Thursday, March 31, 2011

Needs vs Wants

The upside of participating on MN Publius is that I find some ideas that are so fascinating that they need to be shared and discussed further. Below is one such discussion... It seems the definition of Wants and Need seem to vary greatly... So what do you think? See the original discussion at the linked site. _____________________________________

"The reality though is that Democrats and Liberals seem to be supportive of Government / Society costs growing significantly faster than the GDP and incomes. (ie CPI, inflation)" The realilty is that Democrats do not support spending for its own sake. You seem to think that the goal is just to increase the budget (or, to use the familiar whine, "spend my money") without any particular reason. That is a distortion. Democrats and liberals generally support spending to meet legitimate social needs. Fiscal responsibility means that taxes are levied to meet those needs, rather than merely borrowing, or shifting funds, or, as Irving Kristol once put it, leaving it to the other side to fix (don't remember the exact quote, but that's the gist of it). Conservatives favor cutting taxes as an end in itself. This is where the distortion comes from. Republicans and conservatives have fallen into the seductive fallacy that all opposition to them must be complete, 180 degree opposition to everything, including the premises of their thinking. The syllogism, if you want to call it that goes something like this: We oppose raising taxes, because taxes are evil. Democrats want to raise taxes. Therefore, Democrats believe all taxes are good and should be raised. Yes, politicians have to prioritize. They also have to serve constituents, and do so responsibly. Waiting for the Money Fairy to leave several billion dollars under the state's pillow is not responsible. ________________________________________________

Randy, I think this statement is the core of all the challenges between the Left and Right... "Democrats and Liberals generally support spending to meet legitimate social needs." It implies that the "Republicans and Conservatives generally DO NOT support spending to meet legitimate social needs." Now doesn't that seem a bit condescending and judgemental? The reality is that they each truly define SOCIAL NEEDS differently. In truth, neither is Right or Wrong. Gov't/Society providing via wealth transfer vs Citizens being Self Reliant is a continuum, and it is only healthy when the pendulum swings back and forth near center. (either extreme would be very very bad... USSR vs Egypt) This link shows that the cost of Gov't / Society is increasing faster than the GDP. This is not sustainable over the long run. G2A Promote Effectiveness By the way, you did not take a shot at answering my questions. By the way, when did bike paths, light rail, buying land for pheasant habitat, offering many languages in HS, maintaining 370 school districts, etc, etc, etc qualify as a social NEED? I think Democrats just have a hard time saying NO to anyone or Anything... I mean it is hard when the Lobbyist/Citizen is in your face and its not your money... By the way, same for the Republicans... ______________________________________________________

Yes, perhaps it is not entirely accurate to say that Republicans don’t want to spend money for social needs. On the other hand, they have shown an unhealthy reluctance to raise taxes to pay for those needs. The solution has been either to borrow money, whether through actual deficit spending or through bookkeeping legerdemain, or to water-down the definition of “needs” to avoid raising taxes. There is a choice that is being made. When we let preservation of the wealth of the richest members of society take precedence, we have created a social need that is unacceptable. Your last paragraph is telling. The programs that you question are easily defended. Bike trails and light rail are important parts of the transportation infrastructure, and will become more so in the future. The current reliance on private cars and untrammeled highway construction is unsustainable. Pheasant habitat is a part of a spectrum of environmental protection measures. The marketplace has been a poor way to protect the environment (green marketing notwithstanding). Schools have always been the bête noire of conservatives. Teaching a range of foreign languages in high schools is more than just an intellectual ornament, it is a necessity (don’t make me repeat the tire clichés about globalization). As far as the number of school districts go, isn’t that about local control vs. a centralized bureaucracy? When you lay out programs like that, and sneer at them, you are writing a recipe for stagnation. If we, as a society, intend to progress in the future, we have to start now. The marketplace responds mostly to short-term trends and wants. It has been a poor place to look for long-range planning.* I did not take a shot at answering your question. Away from the context of actual expenditures, saying how high taxes should be is a pointless exercise. *No, I do not advocate a planned economy. I do advocate a realization that it isn’t going to be 2011 forever, and that we have to prepare for change.

I think you are stretching the definition of Social NEED... These sound like Social WANTS... And if you want to support them, please write out a separate check at anytime. I am certain the Gov't will be happy to take additional contributions. Globalization is a fascinating thing. My peers from all over the world keep reminding me that I am lucky. I have an American passport and am fluent in English. 2 things they strive for because of the ability it gives me to travel to and do business in all modern countries. (Thank God for the British empire and the USA) I'll post some of our discussions on G2A after I am done torturing my far right readers. We'll see what they think of NEEDS vs WANTS... Have a great week!!! _______________________________________

MN Publius Ingenius Fix

Monday, March 28, 2011

Do More Equal Societies Work Better for Everyone?

