Friday, December 14, 2007

R.I.P. -- My Video IPod 2005-2007

It was great while it lasted. I got my first IPod for Christmas 2 years ago, a 30 GB video IPod. It was a good friend, it helped me loose 70 lbs, it accompanied me on business trips, and long drives to Salt Lake. Today, it played its last song -- Float On by Modest Mouse.

I tried to reset it, but when the cartoon IPod with a frowning face and x'ed out eyes showed up on the screen I knew it was gone.

Flags at Green Jello offices will be at half staff in Honor of My IPod.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Romney: Huckabee Lets Out His First Negative Comment About Mormomism, and MSNBC's ODonnell is a Religious Bigot

Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist minister who has become a Republican front runner in the Presidential race, finally broke with his policy of silence regarding Mitt Romney's Mormon faith. He was quoted as saying, "don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" Huckabee's comment isn't all that bad, in a way he isn't all that off base saying what he did. Latter-Day Saints believe that before Satan became Satan by rebellion, he was a spirit child of God and therefore a spirit sibling to Jesus Christ. He has since apologized, and I doubt anyone will think twice about it. I have appreciated the fact that he and his campaign have (for the most part) avoided bring Mormonism out as an issue against Romney's candidacy.

However, I was apalled by the display of MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on the McLaughlin Group. In what seemed to be a fit of bigotrous rage he went on a Anti-Mormon rant, he alledged that Joseph Smith was a pro-slavery criminal and that Mormonism is a religion based on racism and lies. The man was nearly foaming from the mouth. O'Donnell, who seemed to be the only person on the panel not even slightly impressed by Romney's Religion in America speech, called the speech the worst speech he has heard in his political lifetime. I doubt Mr. O'Donnell disliked the speech because it was a bad speech (at least 99% of GW Bush's speeches would qualify as worse than Romney's religion speech in my opinion) but because Romney didn't cower and apologize for the tenets of Mormonism. He definitely qualifies as the Rectum of the Year award.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Iran -- No Nuke Program

I have for the most part been a supporter of the Bush administration, and when I have found the Bush administration wanting I have looked the other way. No weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- fine. Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator who needed to be removed from power (should have happened over a decade earlier in GWI). The other scandals that have plagued his administration to a certain point seemed like dirty politics, but nothing worse than what I've seen come from other Presidents. However (if reports are accurate) the Bush Administration has crossed a major line.

For months there has been a concerted effort by conservative pundits, the Bush administration, and others in the Federal government to paint the Iranian government as a threat to world peace, with a Nazi-esque leader, and a full scale nuclear weapons program. The suggestion was made by several right-wingers that the US needs to attack Iran preemptively. A frightening proposition, all warranted if the rhetoric coming from the Bush administration is true. Unfortunately, (according to recent reports) one major issue of the Iran rhetoric is false. Iran has no nuclear weapons program, and hasn't for years.

I can accept bad intelligence as an excuse the first time, but a second time, and regarding a matter that has become a central issue in the Bush administration? I shudder to find myself echoing impeachment sentiments of left-wingers like Rocky Andersen and Congressional Democrats. However, given the (apparent) reckless foreign policy of the Bush administration to provoke, intimidate, and condemn (by fraudulent means) foreign powers -- impeachment of the commander-in-chief (quite possibly)needs to be explored.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Utah No Longer Hearts Families of Disabled Utahns

This past week I attended a seminar on tax changes -- gearing up for the 2008 tax season. During the seminar, a representative from the Utah State Tax Commission presented tax changes for 2007 and 2008. For 2007 the tax changes aren't all that significant, if your rich ($150k+ incomes) you may very likely enjoy the benefits of the flat tax and if you are an average Joe you will pretty much have the exact same state income tax situation you had in 2006.

However, starting in 2008 things will change. We will all start using a modified flat tax system. Instead of explaining the specifics of the modified flat tax I'll refer you to a previous post in this blog.

There is at least one item that becomes noticeably absent in 2008. For years the state of Utah has given families with disabled dependants an extra exemption. In 2008 you will no longer be given a deduction for dependants, instead (if you are below certain income thresholds) you will be given a tax credit based on the number of dependants on your return. Inexplicably, the state disabled dependency exemption is not included in the dependency tax credit.

What was the justification of removing what was one of the few family friendly tax provisions in the Utah state tax code? It would be reprehensible if the exemption was removed merely as some revenue neutral provision of last years tax cut. Way to take away tax benefits from often financially burdened families in the name of a tax cut that, although with deduction and exemption based credits is beneficial to most Utah taxpayers, was clearly a tax cut for the rich.

I wonder if local disabled advocacy groups were, or are aware that the dependency exemption was a victim of the 2008 tax cut.

In the interest of full disclosure I am biased in this issue. My son has an (as of yet) undiagnosed neurological disorder. I would not like anyone to think that I view my son as a burden or a trial, but since we have started seeking diagnosis, therapies, and treatment I have become quite aware of the effort, financial cost, and time involved in caring for disabled individuals. Removing a tax break for such families was a heavy-handed move, and one I hope will be remedied.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

2007 Tax Year Approaching

We just received our early release version of our 2007 tax software. With all of the tax changes in the state legislature, I wasn't quite sure whether the state was using the credit/flat tax system, dual system, or the traditional system for 2007. In case anyone else was wondering the state is using the dual system for the 2007 tax year. It is pretty incredible how not-beneficial the flat tax is to me.

Traditional 100 dollars of tax
Flat 2458 dollars of tax

December is pretty boring in the tax world. I'm thinking of asking my boss to lay me off for the month of December.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wrongful Conviction Reimbursment Proposal

There is a proposal being floated to reimburse wrongfully convicted prisoners 40,000 dollars for each year they were wrongfully imprisoned, and an additional 30,000 dollars if the individual was on death row. One of the positive features that is being touted about this bill is it will avoid multi-million dollar lawsuits from those who are wrongfully convicted.

This proposal is flawed to say the least.

First -- The attempt to value the loss of reputation, time, and freedom at a mere 40,000-70,000 dollars a year is offensive. That proposal is like a restaurant, that through poor sanitation and hygiene of employees, results in a food poisoning case that kills someone trying to settle damages with a lifetime pass for free food at any of the offending restaurants.

Second -- In many cases, wrongful convictions are the result of poor or rushed police work. This type of malfeasance by law enforcement causes irreparable damage to a person. Limiting the rights to seek damages, and limiting the compensation that these people can receive is unfair to say the least.

If we are trying to set some sort of opportunity cost benchmark of what wrongfully convicted individual could have made on the outside we need to be a little more optimistic. I have a client who was let out of prison three years ago, and he has made over a 100,000 dollars a year since his release. I don't think it is too much to expect that individuals who are robbed of freedom should be compensated a little more handsomely than average, especially those who are wrongfully put on death row.

BYU - Utah: Testosterone in the Beehive State

The rivalry game was once again a great game -- until the bitter end. BYU played solid ball at the end, but it was irritating to see the Ref's make such crappy calls during such a pivotal moment in the game. (i.e. the alleged PI call, and the personal foul on the Utes that under identical circumstances a drive earlier with the Y was ignored) I'm not even arguing that the ref's were wrong -- I'm saying when a game is that tight, refs should leave the game in the hands of the players.

KSL Boards have been interesting regarding the game -- alright somewhat idiotic. Both Utah and BYU fans are bursting with emotion at each other about a game that, to the average fan, should mean little more than a few hours of entertainment on a Saturday afternoon. It is fairly incredible how emotionally invested people become in the wins and losses of a team with which they really have no stake. It is apparent that while many in the Beehive state preach charity and brotherly kindness on Sunday's those rules don't apply in Rice Eccles Stadium, LaVell Edwards Stadium or on

UPDATE: DesNews had the fairest assessment of what happened on Saturday. There were questionable calls, but blowing that 4th and 18 was inexcusable.

On another note, my dislike of zoobies was kindled again by BYU player Austin Collie who commented:

"When your doing what is right, on and off the field, the Lord steps in and plays a part."

The DesNews author rightly rebutted:

"Seems to me (if) the Lord cared so much about BYU winning, the cougars would beat the Utes 100-0 every year and not lose games to UCLA and Tulsa."

Good Luck to BYU in Bowls and B-Ball. The UNC game was great. They have an awesome Coach in Rose who used to coach here at Dixie (I think)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

I found this video on Dave Fletcher's blog. When I reflect on the sacrifices of our men and women of the Armed Forces I feel fairly undeserving of the freedom which these individuals have ensured. We are forever indebted to these individuals, and may we seek to better honor the valor and love that our soldiers have shown.

