Tonight I will be off to San Antonio for a week for MUM. Travel from Hawaii takes a little extra time and often involves all night trans Pacific flights followed by waiting in a west coast and or a Midwest airport for another flight or two. so it will be Tuesday before I get used to the time change and shake off the jet lag. Hope the rest of the folks at MUM don’t mind if I doze off from time to time.
I have been trying to write these posts in the fashion of reflections on the subjects that were presented in the reading assignment, “Civic Engagement in Catholic and Marianist Universities: A Continuing Conversation Revised: 16 May 2010.” I will be returning to this blog after our time in San Antonio in order to offer the observations and reflections of my students, past present and those who still have not learned better from their peers to avoid my classes and of course those that actually show up in my classes looking to become more civically engaged through service learning.
The section on “the dignity of work and the rights of workers” in the “Characteristics of Marianist Universities” document starts as follows:
“The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. Employers contribute to the common good through the services or products they provide and by creating jobs that uphold the dignity and rights of workers—to productive work, to decent and just wages, to adequate benefits and security in their old age, to the choice of whether to organize and join unions, to the opportunity for legal status for immigrant workers, to private property, and to economic initiative. Workers also have responsibilities—to provide a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, to treat employers and co-workers with respect, and to carry out their work in ways that contribute to the common good. Workers, employers, and unions should not only advance their own interests, but also work together to advance economic justice and the well-being of all.”
I have been involved in asset building and tax assistance (VITA or the volunteer Income Tax Assistance program) for almost three decades and I have involved my students at Chaminade in these endeavors for the past 20 years now. The tax outreach by the students at Chaminade have resulted in over $4 million being returned to the working poor and homeless in Hawaii over the life of our outreach activities. So as to assessment or proof of learning and success I firmly believe that this speaks for itself. I will amplify on this statement as we continue to explore the area of civic engagement through the various learning outcomes that form the last section of the background reading.
The conclusion of the homework assignment is as follows: “This paper reflects the current understanding of the meaning of civic engagement in the Catholic and Marianist traditions of education on the three campuses of our Marianist universities. As such it provides a foundation for the next phase of this project: the development of the means to assess civic engagement on those campuses.”
This blog so far has addressed my civic engagement more than that of my students. And thus to end this segment of my blog I offer the following op-ed and a YouTube video link on the Earned Income Tax Credit and helping people with their back taxes. The op-ed is hopefully the first of a bunch that I will offer to my newly formed hometown paper, the Honolulu Star Advertiser. This piece was originally published in the Star Advertiser on January 27, 2011. The YouTube video is a segment from a local morning news broadcast that I get to be interviewed on a fairly regular basis on tax issues.
Earned income credit is bright star of tax policy
By Wayne M. Tanna
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 27, 2011
The television show “Lost” spent nearly $400 million during its six seasons of filming in Hawaii, according to the state in a June 17, 2010, Star-Advertiser report.
Clearly $400 million is a lot of money. Still, one must wonder, who really gets this amount? Does it stay in Hawaii? And how much does it cost to bring in this “investment”?
Then there’s a July 18, 2010, article reporting that from 2001 to 2008, the state’s Act 221, which provides qualified investments in technology businesses such as the film industry with a 100 percent tax credit, “cost the state up to $1.2 billion in forgone income tax revenues.”
While I am in favor of the film industry’s presence in Hawaii, I believe that a comparison with that industry will illustrate the importance and impact of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. From 2005 to 2009, the IRS reports, the EITC brought more than $815 million into the state. For tax year 2009 alone, the EITC returned more than $205 million, almost all of which stays right here in Hawaii, to 102,736 Hawaii residents. That’s an average of $1,996 per eligible household. This money represents new federal funds that went directly into the pockets of workers who needed it most: low- to moderate-income workers, who spent these funds on local goods and services, thereby stimulating the economy and increasing the state’s general excise tax revenues.
FREE TAX HELP
Free tax help for families making less than $50,000 will be offered 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the state Capitol, room 329. For appointments call 548-8887.
For other dates and locations go to www.hawaiitaxhelp.org, or call 211.
Friday marks the fifth annual Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day. Due to changes brought on by the continuing economic crisis and changes in the tax laws, more workers could be eligible for the EITC this year and not know it. As a result, they may overlook claiming the EITC, which can put anywhere from $2 to $5,666 into their pockets.
The Family and Individual Self-Sufficiency Program (FISSP) at the Hawaii Alliance for Community Based Economic Development (HACBED) and its many community partners help local families claim the EITC. The FISSP began as a pilot program at Aloha United Way in 2005 to help working yet still struggling families throughout the state build assets. One of the FISSP’s major programs provides free tax preparation to thousands of families every tax-filing season. Last year, based on 1,770 surveys, we found that EITC recipients planned to use their tax credit refunds to pay bills — including food and clothing, rent, education and child care — and save for the future.
President Ronald Reagan once called the EITC “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job-creation measure to come out of Congress.”
Today President Barack Obama, with bipartisan support, looks to the EITC to be a principal part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will help low- to moderate-income Americans get through this current economic crisis.
The EITC is the federal government’s largest benefit program for working-poor Americans. According to the IRS, the EITC in 2010 paid out more than $58 billion to low-income working taxpayers, far more than other government anti-poverty programs like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps.
The results of the EITC are impressive. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in tax year 2009, “the EITC is credited with lifting over 6.6 million individuals in America above the poverty line.”
The more touching fact is that more than half of that number are children.
Despite the benefits that are provided by the EITC, the IRS estimates that nationally 20-25 percent of EITC eligible taxpayers fail to file for the credit. This means that as many as 34,000 taxpayers in Hawaii may not be filing for the credit. This equates to as much as $68 million in federal funds being lost to our state this year alone.
For hard-working, low-income families looking to receive their full refund without spending more money for services, community tax programs like the FISSP at HACBED offer a quality choice.
Teaching is what I get paid the “big bucks” for, well a recent Honolulu Star Advertiser article did put Chaminade faculty in the 20th percentile in regards to pay at masters degree institutions nation wide so “big bucks” is clearly just a figure of speech in this refection. However, a card given to me by a recent graduate made it clear to me why I am at a Catholic Marianist University (i.e. Chaminade). The message in the card started as follows “Thank you for being such a great professor and mentor. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t go through VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) and Senior Field (BU470 the Senior Field Experience),and with your guidance I was able to become a much better version of myself.”
My student’s words reinforced the reason that I am a professor at Chaminade; It’s the teaching, stupid! “In the Marianist approach to education, “excellence” includes the whole person, not just the technician or rhetorician. It also includes people with their curricular and extra-curricular experiences, their intellectual and spiritual development, understood and supported best in and through community.
(28.) Diverse faculty and students feel at home in Marianist universities. Yet, diversity without a common mission leads to isolated groups who rarely interact on issues of common concern. A mission without attention to diversity overlooks the importance of building a community that is multifaceted, one in which diverse, and even at times, conflicting perspectives are joined in a richer and more complex search for what is reliable and worthwhile and true. As Catholic, Marianist universities seek to embrace diverse peoples and understand diverse cultures, convinced that ultimately, when such people come together, one of highest purposes of education is realized: the forming of a human community that respects every individual within it.
