Sunday, December 31, 2006

Quote of the day from Murfreesboro Vice Mayor

Link

"We always try to do what people want," he said. "But the day is coming when it will be more difficult to make those requests happen."


The day may be coming when it will not be difficult to find another vice mayor.

Higher taxes in Paradise

Link

Hawai'i's high cost of living is set to rise as a host of taxes and rate increases takes effect with the ringing in of the new year.

O'ahu shoppers will notice it at the cash register with a general excise tax surcharge of 0.5 percentage points being added to their bills.

At service stations, there will be an about 11-cent increase as a state tax break expires. On the docks, it will cost more to bring in a Mainland container and handle it, while monthly Medicare costs will climb.

Those are just some of the increases scheduled as government raises money for a rail system and businesses increase rates to fund improvements or cover other costs. On the flip side, the state is increasing the standard deduction for income taxes and adjusting tax brackets. Gov. Linda Lingle also wants to use $300 million of the state budget surplus for other tax relief. But for now, many people will see an increase in their expenses that could outstrip wage gains.

AP-Tough Year for New Jersey Taxpayers

Link

While 14 other states also increased taxes in 2006, New Jersey alone boosted taxes nearly as much as the entire country cut them. Overall, states cut taxes $2.1 billion in 2006, the report found.

The findings were no surprise to Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine who, along with fellow Democratic leaders, approved the tax hikes to close a projected $4.5 billion budget deficit. The move wasn't easy: The legislative dispute around it shut down state government for a week, and caused Atlantic City's casinos to close their doors briefly.

"We have not been managing the finances of the state in a way that is reflective of sound fiscal policy," Corzine, who took office a year ago, said in a recent interview.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Friday, December 29, 2006

Ark Gov-elect fighting to eliminate grocery tax

I wish Gov. Bebe success in eliminating the Arkansas sales tax on groceries and I certainly hope Gov. Bredesen will follow his lead.

Link
"Specifically, the Democrat (Gov-elect) says he wants the support of incoming House Speaker Benny Petrus.

"He's been very forthcoming and candid that he doesn't want to do it," Beebe told radio station KARN's "First News" program on Thursday. "I've been very forthcoming and candid that I do want to do it."

"Petrus, D-Stuttgart, has said he would rather see a targeted rebate or refund for those with middle and low incomes instead of an overall grocery tax cut. Beebe, elected in November, campaigned on phasing out the six-cent tax over time."

Comptroller: US Govt failed 10th straight audit

Link

Letter to Washington Post Editor from US Comptroller:

The largest employer in the world announced on Dec. 15 that it lost about $450 billion in fiscal 2006. Its auditor found that its financial statements were unreliable and that its controls were inadequate for the 10th straight year. On top of that, the entity's total liabilities and unfunded commitments rose to about $50 trillion, up from $20 trillion in just six years.

If this announcement related to a private company, the news would have been on the front page of major newspapers. Unfortunately, such was not the case -- even though the entity is the U.S. government.

To put the figures in perspective, $50 trillion is $440,000 per American household and is more than nine times as much as the median household income.

The only way elected officials will be able to make the tough choices necessary to put our nation on a more prudent and sustainable long-term fiscal path is if opinion leaders state the facts and speak the truth to the American people.

The Government Accountability Office is working with the Concord Coalition, the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation and others to help educate the public about the facts in a professional, nonpartisan way. We hope the media and other opinion leaders do their part to save the future for our children and grandchildren.

DAVID M. WALKER

Comptroller General of the United States

Government Accountability Office

Washington

Poll: 16% believe Fed Govt reflects will of people

Rasmussen Poll Link

"Just 16% of voters believe that the federal government today reflects the will of the American people. A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 Likely Voters found that 68% disagree. Those figures reflect a sharp decline from the 1990s when more than 30% of voters routinely thought that government reflected the will of the people."

