There should be repercussions if taxes aren’t spent wisely

Americans are now at the end of the most dreaded season of all— tax season. Unfortunately, many people may not be thinking properly about their taxes at all.

I have a friend whose knowledge of tax policy is second-to-none. He has also experienced the highs and lows of our current economic insecurity. Armed with this wisdom, he recently explained to me how too many Americans aren’t assessing their tax burden how they should.

For many, taxes are withdrawn through deductions on every paycheck. That’s often not enough, and another lump sum is due on April 15. It can be a household’s largest annual cash outlay.

My friend thinks it’s justified to be critical of what many politicians call a citizen’s “investment” in America.

What is the government doing, for instance, to protect our kids other than trying to grab peoples’ guns after every school shooting? Why are bridge and highway infrastructures crumbling with taxes so high?

Frustrations about high taxes don’t abate when the race card and class warfare are played in their defense. The average, hard-working, law-abiding taxpayer doesn’t deserve to be called a racist or a “one-percenter,” just because he wants to see a return on his investment with higher-quality and accountable schools, smarter regulations and policies that turn the nation’s tax consumers into producers of revenue.

My buddy’s point is that taxes make us involuntary investors. He paid $45,000 in taxes for 2012 even though he made less than $200,000 in Washington, D.C. (an area prone to significant wage inflation). That’s enough to buy the government a luxury car without financing. It’s not something he could, or would, do for himself.

Our tax dollars are invested through the government we are told, to make society better. The government is expected to be a good steward of our involuntary contribution.

Just like any savvy investor, we should all want to know how our investment is doing and, if it’s performing poorly, divest or change our investment officers— politicians.

The media should serve as a means for investors/taxpayers to hold accountable the management of the company that is our government.

Instead, frustratingly, the media is hyper-focused on superficialities such as gavel-to-gavel coverage of the latest celebrity murder trial or a missing airplane or breaking news about Kim and Kanye.

Every second the media spends on trivialities gives the public less of an opportunity to understand why and how the money being spent to educate impoverished youth isn’t helping them become less dependent. Every second spent on tabloid news obsessions takes away from discussions on how to really reduce health care costs.

Fairness is just as frustrating a facet.

My friend explained that he was laid off in 2009, but his unemployment check was taxed to ensure, in part, that Chrysler assembly line workers had their pensions protected through bankruptcy proceedings. Meanwhile, his own 401K-retirement plan had no support at all.

He had to short sale his house in Phoenix to relocate to his new job in Washington. Is it fair that he had to forego buying a house in Washington while he rebuilt equity while his tax dollars funded programs keeping people who over-bought during the housing boom in their homes?

My friend is subsidizing the bad decisions of others now treading water after he purposefully lost his investment on his old house to right his own foundering financial ship.

Almost half the nation does not pay taxes into the general federal fund, but we all benefit from public roads, national defense and the like. There are too many with no skin in the game. Is that fair?

Fairness is a dangerous word if you’re not defining what is fair. The people pushing fairness in terms of money coming in never discuss accountability of the money already received. The two never seem to go together.

Taxes are an investment and those who call it that, need to remember there is a demand for responsible investing and there should be repercussions if funds aren’t spent wisely.

Hughey Newsome, a business consultant in the D.C. area, is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to:

Disproportionate definitions of ‘disproportionate’

In a speech this past February, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Americans need to reconsider the punishment that convicted felons lose their right to vote.”

While some states have means for felons, usually those convicted of non-violent crimes, to regain their voting rights, Holder said, “an estimated 5.8 million Americans— 5.8 million of our fellow citizens— are prohibited from voting because of current and previous felony convictions.”

Holder claimed 2.2 million African-Americans, or nearly one in 13 African-American adults, cannot vote because “[t]hese laws, with their disparate impact on minority communities, echo policies enacted during a deeply troubled period in America’s past— a time of post-Civil War discrimination.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) also recently weighed in on felon voting rights, saying: “It’s an important issue. When you look at who is being deprived of voting, they are disproportionately people of color.”

By the Attorney General’s own numbers, most of the people restricted from voting are not African-American. But Holder, like Paul, similarly and rightly observed these laws do have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Paul, however, didn’t go as far as Holder in suggesting such restrictions are akin to institutionalized racism in the 19th century.

The word “disproportionate” nonetheless deserves some discussion, as its application, or lack thereof, is sometimes dubious.

Holder and Paul both observed the proportion of African-Americans disallowed from voting because of felony status is significantly larger than the proportion of the general population that similarly cannot vote. While salacious language such as “post-Civil War discrimination” is questionable, there is no question it is disproportionate.

Yet, liberals are inconsistent in noting harm caused by disproportionate impact. Rousing language such as “post-Civil War discrimination” is used to denounce disproportionate policies they disagree with, but they lack such ferocity when considering the disproportionate impacts of their own policies.