(29.) At Marianist universities, the faculty, staff and administration attend to both the formal and informal dimensions of education. To the extent that the university is residential in character, life both in and outside the classroom becomes an integral part of the educational experience. The contributions of all the various staff members, especially Campus Ministry and Student Development, all contribute to the creation of an environment in which people are respected and supported, even as they are informed and challenged. The administration, as well as the members of the governing board, remain concerned not only with keeping the mission clearly focused, but also with eliciting the gifts and talents of a diversity of people in the realization of that mission.
Past experience and practical wisdom has shown me that one of the best ways to facilitate the development of the whole person, to foster a deeper appreciation of diversity and to attend to both the formal and informal dimensions of education both inside and outside of the classroom is through teaching and mentoring. As a teacher I serve as a mentor and I try to help my students develop into better students, workers and individuals. Like so many others, I am not always successful. I dare say that there are some students and graduates out there that absolutely hate me! However, on balance I believe I have helped more than I have hindered. Cards and letter like the one I quoted above are few and far between but they are the kinds of words and messages that can keep you coming back to teach for years to come.
I got to see first hand the power of mentoring through my involvement in Pacific Centuries Second Century Scholars program. I shared my observations and experiences about this fabulous program in an op-ed that was first printed in the Honolulu Advertiser on Thursday, June 23, 2005.
Posted on: Thursday, June 23, 2005
Mentoring students is critical
On June 12, the Advertiser’s Community Editorial Board had the opportunity to express their ideas on how to improve our public schools. Community board member Meheroo Jussawalla posed the following questions at the end of the article: “Is there private-public cooperation being devised to improve the school system and to make its benefits more equitably distributed? What is the role of parents in meeting these challenges?”
In partial answer to the questions, I pose the reported results of the recently celebrated Bank of Hawaii’s Second Century Scholars’ program (“Investing in successful students,” Loren Moreno, June 17).
In 1997, I had the opportunity to be one of the judges responsible for selecting the 100 Second Century Scholars. As stated in the article, the program was to “’adopt’ 100 Hawai’i high school freshmen from low- to moderate- income backgrounds (and) prepare them for college.” The overwhelming majority of these students were from public schools. While the ultimate payoff that these students appeared to receive was the up to $40,000 to attend the college of their choice, the mentoring provided for the eight years may have been even more significant.
Trained by Big Brothers Big Sisters, concerned and caring volunteers provided the mentoring. Almost all of these volunteers came from the ranks of Bank of Hawaii’s employees. The results to date are that 70 of these students will graduate from college. This is a notable achievement since only half of the students who enroll in college will ever complete a degree.
This is where a public-private partnership that goes beyond contributing money can increase the success of our public school students and perhaps become a catalyst for the improvement of the entire public education system.
It would be very difficult for another company to match or better the dollar investment that Bank of Hawaii committed to its program. Still other companies could replicate the mentoring and college prep parts of the program without incurring significant financial obligations. All it would take is the commitment of the employees and the support of the employer.
The new private partners need not take on 100 students, though it would be nice; smaller programs sponsored by more local companies will provide tremendous benefits to our community. Additionally, as seen in the Second Century program, the increased focus on student success stimulated greater parent involvement and families got more involved in the academic lives of their children.
Finally, while scholarships to attend the college of a student’s choice would be ideal, the opportunity for a much greater number of local students are our own community colleges. Once there, students can prepare for a four-year college and beyond or gain valuable career skills that will help them to get better jobs. All this would take is the commitment of more businesses to get themselves and their employees involved.
In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Wayne M. Tanna
Professor of accounting, Chaminade University
At the risk of sounding cliché, every institution of higher education seeks to educate the whole person. The philosophy of a liberal arts education rests on this principle. And there is good reason for this. So what constitutes excellence when it comes to educating the whole person? “In the Marianist approach to education, “excellence” includes the whole person, not just the technician or rhetorician. It also includes people with their curricular and extra-curricular experiences, their intellectual and spiritual development, understood and supported best in and through community.
(27.) Marianist universities educate whole persons, developing their physical, psychological, intellectual, moral, spiritual, and social qualities. Faculty and students attend to fundamental moral attitudes, develop their personal talents and acquire skills that will help them learn all their lives. The Marianist approach to education links theory and practice, liberal and professional education. Beneath all these efforts at integration lies the deeper level of the spiritual lives of the students and faculty, lives that are strengthened through habits of service, reflection and silence. These habits foster liberating if sometime sobering self-knowledge, sharpen critical thinking and support prudent judgment. At this deeper level of integration, faculty and students interpret the meaning and consequences of data, facts and events. They learn too, that the academic disciplines are valuable resources for contemplating not just themselves and their relationships, but also the larger world of commerce, government and culture in the presence of God and the light of the Gospel. The deeper peoples’ interior life, the stronger is their desire to learn, and the more often do they act for purposeful and wise ends.
A significant percentage of our students are athletes. These student-athletes make up almost 10percent of our total enrollment. And like the NCAA promos are constantly proclaiming “there are over 400,000 NCAA student-athletes and most of us are going pro in something other than sports.” So when it comes to this population of students on our campuses, excellence in educating the whole person involves the community in many significant ways. Ways that are clearly unique to the individual, just as they are with every other student we educate.
I wrote the following op-ed for the Honolulu Advertiser and it was published on Friday, August 18, 2006 along the lines of the importance of education and also in a way about educating the whole person.
Posted on: Friday, August 18, 2006
Football camp teaches more than the game
Summer is almost gone, and the fall sports season is just around the corner. Over the past summer, many of Hawai’i's future sports stars have been honing their skills in an effort to get to the next level. It seems that a record number of aspiring college athletes have been attending summer sports camps. According to a recent article in a local weekly paper, parents of school-aged children throughout Hawai’i are shelling out big bucks in an effort to land big college athletic scholarships as a means to pay for higher education.
But how realistic is the dream of athletic stardom to the average school-aged child?
According to the NCAA, the likelihood of a high school football player making it onto the roster of an NCAA institution is less than 6 percent. And more than half of these opportunities are non-scholarship programs and not at the big-time Division I schools that dominate the Saturday TV schedules. The odds of going pro in football are less than 1 in 1,000. The odds of success in basketball are even slimmer at 3 in 10,000. I hope it leads parents to ask the question, “Even if my child has the athletic ability, will he be able to academically get into the college that offers that full ride?”
The NCAA a while back set minimum academic standards for all freshmen going to Division I or Division II schools (these are the ones that can give out athletic scholarships). These standards include: graduation from high school, completion of a minimum of 14 specific college prep or “core courses,” and a minimum SAT/ACT score. These requirements will be more rigorous starting with the 2008-2009 academic year. Perhaps these same parents should start to put the same level of emphasis on after-school tutoring in math and English as they do on conditioning, weight-training and athletic-skill development.
