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March 31, 2012

Celebrate Human Achievement, Not Earth Hour

Less than an hour ago, the Washington Post reported a “happy talk” piece from the Associated Press, which started:

“Hundreds of world landmarks from Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate to the Great Wall of China went dark Saturday, part of a global effort to highlight climate change.

“Earth Hour, held on the last Saturday of March every year, began as a Sydney-only event in 2007. The city’s iconic Harbor Bridge and Opera House were dimmed again this year.”

Almost breathlessly, the Post added that the National Cathedral in Washington and the Empire State Building in New York City participated in the Earth Hour event that was described by an official with the World Wide Fund for Nation (WWF) as “a celebration of people power,” according to the Post/AP story.

Ross McKittrick dissents, however, saying, “The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity. In a ‘must read’ essay published at the Watts Up With That blog (HT Climate Depot), McKittrick, a professor of economics at the University of Guelph, is more explicit when he says:

“Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity."

While Jenifer Marohasy blogs (HT Climate Depot), " Coal not candles should be the symbol of Earth Hour."

Take a few minutes to read the entire essay. It is short, and well-worth reading.

UPDATE (3/31/12): Helen Whalen Cohen writes at Townhall.com that the Competitive Enterprise Institute has an alternative, i.e., "turn on the lights in honor of human accomplishments."

UPDATE (4/1/12): First, I changed the title. Then, at the Cato Institute's blog, Cato@Liberty, David Boaz support the celebration of human achievement.

March 30, 2012

Compensating Arlington County Employees

In January, the Arlington County Board held a work session with the County Manager and staff regarding employee compensation (here is the Manager’s compensation presentation).

For example, the presentation shows such things as where employees live. The presentation shows that for General Employees, 26.5% live within the county; 25.6% living in Fairfax County; 9.5% live in Prince George’s County; and 8.8% live in Prince William County. Public Safety employees have quite a different distribution.

There is also a chart that compares the competitiveness of county salaries versus the average of Alexandria and Fairfax using different measures. Another chart shows the percentage of employees at the maximum of pay ranges.

On Tuesday of this week, the personnel department provided the Board a document  (requires Adobe) responding to questions from the January compensation work session. One of the more interesting items in the follow-up document concerned employee turnover. For FY 2011, the overall county turnover rate was 8.6% (6.7% without retirement). The job groups with the highest rates were:

  • Highest -- clerical - 13.5% (9.7% without retirement)
  • Second Highest -- management - 13.0% (9.1% without retirement)

Other selected turnover rates were:

  • Fire -- 4.9% (2.4% without retirement)
  • General -- 9.3% (7,7% without retirement)
  • Trades -- 9.2% (7.6% without retirement)

How did the county’s turnover compare to other jurisdictions? Let’s compare the numbers for general employees:

  • Arlington -- 9.30%
  • Alexandria -- 6.13%
  • Fairfax -- 2.91%
  • Loudoun (FY 10) -- 9.10%
  • Prince William (CY 09) -- 7.59%

And where did employees who did not retire go for work? Here are the high three:

  • Private Sector -- 23%
  • Other City/County Government -- 19%
  • Federal Government -- 13%

From time to time, taxpayers have questions about the county employment of a so-called DROP program. The final two pages of the compensation document includes a chart comparing “rehired retirees” in both Arlington and Fairfax counties. It also includes the following:

“The DROP is a voluntary program that allows employees who have reached retirement age to continue working and earning a salary to receive retirements benefits at the same time. DROP participation is limited to three years. When employees enter DROP, they are no longer participating in the Retirement System, therefore, the County stops paying into their pension (approximately 14.6% of a General employee’s salary and 35% of a Public Safety employee’s salary) and their employee contributions cease.

“While in DROP, retirement benefits are invested in a 401(a) plan that is subject to market volatility. That is, Arlington County does not guarantee a rate of return on that portion of the employee’s invested retirement benefit. That is a key difference between Arlington County and Fairfax County. Fairfax County guarantees a 5% return which means any shortfall would be made-up with pension funds. Arlington County makes no such guarantees.”

Kudos to the county's Department of Management & Finance for their work in making this budget information transparent.

March 29, 2012

U.S. Is Now Nation With Highest Corporate Tax Rate

In a new report (Fiscal Fact #294), the Tax Foundation writes that “(a)fter eight years of having the second-highest corporate tax rate among industrialized countries, the United States has now assumed the top spot following Japan's scheduled corporate rate cut on April 1, 2012.”

The high corporate tax rate presents problems, however, according to Donald Marron, head of the Urban Institute-Brookings Foundation Tax Policy Center, writing in the Christian Science Monitor on March 21, 2012. Marron says:

“The corporate income tax is a particularly problematic way to collect tax revenues. Corporate taxes are often more harmful for economic growth than ones on personal income or consumption, as noted in a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Moreover, a high corporate rate is an invitation for US multina-tionals to play games with their accounting, locating profits overseas while reporting as many tax-deductible expenses as possible here at home.

“That's why there's a growing bipartisan consensus that the federal rate needs to come down. President Obama recently proposed lowering it to 28 percent. His likely Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, wants to bring it down to 25 percent.

“But corporate tax reform can't just be about lowering the statutory rate. America faces enormous budget challenges and cannot afford to simply cut future revenue. Moreover, the high statutory rate isn't the only problem with our system. The code is riddled with tax subsidies and loopholes. Those tax breaks, more generous than those in many nations, reduce corporate tax burdens significantly.

“That leaves us with the worst possible system. It maximizes the degree to which corporate managers must worry about taxes when making business decisions but limits the revenue that the government actually collects.”

The following graph is from the Tax Foundation’s Fiscal Facts:

The Tax Foundation also provides a table of statutory corporate tax rates for the OECD nations.

Kudos to the Tax Foundation for the informative report.

UPDATE (3/30/12): In a weekend editorial, Investor's Business Daily writes, "As the president complains once again that oil companies are getting unfair tax breaks, the U.S. passes Japan as the leader in business taxes. Workers, investors and entrepreneurs will bear the cost."

UPDATE (4/2/12): At the Heritage Foundation's blog, The Foundry, Mike Brownfield writes:

"There aren’t many American-owned companies more iconic than Anheuser-Busch, the famous producer of Budweiser beer based in St. Louis, Missouri. That was true up until 2008, when the Brazilian-Belgian company InBev executed a hostile takeover of the historic brewer, leading to layoffs of more than 1,800 workers. Unfortunately, conditions in the United States are growing ripe for even more takeovers like these to occur, especially now that the nation’s corporate tax rate is officially the highest in the world.

"As of yesterday, the U.S. corporate tax rate of 39.2 percent claimed the world’s top spot, edging out Japan which recently lowered its rate from 39.5 percent to 36.8 percent. (The U.S. rate includes the 35 percent federal rate plus the average rate the states add on.) That’s well above the 25 percent average of other developed nations."

Last Friday, Curtis Dubay included the below graph in his post at The Foundry:

March 28, 2012

Metro Can’t Fill Jobs With “Big Salaries”

In a rather detailed second of a three-part series in today’s Washington Times, Luke Rosiak reports that “even with big salaries, Metro can’t fill its jobs,” saying:

“Yet despite an economy that has left people from all walks of life looking for work, Metro says it can’t find qualified job applicants.

