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daudtThe state House Republicans have something new they want to try, and it sounds exciting. To solve the problem of what to do with the projected $1.9 billion surplus, they propose a $2 billion tax cut, mostly for people with lots of money already. I understand no one has tried this before. Apparently fiscal conservatives have always been too concerned about deficits from the loss of revenue to give it a try. The theory is that if we give more money to people who already have lots of money, they invest it in ways that help everybody, and the growing economy means the government actually gets back more than the taxes were cut.
 
I can’t conceive of what could be wrong with the theory or how it could go wrong!
 
CORRECTION: After further research, I want to address an error in the first paragraph. Specifically, it turns out there’s a slight problem in that everything is wrong. This isn’t a new idea after all, but actually the policy Republicans always advocate when there’s a budget surplus. Or a budget deficit. Or when the economy is strong. Or when the economy is weak. Or when the wind changes. Moreover it has been tried, repeatedly, with consistent results, namely the government runs short of revenue and the wealthy recipients tend to just pocket the cash instead of investing it. Turns out they have so much money already that if there were good investment available, they’d already be investing. I asked how that squared with the “Reagan recovery” of the 1980’s, and turns out he raised taxes. A bunch. Because the deficit blew up. He just didn’t raise them on the same people who got the tax cuts. Oops. Also turns out there are these places called “red states” suffering slow economies and chronic budget shortfalls. Wow. I wonder if these states are as red as my face is right now!
 
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What do the kids think?

by Dan Burns on April 23, 2015 · 0 comments

schoolThis is extremely important, from someone who actually took the trouble to talk to students. These kids are all clearly quite a bit smarter than the education deformer crowd, btw.
 

Somehow, despite the Testocracy’s best efforts, these students have learned to think critically about their lives and the world around them:
 
There is a clear boundary between the haves and have-nots, but opportunities should be there for everyone.
We know bright kids without high GPAs; a high GPA doesn’t exactly equal intelligence. But we are told a high GPA equals a good future.
High school is getting increasingly hard. More difficult. We get the message that we’re not going anywhere unless we have all A’s.
We are told to shoot for the stars, but it feels like we shouldn’t expect to get there.
Life is a three-step thing: High school–College–Job.
College costs vast amounts of money, but we don’t have time to reflect on what we want to do with our lives.
But, I think about it a lot. And I think, we’re only 17.
We have good memories, too. We’ve grown up together. We’re lucky to have the opportunities we do have. Southwest is still a good school.
It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t all work out.
(Bright Light Small City)

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Handouts for the haves

by Dan Burns on April 22, 2015 · 1 comment

greed1Just a few examples to remind us of what our socio-political system is all about. Namely, plutocracy and open bribery.
 

The six tax breaks that Sanders wants Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to eliminate are:
 
The check-the-box loophole allows multinational companies to characterize their offshore subsidiaries in different ways to different governments so that their profits are untaxed.
The Hewlett-Packard loophole allows American corporations to use short-term loans from their subsidiaries circumvent the requirement that they pay U.S. taxes on their offshore profits when those profits are brought to the U.S.
The corporate inversions loophole allows an American corporation to merge with a (usually much smaller) foreign corporation and then reincorporate as a foreign company to avoid U.S. taxes even as it continues to operate and be managed in the U.S.
The carried interest loophole allows hedge fund managers to characterize their compensation (which they earn for managing other people’s money) as capital gains, which is subject to lower personal income tax rates than other types of income. Tax experts have pointed out that the Treasury Department has the authority under existing law to determine how this income is taxed.
Valuation discounts are restrictions placed on small business property given to family members (to keep the business in the family, for example) which are often meaningless but are claimed to dramatically reduce their value for estate and gift tax purposes.
The real estate investment trust (REIT) loophole allows private prisons, billboard companies, casinos and other companies claim that they are making money from rents to avoid paying the corporate income tax.
(Sen. Bernie Sanders)

 
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Minnesota GOP looks to screw schools

by Dan Burns on April 16, 2015 · 1 comment

abandonedschoolRight about now is when the big spending bills start to get serious consideration in the Minnesota legislature, and things get really interesting. Though in many respects they are often quite predictable. The GOP-controlled House has put together an education bill, that either falls short or is completely wrongheaded, in pretty much every way that you can think of.
 

