What’s the deal with tax reform?

With both the House and Senate returning from their summer recess just two weeks ago, their top priority already appears to be tax reform. Following a failed attempt at passing legislation that would modify the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the Republican controlled Congress has quite the incentive to deliver on one of their top platform promise, as their credibility is on the line while voters begin to question their competency as the 2018 midterm approaches.

A poll out of the Pew Research Center shows that 72% of Americans are bothered by the complexity of the tax code while 80% do not believe corporations pay their fair share of taxes. Since the beginning of the most recent election cycle, President Trump, as well as the Republican Party as a whole, has been promising a simplification of the tax code that would include both cuts for the middle class as well as a lowering of the corporate income tax while simultaneously eliminating loopholes. But what would such a bill look like?

The U.S. tax code currently sits at over 74,000 pages, and it is no wonder firms such as H&R Block thrive by navigating it. Individual tax rates are presently split up into seven distinct tax brackets, but under Trump’s vague proposal, this number would shrink to three, including brackets at 10%, 25%, and 35%.  However, these brackets can be deceiving. To understand how brackets work, let’s imagine a man named John who makes $22,000 a year, who lives in a country with three tax brackets: 0% for the first $10,000, 10% for those making up to $20,000, and 20% for those making over $20,000. While John is making more than $20,000, he does not pay a fifth of his income to the government. Instead, the first $10,000 is taxed at the lowest bracket’s rate of 0%, the next $10,000 at 10%, and only $2,000 of John’s income is taxed at 20%. This puts his effective tax rate well under 20%, despite being in the top income tax bracket. While these brackets are a bit exaggerated in comparison to the actual tax brackets, John’s theoretical income tax is important in understanding the concept of a graduated or progressive income tax.

However, income taxes are much more complex than this as the government allows what are referred to as deductions. Deductions essentially give portions of your income immunity from tax for various reasons, such as having student loans or mortgage payments. The conservative-backed simplification would most likely eliminate many of these deductions making the process much simpler. One of the major criticisms of the simplification of the tax code is that it would most likely give cuts to upper income earners. Kent Smetters, who served as an economic advisor under the George W. Bush administration points out that the top 10% of people in the United States pay about 60% of the income tax, so any form of tax cut will most likely be felt by top income earners. The exact details of the proposed personal income tax regulations have yet to be released and it is likely even after they are, there will be negotiations even before an attempt to pass it takes place.

The other main aspect of the GOP tax reform is a refurbishing of the corporate income tax. Currently, the U.S. corporate income tax stands at 35%, among the highest nominal rates in the developed world. However, due to various evasion techniques employed by large corporations, the effective corporate tax rate currently stands at around 28%, in line with similar developed nations. The verbal proposal set up by President Trump and echoed by many republicans includes a lowering of the corporate tax rate to 15% while also closing loopholes that allow companies to hide money in attempts to evade taxation. The intent it to lower the corporate tax while bringing the nominal tax rate closer to the real number. Republicans say this tax decrease would spur economic growth, but whether it will and to what extent has yet to be seen.

One of the major criticisms of decreasing the corporate tax rate is that it will only increase the U.S. national debt, which currently stands at over $20 trillion. In order to understand the relationship between the corporate tax rate and government revenue, it is helpful to look at what is known as the Laffer Curve. When the government implements a 0% tax rate, its revenue is $0 as there is no tax base. On the other side, when the government collects a 100% tax, there is no incentive for businesses to produce anything, and there is again no government revenue. However, there is a tax rate between these two extremes where the government will collect the largest amount of money. The question is just which side of the peak are we currently on? This remains up for debate, but dramatically decreasing government revenue will push the the United States further and further into debt.

In the coming weeks, Republicans are sure to push forward a tax reformation bill, even if it falls short of passing through Congress. While the primary goal of a GOP tax goal is sure to be economic growth, the Federal Reserve is also watching the economy, and if it fears rapid inflation, interest rates might rise faster than they already are projected to. This ultimately means a tax plan meant to encourage economic growth could have an opposite effect if it is too aggressive. In addition to this, any bill must be both relatively moderate to gain widespread support and revenue neutral; it cannot increase the national deficit in order to avoid the Senate filibuster rule. With their own reputation on the line, the Republican controlled Congress surely has a tall task of writing a realistic bill, and the specifics of such bill remain to be seen.

