Thursday, December 23, 2010

Open Letter to the NK School Committee

To the NK School Committee,

Clearly the US is falling behind globally.  If we expect better scientists we need to improve science education.  If we want more talented engineers and mathematicians we need better math and physics courses.

I would like to ask you if our schools are preparing students to become our best politicians and legislators?  Is the educational system preparing them to become the political leaders our cities, states and country need to succeed in the future?

I can recall as a high school student that the most boring class I took was called 'civics'. Perhaps we are witnessing the consequences of that mistake. Is the school system creating excitement and respect among our students who will become our future leaders?  Are we creating an atmosphere that excites and inspires?

I looked through the online curriculum at the NKHS Social Studies section and found nothing that relates to local government and contemporary local issues. Instead I found history. Certainly important, but it's not anything that will engage students with their real world as it surrounds and effects them today.

Perhaps I've missed something. I would love to be corrected.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Just Wondering

I think of myself as a pretty liberal guy but the Virginia judge had a point when he ruled against the federal requirement that all citizens buy health insurance.  Perhaps the only constitutionally acceptable requirement would be for those people who use federal health insurance such as the VA.

On the other hand those who complain that it is wrong for young people to have to buy insurance so older people can have health care seems to indicate a certain level of, forgive me, stupidity. Do they really not know that is exactly how insurance works? Insurance companies make tons of money by collecting premiums from enough people who don't use it to pay for those that do, plus a tidy little profit.

Still there might be a legitimate constitutional argument against the federal government mandating insurance.

Perhaps instead the federal government can make it a requirement for federal reimbursement for health care contingent on a certain level of mandatory insurance required by those states. If they refuse to require health insurance for its citizens then they will risk forgoing federal reimbursement for health care.

Can't have it both ways.

Maybe It's Just Me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Maybe it's just me but the placement of two letters to the editor in the Thursday Dec. 2, 2010, Providence Journal caught my eye for two reasons; first, the 'right' position was on the left side and the 'left' position was on the right side. Just a coincidence?

But the second, more important reason was, that here, in two letters, side by side, we see a larger national problem.

One author paints the unions as the victims of greedy corporations, doing the same as they do.
The other author paints the unions as villains out to destroy private enterprise and the public.

The facts suggest that there is truth and blame on both sides.

Public sector unions have made it difficult for municipalities to deliver services that people can afford.  Compared to the private sector, their retirement benefits are most enviable and in some cases rather outrageous.

Their interest ultimately is not for the welfare of the people but themselves.

The corporate world complains that unions make it impossible for them to compete and that the unions are responsible for outsourcing jobs. Still, their profits are the highest in history.

Their interest ultimately is not for the welfare of the people but themselves.

One of the pillars of America is our court system.  It is an adversarial system where justice requires the presence of a judge whose job it is to be sure the rules are followed and fairness prevails, and an impartial jury whose job it is to render a verdict after hearing both sides.

It isn't working well in the public arena. We are the 'jury' but we clearly don't listen openly to both sides of an issue; and the laws, which, like judges, try to assure the rules are followed, have failed miserably, replaced by lobbyists and donations from both sides.

Let us hope that both sides soon wake up and take a hard look in the mirror.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Do we spend too much locally? You betcha.
Should we spend less? Naturally.
Property taxes will be ok now, right? Nope. Look here

Monday, October 25, 2010

Who is US?

The laws that govern us reflect our notion of "US".
Are we a mass of people, a "society"?
Or are we millions of individuals?
Our political parties offer us a choice.
But we are both, and our laws need to reflect that fact.
It's not easy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"It's the Economy Stupid"

When Bill Clinton ran for president his campaign strategist, James Carville, made that phrase famous.

Today everyone complains about property taxes and how high they are. And they are indeed high.

All our energy is spent trying to "reform" property taxes with all manner of gimmicks, circuit breakers, exemptions, levy limits. The fact is that what we are really doing is trying to fix spending using our property taxes as the tool. A worthy goal but it doesn't truly re-form Property Taxes.

Even if successful we will have failed most property owners because, with all due apologies to President Clinton, "It's the Revaluation, Stupid".

Revaluations are required to assure that buyers pay fair taxes on property they buy. It's fair for new buyers and should be done at least annually. (Triennially is better than every ten years but it's still not enough).

For existing owners however, revaluation means that thousands of homeowners could get tax increases even if spending is lower than the prior year. This is gross injustice to all existing owners and is simply unreasonable.

