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March 31, 2016

What Employee Benefit does Arlington County Provide?

Live Where You Work (LWYW) grants were restored as an employee benefit for Arlington County employees in FY 2016, but have been available for a number of years. The LWYW program "assists employees in either purchasing or renting a primary residence in Arlington," according to the Manager's proposed FY 2017 budget (web page 202)

Slide 14 of the Compensation presentation at the March 8, 2016 Arlington County Board budget work session shows that employees can receive a grant of $5,500 if they purchase a home or $700 if they rent  in the county. The Manager's proposed FY 2017 budget shows that $133,012 was included in the adopted FY 2016 budget, but the Manager is proposing it be increased by $22,000 to $155,012 in the proposed FY 2017 budget.

The slide also shows the Manager plans to offer 25 rental grants and 25 purchase grants. The 10-year history of the Human Resources Department reports the LWYW grants were restored in FY 2016.

So, have all those LWYW grants had any effect on the number of employees living in Arlington County? Apparently not. At the March 8, 2016 Compensation budget work session, Board member John Vihstadt asked for the percentage, both by age and job classification, of county employees living in Arlington. On March 25, 2016, staff provided the answer. The overall percentage is 25%.

Let's take a look at the detail numbers provided in the staff report (Item B-5, General Government). First, by age:

  • 70 and above -- total - 37; Arlington - 15; non-Arlington - 22.
  • 60 - 69 -- total - 342; Arlington - 106; non-Arlington - 236.
  • 50 - 59 -- total - 945; Arlington - 226; non-Arlington - 719.
  • 40 - 49 -- total - 976; Arlington - 218; non-Arlington - 758.
  • 30 - 39 -- total - 916; Arlington - 195; non-Arlington - 721.
  • 29 and under -- total - 356; Arlington - 119; non-Arlington - 237.

Except for senior department/division management, there is little inclination to living within the county. By job classification:

  • Uniformed Management -- Arlington - 16%; non-Arlington - 84%.
  • Uniformed Senior Management -- Arlington - 31%; 69%.
  • Trades -- Arlington - 13%; non-Arlington - 87%.
  • Sheriff -- Arlington - 12%; non-Arlington - 88%.
  • Police -- Arlington - 37%; non-Arlington - 63%.
  • Management -- Arlington - 29%; non-Arlington - 71%.
  • Fire -- Arlington - 9%; non-Arlington - 91%.
  • Senior Dept/Div Management -- Arlington - 49%; non-Arlington - 51%.
  • Clerical -- Arlington - 25%; non-Arlington - 75%.
  • General -- Arlington - 27%; non-Arlington - 73%.

It seems the LWYW grants do nothing more than shower county bureaucrats with another employee benefit. However, they obviously do very little to incentivize employees to live in the county. Rather, the staff report of the percentage of county employees living in Arlington reflects what virtually all residents already know, i.e., housing makes Arlington County a very expensive place to live.

That $155,000 in the county budget could easily double since the Arlington Public Schools have their own LWYW progam.

Growls readers wishing to comment on Arlington County's policy of providing grants to employees choosing to live in the county are encouraged to voice their concerns to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

March 30, 2016

White House Bypasses Congress to Solve 'Diaper Disparity'

At Pajamas Media two weeks ago, Debra Heine reported:

"President Barack Obama has engineered the largest expansion of social welfare programs in fifty years, and he's not finished yet. In addition to the explosion of programs providing free food, free healthcare, free phones, and free Internet service, the Obama administration has now decided to provide free diapers to low income families."

She then continued, writing:

"Congress has rejected two attempts to pass an unpopular measure to grant poor families government-subsidized diapers, but the Obama administration has decided to go around the legislative branch.

"Determined to give out even more freebies to government-dependent Americans, President Obama has allocated $10 million in taxpayer money to abolish what White House Domestic Policy Director Cecilia Muñoz calls a 'diaper disparity.'"

Ms. Heine concluded by saying:

"Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), one of the Democrat diaper crusaders behind the initiatives that got rejected by Congress, says that "no parents should have to choose between buying diapers for their child or buying groceries."

"In that case, they may as well put free baby wipes and baby powder on the table, too. And free strollers, cradles, and car seats. Because no one should have to choose between any of those items and groceries."

Meanwhile, at The Federalist a few days earlier, Ericka Andersen points out, "As usual, the Obama White House is jumping straight to the government diaper gap solution before promoting a multitude of other choice-based options available to low-income moms." Before describing five ways to solve the 'diaper gap,' she writes:

"It sounds nice when government says they want to take care of something for you. But it’s kind of like lending money to a family member. There’s always a catch.

"The latest buzz is about subsidizing diapers. I know a lot about those—I have a three-month-old. Those things aren’t cheap and you need a whole lot of them.

"But the Obama White House is jumping straight to the government solution before looking at a multitude of other options available to low-income moms. In fact, when I first heard about this new plan, I immediately started researching where I might be able to donate diapers on the regular. The thought of a woman having to change her baby’s diaper less because she couldn’t afford a new pack truly makes my heart ache."

