My Unique Take on St. Louis City Proposition P (The “P” Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means)

14 11 2017

Downtown

Back in February and March leading up to the April election in St. Louis City, city voters were told to vote yes on Proposition 1, an extra half cent on the sales tax, because:

Cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops MetroLink cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops MetroLink cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops MetroLink cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops cops.

Predictably, city voters approved Prop 1, because, well, because cops.

It wasn’t until after Prop 1 was safely in the bag that the media around here admitted the truth, which I don’t think even I grasped before the fact, that most of Prop 1 was going to be used for the MissingLink and really none of it for cops.  The dough it generates is by no means enough to pay for the entire cost of the North-South line, because they’re figuring that it’ll run somewhere close to $2 billion.  What Prop 1 funds provides is everything in the pre-construction phrase, the engineering work, the design work, the environmental studies, the right-of-way acquisition (if any is needed), sundries, and most importantly, money to pay people to lobby the Feds to open up Uncle Sam’s wallet for the $2 billion it will take to start turning dirt.  But, again, none for cops.

Unfortunately, on the same day Prop 1 passed in the city, St. Louis County voters passed Proposition P, also an extra half cent on the sales tax, and that money actually was used for cops, and almost entirely to raise the pay scales for the County Browns (St. Louis County Police Department).  City officials were hoping (Or were they?  See below) that Prop P wouldn’t pass in the county, for two main reasons:  One, they knew they were feeding city voters a line of boo sheet that Prop 1 was going to be used for cops, but two and more crucially, because they knew that Prop 1 wouldn’t benefit cops, a successful Prop P in the county would mean that the already existing and noticeable pay scale gap between County Browns and SLPD would grow much wider, and that it did.  Which now only serves as a magnet for SLPD to make the move across the county line and defect to the better paid County Browns.  Or so we’re told, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

Which means City Hall had to come back again and ask city voters for another half cent nut, (Proposition P, not to be confused with the aforementioned April proposition in the county), on the November ballot, (thereby giving enough time for people of short memory not to remember that Prop 1 back in April was supposed to be for the cops), and according to the pro-P mailers, lit and media buys, specifically to fund pay scale increases for both SLPD and SLFD to keep “good, experienced first responders” from defecting to the County Browns and county fire departments.  Even more than that, pro-P propaganda said that with the recent spike in violent crime in the city, Prop P was needed more than ever to keep good experienced SLPD cops in the city so they can help combat the crime.

And of course you can probably figure out how it turned out on voting day, if you aren’t here and don’t already know the answer.

The official reasoning in support of Prop P raises more questions than answers, and when you mash up that boat load of question marks with the political skulduggery around here from back in the spring, and then do a little subversive thinking, you’ll figure out what’s really going on, you’ll find the real answer. Consider:

(1) Even if Prop P funds do wind up absolutely equalizing SLPD and County Browns pay scales, that still won’t stop the city-to-county cop bleeding, (provided it is actually occurring, and, once again, I’ll get to that), because in order to do that, the SLPD pay scales would need to be not just the same as County Browns, but in fact, much higher.  Simply because, for the most part, St. Louis City is riskier policing work than most of unincorporated St. Louis County and St. Louis County munis without their own police department, in spite of the fact that County Browns have to deal with most of the worst of North County.  Remember this thing called the risk-reward continuum?  That concept makes another appearance in today’s post storm.  Who wants to run the risk of being the next Jason Stockley (whose saga can also be found elsewhere in today’s post storm) on the SLPD unless SLPD pay is much higher (“hazard pay”) than everywhere else?  Prop P “at best” only equalizes city with county, there’s nowhere near the kind of money to do the kind of hazard pay that is honestly necessary to stop all this supposed bleeding.

(2) But I don’t think there is really a whole lot of bleeding.  The pro-P propagandists insisted that there’s this constant steady massive barrage of cops leaving the city for the county.  The problem with that is this:  I hardly think the County Browns can just on a whim hire any ole SLPD officer who wants to make the move.  Sure, they might be able to take in a few such “refugees,” but no more than that.  Clayton has budgetary pressures just as much as Downtown.  Besides, most County Browns officers came there from a path other than starting out with the SLPD; It’s not as if that prerequisite exists to get on with the St. Louis County PD.  If there was, there would be political hell to pay in the county.

