perceived american narrative on islam

Wow, I think I’m guilty of this. And I’m not sure I can change either.

The Capital at NightI read “Why Muslims are still mad at America” by Steven Kull on CNN and I can’t say that I think the Muslim perception of the American narrative is incorrect. Speaking for myself, I do view freedom and civil rights for women as an evolution past Sharia law. I believe our Democratic-Republic is a more evolved form of government than a theocracy. Of course the non-sequitur in my thought pattern is that Sharia is opposed to rights for women, which I realize does not follow. Non-sequitur or not, that is how my brain processed it. And that is how governments like the Taliban implemented it.

So why are Muslims still mad at America? From Dr. Kull’s article on CNN:

“…there is one thing that is the most fundamental: their (Muslim) perception that America seeks to undermine Islam – a perception held by overwhelming majorities.”


“According to this American narrative – which Muslims perceive as arrogant and dismissive – human society naturally and inevitable evolves through the stages that the West has gone through.   As in the Renaissance, religion is largely banished from the public sphere, thus allowing pluralism and diversity of beliefs in the private sphere while maintaining a secular public sphere.   This leads naturally to the elevation of individual freedoms and the emergence of democratic principles that make the will of the people the basis of the authority of law rather than revealed religious principles.

From this assumed American perspective, Muslim society is seen as simply behind the West in this evolutionary process.   Retrogressive forces in Muslim society are seen as clinging to Islamic traditions that make Sharia the basis of law, not the will of the people, and inevitably keep women in their traditional oppressed roles and minority religions discriminated against.”

I would be interested to know how many Americans, right or wrong, actually do view Islamic governments as earlier than Western governments in the course of natural evolution. I had never thought about it in exactly that way, but it makes sense. I’m guilty of thinking that. And I don’t think it was Islam where the west first threw off the shackles. I suspect we can credit  Henry VIII, Martin Luther and Ann Boleyn for ending the rule-by-fiat from Rome for that part of the West’s evolution in political thought.

There was an article a while back I read that opined that Muslims view Judaism as “Religion 1.0”, Christianity as “Religion 2.0” and Islam as “Religion 3.0.” Thus the later releases should be “superior” to those prior. And if Islam is indeed superior to Christianity or Judaism in the eyes of Muslims, then why do the people who subscribe to these 1.0 or 2.0 religions prosper more than the new-fangled 3.0 release?  (I tried to find the article but instead found message-boards full of  crazy  posts, so I won’t link them.)

I can see how the Muslim perception of the American narrative could be particularly galling from that world view. Although the irony of a perception of American arrogance based on an arrogant assumption of religious superiority means both narratives aren’t fact based. Narratives are stories. In this case it’s a perception of a story you think the other person thinks without actually asking them. This thought pattern is best expressed by a quote from Vizzini  in the Princess Bride:

“But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.” (and he goes on and on…)

You think that I think that you think that I think that you…etc… You can’t resolve that or even have a reasonable conversation about something that amorphous. After Vizzini drops dead from switching and then drinking from the Goblet that was in front of our hero, the  Man in Black  explains to Buttercup  how he did it:

“They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.”

In closing, why can’t we all just get along man? And it seems to me keeping religion out of politics is the first step and was a wise decision. If any of the religions are more or less “evolved” is not really the point. It is that this quote from James Madison:

“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.”

Which became the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

To me at least, separation of church and state is a more evolved political structure. And that, in my opinion, has nothing to do with the superiority or inferiority of any particular religion. It simply speaks of a political system designed to  reduce people killing each other in the name of God.

(This is a cross post. if you wish to comment please comment on the chron post here.)

be careful what you wish for – super-pacs

“Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow may be a running gag on “The Colbert Report“ on Comedy Central, but it is spending money as it sees fit, with little in the way of disclosure, just like its non-comedic brethren.

Comedians, including Mr. Colbert in the last election, have undertaken faux candidacies. But his Super PAC riff is a real-world exercise, engaging in a kind of modeling by just doing what Super PACs do.

