Friday Facts: December 22, 2023

Just like the Grinch, we know that Christmas doesn’t come from a store. 

But this year, many families across the country are still facing financial hardships driven by rampant inflation as the price of everyday goods continues to rise. A recent analysis shows the average American household now requires an extra $11,434 per year to sustain the lifestyle they had in January 2021, before inflation reached its highest levels in 40 years.

That is why 2023 is the costliest Christmas ever. 

During this holiday season, our Thanksgiving turkey was up 29% over the past two years and the Christmas ham is up 14% during that same time. Traveling, presents and electricity are also at, or near, all-time highs. That’s part of the reason middle-class families are limiting or reducing spending on gifts this year.  

In our commentary this week, we look at why this is the costliest holiday ever. We also have the latest news and analysis from the last week, including:

  • Kemp announces plans for $1,000 bonus for teachers and state employees
  • Homebuilder sentiment rises as mortgage rates fall slightly
  • New data shows why the South is now the nation’s economic engine
  • A listing of the most-watched holiday movies this season

Have a Merry Christmas,

– Kyle Wingfield

Friday’s Freshest

Georgia and Alabama reach agreement in ‘Water Wars’

This past week, Gov. Brian Kemp and his counterpart in Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey, unveiled an agreement to end Alabama’s lawsuit over the Mid- and Lower Chattahoochee River Basin. That lawsuit was filed in 2017, but it’s part of litigation dating back to 1990. Some might consider this a Christmas miracle.

Are Georgia’s college and career academies meeting their goals?

Georgia’s college and career academies play an important role in educating and training our future workforce, but are they meeting their goals? That’s hard to tell. 

Clarity in the need to repeal Certificate of Need laws

The directive from the Senate CON Study Committee is short and sweet: “the Study Committee recommends that Georgia’s CON laws should be repealed in their entirety.” Amen.

‘Once in a lifetime’ opportunity

Georgia has a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for significant tax reforms that will return money to taxpayers and strengthen Georgia’s standing as the best state in the nation for business.

6 reasons to empower Georgia parents

Education freedom is about empowering parents and students to choose an education that best fits their needs. 

The Latest


Kemp announces state employee bonuses, new school safety funding

Gov. Brian Kemp announced a state employee retention pay supplement of $1,000 for each of the roughly 112,000 state employees and 196,000 educators and school support staff across the state. Kemp also said he wants school safety funding to be added to the yearly base budget.

The South is now the nation’s economic engine

The continuing story of the reshaping of America is the stampede of people out of the Northeast and now even out of the far west to Southern states. It’s a reverse migration back to the South from the first half of the 20th century when Americans moved out of the deep South – especially black people. In just the past year, the South gained 706,000 people, while the Northeast lost 323,000, the West lost 297,000 and the Midwest lost 86,000. 

115 million Americans to travel over the holidays

AAA projects 115.2 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the 10-day year-end holiday travel period. This year’s total number of domestic travelers is a 2.2% increase over last year and the second highest year-end travel forecast since 2000 when AAA began tracking holiday travel.


Savannah school district offers alternative facility, rezoning plan. 

Alternatives for the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System facilities plan have been drafted and proposed to the public. These plans will dictate a slew of potential changes for students, including rezoning. Adjustments came after an earlier meeting where families spoke before the board about their dissatisfaction with initial student rezoning plans. 

Hebron Christian Academy debuts state-of-the-art Esports Center

After successfully launching its cutting-edge Esports program in 2022, school officials at Dacula’s Hebron Christian Academy say they have “revolutionized” the academic landscape by converting a traditional computer lab into a high-tech gaming center for both high school and middle school students.

Weapons detection equipment costing $1.3 million approved for Bibb County schools

In an effort to keep guns and other weapons out of schools, the Bibb County Board of Education has approved buying weapon detection equipment for $1.3 million. The 82 weapons scanners will be at every school and will primarily be used when students arrive in the morning.

Government accountability

Water Council meeting draws citizens angry at 4-well plan for Hyundai plant

After engineers and consultants from Bulloch and Bryan counties gave an update on the proposed wells to supply the Hyundai Motor Group manufacturing complex, citizens gave them an earful of concerns and, from some individuals, angry opposition. More than 100 people packed the River Room at Ogeechee Technical College for the meeting.

Recommendations leave Georgians’ boating freedom in jeopardy

Recent recommendations made by a Georgia House of Representatives study committee have raised concerns among the state’s river enthusiasts. They say that if acted upon by the full legislature, the recommendations could greatly curtail Georgians’ longstanding freedom to recreate on Georgia’s rivers and streams.


Homebuilder sentiment rises more than expected as mortgage rates fall

Confidence among builders in the housing market rebounded in December from an 11-month low as high mortgage rates finally began to fall. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, which measures the pulse of the single-family housing market, rose three points to 37, slightly more than expected. The increase followed a six-point drop in November.

Home buyers are ready to buy. But sellers aren’t selling.

The lowest mortgage rates since the summer are starting to lure frustrated home shoppers back to the market. The problem is that few homeowners who have locked in much lower rates appear ready to sell. Home sales for this year are on track to be the lowest since at least 2011. 


The 15 most-watched holiday movies this season

What holiday movies are sleighing the ratings? Samba TV, which analyzes viewership habits of households collected through smart TVs, assembled a list of the most-watched holiday movies on TV and streaming services in the U.S. Was the top spot a classic like It’s A Wonderful Life, a childhood favorite like Home Alone or something more recent like Elf? And is Die Hard included on this list?

Baseball star Shohei Ohtani will defer most of his new contract, possibly to save on taxes?

During the first 10 years, Shohei Ohtani will be subject to state income taxes on his annual $2 million salary in California and other states where the Dodgers play. But because he deferred most of his salary, by the time he starts receiving the $68 million payments, he may be able to avoid state income taxes by living someplace like Florida without an income tax, or by moving back to Japan. 

How AI is transforming the grocery shopping experience

AI may be coming to a grocery store near you. Grocery delivery company Instacart is teaming up with retailers across the country to deploy its brand-new smart shopping carts. The carts allow shoppers to scan their items directly in the cart, weigh produce and keep track of the total cost in real time. 

Quotes of the Week

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” – Andy Rooney

“We light candles in testament that faith makes miracles possible.” – Nachum Braverman

“Remember, if Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under a tree.” – Charlotte Carpenter

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