(3) I don’t actually think the important people in the city were “hoping” that the April Prop P in the county would fail, I think they knew it would pass, (first responder ballot measures rarely fail, owning to the high public approval of first responders, which is a segue to my BLM commentary of today’s post storm), thereby giving them their next move to do what they really wanted to do and do it for the reason they really wanted to do it.  I’m about to get to that.

(4) Then there’s the biggie.  I know the qualitative difference between a good experienced cop and a not-so-good inexperienced cop, and what difference it makes in terms of job performance.  However, I am not convinced that even if every SLPD officer was of the former variety rather than the latter, that it would make a significant difference in the violent crime rate.  Back in May, I wrote a post here wherein I quoted my own AR comment about the questionable notion that increasing the number of beat cops in a given department within the relevant range of reality can necessarily result in a proportional and commensurate reduction in the violent crime rate.  I think a lot of the same reasoning I present there applies to the question of the good-experienced vs bad-inexperienced spectrum when it comes to street level enforcers.  Just for the fact that all the cops are book smart and street smart and long tenured as opposed to the polar opposites isn’t going to prevent N’Deshawntavious from murking Ooktavious over the last slug of malt liquor on the corner of Natural Bridge and Newstead.  I am of the opinion that violent crime is going to be what it’s going to be regardless of the relevant range of the number of cops or the professional acuity of the cops, because things other than those are the driving forces behind it.

Believe me, if I’ve game theorized through these things, then the city’s power elite have thought of this, or if not, some brainiac apparatchik very similar to your brain-damaged Blogmeister, the sort that works in some corner office in some suite halfway up Met Square, has thought of it and told them all.  The connections between myself and the metro area’s power elites were tenuous at best even back in the days when I was professionally closest to them, and now, thanks to being so rudely interrupted back in July, they’re next to nonexistent.  In spite of that, I have a good enough “feel” on the really important people in the area and how they think and what they think, and I can triangulate what they’re up to.  (Because, when you have a good enough read on human nature, and you let yourself think subversively, you wind up seeing right through the opaque smokescreens of official pronouncements in order to discover the truth.)  The real movers and shakers in the city already realize all the Doubting Thomas factors you just read, but they wanted Prop P anyway.

I’m about to tell you the real reason why, doing more of my world-renowned subversive thinking.  Translated into Ebonics, I’m finna spit the real.

Try to think of a reason why a city government of significant size would need more revenue to spend on first responders, police and fire, but a purpose that’s tangential to the purpose rather than the things themselves.  Hint:  The P in Proposition P does stand for a word that starts with P, but it’s not “police.”

All you need is one word:

Pensions.

The Ferguson Effect black violent crime spike around here provided City Hall and certain attached civic movers and shakers the perfect excuse/opportunity/cover to extort already nervous city voters for another half cent sales tax to cover partially if not completely the coming first responder pension fund financial pressures on City Hall that are about to become real big problems in the coming years, even more so than they have been in, say, the last ten years.  (Recall that FRS, Firefighter Retirement System, was one of Francis Slay’s big political headaches during his third and fourth terms as mayor.)   To put it another way, while the rubes are all worried about N’Deshawntavious and Ooktavious, we can manipulate their anxiety and fleece them to solve the future pension crisis, feeding them a bunch of tripe and boo sheet and excuses and politically easy answers to get them to go along.  Get while the gettin’s good.

If my cynicism is correct, then I think the SLPD (and SLFD) pay scales will be raised some, but not to equalization levels with the county, but it won’t really make a difference in any way shape or fashion, as I just explained in this epic post, and the city power brokers already know the same things.  Most of the money will be used for pensions.  Because a lot of other cities and states are facing future pension problems that are even worse than St. Louis’s, I expect other places to run this scam.  Baltimore, for example, also experiencing a Ferguson Effect black violent crime spike, will probably try this.

