Friday Facts: April 27th, 2012

It’s Friday! 

– May 23: Ahead of Georgia’s July 31 regional referendum on a penny transportation sales tax, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation hosts a Leadership Breakfast at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, May 23, at Cobb County’s Georgian Club. Reason Foundation transportation policy analyst Baruch Feigenbaum will unveil a study focusing on the transportation project list for metro Atlanta and discuss “Getting Georgia Going” into congestion relief and mobility.

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.

Quotes of Note

– “They are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare. … [G]iving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which may be good for the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as they sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please.” – Thomas Jefferson
– “The moral question that confronts us is, is there a moral case for taking what belongs to one American and giving it to another to whom it does not belong?  Now don’t misunderstand me.  I personally believe in helping one’s fellow man in need.  I believe that it is moral and praiseworthy to help one’s fellow man in need by reaching into your own pockets to help him out. I think it is worthy of condemnation and it is despicable when you help your fellow man in need by reaching into someone else’s pockets.” – Walter Williams

Health care
Technologically challenged: 
The Center for Health Transformation may not be around any longer, but it made some excellent points in a recent white paper urging electronic processing to reduce waits during prior authorization of drugs. The antiquated, paper-based prior authorization process by which doctors must seek approval from health plans for some medications and diagnostic tests and procedures costs $31 billion per year, or more than $68,000 per physician. A nationwide physician survey indicated that more than two-thirds (69 percent) of physicians typically wait several days to receive preauthorization from an insurer for drugs, while one in ten wait more than a week – a week in which the patient remains untreated.


– Great teachers have a great, long-term impact: Using over 20 years of student achievement data for 2.5 million children, researchers have found that changes in the quality of the teaching staff “strongly predict changes in test scores across consecutive cohorts of students in the same school, grade and subject.” The researchers found students of highly skilled teachers are more likely to attend college, attend higher-quality colleges, earn more, live in higher socioeconomic status neighborhoods, and save more for retirement. They are also less likely to have children during their teenage years. Read more at

– Transit increase: The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reports that the number of trips on public transportation topped 10.4 billion in 2011, the second highest figure since 1957 and a 2.3 percent increase over 2010. But some cities saw declines in bus ridership, including 3 percent in Atlanta’s MARTA bus service, 3 percent in Oakland, Calif., 2 percent in Denver, Colo., 2.5 percent in Pittsburgh, 4 percent in Detroit, 4 percent in New York and 7.5 percent in Santa Monica, Calif. Atlanta’s rail ridership dropped 3.5 percent. The overall increase is attributed to high gas prices, an improving economy with more people returning to work and an increase in apps that allow people to track public transportation. Declines are blamed on fare increases and service cuts caused by tight budgets. Source: American City and County

– Paralysis by analysis: The Panama Canal expansion began in 2007 and is scheduled to be completed in 2014. Similarly, a century ago, the original canal took 10 years to build (1904-1914), using the equipment and technology of the day. reports that Aleman Zubieta, CEO of the Panama Canal Authority, was in Atlanta recently for the MODEX convention. He noted economic development administrators at unnamed U.S. ports take at least a decade or more just on feasibility studies at their sites, with not a single shovelful of dirt being moved in that time. Noting the opportunities for growth when the new Panama Canal is open for business, Zubieta said pointedly, “If U.S. ports take 10 years to study and then expand their operations to take advantage of the increase in business from the Canal, it will be too late.” (How long has the Savannah port deepening project been in the works? The first public meeting was held in 1998!)Source: 

Taxes and spending

– By the numbers: Government welfare spending in 2012 was $952 billion on 126 programs. That’s $61,830 per poor family of three. Perhaps it’s time to revisit Milton Friedman’s idea and consolidate these programs into a Negative Income Tax.

– Roll-your-own cigarettes under fire: And you thought there was gridlock on the Hill? Congress is taking on stores that allow customers to roll their own cigarettes using loose tobacco, reportedly often labeled as “pipe tobacco,” which is taxed at a significantly lower rate than cigarette tobacco. These roll-your-own (RYO) manufacturers would be classified as cigarette manufacturers so that they no longer undercut traditional retailers by avoiding the cigarette tax rate. (RYO machines can produce up to 200 cigarettes in 10 minutes.) Among the bill’s sponsors are two strange bedfellows from Georgia: Democratic Rep. John Barrow and Republican Rep. Austin Scott.

Social media
– This week in The Forum: Is the Obama administration using the Medicare Advantage program as a political tool during this national election year? In Checking Up on Health, the Foundation’s Benita Dodd writes that some $8.3 billion is being used to cushion Medicare cuts in the program that is popular with senior citizens who vote in high percentages. Atlanta physician Hal Scherz’s column, which first appeared in, declares trial lawyers and insurance companies the true beneficiaries of the U.S. medical system. Atlanta lawyer and former U.S. Senate candidate Allen Buckley writes that amid congressional gridlock, the Obama administration is legislating by executive regulations, threatening the constitutional balance of power. The Forum republished the Augusta Chronicle’s editorial on the importance of school choice.  Read these and other recent Foundation articles on The Forum at
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– Visit to read our commentary today, “Don’t Hide Energy Innovation Under a Bushel,” by Benita M. Dodd.

Have a great weekend.

Kelly McCutchen

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