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January 31, 2009

"No Ray of Sunshine?"

According to one Wall Streeter quoted in a story posted last evening by the Wall Street Journal:

"We're at month-end, the Dow is down, and there's no ray of sunshine," said Mr. Cheslock,” managing director at Cohen Capital Group, LLC. (emphasis added)

And another:

“There's been too much back-and-forth, it's a wishy-washy market," said Debra Brede, president of D.K. Brede Investment Management Company. "One day you think [the government] is going to do something serious to help the banks, and the next day it's not such a great idea. Markets hate uncertainty, and it's not clear it's a good plan. We need to get these banks cleaned up and move forward." (emphasis added)

Since it’s the last day of January, it’s worth noting what’s happened in the stock market since that’s an indicator of the nation’s economy. The Journal points out:

“Historically, stocks' January performance has been thought of as an informal indicator for the market's direction the rest of the year. When the S&P declines in January, the index loses an average of 2.4% in the next 11 months, according to data going back to 1950 from Ned Davis Research. When the S&P climbs in January, the index posts an average gain of 12.3% in the next period.”

So what did the stock market do in January? Here is how the newspaper opened their story:

“Stocks wrapped up their worst January on record with a final plunge on Friday.

“The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished January down 8.84% on the month. Perviously, the worst January for the Dow had been that of 1916, when it fell 8.64%. Friday, the Dow dropped 148.15 points to 8000.86 after briefly dipping below the 8000 mark. The Dow has fallen five straight months and in 12 of the last 15.”

Just wondering? Are investors unwilling to see any more of the economic plans of the new administration of President Obama and the current U.S. Congress?

January 30, 2009

Advice for Today's United States Congress

"“The budget should be balanced. Public debt should be reduced. The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered, and assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt.”"

        -- Marcus Tullius Cicero - Roman Statesman, Philosopher and Orator

TH OnPower.org

January 29, 2009

“Wretched Excess” and/or “Soviet Britain”

George Will writes in his Washington Post column today that “congressional Democrats have turned the 647-page stimulus legislation into an excuse for something that never needs an excuse -- an exercise in wretched excess.” Unfortunately, he doesn’t make clear what he means by “wretched excess.”

Peter Ferrara, however, provides many examples of “wretched excess” in his American Spectator column yesterday, including:

“For example, the "stimulus" package includes $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts to help "the arts community throughout the United States." Wouldn't want our economy to get behind in the international arts competition. The government is going to borrow $50 million out of the private economy to spend on this, which will result in a net loss of economic output rather than a net gain.

“Another $2.1 billion is for Head Start, another program not previously known for stimulating the economy. A further $2 billion is to be spent on Child Care Development Block Grants, which provide day care. We are going to revive economic growth through the federal government spending billions on babysitting, rather than tax cuts for capital investment. A similar initiative involves $120 million to finance part-time work for seniors in community service agencies.

“Then there is $500 million to speed the processing of applications for Social Security disability claims. This has already created one net new job in the employment of a person within the Obama Administration assigned to figure out what this has to do with stimulating the economy.”

Investors Business Daily writes in an editorial: “Washington's attempt to spend us out of our economic doldrums gets more ambitious by the day . . . The long-range implications of this are alarming,” and go on to explain:

“Apart from the tax cuts in the bill, this political spending spree would require Washington to increase its plunder of the private sector (unless it plans to print the money and create an inflation risk).

“Already federal spending as a portion of the economy is at 21%, more than four times the rate from the pre-Depression 1920s. It is projected to grow to 29% of GDP in 2030 and 42% in 2050, the same year that state and local government spending is expected to hit 20% of GDP.

“Where will all that spending get us?

“Think of England, where the British government's share of local output and spending is now 70% in some regions. In the northeastern part of the country, the London Times reports, "the state is expected to be responsible for 66.4% of the economy this year, up from 58.7% when a similar study was carried out four years ago."

“Highly revealing is this fact: "When Labour came to power, the figure was 53.8%."

"In general, 49% of the United Kingdom economy is government spending. This trend has prompted some in the U.K. to wryly refer to their homeland as ‘Soviet Britain.’”