In the universal measuring stick of bravery and manhood, I am a dwarf compared to those who have taken the weight of the banner of freedom on their shoulders.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Vouchers -- Mr. Byrne Should Crawl Under a Rock

I didn't know much about this fellow during the voucher debate, but he has shown what he is made of since vouchers were shot down.

Mr. Patrick Byrne, founder and CEO of asserts that Utahn's who voted vouchers down are child-hating, racists. He now states that he will bank roll any candidate who can defeat Huntsman -- even a communist.

"I think that he, as a governor, he's house-sitting in the governor's mansion to the day Utah elects an actual governor. I don't care if he's communist. I wouldn't care where he was politically. If any opponent emerged, he would have my unqualified support."

I'm curious as to why this fellow was so emotionally invested in vouchers (other than his 2.7 million dollar contribution to the effort) did he see a possible monetary gain, was he beaten as a child in his public school, or as (I suspect) he is simply a jerk.

He might be a good part of the reason that vouchers were shot down, he made the debate personal and dirty rather than a valuable forum to pursue quality, innovative education reforms.

That is my last post on vouchers, I promise.

Mitt Romney Hearts Home-Schoolers

Mitt Romney suggested an idea that I found rather interesting. He suggested (I suppose in connection with Utah's voucher vote) tax credits for home school families. Although this would likely never have a viable chance of passing muster in any state legislature let alone the halls of the US Congress, it is interesting that he acknowledged that homeschooling has provided (in certain circumstances) a sound alternative to public education.

I have a 18 month-old son that my wife and I assume will have special needs for the rest of his life, and we are fully planning on keeping him home-schooled or utilizing Carson Smith special needs vouchers. In researching homeschooling my wife and I hoped we would find an ally with the local schools districts and the state board of education, but to our dismay we have discovered that the local education establishment offers little or no help for those who choose home schooling and in some cases the relationship between the education administration and home schoolers can be rather adversarial.

Although I don't believe I would ever support Romney's idea of a tax credit, I did find his acknowledgment of the sacrifice homeschooling families make refreshing. The state education establishment should take note, and find some means of offering (non-monetary) support to those who take the task of educating their children on their own shoulders.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Vouchers -- Thats All I Have To Say About That

It's over.

I hope innovative education reform innitiatives don't die with it, but at least the annoying UPS and PCE ads will stop. The UPS ads with the teacher with the annoying Utah soccer mom accent was driving me insane, and up until few weeks any time a PCE ad came on I wanted to shoot the television.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vouchers -- Will the REAL Legislative Fiscal Analyst Please Step Forward?

In my last voucher thread, Rep. Urquhart stated that the voucher math is rather straight forward. However, judging from the debate the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's report has created in the blogosphere I would respectfully disagree.

I would like to offer top posting to the Legislative Fiscal Analyst to explain the results of his report regarding HB148 and 174. However, if blogging on the issue in a private site is unacceptable, than I wonder if there could be some other opportunity to have the man who came up with the numbers explain the report, and respond to questions about the report to anyone in the blogosphere. I will fully admit that there may be something that I am missing in the math, but if that is the case than I know I'm not alone.

I would like to ask if Ric Cantrell, Steve U., or some other blogger on Capital Hill could help set up such an event?

Monday, October 22, 2007

For a Laugh

Apparently I'm having a rough time posting YouTube video today. Brian Regan is one of my favorite comics, and one of my favorite diversions from work. This bit rocks even though it is voiced over some Japanimation film.

Romney: Either not much of a Mormon, or Not Much for Intellectual Honesty

Okay, this comment by Mitt Romney struck me as particularly disingenuous.

"No president could possibly take orders or even input from religious leaders telling him what to do," Romney, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" program. "My church wouldn't endeavor to tell me what to do on an issue, and I wouldn't listen to them on an issue that related to our nation."

First off, for years presidents have used evangelical pastors like (can't remember the name) Jimmy Swagart (???) as so called spiritual advisers. You can't tell me that those religious figures have not had effects on some decisions that American presidents have made. Second, if Romney is a stout Mormon, the positions and doctrines of the LDS church have an effect into your decision making. (i.e. abortion, gay marriage, and Utah's much lamented liquor laws) For Romney to say, "I wouldn't listen to (LDS leaders) them on an issue that related to our nation" shows a epidemic lack of intellectual honesty.

Personally I would rather hear an LDS presidential candidate (who is worth voting for) acknowledge that the teachings of the LDS church are a core part of their values, and that as such those values will (should) be a major part of his decision making as President. Someone whose decision making is not influenced by their values is like a ship with a captain who has a compass and map but would rather be guided by the whims of his crew and shipmates. They may travel making good time, but with a completely unintended destination.

Romney went on to say:

"I am not going to try and distance myself in any way, shape or form from my faith. The same kind of philosophy that's associated with other Christian faiths and the Jewish faith and others is very much consistent with (Mormonism)ours."

While I agree with Romney on the later point, it appears that (by denying that the Church will influence his decisions as a President) he is distancing himself from his faith. I believe most voters would be more likely to have empathy with Romney if he acknowledged that his faith would effect him, and bring to light some of the Christian values his faith typifies.

Bad form, Romney.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rangel & the AMT

One of the most daunting issues facing American taxpayers is the alternative minimum tax. This piece of the American Internal Revenue Code came about in 1969, when Congress heard testimony that 155 wealthy individuals paid little or no tax in 1966 (the average inflation-indexed income of the 155 individuals would be near 1 million dollars today) Instead of fixing the problems in the regular tax code, Congress introduced a new tax system based on adding certain regular income tax adjustments or deductions back into taxable income. (extremely vague description) If the AMT is lower than the regular amount of tax than no AMT is owed otherwise the difference is added onto to regular amount of tax and the taxpayer pays AMT in full.

This has been one of the most poorly crafted pieces of the Internal Revenue Code. For starters it was not adjusted for inflation so therefore it is affecting more and more of the middle class taxpayers, it disallows deductions for state and local income taxes creating a double taxation effect in some cases, and many other serious problems.

I have commented on Charles Rangel, and his expressed desire to repeal the AMT. In a recent news letter from the National Association of Enrolled Agents it appears that serious AMT reform is likely not going to be a menu item this year with leaders from the House and the Senate both introducing additional 1 year inflation patches. However the house is still working on a massive reform package that will, among other things, include an elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax. Some of his other initiatives include, expending the child tax credit, the earned income credit, and the standard deduction, all tax provisions that are beneficial to middle and lower income taxpaying families. The article also mentioned nearly 1 trillion dollars in tax increasing offsets. I would assume that this would include increasing the capital gains rates back to their pre-Bush levels. This would be a bad move, taxing savings and investments heavily is not the right idea, as we enter a phase in American history where retirees will outnumber workers by a significant margin, and our Social Security system is still in peril of being broke before this era is complete, we need to keep as much savings and investment income in the hands of American taxpayers as possible.

Now the AMT also adds another element to the voucher issue. It was brought up at the end of my last post that it may be better if we support school choice to get the law enacted now and have the legislature fix the flaws in the legislation later. For me though the AMT is like a bright red flag against this kind of approach, Jeremy from Jeremy's Jeremiad eloquently stated the problem in earlier comment on this blog:

"I'd love to be able to buy the idea you guys have proposed that there is a possibility that the voucher program could be made to disappear if it is a flop. The problem is that I can't think of another example of an entitlement program that was easily revoked after government started handing the money out...even when the vast majority of beneficiaries were wealthy types who didn't need the entitlement in the first place.

This plan is a great example of a possible perfect storm of government waste that can't be undone. If things go poorly and only 2-3% of public school students use the vouchers do you really think Republicans will agree the experiment they've invested so much political capital in is a failure? They'll let it go another 10 years. By then all the rich kids who never would have been in public schools in the first place will be receiving vouchers (and they likely won't be the small $500 subsidies the program currently hands out to wealthy people...some legislators are already apologizing for how small those vouchers are). Will the Republican legislature be able to count on many of its rich donors to go along with revoking the state entitlement that helps pay for their kids private schools?"

That is what I finally have seen as the end result of the HB 148 and 174 voucher plan. If bad law is enacted, it becomes institutionalized and entrenched. In my experience government may see the error of past legislation, but usually it isn't until there have been years of waste and misappropriation. Even after lawmakers see the error it is difficult to remove the error because of constituents who now view the "experiment" as an entitlement.

