Last week, MSNBC began advertising their new, full-time babysitting cooperative. It’s free, and every child is eligible. MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry said in the ad, “Kids belong to whole communities,” and children should be “everybody’s responsibility, and not just the household’s.”
Quite a generous offer from the station; where do we sign up?
Since Harris-Perry didn’t offer a phone number or address for the drop off location, it doesn’t seem like MSNBC is actually going to take any responsibility. They just wanted you to know it’s a good idea for someone else to take care of your child. In fact, it’s not just a good idea, you should feel obligated to make someone else responsible for raising your children.
I feel better already.
What MSNBC was really trying to say is that we need to spend more money on schools: “We have never invested as much in public education as we should have,” says Harris-Perry. And, she says, once we relinquish responsibility for our children, “we start making better investments.”
Harris-Perry should talk to Holland Hines, one of the moms using an education savings account featured on AskAMomAZ.org. She has the freedom to choose the best school, tutors, and educational therapists for her son, Elias, who was diagnosed with autism. She knows she has a small window while he is young to get him the best help she can find, and she’s using an education savings account to make the choices she thinks are best.
“There’s a sense of ownership, there’s a sense of engagement” with an education savings account, says Holland. “This empowers not just the parents but the children.”
“This is a phenomenal program…and everybody deserves the chance to have a choice over where their money is going and how it’s being spent for their child’s education,” Holland says.
Harris-Perry may think “children are not our private property,” but I’ll be the one to decide what’s best for my children. And Holland and the 300 other families using an education savings account have decided “ownership” and “engagement” beat the “collective will” of others, somewhere else, making decisions for us.
Goldwater Institute: The Myth of Education Cuts and Why Money Can’t Buy an A+
MSNBC Promo: Melissa Harris-Perry
Now that April 15th has passed, we’re left with the reminder of how aggravating and expensive paying the income tax can be. For many of us, it’s not a joyous memory.
Every year, the Tax Foundation calculates the number of days of work it takes for an average taxpayer to pay off their federal, state, and local tax burden. This year, “Tax Freedom Day” for Arizona was April 5.
But that tax burden calculation does not include the cost of your time spent gathering your receipts, W-2s, and bank statements. These “compliance costs” for all federal income taxes – personal and corporate – have been estimated by the Internal Revenue Service to equal $194 billion.
Nor does it take into account the amount of money you might have spent on paying a tax preparer. You can tell the tax preparation business is a boom industry when grown men are willing to stand on street corners wearing a Statue of Liberty costume and direct drivers to the nearest tax preparer’s location. The IRS estimates that Americans spend over $34 billion on tax preparation services and software each year.
In total, the compliance and filing cost for just the personal income tax in the U.S. is around $116 billion. That’s about $800 per personal income tax form filed. There goes some (or all) of your tax refund!
There is at least one way to make April 15 less of a burden on Arizona taxpayers: get rid of the state income tax.
An Arizona without an income tax could be a new powerhouse of job growth. It could be a beacon for capital and people fleeing states in which they’ve been taxed too heavily and in which job prospects are dimming. It would also be a great way to ring in the next 100 years of Arizona’s history.
We can’t completely dull the pain of tax day until fundamental tax reform is viable at the national level. But wouldn’t it be nice to have one less reason to dislike April 15th?
Goldwater Institute: A New Tax Plan for a New Economy
Tax Foundation: Tax Freedom Day 2013 report
National Taxpayers Union: A Taxing Trend
We can get news anywhere, on TV and radio and from blogs and Twitter, not to mention Web sites like CNN.com and FoxNews.com. Over 11 billion results pop up if you type “news” into the Google search bar, creating a flood of information.
In education news, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University reviewed 21,514 stories from 43 media outlets in 2012 to determine what subjects were talked about the most. The top 5 subjects in education were charter schools, teachers’ unions, special education, pre-kindergarten education, and No Child Left Behind.
What should parents pay attention to and what is just noise?
Let’s start with the noise, which would be anything that involves Washington, D.C., like pre-kindergarten programs. The latest long-term study of Head Start, the federal preschool program, found that there were no lasting benefits to third graders who attended Head Start prior to elementary school. Head Start does not give students an advantage, yet taxpayers spend $8 billion per year on the program. President Barack Obama is even talking about expanding Head Start.
