On the lighter side, will this fly?
But, who will insure all this data is secure, who will have access, etc?
I’m a big fan of research data, but I also recognize that massive amounts of personal information stored on government computers create all sorts of potential for really bad things like identity theft and governmental invasion of personal privacy. Certainly, the security issue gets particularly dicey when large amounts of data are consolidated and interconnected across state agencies with different data systems.
Thus, my concerns got raised a notch when the Lane Report and WFPL Radio reported that Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear just signed an executive order to consolidate ultimate access and control of all computer-stored education data covering everything from public preschools to public postgraduate schools in a new agency to be called the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics.
WFPL and the Lane Report – even the title of the new agency – say the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics will probably crosslink even more databases from other state agencies with health care information and employment data on adults already in the workforce.
For sure, this could be a rich treasure trove for legitimate research.
Unfortunately, there is also significant potential for serious unintended consequences, consequences that might impact both your children and YOU.
I’m still sorting through the implications of this new announcement, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you might want to look at a new report from the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability (OEA), which examines some data security issues with education databases maintained by the Kentucky Department of Education and by that agency’s contractors.
As you read this report, keep in mind that with data access now greatly expanding to include other agencies outside of the Kentucky Department of Education, the potential security issues identified in the report do not cover potential problems at those other agencies. However, overall data security will now probably be no better than the weakest link in the entire chain.
Also keep in mind the new OEA report says that at present Kentucky is one of only four states that have no security breach statute, so there are no consistent penalties for public workers who contribute to such a situation (individual agencies may have some sort of policy, but it apparently isn’t backed by law). That seems like an awfully big problem with so much data now coming under one, central control.
Fears became a reality this week when Kentucky Power announced its plans to close the primary generating unit at its Big Sandy Plant in Louisa, KY. The writing was already on the wall earlier this year when Kentucky Power officials announced that it would not make the nearly $1 billion investment needed to install new scrubbers to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s newest unprecedented mandates.
Instead, Kentucky Power plans to power the region by purchasing half of the operations at American Electric Power’s Mitchell Generation Station in Moundsville, WV. By 2015, the two million tons of coal consumed per year by the Big Sandy Plant will fall to zero, costing approximately 500 coal-related jobs.
But the job loss is not the only blood on the EPA’s hands. As a result of the EPA’s radical green decrees, Kentucky Power will be raising rates by 8% for customers. If the utility company had acquiesced to the initial demands of the EPA and installed the costly scrubbers, customers’ bills would have soared 31% higher.
And what do Kentuckians get for these rate increases? Plants like Big Sandy currently release emissions considered 90% clean. $1 billion worth of scrubbers will make the emissions 98% clean. The EPA has yet to explain how this 8% reduction will improve living conditions for Kentuckians, yet alone how 8% is worth the costs forced on the commonwealth by these mid-Atlantic bureaucrats.
Commonsense suggests that the costs and benefits of Kentucky coal would be best weighed by those most affected by the black rock – Kentuckians.
The proliferation of computer-based databases operated by Kentucky’s public school system has been very extensive, and these databases contain a large amount of sensitive information on students, parents and school employees. Examples of that sensitive information include: social security numbers, test scores, eligibility for free and reduced cost lunch, salaries, teacher evaluation materials, health conditions and the use of special education services, just to name a few items.
Clearly, it is very important to insure the security of all of this data.
To develop a better idea of the status of data security in Kentucky’s education databases, the Kentucky Legislature’s Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee (EAARS) directed the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability (OEA) to investigate the issues and provide a report as part of that agency’s 2012 research agenda.
Fortunately, the OEA’s report indicates that there has not been a large, system-wide security breech in the state’s education data systems. However, there have been incidents and the OEA found potential for other problems.
It usually takes the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission some time to formally publish OEA reports. Thus, because of the importance of this issue and the pending need for legislation discussed in this report, with the assistance of Kentucky State Senator Jack Westwood, co-chair of the EAARS committee and the OEA, we are making the approval draft available now. Find the approved draft of “Governance of Education Data Security in Kentucky” and the OEA’s recommendations for new legislation here.
The final report may have some minor technical changes and additions, but it should look very similar to the draft version, making the draft well worth a read to anyone interested in computer security.
2012 has been a big year for right-to-work – that is, Americans’ right to seek employment without being forced to pay tribute to a labor union.
In the past year, neighboring Indiana has adopted right-to-work legislation while Wisconsin ended collective bargaining for public workers. Most recently, even Michigan, the autoworker union capital of the world, embraced Americans’ right to work.
