Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Former Utah State Tax Commission Economist Makes Surplus Estimates That The State Refuses To Make.

In a recent DesNews article former state tax economists used numbers from the state tax commission's last TC-23 to extrapolate an estimated $150 million surplus over budget (in the first four months" of fiscal year 2006-07, if the model were ran through all of fiscal'06-'07 (6/30-7/1) the "legislators and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. could be looking at $450 million in one-time monies — a new record for the tax-rich Utah state government."

All of this is unofficial because the officials over at the tax commission refuse to give public estimates.

"they didn't believe such estimates -- without Macdonald's work -- were reliable."

It is frustrating that such a tax rich state refuses to show more accountability of tax funds. It was interesting in one of my earliest staff meetings in the accounting firm that I currently work withcolleaguegue presented a federal report regarding tax collections and government spending. I naively asked where is the report from the state of Utah. "Other than the TC-23, there isn't anything so in depth," was the reply I got -- then the state dropped that as well.

The State Tax Commission needs to at least bring back the TC-23 -- and add much, much more to it! In my ideal world, I would like to see much more analysis of where tax dollars are spent. I would also like to have more information on the budgets of respective state government agencies.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rocky Says He Will Have An "Open-Mind" Regarding Skybridge

I've been bored of Utah politics lately, other than the Legislature selling out our fourth seat, there really hasn't much that I have felt like writing about. However we can always count on "Rocky" to make Utah politics interesting (even if slightly) again.

The DesNews had an article this morning on Rocky's fear that a skybridge in the new Downtown plan being pursued by the LDS Church might threaten downtown vitality, but that he is "softening" his opposition. This was my favorite part of the article "Anderson said Monday that the council has the final say, unless he vetoes their decision." I guess he is either, giving a lesson on our system of government (the legislative branch (city council) votes, and the executive branch (Rocky) either signs off or vetoes the proposed issue), or he is unofficially planning a veto if things don't go his way.

After a tenure as mayor that has done nothing of substantial benefit for Salt Lake City (other than the little orange flags at street corners for the Olympics, national political activism, and acrimony between his office and the state legislature) he now asserts himself adversely when a real solid plan for urban revitalization is being introduced. He stated that "no one seems to have fully considered or analyzed the tremendous amount of time and the comprehensive public policy" that went into the '90s-era plans". Last time I checked the 90's era plans have left downtown SLC a graveyard of failed businesses and empty shops, one key to good government and good leadership is the ability to adapt when one plan fails other options need to be pursued. Rocky seems to lack this trait, he has failed to act in the city's best interest on countless occasions.

I don't care for Rocky Andersen, but I will admit that I will miss his antics, he has made politics in this state a much more interesting topic. However, Salt Lake City will be better off (at least economically, and managerially) when his tenure finally comes to an end.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Apparently Politics is Not As Interesting As Kramer

Yesterday I posted a link to TMZ video of Michael Richard's racial tyraid before an audience at a comedy club. That post brought the most traffic that Green Jello has ever seen! It was little disappointing that a post that took 10 minutes to write, was more interesting than many posts which took alot more of my time and energy to produce.

Maybe Green Jello needs to focus more time on Hollywood scandals, or maybe a frontal lobotamy would be nice instead.

In case you missed the awkward Letterman apology, here is video from iVillage.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Utah's 4th Seat

SLCSPIN, The Senate Site, and others are discussing a recent proposal being bandied around to give Utah a 4th Congressional seat and Washington D.C. a voting seat in Congress. While this proposal would give Utah a seat quicker than waiting for another census, I think it is a big mistake to proceed.

Wannabe Alienated has laid out some very solid arguments against the bill. I think that we as Utahn's need to stand against this. It is folly to push for a nullified 4th seat by giving a seat to a territory (which is unconstitutional) especially when it is highly likely (almost a certainty) that Utah will attain a 4th seat in a few more years after the next census.

Say it Ain't So Kramer

Kramer shows himself to be a raging racists. Video link is here. Unbelievable!

I was an insanely loyal Seinfeld viewer as I grew up, and Michael Richard's performance as Kramer was a big reason why. I'm not sure that I can watch old Seinfeld episodes now without feeling a little surreal knowing what kind of man Michael Richards is. His tyraid may even be enough to stop me from buying anymore DVD 's of Seinfeld.

