Friday Facts: November 4th, 2011

It’s Friday!


– Mark your calendar: John Charles, president and CEO of the Cascade Policy Institute of Oregon, will keynote “Portland: Model or Maverick?” a Foundation Leadership Breakfast on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at the Georgian Club in Cobb County.  Details to follow.



 The 100,000th Peach Pass (electronic tolling card) was issued in Georgia this week, just one month after the high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on Interstate 85 opened in Atlanta. Following a trend predicted by officials, usage of the I-85 Express lanes tripled in the first month of operation, eclipsing 10,000 trips on Thursday. According to the Federal Highway Administration, “By removing a fraction (even as small as 5 percent) of the vehicles from a congested roadway, [variable] pricing enables the system to flow much more efficiently, allowing more cars to move through the same physical space. Similar variable charges have been successfully utilized in other industries – for example, airline tickets, cell phone rates and electricity rates. There is a consensus among economists that congestion pricing represents the single most viable and sustainable approach to reducing traffic congestion.” (Read the commentary by the Foundation’s Benita Dodd, “State must Ensure Motorists Warm Up to HOT Lanes,” at


 A lesson in transparency: An Idaho state court on Friday upheld education reforms that weaken teacher negotiating power, ruling against a legal challenge from the Idaho Education Association. The measure that passed during the 2011 Legislature phases out some teacher job protections, limits collective bargaining to just salaries and benefits and dumps seniority as a factor in layoffs. It also requires union negotiations to be held in public.

– More than a half-dozen school districts in Texas have approved all-digital curricula for grades five through 12. The new adoptees, which include districts in cities like Houston and Fort Worth, can begin using the educational programs, McGraw-Hill’s CINCH Science and CINCH Math, in the 2011-2012 school year. The curricula include interactive e-books with video illustrations and educational games. One feature inspired by social networking allows students to start conversations that resemble Facebook comment threads. The program is also customizable from the district level down. Source: THE Journal


 “Those who take the most from the table teach contentment. Those for whom the taxes are destined demand sacrifice. Those who eat their fill speak to the hungry of wonderful times to come. Those who lead the country into the abyss call ruling difficult for ordinary folk.” – Bertolt Brecht

- "No matter what anyone may say about making the rich and the corporations pay taxes, in the end they come out of the people who toil." – Calvin Coolidge

– “This one’s tricky. You have to use imaginary numbers, like eleventeen …” Calvin and Hobbes


– A kinder, gentler pesticide? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week it is removing from the consumer market 20 mouse and rat control products “that contain the most toxic and persistent active ingredients, products sold as loose bait and pellets and any remaining products without protective bait stations, which keep children, pets and other animals from accessing the enclosed rodenticide.” The EPA said it has determined “that safer rodent control products are now widely available, effective, and affordable.”

– Putting government regulation under the microscope won two writers the $50,000 Bastiat Prize for Journalism this week. Bloomberg’s Virginia Postrel won in part for a piece on government laws banning old-fashioned light bulbs, which she described as “crony capitalism with a touch of green.” She split the prize with Tom Easton of the Economist for his column headlined “Bamboo Capitalism.” Easton wrote that, “Too many people – not just third-world dictators but Western business tycoons – have fallen for the Beijing consensus, the idea that state-directed capitalism and tight political control are the elixir of growth. In fact China has surged forward mainly where the state has stood back. ‘Capitalism with Chinese characteristics’ works because of the capitalism, not the characteristics.”


Taxes and spending

– Please sir, may I have some more? Government-controlled mortgage giant Freddie Mac this week requested $6 billion in additional taxpayer aid after posting a wider loss in the third quarter. This quarter’s $6 billion request is the largest since April 2010. Taxpayers have spent about $169 billion to rescue Fannie and Freddie, the most expensive bailout of the 2008 financial crisis. The government estimates it could cost up to $51 billion more to support the companies through 2014. The risk grows: President Obama recently announced he would expand the Home Affordable Refinance  Program, which targets “underwater” homeowners with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgages and little or no equity in their properties. Source: Bloomberg, Associated Press


Health care

– Questioning the left’s willingness to relegate low-income Americans to inferior health care services, John Goodman writes: “Regulations designed to protect entrenched special interests have succeeded in raising the costs of basic services so much that low-income families have been priced out of the market for many essential services. Middle-class and poor communities differ not just by income. For the middle class, basic needs are met by markets and they benefit from the customer-pleasing innovations that competition produces. All too often, the poor must turn to public programs with all of the customer-pleasing attributes of the Department of Motor Vehicles.” Read more at Source: National Center for Policy Analysis


Visit to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Private Investment in Broadband Best Bet for Making U.S. More Competitive,” by Chip Pearson.

Have a great weekend.

Kelly McCutchen


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