“The transit system’s failure to meet its personnel needs was largely responsible for the $88 million in overtime it paid in 2010. The overtime paid to some station managers exceeded their base salaries, and maintenance workers made as much as $100,000 in overtime alone, according to an analysis of the most recent records officials would provide.”

The investigative report included the following chart of Metro salaries:

Since a member of the Arlington County Board sits on the Metro board, can that Board member tell Arlington taxpayers just exactly what is it they do when fulfilling that function? It certainly does not seem to be looking out for the interests of local taxpayers.

March 27, 2012

Thought for Today

"Because of the neglect of history in our educational system, most people have no idea how many of the great American fortunes were created by people who were born and raised in worse poverty than the average welfare-recipient today."

~ Thomas Sowell

HT "Random Thoughts" in Sowell's Controversial Essays

March 26, 2012

How Much Affordable Housing Is Enough?

Yesterday, Scott McCaffrey reported for the American Sun Gazette that “(a) coalition of faith-based organizations on March 24 approved a compact that presses Arlington’s elected leaders for a massive investment in affordable housing, and to change the direction of county housing policy to focus more on those at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.”

Six years ago, a committee of the Arlington County Board-appointed Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission reported that Arlington’s “effort per 1,000 population” ranked the county third in the Washington area for it’s “commitment to providing affordable housing.” (for full disclosure, this writer chaired the sub-committee). The rankings were based upon the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) 2003 housing data survey, were provided with the proviso that it's "difficult to determine whether the level or effort of a community's commitment in providing affordable housing is too little, too much, or about appropriate; the numbers were:

  • Alexandria -- 29.01 per 1,000 residents
  • Arlington -- 28.23
  • D.C. -- 36.73
  • Fairfax County -- 12.12
  • Falls Church -- 12.86
  • Loudoun -- 16.99
  • Montgomery -- 22.53
  • Prince George's -- 6.60
  • Prince William -- 7.30

In addition, a staff report to the Board (for the February 28, 2012 work session) concerning the so-called Affordable Housing Investment Fund shows the “County has loaned out an average of over $18 million per year in AHIF loans” for the three years 2009-2011. That $6 million per year is equivalent to about 6 cents on the real estate tax rate. That sure seems to be a major commitment.

In addition, the same staff report shows that the cost per so-called “committed affordable unit (CAF) for “AHIF-funded projects” for the past four years were:

  • 2009: $136,301 for the 196 CAF units with a range of $86,667 to $187,143 for the three projects.
  • 2010: $102,991 for the single project of 111 CAF units.
  • 2011 $32,257 for the 596 CAF units with a range of $9,730 to $83,947.
  • 2012: $67.002 for the 198 CAF units in the single AHIF-funded project.

And oh, by the way, the staff report says there are “potential pipeline requests” of $40.2 million to $56.2 million for FY 2013. Can you say major commitment?

March 25, 2012

Taxed Enough? Wait for the ObamaCare Taxes

According to Allison Meyer, writing this morning at the Heritage Foundation’s blog, The Foundry, if you “feel overtaxed already,” you ain’t felt anything yet since “Obamacare will add 17 new taxes or penalties for a whopping cost of $502 billion over its first 10 years.”

Meyer says the following chart “illustrates the new taxes and offers a year-by-year rundown of their annual costs. These taxes will pay for generous subsidies, an expansion of Medicare and new government spending.”

She adds, “The last notable tax arrives in 2018: an excise tax on “Cadillac” employer health plans. It is expected to produce $32 billion in revenue to pay for Obamacare.” In conclusion, Meyers writes:

“These tax increases will have negative economic effects because they transfer resources from the private sector to government, according to Heritage’s Curtis Dubay, who documented each tax and its cost.

“As a result, the tax hikes in [the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] will slow economic growth, reduce employment, and suppress wages. These economy-slowing policies could not come at a worse time. PPACA tax increases will impede an already staggering recovery,” Dubay wrote in an analysis of the Obamacare taxes.

Still don’t think we’re headed for a fiscal cliff? Alan Blinder, Princeton University economics professor and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve had an op-ed in last week’s Wall Street Journal saying the United States is “cruising towards a 2013 fiscal cliff.” Blinder starts his op-ed this way:

“At some point, the spectacle America is now calling a presidential campaign will turn away from comedy and start focusing on things that really matter—such as the "fiscal cliff" our federal government is rapidly approaching.

“The what? A cliff is something from which you don't want to fall. But as I'll explain shortly, a number of decisions to kick the budgetary can down the road have conspired to place a remarkably large fiscal contraction on the calendar for January 2013—unless Congress takes action to avoid it.

“Well, that gives Congress plenty of time, right? Yes. But if you're like me, the phrase "unless Congress takes action" sends a chill down your spine—especially since the cliff came about because of Congress's past inability to agree.”

Blinder’s op-ed drew several strong responses -- see the three letters to the editor. In addition, at the Journal’s blog, Real Time Economics, Phil Izzo provides some helpful “secondary sources.”

And if you're thinking that Obamacare is just taking away your money and liberty, Jeffrey Singer, who practices general surgery and writes for Arizona Medicine writes in Reason magazine that "the government is putting the medical profession -- and your health -- at risk.

Singer asks, "So where does all this place the medical profession with respect to its ethical credo? In a few years, almost all doctors will be employees of hospitals and will be ordered to practice medicine according to federally prescribed guidelines—guidelines that put the best interests of the state ahead of the interests of individual patients," and concludes:

"When the physician’s primary obligation is to satisfy the wishes of the payer—ultimately the wishes of the state—how can patients be truly confident in their doctors’ decisions?

"I submit that it all boils down to a question of professional ethics.

"The medical profession must decide—and soon—which ethical doctrine to follow: Are doctors to be agents of their patients or agents of the state? All of us should dread the latter choice—because we will all be patients some day."

Let's hope the Supreme Court is on the peoples' side when they finally render their opinion on Obamacare. Oral arguments begin tomorrow. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized this week, "the Affordable Care Act claims federal power is unlimited. Now the High Court must decide." Or, as Investor's Business Daily begins their editorial this weekend:

"The Supreme Court begins ObamaCare hearings Monday. If it doesn't strike down the law, then there will be no checks left on Washington. America will have been fundamentally changed."

UPDATE (3/29/12): At Bloomberg*BusinessWeek today, Peter Coy includes a great graphic (included below) that explains how economic growth will suffer unless Congress acts on the spending and tax cuts.

March 24, 2012

Putting Debt Reduction Proposals In Perspective

One reason that citizens' eyes may glaze over in discussions of budget deficits and national debt is the difficulty in comparing the various proposals. Consequently, it was helpful to see a chart provided by Dr. Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center in a publication earlier this week.

In the chart below, Dr. de Rugy identifies the percentage of GDP of public debt for the various proposals that have been discussed in recent months in the mainstream media. She explains the chart this way:

“With the recent release of CBO’s budget outlook and the approaching release of the House Republican budget, it is important to put the budget numbers from a variety of proposals into proper perspective.

