Bracket Distractions — Arts and Business and Politics Sunday, Mar 16 2014
actors theatre and Bill Lamb and Business and casino gambling and Cordish Co. and Courier-Journal and Crime and Culture and Dave Barry and Education and El Toro and hemp and I Was There and Jack Conway and Joe Gerth and Les Waters and Louisville and LoUnique and Mayor Greg Fischer and media and Neil Budde and Non-Profits and Omni Hotel and Parenting and Politics and Rand Paul and Rick and Smoking Ban and Sport and Stacy Griggs and University of Louisville 3:02 pm
It’s always good to have some friends who don’t pay attention to the same things you do — it offers perspective. What’s important to you (whether U of L will be a #2 seed or #3 seed in the NCAA bracket) is like speaking a foreign language, I’m guessing, to someone like Les Waters, the artistic director at Actors’ Theatre and my guest on the Rusty Satellite Show this week.
On the other hand, I suspect that my other guest, El Toro exec Stacy Griggs, can probably tell you how many points Russ Smith got (42) against Houston in the AAC Tournament. I asked neither Les or Stacy about basketball, so I’m guessing here. We all seem to know a lot about something, which is what makes finding guests for the Rusty show kinda fun.
When I was the editor of the NCAA Basketball Championship game programs, for instance, I knew the names of the head coaches and the nicknames of every Division I team. When I was syndicating a TV show to stations across the country, I knew the call letters and network affiliation of every station in the U.S. At WKU 30 years ago, I learned a lot about constellations (those 3 stars in a row are Orion’s belt). There are a lot of experts on college basketball, or at least you would think so, if you listen to local talk radio or watch ESPN.
But being able to talk with authority about the Blue Jays (Creighton) and Shockers (Wichita State, the only unbeaten team going into the tourney) won’t help you fill out your brackets with accuracy. That’s what makes it fun. Remember that you are as likely to pick a 14 seed upsetting a 3 seed as Digger Phelps. And none of those so-called experts will pick a perfect bracket (even with a billion dollars on the line).
I know that memorizing lists of trivial knowledge is great for impressing folks at cocktail parties. That’s because I used to recite Kentucky Derby winners that I memorized by studying Derby glasses. Attorney general Jack Conway knows the same trick.
Which is all to say that even though a LOT of people are focused today on the NCAA Final Four tournament field, I know several who wouldn’t recognize Rick Pitino if they saw him in line at a drug store (which I’ve done, btw).
I am among those interested in the tournament, though, and will be running a bracket contest at work, like a lot you will be. And having watched Pitino’s team all season, I don’t see the Cards losing short of the Final Four. It may be the most fun-to-watch group ever assembled around here, or anywhere. After winning the AAC title, Pitino told a TV audience he thinks his team should be a #1 seed, and the world of basketball watchers learned a new term — Pitino and the pundits now love saying the Cards passed the “eye test” (C-J headline: “Pitino’s pupils should pass NCAA eye test”).
Next Thursday and Friday, when U of L and UK will play their first-round games, Louisville viewers will find ways to tune in and make our city #1 in the country — for TV sets tuned to hoops. Office productivity will hit a low that won’t be matched until Oaks Day, and you’ll still have hope that you can win that office bracket pool, even if you had Arizona going all the way and they lose to Siena.
I’m rambling, I know, perhaps thinking of Dave Barry’s appearance at the Library Wednesday night. But here are the top stories, outside of basketball, discussed on the Rusty show this week:
Omni Hotel Downtown — The Omni could transform downtown, and is reason for optimism — bringing a long-needed grocery downtown along with the luxury rooms and apartments. The downside — a key player is the Cordish Cos., which was central to a huge scandal over a loan from the city at Fourth Street Live! a few years back. The block – between 2nd and 3rd and Ali and Liberty — was once talked about as the ideal place for what became the Yum! Center. Let’s credit Mayor Fischer (for now) for bringing it all together.
Among other things state lawmakers won’t accomplish is a smoking ban – the list of ideas that aren’t getting done include casino gambling, local option sales tax, hemp, and marijuana legalization. The state session has produced plenty of talk about guns in bars, guns in schools, abortion restrictions and whether Kentucky students should be taught science or creationism.
Republicans Courting African-Americans – I’d compare Kentucky Republicans courting votes in the West End to sending Obama supporters to Leslie County in the eastern Kentucky coalfields. (Obama got 8.75% of the 2012 vote there). But Rand Paul’s support of voting rights for convicted felons and other key issues important to African-Americans could sway some votes there.
For next week — Former Rusty guest and C-J editor Neil Budde would be glad to know I took the paper up on a limited-time-free offer and read three stories making news this week — Joe Gerth’s column correctly points out that Jack Conway is not required by law to appeal that same-sex marriage ruling, and he blasts (without saying his name) WDRB’s Bill Lamb for “huffing” about it. U of L’s administration has taken to paying off former employees with lavish, and undeserved, payoffs simply to keep their mouths shut. And a special report reveals that Kentucky’s drug abuse problem, as it relates to babies being born addicted to drugs, is exploding. Few in our city will find sympathy for the two women profiled in Laura Ungar’s piece — both pregnant with multiple children born with their mothers’ addictions.
