Thursday, April 26, 2012

RDALE District 281 Updates

Now there are many good things going on in the district, however these are the ones that people seem to have differing opinions on.

Parents concerned about discipline in the Middle schools.  Probably a well justified concern.  It seems I hear more about Code Yellow and Red days of late.  For folk not in the these schools, these are different levels of lock down...  Thoughts?
Sun Sailor: Discipline Problems
Sun Sailor: Middle School Parents raise concerns

I am not a big fan of PBIS... "district has fully embraced Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a research-based framework of schoolwide interventions designed to keep students in class" It seems like it should make sense, yet keeping disruptive kids in class to the detriment of Teachers and the Other student is a problem.  Also, I heard that they have been lightening up on some of the zero tolerance rules and punishments.  Any details?
RDALE Behavior Resources
RDALE Emergency Plans

Enough said, when will Cavanagh be empty and ready for sale.  And is Pilgrim Lane sold yet?  Those capital  and reduced maintenance dollars would come in handy.  Especially if we want to upgrade schools and technology.
Sun Sailor: 287's North Education Center

Transprotation frustration and changes continue.
Sun Sailor: School Bus Changes
Sun Sailor: Shame on 281
Sun Sailor: Taxpayers taken on ride

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Obama Using Executive Powers More

As I read this Executive Power piece,  I kept thinking how it would have been written 4 yrs ago about Bush.  Would the writer have seemed as understanding? (ie working around obstinate Congress)  Or would it have been portrayed some fascist abuse of power.
New York Times Shift on Exec Power

And now that we have a Republican candidate, let the games begin.
MSNBC Obama / Romney Strengths and Weaknesses


Monday, April 23, 2012

Debt: Our Gift to the Children

As I mentioned in a comment to my previous post, often I would like to spend more to help people that are seriously striving to improve themselves or provide for their families. And Lord knows I think that Social Security should stay solvent so that our older citizens continue to get the checks that they have earned during their working years.  At these times I become rather empathetic to the plight of these fellow humans.

Yet at times the side of me that believes in fairness and personal responsibility rebels at these concepts.  I look at the Debt history charts and just shake my head.  Starting in about 1980 we apparently lost our way, our wants began to significantly outpace our revenues.  These baby boomers took more than they contributed. And yet the Conservatives still complain that taxes are too high, and the Liberals still complain the spending is too low.

I am not sure where this is headed, yet I am certain that this is not the situation that I want to pass on to my children.  At least there was a good reason for the ~1940 Debt peak and it was somewhat unavoidable, yet I can not think of any good reason for the current state other than a lot of people are being selfish.  People who are striving to avoid paying for this excellent society that enables them to prosper, and people that are striving to free load on the efforts of others.

I hope we figure this out sooner or later... Thoughts or feelings?

ZFacts Debt History
US Debt Clock
US National Debt Clock
ZFacts Debt Clock

Friday, April 20, 2012

FICA: Income vs Benefit

We were discussing whether Payroll Taxes (FICA, etc) are really a regressive tax  or actually a mandatory retirement, disability insurance, elder health insurance, unemployment insurance all rolled into one.  I am in the minority since I do not see it as a regressive tax. 

The reason being because the person paying the bill is expecting a direct financial benefit in return for their expenditure.  I can think of no other tax where this is the case.  We may expect services in return, but certainly not a check that varies by the amount you contribute.

I support its continuing forever because it seems to be the only way to get many people to save for their later years.  And Lord knows we won't let them pay the harsh consequences of their lack of self control. (ie extreme poverty and all that comes with it)  Therefore long live Social Security, the mandatory savings plan.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Is Buffett Rule Loss a Win for DFL?

After skimming these articles, I am thinking that the Democrats will win over many undecideds with this one loss.  I think it will be hard for many poor and middle class folks to understand how it can be right for the wealthy to pay a lower tax rate than themselves.  I am wondering if the GOP has won a battle that will make the war much tougher on them.  What do you think?