I would rather (however unlikely this may be) that lawmakers revisit the proposal, find a means of making vouchers a truly cost-efficient means of providing school choice to taxpayers while creating savings for public schools.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Vouchers -- Humble Pie

I have been swamped at work still finishing off returns from the 2006 filing season. (I have two days left thanks to an underhanded trick of the trade) :) As the month begins to progress work has continued to pile and I'm doubting that I will have the time to complete the earth shattering, in-depth analysis I was hoping to be able to present before the November vote.

I have been reviewing the LFA report again and again, and I have hit a paradigm shifting roadblock in my support of vouchers. I do still believe vouchers would produce a fairly decent net savings for the first few years (savings ranging somewhere near4-6.2 millon or in a worse case scenario a loss) , but there will come an equilibrium within 5 to 6 years where the savings break even, and when vouchers fully implement in the 13th year and onward vouchers will inevitiably begin to net annual losses. One might argue about the ambiguities of savings from private school student who would have gone to private schools with or without vouchers and the students who may attend private schools because vouchers make the difference, however it is impossible to get around the fact as time goes by (especially after year thirteen) all students in private schools will be receiving voucher money (whether or not they wanted or needed vouchers to incentivize them out of the public school system).

Judging from the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Report, from year 13 (and I assume from then on) vouchers will net annual losses between $43,088,978 and $59,492,020. There may have been some options that could have alleviated this undesirable effect of subsidizing students who were "no-matter-what-the-cost" private school bound such as requiring a 1 or 2 year period of public school attendance for voucher eligibility. However, with the exception to the eligibility of current Utah-residing, school-aged students no such requirements were included in HB148 or 174.

Idealogically, I do agree with the philosophy of allowing taxpayers a say in how their tax dollars are used to fund the education of their children. The one size fits approach to public education needs innovation and options. Charter schools are a great menu item in our education mix, and I believe providing more accessibility to private schools would also provide another great option for students who need a non-traditional approach to their education needs if it could be done without creating an additional drain from Utah's taxpayers and from the already underfunded public schools system. However, referendum 1 doesn't succeed in this point. After the 13th year and beyond it would be a drain on the public coffers, and I'm afraid it would be viewed as nothing more than another entitlement program.

If HB148 or 174 would have had a provision forcing voucher recipients to enter public school for at least a year or more before being voucher eligible, the thirteen year savings to loss issue may have been solved. This is not the case, HB148 would have its beneficial savings for a season but in the long-run would become a drain of Utah's tax dollars. I hope that if and when Ref 1 is voted down the Legislature reconsiders the issue, and looks at how to resolve the 13 year crunch.

Regretfully, I think I will be dropping my support of referendum 1 with the forlorned hope that the idea doesn't die permanently in this state. If this damages my credibility -- so be it. The idea is good, but the plan's execution has that 1 major flaw for me. This paradigm shift has not been an easy one for me to embrace.

I blog for myself. I find clarity in writing and verbalizing my opinion, and often I find out through my writing that I am wrong.

Have fun everyone!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Vouchers -- Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Report

Ric Cantrell has provided me with a full breakdown of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Report. I don't know that this complete of a copy has been published anywhere. Take a look. I think it provides some clearer insight into one of -- if not the most important arguments in the voucher debate. I will do the same after the extended tax filing deadline passes tonight. I may need a couple of hours to brush up on price elasticity of demand, however I look forward to doing some (hopefully) useful analysis of this issue.

If vouchers will do (provide overall savings to the public school system, while providing taxpayer choice of how and where to educate their children) what proponants believe they will do, than vouchers deserve favorable consideration. However, if their is no financial or class size benefit to the public school system while subsidizing private schools than vouchers are a bad idea and should be voted down.

To me this is the issue! Everything else is noise.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Vouchers -- Thoughts on the New Approach the Legislature Should Take When they Pass Another Voucher Bill in a Few Years

I'm close to throwing in the towel on referendum one due to the abysmal way PCE has conducted the campaign to support vouchers. I can only do so much and reach so many people on my humble little blog. Now I do plan on completing the spreadsheet I have mentioned previously, and I do continue to write in support of Utah's voucher bill. However, Utahn's for Public Schools have ran a very visible, well-planned, efficient, and (judging from the visibility and efficiency) well-funded campaign, while Parent's for Choice has conducted a inefficient, visibility-lacking, possibly poorly-financed, and definitely poorly-managed campaign. I feel rather hopeless for the chances of Referendum 1's passage.

Given the relative hopelessness of the current situation, I thought I would convey a little advice should the Legislature decide to pass a repackaged voucher-type bill in the distant (or not so distant) future. The HB148-174 voucher bill had always faced one major challenge even if the referendum never came to the ballot and/or the referendum passed on Election Day -- separation between church and state. Arizona has a voucher plan that uses tax credits. Many voucher opponents feel this law was passed under false pretenses, although I don't know how anyone couldn't understand the law's intent given that the tax credit was issued only to private school students because they go to private schools. I digress. Given that the funds from the refundable credit are given first to the taxpaying parent, then to a School Tuition Organization (STO) than the STO awards the scholarship to the student at the private or religious institution of the student's choice. The tax credit was deemed constitutional during its only court challenge (Kotterman v. Killian -- Arizona Supreme Court). It appears that the main factor that made Arizona's tax credit survive judicial scrutiny it the buffer of the STO between the State of Arizona the taxpayer and the religious tuition-receiving educational institutions.

Utah's current voucher plan did not have any such buffer, and I would guess has (possibly had) a strong chance of being deemed unconstitutional.

However, tax credits are like blood in a shark tank to tax fraudsters, and such a plan would carry a heavier added cost of policing the plan to make sure abuse is limited. However, I believe a tax credit would have been a better engine for vouchers to overcome the hurdle of separation between church and state.

Monday, October 08, 2007

PCE -- Possibly HB148 and HB174's Worst Enemy

So PCE hasn't done a very good job in bringing to light the positive aspects of vouchers. They started out with a proven winner, associate the opposition with the far left, a campaign strategy that led to John Swallow being elected to the House of Representatives over Jim Matheson..... oh wait a minute he was beaten soundly. Apparently the accusation is out that PCE is paying spam bloggers, one swashbuckling spam blogger in particular.

I'm wondering when are they going to lay out a real campaign. The money spent on TV ads so far have been a waste. The pirate is a waste. If the referendum 1 election result is dependent solely off of the quality of the political campaigns only I'd have to say I would expect Utahn's for Public Education could win in a walk.

This organization has made me feel rather hopeless regarding the chances for Referendum 1 to pass. Spend some money on making arguments regarding the benefits of vouchers, benefits of competition, savings to the education system, reduced public school class sizes, right of self-determination by parents of Utah's school children. Do something! Pay me to blog about the benefits of vouchers, at least I would make some points about the actual issues. Enlisting the disingenuous buccaneer in such a valuable cause to me is insulting.

Hattip Jeremy and Bob Aagard

Friday, October 05, 2007

Vouchers -- Financial Analysis "Its About the Money"

This is a revision of the post I wrote last night.

Yesterday I was reading some comments at Steve Urquhart's blog and I noticed there seems to be confusion on how much savings there will or will not be from voucher implementation. I spent some time last night writing a spreadsheet model based on certain assumptions (no currently attending private school students could receive vouchers, only students switching from public to private, out of state move ins, and new kindergartners will receive vouchers -- 100% savings per voucher issued) however I realize a large flaw with my assumption due to the fact that many new students (out of state move ins, and new kindergartners) many not have ever gone to public schools without vouchers. As far as my calculations go I don't really see any circumstances where there would not be a net financial benefit to public schools because of voucher implementation, however I haven't figured out how to account for the money that isn't saved due to voucher receiving students who never would have attended public school without vouchers. I would like some help making the model as accurate as possible -- if interested in collaborating or if you just want to access the spreadsheet please email me. If anyone knows how to make a Google spreadsheet open for anyone to view and alter please tell me. The idea with the spreadsheet is that anyone can alter the variables and see the net effect on savings from those changes.

I believe vouchers provide a powerful means of increasing per student spending in state of Utah. By allowing parents the right to take a portion of the money the state was going to spend on their kids for education elsewhere, the remaining funds can be stretched to help increase per student spending on the kids that stay in public school.

I also believe giving taxpayers the right to determine how their tax dollars are used to educate their children is the right move. I don't believe the one size fits all model of education for which most public schools operate is best for all Utah children. Charter schools are a fantastic asset to the state's educational menu. Vouchers provide another menu item for parents to tailor how best to meet the educational needs of their children. Vouchers also can save money for public schools to improve education for public school children.

Utah's public schools are great, I am product of them and I pretty sure that most of my children will be schooled in public school as well. However I believe vouchers are a worthy experiment that can help improve Utah education in many aspects.

