The Jordan School Disctrict Twists Truth

We just received our copy of the Jordan School District’s Newsletter called Windows (pdf). For those who don’t get the publication it is supposed to be a way for the School District to communicate about the successes in the District to the people in the community.

While it would be nice if they presented the failures too, they wouldn’t do that because then they would get a bad name. But that really isn’t the issue with the most recent publication.

My big concern is the lie found on page two. Specifically, I am focused on the graphic that supposedly represents the fiscal responsibility of the district.

Jordan School District Fiscal Responsibility Graphic

As I looked at this graphic, I couldn’t help but think that something was wrong. Then I remember from my Statistics 110 class in college. They taught me that one way to lie about statistics is to let the graphic do the lying for you. You don’t manipulate the number to tell a different story, instead you manipulate the graphic.

That means the presenter does something in the graphic that makes it look like the numbers represent more or less than it really does. This is sometimes done by using a brighter (or darker) color to make it look bigger (or smaller). Sometimes they do this by using two different graphics that portray the numbers differently giving one a more appealing appearance.

As I looked the dollar over I realized that “Administrative” cost were about 7% of the budget for the District. However, the darkened area sure seems to be more like 1 or 2%. So, I got out a trusty ruler and did some quick math. The graphic should have had a lot larger dark area for Administrative costs. It should have looked more like this:

Fixed Graphic of Jordan School Districts Expenses.

Then I realize that there is another section other than in classroom spending. It is for “Support Services.” What are support services if they aren’t administrative? I thought that administrations were to support the schools?

I read through the supporting article, and there is not discussion about what support services are. My guess is that they are anything that the administration can hide from administrative costs in order to make their district look good.

So, I would personally like to lump support services with administrative costs and argue that the Jordan School District is spending 33% (that’s 1/3) of our tax dollars on administration, and that seems outrageous to me. Sorry, Jordan School District this is one tax payer who isn’t impressed with your numbers.

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Fair Tax. Are We Ready For It?

If you read any conservative blogs on the Internet, odds are you have read about the Fair Tax. I am actually surprised that it took my most recent article on taxes to finally bring someone out of the wood work on this site. Thanks Slam Smith for setting me up so nicely.

First of all, I must say, in general, I support the concepts laid out by the Fair Tax people. There are a few things I disagree with, but that isn’t really the point of this discussion here. I like the idea of eliminating the Income Tax and shifting the burden from earning to spending. It works for me.

However, I don’t think that it will work with the system that we have now. According to the Fair Tax website, in order to have a revenue neutral tax reform, the tax rate would need to be 23%.

I know what you are thinking. “Ah-hah! That’s were Travis is having a problem. He hates ‘revenue neutral’ tax reform.” Oh, you all think that you have me pegged. Okay, so maybe you do. However, although the revenue neutrality is bothersome to me, I have a much bigger problem with this “fair tax.”

My problem comes down to simply doing the math. 23%. Think about it. Do you really want to have 23% added to you next purchase.

As I have told you, I recently bought a GPSr (Global Positioning System Receiver). And as I am really enjoying that right now, I will use it as just and example. The purchase price for this fine piece of equipment (at least it’s fine when I am using it properly, but that’s another story) was approximately $150. With Utah and local sales taxes (6.6% – .pdf), it actually ended up costing more like 159.90.

An extra $10 isn’t too hard to swallow. Well, it is when you think of all the extra $10 I am swallowing.

Now, let’s add on the new 23% tax. Remember that this is in addition to the $10 I just passed along to my local and state governments. That would mean that my now $160 GPSr is now $194.40. I just paid another $34.50 to buy my toy.

Okay, so that isn’t enough to scare you. Let’s say I bought a $1500 computer. That means that now I would be paying $444 (nearly $500) in taxes.

Still doesn’t bother you. Well, I just bought myself a nice used car for $15,000. Now, I am paying $4440 in taxes. Now that’s a big chunk.

So, how can I be supportive of the fair tax, and still be against it you might ask.

It comes down to one thing. We need to reduce services before we can go to a “fair tax.” The income tax has been a nice way to hide how much we really pay in taxes. And I think going to a “fair tax” would be an interesting eye opener to many Americans. But, unless we want a revolt on our hands, we need to cut back on services before we reform our tax system to a purchasing model. It’s the civil thing to do.

Time to Talk Taxes, Again

So, the Governor Huntsman’s Tax Reform Panel has finally weighed in. They have made their recommendations and now it’s up to the legislature to act on it.

What did they suggest?

