Candy Tax with Bittersweet Controversy

I was reading a news article today on something that is causing somewhat a stir between groups of people (what topic doesn’t, honestly?).  It was an article talking about taxing candy.  There are currently two states that has made taxing candy a law, and those states are Colorado and Washington.  Here is the article.

There are many controversial issues surrounding the taxing on candy.  The first controversy is the criteria of candy.  According to the article posted above and The Washington’s Department of Revenue:

“Candy is a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners combined with chocolate, fruits, nuts, or other ingredients or flavorings and formed into bars, drops, or pieces. Candy does not require refrigeration. Candy does not include any preparation containing flour.

Flour is made from grain such as wheat, rice, corn, rye, oats, and barley.  Flour does not include flour substitutes, such as starch. Any product that lists flour as an ingredient on the nutritional facts label is not taxable as candy.”

The second controversy surrounding this tax (and the more important) is the use of the money coming from taxing these sugary treats.  Washington and other states are considering taxing candy in order to overcome their budget deficits.

Let’s address the first controversy, shall we?  The fine line between what is candy and what is not will be debated heavily.  Let’s take Kit Kat for example, which is made with flour.  According to the “criteria” of candy, Kit Kat would not be taxed.  Why?  Because it’s not considered as candy that can be taxed.  However, M&Ms would be taxed since the ingredients, as stated on the bag, does not contain flour.  How about Airheads?  As I’m looking at a bag of Airheads now, the ingredients do not specifically contain flour.  However, right below the ingredients, it specifically states Manufactured in a facility that processes wheat flour.” Should Airheads be taxed in this case then?

Well, after looking at the list of taxable and non-taxable candies according to Washington’s Department of Revenue, here is the status of Airheads (taken from http://dor.wa.gov/Docs/Pubs/ExciseTax/RetailSales_UseTax/CandyList.xls)

Airhead Pops Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads Singles Sour Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads Xtremes, Strawberry Exempt Perfetti/Van Melle 5/26/2010
Airheads, Blue Raspberry Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Checkstand Pack, Asst. Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Cherry Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Green Apple Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Strawberry Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Watermelon Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, White Mystery Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Xtremes Exempt Perfetti/Van Melle 5/26/2010
Airheads, Xtremes Sour Belts Tray Exempt Perfetti/Van Melle 5/26/2010

Sounds like a sticky situation indeed.  All Airheads Xtremes products are exempt from taxes.  After looking online on Airheads’ official website, it states that Xtremes contains wheat flour.  This would explain why some Airheads would be taxed, and why some are not.  I don’t think this is going to fly too well with the National Confectioners Association (Candy USA).

On to the second controversy:  Will the money gained from taxing candy actually be used to reduce the state’s budget deficit?  It’s no secret that many states believe in taxing products in order to gain financially.  It is worth it?  Let’s stick with Washington state again for this example.  According to numerous sources, including to The Sunshine Review and HearldNet, the state’s budget deficit is around $2.8 billion.  In my opinion, if this candy tax goes according to plan, and the amount of candy purchased by consumers stays at the same level, and the money is used to actually combat the state’s issues, then the candy tax is a good idea. If the money is put to other non useful purposes, then we have a problem, and the people will have a problem with the government.  The way Colorado and Washington plays out the implementation of the tax will be looked at by other state governments, trust me.

The candy tax could be served for purposes; one overt and one covert.  The overt purpose would be to reduce the state budget deficit.  What about the covert purpose, the purpose that is not known by the general public.  The covert purpose could be to limit the amount of candy consumed by children in order to promote a healthier way of living.  Remember how cigarettes were taxed to an oblivion?  Many people will argue that cigarettes were highly taxed in order to make people re-consider paying a high amount of money on them.  Could this be the same with candy?  Could candy be taxed to the point that children, or even adults, re-consider paying a certain amount for the sugary goodness?  I highly doubt it, considering the average price for candy such as a pack of Skittles or Starburst is still cheap.

I will be interested to see how this all plays out.  The new tax is supposed to take effect in Washington on June 1st, 2010 (tomorrow).  My state of Maryland is also trying to find ways to cut our huge budget deficit; I wonder if they’re paying attention.

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Motivation: What Motivates You?

Motivation -the state or condition of being motivated; something that motivates; inducement; incentive.

Ask yourself this simple question: What motivates you?  Think about for a little bit.  There is something that motivates each and every one of us.  Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, there could be a wide range of factors that equates one to get a job done.

I hear people saying that others around them gives them motivation.  People who won’t stop at nothing to prove that you cannot succeed; people who believe that they are superior to your existence; people who say that you cannot accomplish something just because they could not do it themselves.  There finally comes a point where you feel that you have to prove yourself to others who doubted you.  You start working extra hard to overcome the naysayers.  This is where motivation kicks in.

Your sources of motivation could come personally; more specifically: family members.  This relates to me very specifically, especially when I lost my cousin lost his life to senseless violence.  This event motivated me in two ways:  1. To stay close with my family members no matter what constraints lie between us; 2. To succeed in college in remembrance of my fallen family member.