And he has come under some real-world criticism for inserting himself in the political process so directly. Mr. Colbert, who lampoons conservative talk show hosts by pretending to be one, is now making fun of Super PACs by actually forming one. His committee spent money on advertising in Iowa during the run-up to the Ames straw poll, which took place Aug. 13. It’s as though Jonathan Swift took his satirical suggestion about Irish babies one step further and actually cooked one.”


why did Ashley pick J.P. over Ben

“Listen I throw these ideas out there, because I recognize the country I live in. Living in Michigan now, the main topic of conversation this week was the last episode of the ‘Bachelorette,’ and why did Ashley pick J.P. over Ben. That’s the country I live in, and they all vote. And I’d like to communicate with them,” the “Bowling for Columbine” writer/director said.


Regardless of your politics, that quote stings a little.

deceiving many of our constituents

“What is really amazing is that some (Senate) members are believing that we can pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution in this body with its present representation ““ and that is foolish,” McCain said.

“That is worse than foolish,” he continued. “That is deceiving many of our constituents.”

“To hold out and say we won’t agree to raising the debt limit until we pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, it’s unfair, it’s bizarre,” McCain added. “And maybe some people who have only been in this body for six or seven months or so really believe that. Others know better.”

– John McCain (source)

a politician that did the right thing for the country

I recently did a blog post on business taxes going up in Texas. And a follow up post on  entrepreneurship  and suicide. And as it so happens one of the five people who read this blog brought it up after a tennis match the other day. The conversation went something like this:

CitizenX: So I read your blog post on Rick Perry’s tax increases the other day.

Me: Yup. It’s easy to find being in the top five listings if you google “rick perry tax.” But yes, please go ahead.

CitizenX: (Internally CitizenX  is thinking “dude, you are such a nerd” but he doesn’t say that. Instead he says:) I haven’t checked that Ed. But what I was going to say is that Rick Perry didn’t have a choice. He had to work with what he had because you can’t have an income tax in Texas.

Me: Well, you can have an income tax. You just have to get it passed as a constitutional amendment. But you CAN have an income tax.

CitizenX: Yes, but that would never pass.

Me: Not if everyone screams that a fair tax is the end of the world. But wouldn’t it be better to have a referendum and pass a fair income tax rather than  double tax small businesses arbitrarily. We experienced a 500% tax increase for our business (we went from $800/yr to $5,000/yr since the change my CPA tells me.) and then go on TV and say you are “reducing business taxes”  referring to the tax law he passed, right?

CitizenX:  The Margin Tax is flawed, but it was his only option to work with it.

Me: But it isn’t a “Margin” tax. Or a “Franchise” tax. It is an the expanding Texas Income Tax with bureaucrats defining your margin.

CitizenX: What do you mean?

Me: Well the tax was originally a two page document that left everything vague. Remember how the law firms said they were “retailers” and that partner salaries were “cost of goods sold?” Well that has had five years to work through the courts and the taxing authorities. And they have issued a bunch of rules about what is and what is not a retail business and what is or is not a valid retail store.  And what is and what is not an expense. So the legislature and our Republican Governor passed a vague law. And now our unelected bureaucrats are defining what it is an expense and what is profit. What do these people know about business? And that costs jobs. I mean, I can afford the tax, it is the principle of the thing that gets me.

CitizenX: But the Governor didn’t have a choice!

Me: What do you mean?

CitizenX: Well if he pushed for an income tax, it might not go through, and even if a Texas income tax did push through, he wouldn’t get reelected.

Me: So.

CitizenX: He is a politician. He wants to be reelected.

Me: But he had a choice. Are you saying Rick Perry is putting his personal interests, as a servant of the great State of Texas, above the best interests of the great State of Texas? Cause that seems wrong to me. As an Aggie, that is just wrong.

CitizenX: (pauses….)

Me: As I see it, Rick Perry has the option of passing a fair tax. That tax would be good for Texas and be fair to businesses. It would eliminate uncertainty. It would prevent taxing authorities from influencing how businesses form and where they locate. And it would help balance the budget and prevent our education system from going down further. That would be in the best interest of Texas.