We can solve this apparent dilemma but it requires a willingness to revisit and re-think some antiquated ideas.

Please look at this
5 minute video and see if you don't agree.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Too Tired to Vote?"

It's election time and we are about choose the people that will govern us until the next election. It is both a privilege (one that too few people around the world have) as well as a responsibility.

Each check we make on the ballot deserves careful consideration and it's easy to do; the pens and markers don't weigh twenty pounds. Choosing the "master lever" implies that it is just too much work to mark each candidate. Our founding fathers would be turning in their graves if they knew, and I'd be ashamed to admit using it.

I'd go so far as to say it's this type of mindlessness or laziness that is responsible for the mess in which we find ourselves, both locally and nationally. We have only ourselves to blame.

So now we hear "kick the bums out". It's surely tempting and understandable, but it is just as wrong headed as that master lever. Being a newcomer or "outsider" is no assurance of integrity and competence, just as being an experienced politician is not an assurance of unethical behavior or incompetence.

Are all members of one party good or evil? Are all members of any group the same? Would my only qualification for a friend be that he or she is a member of a particular group? Heaven help us if so.

We have a duty to ourselves and our country to think about each candidate and vote accordingly.

Friday, October 1, 2010

When will we get it?

Rhode Islanders pay more in property taxes than 45 other states, according to a recent article in the Providence Business News. It is no small wonder then, that reducing spending is on everyone's to-do list.

But there is another issue than no one on Smith Hill seems willing to take seriously, an issue that has a much more profound effect on our property taxes - revaluations.

Let me say at the outset that we need to revalue regularly. In fact we should revalue every year instead of every three years, as we do now. Revaluation is the only way we can assure that when someone buys a $1 million dollar property they pay a fair tax on a $1 million dollar property.

But the impact on existing owners is anything but fair. To illustrate, let's imagine that we froze the tax levy in North Kingstown, so that in 2004 it was the same as it was in 2003. Rational people might expect that no one would pay any more in taxes. In fact, if it were 2003 instead of 2004, no one would have paid more in taxes.

But there was a scheduled revaluation in 2003 for the 2004 fiscal year. The result was that in 2004, 49% of the taxpayers would have received a tax increase averaging 23%! The total additional taxes paid by nearly half the property owners would have been just under $2.4 million dollars.

Since our scenario froze the tax levy, no additional money was received by the town. The $2.4 million merely offset the tax reduction of the other 51%. Does this seem fair to anyone? Does it seem reasonable to increase taxes for some people solely to lower other people's taxes? But that's what revaluations do.

It gets worse. The average property value of the people got the increase was $154,000. The average property value of those whose taxes fell was $228,000. People owning more modest homes paid millions to people with more valuable homes. What's wrong with us that we allow this to happen, over and over?

I performed this same revaluation scenario for North Kingstown's 2007 and 2010 fiscal years, Barrington's 2009 fiscal year, West Warwick's 2003 fiscal year, and Cranston's 2006 fiscal year with eerily similar results.

To repeat; towns can freeze budgets and hold levy limits to a zero percent increase and still, thousands upon thousands of tax payers would get onerous tax increases for no rational reason, simply because of a reassessment of property value.

So we face a dilemma; how can we tax existing owners fairly and, at the same time, tax new buyers fairly on the values of their purchases?

There is a way outlined on the Rhode Island Gets Honorable Taxation website. We can tax both existing owners AND new buyers fairly and reasonably, every year, fund levies as we do now, and eliminate assessment appeals for existing owners.

Only when we get this fixed can we expect real results from any tax decreases. Or maybe we just don't care care?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Drugs in School

Senator John Tassoni wrote in a commentary Sep. 9 in the Providence Journal that we need to bring a "recovery high school" to Rhode Island to help students avoid falling back into drugs in regular high school.

I agree with the senator that it's time to fight back against the prevalence of drugs in schools but setting up yet another school system for ex-addicts seems more like avoiding the root problem rather than facing it.

Maybe we would do better to revisit our drug policy and the consequences of bringing drugs to school in the first place.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Polarized Express

This group is pro-business. That organization is pro-union.

The sad truth is that "pro-business" is actually code for anti-union and "pro-union" is code for anti-business.

Is it any wonder that we're stuck with such poor governance? To be the best we can be we have to become pro-business AND pro-union. Once upon a time, long ago, it was called working together toward a common goal.

