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March 31, 2013

More on Your Income (make that declining income?)

Yesterday, I growled about Thursday evening's Arlington County Board's tax rate hearing, noting that activist Bob Atkins zinged the Board by saying, "Federal taxes are going up, state taxes are going up, real estate taxes are going up . . . Everything is going up except the earnings of the average resident of Arlington.” He may not have realized just how prescient those words really were.

Well, today, at the online Arlington Sun Gazette, Scott McCaffrey wrote that "average weekly wages take tumble across area," beginning the story saying:

"While remaining among the highest nationally, the average weekly wages of those working in Arlington have taken a tumble, according to new federal figures.

"The average weekly wage for those with jobs in the county, no matter where they might live, dropped 3.7 percent from the third quarter of 2011 to the same period in 2012, based on figures reported March 29 by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. That ranked Arlington 304th among the nation’s 328 largest counties by percentage change.

"The news wasn’t much better for those who live in Arlington but work elsewhere in the region: Average wages also declined for those working in the District of Columbia and the other major jurisdictions across the metropolitan area.

"The average weekly wage stood at $1,488 for Arlington workers in the third quarter, and despite the decline from a year before, was still high enough to rank the county fifth among the nation’s biggest counties . . . ."

The most recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data (2010) also suggests the Arlington County Board should pay more attention to Bob Atkins' advice. For example, Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) data maintained by Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse, located at Syracuse University, shows the following AGI's for 2009 and 2010 for the following Northern Virginia jurisdictions:

  • Falls Church City -- $114,596 (2009); $113,728 (2010)
  • Loudoun County -- $102,800 (20090;  $101,828 (2010);
  • Fairfax County -- $98,695 (2009); $96,718 (2010);
  • Arlington County -- $90,492 (2009); $89,138 (2010);
  • Alexandria City -- $83,238 (2009); $81,918 (2010)
  • Prince William County -- $73,492 (2009); $73,574 (2010)

After the Arlington County Board's budget hearing on March 26, 2013, I growled that the County Board had plundered more than $120 million from Arlington taxpayers over the past 10 years because the five Board masterminds were unable to limit their greed, i.e., limiting county spending to inflation and population increases. Now it seems that if the County Board raises the real estate tax rate beyond the 3.2 cents recommended in the Manager's FY 2014 proposed budget, and we aren't necessarily in favor of that, the Board masterminds would, once again, be demonstrating their greed, and showing that they are controlled by the affordable housing special interest groups.

March 30, 2013

The Arlington County Board and Your Annual Income

In yesterday’s Growls about the Arlington County Board’s Thursday tax rate hearing, I included this paragraph from the Sun Gazette’s story:

“Federal taxes are going up, state taxes are going up, real estate taxes are going up,” Atkins said. “Everything is going up except the earnings of the average resident of Arlington.”

What about the annual earnings of Arlington’s residents, however? Well, we don’t have any information on that, but James Pethokoukis blogged earlier this week at the American Enterprise Institute’s AEIdeas that “US median annual income falls 1.1% in February, down 6% since the start of the recovery.” He cited the following two paragraphs from the New York Times’ blog, Economix:

  • “Median annual household income in February 2013 was $51,404, about 1.1 percent (or $590) lower than the January 2013 level of $51,994. The numbers are all pretax, and are adjusted for both inflation and seasonal changes.”
  • “February’s median annual household income was 5.6 percent lower than it was in June 2009, the month the recovery technically began; 7.3 percent lower than in December 2007, when the most recent recession officially started; and 8.4 percent lower than in January 2000, the earliest date that this statistical series became available.”

The New York Times' reporter added a link to an article by their reporter David Leonhardt, which provided "some possible theories" of why "incomes (are) stagnating, even falling?" The article requires a Times subscription, but is dated August 20, 2012.

The following chart is from Pethokoukis' blog post:

Here is the link link to the Sentier Research's source report cited in the Economix story and in Pethokoukis' chart above,

Bob Atkins' advice that the Board follow the Manager's recommendation, and approve no more than a 3.2 cents increase in the real estate tax rate seems more than sound. Else, as Atkins said, the Board should "get a visa on their passport so they can visit economic reality."

March 29, 2013

Budget Battles and Economic Reality

At the online Arlington Sun Gazette, there's reporting from yesterday evening's tax rate hearing (we previously growled about Tuesday's budget hearing here) with the following lede:

"Budget hawks urged restraint, while housing and social-services advocates pressed County Board members on March 28 to enact as high a real estate tax rate as legally permissible.

"The setting was the (Arlington County Board’s) annual hearing on proposed taxes and fees, a generally less crowded forum than the budget public hearing traditionally held two days prior."

For example, the Board was told they could "give back to the community with a tax increase this year" by one of the "affordable housing" special interests. The Sun Gazette's report was balanced with the following, however:

"On the other end of the spectrum was Tim Wise, president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, who said government spending had gotten so out of control over the past decade that no increase in the tax rate was warranted for fiscal 2014.

"Wise praised County Manager Barbara Donnellan for following the County Board’s directive in closing a budget gap through a 50-50 combination of budget cuts and tax increases.

"Donnellan’s budget proposal calls for an increase of 3.2 cents per $100 in the tax rate. “But nooooooo, that wasn’t good enough” for the County Board, Wise said.

"Increasing the tax rate to $1.021 per $100 would push a typical homeowner’s local-tax burden past $7,000 this year, which Wise suggested could be a crushing blow to many residents already facing another year of economic uncertainty.

“There’s a lot of people who aren’t suffering, but a lot who are,” he said."

It was hard to out do Bob Atkins, however. According to the Sun Gazette:

"Somewhere in the middle was vocal local activist Robert Atkins, who said the County Board should follow Donnellan’s recommendation and hold the rate increase to 3.2 cents. He suggested each board member “get a visa on your passport, so you can visit economic reality.”

“Federal taxes are going up, state taxes are going up, real estate taxes are going up,” Atkins said. “Everything is going up except the earnings of the average resident of Arlington.”

And if you think the tax-and-spend Arlington County Board can't waste any more of your hard-earned tax dollars, then you haven't heard about their $1 million bus stops, called Super Stops, they have started building on Columbia Pike. Fortunately, they've got the attention of both the Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan this past Monday, and this  particularly devastating report from CBS News. So devastating in fact that the Arlington County Board released this press release today saying they are "reassessing Super Stop design." So devastating that one consultant in the CBS New report said the Super Stops are "super soakers" because taxpayers were "getting hosed." And CBS' Chip Reid, who reported the story for CBS referred to the benches as "fancy schmancy." Here's Sullivan's report posted this afternoon that  Arlington has "temporarily halted bus stop construction.

If you're wondering what a $1 million Super Stop looks like, here's a picture (see link in previous paragraph), courtesy of the press release announcing that Arlington County is reassessing the Super Stops.

March 28, 2013

Arlington County Board's Math Still Faulty

Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun Gazette reported on yesterday evening's Columbia Pike streetcar forum, which the Arlington County Board scheduled undoubtedly hoping to bring an end to opposition to the Columbia Pike streetcar. The short take, according to McCaffrey: "opinions are plentiful, but County Board math remains the same." His reporting includes this:

"Diverse voices were raised, but by the end of the night, no County Board minds had been swayed following a March 27 town-hall meeting focusing on the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar project.

“For me to change my decision is a pretty high bar,” County Board Vice Chairman Jay Fisette said after sitting through the two-hour forum, which drew a crowd of 400 to Kenmore Middle School.

"Fisette and board colleagues Chris Zimmerman, Mary Hynes and chairman Walter Tejada left the meeting just as committed to a streetcar plan for Columbia Pike as when they came in, leaving only board member Libby Garvey in opposition.

"The meeting drew a nearly equal mix of streetcar proponents and critics, in what for the most part was a civil discussion on probably the biggest hot-button county issue since the proposed Potomac Yard baseball stadium was fought out a decade ago.

