Rubio introduces “Refund Act” to empower states to help pay down the national debt

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio today introduced the Returned Exclusively For Unpaid National Debt (REFUND) Act. This legislation would allow states to identify and return unwanted federal funds to the federal treasury in order to help pay down the $16.7 trillion national debt. The REFUND Act has 16 original cosponsors in the Senate and a companion bill, H.R.282, has already been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Chuck Fleischmann (TN-3).

“Excessive spending is fueling our growing debt, yet states have little say in what happens to federal money if they choose not to spend it,” said Rubio. “The REFUND ACT can help end the ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ mentality which encourages states to take debt-financed money from Washington. Instead it will empower them with a way to help slow the steady rise of the national debt.”

“Many state officials and leaders realize the national debt is an increasing burden to our children and grandchildren and want to help stop Washington’s spending spree to help alleviate that burden. The REFUND Act will give states an opportunity to end the practice of spending money we don’t have and serve as an incentive for them to help pay down the debt and re-embark on a path toward economic growth and opportunity.”

The REFUND Act would allow any state to designate federal funds as “unwanted” through a resolution from the state legislature, which would then be allocated towards debt reduction at the Treasury Department. The REFUND Act would require that an annual report be submitted to Congress each year detailing the amount deposited by each state. The REFUND Act has been endorsed by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the National Taxpayers Union (NTU).

Original cosponsors of the REFUND Act are Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Saxby Chambliss, (R-GA), Dan Coats (R-IN), Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jim Risch (R-ID) and David Vitter (R-LA).

The question is will the states put the best interests of the American people first? Or will they keep the money.

Many times state political leaders argue that if we don’t take the money it will go to another state. Now, that excuse could become invalid. Let’s see if this gets passed in a divided Washington, where two thirds of the politicians want more taxes and more spending.

Rep. Buchanan (FL-13): UN “Inefficient.” “Inconsistent.” “Unpredictable.”

Congressman Vern Buchanan, FL-13

Congressman Vern Buchanan in an email to constituents cited a report calling the United Nations inefficient, inconsistent and unpredictable.”  

Read the full text of his email below:

America is one of 193 member countries of the United Nations, yet it pays nearly 25 percent of the organization’s cost. It would be one thing if we were getting our money’s worth. But a scathing new report exposes gross waste and inefficiency. And who prepared the report? The U.N.’s own internal watchdog — the Joint Inspection Unit.

“Inefficient.” “Inconsistent.” “Unpredictable.”  

These were just a few of the adjectives the watchdog group used to describe the U.N.’s humanitarian aid practices. In its report issued earlier this month, the Inspection Unit cited multiple instances where basic global relief efforts were only “partly met” and where the reporting and monitoring of humanitarian financing remained “somewhat elusive.”

This is unacceptable.

For over 60 years, the United States has been the largest contributor to the U.N., giving a whopping $3.5 billion each year. Over the years, audits and inspections of the U.N. have unveiled repeated cases of waste, fraud and abuse. Few can forget the recent scandal involving the U.N.’s procurement department revealing that over 40 percent of the agency’s peacekeeping contracts were tainted by fraud.

It’s bad enough that the world’s largest and most prominent international organization struggles to manage its own finances. It’s even worse when you consider who is predominantly footing the bill for this mismanagement — the American taxpayer.

At a time when America faces unprecedented fiscal challenges, we simply cannot afford to be wasting tax dollars on ineffective overseas projects that lack full transparency and accountability. That’s why I have voted to cut off spending taxpayer dollars on dues to the United Nations. We need to take care of America first.

As always, please let me know what you think.

Vern

This email comes as the Obama administration is pushing a UN arms control treaty through the US Senate. According  Theodore R. Bromund, Ph.D. from the Heritage Foundation, “One of the most important disputes in the negotiation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the United Nations is the question of whether the treaty should include a customary international law (CIL) criterion. This is a complex question. It is also one fraught with considerable risks for the United States, which should firmly oppose the introduction of such a criterion into the treaty.”

Transparency Florida Website Earns High Marks

On Tuesday, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) released its 2013 Following the Money report, which gave Florida a grade of A-minus for overall transparency based on my Department of Financial Services’ Transparency Florida website. PIRG ranked Florida third in the nation for state government transparency.

According to PIRG, ‘No state made a more dramatic improvement in its letter grade this year than Florida.’

