has slowed down so much that tax revenues, because this is what happens in an economic slowdown, have regressed a lot. I think the president — obviously, we’re going to have to make some decisions down the road on some of the president’s legislative priorities and some of the things that Congress wants to do, to evaluate how we move back towards — on a path toward fiscal sustainability.

Most transparent presidency — evah!  Yeah, right.

The administration does win the award, however, for the most weasely press secretary, that’s for darn certain.  I don’t blame Gibbs, though.  He’s tasked with being the messenger whose job description requires him to hide a message so un-palatable and so at odds with prior promises that he can nothing but engage in meaningless prevarication.

As you may recall, I once wrote that liberal Supreme Court justices tend to be incredibly boring, long-winded, obfusctatory writers, while conservative Supreme Court justices tend to be clear, and often charming, or exciting, writers.  As a young lawyer, I thought it was just a coincidence that liberals were bad writers and conservative good writers.  I’ve since realized, of course, that bad thoughts make for bad writing.  It takes a lot of explanation to justify a bad idea, and a lot of smoke to cover just how bad it is.

All the problems with Democratic health care reform

In just three paragraphs, Charles Krauthammar explains all of the problems with the health care reform the President so desperately wants passed by August:

President Obama premised the need for reform on the claim that medical costs are destroying the economy. True. But now we learn — surprise! — that universal coverage increases costs. The congressional Democrats’ health-care plans, says the CBO, increase costs on the order of $1 trillion plus.

In response, the president retreated to a demand that any bill he sign be revenue-neutral. But that’s classic misdirection: If the fierce urgency of health-care reform is to radically reduce costs that are producing budget-destroying deficits, revenue neutrality (by definition) leaves us on precisely the same path to insolvency that Obama himself declares unsustainable.

The Democratic proposals are worse still. Because they do increase costs, revenue neutrality means countervailing tax increases. It’s not just that it is crazily anti-stimulatory to saddle a deeply depressed economy with an income tax surcharge that falls squarely on small business and the investor class. It’s that health-care reform ends up diverting for its own purposes a source of revenue that might otherwise be used to close the yawning structural budget deficit that is such a threat to the economy and to the dollar.

“Read my lips: No new taxes”

Do you remember the words in my post title?  I sure do, and I wasn’t even very politically aware then.  That was George Bush, Sr., making a promise to the American people:  “Read my lips:  No new taxes.”  He broke that promise.

It looks as if Barack Obama is readying himself to break that promise too.  More than that, he’s planning on breaking that promise in a mad rush to fix a fairly static situation (health care isn’t going anywhere between now and next year), and to embark upon a government funded system that will inevitably go bankrupty — and that’s despite taxing the middle class into oblivion.

George Bush was destroyed politically when he broke his promise.  Will Barack Obama also be destroyed?  And will he be destroyed, and his power base with him, before or after he causes irrevocable harm to America?

Speaking of Barack Obama’s self-destruction, I have a question for you.  We’ve all been anticipating the bloom coming off the Obama rose and I think that’s happening very swiftly right now.  What I’m having a hard time envisioning is the look of a powerless Obama presidency.

For the next two years, there will still be a Democratic majority in Congress, although I suspect the Blue Dogs will be the power brokers.  But what will Obama do?  Will he sell out America behind the scenes through back channel communications with bad regimes?  We know he won’t do a damn thing about Iran, but will he use his presidential powers to destroy Israel?  (And assuming he tries, will he be successful?  So far, he’s been unique amongst American presidents in uniting the fractious Israeli parties and people.  Maybe he’s a good thing for them, in a weird way.)  Will he learn and change on the job, becoming less ideological and more protective of the country in his charge?  Will he become an ineffectual lame duck half-way through his first term?

What do you see the future bringing?

Knowing when it’s time to quit

The cat’s out of the bag now, and it’s clear that the Democrats and Obama are planning on destroying small businesses in America.  This is no surprise, of course, given that small business — entrepreneurship, independence and individualism — is the antithesis of a government run marketplace:

In the middle of a recession and with rising unemployment, Democrats have been letting it leak that they want to raise U.S. tax rates higher than they’ve been in nearly 30 years in order to finance government health care.

