Quotes of note
“The biggest problem with alarmist claims, however, isn’t the repeated falsehoods and false prophecies. No, the greatest damage is the way ‘addressing climate change’ has become the latest euphemism for denying billions of people access to affordable energy – with victims ranging from working-class Americans to the world’s poorest in sub-Saharan Africa. And while the vulnerable suffer, wealth and power is transferred to the likes of biofuel processors and the bureaucrats of the Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union.” – Steven J. Allen
“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.” – John Paul Jones
Moving ahead: New research shows that adding just a few self-driving cars to the streets can improve overall traffic patterns. According to field experiments in Tucson, Ariz., “Autonomous vehicles help minimize stop-and-go traffic, which is a bad habit that we sloppy humans perpetuate.” Source: ZDNet.com
Malfeasance: The National Education Association cites a study documenting $223 million in “alleged and confirmed cases of fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in charter schools” over 23 years. That not good, but it’s small potatoes compared to what one traditional public school district – Los Angeles – costs taxpayers. Just five recent abuse lawsuits against teachers cost that district more than $300 million, writes Larry Sand of the California Policy Center.
New magazine: Freedom & Opportunity is a new education-focused magazine featuring some of Georgia’s leading education experts. In the inaugural issue, publisher Louie Hunter writes, “Some will think the current system is fine and some will think it is broken. It is our goal within these pages to explore both schools of thought and let you, the reader, decide based on the information presented.” Read the inaugural issue here.
Pension liabilities I: Governments report unfunded liabilities of $1.378 trillion, but the true unfunded liability owed to workers based on their current service and salaries is $3.846 trillion, the Hoover Institution reports. It finds, “[G]overnments are borrowing from workers and promising to repay that debt when they retire, but the accounting standards allow the bulk of this debt to go unreported through the assumption of high rates of return.”
Pension liabilities II: According to the Center for Retirement Research, the nation’s approximately 4,000 state and local pension funds are 72 percent funded at interest rates of 7-7.5 percent. But rates are nowhere near there. For instance, the giant CalPERS pension fund assumes a rate of return of 7.5 percent per year, but earned 0.6 percent return for the last fiscal year (2015–16). At just a 4 percent rate, the funding percentage drops to 42 percent, suggesting a collective shortfall in funding of more than $4 trillion. Source: Cato Journal
Pension liabilities III: States’ assumptions show that on average, more than half of teachers receive no employer pension benefits because they leave before they are eligible. Just one in five stays on the job long enough to receive full benefits at retirement. Plans rely on all teachers contributing to the pension plan but count on only having to pay full benefits to the relatively few veterans who stay in the same field, in the same state, throughout their career. Source: EducationNext
Energy and environment
Soaring: The count of active bald eagle nests in Georgia soared to a record high this year, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Aerial surveys finished last month detected 218 occupied nest territories. There were no known nests in 1970; this year there are nests in at least 68 counties.
Criminal justice reform
’Net gain: The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles provides a 14-page application to former offenders seeking a pardon, which must be completed and mailed in, along with a stamped, addressed envelope. South Dakota is the first state with an entirely online process to expedite pardon applications. (Pardons can help job seekers and restore civil and political rights and firearm ownership.) Source: KSFY.com
Taxes and spending
Misspent: In fiscal year 2016, government agencies reported improper payments of more than $144 billion. This estimate was attributable to 112 programs spread among 22 agencies, but primarily involved Medicaid, Medicare and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Since FY 2003, cumulative estimates have totaled over $1.2 trillion, the Government Accountability Office reports.
This month in the archives: In May 10 years ago the Foundation published, “Border Security is First Step in Halting Illegal Immigration.” It noted, “If you grant legal status to those here illegally without first securing the border, it is only logical that millions more will seek to come here illegally. That is exactly what happened after 1986, when Congress passed the last immigration reform legislation without first securing the border.”
The Forum: Ross Coker highlights the campaign for civil asset forfeiture reforms in Georgia.
Foundation in the news: Benita Dodd’s commentary, “Education Reform Requires More than Tweaks,” was published in The Marietta Daily Journal, The Cobb Business Journal, Neighbor News, The Northside Neighbor, Cobb Life, The DeKalb Neighbor, The North Fulton Neighbor and The South Metro Neighbor. The Bryan County News published Harold Brown’s commentary, “Every year, around Earth Day it happens.” Benita was quoted in The Detroit Free Press in an article on that city’s new streetcar.
Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read our latest commentary, “Stop Making a Federal Case for Transportation Funding,” by Robert Krol.
Have a great weekend!
Kelly McCutchen and Benita Dodd
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The Georgia Public Policy Foundation is something that I am proud to be a part of today. The research conducted by education groups like yours is invaluable in helping form opinions and allowing people to reach conclusions that ultimately help them make the right decisions.