Additional resources, not to mention our previus growls, growls, and growls:

  • Congressional Budget Office’s cost estimate of H.R. 1 (requires Adobe), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the so-called stimulus bill.
  • The Wall Street Journal says, “You won't believe what's in that stimulus bill,” and put together “A 40-Year Wish List” of “just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years.” To see just how much income redistribution is in the bill, check the following Wall Street Journal graph:


 

January 28, 2009

BiPartisan Coalition Opposes Increasing National Debt

 

As the chart above shows, the nation’s real national debt totals $56.4 trillion -- about $184,000 per person or $483,000 per household. The chart is from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which focuses on increasing awareness on such national challenges as the budget deficit, the national debt, and the viability of Social Security and Medicare.

Earlier this evening, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 244-188 to approve the $819 billion economic stimulus bill, H.R. 1, and send it to the Senate. However, all 177 Republicans were joined by 11 Democrats in a bipartisan  vote against the bill. Click here to see the final voting results for roll call 46. According to the Washington Post, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) “heralded the legislation as the first down payment on Obama's pledge, in his inaugural address, to provide "bold and swift" action to revive an economy that is losing more than 500,000 jobs a month, including 65,000 layoffs announced just this week.”

The Post noted, however:

“A $475 billion Republican alternative, which focused heavily on reducing individual and business taxes, was rejected largely on party lines. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash), a member of the GOP leadership team, ridiculed the Democratic plan as a ‘typical bill that is full of wasteful spending.’”

The National Taxpayers Union has a “Fight the Stimulus Hoax tool kit for “taxpaying Americans . . . to tell Congress: ‘Quit digging us into a fiscal hole’” (emphasis added).

As the Wall Street Journal said in a editorial on Monday, the "spending" in the stimulus bill "isn't about the economy," but rather:

“ . . . a time machine in the sense that it's based on an old, and largely discredited, economic theory. As Harvard economist Robert Barro pointed out on these pages last Thursday, the "stimulus" claim is based on something called the Keynesian "multiplier," which is that each $1 of spending the government "injects" into the economy yields 1.5 times that in greater output. There's little evidence to support this theory, but you have to admire its beauty because it assumes the government can create wealth out of thin air. If it were true, the government should spend $10 trillion and we'd all live in paradise.

“The problem is that the money for this spending boom has to come from somewhere, which means it is removed from the private sector as higher taxes or borrowing. For every $1 the government "injects," it must take $1 away from someone else -- either in taxes or by issuing a bond. In either case this leaves $1 less available for private investment or consumption. Mr. Barro wrote about this way back in 1974 in his classic article, "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?", in the Journal of Political Economy. Larry Summers and Paul Krugman must have missed it.”

By the way, you can join listeners of the Mark Levin Show by calling all 188 representatives in the House who voted for taxpayers and against tyranny; the main switchboard number on Capitol Hill is (202) 224-3121. To see how members of the House voted, see the final roll call vote.

January 27, 2009

Something to Think About

"Maybe we ought to see that every person who gets a tax return receives a copy of the Communist Manifesto with it so he can see what's happening to him."

    -- T. Coleman Andrews, Commissioner of IRS, May 25, 1956

January 26, 2009

Sound and Fury for Bigger Government

Investors Business Daily (IBD) has just posted a great column by Thomas Sowell who focuses on what Congress and the Administration are really trying to do with the so-called ‘stimulus’ bill. Sowell points out that if the Washington politicians wanted to kick start the economy, they would cut taxes since spending, as they now propose -- see yesterday’s growls -- involves “long, drawn-out processes to put money into circulation,” and is akin to “mailing a letter to the fire department to tell it that your house is on fire.”

Sowell then asks, “What are the Beltway politicians buying with all the hundreds of billions of dollars they are spending?” His answer:

“They are buying what politicians are most interested in — power.

In the name of protecting the taxpayers' investment, they are buying the power to tell General Motors how to make cars, banks how to bank and, before it is all over with, all sorts of other people how to do the work they specialize in, and for which members of Congress have no competence, much less expertise.

“This administration and Congress are in a position to do what Franklin Roosevelt did during the Great Depression of the 1930s — use a crisis of the times to create new institutions that will last for generations.

“To this day, we are still subsidizing millionaires in agriculture because farmers were having a tough time in the 1930s.

“We have the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) taking reckless chances in the housing market that have blown up in our faces today, because FDR decided to create a new federal housing agency in 1938.”

Listen to Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute’s Center for Freedom and Prosperity explain why the ‘stimulus’ bill is bad policy. Watch the video:

Video: Stimulus: Good for Government, Bad for the Economy.