An omnibus education bill (HF844) would increase state spending in E-12 by nearly $157 million over the next biennium (for a general fund budget of $16.86 billion) with a 0.6 percent increase to the basic funding formula – which would amount to a $157 increase per student.
 
The proposal falls well below the Senate target ($350 million in increased spending) and Gov. Mark Dayton’s recommended $695 million increase.
 
Several testifiers representing school boards, teachers’ union and school administrators asked for an increase in the basic funding formula of as much as 3 percent per year. Without the additional support, many school districts across the state would face cuts to programs and staff, several testifiers told committee members…
 
The major difference between Dayton’s E-12 funding proposal and HF844 is that the governor calls for a 1 percent increase to the basic education formula. And House Republicans have decided to say “no” to the governor’s call to create a public universal pre-kindergarten program, which would cost $343 million over the next biennium. Instead, they plan to fund an early learning scholarship program — that targets 3- and 4-year-olds from low income families — by an additional $30 million.
(Session Daily)

The bill also includes the usual right-wing policy drivel, like teacher layoffs based on standardized test results.
 
I’m waiting on more data, before speculating on how negotiations between the House, Senate, and executive branch might go, and what the end result will be. Specifically, whether the pre-K initiative will get off the ground at all, this session.
 

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My Favorite Quote of the Week

by Dog Gone on April 9, 2015 · 0 comments

Billy Graham, center, with President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, early 1980’s

I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.
    Billy Graham – Parade (1 February 1981)

Billy Graham was the famously bi-partisan golf buddy and religious Christian guru to presidents for decades, in a very real sense he was one of the first really big televangelists, a sort of America’s preacher.  He was moderate conservative, unlike his rabid son Franklin, who has inherited his father’s religious enterprise.

 

There really is no longer such a thing as a moderate Republican.  There are only far right extremists, and fanatical far right extreme crazy right remaining under the umbrella of the GOP and the bastard subset of the Tea Party.  Moderates were last seen in the GOP in roughly the 1950’s and 1960’s, with the likes of candidates like Eisenhower and leaders in Congress like Edward Dirksen, or the right wing political intelligentsia like  William F. Buckley Jr.   While Buckley held some abhorrent views in his day, including both racism and homophobia, he was a well educated man who evolved politically over time to less extreme positions, and who was significant in his day for driving out the crazies and the wackos such as the John Birch Society (founded by the father of the Koch brothers manipulating right wing politics today).

 

Sadly, too many on the right, even those who were active in it, back in the period contemporaneous with the elder Graham seem oblivious to the right’s shift to the extremes, and the abandonment of the center for the lunatic fringes.  Too few of the remaining right even acknowledge that political parties  substantially change over time generally, as a fact of history, which in turn somewhat invalidates political party claims of legacy.  Those parties themselves abandon their own legacy in favor of views, policies and political platforms which in fact repudiate those of earlier versions of their party.  The GOP in the era of Lincoln was a largely liberal organization; the party of Teddy Roosevelt less liberal, but still more on the liberal side of the political spectrum than conservative.  The party of Eisenhower was likewise, more conservative than Roosevelt, and Lincoln, but still relatively liberal and centrist in contrast to the party of Reagan to present.   Even Ronnie Ray-gun was distinctly more liberal than any of the extant GOP.  THAT is the important context for both the above quote and the accompanying photo.

 

That political parties change over time has been true going back to before the American Revolution in this country; it is not unique to the 20th and 21st centuries. This larger pattern of change in which the Billy Graham quote applies as a warning is not the factual version of history that the right would permit to be taught, deeming it unpatriotic because it does not serve their propaganda agenda. Instead the radical religious right would like to teach fake history in public schools, using it to insert religious doctrine, for example that Moses was one of the founding fathers, requiring it in textbooks for public schools.