In case you think this story originated in the fevered minds of some conservatives, Ms. Andersen pointed to a post by Cecilia Munoz at the White House blog with a summary that said:

"Many parents are struggling to afford diapers and making choices no one should have to make."

Munoz even urged readers to get involved by using #DiaperGap.

Channel 2, WKRN-TV, in Nashville took the liberal view, and reported on the helpfulness of 'Diaper Banks' to low-income families. On March 20, 2016, they published a story that said in part:

"Diapers. Every baby needs them but not all parents can afford them.

“They’re really expensive. There’s not enough that comes in boxes. I mean, you have to look, try to price every diaper that there is out, every different store,” said mother Satin Pearce.

“I was buying Target’s brand in the beginning but as your baby grows you learn you do need brands that hold up to what they say they can do,” said mother Allie Bruch.

"Dr. Megan Smith is the director of the New Haven MOMS Partnership. For two years she studied the diaper needs of mothers in New Haven. Her research shows some mothers spend close to $1,000 a year on diapers. The price on their health can be even higher."

The WKRN-TV story noted the New Haven Diaper Bank "serves 3000 children in Connecticut but they estimate the need is actually about 40-thousand children."

The New Republic was not to be outdone. Clio Chang used President Obama's keynote speech at the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals to explain "Why Democrats Must Embrace a Universal Child Allowance." In his speech, President Obama discussed "a subject that doesn’t often enter the realm of public policy: diapers." According to the speech transcript, President Obama said (transcript at the Boston Globe):

"One of my favorite projects that’s just gotten started over the last several months is -- diapers are really expensive, and we’ve actually set up a system whereby through social media and the Internet, non-for-profits are able to make bulk purchases of diapers, save 25 percent on those, so that they can distribute them to low-income moms and families. And it’s a convergence of diaper makers and logistics companies and Internet companies. And we sort of convened the thing, but it’s not running through a government program."

In closing, let me quote from a March 15, 2016 column at American Thinker by Oleg Atbashian, until 1994 a resident of the USSR. His opening and closing paragraphs, from a column he entitled, "Why socialists need capitalists," were:

"Have you heard of the shocking and terrifying diaper gap that is now dividing this nation? It is said to be so dire that the White House is urging immediate government assistance to buy baby diapers. Philosophically, this puts disposable plastic consumer products in the category of inalienable rights guaranteed by the government: among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Diapers.

< . . . >

"But judging by my Soviet experience, socialists are also in possession of a formula telling them when government-created "human rights" are due to expire -- which always happens as soon as they gain total control of any country.

"Any government powerful enough to give the people all that they want (e.g., free phones, Internet, or disposable diapers) is also powerful enough to take from the people all that they have.

"And that is no laughing matter."

In her Pajamas Media story, Ms. Heine explained that Congress "has twice nixed the scandalous idea" of providing diapers to poor families. However, the White House is bypassing Congress this time by spending $10 million to "test effective ways to get diapers to families in need and document the health improvements that result." Another example of the president using his pen and phone, I guess.

Growls readers concerned the White House is once again spending taxpayers money on something that is not in the Constitution, not to mention something that is a personal responsibility, are urged to write their member(s) of Congress. You can find contact information at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Here are Arlington County's members of Congress:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

March 29, 2016

A Thought about the National Debt

"We’re $19 trillion in debt, and that’s going to be paid by our kids . . . We’re having the spending party, and our kids are going to pay off the debt and the interest on the debt.”

~ Dave Brat (R-Virginia's 7th CD)

Source: Story by Jim Nolan, March 27, 2016, Richmond Times-Dispatch.

March 28, 2016

A Thought about Republican Government

"The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."

~ George Washington, First Inaugural Address, 1789

Source: Founders' Quote Database, The Patriot Post.

March 27, 2016

About the Security and Privacy of Healthcare.gov

In a 55-page audit completed this month, Congress's watchdog, the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO), reported that "actions" are "needed to enhance information security and privacy controls." explained why they GAO performed the study this way:

"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required the establishment of health insurance marketplaces in each state to allow consumers to compare, select, and purchase health insurance plans. States establishing their own marketplaces are responsible for securing the supporting information systems to protect sensitive personal information they contain. CMS is responsible for overseeing states’ efforts, as well as securing federal systems to which marketplaces connect, including its data hub.

"GAO was asked to review security issues related to the data hub, and CMS oversight of state-based marketplaces. Its objectives were to (1) describe security and privacy incidents reported for Healthcare.gov and related systems, (2) assess the effectiveness of security controls for the data hub, and (3) assess CMS oversight of state-based marketplaces and the security of selected state- based marketplaces. GAO reviewed incident data, analyzed networks and controls, reviewed policies and procedures, and interviewed CMS and marketplace officials. This is a public version of a limited official use only report that GAO issued in March 2016. Sensitive information on technical issues has been omitted from this version.

