September 17, 2014

Some Thoughts on Constitution Day

'Today, Sept. 17, 2014, marks the 227th anniversary of the signing of our Constitution at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. You can honor the day by reading it. It’s up to “We the People” to hold our elected representatives accountable for failing to honor their oaths," reports Patriot Post.

They also report that Mark Alexander, executive editor and publisher of Patriot Post provides "an extensive archive of columns on the Constitution as it relates to various subjects over the years. And he’ll be writing more today." You can find it here.

Two quotes from today's Washington Times:

1. The first is from the column by Thomas V. DiBacco, professor emeritus at American University:

". . . In recent polls, only about 40 percent of Americans could name the three branches of government set forth in the Constitution. About three out of every four didn’t know the length of a U.S. senator’s term, and 71 percent were unaware that the supreme law of the land was, in fact, the Constitution. Only about half of respondents knew that a two-thirds vote in Congress was required to overturn a presidential veto. And, of course, these polls test only the knowledge about the original Constitution and not the 27 amendments that have been ratified.

"The problem is that contemporary educators are loathe to rely on rote and memory for students, with the latest fad, as reflected by the Common Core standards adopted by most states, emphasizing problem-solving. That may well be good for some subjects, but there is a font of knowledge that must be put to memory, no matter that this can be readily accessed by students through computers and the like. Moreover, memory training has an enormous benefit for the developing mind as well as for keeping it supple during the aging process.

"The Constitution should be the most revered and understood document in United States history. It is the shortest and oldest of similar documents among major world powers. John Adams put it best by noting that it is the “greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen.”

2. The second is from the column by Dr. Ben S. Carson, author and retired neuosurgeon:

"On this Constitution Day, a wonderful holiday created with bipartisan support just a few short years ago, let’s recommit ourselves to rereading and appreciating our Constitution and ensuring that our children and our children’s children grow up with the same appreciation we were given. Familiarity with the greatest ideas ever created for preserving liberty will breed appreciation. Appreciation will help us all overcome the ignorant political correctness of a few media elites and governing officials who seem to dismiss the fundamental principles of a government that respected liberty first and foremost."

Hillsdale College has a new and free online course, "The Presidency and the Constitution," which focuses on how Progressives have transformed the Presidency and subverted liberty. According to Hillsdale College, it's "an issue that's becoming more and more important in an age of unprecedented executive orders and agency regulations." The course is free, and lasts ten weeks. To register, click here.

Finally, in an e-mail today. the Claremont Institute provided several "essential readings" from their archives:

  • From their Spring 2012 Claremont Review of Books, essays by John Marini and James W. Ceaser. Then a response. See their Upon Further Review section for a response by Jean M. Yarbrough, Bradley C.S. Watson, Michael M. Uhlmann, and Jeremy Rabkin.
  • CRB editor Charles Kesler's 2009 classic, The Conservative Challenge, which assesses election of Barack Obama "and how conservatives ought to use the high ground of constitutionalism to combat liberalism under our 44th president."

If you're looking to expand your reading, visit the Claremont Institute's blog, Library of Law and Liberty.

Kudos to Patriot Post, Hillsdale College, and the Claremont Institute for their outstanding work educating us about the American Founding.

September 16, 2014

A Thought on Economic Growth

"In 1900, we had no airplanes, no computers, no cellphones, no internet. We had only rudimentary versions of cars, trucks, telephones, even cameras. As Stephen Moore and Julian L. Simon report in their underappreciated work, It’s Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the Last 100 Years,

“It is hard for us to imagine, for example, that in 1900 less than one in five homes had running water, flush toilets, a vacuum cleaner, or gas or electric heat. As of 1950 fewer than 20 percent of homes had air conditioning, a dishwasher, or a microwave oven. Today between 80 and 100 percent of American homes have all of these modern conveniences.”

"Indeed, in 1900 only 2% of U.S. homes enjoyed electricity.

