Foods will get faster; tax reform on map

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 3, 2005

Staff report

As we get ready to turn the calendar page onto another year, a group of experts at The University of Alabama are taking their turns at predicting what we can expect in 2005.

And if 2004’s predictions are any clue, you may be wise to heed their words. This time last year, the experts predicted an increase in gas prices (correct), growing popularity of hybrid vehicles (right again) the reelection of George W. Bush (another one) and Republican gains in the House and Senate (that’s four for four).

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For this year, the experts are predicting tax cut proposals; an adjustment of the U.S.’s goals for Iraq; a resurgence of American-made cars; and more school choice options for parents.

Hispanic population will continue to increase

The Hispanic population in Alabama will continue to grow throughout the decade, according to Annette Watters, manager of the Alabama State Data Center.

Watters said the state can expect the growth in the Hispanic population to continue to be uneven across the state. While Hispanics make up about 2 percent of the total American population, in 43 of 67 counties, Hispanics represent 1 percent or less of the total. In the counties with the highest concentration, Hispanics represent between 4 and 8 percent of the total population.

“Alabama has seen many new Hispanic residents in recent years, but not as many as other states,” Watters said. Alabama ranked 33 of 50 for the number of Hispanics who moved into the state between 1990 and 2000.

Convenience is keyword

for foods

The most popular food trends for the upcoming year will be convenience – heat and eat – foods that are both healthy and fresh.

“Individually packaged ready-to-eat foods that require no utensils will lead the list of most wanted foods attributes by consumers, even ahead of nutrition and health,” Dr. Ralph Lane, professor of human nutrition, said. Food-savvy consumers will continue their demand for upscale casual culinary concepts that are flavorful, colorful, fun and somewhat indulgent, he said.

Tax reform to take

center stage

Four areas of the code will be under scrutiny as tax reform takes center stage in 2005.

“Among the items that I think Congress will at least consider in 2005 is the alternative minimum tax,” said Dr. William Samson, accounting professor at UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce. “That certainly needs to be modified because it is now starting to affect many taxpayers that it wasn’t intended to hit.”

The AMR is an extra tax some people have to pay on top of the regular income tax. It is designed to prevent people with high incomes from using special tax benefits to pay little or no tax. But for various reasons, the AMT reaches more people each year, including some people who don’t have a very high income or many special tax benefits.

Samson said Congress may also work on the Social Security problem.

“The proposals that need to be adopted are changes to the expected retirement dates for the full payout of Social Security,” Samson said. “By changing the expected retirement from 65 to a bit longer – say 67, phased in over time such that the change applies to younger workers, much of the strain on the system which is projected to be removed.”

Samson said there may action on a proposal that would impact those who do not itemize.

Dr. David Lanoue, professor and chairman of political science at UA, said a growing deficit will not stop President George Bush from proposing additional tax cuts.

“At the very least, there will be a proposed reduction of certain taxes that aren’t popular with the Republicans,” Lanoue said. “Bush may, during the State of the Union address, come out with a more radical plan than may include some version of the flat tax.”

Iraqi elections postponed;

U.S. shifts goals

An election will be held in Iraq in late January, but continued violence in that country will prevent a broad-based national election in 2005, predicts a UA foreign policy expert.

“I suspect we will postpone the election, at least the national election,” Dr. Donald Snow, professor of political science at UA, said. “We’ll hold something that looks like an election Jan. 30 but it will not be the grand, national election we’ve been advertising.”

Snow said 2005 is the year of “Iraqification.”

“We are going to turn the country over to the fledgling Iraqi police force even though, as in Vietnam, we know it will not work,” he said.

Snow said the U.S. will reexamine its goals in Iraq in order to begin significant withdrawal of American troops.