The ONLY cost I hear is “the governor might not get reelected.” The ONLY cost of doing the right thing is risking reelection. I have voted for him in several elections. I would vote for someone who passionately and honestly fought for Texas. I’m not seeing that.

CitizenX: (shakes head). (apparently I can be black and white on some issues)

Me: I miss our statesmen and our last two-term Independent President George Washington who put the country before themselves. Remember George Bush 41? He promised no new taxes. He became President. Our President studied the facts. He did the best thing for the country and did raise some taxes and enacted spending cuts. Yes, he did lose reelection. But the budget did balance under Clinton based on what 41 did. And I respect the hell out of George Bush because he is a true patriot who put the country above a speech and lobbyists and pollsters.

CitizenX: You’re getting kind of worked up.

Me: Sorry. Frustration does that. I’ll shut up now. … Actually I’ll go back to work. Create value for our clients. Pay our employees. And generate payroll and income tax for Texas because that is what I do.

As I said when I blogged it the first time “It is not tax that breaks a business man’s soul. It is inequities.”

This old news clip explains the impact probably better than I can. It is a bit dated, but perhaps the video will help.


“If you suspend all the rules, you don’t need a rulebook,” Eiland said later. – Texas

archaeology of power

Ideas are the most powerful creations on earth when life is breathed into them. From The mythos of Obama and Osama by Larbi Sadiki on Al Jazeera.

A Pygmalion resides in both of them. They are, to an extent, sculptors.

In turn, these two sculptors, Obama and Osama, are examples of how extraordinary men ““  when struck by the power of ideas, ideals and dreams, regardless of the cause ““  go on about sculpting their Galateas ““ their statues, dummies or puppets.

Each is in love with a statuesque vision, a set of ideals or dreams that they have sought to breathe life into.


Whether Pygmalion or Narcissus, Obama and Osama share a realist’s vision of how power is wielded.

As a result, Obama’s state and Osama’s base (literally, “Qaeda”)-less state shamelessly deploy violence. Both are thus in love with a Galatea that is caught in an unstoppable archaeology of death and war-making.

Regardless of victimhood or guilt, both are victims of the ideals and ideas they are in love with, and in their pursuit ““ a Godly transcendence or the deity of modernism and capitalism ““ they construct myths, guards, weaponry, and languages to match.


For Obama, he killed Osama ““ legally or not is not the point.

The point is that this moment will form a meaningful moment only if the ghosts of hatred, hubris, and violence are laid to rest ““ with Osama ““  and the endless witch-hunt for the timeless terrorist Muslim or Osamas re-incarnate is reflected on for the sake of permanent reconciliation and collective healing – and a collective Galatea is sculpted of new futures, new understanding, and new possibilities”¦

Read the full mythos article here.

It is rare that peace comes from war. But let us hope winning the 9-11 war which Osama brought to us with attacks will bring closure and perhaps, just perhaps as the author says above, we will find “new futures, new understanding, and new possibilities…”


Gov. Rick Perry predicted $23 billion shortfall

In 2006, former Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn sent a letter to state Gov. Rick Perry predicting a $23 billion shortfall over the next five years due to Perry’s tax plan.


“You find something like this and you want to go, ‘they knew’,“ Haterius explained. “Hopefully, this mess will cause us to look at the funding system and that’s what we want. We just want a plan that makes sense and is supported.”

Abilene ISD Superintendent Dr. Heath Burns said he is also outraged that state lawmakers blame the budget deficit on the current economy. He told KTXS in a written statement: “I believe that any politician that feigns surprise about this issue is likely being naive. To attribute shortfalls to spending means that the politicians must completely disregard the warnings of the comptroller. This is a revenue shortfall. It was predicted. It has arrived.

