Category: Public Policy

President Lyndon Johnson, Kentucky, 1964

President Lyndon Johnson, Kentucky, 1964

Life is harsh in Twin Branch, W. Va. Despite the wide availability of food stamps, government-subsidized health care and school lunches, life is very difficult for most of the people living there. The War on Poverty, instituted by Lyndon Johnson 50 years ago, brought a lot of help to this area of the U.S., yet life is no better now, and indeed for many, worse than before that “War.”

Trip Gabriel at The New York Times takes a look at the bleak economic landscape here. Despite all the government subsidies, this place is sad.

McDowell County is in some ways a place truly left behind, from which the educated few have fled, leaving almost no shreds of prosperity. But in a nation with more than 46 million people living below the poverty line — 15 percent of the population — it is also a sobering reminder of how much remains broken, in drearily familiar ways and utterly unexpected ones, 50 years on.

Much of McDowell County looks like a rural Detroit, with broken windows on shuttered businesses and homes crumbling from neglect. In many places, little seems to have been built or maintained in decades.

Numbers tell the tale as vividly as the scarred landscape. Forty-six percent of children in the county do not live with a biological parent, according to the school district. Their mothers and fathers are in jail, are dead or have left them to be raised by relatives, said Gordon Lambert, president of the McDowell County Commission.

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While riding the subway in her hometown of Barcelona, Eliana Guerrero saw pickpockets steal a case of insulin from two elderly tourists. That crime motivated Guerrero to do something for help her city. “I try to solve things that affect me directly,” says Guerrero. “Pickpockets directly affect me because I adore Barcelona.”

Since 2009, Guerrero has spend about three a hours a day patrolling Barcelona’s subways looking for pickpockets. “My mother always told me, ‘One swallow doesn’t make a summer. Many people are needed to change things,'” says Guerrero. “But I don’t think so. If someone says somethings wrong here, that’ll draw attention and more people will eventually join you.”

Watch how one woman armed only with a whistle, pepper spray, and determination is helping to clean up crime in her city.

university-of-michigan_logo_0Over the past 20 years or so the University of Michigan has been repeatedly attacked for being “racist” because the university is doing exactly what Dr. Martin Luther King wanted. The university is treating prospective and current students according to their characters and not their color. This explains why the university rejected to admit Detroit native Brooke Kimbrough, an academically mediocre student.

Kimbrough is appealing the decision, however, claiming that she should be accepted because the university needs “diversity.” What Ms. Kimbrough fails to understand is that the University is successfully diverse with the students and faculty that it already has without lowering their standards. U of M does not need her.

This story demonstrates the hubris of radicalized entitlement. Ms. Kimbrough is making a desert claim on the basis of her skin color instead of her performance. The irony, of course, is that this type of attitude is exactly what the Civil Rights Movement fought to undo in American society. Kimbrough’s radicalized sense of entitlement is an attempt to manipulate and pervert a system of fair treatment when her qualifications do not meet the standard. It’s an embarrassment to Dr. King’s vision.
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29taxes.2-500In an attempt to trap Jesus, some Pharisees and Herodians asked him, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” In response, Jesus said,

“Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The Pharisees and Herodians “marveled” at Jesus answer, but had they asked an agent of the Roman IRS they likely would have been given a similar answer.

Governments have always had to contend with citizens who make what are considered “frivolous tax arguments” to avoid complying with tax laws. Such arguments rarely work (it’s usually not effective to try to present a creative interpretation of tax law to the people who interpret tax laws) but people keep trying.

The IRS has an entire list of responses to the most common frivolous tax arguments. Here are four of my favorites:
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A failed charter school and someone looking to start a charter school in Kansas can only look to Kansas City, Mo., and wonder what impact high-performing public charter schools may have for kids in the state.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
By

7figures[Note: '7 Figures' is a new, occasional series highlighting data and information from a variety of surveys and reports.]

1. The average federal tax rate for all households (tax liabilities divided by income, including government transfer payments) before taxes is 18.1 percent.

2. Households in the top quintile (including the top percentile) paid 68.8 percent of all federal taxes, households in the middle quintile paid 9.1 percent, and those in the bottom quintile paid 0.4 percent of federal taxes. (Quintiles — fifths — contain equal numbers of people.)

3. Social insurance taxes (e.g., Social Security, Medicare) account for the largest share of taxes paid by households in all but the top quintile.

4. The U.S. tax code is approximately 2,600 pages long (about 1.5 times longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace and 2.5 times longer than Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged).
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l_20121213-school-reform-145-600-300If you really care about income inequality, notes John Goodman, you need only focus on one thing — the inequality of educational opportunity:

The topic du jour on the left these days is inequality. But why does the left care about inequality? Do they really want to lift those at the bottom of the income ladder? Or are they just looking for one more reason to increase the power of government?

If you care about those at the bottom then you are wasting your time and everyone else’s time unless you focus on one and only one phenomenon: the inequality of educational opportunity. Poor kids are almost always enrolled in bad schools. Rich kids are almost always in good schools.

So what does the left have to say about the public school system? Almost nothing. Nothing? That’s right. Nothing. I can’t remember ever seeing an editorial by Paul Krugman on how to reform the public schools. So I Googled to see if I have missed something. The only thing I found was a negative post about vouchers. And Krugman is not alone.

You almost never see anything written by left-of-center folks on reforming the public schools. And I have noticed on TV talk shows that it’s almost impossible to get liberals to agree to the most modest of all reform ideas: getting rid of bad teachers and making sure we keep the good ones.

(Via: AEI Ideas)

surrogacy moneyAccording to the Polaris Project, human trafficking is defined as,

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of “labor or services,” such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will. The factors that each of these situations have in common are elements of force, fraud, or coercion that are used to control people.

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bitcoin-wallBitcoin is dead, long live Bitcoin.

A few weeks ago the IRS killed off any chance that Bitcoin could become a mainstream currency. That’s probably for the best since it clears the way for it to become something much more important: the world’s first completely open financial network.

Timothy B. Lee has a superb article explaining why this could be transformative. Lee highlights one particularly helpful innovation:

One obvious application is international money transfers. Companies like Western Union and Moneygram can charge as much as 8 percent to transfer cash from one country to another, and transfers can take as long as 3 days to complete. In contrast, Bitcoin transactions only take about 30 minutes to clear, and Bitcoin transaction fees could be a lot less than 8 percent.

An “alternative to Western Union” doesn’t sound revolutionary, does it? Now look at this graphic produced by The Daily Mail which shows how much money is being sent by migrants to their families back home.
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ap061011036516The “Christendom Show” really is over in America my friends. It’s a wrap. The culture of American politics is not simply made of up deists, agnostics, and atheists but men and women who are decidedly anti-Christian. To be anti-Christian is not to be merely apathetic or ambivalent toward Christian participation in societal life. Being anti-Christian is to pursue whatever arbitrary measures necessary to ensure that Christians are purged from receiving the same political liberties as other groups. For example, New York State forecasts, yet again, what will likely happen in more and more states in the coming years as state legislators rejected a measure that would allow tax payers to receive tax credits for financially supporting parochial education.

New York’s Education Investment Tax Credit would have provided a state tax credit for:
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