“This week Mercatus Center research fellow Veronique de Rugy charts the debt held by the public as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) under various budget proposals.

“Projected debt is far larger—and growing at a faster rate—under the CBO's alternative budget scenario (purple line) than it does under any other proposal. By 2022 it reaches 94 percent of GDP, while other projections are estimated to be lower than 77 percent.

“By contrast, the CBO’s baseline scenario (green line) paints a rosy picture that assumes the continuation of current law. House Republican Budget for FY 2012 and Fiscal Commissions (red and orange lines) projections are closer to the optimistic CBO baseline scenario rather than to the alternative scenario.

“The alternative scenario is the most realistic depiction of the debt because this scenario does not assume that what happens in law is guaranteed to happen in the future, like the extension of expiring tax provisions or the effect of automatic spending reductions required by the Budget Control Act.

“With the president’s current fiscal year 2013 budget released in February showing more debt than what he submitted only five months prior, the message is clear: We are moving toward more debt. A policy of over-optimism will only drive us deeper into the debt hole.”

March 23, 2012

Today's Quotation

"The only beneficiaries of income taxation are the politicians, for it not only gives them the means by which they can increase their emoluments, but it also enables them to improve their importance. The have-nots who support the politicians in the demand for income taxation do so only because they hate the haves; . . . the sum of all the arguments for income taxation comes to political ambition and the sin of covetousness."

~ Frank Chodorov, American Essayist and Journalist (1887-1966)

HT OnPower.org, Independent Institute

March 22, 2012

High Gas Prices While Nation Is ‘Awash in Oil’, Part II

We growled last week, March 15, 2012, about the high price of gas while the nation was ‘awash in oil,” and cited a column in Investor’s Business Daily by John Merline that debunks the "oil scarcity myth."

This comes amid debate about energy policies and energy politics. For example, a just published CNN article from Columbus, Ohio reports on President Obama’s defense of “his policy on oil pipeline.” The report began:

“President Barack Obama took on critics of his energy policies Thursday, saying in carefully coordinated speeches that they weren't paying attention to increased oil production at home and were misleading the public about the cause of rising gas prices.

"Anyone who says that we're somehow suppressing domestic oil production isn't paying attention," Obama said in Cushing, Oklahoma, on the second day of a four-state tour to tout his policies.

"And anyone who says that just drilling more will bring gas prices down just isn't playing it straight," the president continued. " We are drilling more. We are producing more. But the fact is, producing more oil at home isn't enough to bring gas prices down overnight."

CNN went on to report President Obama also “rejected Republican claims that U.S. oil reserves alone offer a solution to higher gas prices and long-term supplies.”

That claims does not appear to be true according to an editorial by Investor’s Business Daily in which they cite a Congressional Research Service report showing that “taken together, America has more recoverable oil, natural gas and coal than any county on earth,” even more than Russia or Saudi Arabia. See the following chart from IBD. The editorial adds the President’s stop in Cushing, Oklahoma is nothing but “a Potemkin Village” photo op.he rejected Republican claims that U.S. oil reserves alone offer a solution to higher gas prices and long-term supplies.

Next up are two items from Breitbart’s Big Government. which certainly seem to show the Obama administration is doing far too little to increase production.

  • First, Laura Rambeau Lee reports the president’s FY 2013 budget “projects 72% drop in off-shore drilling lease revenue.”
  • Second, Wynton Hall reports that “oil production on federal lands dropped 275,000 barrels a day in 2011.” He also reports:

“In his 2012 State of the Union Address, President Obama said that “American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years.”

“But on Wednesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service released a new report that finds that the overwhelming majority—96 percent—of the increase came from land not owned by the federal government.

“In 2011, oil production on federal lands declined by an average of 275,000 barrels per day, whereas production on non-federal lands increased by 395,000 barrels per day.  The CRS's analysis aligns with that of the Energy Information Administration, which found that oil production on federal lands dropped 14 percent in 2011.”

Then, at American Spectator, Peter Ferrara addresses comments made by President Obama in a recent speech at a community college in Largo, Maryland. Ferrara notes the president likes to focus on 'proven reserves' -- along the lines that with only 2% of the world's known oil reserves, the United States uses more than 20% of the world's oil. Ferrara, however, writes:

"Here's the problem. "Proven reserves" under the federal government's definition can only exist where the oil companies are allowed to drill. Where there are no leases, and no permits, and no at least exploratory drilling to prove what is down there, there can be no "proven reserves."

"That is why in 1980 the federal government said America had 30 billion barrels of proven reserves, but between 1980 and 2007, we produced 75 billion barrels of oil. Obama can't not know this. Therefore, he cannot not be deliberately trying to deceive us."

And finally, in an op-ed in the Washington Times earlier this week, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania) responds to remarks of Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the record of the Obama administration. Kelly writes:

"Since Mr. Obama took office, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has increased from $1.85 to $3.80, putting America well on its way to achieving Mr. Chu’s vision of European-inspired gas prices, which range from $7 a gallon in Spain to around $9 a gallon in Italy, with France and England somewhere in between.

"Under Mr. Obama, oil and gas lease sales and permits have been canceled, delayed or suspended at unprecedented levels, with the Obama administration having leased less acreage on federal lands than any other administration on record. In 2011 alone, oil production on federal lands decreased by 11 percent. Drilling on private lands has gone up, and Mr. Obama claims, like a rooster taking credit for the sunrise, that he had something to do with it when, in fact, the increase is a direct result of permits issued under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

"In 2010, the administration issued a moratorium on all new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, limiting supply and costing up to 12,000 jobs, according to the administration’s own estimates. Months later, the administration placed the entire Pacific Coast, the entire Atlantic Coast, the Eastern Gulf and parts of Alaska off limits to future energy production until 2017 at the earliest.

"In 2011, when the new Republican-led House passed the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act, which would have unlocked an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the president opposed it, just as he opposed the House-passed Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act (H.R. 1230) and Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act (H.R. 1229).

<. . . . >

"Instead of focusing on increased domestic production of America’s abundant supply of fossil fuels, including coal, which has been under constant attack from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through permit delays and costly regulations, the president and Mr. Chu have spent the past three years and billions of taxpayer dollars promoting a green-energy agenda that has failed to produce results."

To paraphrase Fox News' motto, we report, you decide.

UDATE (3/23/12): Matt Cover reports much the same news at CNS News about oil production on federal land as do the IBD editorial and the two Big Government news items.

March 21, 2012

‘Buffett Rule’ Would Produce ‘Drop in the Bucket’ New Revenues

The Hill blog, On the Money,” reported yesterday that the so-called Buffett Rule “would not raise enough money to replace the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and would put a relatively small dent in the federal debt, according to a new study by an official congressional scorekeeper.” We've growled about Mr. Buffett most recently on February 6, 2012 and August 17, 2011.

