Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Woes of Montgomery County

There was an interesting story in the Washington Examiner today. Over in Montgomery County...the county political machine got together and forged a nifty tax deal which was directly aimed at millionaires. For a brief time....it worked.

Then...the county started to notice revenue amongst its population gone. Actually, they now say that between 2007 and 2008...the county lost revenue income amounting to $4.6 billion. There are several beliefs here...that some folks simply lost a chunk of their money (possible), some folks died, and then they come to the idea that folks packed up and left.

This wouldn't matter much...except they are lost at this deficit of $761 million.

The millionaire tax? Well...if you make $1 million....you pay 6.25 percent on that. Thats the local method of getting at your money when the state and federal government hasn't done enough.

How many left? Presently...the county is showing 216 of these folks gone...which is bothering a good number of the guys in charge of the county.

Some of the leadership have been told that folks just said "enough" and left while they had a chance. Some folks have countered this argument...saying that millionaires haven't left California and New Jersey when they did their big millionaire tax.

I pondered on this a while and read up on both New Jersey and California. It's a curious thing. Both states started a status which is the 'part-time' resident situation. If you own a house and basically limit your time to something like 30 to 60 days a year in the state...you disqualify yourself as a full-time guy and avoid alot of these taxes. So the California and New Jersey millionaires got smart and just found another house in another state...moved into it and play the 'visit' game.

What does Montgomery County do now? They could get tough and try to track down the absent millionaires...but I'm guessing they've got themselves safely into Delaware or West Virginia.

The county could sit down and start cutting...but frankly, you'd have to carve up police and fire services...along with library hours cut in half....and probably avoid all road construction for the next twelve months.

Chasing the millionaires away? Yes, they may have done something stupid. You see the same logic in DC with senators and representatives. Eventually...these rich guys pay some lawyer and tax consultant....to advise them on what country to park their millions....and they quietly move the money. Whatever gain was imagined...rarely ever occurs. So you just lose more money.

Another Study

Fox News put up an interesting news item today. Some smart guys got up a study at the University of Toronto...and basically said that belief in God plays a positive role in handling the treatment of depression and anxiety.

How these psychologists ever came to suggest this topic for a study...is worthy of a study itself.

They came to state there are brain differences between believers and nonbelievers....which would invite a thousand questions.

So you toss enormous stress on a guy....who is a believer....and he simply puts himself at work...accepting the woes, sorrows and pain. He survives with no issues. You toss the same load on a guy who is a non-believer.....and he starts to fight the woes, sorrows and pain....but can't relieve himself of the burden.

What you come to in the end....beyond this topic of God or religion....is simply a belief in something that leads to 'acceptance'. The Greeks had this word.....stoicism. With this Greek belief....you accept what has happen, and just keep going. Stopping to sit and ponder the problems....leads to anxiety and stress. The Greeks came to realize that.

I suspect that eventually.....some folks will start to review this university study, and stoicism.....and then look further into the human mind. When you sit and imagine a guy taking a simple wagon team from the Missouri territory and heading across the Rocky Mountains in the 1840s, to eventually end up in Oregon....it took belief in something to force yourself to the end. Nothing comes easily in life.

Our METRO

The safety meetings concluded yesterday over our subway system (METRO). These weren't localized safety meetings...these involved the NTSB and congress.

We've had a number of accidents over the past three years and most folks in DC are now asking questions. The safety and trust feeling is good, but not great. You never ever pick the first car to step into...you always aim for the middle cars or end.

At some point...the congressmen threaten to take over METRO. Luckily, the cameras didn't pan the METRO staff because I'd be thinking they'd have a smile on their face.

If you went to the executive staff or the board of METRO...they all basically want the Fed's to step in...because the cash flow simply isn't there. They want your tax dollars to make METRO run.

Currently, there is a federal subsidy that comes from the US government to METRO and is supposed to help keep the cost down because so many member of the US government travel by subway or local bus to work each day.

The real issue? By the time you toss in operations cost and maintenance...with new cars every decade or so...and then the pay, the benefits, and the pension...METRO is basically bankrupt or barely surviving.

So it was great publicity with the congressmen wagging their fingers at METRO and making a threat...with the papers all pumping up folks that this threat will change the way that things run. It won't.

Tomorrow will come...we will step into the subway cars...and simply say a silent prayer in hopes that we can arrive at some destination with a lousy subway system that can't survive.

The Teachers Dilemma

Here's the deal....there's a school in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Currently...and they have a graduation rate of 48 percent. In fact, some news organizations are reporting that in the national test episode...around seven percent were able to do math at the level expected.

A decision was finally made this week....all the teachers, support staff and principal....were fired. This adds up to around seventy-four teachers involved.

The principal had this plan originally....asking the better teachers to take part in a after-school program to get grades up. Yes, you can call it tutoring....or whatever. But to be honest....with less than fifty percent graduating...that was not really going to help very much. The teachers? Well...they said they would consider it...but only with more money...and the school said no way. So the union got involved, and today...this clean operation started.

The school board says that fired teachers can ask to be reinstated...but it'll be picky over who gets hired and comes back. I'm guessing they have a list of folks who are incompetent.

When I went to school...we had around a 90-percent rate of passage. You always tended to have two girls in the eleventh grade who got married and left....and at least three or four folks who suddenly left to join the Marines or start at the lumber mill. The key to this decision was usually boredom in the class or bad grades. Nothing much has changed in thirty years except a higher percentage.

I sat and watched the poor teachers in Germany who weren't that capable of educating...who just dumped information and assigned homework. Their expectation was that the kid would do the homework, grasp the issues via homework, and learn mostly via homework. What you tend to find is that around November of each year....this massive after-school tutor operation starts up...which you the parent have to pay for. I laughed over this when I realized that it was mostly retired teachers who ran the operation and were picking up $5-$10k a year as a professional tutor because the real teachers weren't capable.

One of the great issues within this system...is the inability of teachers to simplify information. You toss out twenty math problems which don't make relative sense. If you hinted that Joe has a garage and has fourteen employees...and then start the students to thinking of how math works in the real world. You could introduce thinking to this math problem and make folks think about the final impact of how businesses work. Today, with modern math...it's just a formula. What the formula gives you...isn't really part of the thinking process.

The question left for me and this Rhode Island group of teachers...is what happens to the guys left at the end if they don't get rehired? Do we have a stimulus plan to help the incompetent teachers? Can we retrain them into something more productive? Can we turn them into Census folks? Can we turn them into truckers or brick layers? That's the real question left.