Fortunately, there are opportunities for academics as well. For the past three years, I have been involved with a summer camp in La’ie called Game Plan Hawai’i, which is put on by Education 1st, a local nonprofit. The Game Plan program emphasizes more than just athletic skills. It looks at what it takes to get involved in, and best benefit from, the college experience.
The Game Plan Academy seeks to prepare local students (around three-quarters of the participants to date have been Native Hawaiians) to get into and succeed in college, not just athletically but also academically. More than 70 percent of the participants during the academy’s first three years have gone on to college, not just to play but to succeed.
This year Education 1st added the Game Plan Football camp, where more than 230 Hawai’i high school football players went to develop their playing skills under the direction of some of the top coaches in the nation. These players also developed mental skills not associated merely with football. The football camp addressed academic preparation for college. Education 1st co-founder Asai Gilman sums it all up in Stephen Tsai’s Aug. 8 article, “Lessons learned on and off the field,” in the following words: “We didn’t want to just mentor in football. If you have the talent but can’t get into school, it ends, doesn’t it? We wanted a full program to teach the players how to become better student-athletes.”
More parents should feel the same way.
Wayne M. Tanna is a professor of accounting and an NCAA compliance officer at Chaminade University. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.
I continue to meander through the characteristics of Marianist education and try, usually quite weakly, to connect what I am reading in preparation for the Marianist Universities Meetings next week with things I have been doing for the past 20 years that I have been at Chaminade. While not a direct part of the assigned homework (I am trying to break my old habit of only doing what was expressly assigned) I have come to the characteristic of education in family spirit. I have pulled this out of the Characteristics of Marianist Universities as republished in 2006: “Marianist educational experience fosters the development of a community characterized by a sense of family spirit that accepts each person with loving respect, and draws everyone in the university into the challenge of building community. Community support for scholarship, friendship among faculty, staff and students, and participation in university governance characterize the Marianist University.
Create a Climate of Acceptance
(34.) Known for their strong sense of community, Marianists have traditionally spoken of this sense as “family spirit.” More than simply a slogan, Marianist family spirit is a way of life with traits that are discernible in the educational communities it permeates. Members of the Society of Mary do not choose with whom they live, but they believe they are chosen to be together. That belief further commits them to learning to love those in whose company they find themselves, a commitment that extends to all the members of the educational community.
In the paragraph above it states, “Members of the Society of Mary do not choose with whom they live, but they believe they are chosen to be together.” In many ways this sentence is a reflection of my life as an adoptive parent. We adopted our daughter through an international adoption program and around Thanksgiving of 2001 we were assigned a child. We were given two options, accept the assignment or reject it. Of course we accepted and promptly got on a plane for Guangzhou China. My students got the first three weeks of the semester via VHS tapes that I had recorded before I left to meet my daughter, a real quality educational experience for them. My wife and I believe that you have a child biologically because nature intended it and you adopt a child because God intends it. In other words we were chosen to be together.
I also believe that those that are born and raised together should have every opportunity to grow together even in bad times. In response to this belief I tagged along with two of my colleagues on various trips to our state legislature to advocate for funding for a new program that we at Volunteer Legal Service Hawaii were trying to get off the ground. This program was created to allow for siblings that have been separated in the foster care system after being removed from the custody of their biological parents on orders of the Child Protective Services to get to continue to see each other on a somewhat regular basis. This program was called “Project Visitation” and I got to share it with my community when it was first published by the Honolulu Star Bulletin on Sunday, November 18, 2007.
Vol. 12, Issue 322 – Sunday, November 18, 2007
Wayne M. Tanna
Adoption creates what many keiki need — ‘forever families’
Yesterday was National Adoption Day, and like so many other busy people I forgot to celebrate on time and sent in this commentary a little late. I forgot to recognize that special child and those special children all over Hawaii, the United States and the world who have become a part of a “forever family” through adoption. So, Happy Belated Adoption Day!
Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the National Adoption Day Coalition sponsors National Adoption Day to finalize the adoptions of thousands of children in foster care and to celebrate all families that adopt.
Yesterday, hundreds of courts and communities across the nation came together to finalize thousands of adoptions of children from foster care. The day brings together hundreds of judges, attorneys, adoption agencies, adoption professionals and child advocates who are dedicated to creating “forever families” for waiting children.
I feel especially obligated and privileged to write about Adoption Day for a couple of reasons. First the concept of a “forever family” is one at the very center of my own family. My wife and I adopted our daughter through an international adoption process more than five years ago. In fact, we were initially notified of the assignment and arrival into our lives of our daughter at just about this time of year, creating the best reason for giving thanks we have ever received.
The other reason to write about National Adoption Day is that on Oct. 6, I had the honor of representing Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii and its Project Visitation in Washington, D.C., to accept a Congressional Coalition Adoption Institute’s “Angels in Adoption Award.” Projection Visitation, or PV, was nominated for the award by Sen. Daniel K. Akaka.
The Angels in Adoption Program is CCAI’s public awareness program, and it provides an opportunity for all members of Congress to honor the good work of their constituents who have enriched the lives of foster children and orphans. This program includes an annual event in Washington, D.C., the Angels in Adoption gala, which highlights ordinary people doing extraordinary things. These “unsung heroes” are selected by members of Congress.
In addition to these honorees chosen from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, “National Angels” are recognized for their adoption and foster care advocacy on a nationwide scale. Former national Angels include notables such as First Lady Laura Bush, Victoria Rowell, Muhammad Ali, Dave Thomas, Steven Curtis Chapman and Bruce Willis. Last year, more than 190 members of Congress participated, making it the year’s single most significant congressional event pertaining to child welfare in the United States. With 222 members, the Congressional Adoption Caucus is the largest bipartisan caucus in Congress.
Akaka nominated Project Visitation in recognition of its work in bringing together siblings who have been separated in the foster care system all over Hawaii for regular family bonding activities. PV creates lasting memories and family bonds for sisters and brothers separated in foster care. It reunites brothers and sisters through volunteers by providing monthly visits in a safe, neutral environment, and PV serves to educate the public about sibling separation in the foster care system.
Nationally, of the 580,000 youth in foster care, 75 percent are separated from at least one sibling. When children are removed from their homes, the child welfare system focuses on rehabilitating the parents so the family can be reunited, but little attention is given to supporting the bond between siblings when decisions about placement of the children are made. According to the state Department of Human Services, 4,385 children in Hawaii were in foster care during 2006. If the national statistic holds true for Hawaii, 3,288 of these children are currently separated from their siblings.
Project Visitation is the result of a partnership between the Family Court and VLSH’s Na Keiki Law Center. It is the realization of a vision for access to justice presented to the community by family court Judge Mark Browning.
After seeing the effects of sibling separation and experiencing the inability of the state’s Child Protective Services to provide sibling visitations, Judge Browning planted the seeds, tilled the ground and continues to nurture what has become a national model of the impact of keeping kids together.