And speaking of goals, do you think we spend too much energy and time fighting over the means, which seem to have replaced the ends, the true goals of America. Our representatives in government would do well to spend far more energy on discussing the ultimate goal(s) of this great country.

Maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Providence Property Taxes"

Regarding The Providence Journal's front page on Monday, "Steep Drop in Value" about Providence's revaluation there are several statements which are misleading or should at least prompt questions. Here are some.

1."A potential 30% drop in the city's ... assessed property value ... could mean a significant loss of revenue" makes no sense. If the total value goes down the rate will compensate to provide the needed tax levy. The strength of the property tax is that it always produces the revenue. It's simple math.

2. "Cicilline has pledged not to raise the property-tax levy — the total amount the city raises in property taxes — over this year’s $274 million." The article then goes on to say that he has not ruled out an increase in the tax rate. It's simple math once again. If the levy remains the same but values have dropped, the rate MUST go up or the money raised must be less. Unless he has found a way to bring in more revenue from other sources.

3. With regard to Finance Chairman John Igliozzi's comment regarding the redistribution of taxes resulting from the revaluation, "The values are being reset to what they should be", how do we determine "what they should be"? Since we have accepted that market values shall determine our taxes then we have to accept that they are what they should be according to what the market says. But.

I share Mr. Igliozzi's concern when our housing market shifts the burden from poorer areas to wealthier ones. However, his gratitude when the shift is back in the opposite direction is misplaced. He must realize that it will shift back again one day. That's how markets work.

It is this reliance on markets that must be corrected and I have been trying hard for the past several years to do just that. Please visit

Friday, June 18, 2010

"Did I do it or not?"

"Not guilty by reason of insanity" appears to be a verdict that causes problems for the court. The term itself suggests a paradox. The person did do something but didn't do it too. Might the plea be more truthful if it were "guilty by reason of insanity" which admits to the act but acknowledges mitigation as well? It seems a much more realistic and honest plea.

A bit like expungement of criminal records where something that happened didn't happen.

We're sure confused.

Friday, June 4, 2010

"What Will it Take?"

What will it take to turn on the proverbial light bulb? Revaluations are at the heart of the property tax problem, not local spending. Revaluations are always responsible for the perennial outcry from tax payers, that their "taxes have gone up more than the tax levy", and they are right. Of course, the people whose taxes go up less than the tax levy are silent, as any of us would be.

The only reason to revalue is to assure a fair tax rate for owners who have just purchased their home, NOT for anyone else; market values are valid for taxation only for people who purchase at market value.

We will never be fair with property taxes until we admit this truth. For more see my website.

Maybe it's just me.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Special Interest v Common Interest

I read an editorial in the Providence Journal on Saturday, May 22, dealing with legislation that would "lock in place pension benefits for public employees..." My comments are not related to the relative merits of the legislation but rather to this part of the editorial - "Mr. Lally, for his part, said he repeatedly filed the bill, originally at the request of the teachers unions - The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers."

It is this latter part that caught my eye. Exactly why should a lawmaker submit a bill to become a law? Call me crazy but it seems to me that a lawmaker has as his or her duty, to do what's best for the people whom he represents - all of them, even those who voted against him.

When any group asks a legislator to introduce a bill, the only question to answer is, Is it in the best interest of all my constituents? In my own case, I have been active in promoting changes to property tax law in Rhode Island and was pleased, flattered even, when my town council directed our local representatives to introduce supportive legislation. I do not know if the bill's sponsors agreed with the proposal or if they even fully understood it but this morning's editorial reached me - they should have agreed with it's goals and actively supported it or they should have refused to introduce it.

How many bills are introduced solely for the benefit of the people who lobby the legislator? I cringe at the thought. Let's face it, special interests aren't even special any longer. They're common, too common.

Legislators can't be expected to know everything - their staffs have to help them sift through volumes of data and information. Lobbyists have to present the views of those 'special interests' and that's ok too. The legislator's obligation to his or her city, county, state, nation, is to process all this information and before deciding, answer the question - Is it best for us all? Only then should he or she act. Only then.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sweet Tax is Sour

I too hate to see people abusing themselves by being so overweight so I can understand why legislators would like to curb obesity. But the tax proposals before the RI House and Senate miss the mark.

If we really want to improve Rhode Islanders' health the law would require that the tax money generated would be used solely for increasing education, nutrition and exercise programs. Adding a few cents tax to sweet drinks will simply further burden and mostly for the people who can least afford it.

