The Herald sees 2.4 million page views a month, that’s down from 3.9 million before the pay wall, yet the paper’s staff remains optimistic.

via Is Vt. newspaper pay wall paying off? – WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-.

Down one and a half million page views and still remaining optimistic? Hoo boy.

Here’s another quote from the WCAX piece that I find interesting:

“No, no I don’t, I’m very worried,” said Bob Gershon, the communications chair at Castleton State College.

Gershon says he doesn’t see how the newspaper industry can make enough money to stay afloat on subscription alone.

“The single field of communication that seems the most threatened is news as we have come to envision it,” Gershon said.

Two things…

First, Mr. Gershon is worried because they won’t make enough money from subscriptions alone. Since when has any paper survived on subscriptions alone? It’s the ad revenue that pays for the paper to exist and it’s foolish to think otherwise. When the Herald cuts out 1.5 million page views at their online site because of the pay wall the advertisers will scratch their heads and wonder if their ad dollars are being well spent.

Second, in the last statement Mr. Gershon seems to me to be implying that we won’t be able to trust the news on the internet. The implication is that the way we have found our news to date (via newspaper and television)  has been through a reliable and trustworthy source. But lo! We must be wary of that internet “thing” because you won’t be able to trust your news source any more. Does the fact that the internet news has yielded a more balanced (read: center-right) position on the topic du jour have anything to do with his assessment? Or that he’s a communications professor?

If what I pick up on is an accurate reflection of Mr. Gershon’s statement, then I would disagree. I think people will adjust to the newest means of aggregating their news and they will quickly weed out the reliable reporting from the fringe reporting (of both sides).

Unfortunately, when talking about Fox News as a “right-wing” organization not fit for producing balanced news reporting, those folks are usually talking about the commentary programs (Hannity, Beck, O’Reilly, etc.). Yes, those are influential programs and they lean to the right, but they aren’t news programs in the more strict understanding of the word. And I suspect that most consumers would understand the difference between the news and commentary on the news. Hence, our intrepid news-seeking internet users would like be able to determine for himself whether he is reading a news report or a commentary on the news.

In other words, Vermont is either:

A) led by a Republican governor and is therefore being punished;

B) is already spending way too much money per pupil and therefore the money is being withheld;

or

C) the White House thinks it has Vermont in the bag and therefore will send its re-election campaign money…I mean, education slush fund money…I mean, American tax dollars to other states that are a little more “purple” on the electoral coloring map.

This quote says it all…

Vermont’s chapter of the National Education Association is complaining…

via Vermont may miss out on $38 million from feds for schools: Rutland Herald Online.

(To be fair, that is an admittedly biased bit of quoting from the article.  Not that the rest of the quote is that exciting.)

This was the first line from the Vermont Press Bureau’s Capital Beat column:

Anyone looking for hints of violence or racism at the Tea Party protest outside of the Statehouse last week would have been disappointed.

via Let the party begin: Rutland Herald Online.

No hint of bias there, right?  Oh, I get how the word rally and protest can be interchangeable but, as Bill Clinton recently opined, words have meaning and we ought to be cautious about how we use them.  The word protest has a negative connotation for many people (especially conservatives) and they would not likely affiliate themselves with such an event.  Rally is the word, and the attitude, that I believe most Tea Party organizers prefer to use to capture a sense of positive engagement rather than G-20 summit protesters who tend to wield rocks instead of words.

And if you needed more proof that there is an attitude of condescension in the press toward conservatives and their quaint ideas of governance, the Capitol Beat gives column space to a counter demonstration, of sorts.  I don’t know the numbers, but I would be willing to bet that reports of protests against conservative government ideas (pick an issue during the Bush years) did not give equal space to any counter protests.

Of course, that could be because people who supported those conservative ideas are not likely to engage in that sort of behavior, as I suggested above.  Which side is more likely to protest but call it a rally and which side is more likely to rally and be called a protester?