BONUS OBSERVATION

Postmortem after P passed.  Even if you take the pro-P propaganda totally at face value, and I just spent over 1,800 words to explain that and why I don’t, then even these hopes don’t make sense.  At face value, Prop P will merely result in the cops already on the SLPD being paid more, which means CWE residents (“the smartest people in town”) must believe that the same cops that somehow couldn’t prevent CWE residents from being violent crime victims before November 7 will somehow magically be able to start doing so just because they’re being paid more.  Brain damaged local Alt-Right blogger figures it out but a neighborhood full of professors and geniuses and high cognitive functioning professionals can’t?

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Fighting Over a Bag of Money

10 07 2017

Las Vegas

I’ve thought almost since the moment the Floyd-Conor fight was announced that the whole thing is athletically irrelevant and apropos of nothing.  While we’re at it, we should arrange for a bout between a beetle and an avocado.

It’s just two guys fighting over possession of a bag of money.

It’s also why I’m not planting any racial pride flags on this farce.

Now we find out today why Floyd wanted to do this so badly.





Profundity, Served Here on a Nearly Daily Basis

2 07 2017

Springfield

Two of my prophecies about Illinois have already come true, one did some time ago, and the other just did:

(1) Dawn Clark Netsch was the most influential politician in the modern history of Illinois state politics, in spite of the fact that she lost the 1994 race for Governor.

(2) The state would quit making lottery jackpot payouts.

I’ve been following (2) for awhile recently, so I’ll put it aside.

In 1994, Netsch was the Democrat nominee for Governor running against Jim Edgar, who was seeking his second term.  Netsch called for increasing the single flat rate state income tax rate and then giving rebates to lower income people within the paying range.  Edgar of course dumped all over the idea.  He won.  And, late in his second term as Governor, he proposed Netsch’s idea almost down to the letter.  It would actually be enacted under the next Governor, another Republican, George Ryan.  When that happened, it was said to be temporary, and that, at some point in the future, the rate would revert.

Not only has it not reverted, and any dummy could have predicted that, it’s about to go in the other direction, again.





In That Which My Habit Is Justified

8 06 2017

Jefferson City

About the DOR’s snail pace in submitting state income tax return refund checks:

It’s why I try to arrange my personal tax business such that, ideally, I slightly owe the Feds and state, or if I wind up getting a refund, it’s an amount so small that I wouldn’t miss it if it never comes.  Because we should be increasingly mentally resigned to “it never comes.”  I’d rather not have what I had this year, owing both institutions rather substantial amounts, but even then, I’d rather owe a lot than get a lot back.  Because, as we’ve been seeing out of Illinois for awhile, and now the problem is presenting in Missouri, and soon it will be the Feds, tight budgets means they have ever incentive to hit the go slow zone when remitting tax refund checks.  Not so coincidentally, we found out a few days ago that the revenue punch isn’t quite strong enough to fund the 2018 FY budget the General Assembly passed last month.

Just as it’s going to be harder and harder to get income tax refund checks, I predict that the annuity recipients of large lottery jackpots will soon start having the same problems with yearly payments.  And don’t look for the judicial system to help you, because judges want the governments they work for to have the cash flow to pay judges’ salaries.  Law enforcement and military will have the same attitude for the same reason.  And I’m pretty sure both the government based in Washington, D.C. and the one based in Jefferson City will easily be able to beat me and my thirty-aught-six in a fight.

So the only thing you can do is what I do.  If you’re dumb enough to play the lottery, i.e. remit the tax on those unwilling or unable to understand probability and statistics, and you happen to win a large jackpot, take the one-time lump sum.

UPDATE

You may be asking right about now:  “But Blogmeister, if they start holding back tax refund checks, then everyone will do what you want and adjusting their withholding so that they can’t get a refund, and this will put governments back to square one in financial terms.”

Ordinarily, you’d think so.

But there’s an explanation about a fact of life and human nature you need to understand.  To set that up, I need to confess something.

