Friday Facts: August 13, 2021

It’s Friday! 

Memory Lane

What a W.A.S.T.E: Soon after it was established in 1991, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation created the W.A.S.T.E. Award, an ignominious recognition of the Tax Day deadline that highlighted the highly irresponsible expenditure of public funds exhibiting “a callous disregard for the labors of honest taxpayers.” It stood for “Wasteful Abuse of State Taxpayer Earnings,” a practice that has only grown. As this May 1994 article in the Foundation’s Georgia Policy Review newsletter shows, the City of Atlanta is no newcomer to wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars. This year, the Foundation celebrates its 30th anniversary with an event September 16 at the Georgia Aquarium.

Quotes of note

“If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” – Thomas Paine

“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong. Know-it-alls in the school system do not lose one dime or one hour’s sleep if their bright ideas turn out to be all wrong, or even disastrous, for the child.” – Thomas Sowell

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” – Ronald Reagan


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 at the Georgia Aquarium. Find out how to attend or sponsor the event at www.georgiapolicy.org/dinner.


Criminal Justice

Cost of calls: With COVID-19 freezing visits to inmates in many states, the cost of calling them can be steep, as an article in Governing.com reports. Nationally, the average cost of a 15-minute call from jail was $5.74 in 2018, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. Correctional facilities contract with companies to buy phone equipment and set call rates, and calls often come with fees. The prison telecommunication industry generates an estimated $1.4 billion in annual revenue. The Federal Communications Commission, which can set the rates for calls across state lines and internationally, recently lowered the cost of calls by a third, to around 14 cents per minute. States and municipalities set the costs of in-state calls in state and local facilities, where most incarcerated people are.


Healthcare

Surge: As the contagious “delta” strain of COVID-19 increases hospitalizations, there are concerns the new surge may overwhelm Georgia facilities already struggling to find enough nurses to adequately staff emergency rooms and intensive care units, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Nurses were in short supply even before the pandemic.

A long haul: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates more than 114 million Americans were infected with COVID-19 through March 2021. Along with new infections in unvaccinated people, at least 15 million cases of “long Covid” – ongoing effects – are expected, according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. With the average age of these patients about 40, “the majority are in their prime working years. Given these demographics, long Covid is likely to cast a long shadow on our healthcare system and economic recovery.”

Faking it: The growing requirements for proof of vaccination by schools, employers and governments have spawned “a thriving industry in bogus documents for use by those who don’t want to get jabbed, or who resent being bossed around,” writes J.D. Tuccille for Reason.com. It’s not difficult: Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said he forged a CDC-issued vaccination record card in 11 minutes.

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


Housing

Inclusionary exclusion: “Inclusionary zoning” ordinances incentivize or force developers of large housing projects to rent a portion of the units for below-market rates. The Manhattan Institute cites empirical studies showing that such policies can have “noticeable distorting effects;” that some such policies can cause dramatic reductions in housing construction; and that the approach consistently produces too few units to be more than a minor part of housing affordability programs.


Technology

Broadband: The U.S. Senate has advanced legislation that allocates $65 billion in new taxpayer money to expand high-speed internet access for millions of unconnected households – by far the largest allocation of federal funds ever earmarked for broadband. “The administration originally pushed Congress to steer federal broadband funds to local government, nonprofits and other alternatives that would compete with incumbent private providers,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The measure, part of the broader $1 trillion infrastructure bill, still requires House approval.


Legislature

Reapportionment: The schedule of the General Assembly’s reapportionment committee hearings can be found online, along with video links to the meetings. Visit www.legis.ga.gov/schedule/all.


Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In August 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “Seven Taxpayer-friendly Strategies for Transportation.” It noted, “Money is tight, as the gasoline tax we rely on to build and maintain our transportation network loses its earning power due to improved fuel efficiency and rising costs. … There has never been a more critical time to do more with less.”


Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Three Policies to Ease Georgia’s Healthcare Staffing Crisis,” by Benita Dodd.


Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

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