According to Ali Meyer, who reported on the GAO audit for the Washington Free Beacon, "Healthcare.gov's confidentiality (was) jeopardized more than 300 times." Here is a portion of Meyer's reporting:

"The 316 security incidents reported to the GAO by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were either attempts by hackers to compromise the Healthcare.gov system or occasions where consumers’ sensitive data was not properly secured.

“A security incident can occur under many circumstances and for many reasons,” the audit said. “It can be inadvertent, such as from the loss of an electronic device, or deliberate, such as from the theft of a device, or a cyber-based attack by a malicious individual or group, agency insider, foreign nation, terrorist, or other adversary.”

"According to the report, some of the 316 security incidents involved consumers’ personally identifiable information, a category that includes Social Security numbers, names, dates, places of birth, and medical, educational, financial or employment information. Some of the 316 incidents included attempts by attackers to compromise part of the Healthcare.gov system, but the audit found no evidence that these attempts had succeeded.

"Forty-one of the 316 security incidents, or 13 percent, involved personally identifiable information, which was either exposed to an unauthorized individual or was not properly secured.

“A basic management objective for any organization is to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the information and systems that support its critical operations and assets,” the audit states.

“[The agency] did not effectively implement or securely configure key security tools and devices to sufficiently protect the users and information on the data hub system from threats to confidentiality, integrity, and availability,” the audit said. The data hub is a portal that allows the federal marketplace to transmit consumers’ personal information to its external partners, which include federal agencies and state-based marketplaces."

Read the remainder of Ms. Meyer's report for additional details.

If you were wondering what Healthcare.gov cost American taxpayers, Wikipedia provides the following answer:

"Analysis by the Reuters news agency in mid-October stated that the total contract-based cost of building HealthCare.gov swelled threefold from its initial estimate of $93.7 million to about $292 million. In August 2014, the Office of Inspector General released a report finding that the cost of the HealthCare.gov website had reached $1.7 billion . . . ." (footnotes available at source)

Growls readers concerned about the lack of security and privacy controls, not to mention the ballooning cost, in Healthcare.gov are urged to write their member(s) of Congress. You can find contact information at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Here are Arlington County's members of Congress:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

March 26, 2016

Here Come the Deficits! Much Worse than You Thought?

At the American Enterprise Institute's public policy blog, AEIdeas, yesterday, James Pethokoukis writes about the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast and focuses on the deficits:

"You can quibble with the debt and deficit forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office, but they’re a pretty good place to start for the conservative, cautious policymaker. And the updated CBO forecast is one of more and more red ink over the next decade.

"CBO: “In CBO’s baseline, deficits rise because growth in revenues over the next 10 years is outpaced by increases in spending — particularly for Social Security, Medicare, and interest payments on the federal debt. The deficit remains at roughly 2.8 percent of GDP through 2018 but climbs to 4.9 percent of GDP by 2026. The cumulative deficit projected for the 2017–2026 period is $9.3 trillion.” And the publicly held debt would be $24 trillion, gross debt $29 trillion."

He includess the following chart, which "shows the trends of mandatory/entitlement spending gobbling up more and more of the budget over time."

 

If the above chart doesn't scare you, Pethokoukis provides this link  to a "terrifying" chart, posted November 23, 2011, of total government and private debt, which is at an historic high of 360% of GDP. Take a minute or two to scroll down to see the reader comments.

While it certainly seems that members of Congress ignore the reports from their own watchdog agencies -- the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) -- Growls readers are nevertheless encouraged to write to them. You can find contact information at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Here are Arlington County's members of Congress:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

March 25, 2016

The Use and Abuse of Taxpayers Money

The Washington Examiner's Curt Mills reported Wednesday evening that the Department of Homeland Security had put 116 employees "on paid leave for a year or more between 2011 and 2015, which cost taxpayers $19.8 million in salaries."

Mills continued his reporting, writing:

"GAO said 69 of the 116 workers, or 59 percent, were on leave for "matters related to misconduct," but were still paid over their leave of absence.

"The report said 28 workers were put on leave for "matters related to fitness for duty issues," and another 19 were on leave for reasons related to security clearance investigations.

"[I]n one particularly long and complex misconduct investigation, an employee was on administrative leave for over 2 years while investigating officials conducted over 50 interviews abroad," the report said.

"GAO noted another case where "a law enforcement agent at a DHS component had been on administrative leave for over 3 years while under investigation for allegations of criminal and administrative misconduct."

"While on administrative leave, the employee received an estimated $455,000 in salary and benefits, according to DHS."

"As a result of the study, GAO recommended that DHS 'evaluate the results of its administrative leave policy and share the evaluation results with the department's components.'"