Junior class retreat hosted by HANM 

The Junior Class Retreat took place on Thursday, Sept. 21 at Camp Notre Dame. The retreat was hosted by the Hard As Nails missionary group. HANM has been to Cathedral Prep before, coming last year for an assembly. The leader of the group is Justin Fatica who is a Prep graduate. Hard As Nails goes on trips all over the country to spread their stories and help kids who are dealing with problems in their lives. 

The day started with students being able to use the knockerballs and socialize with each other. Then they were called inside and the missionaries gave an introduction of themselves. Justin Fatica came out with a lot of energy and emotion and used his saying “ALL HEART” to which the students replied “ALL IN.” Each of the missionaries took a turn going up and talking about how they became missionaries and what struggles they faced in the past. Students were then given the opportunity to come up and share with their class something they went through. Their classmates could come up and give them a hug if they could relate to something they went through or if they wanted to give them encouragement. If a student didn’t want to talk in front of the class they spoke with the missionaries in private. 

Every student received three pieces of pizza for lunch and some cookies. After lunch it was free time and many of the students spent it playing basketball with the missionaries. The class was called back inside, and they did an activity where they had to hit a ball and then crowd surf on whatever side they hit it to. Justin Fatica wrapped up the day by giving a speech.

Cathedral Prep student Albert Caldwell reflected on the day “It felt good, and made me feel closer to God and my classmates,” Albert said.

The junior retreat concluded with Mass that took place in the woods. Mass was hosted by Fr. Jason Feigh. 

Prep senior retreat recap

Prep provides their students with the unique benefit of class retreats, which serve as a way to connect with the people in one’s class on a deeper, spiritual level. For seniors, it is their last time to come together as a class and experience unity. This final retreat ended on a powerful note, led by Justin Fatica and his Hard of Nails Ministry. 
Justin Fatica is a Prep alum who specially takes time out of his nationwide tour to motivate his alma mater. Fatica’s passion and adrenaline is noted in his speeches, sharing his own personal life and stories with the audience.

Senior class member Dominic Montefiori stated, “Fatica’s really interesting and fun to watch. He really engages the audience.”

Each speech is formed around the message of following God and the responsibilities it requires. Through this, one progresses as a spiritual and moral individual throughout their lifetime. 

Justin’s Hard of Nails ministry is a group comprised of young adults who use their personal stories as a form of inspiration. They are examples of people who have devoted their lives to spreading the gospel in order to help others. This is especially impressive, since they have chosen to make this commitment at fairly young age. When commenting on the ministry’s member’s, senior Alec Thomas said, “It’s amazing to be able to connect with people fairly close to our age. I admire their commitment and overall positivity.”

This retreat focused heavily on individual introspection. People in the class were given the opportunity to speak about their lives. These stories told by members of the senior class strengthened many bonds among classmates.

Senior Alex Welz commented on the senior class speakers, “The stories told by members of our class were all extremely meaningful. Everyone who spoke was fantastic because it came from the heart.”

Each speaker was impactful in their own way, serving as compliments to the overall message of following and trusting in God. Overall, retreats serve the primary goal of strengthening bonds between classmates. While they teach important individual lessons, this benefit is a collective gain for everyone. Therefore, Justin and his Hard of Nails ministry increased the unity of an already tight senior class. 

Co-Athlete(s) of the Week: Joe Mischler and Tyler Oedekoven

In a game where the Cathedral Prep offense recorded a school record 714 yards, there was much recognition to go around. Senior quarterback, Joe Mischler, set a school and District 10 record with 507 passing yards while senior wideout Tyler Oedekove, also shattered the school record for receiving yards in a single game with 279. Not only is this an incredible feat in and of itself, but it came against the #5 ranked Division II team in the state of Ohio, St. Benedictine. The final score was 62-28, and the Ramblers were firing on all cylinders in their home opener at Dollinger Field last Friday night.