PV also sustains itself through the care and concern of dedicated volunteers, lawyers and nonlawyers, who constantly prove the reality of the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Happy Belated Adoption Day!
Wayne M. Tanna is professor of accounting at Chaminade University and a board member of Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii.
Article URL: http://starbulletin.com/2007/11/18/editorial/commentary.html
© 1996-2007 The Honolulu Star-Bulletin | www.starbulletin.com
So I now have about a week until the Marianist Universities Meetings in San Antonio and I am almost finished with the assigned reading on civic engagement. Well, almost finished but I will hold off on finishing until after the MUM meeting so I can fit in the student learning objectives. Seems I should wait until after I hear the student presentations to hear their perspectives on civic engagement.
The last part the Resident Pagan can honestly deal with follows. This part deals with social transformation.
Social Transformation: Reshaping institutions so that they are a better realization of the common good. Some elements of the Marianist approach to social transformation include:
a. Focusing on the common good: Creating social conditions that allow persons to exercise their human capabilities and meet their basic needs.
b. Changing institutions: Current institutional arrangements benefit some and disadvantage others; changing institutions so that they are a better realization of the common good.
c. Challenging the structures of power: Unjust institutional patterns are maintained through the exercise of power; changing institution means challenging and changes in the structures of power.
d. Option for the Poor: In working for social change we are concerned about how the social change promotes the least of society — the marginalized and the oppressed.
One of the areas I get to deal with at Chaminade is sports. For 13 years I sort of volunteered as the NCAA compliance officer. During this time, and come to think of it I still remain engaged in the advocacy for minorities and females in sports and in other parts of society.
However, my daughter, Jenna and my family friend, Patsy have prompted my concern to write about and advocate for Title IX. I am also involved with various NCAA committees that promote women and minorities in athletics. Civic engagement to advance the opportunities for women serves to advance the common good. Eliminating the marginalization that schools create for girls and women advances the common good. Changing the way the powers that be disenfranchise females though the unequal distribution of resources serves to advance the common good. And giving options for equal opportunity to women advances the common good. As a professor at Chaminade part of my civic engagement is to advocate through writing. The following op-ed on Title IX was first published by the Honolulu Star Bulletin on Sunday, May 20, 2007.
Vol. 12, Issue 140 – Sunday, May 20, 2007
Wayne M. Tanna
At last, female athletes gain meaningful equity in Hawaii
Wayne M. Tanna
LIKE LOTS of guys, I grew up reading the sports page, perusing the rest of the paper but intently reading the sports section. I continue that habit today. However, my interest in sports now has a professional and legal aspect to it as well.
For 13 years I have served as the NCAA compliance officer for Chaminade University. This past April, I was appointed to the NCAA’s Minorities Opportunity and Interests Committee. Among its duties the MOIC develops and responds to opportunities that encourage diversity and ethnic minority and gender enhancement.
So when I saw Paul Honda’s May 10 article in the Star-Bulletin’s sports section, which reported that, starting next year, girls’ basketball in Hawaii will be played during the traditional winter season, I naturally responded with an “it’s about time.” As Hawaii was the last state to let girls play during the traditional season, as a diversity advocate, athletic compliance officer and — most important — the father of a daughter, I felt I had to explain why this change is so important to Hawaii’s female athletes.
With Hawaii’s current nontraditional scheduling, the girls do not get to participate in the annual March Madness and the excitement and publicity surrounding this time when the rest of the country’s high schools and colleges are participating in championship tournaments.
College recruiting is another consideration here, as NCAA regulations set the traditional winter basketball season as the time when colleges can observe and contact prospective college student-athletes. On top of all that, when the girls have to play at a different time from the boys it just does not seem right.
IN 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education ruled that separate but equal was not the law and that there would not be a second-class status based on race in the education of Americans. In 1972, Hawaii Rep. Patsy T. Mink co-authored the Education Amendments Act. That law included what we now refer to as Title IX or gender equity. In 1972, athletics and other co-curricular activities become a place where separate but equal regimes no longer would be tolerated. Currently, out of respect for its author, the official name of Title IX is the “Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.” And finally in 2007, girls in Hawaii no longer will have to wait until the boys are finished using the gym, as Hawaii becomes the last state in America to let girls play basketball during the regular winter season.
But the resources that are provided to these female student-athletes is another story, and not much has been said about how this situation will improve as a result of this switch to the winter schedule.
Reading Honda’s article further, I saw that the U.S. Supreme Court had denied the appeal of the Michigan High School Athletic Association in its attempt to continue to run the girls’ basketball season in the spring in a “separate but equal” fashion, I again responded with another “it’s about time.”
I RECALL an editorial from a couple of years ago on another part of Title IX, “Hawaii erred in joining foes of Title IX integrity” (Star-Bulletin, March 31, 2005). That editorial stated that “The ruling (Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education) protects the integrity of a law that has been vital in expanding opportunities for women and girls in sports, education and other activities.”
Jackson v. Birmingham tested the scope of women’s athletic rights. In that case the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of Roderick Jackson, an Alabama high school coach who was fired after he complained about unfair treatment of his girls’ basketball team. The unfair treatment that the coach was asking to be remedied concerned the outdoor facilities that the team had to use for practice. All the coach was asking for was for the school district to provide his girls’ team a regulation-size gym with basketball rims that weren’t bent, just like the boys’ team had.
Title IX has increased female participation in high school sports. When Title IX was enacted in 1972, one in 27 girls in high school participated in athletics. Now it’s one in three! There has been an explosion in the number of athletic opportunities open to women and girls of all ages and levels of ability.
As we have become aware, the regulations for Title IX go beyond numerical equity in participation opportunities (proportionality). Title IX covers all aspects of school and college athletic programs under three components: accommodation of interests and abilities; athletic financial assistance; and other program areas. Financial assistance applies primarily to colleges and universities, but the other two components of the law apply to high schools.
Under the third component, school athletic programs must ensure equitable treatment in nine areas: equipment and supplies; games and practice time; travel and per diem; academic tutoring; coaching; facilities; medical and training facilities and services; publicity; and support services. As such, the membership of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association clearly will be under a legal mandate to provide equal facilities for next year’s girls’ basketball season.
THE SEASON switch will help girls beyond sports. Hawaii’s prep scheduling has treated girls like second-class citizens affecting their self-image and academics as well as their opportunities in athletics without most people in Hawaii even realizing it. The switch also can help more girls to be recruited for college sports.
While it is true that we have come a long way since Title IX became law, we still have a long way to go. These are civil rights that are being addressed. Title IX opponents will bring up cost as a reason to go slow and not to expect too much too fast. But cost should not be a reason to delay or deny these basic rights. Providing girls the opportunity to play at the same time as the boys was always the right as well as the legal thing to do — and “it’s about time.”
Wayne M. Tanna is a professor of accounting at Chaminade University in Honolulu.