A guest post by Laurie (previously known Nokomis). By the way, I am happy to extend this courtesy if you have thoughts that you would like to get feedback on.

While reading my spring issue of American Educator today, I came across this interesting article, Greater Equality the Hidden Key to Better Health and Higher Scores. In it the authors provide a graph showing the relationship between social/physical health and level of income inequality for about 20 developed countries. Not surprising to me was that the USA ranked highest in income inequality and worst in a composite score of social/ physical health measures (i.e. life expectancy, mental illness, drug abuse, education, obesity, homicides, imprisonment rates, teenage births, social mobility.)

The point of this article written for teachers was that decreasing levels of inequality would increase educational achievement for students of all income levels. This is illustrated in a graph showing literacy levels for adults of differing education levels in countries with different levels of inequality. In short, it shows that Paul Wellstone spoke the truth in his well-known quote "we all do better when we all do better."

For an interesting look at more graphs and discussion of the evidence that more equal societies work better for everyone, check out The Equality Trust website. Here, when I clicked to learn more about education and equality, I was pleased (and not surprised) to see that Minnesota ranked among the states with lower levels of inequality and this corresponded with our low high school drop out rate. Of course this idea about the negative effects of inequality seems very logical and even obvious to a strong liberal such as myself.

I am curious what others with a different worldview / political ideology think of the idea /evidence. Questions:

  • Do More Equal Societies Work Better for Everyone?

  • While the greatest gains go to those at lower income levels, would the wealthy benefit, as well, from greater income equality (as authors argue)?

  • Would decreasing the inequality in the USA through a progressive tax code save $ on things such as prisons, health care, drug treatment, welfare (fewer teen mothers) etc?

  • In a wealthy country such as the USA, will more economic growth lead to a happier, healthier, or more successful population (especially if the gains keep going to the few at the top)?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Abortion War - Proof of Fascism ?

As Nokomis said... "I guess I have implied that these "characteristics of fascism" are to be found to a much greater extent in the GOP : but, as they say, if the shoe fits....." After watching the news of late, I have to whole heartedly agree with Nokomis. It may even push me over to voting Democrat... (God Help Us...)
The Elm - Women Under Siege
YDR Wave of Anti-Abortion Legislation
Boston GOP Candidates Court Christian Conservatives

The characteristics we are discussing today are:

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights
5. Rampant sexism
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together
Now I have no love for the concept or act of abortion. I truly believe it is usually a "bad choice made to prevent people and their pending child from dealing with the consequences of a prior bad choice or total lack of personal responsibility". The reality is that it is a "CHOICE" that should be made by the Mother. And definitely not made by some Church folk that are far removed from the situation !!!

For some reason, many in the Republican party that I typically support decided to hitch their wagon to the "Far Right Christians". Therefore they keep trying to push laws that are based on Religious beliefs, rather than focusing on supporting the American Constitution. So much for the separation of Church and State.

In the name of these Religious beliefs, they would force all women to conform to these particular Religious beliefs and bring an unwanted child into our society. Kind of reminds me of the Taliban, they apparently KNOW BETTER and want to save this poor woman from sin. (maybe burqas come next) Seems to be terribly sexist and a violation of rights, since only the woman is required to bear the consequences of carrying the fetus to full term. And worse yet, only poor and some lower middle class women could not buy their way out of the situation in the old days.

Here are some other thoughts:

  • Though Republicans / Conservatives /Religious folk insist that these children be born, they consistently block the Parent Education and Early Childhood Education funding that is needed to raise the children correctly. Therefore trapping the kids in whatever world they are born into.
  • The unwanted children that are born to unprepared or unfit parents cost society a small fortune during their lives. Especially if the Mother or Father have significant addictions or physical / psychological issues.
  • Crimes rates dropped significantly in the 1990's. The largest factor was that Roe V Wade was enacted ~20 yrs before. The criminals were never born. (Freakonomics, Levitt & Dubner, 2005)
  • Millions of "indisputably alive fully self sustaining humans" die in developing countries every year. Where is the outrage and contributions from the Republican Religious Right folk. Maybe they just like "control" more than actually saving lives. Our is an American fetus worth more in God's eyes than a Mexican or African toddler?
  • If the kids are unwanted, not going to be properly cared for, going to cost society money and suffering, etc. How can "Pro-Life" be in the best interest of the USA and her citizens?
  • Fellow Christians, give it up and start saving the kids that are truly self sustaining and alive outside the womb. There are plenty of them dying every minute all over the world.
  • Besides America is a land of Religious Freedom, so let these Women have the freedom to choose !!!! It is God's responsibility to judge them, not yours...