One last source of motivation that I will talk about is regarding the future.  What does the future hold for you if you accomplish your goal?  For example, do you see yourself coming out better financially?  Do you see yourself improving physically?  Motivation can come from realizing the end result of all the preparation and work you will need to sacrifice.

Overall, motivation can come from many different sources.  I tend to find something all the time to motivate me.  I tend to be more focused when I’m motivated.  As T.I. said in the song Motivation:

“If God with me, who could be against me sucka? Can’t make me suffer, just make me tougher (It’s motivation)”

Schools Cheating to Get Ahead?

I was watching TV a couple of days ago and I saw a story regarding an elementary school and cheating test scores.  After further investigation, the school was George Washington Elementary School located in Baltimore, Maryland (my hometown).  Here’s an excerpt of the story below (full story can be viewed here). 

A Baltimore elementary school principal’s professional license has been revoked after officials found widespread cheating on state tests at her school.Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Andres Alonso and State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick said the test tampering occurred in 2008 at George Washington Elementary School. 

The 18-month investigation included a review of hundreds of test booklets that revealed a “pattern of erasures changing incorrect answers to correct,” according to a release from the city school system. The tests were taken by students in grades 3, 4 and 5. 

Further down the article, the drastic change in test scores from one year to another is explained 

“The district said the probe was triggered by the dramatic shift in test results from 2004, when reading scores were at 47.6 percent and math scores were at 67.9, to 2007, when reading scores soared to 100 percent and math scores went up to 98.9 percent.” 

Since I live in Baltimore and I hear about the constant struggles of the Baltimore City school system, this piece of news deals a significant blow to a failing school system.  I personally don’t understand what can be gained from teachers, or better yet the administration, changing answers on a state exam.  There can be a point made that the school can gain financially by the strength of excellent test scores with the likes of better funding. 

However, how do the kids gain anything from this?  Most kids will think that their answers are correct and that they understand the material being presented to them.  This is unfortunately not the case.  I thought that the focus was on teaching children, even if they were to make mistakes; not giving children false hope by secretly changing answers. 

The investigation led to then-principal Susan Burgess being stripped of her professional license.  There is one SMALL problem: Burgess retired in the spring.  Should Burgess be held responsible for the actions of the school teachers who changed the scores?  In my opinion, I believe so.  As the leader of George Washington Elementary, or any school for the matter, you are responsible for making sure nothing like this occurs.  You are responsible for keeping your faculty in line to prevent a catastrophic event like this. 

I would find it very hard to believe that the principal didn’t know anything about this going on at the time, so the excuse of her possibly not knowing is nonsense.  At the same time, who else should be held accountable?  Teachers? School Board? Parents?  Blame could be pointed to a lot of areas. 

I haven’t done any research on this same type of story being reported in other schools or states, but I believe that there’s a possibility of this happening elsewhere.  I just hope that this is a small rate of this actually happening, for education sake.

My Evasion(s) From Reality

Evasion – physical or mental escape; an act or instance of escaping, avoiding, or shirking something

Let’s face it:  life can get very difficult.  Things such as school, family, work and its environment, and death and really affect one’s mindset on the way they view life.  All of these things have recently affected me one way or another.  Instead of laying in a puddle of my own misery, there are things that help me overcome what we know as reality.  Here are my top three things I use as temporary evasion from reality:

1. Music

I honestly don’t know where I would be if it was not for the calming relaxation that music gives me.  I have a collection of music for any type of mood that I’m in at the time; ranging from happy to sad to depressed.  Once I put those headphones on, my mind takes a temporary trip from it all to embellish in a life without worries; a life without fear; a life without pain.  To listen to an artist and interpret the message that is being conveyed makes you feel that he/she has been down the same path before.  Music has honestly helped me relieve some stress from everyday life.  Music is more powerful that many people might think because you, as the audience, have the power to mold that song’s message into something that relates to you.

2. Writing

Writing has been my metier for as long as I can remember.  Whether it was that one paragraph assignment back in elementary school, or that fifteen-page essay in college, I just love to write my thoughts out on a piece of paper.  I will honestly say that I am not the type of individual who consistently speaks his mind regarding something.  However, when I write my thoughts down, I believe that my words will have equal significance as verbal communication.  I know that blogging as not the same as writing on a physical piece of paper, but this also helps me get out messages that I’m trying to deliver to an audience of people.

3. Gym

Going to the gym and working out serves me well, especially when I feel angry or tense.  Instead of directing my anger towards someone who doesn’t deserve it, why not just do some physical exercises to relieve some ailing feelings.  The gym serves me well in lowering my stress level and building up muscle.  That’s killing two birds with one stone.

In a physical sense, you’re in the same place as your problems.  On the other hand, your mind is in its own mental paradise for a temporary period of time.  It’s true that life can throw us a curveball, but you can’t make it past home plate with a nervous approach.  Sometimes we need to step back and walk for a little.  Once we re-approach our situation, our swing towards life’s problems will be more sound, and success will point us in the right direction.  I believe we all have evasions or escapes; use it to your advantage.