During his campaign for U.S. Senate, [Scott] Brown said he was against granting driver’s licenses and in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants.

via Brown agrees to meet with student: Rutland Herald Online.

Does the word “illegal” even mean anything anymore?

Why should Scott Brown’s position on granting driver’s licenses and in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants even be a topic for discussion?  Everyone’s position on granting privileges reserved for citizens to non-citizens (especially ones here illegally) should be pretty uniform, wouldn’t you think?  Again, I presume that the word “illegal” has meaning and that most Americans are law-abiding citizens.

“They’re an environmental hazard, and they’re made of foreign oil,” said Sen. Robert Hartwell, D-Bennington. Taxing them at 10 cents apiece would raise an estimated $6 million to $9 million.

Oh, dear.  Is it possible that most grocery shoppers don’t really care whether a bag is environmentally friendly or made from foreign oil?  Even so, all Sen. Hartwell’s cries are intended to do is evoke emotions for both the environmental crowd and the energy-independence crowd at the same time.  Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

I have no idea how much it costs to produce a plastic bag in the bulk that a grocery store would need, but my guess is that by 10 cents would nearly double the price they pay and you would end up with one of a few possible results:

  • stores refuse to carry them to avoid the tax
  • stores charge more to customers who use plastic bags (who in turn shove as many items into one bag as possible causing potential difficulties in the parking lot)
  • stores spread the cost of the tax across the spectrum of goods and while no one really notices, everyone pays for the environmentally insensitive and foreign oil addicted shopper

But Democrats who control the Legislature have been singing from the same anti-tax hymnal as Republican Gov. Jim Douglas this year, with both saying tax increases would hurt any hope for economic recovery.

It is good that common sense sometimes prevails.

“I say bag the bag tax,” said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, a Putney Democrat and candidate to replace the retiring Douglas.

It would be very unwise of Sen. Shumlin to support this tax and I’m pretty sure he knows that.

House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, was a bit less blunt. “I wouldn’t say it’s high on my list of priorities this year.” He added of the bags, “We reuse them as garbage bags at home.”

If speaker Smith still holds his position in the legislature next session, don’t be surprised to see this tax again.

Backers, led by the Vermont League of Conservation Voters and the Vermont State Employees’ Association, say the tax likely would cause people to switch from plastic bags back to paper or, better yet in their view, to canvas and other reusable bags.

Well, I’m not surprised about the Vermont League of Conservation Voters (although I had not heard of them until today), but what stake does the VSEA have?  I found this comment on their website:

Unions, environmentalists and (judging by the AP story) the public support generating revenue through a plastic bag fee, but legislative leaders are unwilling to even entertain the idea. It’s possible the fee could generate $6-$9 million for Vermont, while helping our environment.

I love the parenthetical thought, “judging by the AP story”, as though the AP is a paragon of objectivity (which is questionable) and as though anyone in Montpelier is going to say that they actually like using plastic bags when they know that they could face some kind of retribution either real or imagined.  This statement also gives the VSEA an opportunity to sound bipartisan by lumping all of the legislators together into one group.  Similar to the make up in Washington DC, the Democrats in Montpelier (generally making up the environmentalist crowd) controls the House and the Senate and could easily override a gubernatorial veto without getting a single Republican vote.

Sigh.

via Vt. plastic bag tax proposal seen coming too late: Rutland Herald Online.

A news report last week said the group projected that about 47 percent of American households pay no federal income taxes at all.

If half aren’t paying, that means the other half is paying for everyone. It is a sign of how both the tax system and the economy as a whole have become seriously out of joint.

via Galloping inequality: Rutland Herald Online.

What do you know?  Up until this point in the Herald editorial, I am in agreement with the editors.  The agreement is short-lived.

Among those 47 percent are people with wages too low to face any tax liability at all. Also, in recent years exemptions and credits have expanded up into the middle class so that a family of four earning $50,000 may pay nothing. Then there are wealthy people who exploit all the exemptions, credits, shelters and write-offs that have been designed to protect them. Thus, billionaire Warren Buffet has complained that his secretary pays just as much income tax as he does.