Best Tounge n' Cheek Comment of the Month -- Vouchers

Very Sincere Hattip to Alienated Wannabe,

With the voucher vote coming up, I have been trying to muster up the energy to get back into the debate. I'll probably start writing heavy on the issue after the extended tax deadline on October 15th. Till then read the bills (which are available on this blog and almost any other Utah blog) analyze some of the pro's and con's (if possible without being sucked into the BS that UPS and PCE have peddled) and make as informed a decision as possible as to what will most benefit Utah education. Now for the comment of the month, Rob was announcing UPS anti-voucher signs had arrived and how to order some to which fellow voucher supporter AW replied:

"For those interested, I am also taking orders for my PRO-VOUCHER yard signs. I borrowed my son's crayons and made them myself. They are really cool looking, and they have catchy slogans like the following:

1) Edward Kennedy, Nancy Palosi,, Joseph Stalin and Charles Manson are all opposed to school vouchers. Don't be like them. Join our 90% plus Active Mormon Legislature, an enthusiastic Governor Jon Huntsman, and the Hosts of Heaven in voting to protect our noble Utah law granting parents the choice in deciding how to best educate their children. Support vouchers! (A bit on the long side, but I am confident that passing motorists can catch it all if they read fast.)

2) Vote for vouchers, or be damned!

3) Don't be like all those dumb public-school-educated L-worders out there. Vote for vouchers!

4) What would Ronald Reagan do? Vote for vouchers!

5) Satan's plan is to take away your choice, just like the anti-voucher evil doers. You are either for us or against us. Vote for vouchers!

6) The Utah Axis of Evil: The UEA, the Utah Democratic Party, and Rocky Anderson -- all opposed to vouchers. Need I say more?Or, my personal favorite:

7) Go ye out from among the wicked. Vote for vouchers!

Please place your orders on my blog. I look forward to hearing from you. Working together, we can protect the rights of Utah parents to raise their children according to what they think is best. That is all I want.



That comment made my day!

Seriously, if you vote against vouchers your going to hell.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dixie State College -- Administration V. Alumnus

Posted below is an email detailing the rancor in the discussions to make DSC part of the University of Utah. Although, I am personally in favor of Dixie becoming a full part of the U of U. I would agree that racism is being drummed up as an issue where it shouldn't and probably doesn't exist.

" Let me see if I can set the record straight on all that has happened over the last several weeks. The DSC Board of Trustees in conjunction with the DSC Administration approached law makers, Board ofRegents members and administration officials of the U of U some time ago to determine if it would be possible to develop a "closer affiliation"with the U of U in order to bring more degrees to Dixie. It was determined after that meeting that there was interest by all parties in this affiliation and that the talks should continue. The DSC Board ofTrustees was charged with the task of drafting a proposal outlining the preliminary details of this "closer affiliation." An announcement was made that DSC would seek such an affiliation and that there would be aperiod of 2-3 weeks of discussion with students, faculty, community, and alumni regarding what this proposal would ultimately look like. Discussion began.

I have to insert here that what I say from this point on will be colored by my personal bias on what has happened since the original announcement. I have been for, and fought for, the retention of the name Dixie and for the retention of the Rebels name/mascot. I have never wavered from that goal and have made 6 trips to St. George overthe last 2 1/2 weeks to preserve those traditions. I lost that fight and I am bitterly disappointed. President Caldwell called me on or about the 6th of September to let meknow that the announcement was going to be made within the next day or two and asked me for my support and feed-back. An hour long discussion ensued. He told me that the proposed name of the college within the language of the proposal would be "University of Utah St. George," and outlined to me the benefits of this "closer association" with the U ofU. As you know, we have been the ugly step-child of the Board of Regents for some time now. In the 5 years we have been Dixie State College, we have managed 8 baccalaureate degrees and two certificates.This affiliation with the U of U will dramatically increase our access to U of U resources and has the potential of essentially raising Dixieto university status within 18 months to two years. It is fully possible that we could expand the baccalaureate degrees offered to our students into the 50s within a very short period of time. I told him that I was in favor of the affiliation with the U of U provided that“Dixie” remain in the official name of the college and that we retain our own identity and autonomy. There was no discussion of the“Rebels” mascot at that time. President Caldwell indicated to me that every effort would be made to retain our identity and autonomy citing that current drafts of the proposal retained separate boards of trustees and separate budgets for the two institutions, but that the recommended name would be “U of U St. George.” I told him that I would not be in favor of anything that did not include “Dixie”prominently and officially in the name and that I felt there would be extreme community, alumni and student resistance to the name “U of U St. George.” He offered no further comment except that there would be a period of discovery and discussion over the next 2-3 weeks.What followed was anything but a period of discovery and discussion. What became immediately clear was that Shandon Gubler (Chairman of the Board of Trustees) and President Caldwell, as well as a few other board members and members of the DSC Administration had clearly made up their mind on the issue and that the 2-3 weeks would be a full court press to sell everyone on becoming U of U St. George and upon dropping the“offensive” name “Dixie” from the college’s official name. Every community, or student meeting that I had the opportunity to attend was pure propaganda to that end. Shandon Gubler attended an Alumni Board Meeting and pulled out the old year books from the 60s with their Confederate symbols and asked if “this was really the message we wanted sent out to the world and we enter a national, or even international, stage?” He seemed to forget that the flag and Rodney Rebel disappeared from the campus long ago and that we no-longer even print a year book. He spoke very persuasively about the fact that Dixie could not progress past its current state without losing its name and that he felt that the U of U would not be willing to accept the affiliation with the name “Dixie” attached. In the end, he told us that we should support getting rid of the name Dixie because it was the right thing to do for the college, and that the U of U had not made that demand that that, in conversations with members of the U of U administration including President Young, he was told they would not make that a condition of the proposal. We were told that all options were on the table. Many of the alumni board were affected and even emotional at the end of the meeting. In a side conversation after the meeting, Shandon told Connor Shakespeare (Southern Utah Alumni Chapter President) that we would remain “Rebels.”

Student meetings were laden with language like: “Do you want to continue to be Dixie State College with limited options, or do you want to be U of U St. George with the full support of the U of U?” Never that there might be a second option of reaching the desired level of affiliation and retaining the name “Dixie.”At one point, President Caldwell interrupted a DSC Student Council Meeting to tell them that he expected to receive a letter from officials at the U of U mandating that maintaining the name “Dixie” would kill the deal, and essentially telling them that they could not continue to be Dixie and that they should cease their opposition to the proposal. When Jennifer Shakespeare (DSC Student Body President) called Shandon Gubler to request a copy of the letter she was told that there was no letter, and that there would be no letter. Ralph and Sherry Atkin got involved at some point and circulated a petition that was ultimately signed by over 500 members of the community including most of the college’s biggest local supporters and donors, not to change the name to anything that did not include “Dixie” in the official name of the college. A community meeting was held in the Gardner Ballroom and was well attended by community leaders, donors, and alumni. The meeting was billed as on open discussion. What we got was a carefully orchestrated barrage of ethnic minority students talking about how offensive the term“Dixie” was to them; a carefully written statement from the chair ofthe faculty senate in opposition to “Dixie;” an “older”student who was returning for her degree again opposing the name Dixie on the grounds that it might limit her options for the future, a single mother who needed her degree in order to make more money to support her family, and a student from Snow Canyon High School who said that she would not attend Dixie State College if it bore the name “Dixie.” It was clear to all that attended that each of these individuals had been pressed into action by either the head of the campus Diversity Center (who also spoke in opposition to Dixie;) a member of the administration (one identified herself as having been requested to speakby Donna Dillingham-Evans – Academic VP) or by a member of the Trustees (the high school student who spoke and only identified herself by her first name, turned out to be Shandon Gubler’s daughter.) Many community members spoke to retain the name Dixie. Ralph Atkin asked President Caldwell: “If the Board of Trustees votes to retain the name“Dixie,” will you support their decision?” To which PresidentCaldwell answered: “I don’t have a vote,” followed by a spew of rhetoric worthy of his Juris Doctorate that answered nothing. In fact,several questions were asked and none were answered. I wanted to ask Miss Gubler if it had always been her intention not to attend Dixie State College due to the offensive nature of its name even though her father was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, but I had already had my turn at the microphone. I did have the chance to let the students of ethnicity know that I was happy that they had decided to come to Dixie and that I felt bad if they had in any way felt unwelcome here. I feel that diversity on our campus is critical, and I told them so. I told them that until this moment I had never witnessed any expression of racism on this campus and that it was my home that this would always be the case at Dixie. I did remind them that they had a choice in coming to Dixie State College and apparently decided to come in spite of the offensive name.

