Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Daily Oklahoman Offering Bad Analysis

United for a Fair Economy (UFE) recently offered a simple solution to the budget shortfalls that the Oklahoma state legislature has been facing for the past few years.  Their solution is to flip the percentage of the tax burden currently being paid by the most disadvantaged to the most advantaged.  I blogged about this and endorsed the idea when UFE offered their solution.

Today the Oklahoman, Oklahoma's  leading newspaper, says UFE's "Flip It to Fix It" is a bad idea.  The Oklahoman says, "In pushing this program, UFE pays only lip service to economic equality. The real goal is to increase the size of government" and lambasts the plan for increasing the taxes of those earning between $48K and $79K from 8.2 to 9.5%.

The Oklahoman is offering an abysmally bad analysis.  Nothing in UFE's report talks about increasing the size of government.  The report offers a solution that would enable lawmakers to maintain woefully underfunded services that are being cut back or eliminated for lack of funds. 

While record numbers of Oklahomans are on food stamps, programs to prevent child abuse are being cut, teachers are losing their jobs, corrections officers are being furloughed, and state parks are being closed, the Oklahoman continues to provide a smokescreen for the callous disregard that the most advantaged Oklahomans have toward the disadvantaged in this state.

Being in  that  $48K-$79K middle class tax bracket, I know that these figures reflect earnings after subtracting all the tax deductions available for real estate and vehicle taxes, home mortgage interest, medical and dental expenses, charitable contributions, unreimbursed job expenses, tax preparation fees, losses from casualty or theft, political contributions, and other miscellaneous deductions.  I don't think it would be unreasonable at all for persons in my tax bracket to pay 1.3% more in taxes to protect kids, care for the disabled, maintain our schools, pay state employees, and keep our state parks open.

If the facts were known, I am confident that a majority of middle class Oklahomans would be more than willing to pay their fair share in taxes.  Unfortunately, they will never know the facts as long as they trust the Oklahoman to do their analysis for them.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Podcast: Muneer Awad Interview

Podcast (34MB mp3) of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 5-29-2011 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Muneer Awad, Executive Director of  CAIR-OK.  We talk about the work of the Council for American-Islamic Relations and the lawsuit that CAIR-OK and the Oklahoma affiliate of the ACLU filed challenging the constitutionality of the state's anti-Sharia law.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rich Americans Don't Give Much to Religion

The Congressional Budget Office recently issued a report that revealed how much or how little people in different income brackets give to support religious charities.  It should come as no surprise that, in general, the more people make, the less they contribute to religious charities. 

Here's a graph (click on the graph to see a larger image) that reveals the distributions:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Progressive vs. Regressive Taxes in Oklahoma

Click on the charts for a larger image.

The United for a Fair Economy organization recently issued a report entitled "Flip It to Fix It:  An Immediate, Fair Solution to State Budget Shortfalls."   The report discusses the injustice of the regressive state tax system that prevails across our country and suggests a simple and fair solution to the budgetary shortfalls facing our state legislatures.  The solution is to expect more from those who have benefitted most from our society.  Simply invert the percentages of taxes being paid by the wealthiest and poorest citizens in each state.

In Oklahoma, when taxes from all sources are considered, the citizens in the lowest 20% of income bracket pay 9.9% of their annual income in taxes while the citizens in the highest 20% of income bracket pay only 5.9% of their annual income in taxes.     Reverse the percentage of taxes for the highest and lowest income quintiles.  Currently, citizens at the second lowest income quintile pay 9.5% of their annual income in taxes while the citizens at the second highest income quintile pay only 8.2% of their annual income in taxes.  Those percentages should also be inverted.  Taxes would remain the same for those at the middle income quintile.

The chart below graphs the difference in the amount of revenue that the state of Oklahoma would receive if the tax system was structured fairly.  Revenues in Oklahoma would increase by about $4.3 billion. 

The Flip It to Fix It report documents the difference in revenue for every state.  Click here to see the difference it would make in your state.

Monday, May 23, 2011

On Stagnant Wages Amid Rising Productivity

The graph above is from a recent report  by Frank Levy and Tom Kochan entitled Addressing the Problem of Stagnant Wages.  It shows trends in labor productivity and compensation since 1980. 