"Supporters of the streetcar, who merely need to run down the clock in coming months as the project moves through procedural steps . . . . satisfaction while sitting through the meeting."

< . . . >

"Garvey didn’t pick up the support of her colleagues, but she said the forum may have given the public more to think about.

“This is absolutely the right discussion to have,” said Garvey, who supports a cheaper bus-rapid-transit alternative for the Columbia Pike corridor. “I hope I’ve planted the seeds of doubt [about the streetcar].”
Yet unless a public bond referendum on the issue is required – at this point, a slim possibility exists it might be – County Board members have the final say. Their timetable calls for the streetcar to be clanging down the corridor in 2016 or 2017.

"The arguments on each side on March 27 essentially were the same as in the past . . . ."

McCaffrey added "(t)he debate has crossed traditional political lines: Republicans, Greens, the Tea Party and some Democrats are voicing opposition to the streetcar plan, with a mixture of business interests, transit and environmental groups, and other Democrats supporting it."

At the online Clarendon-Courthouse-Rosslyn Patch news site. Jason Spencer provides comprehensive coverage as well, and writes:

"Hundreds representing both sides showed up Wednesday night for what turned out to be a fairly heated town hall at Kenmore Middle School.

Four of the five Arlington County Board members explained the processes and decisions that have taken place over the last decade and have gotten the county to this point. To them, the discussion has been going on, scores of people have participated, and the streetcar remains the best long-term strategic investment to run along the Pike.

"To board member Libby Garvey, who opposes the streetcar and seems less concerned about any political consequences of her position as the fight draws on, now's the time to start the discussion about whether a bus rapid transit system is the better alternative. She contends it would be.

"Where we are now is deciding what vehicle to use," she said as the night closed. "I hope I planted some seeds of doubt in the minds of some of you."

< . . . >

"People chanted "Vote! Vote! Vote!" when one resident called for a referendum. A few boos followed when board member Mary Hynes said such a ballot measure would only be possible if bond money was paying for the streetcar project. It's not. Federal funds and Fairfax County dollars feed into the project, and Arlington is using money collected from a business tax that by law must be used to fund transportation.

"Garvey pointed out that money is fungible. Board Vice Chairman Jay Fisette told her it was not, that the law prescribed narrow ways in which certain funds had to be used. Fisette had to make the argument on two fronts, as those not familiar with the county's budgeting process try to make sense of how such an expensive project can move forward when spending cuts could take police officers from the streets and nurses out of schools.

"Elected officials supporting the streetcar looked notably frustrated whenever Garvey spoke, with Tejada several times angrily shaking his head.

In addition to a video that includes Libby Garvey, the only Board member who opposes the Columbia Pike streetcar, and Tim Wise, ACTA president, the Arlington Mercury's Jonathan Kim and Steve Thurston report on the forum, including:

"What they did not do, to the chagrin of the pro-Bus Rapid Transit people who made up the majority in the audience, was allow a pro-BRT presentation of the same length and type as the county's 30 minute presentation.

“We continue to be deeply concerned about the unwillingness of the County Board to fairly consider transit options for Columbia Pike, other than the fixed-rail streetcar. There is much evidence that rational and viable alternatives exist," wrote Peter Rousselot in a statement distributed after the meeting. Rousselot is the spokesperson for Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit (AST), a pro-BRT group.

"The pro-BRT side claims that a high-capacity bus line would have the same positive influence on economic growth--spurring developers to build along Columbia Pike--but would do it at about one-tenth of the $250 million cost of the streetcar."

Incidentally, Kim and Thurston report the townhall drew 500 people while the Sun Gazette's McCaffrey said there was "a nearly equal mix of streetcar proponents and ciritics." After John Antonelli, an audience member, asked all opponents to stand, my impression was that opponents represented perhaps 3/4 although another member of the audience suggested the opponents were closer to 2/3 of total audience.

At the online news site, ARL.now, there are two post of interest today. The first, labelled "Townhall Becomes Battle of Bus vs. Streetcar," (and includes a picture showing the large turnout) they provide a comprehensive report that now includes 173 viewer comments, including the following:

"Sitting at the end of the County Board table on stage was Libby Garvey, who garnered applause as she led the charge against the streetcar and in favor of an enhanced bus system. Garvey said she was concerned about the streetcar’s price tag ($250 million for the Columbia Pike line alone) and about disruptions to small business during construction.

“I believe Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) will get as much development as a streetcar, maybe even more,” Garvey said. “You can get the same benefit for a lot less money, which means that there’s a lot of money left over to actually help small businesses. My biggest concern is [the construction process]… no matter what we do, people will not be able to get to those small businesses, and they can’t survive.”

"Those points were countered by county staff, who that said studies have shown that fixed rail attracts more investment, that BRT without dedicated lanes (like it would be on the Pike) does not attract development,  and that the rail construction process will take place in small sections that will only take about a month to complete. Staff also said that a survey of Pike residents indicates that nearly 20 percent of respondents would ride a streetcar but not a bus.

"Garvey was skeptical, calling into question some of the studies done that supported the streetcar option over BRT.

“The statistics that are cited, it’s really fact of fiction,” she said."

In the second post of interest at ARL.now are the statements on the streetcar forum issued by the pro-streetcar group's Arlington Streetcar Now's president John Snyder and that of Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit's spokesman, Peter Rousellot.

Earlier this evening, the Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan updated her story on the streetcar forum, writing in part:

"A moderator struggled to keep control at Wednesday’s meeting as a crowd questioned and shouted down County Board and staff presentations. One person called for all opponents of the streetcar to stand, while another, incensed that the event was ending at 9 p.m. before all questions were asked, tried to shout down the board’s chairman, J. Walter Tejada.

“I spent my whole evening here and wasn’t able to tell the County Board what I thought,” said Josh Ruebner, a resident of the Columbia Pike area for 14 years. “This is simply a gentrification scheme to benefit developers.”

"The county staff and four of the five elected board members said a streetcar line is needed along Columbia Pike because it can carry about twice as many passengers as a bus can and, if population estimates are correct, 14,000 new apartments and condos will be built in the area in the next decade or two."

Two final points. If you're looking for a good resource to begin learning more about Arlington County's Columbia Pike streetcar initiative, the website of Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit is highly recommend. Second, if you're looking for a debate that should bring out more truth about the costs and benefits of the streetcar vs. BRT, I recommend the April 10 meeting of Arlington Committee of 100.

UPDATE (3/29/13) Here's an interesting few paragraphs from WTOP 103.5 FM's coverage, dated 3/28/13:

"There's a less expensive alternative (to streetcars) that's much more likely to leave some money in our budget to help with affordable housing," says Board Member Libby Garvey, which drew loud applause from the crowd during the town hall.

"The streetcar plan would be rolled out in two phases, covering Columbia Pike and Crystal City. The initial cost on the Columbia Pike system would be $249 million.

Garvey and members of the Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit back a bus-rapid transit option that would cost about $50 million.

"We continue to be deeply concerned about the unwillingness of the county board to fairly consider transit options for Columbia Pike, other than the fixed-rail streetcar. There is much evidence that rational and viable alternatives exist," says Peter Rousselot, spokesman for the Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit.

"Unfortunately, as the county board has done on other occasions, it used most of the Town Hall merely to restate the same claims in favor of the streetcar proposal without allowing a full discussion of other options." (emphasis added)

March 27, 2013

Will America Ever See Full Employment?

At CNS News yesterday, Terry Jeffrey reports, "America will never see full employment under (President) Obama," and sources the story to projections by the Congressional Budget Office.

According to Jeffrey, "(t)hat would make Obama the only American president during the post-World War II era who never presided over a year in which the U.S. economy offered full employment to the American people." He then goes on, and writes, in part:

"The CBO defines “full employment” to be when the national unemployment rate is at or below what it calls the “natural unemployment rate.”

