Archives for October 2009

Hope and Change 4 2010

Take a moment, and restore your faith … 2010 will be here sooner than you think!  From Congress to the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, a new day is dawning come November 2010 and it begins with you!

Panel should not treat solar firms as utilities

by Clint Bolick and Sandy Bahr
Many aspects of environmental and energy policy divide the authors of this column. But we join together to urge the Arizona Corporation Commission not to squelch an innovative approach to solar energy that benefits private and public entities alike.

At issue are solar-service agreements, in which solar companies install and maintain solar panels on schools and other tax-exempt organizations for free. The schools receive power for a low monthly fee over an extended period of time. The solar companies collect renewable-energy tax credits for which tax-exempt entities are not eligible.

Such solar-service agreements are a reality with unlimited potential in Arizona–but only if the commission decides in the coming days not to treat the solar companies as public utilities and subject them to costly and burdensome regulation. The likely effect would be to send the firms packing to other states that do not regulate them like utilities.

Solar companies are not utilities. They are not producing energy; rather, they are facilitators that enable private entities to generate their own energy. They assist entities that could not afford to construct solar facilities and that are unable to access the tax credits that otherwise could make such facilities economically feasible.

Schools across the state, which are copious consumers of energy, are anxious to reap the benefits of solar service agreements. The escalating and constantly gyrating costs of energy can play havoc with a school district’s budget.

The commission’s decision comes down to either expanding its power or accomplishing its renewable energy mission. In this instance, it can best achieve its mission by recognizing that these solar firms should not be treated as utilities.

Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. Sandy Bahr is chapter director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. A longer version of this email ran in the Arizona Republic.

Eurabia: Could Sweden become the 1st Islamic European Nation?

Take these two items together and consider how the individual in the White House views Israel.  This is being posted so folks who wish to can consider how events like these may impact them.  The White House is stalling on Afghanistan and the dollar is still in ICU.  And, why on 9/11 there was no mention in the U.S. media of the words “Muslim”, “radical”, or “Islamic.”

Arizona Tax Research Association Opposes Proposition 200

Taxpayers in the City of Tucson, courtesy of Proposition 200, are being asked to amend the city charter to strip the current and future city councils of their authority to establish budgets for the police and fire departments. The Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA) strongly urges Tucson taxpayers to reject this effort at ballot-box-budgeting.

From local school districts to the state of Arizona, clearly the most important duty of our elected representatives is to establish an annual budget. Once adopted, those budgets reflect months of planning where elected officials are challenged with managing changing spending priorities against the budget decisions of previous elected officials.

The State of Arizona has become the poster child for the negative policy implications of ballot-box-budgeting. For the last two decades, a steady stream of special interest groups used the initiative process to either permanently earmark funds to their causes or establish guaranteed funding levels outside of legislative oversight and control. Collectively these initiatives have undermined the state’s budgeting process by handcuffing state lawmakers ability to react to changes in the economy or spending priorities. Today, the state of Arizona faces a $3 billion budget deficit. It would be an understatement to say that the challenge of closing the deficit is complicated by the fact that some major budgets units are “voter protected” and cannot be reduced.

The inherent flaw with ballot-box-budgeting is that citizens vote to mandate a spending obligation without understanding the long term budget impacts of the proposals and clearly the proponents prefer it that way. Side-stepping the cities budgeting process allows the proponents of Proposition 200 to have an isolated budget debate regarding police and fire protection without the unpleasantness of a tax increase to fund it. Make no mistake; in the end, this process always poorly serves taxpayers who are left questioning why citizens were not properly informed that these services are not free.

In fact, in order to force a more informed debate regarding the true costs of mandated spending initiatives, Arizona voters amended the state’s constitution in 2004 to require that such initiatives “also provide for an increased source of revenues sufficient to cover the entire immediate and future costs of the proposal.”

By any measure, Proposition 200 will force increased spending that will either drive future tax increases or impact other city services. With the current economic crisis facing Arizona serving as a painful reminder, Tucson taxpayers can be assured that, if approved, Proposition 200 will certainly force a tax increase at some future date.

Kevin McCarthy, President
Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA)

ATRA is a sixty-nine year old statewide, non-profit, non-partisan taxpayer association

WOW-Stimulus adds/saves 650 jobs in Arizona

In a recent report, the president’s oversight board released data specifically showing more than 30,000 jobs created or saved nationwide, including more than 650 in Arizona. Recipients in Arizona said they had received $29.6 million of $139 million in contract awards so far.

