Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Money, money, money by the pound...

The State will have a billion dollar surplus for the next fiscal year. I'm sure dollar signs are dancing before legislators heads. In their dreams they are allocating dollars to pet projects that have no legitimate reason to be funded by state taxes, like a stadium in Podunk for Boll weevil races or a Ferris wheel for a local fair. Even local sewer systems should not be funded by state taxes (like they were this year). That is a responsibility to be borne by the local tax base.

The state can, by law, only spend the surplus on one time non-reoccurring expenditures. This means we will probably see a lot of capital improvements being championed by lawmakers. This law needs to change. There should be only two options for the state to pursue in spending a surplus, refunding the overcharged taxpayers or retiring debt.

Yes, overcharged taxpayers. The state sets a budget and tax rates accordingly. The difference between the budget and the state tax revenue should be as close to zero as possible. Instead we get this. "Oops, we collected an extra billion dollars. Vote buying time!!! Yee-haw!! " intoned the legislators as one. A refund would amount to $233 per man, woman and child in Louisiana ($932 for a family of 4). A lot of people could use that. You have to ask, who could better spend that money, you or the government? If you answered the government, you need help.

Some might argue that $233 is not a lot of money and the state could use the billion on good projects. Lets put that $233 in perspective.

(The following websites were used to generate the proceeding numbers [1], [2] table A-7)

The average worker in LA paid $2,102.97 in taxes in 2006. This includes income tax per employed person, sales tax per capita, property tax per capita and corporate income tax per capita. My reasoning for the property and corporate taxes in that they are paid by individuals, not businesses. Homeowners pay property tax, renters pay the landlord's property tax as part of their rent, and customers pay business' property tax as part of the price of goods and services. Same thing goes for corporate income tax.

$233 is 11% of the taxes paid. Would you mind if a store charged you 11% extra because they had some important things to do with that money?

A family of 4 paid $5,896.60 in the same taxes in 2006. They would be refunded $932. That is 15.8% of the taxes paid. But, hey, I guess the billion is just a tip. We are so happy with the government's performance that we gave them an extra .8%.

The only other option is to retire debt. Hard to buy votes by doing that, so don't hold your breath. This is the option that I would like them to use the most. It would be beneficial in the long term to the state, but lawmakers can't see past the next election. At least put this advice to use in your personal life. If you ever receive a one time sum of money, retire debt before you spend it on something else. And for the love of God, don't use it to incur more debt. If you do, the state legislature has a few openings, you'll fit right in.

If they use the whole thing toward the Road Home program, that would be OK too. But that won't happen either. I wager a whole paycheck that 100% of the surplus does not go toward the Road Home. Any takers?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Where is the outrage?

Several days have passed since the Slidell City Court added new portraits to the wall to keep Jesus company. 15 more were added plus a copy of the US Constitution. Since the US Constitution is already valid law, we can ignore that one. But by hanging 15 other gentlemen on the wall, the Slidell City Court has just enacted 15 new laws in the City of Slidell. And not a peep from the liberals or the ACLU. I alone must take on this fight.

My first beef is with the shoddy reporting. 15 portraits were added. Scouring the local tv sites, the Times Pic, and Google, I was able to identify 9 of the 15. Look, if the Slidell City Court is passing laws, I want to know what they are. How can I do that if I don't know who is hanging on the wall? Obviously one of the six unidentified ones gave the Slidell City Court the power to enact legislation, previously a power reserved for the legislature.

The following is a list of the 9 portraits I could identify from reports here, here and here.

1. Confucius: Confucianism is not considered a religion by everyone. So he might get a pass. On the other hand, he said "An oppressive government is more feared than a tiger". Thats some nice anti-government sentiment there. Liberals won't like that since government is the real savior. He also said: "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others". Very close to Jesus' golden rule. I guess Confucius has to be removed.

2. Hammurabi: He is credited with the creation of the first set of written laws, Hammurabi's Code. But he alleged to be given them by god. So it seems Hammurabi too must go. Although it would be nice to see this "If the witnesses be not at hand, then shall the judge set a limit, at the expiration of six months. If his witnesses have not appeared within the six months, he is an evil-doer, and shall bear the fine of the pending case"(law #12) apply to DA Jordan.

3. Moses: Alleged to receive the 10 commandments from God. That should get him, like Hammurabi, removed. But the US Supreme Court has allowed depictions of Moses and Hammurabi to stay. Law enacted: "You shall have no gods before me". Doesn't get more blatant than that.

4. Octavian: Strange that a ruler that seized power from the Roman Senate should be celebrated. But he did solidify Rome for several centuries. But this should merit his removal from the wall: "Upon his death in 14 AD, Augustus was declared a god by the Senate, to be worshipped by the Romans." So, now Octavian and Jesus are co-gods of Slidell.

5. Louis IX: Not only was he Catholic, he is a Saint. If that's not enough, he led 2 crusades (and failed both times). He did reform the courts, removing trial by combat and trial by ordeal (fighting, walking on coals, entertaining stuff) . But if you can't have a god on the wall, then no saints either.

6. John Marshall: The 4th chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. "He repeatedly confirmed the supremacy of federal law over state law, and supported an expansive reading of the enumerated powers." So the liberals would like that. I side with Jefferson who argued that the SC under Marshall made the Constitution "a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please." So, Marshall is the first to stay.

7. Sir William Blackstone: It seems that Blackstone compiled four volumes of common law tradition in England. Plus he was anti-catholic to boot. This guy definitely stays.

8. Napoleon Bonaparte: Formed the Napoleonic code. It made the laws easy to understand and published them for all the people to see. Good stuff. He gets to stay.

9. Charlemagne: Another catholic. He made some economic and legal reforms while ruling the Holy Roman Empire. I guess he can stay.

As I completed writing this, I saw that the Federal judge ruled that the display can stay. Total BS. Jesus alone would have to go, but with some company, can stay. The ACLU was arguing that "a reasonable observer looking upon this display would understand its message to be an endorsement of the Eastern Orthodox sect of Christianity and veneration of Eastern Orthodox religious icon...". I guess putting up other pictures negated that since the judge said Jesus by himself would have to come down. Maybe the City Court of Slidell has endorsed all these figures as deities worthy of worship in Slidell. The ACLU should be enraged. They have no more important battles to fight than this. Surely this will be the most important case on the US Supreme Court docket. It will shape the future of below-par artwork in government buildings for years to come.