Below is a comment that one of my good friends, Jason, left on the G2A Fascism post. It is too good to let it disappear into history so soon, and in my opinion it applies to this post.

"I am compelled to post: First of all, what is in a word? Fascism will forever be equated with Hitler and everything seen as evil in the world. Therefore, all 14 points as described must be inherently evil in some way? In fact all of the 14 points indicate methods used to establish control within a country. Is control bad? Certainly "out of control" is not good. Anarchy would likely fit the opposite of all 14 points. Anarchy would be unabated freedom right?

So the real point here is not to have methods of control, but to have the right level of control in the right areas so that people "feel free."

A problem arises when we are attacked. The current level of control has made us vulnerable and has had poor consequences. Therefore added controls are put in place in order to ensure that the poor consequences are not repeated. Unfortunately, this leads people to "feel less free."

Control is a method to bring the current state back into alignment with the desired state. Unfortunately, (or fortunately in a case to promote diversity), the desired state strongly differs between individuals and groups of people.

I consider myself to be a freedom loving person. I express this in the form of fiscal conservatism (please spend my money wisely and on things that are universal common goods) and as a social liberal (please allow me to believe what I want, and I will do the same).

What I find dangerous, is not so much the controls that are put in place to protect my safety, and the safety of our country, but those that enforce a specific doctrine or world view.

Coming from Minnesota, it is easy to see the Republican party from a non-religious standpoint. It is not tied to religion as strongly here than in other parts of the country. However, in other parts of the country, it is the party of Fundamental Christians and if there was not strong opposition, I believe they would love to remove freedom of religion from our Constitution and replace our Government with a theocracy.

Yes, this is closely tied to George W (Not George Sr. I might Add) Any of the 14 points that is imposed strongly by a group that would like to control religion and the beliefs of their citizens in this way is a direct threat to our Constitution, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

So where are we now? Are we free? Are our thoughts free and unhindered by the media and television we watch? Certainly not! However, our media is relatively unhindered by government, The bias here is generated based on cyclical reference. For example, the reporter's circle of influence leans conservative, therefore their reports are conservative, their circle watches/listens to their reports, cycle repeats. Same goes for liberal bias. The best way to remove some of this bias is to watch reports from varied sources that are not in your normal influence circle.

In closing, it is not the 14 points that we should fear so much (in moderation I’d say). What is dangerous is the promotion of a single ideology or religious view as “American.” This is why George W and Sarah Palin are not good for America. In my opinion, George Sr, Obama, John McCain, Bill C, all would be just fine. My point being, this is not a party line decision. It is a matter of personal freedom."

After this relatively contentious post, here is some comic relief. Monty Python's Every Sperm is Sacred... At least this Father could apparently sell the kids that he could no longer afford...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

MN Tax Incidence Study 2011

Another thanks to MN Publius. I may disagree with their interpretations, but they provide some great links. MN Tax Incidence Study 2011

The Liberal folks continually mention that the "Rich" don't pay their fair share... (links below) Let's try some math by saying that Brad, Bob & Bill are brothers with different incomes. (see pg20 of study)

  • Brad $20,000/yr (MN eff rate: 12.1%)=$2,420/yr
  • Bob $60,000/yr (MN eff rate: 12.1%)= $7,260 /yr
  • Bill $600,000/yr (MN eff rate: 9.7%)= $58,200/yr

Now all 3 of them use the same roads, utilities, county services, state services, etc. In fact Brad probably qualifies for and uses more additional services due to his low income. Now who is not paying their fair share? Note that Bill pays 24 times what Brad does and 8 times what Bob does for the same services. An interesting spin... And this does not even include the more progressive Federal taxes...

As you know, I am happy looking at this topic both ways. (G2A Entitlement or Gratitude) What frustrates me is that Liberals seem to feel they are in some way Entitled to a portion of the Wealth earned through an individual or family's hard work, saving and investment. Then they imply the "Rich" are villains who are not Paying their Fair Share... When in reality, Bill is paying at least 8 "Fair Shares". Maybe they should kick Brad in the butt, and tell him to start contributing more to America's Society and Wealth.

Being pragmatic... I understand that you can not get money out of an empty piggy back, and that raising Bill's taxes may be necessary and correct given the situation. But I think the Liberals should at least show gratitude and thankfulness as they are lifting more of "HIS" cash out of "HIS" wallet to pay for programs for other people. (ie paying their share)

MN Publius Richest 10% don't pay fair share
MN Publius Rich (still) pay less
MinnPost End Well?