Yup. There it is. (emphasis added)


This is a cross post. Please read and comment on A Modest Proposal to Resolve the Budget Shortfall in the State of Texas on

My friend Jason Wilson and I were taking break at a pub in our neighborhood watching the NCAA Finals recently when we overheard two men at the table next to us talking about shutting down the schools. I asked if they wouldn’t mind explaining just what the heck they were talking about. The man on the left, Frank Austin, reached into his pocket and handed us a handwritten letter he was hoping the Austin American Statesman would publish. It is the dumbest thing I ever read, but here it is in case you are interested.

– by Frank Austin

In Texas we have a budget crisis. The two year budget being debated by the Texas House and now moving on to the Senate reflects a 27 Billion dollar shortfall.# The Texas electorate has demanded that the state cut the waste out of government and our legislators are working towards that goal with a pledge of “no new taxes” and to not “dip into the rainy day fund.”

The situation is particularly challenging for schools with the budget in the House. A few facts from the House version of the budget from Jason Embry with the Austin American Statesman.

  1. The proposed House budget costs $164.5 billion, a 12.3 percent spending reduction as compared to 2010-11.
  2. It does not raise taxes.
  3. It is $7.8 billion short of the money that current law says Texas will owe its school districts over the next two years, and it reduces public education funding by 9 percent, or $5 billion, from 2010-11 levels.
  4. It could cause about 96,000 school employees across Texas to lose their jobs, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

This is a true Texas sized crisis. And as loyal Texans we believe we need a Texas sized solution. While skeptics and non-believers are mocking the patriotic emergency session on voter ID, I’d like to propose the legislature continue to do the right thing for the state of Texas.

Shut down the schools. Shut down every school in Texas for one year. This one bold action will resolve all of our current budget problems and set us up for success in the future.

When considering the benefits of this proposal, it is important to prioritize. So I will address these in order of importance to our state.

the drum majorHigh School Football. Don’t worry, we won’t lose our Friday Night Lights in the year-of-sacrifice. It is the one profitable high school sport so it must continue. And as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his book Outliers, the students would be in the same grade and a full year older when they return to sanctioned play a year later. And we won’t lose our best players to “grades” or “honor code violations.” Furthermore the teams will be better than ever after being freed from limited practice requirements. It would be a one year success where we can finally realize the dream of semi-pro football sponsored by local businesses to build up the state’s rainy-day fund.

Fewer Illegal Norwegians. Our state suffers under the burden of illegal immigrants from Norway who are sending their children to school in Texas to get (literally) a free lunch. While I applaud the leadership of Arizona addressing the illegal Norwegians clogging their schools, we must elevate Texas to its rightful role as a beacon of hope for America to follow. If the illegal Norwegians are not in our schools, they can’t steal food from the hard working taxpayer. And given their height, fewer Norwegians reduces the chances that some good-looking 6’8″ blond guy will sit in front of us and block our view of Ebenezer at the Alley Theater.

Fewer poor people. A year off from school will encourage these people who are choosing not to work and leave the burden of their children’s health on the majority of us to get up and get a job. If they can’t get a job for lack of photo ID, this will encourage them to return to their country of origin or at least leave our state to another more willing to tolerate such freeloaders. Someplace like California or something.

Trade Balance. If the Norwegians go home they will likely take high demand goods made in the USA home with them. This suggests to me that as the flow of goods is reversed we should see a huge increase in TxGDP from the export of automatic weapons. And as we have seen in the US, this proliferation will lead to greater safety and security in Norway and their government will thank us. A true win/win.

Teachers in time-out. Teachers are uniquely qualified for unpaid sabbaticals. They get paid to take three months off a year already. And when they are working, teachers complain about being asked to teach kids to pass tests. Why do they want to leave children behind? How hard is it to teach to a test? Just teach Johnny to Scantron for Pete’s sake. Thus we propose all Texas teachers should be fired immediately. Not since Ronald Reagan has the taxpayer been freed from the tyranny of unions with the stroke of a single pen. Perhaps some time off will help the former teachers remember what testing teaching is all about. (Bonus: We can probably hire them back at a lower salary when we start the schools back up.)

