Thursday, March 31, 2011

Exasperated and Frustrated

Those are the reasons for my block. I am exasperated and frustrated because difficult topics are treated as easy in the mainstream media and easy topics are treated as difficult. And my tiny whiny voice is not heard! (Stamps tiny foot angrily).

For an example of the first error, notice how the possible school cheating scandal is discussed. The discussion rarely addresses the great complications in trying to measure what it is that schools actually produce or the way in which the testing systems themselves have now become what students AND teachers study and manipulate. But to write about all that would take me a ten-part series of posts. And no, I'm not saying that we shouldn't test learning.

An example of the second error can be found in the whole idea that we should tax the rich less so that tax revenues wouldn't be so volatile. The article I link to below goes on and on about the serious problems the reliance on taxing the rich has caused the states, necessarily suggesting that states should start taxing the poor and the people in the middle more by adapting a flat tax system or by using sales taxes. Or anything else that would leave the rich more money after taxes, really.

It's one of those ignore-the-man-behind-the-curtain articles, from the title which says "The Top One Percent of Earners Fill The Coffers of States..." Only much later in the body of the article do we learn that the top one percent earns at least 20% of all income and that this share has been increasing from 13% twenty years ago. In short, income inequality is increasing, and that is the real problem.

But we are asked to look elsewhere! We are sold the idea that volatility of tax revenues is such a bad problem that states should consider getting much lower but stable tax revenues instead. That makes no sense, because IF volatility really is such a problem, states could adjust their budgets to that by setting money aside during boom times and by spending out of that fund during slumps. The article does refer to this possibility but only to mention that they haven't really worked out:
Rainy-day funds, which can help bail out governments during recessions, have also run into political opposition or proven too small to save state budgets.
Guess who the political opposition comes from? The people who loved the article I wrote about.

My apologies for writing this out but it's part of the plumbing work about the block.