"The natural unemployment rate, according to CBO, is the “rate of unemployment arising from all sources except fluctuations in aggregate demand. Those sources include frictional unemployment, which is associated with normal turnover of jobs, and structural unemployment, which includes unemployment caused by mismatches between the skills of available workers and the skills necessary to fill vacant positions and unemployment caused when wages exceed their market-clearing levels because of institutional factors, such as legal minimum wages, the presence of unions, social conventions, or wage-setting practices by employers that are intended to increase workers’ morale and effort.”

"In a blog entry published last week, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf said “we think it will take four more years to get back close to full employment.

"In fact, baseline data CBO released last month indicate that the “natural unemployment rate” will be 5.5 percent through the rest of Obama’s presidency and that actual unemployment will never drop below 6.0 percent in any quarter between now and the end of 2016." (emphases added)

Jeffrey's article has links to his many sources for this important story. By the way, a Google search produced virtually no mainstream news outlets that covered this significant news story. Kudos to CNS News' Terry Jeffrey for the story.

Wikipedia has a fairly well-developed entry about full employment. BusinessDictionary.com has a far simpler definition. Although full employment has not been discussed for many years, readers may find a story by Stephen Oliner, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, of interest. It was posted last July at Real Clear Politics.

March 26, 2013

ACTA President Speaks at County Board's Budget Hearing

At the Arlington County Board's budget hearing this evening, ACTA's president, Tim Wise, was speaker #85 during the two-minute time slots. His comments follow:

"Good evening, chairman and Board members. My name is Timothy Wise, and I am president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association.

"Let’s start with history. According to your most recent annual report, the CAFR, in 2003, you spent almost $714 million. Ten years later in 2012 you spent  almost $1.1 billion, an increase of almost 54%.

"However. if you had controlled your “tax and spend” habits by limiting your spending to inflation and population increase, you would have spent $976 million, or $120 million less over ten years. So where is the $120 million that you have plundered from Arlington County’s taxpayers?

"Last fall, you provided the Manager direction for preparing her FY2014 proposed budget. Following your direction, she ended-up recommending a real estate tax increase of 3.2 cents. But, apparently. the so-called affordable housing special interests got to you, and you advertised a five cent tax rate increase. My question, were you correct last fall when you gave your budget direction to the Manager, or are you correct now? Arlington County taxpayers deserve an answer.

"Finally, I see that your $1 million bus stops have gone viral (for more about these so-called "super stops," see this Washington Post story by Patricia Sullivan).  But apparently, Arlington residents haven’t yet learned that four of you want to spend $250 million for a streetcar that will perform virtually identical on Columbia Pike to a $53 million Bus Rapid Transit.  As a result, Marty, the zebra from Madagascar 3, has a message about the Columbia Pike streetcar (for more on Marty the Zebra, first see this You Tube video and then this one): Shake Marty.

Kudos to the speakers, including members of the Arlington County Tea Party, who turned-out to oppose the Columbia Pike Streetcar Initiative. As more than one speaker pointed out, the county is essentially headed over a fiscal cliff if it continues with this boondoggle. An excellent resource for what four of the five County Board masterminds are up to with the Columbia Pike streetcar initiative, visit Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, organized by a broad spectrum of Arlington citizens.

And make an effort to attend Wednesday evening's town hall meeting at Kenmore Middle School, 200 South Carlin Springs Road. The event begins at 6:30 PM with a welcome and overview by Arlington County Board chairman Walter Tejada at 7:00 PM. The Board has even hired a "facilitator" to handle the Q&A that is scheduled for 7:45 -- 8:55 PM. A detailed agenda is available here

March 25, 2013

That Plundering Arlington County Board

In Fiscal Year 2003, the Arlington County Board was responsible for total “general government expenditures” of $713,586,394. Ten years later that total increased by $383,181,958, or 53.7% to $1,096,768,352 in Fiscal Year 2012.

However, there was the issue of inflation, and Arlington’s population increased from 196,925 in 2003 to 216,004 in 2012. The total expenditures and population come from Arlington County’s Fiscal Year 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

So let’s see. On a per capita basis, Arlington County spent $3,623.64 per capita in 2003. Adjusted for inflation, using the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “inflation calculator,” that would be $4,521.55 in 2012 dollars. So adjusting the $713.6 million of total expenditures in 2003 for inflation and population would result in total expenditures in 2012 of $976,672,886.

But wait a minute. The Arlington County Board spent $1,096,768,352 in 2012, or just over $120 million more than the amount adjusted for inflation and population.

Now if you think that adjusting the County Board’s expenditures for inflation and population isn't appropriate, consider the Virginia General Assembly’s joint legislative audit and review commission, known as JLARC, has been reporting on state spending for 12 years, and include adjustments for those two factors (see study #432 at JLARC’s website).

Fiscal responsibility image from FotoSearch.

So now when you hear a Board member campaigning for reelection on a platform of fiscal responsibility, you’ll know the truth. And it sure seems like the Board should be cutting the real estate tax rate, and not increasing the tax rate even more than what’s already in the County Manager’s FY 2014 proposed budget. Yes, I know, this is Arlington County, so I won't be holding my breath.

March 24, 2013

Arlington County. Artisphere, and Financial Commitments

The Arlington Connection's Michael Lee Pope posted a story this past Wednesday, which says Arlington County will reconsider its financial commitment to the artsy crowd's Artisphere.

 We've growled previously about this drain on Arlington taxpayers -- including October 26, 2012; June 19, 2012; May 9, 2012; and, April 6, 2012. There was more growling in 2011. When we growled on October 26, we pointed out that each visitor to the Artisphere was subsidized $41.85.

Pope explains the background

We had some really overly optimistic projections,” said Annalisa Meyer, marketing director for Artisphere. “The initial business plan that said we were going to be sold out from day one, which doesn’t happen for any art center organization.” (emphasis added)

"That business plan was spiked, and another one was drawn up. Now county leaders are rexaminging their commitment to the operation.

“At some point in the very near future, it was felt that it could be self-sustaining and that the county could remove all financial support,” said Karen Vasquez, director of Cultural Affairs for Arlington County. “But that’s just not the case. Arts and cultural facilities across the country exist with the ssupport at the local, state or federal levels.”

"County taxpayers have kicked in about $2 million a year to help launch the art center. But now county leaders are moving forward with a new plan to remove about half of the regular funding and replace it with one-time money — a move toward withdrawing public money and letting the operation finance itself.

"As we are mid-way through our second full year of operations, I am assessing its performance and programming model,” wrote Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan in her budget proposal. “The combination of one-time and ongoing funds will allow us to pursue a variety of options as we consider the future of the Artisphere.”

Pope adds, "Last month, (County Manager Barbara) Donnellan proposed an operating budget that sets aside $900,000 in regular funding and $900,000 in one-time funding. That means that the museum may have to raise more of its own money after next year. County leaders say the long-term plans for the art center have always included a withdrawal of public money, and that the current budget squeeze sets the stage for the operation being able to maintain itself.

If the Board votes to increase the real estate tax rate above the 3.2 cents recommended in the County Manager's proposed FY 2014 budget, it's very likely more of your tax dollars will be used to make up for those "overly optimistic (financial) projections."

March 23, 2013

Getting Something for Nothing?

"Everything that America has been, everything we ever wish to be, is now threatened by the notion that you can have something for nothing."

~ Rand Paul, U.S. Senator (R-Kentucky)

HT His 2013 Speech at CPAC, Reported by CNS News

March 22, 2013

A 'Green Job' Depends on the Meaning of 'Is"

The folks at the liberal/leftist Media Matters for America (MMfA) were happy to report on their blog, "(a) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report released Tuesday finds that green jobs grew four times faster in 2011* than jobs in other sectors, continuing a trend of rapid growth in the U.S. But Fox News is still pushing the narrative that investing in clean energy is a 'boondoggle.'" MMfA then added:

"This is not a new trend: the Brookings Institution previously found that the clean economy added half a million jobs between 2003 and 2010, and that clean tech jobs grew "more than twice as fast as the rest of the economy" during that period.