Likewise, No Child Left Behind, the federal education law, only generates news because no one is sure what to do with it. Congress has not reauthorized the law, and the U.S. Department of Education has granted “waivers” to states that create more administrative work.
What we really need to know more about is how to give every child the chance at a great education. Charter schools generate headlines here. Arizona has 535 charter schools, and a higher percentage of charters earned an “A” on their state report card (35 percent) than traditional schools (22 percent).
The Arizona Charter School Association estimates charter school enrollment could double by 2020 if enrollment trends continue, which means parents are paying attention. Lawmakers should do the same and make sure charters are free from burdensome state regulations and reporting requirements so they can focus on teaching children.
Two bills are moving through the Arizona Legislature this year that will do just that: HB 2496 would allow A-rated charter schools to request exemption from some state regulations, allowing them to devote resources to the classroom instead of on paperwork (traditional schools can already request exemption); and HB 2318 would allow charter and traditional schools that do not accept federal funding to be exempt from federal regulations. Both bills eliminate some of the red tape that can tie up charter schools.
The demand for charter schools shows that Arizona parents have separated the news from the noise, and lawmakers should, too.
USA Today: Charter School Experiment a Success
Arizona Charter School Association: Arizona Public School Choice and Its Impact on Students
Hoover Institution: News Media Hits and Misses in 2012 Education Coverage
Health and Human Services: Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study
Health and Human Services: Head Start Program Fact Sheet Fiscal Year 2011
As Arizona debates the merits of a proposed plan to expand Medicaid, we should consider whether it’s even legal. As currently written, the plan is unconstitutional. That’s because it gives sweeping power to the Director of AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid program) to make law, a job the state’s constitution says must be left to the legislature.
To pay Arizona’s share of the massive Medicaid expansion, the state will charge a “provider tax” to hospitals. But according to the draft language, legislators must relinquish their lawmaking authority to the unelected AHCCCS director, who determines the amount of the tax and can even choose who has to pay and who will be exempt.
Handing over the legislature’s power to an administrator is likely an attempt to get around the voter-approved Proposition 108, a state constitutional amendment that requires 2/3 of both chambers of the legislature to approve tax increases. There’s a narrow exception for fees that are set by state officers, which only require the normal majority vote. But to make an end-run around Prop 108, the plan ignores an even more fundamental constitutional principle: separation of powers.
Both the federal and state constitutions divide government power into three distinct branches, which check and balance each other to protect individual liberty from concentrated power. The Arizona Constitution goes a step further than its federal counterpart, declaring that these powers must remain “separate and distinct.” Both constitutions assign the lawmaking power to the elected legislature to protect the people from the decisions of an unaccountable bureaucracy. The draft language blatantly ignores this important constitutional protection, consolidating the taxing power in the hands of a single unelected bureaucrat who is free to play favorites.
Arizona has a rich history of sheltering its citizens from federal overreach. State lawmakers should not ditch that tradition – and our own constitution – to do the federal government’s dirty work.
AZ Governor's Office: Proposed Medicaid expansion bill
Goldwater Institute: Ten Reasons to Decline Medicaid Expansion
Goldwater Institute: Coons v. Geithner
Recent Facebook Activity
A Lesson in Making a Bad Bill Worse
Last week, the Arizona Senate passed Medicaid expansion. Sadly, the proponents were not satisfied with merely passing a program expansion we can’t afford; they actively worked together to kill a series of common sense amendments that would have prevented extra expense and abuse.Read More >>
Pension Systems Looting the Taxpayer
Have you ever squeezed a balloon and had parts of it squeeze out between your fingers? Unless you pop the balloon with a pin, it will reemerge somewhere else when you squeeze it. Public employee pensions have become balloons, and abuse of public pension systems keeps oozing despite attempts to put the squeeze on it.Read More >>
Who’s Next on the IRS’s List?
In upholding the federal health care law’s individual mandate as a tax, Chief Justice John Roberts reiterated Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ promise that “[t]he power to tax is not the power to destroy while this Court sits.” With the IRS’ recent targeted investigations of tea parties, balanced budget advocates, and constitutional study groups across the nation, the Chief Justice may soon have the opportunity to keep his promise.Read More >>