Then there is the Local Aid argument... (see links below)

Now here is one of those very strange ideas of mine. Maybe instead of raising local taxes when Local Aid is reduced. They could improve their efficiencies or cut some low priority services...

Now, don't you want your local officials deciding how your local tax dollars are raised and spent... I truly do not understand how the State ever got involved in supporting all local communities. I can understand a few instances. (ie poor communities w/ little prop value base)

Finally, don't the rich and businesses have the most valuable property? (ie pay biggest taxes) Besides, the rate increases with the home's value... Seems progressive to me.

MN Publius LGA Declines, More Property Taxes
Speed Gibson LGA

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

American's Want Taxes and Cuts

I always find it interesting when Blogs or Articles note only the data they want you to see... I thank MN Publius for the link to this article and site. They found it important to note that people support a surtax on people making over $1 million. (Q26 pt 1) However they did not mention that people support freezing annual domestic spending for 5 years...

Personally I would support doing ALL of these things at the same time. (ie Tax and Save) And pass a Balanced Budget amendment while we are at it. What do you think?

Washington Post Americans Want
Complete Survey Results

Source: HART/McINTURFF Study #11091--page 16
February 2011 NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey
"Q26 Let me you read you a number of other things that might be cut or eliminated as a way to reduce the current federal budget deficit. For each one, please tell me if you would find this totally acceptable, mostly acceptable, mostly unacceptable, or totally unacceptable as a way to help reduce the federal deficit."

"Q25 Let me you read you a number of programs that could be cut significantly as a way to reduce the current federal budget deficit. For each one, please tell me if you think significantly cutting the funding for this program is totally acceptable, mostly acceptable, mostly unacceptable, or totally unacceptable as a way to help reduce the federal deficit."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

How to Promote Effectiveness?

I posed a question over at MN Publius Unexpected to the Liberals that keep vilifying Conservative "CUTS". (G2A Slow Growth Down) Unfortunately I have gotten no real answer yet. I have received some examples of why more money is needed, but no ideas for influencing an improvement in effectiveness. (ie effectiveness = doing right things efficiently)

Below are the lead in comment from CommonSense and my reply.

"One observation I have of the right, where they have a major misperception (or maybe I mean misconception- shades of GW) of the left, is that the left wants to take all their money and give it away to people that don't deserve it. The typical person on the right needs to understand that taxes are lower now than at any point in their lifetime and that you do not get anything for nothing!

When governors cry budget problems right after they cut corporate taxes (again), of course a reasonable person will ask how ANYONE can think it is ok to hack away at government to the point that it doesn't work, then cut more funding BECAUSE IT DOESN'T WORK! The proposals put forth by the right are absolutely ridiculous- turning local government over to private companies - firing ELECTED OFFICIALS; selling power companies at the governor's whim,.... each day gets more outrageous.

The thing about taxes is that there is a minimum that is necessary to run a government responsibly and deliver good services. When money is tight, you don't cut family expenses until you starve and freeze to death- you INCREASE revenue by asking family members to contribute according to their means.

We just want the rich, yes I said rich, to contribute to the government that has made it possible for them to live the high life while the rest of us hope we don't get fired or perhaps have our union rights legislated out from under us."

That said, which state parks should we close (which is your favorite, let's start there) and just how should we adjust the public school budget that has been cut, cut, cut?

My Response and Question:
If you do not like controlling the budget? (manage and slow growth, ~ CPI)

How would you proposed we citizens promote wise prioritization and year after year productivity gains from our Government/Social systems?

I truly believe that we could double their budget and they would find "good" ways to spend it all.

An example in Schools, exactly how many foreign languages need to be offered? Or exactly how many bike paths do we need in out state MN? Or why is the Public supporting radio broadcasts? Or why is the DNR buying land for wildlife habitat?

I like Common Sense's analogy, except I think we are cutting back on the family's cell phone and cable usage. Not their food and heating. Probably don't need that second job yet."


Friday, March 18, 2011

Libya No Fly Zone

Is our decision to help enforce the "No Fly Zone" a sign of our Fascist ways or something else. I vote for something much better and more compassionate... Maybe not Smart, but surely compassionate and maybe a bit idealistic. Thoughts? Obama Warns Gadhafi

From Ellen's Places: 14 Points of Fascism
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.

What about Afganistan? Or Iraq? Or Korea?

Wisconsin: Temp Restraining Order

I'll file this under another waste of Wisconsin's public funds... Just like when the Democrats delayed the inevitable by leaving the state. A temporary restraining order based on whether adequate notice was given seems wasteful and pointless. (WSJ Wisconsin Blockage) Here are the possible results I see happening:
  • The court says they violated procedure and rules the law not valid. At which time they do it again while paying more attention to the clock. Then it is a law again.
  • The court says "close enough" and it is still a law.