"As the Los Angeles Times noted, the recent growth in green jobs "parallels a surge in public and private money" invested in clean energy in 2011."

But how much of that should the public really believe? In an editorial posted yesterday, Investor's Business Daily (IBD) said the BLS report was just "another phony 'green jobs' report." The IBD editorial  explained it this way:

"It is chock full of charts claiming millions of new "green" jobs being produced by President Obama's efforts to heal the planet and lower the rising seas. But if you have the eyes and the patience to actually examine it, it is full of lies, damned lies and government statistics.

"The BLS defines green jobs as those that produce goods or services "that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources," or jobs "in which workers' duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources."

"Its report claims that such jobs account for 2.6% of all jobs in the economy, for a total just north of 3.4 million jobs.

"But buried in Table 3, "Green Goods And Services," we find under "Utilities" and "Electric power generation" a total of just 522 jobs for "solar electric power generation" and 2,724 jobs for "wind electric power generation" for a total of 3,246 jobs.

"Under the heading "coal and petroleum products mfg." we find 3,278 jobs. So even in the BLS list of "green" jobs, coal and oil wins.

"So what about the "millions" of other "green" jobs claimed? The problem is in that definition.
The bureau includes clothing stores, television and radio broadcasters, and office furniture manufacturers among the country's green industries."

As David Kreutzer said at the Heritage Foundation's blog today, The Foundry, so-called green advocates wouldn't be "gushing" about the BLS report "if they actually read past the first page." He added:

"As we have noted (here, here, here, and here), the BLS definition of green jobs is so bizarre that the total counts are meaningless. (links in the original)

"For instance, according to the BLS, the septic-tank and portable-toilet servicing industry has nearly three times as many green jobs as are in the solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass power utilities combined. Not only that, but the lead appears to be widening. There has been some mucking around with the definitions, but compared to the total from last year’s report, the renewable utilities green job count rose by 1,129, while those in the septic-tank and related services industry grew by 1,599 jobs.

"The new study will also tell the careful reader (almost all the fun stuff is in Table 3) that not only are there more than three times as many green jobs in trash collecting as there are in scientific research and development services, but the increase in green trash collecting employment outpaced the green employment increase in the scientific R&D services by nearly 3,700 jobs." (emphasis added)

And at the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics further explains:

"America can boast only 500 green jobs in solar electric power generation, but 886,000 green jobs in government — many for passage of environmental laws, enforcement of environmental regulations, and administration of environmental programs, according to the new count of green jobs for 2011 released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this week."

She also noted that with the resignation of Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and with the budget sequester in place, "BLS is discontinuing the survey, saving $8 million."

So it seems there is not a whole lot of green in a "green job."

March 21, 2013

A Thought on the Compassion of the Left

"It is a myth that the left is more "compassionate" than the right and it is wrong for those who believe in the free enterprise system and who oppose more government spending on income transfer programs to surrender the moral high ground. Liberal solutions all too often disserve the people they are allegedly designed to help. Even if the liberals who set up these programs had their hearts in the right place, it doesn't make up for the harm they have done to the goal of achieving financial independence for the poor. Good intentions are not enough. We need positive results. And throwing money at a problem is not sufficient and in many cases it is counterproductive."

~ Stephen Moore, page 10, "Who's the Fairest of Them All?"

HT Barnes & Noble

March 20, 2013

March 2013's Porker of the Month

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) today "named Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) its March 2013 Porker of the Month for spearheading Senate Democrats’ excessively expensive fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget proposal, “Foundation for Growth: Restoring the Promise of American Opportunity.”  The budget is Senate Democrats’ first attempt to pass a budget in four years."

CAGW gave as its justification for naming Sen. Murray it's Porker of the Month for March:

"According to the Senate Budget Committee minority staff, Sen. Murray’s budget never balances, increases spending by 62 percent over 10 years, and includes $1.5 trillion in taxes.  Compared to FY 2013, it increases spending by $162 billion, increases revenue by $314 billion, and increases the deficit by $152 billion in FY 2014 alone.  The Murray budget document itself makes plain that federal outlays would grow from $3.7 trillion in FY 2014 to $5.7 trillion in FY 2023, an increase of 54 percent in current dollars.

"Even worse, Sen. Murray’s budget plan is largely devoid of spending cuts that even her own party finds palatable.  President Obama’s FY 2013 “Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings” report listed 210 recommendations that would save $24 billion in FY 2013 and $520 billion through FY 2022.  That list offers the opportunity to reach a bipartisan consensus on spending reductions by targeting programs and practices that are wasting billions of dollars annually, yet they are absent from the Senate’s long-awaited budget.

"The Senate Democrats’ budget is an abomination,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz.  “Sen. Murray’s budget represents more of what the big spenders have proposed for years, in which any spending levels below the status quo are unpalatable, and cuts of any size threaten to send the country back to the dark ages.

“Sen. Murray has described her budget as ‘a fair, responsible approach to tackling our debt and deficits,’ but even after 10 years, taxpayers would be left with a $566 million annual deficit and a growing national debt.  That approach will only enhance the government’s sprint toward insolvency.  Sen. Murray would do well to recognize that allowing federal spending to grow at a slightly slower rate is not threatening to American prosperity; it is necessary for our economic preservation.”

In summing-up its selection of Sen. Patty Murray, CAGW said, "For laying a dud of a budget at the feet of taxpayers, raising spending while boasting of cuts, and accelerating the country’s descent into bankruptcy, Sen. Patty Murray is CAGW’s March 2013 Porker of the Month."

Kudos to Citizens Against Government Waste and its members. Here is the contact information for Sen. Patty Murray:

  • By E-mail + Phone Number on Capitol Hill - (202) 224-2621

March 19, 2013

A Thought on Changing our Overspending Ways

"Before us today is a chance to improve the true welfare of our nation while changing our overspending ways. By reforming entitlements and the tax system instead of extracting more money with higher tax rates, the economy could be reoriented away from unearned transfers to earned wages. This would make the economy fairer and sounder. And in the process it could build a happier country for ourselves and our children."

~ Arthur C. Brooks

HT His Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal

March 18, 2013

Arlington County Board Approves Homeless Dormitory

At its meeting on Saturday, March 16, the Arlington County Board "approved a use permit that will allow the county government to move forward with an all-year homeless-services center" in the Courthouse area, reported the the Arlington Sun Gazette yesterday.

Specifically, the permit is "for a dormitory to be part of the Homeless Services Center, located at 2020 14th Street North (RPC #17-016-012 and 17-016-013)," according to the Manager's report to the Board (Agenda item 23 at the Board's March 16, 2013 meeting). The Office of Real Estate Assessments' records show the Board purchased the property on November 20, 2012 for $27,125,000, which was 41.2% above the 2012 assessed value (post-tax exempt status change) of $19,200,400.

The Sun Gazette reported:

"The homeless-services center will be located on two levels of a seven-story office building at 2020 14th St. North. The building, constructed in the mid-1960s, was purchased earlier this year by the county government, and will be used for county offices as well as the homeless center.

"The homeless center will include 50 beds, plus space for overflow, and will provide an array of services. It will be run by A-SPAN, and is expected to open in late 2014."

The Manager also told the Board in her report's "summary" section, "The dormitory use is not expected to have a significant adverse impact on the surrounding community," going on to identify four reasons. In addition, the Manager said "(t)here has been significant concern expressed by members of the community related to security." Consequently, the Manager said "a video monitor system is to be installed on the exterior of the building," and that "the County is willing to provide for, at least initially, a security guard at certain periods of the day." In the conclusion, the Manager wrote:

"Staff finds that the proposed use permit for a dormitory is appropriate in the subject location. The proposed use is not expected to have a significant adverse impact on the surrounding community. Community concerns that have been raised regarding the proposed use have been addressed by the proposed addition of the video monitoring to the exterior of the building, the security guard, providing a screen wall between the service alley for the subject site and the adjacent residential use to the rear, and by providing window treatments to ensure
privacy and security for both the clients of the shelter and the adjacent residential uses. The location of the proposed use is appropriate because it is well served by multiple modes of public transportation."

in her FY 2014 Proposed Budget (book page 18), the Manager said that "(o)perating costs associated with operations and maintenance of the recently acquired office building for the new homeless services center and County office space are estimated at $0.8 - $1.0 million annually" although she added that new programmatic costs are being developed that may add $0.4 - $0.5 million.