Mischler was extremely efficient, going 21-26, throwing for 5 touchdowns and also rushing for 28 yards. He finished with a 145.0 QBR, only turning the ball over once. Pencil in his performance for the record books as he threw for the 5th most yards in a single game in state history. The Ohio commit humbly spoke on his achievement saying, “Breaking the school record is really a great honor. However, it’s not an individual accomplishment, rather an offensive unit accomplishment,” Joe said. “We have some really great skill players who have big play ability every time they touch the ball. They make my job extremely easy and are really fun to play with. They come in every week and work hard to be able to perform on Friday nights. More importantly, the big fellas up front played great as they always do. They are always in the shadows of all the touchdowns and scoring drives, but without them, we can’t do anything”.

Time after time, Mischler praised his teammates and talked of how vital each element of the offense is and how they come together as one collective unit to form something special.

“This is just a great honor to have [sur]passed the school record, especially after watching Billy Fessler and Damion Terry play as I was growing up,” Joe added. “It is something I will always remember, but I couldn’t have done it without the other 10 guys on the field. That’s what makes football so great; it’s a team game.”

Much is the same with wide receiver, Tyler Oedekoven. Despite only being at Prep for two seasons, Oedekoven has surely made his mark. He was an integral part of Prep’s state championship team last year, lining up wide and consistently beating teams with his speed. He is picking up right where he left off and looked good as ever last week. Similar to Mischler, Oedekoven stressed the importance of his teammates and the role they play in his individual success. “It is a great honor to be able to break those records,” Tyler said. “But it not me breaking those records; it’s the whole team.  I wouldn’t be anywhere without any of my teammates.”

Both teammates have made it very clear that there are many factors that apply in order for the game to go the way they intend it to. Tyler’s big game places him 8th in state history in single game receiving yards and second in D-10. Oedekoven concluded with, “It’s a great honor just to be on the list with some of those great names. I’m just going to keep having fun with my brothers on that field and enjoy every second of my senior year.”

Club Profile: Debate

One activity that often goes overlooked in a student’s four years at Prep is the Debate Club. This is disappointing, as participation in this club could be enticing to many Prep students. It is developed around persuasion and argumentation, two fundamental skills to being successful in the future. Debate is also highly competitive, leading to self-rewarding results. Through this, the debate team leads to many benefits both inside and outside of school.

Debate is a combination of two fundamental skills: argumentation and persuasion. Argumentation produces critical thinking skills, leading to a greater understanding and appreciation of the world. All arguments are backed by credible sources. Therefore, debaters become excellent researchers and readers. At the same time, debate requires the ability to effectively persuade. This is a practice that occurs in everyday life when interviewing for a job, convincing a parent to do something, or writing essays for college applications.

“Debate can be cross-applied to my role as a student and leader, both inside and outside of the classroom,” said Prep junior and debate team member Justin Czerwinski.

A debater receives these benefits without even knowing it. They have too much fun competing.

Debate is an intense and competitive activity. Like any sport, there is a sort of excitement centered around competition that increases its enjoyment. Prep junior and debate team member Owen Jacobsen said, “When i’m debating, I get in the zone.”

This game requires an ultra-level of focus that must be tapped into during a round. There is an incentive to use strategy for the purposes of beating one’s opponent.

“At the end of the day, the goal is to win,” said Prep debater Timmothy Soucash.

If someone is an inherently competitive person, they should consider doing debate.  If someone is looking to gain an intro level to debate, they should take the debate class. Students learn what it means to be an independent thinker and approach the world from a critical point of view. The class is a great way to boost confidence and leadership capabilities, breeding excellent public speakers. Finally, colleges love seeing debate on a prospective student’s resume; admissions officers understand the value this activity brings to a student.

Former Prep debater Will Lewis (’17) said, “taking the class was very beneficial and sparked my interest in debate.”

Overall, the class is a great way to become acclimated into the team. Being a member of the debate team at Prep reaps unique benefits that no other club or activity has. The first benefit is travel. Debaters get the ability to go to national tournaments all around the country, which allows for a great way to see new places and explore places outside of Erie, Pennsylvania. National tournaments opens up opportunities to make and meet new friends all across the country. The debate community is a diverse network full of like-minded people.