On Friday  [Nov. 21 2014] the Republican-controlled Texas State Board of Education voted along party lines 10-5 to approve the biased and inaccurate textbooks. The vote signals a victory for Christian conservatives in Texas, and a disappointing defeat for historical accuracy and the education of innocent children.

The textbooks were written to align with instructional standards that the Board of Education approved back in 2010 with the explicit intention of forcing social studies teaching to adhere to a conservative Christian agenda. The standards require teachers to emphasize America’s so called “Christian heritage.”

In essence, Christian conservatives in Texas have successfully forced a false historical narrative into public school textbooks that portray Moses as an influence on the Constitution and the Old Testament as the root of democracy.

Emile Lester, a professor of history in the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at the University of Mary Washington, claim the textbooks contain “inventions and exaggerations” about Christianity’s influence on the Founding Fathers and, by extension, the formation of American democracy.

Credible historians warn the misguided attempt to suggest biblical origins for the Constitution would lead students to believe that “Moses was the first American.”

Scholars claim the decision to include the biblical figure of Moses in social studies education is part of a concerted effort by Christian extremists to promote the idea that the United States is a “redeemer nation” – giving a divine justification for supposed American exceptionalism.

The proposed textbooks are deeply flawed, and have no place in a public school classroom.

Franklin is one of the worst of the modern day fundies, a professional bigot popular exclusively among the most radical of the far right, peddling an equally extreme version of religion.  It is a shame that Billy Graham did not apparently teach the content of my favorite quote of the week sufficiently under his own roof for it to be internalized by his family members.  This does not make the content of the quotation any less true.

 

This is significant in so far as every one of the declared or likely candidates running for president on the right appear to be basing their primary level contention for the nomination on securing the approval of the religious right, the Christian fundamentalists.  Every potential candidate on the right is far removed from being a centrist, and most are of questionable rationality, replacing hateful respect for facts and science and diplomacy and even some modicum of basic integrity with an extremist ideology of intolerance and a toxic parody of legitimate spiritual belief.  And this makes religion the justification for voting AGAINST not in support of every one of the conservative candidates in the 2016 election.

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from Zazzle, rebel flag clothing accessories a 2016 campaign button already available for sale

The question the boring thinkers are asking are the obvious questions, which are the wrong questions.

 

Who does Rand Paul want to take America away from that has it, and what does he intend to do with it?  The obvious answer would seem to be the dominance of old white crabby flabby theocrats, given his previous positions on race and religion, economics and civil rights.  He wants life to be like the good old days, where those minorities and women stayed in their subordinate, subjective places, and didn’t make waves about eating at every lunch counter, or controlling their own lady parts, or that voting stuff.  That is strictly for conservative Christian white men, and right thinking corporations to run government.

 

And definitely none of those false religions that other people in the world believe in. No. No. No.  That would make Jesus cry, and maybe a founding father; not Ron Paul — Moses.

 

Definitely “no mo of the homo” either.  Absolutely no more science; we have too much of THAT already, and clearly there is a big PROBLEM with reality and all those facts leaning liberal.  Those have to go.

 

No, no voting or lunch counter sitting or equal pay or reproductive choice, no no no.  None of that modern stuff when Rand gets his hands on America for ‘HIS’ ‘Murikans (good Christians all, the right wing fundie Evangelical kind only).

 

A better question to ask is WHEN does Rand Paul want to take America back?

 

Would he be aiming at 1950?

 

Or is pro-confederacy, pro-secession, pro-white supremacy Rand Paul aiming to send us backward even further, to the 1850s?

 

Inquiring minds want to know, but only from curiosity.  WE do NOT want him taking America away from a broadly diverse America, with whom he and his fringie-bots do not want to share power, or to have the backward culture wars that make people second class citizens imposed on us by the delusional right wing nuts.

 

Rand Paul — not back to the future, just backward, and downward.