Too bad that Michael Richards didn't sit back in retirement and live off of the millions of dollars that Seinfeld is making in royalties. He obviously isn't cut out to handle the stand-up comedy circut.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Apology for the Deleted Utah Porn Ranking Post

As Tom Grover pointed out, my last post, which I deleted, regarding Salt Lake's porn was pretty poorly conceived. Sorry for the uninspired work lately.

Full Employment and The Minimum Wage

With the advent of our new Democratic ran Congress the debate regarding minimum wage is heating up again. Some of the most inspired debate about this issue is on Hot Blava. In this post, Bradley discusses a proposal an alternative to a minimum wage increase is better utilization of the advanced earned income tax credit.

As a brief history and analysis of the EIC, I quote the entry from Wikipedia:

"Enacted in 1975, the then very small EITC was expanded in 1986, 1990, 1993, and 2001 with each major tax bill, regardless of whether the tax bill in general raised taxes (1990), lowered taxes (2001), or eliminated other deductions and credits (1986). Today, the EITC is one of the largest anti-poverty tools in the United States (despite the fact that income measures, including the poverty rate, generally do not account for the credit), and enjoys broad bipartisan support."

The structure and benefit that the EIC provides is as follows:

"Currently, for a family with two dependent children, the credit is equal to 40 percent of the first $10,750 earned, plateaus at a maximum credit of $4,400, begins to phase-out when earnings increase beyond approximately $15,000, and reaches zero when earnings pass approximately $35,000. For filers using the Married Filing Jointly status, the phase-out thresholds are increased by $2000. For a family with one dependent child, the structure is similar but has a phase-in rate of 34 percent and a maximum credit of $2,604. For those filing without dependents, there is a small credit of 7.65 percent of earnings with a maximum of $399, which covers the employee's portion of the social security and medicare payroll taxes. All dollar amounts are now indexed to inflation."

In the cases where a family of four is actually living on wages of $15,000, and therefore qualifying for the maximum earned income credit, utilization of the AEITC would increase monthly income from 1,250 to 1,617 dollars. For a family of the same size that is actually living on 5.15 an hour income would increase from 893 to 1,251 dollars a month -- an hourly increase to 7.21 dollars. On paper is appears to provide nearly the same benefit, except if you forget that an actual wage increase to 7.25 an hour would move a given wage earner to 19000 a year in actual wages instead of 15,000 dollars a year in actual income.

So I would actually argue that a increase in the minimum wage and better utilization of the advanced earned income tax credit, would be the ideal means of giving the poor a living wage. Although realistically it should be noted that 19,000 dollars a year as a living wage for a family with four children is far from a living wage, maybe another means of giving a living wage would be initiating an Advanced Additional Child Tax Credit -- a Bush administration tax provision that allows for unused child tax credit to be refunded to those within earned income and investment limits. The most costly part of such proposals is implementation, calculation of AEITC is fairly complicated and thus far highly underutilized, it would take a solid commitment of the IRS to help educate the public of the benefits of such tax provisions.

If you are living on incomes of 5.15 to 7.25 dollars an hour check with your employers about the Advanced Earned Income Tax Credit, it could increase your monthly income substantially.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chairman Rangel and the AMT

Most of my co-workers like to listen to conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Hannity, and I'll admit I do as well. I sometimes agree with Hannity, but often I find Hannity to be a Kool-Aid drinking blowhard. Yesterday was one of those blowhard days. On the Hannity show Chairman-elect of the House Ways and Means Committee Charles Rangel was being badgered on the issue of whether the Democrat Congress will raise taxes or not, a somewhat ludacris arguement considering the Democrats don't have a large enough majority to overrule inevitable Bush vetoes of any proposed tax hikes while he is in office. However, I must say that I was at least somewhat impressed with a few of Rangel's responses regarding the Alternative minimum tax.

Here is a brief history of the AMT, the Democrat ran 91st Congress enacted the AMT in 1969 following testimony by the Secretary of the Treasury that 155 people with adjusted gross income above $200,000 had paid zero federal income tax on their 1967 tax returns. In inflation-adjusted terms, those 1967 incomes would be roughly $1.17 million in today’s dollars. This tax avoidance by a few high-income taxpayers was widely perceived as unfair. Rather than directly addressing the problem by eliminating the deductions and credits in the tax code that were leading to the tax avoidance, Congress laid an additional layer of complexity over the regular income tax in the form of the AMT.

Congressman Rangel claimed in his interview with Hannity that his main focus as chairman will be "fixing" the AMT. Depending on what he means by "fixing" the AMT, I am rather impressed at his commitment to fix on of the most poorly conceived and uninsightful parts of the tax code. The AMT, because of how poorly crafted the law was, is now growing closer to affecting several million Americans (because of 155 Americans in 1967) whom the 91st Congress never intended to burden with this tax. I look forward to see how the Ways and Means Committee addresses this issue.