Data beginning to flow into Ethics Commission

Tom Humphrey article on new data required by new ethics law:

Article Link

In State Lobbying Events

Lobbyists Disclosure of Immediate Family Members Who Are Public Officials/Candidates

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Disparities in power will dwarf disparities in income

More brilliance from Thomas Sowell.

Link

"Today's "progressives" want to expand political control of incomes even more. They call it "social justice" but you could call it Rumpelstiltskin and it would still mean politicians deciding how much money each of us can be allowed to have.

It is also worth noting that the people who are said to be earning "obscene" amounts of money are usually corporate executives. There is no such outrage whipped up when Hollywood movie stars make some multiple of what most corporate executives make.

This is social or ideological bias added to envy and ignorance. It makes quite a witches' brew on which to base national policy.

Lofty talk about "social justice" or "fairness" boils down to greatly expanded powers for politicians, since those pretty words have no concrete definition. They are a blank check for creating disparities in power that dwarf disparities in income -- and are far more dangerous."

Mayor Bragg to citizens: Back the hell OFF!!

Why do elected officials act as if they have a set of interests and priorities that are completely different and many times in total contradiction to the interests of the citizens who elected them? Economists have a number of theories about this, most prominent of which is Public Choice Theory. Basically, this theory says that although public officials are elected to represent the interests of the citizens, they, in fact, continue to act in their own self interest after they are elected. (Yes, it is obvious but what else are economists going to do with their time?)

Tommy Bragg is the Mayor of Murfreesboro and the current President of the Tennessee Municipal League. So it falls his lot to "represent" the "interests" of local elected officials. "Why", you ask, "would we need a group to represent the interests of local officials?" Wouldn't they be the same as the local citizens they represent?

The taxpayers of Murfreesboro pay the dues to the Tennessee Municipal League for the City of Murfreesboro. What do the taxpayers of Murfreeboro and taxpayers of all other TML member cities get in return for these dues?

Mayor Bragg and TML actively oppose any changes in the Open Records and Open Meeting Laws to make local government more open and transparent.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

New AG argued against State Income Tax

Link

"He also continued writing. From a state policy perspective, one of the most notable examples was a 1992 Tennessee Bar Journal article that argued a state income tax as proposed by then-Gov. Ned McWherter would violate Tennessee's constitution - a contrast to official opinions issued by other attorneys general."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Talked too loud on cell: Kicked out of Waffle House

Link

The Waffle House managers may not be talking about the store's policy on cell phone etiquette, but the customers certainly are.

"Nobody wants to hear somebody talking over their cell phone," says Ken Wilson. "The best thing you can do if you want to use your cell phone is to step outside."

Lee Walker agrees with Wilson. "Sometimes you can be kind of loud on a cell phone," he says. Voices do carry. And if someone's trying to enjoy a meal, I think they should at least tone it down."

That's something William Arnold says he'll keep in mind next time he's dining and dialing.

"I'll continue to use my mobile phone," he says. "But, you know, I'll also use some courtesy and discretion depending on where I'm at."

Arnold says loud music was playing on the juke box inside the Waffle House restaurant and his voice was a bit louder than normal because of that. He says he tried to explain that to the manager and feels he was treated unfairly.

Pelosi says NO to more C-span coverage

In an earlier post about C-span requesting more flexibility in their TV coverage of The US House, I was hopeful Pelosi would allow more transparency. Unfortunately she has used her power, which is granted to her by the citizens, to prohibit more coverage.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Most Donated clothes don't go to poor

Link

Wake up and smell the money. Your used clothes are usually sold, not given away.

According to various estimates, here's what happens to your clothing giveaways. In most cases, a small amount of the items, the best quality castoffs — less than 10 percent of donations — are kept by the charitable institutions and sold in their thrift shops to other Americans looking for a bargain. These buyers could be people who are hard up, or they could be folks who like the idea of a good deal on a stylish old item that no longer can be found in regular stores.