Fox News Buffett Rule
Wiki Buffett Rule
NY Times Buffett Rule
Busn Week Will make it more powerful
CNN Money Only hits 1%
Forbes Buffett Rule
Huff Post Buffett Rule

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Company vs Personal Tax Breaks

Here is a comment I left over at MN Publius...
"Per James' note that some companies did not pay taxes lately. MnPub Dems vs Rep  Here is an article that seems to cover both sides of the topic. Reuters 30 Companies Paid No Taxes   They note that closing the loopholes is necessary, however the biggest tax avoidance of this type is given to us citizens in the form of the home mortgage interest deduction. They said it "dwarfed" the benefits given to businesses. Maybe we should get rid of that deduction, I would be fine with seeing it go. 
Also, please note that allowing businesses to write down capital expenditures faster and write off R&D was done to help encourage them to spend more, thus supporting our economy. The upside for you is that they won't have these write offs available in the future so their taxes should increase. (ie no future depreciation left since they took it all up front.) 
Also, don't forget that us stockholders end up paying taxes on any corporate profit. (ie dividends paid / stock price increases) So the reality is that the money is taxed as a business profit or a personal profit. "
 I am always puzzled by who Liberals think own these companies.  They seem to miss the point that they are owned by us...  Our 401K's, our pension funds, our IRAs, our college savings accounts, our other mutual funds, etc.

Then there is the topic of their repatriating profits from other countries... Bloomberg Tax Holiday  Now I know little about this, so here is just a thought.  If these were profits generated in another country, didn't the companies already pay tax in those countries?  Why are we asking them to pay taxes on profits earned else where in the world.  In my simple world, it seems the goal is to relieve the people in other countries of their cash as fast as possible and get that money back into the hands of the American Investors.  Then they can pay taxes on their dividends and capital gains, and start buying and investing with it.

So what do you think of all this taxation stuff?  Should we get rid of the mortgage interest deduction to help raise more revenue? (and promote more conservative houses)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Tale of 2 Economies

Laurie pointed us to this interesting view of our current reality. Star Tribune: Future so Bright  Being somewhat of a financial conservative and being firmly entrenched in "Economy 1", it of course makes little or no sense to me. I can not understand why we would delay making Healthcare, Education and Government more efficient.

From the article, it seems David thinks Democrats see these industries as "make work" industries to keep people from becoming unemployed. (ie like Economy 1)  The problem is that these are anchors that are preventing Economy 1 and the USA it's people from being as competitive as the USA could be in our Global World.

Check out the 7 wastes that are listed in these links. Wiki Toyota Production Systems   Wiki Lean  I realize that many of you will say that these only apply in manufacturing. (ie doesn't apply to me/us...)  I realize this because I have the same discussion with office personnel at work.  Then I have to help them stretch or change their paradigms.  The reality is that paperwork, data, information, etc can all be impacted by the same wastes.  I know this because my specialty is improving the effectiveness and robustness of office processes. (ie reducing waste and opportunity for errors)

 One of my favorite Peter Drucker quotes is "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”   Yet that is what most waste is...  I am thinking that Economy 2 folks are suffering from a Scarcity mentality. (see below)  And they need to work towards having an Abundance mentality.  Meaning that there will be plenty of jobs and money if we get rid of the wastes. They will just be in wealth creating areas rather than wealth wasting areas. Thoughts?

 Think Exist: Peter Drucker Quotes
University of St Thomas: Frederick Zimmerman Articles
Simple Dollar: Scarcity and Abundance Mentality

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pay: What have You Done for ME Lately?

I have had some incredible successes at my current employer over the 15 years I have been here.  Machines I helped develop were market leaders, cost savings are still saving money and many processes I created are still being used.  Yet all of this is in the past, and the reality is that compensation is based on "what have you done for me lately" and more importantly...  "What will you do for me in the future?" 

It is a cold and very reasonable reality.  I mean you are not going to pay a service provider more because of what they did for you previously. (ie your accountant, painter, roofer, tutor, etc) You may pay them more, but it will be because you were impressed with their past performance and assume they will repeat or improve on it in the future.  You are paying them to secure their valuable time and for expected future results.