According to the report's highlights, GAO explained why they did the audit:

"Federal agencies have the discretion to authorize administrative leave—an excused absence without loss of pay or charge to leave—for personnel matters, such as when investigating employees for misconduct allegations. In October 2014, GAO reported on the use of administrative leave in the federal government. GAO found that, between fiscal years 2011 and 2013, 263 federal employees were on this type of leave for 1 year or more during this 3-year period. Of these, 71 were DHS employees.

"GAO was asked to examine DHS's use of administrative leave across directorates, offices, and components (DHS components). This report describes (1) the number of DHS employees who were on administrative leave for 1 year or more for personnel matters from fiscal years 2011 through 2015, (2) the factors that contribute to the length of time employees are on administrative leave, and (3) the extent to which DHS has policies and procedures for managing such leave. GAO used data from DHS and the Office of Personnel Management, reviewed DHS policies and procedures, interviewed DHS officials, and reviewed information on selected cases of DHS employees placed on administrative leave. Cases were selected based on length of leave, reason for using leave, and DHS component, among other things."

The entire GAO report (GAO-16-342. March 23, 2016) can be accessed here.

Sounds like just another case of too many employees, too many agencies, and too little accountability.

Growls readers who are concerned about the waste and abuse of their tax dollars are urged to tell their members of Congress. You can find contact information at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Here are Arlington County's members of Congress:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

March 24, 2016

A Thought about Global Warming Regulations

"Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted her agency’s signature regulation aimed at tackling global warming was meant to show “leadership” rather than actually curb projected warming. (emphasis added)

"McCarthy admitted as much after being questioned by West Virginia Republican Rep. David McKinley, who pressed the EPA chief on why the Obama administration was moving forward with economically-damaging regulations that do nothing for the environment. (emphasis added)

“I don’t understand,” McKinley said in a Tuesday hearing. “If it doesn’t have an impact on climate change around the world, why are we subjecting our hard working taxpayers and men and women in the coal fields to something that has no benefit?”

We see it as having had enormous benefit in showing sort of domestic leadership as well as garnering support around the country for the agreement we reached in Paris,” McCarthy responded. (emphasis added)

"McKinley was referring to EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan, which forces states to cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. The CPP is expected to double the amount of coal plant closings in the coming years, and even EPA admits it won’t have a measurable impact on projected global warming." (emphasis added)

~ Michael Bastasch

Source: a portion of his 3/23/16 Daily Caller column, "EPA Chief: Climate Regs Meant To Show ‘Leadership’, Not Fight Global Warming," posted at the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Unbelieveable! Talk about something to growl about. For the sake of optics the Obama administration is risking bankrupting the coal industry, taxpayers, and the nation? For nothing! For the so-called optics of showing leadership. Are we doomed?

Fed up with EPA regulations that do nothing to protect the environment? If so, take a couple of minutes to write to one of your Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And tell them ACTA sent you.

The Energy and Power Subcommittee and the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee held a hearing on Tuesday, March 22, with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on the administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget. Members questioned EPA Administrator McCarthy on various EPA rules and regulations including the administration’s Clean Power Plan and ozone regulations. For a 1:49 minute video clip of the exchange between Rep. McKinley and EPA Administrator McCarthy, click here (as of 3/24/16, the audio is barely audible).

March 23, 2016

A Thought about Making America Great Again

If you’re concerned about the tyranny of the Left or potential despotism born of populist nationalism, then there is only one answer. It’s not doing whatever it takes to keep a political party viable, it’s not waiting to make power plays at the convention, it’s not berating voters by calling them or their candidate names, and it’s not about simply opposing Trump. It’s about standing for what actually does make America great—limited government, the Constitution, and conservative principles that respect the liberties and rights of all Americans."

~ Denise C. McAllister

Source: her essay, "Stop Standing Against Trump And Start Standing For America," posted 3/22/16 at The Federalist.

March 22, 2016

Can Federal Spending per Household be Slowed?

We've growled ad infinitum about the spending, taxes and debt of the federal government. It always seems to be in vain. The chart below, from the Heritage Foundation, is based upon Congressional Budget Office, Office of Management and Budget, and U.S. Census Bureau data, and shows federal spending per household from 1970 through 2025. Something has to give. If spending is not slowed, either taxes must be increased or borrowing increased to "pay for" the deficit, thus increasing the national debt. Will the American people demand that Congress and the President control federal spending? Or are higher taxes or a larger national debt, or some combination, the alternative? And remember, higher spending and more taxes will be a drag on economic growth.


Growls readers who are concerned about the nation's fiscal future are urged to carefully consider you vote for president and members of Congress. In addition, use one of the links below to tell your member of Congress of your concern about the nation's fiscal future. You can find contact information at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Here are Arlington County's members of Congress:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

For more information about the federal budget from the Heritage Foundation, click here.

March 21, 2016

A Thought about Income Tax Rates

"As (sic) income tax initially enacted at low rates and later seized upon as a means to redistribute income in favor of the lower classes has become a facade covering loopholes and special provisions that render rates that are highly graduated on paper largely ineffective."

~ Milton Friedman

Source: page 129, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com.