Basically, they decided to start taxing a few non-essential services like, “attorney and accounting bills, airfares, newspaper sales, public investigator bills, lawn care and pest control, hair cuts, car towing, diet services, Internet service bills and elective surgeries such as face lifts.” And that more essential services like “doctor and hospital bills and prescription drugs would remain tax free.”

Okay, I can agree with that. I really don’t have any major concerns here.

They also suggested that there should be a “$200 million tax cut for ‘inputs’ on businesses purchases.”  And this is a good thing.  Any time taxes are cut it is a good thing.

However, I disagree with this proposal because they kept to Governor Huntsman suggestions “to keep the system revenue-neutral — neither reduce nor increase tax revenues.

So, although, the tax rate could be reduced because of present revenues.  They will not.  Again, I am angered by this.  Won’t someone please put tax reductions back on the agenda?

See below for more info:
http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,605152853,00.html
http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,605152939,00.html

Another Biased Poll

You all know my love for Polls.  You all know that I love to check for biased questioning and biased methods.  Well, It has been done again.  Regardless of whether you feel that polling is news or not, the newspapers are treating it as such, so we need to address it.

Dan Jones and Associates, the Deseret News, and KSL-TV have conducted another poll of Utahns to discover what they think about the possibility of a tax cut.  I was amazed to see the results.  Supposedly 63% of Utahns favor spending more on State “needs.”

That seemed just way too high for my likings.  So, I go to the heart of the survey.  Unfortunately, the news article on the subject presents us with only one question.  It reads:

Utah is currently running large tax surpluses.  Between the current fiscal year and the next fiscal year, budget experts say an extra $700 million will be coming in to the state.  Some legislators are talking about tax cuts to go along with the tax reform.

In general, do you favor cutting taxes or using the extra money for state needs like education funding, road construction and/or health care for the needy?

Warning lights should be going off for the honest survey statistician.  About half way through the first paragraph of that one question (yes, there was only one question there), the survey taker fell asleep.  So, when it finally comes time to answer the question, all the respondent thinks of is care for the needy.  So, of course, I strongly favor caring for the needy.

There are however, other real concerns with the survey. This is to be a study that reflects the opinion of roughly 2 million Utahns.  For a body of people that big, the minimum survey participants should be 2,000 people.  So, how many people participated?  That’s right a gigantic 413.  Not even a quarter of the recommended minimum for a statistically valid statistic.

This sample size leads to the next revealing factor in this survey.  It has a margin of error of +/- 5.0 percent.  That is statistically acceptable, and an okay margin of error.  However, we must note that +/- 5.0 percent is the minimum standard for a publishable survey.  The closer to 0.0 percent the margin of error is the better the survey.

Well, the article argues that 63% are in favor of increase government spending.  But the 63% is a composite of 2 numbers.  thus, when you calculate the +/- 5.0 you need to double it.  Thus it is really +/- 10.0 percent.  That means the real number is possibly 53% and the highest possibility is 73% favor increased spending.

That tells us nothing!!!!

Sure it still looks like more Utahns favor increased spending.  But you need to take into account the biasing question.  I don’t believe it.  I just can’t believe that 63% (or even 53%) of Utahns don’t want a tax cut.

So, in an attempt to sound like a broken record, Where’s my tax cut??????

Blurred Vision (Updated)

I was going to write about the Jones/Mascaro Bill, and how I think the Deseret News article regarding it was biasing. However, when I got on the Internet to check it out, the numbers seemed to have changed.

Now before I go any further I must state that I was reading this article in an attempt to help me fall back asleep because I had been woken in the middle of my morning sleep. So, in defense of the Deseret News I could be completely wrong.

I would swear that the chart that is in the web version changed half of the “+” found on the print version to “-“. Is that really so? Did I misread it? I am confused.

I was going to use that chart to show how the presentation in the paper is misleading. And I still think that it is.

I feel that the best way to get an accurate representation of two different tax programs is not in how much more or less you would pay under each tax proposal. The best way would be to show how much total you would pay.

You see, it appears that the rich are getting a huge tax cut. But we forget that they already are paying more than their fair share. But it isn’t as dramitic with those “-“s there. So, I am not going to get into it.

Just note, that I am still in favor of the flat tax. Even if it means that I have to pay more, instead of less.

Update: I am home now, and I have looked at my Friday paper. And sure enough the “+”s are where I thought they were. So, I am not going insane. Also, another read of the articles helps me understand that the graphic on the Online article is wrong.

I would like to further my point about how the Jones/Mascaro bill is wrong. But I am tired, and I need some sleep. Perhaps later today.

Update II: Okay, now that I have been able to sleep on this. Here is my take. This is based on the print version of the graphic for the article by the Deseret News (I have email Bob Bernick Jr. to have which ever is wrong corrected). The difference between the two is that the Jones/Mascaro Bill on the web version should have the last three income changes as “+”s.