Unless of course you think those "recalls" will happen sooner than later. Which of course I do not see happening at all. The Liberals continue to say how much support they have. However I did a little looking and found that Wisconsin has 5,000,000+ citizens, and the Public employees only number ~120,000. That means there are 4,800,000+ citizens that may like lower taxes more than higher paid Public employees.

Now there is apparently one benefit of delaying the inevitable. The School Boards and Teacher's Unions have a few more weeks to conspire against their tax payers... (otherwise known as set their Contracts) Thoughts?

Wisconsin Race to Contracts

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Capitalism, Fascism, Socialism, Communism

Well folks, I am overdue on this post. I promised a commenter named Richard at MN Publius that I would do it last week. Then all kinds of exciting things happened and I put it off.

Now, I am an unrepentant Capitalist and a huge fan of Ayn Rand's Objectivism. As such I am pretty comfortable when the more Liberal or Socialistic folks are critical of these beliefs. However, Richard stunned me with a new label that I had never been called before. As usual, I was promoting shrinking Government, making it more effective, and minimizing any tax increases on all citizens. (ie especially on job providers and risk takers) This is when he called me a Fascist... Then I actually needed to ask him what that meant to him, since to me it was something that went away after WWII. So he sent me this link regarding the 14 points of Fascism.

Well apparently Richard thinks that the USA is quickly moving towards becoming a Fascist country. As compared to the many other Liberals that see the USA as being far to Capitalistic and not having enough safety nets. And the Conservatives that are worried that we are heading full speed ahead toward the destruction of becoming Socialistic or Communistic. As you know, personally I am in the Conservative camp on this one. My thoughts are in the ( ) below.

14 Points of Fascism (see descriptions in link above)

  1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism (I think Nationalism is important, but am a huge fan of Free Trade. I just don't see the fear of foreign people or products being an issue. We seem to have a healthy concern regarding the people that blew up our bldgs and citizens... Seems like a rational response.)
  2. Disdain for the importance of human rights (The ACLU is as strong as ever. Don't confuse Rights and Privileges. If you take advantage of Privileges they can and should be cancelled.)
  3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause (We have Poor and Middle Class folk picking on Rich. We have Tax payers picking on Public employees. And everyone else is picking on someone else or their least favorite Politician. It seems as chaotic and non-unified as ever. And Lord knows anyone can disseminate any information they want at any time.{even me})
  4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism (We have a Democrat as Commander in Chief. Enough said... Though it may have been valid under the previous Administration.)
  5. Rampant sexism (Pro-Choice is still the law of the land, our Sec of State is a Woman and we have Women running for President. Don't see it.)
  6. A controlled mass media (You've got to be kidding. See number 3)
  7. Obsession with national security (some validity)
  8. Religion and ruling elite tied together (Which Religion and what tie? Don't see it.)
  9. Power of corporations protected (Enron, Arthur Andersen, Global Crossing, Bethlehem Steel, Lehman Brothers, Many Others. We still punish firms that fail to perform.)
  10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated (Unions are fine: just don't force the workers to join or pay dues. And don't kill the golden goose.)
  11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts (Government may not pay for it, but I do not see any control of it. Let those that value it pay for it.)
  12. Obsession with crime and punishment (Don't see any outspoken Political folk in jail. Maybe on a few talk shows, or walking around Madison WI.)
  13. Rampant cronyism and corruption (I can't argue this one too hard given the Private Sector / Public Sector job swapping that goes on in both Parties. And the outrageous lobbying and "contributions". However I would argue it is pretty well out in the open. We just seem to put up with it as the way it is, as we re-elect the same folks. We can put an end to it at any time.)
  14. Fraudulent elections (Don't see it after the number of recounts we have endured in the last 10 yrs)

So you can see that Richard has not convince me... So:

  • What do you think?
  • Where are we heading?
  • Why do you believe this?
  • What scares you the most about this future?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Health Care Cost Control (5)

Well now seems a good time to continue this series, since the endless growth of Health and Human Services seems to have been identified as the Juggernaut that is overwhelming the MN budget.