The next day, a final meeting was held for Dixie College students. Itwas poorly attended, mostly by a group of the most ardent supporters of retaining “Dixie.” What was surprising to me (actually not) was than not a single one of the students who had spoken so passionately against “Dixie” were in attendance – not one!

Last Friday an “emergency” meeting was held off campus. It was attended by many influential members of the community and members of the Trustees. In that meeting they were told that the University of Utah had decided to withdraw from the discussion based upon issues of governance and the “Dixie” name. The issue of governance was that“University of Utah St. George’s,” Board of Trustees will become a board of directors that will answer to the U of U’s Board of Trustees. What this means is that we are being acquired by the U of U and that we will no-longer chart our own course without approval from the U ofU’s Board of Trustees. Senator Bill Hickman and Maureen Booth dissented on the vote based on the fact that we are giving up governance of the college. Everyone else at the meeting voted in the affirmative based on a belief that the deal would be dead without making these concessions.

On Monday, the Dixie State College Board of Trustees voted to draft aproposal to be sent to the University of Utah with the following provisions:

--The proposed name of the college will be University of Utah St.George, with the unofficial tag line “Dixie campus.” The Hurricaneand Kanab centers would, likewise, eventually be able to call themselves“Hurricane or Kanab campus” respectively.

--the mascot/name “Rebels” will be removed from DSC (we will needto find a new mascot – we will not become the U of U Utes)

--The DSC Board of Trustees will become a board of directors and will answer to the U of U Board of Trustees.

If in fact the U of U would have refused the deal with the name Dixie than and only should the concession to kill the name Dixie have been made. I'm afraid over-sensitivity and politcial correctness have been the main culprits. It is surprising that push for P.C. was made on DSC's end and not the U of U's end.

--Ralph Atkin was able to get language into the proposal that the students of the college could still refer to themselves as “Dixie”could sing the Dixie Songs and essentially uphold Dixie Traditions andthat the U of U would recognize their right to do so.

Some final thoughts:

There is a huge amount of detail that I do not have the time to include(heated personal conversations with President Caldwell and Shandon Gubler, conversations with alumni and alumni board members, etc….) In the end, it is my strong opinion that it was the design of the current administration and several of the trustees to eradicated the name“Dixie” from the campus from the get go. I strongly believe that the actions of the University of Utah were, in the end, strongly influenced by members of our own administration and board of trustees seeking support of their point of view. I believe the mandate from theU of U to drop the name “Dixie” from the official name of the college and the Rebels mascot/name were directly solicited by ShandonGubler or President Caldwell or both. My basis for this belief is that we were told that the U of U had stated that they would take no stand on these issues, but as Ralph Atkin and others began to garner support for“Dixie” from key members of the Board of Trustees it began to be apparent that they might lose the vote at the trustees meeting. I believe that Shandon and/or President Caldwell solicited officials from the U of U to take a stronger stand to bolster support from trustees who were either in favor of retaining “Dixie” or were undecided. We still have no official document from the U of U administration stating their opposition to either “Dixie,” or “Rebels.” Everything was done by “conversations” between Shandon Gubler and, as yet, un-named individuals from the U of U administration.

Though there is language in the proposal that gives lip service to retaining the “Dixie” name and traditions, I think it is naive to believe “Dixie” or its traditions will long endure in an atmosphere now charged with such negative emotions. The “D” on the hill will still stands for “Dixie” for as long as it remains, and the songs still sing of “Dixie” for as long as students and alumni will singthem. If “Dixie” is perceived as a term of hatred, how long do we really think it will last in a school that no-longer even controls its own destiny – that has given up its right to self determination to a larger university that has nothing invested in it keeping its name orits traditions alive. I would say that the proponents of this proposal are just fooling themselves, but I think they are more savvy than that. I think the believe they are fooling us.

An even larger issue in my mind is that the actions of the administration and/or certain trustees of DSC have irreversibly raised the issue of racism on a campus where no racism previously existed. Itis my belief that one or both of these parties solicited support from the director of the Ethnic Diversity Center on campus to find students of ethnicity willing to oppose “Dixie” in the public meeting based on in being a term of hatred toward blacks. I further believe they presented those students with one sided evidence to that end and then requested that they represent that point of view at the public meeting. Indeed one of the students who spoke of “Dixie” being a term ofracial hatred and stated that she was considering leaving Dixie College over this issue, spoke only one week earlier to a group of the campus ambassadors (she is herself an ambassador) stating that Dixie was not offensive to her and that she had never experienced any expressions ofracism on campus. I believe that the actions of those individuals in the administration and trustees who leveraged that emotion in their cause are both irresponsible and reprehensible.

From a philosophical point of view, I believe that the perceived connotation of any term or expression (like “Dixie” or “Rebels”)lies primarily in the mind or minds of the person or group who either uses or receives that term. A few weeks ago I was hiking Havasupai Canyon. I was approached by a Native American who, with derision, called me a Mormon. I simply said, “Yes, I am a Mormon; I am proud to be a Mormon.” I am descended from a religious minority who was singled out, with government authority, for extermination in the state of Missouri, driven out of Ohio and Illinois, and persecuted by mobs to the point of being forced to leave the United States and relocate to a desolate wasteland in Mexican territory at the edge of civilization, based simply on the fact that they were “Mormons.” My ancestors were brutalized for who they were and for what they believed. Some died along the trail to Utah. The term “Mormon” is a term of hatred to some. To me it conjures up images of self sacrifice, devout goodness, and a personal belief in God. To me, “Mormon” is a term of endearment. It is not offensive to me because I have chosen to see it in a different light than those who might use it as a term of derision.

Yes, the Southeastern region of the United States is referred to as Dixie. And yes, it was the location of the Confederacy during the Civil War. And yes, it was the region where slavery was practiced until a Civil War was fought to end that terrible era in our history as a nation. Likewise, Germany was the region that gave birth the Third Reich and Nazism and to the genocide of the Holocaust. And if memory serves me, I believe the founders of the this nation were once called“Rebels” by those who sought to oppress them. Why is it that we can now say “Germany” with impunity but the “Dixie” still carries the stench of the Confederacy?

Maybe we should remember that “Dixie” is also the place where a woman named Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of a bus because she was black, and where Rev. Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream….” -- the very birthplace of human rights in America (I'm not sure many people think of Washington DC as Dixie fo the old south, but I digress)

…or a desolate region of Southwestern Utah where a group of pioneers ofthe Mormon Church were sent by their prophet to grow cotton, struggled to survive, and said they had been called to “Dixie.”

I’m a Mormon from Dixie! I must be really depraved! One might even call me – a Rebel.

Monday, October 01, 2007

U of U-Dixie vs. U of U-Saint George: What's in a Name?

Dixie State College is trying to gain approval to become a part of the University of Utah. Most people believe this would be a huge benefit to the town. For years, it has been a frustration that the largest metropolitan area south of Provo has limited higher education. If you want any graduate degree or an undergraduate degree in anything but Education or Business you had to move or you had to to commute over 100 miles a day to attend classes at SUU. Gaining access to the full spectrum of degree programs offered by the U would be tremendously beneficial, not to mention shedding the Dixie "party school" image. I think it is safe to say no one thinks DSC becoming part of the U is a bad idea for Saint George. The problem is the name.

On one side of the isle you have folks like Ed Kociela of the The Spectrum (or as an esteemed local professor of mine referred to as the Rectum) who feel the name Dixie has such strong racial connotations that we need to shun association with the nickname of the southeastern Confederate states. In the other corner you have locals and alumni, who feel the school will lose its history and identity if Dixie is lost from the name. For example, my parents belong to a group of fanatical alumni (PB alumni) who have been faithful at having reunions for more than 30 years. This group is one of the foremost fighting the loss of Dixie from the institutions name.

Personally I don't feel keeping the mere name U of U-Dixie would be that detrimental to the schools image that people would not come to this school simply because of the racial connotations. However if the name Dixie is enough of an issue to the U of U to stop the merger, than the name Dixie needs to be put to rest for U of U-St. George for the betterment of the community.

Informal Poll: Which name works U of U-Dixie or U of U-St. George?

Subprime Mortgages and the Bankruptcy Protection Act

There was an interesting post at Utah Amicus. The title of the post, "Did Orrin Hatch cause the Sub prime Mortgage Meltdown,"made me wonder what kind of BS Steve Olsen was peddling. But the post brought up a solid point that the Bankruptcy Protection Act may have helped fuel the conditions that have caused the mortgage failures of the past year.

