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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

To Knuth and her colleagues: return to reality

The DFL members in the State legislature are living in la-la land, and it is Gov. Pawlenty's obvious duty to kindly return them to reality, via Veto Lane. To attempt to provide property tax relief through a higher income tax bracket, for example, is a short-sighted, stop-gap measure. That and the gas tax are both examples of the ways that Democrats do not seem to understand real economics in a free country. That new top tax bracket will indirectly discourage successful businesses from locating here, since their leadership will have to submit to one of the highest state income tax structures in the nation. The gas tax will cost us far more than a few dollars extra at the pump, since we won't only pay it when we fill up the car, but also when we buy goods at the grocery or department store, pay for shipping, etc.

My household lives on an annual gross income of about $58K; with three small children, we have sacrificed the earning potential of one spouse, the holder of a law degree, to provide what children need--the loving care of a parent, especially a mommy, for their early years. As a reward for this sacrifice, the DFL proposes to tax us more to pay for gussied up daycare. The "early childhood" funding, and proposing higher taxes to pay for it, is a way of snubbing those who make the tremendous sacrifice to keep one parent at home. For the last 4 or 5 years, we have received significant refunds from the IRS, greatly lowering our total tax bill, because of the per child tax credit. In contrast, though we have adjusted our withholding, we consistently owe a bit to the State, because we receive no comparable tax relief in compensation for providing Minnesota with future solid citizens. Minnesota’s tax policy makes the federal government look like a generous grandma. Early childhood "education" (including ECFE, Head Start, school readiness programs, and all-day kindergarten) does not fix that problem, and paying for it actually exacerbates the necessity of imposing onerous tax burdens on families.

Stopping the growth of spending is the only way to keep Minnesota an attractive place to live. Minnesota’s taxation levels ought to generate quite sufficient revenues to fulfill reasonable state functions, and beyond that, we’ll have to let the free market operate. A large part of my life I lived without health insurance, so I know for a fact that the lack of "access" to medical care is a deliberately deceptive slogan. In fact, everybody has access to healthcare, if what they need is obstetric or emergency care. I'm willing to pay taxes for the continued provision of a safety net when the poor experience medical emergencies. Some will have to live without access to all the medical services they might like to have, certainly, or make the sacrifices necessary to pay for them out of pocket. That's just life. Raising taxes to expand the state's medical coverage of children and go beyond a safety net for medical emergencies is not tenable; you will eventually beggar everyone by trying to make health care universally available. Since people won't stand for that, as a practical matter "universal" access means lowered standards of care; while living in England, I read one news article after another, and heard many anecdotes from friends, about people dying waiting for cancer treatment, or dropping everything when their number came up, after years' wait, for cataract surgery, because the state simply couldn't afford to provide excellent care as soon as it was needed. It will be the same here, as government meddling in the healthcare system increases.

I don't plan ever to use the public schools (I teach as an adjunct at a local private university, so I'm intimately acquainted with the demoralizing failure of the public schools to do their job), and I'm sorry for those who have to; far better than giving the schools another dime would be to set up accounts for every child, deposit money into them from the State, and allow parents to direct the transfer of those funds to any school of their choice, for the education of their children. There are excellent private schools now in operation that cost far less than what is spent per child in the local public school districts (although I realize a big part of the reason for the way schools soak up money is the unfunded mandates from the federal and state governments).

So there are ways to make the State of Minnesota a model of how to attract businesses and reward families who make choices that are good for the long term welfare of its rising citizens. Eliminate ECFE (patronizing waste of money); don’t offer all-day kindergarten (bad for kids); stop subsidizing inefficient public transportation (if you don’t want to keep a car, fine, but pay the full cost of your fare on the bus); tell the federal government to take a hike next time it hands down another unfunded education mandate (and be prepared to implement some sort of voucher system, universally, to lower education costs); keep tax and regulation costs low for businesses (instead of telling them who they have to let use their toilets and upping their property taxes). And so on. But whatever you do, live within your means--don't raise taxes.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a great idea! Let the State put its share of public money into an "education savings account" for every child. That money can go to a private school, public school, HOME school or anybody else that will educate the child to the parent's satisfaction. Any money left over in the account can be spent on COLLEGE or vocational school if the child is successful, otherwise it reverts to the State. The fabulous incentives built into this are enormous, all the way around, aren't they?

J. Ewing

4/05/2007 11:09 AM  
Blogger Right Hook said...

How about a 10 year plan to dismantle the Minnesota Department of Education? Cut their budget 10% each year and allow local school districts to eventually assume full control and accountability.

It would also help to de-certify Education Minnesota as a collective bargaining unit and allow local districts to hire independent contractors and private sector educational providers if they choose to. Bouncing the union would allow districts to control labor costs by bringing benefits to a level competitive with the private sector.

It would mean layoffs and cutbacks for the DOE workers and union teachers, but these people can find jobs in the private sector or their local education jurisdictions if they are truly competent (if they aren't they have no business being on the government payroll anyway).

Districts pay big bucks for alledgedly highly-educated and competent superintendents (although the Mounds View district has had a dullard at the helm for quite a while). Taxpayers may as well have superintendents earn their money running a school system rather than serving as union negotiators and field clerical agents of the state bureaucracy.

Local control is always better and more accountable to the people paying the bills and sending their kids to school. Getting bureaucrats and union activists out of the system will do much to control costs and improve the level of education.

4/05/2007 1:35 PM  

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