Again, for you folks educated in the public school systems, I’m going to my old-school calculator to help you out.

$29.6 million divided by 650 jobs equals $45,538.46 per job!  And this is being reported as good news.  Uh-huh.

One last question, How do prove that you saved a job?

via azstarnet.

The Revolutionary Early American “Context” of the 2nd Amendment

The Privateer Navy and The Subscription Warships of 1798

When discussing the right of modern American citizens to bear arms under the Second Amendment, it is the vogue at schools, universities and part of conventional wisdom in “Progressive” thinking to argue that one must put the ‘right to bear arms’ into a “historical context;” a nuanced approach that conveys common sense, informed historical perspective and induces the assumption that times have changed, and thus, the Second Amendment is suggested that it is now an anachronism in today’s society; “The Second Amendment was written in a different time when socially people lived mostly rural lives.”

It’s a quaint and rugged vision of the self-reliant homesteader, protecting his family, bringing in the deer or ducks for provisions, between trimming logs for the cabin on the lonely western frontier of the colonies. But never do the apologists for gun control ever mention the other frontier of the American self-reliance of the late 1700s, a time when “the majority of the American population lived no more than a day’s journey from the ocean, when every major town up and down the coast was an Atlantic seaport, with large communities of professional seamen and all the essential industries needed to build, outfit, provision and repair ships … The shipyards drew from a broad pool of expert laborers and master craftsmen, including carpenters, caulkers, joiners, painters, sparmakers, woodcarvers, coopers, ropemakers, smiths, and sailmakers. … Day after day, all up and down the coast, newly built ships rumbled down the ways and plunged into the sea.” (Six Frigates, Toll, p. 12).

So the majority reality of the early Post Revolutionary society was not the rough, isolated, self-reliant self-sufficiency romanticized by Emerson or Thoreau of later years, or a period “when socially most people lived mostly rural lives,” but an extraordinarily interdependent and highly productive society of expert trades organized to support and expand the American merchants’ international reach, which stimulated economies across the globe as the means to move goods from producers to consumers became more sophisticated and dependable.

“Merchant vessels sailing under the Stars and Stripes were ubiquitous on the high seas, but rarely was an American warship ever seen… American ships were seen taking on pepper in Sumatra, tea, coffee, silks and spices in China, ivory and sandalwood in Malaysia. Weather-beaten whaling ships out of Nantucket and New Bedford were seen north of the Arctic Circle and deep in the heart of the South Pacific” (Toll, p.11).
“Every returning ship brought another payday, and at the height of the season, in summer and fall, 250 ships entered American seaports every day.” (Toll, p. 14) Merchants believed Thomas Paine’s rhetoric in Common Sense, “…the plan is commerce, and that well attended to, will secure us the peace and friendship of all Europe, because it is the interest of all Europe to have America as a free port.” (Toll, p.19) Reality soon deflated that assurance.

Yet, it was a time of excitement, the new nation of America was producing marvels such as Salem’s Nathaniel Bowditch, whose impoverished family apprenticed him out at age 12, a natural born mathematical genius, nearly completely self-taught, who while on “his first sea voyage to the West Indies reviewed the widely-used navigational tables of John Hamilton Moore of England, and found 8,000 errors, and corrected them.” Bowditch’s book, “New American Practical Navigator” printed in 1802, quickly becoming the most desired standard reference and guide for seaman, is today two hundred years later, still in print, a testament to Bowditch’s ability to make the complex easy to understand, and an example of the flourishing of talent and achievement in America which was upending the old European elite order.

Astoundingly, America’s rebellion on the high seas against the naval giant Britain was fought primarily not by the Continental Navy, but by Revolutionary Privateers. In 1775, General George Washington, “initiated the enterprise off-handedly, ‘I fitted out several privateers or rather armed vessels, in behalf of the Continent.” (Patton, p. xvi). “Offering a percentage of spoils as inducement, the call for citizen sailors to raid the British shipping tapped the same vein of self-interest and comradeship that had led the colonies to seek independence in the first place … The emergence … of some of the most intrepid mariners in American history highlights the strategic element of Revolutionary privateering, for they would spearhead a massive seaborne insurgency involving thousands of privately owned warships whose ravages on the enemy dwarfed those of the fledgling United States Navy.” (Patton, p. xvii)  “The industry of privateering supported shipbuilders, service workers and a complex network of agents and legal officials to adjudicate captured prizes.” (Patton, xvii). “Investors traded privateer shares at a premium or discount … Prize courts opened in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and the turn-around time between a prize’s arrival in port and its legal settlement narrowed from months to weeks, streamlining the efficiency of an already booming industry. (Patton, p. 80)

And with great risk and audacity came great wealth, “Fellows who would have cleaned my shoes five years ago have amassed fortunes and are riding in chariots.” (Patton, p. 234).