No More Teachers’ Union. The teachers union can’t debate collective bargaining if the administration is not present to debate with. And if the teachers are all unemployed they can’t pay union dues which solves the union problem when they go out of business. UNION PROBLEM SOLVED.

National rankings in Education. Sure Texas recently ranked 43rd out of 50 on spending per pupil. Yet by taking a year off they can’t score us at all. We might be number 1 after all. You have no tests and no budget to rank us if the schools are shut down. The yanks can’t prove a thing. And with enough advertising dollars to bring new businesses to Texas we can just keep pounding the point that our kids are the happiest in the country without compulsory education.

Save money on Text Books. By closing the schools for a year our elected school board dentists can finally correct the liberal bias in our children’s text books. Eliminate teaching “evolution” and only teach “creationism.” This is not only the holy thing to do, but “creationism” also requires a lot fewer pages to explain to the students. Holy cost savings!

More ART! Sure the newspaper continues to remind us of Texan Renee Zellweger and her “art education,” yet shutting down the schools is in fact a more bold step in the direction of greater art participation. Children with free time are significantly more likely to express themselves by doodling and decorating abandoned buildings. Thus the free time for our kids will increase their art education. Total art immersion in fact. Culture? Check.

Elimination of latch-key kids. If the children are home all day there is no latch-key problem. Little Kevin is not a latch-key kid, he’s just home alone. Day care solved.

Reduced domestic violence. Domestic violence will surely be reduced by the elimination of parent-student conflict over grades. There are no grades. BI-WINNING!

Texas National Defense. A side benefit of more time for video games is our kids will make a smoother transition into the militia to prepare for our next border war with Canada. Maybe offer scholarships to World of Warcraft (WOW) level 80+ “tank warrior + 3 dps rogues and hunters pref” and “holy paly or divination priest healers.” This proposal moves us past “be prepared” to “LEVEL UP.”

Money. We’ll save like 50 Billion or something. And let’s be honest, we could use the money.

In conclusion, I think the reader will agree that all of us are very pro-education in Texas. This isn’t a move away from educating our children. Rather it is a temporary hiatus designed to balance the budget and move us towards a brighter Texas future. And while critics may say we are kicking the can down the road, it is only for one year and for the good of the great state of Texas. We need to man-up and shut down the schools in Texas for one year. Please join me in contacting your legislator to move this initiative forward.

We can do it!

Dumbstruck, Jason and I handed Mr. Frank Austin his paper back. We talked. We tried to refute his arguments. We tried to explain the difference between Canada and Norway. That “Friday Night Lights” aren’t as much fun without the band. That Texas teachers aren’t evil. That Texas doesn’t have a state militia. Sadly our arguments and our use of “facts” seemed to fall on deaf ears. Mr. Austin was truly convinced that education would survive a one year shut down. That shutting down the schools for one year was the best solution. We gave up and  left the building.

Yet as we were leaving the pub I found myself looking back at Frank through the window and thinking that if I truly were at war, I’d definitely want a WOW level 80+ divination priest healer to have my back. Mr. Frank Austin got that part right.

Maybe we really should shut down the schools for a year. Thoughts?

Note: this is a cross-post. Please comment on post here.

Texas to reduce public education funding by $8.8 billion in 2012-13

The vote took under 20 minutes, without any debate among members, and resulted in 18-7 in favor. The (Texas) House budget proposes reductions in two major areas: public education funding by $8.8 billion and health care by $16 billion. For the 2010-11 biennium, public education received $50 billion and health care received $65 billion.

Appropriations committee chairman and author of the bill Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said budget writers tried to minimize cuts, but they were inevitable because education and health care comprise a large portion of the budget.

Former House member and LBJ School (UT Austin) lecturer Sherri Greenberg said the cuts of both areas are so high because they make up more than half of the budget combined.