Every detail isn’t known, but late last week Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel disclosed that his draft bill would impose a “surtax” on individuals with adjusted gross income of more than $280,000 a year. This would hit job creators especially hard because more than six of every 10 who earn that much are small business owners, operators or investors, according to a 2007 Treasury study. That study also found that almost half of the income taxed at this highest rate is small business income from the more than 500,000 sole proprietorships and subchapter S corporations whose owners pay the individual rate.

***

Here’s the ugly income-tax math. First, Mr. Obama has promised to let the lower Bush tax rates expire after 2010. This would raise the top personal income tax rate to 39.6% from 35%, and the next rate to 36% from 33%. The Bush expiration would also phase out various tax deductions and exemptions, bringing the top marginal rate to as high as 41%.

Then add the Rangel Surtax of one percentage point, starting at $280,000 ($350,000 for couples), plus another percentage point at $400,000 ($500,000 for couples), rising to three points on more than $800,000 ($1 million) in 2011. But wait, there’s more. The surcharge could rise by two more percentage points in 2013 if health-care costs are larger than advertised — which is a near-certainty. Add all of this up and the top marginal tax rate would climb to 46%, which hasn’t been seen in the U.S. since the Reagan tax reform of 1986 cut the top rate to 28% from 50%.

States have also been raising their income tax rates, so in California and New York City the top rate would be around 58%. The Tax Foundation reports that at least half of all states would have combined state-federal tax rates of more than 50%.

Early retirement is look like a very good option for me right now.  It is true that as a self-employed person, if I work, I’ll still have more money if I work than if I don’t work.  After all, if I don’t work, I have no income at all, whereas if I do work, after state and federal taxes, I still manage to hold onto about 40% of my income. For me, though, hanging onto a mere 40% of my income (and I charge my clients top dollar in my field, which still isn’t much), may not be worth the personal stresses and the actual costs of carrying on my business.

I have to pay for my own equipment and my online legal library.  I also have to sustain the wear and tear on my own system as I deal with deadlines, nervous clients, dumb judges (they’re all liberals here), juggling work and family life, etc.  At a certain point, the return on my effort gets too small to justify the hassle.

If I were the sole breadwinner for my family, the math would be different.  I’d clean Grand Central Station out with a toothbrush to keep food in their mouths and a roof on their heads.  But I’m not in that situation, and I have a hard time justifying killing myself simply so that the government can fund the degradation of my health care system.

Hat tip:  Radio Patriot

Fool me once, shame on you….

In his most recent article at the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove explains in great detail how Barack Obama told quite obvious lies about the stimulus numbers, only to pretend now that he didn’t really mean what he said.  (That’s the lying pattern I’ve told you about.)  The American people were good and fooled.  The question, of course, is whether they’re going to let themselves be fooled again into believing Obama’s health care numbers:

This fits a pattern. The administration consistently pledges unrealistic results that it later distances itself from. It has gotten away with it because the media haven’t asked many pointed questions. That may not last as the debate shifts to health care.

The Obama administration wants a government takeover of health care. To get it, it is promising to wring massive savings out of the health-care industry. And it has already started to make cost-savings promises.

For example, the administration strong-armed health-care providers into promising $2 trillion in health savings. It got pharmaceutical companies to promise to lower drug prices for seniors by $80 billion over 10 years. The administration also trotted out hospital executives to say that they would voluntarily save the government $150 billion over 10 years.

None of this comes near to being true. On the promised $2 trillion, everyone admits that the number isn’t built on anything specific — it’s an aspirational goal. On drug prices, a White House spokesman admitted that “These savings have not been identified at the moment.” It is speculative that these cuts will actually be made, when they would begin, or whether they would reduce government health-care spending.

A month ago, I would have said that a compliant media would simply spin things for Obama again, with a credulous American public going along and footing the bill for its own destruction.  Despite the fact that the media is still shilling for Obama, at least as to the little things, I’m not absolutely sure that media members (who also pay taxes) are as willing to shill for the bigger things.  Two signs that they might not are Obama’s increasingly (and steadily) negative polling numbers, and somewhat belated articles from the MSM admitting that his budget numbers don’t add up.  I’m not dancing jigs yet, especially with that “60″ in the Senate, but I’m allowing a faint hope that the juggernaut might be slowing down.