I like to write here that I was born 40 years ago.  But that’s all a cover — What really happened in 1977 is that I arrived here from an alien world.  I’ve been spending all that time trying to find someone to fix the transmission on my UFO so I can get on outta here and back to Fezeliniglibauten-9.  You know how that goes, you have to double pop the clutch in order to go from 438th to 439th gear. “Feh,” you may quip, but that’s a really important gear shift I have to make when negotiating curves at the points where stellar gravity wells cancel each other out.  I’ve looked all over this planet for someone who can fix it — I’ve looked all over Area 51, Wright-Patterson AFB, Roswell, New Mexico, to no avail.  Hell, I got so desperate that I even called Art Bell, but not even he could help me.

So, as I’ve been stranded on this rock for the last 40 years, I’ve had lots of time on my hands, and therefore, I’ve done a lot of studying of these sentient beings that call themselves “human beings.”  And one of the many things I’ve learned about them is that they’re gravely fearful to the level of paranoia about being in anything that’s close to long term taxation indebtedness to governments that own and operate prisons.

Okay, all kidding aside, (or am I kidding?), sure, I can and do fiddle around with withholding with the aim of slightly owing the state and Feds in April every year, and I’m sure a small percentage of people would take that habit up if governments quit sending refund checks.  That’s because I’m not paranoid of owing on my tax returns.  However, most above board people are.  I think, even if it became obvious that governments won’t send tax refund checks anymore, most people will still arrange for over-withholding on their paychecks knowing full well that they won’t ever get it back, precisely because they fear tax indebtedness, because they fear Federal and state prison.  (That, and people are always unsure about their cash flow and liquid asset availability at any one moment in time.  If they owe on taxes, then the tax bill and some very important bill will be due at the same time, and they might not have the cash for both.)  And I think governments both know this propensity of human nature and are counting on it.  Most “honest” sorts of people won’t haggle over a few hundred or a few thousand dollars against institutions that own prisons, tanks, supercarriers and nuclear weapons.  Especially if they can be made to think that such haggling will preclude grandma from getting her Social Security check.





Not Removing Kebab, Part II

31 05 2017

North City

More knock backs of the Patel-owned quickie marts, not only here in The STL, but also in other cities.  It happened today, to match a similar set of raids last week.

It says that it was over cigarette tax arbitrage and K2.  My sense is that it was really about the taxes, and they just happened to throw the K2 thing in to make us think that this wasn’t purely a matter of the king’s soldiers jealously enforcing the king’s tax laws.

 





The T in ATF

23 02 2017

Bristol, Virginia

Most people think of the F in ATF, not realizing that they have jurisdiction over T.  And, just like there are Operation Gunrunner (“Fast and Furious”) clusterfucks that grow out of F, there is now a similar T-related scandal.

And what set it all off?

The basics of cigarette smuggling are simple. Each state sets its tobacco taxes. Buying cigarettes in low-tax states, like Virginia, and secretly selling them in higher-tax states, like New York, generates large profits. More complicated schemes have shipped cigarettes to Indian reservations, where they are not taxed, then rerouted them for sale on the black market.

A.T.F. agents try to disrupt these networks. Often that means working with informants to buy and sell tobacco on the black market, much the way agents pose as drug dealers to investigate cartels.

This is why the NYPD was so interested in Eric Garner, and the very questionable accost of him in July 2014 caused his death.

Obvious solution?  Tobacco taxation should be an exclusively Federal power.  Just as I think income taxation should be an exclusively Federal power.





Why I’m #NRx

17 10 2016

Washington, D.C.

Two reasons why it will never happen under the current system:

(1) The substance of the paperwork will never be simple, as long as the industries directly dependent on complicated Federal taxation law, tax attorneys, accountants, can buy politicians.

(2) The online nature of filling out the virtual paperwork will never properly function as long as elected politicians think they have to dole out the job based on political and ethnic concerns, i.e. H-1B.  Remember the ObamaDontCare online presence?  When it first went online, and failed so badly, a trio of 20-year olds within a matter of 48 hours built a website that replicated its functionality to a tee and worked flawlessly.

Now, if you really do want taxes to be that simple and that easy, seek, find, hug and support your nearest neoreactionary.