“If the desire of the leadership is to have a bill with no new revenue, you need to [cut] where the big dollars are,“ Greenberg said. “Forty percent of that is public education and another 30 percent is health and human services, and a bulk of that is Medicaid. That’s the math.“

March 27, 2011, 82nd Texas Legislature from the Daily Texan

If I did my math right, we are reducing education funding from 50 Billion to 41.2B.  The author of the bill,  Rep Jim Pitts, Republican-Waxahachie describes it as “the right thing to do for our economy and for the people of Texas.”

I was going to get a pull-quote from little Johnny, but apparently he still can’t read.


Rick Perry’s Business Income Tax is Bad for Employment

This is a cross post. To comment go to the official version on the Chron here.


Ed Schipul

In 2006 Rick Perry passed an uneven business income tax in the state of Texas. This is in conflict with the Texas state constitution which states you can not have an income tax without a referendum. And for five years he has been able to get away with it. To the detriment of small business and preventing the creation of jobs in our state.

It is not tax that breaks a business man’s soul. It is inequities.

First things first:

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” – Matthew 22:21

One of the first rules of business is “Never ever EVER mess with the government.” Gangster  Al Capone learned this the hard way going to jail for tax evasion instead of murder.  I say this first to emphasize that  I pay my taxes. All of them. Promptly. I collect sales tax and employee deductions and submit those promptly. And I pay them not out of fear of enforcement, but out of obligation as a proud American. Same reason I vote. It’s the right thing to do.

So why this blog post then? Why poke the ant-hill? Because I read about this tragedy in Austin a few weeks ago. For some reason it really hit me hard. From the article.

Restaurant owners dead in apparent murder-suicide: Yoli and Michael Amr ran Mama Roux and founded Gumbo’s
He offered his Louisiana cooking skills to the kitchens of places such as Gumbo’s and  Mama Roux. She brought her personality to the hostess stand.

On Monday, they told workers they were going out of business.

By Wednesday morning, they were dead.

Police said they do not yet know a motive for the deaths.

A Texas corporation listing Yoli Amr as the owner “” Dixie Roux Inc. “” had its charter revoked Jan. 28 for violations of the franchise tax portion of the state tax code, according to documents on file on the Texas secretary of state’s website.

I do not know the motive for the tragedy in Austin. But I think all of us would speculate it was the failure of the business. I can’t imagine having to lay off my entire staff of 32 people. That would be horrible. The fact that they shut down on a Monday and were gone by Wednesday suggests that was the event that triggered it. And the reporter mentions the Franchise Tax based revocation of their license which suggests, but doesn’t convict, the new tax as part of the problem.  (Note “Franchise” does not mean franchises like Subways. It applies to all businesses doing business in Texas)

At a high level it sounds like their business, like many in our fourth year of recession here in the states, was having money problems.

It is hard to run a small business. I say this from experience, or maybe I’m just a bit slower than the average bear. But it takes all of my energy. I don’t want sympathy, I chose this path. But y’all need us crazy business owners. From SBA small firms create jobs:

  • Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
  • Employ just over half of all private sector employees.
  • Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
  • Have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years.
  • and the list goes on…

So what is the new revised “Franchise Tax” law and why do I call it a Texas Business Income Tax? Why didn’t Texas just pass an income tax? That isn’t politically prudent. And oh ya, Income Tax is against the Texas Constitution without a referendum. Specifically:

Sec.  24.    PERSONAL INCOME TAX; DEDICATION OF PROCEEDS. (a)  A general law enacted by the legislature that imposes a tax on the net incomes of natural persons, including a person’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income, must provide that the portion of the law imposing the tax not take effect until approved by a majority of the registered voters voting in a statewide referendum held on the question of imposing the tax. The referendum must specify the rate of the tax that will apply to taxable income as defined by law.

Governor Rick PerryIn 2006 the Texas State Legislature wanted to reduce property taxes. I own a home and pay taxes on that as well and being somewhat fiscally conservative I liked the idea at the time. It is described on the Office of the Governor – Rick Perry site as:

The commission’s work culminated with a proposal to reform the franchise tax and for the state to buy down school property taxes. Working from the Texas Tax Reform Commission’s recommendations, Governor Perry called a Special Session in 2006 to address school property taxes. The commission’s plan was passed by the Legislature, and in May 2006, Governor Perry signed into law a package of bills that has provided tax relief of over $16.4 billion in school property taxes.

