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Tax dollars at “work”

If only I could be the government

It’s tough around here. I’ve picked up some expenses, with a new house two years ago, a child last year, some unexpected maintenance this past year, and now some inflation. Yet, I manage to keep the household above water. I do this in spite of lacking two things that certainly would help:

  • The ability to force involuntary payment to me.
  • The ability to print money
The state of Illinois can do the first, and the federal government can do both. With both governments facing an explosion of entitlement spending soon — and already huge debts — our executive leadership has opted to force me to pay more.
So I go my merry way making changes in the way we spend money. We cut back where we can and we have no choice but for it to be enough. Making more money is attractive, but it’s never guaranteed. The only thing you can really guarantee is how much you spend.
And so it goes with tax receipts. We raise taxes and project what economic activity (which more taxation will necessarily discourage) will generate what income. And then we hope the projections pan out. Meanwhile, we haven’t done anything to confront two of our largest economic problems: productivity and inflation.
This year, Paul Ryan came up with a serious budget plan that contains serious spending cuts. These are hard choices as they will affect more than half the electorate. President Obama responded with an unserious speech that seeks to bring income taxes last seen more than a decade ago.
Whose budget will be more successful?

Going nowhere fast

Mayor Daley has a few weeks left in office, but he won’t let that stop him from wasting tax dollars in the name of emulating the Chinese government, the soup du jour on the “Countries that are going to one day overtake us” menu.

Where the Russians, the Japanese and the Europeans all were poised to crush the U.S. economically, the Chinese are the new power to emulate. Well, except for their human rights abuses, rampant censorship, overzealous government planning and inequality in income and rights that should have both political parties leery of associating with them.

But, anyway, Daley was in China and was dazzled by the superfast bullet trains. So naturally, he envisions them ferrying passengers the 15 miles or so between downtown and the Loop at 200 miles per hour.

To that, I ask why we don’t simply make Columbus Drive a runway and have the city buy a few 747s to zip people to and from ORD? A 747 can go over 500 mph, can handle up to 400 passengers, and would make that trip in approximately two and a half minutes, including takeoff and landings.

It’s an even less absurd idea than Daley’s. Consider this:

  • Daley envisions a self-contained train terminal downtown that would drop passengers off inside of security. That’s great, but the tracks (and Daley wants them elevated as residents in Jefferson Park and Logan Square won’t mind the whirring of a train overhead at 200 mph) will then have to be totally secure.
  • No stops would mean people would still have to get to one specific station. Several stops would thin the benefit of a 200 mph train between O’Hare and downtown.
  • Getting through security, boarding the train on time and getting off the train all take time. Suppose it is 20 minutes total and the train ride is five minutes. Add another 10 minutes as you want to be sure you make your train, as a 200 mph train will not want to bunch trains up too closely. That’s a 35-minute trek. You could do as well most days by cab or car.
  • Unlike the idea of paving a runway, getting a bullet train between O’Hare and downtown requires putting down 15 miles of new, state of the art track. Trains can only go where there’s track.
Politicians are easily seduced by sexy things like bullet trains, and yes I get it. If Daley were to get behind something a little less exorbitant, like the expansion of service downtown on the Metra North Central Line (O’Hare to Union Station in 30 minutes), he’d have nothing exciting to stand in front of). Should he demand that the Blue Line run a couple express runs every hour to cater to airport passengers, he’d run into the teeth of neighborhoods who want continuous service.
High speed rail has yet to demonstrate how it’s an upgrade over flying. I suppose it’s more fun. Great. You do know there are amusement parks, don’t you?

Even Creationist Science Teachers Have Rights

No impassioned defense of Libertyville High School’s Beau Schaefer here. Creationism has no place in a high school biology class. However, a few questions come to mind as this story has come out.

  • Professional atheist/attention seeker Rob Sherman became the leader of a group seeking Schaefer’s ouster after learning he was teaching and testing his beliefs in a genetics class. Another veteran District 128 teacher said that this has been going on for quite some time. No one else complained from a school of more than 2,000?
  • What exactly was he teaching? How was he presenting it and testing the subject matter? I’m surprised this hasn’t been released.
  • So why wasn’t he fired? The school board and the superintendent might have fired him or removed him from the classroom in a perfect world. Alas, the world isn’t perfect.
Let’s read between the lines as to why the school did not fire Beau Schaefer. Superintendent Prentiss Lea:
The teacher in question is a long-standing D128 instructor. We will not be recommending his termination as this is remediable behavior.
In other words, Schaefer has been a teacher in District 128 for 22 years. He’s had strong performance reviews. He’s not going to be fired for one slip-up, especially if people have known he’s been doing this for years.
More important, he’s a member of a teacher’s union, and they would definitely grieve termination here.
Just a little something to think about.

WSJ on Illinois

The Wall Street Journal mocks us Illinoisans on the Saturday editorial page.  A couple quick facts: state revenues increased in Illinois by $7 Billion over the past six years and the state’s population decreased by 736,000 over the past decade.

This is a state that does almost everything wrong economically. It is not a right-to-work state and is thus heavily unionized, repelling new business investment. It has the fifth highest minimum wage among the states, the fifth most trial-lawyer friendly legal code, the sixth highest workers’ compensation costs, and the 11th highest property taxes. It has one of the highest inheritance taxes, at 16%, so retirees flee to states with no death tax, such as Florida and Arizona. A rare Illinois advantage has been its relatively low income-tax rate, but that will shrink or vanish under Mr. Quinn’s increase.

It’s time to start from scratch in this state.  Unfortunately, the same voters who gave us Blago will get a chance to pick a new governor (and a general assembly).

Watch your Wallet; Quinn’s Here

Our corrupt and wasteful governor has been impeached and replaced with the “Light-Guv,” Pat Quinn, the shamelessly populist “do-gooder” who ran alongside our crooked governor twice.  So now we have a plausibly clean, yet wasteful Governor Quinn.

Rod Blagojevich was steadfast in refusing to raise taxes while trying to initiate all kinds of feel-good (but ultimately unhelpful) social programs. Put that alongside chief Republican crook George Ryan, and you have a state in distress. 

So Pat Quinn has come in on a white horse and was kind enough to stop quoting Lincoln to propose some tax hikes. A 50% hike in the personal income tax. A sizable hike in the corporate rate. A slew of fee increases. 

In general, if you work in Illinois, you should hope your company can stay in business long enough to relocate to the Sun Belt. And you should follow them.  Or you should get a government job and go down with the ship, because wait until you find out the state employees’ pension system is broke.

Anyway, in the real world, organizations that are short on money will make some cuts and hold off capital projects. Too bad Illinois is not in the real world. To start, us sucker taxpayers are on the hook for the 2016 Olympics.

But now comes some more from the Mighty Quinn:

The governor then started talking about his $26 billion statewide construction program. It would be paid for by increasing fees on vehicle titles, driver’s licenses and license plate stickers. He’s calling it his “Illinois Jobs Now” program.

“There’s much to be done and little time to do it,” he said. 

Ah, never waste a crisis, eh?