January 25, 2009

Inviting Local Government Officials to Pig Out

Pigging out! That is pretty much the bottom line from a meeting on Friday, January 16, 2008 that was requested by Arlington’s U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D) to brief County Board members, and their cohorts from other local governments in Northern Virginia, on the federal stimulus package. Although the public was invited, I believe I was the only member of the "public" in attendance.

We growled about the stimulus bill on Wednesday, January 21, noting that a number of pro-taxpayer groups have organized the ReadtheStimulus.org website, including a searchable public database of the spending projects of the type that Rep. Moran used to get local officials excited about feeding at the trough.

Moran used the opportunity to play what liberals like to do, i.e., class warfare. For example, telling attendees there is a maldistribution of the nation’s wealth, or blaming the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.

The only member of the press we could see at the meeting was David Schultlz of the Arlington Connection, who wrote a rather accurate description of the briefing although you can view over taxpayer-subsidzed local television or at the county website. Some of what Mr. Schultz wrote include the following:

“The bill, which was introduced last week, will contain more than $500 billion in spending that — coupled with more than $200 billion in tax cuts — Congress hopes will stimulate the economy and drag the country out of recession.”

“But where will all this spending go? No one’s exactly sure, Moran said, and that is why now is the time for localities across the country to be lobbying for a piece of this federal funding.” (emphasis added)

“The biggest threat, these economists tell us, is that whatever the government does it will be too little and too late. So we’re going to act posthaste,” Moran said. “Those communities, those organizations that are ready with projects that can begin immediately are the ones who are going to get the money.” (emphasis added)

“Moran said that the hastily organized meeting was necessary because of the amount of money involved in the bill and the extremely accelerated pace at which it is moving through Congress.” (emphasis added)

“But Moran said that this opportunity to procure huge sums of federal money would be short lived. “Once this is done the gates may start to close,” he said. “So we need to be on board right now. I’m not sure how much longer we’re going to be able to put out more money given the deficit situation.” (emphasis added)

Schultz’s article included a “preliminary list” of local Arlington projects that could be funded with federal money. So will Arlington officials reduce our taxes by the amount received for this projects from federal taxpayers? Not likely at all; therefore, Arlington taxpayers will pay for those projects twice. Once through their federal taxes, and again from their local taxes since Arlington officials will not reduce our taxes by that amount.

In his opening remarks, Moran said that 19 out of 20 economists have told him that unless the government injects $750 to $800 billion, “the economy will shut down.” We’re not sure of the economists that Moran listens to, but he and his liberal colleagues may want to find another cohort of economists. We’ll have more on the stimulus so visit again soon. The following photo in the Connection story was provided by the Office of U.S. Rep. Jim Moran:

January 24, 2009

CAGW Announces January’s Porker of the Month

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has named Ray LaHood as their January Porker of the Month, and here’s why:

“For his long-standing disregard for the taxpayers’ money and an abundance of concern over how he will administer the Department of Transportation, CAGW names Ray LaHood January Porker of the Month.”

As CAGW explains in their press release:

“In his new position, Secretary LaHood will preside over the distribution of tens of billions of tax dollars for transportation projects in the stimulus package that is moving forward in Congress.  In addition to control over these vast sums, Secretary LaHood will be involved in the transportation reauthorization bill that will be implemented in 2010. Similar legislation, including the 2005 reauthorization bill, has increasingly become a vehicle for billions in congressional pork-barrel earmarks, including the notorious Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska.

“As a member of Congress from Illinois between 1995 and 2007, then-Rep. LaHood made the most of his seat on the House Appropriations Committee and over time became adept at spending more and more of the taxpayers’ money. His congressional rating with the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste went from a mediocre 68.8 percent during his freshman year to an abysmal 11 percent in his last year in Congress.  In fiscal year 2008 alone, Rep. LaHood was responsible for securing 52 earmarks totaling $58.9 million, among them a $250,000 earmark for the Lakeview Museum Planetarium along with an additional $198,000 for the installation of green technology in the Planetarium at a time when the nation faced tens of billions in transportation maintenance backlogs. A January 14 Washington Post article noted that in 2008 he sent $9 million worth of earmarks to campaign contributors, and that he ranked in the top 10 percent of all members who obtained earmarks. Secretary LaHood expressed his derision for the taxpayers’ money when he told the Peoria Journal Star last year that the reason he “went to the Appropriations Committee, the reason other people go on the Appropriations Committee, is they know that it puts them in a position to know where the money is at, to know the people who are doling the money out and to be in the room when the money is being doled out.” (emphasis added)