Jeff Atwater, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, stated, “Our tireless efforts over the past two years to increase government transparency and accountability for Florida taxpayers have been recognized. Last year, we launched the Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System (FACTS), making the state’s contracting practices transparent for the first time. We have maintained a commitment to improving Transparency Florida by making it more user friendly along with linking to partner sites to provide more information about government spending in Florida. All of these efforts are driven by one objective – to make transparency an inherent part of government in Florida.”

“We have worked hard to change the culture in Tallahassee by fostering an open government that promotes greater accountability and holds elected officials to a higher standard. This is the yardstick by which we measure the success of our transparency efforts on behalf of our fellow Floridians,” noted Atwater.

Rep. Vern Buchanan to Hold Forum on Tax Reform

Sarasota, Florida – U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan announced today that he will host a forum on tax reform. Buchanan is Florida’s only member of the powerful U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, which is reviewing current federal income tax law and chairman of the small business working group.

“The current tax code punishes everyone from families to employers trying to compete in the global marketplace,” said Buchanan. “I am working in Congress to fix our broken tax code. My goal is a simpler, fairer, pro-growth tax code that helps get Americans back to work.”

Buchanan noted that various proposals have been put forth for tax reform in the United States, including a flat tax, a sales tax or keeping the present code with some simplification or modification in the tax structure.

The panel for the forum includes:

  • Neal Boortz is a former nationally syndicated radio talk show host who co-wrote the Fair Tax Book with former Congressman John Linder. The book calls for the replacement of the income tax with a consumption tax.
  • Dan Mitchell is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, which is a public policy research organization dedicated to the principals of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace. Mitchell is an expert on tax reform and a strong advocate of a flat tax.
  • National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)/Florida Chairman Jerry Pierce. The NFIB is is the leading small business association representing small and independent businesses. The NFIB supports modifications to provide tax relief and certainty to small businesses.
  • Susan Nilon is the general manager of WSRQ radio, a radio show host and writer who advocates a progressive tax that taxes wealthy individuals at a higher rate than low income individuals.

The forum will be moderated by WWSB/ABC 7 news anchor John McQuiston.

The event will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, March 29, 2013 at New College of Florida’s Mildred Sainer Pavilion, 5313 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243.

The event is free and open to the public. Please call 941.951.6643 or click here to RSVP.

Are “retirement migrants” bad for Florida? The birth dearth and a dying older America

The census bureau reports that one of three counties in the United States are dying, defined as counties where there are more deaths than births.

The US Census projects nearly 17% of the global population will be 65 and older in 2050, up from 8 percent today. In 2005, Europe became the first major world region where the population 65 and older outnumbered those younger than 15. By 2050, it would be joined by Northern America (which includes Canada and the United States), Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Oceania (which includes Australia and New Zealand).

The US Census Bureau reports that 17.6 percent of Florida’s population was 65 and older in 2011 — which led all states.

Kenneth M. Johnson, Senior Demographer at the University of New Hampshire

According to a Fact Sheet issued by Kenneth M. Johnson, Senior Demographer at the University of New Hampshire, “Natural decrease occurs when more deaths than births occur in an area in a given year. The growing incidence of natural decrease in America has gone largely unnoticed, but new data released on March 14th demonstrate that natural decrease is no longer an isolated phenomenon. Last year, 36 percent of all U.S. counties experienced natural decrease.” [My emphasis]

Johnson found, “Deaths exceeded births in 1,135 counties, the most in U.S. history. As recently as 2009, natural decrease occurred in just 880 counties. So the recent rise reflects sharply higher levels of natural decrease.”

“Natural decrease is also regionally concentrated . . . It also occurred early in Florida counties that were among the first to receive retirement migrants,” reports Johnson.

Johnson notes that in the US, “Natural decrease is more prevalent because births are diminishing. There were only 3,954,000 births last year, compared to a record 4,316,000 in 2006–2007. This represents a decline of 8.3 percent in just five years.”

Some like the AP’s Hope Yen are promoting an increase in immigration to offset this birth dearth. Yen states, “The findings also reflect the increasing economic importance of foreign-born residents as the U.S. ponders an overhaul of a major 1965 federal immigration law.”

Others point to the 2008 recession as the cause of the decline in births. Johnson states, “The recession was closely associated with this fertility decline. Recent National Center for Health Statistics data show that both the number of births and fertility rates dropped sharply over the last several years. Young women are having fewer babies. Fertility rates have declined sharply for them, but they remained relatively stable for older women. The fertility rate for women 20–34 declined 12 percent in just three years. Hispanic fertility declined the most, especially among younger Hispanic women. Taken together, these data suggest that the impact of the recession has been particularly pronounced on younger women, who are likely delaying fertility.”

