The Pope on taxes

No, not the awesome one, but Art Pope, NC’s own Koch Brother and current Budget Director.  He had an op-ed in the N&O this week that was just breathtaking in its mendacity and lack of actual empirical support for any of its claims.  To wit:

Our tax code is now simpler, more uniform and fairer for everyone.

Tax reform began in 2011, when the General Assembly reduced the state sales tax rate by 17 percent, from a state rate of 5.75 percent to 4.75 percent. Tax reform continued in 2013, when McCrory and the legislature simplified the personal income tax – taking rates ranging from 6 percent to 7.75 percent to a single flat rate of 5.8 percent. They also passed a higher standard deduction starting in 2014 and a flat personal income tax rate of 5.75 percent in 2015.

Oh please!! There is nothing simpler about having fewer and lower marginal rates.  You calculate your taxable income and you pay based on your rates.  It’s that simple.  Whether your rate is 10% or 5% and having multiple marginal rates makes it not the least bit harder.  Fewer, lower rates, basically just means less taxes for rich people.  Surely Art Pope’s idea of “fairer for everyone” but not what most people would see as “fair.”

The truth is, everyone in North Carolina is benefiting from the tax reforms that began in 2011. Sales tax rates are lower, income tax rates are lower and the standard deduction is higher.

Of course, there’s myriad analyses that show that not everyone is benefiting.  And to think just a little more broadly than the incredibly narrow way that Pope is stuck in, I would argue that if you have kids in public school you are not benefiting.  If you care about the quality of education in NC at all, you are not benefiting.  If you care about health care for the mentally ill, you are not benefiting.  If you care about health care for the working poor, you are not benefiting.  If you care about a crumbling infrastructure– perhaps you’ve been known to drive on roads– you are not benefiting.  Okay, I’ll stop now.

If you want to follow Pope’s logic, just lower taxes to 0, we’ll all have way more take home pay, and everything will be grand.  Though, I think Hobbes had something to say about that.

The next time you buy clothes for your children, look at the receipt to see how much sales tax is charged and think of what you saved compared with the old state sales tax rate. Think of the long-term benefit in an economy that is still recovering and of employers, both corporations and mom and pop partnerships, keeping a bit more of the money they earned – money that can by reinvested to create more jobs and grow the economy.

Next time I pay $.40 less for a shirt I’ll be so glad that it won’t bother me at all that quality teachers are fleeing our state or that are universities are finding it harder than ever to compete for the top talent.

The evidence is clear. Tax reform is working, and nearly every North Carolinian is keeping more of the money earned, which is fundamental to building a stronger economy.

If the current evidence is clear, I’d hate to see ambiguous evidence.

And just to be clear, this transparent nonsense is from the single most politically influential person in the state.  Ugh.

Photo of the day

From a recent Animal Photos of the Week gallery in the Telegraph:

Lotus Lemurs: a group of ring-tailed lemurs from Madagascar show themselves for the first time outside the enclosure in Avifauna Bird Park in Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands
Lotus Lemurs: a group of ring-tailed lemurs from Madagascar show themselves for the first time outside the enclosure in Avifauna Bird Park in Alphen aan den Rijn, The NetherlandsPicture: BAS CZERWINSKI/EPA

Map of the day

Well, as I face unseasonably cool (and rainy, too)  Easter break I came across this sadly appropriate temperature map from the Post.  Pretty amazing to see how the Eastern US has been compared to pretty much the whole rest of the world.  Now, if it is like this in July and August I definitely won’t complain, but I doubt we’ll be so lucky.

March temperature differences from 1951-1980 baseline (NASA)

Quick hits

1) NYT on the divisions in the NC Republican Party.  We’ll know just how divided it actually is when the Senate primary occurs next month.

2) How zebras got their stripes.   Best evidence suggest that stripes deter biting flies.

3) Charter schools are not the solution to educational inequality.

4) Forget ADHD, now we’ve got Slow Cognitive Tempo.  Seriously.

5) Chait provides a long summary of his much longer piece on Obama, race, and racism.