“In the last years of Revolutionary privateering, the trend had been for larger vessels that could stay at sea longer, carry extensive armaments and yet still sail fast. … But the war’s many privateer partnerships, formed to share expense and distribute risk found a perfect application in global ventures. Legal firms and insurance consortiums were on hand to facilitate arrangements as they had done with countless privateer ventures just a few years earlier. Most of these were based in Boston, so Boston became the center of America’s Far East Trade.” (Patton, p236)
With the British, through its navigation act of 1783, blocking Americans from trade in the West Indies, American merchants used their privateering expertise to promote commerce with Russia, Scandinavia and China. (Patton, p. 236)

But after Independence, “Greedy eyes studied the ships of this new nation the way wolves study sheep. The wolves were hungry, the sheep were fat, numerous and slow and there was not a shepherd in sight.” (Toll, p. 24)

Between 1785 and 1815, over 700 Americans suffered as hostages and slaves in the North African kingdoms of the Barbary Coast, merchantmen crews and passengers held for ransoms, and the fledgling United States was being blackmailed for ‘protection money,’ considered “tribute” by local tyrants under the umbrella of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. With the new U.S. government broke, towns up and down the American Eastern seaboard began collections like Salem’s “Small Society” to raise money ‘for the relief of the known prisoners in the hands of the Algerines.” (The Crescent Obscured, Allison, p.128)

By 1798, with no navy, US merchant ships were at the mercy of pirates and fickle friendships such as that of presumed ally France, whose treachery was exposed to the American public through the “XYZ Affair,” a shake-down attempt against American envoys who had arrived in France to negotiate a peace to end the “Quasi War,” provoked by France’s plundering of American merchant ships on the high seas. As the U.S. government hesitated, hung between fear of a standing army and navy as a means for the establishment of tyranny, and bowing to the reality of the conniving world beyond American shores, that other countries were not interested in respecting America’s official policy and societal expectations of Neutrality. With America losing ships by the hundreds to pirates, the public cry was, “Millions for defense, not a cent for tribute!” 

Modifying a clever financial mechanism used in the past by the British and the French, to appeal to citizens to directly contribute to the national defenses, the merchants of Newburyport, Massachusetts came together and decided America needed a Navy, and more critically, they couldn’t wait for one. In June 1798, the Newburyport committee announced their decision “build a 355-ton ship, armed with 20 six-pounder cannon, in ninety days.” (Leiner, p.21)

News spread quickly and soon nine more ports contributed a vessel each, “Salem, Boston, Providence, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston along with one joint vessel from Norfolk and Richmond.” (Leiner, p. 3)

“As the democratic system s of the West now weigh “privatization” – use or return to entrepreneurial activity to do public work – the 1798 “subscription ships” were built by a concerned citizenry weighing the meaning of ‘citizen’ in a republic that had won its freedom only a few years before. These men acted before there was any bureaucracy or government infrastructure to do public works. But the 1798 crash shipbuilding program is a microcosm of the timeless American debate of the balance between private and public tasks, about the nature of government and the nature of the citizen.” (Millions for Defense, p.3)

Frederick Leiner quotes John Ruskin who wrote in the mid 1800s: “Take it all in all a Ship … is the most honorable thing that man, as a gregarious animal, has ever produced. By himself … he can make poems and pictures and other concentrations of what is best in him. But as a being living in flocks, and hammering out with alternate strokes and mutual agreement … the ship of the line is his first work. In it he has put as much of his human patience, common sense, forethought, experimental philosophy, self-control, habits of order and obedience, thoroughly wrought handiwork, defiance of brute elements, careless courage, careful patriotism, and calm expectation of the judgment of God as can be put into a space 300 feet long by 80 broad. And I am grateful to have lived in an age when I could see the thing done.” (Millions for Defense, p.2)