The only thing I would add is that mortgage brokers need to be brought under the auspices of Federal regulation. For example, securities dealers and brokers are heavily regulated they need to provide a thorough analysis of a customers financial situation to determine whether their situation is feasible for investing. Until a year or so there was absolutely no licensing requirement for mortgage originators, and despite the licensing requirement that was introduced I have seldom (to never) seen mortgage originators conduct any real solid analysis of a lendee's financial situation to determine how much loan a borrower could afford. Many times I was approached by loan originators to write "CPA letters" for some of my tax clients that were slightly outside the realm of honesty. That type of behavior in other financial services industries would lead to expulsion from practice, unfortunately during the housing boom (bubble) the loan peddlers operated unregulated and unfettered.

During the boom here in Southern Utah, middle class families were being put into 300k sub prime loans left and right with little or no explanation of what would happen in a few years if they didn't refinance the loan or sell the home out of the loan, and absolutely NO effort to determine whether the home buyer could afford a 300k+ home. There are many home buyers who will be left picking up the pieces. We lost one family to foreclosure from our neighborhood this week, and I'm sure many other families in this town and nationwide will suffer the same consequences.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Parents for Choice in Education Recent Campaign ad a Big Miss

Okay -- I'm all for vouchers. However I was extremely disappointed with the only pro-voucher ad I have seen here in Sant George. I found the closest version I could on YouTube. This ad is about as pathetic as John Swallow's (I think that was the name of the loser who ran against Matheson a few years ago) negative attack ads that tried to align Matheson with Nancy Pelosi, and Ted Kennedy (ahhh!). Swallow's campaign failed miserablely then, and if this type of ad is the only kind of ammo PCE is going to use in the voucher debate Referendum 1 may fail miserably as well.

Although I disagree with the anti-voucher crowd, I give them an A for keeping their campaign focused on the issues. (Even if I find many of their cited issues moot and invalid)

Anywho, that was just my small rant for the day and I hope that the PCE leaders take another look at their ad campaign. There are many positives of the voucher plan other than "conservatives support vouchers, and if your against vouchers you are flaming liberal or a pinko Commi!" Last of all -- please PCE, don't bring Mormonism into the debate like Paul Mero alledgedly did.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm Back -- Sort of....

Well I have been on a two-month apathy hiatus, and frankly I've really enjoyed it. However, it is time to return to my neglected child. Really not much has been interesting me lately in politics. The voucher debate has fueled up more, however I am so out of touch with the current discussion that attempting to join the debate again would require far more time than I am currently willing to spend. As my father so often said, "it is better to be quiet and appear to be an idiot than to open your mouth and confirm that you are an idiot." So I thought I would simply touch on a few things that have interested me over the past several weeks.

1. President Bush's proposal to offer Federal financing as an option to homeowners in sub prime mortgages who are facing or may face foreclosure -- Unfortunate, but a very predictable result of the mortgage products that were frivolously used to put many people in houses they couldn't afford. The main subject of this problem are ARM's (adjustable rate mortgage's) these loans offered lower interest only payments for a number of years until, after two to five years, the interest rates reset and payments of principal began becoming due. These loans are epidemic in St. George -- for duration of the boom, it was used as the loophole to get lower income families into homes that were ordinarily unaffordable. This is unfortunate, but likely one of the only means of averting epidemic foreclosures. It appears that, at least in Utah, steps are being taken to regulate the mortgage industry and the types of loans that they peddle. (80/20 ARM's may be a thing of the past) I believe I called the housing mess, and I hope it levels out soon.

2. "Barack Obama outlined his plans for changing the tax code, should he become president. Like rival former senator John Edwards (D-NC), Obama proposes to lower the filing burden for taxpayers with simple returns by requiring that the IRS send them pre-prepared returns that would simply require their signatures. Obama also wants to give families a $1,000 tax credit to offset payroll taxes, create a “universal homeowners’ tax credit,” and eliminate income taxes for seniors making less than $50,000. He would raise rates on capital gains and dividends to offset some of his plan’s costs. Notable is Obama’s silence on the AMT, which is recognized almost universally as one of the major problems in the tax code."(NAEA Ealert Newsletter)

I find some of his proposals rather interesting -- some I possible agree with (depending on the specifics) and some I adamantly oppose. First the proposal I oppose, I agree with the Senator that filing a tax return can be difficult and burdensome. However, I have a real problem with the government predetermining my allowable deductions and exemptions. I could see this creating a whole new line of information reporting burdens for businesses and charities, and/or a whole new audit red flag based solely on whether or not you filed the IRS' prefilled tax return. Some of the items I agree with are credits to offset payroll taxes, universal homeowners credit, (depending on specifics) and exempting income tax for seniors with income below 50,000 (although I think he should extend that to single moms and married families). I disagree with increasing the cap gain and dividend rates, but my disagreement is purely ideological -- I think the lower cap gains and dividend rates have been a great benefit to our economy.

3. Rock Concerts are sweet -- In high school during the mid-90's, I was a mosh-pit/rock concert connoisseur. I've mellowed drastically since then -- until September 12th when I attended the Muse concert. It was sweet! The band came back out and performed the BEST encore I have ever enjoyed. My wife (bless her soul didn't know better, it was her first concert) bought reserved seats keeping the kick-arse mosh pits below out of reach, but it brought me to the realization that children and manhood are no reason to stop enjoying the finer things in life.

Anyways, thats my update. I'm trying to care about politics again, but apathy isn't all that bad and I may enjoy it a little longer. To the pro-voucher crusaders -- keep up the fight. To everyone else -- have fun and good luck.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Fair Tax -- Would it Rid Us of the IRS?

Today was the Republican Debate's, and with three kids running around I wasn't able to listen to much of the debate. One part I was able to listen to was regarding the idea of a fair tax. Under the fair tax, we would pay a national sales/consumption tax of 23% and there would be no more income tax, Social Security tax withholding and we would all live in a magical world where there would be no IRS. Although there are many issues with the fair tax that I dislike (the propensity for this tax being a tool of special interests and lobbyists just to name one) one issue that is easily clarified is the fair tax will not rid the nation of the IRS.

It is true that, individual wage earners would be rid of any dealings with the IRS, but small business owners would have a much more powerful and demanding partner in their businesses'. Their are certain state and Federal taxes that are called trust fund taxes (Social Security, Federal Withholding, Medicare tax, and sales tax are a few of them) these taxes carry a powerful punch for those who fail to fully comply with the legal requirements of these laws. The penalty can amount to as much as 100% of the tax that was owed, add on interest and these types of taxes have been the death of many a business enterprise. Another problem with trust fund taxes are the propensity for misappropriation of trust funds -- entrusting 100% of the nation's tax funds to struggling small business owners creates a huge opportunity for fraud. Another problem is the vagueness of most states sales tax laws (after which I assume the national fair tax would be modeled). For example, Utah's sales tax rules (as far as I have experienced) are some of the most vague tax rules I have ever come across I have detailed the vagueness of Utah sales tax at least once or twice in the contents of this blog, and I don't feel like going through it again.

Although a large percentage of the nation would be rid of dealing with IRS, small business owners would find a much more ruthless and powerful IRS reaching its hand into their daily business dealings. This tax would raise the taxes of the poor and the middle class by raising the cost of living, it would be extremely costly to implement, and it would raise the cost of doing business and have a discouraging effect on entrepreneurship in this country. I don't believe the fair tax would be a wise choice for the tax policy of this country.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Three Cheers for Rangel -- Comprehensive AMT Reform

It appears that Charles Rangel (D-NY) is still working to keep his word regarding reforming the dreadful Alternative Minimum Tax. Although Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is pushing for another one year patch, Congressional leaders Rangel and Neal are pushing for and AMT exemption for couples with income up to $250,000. There are a few other notable tax changes that Rangel and Neal are pushing for among those include, an increase the standard deduction, and possibly expand the EITC and child tax credit. In order to remain Revenue neutral Rangel and Neal propose to raise taxes on those with incomes above 500,000 dollars, the Congressmen do not expound on how high they would raise taxes.

Although I am hesitant to give a full unqualified thumbs up to the Rangel proposal (due to the vague explanation of the 500k + tax hike). I applaud the efforts to continue lessening the tax burden of the poor and middle class families. The push to reform the AMT is a breathe of fresh air to the "sweep it under the rug" approach to AMT reform that Congress has taken for the past several years. For a Democrat Congressman Rangel isn't that bad.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Healthcare -- My Paradigm Shift

As most paradigm shifts occur, mine comes due to very difficult personal issues.

