Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Right Tax

Today's Providence Journal carried a story about a Barrington couple who "say that town officials knowingly withheld public records in violation of the state Access to Public Records Act" and have lodged a complaint with the state attorney general. People must have easy access to public records particularly if they directly effect the person making the request. We wish them well.

Sadly, even if they are vindicated they will achieve little more than a moral victory. Their complaint deals with the accuracy of house appraisals which determine one's tax bill, the assumption being that a fair appraisal will produce a fair tax, a right tax.

But is the right tax the one resulting from an accurate assessment? Traditional thinking says yes and people often appeal their assessments when they think they're too high after revaluation.

Now imagine Barrington resident, Mr. David B., sitting before the assessment review board having been shocked that his new tax bill is 42% higher than the prior year while the tax levy increased just 3.96%.

He felt that his property value increase of 30% was far too much. The board listened patiently and agree to a reduction in value of $35,000 bringing the increase to only 15%. David, happy with the board's decision, left satisfied.

In the afterglow of his victory David didn't realize that his new tax bill, while less than before, is still 25% higher than the year before. So, is David now paying the right tax? My concept of fairness says that David, and every other Barrington resident, should be paying 3.96% more to fund the 3.96% tax levy increase. That is the right tax but no existing owners will receive it because of the revaluation itself, which is fair only to new owners who choose the price of the house they buy and are correctly taxed on that market assessment, at that time.

It's wrong for everyone else.

Read more at the Righttax website link to the right.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Learning From History

In the ongoing conversations about American involvement in wars across the globe reference is often made to what is arguably our most important war, World War II.

In a recent article in the Providence Journal the writer referred to Japan's attack of the United States at Pearl Harbor in 1941. He drew a parallel to our current involvement in Afghanistan suggesting that we need to apply the same resolve now as we did then, when we fought the Japanese.

I would like to ask what might have been different if, as we fought and killed Japanese soldiers (and civilians, as happens in all war) there were created more and more Japanese soldiers? I know this is a silly question to ask about fighting Japan or Germany back then.

But it isn't so silly now. The number of terrorists and terrorist attacks appear to be increasing rather than decreasing according to every survey in an internet search. So one has to ask, should we change our strategy in the face of this evidence or continue to apply the World War II model to the present "war on terror"?

Maybe It's Just Me

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There's a black man in the White House

With that pronouncement many feel really proud about how far we've come in our fight against racism and discrimination. Yet the statement itself shows how much farther we have to go.

President Barack Obama's genetic racial background is more white than black yet he still is described as a "black man". I guess it's better than being called black for one drop of African American blood but it's a far cry from where we need to be.

We have a long way yet to go.

Maybe It's Just Me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Just Who Are They?

You know those folks that show up at the town hall meetings with those "We want our country back" signs?

I'd like to ask them, "Back from whom?" When they say 'our country' just who is the 'our'?

Do they want the country for white Christians? to get it back from blacks and foreigners? to take it back from the poor and needy? the unemployed and sick?

So just who is America anyway? And who is it for?