This is also fairly innocuous and agreeable.  However, including “billionaire Warren Buffet” as complaining indicates where they are headed next.

The expansion of tax cuts and exemptions for low- and middle-income workers is a response to the vast expansion of economic inequality in America in the past 30 years.

Ding, ding, ding!  Expansion of economic inequality.  As though the phrase itself has a transcendent meaning of its own describing a moral truth that center-right voters need constant badgering on and “scumbag conservatives” have yet to discover at all.

Are income unequal in America?  Yes, no one can deny that.  Are incomes static in the United States?  No, and that is never mentioned when talking about these so-called “economic inequalities”.  Thomas Sowell covers it more adequately than I ever could in his book, Economic Facts and Fallacies, but let me give it a whirl.

Studies revealing an ever increasing gap in income among Americans never take into account that individuals (or families) who started off in the lowest bracket may have moved themselves up a few brackets by the time the next study is run.  Sowell has the numbers, but a large portion of those in the bottom bracket find themselves moving up the scale and comparing the snapshot of two separate studies fails to take that into account.  It does, however, fit the template for decrying capitalism and heralding socialism (or whatever it is liberals call it these days).

The following quote from the editorial proves the point (they are using an essay by Tony Judt from the New York Review of Books to support their arguments):

Since 1973 inequality in take-home pay increased in the United States and Britain more rapidly than in any Western nation. In 1965 [sic] the CEO of General Motors earned 66 times the pay earned by the typical GM worker. Today the CEO of Walmart earns 900 times the wages of the average employee. One sign of the degree to which the United States has become economically stratified: The wealth of the family of the founder of Wal-Mart in 2005 equaled the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of Americans.

See?  In 1968 the CEO made 66 times the “typical” GM worker (for all we know they have included the lowest paid mail clerk in their calculation of the typical worker).  Today the CEO of Wal-Mart makes 900 times the wages of the average employee (again, who is included in the “average” employee group, mid-level execs making $200,000, or more per year – Obama’s definition of rich, by the way).

Do you see what they do here?  In 1968 it’s 66 times the “typical” worker.  In 2010 it’s 900 times the “average” employee.  We are supposed to read those two numbers and be shocked with righteous indignation.  But how many of the workers from 1965 are still making what they made then (if they’re still working)?  Or, if you prefer, compare the amenities of the 1968 worker with the 2010 worker.  I’ll bet most of us would chose the 2010 amenities over the 1968 amenities (even if the cars were cooler in the ’60s).

Additionally, there is an assumption by many who bemoan the “economic inequality” that there is some sort of cap on total income possible.  For example, 100 people working may only have access to $100,000 therefore the right thing to do would be to pay everyone $1,000 so everyone is equal.  But that isn’t how it works with capitalism.  There is no ceiling on what can be earned and creating wealth ultimately leads an ever increasing pie from which to slice the various incomes.

Those who defend the status quo say that the rich are already paying a high proportion of tax revenues. But that’s because they have secured for themselves a high proportion of the nation’s income. In 2005, the top 1 percent of wage earners took in 21.1 percent of the national income.

How much of the national income tax did the same group supply?  According to National Taxpayer’s Union, the answer is 39.38 percent.  But the Herald won’t bother to point that out (if they even knew), and if they did point it out they would probably find a way to spin it to make it sound like paying for nearly 40% of the federal government is not enough for the top 1% of wage earners.

Wide economic inequality has pernicious social effects. Judt’s essay is accompanied by a graph showing that social mobility — the opportunity to improve one’s lot — is far more depressed in the United States than in Poland, Canada, Germany and Scandinavia. Only the nearly impermeable class system in Britain keeps people down to the degree that economically repressive conditions in the United States do.

