Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Property Taxes and Obesity

The accepted treatment for property tax anguish is to try to lower tax levies. We can do this by reducing budgets or increasing revenues. It's simple math. But does reduction of the tax levy accomplish the goal of 'fixing' the most hated tax in America? (Google the 'most hated tax' and see for yourself).

Allow a small comparison. We have an obesity problem in America. In Rhode Island for example, 56% of the public is either overweight or obese. (CDC 2004). Now that's a problem for sure. Using the logic of the property tax solution, we would simply require that everyone reduce their food consumption by some amount, say 10%.

But what about the people in Rhode Island that aren't getting enough food as it is? Should they too reduce their already inadequate food intake? Clearly not. The solution ignores the obvious fact that the distribution of food is at least as important as the total consumption.

Likewise, the distribution of the property tax is more important to the individual tax payer than the total tax levy. The 'deadly duo' of revaluation and ad valorem taxes ignores this issue and is creating a devastating imbalance in the burdens of property owners. Believe it or not many property owners (most often the larger corporations) receive tax reductions as budgets increase due to unfair distribution resulting from the revaluation process.

Budgets are too high and should be lower. In many cases we are not getting the results we deserve from our 'highest in the nation' taxes. But any budget, low, high, or just right, should be distributed in a fair manner.

We have one suggestion on our website, that we believe will do just that. Take a look and then post your comments here. I'd like to know what you think.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Statistics. Use with care, may be hazardous.

There was an excellent letter this morning in the Providence Journal letters to the editor section. A physician was writing about the recidivism of drug offenders. He compares the average cost per offender in prison to the average cost of methadone treatment, $30,142 (minimum security) versus $4250 average for methadone treatment.

Those pesky statistics can be misleading. The infrastructure, buildings, the minimum staffing of a prison facility means the cost per prisoner goes down dramatically as the number of prisoners goes up. If the average cost per prisoner is say, $75,000, a prison will not save $75,000 for each released prisoner.

That is not to diminish the doctor's main points in his letter. He is spot on when he points out the failure of our penal system in its treatment of substance abusers. Methadone clinics certainly do a better job at addressing the recidivism problem but what's right is right, independent of the cost.

Statistics can be misleading. Use with great care.

But maybe it's just me.

(Please use the "comments" link below to post your thoughts.)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

"We have met the enemy and he is us" Pogo 1952


A group of humans broadly distinguished from other groups by mutual interests, participation in characteristic relationships, shared institutions, and a common culture.

The institutions and culture of a distinct self-perpetuating group.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You settle in with the morning newspaper and a cup of coffee.

The headlines are discouraging to say the least; corruption evident at the highest levels in government, taxes out of control, trash littered streets, our students falling behind other countries' students, millions with no health insurance, increasing poverty levels, global warming, fuel costs out of sight, another shooting in a ghetto neighborhood.

Commentators conclude that our problems won't be solved until "we as a society" make the commitment to (you fill in the blank).

What does 'we as a society' really mean? Can we all act together? And if we did, what would be the difference between 'society' and any other mob or special interest group, or union? See the above definition.

To me, this phrase - as a society - is a cop-out, an excuse for doing nothing. After all, 'we as a society' haven't made the commitment. Not my fault. Why should I do anything until 'we as a society' do something.

Now there, doesn't that feel better? Cop-out!

As long as this myth of 'society' exists, individuals won't take the action necessary to make changes. Our very democracy is at risk under the current deadly combination of apathy, helplessness, and cynicism.

In a democracy, legislators are expected to consider and pass laws that are in the best interest of the people. "The happiness of the people is the purpose of government", John Adams.

Can we trust that our elected officials are willing or even able to make such choices? From the news it would appear the answer is 'no'. That some of our state representatives have cast votes for absent members is a disgrace; an insult to the people of Rhode Island.

Americans are blessed with a form of government that allows us to change legislators in elections. Yet the vast majority of legislators continue in office, suggesting that we are generally pleased with their performance. Are we?

So we continue to read our papers and listen to the news, muttering disapproval all the while.

Change will come only when each one of us understands we must act as individuals, not society. It will come when YOU put the gum wrapper in your pocket instead of throwing it on the street, use a turn signal, act with courtesy and respect and teach your children to do the same. When you and I, as individuals, keep the snow shoveled from the front walk, let a motorist into line, slow down for the yellow light, take the time to contact our government representatives about how we feel.

When that happens there will be a sea change in our country, in the way we govern ourselves.

One can only imagine the impact of not a few hundred identical letters from a group, but of tens of thousands, of millions of individual letters from the people, you and me, making our feelings known. A veritable tide from the people.

Today we can make a simple toll free phone call to vote for the latest goofball who appears on some reality TV show.

Isn't it at least as important to express your feelings about the important issues of the day? When was your last letter to the editor?

When all is said and done, there is no 'society'.

There's just you. There's just me.

But maybe it's just me.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Medical News TIC (tongue in cheek)

Medical Breakthrough
Wickford, RI September 24, 2005

In a stunning and unprecedented surgical procedure begun in 1993, when McDonald's was successfully sued for scalding an 81 year old woman who spilled hot coffee on herself, members of the American Surgical Society of Lawyers (ASSoL) have at last, successfully removed "accident" from the English language. The 'patient' was not even aware that the operation, known technically as an accidentectomy, had taken place but the word has been effectively rendered non-functional and useless and is expected to shrivel up and fall off by itself shortly.

Lawyers have conclusively proven that there is really no such thing as an 'accident'. Every unexpected, unpredictable event, if it has or might cause pain, inconvenience or even embarrassment to a person or persons, or their heirs, now or in the future, must be compensated for.

There must always be someone at fault, to blame and to punish. For everything. In short, there are no accidents and someone must pay.

In a related story, "personal responsibility" is becoming redundant and, like tonsils or troublesome wisdom teeth, is scheduled for eventual removal. Additional candidates for future removal due to infrequent use include:


But maybe it's just me.