One factor coming under increased scrutiny is the rate of abortions in the US and China.

Simon Rabinovitch from The Economist reports, “Chinese doctors have performed more than 330 million abortions since the government implemented a controversial family planning policy 40 years ago, according to official data from the health ministry. China’s one-child policy has been the subject of a heated debate about its economic consequences as the population ages.”

“Forced abortions and sterilizations have also been criticized by human rights campaigners such as Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist who sought refuge at the US embassy in Beijing last year,” Rabinovitch reports.

Rabinovitch notes, “As China’s working-age population begins to decline, economists have warned that the family planning rules will pose an increasing drag on economic growth. China’s dependency ratio – which compares the potential workforce with the number of children and retirees – rose last year for the first time in 40 years.”

Rabinovitch notes, “In the US, where the population is 315 million or about one-quarter the size of China’s, an estimated 50 million abortions have been performed since the landmark Roe vs Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in 1973.”

In effect the US has killed 50 million workers. Can any nation long survive economically with the demographic future of more deaths, fewer births and the killing (abortion) of its native population?

Johnson warns, “Demography is not destiny, but one ignores it at their peril.”

VIDEO: Rubio calls for defunding Obamacare

Senator Marco Rubio’s floor statement on Obamacare:

“When they start to fully implement this over the next 12-18 months, it is going to be an epic disaster. An epic disaster. Not because it was ill-intentioned, per se. I think the goal of providing an environment where everybody can buy affordable health insurance is something we should take very seriously and we have to work on. You can’t have a strong, stable middle class if people can’t afford the cost of living. You can’t have a strong and stable middle class if people don’t have access to quality health care at an affordable price. And we should work on that. We should work on that really hard.

“But we have to do that with some balance, and this is not balanced. This is an across-the-board application to the entire country that is going to hurt a lot of people. There are people in America that are going to lose hours at work because of this bill. There are people in America that are going to lose the health insurance they have, which they are happy with, because of this bill. There are people in America that are going to have to lay people off and, therefore, there are people in America that are going to lose their jobs because of this bill. And our debt is going to grow.

“And so I hope we will pass this amendment. I hope we will defund this program. It was ill-designed and as the true ramifications of this bill begin to apply over the next few months and next couple years, we are going to be right back here on this floor trying to fix it. Because this country cannot be what it is meant to be if it has to deal with something like this hanging around its neck.”

Conservation gone wild in Florida

In December 2012, the Florida Cabinet authorized the pursuit of $8 million to buy land for conservation. Certain special interest groups wanted as much as $300 million. More than 33% of Florida is already in government ownership (Federal, State, and local), set aside for conservation.

Enormous amounts of tax payer money have been spent to buy land for conservation. Enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars are being spent to maintain lands under conservation.

Florida faces difficult budgetary decision again this year in areas such as Medicaid, education, children, job creation and the disabled. Two bills have been offered to address the expansion of government owned land for conservation.  The bills titled “Purchase of Land by a Government Entity” are SB 584 – sponsored by Senator Alan Hays and HB 901 sponsored by Representative Charles StoneSenate Bill 584 and House Bill 901 are identical bills. They call for any government entity to do four things before they use taxpayer money to buy more land out of the private sector for “conservation.” Those four things are:

1. Produce a current and accurate inventory of government conservation land already owned.

2. Have money in the current budget to maintain the land already owned.

3. Produce an estimate of the future costs of maintaining the proposed purchase.

4. For each acre purchased from the private sector by government, sell an acre back to the private sector.

According to Dan Peterson, Executive Director of PropertyRights.com, “These bills simply say, let’s consider the priorities of state spending and focus on people. Before, we use tax payer dollars to buy and maintain more land for conservation, let’s consider our current costs and future potential costs.” In an email Peterson provided the following information about the bills:

SB 584/HB 901 has three objectives:

1. Being good stewards of the land we own.
2. Being fiscally responsible and knowledgeable before we buy more land for conservation.
3. Insuring we keep the majority of Florida’s land under the ownership and control of private citizens who will care for and make the best use of land.

2. What do these bills do?

They require four things to be done before any purchase by government of land to be set aside for conservation:
a. It requires an accurate and current inventory be made public and,
b. It requires money to be in the current budget to maintain the land currently owned and,
c. It requires and analysis be made public estimating the on-going cost of maintenance
d. It requires the sale of land back to the private sector in an amount equal to the land to be purchased.