Out of school my first job (the one which I am still employed) is in a very small firm that hasn't provided health care coverage for its employees. I don't curse my employer -- small employer health care plans are about as affordable as the individual employees providing their own insurance. It was soon after this that my doctor noted that my second child didn't gain sufficient weight in her first year, the doctor noted concerns that she may be susceptible to host of different conditions. In this case my wife and I were left with prayer and faith as the strongest source of comfort -- it worked our daughter is robust and healthy. Now my one year old son has been diagnosed with a possibly debilitating disorder known as leukodystrophy (there are several classes of this disorder and the doctors are still uncertain as to the exact type) Fortunately, CHIP enrollment opened again and the income requirements have raised to a level that my children finally qualify.

However, it has been a heart-aching experience over the past year being unable provide my son with all of the health care that his caring physicians have suggested. Not to mention lacking health insurance on my wife and myself has been frightening at times, lets just say I exercise religiously and I drive extremely cautiously. There are many benevolent organizations that have provided my son with therapeutic services virtually cost free, for all of which I am extremely grateful. These events have led me to question my long-held stance that health care needs to remain a fully privatized venture.

Although, I am well acquainted with inefficiencies of a few despised Federal agencies I'm growing (in small steps) to believe that nationalized health care my not be as bad as I have sometimes lamented. I'm not suggesting that the idea of Walter Reed Medical Center's nationwide doesn't repulse me, but a system in which anyone can get (grantedly sub par) health care as opposed to no health care is gaining some appeal to me.

I still have some strong points in opposition. The horror stories of VA medical centers are one example, and the needed increases in tax revenue to pull off such a policy shift are colossal. I heard somewhere the absurd suggestion of a "fat" tax, an idea in tax policy that may create a whole host of new eating disorders.

Something needs to be done to provide affordable health care to all Americans, I'm afraid we all know the answer and for some of the reasons cited above we are loathing to admit it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Strong Evidence of the Need for the Death Penalty

Do you own a gun?

Utah State Tax Commission Motor Vehicle Division -- DEFENDERS OF PUBLIC MORALITY

I've gone through a bit of an apathetic spell in regards to my blog. I've said all that can be said, and more, about vouchers and haven't really had anything else that I've cared to write about. I'm trying to come back.

This story was a bit over the top. The Utah State Tax Commission has taken up a fight against a merlot Mercedes owner on account of his personalized license plate "MERLOT". The state's arguement in this matter, "merlot is an alcoholic beverage, and the state refuses to have alcohol promoted on its licenses." Nevermind the fact that the car's color is in fact called merlot, the state somehow finds that any reference to a (fairly mild as I understand) alcoholic beverage harmful to the general public. Initially I thought this was just a complete bizzare occurance, "the guy must have pissed off someone during a tax audit, or something".

However, this morning the subject came up during an appointment with one of my tax clients and this client actually had a similar experience with the Utah State Tax Commission. In another state they had a friend with the license "WHO TOOTED" on the family car (in reference to tdigestive function) when they moved here the attempted to get the same tags and were denied. The reason they were denied is (according to the DMV worker) there is a list of words and phrases that cannot be used in connection with personalized tags "tooted" apparently (according to the State of Utah) is a slang term for snorting cocaine. I'm curious if anyone has tried to get the phrase "ASSMAN". This is absurd. I was pretty opposed to Mayor Andersen's rhetoric about Utah being a Taliban-esque theocracy, however when it comes to the Utah State Tax Commission Motor Vehicle Division I have to concede the point to the Mayor.

PS I recommended the client try again, and when denied I have gldly offered to fight the case. Anyone else have this experience?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Vouchers -- Jeremy's Arguments

I have appreciated that Jeremy has stuck with the voucher debate here. In my last voucher post Jeremy commented and eloquantly laid out a notable and powerful argument against vouchers. The argument isn't one that I can truly refute. Although I disagree with him (depending on his definition of "wealthy types") on who will be the majority beneficiaries of vouchers and his assumption that vouchers for wealthy students will grow much beyond levels currently prescribed; I cannot refute his concerns about what happens if the plan flops.

"I'd love to be able to buy the idea you guys have proposed that there is a possibility that the voucher program could be made to disappear if it is a flop. The problem is that I can't think of another example of an entitlement program that was easily revoked after government started handing the money out...even when the vast majority of beneficiaries were wealthy types who didn't need the entitlement in the first place.

This plan is a great example of a possible perfect storm of government waste that can't be undone. If things go poorly and only 2-3% of public school students use the vouchers do you really think Republicans will agree the experiment they've invested so much political capital in is a failure? They'll let it go another 10 years. By then all the rich kids who never would have been in public schools in the first place will be receiving vouchers (and they likely won't be the small $500 subsidies the program currently hands out to wealthy people...some legislators are already apologizing for how small those vouchers are). Will the Republican legislature be able to count on many of its rich donors to go along with revoking the state entitlement that helps pay for their kids private schools?"

Monday, July 02, 2007

Transformers Rock!!!!

I am a ten year old boy at heart. My wife and I caught the sneek preview of Transformers, and it was sweet. Might I suggest playing hooky to catch a matinee.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Arnold v. Commissioner -- A Strong Case for Regulation of Unlicensed Tax Return Preparers

I have been regularly reading Tax Court Decisions, in preparation of taking the Tax Court exam for admission of non-attorneys. It is considered one of (if not the) most difficult tests in the field of taxation. Yesterday, the U.S. Tax Court released TC Memorandum 2007-168 Arnold V. Commissioner. This case involves a tax accountant husband and a realtor wife who each operated separate S-Corporations for which neither paid themselves W-2 wages, each corporation deducted a myriad of expenses for which no substantiation existed, and to top all of that on their 2002 and 2003 income tax returns claimed Earned Income Credits of $352,854 and $489,827 (the earned income credit is a welfare vehicle to provide an income supplement to low income Americans that has a maximum allowable credit of around $5,000)

The most interesting move the court and the IRS made in regards to this case is treatment of owner compensation. S-Corporation officer-shareholders are required to be paid as employees however in this case the IRS and the Tax Court determined that the Arnolds were each subcontractors of their separate S-Corporations liable to SE tax rather than back FICA tax. The decision is unclear if they had appointed employees as officers, but generally this issue is one where the IRS will reclassify distributions as wages an add on much heavier employer quarterly penalties.

The most unbelievable part of this case is the amounts claimed EIC for 2002 and '03 of a third of a million and a half million dollars respectively. One of the first things any tax preparation class will teach you is the earned income credit is only worth five thousand dollars, and only if your income is in a narrow range is the EIC worth even that amount. For anyone to claim as much EIC as Mr. Arnold claimed is laughable, but for a man who others come to for their tax advise to commit such a brazen act of fraud is alarming. If this man were licensed I am sure his license will soon be (if not already) revoked. However, unless this man is enjoined by a court and without legislation, he can still prepare tax returns without a license (after his jail time, I assume he will do time)

Congress has been debating, and last I heard, is expecting to pass a requirement for all individuals engaged in the practice of tax return preparation to pass a written examination and be subject to the same ethical and continuing education requirements in tax practice to which CPA's, attorneys, and enrolled agents are obligated. This is a strong step in adding oversight to a sector whose conduct has blackened the reputation of a needed and valuable industry. I hope Congress broadens licensing to all tax preparers so that anyone practicing tax at least has to meet a minimal competency requirement, and the IRS will have greater strentgh in keeping unscrupulous swindlers from continuing to use tax as a vehicle for their malfeasance.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Vouchers -- The Ad Hominem's Continue.......

Rob at the Amicus posted the latest of posters from (I believe) Utah Democrats. This one is a winner. This poster is titled "White Flight," in reference to Southerners use of tax-funded private schools in the early days of desegregation as a means of continuing segregation despite Brown v. Board of Education. The picture incorporates images of white folks marching with the confederate flag in protest of desegregation. So what is the intent of this poster......

A commenter tried to defend the poster with the following:

"nowhere do I see any comparisons of voucher supporters to "racist, Confederate flag-waving segregationists from the 1950s South.' "

I'm afraid I don't bite on the poster, or the anonymous commenter's defense of Utah Democrats. Despite the lack of language affirmatively calling voucher supporters racists, it doesn't take a genius to see that the "racist" implication is (to say the least) mildly being suggested. The clever use of negative images (the Confederate flag) is a subtle but clever way of calling someone a racist without actually saying it.

What else are voucher opponents telling us using this argument, lets pause and think about this?

