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Posted: January 15, 2012 2:24 p.m.

Random ramblings

Rattling around in my brain is politics...and more.

The Iowa caucuses were largely ignored until an unknown outside of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, pulled off a victory. While campaigning in Des Moines during Iowa’s horrid January winter, Carter promised the voters he would take care of Iowa if they propelled him into the White House. Carter came in second to uncommitted, but the media proclaimed him the winner. If you were to visit Des Moines today, you would find the downtown buildings all connected by enclosed, heated walkways. Those walkways were constructed after the 1976 election using Federal dollars. Carter kept his promise.

GOP candidate Mitt Romney, campaigning in New Hampshire, has made a myriad of promises, but one promise stands out. The candidate told a 21-year-old college student, “What I can promise you is this — when you get out of college, if I’m president, you’ll have a job.’ I wonder if that promise was made exclusively to New Hampshire that has a 5.2 percent unemployment rate, while we in Georgia suffer through having 9.9 percent. What will he promise if he campaigns in Newton County with more than 11 percent of our citizens looking for a job?

Back to Iowa, 2008 Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama’s Iowa win was a big deal because of the state’s demographics…over 90 percent white. But look at past winners who did not win the nomination. Republicans Mike Huckabee in 2008, Bob Dole in 1988 (George H.W. Bush won), George H.W. Bush in 1980 (Ronald Reagan won), Democrats Tom Harkin in 1992, Dick Gephardt in 1988, Edmond Muskie in 1972 (the first year that Iowa was the first in the nation).

Polls are wonderful to keep up with the horserace, and there is nothing wrong with that. But try and read the margin of error. It is often so small on the TV graphic that even on a big screen TV, one must strain to read it. And how often have you found the margin mentioned in a print or online story? The margin of error reflects the size of the sampling. A typical margin of error of 2 percent indicates a sampling of 2,401 according to Wikipedia. A 5 percent margin means 384 people were polled. Polls with a margin of 6 percent were not uncommon this political season. But you are not told that, considering the margin of error, let’s say 5 percent, a poll that shows the first, second and third place candidates 15 percent points apart is a three way tie. Candidate no. 1 has 20 percent, no.2 had 15 percent and n. 3 has 10 percent. Take 5 percent, the margin, away from no. 1 giving him/her 15 percent, and add 5 percent to candidate no. 3’s 10 percent, and they are tied with 15 percent. Obviously candidate no. 2 is in a tie with no. 1 and no. 3.

During the holiday shopping season just passed, we were told that sales were up and most merchants were very pleased. Doesn’t that signal to you that your neighbors feel OK about the economy and, therefore, you should go out and spend more money? But now we are told by cnn.com/money that, “The Commerce Department report showed that overall retail sales rose only .1 percejt compared to November — falling short of forecasts of economists surveyed by Briefing.com, who were expecting a .4 percent rise.” Hmmm.

Untapped sources of revenue for Georgia exist but are taboo either because the GOP will do nothing that has the word “new tax” attached to it or the religious right will rail against it as sinful. I am referring to internet sales and  gambling. 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 (before the internet) that catalog sales could not be taxed by a state unless there was a retail outlet in that state. This has been carried over to Internet sales. If the word “tax” were not such a bugaboo, the U.S. Congress would pass legislation that allows states to tax all Internet sales to its residents. Why not join the 19 states that allow commercial casinos? Limit it to one area/city/county like Mississippi and New Jersey. Lottery sales may dip a bit but then I would expect you’d have folks coming from states close by to spend their gambling dollars in Georgia. The result is more revenue for the state.

Like I said, just ramblings.

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