The rule is “named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett — last year, and he later specified that he believed those making more than $1 million a year should pay at least a 30 percent tax rate.” According to On the Money:

“The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) said, in an estimate provided by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's office on Tuesday, that the measure would raise close to $47 billion between 2012 and 2022.:

In yesterday’s Washington Examiner (HT Tax Prof; includes links AP, Bloomberg, CNN and original and updated letter from U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch) Philip Klein wrote at “beltway confidential”:

“There were several significant developments in the budget debate this morning . . . . Then, the Associated Press reported that an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation -- Congress's scorekeeper on revenue -- confirmed that the "Buffett rule" that President Obama had repeatedly touted in his deficit speeches, was really just a class warfare talking point and not a serious plan to tackle the federal debt.

“Obama, relying on the anecdote that billionaire investor Warren Buffett pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary, had argued that his vision for reducing the deficit involved making sure that the super rich paid their "fair share." Hence, the "Buffett Rule." But the JCT analysis found that a version of the rule introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., would raise just $31 billion over the next 11 years. By contrast, the cumulative deficits in Obama's budget over that time period, 2012 through 2022, are just over $8 trillion. I made a chart below to demonstrate this, though granted, the $31 billion is hard to make out.”

Here’s the chart that Klein referenced in his ‘beltway confidential’ piece:

The Associated Press (via Yahoo) pointed out the amount collected from the Buffett Rule would be small, specifically saying:

“That figure would be a drop in the bucket of the over $7 trillion in federal budget deficits projected during that period. It is also minuscule compared to the many hundreds of billions it would cost to repeal the alternative minimum tax, which Obama's budget last month said he would replace with the Buffett rule tax.”

Can you say ‘class warfare’?

March 20, 2012

A Threat of a New Recession?

Martin Feldstein, economics professor and chief economics advisor to President Reagan, writes in yesterday’s Financial Times that he hopes the optimists who “are expecting growth rates as high as three per cent” over the next year or two are correct.

However, he goes on to say:

“Looking to the future, there are strong headwinds that will make it difficult to achieve a robust recovery. Higher petrol prices will reduce real incomes and cut spending on domestic goods and services. The weaknesses in many European economies will lead to reduced US exports to those countries.
“But the most important cloud on the horizon is the large tax increase that will occur next year unless legislation is passed to block it. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that, under current law, the revenue of the federal government will rise from $2.4tn in the current fiscal year, which ends in September, to $2.9tn in the following fiscal year. That increase of $512bn is equivalent to 2.9 per cent of GDP, bringing federal revenue as a share of GDP from 15.8 per cent this year to 18.7 per cent next year.
< . . . . >
“A sustained tax increase of that magnitude would push the US into a new and deep recession next year. So, it is important to recognise that legislation is required to prevent such a tax rise.”

Sure sounds like something to keep in mind as you prepare for the general election on November 6, 2012.

March 19, 2012

The Deep End of the Swimming Pool

On Tuesday last week, we growled about an over-regulated nation, noting that a frequent complaint from the business community is that regulations by the Obama administration are holding back the economy. The Growls was based upon a column in the Washington Examiner and a Heritage Foundation analysis.

Now comes this editorial from Investor's Business Daily about a government regulation for hotels to install lifts in their swimming pools. According to the IBD editorial:

"Washington has extended the deadline by 60 days for hotels to install lifts for the disabled in their pools. But nothing changes in two months. The government will still be invading private matters.

"The regulation was to take effect last week. But the Justice Department has given hotels an additional 60 days to comply. How generous.

"The regulation, written by the Obama administration in 2010 based on the Americans With Disabilities Act, affects nearly every one of the roughly 51,000 hotels in the U.S., since there are few that have no pools.

"The impact would actually be wider than that. In many cases, properties have more than one pool, and each pool, or "water feature" — which includes whirlpools — must have a lift."

As IBD points out:

"A government that can dictate how businesses are run is no longer merely a government. It is a plundering force operating without constraint.

"This isn't merely an issue of pool lifts at hotels. It's about a mandate to buy health care insurance; it's about telling the auto industry it has to meet a bureaucratically concocted fuel-economy standard; it's about the compulsory participation in the welfare state."

As IBD says, it's also "about seizing private property at government whim." Sure sounds like tyranny to this scribe.

March 18, 2012

Arlington County’s Economic Indicators

Page 3 of the Revenues section of Arlington County’s Fiscal Year 2013 proposed budget (section B of the County Manager’s proposed budget) contains a helpful set of economic indicators.

These include inflation, employment, housing, retail, office, and tourism indicators, and span calendar years 2008, 2010, and 2011. Comments about each indicator follows:

  • Consumer Price Index (national CPI-U average): for CY 2011, the CPI was 3.2%, and has increased from -0.3% in CY 2009.
  • Employment Cost Index (private industry workers): for CY 2011, it was 2.2%, increasing from 1.2% in CY 2009.
  • Unemployment - U.S. and Arlington: For CY 2011, the unemployment rate was 8.9% nationally and 3.7% for Arlington.
  • Mortgage Rate (annual average - 30-year fixed rate): During CY 2011, it was 4.45% & 0.7 pts.
  • Retail Sales (based on 1% of Arlington tax revenue). Retail sales in Arlington County have grown from $3.52 billion in CY 2009; $3.66 billion in CY 2010; and $3.75 billion in CY 2011. Those represent annual growth rates of 3.98% and 2.46%.
  • Office Vacancy Rate (includes sublets). The rate for the three calendar years were 8.2%, 7.9%, and 10.7%.
  • Tourism - Average Hotel Room Rate. The rate has dropped from $163.80 to $163.69 to $160.35 in CY 2011.

That is information worth considering as citizens evaluate how well the Arlington County Board and County Manager manage the tax dollars that local government takes from its taxpayers.

March 17, 2012

Fact-Checking PolitiFact

PolitiFact.com is a project of the Tampa Bay Times, which is supposed to sort out the political chaff from the political wheat. As with so many things in the mainstream media, caveat emptor or buyer beware.

Joe Henchman, blogging at the Tax Foundation's Tax Policy Blog, writes about a recent map that was evaluated by PolitiFact, saying:

"Every Monday we post a tax map on our blog. And usually every week, the e-mail complaints roll in that the map isn't comprehensive enough. For instance, when we posted our sales tax map showing Tennessee has the highest rates, residents complained that we should note that they don't have an income tax. (We do, on the income tax map; we don't on the sales tax map because it's a sales tax map.) Most of our maps have footnotes, sources, and links to other maps, but they're maps. They're not research reports. (We have plenty of those, of course.)

"PolitiFact earlier this month rated our recent state-level beer excise tax map as "false" not because it has any inaccurate information, but because it "only" looks at state-level beer excise taxes. I was surprised since we didn't hold out the map to be anything more than that. Yes, the map does not have other taxes that go into the price and sale of beer, like production taxes, sales taxes, and local taxes. All those things are important, but no one should expect a beer tax map to be a comprehensive look at all elements of a state's taxing system.

"When I read the PolitiFact critique of our map, it's clear to me that their author doesn't understand the difference between excise taxes and other taxes, or that our map looks at just one tax and is not a comprehensive look at the entire tax system of a state. Since PolitiFact doesn't actually question our numbers but instead questions why we didn't include other semi-related numbers, the "False" should really be "True But Not Comprehensive." They ought to correct their conclusion."

