Friday Facts: July 22nd, 2011

It’s Friday!

– “Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.” – Milton Friedman 
– “Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one’s government is not necessarily to secure freedom.”  –  F.A. Hayek
– “I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution … taking from the federal government their power of borrowing.” – Thomas Jefferson (Letter of November 26th, 1798)

Taxes and spending
– There’s no need to panic despite the hype about the debt ceiling – the total amount of money the federal government is authorized to borrow at any given time – the Reason Foundation notes in a new video. It points out that the Aug. 2 deadline is phony; that reaching the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling is not the same as defaulting on our debt, and – most important – that legislating by panic is no way to run a country. Find out more at
– As if taxpayers aren’t having a tough enough time already making ends meet, DeKalb County commissioners voted 4-3 for an up-to-40 percent property tax increase; Cobb County commissioners are considering a 17 percent increase.  The property tax has gradually shifted from a tax generally imposed at the state level (accounting for 43 percent of state revenue in the early 1900s) to where 98 percent of the property tax is imposed at the local level today, Governing magazine reports. Today, property taxes account for over 70 percent of revenues for local governments, and account for less than 2 percent of state revenues.

Health care
– Careless: The new federal health reform law creates incentives for state and federal politicians and bureaucrats to exert direct control over the premiums of health plans.  However, because health plans largely pass through costs from medical providers, artificially limiting increases in premiums cannot actually result in lower health costs. Instead, it results in reduced access to care and threatens the solvency of health plans, says John R. Graham of the Pacific Research Institute.
– Uncovered: A major provision of the federal health reform law designed to prevent businesses from dropping coverage for their workers could inadvertently leave families without access to subsidized health insurance, the Hill’s Healthwatch blog reports. At issue is a “firewall” provision that provides subsidies to a worker to buy coverage on the new exchanges if the employer plan’s premiums cost more than 9.5 percent of the worker’s income. But a congressional committee determined that it applied only to an individual plan’s cost, meaning family coverage is not eligible for subsidies, even if that costs more than 9.5 percent of the worker’s income. Read more at

– Reality check: Northeast Illinois’ commuter rail service, Metra, is changing the way it reports performance after a Chicago Tribune analysis of Metra’s on-time record found that the reported 95 percent-plus overall on-time average masked wide variations. For instance, Metra’s Heritage Corridor trains, which run between Union Station and Joliet, were late more than 11 percent of the time in 2010. And more than 20 peak-hour commuter trains ran late more than once every two weeks. (A little-known Metra policy and a commuter rail industry standard is to not count a train as late unless it is delayed six minutes or more.) Source: Mass Transit News

Energy and Environment
– It’s hazy being green: The Brookings Institution reports that nearly 2.7 million people brought home paychecks in 2010 working in the “clean economy.” That’s a 3.4 percent increase in “green jobs” since 2003. But, as Investor’s Business Daily points out in an editorial, the economy as a whole grew at a 4.2 percent rate over the same period. Brookings’s questionable count includes, for example, all mass transit workers regardless of the actual energy source, people such as organic farmers and nuclear energy workers, even though nuclear energy as is not considered “clean” or nuclear jobs “green.” Not only does this “clean economy” require huge subsidies, but, the focus on green jobs comes at the expense of other jobs, the editorial adds. Read more at
– Foreign oil: Attempts to restrict U.S. imports of Canadian oil ignore the reality of U.S. dependence on foreign oil and could force America to buy oil from repressive governments overseas, Canada’s Fraser Institute reports. A comparison of 38 oil-producing jurisdictions on 17 measures of civil, political and economic freedom concludes that the United States has two options: Continue to embrace oil imports from Canada or resort to importing oil from governments that regularly violate human rights as a matter of policy and, in some cases, are state sponsors of terrorism.

Criminal Justice Reform

– A five-year examination of 23 drug courts and six comparison sites in eight states concludes that drug courts can significantly decrease drug use and criminal behavior. The Justice Department-funded study for the Urban Institute also involved the Hall County and Fulton County drug courts in Georgia. It found that positive outcomes increased as participants sensed their judge treated them more fairly, showed greater respect and interest in them, and gave them more chances to talk during court proceedings. While drug court costs are higher than usual case processing, they save money, the study found, by significantly reducing the number of crimes, re-arrests and days incarcerated. Researchers estimate that drug courts save an average of $5,680 per participant, returning a net benefit of $2 for every dollar spent. Read more at

– Join the Foundation’s Benita Dodd
 and Americans for Prosperity Georgia 7 p.m. Monday night in Jasper and 7 p.m. Tuesday night in Rome for “Running on Empty: America’s Energy Crisis,” a panel discussion about the factors contributing to rising energy costs, alternative solutions and what the impact on Georgia and America at large. Details at
– “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.
– Save the date: 
The Foundation’s second annual Legislative Policy Briefing is scheduled for Friday, September 30. Last year, more than 250 people attended to hear nearly three dozen experts discuss Georgia public policy. Details to follow.
– Save the date: 
The Foundation’s 20th anniversary celebration is scheduled for the evening of Monday, October 24. Details to follow.

– Visit to read my latest commentary, “Time to Rethink Education Funding,” on the Foundation’s Web site.

Have a great weekend.

Kelly McCutchen

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