Message to “You”

In my last post, I talked about my love life, or the lack of one.  After multiple unsuccessful attempts of looking for the special someone, or at least a girlfriend, to share my life with, you would think that I would be one bitter, angry African-American male towards women.  When I mean women, I mean all women, no matter the race.  However, I can’t be.  I just can’t be at all.  Why?  It is because I realize that not every woman is out to intentionally hurt men; not every woman is stuck-up and self-centered; not every woman wants to be taken on an ill-fated joy ride known as the fast life.

I remember an experience that I had at a club not too long ago, where I will admit that I was frustrated with the lack of attention that I received from females that I tried to strike conversation with (I’ve learned my lesson on club etiquette 101, don’t worry).  After talking with a couple of my friends about my situation, one of my friends said, “Man, f*ck these b*tches.  They don’t know what they want anyways.”  Even though my night went for the worse, there is no way that I can honestly call women out of their name, and actually feel good about it.  Since when has it been “thorough” to put a female “in their place” by constantly bringing her down and making generalizations about a group of people?  I get on my friends consistently about their attitudes about women.

Anyways, back to the actual message at hand.  Women:  I admire you.  Period.  Seeing the amount of women, especially African American women, doing something constructive and uplifting to help their communities is always a good sight.  The amount of women going to colleges/universities/trade schools to become to next great thing, whether a doctor, lawyer, information systems analyst, etc., shows their determination to make a difference.  I also can’t forget to leave out a woman’s beauty.  Now, I know the old catchphrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but I have to say that a woman is beautiful in her own special way.  It took me a long time to realize that beauty is not just what we see in magazines, movies, music videos, or even television commercials.  What about the women who constantly stay on their man’s side, no matter the consequence?  That shows a woman’s loyalty.

I look at all of my friends, and the girlfriend/wife that they’re with and I say to myself, “You better NEVER do anything to make her feel unwanted or unloved.”  I think a lot of people (mainly a lot of men in this case) do not realize the priceless value they have in their woman.  They usually don’t realize what they have, until after she is gone.

I honestly think a lot of my admiration for women come from seeing my mother’s struggles and triumphs.  When I was very young, my mother was the only parent taking care of me.  I did not have my biological father around at all, so there were some tough times growing up.  However, my mother made it work somehow, someway (someone cue Jay-Z).  When my mother separated from my step-father, she once again was on her own.  This time,  I was well into my teenage years, and my brother just barely hit double digits.  There were times where the road got bumpy, even cracked a little.  Guess what?  My mother still persevered, and I was there to support her along the way.  My mother is determined to never fail, and is always optimistic on life no matter the circumstance.

I see a lot of women that resemble some of the traits that my mother possesses.  Unfortunately, it’s a shame that they are not recognized by the masses, or even by their significant others at times.  Are women perfect?  Not by any means.  However, who is?  I want you to bring them to my doorstep so I can evaluate them.

This message is for women that I know, and even women I don’t know:  I love you, unconditionally.  Even though there are times where I feel frustrated as a male talking/communicating with you, I now understand what most of you must encounter on a daily basis.  You might have your flaws, but your imperfections fuel me as a man to help uplift you and work as a unit to address/fix them.  Thank you.

Realizing and Reaching Your Potential

Potential – a latent excellence or ability that may or may not be developed; possibility; potentiality

In life, we all strive to be successful in one way or another.  The path that we might take to become successful might be different from another person with your same aspiration(s).  No matter what anyone might tell you, we all have the potential to do something that can make an impact in our direct lives or in someone else’s life.  The question is:  Do YOU realize the amount of potential you have to complete something you strive for?

Throughout my life, I have seen many people who I have felt had the potential to do something astounding fall short.  With each situation, there have been different factors that have led to unreached potential such as negative external influences, lack of guidance, lack of confidence, or just overall laziness.  A lack of motivation I have seen time and time again; a person might feel complacent in their current lifestyle.  It’s frustrating for me to see the potential in someone, but that same person not even realize what they can accomplish.

For a very long time, I never realized my potential.  I was an individual that believed that I would not accomplish any big goals, or even touch an abundance of people’s lives.  I think this all changed for me during my time in college, where I surrounded myself with people who believed in me.  Having positive people around you can surely make a difference in the way you think and act towards life.  As time went on, my confidence and overall belief in my abilities increased dramatically.  People around me saw that I could do something great. 

When I presented my Valedictory Address at my graduation, many people were touched by the words that came out of my mouth.  People who I had never talked to a day in my life were coming up to me and thanking me for giving them a ray a motivation, or even hope to their current situation (whatever that might be).  Where am I trying to get at with this?  Have positive influences around you, or more importantly, BE a positive influence to someone in order for them to understand the ability they have.  If one of your friends, family members, co-workers, or neighbors you’re close with feel that they cannot get over the hump, give them motivation.  Just a little push of some sort can be the deciding factor of someone you know realizing their potential.