Article URL: http://starbulletin.com/2007/05/20/editorial/commentary2.html
© 1996-2007 The Honolulu Star-Bulletin | www.starbulletin.com
“The Marianist educational tradition provides us with a number of important insights on how we might view learning for and through civic engagement:
1. Community building: In the Marianist tradition, when people and groups face an unjust situation, people are engaged, especially those affected by the injustice, to solve problems and build relationships which allow them to create and work to realize a shared vision of the future. Some elements of the Marianist community building approach are:
a. A Gift Orientation: Recognizing and calling forth gifts and assets from members of the community; the foundational act of community building is giving gifts.
b. Importance of relationships: Relationships help us link and support gifts; relationship help us call forth gifts and build trust needed to work toward common goals.
c. Hospitality: Creating a space where all people are welcomed; working to create unity across differences.
d. Space for Constructive Conversations: Creating conversation places and spaces where persons listen to one another and can respectively inquire into what is said and where persons can freely express the ideas and invite others to inquire into them.”
My accounting and business students get to engage in community building when they go to homeless shelters to help the residents with their tax returns. By this time we go to the shelters the students have come to learn about the earned income tax credit and now see its anti poverty effects. The same students then get to help to prepare resumes that help folks to get better jobs and learn to create budgets to help them deal with their daily expenses and to eventually build assets for the future. In doing these things my students learn important financial skills that are not addressed in any class but are so critical for their future success.
The reflections that come from these service experiences have demonstrated that these students have given the gifts of their talents, engaged in relationship building with those they normally would never interact with, created a welcoming environment where they can both teach and learn, and give and receive. They also get to enter into the larger conversation on the effects of law on those living in poverty. Perhaps they will one day solve the problems of society or at least bring us closer to those elusive answers.
Hey even pagans have dreams. I have been going to homeless shelters to do various legal clinics and have taken on several cases for those in need of legal and accounting help that can not afford to pay a professional. I have seen more hardships than I care to recall but I have also seen successes and that is cause for hope. The following op-ed was written in that spirit of hopefulness and also as a part of my own practice of civic engagement. The article was initially published in the Honolulu Advertiser on Tuesday, August 7, 2007 and like many of my other pieces was reprinted in various newsletters and blogs. Any yes, a lot of people disagreed with my position and still do, that’s life.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Micronesian homelessness has many causesBy Wayne M. Tanna
The recent Advertiser headline, “Micronesians fill shelters,” served to confirm what I have been witnessing for the past several years. Having conducted several legal clinics at shelters such as Next Step, Loliana, Vancouver House, Maililand and the Institute for Human Services as a pro-bono attorney and instructor with Volunteer Legal Services Hawai’i, I have witnessed the rapidly rising numbers of homeless Micronesian families.
The root of the problem goes beyond Micronesians and the lack of affordable housing. While there is no doubt that affordable housing is big part of the homeless problem, the problem lies in a lack of a coordinated plan to address poverty among all the poor in Hawai’i.
I recall an article back in January 2005, “Homeless problem is solvable, state says” by Gordon Pang, that announced: “A 10-year plan by the state to end chronic homelessness represents an unprecedented commitment by different levels of government and the private sector.” However, just last month we saw another front-page article informing us that “Homeless population on O’ahu rises 28.2%.”
While I do not believe that the focus on a particular ethnic group is meant to cast blame for the lack of progress in the state’s plan to end homelessness, we have seen that it is common to blame others for our failures. With that in mind, perhaps we should examine some of the factors behind the movement of Micronesians to Hawai’i and the United States in general under the Compact of Free Association.
The Compact of Free Association is a treaty in which the relationship of three sovereign states: the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Republic of Palau have been defined as associated states with the United States. The original compact came into effect in 1986 for FSM and RMI and in 1994 for the Republic of Palau.
Under the free-association compacts, the United States provides guaranteed financial assistance, and in exchange receives certain defense rights. The U.S. also treats these nations uniquely by giving them access to many, but not all, U.S. domestic aid/welfare programs. The freely associated states are all dependent on U.S. financial assistance to meet both government operational and capital needs.
These compacts were created after World War II when the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau became part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands under the administration of the United States. These islands were designated as strategic areas, and the U.S. was allowed to set up military bases as deemed necessary.
During the time that the U.S. administered the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, two islands from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Bikini and Eniwetok, were designated as nuclear testing areas. People from these islands were forced to evacuate. And during this time, at least 66 nuclear tests were conducted. Once the nuclear tests stopped in 1958 and cleanup started, people were able to resettle the island by the late 1960s. Unfortunately, those residing in Bikini were forced to evacuate in the late 1970s because severe contamination was found.
As the July 8 article pointed out, many homeless Micronesians came to Hawai’i for medical treatment they could not receive back home or are visiting family members who need medical treatment.
Under the compacts, Micronesians enjoy a unique status and can freely enter the U.S. without special immigration clearance. They can also stay in the U.S. as long as they like without having to become U.S. citizens or resident aliens. Micronesians, unlike other non-resident aliens, can also legally obtain any type of employment without INS approval, and are immediately eligible to get a Social Security number instead of an individual temporary identification number.
Because of flaws in the language of the compacts, Micronesians are not eligible to receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits as they are not citizens or residents of the U.S. Legal Aid assistance is another benefit that Micronesians are denied as the rules that govern the Legal Aid Society of Hawai’i prohibit them from assisting non-U.S. citizens. Denying these types of benefits to those who could use them to improve their situations is just another kind of injustice.
We can only hope that a discussion will occur with the Micronesian community, and that a coordinated plan to assist those from Micronesia will become a reality. Not just to relieve our guilt, but because all seeking a better life deserve it and because it would be a major step in solving the problems of homelessness and poverty.
Wayne M. Tanna is a professor at Chaminade University. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.
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I have gotten to the last part of the reading assignment and I now try to address some of the things I have hopefully been individually engaged in and collectively supported in by the university community. I was never given an orientation to teaching much less to what the Marianist educational tradition was all about. So this blog and my trip to San Antonio are helping me to reflect on what my last 20 years of work at Chaminade has supposed to have been guided by, even our regional accreditation body (WASC) has looked to see how we walk this talk.
The section on the Marianist Educational Tradition and Civic Engagement tells us that “each of the founders contributed a dimension to the Marianist approach to bringing faith to the life of the community…. Of the three founders of the Marianist, Marie Therese, in her work with the Miséricorde, was committed to providing human dignity for some of the least in society.” Of all the things I get to do at Chaminade, this is what I relate to best, just ask my students.
Recall that for the purposes of our conversations, civic engagement is defined as the “active participation in the public life of a community in an informed, committed, and constructive manner, with a focus on the public good.” This definition allows for a variety of individual and collective actions that are designed to identify and address issues of public concern so that public good is realized.
