Political Animal

RACIAL PROFILING….Lots of blogospheric coverage

RACIAL PROFILING….Lots of blogospheric coverage of the Boston Globe study of racial profiling in Massachussetts. The results are shocking: Hispanics and blacks who were stopped by police were 50% more likely to be searched than whites. Who would have guessed?

But I think there’s some kind of east coast bias at work here, because we have our very own study of racial profiling in Los Angeles and nobody’s mentioned it yet. Here’s the deal: we’ve had a bit of police unpleasantness over the past decade in Los Angeles, and the LAPD was finally forced to sign a consent decree with the Justice Department about a year ago. One of the aspects of the consent decree is that the LAPD is required to keep statistics on traffic stops, something that LA’s finest don’t find amusing:

The requirement is widely resented by LAPD officers. Many say they do not stop people merely because of their race, and that they often cannot tell the race of people they are tailing, particularly at night.

Maybe so, but apparently they can figure out someone’s race after they’ve pulled them over:

Among the findings: Thirty-eight percent of drivers stopped by police were recorded as Latino, 33% were white and 18% black. According to the 2000 Census, the city’s population is 46.5% Latino, 29.7% white and 10.9% African American.

Of those pulled over, 7% of whites were asked to step out of their cars, compared with 22% of Latinos and 22% of blacks. Once out of their cars, 67% of the blacks were patted down and 85% were subjected to a search of their person, car, residence or belongings, while 55% of Latinos were frisked and 84% were searched. Meanwhile, 50% of whites were frisked and 71% were searched.

Just in case you don’t want to bother doing the math, the bottom line is that Los Angeles police would sneer at a mere 50% difference in the rate at which they search minorities. Among people who were pulled over:

  • 3.5% of whites were frisked and 5% were searched.

  • 12% of Latinos were frisked and 18.5% were searched.

  • 14.7% of blacks were frisked and 18.7% were searched

Man, I sure wish I were black so I could benefit from all those affirmative action goodies. Life would sure be sweet then.

UPDATE: One of my readers thinks I should avoid sarcastic tag lines like the last sentence of this post. Comments?

HUH?….Mindles Dreck explains the George

HUH?….Mindles Dreck explains the George Bush Tax Complification Act of 2003. Or tries to anyway, but I’m not even sure he understands what this is all about, and he does it for a living. I sure don’t, but whatever it is, it seems like an extraordinarily stupid idea. And go here (or just scroll up) for more.

What a mess. Was anybody who actually gives a damn involved in this whole plan?

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES….Reader Bill

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES….Reader Bill Nazzaro pointed me to this report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. As the chart below shows, state and local taxes, when taken as a whole, are highly regressive. Among the non-elderly, the poorest pay about 11% of their income in total state and local taxes while the rich pay about 7%. The report also has state-by-state breakdowns, so check it out to see how your state comes out.

The bottom line is that when people talk about how high earners pay the lion’s share of federal income taxes, you’re not getting the whole story. The whole story is this:

  • The rich pay the bulk of taxes because they have the bulk of the money.

  • Federal income tax is progressive, but this only barely makes up for the regressive nature of state and local taxes.

  • When you add up all the taxes people pay (state, local, and federal), the tax system is progressive, but not as much as you’d think.

Keep this in mind the next time some yammerhead like Steve Forbes starts nattering on about a flat tax. The end result of a flat federal income tax would be to make the entire tax system regressive. Not exactly the “fair” result that the flat taxers pretend to be in favor of.

UPDATE: Some stuff has been rearranged and edited to make it clearer. I hope.