The remaining 90 percent or more of what you give away is sold by the charitable institution to textile recycling firms. Bernard Brill, of the Secondary Recycled Textiles Association, told ABC News: "Our industry buys from charitable institutions, hundred of millions of dollars worth of clothing every year."

Track Tennessee Arrivals and Departures

Chattanooga Airport Flight Tracking

Nashville Airport Flight Tracking

Memphis Airport Flight Tracking

Knoxville Airport Flight Tracking

Chattanooga now has TDOT Traffic Cams

Chattanooga Traffic Cams

Nashville Traffic Cams

Knoxville Traffic Cams

Memphis Traffic Cams (West Memphis only)

Other TN Web Cams

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Embarrassing? He probably hasn't returned the check

Great article in the WaPo about agricultural subsidies. These subsidies are not now and never were about preserving family farms, they are about funneling taxpayer dollars to groups that have huge lobbying and campaign contribution budgets.

John Phipps of Chrisman, Ill., harvested nearly 170,000 bushels of corn and soybeans last year on two square miles of fertile soil. He grossed nearly $500,000, putting his farm in the nation's top 3 percent. Still, he received $120,000 in subsidies.

"It's embarrassing," Phipps said. "My government is basically saying I am incompetent and need help.

Several hundred miles northwest, Thomas Oswald farms the same Iowa fields that his relatives worked more than a century ago. The land he rents is about one-third the size of Phipps's, and Oswald's subsidies are much smaller. Oswald contends that federal payments are helping to fuel a spike in land prices that favors the wealthy."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

PILOTs flying Memphis into the ground

Property taxes are so high in Memphis that new businesses are very unlikely to locate there. So...what to do? Lower taxes for everyone? Naaaaahhh.

You authorize three different local government agencies to give lower taxes to selected businesses. This program is called PILOT, an acronym for payment-in-lieu-of-taxes. It is an open invitation to corruption by empowering local politicians to pick and choose who gets lower taxes. PILOTs also transfer the tax burden away from these new businesses to homeowners and make future hikes more likely. PILOTs are awful, terrible public policy.

Monday, December 18, 2006

WRONG, it's the other way around

The title of this article in the Memphis Business Jrnl reads:

State tax collections miss budget estimate

it should read:

Budget Estimate misses State Tax Collections

Its seems silly to base the State Budget on an "expert" prediction of what revenue is likely to be, which is always wrong of course, and not on the actual amount of collections from the previous year.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Government does NOT create prosperity

Guy yells at politician saying he wants a job, politician looks at him and says "wash and shave"....guy washes and shaves and viola, he gets a job.

It makes me cringe when I hear people talk about the "Bush" economy or the "Clinton" economy. GOVERNMENT DOES NOT CREATE PROSPERITY, we the citizens create our own prosperity. What we need government to do is preserve our freedom to choose whatever employment or business opportunity we believe is best for us.

1 in 4 Cubans think tyrannical dictatorship is great

Gallup says 1 in 4 Cubans think they have plenty of Freedom. Of course Gallup offers a few wee caveats about the survey. Nothing serious really, just that they can't get enough food for their canvassers so they had to terminate the survey. Other than that and people being afraid of imprisonment for speaking their minds I am sure this is a very valid reflection of the state of mind of these oppressed people who have been ruled with an iron fist for 46 years and daily risk their lives to escape.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Will Pelosi allow more C-span coverage?

Speaker-to-be Pelosi and the new Democratic leadership have made some very interesting policy proposals about eliminating earmarks for a year and creating a more transparent appropriations process. Talk is cheap and we will see what happens but it will be interesting to see how Pelosi responds to this C-span request for more flexibility in covering the House.

Why keep an unenforceable tax around?

According to this report only 1,918 use tax returns have been filed so far in 2006. Anyone who lives in Tennessee is supposed to file a use tax return anytime they purchase an item online from a merchant outside the State. Clearly, many millions of online purchases have been made by Tennesseans this year and the huge majority have not filed a use tax return because of the hassle and time involved.