Maybe I shold have started with the following list of the five characteristics of Marianist Universities but since I did not, here it is::
- educate for formation in faith
- provide an integral, quality education
- educate in family spirit
- educate for service, justice, and peace
- educate for adaptation and change
If one is allowed to have a favorite of the five then mine would be the fourth on the list, Educate for Service, Justice, and Peace. The Marianist approach to higher education is deeply committed to the common good. The intellectual life itself is undertaken as a form of service in the interest of justice and peace, and the university curriculum is designed to connect the classroom with the wider world. In addition, Marianist universities extend a special concern for the poor and marginalized and promote the dignity, rights and responsibilities of all peoples (CMU p 27).
My community engagement centers on activities that attempt to raise families and communities out of poverty. One of the things I do outside of teaching at Chaminade is running a federally funded low income taxpayer clinic that helps the working poor and immigrants with problems that they run into with the IRS. Yes, that same IRS has been awarding me a grant to run this clinic for the past 13 years. My work in this clinic and as a teacher has also facilitated my attempts at changing local and national laws. These activities have allowed me to bridge out well beyond the area of my academic specialization, as you can see in this op-ed that originally appeared in the Honolulu Star Bulletin on Tuesday, September 9, 2008, and yes, my picture was in the paper again that day.
As poverty in Hawaii rises, educational opportunities fade
Without opening a debate as to who said it first, the following clearly applies to the recent U.S. Census data that shows that poverty in Hawaii has gone down in recent years: “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” Just look around and you will see that here in Hawaii and across the United States poverty is a very real and growing problem. So there should be nothing to be pleased about in the recent census data that shows that Hawaii was one of 12 states that experienced a reduction in the percentage of residents living in poverty.
On Aug. 27, the Star-Bulletin reported that “State median income rises.” In that article, state Department of Human Services Director Lillian Koller said “the numbers are not a surprise; the number of people in poverty here has been declining since 2006 and Hawaii has consistently been a leader among states in health-insurance coverage.”
However, the opening sentence of the article clearly states that the 2007 report comes “from information largely collected before the current economic slowdown.” The numbers for Hawaii reflect the “good times” before the closing of Aloha Airlines, Molokai Ranch, the downsizing of Maui Land and Pine and many other recent business reversals. Not to mention national trends like the energy, subprime mortgage and resulting financial and credit crisis. Now rising joblessness and the skyrocketing cost of necessities like food and fuel must mean that poverty and hardship are rising again.
To Koller’s and the state’s credit, the Keiki Care initiative to expand health-insurance coverage for children started in March. But still one in 10 children in Hawaii (9.8 percent) continued to live in poverty in 2007.
Koller credits her department’s use of federal funds to pay for programs to help people at risk of falling into poverty avoid welfare and to get people on welfare back to work for reducing the number of people living below the poverty level. Still, from an overall statewide perspective, the economic growth experienced up to the compilation of the 2007 census only slightly reduced the number/proportion of poor people in Hawaii. Nor was growth shared by middle-income workers, who continue to lose ground. During this same period, corporate profits grew, real estate values skyrocketed and the state actually realized years when there was a budget surplus. Yet most people did not share in those gains.
Another recent Star-Bulletin article, “Students in isles see SAT scores dip” (Aug. 27), shows yet one more troubling aspect of poverty – that higher education, long seen as the ticket to a better life, is much less likely for those in poverty. There is a direct connection between poverty, SAT scores and access to higher education.
According to the College Board, on all three parts of the SAT, the scores of every income bracket are higher than all of the brackets below. And this year, College Board officials noted an increase in the proportion of test takers receiving fee waivers (due to poverty); but that the percentage of SAT takers from the highest income bracket rose while the percentage in the lowest bracket fell.
SAT scores continue a longstanding pattern of following family financial income. Students with family incomes of more than $200,000 had an average math score of 570, while those in the $80,000-$100,000 cohort had an average of 525 and those with family income up to $20,000 had an average of 456. Due to the practice of many colleges and universities relying on set SAT minimum scores for admission and having fewer scholarship dollars to distribute to students who don’t score high on the admissions tests, fewer students from low-income families are moving on to higher education.
In the most prosperous nation in the world, it is intolerable to stand by while millions of families struggle just to make ends meet. It’s time to make a local and national commitment to do something about it. Cutting poverty in half in 10 years is an attainable goal.
For example, just four straightforward steps would reduce poverty in Hawaii and the U.S. by more than 25 percent: modestly increase the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and enact a Hawaii Earned Income Tax Credit; make the child tax credit available to ALL families with children; raise the minimum wage; and help low- and moderate-income families pay for child care.
The problem is too important for us to continue to ignore.
Wayne M. Tanna is a professor of accounting at Chaminade University and a member of the recently formed Financial Education and Asset Building Taskforce.
Article URL: http://archives.starbulletin.com/2008/09/09/editorial/commentary.html
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It’s been a few days now since my last post. The reason for my absence was a conference in Toronto on Community University partnerships. I went with another MUM participant, a communications instructor and the Dean of our new nursing program. My intention was to get our new nursing colleague to meet some of the other community health practioners and set the stage for our nursing students to get into some community engaged placements as a part of our Hoo’wai’wai network (www.assetshawaii.org). The reason for this is that our network is really good at financial literacy, affordable housing and culturally based asset building, but it has yet to establish meaningful partnerships with community health centers and health care professionals.
This brings us to this post; the MUM folks sent us some homework to do before we get to the conference. I have mentioned that this blog is working its way through the initial reading, Civic Engagement in Catholic and Marianist Universities: A Continuing Conversation, Revised: 16 May 2010. I have been working my way through the article and trying to link sections of it to some of the op-eds I have had published in local and national papers over the past five years. It is sometimes an awkward fit, but hey, I am the Resident Pagan (non Catholic non Christian) so it’s going to be rough at times. But still the pieces are related to my own civic engagement as member of the academy and the community.
So I am now at the point of the Civic Engagement article, “The Marianist Educational Tradition and Civic Engagement” and will be trying to address those areas that the article attributes to one of the three founders, Sister Adele. The material points out that “Adele had an orientation to education and hospitality for the poor.”
In an earlier section the article also states that “Learning through civic engagement always requires reflection on the experience of civic engagement. Education for civic engagement is a dynamic process in that a person or group usually becomes civically engaged by doing service. During a service experience in a homeless shelter, for example, a learner begins to appreciate the situation of those suffering from homelessness, begins to understand their stories, and begins a friendship. Reflection allows the learner to integrate what they have learned through the experience of service with what they have learned in the classroom.”
As many of the folks at Chaminade know, every tax season I take my students to help the homeless, the elderly, immigrants and abused women who reside at various shelters around the island of Oahu with their taxes. In addition to learning about how to do a real tax return for a real client, I hope my students will question why the laws they are applying do what they do to who they do it to.
Next comes one of my reflections that came about as a result of our civic engagement in the area of tax and business. This op-ed piece first appeared in the Honolulu Star Bulletin on April 12, 2009.
Put the burden of state budget on those who have earned more
By Wayne M. Tanna
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Apr 12, 2009
The Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith first published “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” on March 9, 1776. “The Wealth of Nations,” as it is usually abbreviated, is considered to be the first modern book on economics and as a result Smith is often referred to as the father of modern economics.
