Friday Facts: November 18th, 2011

It’s Friday!

– Register today: John Charles, president and CEO of the Cascade Policy Institute of Oregon, will keynote “Portland: Model or Maverick?” a Foundation Leadership Breakfast at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, December 14, at the Georgian Club in Cobb County. Registration for this Leadership Breakfast is $25. For information, click here:
To register, click here:
– “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” – Thomas Jefferson
– “The most urgent necessity is not that the State should teach, but that it should allow education. All monopolies are detestable, but the worst of all is the monopoly of education.” – Frédéric Bastiat
– “Spending on one program – regardless of whether or not you call it an ‘investment,’ one of the most abused words in today’s popular political economy argot – necessarily means that the resources put into it aren’t there for something else. Economics is about tradeoffs. Wishing them away, or pretending through creative accounting and sleight-of-hand that they don’t exist, doesn’t make them disappear.” – Daniel Rothschild
 There’s a for-profit streetcar somewhere? The Tampa Historic Streetcar runs 2.7 miles between downtown Tampa, Fla., and Ybor City and averages about 30 passengers an hour, or about 400,000 a year. Its $1.5 million budget for fiscal 2012 included a 29 percent spending reduction from FY2011, stretched Friday and Saturday service from 15- to 20-minute intervals and started daily service at noon. Meanwhile, the Tampa Port Authority board has decided to contribute $100,000 for two years to support operation of the nonprofit streetcar, reversing in part its August decision to discontinue a longstanding $150,000 annual contribution. The streetcar recovers about 30 percent of its operating costs from fares. Source: Tampa Tribune
– Tolls and congestion pricing: The Federal Highway Administration’s primer on the income-based equity impacts of congestion pricing has some interesting tidbits. Among them: High-income individuals use their cars more frequently, so high-income households are more likely to incur the congestion charge than the average household. Low-income individuals are even more likely (58 percent) than high-income individuals (32 percent) to support tolls instead of taxes to fund transportation infrastructure. And last, studies have shown that lower-income individuals face the greatest financial harm when they are denied adequate travel choices. Lack of choice to pay a toll in exchange for reliable travel times can result in lost wages or late daycare penalties that could have been avoided.  Read more at

Health care
– We’re from the government and we’re here to help? Privately insured patients may have more favorable health outcomes than those covered by federally funded initiatives, according to a new study that explored the effect of insurance status on five short-term outcomes after kidney surgery, reports BioPortfolio.
– Entitlement reform: The Senate Super Committee is being asked to act boldly on reforming entitlements in order to reduce the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion. The Washington Times says that this could be done by allowing Medicare beneficiaries to select health plans that best suit their needs and converting Medicaid to a program that helps low-income families buy private coverage on their own.
Energy and environment
– In other words, put on (or take off) your sweater?” According to the National Academies, [U.S. Global Change Research Program] and others, greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere will continue altering the climate system into the future, regardless of emissions control efforts. Therefore, adaptation – defined as adjustments to natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climate change – is an important part of the response to climate change.” Source: Government Accountability Office
–  GOP saps support for renewable energy subsidies. Public support for government funding of renewable energy to be sliding sharply, according to a Pew Research Center Survey. Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute reports that overall public support for alternative energy subsidies has fallen from 82 percent to 68 percent. Among Republicans support for government energy subsidies has fallen by 30 percent, while support among Democrats is virtually unchanged. “In other words, virtually the entire decline in public support came from Republicans,” Hayward notes, adding: “When sharply partisan divisions over an issue start to open up like this, it’s usually a formula for policy gridlock.”

Taxes and spending
– A study of first-time homebuyers who took advantage of an $8,000 tax credit available between 2009 and September 2010 reinforces that government programs cannot stop the decline in housing prices. Housing prices in 110 of 157 studied cities have dropped more than the value of the $8,000 tax credit since June 2010. Home prices in six of the 157 cities increased. In short, not only did the $26 billion program fail to stabilize housing prices, but those who took advantage of the program saw the value of their houses drop by more than the value of the tax credit that they received. Source: Heritage Foundation
– The vast majority of all wealth is self-made. Inheritance accounts for 2 percent of the wealth of millionaires and 9 percent of the wealth of the wealthiest 1 percent, according to John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis. Furthermore, inheritance makes the distribution of wealth more equal, not less equal. That’s because wealth transfers are more important to the poor and the middle class than to the wealthy.
– Forty-one percent of adults ages 18 to 34 say the American dream is lost and an even higher 63 percent say the economy is getting worse, according to new a Yahoo Finance poll of 1,500 Americans released this week. Older Americans might be the most pessimistic: 72 percent said the economy is getting worse. And, of concern to everyone worried about paying for old age, 37 percent of adults have no retirement savings and 38 percent said they plan to live off Social Security monthly payments.
–  Retail tidings of comfort and joy: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a week away, but ecommerce shoppers are not waiting. The Cyber Holiday Pulse Index by Chase Paymentech, a merchant acquirer and payment processor, projects strong year-over-year growth, with online sales up over 25 percent. But average ticket value appears to be continuing a downward trend for the fourth straight year, currently down over 9 percent. While the recession drove that trend for a couple seasons, last year the available data linked smaller tickets to the growing demand for digital media such as music and, more recently, eBooks. Source: Material Handling & Logistics News

Visit to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Integrating Online, Class Instruction Maximizes Learning Time,” by Bill Tucker.

Have a great weekend and a Happy Thanksgiving.

Kelly McCutchen

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