Apparently the "right" or even the "center-right" is not alone in questioning the ability of PolitiFact to sort-out the truth. There's also MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and Huffington Post as well as libertarians at the Cato Institue's blog, Cato@Liberty.

So caveat emptor!

UPDATE (3/21/12): John Nolte at Breitbart writes today that "PolitiFact yet to report two glaring falsehoods in Obama's reelection doc(umentary)."

March 16, 2012

CAGW Names March 2012 Porker

Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has named Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) as its March 2012 Porker of the Month “in recognition of the potfuls of taxpayer gold that have been squandered on subsidizing ill-advised green energy programs.”

CAGW explained giving the award to Sen. Stabenow this way:

“Sen. Stabenow was chosen for submitting amendment #1812 to S. 1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which would have extended federal subsidies for green energy, including alternative fueling stations, biofuels, refined coal, energy-efficient appliances, and wind power, among others. Many of the initiatives singled out for continued subsidies in Sen. Stabenow’s amendment, such as the Treasury Department’s 1603 grants, the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit, and the tax credit for Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling, were expanded or begun as part of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (stimulus).

“Fortunately, the amendment was defeated on March 13 when it garnered just 49 votes in its favor, 11 short of the 60 it required. Taxpayers need look no further than Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman’s reaction to the amendment’s failure to know that it was a win for their wallets; he claimed that lawmakers “missed an opportunity” by failing to extend the Cellulosic Biofuels Producer Tax Credit, which eases the way for America’s expensive ethanol program.

“Sen. Stabenow’s amendment exemplifies the public policy fallacy gripping the Obama administration and many lawmakers, which holds that the key to unlocking a green energy surge is simply more taxpayer money. But as Washington Post columnist Charles Lane put it in his March 5, 2012 column, “Advocates insist that the government should help them crank up mass production of electric vehicles. Once economies of scale kick in, they argue, electric vehicles can compete. Four decades after the 1973 oil crisis, this logic is wearing thin. Any company that figured out how to build a practical mass-market electric car would be swimming in cash. That no one has done so suggests we are bumping up against the limits of nature, not just politics or economics.”

“When the stimulus originally passed, one of the biggest concerns, beyond its exorbitant initial cost, was that supposedly temporary programs would become permanent and waste taxpayer dollars in perpetuity,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “Sen. Stabenow has demonstrated that those fears were not unfounded. The past six months have been marred by examples of the futility of picking winners in energy markets, which already have access to private capital. Failures at Solyndra, Ener1, Beacon, Tesla, Amonix, Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt, SunPower, and others make it obvious that the government has about as much chance of stumbling across a four-leaf clover as it does of being successful as a venture capitalist,” added Schatz. “Not only should these programs not be extended, they should be terminated.”

CAGW concludes its explanation saying that Sen. Stabenow attempted to “to compound the federal government’s costly foray into green energy investment, and doing her best to bury taxpayer greenbacks at the end of the rainbow.” A good choice by CAGW?

March 15, 2012

High Gas Prices While Nation Is ‘Awash in Oil’, Part I

John Merline started out his column in yesterday’s Investor’s Business Daily saying:

“When he was running for the Oval Office four years ago amid $4-a-gallon gasoline prices, then-Sen. Barack Obama dismissed the idea of expanded oil production as a way to relieve the pain at the pump.

"Even if you opened up every square inch of our land and our coasts to drilling," he said. "America still has only 3% of the world's oil reserves." Which meant, he said, that the U.S. couldn't affect global oil prices.

“It's the same rhetoric President Obama is using now, as gas prices hit $4 again, except now he puts the figure at 2%.

"With only 2% of the world's oil reserves, we can't just drill our way to lower gas prices," he said. "Not when we consume 20% of the world's oil."

“The claim makes it appear as though the U.S. is an oil-barren nation, perpetually dependent on foreign oil and high prices unless we can cut our own use and develop alternative energy sources like algae.”

However, Merline goes on to show the United States is “awash in oil. ”As the text for the chart below shows, “The U.S. oil ‘reserves’ President Obama talks about are just the very tip of the oil pyramid.” Links to the sources cited by Merline are embedded in his column.

Merline concludes with this:

"This is not a geological problem — it's a political problem," said Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research. "We've embargoed our own supplies."

Something to ask one of the Capitol Hill masterminds should you happen to get up a conversation.

UPDATE (3/17/12): Jazz Shaw at Michelle Malkin's Hot Air covers much the same territory, concluding with the important point that "most of these resources are roped off" drilling, thanks to environmentalists and the political and bureaucratic masterminds.

"The main problem is that most of these resources are roped off. Just knowing the oil is there comes as little comfort if there are never going to be any leases issued by the government for energy companies to explore. And our ability to access the shale oil – while technically well withing our capability today – will be significantly hamstrung as long as activists continue to fight fracking and horizontal drilling.

"But before we get too carried away, it’s still worth noting that one part of Obama’s claims is actually true. Even if we opened the floodgates and were able to jack up our domestic production by 20% overnight, it wouldn’t do much to move the needle on gas and oil prices in general. That’s because, as we’ve noted before, the idea of “energy independence” is something of a misnomer. Energy is traded on a global market, not compartmentalized by nation. When we produce more than we need, the rest is immediately sold as exports with few exceptions. When we don’t produce as much, we import more. It’s just the way the free market works."

March 14, 2012

Cost of Defending Fannie and Freddie's Executives

Judicial Watch's blog, Corruption Chronicles, on February 24, 2012 writes about the cost of defending the executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the so-called government-sponsored enterprises, saying that "if it weren’t atrocious enough that U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for the monumental bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they’re also getting squeezed for tens of millions more to cover the legal costs of the corrupt executives who drove the government-run mortgage giants to the ground."

The blog continues its reporting by saying:

"So far the legal tab has run north of $200 million and it will only keep growing, according to the government agency (Federal Housing Finance Agency—FHFA) that oversees Fannie and Freddie. In a report released this week, the FHFA’s inspector general reveals that the unscrupulous officers responsible for Fannie and Freddie’s collapse have mounting legal bills and taxpayers will continue picking up the exorbitant tab.
"They are charged with a variety of crimes, including securities and accounting fraud, and the cases are expected to drag on right along with their already-bloated defense funds. In fact, the inspector general suggests the government only work to “limit” (not stop) legal expenses “to the extent possible and reasonable.” Another brilliant suggestion from the FHFA’s watchdog, which supposedly is looking out for taxpayers, is to “control costs of legal expenses.”

"It’s like there’s no end to the Freddie and Fannie madness. Political corruption of epic proportions is at the heart of the scandal. The lenders collapsed because those who operated them played fast and loose with accounting, risk assessment and executive compensation issues while Congress looked the other way and protected them from much-needed regulation. For years Freddie and Fannie backed risky mortgages and implemented a policy of lending to high-risk individuals with poor credit."

They close by noting that " members of Congress have received nearly $5 million in political contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the last decade, according to a reputable nonprofit that tracks money in U.S. politics. Among the top recipients of Fannie and Freddie’s political largess: Former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, then-Illinois Senator Obama, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, former Utah Senator Bob Bennett and Alabama Congressman Spencer Bachus."