6) Politico on “is there a wonk bubble?”   Uhhhh, yes!  I love it.  Though sometimes I hate how much high-quality wonk content there is to read every day now.

7) The full story on the Jameis Winston rape “investigation.”  So disturbing and depressing.

8) Former MLB player gives account of being racially profiled shoveling snow in his own driveway.

9) Evan Osnos on politicians literally shooting legislation in their advertisements and what it all means.  It’s not good.

10) Short version of a man convicted of armed robbery and accidentally not sent to jail for 13 years who turned into a totally productive citizen.  Longer version.   This American Life version.  Seriously calls into question a lot about how we think about crime and punishment.

11) Research suggests students retain more when reading from “real” books than e-books.

12) Mark Kleiman on how legalized pot would change America.

13) Best thing I’ve read on the Cliven Bundy travesty.  This guy and anybody out there with a gun “defending” him needs to be in jail.  Seriously.  Timothy Egan:

Imagine a vendor on the National Mall, selling burgers and dogs, who hasn’t paid his rent in 20 years. He refuses to recognize his landlord, the National Park Service, as a legitimate authority. Every court has ruled against him, and fines have piled up. What’s more, the effluents from his food cart are having a detrimental effect on the spring grass in the capital.

Would an armed posse come to his defense, aiming their guns at the park police? Would the lawbreaker get prime airtime on Fox News, breathless updates in the Drudge Report, a sympathetic ear from Tea Party Republicans? No, of course not.

So what’s the difference between the fictional loser and Cliven Bundy, the rancher in Nevada who owes the government about $1 million and has been grazing his cattle on public land for more than 20 years? Near as I can tell, one wears a cowboy hat. Easterners, especially clueless ones in politics and the press, have always had a soft spot for a defiant white dude in a Stetson.

Truly atrocious and deplorable the support he’s been getting from the right.

14) Way too many teachers have been resigning from Wake County, NC during the school year.  Surely because the legislature has made it quite clear just how little the value educators.

Photo of the day

The winner of the (British) mammal photographer of the year competition.  Via the Telegraph, of course:

a brown hare on its hind legs

Incredible images of a beautiful brown hare, a seal silently swimming at night and a stoat in a drainpipe are all finalists in an annual photo competition to celebrate British mammals. The amazing pictures of foxes, ferrets, deer and dormice were snapped in the British Isles and are reminders of the marvellous array of mammals which exist around us.

 

The overall winner was a picture of a brown hare on its hind legs, taken by Stuart Scott near his home in Galashiels in the Scottish borders.

Picture: Stuart Scott/The Mammal Society

Oberlin

I taught one year at Oberlin as a Visiting Assistant Professor the first year after my PhD.  Sure the students were plenty smart, but I was not a big fan of the uber-liberal environment (I found the lack of diversity of political viewpoints very problematic).  Everybody was surprised to hear that I preferred teaching at Texas Tech where I went the next year, but it was a far more normal college environment.

Anyway, with that as background, I enjoyed this on Oberlin’s latest nuttiness in which they basically want to protect students from anything that might upset them:

It advised faculty members to “[u]nderstand triggers, avoid unnecessary triggers, and provide trigger warnings.” It defined a trigger as something that “recalls a traumatic event to an individual,” and said experiencing a trigger will “almost always disrupt a student’s learning and may make some students feel unsafe in your classroom.”

“Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct, but also to anything that might cause trauma,” the policy said. “Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand.”

The policy said that “anything could be a trigger,” and advised professors to “[r]emove triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.”

Hmmm.  Anything can be a trigger and faculty should remove triggers.  Starting to sound like one of those UNC African & Afro-American studies classes for the football players.

More mammograms

Great post from Aaron Carroll on the futility of routine universal (i.e., not based on individual risk factors) mammograms.  A big part of the problem is perception vs reality, very nicely summed up in this chart:

NEJM

 

And a nice take from Drum.

And it’s important to remember that many women are traumatized– both physically and psychologically–due to something with very little statistical likelihood of saving their life.

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