“In October 2005, CAGW named then-Rep. LaHood Porker of the Month for his role in preventing the closure of 713 of the 2,351 Farm Service Agency offices, which would have saved taxpayers $50 million per year. He also submitted a proposal to reject the 2005 base closing commission’s recommendations to close or realign 182 military bases. As a representative from Illinois, Mr. LaHood has supported the controversial and exorbitantly costly O’Hare Modernization Project (OMP), with an estimated price tag of $20 billion. The OMP is entangled in legal battles and is now even opposed by the airlines that must fly through O’Hare. The current stimulus package contains $3.4 billion in money for the Airport Improvement Program, and there is apprehension that the new secretary will direct some of it to the OMP, instead of higher priority and less controversial projects. (emphasis added)

Hey, Mr. LaHood, just how do you manage to look in the mirror each morning? Here's to you, Mr. LaHood:

 

January 23, 2009

Sen. Webb on Bailout of Big Auto

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va) explained in a letter today the reasoning supporting his vote to provide what Sen. Webb calls “a bridge loan - not a bailout - for the domestic American automobile manufacturers.” The complete text of the letter follows:

“Dear Mr. Wise:

    “Thank you for contacting me with your views about federal assistance to domestic automobile manufacturers and the U.S. Senate's debate of relevant legislation in December 2008.  I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with me, and I understand the concerns you raise.

    “As you know, the ongoing economic crisis and credit crunch have created an environment that threatens the existence of U.S. automakers. Proponents of offering financial assistance to U.S. auto manufacturers state that one in every ten American jobs is tied to the automotive industry.  Proponents also argue that a collapse of the major U.S. auto manufacturers would put hundreds of thousands of autoworkers out of their jobs and would send ripples throughout our already struggling economy.  In Virginia alone, there are almost 50,000 jobs that are directly connected to the auto industry, in the form of parts and suppliers, dealers, and assembly plants. On the other hand, opponents of federal assistance to automakers argue that the circumstances now facing U.S. manufacturers are a product of corporate mismanagement and poor business decisions and that taxpayer-funded assistance would be unfair.

    “After careful analysis, on December 11, 2008, I voted to advance bipartisan Senate legislation that would have provided a bridge loan - not a bailout - for the domestic American automobile manufacturers. Unfortunately, a minority of senators filibustered consideration of this bill. I believe that blocking consideration of this important legislation was a misapplication of the priorities that should govern our political leaders. Quite simply, it is inequitable to earlier support a $700 billion bailout for mismanaged financial institutions that largely protect exorbitant executive compensation, and yet not support this loan package, which was designed to provide cash-flow that would have helped millions of working men and women.

    “Senate opposition to this bridge loan legislation was based on the faulty argument that unionized auto workers are too highly compensated. However, subtracting from the average United Auto Worker (UAW) compensation the money needed to support retirees' health insurance and pension expenses, UAW workers take home about the same wages as non-union workers at foreign-owned car plants in the United States.

    “If ensuring parity in pay between union workers and workers in non-unionized plants is a priority, then parity should be applied evenhandedly to company executives.  The average American CEO makes 400 times what the average worker makes, while the average Japanese CEO makes only 10 times what a Japanese worker makes.

    “The health of our nation's domestic auto manufacturers, suppliers and dealers is as important and as deeply woven into the fabric of our economy as the health of Wall Street. In that light, I will carefully examine any policy proposals related to this matter - with your views in mind - to ensure that they are fair, that they protect hard-working Americans, and that they strengthen our economy.

    “I hope you continue to share your thoughts with me and my staff in the years ahead. I also invite you to visit my website at www.webb.senate.gov for regular updates on issues that are important to Virginia and our nation.

    “Thank you once again for contacting my office.

Sincerely,

Jim Webb
United States Senator

JW:kw

To contact Sen. Webb’s, click here.

January 22, 2009

Two Thoughts for Today

  1. "The more corrupt the republic, the more numerous the laws."
  2. “Before, we had ‘crimes’ that oppressed us; Now, we have ‘laws’ that oppress us.”

