Friday Facts: April 20th, 2012

It’s Friday! 

– Tuesday is the deadline to register for ”Choice Matters: Expanding Educational Opportunity,” a Foundation Leadership Breakfast at Cobb County’s Georgian Club featuring two legislators at the forefront of Georgia school choice issues: House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones and Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan. Find out more at This event is $25 to attend. Register online at
– June 27: Mark your calendar for a Policy Briefing Luncheon at Cobb County’s Georgian Club with Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on his soon-to-be-released book, “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise.”
– September 21: Save the date! The Foundation’s third annual Georgia Legislative Policy Briefing will be held in Atlanta on Friday, September 21 at the Renaissance Waverly hotel. Past events have featured Wall Street Journal editorial board member Steve Moore, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus.


– “No more fatuous chimera has ever infested the brain than that you can control opinions by law or direct belief by statute, and no more pernicious sentiment ever tormented the heart than the barbarous desire to do so. The field of inquiry should remain open, and the right of debate must be regarded as a sacred right.” – William E. Borah

– “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state lives at the expense of others.” – Frederic Bastiat 

– Transit: Since 1982, government mass-transit subsidies have totaled $750 billion (in today’s dollars), yet the share of travelers using transit has fallen by nearly one-third, according to the Heritage Foundation. Federal data indicate that in 2010 in most major cities more people walked to work or telecommuted than used public transit. Further, the Brookings Institution reports, “the cost of building rail systems is notorious for exceeding expectations, while ridership levels tend to be much lower than anticipated.” In fact, the only major U.S. rail system where the benefits outweigh the government subsidies is San Francisco’s BART, and no others are close. Source: Wall Street Journal, “Why Your Highway Has Potholes

– Mobility options: Given the lack of voter or political will to raise taxes for infrastructure, we’re left with few choices if we want to escape congestion, according to Leonard Gilroy and Baruch Feigenbaum of the Reason Foundation. “That’s why the use of toll finance and [public-private partnerships, or PPPs] is expanding dramatically across the nation. Tolls are fairer than taxes, as those who benefit from the tolled facility pay for it as they use it. And tolling can put major projects into service years or decades sooner than waiting to accumulate enough scraps of tax dollars to fund them.” 

Energy and Evironment

– Earth Day 2012: The blueprints of this nation’s major air and water pollution control statutes were flawed at birth, writes Bruce Yandle in a case study for the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). “Designed for a smokestack economy that no longer exists, the statutes focus on inputs, not outcomes. They are based on technology standards that limit flexibility, discourage innovation and are costly to adapt.” Yandle’s recommendation: “The EPA should be directed to simply set performance standards that protect the environment and be held accountable for doing so. Let those responsible for achieving the standards worry about fuels, pipes, filters, pumps, scrubbers and other pieces of machinery for getting the job done. Technology changes but environmental protection must endure.”

– Polar opposites: Polar bears are in a “desperate struggle for survival” and the U.S. Geological Survey warns that the global population of 25,000 could shrink two-thirds by 2050 because of warming seas and melting ice, ABC News reports in a news segment on the latest IMAX movie, “To The Arctic.” But a recent aerial Nunavut (Inuit) government survey in Canada (which counts its bear population alone at 25,000) found that polar bears along western Hudson Bay show an “abundant and healthy” population, disparaging the previous work of federal government researchers. Now the Inuit government is being accused of hyping the numbers to justify raising the hunting quota.

– Electricity subsidies: Consider the top four recipients of subsidy dollars: wind, nuclear, coal and solar. Coal’s subsidy equates to 0.64 cents per megawatt hour and nuclear comes in at just over $3. Wind subsidies cost a shocking $56 per megawatt hour. But even that is a tremendous bargain when compared to solar, which – and again, this is only the federal subsidies – costs taxpayers $775 per megawatt hour. Source: The American Spectator

- Electricity costs: The Foundation's sister think tank, the Commonwealth Foundation in Pennsylvania, reported in a 2010 study that electricity generated by wind cost 150 percent of the average electricity cost in the state while solar-generated electricity cost an incredible 706 percent of the average. Furthermore, while natural gas and oil prices declined from the prior two years, solar and wind power costs jumped 65 percent and 92 percent, respectively.

 - Opportunity knocks: The Georgia Warrior Alliance, a project the Foundation helped launch, held its summit last week in Warm Springs. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Kyle Wingfield highlights the project in a column this week, citing its promise to Georgia for returning soldiers, our veterans and our economy. Read his column here: Foundation's video coverage of the alliance summit is on YouTube. Go to for the speech at the Little White House by retired four-star Army Gen. Larry Ellis and to for Georgia Ironman Scott Rigsby's speech.

 Taxes and spending

– Better late … or never? In January 2012, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimated that the gross tax gap – the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid on time – was $450 billion for tax year 2006. IRS estimated that it would collect $65 billion through enforcement actions and late payments, leaving a net tax gap of $385 billion. From 2001 to 2006, the gap grew $105 billion. The percentage of taxes owed that were paid on time remained relatively constant at 83.1 percent in 2006, compared to 83.7 percent in 2001. “Given persistent levels of noncompliance and large and growing structural deficits, it will be important to understand the causes of tax noncompliance and develop new approaches to minimize it,” the Government Accountability Office notes. How about minimizing the tax burden

Social media

– This week in The Forum: Magic Johnson was in Atlanta this week to announce that his Bridgescape Learning Centers will become a partner with Provost Academy Georgia. Forum editor Mike Klein writes about Johnson’s program, which targets high school dropouts and at-risk students. In Checking Up on Health, Benita Dodd points out some of the reasons medical device prices vary so much from hospital to hospital and shares some opinions on what hospital consolidations are doing to health care. Read Forum coverage of the Georgia Warrior Alliance, a partnership project of the Foundation, which plans a world-class rehabilitation center for military veterans and their families at Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute. Read these and other recent Foundation articles on The Forum at
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– Visit to read our commentary today, “Lack of Venture Capital Investment Means Lost Jobs, Lost Opportunity,” by Mike Klein.

Have a great weekend.

Kelly McCutchen

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