March 20, 2016

Arlington County Pays Premium on Purchase to Expand Park

An item this morning in the online Arlington Sun Gazette reports on the purchase of a home on North Harrison Street to expand Chestnut Hills Park. According to the Sun Gazette:

"The Arlington government will spend nearly $900,000 to acquire and clear a quarter acre of land for expansion of Chestnut Hills Park in the Yorktown neighborhood.

"The latest acquisition proves “Arlington is serious about looking for opportunities to add to our parkland and open space,” County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said after the unanimous vote on March 15 to spend $820,000 to acquire an older home and the land it sits on.

"Government officials expect to spend an additional $5,000 on closing costs and about $50,000 to tear down the house and remove construction debris.

"It’s the second time in a year that the government has made a deal with a landowner to acquire an existing home, tear it down and add the open space to the 4.4-acre park. County officials obtained three other parcels adjoining the park in the 1990s."

The ARLnow.com local news site reported on the Board's decision to buy the property on Wednesday following the Board's recessed meeting the prior day. Their report includes a picture of the  property, and says, "Once the house is demolished, the county will expand the park and will 'work with the community to enhance its features.'"

On September 25, 2015, ARLnow reported on the purchase by Arlington County of 2827 North Harrison, also to expand Chestnut Hills Park, writing:

"County Board Approves House Purchase — Arlington County will purchase a house at 2827 N. Harrison Street for $728,000, with the intention of knocking it down and using the property to enlarge Chestnut Hills Park. “This is another example of how the County is looking for every opportunity to add to our parks and open space,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes."

The Arlington County's newsroom issued press releases for each purchase -- September 24, 2015 and March 15, 2016.

The Arlington County Board's decision to purchase the latest property, 2833 North Harrison, was made at the Board's March 15 recessed meeting (Item #21 on the agenda). See here for audio and video links to the Board meeting.

An analysis of the numbers in the two press releases and the county's real estate data base shows the county was more generous with the seller of this month's purchase.

  • 2827 North Harrison Street -- purchase price - $728,000; 9,632 sq. ft.; purchase decision - 9/24/15; assessed value on 1/1/15 - $728,200. The county paid just under the assessed value, which came to $$75.54 per sq. ft. Better, the county paid no premium over it's most recent assessment.
  • 2833 North Harrison Street -- purchase price - $820,000; 10,405 sq. ft.; purchase decision - 3/15/16; assessed value on 1/1/16 -- $736,000; paying $78.81 per sq. ft. More significantly, the county paid a premium of $84,000 above it's most recent assessment, a premium of 11.4%.

The county may "plan for such purchases" as indicated in the latest press release, but apparently there is less concern for the interests of Arlington County taxpayers.

Growls readers wishing to comment on the purchase of the two additions to Chestnut Hills Park are encouraged to voice their concerns to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

March 19, 2016

Halve-Loaves and the Tourism Tax

The Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey reported on Wednesday, March 16, that members of the Arlington County Board are prepping the next steps to make the tourism-tax a permanent fixture. According to McCaffrey:

"Despite public proclamations of joy in getting back the authority to enact a tax surcharge on hotel stays to fund tourism promotion, it’s clear the Arlington County government sees it as a case of settling for half a loaf.
And they may make a play for the whole loaf in 2018.

"The General Assembly this year agreed to restore Arlington’s ability to levy a 0.25-percent surcharge on hotel stays for tourism promotion, bringing it back five years later after it was stripped away by legislators in a burst of retributive fury at the Arlington County Board.

"With Gov. McAuliffe having signed the legislation, the tax revenue will again start flowing into county-government coffers starting July 1, and is expected to bring in about $1 million a year.

"During the legislative session, Arlington leaders made a play to get the tax restored in perpetuity, rather than have the measure include a “sunset clause” requiring the locality to come back later to get it reaffirmed.
That effort was doomed from the start – Republican leaders in the House of Delegates would never have acquiesced to it – and pushing for no sunset clause almost scuttled the whole endeavor, according to those with knowledge of the situation.

"In the end, the House of Delegates insisted on, and the state Senate and governor went along with, a time limit of two years on the taxing authority. Arlington will have to come back in the 2018 session and ask for it to be extended."

He includes additional information in his reporting.

At the moment, there are five reader comments. Especially interesting is Dave Schutz's; he responds to a portion of the "additional information":

""..“I think we’re the only locality in Virginia to still have” a sunset clause attached to such a measure, County Board Vice Chairman Jay Fisette said.."

"I'm pretty sure we are also the only locality in Virginia to have sued state employees personally for actions they took under direction from their administrative superiors, and to have called state employees racist for having worked for a HOT lanes system. If I were Speaker Howell, no way under God's heaven would I let go of any piece of leverage I had to control Arlington's behavior."

Growls readers wishing to comment on the tourism-tax is encouraged to voice their concerns to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

March 18, 2016

How Well are Arlington County Taxpayers being Represented?