About those tea parties

Melissa Clouthier has a nice post about the tax freedom tea parties planned all over America for this coming Wednesday.  After addressing (and pretty much dismissing) some concern from those on the Right about the motivations behind the tea parties, she has this lovely paragraph about the worry from the Left:

I’m smelling more than a little jealousy, fear and loathing from my leftist brethren. Protests over the last eight years were nonsensical, anemic affairs with screaming meemees in pink T-shirts. Or they’re naked hot chicks for PETA. Or they’re naked bicyclers protesting war and Israel and the new world order. In short, the Leftists come across as unstable whack-jobs with no job and time to burn who had no purpose in life but their thinly veiled America-hate. Plus, they just don’t have many numbers.

One of the things I know people on the Right are worried about is the Left trying to make those on the Right appear like unstable whack-jobs, by appearing with signs demanding the death of gays or abortion providers or Muslims or whatever other ugly thought they can come up with as a smear on conservatives.

One of my friends has turned into a politico dynamo working on our San Francisco protest.  She’s sent out a couple of emails address both organizer concerns about infiltrators and providing information that should concern every American about taxes.  First, regarding the infiltrators:

If you see someone and they aren’t one of us, i.e., they’re wearing an ACORN t-shirt, they have a sign that says “Homophobe or Nazi” etc., they’re screaming certain things at us, they’re not wearing a tea bag pin, do the following:

1—as above, grab someone w/ a camera and keep your eve on them;

2—grab one of our “INFILTRAITOR” signs and go stand next to them, have someone take a picture and stick w/ that person for a while…it might agitate them enough to leave or relocate.

3—if you feel comfortable approaching them, you can tell them this and see if it has any impact:

“We have a permit that restricts this protest to matters of taxes and the budget and stimulus/bailouts. An anti-war or pro-abortion sign isn’t by law permitted at this protest. You will have to go somewhere else w/ this sign OR take one of ours or I will have to ask the police to escort you away.”

And regarding the actual reason for the protests, how about these tax statistics from Joseph Henchman, Director of State Projects, Tax Foundation, Washington, D.C.:

Tax Facts

¨ In 2005, the estimated time and money cost of complying with the federal Internal Revenue Code was 6 billion man-hours worth $265 billion.

¨ The code that year stood at 7 million words in 736 code sections, up from 718,000 words in 103 code sections in 1955. By contrast, the King James Bible has 788,280 words in 66 books, the Harry Potter series has just over 1 million words in 7 books, and the English translation of War and Peace has 560,000 words.

¨ In 2009, Americans worked 103 days of the year to pay for federal, state, and local taxes. This is more than the days worked for housing, food, and clothing (13 days) combined. Americans worked 38 days to pay income taxes, 27 days to pay Social Insurance taxes, 15 days to pay sales and excise taxes, 12 days to pay property taxes, 6 days to pay corporate income taxes, and 4 days to pay other taxes.

¨ In 2006, about one-third of all individual income tax returns (45.6 million) reclaimed every dollar of income tax withheld during the year.

¨ The form 1040 and instructions in 1913 was only 4 pages. In 2009, they are 94 pages.

¨ In tax year 2008, 154.3 million individual income tax returns were filed, resulting in government collections after refunds of $1.059 trillion.

¨ 61 percent of filers used a paid preparer.

¨ In tax year 2006, the “top 10 percent” began at $108,904 in adjusted gross income; the “top 1 percent” at $388,806 in adjusted gross income. 355,204 returns had more than $1 million in adjusted gross income.

¨ 62.8% of individual returns claim the standard deduction; 35.3% itemize.

¨ In 2005, 21.9 million returns claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which paid out $39.7 billion. 12.8 million returns checked the box to provide funds to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. 48 taxpayers gave a total of $21,179 to reduce the national debt.

¨ 7 states have no state income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Two other states, New Hampshire and Tennessee, tax capital income but not wage income.

¨ 5 states have no state sales tax: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon.

¨ The first income tax was levied in 1404 in England. While the U.S. adopted a temporary income tax in 1862, it was not permanently enacted until 1913 after ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment.

¨ The 1913 income tax rates ranged from 1 percent to 7 percent on income over $500,000. The average annual income earned that year was $800.

