Not liberal definition
I've now read two columns in your paper in as many days written by conservative academics seeking to define modern liberalism as something that recognizes no Second Amendment, endorses unchecked federalism, rejects due process, disavows the concept of private property and demands an all-out redistribution of wealth.
Excuse me, but where do they get their information--from within their irritable bowels?
I believe in just the opposite of all those corners they've tried to paint me into, but do believe that we ought to manage universal health care for all Americans and a few less loopholes available to corporations and the super-rich. Another place we can look is at our bloated military budget, which, face it, has developed into the world's largest jobs program. At this point we spend more than the next highest-spending nine nations combined. Does that make me a modern liberal? Maybe, but not as defined by writers Bradley Gitz and Charles Kesler.
Most of us "liberals" are center-left, and there are a heck of a lot of us out there. I think if we're not yet the majority, then we soon will be. We just want a little tweaking of a system that can be improved for the benefit of most Americans who work hard but are falling behind the way things are currently skewed.
By the way, I wonder what these academics' attitude is about tenure? Think maybe they're taking advantage of that very liberal perk?
On judicial budgets
It would have been helpful, in John Moritz's otherwise excellent article "Legislators dispute justices' spending," to know prior years' judicial budgets. If, for instance, the proposed 2020 budget of $11 million was in line with the 2018 and 2019 budgets, we might conclude that, indeed, state Rep. Bob Ballinger and state Sen. Trent Garner were further engaged in their primitive, corrupt effort to control a co-equal, independent judiciary.
We elect justices to make the rules of court, and juries made up of voters, citizens, and our neighbors decide just compensation in trials, not the Legislature. And that's as it should be.
An idea on tax reform
This year the Arkansas Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force proposed various changes to taxes on income, sales receipts, and property, among others. Despite the task force's name, however, I see hardly any true tax reforms.
You can think of taxes as tools a society can use to influence people's decisions. Put simply: Taxes discourage the thing being taxed. Sales taxes discourage consumption by increasing the cost of goods, income taxes discourage working by decreasing the marginal gain from working more hours, property taxes discourage improving the value of your home through renovations and likewise, and so on. However, these are all things we typically want to encourage. I find it odd that our current tax system--a mash-up of taxes on income, property, sales, etc.--essentially discourages these activities and increases the cost of complying with the tax law, and none of the task force's proposals seem to address that.
One oft-underutilized tax tool that could greatly simplify taxation at virtually every level of government is the Land Value Tax (LVT), a tax on unimproved land (i.e., natural resources). LVT discourages land speculation or "squatting," and encourages efficient development of land (e.g., fewer lots left vacant or relegated to parking). These qualities have prompted many towns in Pennsylvania, for example, to adopt a split-rate system where land is taxed at a greater rate than buildings.
We should go even further by shifting entirely to taxing unimproved land. A 2015 Bureau of Economic Analysis study estimates that the value of Arkansas' land is roughly $224 billion. Given that, we could meet the state's 2018 gross revenue of $6.7 billion with a 3 percent tax on land while eliminating state sales and income taxes.
Reality was far uglier
I watched a wonderful movie, Green Book, this weekend at the Rave in Little Rock. The title references the book African Americans used to find food and lodging when traveling in the South during the Jim Crow era. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, the movie depicts the horrid racism prevalent during that time.
Unfortunately, if you live in Hot Springs Village as I do, Green Book is not showing in Hot Springs or Benton. You will have to drive all the way to Little Rock to catch this must-see movie.
I can't help but wonder if the other theater owners don't want people born after 1962 to know how ugly it was for black people back then. As a native Arkansan old enough to know, the movie actually let us off easy. The reality was far uglier. Shame on us.
Hot Springs Village
Editorial on 12/06/2018
Print Headline: Letters