Why is the sale back to the private sector included?

According to Peterson, “As to the fourth point, private owners (for the most part) are better stewards of their property that government. They are more motivated to keep it up and improve its value. Also, every acre in government ownership is a non-revenue generating acre. Here’s is a way to generate more taxpayers without generating more taxes. The more land in private ownership, the more revenue is available to care for the needs of people.”

Peterson states these bills are not anti-conservation. “They are pro-stewardship of land and money. These bills do not prohibit additional purchases. It simply says, “Let’s consider what we currently have and ask if we can afford more?”, states Peterson.

Rubio opposes Stop-Gap government funding bill — unless it defunds Obamacare

Rubio: “Senator Cruz from Texas is offering this amendment to defund ObamaCare. If that gets onto the bill, in essence if they get a continuing resolution and we vote on that and we can pass it onto a bill, I will vote for a continuing resolution, even if it’s temporary, because it does something permanent and that is defund this health care bill, this ObamaCare bill that is going to be an absolute disaster for the American economy.”

Excerpts of Interview with Hugh Hewitt – Full interview available here.

Senator Marco Rubio: “Well first of all, I don’t think anyone is in favor of shutting down the government, but I think that is where we are headed ultimately here, unfortunately, if we don’t fix our debt problem. And I’m talking about down the road long term – long term meaning five, six, three years. We don’t know when a debt crisis will happen. So look, about a year and a half ago, I voted for the first continuing resolution and then I announced, ‘This is the last continuing resolution, the last stop-gap measure that I am going to vote for. I will only vote, from here on, on something serious.’ And so far we haven’t seen that. All we see is this ‘kicking the can down the road’, these manufactured crises. As if the people back home don’t have enough to worry about with all the problems we have today, now Washington every month seems to be creating a new crisis for them to worry about and for the media to freak out about. But here is what I’ve said about this continuing resolution, you know Senator Cruz from Texas is offering this amendment to defund ObamaCare. If that gets onto the bill, in essence if they get a continuing resolution and we vote on that and we can pass it onto a bill, I will vote for a continuing resolution, even if it’s temporary, because it does something permanent and that is de-fund this health care bill, this ObamaCare bill that is going to be an absolute disaster for the American economy. You are already starting to feel the outer edges of that. In all these debates that we have been having, we have lost sight of how truly bad the health care law is.  I understand the Supreme Court ruled the way they did. It doesn’t make a good public policy, and you’re already starting to hear about it. I am already running into businesses that are planning next year on not hiring next year or laying some people off so they don’t have to meet these mandates. Others are going to push their employees off of their private plans that they offer and onto these exchanges, driving up the cost for the public. So, this is going to be an implementation disaster. It’s going to hurt our economy severely, and we aren’t spending enough time talking about that.”

***

Rubio: “Right, I don’t know if that alone will be enough, but I would certainly support that amendment. I would certainly support that measure because it’s going to hurt patients. What’s going to happen now is that it’s going to become less of an incentive to get into that business and the accessibility of these innovations is going to become less. This is one of the arguments that people were using, and that I echoed. I wasn’t in the Senate when ObamaCare came up, but we don’t just want affordable health insurance market place – that is very important – we want the highest quality healthcare. We want the latest, greatest innovations. That is what Americans have come to expect. You start taxing innovation, people are going to stop innovating here in this country.”

***

Rubio: “I think it’s coming next week. That is what Senator Reid has announced. That is one of the reasons he wanted to have the Brennan vote this week is because he wants to get on it next week. So, I think you can anticipate this argument next week, and I think it is the perfect opportunity for us to have a debate once again on ObamaCare. I don’t think there has been enough attention paid to it.  It has been a while. We have moved on to these other issues, but there is right now out there probably nothing more damaging to our economy in the short term than this implementation of ObamaCare.”

Florida House rejects Obamacare Medicaid expansion

John Hayward from Human Events reports:

On the eve of convening of the 2013 session, the House Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act rejected the expansion. A Senate counterpart committee postponed consideration of the issue, which is sure to be one of the biggest controversies of the session.

Scott, a Republican who bitterly fought President Barack Obama’s national healthcare plan as a candidate and in his first two years as governor, stunned conservative supporters on February 20 when he endorsed a three-year expansion of Medicaid, provided the federal government picks up the full cost for the first three years as promised.