Principles of Sound Tax Policy

¨ Simplicity. Administrative costs are a loss to society, and complicated taxation undermines voluntary compliance by creating incentives to shelter and disguise income.

¨ Transparency. Tax legislation should be based on sound legislative procedures and careful analysis. A good tax system requires informed taxpayers who understand how tax assessment, collection, and compliance works. There should be open hearings and revenue estimates should be fully explained and replicable.

¨ Neutrality. The fewer economic decisions that are made for tax reasons, the better. The primary purpose of taxes is to raise needed revenue, not to micromanage the economy. The tax system should not favor certain industries, activities, or products.

¨ Stability. When tax laws are in constant flux, long-range financial planning is difficult. Lawmakers should avoid enacting temporary tax laws, including tax holidays and amnesties.

¨ No Retroactivity. As a corollary to the principle of stability, taxpayers should rely with confidence on the law as it exists when contracts are signed and transactions made.

¨ Broad Bases and Low Rate. As a corollary to the principle of neutrality, lawmakers should avoid enacting targeted deductions, credits and exclusions. If such tax preferences are few, substantial revenue can be raised with low tax rates. Broad-based taxes can also produce relatively stable tax revenues from year to year.

Democrats in a nutshell

Mary Katharine Ham caught John Kerry finally admitting what Democrats fear most of all:  that people will take control over their own destinies, without the elite in government dictating how their hard earned money should be spent.  Perhaps if Kerry had ever held a real job and earned the money himself, he might have had a different attitude than the one she exposes:

Sen. John Kerry took to the Senate floor today to pace, rant, and raise his voice in a monotone simulation of human passion as he spoke up for the massive spending bill the Democrats want to pass today under the guise of “stimulus.”

During his speech, he addressed the argument made by fellow senators and many economists that tax cuts might be more helpful to stimulating the economy than long-term government spending. The American people are also coming around to that view, according to a recent CBS poll, which found only 22 percent of them favor more government spending over tax cuts as stimulus.

His argument against tax cuts for Americans during these hard economic times was illuminating:

I’ve supported many tax cuts over the years, and there are tax cuts in this proposal. But a tax cut is non-targeted.

If you put a tax cut into the hands of a business or family, there’s no guarantee that they’re going to invest that or invest it in America.

They’re free to go invest anywhere that they want if they choose to invest.

Indeed, people with their own hard-earned money in their own pockets are free to spend, save, invest, or not wherever they please. Kerry betrays the fear that haunts every good liberal— that the American people won’t spend their money on exactly what good liberals would spend it on. Good liberals must, therefore, advocate for forcibly relieving the American people of the better part of a trillion dollars of their own money to fund things like STD education, welfare programs, and water parks.

Senators like Kerry have placed their own ideological desires over the right of the American people to a clean stimulus bill without the long-term spending even Obama himself admits is in it.

You can read the rest of Ham’s scarily accurate post about Kerry and liberal elitism here.

Government views Americans as endless cash supply

I like the way Drudge tends to snapshot trends.  Here’s an interesting one, considering the looming deficits federal, state and local governments face:

What’s missing from the above list, of course, is CUTS.  Lawmakers are figuring out as hard and as fast as they can ways to drain more money from the taxpayers.  The one thing they seem incapable of doing, at any level, is cutting spending.  I’ve mentioned before that government is the only entity that, when deep in debt, can constantly demand more money instead of putting itself on a budget.  The above Drudge snapshot is a revealing insight into how we’re going to be sucked dry.  Government is busy trying to kill the taxpaying geese that lays golden economic eggs and, to switch sayings mid-sentence, once we’re dead, it will still try sucking monetary blood from taxpayer rocks.  Bleh!

Oh, to be in government

When I outspend my budget,* I have to make drastic cuts in my expenditures.  Sadly, I cannot march into my boss and announce that he must immediately give me a huge raise to cover the shortfall.  Fortunately for those in government, because they have the rare ability to boss around those who pay them, they can cover their shortfall, not by cutting waste (the government unions would never allow that), but by demanding a huge raise to cover the shortfall.  Hold on to your wallets, if you can, because 2009 is going to be a very costly year.

______________________________

*Just kidding.  Because I’m (a) frugal (some would say cheap) and (b) lucky enough that both Mr. Bookworm and I have stable incomes, I never outspend my budget.

