For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions – The New York Times


Captions/Credits: Daniel S. Loeb, shown with his wife, Margaret, runs the $17 billion Third Point hedge fund. Mr. Loeb, who has owned a home in East Hampton, has contributed to Jeb Bush’s super PAC and given $1 million to the American Unity Super PAC, which supports gay rights.Credit Left: Patrick McMullan Company; Right: Doug Kuntz


The poor and middle class (what’s left of it) are missing two very important “L” words… lawyers and lobbyists… that’s why the next President of the United States has to be someone who puts their best interest first… Someone like progressive, democratic-socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, in my book.

The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income.

Source: For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions – The New York Times

Here’s an excerpt from the NYT in depth report… try not to throw up on your device’s screen…

“Operating largely out of public view — in tax court, through arcane legislative provisions and in private negotiations with the Internal Revenue Service — the wealthy have used their influence to steadily whittle away at the government’s ability to tax them. The effect has been to create a kind of private tax system, catering to only several thousand Americans.

The impact on their own fortunes has been stark. Two decades ago, when Bill Clinton was elected president, the 400 highest-earning taxpayers in America paid nearly 27 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to I.R.S. data. By 2012, when President Obama was re-elected, that figure had fallen to less than 17 percent, which is just slightly more than the typical family making $100,000 annually, when payroll taxes are included for both groups.

The ultra-wealthy “literally pay millions of dollars for these services,” said Jeffrey A. Winters, a political scientist at Northwestern University who studies economic elites, “and save in the tens or hundreds of millions in taxes.”

Some of the biggest current tax battles are being waged by some of the most generous supporters of 2016 candidates. They include the families of the hedge fund investors Robert Mercer, who gives to Republicans, andJames Simons, who gives to Democrats; as well as the options trader Jeffrey Yass, a libertarian-leaning donor to Republicans.”

For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions – The New York Times

Flint water poisoning update: Snyder issues public apology as head of DEQ resigns 


In my view, for a glimpse into the future for the City of Flint … readers might search for either “Times Beach, Missouri” or “Love Canal” — sadly those may the most cost-effective, perhps wisest and even most likely scenarios for Flint. One would hope that would also put an end to EFMs and maybe even the GOP in Michigan. Although I may be wildly optimistic in that regard. Here’s the latest from a Detroit Free Press report today on this man-made disaster causing the poisoning of the water supply of homes and businesses all over city the effects of which on humans and animals FOREVER. So apologies and resignations do nothing to make up for their decisions.


LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder apologized to the City of Flint Tuesday for the Flint drinking water crisis that has left children poisoned by lead and announced he has accepted to resignation of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant.

Snyder said in a news release there will be other personnel changes at DEQ and the moves he announced Wednesday are among the “initial steps” he has taken to assure the safety of Flint residents, with more action to come.

“I want the Flint community to know how very sorry I am that this has happened,” Snyder said. “And I want all Michigan citizens to know that we will learn from this experience, because Flint is not the only city that has an aging infrastructure.”

The governor, who had previously stood by his DEQ director amid the controversy, said…

Source: Snyder apologizes, Wyant resigns in Flint water crisis

From NPR…Faced With Fear, A Muslim Woman Makes A Stand — By Setting One Up 

Mona Haydar is a Muslim — and she wants to talk about it.

So much so, in fact, that she set up a stand outside a library in Cambridge, Mass., with a big sign reading “Ask a Muslim.” Along with a free cup of coffee and a doughnut, Haydar offered passersby an opportunity for conversation.

She says the idea occurred to her husband, Sebastian, and her over dinner one evening. As they were eating, she says, Sebastian remarked: “What if we did something kind of crazy?”

“He had seen this segment on This American Life, where a young Iraqi man had done ‘Ask an Iraqi,’ ” Haydar tells NPR’s Carrie Kahn. “And so [Sebastian] was like, ‘Why haven’t we thought of this before? Why don’t we get out and talk to people?’

“So, we did it,” Haydar says.

After the day was done, she posted a summary to Facebook

Source: Faced With Fear, A Muslim Woman Makes A Stand — By Setting One Up : NPR

Texans Will Make A Big Decision On January 1st. Do They Want A Burrito Or A Gun?

Even Miss Kitty had Sam The Bartender collect firearms and put them under the bar at The Long Branch Saloon in the long-running Tv show “Gunsmoke “… could it be that one day big-box stores, retails shops, restaurants, bars, schools and other public buildings may have to have a “gun check” room as well?