"Moore and Simon explain that the real difference between 1900 and today is that real per capita GDP in the U.S. grew by nearly 7 times during that period, meaning the American standard of living grew by that much as well. Such continued, sustained economic growth would solve every real problem America faces today."

~ Peter Ferrara

Source: His 6/29/14 Forbes column, ""Room To Grow" Blind To The Most Important Issue For The Middle Class -- Economic Growth."

September 15, 2014

America Ranks 32nd in Tax Competitiveness. Could be Worse?

The Tax Foundation released their 2014 International Tax Competitiveness Index (ITCI) today. In the lead editorial today, the Wall Street Journal ($$$) calls the index "a new global benchmark." The Tax Foundation says "(t)he ITCI attempts to determine which countries provide the best tax environment for investment and business growth and development."

Here's how the Tax Foundation introduces the ITCI in the executive digest:

"The Tax Foundation’s International Tax Competitiveness Index (ITCI) measures the degree to which the 34 OECD countries’ tax systems promote competitiveness through low tax burdens on business investment and neutrality through a well-structured tax code. The ITCI considers more than forty variables across five categories: Corporate Taxes, Consumption Taxes, Property Taxes, Individual Taxes, and International Tax Rules.

"The ITCI attempts to display not only which countries provide the best tax environment for investment but also the best tax environment to start and grow a business."

In taking note of the harm the current tax code does to the U.S. economy, the WSJ editorial says:

"With the developed world's highest corporate tax rate at over 39% including state levies, plus a rare demand that money earned overseas should be taxed as if it were earned domestically, the U.S. is almost in a class by itself. It ranks just behind Spain and Italy, of all economic humiliations. America did beat Portugal and France, which is currently run by an avowed socialist.

"The Tax Foundation benchmark compares developed economies with large and expensive governments, but the U.S. would do even worse if it were measured against the world's roughly 190 countries. The accounting firm KPMG maintains a corporate tax table that includes more than 130 countries and only one has a higher overall corporate tax rate than the U.S. The United Arab Emirates' 55% rate is an exception, however, because it usually applies only to foreign oil companies."

In explaining why the United States' tax competitiveness ranks so low, the Tax Foundation identifies the following three key findings:

  • The largest factors behind the United States’ score are that the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world and that it is one of the six remaining countries in the OECD with a worldwide system of taxation.
  • The United States also scores poorly on property taxes due to its estate tax and poorly structured state and local property taxes
  • Other pitfalls for the United States are its individual taxes with a high top marginal tax rate and the double taxation of capital gains and dividend income.

Unfortunately, the Wall Street Journal says things could be worse, writing:

"The Tax Foundation benchmark compares developed economies with large and expensive governments, but the U.S. would do even worse if it were measured against the world's roughly 190 countries. The accounting firm KPMG maintains a corporate tax table that includes more than 130 countries and only one has a higher overall corporate tax rate than the U.S. The United Arab Emirates' 55% rate is an exception, however, because it usually applies only to foreign oil companies.

"The new ranking is especially timely coming amid the campaign led by Messrs. Obama and Schumer to punish companies that move their legal domicile overseas to be able to reinvest future profits in the U.S. without paying the punitive American tax rate. If they succeed, the U.S. could fall to dead last on next year's ranking. Now there's a second-term legacy project for the President."

To see just how bad America's tax competitiveness is, consider that Greece ranked #27 with a score of 53.3. The top and bottom five of the 34 OECD countries ranked by the Tax Foundation were:

  • Top Five: Estonia (#1 -- score of 100.0); New Zealand (#2 -- 87.9); Switzerland (#3 - 82.4); Sweden (#4 - 79.7); Australia ($5 - 78.4).
  • Bottom Five: Spain (#30 - 50.8); Italy (#31 - 47.2); United States (#32 - 44.6); Portugal (#33 - 42.9); and France (#32 - 38.9).