“There’s definitely a fight between the governor and the (state) legislature over this. The Republicans in the legislature are much more fiscally conservative than his actions have shown him to be,” said Susan MacManus, a Tampa-based political scientist at the University of South Florida.

Republican legislative leaders have been openly hostile toward the plan, emphasizing that state lawmakers will make the final decision in drawing up a budget for next fiscal year.

The Florida based James Madison institute released the following statement:

The House made the right decision today to not draft a committee bill expanding Medicaid under PPACA provisions. Many Members expressed valid concerns that this could hurt the people that it is aimed at helping. State leaders should focus on providing more access to quality care — expanding a program that is inefficient in this effort is not a way to do that.

Additionally, in our recent poll of 600 registered Florida voters more than 63 percent said they are wary that the federal government would keep the funding level promises made, and clearly many House Members share this worry. If history is any indicator, costs of such programs are often underestimated and there has been examples of the federal government going back on their promise before. These issues cannot be ignored.

In Italy a new party is born: What does that mean for the United States?

“The Five Star Movement “tsunami” an electoral triumph” by George Lombardi (posted with the author’s permission):

ROME — The results of Italy’s historical elections confirm the desire of a great many Italians who expressed their desire for change.

Almost one third of the vote went to new actors of the complex Italian political system.

Two great surprises characterize this election: first, the “tsunami” of the comic-turned-political agitator Beppe Grillo [pictured above] won a substantial 25% in both houses of the legislature; the second is the rebirth of former premier Silvio Berlusconi (PDL), coming back from 12.8% a few months ago to almost 25% (almost 30% if you add the coalition party Lega Nord), almost gaining the upper hand in the powerful Senate.

The leftist coalition (PD) won by less than 1% in both chambers, but they expected a greater result, while Mario Monti, the former PM and so-called technocrat, received only 9% , enough to be a decisive factor in the search for a historical compromise.

Obviously Italy is heading toward a total gridlock. Everyone agrees that new elections may come as soon as one or two years from now.

What are the practical results of the vote?

As far as Italy’s relation with the European Union almost two thirds of the voters want a more independent stand when facing the EU and Germany, Grillo is strongly anti-Europe, just like the Lega Nord, and Berlusconi has openly criticized Germany’s dictates and forced economic austerity measures. Most Italians moderates, young and old, favor Italy’s presence in the EU community, but they dislike the oppressive German and French power in all aspects of legislation and economic policies. There is no doubt that a new era has dawn in Italy.

Investors are analyzing the outcome of the Italian election. The people’s choices may trigger a sell-off in stocks and bonds and renew concerns about the euro if the three main parties cannot bring a stable government.

The rise of anti-establishment comedian Beppe Grillo’s 5-Star Movement and the impressive comeback of center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi have cast doubt over the leftist coalition (led by Mr. Bersani) ability to govern even if he forms a coalition with the centrist party of outgoing technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti.

But next question for the market will be how viable the winning coalition will be and whether it is able to continue with much-needed reforms, first of all the way parties are allowed to participate in the general elections.

Grillo has indicated a will to change the outdated and often confusing election laws. And while both left and conservatives have often agreed on changing the electoral system, they could never find a compromise.

The second most important reform is the one related to taxation and finance. Italy needs a great input of fresh capital, but the austerity measures mandated by Germany limits greatly the options of past and future Governments.

The yield gap between 10-year Italian and German bonds stood at around 288 basis points on Friday, nearly half levels seen in late 2011, when Monti was called in to bring Italy back from the brink of a possible default that would have sunk the EU. But Italian borrowing costs are still far too high, Italian bankers and businesses say.

It is true that Italy needs political stability and a more business-friendly economy, but it also true that a large spread is unsustainable. It must go down or it will creates serious problems for the Italian economy. Analysts are forecasting Italy’s economy to shrink by 1 percent in 2013, worst than previously expected and a painful reminder of the challenges awaiting Monti’s successor.

Expect a new general election within 12 to 18 months should the new government turn out to be a very weak one. But the current result demonstrate the Italians’ unwillingness to endure more tough reforms.

The decisions Italy’s government makes over the next several months promise to have a deep impact on whether Europe can decisively stem its financial crisis. As the Eurozone’s second-largest economy, its problems can rattle market confidence in the whole bloc and analysts have worried it could fall back into old habits.