So, with that it mind, lets look at the numbers as I think they should have been presented:

Income
Current Tax
4% Tax
4% Change
Percentage
Jones Tax
Jones Change
Percentage
$25,000
$153
$1,000
+$847
+554%
$187
+$34
+22%
$35,000
$794
$1,400
+$606
+76%
$609
-$185
-23%
$45,000
$1,478
$1,800
+$322
+22%
$1,233
-$245
-17%
$55,000
$2,270
$2,200
-$70
-3%
$2,075
-$195
-9%
$75,000
$3,377
$3,000
-$377
-11%
$3,265
-$122
-3%
$175,000
$8,591
$7,000
-$1,591
-19%
$9,206
+$615
+7%
$500,000
$25,209
$20,000
-$5,209
-21%
$28,669
+$3,460
+14%
$1,000,000
$50,475
$40,000
-$10,475
-21%
$58,499
+8,024
+16%

Now I know that looking at this won’t change some people’s mind. They will see the Jones/Mascaro bill and think that it is wonderful, because it redistributes the wealth. However, the government shouldn’t be about redistribution of wealth. All citizens should contribute to the benefit that the government provides it.
Further my chart shows how much the rich are really paying in income taxes. And it helps us realize the inequality of what is really happening in our current tax system.

The original presentation is intended to give a picture that the 4% flat tax is a tax cut for the rich. Which it is. But it doesn’t paint the whole picture. It creates an emotional picture that the flat tax is unfair. When in reality it is fair.

So, if the fact that they can’t even publish the correct chart isn’t proof enough that they Deseret News has a liberal bias, than the way they choose to present the data should be evidence enough.

How’s He Going to Do It?

Last week, Huntsman said that now is not the time for a tax cut.  Now he says he is pushing for the elimination of the sales tax on food.

Okay let’s do the math here.  Gov. Huntsman wants to reduce the corporate taxes.  Okay, good idea, and in general I like the idea.  Gov. Huntsman wants to eliminate the sales tax on food.  Another good idea, and I complete agree.

But… (keep you eye on the “But”s).

But, Gov. Huntsman says that it is too soon for a tax cut.  Instead he wants to do a tax reshuffle (note that I didn’t use the word “reform” like the Governor likes to use).

So, if you eliminate the food sales tax, and you reduce the corporate tax, but you keep the tax burden the same as usual.  What does that mean.  Well, either an increase in property tax, an increase in non-food sales tax, or an increase in fees (the hidden tax).

Is Utah ready for 20% sales tax*?  Especially when we have a $112 million surplus?  Especially when we have learned that we can tighten our government belt a little an still get by?

I would rather the tax burden be more upon the purchase of items.  I don’t think that we should be punished for good employment, I don’t think we should be punished for purchasing food to feed our families, and I don’t think that we should be punished for ownership.  So, I completely agree that the tax revenues should be moved to a sales tax.

However, I think that a tax cut should be a priority so that when we move the burden to the sales tax, that it doesn’t need to be an outrageous sales tax.

* This number is not based on any actual figures.  But I personally think that it is an underestimation based on current revenues made from the tax on food, and corporate revenues.

Why No New Tax Cut?

I just don’t get it.

Well, I guess I can’t say that I didn’t expect this. When Jon Huntsman won the Republican Nomination, I honestly felt that it was going to be another round of which liberal do you want in office. The one that says he’s a liberal or the won who doesn’t. Again, we voted for the one who doesn’t admit to his liberal attitude.

Part of the conservative mindset should be to limit government and to increase personal responsibility. Both of these can be done by reducing the tax burden.

Now is the perfect time to reduce the tax burden on the citizens of this great state. We just came out of financial drought with nothing more than a few scratches.

We have proven that as the state can get by with fewer dollars being spent on government services. We have proven that Utahn’s can tighten there belts.

The extra $112 million (that’s $112,000,000) in revenue this past year. Despite the fact that we have one of the largest tax burdens in the country, Govenor Huntsman can’t see to even give back some of the money to the people who elected him.

Our new Governor doesn’t want to do the conservative thing. He wants to “reform” our tax system in a way that only realigns how taxes are raised. He wants to do this for one reason. “Getting rid of the corporate income tax is supposed to result in more revenue for the state, not less, by boosting economic development.”

Just a second, Did I just read that right. He is going to reform the tax code so that he can increase revenue for the state. That is a tax increase not a tax reform with “revenue-neutral” effects.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. I want a tax cut. It’s time to reduce the government.