The following background is taken from the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW)'s 2015 Congressional Ratings. CCAGW is "the 501(c)(4) lobbying arm" of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW). Frequent visitors to Growls may remember CAGW since we often feature their Porker of the Month, e.g., here, here, and here:

"Since 1989, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) has examined roll call votes to help identify which members of Congress have defended taxpayer interests and which have backed down on their promises of fiscal responsibility. The Ratings separate the praiseworthy from the profligate by evaluating important tax, spending, transparency, and accountability measures. CCAGW applauds those members of Congress who stood up for taxpayers and ignored the temptations of satisfying local or special interests. However, those who supported a big-government agenda should be prepared to face the consequences for their spendthrift behavior.

"CCAGW’s 2015 Congressional Ratings, for the first session of the 114th Congress, scored 100 votes in the House of Representatives and 35 votes in the Senate. By comparison, CCAGW rated 85 votes in the House of Representatives and 13 votes in the Senate in the second session of the 113th Congress.

"CCAGW rates members on a 0-100% scale. Members are placed in the following categories: 0-19% Hostile; 20-39% Unfriendly; 40-59% Lukewarm; 60-79% Friendly; 80-99% Taxpayer Hero; and 100% Taxpayer Super Hero." (emphasis added)

With that context in mind, let's take a look at how the three members of Congress who represent Arlington County were rated by CCAGW. Those three members are Senators Mark Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D) and Representative Don Beyer (D). All three were rated Hostile to taxpayer interests and fiscal responsibility.

Their 2015 rating and taxpayer category follow:

  • Sen. Tim Kaine -- Rating - 9%; Taxpayer Category - Hostile.
  • Sen. Mark Warner -- Rating - 14%; Taxpayer Category - Hostile.
  • Rep. Don Beyer -- Rating - 2% Taxpayer Category -- Hostile.

By comparison, the overall rating for the Senate was 52% with Democrats averaging 5% and Republicans averaging 93%.

The overall rating in the House of Representatives was 48% with the average Democrat being rated at 4% and the average Republican earning a rating of 82%, Members of the generally more conservative Republican Steering Committee received an average rating of 86%.

The average rating of the entire Virginia state delegation was 64.5%, ranging from Rep. David Brat (7th District) -- 98% to Rep. Robert Scott (3rd District) -- 0%. By comparison, Wyoming (97%) and Utah (94%) were the highest rated state delegations while Rhode Island (2%) and Massachusetts (2%) were the lowest rated state delegations.

Growls readers who are concerned about the ratings of their representatives in Congress should do two things. First, study this rating as well as other Congressional ratings before voting in November. And second, tell your member of Congress of your dissatisfaction. You can find contact information at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Here are Arlington County's members of Congress:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

For the mission and history of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), click here.

March 17, 2016

A Thought about Reducing Poverty

"Although the left continues to advocate for increased welfare spending, more money is not the answer. Combined federal and state means-tested welfare spending continues to grow and now tops $1 trillion per year. This works out to about $20,000 for every person under the poverty line.

"As we have argued previously, and as numerous Heritage Foundation reports demonstrate, the War on Poverty has expensively failed to increase self-sufficiency. Heritage senior research fellow Robert Rector writes that “taxpayers have spent $22 trillion on [President Lyndon B.] Johnson’s war [on poverty]. Adjusted for inflation, that’s three times the cost of all military wars since the American Revolution.” Yet despite this spending, the poverty rate has hovered between 10 and 15 percent for the last 40 years.

"Ever-increasing spending has not solved the problem. As President Ronald Reagan said: “We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won.” It’s time to adopt a different strategy to fight poverty."

~ Mark Erste and Rachel Sheffield

Source: "8 Conservative Policies that will Reduce Poverty," Daily Signal, 3/16/16, published by the Heritage Foundation.

March 16, 2016

Federal Debt Reaches Post-WWII High, as Percentage of GDP

At American Thinker today, Sierra Rayne writes that Federal Reserve data released on Monday shows that "Federal debt as percent of GDP" reached a "post-WWII record high." He adds that it's "now at 104.3% of GDP in Q4 of 2015."

Here's the chart, which Rayne included in his American Thinker blog post:

For context, he adds the following historical information:

"In Q4 of 2008, the last full quarter before President Barack Obama came to office, federal debt was 73.5% of GDP – 31% of GDP below its current value.

"Obama has, by far, overseen the largest increase in federal debt as a share of the American economy among all presidents during the past half-century.  George W. Bush is in second place with a 19.4% increase in federal debt as a percent of GDP during his two terms, followed closely by Ronald Reagan at 18.5%.  In just one term, George H.W. Bush oversaw a 12.8% increase in federal debt as a percent of GDP.

"During the presidencies of Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford/Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter, federal debt declined."

For additional charts on the public debt, visit the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis here.