In other words, to  reduce property taxes you must increase business taxes. Take $100 from Small-Business-Employer-Peter and give $10 each to Homeowner-Voter-Paul. OK, I get that. I’ll pay my share. But calling it a tax cut really galls me.

So what did they come up with? The euphemistically named “Margin Tax.” This Texas business tax increase of 2006 is described by Politifact as:

…in a 2006 special session, engineering a tax overhaul that reduced local school property taxes. To help districts offset the loss of revenue, the Legislature revamped the franchise tax, increased the cigarette tax and modified how the state taxes used-car purchases. Perry signed the overhaul legislation into law in May 2006.

A key goal of the new franchise tax, often called the margins tax, was to apply it to companies that had largely avoided the old corporate franchise tax. As expected at the time, businesses paid more in total after the overhaul of the franchise tax than before, although less than was forecast. Franchise tax revenue had totaled $5.8 billion in 2006 and 2007. In 2008 and 2009, the first two years of the revised tax, total revenue was $8.7 billion.

However, the 2006 changes didn’t affect all businesses the same way, said Dale Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association… (more)

Yes, you read that right. Business Taxes in Texas went from 5.8 Billion to 8.7 Billion looking at a two year period. Which by the way is less than was projected.

So how do you explain the Franchise Tax law and why it is unfair? Well first because you can’t pass an income tax, they passed a “Margin Tax” where Government is going to classify each business and define how to calculate their margins. Um…. call me a skeptic but my experience has been government isn’t exactly an expert at defining the costs of running a business.

For a grocery store the following are NOT considered valid costs of running a business. I repeat, these grocery store expenses are the ones that are NOT allowed.

The following costs are not allowed as  COGS:

  • rent paid for the distribution center;
  • rent paid for the grocery store space;
  • refrigerated display cases;
  • shelving for grocery display;
  • compensation paid to cashiers and baggers;
  • the cost of cash registers;
  • credit card company fees; and
  • grocery bags.

Cash Registers? What are we to do? Wander into an unheated warehouse with no employees with food stacked on the floor and leave money on the floor as we leave the building carrying half rotten food in our hands?  So lets get one thing straight. The Texas Franchise Tax, called the Margin Tax, is in fact the Texas Business Income Tax with big government in charge of itemizing your Profit and Loss statement.

But wait, it gets worse. The tax rate is either 0.5% for a retail establishment or 1% for a service business. It can be double for the exact same type of service and generally favors larger corporations over small business. A recent editorial in the Chronicle explained the double taxation of small service stations:

Mom-and-pop auto repair shops across Texas are being forced into an unfair competition with big companies,  dealerships and franchises that receive preferential tax treatment under state law.

Texas requires incorporated businesses with more than $1 million in sales (in 2012 this figure rolls back to $600,000) to pay a business tax called the franchise or margin tax. Even though $1 million sounds like a lot of money, many small businesses fall into this category. The state provides different methods to calculate the tax based on the classification of businesses. Service industries use one method, retail businesses use another and trades such as plumbers and roofers use a third method. Which method do you suppose the auto repair business is required to use? The worst possible one.

The independently owned auto repair shops in Texas are taxed at twice the rate applied to dealership-owned shops or franchise stores because of an outmoded classification system.

So if I have my Chevy fixed at the local family owned repair shop, that locally owned business pays twice as much tax as if I had paid to have it repaired at the Dealership (do we still own GM?) I don’t know about you, but that just seems wrong to me. It’s cheating plain and simple and should not be tolerated.

In business you have net profit, which is all of your sales minus all of your costs. This is what Corporations get taxed on by the Federal Government. It works pretty much like your personal taxes. Not everything is deductible so you always show more net profit on your corporate tax returns than you actually have at the end of the year (travel is only 50% deductible on the justification that you went to Odessa on business to party it up, but whatev…). So while someone may not like the Federal Income Tax, it is at least consistent. If it is bad, it is bad for everyone.