Why does the Dept of Revenue self righteously wag their finger at the citizens each year and tell us we should be paying a tax for which there is no easy and reasonable collection mechanism? Clearly, Tennessee has been balancing the State budget for many years without this uncollected and unenforceable tax. Why don't our elected representatives simply admit the obvious and eliminate this tax?

That would be too easy, of course. Government has an unquenchable appetite for our money and they will soon be reaching across State lines via the Streamlined Sales Tax. Our own Department of Revenue is playing a major role in this project.

Want to reduce poverty? Then reduce tax rates

Link
"Using data from the Census Bureau, the report found that states with the lowest tax rates enjoyed sizable decreases in poverty. For example, the 10 states with the lowest total state and local tax burdens saw an average poverty reduction of 13 percent - two times better than the national average. The 10 highest-tax states, meanwhile, suffered an average increase in poverty of 3 percent."
Lower tax burden means more economic growth which means more jobs which means less poverty.

Friday, December 15, 2006

520 Tax earmarks

Sunlight Foundation has the story .

Here is a list of all 520 along with the name of the member who proposed them and the company that requested them.

Chambers of Commerce LOVE tax hikes!!

Why, you ask? Because, in many cases, they get some of the money:

The board requested the state legislature approve a private act increasing the local tax from four percent to seven percent.

According to City Recorder Bill Lyons the revenue generated through the lodging tax, approximately $34,000 in the 2005-06 budget year, is divided equally among the city general fund, the Rogersville Heritage Association and the Rogersville/Hawkins County Chamber of Commerce.

“The good thing about this is it is not a tax that burdens the community,” Nancy Barker, executive director of the chamber of commerce said. “This tax is paid by people who come in and lodge in our city, and it is a tax that people who stay in hotels are accustomed to paying.”
"Not a tax that burdens the community" ? Ok, well heck, if that is the case let's raise that sucker to 50% and raise some REAL money for the Chamber of Commerce.

Seriously, this is all pretty depressing. Chambers of Commerce were once a bastion of the free market principles. They have morphed into just another special interest group looking for a taxpayer handout.

Thank YOU! New York Times

In an otherwise interesting article on Census data showing new trends, the New York Times informs us that the government has not done all of our thinking for us:
"Most of the statistical tables, which come from a variety of government and other sources, are presented raw, without caveats; and because the abstract is so concrete, the statistics can suggest false precision. The table of consumer products involved in injuries does not explain, for example, that one reason nearly as many injuries involve beds as bicycles is that more people use beds."

French rock star leaves France to protest taxes

Top selling French Rock Star Johnny Hallyday is moving to Switzerland to avoid high French taxes.

Much like Bono, who moved his music business to avoid higher taxes.

By the way, what does it say about France when their top selling rock star is 63 years old???

Fed Govt Rule making flow chart

Who should make decisions about your best interests?

You?

or

The Federal government?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

"nuts" who are "too rich"

Doug Goddard is the lobbyist for the Tennessee County Commissioners Association. He lobbies for the County Commissioners who are elected by the citizens. So what has he done for Tennessee citizens lately?

Here is an AP report on how he opposed the new open meetings law which was killed last session: "Doug Goddard, executive director of the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, called open-meetings violations isolated incidents and said the proposed changes would go too far.

Setting a penalty for violations could scare off qualified candidates from seeking office, Goddard said. "You're just going to have nuts out there who want to burden local governments," he said.

Here is an AP report on his meeting with Senator Norris yesterday where he said, "The head of the county commissioners group in Tennessee says local governments won't join a program to freeze property taxes for elderly property owners if the Legislature makes it "too rich."

About that famous tea party

Link
The legendary Tea Party strikes us as quaint, almost childish: men disguising themselves as Indians, like kids on Halloween, then stealing out one night to destroy a shipment of tea. And all over a tax so tiny we smile. (Or so we think.) Oh, for problems as simple as our forefathers'!

