Monday, December 04, 2006

Two annoying things


Of all of the appliances of modern life, the one with the power to annoy the most is the cell phone, and it's getting worse. The phone itself, that is. Spot saw the latest iteration in the war on peace and quiet this weekend, but he'll save that for later.

Soon after cell phones came out and began to get smaller, they started sporting more and more elaborate ring tones. An entire industry has arisen to quench the ring-tone thirst of a cell-obsessed nation. A generation of people know only two classical pieces: Fűr Elise and the closing bars of the 1812 Overture. Played over a speaker that makes the drive-up ordering system at the Dairy Queen sound good.

In the last couple of years, Spot has noticed a new kind of cell phone that mounts on the user's head. Perhaps it's a permanent installation, but Spot is not sure. It allows the wearer to pretend to be Communications Officer Uhura on the Starship Enterprise. Sorry people, very few of you look as good as Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura on the television series and in some of the Star Trek movies. Not to mention the fact you look odd talking to yourself, or rather to the voices in your head. Schizophrenia is running rampant; zombie-like humanoids obey the inner voice's order to pick up a half-gallon of milk on the way home.

And now this: new cell phones have speaker-phone capability. Sweet Jesus, what were they thinking? At a local mall this weekend, Spot saw a woman plowing a furrow through the crowds while holding her cell phone out ahead of her, kind of like a divining rod, and barking into it, "Lyle, are you there?" or some such. Imagine sharing an elevator to the 50th floor of the IDS Tower with such a delicate flower.

If you thought the blogosphere was vacuous at times, just listen to Lyle and the love of his life for a while.


Of all of the columnists of modern life, the one with the power to annoy the most is Katherine Kersten, and she's getting worse. Take today:

Four years ago, Gov. Tim Pawlenty began his first term inheriting a gigantic $4.5 billion state budget deficit. The sky-is-falling crowd insisted that only major tax increases could avoid budgetary disaster. Without tax hikes, they claimed, the state's schools would go to seed, and its roads would begin to crumble.

I served on Pawlenty's transition team in 2002 and saw the pressure for tax hikes growing.

But Pawlenty didn't blink. He closed the budget gap through spending discipline, reallocating funds and holding government accountable. In the face of opponents' onslaught, he repeated a simple truth: Minnesota's budget woes weren't caused by the fact that its citizens were under-taxed. [italics are Spot's]

Maybe TPaw didn't blink, but he winked. Oh, and Katie, thank you for your service, but please don't do it again.

In the first biennium of TPaw's term, the K-12 budget was cut $185,000,000. (Spot has cited sources in the past; you can peruse the archive for one, if you like.) The governor likes to talk about the large increase in the K-12 budget in his second biennium, but a big part of the increase was just to get back to previous funding levels.

And raise your hands, boys and girls, if you think the state's roads are in good shape.

Among the "reallocation of funds" we can include using the surpluses from Minnesota Care while arguing that the number of enrollees should be trimmed. (Again, there are sources in previous posts from Spot.)

Katie dismisses the "health impact fee" and says moreover that the state made its way out of the deficit without any "broad-based" state tax increases. Apparently, Katie can wink, too. What about property taxes, Katie?

Spot's property tax bill is up 40 - 50 percent since TPaw became the governor. Casa Spot has certainly increased in value during this time, but to Spot it is still the same house.

Katie's Point here (remember, there's always an ideological point) is as follows:

[referring to the projected surplus] And not one Minnesotan had to pay higher income tax rates.

Magic? Not at all. The surplus sprang, in large part, from a strengthening economy, according to the state Finance Department and news reports. Corporate profits and tax collections have soared to their highest levels in decades.

Why have business conditions improved? The hard work of Minnesota business owners and citizens has a lot to do with it. But so does a governor who grasped the importance of a low-tax environment. At the federal level, tax cuts initiated by President Bush also have helped.

For the Gang of 200 [the Growth & Justice folks who took out an ad saying that the state needed more revenue], it's a teachable moment. These folks assumed that to get more money for government programs, you have to raise tax rates. In fact, to get higher revenues, you often need to lower tax rates and stimulate growth.

This is an article of faith with Katie, of course: trickle-down economics. But trickle-down economics ranks right up there with a belief in witches.

Charlie writes on this at some length at Across the Great Divide. Recommended.

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