Friday’s Freshest: Atlanta is No. 1 again, but not for a desirable reason. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that no other large American city has higher income inequality than Atlanta. But is the measurement correct? In this week’s commentary, Kyle Wingfield looks at the full data, as told in a new book from former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, “The Myth of American Inequality.”
The issue isn’t Atlanta’s rating, but the Census Bureau’s methodology of calculating income and poverty. Specifically, they leave out federal transfer payments, which now average over $45,000 for families in the bottom 20% of American earners, and tax credits received. Finally, tax payments are not subtracted from income.
Before we opine on this issue or use the federal data to call for more government intervention, we must make sure we have our facts right.
Quotes of Note
“We’re all products of our environment, and I suspect that strength of will – the feeling, ‘I’m going to be able to do whatever you put in front of me’ – is honed in an environment where not everything is easy. Ironically, growing up in that environment, you don’t have a sense of aggrievement or entitlement. You just have a sense of overcoming.” –Condoleeza Rice
“Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” – Immanuel Kant
To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.” – Mark Twain
On Our Desks
Supply and demand: Every time you hear someone talk about a solution for housing affordability, or a housing policy generally, evaluate it through this lens: How will it affect incentives to build more homes? After all, our housing affordability problem is about supply, as Kyle Wingfield writes. Our new study looked at how impact fees, which are fees tacked on to new construction, and how they make homes more expensive by thousands of dollars. Access the full study here!
That’s not how this works! A Georgia school district that applied for and received PPP funds it wasn’t eligible for, a county commissioner extorting a government contractor, and a money laundering and wire fraud scheme that targeted the Medicare and Medicaid program. You can read Chris Butler’s review of the latest government waste, fraud, and abuse stories from the Peach State.
Save the date: The setting for the Foundation’s annual Georgia Freedom Dinner has been announced and registration is now open. The dinner will take place on Wednesday, January 25, 2023, at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Table sponsorships are available. Please contact us here for more information.
Internet access: DeKalb County is taking steps to improve internet access. The Take Back the Internet Initiative is a free mobile hotspot lending program designed to help DeKalb County residents who don’t have access to the internet. The program was once funded by private funds but will now include almost $32,000 in taxpayer dollars. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 16.9% of DeKalb residents do not have home internet, and in many areas of DeKalb, that percentage is as high as 30%.
Health infrastructure: Georgia is set to receive roughly $100 million to help it bolster the state’s health infrastructure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded the DPH $99.8 million over a five-year period for “strengthening public health infrastructure, work force and data systems,” Nancy Nydam, a DPH spokeswoman, told The Center Square. The agency will receive nearly $83.7 million in the first year, and the remaining $16.1 million will be awarded over five years.
Spending $6 billion: A new report examines how Georgia’s schools used the influx of nearly $6 billion in federal COVID relief funds that have flowed to districts across the state since 2020. As reported by Georgia Public Broadcasting, 10% of the funds were earmarked for the state Department of Education. The other 90% went directly to school districts.
International students: More than 25,000 international students enrolled in Georgia universities for the 2022-23 school year, a record number, according to Global Atlanta. The majority are from China and India, most of whom are enrolled in STEM programs. Rounding out the top five sending countries are South Korea, Nigeria and Taiwan. International students spent nearly $835 million on tuition this year, making education a leading export for Georgia.
Build to rent: Why are so many Georgia communities trying to ban “build-to-rent” homes? BTR homes are exactly what they sound like—dwelling units built specifically to rent instead of to sell. For many in this economy, homeownership is simply not an option. Still, in several towns and counties across Georgia, NIMBY—not in my backyard—impulses persist to quash BTR development proposals. Several localities have banned them or imposed stifling restrictions. Tyler Webb looks into the issue here.
Economic freedom: The 2022 Economic Freedom of North America report found Georgia among the states with the highest degree of economic freedom based on government spending, taxes and regulation for fiscal year 2019-20. Canadian-based Fraser Institute produced the report, which also ranked Florida, Texas, South Dakota and Tennessee highly, and listed New York, Delaware, California and Hawaii near the bottom, according to The Center Square.
Kyle Wingfield FRIDAY FACTS is made possible by the generosity of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s donors. If you enjoy the FRIDAY FACTS, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to help advance our important mission by clicking here. Visit our website at georgiapolicy.org.