Texans Will Make A Big Decision On January 1st. Do They Want A Burrito Or A Gun?

by mikethegunguy

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that the 2nd Amendment gave Americans the Constitutional right to keep a loaded, unlocked handgun in their homes to use for self-defense, the pro-gun nation has been trying to push the notion of armed, self-defense beyond the home and into the street.  This strategy has taken two paths; on the one hand promoting concealed-carry licensing, on the other, bringing weapons into gun-free zones.  There’s nothing but anecdotal evidence supporting the idea that a gun can protect its owner from crime, but there’s plenty of serious research which shows the opposite to be true.

open               The latest effort to widen the scope of armed defense is about to be unveiled in Texas…

Read the rest of the post here: Texans Will Make A Big Decision On January 1st. Do They Want A Burrito Or A Gun?

Reposting CURMUDGUCATION: The Soft Bigotry of Baloney

A grumpy old teacher trying to keep up the good classroom fight in the new age of reformy stuff.

The Soft Bigotry of Baloney

Posted: 29 Dec 2015 08:20 AM PST

You may not know Michael Gerson’s name, but odds are you know one of his most famous pieces of writing– “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Well, Gerson was in the New York Times yesterday expressing his displeasure with the new version of ESEA. At the same time, he was serving up the hard baloney of reformster ideals.

Gerson opens by recapping some of the results of ESSA in a voice that– well, maybe he’s sincere, but it feels as if he’s being sarcastic as what he sees as self-evidently wrong points of view, a style of writing that I am somewhat familiar with (game recognizes game).

The whole thing [NCLB] was a mess from the start. Failing schools didn’t like to be labeled failures, because it made administrators feel as though they were, like, you know, failing or something. Many teachers didn’t like the relentless emphasis on testing, which ate into their time for the unmeasurable joys of learning.  

His summary, as he winds up for the main pitch:

The Every Student Succeeds Act is a win-win-win for everyone who counts. Most Republicans are pleased that the federal role in enforcing educational standards has been effectively abolished. Many teachers are pleased to see lower stakes on standardized tests. States and localities are pleased that they can declare all their schools successful, or at least make accountability a fuzzy, gentle, toothless friend. 

And now he launches his point–

Follow this link for the rest of the blog post:

CURMUDGUCATION: The Soft Bigotry of Baloney

VAMboozled! Repost…Why Standardized Tests Should Not Be Used to Evaluate Teachers (and Teacher Education Programs) 


Why Standardized Tests Should Not Be Used to Evaluate Teachers (and Teacher Education Programs)

Posted: 28 Dec 2015 08:59 AM PST

David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor Emeritus here at Arizona State University (ASU), who also just happens to be my former albeit forever mentor, recently took up research on the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, for example, using value-added models (VAMs).

While David is world-renowned for his research in educational psychology, and more specific to this case, his expertise on effective teaching behaviors and how to capture and observe them, he has also now ventured into the VAM-related debates.

Accordingly, he recently presented his newest and soon-to-be-forthcoming published research on using standardized tests to evaluate teachers, something he aptly termed in the title of his presentation “A Policy Fiasco.”

He delivered his speech to an audience in Melbourne, Australia, and you can click here for the full video-taped presentation; however, given the whole presentation takes about one hour to watch, although I must say watching the full hour is well worth it, I highlight below what are his highlights and key points.

These should certainly be of interest to you all as followers of this blog, and hopefully others.

Of main interest are his 14 reasons, “big and small’ for [his] judgment that assessing teacher competence using standardized achievement tests is nearly worthless.”

Here are his fourteen reasons… at the link below.

Source: Why Standardized Tests Should Not Be Used to Evaluate Teachers (and Teacher Education Programs) | VAMboozled!

Eugene Robinson Column: GOP Will Be Changed Forever – repost from Truthdig

History will remember 2015 as the year when The Republican Party As We Knew It was destroyed by Donald Trump. An entity called the GOP will survive – but can never be the same.

Am I overstating Trump’s impact, given that not a single vote has been cast? Hardly. I’m not sure it’s possible to exaggerate how the Trump phenomenon has torn the party apart, revealing a chasm between establishment and base that is far too wide to bridge with stale Reagan-era rhetoric. Can you picture the Trump legions meekly falling in line behind Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio? I can’t either.

Trump didn’t blow up the party on his own. He had help from a field of presidential contenders that was touted as deep and talented but proved shallow and wanting. Bush raised shock-and-awe money but turns out to lack his father’s and brother’s skill at performing on the national stage; he seems to want to be crowned, not elected. Rubio is like the teacher’s pet who speaks eloquently in class but doesn’t do his homework. Chris Christie was slow off the mark, perhaps having been stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge.

Who else would be acceptable to the GOP establishment?