I still am concerned as to what portions of current tax law that the Democrat Ways and Means Committee will seek to repeal in order to raise revenue and or make the changes that Rangel claims need to be made. I would solidly argue there are many individual tax cuts that need to be made permanent are the child tax credit, the higher standard deductions, the home mortgage interest deduction, and a large host of individual deductions. The issues that the Ways and Means Committee need to focus on in regards to revenue raising, are giving the IRS the needed funding to increase enforcement, customer service, and collection efforts. I strongly hope that this Congress will focus on fixing issues that need fixing (such as the AMT) and solidifying postive tax law changes that have been made during the current president's administration.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Democrats Take Control of Congress

Nothing really worked out as I had hoped, Hatch won and Democrats control both Houses. I guess that's the way the cookie crumbles.

I'm hoping that this Democrat run Congress does what it claims it will do -- work with the GOP and the President. I am yet skeptical as to how the power change will effect the war in Iraq and American security, but I will have an open mind.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"I Voted"

I voted today, I'm a bit of a traditionalists and decided to wait until today to vote. It went smoothly. I voted against Hatch, for Christensen (I decided to take the Republican who affiliates with the Republican party), and locally I voted mostly Republican. However one other Republican I voted down was a county commissioner candidate with quotation marks around his name, I cannot take a candidate seriously who has his name in "quotes". It was rather disappointing to see how many Washington county races were uncontested, I wrote myself in for county assessor, I think Washington county has a real problem with the "good ole boys" network.

Listening to news reports, I'm feeling more confident in my predictions of voter fraud allegations if Democrats don't win as many races as they think they should. I usually scoff at conspiracy theorists voter fraud allegations, but I can see potential problems with the age of the poll workers. Seniors and computers as a whole don't mix too well (oops I'm stereotyping aren't I).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

To Vote and How to Vote, that is the question

Well its near Election Day, while some have already performed their civic duty, I'm still mulling the decision over. I have grown very weary of the rhetoric being recited ad nauseum by candidates on both sides of the scale, and I'm wary of voting based on the seven year itch. My voting decisions are going to based on who I believe is listening to me and my peers as constituents, and so (as you can imagine) those parroting party talking points are definitely going to be on the losing end of my vote.

Despite my inability to reconcile my sociopolitical views to Ashdown's platform, I have committed myself to vote Ashdown. As in the words of my father-in-law, "it is the only message that I can send to Hatch." Although I agree with Pete Ashdown on a very limited number of issues, I believe he will be a true representative of Utah and not his only his political party. Hatch has long since trashed his connections to his constituents for highly visible party leadership positions. He reminds me of a narcissistic lover in a doomed relationship who recounts all of the hardwork the person has put in to be successful, attractive, and popular, with the endline "I did it all for you, baby!" When it is clearly obvious that all that work is for egomaniac himself. Hatch, you have had a impressive career, but lets be honest everything has to do with you and your political visibility even if occasionally you let the dogs (Utah) eat the scraps off of your table. I have delusions of an Ashdown victory, Utahns are too fond of incumbants (especially those deeply entrenched), Hatch will win another term and possibly reach his retirement point after this term. Hopefully in another six years we will finally have a contested race for Hatch's Senate seat.

Regarding the other national vote between Matheson and LaVar, its is pretty difficult to differentiate between the two of them. They both act like Republican's, ones a moderate (who should change party affiliation) and ones a conservative. The problem with the two choices is official party affiliation. Although Matheson has done well representing the views (as a whole) that I hold, his affiliation as a Democrat maybe critical if there are a significant number of Republican seats that are lost in the House. I can't believe it, I am actually leaning towards LaVar Christensen if only to pull one more seat on the Republican side of the isle. I really can't differentiate between the two of them anymore, one candidate is truly a Republican (even if not that impressive) and one candidate is an imposter Republican. Moral for Jim Matheson: if you are going to run a campaign on Republican ideals, you might as well become a Republican.

My hopes for the election nationally, are that the Republicans hold both houses (at worst loose the Senate) without the senior senator from the state of Utah. My predictions are that the election will be too close to call, and many elections will be contested by Democrats on accusations of electronic voting machine fraud. The final result in some races drag on for weeks. (or everything may run smoothly)

Get out and vote.