Paying Nothing On Tax Day

April 15, 2010

In recognition of Tax Day, I’m revealing the amount of income taxes I paid for 2009 after filing my return earlier this year:   . 

No, that’s not a typo after the colon. I paid nothing.  Thanks to our “progressive” income-tax system, I received all of my federal witholdings back in the form of a check. I had a modest income last year thanks to the part-time job I’ve had while in graduate school. Because I only made so much (or should I say, so little), the government (read: politicians seeking votes) decided to essentially not charge me anything for the services it provides me.

This has been a trend in my years in college. I wrote a column for my student paper a few years ago in my undergrad. when I was first catching on to the progressivity of our income-tax system. Here’s one notable excerpt from it:

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More Auditor Problems

February 26, 2010

Here’s a new report on problems in the Hillsborough County (Florida) internal performance auditor office from the St. Petersburg Times: “Report rips Hillsborough’s performance auditor.” This time, the fuss is over the office not meeting professional standards.

I wrote a column on the auditor position last year when there were problems raised about its performance. It can be read here.


Sinkholes and Insurance

January 18, 2010

As a brief addendum to my previous post on the sinkhole problem in Plant City, Florida, I find it important to add one more note. Since posting the column, some have suggested that those property owners with property insurance would fare well under the circumstances. However, it’s important to point out that no matter who actually pays for the repairs, the money has to come from somewhere.

Insurance is a risk pool. When the risk is higher, the cost for the insurance is higher. Having multiple sinkholes in an area represents an increased risk. If the sinkhole repairs are paid by insurance companies, those companies would have to make up for that loss by possibly raising insurance premiums for areas at risk for these sinkholes.

In the end, there is no getting around the negative economic costs of the sinkholes. There is no free lunch.


Sinkholes and Optimism

January 16, 2010

Plant City, Florida and surrounding areas are sinking. Following the marathon of water-pumping in area fields, roads are being closed and property damaged. A rare cold snap combined with the need to protect the “Winter Strawberry Capital of the World” from a season of damaged crops is to blame.

Some are pointing fingers at the farmers, others are not. Regardless of who’s to blame, the fact remains that the sinkholes developing across the area are a threat to people and their property. The cold weather is also a threat to the livelihoods of the area’s many growers. Good news is hard to come by right now.

photo: Chip Litherland for The New York TimesAmid this dilemma, however, some people – ever the optimists – have suggested that the proliferation of sinkholes will actually help the local economy. The same argument is often made when hurricanes ravage an area. In the recent sinkhole example, the argument goes something like this: The sinkholes will need to be filled and property will need to be repaired; the individuals and companies repairing the damage will benefit and then spend their earnings on other economic goods and services, thus creating a cycle of beneficial economic activity.

Economists, however, have referred to this reasoning as the “broken window fallacy.” In this example, the optimist may argue that there is a chain-reaction of beneficial economic activity that proceeds a vandal breaking a car window. The car owner will pay someone to repair the window. The window repairer will use some of that money to buy new shoes for his kids. The shoemaker will use the money from the window repairer to buy his wife a watch. The watchmaker will then spend the money from the shoemaker on something else … and on and on.

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“Empathetic” Judges?

May 5, 2009

In his latest column, Thomas Sowell takes aim at Obama’s search for a new jurist who displays “empathy” to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Souter. Forget just being impartial and enforcing the law. Judges apparently now need to feel sorry for certain groups of people. Apparently “empathy” is the new code word used by liberals to describe activist judges. During the run-up to the confirmation hearings for Chief Justice Roberts I wrote a column for the Tampa Tribune on liberals seeking “mainstream” judges — apparently the code at the time.

A recent column for the Chicago Tribune highlights the justification used by liberals to promote judges who can empathize with people:

There is, after all, a profound civility in understanding how a teenager might feel deeply humiliated by being strip-searched at school or why a woman might feel she can’t complain to a male boss about being paid less than male co-workers.

The question for a judge should not be how the alleged victim felt in a given situation, but rather what the law states. It is, after all, their job to interpret the law, not make decisions based on feelings.

On a personal note, I can’t wait until the confirmation hearings. During the Roberts hearings I became a C-SPAN addict.


The Politics of Problems and “Solutions”

April 4, 2009

I just posted my new column, titled “The Politics of Problems and ‘Solutions’: A Cynical Perspective,” on my opinion Web site here. A condensed version is going to be published in the Spring 2009 edition of Politix, the Political Science Graduate Student Association’s (at USF) newsletter.