It must be nice to be a mastermind and think there are no limits to taxing and spending to meet those ephemeral unmet needs.

March 17, 2013

Climbing-up the Washington Lunacy Scale

in an op-ed published over the weekend on Investors' Business Daily's website, Ralph Reiland writes,"Just when you think it can't get any crazier, the Washington politicians go another step higher on the lunacy scale." According to Reiland:

"With the automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, cutting only 2 cents per dollar out of the bloated federal budget, a budget that's grown 71% faster than inflation over the past two decades, the federal scaremongers are rushing around putting padlocks on control towers at the nation's airports.

"We're supposed to think a measly 2 percent cut in spending, something most any business or household could handle if their spending was out of control and unsustainable, makes it impossible for the government to launch an aircraft carrier or operate control towers."

Here's what has upset Mr. Reiland:

"Just two days before the automatic federal spending cuts took effect, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced it had awarded a $50 million one-year contract for new uniforms for airport screeners, clothes that will manufactured partially in Mexico.

"Last November, the nation's 50,000 newly unionized airport screeners ratified their first collective bargaining agreement.

"The contract gives screeners the federal perk of having "more say in what they wear on the job," reported the Star-Ledger in Newark.

"Screeners not only have "more say" about what they wear and how they look but they also got the nation's increasingly financially stretched taxpayers to pick up the $50 million tab. For the 50,000 employees, that's $1,000 each for the new outfits, just for the first year.

"The lucky company that was awarded the $50 million contract is VF Imagewear, owner of Lee Brand and Wrangler Hero. Nice stuff, sort of the look of a fake Montana cowboy."

What is the TSA buying through the $50 million contract? According to Reiland:

"What taxpayers are buying for the screeners is listed on a TSA fact sheet to employees: "TSA will provide your initial uniform issue consisting of 3 long sleeve shirts, 3 short sleeve shirts, 2 pairs of trousers, 2 ties, and one belt, sweater, socks, and jacket."

"That's everything but shoes and underwear.

"To have the shoes be style-coordinated with the new outfits and able to help agents from falling as they chase jihadists around the airports, the employee-supplied shoes are federally mandated to be "black leather with non-slip soles."

"Also, instead of just having the screeners tell the government their shirt and trouser sizes, the TSA fact sheet says there will be special fittings: "You will be measured for your new uniforms at your first orientation session."

"If taxpayers are paying for these individual fittings, say at $30 each, that's another $1.5 million, unless VF Imagewear is picking up the tab.

"I checked Wrangler's website and I can't see how the government's cost could total $1,000 per employee, especially on a $50 million order with truckload deliveries.

"Buying just one item at a time on the website, not 50,000, Wrangler Hero cargo pants are $19.50, a Hero jacket is $19.99, Hero shirts are $10.99.

"Add the socks, one belt, one sweater and two ties to the price of the six shirts and the two pairs of trousers and I get a total bill of $186 per screener for the whole deal, $814 less than the $1,000 the taxpayers are paying."

But at those prices, they'll be manufactured in the United States, right? Wrong again! Even though the so-called American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. the 2009 "stimulus bill," requires they be manufactured in the United States, Reiland says, "The federal bureaucrats got around the Made-in-America manufacturing requirement by saying Mexico couldn't be excluded as a manufacturer because of the North American Free Trade Agreement."

Oh yes, leading the good life in Janet Napolitano's Department of Homeland Security.

March 16, 2013

A Great Speech at CPAC this Morning

When the Wall Street Journal heard Dr. Ben Carson speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in early February, they editorialized, "Ben Carson for President." (HT Hot Air, February 8, 2013 ). One conservative pundit, Cal Thomas, however, wrote that Dr. Carson "broke with a 61-year-old tradition and publicly disagreed with some of the president's policies." You can watch the speech here on You Tube.

Dr. Carson outdid himself, however, in his speech this morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). You can watch it here at C-SPAN.

In reporting on Dr. Carson's remarks this morning at C-SPAN, Fox News began by saying:

"Dr. Ben Carson -- who during his speech at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast criticized some of President Obama’s economic policies -- hinted Saturday that he might be interested in a 2016 presidential run.

"Speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference, Carson resumed his sharp critique of Washington and the rest of the United States, including his vision on how to fix the country’s problems.

< . . . >

"However, Carson has since become so popular among conservatives that his name is on the ballot for CPAC’s straw poll for a 2016 presidential candidate.

At Hot Air again, Jazz Shaw begins wring about Dr. Carson's CPAC remarks by saying:

"I just got done watching Dr. Ben Carson speak at CPAC and among many thoughts, I wanted to share the first thing that came to mind when he was finished. If I were a Democrat, I’d be looking at this guy and saying, “That is the most dangerous man in the United States of America today.” Carson put on one heck of a demonstration in public speaking on conservative topics. Intelligent, with a smooth delivery and no apparent use of a teleprompter, Carson had the crowd alternately busting up laughing and coming to their feet for extended applause. His repeated use of the phrase, “It’s not brain surgery” when talking about how to fix the economy had everyone in stitches (he’s a neurosurgeon in case you didn’t know) and it never seemed to get old." (italics in the original)

There were many fine speeches at this year's CPAC (C-SPAN's coverage here), but if you watch only one 2013 CPAC speech, you would be hard-pressed to choose a better one than Dr. Carson's.

March 15, 2013

A Thought about Liberty

"Ronald Reagan called America a “shining city on a hill” at the first Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 1974. Reagan believed, as the Tea Party Patriots today believe, that the “shining city on a hill” that is America is lit by the torch of liberty, passed down through the generations from America’s Founding Fathers.

"Sadly, the heirs to our Founding Fathers have dropped the torch that was entrusted to them, and the light of liberty is getting dimmer each day. Those on the left are trying to snuff it out with government power grabs and doomsday overspending, while the right seems to have lost the strength, courage and spirit of independence needed to lift the torch and carry it forward.

"Who is left to take up the torch and keep America a “shining city on a hill”? The American people. The only national grass-roots organization that gives voice to the American people, that embodies the spirit of Reagan, that has the courage to carry the torch of liberty, that puts principle above power, is the Tea Party movement, which is alive and well and growing in all 50 states. The biggest Tea Party group in America is the Tea Party Patriots.

~ Jenny Beth Martin, Co-Founder, Tea Party Patriots

HT Her March 15, 2013 Washington Times column

March 14, 2013

Competing Budgets

Our friends at the National Taxpayers Union issued a press release yesterday concerning the House and Senate budgets that were offered this week. According to the NTU:

"Taxpayers have cause for celebration or consternation, depending on which of this week’s two Congressional Budget Resolutions they read – and, what parts of each they read. That’s the observation of the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), which today offered both plaudits and pans for various elements of the two pieces of legislation.

"If Budget Resolutions are supposed to provide direction to the nation’s finances, the House’s bill charts a prudent course, but with some disappointing detours,” said NTU Executive Vice President Pete Sepp. “ The Senate’s bill, on the other hand, offers only a glimpse or two of fiscal discipline on the way to a dead-end destination: one that is piled high with punitive taxes and bloated budget deficits.”