In “The Wealth of Nations,” Smith set forth four requirements for a good tax system. While many have posed other requirements and methods to evaluate a tax system, Smith’s are still accepted as a valid basis for the discussion and assessment of a tax system. The four requirements are equality, certainty, convenience and an economy.
As a professor of accounting and an advocate for those living in poverty, I often lecture and testify on tax matters. I use Smith’s four requirements to set the stage and always find that the most interesting discussions and debates are related to the requirement of equality.
According to Smith, equality means that “A tax should be based on the taxpayer’s ability to pay.” The result of equality is that “The payment of a tax in proportion to the taxpayer’s level of income results in an equitable distribution of the cost of supporting the government.” Basically, the more you make, the more you pay — a progressive tax rate system. This also seems to make sense from a spiritual perspective, as the good brothers I work with at the school on the slopes of Kalaepohaku often say, “To those to whom much is given, much is expected.”
So why in these hard economic times does Hawaii continue to be among the few states giving preferential tax treatment to capital gains income? Why does this tax break for those who possess the most continue when the financially marginalized are facing severe cuts in services due to the state’s budget shortfall?
The state could raise significant income and cut into the budget deficit in order to help those in greatest need merely by taxing capital gains like all other income, just as the vast majority of states already do.
Capital gains are profits from the sale of assets, such as stocks, bonds, investment or vacation real estate, art or antiques. Capital gains are only taxed when they are realized; that means that the gains are only taxed when the asset is sold. Thus owners of real estate or stocks will not owe any income tax on the increase in the value of their property from year to year until that property is ultimately sold.
Economic theory and just plain old common sense tells us that when it comes to taxation, income from capital gains should be treated just like any other income. Taxes should really be imposed on capital gains just as they are imposed on wages and salaries, on interest earnings and the profits of small businesses and farms. For the reality is that a dollar is a dollar, regardless of how it is earned.
The Hawaii Alliance for Community Based Economic Development recently announced the release of a new report that finds Hawaii could save upwards of $21 million a year if it were to eliminate the special tax rates the state now offers to upper-income taxpayers for the capital gains income they receive. According to the report “A Capital Idea,” from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Hawaii is one of just nine states with lower tax rates for capital gains.
“Hawaii’s preferential rates for capital gains income deprive the state of millions of dollars in needed funds, benefit almost exclusively the very wealthiest members of our communities, and fail to promote economic growth,” remarked Matt Gardner, ITEP’s executive director.
In practice, very few working-class Hawaii residents have capital gains income that is subject to taxation. As the report notes, taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of less than $50,000 comprised 67 percent of all federal returns filed by Hawaii residents in 2006, but constituted just 12 percent of returns with income from capital gains.
In fact, taxpayers in this income group received just 3 percent of total capital gains income reported by Hawaii residents on their federal tax returns that year.
In contrast, consider that the top 20 percent of Hawaii’s taxpayers receive 99 percent of the actual tax benefits from the capital gains “tax break” with the top 1 percent, those with adjusted gross incomes in excess of $386,000, reaping 81 percent of the benefits.
This report highlights the need to review Hawaii’s tax code comprehensively in light of our current fiscal challenges. It also reminds us that our state tax code benefits the wealthy and the capital gains treatment contributes to an unfair regressivity in our taxes. Eliminating or reducing this preference would move us to a more balanced and fair tax code and save the state badly needed revenue.
Right now, legislators from Rhode Island to Hawaii are searching for solutions to mounting budget deficits, solutions that will allow them to fund vital public services without placing additional responsibilities on those families struggling to make ends meet. Repealing costly, inequitable, and ineffective tax breaks like Hawaii’s preferential rates are the first place our legislators should look.
Find this article at:
The near collapse of our financial system and the massive fiscal mess that we are still struggling with has provided a lot of teachable moments for me and hopefully a few “aha” and light bulb going off revelations for my business and accounting students. The legal reforms coming out of the ruins of an “I want it all and I want it all now” mindset have given those of us who teach business ethics and corporate social responsibility a lot of material to cover. My new assignment in my Business Law and Ethics class as listed in my syllabus is as follows:
“A term paper is a required part of this course. There is an option to engage in a service-learning project as a substitute for the term paper. The term paper will be hereafter referred to as the Dodd-Frank paper (Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Pub.L. 111-203, H.R. 4173)”.
The service learning option is to work with fifth graders at Palolo Elementary School and teach them about math (fractions, percentages and ratios) and social, economic and environmental justice through something we call the “Palolo Stock Market Challenge.” The stock market project uses the basics of fundamental analysis and financial statement analysis (stuff taught in basic accounting and investment classes at Chaminade) and looking at the environmental, diversity and employment practices of publically traded multi-national corporations just like they do in the Business Law and Ethics class to determine if a company is socially and environmentally responsible.
This is fertile ground to incorporate the themes of Catholic social tradition that can help students and their teachers gainvaluable insight on the responsibilities of corporations. Responsibilites that go to various stakeholders, not merely the corporation’s responsibilities to their shareholders to make as much profit as possible. As posed in the article “Civic Engagement in Catholic and Marianist Universities” learning for and through civic engagement can be done in the context of today’s society by examining the “Themes of Participation, Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers, and Caring for God’s Creation.” The sample questions posed in this section of the “Continuing Conversation” provide a lot of guidance for the teacher and their classes. The queries listed as examples can provide the basis for inquiry:
“How does the corporate culture promote human dignity, the dignity of work, and participation in shaping the future of the corporation?”
“What are the contributions that a corporation makes to the common good of society?”
“What are the responsibilities of the corporation for stewardship of creation when we consider the types of products that it makes and its use of resources?”
We in the business school have a real responsibility to help our students and soon to be business practitioners better understand the questions and the range of answers to the above questions, this is critical as our students will become the next generation of business movers and shakers.
In hind sight we as business professors have to deal with some of the sad facts of this continuing financial mess because some of those corporate sociopaths who prompted this whole fiasco were “our” graduates. We need to critically reflect on questions like why didn’t those students we taught become business persons who were trying to figure out how to help working-class families afford homes in a fiscally and socially responsible fashion?
So now let’s get back to me. In 2009 (what was to be the last full year of the Advertiser), I had the opportunity to be a member of the Honolulu Advertiser’s Community Editorial Board. In that process we were given the task of writing commentaries on current issues. I wrote the following and shared some of my concerns and thoughts about what might happen. The article was originally published in the Honolulu Advertiser on August 2, 2009.
Recently the cover of a national news magazine proclaimed that “The Recession is Over.” Perhaps it should have had the subtitle “but not for all of us.” Job losses are at 30-year highs both nationally and locally and everywhere people keep losing, their jobs, their homes and all too often their hope.
But if the recession is technically over, was the stimulus (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Troubled Asset Relief Program the big reasons for our financial salvation? And what aspects of these stimulus programs did the most?