The debate team at Prep has a lot of upside that often goes unnoticed by the students at Cathedral Prep. Students at Prep are always reminded that they are individually vital and unique to the school. Being on the debate team could be a great opportunity to uncover that masked potential.

Prep soccer beats McDowell

Prep soccer had a fantastic 5-0 win over McDowell, adding to their 8-0 undefeated record. This win adds on to an overall impressive yet grueling week, where the Ramblers played six matches in ten days.

Prep’s offense came to play, staying dominant throughout the entire game. Goals were scored by Jack Hilbrich, Matt Szparaga, Tyler Vandemerwe, and Jack Peterson. Ten minutes into the game, Hilbrich had a fantastic goal from 25 yards away, going straight through the hands of the McDowell goalie. James Kilgallon remarked ofthe goal, “[It was a] fantastic way to start, [and it] made our presence known on the field.”

Before halftime, Szparaga was able to add in another goal from the right wing. That intensity transitioned even after the break, where just three minutes in Vandemerwe scored. This was a rebound off of Zach Hein’s initial shot. Then, Peterson finished the game off with two goals, solidifying a dominant Prep win. 

Prep defended its home field very well, not allowing the Trojans to score a single goal. Although the defense often goes unrecognized, they were integral to allowing the offense to flourish. Goalie Nate Ferrick saved all shot attempts that came his way. When asked about his performance, Nate credited the defense, saying, “The Trojans forwards were always met with great resistance by our back line, making my job a lot easier.”

This was the last Prep-McDowell game for many of the Prep seniors that are on the team. To capitalize on this infamous rivalry, the game was called “Kicking It For Cancer.” Annalise Denning was the honored guest, a young girl diagnosed with medulloblastoma. Proceeds from the game, were given to offset her family’s medical costs. Patrick Reim commented on the game, “[It was a] great win for the boys. It was really great to play for something meaningful. I’m glad I was a part of it.” 

New iPad cases already causing discontent among student body

As the first quarter of school progresses, students begin to grow accustomed to the new changes and tweaks that have been implemented this year. But one change that has many students upset is the new cases for the iPads provided by Prep and Villa. While many people could not be more excited to receive a newer model of the iPad, their excitement began to fade when they viewed the new case.

Right off the bat, people were confused about how to access the stand feature for the new case. It took some time for Prep and Villa students to realize that they had to firmly press down on each end of an obnoxiously snapping, wristband shaped stand to prop their devices. Once students and faculty understood this feature, they were confronted with another issue. The stand doesn’t allow students and faculty to operate the iPad vertically without the user’s interference. While many people prefer accessing the tablet horizontally, this new stand almost forces people to type, read, etc. horizontally even if they usually use an iPad vertically. Another problem the case stand presents is that it is very annoying to type on. The predecessor of this years iPad case came with a firm, versatile stand that would hold your iPad in place while typing. In contrast, this year’s case sways left and right as you type.

Prep junior Jared Heidt voiced his concerns about typing on the new case as well, stating “It is very frustrating to write papers and type out answers for virtual assignments. The stand doesn’t allow you to type without it moving”.

Even though it is still September, some students have reported on their stands beginning to fall apart without any interference whatsoever. Just today, I clicked the stand to activate it, but as soon as I did, the base of the stand partially detached from the outer portion, leaving it hanging. This is not only annoying, but very angering. How can people efficiently do their work when their stand doesn’t function properly?

Moving away from the stand, there is the issue of the screen protector. To start, the screen cover this year is a major downgrade from last year’s. Unlike last year’s screen protector being physically attached to the iPad screen, this year’s is connected to the case. Because of this, air bubbles are riddled throughout the interface of the iPad. So when you try to type flat because of the mediocre stand, it is impossible to see what you are pressing because light is reflecting off of the bubbles. Only if you completely lean over your iPad while it’s flat to type is it possible to efficiently work.

Sophomore Thomas Francoeur also feels the same way about the new screen protector. “The new case seems very destructible and cheap. The screen cover keeps coming off at the corner, making it difficult to type.”

Possibly the only thing that is not entirely negative about the new iPad cases is the base itself. The new case doesn’t defer significantly in density and protection compared to it’s predecessor. However, a very troublesome issue the case has is its vulnerability to fall apart. While walking to seventh period last Thursday, a student’s iPad fell apart spontaneously without any interaction right in front of me. Apparently this is not rare, due to many students reporting this same issue.