Read more here: Eugene Robinson: The GOP Will Be Changed Forever – Truthdig

Right-wing mega-donor Sheldon Adelson has just bought the biggest newspaper in Nevada

Robert Reich Facebook Post:

Right-wing mega-donor Sheldon Adelson has just bought the biggest newspaper in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal — just in time for Nevada’s becoming a key battleground for the presidency and for the important Senate seat being vacated by Harry Reid. It’s not quite like Rupert Murdoch’s ownership of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, but Adelson’s purchase marks another step toward oligarchic control of America – and the relative decline of corporate power.

Future historians will note that the era of corporate power extended for about 40 years, from 1980 to 2016 or 2020. It began in the 1970s with a backlash against Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society (Medicare, Medicaid, the EPA and OSHA). In 1971, future Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell warned corporate leaders that the “American economic system is under broad attack,” and urging them to mobilize. “Business must learn the lesson . . . that political power is necessary; that such power must be assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination—without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.” He went on: “Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.”

Soon thereafter, corporations descended on Washington. In 1971, only 175 firms had Washington lobbyists; by 1982, almost 2,500 did. Between 1974 and 1980 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce doubled its membership and tripled its budget. In 1972, the National Association of Manufacturers moved its office from New York to Washington, and the Business Roundtable was formed, whose membership was restricted to top corporate CEOs.

The number of corporate Political Action Committees soared from under 300 in 1976 to over 1,200 in 1980, and their spending on politics grew fivefold. In the early 1970s, businesses spent less on congressional races than did labor unions; by the mid-1970s, the two were at rough parity; by 1980, corporations accounted for three-quarters of PAC spending while unions accounted for less than a quarter. Then came Ronald Reagan’s presidency, corporate control of the Republican Party, and a Republican-dominated Supreme Court and its “Citizens United” decision.

But in the early 21st century, a billionaire class emerged that didn’t want or need to share political power with large corporations. Their agenda was to reduce their taxes, enhance their wealth, and buy up the nation’s major assets. The Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, and about three dozen other oligarchs began to wrest power away from the Republican business establishment by funding their own candidates, buying their own media outlets, and even running for office themselves.

The rest is history. Or may be.

Source: Robert Reich – Right-wing mega-donor Sheldon Adelson has just…

The GOP’s worst nightmare could come true | Eclectablog

Who — besides Ted Cruz — predicted that Donald Trump would spend the second half of 2015 riding racism and xenophobia to the top of the polls thus allowing a supportive Cruz a chance to angle into the GOP nomination as the “reasonable” candidate?


Getting everything wrong seemed to be the one thing pundits did right in 2015including me, if I count.

I’d be a fool to venture any more predictions, so I will.

It’s still difficult to envisage Trump getting the GOP nomination and not because I expect Republicans to have too much sense to nominate him. A more likely probability is….

More here:

The GOP’s worst nightmare could come true | Eclectablog



One Wrong Move

Posted: 28 Dec 2015 10:46 AM PST

Back in November, Hanna Rosin started a ball rolling with her Atlantic cover story about the high rate of student suicides in Silicon Valley. Two high schools in Palo Alto have a 10-year suicide rate between four and five times the national average.

If students from wealthy families in one of the most affluent communities in the country are feeling driven to these sort of extremes– what the heck can that mean.

And it’s not just the issue of suicide. Rosin writes:

The rich middle- and high-school kids [Arizona State professor Suniya] Luthar and her collaborators have studied show higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse on average than poor kids, and much higher rates than the national norm.* They report clinically significant depression or anxiety or delinquent behaviors at a rate two to three times the national average. Starting in seventh grade, the rich cohort includes just as many kids who display troubling levels of delinquency as the poor cohort, although the rule-breaking takes different forms. The poor kids, for example, fight and carry weapons more frequently, which Luthar explains as possibly self-protective. The rich kids, meanwhile, report higher levels of lying, cheating, and theft.

Rosin pointed to huge pressure put on kids by their families, and Rebecca Rosen followed up with her piece, also at the Atlantic, “Why Affluent Professionals Put So Much Pressure on Their Kids.

Rosin’s conclusion is that affluent professionals find their own position fragile, and their ability to pass that position on to their children non-existent.

All of this results in what the economists Garey and Valerie Ramey of the University of California, San Diego, brilliantly termed “the rug rat race.” As they wrote in a 2010 paper, “The increased scarcity of college slots appears to have heightened rivalry among parents, which takes the form of more hours spent on college preparatory activities.” In their findings, the rug rat race takes place primarily among the most educated parents, because there simply aren’t enough spots at elite schools for less-educated parents to even really have a shot, especially as the competition accelerates. It’s for this reason that the most educated parents spend the most hours parenting, even though they are giving up the most in wages by doing so.

If you’re looking for one of the sources of the idealization of competitiveness that has leached into public education, well, here it is…

Follow this link for the rest of this blog post: CURMUDGUCATION: One Wrong Move