Consider voter ID laws. Because African-Americans disproportionately lack overnment-issued IDs, voter ID laws are considered racially discriminatory because of a disproportionate impact on African-Americans. No mind seems to be paid to the fact there are economic ramifications to lacking such identification, and that voter ID laws can be a benefit because many establish free access to such IDs and thus help level the economic playing field.

Consider abortion. Regardless of one’s stance on abortion, ending a pregnancy is, without a doubt, an emotionally devastating prospect for a female. Per federal estimates, more than three times as many African-American pregnancies end in abortion compared to white pregnancies. There is no question this is disproportionate. New York City officials reported that 42.4 percent of all city abortions in 2012 were of non-Hispanic black babies, and that more non-Hispanic African-American pregnancies ended in abortion that year than in live births. This is clearly disproportionate, yet this disproportion fails to incite liberal outrage. In fact, liberals would oppose any attempt to reduce it.

Consider economics. Janet Yellen, the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, said quantitative easing— the Fed’s economic stimulant— will continue at near-zero interest rates. According to Washington Post estimates, only one in four African-Americans invest in stocks, bonds or mutual funds. Yet nearly half of whites own such investments. It’s not a stretch to say African-Americans disproportionately do not take advantage of the Fed’s policy, which helps inflate the stock market and negatively affects savers by keeping interest rates low.

Why is this disproportionate impact not lamented by the mainstream media?

Finally, consider education. Last year, the Holder Justice Department sought a permanent injunction against Louisiana’s tuition voucher program. A majority of voluntary participants, a disproportionate 90 percent, are African-Americans. Had the Justice Department been successful, a disproportionate number of African-American parents would have lost the ability to send their children to a school of their choice. The stated goal of the injunction was to not upset desegregation efforts (although some claim it was to placate the teachers unions), but is it fair to disproportionately hurt African-American parents?

The word “disproportionate” is very powerful. It would be nice if it could be applied consistently.

Hughey Newsome, a business consultant in the D.C. area, is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to

COMMENTARY: Dr. King’s legacy and the 21st century

While attending a church service dedicated to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I was struck by the conflation of what the Civil Rights Movement fought against and what should be our modern-day priorities.


Hughey Newsome

In particular, the speaker at this church attempted to say the atrocities of the past remain alive today, only through a different name. Conservatives— those who fight for things such as less government intervention— are getting an unnecessary and undeserved bad rap.

There is no question the legacy and reputation of Dr. King is second-to-none. The Civil Rights Movement that secured the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and vanquished lingering vestiges of segregation and racism was wrapped in a message of equal opportunity and ensuring that all Americans are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

Ironically, the historic legislation was completed with the signature of liberal President Lyndon Johnson, who, while in Congress, killed civil rights legislation in 1956, watered down the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and voted against bills to ban lynching and eliminate the poll tax (he also later callously dropped the n-word while touting the perceived political payoff of Great Society handouts— and in many other instances).

Unfortunately, like at the church service I attended, there are too many attempts made to diminish and oversimplify the African-American community’s problems by seeking to find the same overt racism now that my grandparents and great-grandparents faced back in the day.

While this may generate hype, it detracts from what I consider to be the civil rights issues of the 21st century.

To be clear, explicit racism still exists today, just as traditional bigotry has not completely died. But it does society no good to dismissively blame African-Americans’ problems on forces, which are largely ostracized today.

Attempts to categorize all arguments against Big Government approaches as extensions of this bigotry, for example, takes away from constructive debate about how society can address challenges facing African-Americans.

What are the civil rights issues of the 21st century? Better yet, what current barriers do African-Americans face regarding equal opportunity and disparities in health, wealth and, most important, education (the principal driver of the other disparities)?

Having to pay overtime to police officers in Chicago to escort schoolchildren across gang territories is a 21st century civil rights issue. Paying those cops extra requires resources that could be used to buy computers and textbooks (in lieu of raising taxes or more borrowing) and is, sadly, a self-imposed disparity.

Approximately 70 percent of children being born into single-parent households is another 21st century civil rights issue. Note that when children are born into such households, their chances of imprisonment, government dependence and poverty also appear to increase.

Finding a way for African-American children to enjoy the benefits of improved education quality and not having to disproportionately attend so-called “dropout factories” is also a 21st century civil rights issue. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s school choice program saving thousands of minorities, mostly African-American kids, from failing schools should be a

diversity success story. Yet the tragedy of how the federal government wants to block it is mostly untold.

The disproportionate rate of African-American pregnancies ending in abortion— at a ratio of almost three-to-one compared to white pregnancies, according to the CDC— is a 21st century civil rights issue. Regardless of whether someone is pro-choice or pro-life, the stark discrepancies in abortion rates in poor African-American communities should cause anyone concerned with civil rights to take pause. But far too little attention is paid to this dramatic statistic.

Next year, and in years to come, when I attend church services dedicated to Dr. King and his legacy I want to hear more about self-empowerment and addressing 21st century civil rights issues. I don’t want rants about straw man racists.

Unfortunately, such a message is not politically expedient. So my expectations are tinged with skepticism.

Hughey Newsome, a business consultant in the D.C. area, is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to