The only hope is that Italian politicians, many now in their early 30’s, will find a common ground, focusing on programs and on goals, forgetting ideological differences, and by example lead a group of European nations like Spain, Greece, Portugal and others out of the economic and political crisis and in a new, more egalitarian relationship within the European Community.

Florida has the most schools offering the International Baccalaureate but is it worth it?

In 1971, the United Nations International School (UNIS) became the first school authorized “to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) and awarded the first IB degree in the world.”

As of February 21, 2013 there are 1,403 International Baccalaureate (IB) World Schools in the U.S. which offer one or more IB programs. Florida leads the way in schools offering IB Programs with 144 or over 10% of U.S. IB World Schools.

Debra K. Niwa has issued her annual update on IB World Schools in the U.S. With 91% of IB programs funded by public dollars, Niwa notes, “Public financing of IB World Schools begs the attention of anyone who values education and cares about how taxpayer money is spent in the public school system. Local, state, and federal taxpayer dollars are covering public school costs for programs offered by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) — an entity under Swiss law that claims non-profit status. IBO is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland; a regional office opened in Bethesda, Maryland in 2010.

Niwa presents in her annual update the following red-flag issues surrounding IB programs:

IB programs add unnecessary costs to school operations (these vary with each IB program). IB school fees, new staff positions (non-teaching and teaching), student registration and subject fees, student assessment fees, and periodic program evaluation visit fees, to name a few, Plus, IB requires training (that incurs participant fees, travel, meals, and lodging expenses) at destinations that are out-of-state or out-of-country for most attendees. “It costs an average of about $8,000 to train a staff member.” Thereafter, re-training comes every few years as IBO changes curriculum.

The “pre-university” two-year IB Diploma Program (DP) is not cost effective (nor are the other IB programs). IB DP “candidates” are often a tiny portion of a high school’s total enrollment. In 2009, a proponent in Virginia “shared statistics that indicate 72% of IB Programs have less than 10 diploma candidates each year and that was the norm.”6 Nevertheless, substantial six-digit amounts accommodate the IB DP. In July 2011, Tucson Unified School District revealed its annual costs for the Diploma Program at one high school. For the first two IB graduating classes, TUSD spent more than $1 million the first year (2009-2010) and $800,000 the second year (2010-2011). Five students received the IB Diploma in that period.

The IB Middle Years Program (MYP) — for ages 11 to 15 — is poor preparation for the DP. IB teachers criticize that “MYP suddenly stops in Grade 10. There is no articulation between MYP and IB Diploma” and “The MYP . . . doesn’t really provide the opportunity to hone the skills needed to be successful DP students.” What about the many MYP graduates who don’t qualify for the Diploma Program? In 2012 the IBO will allow IB DP schools to offer an IB “Career-related Certificate” for students ages 16 to 19 years old.

The IB Primary Years Program (PYP) – for 3 to 12-year-olds — is bad for academic support. As staff at PYP schools have remarked: “. . . the IB program has NO place in elementary school. It takes too much emphasis off learning the basics, it takes the teachers out of the classroom for too many meetings, and it takes our administrators on expensive cross-country business trips.” “ . . . there was so much time spent on the IB stuff and time taken away from the true academics — very frustrating when you have . . . students that you need to help on academics but can’t.”

IB changes education’s purpose, content, and teaching methods — predictably supporting the agendas of the IBO which, since 1970, has been an official NGO of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Strip away the IB marketing puffery and suddenly the IB drivel about “rigor”, “international mindedness” and “quality education for a better world” become nothing more than phrases that obscure the integration of non-academic goals that support United Nations* issues, such as Agenda 21 sustainable development.

Niwa asks parents, Florida taxpayers and Florida’s political leadership this question: How deeply does IB reach into the public school system in your state?

In the case of Florida it runs deeply starting in 2005 with the first IB program created under former Governor Jeb Bush.

ABOUT DEBRA K. NIWA

Debra K. Niwa

Debbie Niwa began researching education issues five years ago when she started questioning the policies and changes occurring in the school district in Tucson, Arizona that her son was enrolled in. She has devoted thousands of hours researching local, state, federal, and global school reform issues, as well as actively advocating for academic quality in education. Since 1980, she has worked professionally on the design and production of publications as well as the gamut of other graphic design projects.

Bondi versus Scott on expanding Medicaid in Florida

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board is all in support of Governor Rick Scott’s decision to expand Medicaid in Florida. In an opinion column titled “Medicaid numbers add up: Legislature should join Scott in recognizing the benefits of expansion” the editorial board states, “Federal aid hard to pass up.”