-- Tacitus, Roman Historian

HT QuoteGarden.com and Independent Institute/OnPower.org 

January 21, 2009

Congress Plays ‘Hide the Earmark’

Today’s DC Examiner editorial discusses the efforts of “online watchdogs” to do the job that your representatives in Congress are not likely to do, i.e., “read all 334 pages of the (stimulus) bill," officially titled “The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009.” The Examiner says:

“The daunting task of digging into the stimulus legislation has been made easier by a coalition of think tanks and activists groups organized on the ReadtheStimulus.org web site. At latest count, the coalition’s members include The Heritage Foundation, National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Club for Growth, RedState.com, FreedomWorks, Lighthouse, Americans for Prosperity, and #TCOT.”

“Members of the coalition are both studying the bill in detail and jointly creating a searchable public database of the spending projects they find. They have also created online tools for helping everybody who wants to read and comment on the text. ReadtheStimulus.org is thus an online demonstration of crowd-sourcing – posting on the Internet an important document in order to enlist the knowledge, experience and analytical skills of legions of interested people. The web site also provides a publicly accessible forum in which readers of the bill can share and discuss their findings. Crowd-sourcing is potentially among the most powerful tools available to taxpayers for increasing the transparency and accountability of Congress.”

The editorial points out, however, that Congress has set up a procedure whereby they can dictate where the money goes without ever having to leave their fingerprints, i.e.:

“Translated from the protective haze of legislative language and bureaucratese, the provision creates a back-channel for the appropriations committee to tell NIST how to spend the money, then monitor the agency’s compliance, without ever having to put the spending instructions – aka “earmarks’ - in a bill or bill report that would be made public. In other words, Congress is still playing ‘Hide the earmarks.’”

You can read the stimulus bill as well as the committee report at READTHESTIMULUS.ORG.

Congratulations are due to staffers from the National Taxpayer Union and Citizens Against Government Waste for the protest they staged this past Saturday against the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ porky wish list.  Here is the NTU press release, which offers an alternative to the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ wish list. The following picture of Pitbull and Pig from Saturday's pork protest is from NTU’s blog, Government Bytes; two other pictures are available there.

 

January 20, 2009

Moonbats at the EPA

A legal item in today’s Washington Post “business in brief” section announced the National Pork Producers Council.“  Why? The Post informs us the pork producers’ organization:

“is suing to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s requirement that livestock farms inform communities about estimated emissions. The rule is scheduled to take effect today. It requires livestock producers to call state and local emergency response authorities to inform them of estimated emissions and to notify them in writing. Farms that fail to comply face penalties of up to $25,000 per day.”

Put me in the “nature, not human activity” camp when it comes to global warming so even though livestock produce methane “as part of the normal digestive process in animals,” the need to regulate livestock emissions is not called for. For more on the topic, see “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate,” and other publications, at the Science & Environmental Policy Project website. However, if you are a believer in global warming, and want to know more about livestock emissions, see this document (requires Adobe Acrobat) at EPA’s  climate change website.

Sheesh! Just what the country needs, more regulation. To contact EPA to express your views: visit this EPA webpage.

January 19, 2009

Turning American Into “A Keynesian Theme Park”

Gerald Warner, writing in yesterday’s Scotland on Sunday, says, “Tuesday may be regarded by future historians as the beginning of the end for the United States of America.” Warner then goes on to explain:

“It is the first credible date that may become iconic as the moment when the federation that came into existence in 1776 and rose to global hegemony in the 20th century joined Macedonia, Rome and Britain in the catacombs of fallen empires. Barack Obama is America's nemesis.

“This presidency has the very real potential to impoverish America on a scale that could demote it irreversibly from its economic superpower status. When a politician masquerades as a messiah, be very afraid. This column was subjected to frantic abuse circa 1997 for denouncing Tony Blair as the Great Charlatan. Today, it is hardly an isolated view.”

Warner then goes through the current economic situation, the economic downturn, the $1.2 trillion deficit, the ‘job creation,’ and the “pretense of ‘stimulus.’” He adds the aggressive government intervention in the economy is “so alien to the instincts of Americans.” Warner closes his short essay with:

”Barack Obama's inauguration address on Tuesday will be big on rhetoric: that is what he does. The plan he will trumpet will be a failure economically; but it may well prove a success in achieving its author's agenda – reducing the US to a Keynesian theme park like the ones based in Brussels, Paris and, most recently, London."

Sometimes we need a foreigner to tell us what our eyes are unable to see.

HT Mark Levin Show

January 18, 2009

Where Are You, John Galt?