NTU then went on to highlight the "pros" and "cons" of the House and the Senate resolutions in some detail, which we urge you to read. Pete Sepp. who wrote the press release, concluded by saying:

“Although both bills suffer from gimmicks, the House legislation would achieve far better outcomes for taxpayers than the Senate’s flawed scheme . . . “In coming weeks, Americans seeking a brighter fiscal and economic future will be hoping that Congress embraces and even improves the House’s plan by emphasizing more spending restraint as well as additional entitlement and tax reforms.”

Meanwhile, at the Heritage Foundation's blog, The Foundry, our conservative friends  offer comments of their own about the two budget resolutions, and include the following two charts:

In commenting on the two budgets, Romina Boccia, who wrote the The Foundry post, said:

"Both the House and Senate budgets have their weaknesses. However, the House budget would shrink deficits quickly and then eliminate deficits completely by balancing the budget in 10 years. Despite its shortcomings, the House budget undertakes important entitlement reforms in Medicare and Medicaid and rolls back other spending. The Senate budget, on the other hand, would spend more and tax more and still would not come even close to balancing the budget.

"The Senate’s failure in addressing the growth in entitlement spending means U.S. spending and debt would continue growing and threaten a debt crisis in the future that would make all Americans worse off—especially the poor and the middle class"

Boccia concluded saying, "Neither budget comes close to proposing as comprehensive a plan as The Heritage Foundation does in Saving the American Dream, but the House budget certainly moves much closer in the right direction." (link to Saving the American Dream in the original)

March 13, 2013

A Thought About Paradise

“Those who promise us paradise on earth never produced anything but a hell.”

~ Karl Popper

HT ThinkExist.com

March 12, 2013

Federal Agencies Ignore Low-Hanging Fruit

The Committee on Oversight & Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives released a staff report (requires Adobe) one week ago that said, “$67 Billion in Cost-Cutting Reforms Left on the Table.” According to the committee’s press release:

“The Committee’s review found that the backlog had grown to a high of 16,906 open recommendations. Using the most conservative cost-saving estimates, implementing these recommendations could save taxpayers $67 billion per year.” (emphasis added)

Here are the findings from the report itself:

  • “Federal agencies did not implement 15,784 recommendations from the IGs in FY2011, worth more than $55 billion to taxpayers.
  • “In January 2009, former Chairman Waxman found that federal agencies could have saved taxpayers $25.9 billion by implementing open IG recommendations. Today, there are 16,906 unimplemented recommendations worth $67 billion to taxpayers.
  • “The numbers of unimplemented recommendations and unrealized savings for taxpayers have increased every year since 2009.
  • “There are IG vacancies at the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and USAID. In 2012, those agencies ranked first, second, and fourth among agencies with the most unimplemented recommendations.”

In commenting on the report, Investor’s Business Daily wrote in an editorial posted yesterday:

“Far from a disaster, the $85 billion in mandated spending cuts that fell on Washington this month may be the best thing to happen in years.

“Already, the sequester has inspired people to ask pointed questions, such as why the White House can afford three calligraphers but has to cancel public tours, or what national purpose is served by robotic squirrels.

“The public is noticing that, after four years of madcap spending, there's still some waste. Whoda thunk?

Here is a graphic from the committee's press release showing the annual value of open and unimplemented recommendations:

The report also reported currently vacant IG positions "at six agencies where the President nominates the IG.  Those six agencies collectively represent more than 25% of the President’s entire 2013 budget. The Committee’s analysis shows that the lack of a permanent IG correlates to an increase in the number of open and unimplemented recommendations." Following is a graphic about that:

Kudos to the staff of the Oversight & Government Reform Committee that performed the analysis, and to the editorial writer at Investor's Business Daily who wrote the editorial.

Arlington taxpayers concerned about the economy and the state of the nation's financial management are urged to write their members of Congress. Contact information:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And tell them ACTA sent you!

March 11, 2013

Use and Abuse of Food Stamps

Yesterday we growled about a Judicial Watch blog post that discussed the White House's apparent obsession with food, going so far as "spending more than $75 million on research that will help address food security challenges in the U.S. and globally. The money will go to 21 universities throughout the country that will “find solutions to increasing food availability and decreasing the number of food insecure individuals,” according to an announcement posted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)."

Then in last Friday's Washington Times, we read an investigative story by Luke Rosiak that notes, "(v)iolations don't deter food stamp vendors' hunger for misuse." Rosiak and the Times used a FOIA request, and "obtained a list of stores sanctioned from 2005 to March 2012 and compared it by address to the Agriculture Department’s inventory of stores currently accepting food stamps."

And what did Mr. Rosiak and the Washington Times find? The story is rather lengthy, but this seems to be the essence of the story:

"Over the seven-year span, nearly 12,000 retailers, or 1 in 21, faced disciplinary measures for allowing food stamps to be used for ineligible items; 6,400 were permanently banned for flagrantly converting large amounts to cash. But as of last month, food stamp recipients still could go to 2,300 of those same outlets and make purchases. At more than 1 in 4, the store is the same right down to the name.

"The Agriculture Department said owners, not the stores, are banned, and a store can continue to accept food stamps if the owner, after being caught, sells the establishment to someone else.

"But The Times found many suspiciously timed sales, seemingly less than arms-length or to a friend or associate, and even cases in which local business records indicated that no ownership change had taken place at all."

Mr. Rosiak also reports that violators are "almost never prosecuted" (print version), writing:

“One of the most common ways a disqualified retailer can circumvent FNS’ efforts to keep them out of the program is by enlisting a ‘straw owner,’ often a family member, acquaintance or employee, as the alleged owner,” the Agriculture Department’s inspector general testified.

"But for most, the deterrent virtually ends there: In fiscal 2011, the Food and Nutrition Service said in its new rules proposal, “civil or criminal court action was concluded on approximately 5 firms.”

"The department’s inspector general, however, said the criminal tallies were much higher."

There is a related story, too, that says, "Many states are 'gaming' entitlements' to up federal benefits." According to Rosiak:

"The ploys involve a tendency for entitlement programs to make receiving one entitlement a ticket to receive another: If a person is on food stamps, for example, he’s automatically eligible for a free cellphone. Some states and recipients have learned that by gaining a foothold via a program with lax requirements or low cost, the recipient can open the door to greater federally funded benefits from other programs.

"Seventeen states have devised shell implementations of one the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program to boost the amount of federally funded food stamp dollars their food stamp, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, recipients receive.

"Being on the low-income program, because it is presumably an indicator of poverty, triggers an increase in the number of dollars a food stamp recipient receives each month. So states have taken to paying token amounts in the program, such as $1 a year, so that recipients’ allotment of food stamp dollars will increase an average of $1,080 annually.

“These 17 states designed their programs to exploit the food stamp program. This is not right,” Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, said Tuesday on the Senate floor."

As I said, the entire two-stories are quite lengthy, but well-worth reading. And kudos to Luke Rosiak for his hard work on this project.

March 10, 2013

An Obsession with Food?

A week ago, at Judicial Watch's blog, Corruption Chronicles, a blogger notes that in FY 2012 America's taxpayers spent $80.4 billion in food stamps. In addition, a project of the First Lady will cost American taxpayers $4.5 billion to "to conquer childhood obesity by asserting that it’s the government’s duty to protect poor and ethnic minority communities that are overwhelmingly obese compared to their wealthier, white counterparts." But there's more, according to Judicial Watch:

"On the other extreme is a hunger problem that creates what the administration has coined food insecurity. This requires the government to step in and feed tens of millions of people, some who can well afford to buy their own food. In fact, last summer a federal audit revealed that many who don’t qualify for food stamps receive them under Obama’s special “broad-based” eligibility program that disregards income and asset requirements."

Here's the link to the GAO report (requires Adobe) cited by Judicial Watch.