Growls readers who are concerned that Congress and the President are unable to reduce the national debt and bring sanity to the federal budget process are encouraged to write to their Congressional representatives. You can find contact information at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Here are Arlington County's members of Congress:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

March 15, 2016

A Thought about that Rising Tide Lifting All Boats

" . . .  today's typical American is not infrequently tomorrow's wealthy American. This helps explain why the world's poorest are so desperate to reach the U.S. Success in the U.S. of the wealthy variety shouldn't bring with it a tax penalty; rather it should gift the ambitious with a tax reward.

"But of greatest importance is the simple truth that intrepid investment is the path to the kind of prosperity that we all want, and that will lift all boats. That being the case, the quickest fix to the relatively bland outlook on Main Street is a reduction in the tax bill for those who live in the hills above it."

~ John Tamny

Source: his March 3, 2016 column, Middle Class Tax Cuts Will Not Help the Middle Class, posted at RealClearMarkets.com.

March 14, 2016

A Thought about Economic Growth

"Something else is missing these days: robust economic growth.

“Over the 6 ½ years since the recession ended in the second quarter of 2009, real GDP has grown by a total of 14.5 percent, or at an annual rate of 2.1 percent,” according to Jeffrey Schlagenhauf, a former senior adviser to the congressional Joint Economic Committee.

“Other post-1960 recoveries averaged total growth of 28.4 percent (annual rate of 3.9 percent) over the comparable 26 quarters. The Reagan recovery of the 1980s saw real GDP grow a total of 35 percent, or at an annual rate of 4.7 percent.”

"To put this more vividly, imagine that you are in a car riding shotgun next to Ronald Reagan. You just left New York City and are heading south on Interstate 95. You zoom along in the fast lane, at 78 mph. You just passed a sedan in the next lane. A totally average motorist drives it and strictly obeys the 65 mph speed limit. And way back, in the rear-view mirror, a third auto slouches in the slow lane. Behind the wheel is Obama, plodding forward at 35 mph.

"Statistically, the Reagan, average and Obama recoveries have advanced at speeds equivalent to those of these three vehicles.

"To illustrate what this means over time, picture where these cars would be after 10 hours of nonstop travel: Reagan would be about 20 minutes north of Savannah, Ga. The average driver would find himself about 20 minutes past Florence, SC.

"And Obama would be crawling through the northern suburbs of Richmond, Va.

"Why are Americans so angry?"

~ Deroy Murdock

Source: his New York Post column, posted 3/11/16.

March 13, 2016

A Thought about Whose Income is in the Top 10%?

"Here is a trick question: What percentage of American households have incomes in the top 10 percent? Answer: 51 percent of American households are in the top 10 percent in income at some point in the course of a lifetime -- usually in their older years. Those who want us to envy and resent the top 10 percent are urging half of us to envy and resent ourselves.”

~ Thomas Sowell

Source: his March 8, "Random Thoughts" column, posted at Townhall.com.

March 12, 2016

Treasury Collects Record $1.25 Trillion; Still Runs Deficit

At CNS News on Thursday, March 10, Terry Jeffrey reported on the latest numbers from the monthly Treasury statement.

According to Jeffrey:

"The U.S. Treasury hauled in a record of approximately $1,248,371,000,000 in tax revenues in the first five months of fiscal 2016 (Oct. 1, 2015 through Feb. 29, 2016), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today. (emphasis added)

"Despite these record tax revenues in the first five months of the fiscal year, the federal government nonetheless ran a deficit of approximately $353,005,000,000 during the same period.

"In February alone, the Treasury ran a deficit of $192,614,000,000.

"The record five-month tax haul of $1,248,371,000,000 equaled approximately $8,263 for each of the 151,074,000 people in the country who had either a full or part-time job in February. (emphasis added)

<snip>

"The largest source of revenue in the first five months of this fiscal year was the individual income tax, which brought the Treasury $597,524,000,000. The second largest source was Social Security and other payroll taxes, which brought in $428,181,000,000."

Growls readers who are concerned that Congress and the President are unable to bring sanity to the federal budget process are encouraged to write to their Congressional representatives to ask them to focus on bringing fiscal sanity to federal spending. You can find contact information at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Here are Arlington County's members of Congress:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

March 11, 2016

ObamaCare Co-ops Leave Taxpayers Holding $1.2 Billion Bag

In today's Washington Times, Tom Howell reports, "Obamacare’s failed health co-ops could be leaving taxpayers with a massive, unpayable IOU."

He continued, writing:

"A new report released Thursday found that the co-ops, once seen as a key part of the president’s national health care law, have not repaid a single dollar of the combined $1.2 billion they received in federal loans, and Senate Republicans are arguing that the U.S. Treasury will never be made whole.

"Under the Affordable Care Act, the administration extended $2.4 billion in start-up and solvency loans to 23 nonprofit plans that were supposed to empower consumers and offer an alternative to big corporate players in the new marketplace.

