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Friday, March 12, 2010

Behind Every Story ...

... there's the real story.

This shocking Associated Press headline is ... shocking:

Mass school closures approved in Kansas City, Mo.

And the accompanying story is even more shocking:
Facing potential bankruptcy, the board that governs the once flush-with-cash Kansas City school district is taking the unusual and contentious step of shuttering almost half its schools.

Administrators say the closures are necessary to keep the district from plowing through what little is left of the $2 billion it received as part of a groundbreaking desegregation case. The Kansas City school board narrowly approved the plan to close 29 out of 61 schools Wednesday night at a meeting packed with angry parents.

Although other districts nationwide are considering closures as the recession ravages their budgets, Kansas City's plan is striking.

Kansas City Councilwoman Sharon Sanders Brooks said the closure plan had prompted some housing developers to consider backing out of projects.

"The urban core has suffered white flight post-the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. the Board of Education, blockbusting by the real estate industry, redlining by banks and other financial institutions, retail and grocery store abandonment," Brooks said to applause from the standing-room-only crowd.

"And now the public education system is aiding and abetting in the economic demise of our school district," she said. "It is shameful and sinful." [link]
White flight.  Blockbusting.  Redlining.  Abandonment.  The only thing left out is the name George W. Bush.

Oh, and the fact that the city that is closing 48% of its schools has lost 76% of its student enrollment.

This from Associated Content:
The problem with Kansas City schools is that they grew too big, too fast. [T]he school district built many new buildings in the 1960s and enrollment peaked at 75,000 students. Today, a mere 18,000 students are enrolled in Kansas City schools, the same level as in 1889, according to the Kansas City Star.
Not mentioned anywhere is the real reason(s) for the debacle that has become the Kansas City school system.  It's not the economy.  It's not  Brown v. the Board of Education (which is preposterous).  It's not redlining or blockbusting, which by any measure were marginal (and illegal) grounds for the student count to plummet.  And it had nothing to do with George W. Bush.

Besides the fact that demographics have changed and movement of households has been into the suburbs for decades, there's this one-word explanation for the District's demise:


More specifically, federal court-ordered busing.

And even more specifically, the takeover of the Kansas City school system by the federal government (actually by a federal district court, however that was allowed to happen), one that administered a judge's slash-and-burn desegregation plan that has resulted in the precipitate decline in enrollment, performance standards, and academic achievement.

Oh, and it has achieved a singular success - the busing plan that was implemented by some liberal do-gooder judge to bring black kids and white kids together and make both prosper has had the opposite effects.  As the New York Times puts it, student enrollment, which it pegs at 17,400, is now made up of "mostly black and impoverished" children.

Smooth move, Uncle Sammie.

Lessons to be learned?  (1) There's always more to the story than the mainstream press is willing to give you.

(2) The federal government is preparing to do for your health care system what it did for to the school kids in Kansas City.

(3) For the love of God, don't let them Kansas City us.

(4) A history lesson, provided by the Cato Institute:
In 1985 a federal district judge took partial control over the troubled Kansas City, Missouri, School District (KCMSD) on the grounds that it was an unconstitutionally segregated district with dilapidated facilities and students who performed poorly. In an effort to bring the district into compliance with his liberal interpretation of federal law, the judge ordered the state and district to spend nearly $2 billion over the next 12 years to build new schools, integrate classrooms, and bring student test scores up to national norms.

It didn't work. When the judge, in March 1997, finally agreed to let the state stop making desegregation payments to the district after 1999, there was little to show for all the money spent. Although the students enjoyed perhaps the best school facilities in the country, the percentage of black students in the largely black district had continued to increase, black students' achievement hadn't improved at all, and the black-white achievement gap was unchanged.

Years later Judge Clark, an unpretentious man who wore cowboy boots on the bench, would remark that in all his years as a judge he had never seen a prison in as bad shape as the Kansas City schools.
That last comment made by the man who single-handedly made the school system worse than a prison.

Had the poor children simply been left alone ...

- - -

I wonder why Kansas City Councilwoman Sharon Sanders Brooks didn't mention busing in her diatribe as being a reason for the school district's demise.

