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Terry Smith is the CSE Minuteman of the Month!
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Press Release

Terry Smith is the CSE Minuteman of the Month!

September’s Minuteman of the Month is Terry Smith of Decatur, Alabama. Terry is a retired U.S. Marine and a taxpayer hero to the citizens of Decatur. Terry has been active with CSE for over two years attending CSE Day in Montgomery and our first ever, Liberty Summit in Washington, DC earlier this year.

09/12/2002
Like Monkeys With Darts
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Like Monkeys With Darts

BY Jason M. Thomas

When George W. Bush was sworn in as the 43rd president of the United States, the Congressional Budget Office [CBO] estimated the federal budget for fiscal 2002 would be in surplus by an eye-popping $405 billion. Last week, the CBO issued its latest estimate for 2002: a $157 billion deficit. In just more than 19 months in office, President Bush has overseen a $552 billion swing in the 2002 budget and an estimated $7 trillion deterioration of the federal government's 10-year fiscal outlook. Such a reversal of fortune is staggering and could be a political liability for the president's party in this November's midterm elections. Democrats have been quick to blame the Bush tax cut for the deficits, but according to the CBO figures, only $74 billion, or 13.5 percent of the accounting change is attributable to the tax cut. Increases in discretionary spending [14.1 percent] - some of it to finance military reprisals to the September 11 attacks - and the economic downturn [17.8 percent] both dwarfed the fiscal effect of the tax cut, as Republicans will be sure to point out on the campaign trail. But, as math majors have already discovered, the aforementioned economic and legislative developments account for less than 50 percent of the change in the overall budget. The biggest factor in the dramatic reassessment has been what the CBO calls "technical changes," completely unrelated to any federal policy. The CBO describes these changes as adjustments to economic and tax policy assumptions, which is a nice way of saying their estimates were just plain wrong. This should not be surprising. Budget estimates are exceedingly difficult to make, even for the next year. In addition to unreliable forecasts of economic activity, federal budget estimates must rely on speculation about how much tax revenue such activity can be expected to yield. Stock market observers often joke about how the average analysts' stock picks are no better than if a monkey were to throw darts at the newspaper's financial pages. To get a sense of the reliability of CBO estimates, spin the monkey three times beforehand. As John Barry of the Tax Foundation points out in a recent memo, the CBO's March 1997 prediction for the 2002 deficit was much more accurate [$188 billion] than the estimate made just last year. Mr. Barry argues, sensibly, that "federal deficit estimates are no basis for tax policy," as "margins of error of 50 percent or greater are typical." Voters should be wary when politicians treat speculative forecasts of volatile budgets as gospel. Instead, policymakers should use more reliable estimates and hard numbers whenever possible. For instance, when determining the appropriate level of taxation and spending, instead of looking to unreliable budget estimates lawmakers should consider the relationship between federal tax receipts and spending to gross domestic product [GDP]. President Bush's tax cut was not good policy because CBO calculations estimated a $5.4 trillion surplus over 10 years; it was good policy because federal tax receipts had grown to 20.3 percent of GDP, a peacetime record. It was this dramatic growth in taxes relative to the economy - not sound fiscal management as some would have us believe - that led to the budget surpluses of recent years. While it is true that a $290 billion deficit in 1992 was turned into a $236 billion budget surplus in 2000, federal spending grew more than 35 percent during that time and was only held that low because the 1995-96 conservative Republican majority was willing to shut down the government to keep growth below 2 percent for a single fiscal year. Budget estimates will never be abandoned because they can serve a useful purpose. The U.S. Treasury needs a sense of how much bonded debt it must issue to cover federal spending and can use deficit projections when deciding what type of debt to issue and how much to make available for auction. But in the hands of opportunistic politicians, budget projections can be a dangerous, albeit misleading, rhetorical weapon. The CBO does as good a job forecasting deficits and surpluses as any private or public economic research group in the country, but it would be nice if politicians included the same disclaimers as CBO when using its numbers. Of course, this will not happen until politicians eschew distortion as a political weapon, an outcome about as likely as this year's CBO forecast for the 2012 budget deficit. Jason M. Thomas is a staff economist at Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation.