Okay, this is harder to dispute but only because after looking at the graphs that they reference, I didn’t see any source information.  I am not an economist, nor do I have the time or the skills to assess how the information was gathered and put together, etc.  However, speaking circumspectly, how far apart are the two poles in Scandinavia?  I suspect it would take a lot less to move from point A to point C in Sweden than it would in America.  Or, how about the effects of massive social welfare programs – as is the case in most of the above-mentioned countries – inhibiting the desire to even be upwardly mobile?  Sedate the masses with just enough opium in the form of social programs and gradually they will have no desire to live their lives freely anymore with one possible aspiration being moving up in life.

Economic inequality has other consequences. Poor health, mental illness, crime and low life expectancy closely track levels of economic inequality. The United States has by far the highest health care expenditures among a host of industrial nations but among the lowest life expectancies. Life expectancy is higher in Bosnia.

Okay, I’m dragging this out a little too long, but I’m going to finish this just because I have a computer, an internet connection, and I live in America.  Is it possible that poor health, mental illness, crime and low life expectancy is a cause, rather than an effect, of “economic inequality”?  In other words, is it possible (or reasonable) to ask the question: are these circumstances in your life because of your economic condition or are they causing your economic condition?  Or possibly, do you choose a lifestyle that leads to poor economic output?  I know, both of those questions are terribly un-politically correct.

No wonder tea partiers and leftists are both angry at the present system. They are both looking for a way to address the long-building trend that is skewing the economy toward the wealthy few. Tea partiers say we need to cut taxes, even though lower revenue would further degrade our schools and other necessary services, worsening economic inequality and closing off opportunity.

(At least the Herald refrains from using the more derogatory terms for people choosing to affiliate with the TEA party movement.)

WORLDVIEW DISAGREEMENT ALERT!

The Herald assumes that government schools are the only way to educate our kids (poor or otherwise).  The Herald assumes that government services are “necessary”.  If you accept their premise, then it makes sense to reach the conclusions that they do.  I do not accept their premise (and nor should you!).  In fact, I would argue that much of this bemoaned “economic inequality” has been exacerbated (or even caused) by the very institutions that the Herald claims are the only way to salvation for those of initially poorer means.

(Last paragraph, I promise.)

The tax and social policy of the Obama administration is designed to close the income gap. President Obama’s health care bill has been described as one of the great economic equalizers of recent decades. The billionaires who have impoverished the public sector by scarfing up resources and closing off opportunity for the many must be laughing at tea partiers so eager to impoverish their own world in order to gild the already gilded world of the few.

Ha!  Obama’s tax and social policy are designed to do something, but I don’t think that he really cares about closing the income gap.  At the end of Obama’s policies, all we’re really going to end up with is a power gap.  I know I don’t listen to many Left-leaning commentators, but I haven’t heard anyone tout the president’s health care bill as “one of the great economic equalizers of recent decades” (at least, I haven’t heard that as a good thing).

Please, please, please….tell me specifically how the billionaires are impoverishing the public sector (an by public sector do they mean, poor individuals or the government social programs that they hold so dear)?  And show me how the billionaires of the world have scarfed up all the resources.  I still have access to quite a bit of resources and I am a long way off of a billion dollars.  In fact, I have yesterday’s billionaires to thank for many of the things that I take for granted today (cars, tv, cell phones, computers, inexpensive electricity, etc.).  Your cherished government did not create those things; they did not produce those things; and they certainly didn’t just give me those things (although I’ve wondered if going on welfare might help me to procure the latest models).

If you’ve made it this far, bravo (or should I say, “Why have you wasted your time?”)  Either way, I’m grateful.  Any suggestions on how to carry this message to people who consume their news casually and are easily mislead by the nincompoops on the Herald editorial board?

A committee of teachers studied testing data, behavior and attendance, parent input and research on effective middle schools, according to a memo from Cunningham to the board.

via More class, no recess: Rutland Herald Online.

A certain amount of ethical behavior leads me to resist public comment on this article, so follow the link.  Read it.  Make your own conclusions.