Friday Facts: August 19th, 2011

It’s Friday!

– “The more the state ‘plans’ the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.” – F.A. Hayek

– “Civilizations in decline are consistently characterized by a tendency towards standardization and uniformity.” – Arnold Toynbee

– “In both England and in the United States, whole generations have been fed a steady diet of grievances and resentment against society, and especially against others who are more prosperous than they are. They get this in their schools, on television, on campuses and in the movies. Nothing is their own fault. It is all ‘society’s’ fault.” – Thomas Sowell


– September 1: “Celebration of Service and Sacrifice:” Ten years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, changed America forever, Navy Seal and award-winning author Eric Greitens discusses how Georgia can lead the nation in programs and services for our military families. Register at for the luncheon event, on Thursday, Sept. 1, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Cobb Galleria Centre. This is part of a long-term project with the Foundation, Ross Mason and the Healthcare Institute for Neuro-Recovery and Innovation (HINRI) to encourage health care innovation in Georgia.
– September 30: 
The Foundation’s second annual Legislative Policy Briefing is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 30, at the Cobb Energy Centre. Last year, more than 250 people attended to hear nearly three dozen state and national experts discuss Georgia public policy. Topics this year include education, transportation, tax reform, criminal justice and health care. Register online at
– October 24: 
Invitations will soon be mailed soon for the Foundation’s 20th anniversary celebration and Freedom Award dinner, scheduled for the evening of Monday, Oct. 24, at the Renaissance Waverly Atlanta. Speakers include Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia. Register online at

– Virginia and Tennessee are among a handful of states that now require high school students to take personal financial education courses, according to USA Today. In Georgia, the Georgia Council on Economic Education (GCEE) has operated since 1972 to offer programs to teachers such as the Georgia Stock Market Game, Georgia Economic History and International Economics. Not only does GCEE offer personal financial literacy programs, but more than 155 public school systems and independent schools have committed to the council to strengthen their teaching of economics. Find out more at
– Good Education NewsA Georgia dropout prevention program is getting national recognition. Communities in Schools created the Performance Learning Center (PLC) model in 2002. Currently, more than 5,000 students have graduated from Georgia’s 21 PLCs – students who otherwise would likely not have graduated with a high school diploma. The model now operates in six other states and several studies have proven its success. The PLCs use a “blended” approach to teaching and learning, combining online learning with a teacher-led classroom[For more on the promise of digital learning and these types of new education models, sign up to hear Michael Horn speak at our upcoming Legislative Policy Briefing on September 30 (details in Events above).]

– No such thing as a free lunch:
 If you are a customer of Atlanta-based SunTrust, you just received a letter informing you of a new $5 monthly charge for debit card usage. Wells Fargo, too, will begin test-marketing a $3 monthly surcharge for debit card usage in Georgia, New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon on Oct. 14, CNN reports. The reason?New federal regulations that cap the fees banks are allowed to charge retailers when debit card purchases are made. The maximum fee was cut by more than 50 percent. The fee changes will cost Wells Fargo about $250 million per quarter, according to the bank’s CFO.

– Small business, big money: The Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 with the primary purpose of encouraging lending to small businesses through government loan guarantees. Other SBA activities include offering direct loans for disaster recovery and helping small businesses gain government contracts. Now a Cato Institute study finds that the SBA will cost taxpayers about $6.2 billion in 2011. Annual outlays are typically closer to $1 billion, but the SBA has suffered higher than usual losses on its guaranteed loans in recent years, so the costs imposed on taxpayers have soared. The share of guaranteed loans outstanding that the SBA and, ultimately, federal taxpayers are on the hook for is about $70 billion.

Health care
– The right way to bend the cost curve
: Congratulations to the Georgia Department of Community Health, which is moving state workers in the direction of consumer-driven health care. The latest move is to provide workers with access to a tobacco cessation program, which they expect to be successful for nearly one out of five participants. This could not only save lives, but also save the state a tremendous amount of money. State workers are incentivized to quit smoking because smokers currently pay an $80 per month surcharge on their insurance premium. Incentives matter.

 Nationally, only about 80 percent of children are up to date on their vaccinations at the age of 36 months. In Georgia, the immunization rate of 73 percent is more problematic, according to Dr. Daniel Blumenthal at the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine. “Imagine if more than one out of every four children in the day care center is not properly vaccinated, possibly exposing all the other children to measles, polio or whooping cough,” he writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

– Train’s costs off the track: New Mexico’s Rail Runner rail transit was originally billed at $400 million to build. Five years after going into service, New Mexico taxpayers are finally getting a clearer picture of the finances. Latest estimates more than double the infrastructure cost to $843.3 million, not including annual operating costs of $23.8 million, of which only about 14 percent is paid by fares. According to newspaper reports, the train will cost a total of $1.3 billion over the next 20 years. Read the Rio Grande Foundation’s “Ten Reasons to Shut the Rail Runner Down Now” here:

 Taxes and Spending
– The mortgage interest deduction has not increased homeownership rates, the Reason Foundation argues in a study proposing its elimination. “The deduction is used almost exclusively by people in the top income brackets with large mortgages,” notes study co-author Anthony Randazzo. “Renters, along with lower- and middle-class families, are getting a raw deal.” Reason maintains that taxpayers and the economy would be best served by ditching the mortgage deduction and lowering overall tax rates by 8 percent for all Americans.

– Visit to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “The Wrong Road to Transportation Solutions,” by Benita M. Dodd.

Have a great weekend.

Kelly McCutchen

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