More than a week has gone by since the Wall Street Journal posted Stephen Moore’s essay, “'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years,” and it is still ranked on their Opinion Journal webpage as the second most e-mailed article. While there may be no statistics to track such trivia, I cannot recall any other news article staying “popular” for so long.

So why has Stephen Moore’s essay been so popular? He suggests the answer by writing:

“Many of us who know Rand's work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that "Atlas Shrugged" parodied in 1957, when this 1,000-page novel was first published and became an instant hit.

“Rand, who had come to America from Soviet Russia with striking insights into totalitarianism and the destructiveness of socialism, was already a celebrity. The left, naturally, hated her. But as recently as 1991, a survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that readers rated "Atlas" as the second-most influential book in their lives, behind only the Bible.

“For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.

“In the book, these relentless wealth redistributionists and their programs are disparaged as "the looters and their laws." Every new act of government futility and stupidity carries with it a benevolent-sounding title. These include the "Anti-Greed Act" to redistribute income (sounds like Charlie Rangel's promises soak-the-rich tax bill) and the "Equalization of Opportunity Act" to prevent people from starting more than one business (to give other people a chance). My personal favorite, the "Anti Dog-Eat-Dog Act," aims to restrict cut-throat competition between firms and thus slow the wave of business bankruptcies. Why didn't Hank Paulson think of that?”

So why the the “fiction to fact” metaphor? Moore explains thus:

“One memorable moment in "Atlas" occurs near the very end, when the economy has been rendered comatose by all the great economic minds in Washington. Finally, and out of desperation, the politicians come to the heroic businessman John Galt (who has resisted their assault on capitalism) and beg him to help them get the economy back on track. The discussion sounds much like what would happen today.”

Here's a better idea: As  Moore suggests, “Atlas Shugged” should be “required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration.” Read Moore's essay yourself, and you may be e-mailing it to your friends and relatives, too. Maybe even to your members of Congress.

January 17, 2009

Something More to Consider

With all the talk of stimulus bills by Congress, and redistribution of income by the President-elect, it is worth considering the following thought of Friedrich A. Hayek:

"Once politics become a tug-of-war for shares in the income pie, decent government is impossible.”"

    -- Friedrich A. Hayek

HT OnPower.org

January 16, 2009

Speaking of Global Warming (aka Climate Change)

With the overnight temperature predicted to drop to 3 degrees Fahrenheit tonight, the lowest since 2000, it's worth thinking how real global warming really is. Since virtually all of the scare-mongering that evolves from the predictions that pour out of the alarmists' computer models, here is something to consider about those models:

"I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.
-- Freeman Dyson, from his book, Many Colored Glass

January 15, 2009

Cost of Parks, Culture, and Libraries in Arlington County

On December 31, we growled that Arlington County spent $265.86 per capita for Parks, Recreation, and Culture, according to the FY 2007 Comparative Report of Local Government Revenues and Expenditures, published by the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts. Today, we’ll break out the costs of three components of the department: parks and recreation, cultural/enrichment, and public libraries. Again, the numbers are from the Comparative Report, and include Arlington, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Prince William County, Alexandria and Falls Church:

  • Parks and Recreation. Arlington spends the most per capita ($175.59) followed by Alexandria ($158.28) with Prince William the lowest ($65.11).
  • Cultural Enrichment. Arlington spent $16.65 per capita with Falls Church the highest ($45.91) and Fairfax County the lowest ($1.39).
  • Public Libraries. Arlington ranked second, spending $73.62 per capita. Falls Church spent the most per capita ($158.60) while Prince William spent the least per capita ($34.93).

As we growled previously, the Arlington School Board cooperates with other regional school districts to produce a useful report -- the WABE Guide -- that would enable taxpayers to compare the performance of Arlington government entities that goes beyond just the cost per capita.

January 14, 2009

More on the Cost of Arlington's Public Schools

Last month (December 7 and December 10), we growled that the cost-per-student of the Arlington Public Schools ($19,538 for FY 2009) is the highest in the Washington region. It was followed by Alexandria ($19,078), Falls Church ($18,311), Montgomery County ($15,252), and Fairfax County ($13,340) with Prince William County lowest at $10,7760.

