Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Median Wisconsin household would receive a $6 per month tax cut

Tax cuts to end up in the hands of Walker's favorite people: his donor base

At first, Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed income tax cuts for the state seemed like such a good idea. Even the most hardened liberals had to admit that lowering the rates for the bottom three income tax brackets while keeping the top two rates intact made sense.

Such a move, at first glance, seems like a progressive form of taxation. Unfortunately, that’s not how Wisconsin’s tax system works.

When you cut the rates of the bottom brackets, it results in not just a tax cut for the poor and middle classes, but a tax cut for the wealthy as well. Any income earned, whether it’s earned by someone making $50,000 or $500,000, up to the top income threshold of that third bracket (up to $214,910) sees a reduction in taxes. So the first $214,910 of a person earning half a million dollars annually, for example, is also taxed less.

The result is that everyone in the state, not just the incomes in the bottom three brackets, see their income taxes drop.

How significantly? It seems as though the tax proposal that Walker has trotted out as beneficial for the middle class will largely go into the hands of the top five percent.

The wealthiest in this state stand to reap the greatest benefits of all from this cut. As the Journal Sentinel points out, the top five percent of income earners in the state will receive 20 percent of the overall tax cut.

The top fifth of income earners -- those making roughly $100,000 or more -- would see half of the total income tax cut that Walker is proposing wind up in their own pockets.

That means that 80 percent of taxpayers would only receive half of the proposed cuts.

What of the bottom 40 percent of income earners? What’s their share of this tax cut?

They don’t even receive 10 percent share of the tax cut.

Much has also been made about the “average” Wisconsinite’s tax cut, which would be about $83, or $122 for a couple filing jointly. But the “average” tax cut also takes into account the cuts that the wealthiest receive, which diminishes the reality of the situation.

It’s much more prudent to look at the median income earners’ tax cuts to understand how most taxpayers would be affected.

The median income for a Wisconsin family is approximately $50,000. A family earning this much ought to receive a significant tax reduction, at least according to Gov. Scott “I’m-cutting-the-middle-class’s-taxes” Walker.

In reality, however, it’s a measly $74, or about $6.17 per month.

It’s no wonder why Gov. Walker is pushing for this change in our tax code. His base is set to receive the largest chunk of it. The rest of Wisconsin, on the other hand, will receive table scraps comparatively.

With the cuts unlikely to spur any real economic stimulus, it's clear that Walker's tax schemes are meant to help those closest to him: his donors.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Voucher expansion the wrong direction for Wisconsin schools

Plan would take what little funds remain for many districts affected by Walker budget cuts to subsidize private schools

It is unfathomable, unconscionable, and irresponsible for Gov. Scott Walker to propose expanding the student voucher program in Wisconsin.

The program, begun in the early 1990s in Milwaukee, has allowed students in lower-income families the ability to select different education options for their children through vouchers to attend private schools. Such a program, it was thought, would allow children to have a better education in what was considered a more desirable option at presumably better schools.

Yet the academic results those children have had, in more than 20 years of the program’s existence, have been less than stellar. As I detailed late last month, Milwaukee Public School students who had similar economic backgrounds fared better than those in the voucher program, sometimes significantly so, in subjects like Math, Reading, and Science.

In other words, the Milwaukee voucher program is failing the students it claims to help. Calling the program a success is a misnomer, as students in the voucher program only fared significantly better (outpacing their MPS counterparts by more than three percentage points) in one of nine areas; MPS students, on the other hand, outperformed voucher students in four of those nine areas.

In making his announcement today, Gov. Walker has ignored the evidence of the voucher schools’ lackluster performances, choosing ideology over reality and jeopardizing the future of thousands of Wisconsin students.

“We’re willing to see the choice program grow. I think we’re doing it in a responsible way,” the governor said.

It’s hardly responsible to grow a flawed program, much less to deplete what are already meager funds away from public schools. Vouchers would do exactly that, taking monies from school districts that have been hit hardest by Gov. Walker’s school budget cuts in 2011.