Some interesting stories I have heard were:
  • the Car Sales Manager that once per month would fire the Salesperson with the lowest monthly sales.
  • that when employees ended up in an elevator with Curt Carlson, he would ask them for details regarding how they were making him enough money to justify their compensation
So what do you think:
  • any other good related stories?
  • should older employees be "paid currently" for "past successes"?
  • should it be a competitive dog fight for your whole career to ensure you are earning that higher compensation? (ie right up to retirement day)
  • as technologies or expectations change, what should happen to an older highly compensated employee that falls behind and loses productivity or quality compared to their younger high tech co-workers?
  • how does this relate to my last post?
As I may have written before, my Father taught me early to strive to ensure that my "Perceived Value" is always above my "Peceived Cost". (ie from Mgmt's perspective)  It is challenging to estimate these at times, yet it is one way to minimize the likelihood of being laid off.  And if you are laid off, it is more likely that you will get an equivalent job sooner.  So keep that saw sharpened through continuous learning.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pay Grades and Tenure Stress

I am going to explain how pay grades work in my world, and then I'll strive to explain why the Union methodology seems so irrational.  And it may explain why Teachers are so nervous about losing tenure.

In my world, there are something called pay grades.  Let's assume the following:
  • Grd 5 pays $30K to $50K w/ a midpoint of $40K
  • Grd 6 pays $40K to $60K w/ a midpoint of $50K
  • Grd 7 pays $50K to $70K w/ a midpoint of $60K
  • Grd 8 pays $60K to $80K w/ a midpoint of $70K
  • Grd 9 pays $70K to $90K w/ a midpoint of $80K
And then each position in a company is assigned to a grade. This is done based on the position's education requirements, market wage research, other internal positions, responsibility level, etc. The goal is to ensure that employees are compensated commensurate to their value.  If the company pays too much, they waste the Owner's/Shareholder's money.  If they pay too little, they suffer high turnover and incur excessive recruitment, training and other costs which wastes the Owner's/Shareholder's money.

Usually a new college grad would start at say $30K in an entry level position (ie grd 5), and then they would get raises as their experience level increased.  The goal being to get them to the midpoint within a few years, the rate of increases being somewhat dependent on their capability.  This is because midpoint  is approximately market rate for an experienced person in that position, and the goal is to make sure the employee is fairly compensated. (And if the employee is exceeding expectations, there is room in the grade to pay them above market) {compa ratio}

When the employee's experience and capability have increased to a point where they are consistently more effective or can handle more responsibility, they are then promoted into a position at a higher grade.  In this case our $38K grd 5 employee, may become a $41K grd 6 employee.  Then they grow into that position.

It is important to remember that each grade comes with additional responsibilities and/or expectations. So at grd 5 the employee may be a Purchasing Analyst, then a Buyer at grd 6 and a Sr Buyer at grd 7.  At each of these levels the employee's responsibility level increases, therefore the company can justify paying them more. Also, the employee often is able to leverage their knowledge and capabilities by delegating or leading others. (ie more/better output = higher compensation)  Often the grd 7 or grd 8 positions may be Team Leader or Supervisory positions, and grd 8 or grd 9 may be Supervisory or Mgr positions.

One more note, I have seen people moved up in grades and I have seen people moved down.  At first I thought it was unfair to demote an employee, then after some thought I began to understand that it is the best thing to do.  If the employee gets promoted above their capability, it is better to allow them to retreat to where they are capable than to escalate the problem until they quit or are fired.  The goal again is to match employee capability to the right position/grade and ensure they are paid fairly for the work they are doing.

So how does this relate to Teacher tenure and all the stress surrounding the topic?  The current Teacher compensation systems that I have seen are all based on years of experience and level of education.  And the difference between the entry level Teacher and the Teacher with many years and degrees is huge. (~2 times)  The problem is that these 2 Teachers may have classrooms right next to each other. (ie similar kids and qty)  The big challenge then is how does the $70K Teacher show that they are twice as valuable as the $35K Teacher right next door.

In my world, there would have to be a significant benefit to justify the pay difference.(ie pay for work, not pay for resume)  Some things that come to mind that could justify the experienced Teacher's higher compensation would be more kids in their class, higher rates of learning in their class, more troubled kids in their class, coaching of less experienced Teachers, Team Lead or Supervisory oversight, etc.

Since I am reminded that I don't know much about Unions, Schools or how either work, are there increased levels of responsibility or higher expectations for the highly compensated?  If so, what types of things justify the large difference?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

MN Legislators Shirking Responsibilities?