It gets worse, however. As the First Couple try to eradicate "food insecure households,"  Judicial Watch points out "the administration has spent millions of dollars on ad campaigns to recruit more food-stamp recipients, even doling out hefty cash rewards to local governments that sign up the most people. One state even bragged about a $5 million performance bonus it got from the feds for its “swift processing of applications.” And now we learn:

"Incredibly, this week the administration announced that it is spending more than $75 million on research that will help address food security challenges in the U.S. and globally. The money will go to 21 universities throughout the country that will “find solutions to increasing food availability and decreasing the number of food insecure individuals,” according to an announcement posted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). (emphasis added)

“Millions of American households lack the resources to access sufficient food, and many of those, including our children, may go hungry at least once this year,” according to USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.” She says the grants will help policymakers and others “better recognize the food and nutrition needs of low-income communities in our country.”

Sheesh! But have no doubt, the administration will surely find yet more ways to fleece America's taxpayers. Thank goodness for organizations like Judicial Watch, though.

March 09, 2013

68-Years of Federal-Spending Addiction

At George Mason University's Mercatus Center, senior research fellow Veronique de Rugy has published a short paper containing several helpful charts, which show "the amount of real (2005) federal dollars spent per capita over the past 68 years. After adjusting for population and inflation, the data clearly show that federal outlays have, with a few exceptions, grown at a staggering pace since 1948."

Ms. de Rugy adds, "During the past 30 years a worrying trend has emerged: high levels of spending under Republican administrations have become institutionalized in Democratic ones."

In addition to the above chart, she includes the table below, which she explains, shows "a country addicted to spending increases. Every president has spent more total real dollars in his last budget than in his first. Johnson increased spending by 38 percent, George W. Bush increased it by 53 percent, and even Reagan increased total spending by 22 percent."

Ms. de Rugy concludes this great little set of graphics by saying, "This country needs to start making real and credible commitments to cutting government spending." Now if just the political class in Washington, D.C. will start listening.

Do a friend or relative who may not be aware of how addicted to federal spending the nation is, and send them a link to this Growls.

March 08, 2013

2012 Porker of the Year Selected

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) announced today that Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) was selected in an online poll as the 2012 Porker of the Year, "a dubious honor given to a lawmaker, government official, or political candidate who has shown the most blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers throughout the year."

In their press release, CAGW wrote:

"Last year produced an abundance of ridiculous moments in taxpayer gouging and government overreach, but in the end there can only be one “winner.”  In a very tight race, that honor goes to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who garnered 22.2 percent of the vote, just enough to edge out runner-up Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D), who received 21.6 percent, and third-place finisher New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), who received 20.6 percent.  Also-rans Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), and Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) received 17.6 percent, 11.8 percent, and 6.2 percent of the vote, respectively."

Sen. Stabenow was nominated because she submitted:

". . . amendment #1812 to S. 1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which would have extended federal subsidies for green energy.  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.  Taxpayer-subsidized green energy initiatives have led to bankruptcies, loan defaults, and layoffs at heavily subsidized firms including Solyndra, Ener1, Beacon, Tesla, Amonix, Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt, and SunPower, among others."

When will our Congressional masterminds wake-up and realize "(t)he 'wealthiest nation on Earth' is actually the Brokest Nation in History," as Mark Steyn referred to America in a recent column posted on the Orange County Register website.

March 07, 2013

A Thought on Measuring Social Mobility

"Most people are not even surprised anymore when they hear about someone who came here from Korea or Vietnam with very little money and very little knowledge of English, but who nevertheless persevered and rose in American society. Nor are we surprised when their children excel in school and go on to professional careers.

"Yet, in utter disregard of such plain facts, so-called social scientists do studies which conclude that America is no longer a land of opportunity and that upward mobility is a “myth.” Even when these studies have lots of numbers in tables and equations that mimic the appearance of science, too often their conclusions depend on wholly arbitrary assumptions."

~ Thomas Sowell

HT His Column at National Review Online

March 05, 2013

Revenues in Arlington County’s FY 2014 Proposed Budget

Last Thursday, February 28. the Arlington County Board held it’s second budget work session with the County Manager. The meeting focused on revenues and such general government function as the county attorney, technology services, and management and finance.

Highlights from the County Manager’s “revenue overview” presentation included the following:

  • FY 2013 to FY 2014 Proposed revenue changes
  • Real Estate Taxes -- 3.4% increase (base rate only)
  • Personal Property Taxes -- 5.9% increase
  • BPOL -- 1.6% decrease
  • Sales Taxes -- 6.2% increase
  • Meals Taxes -- 5.8% increase
  • Transient Occupancy -- 0.0% change
  • Other Taxes -- 0.3% decrease
  • Charges for Service -- 4.7%
  • State -- 0.5% decrease
  • Federal -- 13.7% decrease
  • Tax & Fee Burden on Average Household (Total Residential Taxes & Fees)
  • CY 2012 -- $6,726
  • CY 2013 (with no change in RE tax rate) -- $6,820 (1.4% increase)
  • CY 2013 (proposed $0.032 increase) -- $6.988 (3.9% increase)
  • CY 2013 (advertised $0.050 increase) -- $7,082 (5.3% increase)
  • Regional Tax Advertisement & Budget Schedule. The Manager provides a useful schedule of Northern Virginia jurisdictions tax rates, assessment changes, proposed tax rate changes, and dates when FY 2014 budgets will be adopted by their governing bodies.
  • Jurisdiction Tax Rate Comparison
  • Arlington -- $0.971 Current; $$1.021 Advertised.
  • Alexandria -- $0.998 Current; $1.053 Advertised.
  • Fairfax County -- $1.110 Current; %1.131 Advertised.
  • Fairfax City -- $1.020 Current; $1.091 Advertised.
  • Falls Church -- $1.270 Current; Advertised not available.
  • Loudoun -- $1.235 Current; $1.230 Adversied.
  • Prince William -- $1.286 Current; $1.272 Advertised.
  • Average Single Family Home Assessment (Arlington County only). Has ranged between $369,600 in CY 2004 and $541,800 in CY 2006. For 2013, the average assessment is $524,700.
  • General Fund Comparative Tax Burden, Residential vs. Commercial Tax Base. An interesting chart that shows how the two portions of the tax base were close to 50-50 in CY 2002, and now in CY 2012 and again in CY 2013 are near 50-50. It also shows that in CY 2006 residential was 60% and commercial was 40%%.

in the "related reports," the work session agenda provides the pages in the budget that were discussed by the Board masterminds and the County Manager. I hope this information was helpful.

March 04, 2013

A Thought about Capitalism

Capitalism is the greatest creation humanity has done for social cooperation. It has lifted humanity out of the dirt. In statistics we discovered when we were researching the book, about 200 years ago when capitalism was created, 85% of the people alive lived on $1 a day. Today, that number is 16%. Still too high, but capitalism is wiping out poverty across the world. 200 years ago illiteracy rates were 90%. Today, they are down to about 14%. 200 years ago the average lifespan was 30. Today it is 68 across the world, 78 in the States, and almost 82 in Japan. This is due to business. This is due to capitalism. And it doesn’t get credit for it. Most of the time, business is portrayed by its enemies as selfish and greedy and exploitative, yet it’s the greatest value creator in the world.” (emphasis in cited post)

~ John Mackey, co-author of the new book “Conscious Capitalism”

HT Mark Perry at AEIdeas.org

March 03, 2013

A Thought about the Federal Budget and Sequestration

" . . . The sequester supposedly cuts $44 billion from the federal budget – or from the rate of growth of the federal budget. Whatever. $44 billion is about what the United States government borrows every nine days, so it's not a lot. But it's apparently responsible for everything that matters in American life.