This post is regarding why we would not set maximum Liability Limits and expedite Tort Reform in the USA. We mostly agreed that a Life does not have an infinite value, yet we choose to not limit Court Settlements. Instead we allow huge settlements that cost our society big dollars. (ie malpractice insurance, lawyers, courts, settlements, product cost, service cost, etc)

One example:
  • An accident occurred, a man died, and his wife launched a law suit.
  • During the trial, expert witnesses review the issues relevant to the case in front of the jury. (sounds good so far)
  • Next the wife is put on the stand to explain how much she misses her husband, and the hardships that she and her children are enduring. (what does this have to do with if someone was negligent?)
  • The jury tries to be impartial and focus on the facts and fault... Yet there is that image of the broken wife that keeps floating into their thoughts... I mean someone should pay her something... And that large corporation can absorb the cost... Right?
Wrong !!! That is why all of us are paying higher costs !!! (ie healthcare insurance, taxes, etc)
  • Ruling regarding negligence and reward must be separated. (ie Technical, then Emotion)
  • Rewards must be capped. (based on severity and situation)
  • Lawyer compensation must be capped somehow, so the Ambulance and Class Action chasers lose some of their incentive.
Thoughts or other good examples of this failed system? Or thoughts regarding the linked past posts on the topic?

G2A Healthcare Cost Control: Physician Assisted Suicide
G2A Healthcare Cost Control: Save Everyone?
G2A Healthcare Cost Control: Value of Life
G2A Healthcare Cost Control: Personal Responsibility
G2A Healthcare Thoughts
G2A Healthcare, Ethics and Cannibals

Saturday, March 12, 2011

MN Budget Baseline (Try 2)

The upper table is from the MN budget office. (see prior post for link)
The lower table is my creation and shows if the yr over year spend was/is held at 3%. (one time exception for FY 2011)

Here are some questions I have:

  • What drove up our revenues and expenditures so much in FY 2011? (ie spend up 9.7% when inflation was nil) The Federal one time stimulus/jobs spend?
  • Then is FY2011 a good benchmark for FY2012 or is it inflated due to stimulus funds and efforts?
  • Shouldn't the budget target for FY 2012 be $30,139,823 per the lower table? (~6% over FY2010)
  • Why is the planned spend going down in FY2013? More games or do we have a few more fed dollars that we are committed to spend in FY2012?
Thing to note:

  • Total Resources Available in FY 2013 is down because of the negative Budget balance at end of FY2012 on the MN chart.
  • If we can live with a 3% annual budget increase, the budgetary balance stays positive. We can even start paying back the shift...
  • If some things like Health care expenses go up more than 3%, then the Government will need to increase less than 3% in some other area to offset it.


MN Budget Starting Point?

With all these budgets talking cuts and additions, and no one talking totals. I think I found the starting point.
MN Budget Related Documents and Forecast
MN Consolidated Report (ie actuals and budgets)

Checkout pg 6. To me it looks like the baseline has about a 6% yearly increase built into it. ($31,188,123 to $33,040,995 = $1,852,872 increase) To offset the negative 2013 forecasted Budget Balance of (-$3,824,012) we would need to to freeze spending and make a slight cut for the next 2 years. [-$3,824,012 + 2($1,852,872 {freeze}) + $118,268{real cut})

Of course that does not factor in the reality of inflation. If inflation is 3% per yr, then we are making significant cuts. (ie 3%($31,188,123) = $935,643/yr increase needed just to stay even... If that is true then we probably do need some additional revenue (ie taxes) in order to stay even... Though if the citizen's income is increasing with inflation, no tax rate increases would be need to achieve this...

For a bunch of interesting Education Legislation updates, checkout Parents United This Week at the Capital.


Friday, March 11, 2011

The AdSense Decision Matrix

I have been pondering turning on Google's AdSense software for at least a year. I have been hesitant because I was concerned that it may slow down G2A, or display content that may not be appreciated by my readers. On the other hand I am feeling very guilty for paying them exactly $0 for 2.5 yrs of system usage and ~410 posts.

I have decided that this incredible software and the infrastructure it runs on has great value to me, and that I should try to help pay for it. I mean it let's people from all over the world read my posts and your excellent comments. (definitely worth supporting) So this weekend I am going to study up on how to use Adsense, and hopefully turn it on.

At my current hit rate, it may generate $5/mth for me and $10/mth for Google... But I guess some contribution is better than none. I only ask that you are patient as I go through another blog learning curve. And send me feedback if it creates any access problems for you.

Now for today's lesson: Below is a very simple decision matrix that I used to score my options. This is a very simple and useful tool that you can use when you are facing a decision with multiple options and criteria. It is especially useful when 2 or more people are involved, because it forces you to document the options, criteria, weighting and scores. These require some very collaborative and sometimes tense discussions as people work toward a common model.

This may sound very painful to some folks... However, it is critical to get a team to a common view if you truly want to attain a consensus driven decision that will hold over time. My wife and I actually used this when we were trying to decide if we should move to a new school district or not. She of course thought I was being far too analytical at first, but it took a lot of emotion out of the discussion and helped us make the right decision that has held for 6+ years.