Republicans Oppose Earned Income Tax Credit With Selective Use Of “Fraud” Friday, Jan 31 2014
In trying to find common ground with the radical, selfish modern Republican Party President Obama hoped they could agree on what is usually a favorite Republican pastime. Giving out tax breaks. That is why he proposed expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for working Americans:
Obama had cast an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) - which helps working households to the tune of about $60 billion each year - as an area where the two parties could find common ground, even name-checking a similar proposal from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Tuesday night.
It seemed like a really good idea at a time when American families are seeing their wages stagnate if they even have a breadwinner who can find a job and their bills rise through the roof if they can even afford their own home. Indeed, one quick look at the Earned Income Tax Credit shows just how much good it can do for working Americans:
In the 2012 tax year, working families with children that have annual incomes below about $36,900 to $50,300 (depending on marital status and the number of dependent children) may be eligible for the federal EITC. Also, working-poor people without children that have incomes below about $13,900 ($19,200 for a married couple) can receive a very small EITC. In the 2010 tax year, the most recent year for which the data are available, some 27 million working families and individuals received the EITC.
Research indicates that families mostly use the EITC to pay for necessities, repair homes, maintain vehicles that are needed to commute to work, and in some cases, obtain additional education or training to boost their employability and earning power.
The EITC reduces poverty directly by supplementing the earnings of low-wage workers. There has been broad bipartisan agreement that a two-parent family with two children with a full-time, minimum-wage worker should not have to raise its children in poverty. At the federal minimum wage's current level, such a family can move above the poverty line only if it receives the EITC as well as SNAP (food stamp) benefits.
Moving out of poverty is particularly important for young children. Research has found that lifting low-income families' income when a child is young not only tends to improve a child's immediate well-being, but is associated with better health, more schooling, more hours worked, and higher earnings in adulthood. A bourgeoning literature links EITC receipt to improved school performance, suggesting that the social cost of the EITC is substantially less than the immediate direct budget cost.
Ah, but therein lies the hitch. You see, if we were talking about doling out billions in Corporate Welfare for low-road employers that refuse to pay a fair wage and are fighting a minimum wage increase it would be just fine with Republicans. If we were talking about giving billions in tax breaks to selfish millionaire who hide their profits overseas all would be sunshine and apple pie. But you see, we are talking about giving a break to the very folks that Republicans hate the most.
Working Americans. Americans that are working harder while their wages fall and they struggle to make ends meet. Americans that are losing sleep every night worrying about how they are going to feed their children, pay the power bill, make the mortgage, the car payment, the insurance and somehow have something left for their families to get some kind of enjoyment out of life. Yes, Americans like me and you.
Talk about giving them a break and what do you get from Republicans?:
"My biggest concern is just the amount of fraud," said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), a senior House Ways and Means Committee member. "Too much of it is not going to the families that actually need it. And again, our biggest goal is to get people into better jobs so they don't have to rely on the Earned Income Tax Credit.
But of course if it is their millionaire buddies and contributors fraudulently stashing money overseas to avoid paying taxes on it, Republicans are all for fraud:
On Friday, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution calling for a repeal of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), effectively endorsing offshore tax evasion. FATCA was passed in 2010 and requires foreign banks to report deposit information on account holders from the United States, a requirement that U.S. banks must comply with. The purpose of the law is to prevent U.S. citizens from evading taxes by stashing their money in offshore accounts. If the repeal became law, Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization, projects that the U.S. budget deficit would balloon by billions of dollars.
"It is mind-boggling that a major political party would even consider endorsing a resolution to facilitate tax evasion," said Heather Lowe, legal counsel and director of government affairs at GFI. "Tax haven secrecy is estimated to cost U.S. taxpayers $150 billion per year....Tax evasion and illegality do not belong in the official platform of any political party. FATCA is the most important reason why you can't just park your money in a Swiss bank and stop paying taxes anymore. Repealing the law would cripple the [United States] and global efforts to fight offshore tax evasion. Foreign financial institutions should not be able to harbor the illicit assets of U.S. tax evaders."
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has played a key role in preventing the proper functioning of FATCA to date. He has blocked several treaties that are necessary for the law to be fully functional. "Ratification of the agreements has widespread support. Sen. Paul should allow an up-or-down vote on the treaties," Lowe said.
Anything that helps folks that actually work though, is a non-starter for Republicans and they won't consider it without another huge giveaway for themselves and their ilk:
Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and other Republican tax writers also remain fixated on their increasingly long-shot goal of overhauling the tax code - and have suggested that any changes to the tax credit are not a priority, and would be accomplished through tax reform.
"If it's an overall look at the program, I think it's certainly worthwhile," said Camp, who acknowledged the program has benefited many taxpayers.
But a simple expansion, he said, "would not be helpful."
The saddest part is that some folks just refuse to see the festering greed that is the agenda of the modern Republican Party and will support them against their own interests even as they rot this country from the inside out. It makes it hard to decide what is the worst problem in America today. Greed or Stupidity.