William F. Buckley Jr.Maybe we could just, you know, take a break from the Murtha mess and the rivalries that underlie it -- large as they are -- and note a notable birthday, that of William F. Buckley, Jr. which date occurs this Thanskgiving.
Appropriately enough. As our brother becomes an octogenarian, some of us rosy-cheeked sexagenarians would offer thanks for the blessing of such a life and career as Bill Buckley’s.
The most flagrant offense likely to be charged to Bill Buckley, on his 80th, is that of helping generate a conservatism capable of entering into the kinds of disputes that now rage over Iraq, the Supreme Court, federal spending, federal power, etc.
. Life would unquestionably be quieter, absent our brother Bill. Also more fraught with peril and/or pure tedium. Without Buckley, without his wit and grace and brains, the dominant liberalism of post -World War II America might have washed all dissent out to sea. There would have been no conservative comeback; no Goldwater, no Reagan. The present menace to life and limb would be the Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile, instead of the jihadist suicide bomb. Our taxes would certainly be steeper, our lives more bureaucratized, our hands less free to improvise and invent.
That is because the essence of conservatism, as Bill Buckley understood and began advertising it, half a century ago, was Christian freedom as shaped by tradition. It was a proposition at odds with all the ends of human manipulation.
Manipulation, by those who understood themselves to be wise and generous at heart, was the style of the times: the product mostly of Depression times and vain, boastful science. Buckley and fellow believers in the higher freedom began as a scattered lot. Gradually they came together under his leadership and inspiration, to preach the gospel of human freedom as mediated by the spirit of Christianity.
Buckley founded National Review in 1955. In 1960, a then-18-year-old Texan with whom I am on intimate terms discovered the publication and its learned, impassioned writers; swooned dead away with passion; subscribed; read every issue at a single sitting.
National Review wasn’t just a journal -- a mass cogitation. It was an ongoing, often hilarious, argument with society’s most facile assumptions. Out in front of its readership NR shoved the expostulating, bickering, needling, wise-cracking likes of Willmoore Kendall, Russell Kirk, James Burnham, Frank Meyer, Whittaker Chambers, and the editor himself, William F. Buckley, Jr.
Some of those once-esteemed names occasion head-scratching in modern conservative purlieus. Well, they didn’t always. They inspired and invigorated. To be in those days young -- and conservative -- under such auspices and influences was very heaven. It seemed there was something after all to work for, something to fight for.
Life wasn’t a square, linoleum-floored, thermostatically controlled room with a single light bulb. It was a banqueting hall - a place, as NR showed us, for Stradivariuses, Stratocasters, or both at the same time, playing merry accompaniment for each other. It grooved. I believe that might be it: National Review grooved, after the manner of all enterprises organized around the purposes of human freedom. In the 21st century many have come to think of conservatism as a political blunt instrument: something for beating liberals over the head with on Fox News. And the variety of conservatives -- bewildering! Free-marketers, pro-lifers, "intelligent designers," "strict constructionists," Reaganites, even "W." fans! Something for everybody! Come one come all!
Well, don’t you see, that’s why they did come and still do -- because a creed of freedom lived out in gratitude to the God whose service is perfect freedom was about the richness of all life. You could speak with a modified prep school accent, like Bill Buckley; or with a Texas twang; or in a language with no resemblance to English. Still, you were conservative. And probably are now -- that is, if you prize the nobly ordered freedom depicted for so long, so ably, so engagingly by Bill Buckley.
For whose sterling gifts, O Lord, make us truly thankful.
The Texas Legislature has now been given another deadline – June 1, 2006 -- to come up with a constitutional funding system for the state’s public schools. As expected, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the current system of funding schools from local property taxes is unconstitutional.
Yet, while the Court ordered an overhaul of the tax system, it did not rule that lawmakers must order vast new spending for public education. Rather, it found not enough evidence that facilities in poor districts are underfunded by the current system that provides about $33 billion a year for public schools.
Simply put, the court ruled that the state’s control of local taxation, which requires rich districts to contribute money to poor districts, amounts to a state property tax. This is true because the current school property tax rate cap of $1.50 per $100 valuation has been reached in too many districts.
The court ruling notes that 48 percent of Texas districts, with 59 percent of the students, are taxing at the cap, and 67 percent of the districts, with 81 percent of the students, are taxing at or above $1.45.
Writing the 7-1 majority opinion, Justice Nathan Hecht notes: “The current situation has become virtually indistinguishable from one in which the State simply set an ad valorem tax rate of $1.50 and redistributed the revenue to the districts.”
He also writes:
“The tax rate cap that makes the public education funding system a state property tax is also intended to keep the system efficient. The two roles of the cap are inseparable. To remove the cap so as to allow districts meaningful discretion in setting tax rates at higher levels would be to increase the revenue disparity among the property-rich and the property-poor districts, creating the financial inefficiency that the cap is intended to prevent…The constitutional violation cannot be corrected without raising the cap on local tax rates or changing the system.”
It is clear that the system must be changed, and that is what John Sharp’s tax restructuring commission is looking into. The former comptroller, appointed to head the commission by Gov. Rick Perry, has said that businesses are willing to pay more for public schools in order to reduce the reliance on the property tax – if the system is fair. The hope is that his commission can recommend a restructured system that the Legislature can agree on.
