Friday Facts: September 4, 2020

It’s Friday!

Quotes of Note

U.S. debt has reached its highest level compared to the size of the economy since World War II and is projected to exceed it next year, the result of a giant fiscal response to the coronavirus pandemic. … That would put the U.S. in the company of a handful of nations with debt loads that exceed their economies, including Japan, Italy and Greece.” –  Wall Street Journal

“In one sense, this deficit bug is only a symptom of the real virus. Today’s federal government bears almost no resemblance to the one established by our Founders in the Constitution. As that document’s author, James Madison, warned in 1792, ‘If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one.’ We now have an indefinite government in Washington that is bound not by the Constitution or even a dollar amount but only by whatever can get a majority vote.” – Nate Jackson

“A man is not paid for having a head and hands, but for using them.” – Elbert Hubbard

Economy

Top-rated: Georgia is once again among the nine states to earn AAA ratings from each of the three main credit rating agencies: Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service, and S&P Global Ratings. The ratings take into account a state’s ability to pay debts and the general health of the state’s economy. Source: Office of the Governor

Top employers: Forbes has ranked the top employers in every state and the District of Columbia by surveying 80,000 Americans working for businesses with at least 500 employees. In Georgia, Houston County Schools tops the list, followed by VMWare, QuikTrip, Microsoft and Lockheed Martin.

Seven in a row: Georgia has been named the “Top State for Doing Business” for the seventh year in a row by Area Development’s Site Selection publication, which polls nearly 50 site consulting firms. The state ranked No. 3 for the overall cost of doing business, No. 2 for business incentive programs, and No. 1 for cooperative and responsive state government as well as speed of permitting. According to the publication, “The top-ranked states have … low business costs, generous incentive programs, and competitive labor environments, among other probusiness advantages.”

Speaking of incentives: BusinessFacilities.com lists the business incentives offered by every state. Click on this link to see what Georgia offers. We’ll be looking at the ROI.

Nationally speaking: The U.S. trade deficit in July was at its widest since July 2008 – during the economic downturn – as imports outpaced exports, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Thursday. “Exports and imports increased in July but remained below pre-pandemic levels, reflecting the ongoing impact of COVID-19,” according to the report. The goods and services deficit was $63.6 billion in July, up $10.1 billion from June.

Air quality continues to improve, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Energy and environment

More, better: Since 1970, when the Clean Air Act was implemented, the combined emissions of the six commonly monitored pollutants have dropped by 77%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest report. From 2017 to 2019, the emissions of these pollutants dropped 7%. During this same period, the U.S. economy continued to grow, Americans drove more miles, and population and energy use increased. 

Healthcare

COVID-19 status updates: The Georgia Department of Public Health updates the number of pandemic cases, deaths and daily at 3 p.m. Visit the website here.

Pandemic shot-in-the-arm? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent documents to the 50 states telling them how to prepare to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as late October or early November, The New York Times reports. 

Rural healthcare: Applications are open for 2021 service-cancelable loan repayment programs from the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce. These programs pay toward student loan debt for healthcare practitioners who agree to practice or who already practice full-time in underserved counties with a population of 50,000 or less.

Medicaid or not? While 70% of physicians practicing in metropolitan areas of Georgia accept Medicaid patients, just 65% accept new Medicaid patients, according to the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce. In rural areas, 83% of physicians accept Medicaid patients and 78% accept new Medicaid patients.

Donation: Morehouse School of Medicine has been awarded $26.3 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The donation is part of a $100 million fund for students at the nation’s four historically black medical schools; Morehouse medical students in student aid programs will each receive about $100,000. Source: WSBTV.com

Education

College equivalency: Students who do not complete high school can take the General Educational Development (GED) exam, which equates to earning a high school diploma. “We need something similar for a bachelor’s degree,” writes Bill McMillan of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. “There is no path for a modern-day Abraham Lincoln to read law on his own and then sit for the bar exam.” He suggests, “A rigorous standardized exam would be a strong substitute for students to take an independent path to a college degree without accreditation’s issues.”

Taxes and spending

Election promises: The Tax Foundation shared what it knows thus far about the tax platforms of the presidential candidates. For Joe Biden, it reports, most of his proposals “center around raising income taxes on high earners as well as on businesses.” Of President Trump: “While light on detail, the [second-term] agenda includes a few tax policy items like expanding existing tax breaks, creating credits for specific industries and activities, and unspecified tax cuts for individuals.”

Elections

Election miscellanea: Two months before the election, the state already has more than 800,000 absentee ballot requests for the November 3 general election. The secretary of state’s office launched a website August 28 for online absentee ballot requests, ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov. Registrars can begin mailing out absentee ballots on September 15. September 8 is the filing deadline for write-in candidates. October 5 is the registration deadline to be eligible to vote in the general election. In-person early voting begins October 12. Source: News reports

Here’s your sign: The Georgia Department of Transportation warned Thursday that  “signage of any kind that is found in state right of way and not previously authorized is unlawful and will be removed.” It noted, “The number of unauthorized political signs typically increases during an election year.”

Media

Social media: Follow the Foundation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

YouTube: View all eight Zoom sessions of the 2020 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum on the Foundation’s YouTube channel here. The Forum, which began July 15 and ended August 27, included six policy sessions: education, the budget, land use and transportation, the economy, housing, and healthcare. The opening keynote was by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the closing keynote by Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton. View the program here for the agenda and speaker bios.

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In September 20 years ago, the Foundation published, “The Myth of Smart Growth.” It noted, “A plan that spends the majority of our transportation dollars on mass transit and smart growth strategies is a waste of money that will make our traffic congestion and air pollution problems worse, not better.”

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “This Labor Day, A Tribute to Work,” by Benita M. Dodd.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

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