Want more jobs? Give us a level playing field and leave us alone. I realize Atlas Shrugged is  puerile, but there are some truths in there. Get rid of the euphemisms. Speak clearly. Level the playing field. Then leave us alone. Regulate and tax us, but regulate and tax us fairly. You run the government and we’ll run the businesses and create jobs. OK?

The Texas Franchise Tax, what I shall pin to the Governor who passed it as Rick Perry’s Texas Business Income Tax, is a huge business tax increase and it just isn’t fair to small business. It needs to be scrapped and fixed from the ground up. Send me a tax bill. Raise my taxes. Pass a fair income tax. Fine. I’ll pay them like I always do. But Texas, please send me the same tax bill you send the other businesses. That is only fair.

Closing thoughts: In the course of writing this blog post I learned of the amazing work Yoli and Michael Amr did with animals. And read the heart felt comments on these posts. I am sorry I did not get a chance to meet them. In their honor I made a donation to Williamson County Animal Shelter. I also learned about some amazing resources to help entrepreneurs and anyone considering suicide. Don’t do it. We need you here. We really really need you here.

PS: And  Governor, if you are reading this, you can block your fellow Aggie on twitter here. ;-)


Worth a read. A revolution against Neoliberalism

Guaranteeing the sanctity of markets is supposed to be the limit of legitimate state functions, and state interventions should always be subordinate to markets. All human behavior, and not just the production of goods and services, can be reduced to market transactions.

And the application of utopian neoliberalism in the real world leads to deformed societies as surely as the application of utopian communism did.


Social media may have helped organise the kernel of a movement that eventually overthrew Mubarak, but a large element of what got enough people into the streets to finally overwhelm the state security forces was economic grievances that are intrinsic to neoliberalism.

Mr. Sharp’s Nonviolent Actions

When the nonpartisan  International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which trains democracy activists, slipped into Cairo several years ago to conduct a workshop, among the papers it distributed was Mr. Sharp’s “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action,“ a list of tactics that range from  hunger strikes to “protest disrobing“ to “disclosing identities of secret agents.“

Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian blogger and activist who attended the workshop and later organized similar sessions on her own,  said trainees were active in both the Tunisia and Egypt revolts. She said that some activists translated excerpts of Mr. Sharp’s work into Arabic, and that his message of “attacking weaknesses of dictators“ stuck with them.


every society has to engird capitalism in a restraining value system

“I guess I’d put it this way. Every society has to engird capitalism in a restraining value system, or else it turns nihilistic and out of control. The Germans have a Christian Democratic set of institutions, enforced by law. The Swedes have their egalitarianism. Since the days of Jonathan Edwards, we have developed a quasi-religious spirituality that informally restrains the excesses of the market. God and Mammon are intertwined.

Many people feel that the values side of this arrangement is dissolving. Both the government and Wall Street are leaping into the void, to bad effect.” – David Brooks, NYT

Can we get a debate for Texas Governor?

I have to agree with Bill White’s campaign on this one. Why isn’t Rick Perry going to debate? Mayor Bill WhiteYes he would have to answer some tough questions, but you know, being Governor isn’t supposed to be easy. From Bill’s latest email:

Rick Perry won’t answer for nearly doubling state spending, doubling state debt and helping create an $18 billion budget deficit. Don’t you think Perry should answer questions about his record?

Yet it isn’t all one-sided. Rick could ask Bill some really tough questions about paying pension obligations in Houston with bonds, for example.

Governor Rick PerryI understand an incumbent is theoretically at a disadvantage debating a new candidate (safer to ignore), but I don’t think that applies in this case, as Bill White has plenty of public history being Mayor of Houston. He has a track record you can examine, which suggests to me the playing field is more level, and in this case I’d like to see Rick rise to the challenge.

From one Aggie to another, can we get a debate Governor?