It won't take too long for the added cost to become 'normal' and any possible behavior modification will slowly return to pre-tax levels.

Be honest. It's at least as much a fund raising effort as an effort to improve the public health. If we were seriously trying to improve health perhaps reducing the cost of those items we find beneficial would be more effective. How about targeted income rebates for milk, fruits, vegetables? I suspect it would be far more effective in changing eating habits in the long run.

We all know that the sweet tax will simply find its way into the general revenue stream for cities and towns and the people will remain overweight.

On a slightly different note I think there is a better way to inform people about the sugar content of foods. Instead of the abstraction of calories I'd recommend indicating sugar cube equivalents. It's much more impressive to see that a cup of apple slices contains 2 1/2 sugar cubes and a Snickers bar is like eating 13 1⁄2 cubes of sugar.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why We Hate Property Taxes

Because Rhode Island has among the highest property taxes in the nation we expect that spending cuts will fix our high taxes.
Not so fast.

An overlooked but vital aspect of the property tax problem is that there are two principles of fairness regarding property taxes that are mutually exclusive.

#1 A person who buys a $1 million dollar home should pay a fair tax on a million dollar home.

#2 The taxes people pay should reflect the budget needs of their town; e.g. if a town eliminates tax increases, property owners should not expect tax increases.

These basic principles can not co-exist because of REVALUATIONS.

Existing owners' property taxes can reflect the tax levy (Principle #2) but only when there is no revaluation. Buyers of properties of (usually) increasing value however, are taxed too little on assessed values thus ignoring Principle #1.

To correct this inequity for new owners, we revalue every three years. As a result, existing owners will pay taxes unrelated to tax levies.

In fact a town could even declare a moratorium on tax increases yet over 50% of existing property owners would pay higher taxes due to revaluation, violating Principle #2.

The typical reaction to high taxes is to look for spending cuts but as I've explained, the results would disappoint the majority of tax payers . This does not bode well for peace, harmony and enthusiastic citizen participation and cooperation.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bernie "Madoff" with other people's money

The lead article in the Journal on Saturday, May 1, concerned investing West Warwick pension money and whether or not the pension board made a prudent decision. "The local unions whose pensions are a stake are taking a wait-and-see attitude".

Don't we get it yet? Investments are gambles. It's risky business. If you bet your pension money on a horse race and won would that make it a good decision? Come on people. These are gambles and it's the the risks not the outcomes that must determine whether the decision was appropriate or not, especially when you are responsible for other people's money to be available for their pensions.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thinking out Loud

If we increase taxes somewhat on the wealthy they will cease working hard, produce less and the tax revenues will decline. This assumes that the wealthy, the successful, will change into low achievers and stop trying if they earn less.

That's as simple minded as the assumption that bestowing benefits on the poor will change them into entrepreneurs and high achievers.

We can't change the nature of people simply with money incentives alone.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

Just read an interesting piece in the NYT about the Goldman Sachs debacle. In it the author says: "Many more people now know that synthetic C.D.O.’s are a simple wager." Well, duh.

I'm reminded of the famous line in the Casablanca when Claude Rains feigns shock that there is gambling going on.

Capitalism has become so enmeshed and dependent on Wall Street that it risks transformation from a model of providing quality goods and honest services to a model based on simple (or not so simple) gambling. And sometimes the dice are even loaded.

Maybe it's just me.

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's a Choice

Theodore Gatchell's article in the Providence Journal on health care reform made several legitimate points that highlight the choices between the conservative right and the liberal left.

"Over time, however, rules become a way of shielding bureaucrats from having to use judgment. For every problem that arises, the answer is a new regulation."

Indeed. Who can deny the truth of this statement? The income tax code is a perfect example of government's infinite ability to complicate our lives. Of course it isn't only conservatives who pass these laws although one could get that impression from the article.

"More rules inevitably require more bureaucrats to interpret them with an attendant higher cost. If you think health care is complicated now, wait until the bureaucrats begin to crank out the reams of regulations that are certain to come."

Again, there is much truth in this statement which also serves as a mantra for those who resist and object to all governmental involvement not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. Tea Baggers?

It appears that the conservative right believes best arbiter of what's right and wrong is the free market and when bureaucrats interfere there results inevitably inefficiency, waste, corruption and a disregard for the Constitution.

Again, much is true.

When we consider which beer, which movie, which sneaker shall succeed in the market place, the free market is probably best left alone. The public should be allowed to make free choices in a free market to determine winners and losers in such contests.