The new districts that could see voucher programs -- Beloit, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Sheboygan, Superior, Waukesha, and West Allis -- represent nearly 11 percent of the total cuts to schools (PDF) that Walker instituted his first year in office. Add Racine and Milwaukee school districts, and the total is even greater, representing more than a quarter of the total cuts. 

Vouchers wouldn’t help those districts, but rather would take away funds that are desperately needed for students in those schools. Each student that would take the voucher option would represent thousands of dollars that those districts frankly can’t afford to lose.

And where would those funds go to? Some would go toward schools that advocate certain religious beliefs, meaning your tax dollars could fund a church-based education program. Other funds could go to schools that don’t adhere to basic standards expected of districts across the state, meaning some Wisconsin students would be deprived of a basic educational standard.

Voucher schools help neither the students attending them nor the districts which ultimately lose funds to support them. It’s a losing situation for Wisconsin students in a number of districts affected by this proposal.

Sadly, Scott Walker’s reforms could end up ruining our state’s legacy of valuing academics, of making it our number one priority to ensure that those seeking an education in Wisconsin receive not just a basic understanding of the subjects they learn but an exemplary one at that.

Taking funds away from public schools goes against that tradition -- but it seems that Gov. Walker will do whatever it takes to appease the ideological wishes of his base, even if that goes against what’s best for Wisconsin students.

Monday, February 11, 2013

This anniversary will one day be celebrated

The fight goes on against a governor who has radically changed Wisconsin

Two years ago, we learned of a proposal by Gov. Scott Walker to dismiss five decades of precedence, of recognizing workers’ rights in the state of Wisconsin.

We’ve seen a lot more from our governor since then -- unconstitutional changes to our voting rights; shorting our state’s public schools by over a billion dollars; planned cuts to Senior Care and environmentally unsound mining legislation (both of which, fortuitously, failed to come about); and an unsuccessful bid to unseat Walker himself from office.

The divisive governor, who pretends to be nonpartisan but in practice acts in in a highly partisan manner, talks himself up every opportunity he gets. On jobs he claims his reforms have made Wisconsin better; yet Wisconsin’s numbers rank among the worst in the nation, among the slowest states in growth, and in the top ten states people are fleeing.

When confronted with these facts, Gov. Walker blames the measures, not his own performance and policies, eager to use whatever scapegoat possible in order to preserve his image.

His own political office prior to becoming governor remains under investigation for illegal campaign activities being conducted during county time. A handful of his appointees from that time have been convicted; and while Walker still holds onto the claim that he’s in no way involved, he remains the only governor in the country with a criminal defense fund.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The wealthy would win big in state sales tax changes

Shift in sales tax would burden the poor and middle class

A lot of talk about increasing the sales tax in Wisconsin happened this week.

First, it was revealed Tuesday by Department of Administration head Mike Huebsch that Gov. Scott Walker had been toying around with the idea of raising the state’s sales tax, eliminating the income tax altogether in favor of a consumption rate of 13 percent. That would raise Wisconsin’s current sales tax by more than eight percentage points.

After word about this got out, Walker went on damage control, assuring everyone that his upcoming budget wouldn’t include such a hike.

But Walker didn’t outright say that such a plan wasn’t imminent. Indeed, his spokesman Cullen Werwie stated, “[Walker] will review the impact of tax policy on job growth in other states as he considers future reforms.”

Translation: it’s still on the table for the future.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Weapon restriction is not a violation of the Second Amendment

Limitations exist on all natural rights

One of the deepest criticisms I receive, especially as of late, is that I continually and consistently attack the Second Amendment. The “right to bear arms” doesn’t seem to be my favorite of the Bill of Rights, as I’ve posted regularly on the need to restrict certain weapons that were originally designed for military use but have since seeped into civilian use as well.

I don’t take these criticisms lightly, defending my position constantly in the heated (but mostly cordial) arguments on the rights of citizens.

I look at the Second Amendment in a literal sense: and, if we read deeper into the second clause of it, I don’t think that my views necessarily conflict with the intent and meaning of the law.