In a news report on March 1, Fox Business calls Fannie and Freddie a "Shangri-La for Lawyers."

Additional references: Fox Business, February 23, 2012, Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2012, and the Washington Post, February 22, 2012.

March 13, 2012

An Overregulated Naton?

The complaint is often heard from the business community that regulations by the Obama administration are holding back the economy. In today’s Washington Examiner, columnist Paul Bedard cites an analysis by the Heritage Foundation (Backgrounder #2663. March 13, 2012), and adds:

“The analysis backs up complaints from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups that the president’s regulations are stalling the economy and employment growth. It also calls into question Obama’s promise to put the brakes on new regulations and his State of the Union bragging about issuing less red tape than Bush.”

Bedard explains it this way:

“Some 10,215 new federal regulations from the Obama administration are costing consumers, businesses and the economy overall $46 billion annually, more than five times the regulatory price tag of former President Bush in his first three years in office. Worse: just implementing those regulations had a one-time additional cost of $11 billion, according to a Heritage Foundation analysis provided to Washington Secrets.

“Ironically, Bush instituted more regulations, 10,674, but they cost just $8.1 billion annually . . . .”

Bedard includes the following chart that is from the Heritage analysis:

Sure is something to think about the next time that jobs are discussed, and the media asks how to lower the unemployment rate. Let the government release its boot from business' neck!

March 12, 2012

Thought for Today

"You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done."

~ Ronald Reagan

HT The Quotations Page

March 11, 2012

Economics and Arlington County’s "Living Wage"

The Arlington County Board approved increasing the parking rates for the Ballston Public Parking Garage effective May 1 at its February 11, 2012 meeting (agenda item 28). In the run-up to the meeting, Scott McCaffrey wrote in an Arlington Sun Gazette article that the county’s “living wage” policy, imposed by the County Board in 2003, was “impacting (the) bottom line at the Ballston Garage.”

In the County Manager’s report to the Board, she included a detailed background and discussion about garage operations. The following paragraph includes the discussion of the so-called living wage:

“Operations of the BPPG are contracted to a private company. The County Board’s living wage policy, adopted in 2003, applies to the staff employed by the contractor who work at the garage. The established hourly rate exceeds the union rate for all non-management employees at the garage. Personnel costs make up just over half of the annual operating expenses of the garage. In addition to direct employee costs, security and cleaning subcontractors are also paid living wage. Recent installation of credit card machines at the exit gates have helped trim personnel costs and allowed expansion of scheduled hours for weekend and evening peaks. Capital purchase of new payment equipment will further help manage those costs.”

Returning to the Sun Gazette article, Mr. McCaffrey wrote:

“The county government’s desire to be what it considers socially responsible is coming into conflict with economic reality.

“Those who may pay the price: Employees who collect payments from motorists at the Ballston Public Parking Garage.

“The good news for those workers: They currently earn significantly more than employees – even those represented by unions – at similar facilities across the region. The bad news: Those extra costs are beginning to add up for the county government, which seems likely to replace the workers with technology.

“The Arlington government owns the eight-story garage adjacent to Ballston Common Mall, but delegates day-to-day operations to a private firm. That firm falls under the government’s “living wage” requirements, established nearly a decade ago by the County Board.

“The living-wage ordinance requires that contractors pay at least $12.75 per hour to their workers, no matter the job involved. That’s higher than wages at other garages in the local area, county staff found when researching the issue.

“The $12.75-per-hour rate under Arlington’s living-wage ordinance hasn’t been increased in several years, but County Manager Barbara Donnellan has asked County Board members to raise it for fiscal 2013.”

In the article, ACTA president, Tim Wise, said, “Arlington’s so-called living wage is essentially the minimum wage on steroids.” The Employment Policies Institute lists studies and other information about the "living wage." If you don't think it's social engineering, do a little reading!

McCaffrey has a later article, which notes the Manager’s plans to increase the county’s living wage by 3%. In a letter to the Sun Gazette editor, an Arlington reader complains that the “focus of the story” is “the article seems geared toward drumming up outrage that the attendants are making $12.75 an hour, amusingly called a ‘living wage.’” The writer then wonders whether “the County Board can provide outplacement services for the garage attendants soon, or find them county positions.”

Which brings us to the present. In response to Board member Chris Zimmerman, the Personnel Department (aka Human Resources) staff provided the Board with a table that compares the county’s living wage history from 2004 to FY2013. It also compares Arlington’s rate to Alexandria’s, Fairfax’s, and the Federal minimum wage.

Take a look at the chart, and tell me the “living wage” isn’t the “minimum wage on steroids.” Just more social engineering by the utopian masterminds. The Board masterminds are in good company, however. Their liberal cohorts in Charlottesville are being pushed -- in both City Hall and the University of Virginia -- to raise their minimum "living wage" rates to $13 an hour, according to the Charlottesville Daily Progress last week. Sheesh! Is social engineering is rampant across Virginia?

March 10, 2012

When a Plain Fence Is just not Good Enough

Originally scheduled as part of today’s “consent agenda,” the Arlington County Board is now scheduled to approve $350,000 for “approximately 1,600 linear feet of fence” for the Water Pollution Control Plan on Tuesday evening, March 13 (Agenda item 23 on the Board’s agenda).

Why the high price? Here’s how the Arlington Sun Gazette’s Scott McCaffrey explains it today:

“Sometimes a fence is just a fence. And sometimes it’s a “compelling, innovative design enhancement.”

“Guess which type costs $350,000?”

McCaffrey continues his reporting saying:

“County Board members on Saturday are expected to approve a contract for up to that amount for a 1,600-foot fence adjacent to the county government’s Water Pollution Control Plant. Artist Teja Remy has been slated to receive the contract.

“County officials say the fence is designed to serve as a “unifying element”  in the South Glebe Road area, to allow those passing by to “reflect [on] the function of the plant,” create a learning environment and raise awareness of the Four Mile Run watershed.

“The project “redefines the traditional purpose of a fence,” county staff said.

“Funding for the project is part of the $568 million budget for the upgrade of the water-treatment plant, a project that is nearing completion. Dating to 1933, the facility is being expanded to handle 40 millions of gallons of wastewater per day and meet federal and state environmental requirements.”

The awarding of this vanity project by the Arlington County Board was scheduled for the “consent agenda” today, but was “pulled” from it so that one or more persons, including those who had not planned to testify, could testify about it. A ‘no’ vote by the Board’s masterminds doesn’t require an austerity mindset. Rather. it requires some plain common-sense during a period when the nation is going through fiscal hardships.

Afterall, Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index for March 6 "remains negative" although it “now roughly matches the highest monthly levels seen in the past four years.” Makes you wonder just how the Board would govern in the country of Greece, let alone Detroit or Cleveland. See you in Room 307 at Courthouse Plaza on Tuesday evening?

March 09, 2012

Today's Thought

“The power which a multiple millionaire, who may be my neighbor and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest functionaire possesses who wields the coercive power of the state, and on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am to be allowed to live or to work.”