Finally, if you have worked with AdSense and learned lessons the hard way. Please drop me a note or leave a comment so that I can learn from your experience instead of blunting my nose on the same walls. Thanks as always !!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Creativity in Wisconsin

Thank Heavens !!! It finally passed !!!
CNN Wisconsin Update

Now I don't know if the bill is good or bad, but I do know it is unacceptable to have the Democrats flee the state instead of showing up at their jobs. And it is incredibly unprofessional for teachers that "care about the students" to not show up at work... (especially if they were getting paid - sick days)

So it may or may not be overturned in the courts, but at least the people that were elected to represent the Wisconsin citizens were able to take the action they think and feel is necessary. Due process is no longer being stalled by the minority's acts of unprofessional extortion.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Libya: To Help or Not to Help?

Well Libya has me thinking again... CNN NATO starts 24/7 surveillance What should the United States role be in the world? Should we involve ourselves in "civil wars" in the name of saving civilians, or should we just let them kill each other and anybody unlucky enough to be caught in the cross fire?

I mean there are enough people that are critical of the mess in Iraq and Afganistan. They are either worried that we are the war mongers. Or they are worried that it is costing too much. Or worried that American Military personnel are being killed or maimed without a direct threat to the USA. As for myself, I am worried about the military personnel, their families and the financial cost.

However, given that Sadam was a power hungry killer, and it did not make sense to keep him in the no fly zone box forever, something needed to be done. And given Taliban's terrible treatment of women and their allowing terrorist training camps to thrive, it seemed something needed to change. My biggest concern is that the folks in that region have been fighting on and off for ~5,000 yrs, and I don't have a lot of hope for them finally seeing the light. Mesopotamia wiki

Often, I wonder what the Pacifists and Peace Lovers would have done with Sadam and the Taliban? Would they have let Saddam keep Kuwait? Would they have kept him in the No Fly Zone box forever? Would they have let him keep killing and torturing his people? Would they have let him destabilize the Middle East? (ie high fuel prices) Would they have let the Taliban continue providing Al Queda a base of operations? Would they allow the Taliban to keep all their women uneducated?

Since we are spending too much, it does seem that we will need to really consider whether we can afford to maintain this global foot print and be the world's primary Police.

Zfacts Debt Clock
Cost of Iraq and Afganistan (~1.2 trillion)
US Armed Forces Wiki (Overseas: 820 installations in 135 countries)
Unknown News Casualty Estimates (take with a few grains of salt?)
G2A China... America's Banker
G2A Korea Challenges and USA Wealth
USA 2010 Budget by Category wiki

So what do you think?
  • Should we keep our strong overseas presence?
  • Should we pull our troops back to the USA and jack up security? (ie screw em all...)
  • Will we be America if we turn our backs on these situations?
  • How would the world and American economy be affected?
  • Where do we go with Iran and N Korea?
  • Open microphone time... Thoughts?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

MN School Funding

As you may be aware, I went to the St Louis Park "MN School Funding" forum last week. As expected they were mostly focused on how to maintain and possibly grow funding. Now I have no real issue with that since if one does not lobby for their slice of the pie, one is likely to go hungry. It just seems to be the way American politics works. (ie many good and not so good causes chasing after constrained funding)

It was interesting that only the DFL speakers showed up... Apparently the invited Republicans had something more important going on, or they were scared to set foot in a school given their current obsession with no increase in State taxes. One of the DFL speakers did ask for a show of hands of people who thought the gap should be closed with taxes only, cuts only, or a combination. One voted for taxes only, and everyone else including myself voted for a blend.

This linked presentation that was presented by Mary Cecconi from Parents United was fairly interesting. (especially slide 11) Also, she noted that this was based on the traditional Consumer Price Index, not the higher Implicit Price Deflator Index. If this chart is correct, it does look like the state and it's tax payers are falling down on the job.
2011 Legislative Kick-Off Realities, Rumors and Reactions

Especially when you look at pg 2 of this linked document that shows a huge growth in the number of local referendums that had to be passed to make up for the shortfall. Which of course means that schools in poor neighborhoods are less likely to pass the referendum to make up the difference. And if they do, it is at a higher tax rate because their properties are typical not worth as much.
A History of School Excess Operating Referendum Levy

This was especially scary when I wandered across some graphs that showed how many more kids we have that are classified as poor, non-English speaking and/or Special Ed... These all drive huge extra costs and are all way up from just 10 yrs ago. (unfortunately I lost the web pg address, oops)

The only thing that did frustrate me is that the Speakers and Mary seemed to truly believe that we had cut and tried everything, and that effectiveness and efficiency gains were unlikely. Which seemed odd since a few came to me as I sat there:
  • Terminate the worst ~3-5% of Teachers (Supt and Principal's choice with no tenure constraints)
  • Reduce the number of Districts from 360+ down to ~100.
  • Convert the pensions to self directed 401k's.
  • Pool more purchases across districts, or buy at the state level. (ie volume discounts)
I don't think we have tried any of them yet, and I think they would help. Thoughts.