Prep student Bobby Boland said, “I was unloading my book bag when I got home from Cross Country. All of a sudden, my iPad case literally fell apart while I picked it up to remove it from my bag.”

So if this new case has all these issues, how did we end up with it? In the spring of last year, there was a vote for new iPad cases. As it turns out, this was the case we voted for. To be fair, this case looked perfectly fine when we looked at a preview for it. But after using it for a month, it’s easy to recognize the various issues that comes with this new case.

When I spoke with Mrs. Amy Cambra in the technology department, she said the reason for choosing this case as an option was “that with a built-in stand, there would be fewer options of the stand going missing.” She added, “OtterBox designed this case for the educational environment.”

In conclusion, the new iPad cases provided this year are far from what we expected. An idea I’ve presented to the technology department is to allow students to purchase new cases through the school. In response, Technology Department employee Amy Camera stated, “Students are required to use the case that the school purchased for them. Different cases are not an option.” However, Mrs. Cambra also stated that they are aware some front covers are falling off, and they have discussed the issue with OtterBox, who is working on shipping redesigned replacement front covers that should stay on better.”

If students have any additional concerns with the new cases, they are more than welcome to discuss their issues with Mrs. Cambra or any member of the technology department. 

Club Profile: Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD)

A year removed from the discontinuation of the club, SADD is back. SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) consists of over 20 students under the help and guidance of Mr. Corey Ferraro, a theology teacher at Cathedral Prep. The club works to find fun and contemporary activities to lead students away from bad decisions not only through high school but also the rest of their lives. It urges young men at Prep to step up and truly recognize the consequences of their actions as a teenager. Many students have realized the importance of this and have gotten involved. It is essential that we have people in our youth to help keep their peers out of trouble and away from conflicts that could greatly jeopardize even the most promising futures.

SADD is also a great way to unify students. Athletes, intellectuals, actors, and all alike come together as one to help notify people of the dangers of some of their decisions.

Student Government President John Hagerty says, “SADD may seem like something that many students aren’t involved in, but there are plenty of students who all feel similarly on issues that lead to harmful decisions.”

Mr. Ferraro also spoke on the importance of the club saying, “We bring in speakers and hold events that raise awareness about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. It is a student-led club that gives Prep guys a voice and allows them to help others.”

In class today, selected SADD members spoke to the freshmen and sophomore classes throughout the day, sharing their stories and encouraging the students that although there are many kids who make harmful decisions, there are also plenty that make the correct ones.

Cathedral Prep is an institution that fosters an environment of brotherhood, positively, respect, and awareness. This awareness should extend past politics, community happenings, academics, and physical fitness; however, through all this, it seems something has slipped and trickled through the cracks. It is something that drastically affects the world around us. That is the destructive decision making of today’s youth. It has been overlooked far too long, and it is extremely satisfying to see students finally taking actions against it.

Athlete of the Week: Calvin Behm (water polo)

Cathedral Prep has had a rich history in the sport of water polo, featuring talented players who have led the team and gone on to play in college at a high level for many years. Calvin Behm recently surpassed them all. Calvin, a senior this year at Cathedral Prep and a captain of the water polo team, broke the all-time scoring record at Prep. Originally held by Daniel Bauman a recent graduate of Cathedral Prep, Calvin surpassed this record during a game at the McDowell Cup, against former state champions, Cumberland Valley. A second quarter goal catapulted his name to the top of a decorated list of players.

Calvin is no stranger to the game of water polo, as he has been playing it for almost his whole life. He has played locally for Epic Water Polo Club based out of Erie under the supervision of head coach Panos Tzelatis, who has coached multiple European and world champions, as well as several Olympians. Calvin has traveled to California to play with the best in the country multiple times and has been selected to numerous Olympic Development Programs where the best juniors in the country can come and train together. The past few summers he has traveled to Montenegro and Greece, staying with host families to perfect his craft internationally. He will continue his water polo career next fall on a water polo scholarship at the University of Pacific, a top-five NCAA Division I Team.