09/12/2002
Groups Voice Opinions on Social Studies Books
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Groups Voice Opinions on Social Studies Books

BY Lucy Hood

Textbook testimony heeded Woody Guthrie's words on Wednesday, or at least his best-known phrase, as educators and parents debated the content of social studies books to be used in Texas classrooms for the next eight years. In various ways, many of the 78 people who signed up to testify before the State Board of Education had one thing to say: "This land is my land." They felt strongly that the social studies texts should reflect just that. Wednesday's hearing was the third and final one before the board approves a list of recommended textbooks in November. The stakes are high both for the state and the publishing industry. Texas is the second-largest consumer of textbooks nationwide, and it will spend an estimated $344.7 million on social studies books alone. The speakers fell into three camps. One of those, a coalition of several conservative organizations, claimed that many of the more than 250 social studies books under consideration do not place sufficient emphasis on patriotism and the merits of a free-market society. Their liberal counterparts argued that there is more to social studies than capitalism and patriotism. A third group said the accomplishments of minorities, particularly Hispanics, are not fairly represented in the texts. "The textbook battle is a clash of belief systems," said Richard Neavel, of Austin, who has five grandchildren in public schools. One of them is 11-year-old Elena Cortez Neavel. "Elena will not be educated if she learns to be blindly patriotic," he said. Mentioning scandal-ridden companies such as Enron, he asked if "that is the free enterprise system that these organizations want Elena to admire?" One of the organizations he referenced was Citizens for a Sound Economy. Its leaders have raised questions about the teaching of economics, for example, and whether the textbooks accurately tout the benefits of capitalism and the drawbacks of governmental intervention. Another vocal critic of the social studies texts has been the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which spent nearly $100,000 and commissioned 16 scholars to study several of the textbooks. They identified more than 500 errors. But their critics have questioned whether the errors represent actual mistakes or a difference of opinion. Chris Patterson, director of education research for the San Antonio-based TPPF, came under fire Wednesday for the group's failure to hire an African American or Hispanic scholar to review the books. "You need diversity," said board member Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi. "There are many Hispanic scholars who would have welcomed the opportunity to work with you and your evaluation." Many who spoke mentioned the Sept. 11 attacks, and Citizens for a Sound Economy gave the textbooks high marks overall for their accounts of the tragedy. Samantha Smoot, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, said the hearing was an exercise in democracy and therefore a suitable way to mark the anniversary. She also reiterated the group's commitment to "ideology-free textbooks" and opposition to censorship. Citizens for a Sound Economy director Peggy Venable gave the textbooks high marks overall for their accounts of the Sept. 11 tragedy, but criticized some books for not placing blame on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network. "We need to point out that we were attacked for our virtues, not our sins," she said. What publishers ultimately put in the Texas books is often used as a template for the books they sell nationwide, said Stephen Driesler, executive director of the Association of American Publishers. The changes made here, he said, could end up in classrooms all over the country, or, as Guthrie would say, from "California to the New York Island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters."

09/12/2002
Is Our National Soul Any Better a Year Later?
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Press Release

Is Our National Soul Any Better a Year Later?

As published in The Dallas Morning News, September 11, 2002 As the sun rose on Sept. 12 last year, commuters already were driving through the smoke from the still smoldering Pentagon to get to their jobs in Washington. President Bush, along with the secretary of defense and members of Congress, had emphasized the importance of getting back to our lives as usual. They urged Americans to display courage rather than to cower in fear. The Pentagon opened for business, as did Congress and the White House. We as citizens followed suit.