Meet Kansas City Councilwoman Sharon Sanders Brooks:

A Tectonic Shift

If they mean it, this could be the biggest thing the Republican Party has done for itself since Newt foisted upon it the Contract With America:
House Republicans push earmark ban
By Jake Sherman, Politico

House Republicans on Thursday agreed to forgo earmarks in all 2011 spending bills, a broad measure meant to show a willingness to clean up Washington and rein in federal spending.

The measure passed by a voice vote after a two-hour marathon session behind closed doors in a conference room in the Capitol Visitors Center. Even the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, Jerry Lewis of California, offered his support of the measure. [link]
Of course there is this escape hatch for those Republicans who are comfortable with minority status:
But implicit in the meeting, several members said, is that the move is primarily optical. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) offered a full-throated rebuke of any ban of earmarks. House members can ask their senators to earmark projects for them.
Maybe the Tea Party movement is having its desired effect.

Maybe not.

Death Wish

This guy really didn't want to live past the age of thirty anyway:

Where once this dude had 33 vertebrae, he now has one big crushed one.

The More Things Change ...

Have you seen those new men's body wash commercials on TV?  Apparently soap is out.  So 20th century.

This is how men keep from being less than men now:

We've come a long way, baby. 

Or not.  This is a Proctor & Gamble ad from 1934.  Click on the image to enlarge it:

We make progress.  They're putting it out in liquid form now .  That is progress, right?

News From The Nanny State

Okay, I understand the argument made that supports the banishment of cigarettes from public places. I don't think research bears out the second-hand smoke contention, but that's for another day.  And everyone is accepting of the premise, so why beat a dead horse.

But to all the do-gooders out there who think it's a defensible position, will you also argue that the New York Assemblyman who wants to ban salt is trying to prevent second-hand salt?

The two are related.

It's not about preventing anything.  It's a bunch of ninnies who can't mind their own business.

"But ... but ... but ..."

When Taxes Go Up ...

... taxes go down.

I showcased the other day the no-longer-startling report that showed federal tax revenue to have climbed dramatically after the Bush tax cuts passed in in 2003.  That's right.  Tax rates were cut and tax revenue went up.  Just as the (non-leftist) experts predicted they would.  (For those trying to figure out how that could happen, think "growth.")

Well, today we learn that the opposite holds true as well.  Just ask all those millionaires who changed their primary residence for tax purposes from Maryland to their previously classified home-away-from-home in Florida in order to avoid higher taxes:

Maryland's Mobile Millionaires
Income tax rates go up, rich taxpayers vanish.
Wall Street Journal editorial

We reported in May that after passing a millionaire surtax nearly one-third of Maryland's millionaires had gone missing, thus contributing to a decline in state revenues. The politicians in Annapolis had said they'd collect $106 million by raising its income tax rate on millionaire households to 6.25% from 4.75%. In cities like Baltimore and Bethesda, which apply add-on income taxes, the top tax rate with the surcharge now reaches as high as 9.3%—fifth highest in the nation.

the state comptroller's office now has the final tax return data for 2008, the first year that the higher tax rates applied. The number of millionaire tax returns fell sharply to 5,529 from 7,898 in 2007, a 30% tumble. The taxes paid by rich filers fell by 22%, and instead of their payments increasing by $106 million, they fell by some $257 million.

Yes, a big part of that decline results from the recession that eroded incomes, especially from capital gains. But there is also little doubt that some rich people moved out or filed their taxes in other states with lower burdens. One-in-eight millionaires who filed a Maryland tax return in 2007 filed no return in 2008. Some died, but the others presumably changed their state of residence. (Hint to the class warfare crowd: A lot of rich people have two homes.)

A Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysis of federal tax return data on people who migrated from one state to another found that Maryland lost $1 billion of its net tax base in 2008 by residents moving to other states. That's income that's now being taxed and is financing services in Virginia, South Carolina and elsewhere.

Montgomery County, outside of Washington, D.C., is Maryland's wealthiest and was especially clobbered, losing nearly $4 billion in taxable income in 2008, with some 80% of those lost dollars from high-income returns.

Thanks in part to its soak-the-rich theology, Maryland still has a $2 billion deficit and Montgomery County is $760 million in the red. [link]
Taxes went up.  Tax revenue went down.  The shock.

Yet the neanderthals amongst us can still be heard chanting "tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the ..."

Idiots.  They're all idiots.