In today's Sun Sailor there was an interesting opinion piece, and then I saw the MinnPost article linked below and decided it would make a good post.  Unfortunately I can't link to the Sun Sailor letter yet, however I will add the link as soon as I can.  In the meantime I will recreate it here, I hope you appreciate this since I am a 2 finger typer...
"Writer says Anderson is unfit to serve...
To the editor:  Legislators who advocate for ballot initiatives either don't understand their jobs or don't want to do it.   
Making laws is not easy.  It involves the hard work of understanding the existing legislation, analyzing the nuances of the issue, crafting a bill that effects the most good while doing the least harm, providing opportunity for comments from the public and affected interest groups and then convincing other legislators of the proposed bill's wisdom. 
Legislators are elected to do a job and to represent us in doing so. Throwing an issue to the voting public in the form of a ballot initiative is an abdication of those responsibilities. 
Unfortunately, my representative, Sarah Anderson, doesn't get that.  Instead she has been in lockstep with her Republican colleagues to put serious Constitutional issues on November's ballot as a cynical attempt to circumvent the legislative process and engage in wedge politics. 
She apparently doesn't know that our founding fathers could have formed the United States as a true democracy, but in their wisdom they didn't. Instead, they created a representative democracy where we elect representatives to do the hard work of legislating on our behalf. 
If she does understand that, then she has chosen not to do her job. Either way she is unfit to serve.    Kelly Guncheon Plymouth"
My opinion is somewhat more aligned with the Minnpost article.  In a time when the politicians were more practical and centered, I could agree more with Kelly.  However in our current culture of extremists on both sides of the aisle, I just don't see successful moderate discussion occurring on some of these topics. (ie Dayton planning to veto Teacher performance as a layoff consideration) {oops... got sidetracked...}  Also, the State's founding fathers must have allowed for these amendments, otherwise they would not be able to put them on the ballot.

And though Sarah is a bit Right of Center for me, I am sure she will get my vote as usual. And I am fine putting the most divisive topics to a popular vote, it is the one time a moderate like me has a real say...

So what do you think regarding these amendment votes and letting the people decide?  I think we may get a shot at Voter ID's, Right to Work, Marriages, Tax Increases, Others?  It should pump a lot of money into the Ad, TV, Radio, Printing and other industries. (ie Thank God for my MP# player...)

MinnPost Legislature Quality

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tax Freedom Day Update

I thought this CNN article was very interesting.  Especially this quote that reminds us who is paying the bill to keep the lights on.  See the CBPP link for more details.

"Chuck Marr, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' director of Federal Tax Policy, said in a statement that this year's Tax Freedom Day report "leaves a strikingly misleading impression of tax burdens.  He said the 29% share of income that the Tax Foundation cites as the 'average' tax burden is higher than what 80% of American families actually pay."

CNN Tax Freedom Day
Tax Foundation: Tax Freedom Day
CBPP: Tax Freedom Day

And it was not wasted on me that the states with the earliest tax freedom day are where many people would not want to live....

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tax the Rich, Then What?

Folks got wrapped up in discussing medicare and healthcare in the DFL and DSA string, so I decided to bring my comment back to the top.

G2A DFL and DSA?
G2A Why are poor people poor?
"As I keep saying, I have no problem with being in the middle of the continuum, therefore I would happily raise the taxes on the rich. However I think we had better be able to provide them value for the money we appropriate.

"Giving" money to "dependent" people is one sure way to keep them "dependent" and create more "dependent" people, which is good for no one.

If you have kids you are already aware of this, they would happily spend everything you give them and then come back asking for more. Training them about work, rewards, self control, budgetting, saving, etc is our job.

Somehow the "poor" people need to learn that lesson and have their hopes rekindled. Sending them checks for no effort just won't cut it. That is just enabling the co-dependency and propogating the problem."
So what do you think, how can wealth transfer be beneficial and not destructive?  It can not just be a safety net that catches people and turns into a hammock.  It must be like a trampoline that catches them, and promotes and enables their returning to or becoming productive self sustaining members of our society. 

And after a period of time in the hammock or two bounces, how do we make it so painful that they want to get up and sure don't want to fall again?  We simply can not afford a large number of freeloaders in this globally competitive world.  Thoughts?