Since tax competitiveness is such an important factor in the overall economy and jobs, two of the four most important problems identified by Americans in a recent Gallup poll -- see our September 11, 2014 Growls -- the topic should be most important in the candidates debates leading up to the November 4, 2014 general elections.

According to Arlington County's Office of Voter Registration, Tuesday, October 14, 2014 is the last day to register for the November 4 general elections.

Readers of Growls who are concerned about the economy, jobs, and America's tax competitiveness are urged to contact their members of Congress. Information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Readers living in Virginia's Arlington County, should contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And, tell them ACTA sent you.

Finally, kudos to the Tax Foundation, and to Kyle Pomerleau and Andrew Lundeen for creating the ITCI.

September 14, 2014

A Thought on Liberty and ObamaCare

"Millions of Americans have lost the liberty to select their own type of health insurance, purchased on their own volition to best match their own assessments of their particular needs. Obamacare — the federal government’s redistributive effort to equalize health care for all — sought to destroy the liberty of many millions in order to ensure a state-directed sameness in care for all. Note also how a redistributive plan that spiked costs, reduced care, and so far has taken away more health coverage than it has provided is named the “Affordable Care Act.” Better to call it the the “Unaffordable Uncaring Edict.”

~ Victor Davis Hanson

Source: His January 14, 2014 column, "The Idol of Equality," posted at National Review Online.

September 13, 2014

Call for a Stronger Arlington County Gifts Policy

On Thursday, the ARLnow.com news site reports that "Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt is calling for a stronger gifts policy for county government employees and officials."

ARLnow.com goes on to report:

"The county’s current Code of Ethics says that county workers should “ensure that no favors, gifts, gratuities or benefits are received for actions taken.”

"Additionally, conflict-of-interest rules state that county employees “may not accept personal gifts, gratuities, or loans from organizations, businesses, or individuals with whom the employee conducts or will conduct official County business.”

"(The rule does not apply to “articles of negligible value that are distributed to the general public,” “social courtesies which promote good public relations,” and “obtaining loans from regular lending institutions.”)

"Vihstadt is calling for a specific $100 gift limit from any source, in addition to prohibiting gifts given in exchange for official actions."

ARLnow.com reproduces Vihstadt's press release. Here is a portion:

"Vihstadt, an Independent running for re-election Nov. 4, said, “Arlington must signal its commitment to foster the highest standards of ethical conduct” in the wake of the convictions of former governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen on multiple corruption charges.

“To start, the County should consider adoption of a $100 value limit on gifts from any source per year, and provide that in no instance shall a board member or county employee accept a gift given for services performed within the scope of an employee’s duties or given with intent to influence one’s actions” he added.

"The current county ethics policy places no dollar limit on gifts to board members or employees. Vihstadt also noted that the current ethics policy describes “principles” of proper conduct. “This is more limited than what I am calling for, which is (a) a rule and not a principle and, (b) I prohibit anything intended to influence – not just items received for actions taken.”

"Vihstadt noted that Arlington Public Schools adopted a similar provision effective July 1, and that Gov. Terry McAuliffe has likewise taken comparable strong steps for himself and senior staff in Richmond."

Kudos to Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt for proposing a stronger county gifts policy, and for pointing out the Arlington Public Schools have already adopted a stronger provision.

Growls readers who believe that Arlington County needs a stronger ethics policy are urged to contact the Arlington County Board. You can e-mail the County Board by clicking-on the following hotlink, or just call:them:

  • Call the Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you!

September 12, 2014

Arlington Public Schools Enrollment Still Rising

Last Saturday we growled about a report by Katie Watson of Watchdog.org's Virginia Bureau regarding the estimated increase of 2,800 undocumented children in Virginia classrooms, which will cost Virginia taxpayers about $54 million.

