Friday Facts: July 30, 2021

It’s Friday! 

Memory Lane

Once Upon a Fax: The Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s most popular publication, the Friday Facts, has evolved over the decades from a one-page facsimile sent to the Foundation’s paying members to a free online and emailed roundup of the week’s interesting policy news and views. Here’s how it looked in January 1999. The Foundation celebrates its 30th anniversary with an event September 16 at the Georgia Aquarium.

Quotes of note

“Congress has spent so much money in the past year that the recipients are having a hard time using it. That’s the news from a Government Accountability Office report last week that more than $1 trillion of federal pandemic relief has yet to be spent.” – Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

“State legislatures across the country have been enacting new choice programs and expanding existing ones this year, a legislative trend likely to continue. School-choice opportunities are serving a growing number of students around the country. Their expansion means more options for exhausted parents no longer willing to endure public schools’ abandonment of their children.” – Ginny Gentles

Events

September 16: Jason Riley, Wall Street Journal columnist and author of “Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell,” is the keynote speaker at the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation on September 16 at the Georgia Aquarium. Find out how to attend or sponsor the event at www.georgiapolicy.org/dinner.

Government

Robbing Peter: After longstanding delays with trash pickup, the City Council of Columbus voted this week to waive September’s trash pickup fee for city residents, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports. Monthly fees are $18; the waiver is expected to cost the city $1 million, which will be made up from city reserves. Read the Foundation’s investigative journalism article about Atlanta’s trash pickup delays here.

I owe, I owe: At $2,027 per person, Georgia’s bonded liability was the 16th lowest per capita in the country in 2020, the American Legislative Exchange Council reports. The state’s total bonded liability is almost $21.5 billion. Nationally, all states’ bonded liabilities total over $1.25 trillion. “Many states are continuing to use bonds to increase government spending and pass the buck to future generations of taxpayers,” said Jonathan Williams, ALEC’s Chief Economist. Source: The Center Square

I Spy: A survey by the Center for Strategic and International Studies lists 160 publicly reported instances of Chinese espionage towards business and individuals located in the United States since 2000. According to the survey, “51% of incidents sought to acquire commercial technologies.” The U.S. government became “less reluctant” after 2007 to publicly identify China as the perpetrator, the center reports.


Economy

Spending spree: Consumer credit card spending is on the rebound. Capital One Financial reports June 2021 volume is up 25% over June 2019, with spending in the travel and entertainment sector up 3%. American Express is within 98% of its 2019 consumer travel and entertainment volume. Banks are also seeing a sharp increase in consumers paying off their cards, cutting into their interest-generating revenue. Source: Wall Street Journal


Energy and environment

Olympic-class grass: The grass used at the Japan National Stadium Olympic venue has its roots in Georgia. TifSport, the bermudagrass sod used at the opening of the Games, and Tifton grass, inspired by Tifway (a hardy, hybrid bermudagrass that replaced it after a few days), were both developed at the Tifton campus of the University of Georgia. The campus is world renowned for its turfgrass research program. Source: University of Georgia

Record crops: A 32% increase in rainfall is credited for Morocco’s record-high grain harvest of 11.4 million tons for the 2021 crop year, a 221% increase over the previous year and its second-highest harvest ever. Source: CGTN Africa

Record coral: The Great Barrier Reef’s coral is at record levels, according to an annual assessment by the Australian Institute of Marine Science. “Remarkably, even the excellent news of record coral still has the scientists pessimistic,” writes Peter Ridd in The Australian. “The reef is, apparently, still doomed from climate change and this is just a temporary reprieve. How good does the data need to be to make them admit the reef is fine?” Last week, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee refused to declare the reef “in danger” from climate change. Source: News reports

Above average: Colorado State University has updated its projections for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. It forecasts 20 named storms this year, including the five already observed already. (Its April forecast was 17; in June this was updated to 18.) Nine storms could reach hurricane status (two more than average) and four could be “major” storms, with wind speeds over 110 mph.

Hot air: The increase in the number of hurricanes forming in the Atlantic over the past several years is “consistent with changes in observing practices and not likely a true climate trend,” researchers have concluded after examining hurricane records from as far back as 1851. Source: Nature Communications


Housing 

Homeownership: The U.S. homeownership rate has fallen to 65.6%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In other words, one-third of homes across America are rentals. Source: Kiplinger.com

In harm’s way: The majority of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget is consumed by wildfire-related costs, an increasing problem as residential development encroaches on forested areas. In recent decades, the area where houses meet forests and other wild vegetation has grown by one-third. The federal government’s “blank check” for wildfire suppression in effect subsidizes such choices and “signals to residents that it’s perfectly fine to build and live in fire-prone areas,” Tate Watkins writes in Reason magazine.


Healthcare

Unhealthy? Piedmont Healthcare’s plans to acquire seven hospitals are being opposed by a nurses’ union, which complained to the Federal Trade Commission that Georgia is being “rapidly divided up by large providers.” The acquisitions would increase Piedmont’s hospitals to 18, more than any other system in the state. Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

COVID-19 update: The Georgia Department of Public Health reports COVID-19 cases, deaths and vaccination rates on its website here.


Legislature

Reapportionment: The schedule of the General Assembly’s reapportionment committee hearings can be found online here: www.legis.ga.gov/schedule/all.


Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In July five years ago, the Foundation published, “Climate Change Déjà Vu.” It noted, “The United States has some of the best and most complete temperature data in the world, but there were multiple problems, especially in the early 20th century: fewer weather stations, old-fashioned equipment, inappropriate siting and, sometimes, relocation of equipment.” 

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “30 Years of Changing Georgia Policy, Changing Georgians’ Lives,’” by Benita Dodd.


Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

FRIDAY FACTS is made possible by the generosity of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s donors. If you enjoy the FRIDAY FACTS, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to help advance our important mission by clicking here. Visit our website at georgiapolicy.org.

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