So what does this mean for Kentucky, a forced-union state that’s surrounded by right-to-work laws to both the north and south? It means that some of the state’s largest union bosses are going to have to squeeze dues out their members all the harder to stay in power.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, since the peak levels of 1989, the percentage of Kentucky workers who belong to a union has steadily fallen from 14.8% to 8.9%, which is below the national average of 11.9%. The most powerful unions in the commonwealth are the usual suspects: companies like Ford and GE are union hot beds, and how could we forget to mention the teachers unions.
But one surprising find is that Toyota, whose Georgetown, KY car manufacturing plant required no federal bailout during the recent banking crisis, is a non-union establishment. Despite union leaders campaigning just outside Toyota’s fences for years, Toyota’s workers are apparently too content to establish forced unionization in Georgetown.
The Georgetown plant is the antithesis to what brought down the “Big Three” automakers in Michigan – bloated unions and shady perks that proved economically disastrous for the entire state.
If workers believe in a certain union, then fine. They should be allowed to enter into a voluntary contract with that union and enjoy all the costs and benefits that ensue.
But if a worker does not believe that joining a specific union is in his or her best interest, the worker should still be able to seek employment without being forced through the use or threat of violence to pay costly dues to that organization.
Respect for individual liberty demands the right-to-work.
President Obama has some crucial business to tend to, even before his second term in office commences – and it must be done with a “lame-duck” session in Congress.
Because of temporary tax cuts, previous budget deals, and procrastination in dealing with the debt, the country now faces a “fiscal cliff” with the sliding to begin on New Years Day 2013.
As the country’s feeble labor market and macroeconomy brace for the impact of higher taxes for all working households, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
The key factors are the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) and the scheduled end of a handful of tax cuts. The BCA lays out automatic budget cuts to be split between military and domestic spending: $55 billion in both categories. This would result in a 9 percent cut to the Pentagon and an 8 percent cut in domestic programs—but only when compared to their regularly scheduled increases.
The tax increases would be much larger: about $500 billion overall, what the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center estimates to be $3,500 per household on average and $2,000 for “middle income” households.
About $156 billion of this is due to the expiration of the Bush/Obama income tax cuts—a big hit for the half of households which pay federal income taxes. Marginal tax rates would increase across the board – from 10 to 15 percent on the lowest end and 35 to 39.6 percent on the highest end. As a result, taxpayers should expect additional levies of:
- $23 billion due to the expiration of the much-debated tax cuts for incomes over $250,000.
- $25 billion from higher rates on capital gains and dividends.
- $10 billion from a drastic expansion of the estate tax – currently at 35 percent on wealth over $5.12 million, but increasing to 55 percent on wealth over just $1 million.
There are three other significant tax increases on the horizon:
- Congress will consider another band-aid for the “alternative minimum tax” (AMT)—an arbitrary limit on loopholes. If no patch is agreed upon, the AMT would expand from 5 to 25 million households, raising taxes by $3,700 on average.
- ObamaCare will add new taxes of $23 billion, mostly from a payroll tax increase on high incomes.
- Obama’s “payroll tax holiday” will expire, increasing taxes by $125 billion on all workers.
To generalize, the growth in income tax rates and AMT would hit those in the middle and upper classes hardest, while higher payroll taxes would hit the middle class and working poor.
Of course, all of these figures are estimates. We do know that higher taxes tend to reduce economic activity, harming individuals and the macroeconomy. However, we don’t know the extent to which the economy will be harmed, or how strongly people will respond to the tax hikes.
The White House’s 2013 projected revenues assume an 18 percent increase in individual income taxes and a 41 percent increase in corporate taxes. It’s unclear how much of the predicted increases are due to higher tax rates or to optimism regarding economic recovery, but it’s difficult to be optimistic about an economy that’s about to be saddled with $500 billion in tax hikes.
The problem is that we have massive deficits and rapidly growing debt. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says that we need “fundamental” reform. The White House estimates that revenues will only cover interest on the debt and “entitlement” spending in 2012. All other functions of government are being financed through borrowing.
Continuing down this path will lead to bankruptcy.
Though we’re speeding toward a “debt cliff,” fixing the problem will be painful. To reduce deficits, we need reduced spending and/or higher tax revenues (not necessarily the same as higher tax rates). We know that significantly higher tax rates are not the answer since economic activity will stagnate as a result.
Beyond that, your policy preferences will depend on your ability to grasp the subtle costs of tax increases compared to the more obvious costs of cutting spending programs – and your confidence in the government’s ability to spend money better than the private sector.
-Dr. Eric Schansberg is a professor of economics at Indiana University Southeast, and a member of the Bluegrass Institute Board of Scholars