~ Friedrich A. Hayek

HT Independent Institute's OnPower.org

March 08, 2012

Staff Finds "New Money" for Arlington County Board

The Arlington County Manager released her "mid-year review" of the Fiscal Year 2012 budget (requires Adobe) earlier this week. Lo and behold, there's another $12.5 million to spend although 46.1%, or $6.2 million, will be transferred to the Arlington Public Schools.

The $12.5 million comes from $13.5 in higher tax revenues, $2.5 million in lower non-tax revenues, and $1.5 in debt service savings for a net $12.5 million available funds. Revenue increases include $8.0 million in real estate taxes, $4.0 million in personal property taxes, and $2.0 million in meals taxes.

Here's what the Manager told the Board about expenditures:

"Most County departments are projected to spend at or below their FY 2012 authorized levels. Several departments are experiencing specific expenditure pressures due to employee leave payouts for retiring employees, and overtime costs.  The County Board set aside funding in the FY 2011 close-out for the anticipated terminal leave costs of an unusually high number of employees leaving the organization prior to the reduction in the maximum retiree health care benefit.  This change in benefits was made in FY 2009 for new employees, but existing employees were not affected by the change unless they retired after mid-January 2012.  Monies set-aside from FY 2011 close-out were budgeted in Non-Departmental and were not allocated to
departments because it was unknown at the time what the specific unbudgeted terminal leave costs would be for each department.

"Overtime costs continue to be an issue in Public Safety.  With reduced staffing in the Sheriff’s Office and higher turnover due to staff retirements in Police and Fire, overtime costs are exceeding budget.  Most of the overtime costs are offset by salary savings in the vacant positions but the Sheriff’s Office is projected to be over budget at the end of the fiscal year primarily due to unavoidable overtime due to minimum staffing requirements in the detention facility.

"The Department of Human Services is projected to exceed their budget due primarily to the anticipated costs in the Housing Grant program.  It is projected that Housing Grants will exceed the budget by over $1.0 million.  This is due to an increase in the number of grant recipients and an increase in the average cost of a grant due to higher rental rates.

"Limited savings are identified at this time in non-departmental accounts.  Debt service savings of $1.5 million are projected based on refinancing completed over the last year.  In addition, there is approximately $1.0 million set aside in the Budget Stabilization contingent to address unforeseen revenue or expenditure pressures.

"Expense Transfers - The Arlington County Schools would receive an additional $6.2 million due to the increase in local tax revenue.  This transfer is in addition to the FY 2012 adopted School transfer of $385.6 million and $16.4 million in one-time funds transferred to Schools resulting from FY 2011 close-out.  With increased recordation taxes projected, the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) would receive an additional $0.2 million in FY 2012."

Instead of returning the "newfound money" to it's rightful owners -- the taxpayers, the five masterminds on the Board will have more money to spend on vanity or other questionable projects. Sheesh!

March 07, 2012

Kudos to Voters in Wichita, Kansas

An editorial in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal said: “Local politicians like to get in bed with local business, and taxpayers are usually the losers. So three cheers for a voter revolt in Wichita, Kansas last week that shows such sweetheart deals can be defeated.” The newspaper explained it this way:

“In late 2011 the Wichita city council passed (six votes to one) a bill exempting the new Ambassador Hotel, owned by real-estate developers, from 75% of the city hotel tax, on top of at least $10 million in other subsidies. The measure was sold in the name of jobs and urban redevelopment, and the local power brokers were all for it: the Chamber of Commerce, the political class, the city newspaper. All the skids were greased and, truth be told, hotel taxes are too high in Wichita, while the money at stake, $2.25 million over 15 years, was small.

“But voters were so enraged by the insider dealing that they launched a petition drive for a voter referendum. Despite hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by hotel advocates, almost 10 times more than opponents spent, voters routed the subsidy 61% to 39%.

“The elites are stunned, but they shouldn't be. The core issue is fairness—and not of the soak-the-rich kind that President Obama practices . . . .”

Rather than ‘political cronyism,’ the editorial says voters want "fairness—and not of the soak-the-rich kind that President Obama practices.” Consequently, according to the editorial, it’s “why Americans hate the Obama Administration's Solyndra handouts, or rebel when city hall abuses eminent domain to bully people out of their homes for a big business the way New London, Connecticut did in the Kelo case for Pfizer Corp.”

So once again, kudos to the voters of Wichita, Kansas.

March 06, 2012

Energy is the Economic Lifeblood of America

“Our society, our culture — the greatness of America — goes hand-in-hand with energy, and our leaders need to wake up,” Santelli said. “We need energy, OK? And if they want to turn into a third-world country where there is absolutely no pollution whatsoever. And I think we need to be good to the planet, but we need to be more honest — do we want to be a superpower that uses energy and tries to do it wisely, or do we want to put our head in the sand and think that these technologies that are noble, that I have been talking about since I was in grammar school debating solar and geothermal. They’re not ready, and I think it’s just a disservice to my kids that they’re going to make energy usage such a penalty-type scenario, where we all know if you want to put GDP up, energy usage is going to go right along with it." (via Daily Caller)

~ Rick Santelli

HT Real Clear Politics

March 05, 2012

Your Share of the National Debt

Yesterday, we growled that on a per capita basis, Americans debt load of just under $45,000 is larger even than that of Greece.

According to the chart below, which comes from the U.S. Senate Budget Committee (GOP/minority) shows Americans lifetime share of the national debt by one of four age groups, which are:

  • Baby Boomers -- $157,000
  • College Students -- $681,000
  • High School Students -- $870,000
  • Children Born Today -- $1,532,000

(The information above was obtained from a chart at the research/charts webpage.)

What a legacy to leave for the children born today?

March 04, 2012

Broker than Greece?

With a HT to John Hinderaker at Power, we learn "the United States is already, by at least one basic measure, broker than Greece. " Citing the chart below from the U.S. Senate Budget Committee (GOP/minority), Hinderaker points out the chart "shows how much citizens of various countries owe, on a per capita basis, in national government debt. The average American owes more than the average Greek (or anyone else)."


Hinderaker closes with the following question:

"The American ship of state is beginning to resemble the Costa Concordia as it approached the rocks off Giglio Island. One question that will someday be answered by history is: which ship had the more irresponsible captain at the helm?"


March 03, 2012

Andrew Breitbart, RIP (1969-2012)


Larry Solov, president of Breitbart.com, LLC., wrote the following in a memorial that is posted at Big Government, one of three websites made famous by Andrew Breitbart:

“With a terrible feeling of pain and loss we announce the passing of Andrew Breitbart.

“Andrew passed away unexpectedly from natural causes shortly after midnight this morning in Los Angeles.

“We have lost a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a dear friend, a patriot and a happy warrior.

“Andrew lived boldly, so that we more timid souls would dare to live freely and fully, and fight for the fragile liberty he showed us how to love.”

Other tributes to Andrew Breitbart posted at Big Government included:

  • Kyle Olson wrote: “Like millions of others, we were inspired by Breitbart’s passion and courage.”
  • James Simpson wrote that Andrew Breitbart was a “conservative lion,” adding that Breitbart's speech at CPAC "captures the spirit and dedication of the man we knew."
  • Frank Salvato said Andrew Breitbart was “a true son of liberty,” and included the cover of Brieitbart’s book, “Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World.”

