Quotes of note
“Paying people to make it easy not to work – and thus languish for a lifetime in poverty – is not compassionate. It’s destructive of human dignity and leads to more inequality.” – Wall Street Journal
“When Men are employ’d they are best contented. For on the Days they work’d they were good-natur’d and chearful; and with the consciousness of having done a good Days work they spent the Evenings jollily; but on the idle Days they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with their Pork, the Bread, and in continual ill-humour.” —Benjamin Franklin (1771)
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” – Robert F. Kennedy (1966), assassinated 50 years ago this week.
State economy: Georgia’s economy is the ninth best overall among the states, according to a WalletHub analysis. It was ranked as best in the Southeast and three spots ahead of North Carolina. The top economy is Washington state; the worst is Louisiana.
National economy: The burst of hiring and economic growth after federal tax reforms has “leapfrogged” the United States back into the top slot for global competitiveness for the first time since 2015. In the 2018 annual rankings by the IMD World Competitiveness Center, the United States took the lead from Hong Kong. Source: Bloomberg
Lows of higher pay: Amid the push for “living” wages and “fair” pay, it’s worth remembering that Seattle’s $15 minimum wage may have caused job losses and lower wages. A University of Washington study found “employees increased wages, which you’d expect given the mandate of the law, but they also cut hours and they cut jobs.” Source: Daily Wire
Veterans’ affairs: President Trump signed legislation this week that will allow military veterans to receive health care services from private-sector doctors and facilities and streamline the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ community care programs.
Affordable? Despite its official name, ObamaCare costs are higher than ever, according to Stephen Moore. In May 2017, the federal government reported that average health insurance premiums had doubled since 2013. In 2018, costs have risen by another 19 percent for high-cost plans and 32 percent for the cheapest plans, according to a study by the Urban Institute.
Customized care: Personalized cancer treatment after gene sequencing or “molecular profiling” can raise the chances of survival by up to six times, according to a study of more than 3,700 patients with incurable or untreatable cancer by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The treatment is described as the biggest medical breakthrough since chemotherapy. Source: GenomeWeb.com
Taxes and spending
Location, location, location: There are early indications that the federal tax reform passed in late 2017 has many people in high-tax states relocating to low-tax states, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Before the new rules, taxpayers who itemized could write off an unlimited amount of state and local taxes, unless disallowed under the alternative minimum tax. But now, the deductions are capped at $10,000.”
You heard it here first: Back in 1997, the Foundation warned that Social Security is endangered: “By 2029 it will be completely insolvent,” wrote Mike Tanner. This week, the federal government reported that the program’s costs will exceed its income this year for the first time since 1982, forcing it to dip into its nearly $3 trillion trust fund to cover benefits. This is three years sooner than expected a year ago, The Wall Street Journal reports. The trust fund is expected to be depleted in 2034.
Energy and environment
Turnabout: The cities of San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., are suing five oil companies, seeking compensation for infrastructure to protect against rising seas. Four of the five are seeking dismissal on jurisdictional grounds; defendant Chevron and the two cities got a homework assignment from the judge: Prepare 10-page legal analyses on whether a century of American dependence on fossil fuels was worth the global warming it caused. “You’re asking for billions of dollars for something that hasn’t happened yet,” said Judge William Alsup. Source: Bloomberg
Technology: Fishermen who use vertical mesh nets often unintentionally catch additional species, sometimes endangered. New software is helping prevent this “bycatch” and home in on the desired fish, Smithsonian Magazine reports. Much like a daily weather forecast, EcoCast pulls information into computer models to produce maps predicting the presence of the target species in an area on any given day.
On again, off again: When the Atlanta Streetcar began running in December 2015, passengers rode fare-free at first. Ridership plummeted when the City of Atlanta implemented a $1 fare in January 2017. MARTA, which is taking over operations of the Streetcar, has announced it will eliminate the fare in July. Operating funds will come out of the half-penny transit sales tax Atlanta voters passed in 2016.
Going down: MARTA’s rail and bus ridership projections for July 2017 through March 2018 fell short 9 percent, or 8.6 million passengers. Actual ridership was 91 million, compared with 95 million over the same period a year earlier. Total MARTA ridership in FY 2017 was 126 million, down from 133 million in FY 2016 and 135 million in FY 2015. (In FY 2009, at the height of the economic downturn, ridership was 156 million.) Source: MARTA
Moving along: The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced a $184.1 million grant for the 17-mile express toll lane project planned for Georgia 400. Construction is expected to start in 2021 on the $1.8 billion project in Fulton and Forsyth counties, envisioned as part of a metrowide express toll lane network largely funded by the Transportation Funding Act of 2015. Source: News reports
Defining contribution: By FY 2019, the employer contribution rate paid into Georgia’s Teachers Retirement System will have more than doubled since 2012. The state and Georgia’s school systems (that is, taxpayers) will put about $2 billion into the teacher pension system in FY 2019. State and local contributions were closer to $1 billion in 2012, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
This month in the archives: In June 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “The Needless Burden of Local Assistance Grants.” It noted, “If the projects are of such minimal cost to the local government and the projects are so important, why wouldn’t the local government pay for it?”
YouTube: Visit the Foundation’s YouTube channel to view “Telling the Human Story,” the May 23 Leadership Breakfast speech by Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute.
Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read our latest commentary, “Schools Ease the ChalleNGe of Georgia’s At-Risk Youth,” by Benita M. Dodd.
Have a great weekend.
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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