1.)Utah's voucher program is designed to benefit the lowest income students: The script regarding poverty is that it effects minorities first and Caucasians last. So, the reasoning behind "White Flight" fails the first test. Utah's voucher plan is designed (following the White Flight" logic) to benefit minorities first. The poster shows that voucher opponents don't embrace the state's move to provide equal opportunity for less advantage minorities to choose the best suited schools for their children.

2.) Utah schools are succeeding in spite of themselves: One commenter and many voucher opponents have stated in opposition to vouchers that vouchers can serve no purpose with a school system that is flourishing. However, these concerns about "white flight" (not considering the racial stereotyping involved here) show that voucher opponents fear strong students leaving public schools. If Utah's public schools were as great as voucher opponents like to believe, then what difference does it make if strong or weak (minority or Caucasian) students make up the student body. It is a unintended admission that Utah schools succeed in large part to the quality of the students and parents (and some teachers) and in less part due to the bureaucracies which run Utah's schools.

3.) Utah Democrats are perpetuating racial stereotypes: Since we are going to (however subtly) through around accusations of racism. It seems to me, that the Utah Democrats are perpetuating the myth or stereotype that minority students are less apt or able to achieve in academics. Taking seriously the wild assumption that due to vouchers alone Caucasian students will leave Utah schools in droves large enough to constitute the catch phrase "White Flight"; why is there an issue with which students leave a system that is excelling in its job to educate all students? They are, however ambiguously, demonstrating a (in most cases mild) belief in certain racial stereotypes.

The Daily Herald rightly awarded this a "Buffalo Chip Award". Excrement from a large free roaming herbivore seems like an accurate depiction of this piece from the Utah Democrats. Please bring back some intelligent dialogue on this issue.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Big Brother?

This was a little creepy.

My boss, whose office is right next to mine, said he saw a SUV drive by snapping pictures of my office. I didn't see it in the act because I was in the lobby with a client, but I went outside and saw the SUV and a family getting out of the vehicle taking pictures like my office building was a tourist attraction.

I think it's nothing, but I took a license plate number just in case.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Vouchers -- Bureaucratic Turf War

At Steve Urquhart's blog he commented on some of the bureaucratic infighting that seems to be the norm between the Board of Education and legislative committees. State Board Chairman Kim Birmingham in an email respectfully, although in my opinion with a little spite, refused to come to the table with a committee of the Legislature to discuss education issues.

Last week I read a post at KCPW regarding pleas and desires of Governor Huntsman that the State's Education Bureaucracy and the Legislature resolve differences and move past vouchers and the rancor that has existed between the two throughout much of the voucher debate. The first two commenters on the post were Pat Rusk (former NEA president & current Utahns for Public Schools leader) and Sylvia Anderson State representative from district 48. The comments went like this:

Pat Rusk Said,

"Residual impact"? The voucher rancor has clouded every single legislative session for nearly a decade. The past few months have simply brought the issue before the public. Educators working to secure funding and respect for public schools and public school employees have met with the "vouchers or else" mentality for years. Residual impact? You bet there will be residual impact. Many legislators hold not only citizens, but each other hostage with their power. But fortunately the public will now see what many of us have dealt with for years. THEY can end not only the voucher nonsense but also reign of those legislators whose superiority over the rest of us must never be questioned."

Sylvia Andersen Said,

"As a new Legislator, I am surprised and saddened at the "them against us" attitude the pervades the discussion about education. I came to the Hill hoping to be in the Legislature what my role in life has been, that of a peacemaker and facilitator. I met with a couple of leaders in the UEA even before being elected, I suggested a meeting in which a representative of each group associated with educating our young people would gather around a table, putting the needs of our children in the center of the table, and offer constructive suggestions of how address those needs. I suggested that we should have a member of the Board of Education, a member of each of the different organizations that educate our youth; Home Schoolers, Private Schools, Charter Schools, Public Schools; the PTA and Parents for Choice represented at that meeting. The Response to my suggestion was "I won't meet with Parents for Choice!"

How can we ever improve our educational system with this obvious need to control all that is related to education so prevalent in the attitudes of those who are supposedly serving our youth. I have been so immersed in an atmosphere of "protect your organization's territory at all costs" that it is difficult to see where these organizations prioritize the needs of our children. Is it before or after protecting their own organization and the power they wield? Can it be that it is more important to maintain the status quo of control over funds, power, and our children than addressing all possible options for improvement? Can any one organization possibly think that "they" know what is right for every child and every family? Can any group be so insecure regarding their viability that they refuse to consider ANY other options that would include change? Can we as citizens feel that it is our right and need to control the opportunities for each tax-paying family to determine what will serve the educational needs of their child(ren)best?
I believe that if we worked TOGETHER to address the serious issues surrounding education, without concern for "protecting our territory" we could find the answers, implement the change, and secure a path of success for every child in Utah.

We, as Legislators TOGETHER, passed the largest increase in funding for education in the history of our state. As a percentage of increase, it was the largest in the US. If funding is the measure of our commitment to education, then how can it be doubted?

I know that every Legislator with whom I work is dedicated to doing what is best for their district and the State as a whole. I have not found a single Representative who displays and air of superiority, each has sacrificed a great deal to serve their fellow citizens.

Since then there have been a few other commenters on that post, including Kim Horiuchi, Dixie Allen and others. The former and later commenters were very articulate and even handed in their arguments respectively. However, Ms. Rusk and Andersen provided a very telling look at the bureaucratic infighting that is clouding this debate.

I am afraid that much of this rancor amounts to a proverbial turf war. Some educators (although I disagree with the term "educrat", some look like ducks, walk like ducks, sound like ducks, and therefore are likely ducks) seem wholly opposed to vouchers because it is out of the realm of the classic public education system and a personal affront to their worth. While some elected representatives have come close to using dictator-esque force in dealing with the education bureaucracy.

We have clarity in the referendum vote, and we have many solid arguments for and against vouchers that should be addressed. May the bureaucracies of this state do as the governor recommends, move on with the business of running the state.

From this post, I think it is demonstrative of the stifling, group think, effects that bureaucracies have on innovation and progress.

El Cartoonista had it right with his recently censored cartoon. What is best for Utah's children?

This is the last time I will harp on the tone of the voucher debate. (My wife says the blog is getting stale)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Southern Utah Boy Scouts Exercise Freedom of Speech

I opened the The to this picture on their homepage, I was taken back until I read the headline. HAHA.
Just a little bored today.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Vouchers -- Censorship by the Davis County Clipper

This is a pretty cool cartoon.

I can't believe it wasn't printed by the Davis County Clipper, it is probably one of the most insightful local politcal cartoons I have seen.

Vouchers -- Let the Ad Hominem Arguments Begin

It started a few weeks ago, with a local article where SLC's NAACP chief Jeanetta Williams equated Utah's voucher program with segregationism. Today, Rob over at Utah Amicus took the ad hominem arguments another direction. In Rob's post today he posted a video of Friedman arguing for the legalization of drugs with the caption, "Does this mean PCE will start a group called, Parents for Choice in Drug Legalization?"

I had been hoping that these type arguments wouldn't become part of such an important debate. However, I guess I was naive in my hopes. The one bright spot in hearing these poorly crafted arguments coming from the anti-voucher corner is that ad hominem attacks have always (at least to me) been a sign of someone being on the losing end of an argument.

BTW, I agree with Jeremy who commented, "I bet they would if they watched this whole video. Friedman was exactly right in arguing against our wasteful "War on Drugs". We've incarcerated a higher percentage of our population than any other nation on earth because of our government's foolish and obsessive focus on our idiotic drug policy. If you are trying to marginalize Friedman you should choose a different video of him. He's absolutely right in this one." Point is -- marginalizing voucher advocates like Friedman with poorly crafted ad hominem attacks does nothing to meaningful contribute to the debate, it makes those using these type arguments, like the argument in Rob's post, look like dirty mud slinging politicians. I hope people see through this crap.

UPDATE: Judging from the tone of comments it appears that readers think I am beating up on Rob too much. Rob's post was being used as an example. There are poorly crafted ad hominem attacks from the pro-voucher side as well. (i.e. the ridculous assertions of a 4th "education" branch of government and the charges of legislating from the bench after the Utah Supreme Court gave the same people making the afore mentioned assertions the decision they requested (not what they wanted)) I hope this levels out the post so that fans of Rob can stop feeling jaded.

P.S. I apologize if this seemed like a personal attack on Rob. I hold Rob in the highest regard.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

6 Years Later

(John Canlas Photography the photographer's blog)
My wife and I had faux engagement photos for our anniversary. Six years later, and I'm hairless and very happy.