So, if one were to go “back in the day” as academics have encouraged us to do, to understand the historical context of the intent of the Founding Fathers when they wrote the language of the Second Amendment, one rediscovers what has been omitted in the debate of “militias’ and ‘citizens’ and ‘defense’- the prevailing spirit of independence from tyranny, the higher calling for citizens to be self-governed, and to take active responsibility for their homes and local communities – the robust affirmation of personal initiative and wariness of governments with too much power. “With the memory of British troops so fresh in mind … a good part of the nation regarded militarism as the close cousin of despotism” inclined to “ regard navies as the playthings of kings and tyrants.” The administration’s only tangible proposal had been to “organize American seaman into a kind of naval militia.” (Toll, p. 40, 44). The society of the day had more than a dim view of allowing a centralized government too much power, it abhorred it. “There was no bipartisan political support for a Navy … yet the mercantile towns had the audacity to build warships to take on the French navy, which, before Admiral Nelson trounced them at the Nile, seemed as powerful or as ominous as the British navy itself. These American merchants were not faint of heart.” (Leiner, p 26).

“When Noah Webster wrote that the subscription ships would be ‘managed with the energy of hardy FREEMEN, who know the motives of their duty and who possess a spirit unaccustomed to being cowed or conquered’… he was trying to strike a chord with men who had shared the rhetoric and memories of the Revolution. Many had fought in line regiments or in privateers and shared the prevailing mythos of the militia defending the hearth and homestead. The young men of 1776 and 1777 were in 1798, the civic and mercantile leaders of the United States. In the Revolution, they came to their country’s defense with their local officers, without a central government that could feed or support them. Twenty years later, these men would not be slow to loan their money, even without central direction. They were not passive citizens in a large, established world power; they were active participants in a new, small republic that they had helped create.” (Leiner, p. 180)

Therefore, the concepts of self-defense and the role of the citizen and militias which informed the reasoning in the day for the Second Amendment right to bear arms were established in the experience and study of tyranny, out of a complex and vibrant urban, national and internationally active and sophisticated society with the experience of war, and confrontation with a world of tyrants just across the horizon, not just by any apparently obsolete practical needs of a random collection of hypothetical homesteading colonialists.

A Sampling of Privateers: Rattlesnake, Catch me if You Can, True Blooded, Scourge.
The Subscription ships: the Merrimack, the Boston, the Philadelphia, the New York, the Richmond, the Essex, the John Adams, the Maryland, the Patapsco

Resources: Six Frigates, The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy, Ian W. Toll, WW Norton & Co, New York, 2006; The Crescent Obscured, The United States and the Muslim World, 1776-1815, Robert J. Allison, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1995; Millions for Defense, The Subscription Warships of 1798, Frederick C. Lerner, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2000; Patriot Pirates, The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution, Robert H. Patton, Pantheon Books, New York, 2008.

No more excuses for state of our schools

by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.
Goldwater Institute
This summer, Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow Dan Lips and I published an article in the journal Education Next explaining why a student’s race, ethnicity or family income are not accurate predictors of their future academic success. We were very pleased when the Chancellor of New York City Schools, Joel Klein wrote a letter in response to the article.
Here is an excerpt from Klein’s letter:

In “Demography as Destiny?” (features, Summer 2009), Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips argue that Florida’s reforms–school accountability, literacy enhancement, student accountability, teacher quality, and school choice–have helped students there achieve record academic success. Florida’s results support school-focused reform strategies, such as those we’ve implemented in New York City. New York City’s progress in narrowing the achievement gap confirms that policymakers and advocates can no longer use demographic factors like race, ethnicity, income, or zip code to excuse differences in educational achievement between high- and low-needs students…We still have a long way to go, but it’s clear that even the most disadvantaged students can achieve at high levels when provided with a strong education.

It’s time for leaders across America to stop making excuses for low student performance. As Florida and New York City demonstrate, we can offer all students, regardless of their backgrounds, the educational opportunity they need and deserve.

Joel I. Klein
New York City Schools Chancellor

Klein led the Clinton administration’s anti-trust action against Microsoft and currently heads the nation’s largest school district. Teacher’s unions and other anti-reform groups face a growing and philosophically diverse array of critics who will not accept the sorry state of American schools. Liberals, conservatives and libertarians can all agree: Getting better results for the amount of money this country spends on education is critical for America’s future. Increasing parental choice is a key ingredient to an overall K-12 improvement strategy, and has growing support among the entire political spectrum.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.

Brewer Plans to Attract New Business by Taxing Existing Business

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (RINO) somehow believes that the way to attract new business growth in Arizona is by
  1. Increasing taxes on existing businesses
  2. Abandoning her promise of tax cuts for business.

Earlier this year,  Gov. Jan Brewer promoted her plan to rid the state government of its record $3.3 billion deficit.