MN Miracle Info
MN School Finance Guide
E-12 Education Finance
Legislative Education Links

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Public Employees: Over or Under Paid

After hearing all about the vastly Overpaid/Underpaid Wisconsin Public employees, I chose to do a bit of Google searching. My opinion after briefly reviewing these is that they are probably compensated similar to the Private employees with similar educations. This makes sense to me.

EPI Briefing Paper: Debunking Myth of Overpaid Public Employee
PolitFact: FOX news claims
Out of Balance: Public vs Private

The problem is that I have found no weighting of the data for hours worked and other key factors that would justify paying the Public Workers less in Monetary Compensation. Here are some of them that occured to me:
  • High Job and Compensation Security: Public employees with seniority are virtually guaranteed continuing employment and increasing compensation. Their productivity, their efforts, economic recessions , etc have only a minimal effect on them. Whereas the Private employees accept additional risk in these areas. The Public employees security must be worth something, and the Private employees risk acceptance should be rewarded.
  • Shorter Hours: I could not find anything that discussed the number of hours Public Employees worked to earn that stated compensation. Let's assume that many of them are Teachers that work ~9.5 mths per year. Whereas the vast majority of full time Private employees work 12 mths/yr, and they are certainly not paid for not working. If this is true, then these Teacher's should be paid 20% less than the Private employee. (~$16,000 less on $80,000 in total compensation)
  • More Responsibility: They noted that Private employees are often rewarded more generously than their Public counterparts for earning degrees and gaining experience. However they seemed to miss noting that Private employees only gain this compensation by taking on more responsibility, working more hours and delivering bigger profits. (ie oversees more projects, dollars or people) As compared to a Teacher who has 20 yrs of experience, a Masters Degree and a Doctorate, and still only teaches one class at a time... (ie similar responsibility and productivity to a starting teacher? 3 times the comp?) Of course Private employees who take on more Responsibility should be paid higher than Public employees who are still doing the same job as when they started.
  • Extra Real Interesting Benefits: Teachers and some other employees have some very interesting benefits that are not typically available to Private employees. The ones that I find fascinating are "Leave of Absences" and "Sabbaticals". This is when an employee can take off up to 5 yrs for some personal reason or education goal, and be guaranteed a job when they decide to come back to work... With these kind of unique benefits, the Public employees should be paid less than their Private employee peers.
So it seems that what is on paper may be somewhat misleading. I would be the first to support Private / Public employee compensation equity once some of these other inequities are resolved. Until then I believe the Public employees are definitely over compensated, all things considered.

With this in mind:
  • Let's pay Public employees based on performance/results/responsibility, and not on years of experience and amount of education.
  • Let's give Managers the freedom to fire employees that are not performing or meeting other job expectations.
  • Let's ensure we are comparing equivalent compensation per hour worked.

Then we can actually compare apples to apples. Besides, then the Public Bureaucracies will improve as the ineffective employees are weeded out and forced to pursue careers that better fit their capabilities. Thoughts? How can these improvement ideas not make sense?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

RAS Achievement Gap Update

Some useful links from the 23Feb11 School Board Mtg.

Winter Elementary MAP Reading and Math Test Scores PowerPoint
Notes & Comments:
  • Best to watch the video because the presn is slightly different, you can hear Gayle and Cheryl's comments, and the Q&A after the presn. (see link below)
  • Summary: It seems scores are slightly better in most groups. This is great, however it means the gap is not changing much.
  • Gayle noted that the gap has been stubborn for 5 yrs and it will take dramatic action to start it shrinking.
  • My Question: Why do they use Race rather than Income? (ie Caucasian and People of Color)
  • It makes no sense to me since I believe the relationship between Race and Academic scores are correlated but not causal... (ie students do not score poorly because they are White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc)
  • Where as I believe the relationship between Free and Reduced Lunch and Academic success is much more Causal. (ie students often do score poorly if their family is poor) And yes: not because they are poor... They are often poor because they have less education, don't speak English, have personal problems, etc, etc, etc)
Resolution Regarding Hennepin County Dropout Recovery Efforts
Disability Nondiscrimination Policy 402 - Second Reading
Public and Private Personnel Data Policy 406 - Second Reading
Link to Meeting Video