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The heat is coming down on Globe University

by Dan Burns on March 30, 2015 · 1 comment

studentdebtIt’s been a rough month, there, for good reasons.
 

State Attorney General Lori Swanson on (March 20) added new allegations to her lawsuit against two for-profit schools in Minnesota.
 
Globe University and Minnesota School of Business, she said, made thousands of illegal, unlicensed student loans charging “staggering” interest rates as high as 18 percent and misled or failed to adequately tell students about their loan obligations…
 
In a statement, Globe University and Minnesota School of Business denied Swanson’s claims.
(MPR)

They lost in court, too:
 

Last week the Minnesota Supreme Court denied Globe University’s petition for an appeal of the decision in former dean Heidi Weber’s whistleblower lawsuit against the school. This marks the end of the line for Globe University officials to appeal the decision.
 
Just over a year ago, a jury decided that Globe University/Minnesota School of Business fired Weber after she blew the whistle on the school’s misleading, illegal, and unethical practices. The family managed group of for-profit colleges was ordered to pay nearly $1 million to the former Globe University dean…
 
The Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision to deny Globe University/ Minnesota School of Business’ petition for an appeal is just one of many recent public relations nightmares involving Globe University and school executives. As Steve Kaplan of the Twin Cities Business Journal suggests, “The jointly owned Globe University (GU) and Minnesota School of Business (MSB) have been sued so often these last few years, you’d think they might consider offering a course on how to run afoul of the law.”
(Huffington Post)

The author of that, Kyle McCarthy, was a cofounder of StudentDebtCrisis.org. He has written extensively about Globe’s issues, over at HuffPo. You can of course get to everything by clicking on his name, there, but given that he blogs about many other topics as well, it’s probably more efficient to just search something like ”Kyle McCarthy Globe University,” if you’re just looking for his Globe stuff, for now. A couple of items that I found to be of particular interest:
 
Globe University Owner: “Sell! Sell! Sell!”
 
Too Close for Comfort: One Family-Managed Group of For-Profit Colleges’ Curious Relationship With Preferred Lender.
 
The purpose of all of this is not to rip on the students and teachers at Globe. It’s very important that they not be left hanging, if things do completely fall apart.
 
Comment below fold.
 
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Facepalm 42Hann

In a recent interview on MPR, State Sen. David Hann was asked the begged-for question on the proposal he and Sen. Sean Nienow are making to break up Minneapolis into six separate school districts. Why didn’t he talk to any legislators who represent Minneapolis? His amazing answer wasn’t anything like, “Of course I talked to them”, or “I sought their input, but they didn’t respond”, or even “I did talk to other people connected to Minneapolis schools”. No, his reason for not talking to legislators from Minneapolis is that they’re DFL. Yes, they represent the area in question, but wrong party, so he’s willing to propose bills that affect their districts without talking to them.
 

[This comes 5:50 into the program.]
Tom Webber: Senators who represent the city of Minneapolis, who are all DFLers, say “you can’t possibly be serious about this because you never talked to us about this.” What are your thoughts on that? Why didn’t you consult them on this idea?
 
Hann: I don’t recall the governor consulting with Republicans about his tax proposals or the Democrat majority in the legislature coming over to talk to me about what they want to do.

I don’t claim to know who the governor consulted about his tax proposal, but I feel on safe ground in assuming he talked to people from Minnesota. Maybe if the governor had ignored Minnesotans and just talked to people from Iowa and Wisconsin, Hann might have a point. Likewise, I feel pretty sure that if DFL legislators decided to make a law for one specific area of the state, and decided against talking to legislators from that area because they were all MNGOP, it would have been a quite commonly and unfavorably remarked upon. Hann, however, not only won’t talk to the legislators from Minneapolis just because they’re DFL, but I haven’t been able to tell that he talked to anyone from Minneapolis, and presumably he would have said who he talked to instead of coming up with such a partisan excuse, “Talk to Democrats? Do people really do that?” Rather arrogant behavior for someone making law for Minneapolis, and so concerned Minneapolis will react poorly, that though he’ll let Minneapolis draw the districts, he won’t make the redrawing optional. “So Minneapolis, you are required to implement my lousy idea I’m inflicting on you an no one else, but I’m letting you implement how you like. I’m such a nice guy!”
 