At the Weekly Standard, Matt Labash includes this about Breitbart:

“But at heart, he was in it for more than scoring points for “The Movement” as he unironically called it.  As anyone who has seen his recent CPAC speech knows, Breitbart had the brains, the talent, and the animal charisma to get people to set cars on fire for him, or to run off with him to the desert where he might start his own anti-Obama doomsday cult. But while he believed in what he espoused, perhaps a little too much, he was also in it for other reasons – for action, and for amusement. He didn’t just hit scandal head-on. He enjoyed coming at it slyly. He gloried in the art of presentation. A few years back, when getting drinks with Andrew, his wife, and Fox News host Greg Gutfeld at a Washington, D.C. hotel, Breitbart showed me his Twitter mug shot.”


  • Jennifer Harper wrote that Mr. Breitbart "helped reshape the media landscape with tenacious and original political style" at the Washington Times; her story includes a link to related topics.
  • At Pajamas Media, Ed Driscoll wrote that Breitbart's mission "was to say to the MSM, you don’t get the final word anymore."
  • American Spectator has at least two memorials, one by Emmett Tyrrell who wrote: "Andrew Breitbart will be missed enormously by the conservatives and by anyone who enjoys a laugh at the expense of a pompous ass. Some of us will marvel: how much more merry mayhem might he have achieved if he had lived" and the other by Robert Stacy McCain who wrote, "Breitbart was a powerful voice, who always sought to empower others and encourage them to join his fight against the forces of the Left, which he saw as attempting to destroy the America he loved."
  • At the American Thinker, Lauri Regan writes about Breitbart and liberal America saying that his "passing has caused me to once again wonder how in the world it is that this country continues to produce liberal individuals who exhibit no moral grounding and who believe that the government, public-sector unions, and entitlement programs should grow exponentially while American citizens should quietly watch from the sidelines, waiting for the next dictate telling them how much money they can make, what food they can ingest, and what cars they can drive."
  • A Washington Examiner editorial says that America has lost "our Samuel Adams" while columnist Star Parker says that "Breitbart famously used his media talent, particularly his facility with new media and new journalism, to fight the agenda of the Left."
  • And at National Review Online, there are columns by Jonah Goldberg, Michael Walsh, Kathryn Jean Lopez, and John Sullivan.
  • Finally, radio talk-show host Mark Levin's comments at about Andrew Breitbart at Big Government.

UPDATE (3/4/12 A.M.). Bill Whittle "remembers Andrew Breitbart" in a great video (5 min 58 seconds) posted at Instapundit; well-worth watching.

UPDATE (3/4/12 P.M.). Byron York writes at Washington Examiner that "Breitbart knew culture is key."

March 02, 2012

Educating the Treasury Secretary

Lawrence Lindsey, former Federal Reserve governor and assistant to President George W. Bush for economic policy uses the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal earlier this week to explain to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner “that the ‘most fortunate Americans’ should pay more in taxes for the ‘privilege of being an American.’"

Lindsey explains that Geithner’s “position has three problems: one philosophical, one empirical, and one logical.” He explains the philosophical problem this way:

“Philosophically, the concept that being an American is a "privilege" upends the whole basis on which America was founded. Privileges are things granted to one individual by another, higher-ranking, individual. For example, in my house my children's use of the family car is a privilege. One presumes Mr. Geithner believes that the "privilege" of being an American is granted by the presumably higher-ranking, governing powers that be.

“This is an age-old view that our Founding Fathers rejected. First, they argued that the basic rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (i.e., economic liberty) were natural rights, endowed by our Creator, not by government. Second, the governing powers do not out-rank the citizens. Rather it is the citizens who grant government officials their "just powers." As Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, governments are instituted among men based on their consent in order to secure the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The notion that a governing authority grants privileges to those it governs directly contradicts Jefferson's declaration.”

In as much as we often Growl about how much people pay in income taxes, e.g. on August 4, 2011 and November 1, 2011, it was interesting to see see some of the “empirical” evidence presented by Lindsey. For example:

“ . . . According to the Census Bureau, the share of income received by the top 5% of American households is now 21.5%, up from 21.4% in the 1990s. Their share of income taxes has risen to 59% under President Obama from 52% under President Clinton. This despite the fact that the top tax rate was five points higher in the Clinton years.

“If you go further back to the pre-Reagan days, when the top tax rate was 70%, the story becomes even more dramatic. Under the four presidents of that era, the income share of the top 5% was 16.8% and their share of the income tax was 36%. In other words, the share of income received by the top 5% has risen 28% and their share of income taxes has risen 64%.

“Stated differently, based on the data provided by the Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service, the relative tax burden of the top 5% of American earners compared with the remaining 95% has grown from roughly three-to-one prior to 1980 to almost six-to-one today.”

Congratulations to Lawrence Lindsey for writing this outstanding op-ed, and to the Wall Street Journal for publishing it. But Lindsey saves the best for last, closing with:

“Still, the real problem with this whole privilege argument goes back to what the Founding Fathers were thinking. Being an American is a right, not a privilege. The privilege belongs to those who are temporarily allowed to serve this great nation in a decision-making capacity. When they turn this privilege into a right to distribute government largess in ever larger quantities—and in ways, to use Jefferson's phrase, a "wise and frugal government" would not—it is those in government, and not the governed, who bear the responsibility for our budgetary problems.”

The big question, however, is whether Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, not to mention other liberals and/or progressives in this administration, learns from it.

March 01, 2012

Voters Prefer Lower Individual, Business Tax Rates

A new poll by The Hill newspaper this week reports, “Three-quarters of likely voters believe the nation’s top earners should pay lower, not higher, tax rates.” The Capitol Hill newspaper continues:

“The big majority opted for a lower tax bill when asked to choose specific rates; precisely 75 percent said the right level for top earners was 30 percent or below.

“The current rate for top earners is 35 percent. Only 4 percent thought it was appropriate to take 40 percent, which is approximately the level that President Obama is seeking from January 2013 onward.

“The Hill Poll also found that 73 percent of likely voters believe corporations should pay a lower rate than the current 35 percent, as both the White House and Republicans push plans to lower rates.

“The new data seem to run counter to several polls that have found support for raising taxes on high-income earners. In an Associated Press-GfK poll released Friday, 65 percent said they favored President Obama’s “Buffett Rule” that millionaires should pay at least 30 percent of their income. And a Pew poll conducted in June found 66 percent of adults favored raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 as a way to tackle the deficit.”

That is sure worth considering as the upcoming presidential campaign will talk a lot about ‘taxing the rich’ as column Froma Harrop writes today at RealClearPolitics:

“We who've been going on and on about the need to raise taxes on the rich need to catch our breath. There's no need to reverse course, but also no obligation to totally love President Obama's approach for doing what we've been asking for. An explanation is in order.

“One may brush off the usual charges of "class warfare" that follow any proposal to hike taxes on the affluent. But President Obama does not improve the atmospherics by constantly telling the public, "This is about them, not about you."

When will liberals and progressives begin listening to what voters want rather than yapping about unmet needs and being a 'caring community.'