"That being so, maybe it would be easier to reinstate this critical $44 billion and cut the other $3.8 trillion, which is apparently responsible for nothing other than Harry Reid's beloved federally funded cowboy poetry festival and the cost of the dress uniforms for the military detachment accompanying the First Lady at her Oscars appearance. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, warned of "over 170 million jobs that could be lost" thanks to the sequester. There are only 135 million jobs in America, but the sequester gods are so powerful they can eliminate every job in Canada, Britain and Germany, too. Why, because of this weekend's looming Mayan Apocalypse, President Obama declined to deploy a carrier to the Persian Gulf, concerned that it might be left on the other side of the planet, completely sequestered with no fuel to limp back home and insufficient stores in the mess hall larder to cook up federally compliant slop. So, when the mullahs go nuclear and drop the big one on Tel Aviv, it will be the fault of the Republicans for failing to agree to a prudent, balanced, fiscally responsible plan - like the Senate's latest deficit reduction proposal, which, as is traditional, increases the deficit (by $7 billion).

~ Mark Steyn

HT His Weekend Column at the Orange County Register

March 02, 2013

Cell Phones, Taxes and Abuse of Taxpayers

Let’s go from the bad to the worse. First, let’s look at a policy paper about the cell phone  taxes imposed by state and local governments written by Joe Henchman and Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation published a month ago (Fiscal Fact No. 355, January 30, 2013). They begin the paper saying:

“The number of U.S. cell phone subscribers has grown significantly in recent years from 48.7 million in 1997 to 321.7 million in 2012. That period has also seen a fall in landline telephones, with 34 percent of households now only using wireless phones. This trend toward cell phones has not gone unnoticed by state and local governments, many of which have targeted wireless services for higher taxes.

“U.S. wireless consumers pay an average 17.18 percent in taxes and fees on their cell phone bill, including 11.36 percent in state and local charges, according to a newly released study that identifies and calculates wireless taxes and fees. In Nebraska, the combined federal-state-local average rate is 24.49 percent, and in six other states (Washington, New York, Florida, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Missouri) it exceeds 20 percent. Twenty-six states have average state-local wireless taxes and fees in excess of 10 percent, and taking into account the infamous federal telephone excise tax (dating to the Spanish-American War and partly repealed in 2006), cell phone subscribers in seven states pay more than 20 percent in taxes.”

A complete list of each state’s state and local tax rates is in Table 1 of the report.

Virginia ranks 44th with a state rate of 6.60% and a local government rate of 12.42%. When you get your next monthly phone bill, take a look at the taxes, and remember that it could be worse if you lived in Nebraska, Washington or New York. As Henchman and Drenkard conclude:

“Making cell phone calls and using wireless services for additional purposes may be getting easier, but paying cell phone taxes is not.”

Now to cell phones and the abuse of taxpayers. In the Wall Street Journal on February 11. 2013, Spencer Ante wrote that “millions improperly claimed U.S. phone subsidies. He began this way:

“U.S. government spent about $2.2 billion last year to provide phones to low-income Americans, but a Wall Street Journal review of the program shows that a large number of those who received the phones haven't proved they are eligible to receive them.

“The Lifeline program—begun in 1984 to ensure that poor people aren't cut off from jobs, families and emergency services—is funded by charges that appear on the monthly bills of every landline and wireless-phone customer. Payouts under the program have shot up from $819 million in 2008, as more wireless carriers have persuaded regulators to let them offer the service.

“Suspecting that many of the new subscribers were ineligible, the Federal Communications Commission tightened the rules last year and required carriers to verify that existing subscribers were eligible. The agency estimated 15% of users would be weeded out, but far more were dropped.

“A review of five top recipients of Lifeline support conducted by the FCC for the Journal showed that 41% of their more than six million subscribers either couldn't demonstrate their eligibility or didn't respond to requests for certification.”

John Hayward, writing at Human Events on February 12, adds:

“Remember the “Obamaphone Lady?” Sure you do! She was, in many ways, the exemplar of the 2012 presidential campaign: an angry welfare dependent outraged that anyone would dare to run against President Obama and threaten her benefits. The benefit she most prominently mentioned during her tirade at a Romney campaign event was her “Obama phone,” a free government-provided cell phone.

“As it turns out, she was wrong about Barack Obama as the source of this particular Big Government lollipop, but taxpaying Americans were astounded to discover that the government does indeed distribute free cell phones to Food Stamp Nation, under the aegis of a program originally instituted in the 1980s to help the poor obtain land-line telephones. Although the benefit expanded to include cell phones (even smart phones!) under the Bush Administration, popular urban legends attribute the phones to Santa Obama. These legends seem plausible to readers because the size of the “Lifeline” program, like every other aspect of Food Stamp Nation, has exploded under President Obama. It cost $819 million in 2008, but weighed in at roughly $2.2 billion last year. If you’re a taxpayer with a cell phone, you’re kicking in about $2.50 per month on your cell-phone bill to fund the program.

“And, like every other government handout programs, Lifeline is absolutely riddled with fraud. No sooner had the Obamaphone Lady burst onto the scene than stories of scam artists making off with two, three, or even more “free cell phones” began circulating."

Hayward concludes his Human Events article by saying:

"The idea that any provider would be allowed to keep their results confidential, or that any Obamaphone subscriber would be allowed to take a pass on responding to the eligibility survey, is absolutely absurd.  I can’t think of a more profound gesture of contempt toward the taxpayers who fund this garbage.  The notion that hard-working Americans would be asked to surrender another dime in higher taxes to fund programs sick with fraud and abuse, programs that have brought us the lunacy of welfare dependents chatting away on “free” cell phones, is offensive."

The New York Post provides a little bit of balance to the story, however. The lede of their February 17 article is:

"First they were Reaganphones. Then they were Bubbaphones. Next they were Dubyaphones. Last year they became infamous as Obamaphones.

"Hordes of critics attacked the president in 2012 for giving away free cellphones to the poor, with the tab covered by fees on every cell and landline user in the country.

"But last week the truth came out: President Obama is actually helping dial down the federal program that’s created a $2.2 billion lesson in what happens when Washington’s good intentions go bad.

"The feds created the Lifeline program in 1984 to provide landlines (and thus a connection of last resort to emergency services, job prospects and family members) in even the poorest homes."

Isn't it grand to live in the welfare state, though?

March 01, 2013

Schools Budget Proposal Puts Cost per Pupil at $18,709

The Arlington School Board received the Superintendent's proposed budget last night. That was immediately followed by the School Board's first budget work session during which they reviewed such items as revenue and compensation.

The highlights of Superintendent Patrick Murphy's proposed FY 2014 budget, according to Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun Gazette, included the following:

"Rising enrollment and a slightly higher per-student cost add up to a $520.4 million school budget proposed by Superintendent Patrick Murphy on Feb. 28.

"The staff proposal, which kicks off a two-month School Board budget process, is up 5.6 percent from the spending package Murphy submitted a year before, with his proposed per-student cost of $18,709 up 1.6 percent from last year’s proposal.

"While the per-student cost would rise under Murphy’s plan, it would remain well below the peak of $19,538 recorded in fiscal 2009, before the full impact of the national recession kicked in."

If readers wonder why ElGrowlerGrande seems to focus on a few numbers from the Schools such as the "cost per pupil," we note what the Schools FY 2014 budget says, i,e. "Cost per pupil information provides a measure of resource allocation based on student population. It is a useful tool for analyzing our expenditures over time and for comparing our expenditures to those of other school systems." Page 30 of the budget shows that APS's cost per pupils since FY 2010 were:

  • FY 2010 (Adopted) -- $18,569
  • FY 2011 (Adopted) -- $17,322
  • FY 2012 (Adopted) -- $18,047
  • FY 2013 (Adopted) -- $18,675
  • FY 2014 (Proposed) -- $18,709

McCaffrey later writes, "About 80 percent of the school system’s budget – $411 million in Murphy’s proposal – would come from the County Board. State funding constitutes about 11 percent of total revenues, with federal funding representing about 2.4 percent." McCaffrey has more information from the meeting.

There's more detail in the Schools' press release as well as materials from the budget work session. The Superintendent's presentation to the School Board is here. ARLnow reports on the Superintendent's budget here. Jason Spencer reports on the proposed budget for the Patch.com news service here.

Please return to Growls often; we'll have more analysis of the Superintendent's proposed budget.