As shown in the figures (click on the picture for a larger image), between 1980 and 2009, labor productivity increased by 78 percent but:
  • The median compensation of 35 to 44 year-old male high school graduates (with no college) declined by 10 percent.
  • The median compensation of 35 to 44 year-old male college graduates (without graduate degrees) grew by 32 percent, less than one half as much as overall productivity growth.
  • Only the median compensation of 35 to 44 year-old men with post-graduate training came close to labor productivity growth increasing by 49 percent.
I agree with Levy and Kochan's conclusion.  It is time for a new social compact to reverse these trends.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Declining Emergency Room Health Care

After Oklahoma's Governor returned a $54 million health care grant from the federal government and as the Oklahoma Insurance Department announces that it is returning $1 million in federal funds that were granted to conduct health insurance premium rate reviews, the New York Times has published a story about "Fewer Emergency Rooms Available as Need Rises."

Emergency rooms are closing because so few people can afford health insurance.

Oklahoma's elected leaders are demonstrating their commitment to reducing the debt of the federal government at the expense of the most vulnerable among us.

If they really had the courage of their convictions, however, they would give up their own government funded health care insurance and expose themselves to  the same level of risk as those they are depriving of affordable health care.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Podcast: Charles Kimball Interview

Podcast (27MB Mp3) of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 5-15-2011 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Dr. Charles Kimball, author of the best selling book "When Religion Becomes Evil" and Director of the Religious Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma. We talk about Dr. Kimball's new book, When Religion Becomes Lethal.

Francis Wayland: The First Baptist Economist

Last summer, as I was reading D.H. Meyer's The Instructed Conscience, I was surprised to learn how influential Francis Wayland, a Baptist educator, was among 19th century American academic moralists and intellectuals. I wrote a blog about this entitled, Francis Wayland: The First Baptist Ethicist.

Yesterday, as I was reading a book by a Nobel Prize winning economist, I was surprised to learn how influential Francis Wayland once was in the field of economic theory. In a fascinating book entitled, The Fourth Great Awakening & the Future of Egalitarianism, Robert William Fogel writes:

The principal economic theorist of the Second Great Awakening was the Reverend Francis Wayland, president of Brown University and one of the most influential figures in the Northern Baptist Church before the Civil War. His treatise The Elements of Political Economy was the most widely used economics textbook from the time it first appeared in 1837 until the outbreak of the Civil War.
Considering the profound intellectual legacy Baptists have, it is a shame that contemporary Southern Baptists have turned all their institutions of higher learning into obscurantist indoctrination centers.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Obama Says Immigration Reform is a "Moral Imperative"

Obama has finally decided to describe immigration reform as more than an "economic imperative". Today he said it is a "moral imperative:"

Watch the full episode. See more Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Regarding Obama's Immigration Speech in El Paso

I was disappointed with Obama's speech on immigration in El Paso this week.

Obama devoted about seventy-five percent of his speech presenting the economic imperatives for immigration reform. Less than a quarter of his speech addressed what could be considered the moral imperatives for creating a humane and just system for immigration. While those percentages may well reflect the priorities of the American public, I think sincere Christians should find this scandalous.

The real bottom lines is that a nation founded by immigrants has devised an immigration system that penalizes those who try to follow the rules, separates families, and punishes children for the actions of their parents. We will never be able to set politics aside and find common ground until a majority of us can agree that a system for immigration ought to give more weight to the golden rule than to the almighty dollar.

Blogger was down, so I could not post this earlier. Ethics Daily quotes me in an article published this morning.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Podcast: Mark Henricksen Interview

Podcast (33 MB Mp3) of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 5-8-2011 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Mark Henricksen of the Henricksen & Henricksen law firm in Oklahoma City. We talk about his listing by LawDragon Magazine as one of the 3000 top lawyers in the U.S., about his work as the Interim Executive Director of the Oklahoma affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, and about the work of the ACLU in Oklahoma.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Andi Thomas Sullivan Recognized at Mercer University

Andi Thomas Sullivan, formerly an intern with CBF's rural poverty initiative and a co-founder of His Nets, is one of the May 2011 graduates that Mercer University is profiling on their website. Andi is graduating with a research track Masters of Divinity.

Congratulations to Andi and to her husband, Trey, who is graduating with a pastoral care track M-Div this May.