If all decisions were only so trivial, so superficial. But they're not. In the process of free market competition the corporate bottom line dominates the decisions made by business executives and without government intrusion, important data may be hidden as people choose among things much more important than which oven cleaner, which detergent, which hairspray shall win out.

Was it the free market that publicized the link between lead based paints and brain damage? the link between tobacco smoke and lung cancer? the link between saturated fats and heart disease? Would corporations competing in free markets print this information on its products unless required by government?

Or is it more likely that millions of people would have to become ill or die before people could make informed choices in an unregulated free market?

The struggle between the right and the left seems to boil down to this:

Is it worth the cost in human sacrifice to respect the sanctity of privacy and let people, unfettered by intrusive and inefficient government rules and regulations, use their free market choices to provide the best ultimate decisions for themselves?

Or should we accept the inefficient, intrusive and expensive government bureaucracy to protect the public from harm that could otherwise result from a private sector where the fundamental obligation is to its executives and stockholders?

It seems that the right favors the first and the left favors the second.

Maybe it just me.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Property Tax POLL

I'd like to poll the sentiment of property owners and others regarding property values and fair tax bills. Perhaps ask some friends to read this too.
  1. Assume your town has managed to freeze the tax levy indefinitely.
  2. Assume your tax assessment is accurate.
The next year, after revaluation, your tax bill increased by 62%.

Question: Do you feel your higher tax bill is proper and fair? yes no

You can email your answer or just post a comment.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Take Your Pick

Rhode Islanders pay among the highest property taxes in the country and our per pupil education spending is even higher nationally.

We have been obsessing about lowering spending and it's easy to see why. But I pose this question:

Should we lower education spending to match student performance
should we improve student performance to match education spending?

If our students were #1 nationally, our education spending would look like a bargain.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Public Option Question

If our nation will fail without an educated population can the same not be said about a healthy population?

Shouldn't it therefore be a public obligation to provide for both?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Can We Talk?

At a recent meeting with the Chief of the Rhode Island Division of Municipal Finance, to propose an idea for changing from a market value base property tax to a 'taxable' value based property tax, I was presented with some of the very serious issues facing the state and its municipalities, in effect challenging whether the proposed change would help the property tax problem.

Some of those issues were, (1) the large increase in foreclosures, (2) those who simply find it increasingly difficult to make their skyrocketing tax payments, and (3) the concern that the proposal would mean people might be living in identical homes paying different property taxes.

Each of these deserves an answer.

1. Foreclosure occurs when the owner of a property can't meet his/her mortgage payments. Those mortgage payments are established at the time the mortgage is created and is simply a loan using the property as collateral. The borrower and lender (bank) choose a mortgage that will satisfy the borrower's ability to make the payments.

There are things than can change the ability to make payments; job loss, unexpected medical bills, either of which could reduce one's ability to make mortgage payments. The actual market value of the property has little to do with the mortgage as described, unless...

There are other situations however, when the owner of a home that has appreciated in value is tempted by a lender to take out a second mortgage to finance say, a vacation or a new car. The increased value is treated as if it were like money in the bank and, if necessary, the owner can sell for the higher value and pay off the loans, maybe with some money left over. Tempting. As unscrupulous salespeople urged buyers to take out these loans these mortgages proliferated like crabgrass in August, producing enormous profits for the people who pushed paper from one place to another.

Too often the "free money" added to monthly payments more than the owner's ability to meet obligations. Add in increased property taxes based on the higher market values and we have the makings of a serious problem: people began selling their homes to reduce monthly payments. The increase in selling forced down market prices as more people began to panic. They to tried selling their homes quickly to grab those 'high' market values, only to find they weren't there. Their homes in some cases weren't even worth what they paid for them and many were forced to declare bankruptcy.

This downward spiral only increased the disaster that was beginning to unfold as the banks holding those mortgages found themselves with worthless paper (toxic assets) and their incomes fell as more and more people defaulted on their loans.

And yet the market values of homes are assumed to be the best and fairest metric upon which to tax people to pay for municipal services. Incredible.

The RIGHT proposal of using 'taxable' values instead of market values will not immediately fix the above problems. Of course, neither will the continued reliance on market values. But going forward one must consider if we will be in a better place if we make the transition to a taxable value based system or if we continue using market values.