09/11/2002
Oregon CSE Applauds Legislators’ Decision Not to Raise Taxes
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Press Release

Oregon CSE Applauds Legislators’ Decision Not to Raise Taxes

Oregon Citizens for a Sound Economy (OR CSE) praised Oregon legislators’ decision not to raise taxes on Oregonians during these difficult economic times. Last night, during the fifth special session to deal with the budget deficit, a majority of legislators decided to vote down H.B. 4078 –A, which would have raised taxes across the board on Oregonians. OR CSE director Russ Walker had these comments:

09/11/2002
Incumbent Stone Tops Field
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Incumbent Stone Tops Field

BY Samantha Peterson

Only one of two incumbents seeking re-election will be on November's ballot for Union County commissioner, along with a former president of the Republican Men's Club and a Weddington council member. Incumbent Richard Stone was Tuesday night's top vote-getter, earning 4,517 votes, followed by Stony Rushing with 3,211 and Hughie Sexton with 3,190. The three were narrowed from a field of nine Republican hopefuls. In November, they'll face lone Democrat John Tarlton for the three commissioner slots. Incumbent Larry Helms will not be on November's ballot. He came in fourth with 3,142 votes. John Feezor, the board's chairman, chose not to run. Stone said he's humbled Union residents have asked him to continue serving as a commissioner. "It says that folks want honest government that listens to their needs and uncontrolled growth is definitely part of that issue," Stone said. Stone, 62, is in his second term as commissioner, his only political office. The New Salem resident owns Signs and Stained Glass Limited in Marshville. Rushing, 30, was president of the Union County Republican Men's Club until he filed to run for commissioner. He lives in Wingate and is a contract farm manager. He's a member of the Friends of the NRA in Union County and the N.C. Chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy. "It says Union County is ready to stop fighting and is ready for good government," Rushing said. Sexton, in his second term on the Weddington Town Council, ran unsuccessfully in 2000 for county commissioner. Sexton, 54, designs and composes advertising for The Observer and owns Sexton Photography. Sexton could not be reached for comment Tuesday night. Also on the ballot were Roger Lane who earned 2,841 votes; Phil Gilboy with 2,368 votes; Kevin Stewart with 2,355 votes; Jack Lawton with 2,074 votes; and Constance Kelly with 1,640 votes. Helms, 57, of Indian Trail, is in his first term on the board. He previously was mayor of Indian Trail and owns Larry S. Helms and Associates Insurance. He said he's disappointed by the vote, but said, "It's the American way." "It's the way life goes sometimes," Helms said. In separate balloting, Stallings residents voted to allow hotels, motels and restaurants to sell mixed drinks and to allow an ABC store. Beer and wine are already sold in retail stores, but not restaurants. Also, two judges, Susan Taylor and Chris Bragg, will face off in November for a Superior Court judgeship for District 20B, which includes Union and Stanly counties. Taylor is the incumbent, appointed in January, and Bragg is a district court judge. The vote decided which two of three candidates would be on November's ballot. Charles Lefler, an Albemarle attorney, also ran.

09/11/2002
Teaching September 11
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Press Release

Teaching September 11

As published in The Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2002 September 11 had a riveting effect on the entire world, and not least on our children. Stunned as we all were in the first moments, it was easy to forget that our children were watching the whole time. For some parents, absorbed in trying to comprehend what was happening on their televisions and radios, it was hours before they realized that their young children were taking in all the horrific images and messages as well.

09/10/2002
Outline of the Tax Reform Campaign
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Press Release

Outline of the Tax Reform Campaign

September 2002 Dear CSE Member: Thank you for your interest in CSE’s fundamental tax reform campaign to “Scrap the Code.” Your interest – and hopefully your participation – will help to advance our mission of lower taxes, less government, and more freedom. Simply put, CSE’s “Scrap the Code” tax reform campaign seeks to abolish the nation’s tax code for one that’s simple, low, fair, flat, and honest.

09/10/2002
Out of Sight, Out of Mind?
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Press Release

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

As a potential war with Iraq and a stock market rally push corporate wrongdoing and bankruptcy out of the headlines, the Bush administration appears to be plodding along with a proposal to address some of the real lessons brought out by the implosion of Enron and WorldCom.

09/10/2002
The Cause of Freedom
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Press Release

The Cause of Freedom

Editor’s Note:

09/10/2002

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