This is what happens when taxes go up

I suspect that, once Obama starts raising taxes, buyer’s remorse is going to set in with incredible speed.  This article focuses on the local economy, but is a harbinger of what will happen when taxes go up on a larger, national scale:

A temporary 1.5 percentage point sales tax increase proposed Thursday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to deal with the state’s worsening fiscal crisis comes just two days after Marin voters approved a quarter-cent sales tax increase for passenger rail service.In San Rafael, it would push the sales tax to 10 percent.

“The timing is terrible,” said Lise Sonnen, owner of Sonnen BMW in San Rafael. “Chevrolet across the street is in Chapter 11. All their new cars are gone. The Ford store died. … It’s hard enough for us as it is.”

San Rafael City Manager Ken Nordhoff said San Rafael’s sales tax, up a quarter of a percent after Tuesday’s passage of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit tax, is about half a point higher than the sales tax in other Marin cities.

Schwarzenegger, who proposed the tax hike along with another $4.5 billion in spending cuts during a news briefing, said he has little choice: Just six weeks after signing an overdue state budget intended to close a $15.2 billion deficit, the state faces an $11.2 billion deficit.

[snip]

In addition to raising the sales tax, Schwarzenegger is proposing expanding its scope to include some services such as vehicle, appliance and furniture repair.

“That would be another $50 or so on our average ticket, which would definitely hurt,” said Gary Nugent, service manager at Heynneman European, a San Rafael auto repair shop. Nugent said the shop’s business is already down 50 percent due to the economic crisis.

The sales tax hike, which would continue for three years, is part of $4.4 billion in tax increases proposed by Schwarzenegger. Other revenue could come from raising the registration fee for vehicles by $12 and taxing companies that extract oil from California, which he said would generate $528 million this year.

[snip]

State Sen. George Runner, the Senate’s GOP caucus chairman, flatly said Republicans will not support a general tax increase.

“The fact is that during this time of economic challenges is not the time to go back to California taxpayers and ask for more money from them,” said Runner, of Lancaster.

Read the rest here.

I can assure you that, as Marin resident, I will do my best to leave the county for any big purchases I need to make. If I can get into a county that charges 8.5% in taxes, that’s where I’ll make my bigger purchases.  For example, if I need a new car (which I don’t right now, but will soon), I will save $450 on a $30,000 car just by driving a few extra miles.  Small drive; big savings; no-brainer.

It never seems to occur to anyone in government to stop a deficit by cutting spending.  Wouldn’t it be nice if, when I go on a spending spree and outrun my budget, I could simply go to my boss and extort more money from him?  I can’t, though, and the government shouldn’t be able to either.

To be entirely honest, the article does discuss the fact that the government is making spending cuts, most notably for schools.  With those cuts in mind, I’d like to suggest that, if the schools refined their focus to on reading, writing and arithmetic, and stopped all the environmental and community service stuff (which should emanate from the home and not the school), they’d find that they could manage with a shorter day and fewer resources.  I like my schools to educate, not attempt to take over as parents, imposing their values, not mine, on the students.

Step up, folks! Watch as the Obama hand is quicker than the eye.

Kimberley Strassel does a completely masterful job of debunking the illusion supporting Obama’s supposed economic policy:

And now, America, we introduce the Great Obama! The world’s most gifted political magician! A thing of wonder. A thing of awe. Just watch him defy politics, economics, even gravity! (And hold your applause until the end, please.)

To kick off our show tonight, Mr. Obama will give 95% of American working families a tax cut, even though 40% of Americans today don’t pay income taxes! How can our star enact such mathemagic? How can he “cut” zero? Abracadabra! It’s called a “refundable tax credit.” It involves the federal government taking money from those who do pay taxes, and writing checks to those who don’t. Yes, yes, in the real world this is known as “welfare,” but please try not to ruin the show.

For his next trick, the Great Obama will jumpstart the economy, and he’ll do it by raising taxes on the very businesses that are today adrift in a financial tsunami! That will include all those among the top 1% of taxpayers who are in fact small-business owners, and the nation’s biggest employers who currently pay some of the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world. Mr. Obama will, with a flick of his fingers, show them how to create more jobs with less money. It’s simple, really. He has a wand.

I know you want to read the rest, which you’ll find here.