Archive for May, 2015


I think often there’s a thought when we see a problem that if we would just do this one simple general thing, the problem would go away.  But are there really ever an easy answer?  For example:

Gambling/Lottery – This is a favorite magic bullet for solving budgetary problems (often in relation to education) that’s actually pretty popular across the political spectrum.  Alabama, which will never ever ever raise taxes ever, is looking at this now as a possible non-tax revenue source.  And it has appeal.  People can play or not play, it’s voluntary.  You can vote for this and still claim you didn’t vote for a tax.  A lot of money does flow through the lotteries.  But, John Oliver did a great job showing the shortcomings of a lottery:

Watch the video, as John Oliver will do better than I.  But the short version is this.  The people who play lotteries?  Low income (higher income folks will invest in something).  As such, state lotteries advertise themselves as a way for the poor to change their lives.  According to one study, the poor spend a whopping 9% of their annual income on lotteries.  It’s a de facto tax on the poor.

Meanwhile, instead of being a supplement to tax income, states often instead use it as an excuse to even further lower taxes and use the lottery money as simply a replacement.  Even though lotteries are often touted for education, in 21 out of 24 states in which that is the case, education funding is either flat or has actually DECREASED since the addition of the lottery.

My personal believe is that if something is necessary, we as society should be compelled to pay for it, not be able to opt out. There are a lot more equitable ways to do that than a lottery, even if the lottery seems like the easy answer.

Charter Schools – Charter schools is most popular in the conservative crowd, though you get an occasional progressive behind these too.  The idea is that private is always better than public, so let’s just give the funding to a private enterprise and they will do so much better educating kids.  Now it’s a heated debate which are better, charter schools or public schools.  But generally speaking, when you look at studies, you find that they perform about the same overall.  As in there are good charter schools and bad charter schools, just like there are good public schools and bad public schools.  I suspect that the while there are common characteristics for what makes for a successful school (adequate resources is a good start), what makes any given school work may be unique.  There’s probably not a one-size-fits-all solution, as every community is different.  But there’s nothing magic about being private that makes it any easier to figure it out.

Whether it’s a flat tax, prayer in schools, poor people are lazy, no big business is evil, guns kill people, no people kill people, blah, blah, blah, the real world is complicated and so is its problems.  The solutions will take hard work to find and a will to do so, that’s just the way it is (in my opinion).