Friday Facts: June 17th, 2011

It’s Friday!

“I make a fortune from criticizing the policy of the government, and then hand it over to the government in taxes to keep it going.” – George Bernard Shaw
“No matter how disastrously some policy has turned out, anyone who criticizes it can expect to hear: ‘But what would you replace it with?’ When you put out a fire, what do you replace it with?” –  Thomas Sowell

Health care
– Do as I say:
 The new federal health care legislation “will have little overall effect” on employer-sponsored insurance, or ESI, according to a study released January 24 that was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and conducted by the Urban Institute. This, the researchers reported, “is similar to the findings of the Congressional Budget Office and runs counter to some predictions of a major decline in ESI.”
– … Or do as I do?
 Regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allow some plans to apply for waivers from rules restricting the size of annual limits on benefits “if the plan certifies that a waiver is necessary to prevent either a large increase in premiums or a significant decrease in access to coverage,” according to HHS. We found the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s application for a waiver for its 223 enrollees was approved on Dec. 23, 2010. The Foundation is among 1,372 plans, covering nearly 3 million enrollees, granted waivers. Most projected “the annual limit restriction would result in a significant premium increase of more than 10 percent, in addition to a significant decrease in access to benefits.”
– Pay cuts not the answer: The new federal health care law established an Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a group of 15 people appointed by the president and charged with curtailing the rate of growth and spending under Medicare, solely through changes to provider reimbursements. “But simply cutting reimbursements is not the answer,” according to Democratic Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania, who helped draft the law and is now urging a repeal of the board. “IPAB brings unpredictability and uncertainty to providers and has the potential for stifling innovation and collaboration.”  Source: USA Today

The Forum
This week on The Forum, the Foundation’s interactive Web site, editor Mike Klein’s articles covered the changing world of public sector pension plans; Governor Nathan Deal’s proposal to put thousands of unemployed probationers to work picking and packing crops and help resolve a farm labor shortage, and the Georgia Supreme Court’srefusal to reconsider last month’s decision that overturned the state Charter Schools Commission. To read these articles and more, go to

–  Show your support for school choice: Join nearly 5,000 charter school supporters from around the nation at the Georgia State Capitol at 11 a.m. on Thursday, June 23, for a rally protesting the Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling declaring the state Charter Schools Commission unconstitutional – and refusing to reconsider that ruling.

– Court victory: Faced with a lawsuit, the Atlanta Police Department, Fulton County Police Department and Sheriff ‘s Office agreed this week to start following state law anddocument how they spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars received annually in cash seized from suspects in criminal investigations. The Institute for Justice, which filed the lawsuit, published a report this year showing that of 15 major agencies in Georgia population centers, only one (Savannah) produced the required reports. In addition, the report highlighted questionable uses of these funds such as a Georgia sheriff spending $90,000 in forfeiture funds on a Dodge Viper and the Fulton District Attorney’s office using forfeiture funds for football tickets. Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Institute for Justice

– Private investors can and will shoulder more responsibility for the transportation systems of the future – and earn respectable returns in the process, Richard Geddes, associate professor at Cornell University, writes in The Wall Street Journal. “Private financing for transportation infrastructure projects, which totaled $10.2 billion from 1993 to 2007, has jumped to $14.2 billion from 2008 to the present. Experts believe as much as $400 billion is available worldwide from pension and mutual funds, insurance companies and other investor groups that like the stable, inflation-linked cash flows transportation projects generate.”
– Here’s your sign: A study by Cascade Policy Institute shows that the TriMet High-Capacity Transit system in Portland, Ore. – comprising light rail, the Portland Streetcar and commuter rail – “is incapable of actually moving large numbers of people when needed. Moreover, most of the time there is no demand for high-capacity transit because the region’s population is too dispersed, and people prefer to travel by modes other than passenger rail. … “Light rail is actually a low-capacity system, and the streetcar is simply irrelevant. TriMet’s buses carries two-thirds of all regional transit trips on a daily basis, and that’s the service that should be recognized as high-capacity transit. Unfortunately, bus service is being sacrificed by TriMet in order to build costly new rail lines that carry relatively few people.” Read the study here:

– Save the date: 
The Foundation’s 20th anniversary celebration is scheduled for the evening of Monday, October 24. Details to follow.
– 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.

Energy and Environment
– Bioboondoggle: A new study requested by G-20 leaders points to biofuel subsidies as among the leading causes of agricultural price shocks. According to the report, “between 2000 and 2009, global output of bio-ethanol quadrupled and production of biodiesel increased tenfold,” a spike which “has been largely driven by government support policies.” As a Wall Street Journal editorial points out, “Any policy opposed by both the Club for Growth and the U.N. must belong in the government boondogglehall of fame.”
– The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
 issued a report last month suggesting renewable sources could provide 77 percent of the world’s energy supply by 2050. It turns out that the claim was based on a real-terms decline in worldwide energy consumption over the next 40 years – and that the lead author of the section concerned was an employee of Greenpeace. Not only that, but the modeling scenario used was the most optimistic of 164 investigated by the IPCC. Mark Lynas, author of “Six Degrees: Our future on a hotter planet,” pointed out: “Had it been an oil industry intervention which led the IPCC to a particular conclusion, Greenpeace et al would have course have been screaming blue murder.”

Good news
– Just when you become too cynical, you read something like this: During the recent Major League Baseball draft, the Texas Rangers drafted University of Georgia player Johnathan Taylor in the 33rd round. Taylor is paralyzed from the waist down due to a broken neck suffered during a collision in a game against Florida State University. “He’s a great kid and he’s going through a terrible time in his life and we thought this would be something to uplift him,” Rangers’ Director of Amateur Scouting Kip Fagg

– Visit to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “One more federal health care battle front: CLASS warfare,” by Ronald E Bachman.

Have a great weekend.

Kelly McCutchen

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