Friday Facts: August 20, 2021

It’s Friday! 

Memory Lane

One of the founding principles of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation is to limit the role of government in the lives of Georgians. Control of tax dollars from the state’s taxpayers not only gives government an unfair advantage when it goes into business, it can also be a disincentive for government to operate as efficiently and cost-effectively as private businesses would. These are some of the reasons the Foundation has promoted privatization and outsourcing of many government operations since its founding in 1991. In less than a month, the Foundation celebrates its 30th anniversary with an event September 16 at the Georgia Aquarium.


Quotes of note

“With the federal government accounting for roughly a third of total state spending prior to the pandemic, it’s fair to wonder what the future holds for the relationship between the federal government and the states. The Constitution gave the states sovereign powers and limited (or at least tried to limit) the propensity for federal domineering. Today, the federal government not only dominates the states, it often does so with the encouragement of state and local officials who are all too happy to cash Uncle Sam’s ‘free’ checks. The strings attached are a mere inconvenience. As a result, we’re continuing to move even further down the road toward the states effectively becoming administrative units of the federal government.” – Veronique de Rugy

“There is a rank due to the United States, among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness.” – George Washington (1793)

“Like other Great Society programs, food stamps have done nothing to reduce poverty and little to improve public health. They have encouraged government dependency.” – Wall Street Journal Editorial Board


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.


Health 

Another milestone: This week, Georgia surpassed 1 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, which reports COVID-19 cases, deaths and vaccination rates on its website here. Of about 45,400 confirmed cases in children under age 10, just three deaths have been reported; of about 80,700 cases between ages 10 and 17, just nine deaths have been reported.

K-12 mask mandates: Whether mask mandates make a difference or not in COVID-19 infection rates at schools, “it is by no means clear that the benefits outweigh the costs,” writes Jacob Sullum for Reason.com. “Masks interfere with communication, learning and social interaction. And they unfairly burden children with the responsibility of preventing infections that primarily threaten adults, who can better protect themselves by getting vaccinated. To justify those costs would require more evidence than mandate advocates have been able to muster.”

What’s masks go to do with it? New research indicates a correlation between the strength of a local teachers’ union and mask mandates by a school district, FEE reports. An article in Health Affairs this month found “a 1-standard-deviation increase in the teachers’ unionization rate was associated with a 12.5 percent relative increase in the probability that a school district adopted a mask mandate.” Earlier this year, Corey DeAngelis and Christos Makridis reported similar results: “Our findings that school closures are uncorrelated with the actual incidence of the virus, but are rather strongly associated with unionization, implies that the decision to close schools has been a political – not scientific – decision.”


Transportation

Full steam ahead: The Savannah and Brunswick ports continue to set records for cargo, Capitol Beat reports. In July, containerized cargo in Savannah was up by 25% over July 2020, while in Brunswick, car and machinery units increased by 39% over the same period last year. The growth is expected to continue, thanks to an expansion at Savannah’s Garden City Terminal, along with completion of the Mason Mega Rail Terminal, which will double the port’s rail lift capacity. The deepening of Savannah Harbor, which will allow it to accommodate larger ships, is 90% complete.


Opportunity

Workplace changes: As workplaces become more hybrid with greater employee autonomy, employee benefits are changing to reflect it, The Wall Street Journal reports. A recent Care.com survey of H.R. executives found 66% intend to offer greater flexibility, 63% plan to enhance child-care benefits, and 41% expect to offer greater senior-care benefits. Emphasis is shifting to output as opposed to time spent working and “sick days” may shift toward “home leave days.” “Work-from-anywhere” time may increase, as well as stipends for home offices.


Education

Stumbling I: After the U.S. Department of Education waived the use of Georgia’s Milestones tests to grade students, schools and educators, hundreds of thousands of students declined to enter their schools last year to be tested. Scores declined for the tests, given on computers but not offered online. The low participation rate “fueled doubts about the accuracy” of the aggregate scores used to calculate averages for schools, school districts and the state overall, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Stumbling II: The federal government wants 95% participation in testing, but the 1.3 million Georgia students required to take the Milestones tests missed more than 800,000 of the exams given in English, math, science and social studies. There were no consequences for opting out. About one fifth of third-graders opted out, along with about 40% of eighth-graders and 45% of high schoolers, the Valdosta Daily Times reports.

In-person options: Looking for an in-person education option for your child? Investigate the state’s public charter schools. The State Charter Schools Foundation of Georgia has an updated list of Georgia charter schools enrolling students.


Housing

Housing stock: The total number of housing units in the United States grew by 6.7% between 2010 and 2020, approximately half the rate of growth during the previous decade, according to 2020 Census results released last week. Housing development surged across the Sun Belt, including Utah (17.5%), Texas (16.2%), Idaho (12.6%), Florida (9.7%), Nevada (9.1%) and Arizona (8.3%). Georgia saw a 7.9% increase in housing units. Among the nation’s counties with the greatest housing growth for the decade were two in Georgia: Forsyth (36.7% increase) and Bryan (41% increase).


Legislature

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


Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In August 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “Turning Up and Transportation Policy.” It noted, “Where an event is held makes a big difference, and suburbanites are probably mowing the lawn on a Saturday morning, not headed downtown for a townhall meeting. But turning up makes a difference.”


Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary,, “Study Highlights Wisdom of Georgia’s Measured COVID Response” by Chris Denson.


Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd


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