2. This brings us to the individual who is simply struggling to pay taxes on an increased property value. With the expected drop in values one might expect some tax relief, but this is anything but certain. If values drop town wide, as they have recently, the tax rate will simply rise to produce the needed revenue. In fact revaluation to market prices produces thousands of people whose taxes drop as those whose taxes are too high, regardless of the overall increase or decrease in property values. It's the nature of swings in market values.

The more important question is this: Would we be in this position at all if we were taxed on 'taxable' values for the last twenty years instead of market values? It would be much better to pay taxes limited to 4% increases for the next twenty years rather than continue with the market based system which brought on current problem in the first place. It seems we have an opportunity to rewrite history: today is the future's past.

3. Now for the last concern, that under a taxable value based system there would be people living in houses of equal value, possibly side by side, paying different taxes. Quite true. For many it is hard to accept and seems unfair.

Consider. If Bill and Joe buy property at the same time for the same price, they should pay equal taxes.

But what if Bill sells his house to Nate for a much higher price than he and Joe originally paid? Should Nate simply pay the taxes that Bill was paying? Of course not. Nate should be taxed based on what he paid, just as Bill and Joe were, and to make sure Nate pays a fair tax on his market value we must use a rate calculated from the market value of the entire town.

But now he and Joe will not be paying the same taxes would they? Nothing wrong with that. But our reevaluation system insists that everyone be reassessed to market values. If Joe's property increased in value the same as Nate's, Joe will pay the same tax as Nate. The reassessment has decided that Joe is in fact the same as Nate, but he is not. Assessing someone's property greater than (or less than) the one he bought, doesn't make him equivalent to the person who just spent that amount.

The use of 'taxable' values instead, would increase the value of Joe's house and every other current owner, the same percentage as the tax levy, not the market place. For example, a 3% tax increase would increase everyone's tax bill by approximately 3% while new owners would pay based on market value. Both owners are treated fairly. The following year the new owner becomes an existing owner.

There is nothing inherently unfair about people in similar homes paying different taxes to support government; we do it all the time. We pay for state government and federal government differently despite living in similar homes and there is nothing immoral or unfair about doing the same for local government.

Is the proposed system perfect? No. Will it be better and more just for everyone? Absolutely. Check the RIGHTTAX website for more.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Organizing some thoughts

Conservative view:
  • The free market is the best, most efficient way to allocate resources. The best ideas succeed, others fail. The best people succeed, others fail. Government should stay out of the way and let markets work because they have produced the most successful and powerful nation in history.
  • The government has no business deciding how my earned money should be allocated. Politicians pretend to be concerned about the people but they act in their own self interest - to get reelected is their highest priority.
Liberal view:
  • People are neither commodities nor resources and should not be treated as such by market forces, which will neglect (even abandon) the weakest among us. Governments are necessary to insure the welfare of those who might not have the resources or ability to succeed.
  • If social decisions are left to individuals, the least productive, least powerful face neglect. Government must make these decisions and allocate resources to protect the weakest.
I see truth in each position. Will a battle for dominance of one philosophy over the other result in the best outcome? I don't think so.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Free Speech

I too, strongly support the First Amendment but Ed Achorn's Commentary, Feb 2, 2010, on the recent Supreme Court's First Amendment decision seemed to me to miss the real point of the controversy. The question before the court was whether corporations enjoy the same protections of the First Amendment as people. In other words, are corporations the same as people? The court decided yes in the case of First Amendment protections.

However, can a corporation be subjected to the death penalty? Can a corporation even go to jail?

I submit that corporations are not the same as people and therefor are not automatically conferred with all of the same rights and protections as people by the US Constitution.

These differences needed to be considered when applying Constitutional protections to corporations and I believe that the Court was wrong in its recent decision.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Term Limits

Edward Fitzpatrick's piece in the Providence Journal ("Here's something for which to be thankful", Jan. 14, 2009) is on target. The judiciary must be independent of external forces and make judgments based on law and not be influenced by outside interests.

It seems to me that those very laws themselves should be also be made with the same principles in mind.

To paraphrase Judge Bruce Selya and Mr. Fitzpatrick, if a legislator has to stop and think, every time he or she decides an issue, about how that decision is going to play with the voters, that's got to be a substantial and negative influence on the decision making process. What's more, elected officials often raise campaign funds from lawyers and others with a vested interest in the outcomes of legislative deliberation which can be a corrupting influence that we really don't need.

It seems we have a huge challenge here. How can we remove the corrupting influences from democratic elections? Is it possible? Is it time to have a serious debate on term limits?