No proof that unions help education of students.

In his essay in the Des Moines Regiser, T.J. Foley made at least two errors in the conclusions he drew from the statistics he used in his essay opposing changes in collective bargaining as it applies to teachers.  (See link below.)

First, assuming it is true that test scores are higher in schools with unionized teachers, he provided no evidence that the existence of unions is the cause of higher test scores.  It very well may be that unions are more often present in larger cities with higher incomes and larger schools, and that the higher scores are caused by those factors rather than the fact that a union is present.

Second, assuming it is true that the average teacher in Iowa earns 7% less than median household income in Iowa, that statistic is meaningless.   Teachers are individuals and many households have more than one earner.  Comparing individuals to households is simply not valid.

It is very difficult to say whether it would be better or worse for students if teachers lose some of their collective bargaining power.  T.J. Foley’s essay did not clarify that issue.

Link:  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/abetteriowa/2017/02/09/dismantling-collective-bargaining-wont-help-todays-students/97698620/

 

Churches should not be allowed to advocate for or against candidates

I agree with The Des Moines Register editorial that the law that bans churches from endorsing specific candidates, (the Johnson Amendment), should not be repealed.  (See link below.)

Once again though, you did not make clear the difference between all tax-exempt organizations and special 501c3 organizations.  Virtually all political parties, candidate campaign committees, and special interest organizations are tax exempt – they don’t pay income taxes.  But, people who donate money to these various political organizations do not get to deduct their contributions as a “charitable” deduction on their income taxes.
On the other hand, charities, churches and educational organizations are tax exempt under a special tax code section: 501c3.  People who donate money to 501c3 organizations get a charitable tax deduction for the amount of their contribution when computing their income taxes .
Churches, and church officials can advocate all they want about issues without violating the rules for 501c3 organizations.  What they cannot do is advocate for or against any specific candidate.  If they do advocate for or against specific candidates then they should be treated just like any other political organization: their donors should not get a charitable tax deduction for their contributions.  That is what the Johnson Amendment is all about, and it should not be repealed.

Link: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/10/editorial-dont-eliminate-ban-politically-active-churches/97750512/

 

Boy Scouts made the right decision.

I was glad to read that the Boy Scouts are expanding their good work to include transgender boys.  (See Des Moines Register link below.)  Private club-type of organizations, like the Boy Scouts, do have and should have the right to decide who may or who may not be members.  The fundamental and peaceful right to Freedom of Association should be respected by law.  Any group of people should be able to voluntarily form a club or other organization. whether boy or girl, Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, etc.   I’m sure this was a difficult decision for some in the organization. Many people simply do not know how to react to people who are transgendered.  Everything I’ve known about the Boy Scouts leads me to believe that it is an honorable organization that teaches both practical skills and good moral values and behaviors to boys.  This was the right thing for them to do.

Link to Des Moines Register article:  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/31/iowa-boy-scout-leader-transgender-boys-welcome-join/97311766/

Tariffs on imports from Mexico are a tax on U.S. citizens.

If President Trump wants Mexico to pay for The Wall, he can not do it by putting a tariff on imports from Mexico to the U.S.  A tariff on imports is a tax paid for by U.S. consumers in the form of higher prices.  If the tariff stops the imports, it will allow the higher prices to be charged for U.S. made products.  It will be a “win” for the company and its workers who get the protection, but it will be paid for by U.S. citizens, not Mexico.

Religious Freedom bill may be just fine.

I respectfully disagree with Kevin Pokorny’s letter to the editor in the Register yesterday.  (See link below.)  The State of Iowa does need to amend its civil rights laws to allow buyers and sellers of products and services to peacefully follow their conscience when they have reasonable disagreements.
To the extent that a product or service is personalized or customized, it does infringe on the rights of a seller to force him or her to provide the product or service in such a way that goes against the seller’s sincerely held religious beliefs. If the products or services are readily available from a multitude of sellers, and a buyer can reasonably find what he or she wants from another seller, then it is not unreasonable to allow some sellers to follow their conscience.
In Iowa and other states, florists, photographers, bakers, and wedding venue operators have been forced to provide customized products and/or services for gay couples’ weddings.  Governments should never discriminate against gay marriage, and I personally have and do support giving gay marriage the same government rights and privileges as any other marriage.  But, private individuals, and the businesses they operate, should not be forced to provide customized or personalized services or products against their will.
FYI – I am a libertarian-minded atheist, and believe it is better to have peaceful voluntary solutions whenever possible, rather than to use the force of government to decide who will be winners and who will be losers.

Prairie Meadows should open their books, regardless of ruling

On 12/16/2016, The Des Moines Register reported that the Iowa Public Information Board had ruled that Prairie Meadows  Race Track and Casino was not a “government body” according to their rules and, therefore, was not required to follow open records laws, and not required to provide the Register with records pertaining contracts of its top executives.  (See link below.)

The Register can appeal the decision, and has some good arguments why Prairie Meadow should be subject to open records laws.  But even if Prairie Meadows is not required to follow open records laws, they could still release the records voluntarily.  Just because it is legal to do something does not mean it is the right thing to do.  Prairie Meadows would not exist if not for the original support of Polk County taxpayers.  The board claims that Prairie Meadows is a not-for-profit organization, (even though the IRS disagrees).  I don’t understand why any board member would want to be anything other than completely transparent about the operations of Prairie Meadows?  I presume that none of them feel they have anything to hide.

I appeal to the board members of Prairie Meadows to simply do the right thing, and voluntarily open their records to the public, and the Des Moines Register.

 

Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/local/government/2016/12/15/iowa-board-says-prairie-meadows-records-can-secret/95492840/

Checkoff programs for commodities should be ended.

The Des Moines Register recently reported that all Iowa cattle producers will soon be forced to pay $0.50 per head into a “checkoff program.  The funds will be used for beef promotion, research and other activities.  56% of the cattle producers voted for the “checkoff” program – forcing the other 44% to contribute to the scheme.  In any other setting, it would be called a tax.
There are many checkoff programs for a wide variety of commodities, both nationally and in various states.  They all work the same way.  If a majority of the producers want to tax themselves to promote their commodity, then they get to force all producers to pay into the program.
There is not the kind of activity that should be ruled by a majority.  I understand that if the programs were voluntary, which they originally were, that those who did not pay would get a “free ride” – they would get the benefits without paying for any of the costs.  That is not a sufficient reason to use the force of government.  There are an unlimited number of things that a majority of businesses might like to do, if they could force all competitors to help pay.
Both federal and state governments need to repeal the laws which allow checkoff programs to exist.
Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/2016/12/08/iowa-beef-checkoff-passes-with-56-percent-approval/95138020/