There is good stimulus and bad stimulus. It’s good when it helps people buy or keep their homes. It’s bad when the “too big to fail” financial services firms get to pay multimillion dollar bonuses to a few key executives.
It’s good when it helps the environment by taking old gas guzzlers off the roads, and bad when we do this merely to prop up the same failing automakers we just bailed out at the expense of environmental programs.
It’s good when workers get more take-home pay to spend on everyday necessities. It’s going to be bad when those same workers find that the new tax withholding tables issued to increase take-home pay causes them to have to pay taxes come April 15 next year.
So while technical indicators may say the recession is over, taxpayers will still feel the pain. The recovery may be just as painful for many of us as we see the news of bankers, car companies and TARP recipients once again reaping in big bucks and bonuses.
Wayne Tanna of McCully is a professor of accounting with an interest in tax policy.
I am still working my way through the text of the article we were given to read in preparation for the Marianist Universities Meeting at St. Mary’s university. Today I am at the section on “Catholic Social Tradition and Learning for and through Civic Engagement” where it starts “The Catholic social tradition can be helpful for civic engagement in two important ways: 1) in thinking about the process for learning through civic engagement and 2) as a resource for ideas or practical knowledge to be utilized in social inquiry.” The process of social inquiry that is discussed here is said to be “captured in the simple phrases — See, Judge and Act. To which we add the important component from experiential learning and service learning theory – Reflect.”
I am also still working my way through incorporating the op-eds I have had published over the past half dozen years as well. In 2008 both the federal and Hawaii state governments were giving out tax rebates in an effort to stimulate the economy. The federal stimulus payments were to be paid to Americans by the Internal Revenue Service based on income tax returns that were filed for the previous (2007) tax year. The problem was that many elderly living on social security and disabled living on social security disability income, veterans disability and other disability programs do not have a legal responsibility to file a tax return and had not filed any tax returns for years. Since these folks had no tax filing responsibilities and they would most likely not file again they would not receive these valuable stimulus dollars. This could be a very real loss to this group as they are already living off of limited income and could really use this benefit.
The “Act” component of “See, Judge, Act and Reflect” was clearly called into play here and the opportunity for students and faculty to become civicly engaged became very real. Students in my undergraduate and MBA tax classes had the opportunity to participate in service learning projects that not only involved filling out tax returns, but also incorporated other aspects of their business curriculum, like marketing and communications. Getting the word out on the need to file tax returns even if not legally required in order to get these valuable federal and state tax credits became part of the academic call of the semester.
On the service side of the civic engagement continuum, we really “kicked butt.” We went to veterans centers to assist disabled vets that had not filed taxes for years get their returns done. We went to senior centers and helped our kupuna file tax returns that enabled them to get the stimulus and other credits that they would not otherwise have received. While not huge amounts, they were dollars that helped to get a few more essentials in life and of course they were dollars that they were legally entitled to.
My efforts, in addition to doing the tax returns myself and supervising my students, included writing the following op-ed. This piece was originally published in the Honolulu Advertiser on February 29, 2008 (the day twenty of us went to the island of Molokai to do a service learning gig on taxes and FAFSA applications). The article was also republished in a couple of local and national newsletters that were put out by representatives to the Hawaii and US legislature. And yes, I got my face in the paper again.
Posted on: Friday, February 29, 2008
Help available to ensure access to rebates
By Wayne M. Tanna
Much is being said about the government’s $152 billion economic stimulus package. The majority of the reactions focus on the hoped-for economic impacts resulting from the stimulus payments and are coming from the businesses where the rebates will hopefully be spent. Many business owners are hoping to see a lot of purchases that will provide a boost to the economy. Some even have gone so far as to say that the rebates will enrich people’s lives.
So what about people who could really benefit from the stimulus payment and the state’s constitutionally mandated credit — the elderly, the disabled and really low-wage earners? Will they be left out?
Many retired and disabled Hawai’i residents will end up missing out on both the stimulus rebate and the Hawai’i constitutional credit unless they file both federal and state income-tax returns for 2007. As pointed out in Greg Wiles’ article, Hawai’i's stimulus portion is roughly $400 million. There will be no extra work for most taxpayers since the Internal Revenue Service will use 2007 tax returns to determine eligibility and rebate amounts.
But what if you are a senior citizen living on Social Security or a disabled individual surviving on Social Security disability income? Since many of these folks have not needed to file a tax return for several years, the question becomes, “Will this benefit ever reach them?”
The IRS is also worried about this. Acting IRS Commissioner Linda Stiff recently stated, “(W)e are especially concerned about recipients of Social Security and veterans benefits, who may need to take special steps this year to file a tax return in order to obtain a stimulus payment. IRS.gov will help taxpayers get what they need.”
But there are problems in relying too heavily on the Internet and the IRS’s Web site to help with this group, as they may not be computer literate. And for those who are able to navigate the Internet, how many on a limited fixed-income can afford access to a computer to get this information at IRS.gov?
For kupuna and the disabled, another benefit that may end up being left in the coffers of the government is the state credit for general income tax. The Hawai’i Constitution requires the state to issue a tax refund when the budget surplus has exceeded projections for two years in a row, as is the case this year. This year, to comply with this constitutional mandate a credit is available to low-income residents (less that $30,000 for single and married people filing separately; less than $60,000 for married people filing jointly and head of household).
The credit can be as much as $65 for single individuals, up to $140 for single parent head of households, and up to $160 for married couples.
This is all in addition to the refundable tax credit for low-income workers, which has been available for many years. Once again, one needs to file a state tax return to claim and receive the credit, and this year the state tax department was not able to provide free assistance to Hawai’i residents to file their Hawai’i tax returns as it has in the past.
A single disabled resident receiving Social Security disability can get as much as $400 from the federal and state credits (federal stimulus payment $300, $65 Hawai’i general tax credit, plus $35 Hawai’i low-income refundable credit).
A married couple with both spouses receiving only Social Security could get up to $830 ($600 federal stimulus, plus $160 Hawai’i general tax credit, plus $70 Hawai’i low-income refundable credit).
The money is there for the asking — but what if you don’t know how to ask?
Help is available from many community-based organizations. Trained volunteers participating in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs have been helping for many years, and are once again providing countless hours of service to the community by doing taxes for free. Combined, the VITA and TCE volunteer programs are the third leading filers of income taxes nationally.
Many of the activities of both VITA and TCE are being coordinated by Aloha United Way’s Family and Individual Sufficiency Program. AUW’s efforts are making it very easy to find a free tax-assistance site in your neighborhood. All you have to do to find a location to get help is to call 211, AUW’s statewide information referral line. Then go to the site where an IRS certified volunteer will provide free assistance filing your taxes, and sometime around May the IRS will direct deposit the stimulus payment to your bank account or under certain conditions mail you a check. Then what you do with the stimulus payment after you get it will be up to you.
Wayne M. Tanna is a professor of accounting at Chaminade University and a volunteer instructor and community partner at the VITA program. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.
(© COPYRIGHT 2008 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.)