But we actually confront the same problem. The issue was not taxation, with or without representation. The evil that sparked the Boston Tea Party stalks us today: the alliance of money, power, and weapons that subjugates the many for the benefit of the few. We call it fair trade, protectionism, corporatism, the military-industrial complex. The colonists knew it as mercantilism and fought it in the British East India Tea Company.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What? A temporary tax that might not be temporary

Link

NC Gov Mike Easley: "The question I want to ask the legislature is: `Is there something we'd rather do with the quarter percent other than just drop it?"

I could just kiss Spring Hill's balking board

Super Target developer asks for taxpayer help; city says no


Maybe, just maybe our Metro Davidson Council will draw inspiration from Spring Hill....which by the way was the first city in Tennessee to pass a Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

The Drama continues in New Jersey

It is fascinating to watch the Democratic majority in the New Jersey Assembly struggling to come up with a way to reduce the property tax burden. They have been in a special session for five weeks and it appears now they will not meet their self imposed "deadline" of year end for action.

Much like the Republicans in the US Congress who became more beholden to special interests than taxpayers, the NJ Dems know that public employee unions produce millions of dollars of contributions for Democratic candidates and thousands of man hours of campaign work and they are very reluctant to offend the unions, they are much more likely to offend taxpayers.

Of course tax decisions are really decisions about spending and how to make hard decisions about prioritizing which expenditures are more important than others. Legislative bodies are rarely able to distinguish among spending priorities.

It ain't looking good for New Jersey Property Taxpayers.

...for now

Democrats will freeze earmarks for now.

My prediction: earmarks will be back by Jan 30 and for the full year of 2007 there will be as many or more earmarks than there were in 2006.

Mexico taxes soft drinks to offset lower oil revenues

Mexico will tax soft drinks to offset lower oil revenues.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Taxpayers funding their own opposition

The TML (Texas Municipal League) will "vigorously oppose" legislation that allows Texas citizens to vote on property tax increases.

One thing you learn very quickly when you get involved in the legislative process (state and local) is that MOST of the support for tax increases comes from within the government. Associations of government officials pay for lobbyists to lobby AGAINST the very taxpayers who provide the dues to fund these organizations.

Who owns New Jersey?

Very Interesting analysis of the effort to give New Jersey Taxpayers some relief......New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation. The total State and Local Tax burden is also among the highest. Gov. Corzine has promised tax relief (after he raised taxes, after he promised NOT to raise taxes) but the State Teachers Unions is fighting against any tax relief, however small. The teacher's union and the other public employee unions are VERY powerful politically in NJ as they are in all other states.....will the taxpayers get relief? My prediction is NO, the taxpayers just don't have as much clout in the New Jersey State Legislature as the unions.

Do as I Legislate, not as I do

Link

"Georgia revenue officials are seeking to dock the legislative pay of three state lawmakers for failing to pay their income taxes, a problem that has plagued several others in the General Assembly in recent years.

State tax officials have set their sights on three Democrats in the House : Reps. Al Williams of Midway; LaNett Stanley-Turner of Atlanta; and Joe Heckstall of East Point, according to records obtained through Georgia's Open Records Act.

They are among at least 11 lawmakers from both parties — including a committee chairman — who have fallen behind paying taxes to the state they represent since 2003.

"Most people expect those that we entrust to make the laws to uphold them and that does include being right by the tax laws," said Bill Bozarth, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, a government watchdog group. "It should cause their constituents to look at them more closely."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Crushing your competition with BIG Govt

Great article in the Washington Post about how the farm lobby crushed a farmer who had the audacity to produce and sell milk at a lower price. Competition and Free Enterprise are the source of our extraordinary wealth in the United States and yet lobbyists are paid millions every day to promote the passage of laws that restrict freedom in the market place.

