The Skinny

NO ACCOUNTING: We heard Supervisor Mike Boyd on his radio show last Monday, April 17, railing against our heavy tax burden. Boyd trotted out May 3 as the Tax Foundation's estimate of Tax Freedom Day -- the day by which the average American has allegedly made enough money to pay his or her total tax bill -- federal, state and local -- for the year and can "start spending money on themselves," as the Tax Foundation's website puts it.

Boyd might want to send an aide over to the downtown library to photocopy an article from the April 27, 1998, edition of The New Republic, which debunked the underlying figures used by the Tax Foundation to calculate Tax Freedom Day. The article, "Taxing The Truth," written by Robert Greenstein, Iris Law and Isaac Shapiro of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, took issue with the Tax Foundation's accounting methods.

According to the Tax Foundation, the biggest single chunk of your annual taxes comes in the form of income taxes, both state and federal, that account for some 40 percent of your total tax bill -- roughly estimated at 33 percent for your federal bill and 7 percent for the state.

But the financial whizzes who come up with that figure arrive at their average erroneously, by dividing the estimated total paid in federal, state and local taxes and dividing that by the nation's total income. As the authors of "Taxing The Truth" note, "In our progressive tax structure, the wealthy pay a considerably greater share of their income than the middle class or the poor do.

"As a result, figuring an average tax rate in this manner exaggerates the typical taxpayer's bill. Consider, for example, five families: four of them have incomes of $25,000 and pay $1,250 in federal income taxes (5 percent of their income), while the other one makes $500,000 and pays $125,000 (or 25 percent of its income). The Tax Foundation's method would portray the 'average family' in this group as paying a hefty chunk of its income -- 22 percent -- in federal income taxes. The foundation would divide the $130,000 in total income tax payments these families made by their $600,000 in total income. But the 'average' here is hardly typical: four of the five families pay just 5 percent of their income in federal individual income tax, not 22 percent."

The article cites other math tricks the Tax Foundation depends on to increase the apparent tax burden, which for average taxpayers is, by CBPP estimates, closer to 26 to 30 percent, not the 34.5 percent the Tax Foundation is claiming this year.

And, it should be noted, despite the waste, fraud and abuse in government, taxpayers do get something back for their tax bill: roads, schools, fire protection, a halfway decent justice system, a strong national defense and a whole lot more. It's not as if they're just setting that money on fire.

Boyd (who will doubtlessly be joined by other members of media, who will parrot the Tax Foundation's bogus figures) also asked listeners for examples of waste in government. We'd nominate the hefty $52,000-a-year (plus bennies, including a county car) that he's currently pulling down while spending his mornings stammering through his talk show four days a week. That shows real contempt for the taxpayers who put Boyd in office, mistakenly assuming he'd actually show an interest in the job they elected him to do.

UNBALANCED AUDIT: All of the above is not to say the Internal Revenue Service, whose abuses have been well catalogued elsewhere, is perfect. Far from it -- and we're appalled by the latest disgraceful news that the IRS has targeted more poor taxpayers than rich ones for audits. What kind of policy is that? Even if they bust low-income Americans for cheating on their taxes, what kind of revenue are they going to recover?

We suspect the real reason for this chickenshit shift has something to do with the fact that wealthy taxpayers can defend themselves with big-shot attorneys, while poor schmoes are at the mercy of the IRS beancounters.

FUDGING AT LA CIMA: On the evening of April 10, hundreds of parents and students packed the Multi-Purpose Room at La Cima Middle School just hours after teacher Kathy Morris was reported shot by an unknown assailant. While the shooting would turn out to have been self-inflicted, nervous parents didn't know it at the time and were obviously quite concerned about safety issues at the northwest-side school.

Giving credit where it's due, the school's administration, led by Principal Phil Woodall, did a spectacular job in the minutes and hours directly after the shooting. An emergency plan was implemented and followed flawlessly.

However, at the meeting, Woodall and Sheriff's lieutenant Terry Parish continuously ducked questions, the correct answers to which might have allowed several hundred people in attendance to get a decent night's sleep that night.

Questions concerning the identity and/or whereabouts of the shooter were met with a steady stream of "We don't want to jeopardize the ongoing investigationÉ" answers.

But then one parent asked how concerned she should be that perhaps the gunman, in making his escape, ditched the gun somewhere in the school or in the desert area surrounding the school. Parish answered this with, "Without jeopardizing the ongoing investigation, let me just say that that shouldn't be a big concern of yours at this time."

Some took that to mean that the gun had been found, but the shooter was still on the loose. Most, however, remained concerned and several other questions along those lines were asked and rebuffed.

Our EMT friends tell us that the wound would have been identifiable as self-inflicted almost immediately and that her story would have quickly unraveled from there.

What did the deputies know and when did they know it? And if they did have most or all of the answers before that tension-packed meeting, couldn't they have at least let the people know not to worry about the gun?

SEE JANE RUN? So dazzling, so wonderfully exciting, so thoroughly renewed is Jane Amari's Arizona Daily Star that her Pulitzer timetable has been moved up. Way up. After a few short months -- five -- the Carrot-Topped Crusader is being touted as editor of Pulitzer's once-great but now lurching and groping Saint Louis Post-Dispatch.

Amari, who blew in from Delaware to recast the Star, is among those identified in a St. Louis Business Journal article this week on successors to Post-Dispatch editor Cole Campbell.

Star staffers say that Pulitzer big shots think Amari has done such bang-up work that the grooming period has been accelerated. Saint Louis needs her.

Recently recast with some nebulous "public journalism" mission, the Post-Dispatch has seen steadily declining circulation. It's been propped up by the millions of dollars that the cash-cow Star sends from Tucson to St. Louis each year.

MISTAKES WERE MADE: The state School Facilities Board did not kill TUSD's construction requests, as The Skinny incorrectly reported last week. The board, meeting in Yuma of all places, was primed to reject TUSD's proposals and requests. But even with a motion to deny on the table, TUSD Board member Rosalie Lopez asked the state board to reconsider and to put off the decision to give TUSD time to present its case on its unique problems brought on by Title I and the desegregation order from federal court. The state board scurried for an executive session and then voted without dissent to grant the delay.

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment

Tucson Weekly

Best of Tucson Weekly

Tucson Weekly