Lawmakers couldn’t agree in the regular session earlier this year, nor in two special sessions called by Gov. Perry. But the court-imposed deadline of June 1 puts the pressure on the Legislature to unite behind a new system in time for districts to plan for the 2006-2007 school year.
Justice Hecht, in the majority opinion, recalls language of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the San Antonio ISD v. Rodriguez case, which was the first case to challenge the constitutionality of the public school finance system in Texas more than 30 years ago:
“The need is apparent for reform in tax systems which may well have relied too long and too heavily on the local property tax. And certainly innovative thinking as to public education, its methods, and its funding is necessary to assure both a higher level of quality and greater uniformity of opportunity. These matters merit the continued attention of the scholars who already have contributed much by their challenges. But the ultimate solutions must come from the lawmakers and from the democratic pressures of those who elect them.”
Wine and food pairing is far from an exact science. It is highly subjective, lends itself to experimentation and can be downright fun. Wine tastes different by itself than it does with food and sometimes, the right wine can elevate a good meal into a great meal. DallasBlog's wine consultant, Lance Storer conducts some experiments with surprising results.
Roman Kikta thinks the US needs more immigrants not less although he would like to see a selection and management process put in place first. On whole, from the viewpoint of a high-tech entrepreneur he thinks the US is missing many boats and is about to lose the race.
The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that the state's school finance system is indeed an unconsitutional defacto statewide property tax. The court, however, ruled that the system does not fail to provide for a "general diffusion of knowledge," as alleged by the plaintiffs, which represent school districts throughout the state. The court ruled 7-1, with judge Scott Brister dissenting. Judge Don Willett, who was just invested on the court this week, did not participate in the ruling.
We had technical problems with our DALLAS DEBATES section which made it impossible to link the Iraq War reference to the ongoing debate about that issue on our site. That problem is now fixed. When you hit Iraq War, it takes you to the discussion by Dallas Bloggers. Please feel free to join the debate. And, bear with us as we work through our technical problems.
We love the images of Thanksgiving Day dinner – a beautiful turkey, gleaming golden brown with a just enough moisture on the skin that you are convinced that the meat underneath is succulent and delicious.
Then you carve it.
And this is where you feel a bit like Chevy Chase in “Christmas Vacation.” The turkey lets out a huge sigh of steam, shrivels, and you gnaw on the meat like eating a piece of jerky.
It’s time for a change in approach! Sandra Lewis suggests brining your turkey this Thanksgiving to produce that moist, tender taste you long for.
Yesterday John Sharp’s Commission on Redrawing the Texas’ Tax Code met for the first time. In recruiting former Comptroller and Democrat John Sharp to head the group Gov. Perry scored a coup. Sharp is one of the sharpest at insider politics and has forgotten more about Texas government, finance and taxation than most would ever want to know.
His supporting cast amounts to a Congress of the state’s fragmented business interests. Yes, it would have been nice to see at least one person on the committee who was worried paying their heating bills this winter but this commission is about horse trading not social science. The people appointed to the Commission are people who write checks that fuel legislative campaigns and pay the lobbyists that manage Austin. If this group can agree the legislature won’t be far behind.
But getting agreement among this group will be harder than getting agreement among lawmakers. Lawmakers worry about re-election. These people are worried about real money.
“Real money” is of course what the plaintiff’s in the court battle over education funding are all about too. It isn’t about such theoretical nonsense as how much should be spent to achieve an “adequate” education. What the parents of poor kids want is the same amount of money to spend on their school districts as the richest districts get to spend. Put another way San Antonio’s Edgewood wants the same as Highland Park or they want Highland Park brought down to their level. The plaintiffs are betting the well-to-do will ante up billions. The people sitting on the Commission represent those billions.
What the Commission didn’t hear yesterday was anything new. Nor will they. You can tax income, wealth, consumption or transactions. The state can tax and redistribute or the state can let the locals do it themselves. You can tax everyone, or exempt some. That’s pretty much it.
One generally agreed to fact is that property taxes have be cut – deeply. One reason is that relative to most states Texas taxes property at onerous rates. Another reason is that home values overall have risen much faster than the incomes that pay the taxes. Another is that many people on fixed or (relatively) modest incomes get taxed out of their homes. Another is that increasingly the people who pay property taxes are not the ones with kids in public schools creating a social schism. Another is that property owners vote Republican.
But meaningful property tax relief means shifting a tax burden to someone else who doesn’t want to pick up the slack. If you replace the property tax with consumption taxes you automatically shift the tax burden from richer to poorer (Although the sales tax as administered in Texas is not very regressive). Local school district leaders fear shifting taxing power from the local to the state level will lessen local control (read their control). Business claims a “business activity tax” will kill jobs. Exxon says its plants are taxed too much. But high-tech Texas says it will wither if the tax burden shifts their way. Texas doesn’t tax trusts and the state’s richest family’s like that just fine. Of course in Texas you can’t tax income and live to tell the tail.
Economist Milton Friedman summed up all politics when he said that “if you tax something you get less of it, if you subsidize it you get more.” The central question the Commission and lawmakers need to address is what they want more of and less of: education, homeownership, consumption, jobs, software makers, or manufacturing plants? Now why would anyone worried about paying their heating bill want to spend time on a quest this hopeless?
You don't "catch" depression and you don't "catch" happiness ..... you "create" it by the "thoughts" you put into your mind. Carefully choose what you read, listen to, and the people with whom you associate.