In addition, labor unions spend millions to pass laws to protect their legal monopolies in the labor market. So called "consumer groups" spend millions to lobby for laws that restrict our choices in the market place. And all the while our precious freedoms slip away.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Thank YOU!! Reps Blackburn, Cooper and Duncan

Earmark Reform was defeated again yesterday as Congress wrapped up the session. Only three of our TN US Representatives voted FOR the taxpayers and FOR reform of the disgusting earmarking process. Rep Cooper was one of only two Democrats who voted FOR reform. Representatives Zack Wamp and Bill Jenkins were among the 140 Republicans who voted AGAINST reform.

Here is the Instapundit Report.

Here is the vote.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Are you being watched?

Interesting link HERE which finds hundreds of security camera links on Google.

FBI public corruption investigations

Link

"Over the last two years, the FBI has convicted more than 1,060 government employees involved in corrupt activities, to include 177 federal officials, 158 state officials, 360 local officials, and more than 365 police officers. In FY 2005 alone, the Public Corruption Program saw a 25% increase in public corruption cases investigated, resulting in 890 indictments, 759 convictions, and 2,118 cases still pending. There are 622 agents currently working public corruption matters, an increase of 264 since 2002.


One investigation to note is the Phoenix Division’s Lively Green investigation. This involved up to 99 indictable subjects who used their positions in the military to facilitate the smuggling of several hundred kilograms of cocaine across the U.S./Mexican border."

FEMA still squandering millions

Link

"The GAO audit found that numerous aid applicants received duplicate
rental aid, with FEMA in one case providing free apartments to 10
people in Plano, Texas, while sending them $46,000 to cover
out-of-pocket housing expenses.

Another $20 million was wasted on thousands of individuals who claimed
the same property damage from both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. FEMA
also paid at least $3 million to more than 500 ineligible foreign
students in the stricken Gulf Coast, the report said."


Memphis Annexation Rejected

Good news for thousands of Shelby County residents who were about to be swallowed up by the City of Memphis and have their property tax bills almost double as a result. The Memphis City Council decided not to proceed with the annexation which  almost certainly would have been challenged in court. Congrats to all the citizens in these areas who banded together and raised their voices .

This is a good time to remind ourselves that ALL the POWER, ALL the AUTHORITY, and ALL the MONEY which government possesses is granted to it BY THE CITIZENS.

Government has NO authority and NO Power and NO MONEY unless the people authorize such power and authority and money.

Good Grief!!

In Knoxville they are giving tax breaks to grocery stores. This is corporate welfare, pure and simple. PILOTs or payments in lieu of taxes simply transfer the tax burden from corporations to homeowners. This opens the door to all sorts of political corruption and shady dealings AND HIGHER TAXES!!!

How about giving TAXPAYERS a break!!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The scariest words a politician can say:

"I have lots of things I want to accomplish"

Governor Phil Bredesen has lots of things he wants to accomplish: 1- a massive expansion of Pre-k, 2- Many different variants of expanded health care coverage to be explored in the wake of TennCare reform, and 3- increased funding for education, both k-12 and higher ed just to name a few (without commenting on the efficacy of these programs.)

The taxpayers of Tennessee deserve to know, in detail, HOW these items will affect the long term fiscal health of the State of Tennessee Budget.

Governor Bredesen, like everyone you have good intentions. Unlike everyone else you have an extraordinary amount of power to use taxpayer money to fund your good intentions. You also have an extraordinary responsibility to inform taxpayers how much your good intentions will impact the tax portion of our family budgets long term.

Creating a "crisis", by overspending, is a favorite tactic of those who want to raise taxes or impose a State Income tax. Taxpayers demand detailed information about the long term impact of the funding required for your many good intentions. We need to know NOW!


Farm subsidies in Tennessee

Want to know where millions of our tax dollars are going?

Try the Farm subsidy database.

For example, here are the top recipients of Federal Farm Subsidies in Tennessee for 1995-2004.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dusting of Snow in Sewanee

Looking at webcams around the state, the only snow I see is a slight dusting in Sewanee (fullstreaming video).