March 19: Capitalism has been demonized; markets are not so free and individual responsibility is becoming passé. How does America turn that around? Join Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, for the Foundation’s Leadership Breakfast at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, March 19, at Cobb County’s Georgian Club. The topic is, “Morality and The Marketplace.” Brook is co-author of “Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government.” This event is open to the public and will cost $25 to attend. Find out more at http://tinyurl.com/btp5nge; register online at http://tinyurl.com/9wcmz5p.
March 27: Invitations will be out soon to the Foundation’s Annual Dinner, which takes place Wednesday, March 27, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Cobb Galleria Ballroom. The keynote speaker is Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal. Tickets are $125 per person; sponsorships are available. To attend the dinner, register online at http://tinyurl.com/b6m7au5.
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Quotes of Note
“Those who like a ‘living Constitution’ should think about what it would mean to play poker with a ‘living’ rule book.” – Walter Williams
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” – Frederick Douglass
“My dad used to have an expression: ‘Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.'” – Joseph Biden
“Even after the sequester, the federal government will spend $15 billion more than it did last year, and 30 percent more than it spent in 2007. Government spending on nondefense discretionary programs will be 19.2 percent higher and spending on defense will be 13.8 percent higher than it was in 2007.” – Phil Gramm, former U.S. Senator and co-author of first sequester legislation in 1995
Construction has begun on Atlanta’s streetcar between downtown and the Martin Luther King Jr. historic area, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was in Charlotte, N.C., last month encouraging city officials there to spend a proposed $119 million on a 2.5 mile streetcar route. Charlotte should first take a closer look at how spending and timing are off track in Atlanta, where newest estimates are that the project price could soar to $100 million, up from initial estimates of $72 million just two short years ago. Plus, officials say, “There is no gun to our head,” as to when the project has to be up and running. Source: WSB-TV.com
Georgia is among 21 states that employ more bus drivers, librarians, cafeteria workers, deputy superintendents, accountants, coaches, nurses, assistant principals, and other non-teaching personnel than they do classroom teachers, according to a new analysis of state education employees by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. The report, which examines states’hiring patterns between 1992 and 2009, found a 41 percent increase in students in Georgia during that period and a 74 percent increase in administrators and other non-teaching staff.
Unintended consequences I: Those plastic bag taxes and bans in grocery stores are not just suspects in more food contamination. Now they’re blamed for an increase in shoplifting. Customers enter stores with reusable bags and can more easily conceal items they steal. It’s tough to tell what a customer has paid for and what they may already have brought with them. In Seattle, 21.1 percent of business owners surveyed said increased shoplifting because of the plastic bag ban was a problem. Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer
Unintended consequences II: New York City Mayor Bloomberg wants to ban Styrofoam packaging. Restaurants and other businesses warn banning polystyrene products will hike prices for customers.
Energy and environment
Ethanol sticker shock: After more than 50 years of declining food prices, ethanol subsidies and mandates have caused a dramatic rise in U.S. food prices since 2005, the Heartland Institute reports. Since 2006, food prices have sharply risen, with a typical family of four now paying $2,055 more in food bills than would be the case if costs had kept to the 1950-2005 trend line. Rapidly rising corn prices, caused primarily by ethanol subsidies and mandates, are the most important factor.
Got gas: U.S. natural-gas production will accelerate over the next three decades, new research indicates, providing the strongest evidence yet that the energy boom remaking America will last for a generation. The most exhaustive independent study to date of a key natural-gas field in Texas, combined with related research under way elsewhere, shows that U.S. shale-rock formations will provide a growing source of moderately priced natural gas through 2040, and decline only slowly after that.
Energy insecurity: California is weighing how to avoid a looming electricity crisis that could be brought on by its growing reliance on wind and solar power, The Wall Street Journal reports. California has encouraged growth in solar and wind power to help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, but power production from renewable sources fluctuates wildly. The state is also running low on conventional plants, such as those fueled by natural gas, which can adjust output to keep the electric system stable.
When solar’s not so clean energy: Colorado-based Abound Solar declared bankruptcy last summer after it had received $70 million of a $400 million Department of Energy stimulus loan guarantee. According to news reports from Colorado, state officials found 2,000 pallets of solar panels that couldn’t be sold and were identified as toxic. More panels were at another facility and hazardous waste at another site. Abound’s bankruptcy trustee estimated cleanup would cost about $2.2 million. The chief toxic chemical in the panels is cadmium, a cancer-causing agent. Source: National Legal and Policy Center
Smart on crime: Since 1995, the rate at which states confine juveniles has been steadily dropping for all ethnic groups, reaching the lowest rate in 35 years in 2010, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Over that period, the detention rate dropped from 350 to 225 per 100,000 youths. (In 2008, in England, the rate was about 47 per 100,000 and in Australia it was about 30 per 100,000.)
A health care revolution: Historically, insurers only pay for only those doctors’ visits handled in person. According to the American Telemedicine Association, 16 states have passed and seven have introduced legislation requiring insurers to reimburse for telemedicine services just as they would in-patient visits. The Institute for Policy Innovation proposes the solution come from insurers, which should follow the lead of Wellpoint, the nation’s second largest insurer. It will begin covering televisits with doctors. Another drawback is state medical licensing laws: “That state border distinction is a lot more important to a state medical association than to a patient. It’s a barrier that will likely fall at some point.” Read Benita Dodd’s commentary, “Telemedicine, A Telling Sign of Health Care’s Future.”
Tax and spending
Making the case for sequestration: From fiscal years 2007-2011, three individuals who served as Attorney General (AG) and the Director of the FBI accounted for 95 percent (659 out of 697 flights) of all Department of Justice (DOJ) executive nonmission flights, using DOJ aircraft at a total cost of $11.4 million. Twenty-four percent of trips (158 out of 659) were for personal reasons and 2 percent (11 out of 659) for a combination of business and personal reasons. Source: Government Accountability Office
This Week in The Forum
The Georgia House voted unanimously on Thursday to pass juvenile justice and civil code reforms that would dramatically change Georgia’s response to young people who commit crimes, run away, violate probation or who are in desperate need of services. Click here to read the article by Foundation Editor Mike Klein.
In Checking Up On Health by Benita Dodd, find out about innovations in cancer treatment and insurance premium hikes you can expect.
Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read my latest commentary, “A New Approach to Medical Malpractice Reform.”
Have a great weekend.
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The Foundation’s Criminal Justice Initiative pushed the problems to the forefront, proposed practical solutions, brought in leaders from other states to share examples, and created this nonpartisan opportunity. (At the signing of the 2012 Criminal Justice Reform bill.)