Her five-point plan:

  • Reforming the budget process.
  • Improving Proposition 105, which mandates certain budget allocations each year.
  • Spending reductions of $1 billion.
  • Comprehensive tax reform to attract businesses and create new jobs.
  • A temporary tax increase that would generate $1 billion.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well it did; That is until Jan morphed into John [Kerry that is].  She was for her tax cuts for business until she wasn’t for her tax cuts for business.

Gov. Jan Brewer says that Arizona businesses may have to wait a bit longer than 2012 for those tax cuts.  Brewer noted that her five-point plan for returning the state to prosperity, outlined in March, was built on the assumption of the temporary boost in revenues now.  Brewer said she assumes that the delay in the first part of her plan means a commensurate delay in her tax-cuts proposal.  The state’s tax structure must be revamped for that to happen, she said.  The corporate income tax is now just a hair less than 7 percent. The state needs to look at its property tax system as well, Brewer said.  That system has come under fire because companies not only pay proportionately more than homeowners, but also are taxed, annually, on the value of their equipment. That, in turn, makes the state less attractive to manufacturers.

So Arizona is not very attractive to buisness.  We already knew that. But now the story gets even better: Arizona is out of unemployment money, so they are going to borrow it from the Feds and then tax the hell out of existing Arizona business to pay it all back.
AzstarNet —Arizona needs to borrow about $600 million from the federal government or risk running out of unemployment benefits.
Without a cash infusion, the Arizona Department of Economic Security said the fund used to pay out benefits would be empty by March.
The funds would be paid back by sharply increasing company unemployment-insurance taxes.
Companies currently pay an average rate of 1.34 percent on the first $7,000 an employee makes annually or $93.80 per year.
Under the new estimates, the average rate could rise to 1.9 percent, increasing the per-employee cost to $133 per year.
Instead of this very old, very predictable Kerry-style of  gubernatorial flip-flop, Governor Brewer might at least consider following the lead of Texas. [Which is a state with a Republican governor [not a RINO] that is NOT running a deficit].

According to the Tax Foundation,

Texan’s state and local tax burdens are among the lowest in the nation, 7th lowest nationally, with state and local taxes costing $3,580 per capita, or 8.7% of resident incomes.

Texas is one of the nine states of the United States with no personal state income tax. In addition, Texas does not allow any lower level of government (counties, cities, etc.) to impose an income tax. The state sales tax is set at 6.25 percent.

As for Texas’s business tax climate, the state ranks 8th in the nation. Property taxes are exclusively collected at the local level in the state, and are generally at rates above the national average. As a whole, Texas is a “tax donor state” with Texans receiving back approximately $0.94 per every dollar of federal income taxes collected in 2005.

Desperate times call for desperate measures is the old adage.  But these desperate times call not for desperate measures but innovative ideas. Arizona is in deep weeds, no doubt.  Jan Brewer’s claim of tax reform to attract business to the state is the right thing to do and a good place to start.  But to then turn around and pull the rug out from under these tax proposals sends a bad message to any CEO out there.
Another old adage claims;  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice and I’ll take my business elsewhere.

Proposition mandates huge expansion of Tucson’s payroll

by Nick Dranias
Goldwater Institute
Proposition 200 is marketed as an effort to focus Tucson on giving priority funding to core local government services–law enforcement, emergency medical services and fire protection–in order to generate better response times. But the truth is it would just mandate more government spending with no strings attached.

The hiring mandates tied to the city charter amendment would be imposed on city taxpayers regardless of economic circumstances, and they won’t be cheap. Independent audits estimate Prop. 200 would cost $150 million over the next five years.

Perhaps this major new expense could be justified if Prop. 200 included a strong mechanism for ensuring it would actually result in improved public safety. But there is no consequence if the funding does not, in fact, result in better service.

There is a better way.

The recent Goldwater Institute report, “A New Charter for American Cities,” recommends that funding for public-safety services be tied to performance goals. Police and fire departments that fail to meet their goals should see their operations competitively outsourced to the county, nearby municipalities or even the private sector.

If all else fails, residents and businesses should be given property tax credits for hiring private security or fire-protection firms to furnish public safety services.

By contrast, Proposition 200 would mandate hiring scores of new government employees without requiring spending be reduced elsewhere or imposing any incentive for good performance or consequence for bad performance.

This won’t put public safety first; it will just bloat city government.
Nick Dranias holds the Goldwater Institute Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan chair for constitutional government and is the director of the Institute’s Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Center for Constitutional Government.

County Attorney responds to embarrassing reversed legal opinion from Supervisors


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