There are obviously numerous factors, which result in Arlington’s $19,538 cost-per-student. Let’s look at just one of them today -- students per teacher. The Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) Guide, available at the Arlington Public Schools website, provides data for four levels (kindergarten, elementary, middle/intermediate, and secondary/high):

  • Kindergarten. Approved staffing for the Arlington schools is 22.00 students per teacher. The other school districts ranged from Montgomery County at 18.60 to Fairfax County at 25.75.
  • Elementary. Arlington’s staffing is 20.00 (Grade 1), 22.00 (Grade 2-3), and 24.00 (Grades 4-5). The others ranged from 20.00 (Alexandria and Falls Church) to 25.75 for Fairfax County.
  • Middle/Intermediate. Arlington’s approved staffing is 22.40. Others ranged from 22.00 for Falls Church to Prince George’s County at 30.00.
  • Secondary/High School. Arlington’s approved staffing is 23.40. Other Washington area school districts ranged from 20.39 in Prince George’s County to 29.00 in Fairfax County.

For a more complete analysis, see our upcoming newsletter, The ACTA Watchdog, or click-on the link above for the WABE Guide. Better yet, join ACTA and receive the newsletter electronically or through regular mail,

January 13, 2009

Health and Welfare Costs in Arlington County

Today we continue analyzing the cost of the services provided by Arlington County. On December 31, we reviewed the broad categories of local government in Arlington County, noting that for health and welfare Arlington spent $668.60 per capita in FY 2007 with other local jurisdictions ranging from $196.81 (Loudoun) to $685.00 (Alexandria). Data comes from the Comparative Report of Local Government Revenues and Expenditures, published by the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts.

Now, we growl about the components of health and welfare, which are health; mental health and mental retardation; and, welfare and social services. We compare Arlington to other Northern Virginia jurisdictions.

  • Health. Arlington spends the most per capita ($103.04). The others range from Fairfax County ($70.18) to Falls Church ($13.59).
  • Mental Health and Mental Retardation. Alexandria ranks at the top, spending $208.71 per capita. Arlington spends $112.94 per capita. Others range from Fairfax County ($133.77) to Prince William County ($61.49).
  • Welfare and Social Services. Arlington spends the most per capita ($452.62) with the others ranging from Alexandria ($421.37) to Prince William ($173.19).

As we growled on Sunday, even the Arlington School Board cooperates with other school districts in the region to produce a useful report that enables taxpayers to compare performance. The complete tables will be in the next issue of the newsletter, The ACTA Watchdog.

January 12, 2009

For The Children, Of Course

The January 12 edition of the EIA Communique, published by the Education Intelligence Agency reports the National Education Association, a teachers union, “will spend up to $250,000 on activities related to the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Part of the money will be used to pay for ‘NEA presence at appropriate events.’” EIA also reports:

“The union is so flush with cash that even in an election year it spent only $13 million out of an available $20.4 million from its Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund, a national war chest funded by a $10 assessment from each member.”

Two other checks the NEA wrote include:

“$250,000 to the National Coalition on Health Care and $1 million to Communities for Quality Education, an NEA front group created as ‘America Learns’ in 2004.”

Speaking of wisdom from the teachers unions, EIA published its “2008 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year” in the prior week’s Communique. One we especially liked was:

"By the way, had the teachers' union been around when Sam Adams threw tea into the harbor, they would have run ads against him."

-- Carla Howell, whose ballot initiative to eliminate the Massachusetts income tax was defeated by a well-funded union campaign

To subscribe to the weekly Communique, visit EIA's "contact" page

January 11, 2009

The Cost of Public Safety in Arlington County

Two weeks ago, we growled about the cost of various services of county government, noting that Arlington is among the “top spenders “ of Northern Virginia’s local jurisdictions on a per capita basis. We used data from the Comparative Report of Local Government Revenues & Expenditures for FY 2007 published by the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts.

In the Public Safety category, Arlington spent $826.94 with Alexandria the “runner-up” at $786.29 while Loudoun County was the lowest at $423.75. Today, we’ll take a closer look by focusing on three components of Public Safety: Law Enforcement & Traffic Control; Fire and Rescue Services; and Correction and Detention.

  • Law Enforcement & Traffic Control. Falls Church spends the most at $404.79 followed closely by Alexandria at $390.52. By contrast, Arlington spends $304.40 per capita with Loudoun County spending only $159.33 per capita.
  • Fire & Rescue Services. Arlington spends the most at $296.08 followed by Alexandria at $223.01 per capita. By contrast, Falls Church spends only $155.01 per capita.
  • Correction & Detention. Falls Church is tops at $154.11 per capita followed closely by Arlington at $153.78 per capita. Spending the least on a per capita basis in Northern Virginia is Fairfax County at $64.03.