Minneapolis legislators I’ve checked with said he still hasn’t talked to any DFLers since that interview.
 
Maybe we can’t blame Hann for refusing to talk to DFLers. After all, he’s already pointed out the DFL is rife with corruption, such as daring to hold policy positions he disagrees with.
 
In my happy Minneapolitan fantasy, the bill passes, but Hann forgets to provide any guidelines on how districts should be drawn. So we pick a lake, divide it into five districts, and all the land makes up the sixth district.
 
The House version is being carries by Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, who represents a district even further from Minneapolis than Hann’s Eden Prairie. So far, I can’t tell that either of them has talked to anyone at all from Minneapolis. If Hann and Erickson really want to help our schools, they could change state law so charter schools no longer get to suck up our money while being unaccountable to our elected representatives on the school board. They could fund Minneapolis schools enough to offer the same sort of programs they can afford in the suburban schools that get our students and our funding through open enrollment.

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mncapitol2There are strengthening indicators that, for all the beginning-of-session talk about finding “common ground,” not much beyond what is most needful will get done during Minnesota’s current legislative session. Which at least means that, in this context, the education deformers probably won’t be able to advance their contemptible agenda, for the time being. They will of course continue to try to do so in every other way they can. Lots of money and power at stake.
 

Explain to me what is the measure of an educated person. Winning a Nobel Prize? Few do. Making a Bill Gates/Warren Buffet fortune? Few do. Writing a Pynchon novel is something only Pynchon has done. Without having to take a multiple choice test about novel writing.
 
Scoring in the 99th percentile on the LSAT? Is that a measure of an educated person? It may help get you into a law school, but will you have the talent in pressing circumstances to fashion an acquittal on, “If the glove don’t fit, you’ve got to acquit?”
 
Of those legislators pushing for standardized testing, how many will publish their own SAT scores?
 
Financial genius Nienow? Suppose he did score highly. That proves what? That the SBA and taxpayers should mop up his personal fiscal bad-judgment mess?
 
These are bozos leading a bozo parade, union busting being the actual aim, and some should know better.
(Developers Are Crabgrass)

From my observations, “success” in corporate, and for that matter political, life is far more about tenacity and focus, than it is about intellect. That’s just a declarative statement; I’m not trying to pass judgment, here, on whether that’s always a good or bad thing.
 
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Don’t concern yourself with Strib polling

by Dan Burns on March 22, 2015 · 1 comment

schoolPerhaps you’ve seen this morning’s in the Star Tribune, purporting to show huge public support for “quality over seniority” in teacher layoffs. It’s a classic example of reducing a complex issue to a quick soundbite. Do you really think most parents would want to see their own kid’s beloved math teacher let go, because some newbie at a school with more privileged kids had those kids produce higher test scores?

 
Let’s be clear about what the education deformers want, here. “Quality” is to be “measured” by standardized test scores. This will force teachers to rote-drill students to the tests, rather than emphasize learning to think knowledgeably, rationally, creatively, and independently. Because if most kids grow up doing the latter, that spells longer-term doom for the plutocratic, warmongering status quo. Which is in fact what’s been going on for a while, and, obviously, said warmongering plutocrats are desperate to reverse that, no matter what vile, shameless means are employed.

 
It won’t surprise me if the rest of the week is devoted to poll questions like “Do you favor or oppose a gas tax increase?” and “Should the state refund the budget surplus?” Remember that if poll results other than “Who would you vote for if the election were held today?” mattered politically, this country’s policies would overwhelmingly reflect the progressive agenda that the public massively supports. And the MN GOP is still probably going to get crushed in 2016, and there’s nothing Glen Taylor’s Strib can do about that. Though he’ll make sure it keeps trying.
 
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