That statement sums  up the issue. The question is does Florida want more citizens on federal aid? What benefit is that to Florida taxpayers?

The opinion column states, “The Legislature — which convenes its annual session March 5 — will ultimately decide whether to expand eligibility for the program to cover all Floridians under age 65 who earn up to 138 percent of the poverty rate. That’s $29,700 for a family of four; currently, coverage in Florida is limited to 100 percent of the poverty level, a shockingly low income of $22,350 for a family of four.”

What the Sarasota Herald-Tribune fails to say is why salaries in Florida are so low. The reason is because Florida jobs are low paying.

According to the South Florida Business Journal, “The average annual salary for Floridians ranks No. 32 nationwide, according to a new On Numbers analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Floridians have an average annual salary of $40,750, or an hourly wage of $19.59, as of May 2011. A rather low ranking considering the Sunshine State ranks fourth for the highest number of employees at about 7.2 million.”

The Sunshine Review reports, “According to 2008 Census data, the state of Florida and local governments in the state employed a total of 1,049,028 people. Of those employees, 832,252 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $3,302,955,436 per month and 216,776 were part-time employees paid $213,151,877 per month. More than 51% of those employees, or 539,321 employees, were in education or higher education.”

The average annual net pay of government employees in Florida is just over $47,624.

Working for government, at the expense of Florida taxpayers, and expanding Medicaid benefits, thereby expanding number of government employees, is considered by many a mistake.

Among those coming out in opposition include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. According to BizPac Review, “Bondi said she ‘firmly disagrees’ with Scott’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage under the Obamacare legislation, but the final outcome will go before the Florida Legislature and she feels they will make the right call. “This could really devastate our state,” said Bondi. “And cost a tremendous amount of money.”

The numbers do not add up. As the Sarasota Herald-Tribune notes, “During the first three years of the expansion, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the state’s cost of broadening coverage.”

According to the federal Affordable Care Act, the federal contribution would be about 90 percent after those three years. The Agency for Health Care Administration found that Florida would save $3.9 million in the next fiscal year by rejecting Medicaid expansion — but it would pass up $2.1 billion in federal funding. While the state’s share would increase over time, by the 2020-2021 budget year Florida’s cost would be $487 million, compared with a federal contribution of $4.2 billion.”

So, Florida loses money as time drags on, assuming of course that Congress keeps its word and funds Medicaid according to the law.

Killing charitable deductions slowly – the sunset of PEP and Pease

Roberta Flack’s 1973 hit tune “Killing Me Softly with His Song” comes to mind when writing about how the tax codes have dramatically changed effective January 1, 2013. Two of the major changes are charitable deductions under the Personal Exemption Phase-out (PEP) and the Pease deduction cap under 26 US Code § 68.

According to the Indiana University Foundation:

As of January 1, 2013, itemized deductions will be limited in several ways:

The Pease limitations will reduce the amount of certain itemized deductions high-income taxpayers can claim: either 3% of the taxpayer’s income over the modified adjusted gross income limit, or up to 80% of certain deductions (whichever amount is less).

The taxpayer threshold for claiming medical expenses as an itemized deduction will be increased from 7.5% of AGI to 10% (though individuals age 65 and older will continue to use the 7.5% threshold from 2013 to 2016).

As was the case in 2012, the option to deduct state and local sales taxes rather than income taxes will not be available.

Kelsey Snell from Politico wrote in December, 2012, “Tax rate increases aren’t the only way in which Democrats are aiming to collect more tax dollars from the rich — they’re also looking to resurrect a dormant pair of oddly named laws that targeted the wealthy for decades.”

Snell states:

Known as PEP and Pease, they’re a little bit like the original “Buffett rule.”

The Personal Exemption Phase-out, or PEP, and the “Pease” deduction cap — named for the late Rep. Don Pease (D-Ohio) — were introduced in the 1990s to try to help balance the budget by getting the rich to chip in more. PEP reduced the value of exemptions for high-income earners by as much as 2 percent for every $2,500 earned over a set amount. Pease limited itemized deductions for the wealthy.

Read more.

According to Barbara E. Little, an associate with New Jersey based Schnader Attorneys at Law in their Tax and Wealth Management Department and the Trust and Estates, Nonprofit and Higher Education Practice Groups.:

On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed into law the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” (ATRA). In this Alert, we explore the good news and the bad news that charitably minded individuals received with the passage of ATRA.