If the Arlington County Board required the Manager and his department heads to periodically explain the differences in per capita spending among Northern Virginia jurisdictions, they might learn that some things are being performed inefficiently while some things might have little or no payoff in terms of providing safety to county residents. Do ya’ think? Even the Arlington School Board cooperates with other school districts in the region to annually produce the WABE Guide, which enables taxpayers to compare the performance of the Arlington Public Schools with other districts in the region.

January 10, 2009

Home Values in Arlington County

The county’s real estate assessment office will be sending Arlington property owners the notices of their 2009 assessments in the next week or so. According to a report earlier this week in the Sun-Gazette:

“Assessed values of single-family homes across Arlington will be down only slightly when updated assessments are mailed to homeowners later this month, according to preliminary data released by the county government.

"County officials said the average assessment of a single-family property would decline 2 percent, from $530,100 to $520,100, for a second year of declines - but far from the double-digit declines that are being experienced by homeowners in the outer suburbs.

"The assessments will vary widely by location within Arlington and type of home - some will be up significantly, others will be down while some others will see no change over 2008 assessment figures.”

A more detailed description of real estate values in the county is available in this December 30 press release from the county’s spinmeisters. We looked at 15 properties that sold in the last four months of 2008, and the results pretty much confirm what the Sun-Gazette says about the assessments varying by location and type of home. The location of those 15 properties will be included in the forthcoming issue of ACTA newsletter.

Assessments are only one-half of the equation for property taxes. The other half -- tax rates -- will be set by the County Board in April.

January 09, 2009

What Would Mr. Jefferson Think Today?

"I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious."

    -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Cooper, 29 November 1802

HT Patriot Post

January 08, 2009

A Picture Is Worth . . .

Used with permission. 

 

 

January 07, 2009

Bailouts Gone Wild

CNN;s PoliticalTicker reports that “Hustler (magazine) publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis said Wednesday they will request that Congress allocate $5 billion for a bailout of the adult entertainment industry.” The CNN report added:

“Francis said in a statement that “the US government should actively support the adult industry's survival and growth, just as it feels the need to support any other industry cherished by the American people."

According to The InQuisitr, Flynt and Francis also said:

“The two say adult DVD sales and rentals have slipped 22 percent over the last year. While Internet porn traffic is growing steadily, the industry isn’t profiting enough, the two assert.”

We have truly entered the Bizarro World on bailouts. Or, as the headline of a recent Mark Steyn column in the Orange County Register said, “We’re in the fast lane to Bailoutistan.”

HT Citizens Against Government Waste’s “Swine Line” blog.

January 06, 2009

Politicians And Lobbyists In Cahoots?

The peerless Norm Leahy, blogging yesterday at Tertium Quids, wonders why Delegates Terry Kilgore (R) and Chris Jones (R) would “ seek to give state pensions to employees of the Virginia Municipal League and (the Virginia Association of Counties).” VML and VACo are lobbyists, which together currently cost Arlington County taxpayers about $90,000 annually.

Leahy points out that Kilgore and Jones are sponsoring HB1632 in the 2009 General Assembly that would allow WML and VACo employees to participate in the state’s retirement system. According to the General Assembly’s bill tracking system, the bill summary, as introduced, says it:

“Adds to the membership of the Virginia Retirement System all full-time employees of the Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Association of Counties.”

The bill was prefiled on December 5, 2008, and was referred to the House Committee on Appropriations. Leahy opines:

“It's actions like these that make people wonder just whose side the politicians are on.”

January 05, 2009

Today's Thought

“Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. Of what avail is freedom to choose if the self be ineffectual? We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, ‘to be free from freedom.’”

-- Eric Hoffer (1902-1983), American Philosopher and Author

President Reagan awarded Eric Hoffer the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983. For more about Eric Hoffer, see his Wikipedia entry. The quote above is from OnPower.org.

January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

A thought for all levels of the political class:

"The problem with government is that it doesn’t actually make any money. It only spends it. As such it is perpetually caught between the desire to get its hooks on cash and the necessity to leave some seed corn for future harvests. This is called public policy."

-- Richard Fernandez, blogging at Pajamas Media's Belmont Club

HT Belmont Club, Pajamas Media

El Growler Grande will be away until the middle of next week.