Then on Wednesday of this week, in a story posted at Townhall.com, Watson reported that Fairfax County is planning to ask the federal government to reimburse the county "$14 million for educating undocumented kids." Specifically, Watson reports:

"Fairfax County Public Schools is bearing the fiscal brunt of educating about half of the roughly 2,000 undocumented minors who have been placed with sponsors — usually family members — in the commonwealth since January."

So, in this week's Arlington Sun Gazette comes the news that public school enrollment in Arlington County is "still on rise." According to Scott McCaffrey:

"Arlington school officials anticipate they will have 2.7 percent more students in classes by the end of September than they did a year before, continuing the long-term trend toward higher enrollment.

"Superintendent Patrick Murphy told School Board members Sept. 4 there were 22,906 students in kindergarten through 12th grade on the first day of school. Factor in the 1,050 pre-kindergarten students who will trickle into the system during the month, and the 23,956 expected students will be up from 23,316 a year ago and 22,657 two years ago.

"The latest projection is down slightly from the 24,213 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade that the school system had projected several months ago. Murphy said the situation remains “very fluid and dynamic” and will remain so until a final count is established at the end of the month.

Sept. 30 is the day each year that school systems across the commonwealth submit their official enrollment figures to the Virginia Department of Education."

McCaffrey's report is silent on whether APS received any undocumented students that resulted from the so-called border crisis, which involved mostly younger Central American children, that was in the news much of the 2014 summer. Based upon the relative size of the Fairfax and Arlington County school districts, one could expect APS to have received more than 100 undocumented students. If we learn that APS received any of those students, we will update this Growls appropriately. As noted in McCaffrey's reporting; however, a clear picture probably won't emerge until the September 30 reporting date.

September 11, 2014

Americans Dissatisfied with Government and Economy on 9/11

In a poll released yesterday, Gallup's Rebecca Riffkin reports, "the issues Americans most commonly mention as the nation's top problems are dissatisfaction with government and the economy, followed closely by unemployment and immigration. Although down slightly after an initial spike in July, mentions of immigration remain elevated." (HT CNS News)

By way of background, Riffkin reports:

"Four percent of Americans currently mention terrorism as the most important problem facing the U.S. Although low on an absolute basis, it is the highest percentage naming this issue since May 2010. Mentions of terrorism have been near 1% for the past four years.

"Relatively few Americans -- usually less than 0.5% -- mentioned terrorism as the most important problem facing the U.S. prior to 9/11. But that changed quickly after the 9/11 attacks. Mentions jumped to 46% the month after the attacks, the highest percentage Gallup has found for terrorism since it began asking Americans monthly to name the most important problem facing the nation in March 2001.

"Mentions of terrorism have spiked several times since 2001, generally in reaction to new threats or potential attacks. The most recent surge, to 8% in early 2010, came after the "Christmas Day bomber" failed to blow up a commercial U.S. flight. Each spike since 2001 has been smaller than the one before, and mentions have been lower in the months afterward."

The following chart appeared in Ms. Riffkin's report for Gallup:

The bottom line, according to Ms. Riffkin? "The economy or dissatisfaction with government may trump terrorism as the most important problem at the moment, but many Americans still see terrorism as a threat that must be dealt with, even 13 years after 9/11."

In the CNS News report today, Susan Jones also points out:

"Another Gallup Poll, conducted during the same Sept. 4-7 timeframe, overwhelmingly chose Republicans as being better able to protect the U.S. from international terrorism and military threats.

"Fifty-five percent of Americans chose Republicans, while 32 percent chose the Democratic Party.

"This is the widest Republican advantage in Gallup's history of asking this  question since 2002," the poll noted."

For more information about who Americans trust to fight terrorism, see this NewsMax report.

If you are concerned that members of Congress may not fully appreciate the nation's priorities, you are urged to contact their members of Congress. Information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Readers living in Virginia's Arlington County, should contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And, tell them ACTA sent you.

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Items in Growls are written by individual ACTA members and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, Inc. Please send comments about Growls to The Growl Meister