Oh, What Webs We Manage to Weave

by Judy Cresanta, NPRI President

When the name Luther Parks cropped up on a long list of teacher’s pension investments, Linda Hogue had no clue who he might be. But long dissatisfied with the investments made by the Arkansas Teachers Retirement System administrator, Linda was determined to get to the bottom of what appeared to be political favoritism, illegal diversion of funds and mismanagement of the $4 billion dollar per year retirement fund. The full story can be found in the American Spectator in an article by James Ring Adams in which he documents an unprecedented pension fund raid in 1987 by none other than former Governor Bill Clinton and his Arkansas cronies and involving the Small Business Administration. Yes, taxpayer funded public employee pension funds have been diverted into the Clinton gubernatorial reelection campaign. What was at the bottom of this seedy story? You guessed it, Gov. Clinton had convinced the Arkansas Legislature to pass a package of increased school spending, and paid for it with the state’s largest tax increase in a quarter century. This is the basis of Clinton’s claim to have been the Arkansas “education governor” — and them the state’s economy stalled, of course.

Now what has this to do with Nevada? A notable “friend of Bill’s” sits in our own governor’s mansion. Like Clinton, he’s an able politician and has mastered conservative-speak down to the punctuation but he has repeatedly hammered the taxpayers of his own state with pleas for supporting children with tax increases to fund education, has issued executive decrees to avoid fiscally responsible employment practices, and misrepresents Nevada as a low tax state, which it clearly is not. In this issue of Online Nevada NPRI Senior Research Fellow Ralph Heller takes a look at Nevada’s tax structure as it exists today, listing some of the incredible tax increases of the last decade and a half while reporting how little massive increases in public education spending have accomplished.

Miller likes to quote Money magazine’s annual tax report which usually lists Nevada as the “tax nirvana” of the West, but Money continues to violate the most basic of academic study principles by applying to all states criteria actually relevant for only a few. Money measures three taxes only - property taxes, state income taxes and state sales taxes, which leaves county sales taxes, gasoline taxes, auto registration fees, insurance premium taxes and another two dozen taxes and fees unaccounted for. A fifth grader can see through this scam, and the only legitimate way to compare taxes is to total all of each state’s tax revenue and then divide the totals by each state’s population to determine “per capita tax burden.”

Elsewhere in this issue of your favorite magazine - well it is your favorite, isn’t it? - William Durden, Adjunction Fellow and principle researcher in education at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University analyzes the “School to Work” education model being scrutinized by Congress. Durden’s premise is that the highly successful German “School to Work” model is not the model of the program adopted by America’s “feel good” education reformers who increasingly resemble the proverbial foxes that have been recklessly entrusted with guarding chicken coops!

But let’s get back to Luther Parks, and how did he end up with teachers’ pension money? Understandably, this is what Arkansas teacher Linda Hogue wanted to know, and it turns out that Parks was a Little Rock investigator who at one point in the 1980’s conducted surveillance on Gov. Clinton. But in 1993 he was shot to death in his car at a sparsely settled intersection just outside the Little Rock city limits, and it seems his murder remains unsolved even today. The point is obvious: in far too many states, including our own, management of teachers’ pension funds goes largely unexamined.

If you find you haven’t seen quite enough fireworks on the Fourth of July northern Nevada residents might want to tune in KTVN-TV Channel 2 in Reno at 9:30 a.m. on July 7 for the debut of NPRI’s new weekly television debate program entitled “You Think About It.” The topic for our initial program on July 7 will be Education, featuring a Nevada State Teachers Association staff member and Democratic political consultant Mylan Hawkins, representing a relatively liberal viewpoint, and on the conservative side former U.S. Senate candidate Hal Furman and Dr. Frank Beckwith, lecturer in philosophy at UNLV and Whittier College.

 

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