Bad News

Let’s start by getting the bad news out of the way. ATRA revived the itemized deduction limitations, also known as the “Pease Amendment” (named after Congressman Donald Pease, the amendment’s proposer in the 1990s). Under Pease, total itemized deductions are reduced by 3 percent not to exceed 80 percent, of the amount the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income exceeds the threshold amount – $250,000 for single filers, $275,000 for heads of household and $300,000 for married filing jointly (indexed for inflation). Charitable deductions are included in the limitation equation.

Depending on the taxpayer’s income level and other deductions, this limitation could adversely affect charitable contributions. For example, consider a married couple with $60,000 of itemized deductions ($25,000 mortgage interest, $10,000 state taxes and $25,000 charitable deduction) and an adjusted gross income of $450,000. The couple’s adjusted gross income exceeds the threshold by $150,000. The couple must reduce their total itemized deductions by 3 percent of $150,000 or $4,500.

The other bad news is that two charitable deductions were not extended: 1) contributions of book inventories to public schools; and 2) corporate contributions of computer inventory.

Good News

One piece of good news is that under ATRA, once again, individuals 70½ years of age or older may make tax-free IRA distributions to charitable organizations. The maximum distribution amount is $100,000 per individual, per tax year.

Speaking with a Florida donor to local charitable organizations he bemoans the fact that under ATRA his personal exemptions are eaten up by other, primarily tax deductions, thus limiting his charitable giving. He is concerned that ATRA is written so that non-profit organizations, many of which are faith based, will be irreparably harmed. With the passage of ATRA the new charity will be government and its ability to redistribute tax revenues to those non-profits it see as fit for public donations.

The new normal is “government charity” at every level.

Listen to Roberta Flack singing Killing Me Softly:

[youtube_sc url=”http://youtu.be/4mpqXu0z3wU”]

What impact does inflation have on the minimum wage?

The Dollar Times has posted on its website an inflation calculator.  The calculator, “[W]ill tell you the relative buying power of a dollar in the United States between any two years from 1914-2013. It will also calculate the rate of inflation during the time period you choose.”

The calculator determines the value of a dollar using the Consumer Price Index from December of the previous year. All calculations are approximate.

The Dollar Times offers these facts: In 2007, the inflation rate was 4.08%. This was higher than any year since 1990. In 2008, the inflation rate was 0.09%, the lowest rate since 1954.

Using the calculator Beth Colvin from Sarasota Patriots provided WDW with these facts:

Minimum wage in 1955 was $0.75 which was equivalent to $4.39 today. Minimum wage in 2012 was $7.25 which was equivalent to $4.97 in 1955. Minimum wage in 2013 will be $9.00.

$1.00 in 1955 had the same buying power as $8.60 in 2013.

Therefore $9.00 today represents buying power of $77.40 in 1950.

So go to the Inflation Calculator and have some fun seeing how the value of your dollar and buying power has changed over time.

The President, the Senate and Media are in Denial

What we are experiencing is an unprecedented phenomenon in America. Almost 89 million people have left the labor force.

The Bureau of  Labor Statistics released jobs numbers for January Friday showing that non-farm payroll employment increased by 157,000 and the unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent. Lost in these headline numbers was another rise in the number of people not in the labor force. This number now stands at a staggering 89 million, up from 80.5 million when President Obama took office. This means that there are currently 8.5 million more Americans not in the labor force than just four years ago.

Forget all the other numbers. This continued explosion of people not in the labor force should be tremendously concerning as it represents an obstacle for the government to ever balance the budget without drastically raising taxes on those still working.

Instead of prioritizing a solution to  our economic problem,  the President and Senate dwell on political issues  such as ‘immigration’, and ‘Gun Control’ which may be important but doesn’t represent an existential threat to America.

America’s unsustainable spending and deficit is continuing unaddressed and unabated by the President, the Senate and the media. The lack of discourse is surreal. The President is in a state of denial when he says “We have no spending problem”. If this was true how does he explain almost $17 trillion dollars in debt which is estimated to exceed $20 trillion dollars in the next four years? The House and Senate just approved a continuance of the ‘Debt Ceiling’ until mid may 2013. In that short time our debt will increase by almost another half trillion dollars.

Instead of finding a solution to bring American’s back into the work force, the President’s solution is to expand welfare and dependency. No one is asking who will pay for all of this with less workers in America each year.