Calvin’s hard work has earned him multiple first team all-state honors, and he is the clear favorite for the prestigious “Mr. Water Polo Award,” given to the state MVP each year. His ability to create opportunities and explosive goal-scoring ability has  given him the chance to extend his record with the rest of the season in front of him.

“I had no intention of going out of my way to break the record,” said Calvin after the 15-10 win against Cumberland Valley where his second of five goals stamped his name in history.

Andy Burns, who also captains the Prep water polo team, has played along side Calvin for many years. He gave his teammate high praise, “I admire his determination and how much effort he has put into this sport,” Andy said. “His love for polo is apparent in his play and it is what has helped him to get to the level he is at today.”

The connection to Prep water polo team and his brothers means a lot to Calvin. “Playing for Prep motivates me to play to the best of my potential,” he said.

Michael Doyle, head coach and starter on the 1999 water polo team that was runner up at the state tournament, also commented on Calvin’s ability. “He doesn’t just play for himself but [also for] the team. He makes the passes and does whatever it takes so he can help the team win,” he said.

If you see Calvin in the halls please congratulate him on this achievement and his many others. He and the Rambler water polo team will be back in the pool Saturday in the Tiger Classic at North Allegheny High School.

Preview for Week 2 of the NFL

Last night Week 2 of the NFL season began, as the Texans defeated the Bengals 13-9. The next game on Sunday will be the classic rivalry between the Browns and Ravens. While the Browns have had a very poor record for as long as anyone can remember, one can be optimistic by noticing that they have the youngest roster in the NFL. Playing at the same time are the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This game will surely mean a lot to the players and fans of Tampa, seeing as they are rebounding from Hurricane Irma.

Up in Pittsburgh, the Vikings will be taking on the Steelers. This clash between the best offense and one of the best defenses in the league will surely be a highlight of the weekend. In New Orleans, the Patriots will be battling with the Saints. After an embarrassing loss against the Chiefs, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are hoping to assert their wrath on the struggling Saints. Speaking of the Chiefs, their next matchup will be against the promising roster found in the Philadelphia Eagles. As Carson Wentz enters his second year in the NFL, fans can already see that he has the potential to become a phenomenal quarterback in the league.

In Jacksonville, Florida, the Jags will be hosting the Tennessee Titans. With one of the worst offenses in the league after losing their star receiver Allen Robinson, the Jaguars will definitely struggle not only this weekend, but for the whole season. While this is happening, the Arizona Cardinals will be playing against the Colts. Hoping to come back after an unexpected loss at the hands of Matt Stafford and the Lions, Arizona will be jumping out the gate to defeat their opponent. In North Carolina, the Bills will be playing against the Panthers. After a very outlandish, lackluster season last year, Cam Newton hopes to lead his team back to where they were two years ago. All of these games will be played at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Starting at 4:05 p.m. Eastern, the Jets will be playing the Raiders. Somehow taking the Browns’ spot as the worst team in the NFL, the Jets will most likely get carved up by Derek Carr and returning NFL legend Marshawn Lynch. Traveling all the way from Florida to California, the Miami Dolphins will be facing off against the Chargers. Before this game, there has been chatter from Chargers player Melvin Ingram stating that new Miami addition Jay Cutler is “not a problem for us.” Hopefully this fire will continue onto Sunday and provide an intense game between the teams.

Simultaneously, the 49ers will be playing against the Seahawks. Already in talks for MVP, Russell Wilson has the potential to have a star-studded performance against a sub-par team found in California. Another team from California playing on Sunday is the Rams. They will be hosting the Redskins, which will produce a most likely low-scoring game between two defensive minded teams. Also on Sunday, the Cowboys will be going toe-to-toe with the Denver Broncos.

With the Cowboys already being surrounded in controversy with Ezekiel Elliott, this game will definitely be watched by most Americans. To wrap up Sunday, there are exciting matchup between two elite quarterbacks. With Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers already being mentioned for the title of league MVP, the game will be projected to be a high scoring face-off. To finish Week 2 on Monday, the Lions will be playing against their NFC North rival in New York. While the Giants have a very potent offense, the Lions are coming off a surprising season last year and are looking like they will continue this success after their win against the Cardinals.