Friday Facts: September 24, 2021

It’s Friday! 

Memory Lane

Were you there? Thirty years of Policy Over Politics: The Georgia Public Policy Foundation celebrated its 30th anniversary on September 16 at the Georgia Aquarium with nearly 250 friends and supporters. Watch what some of our dearest friends said about 30 years of Changing Georgia Policy.

Quotes of note

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up. “ – Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Your corn is ripe today; mine will be so tomorrow. ‘Tis profitable for us both, that I should labor with you today, and that you should aid me tomorrow.” – David Hume

“Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. In area after area – crime, education, housing, race relations – the situation has gotten worse after the bright new theories were put into operation. The amazing thing is that this history of failure and disaster has neither discouraged the social engineers nor discredited them.” – Thomas Sowell

Economy

Work, if you want it: Two-thirds of business owners reported having a “very difficult’ time finding the right employees to fill open roles, up from 59% in August and from 50% in July, according to a survey of 4,079 small-business owners by small business network Alignable. Just 6% of businesses were having no difficulty finding workers. Seventy percent of openings were for in-person roles and just 12% were remote positions.

Bundle up … the greenbacks: With meteorologists predicting the upcoming winter will be one of the coldest and longest in several years, including in the South, Goldman Sachs this week forecasted a boost in oil demand, triggered by an expected colder winter in Europe and Asia. Because of a potential global increase in wholesale power and gas prices, analysts are warning of higher winter energy bills to come. Source: Mansfield Energy

Pensions

Many happy returns: U.S. public pensions saw a historic fiscal year 2021, with many plans reporting their highest-ever investment returns. For the 37 public pensions that reported returns for the year ended June 30, the median return was 26.8%. Over that period last year, Pensions & Investments newspaper reported, the median return for plans it tracked was 3.14%. Moody’s Investors Service analyst Thomas Aaron noted, however, that with more cash flow going to retirees relative to pension fund size, “Volatility risk remains substantial and it won’t take that severe of a loss to undo some of the gains.”

Housing

Building on optimism: Builders are enjoying some reprieve thanks to easing material costs in a still-strong housing market, where home prices continue to march higher, Bloomberg News reports. Housing affordability will be a key challenge for demand in the coming quarters, and builders – like just about everyone – are struggling to fill open jobs, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Education

Housing and education: A new Urban Institute report reveals how school district attendance boundaries can reinforce segregation. The report and interactive mapping tool examined 65,000 public school attendance boundaries, including in metro Atlanta, and highlighted 2,000 pairs of adjacent public schools with dramatically different racial compositions, finding that many school boundaries still follow old housing redlining boundaries. “Even in school systems that have implemented school choice mechanisms, student residential addresses and attendance boundaries still play an important role in determining the order in which students are admitted into oversubscribed schools,” the report notes. Read the case study on John Lewis and Ashford Park elementary schools in DeKalb County.

Examples to follow: Government-backed redlining in housing was eliminated, and that should be the solution in education, too: “completely disconnect the association between a child’s home address and which school the government allows them to attend,” writes Adam Peshek of the Charles Koch Institute. He cites a Heritage Foundation paper that proposed school districts should cease drawing attendance zone boundaries. “In the event of oversubscription … districts should employ a lottery system similar to that used by public charter schools across the country.”

Energy and environment

Harming humanity: Banning plastics would jeopardize the level of healthcare humans receive from medical facilities, put the world food supply at risk, and undermine public health, according to a new paper by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Read the first installment in CEI’s four-paper series here.

Healthcare

Words of wisdom: Anger is a pervasive sentiment of late. Writing in Psychology Today, Dr. David Hanscom warns: “Choosing to remain angry about situations that are beyond your control is a sure way to remain upset. It creates a negative baseline perception of life, and makes it more difficult to find enjoyment, which is a physiological state of safety and is the essence of healing. Conserving your energy allows you to act decisively and quickly when it is required to do so. …. Letting go and focusing on what you can change frees up energy and creativity to live a more enjoyable life.”

Carrot and stick: After months of being offered incentives including giveaways and additional vacation days, less than half of MARTA’s workforce is fully vaccinated. The transit agency has announced that weekly testing for unvaccinated employees will begin October 4. The decision follows President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine rules for federal employees, federal contractors and large companies. Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle

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

Legislature

Meetings: The schedule of the General Assembly’s upcoming 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 September 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “Realigning Georgia’s Fiscal Priorities.” It noted, “Georgia spends more money per student for capital improvements than all but seven states. As the chart shows, realigning our capital spending to the level of similar states would result in as much as $1.5 billion a year in savings.”

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Economic Freedom: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow,” by Benita Dodd.

Have a great weekend.

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

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