"Yet many of the co-ops had a hard time pricing their products or competing for market share, and 12 of them have gone belly-up, forcing 740,000 people in 14 states scrambling to find new health insurance coverage, the GOP-authored report said.

"Senate Republicans said the failed co-ops’ balance sheets reveal more than $1 billion in unpaid medical claims and other liabilities that far exceed their reported assets, leaving little — if any — cash to repay taxpayers.

“Where’s it gonna come from?” said Sen. Rob Portman, the Ohio Republican who chairs the investigatory panel on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

"Democrats originally promoted the co-ops, or “Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans,” during the Obamacare debate of 2009 as a fallback to attempt to win passage of a “public option,” or government-run plan to be offered alongside private plans in the new web-based health exchanges to be set up in the states.

"Designed to give consumers more bargaining power in the marketplace, the co-op program instead has turned into a major headache for President Obama, who is trying to place his signature law on firm footing before leaving office.

"One of the co-op plans, CoOportunity Health of Nebraska and Iowa, abruptly shut down in early 2015, foreshadowing the ill fates of co-ops in Louisiana, Nevada, New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Arizona and Michigan."

The complete record of yesterday's hearing before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee can be found here. The link includes access to member statements, 63-page majority staff report, 86-pages of hearing exhibits, and four appendices to the report. In addition, the PSI webpage allows viewing the almost 2 1/2-hour hearing of the Review of the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance CO-OP Program.

The Fox News coverage of the hearing includes two interactive maps, which show the current operating status of open and closed ObamaCare co-ops as well as states where loans were awarded to ObamaCare co-ops.

Several conservative, or alternative, news outlets reported on the PSI hearings, including CNSNews.com, Hot Air, and the Daily Caller. Also, Fiscal Times reported today that "Administration Officials Knew ObamaCare Co-ops Were Failing in 2012," including 1) defective enrollment strategies, 2) numerous budgetary and financial planning problems, and 3) many management weaknesses. And, finally, at the Patriot Post today, Tony Perkins concludes and opinion piece, writing:

"For taxpayers, it’s a double whammy. Not only is more of their money flushed down the Obamacare drain, but many will be hit again with higher premiums because of it. Six years into the worst health care mistake in history, the president’s signature failure is draining the lifeblood out of our health care system. For voters, it’s even more confirmation that America needs to elect a president who will make repealing Obamacare priority number one!"

Readers who haven't recently watched Congressional hearings on C-SPAN, might find some of the exchanges between the chairman, Senator Portman (R-Ohio) and the Acting Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, of interest, especially concerning the numbers in the Majority Report.

Growls readers who are concerned about ObamaCare in particular or uncontrolled federal spending in general, are encouraged to write to their Congressional representatives to ask them what they have done to implement healthcare that is efficient, effective, and economical. You can find contact information at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Here are Arlington County's members of Congress:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.                     

March 10, 2016

A Thought about Jobs and the Economy

"Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, noted in an article for Real Clear Markets that the government’s latest survey of job creation shows that 78% of the jobs created were part-time, and 82% were in the food-service and retail industries. Remember when Democrats used to complain that the torrid pace of job growth under President Reagan didn’t matter because they were all “hamburger-flipper jobs.” It wasn’t true then, but it is now.

"Schiff rightly points out that much of this is due to costly regulations imposed by Obama — which Hillary Clinton wants to “build on” — that have made it too costly to hire full-time workers.

"Obama does hold one economic distinction. Since he took office, real annual GDP growth has never once topped 2.5%, making him the first president in modern history to have achieved such an unbroken string of dismal growth."

~ Editorial, Investor's Business Daily

Source: their IBD's 3/10/16, posted at Investor's Business Daily.

March 09, 2016

A Thought about Tariffs

"Tariff policy beneficiaries are always seen, but its victims are mostly unseen. Politicians love this. The reason is simple. The beneficiaries know for whom to cast their ballots and to whom to give campaign contributions. Most often, the victims do not know whom to blame for their calamity."

~ Walter E. Williams, Professor of Economics, George Mason University

Source: his March 8, 2016 "Seen and Unseen" column, posted at CNSNews.com.

March 08, 2016

What a Concept! Maine now has Work Reqt for Food Stamps

Last month, the Heritage Foundation published a paper about Maine's food stamp work requirement, which "cut non-parent caseload by 80 percent" by Robert Rector, Rachel Sheffield, and Kevin D. Dayaratna (Backgrounder #3091, February 8, 2016).

Here's the abstract from the Heritage Foundation paper:

"The food stamp program is the nation’s second largest means-tested welfare program; its costs have risen from $20.7 billion in 2000 to $83.1 billion in 2014. Contributing to this rapid expansion is the enrollment of able-bodied adults without dependents, which has risen from nearly 2 million in 2008 to around 4.7 million today. Benefits to these individuals and related administrative expenses cost the taxpayers around $10.5 billion per year. Welfare should not be a one-way handout. In keeping with the success of both the 1990s welfare reform and Maine’s recent food stamp work requirement, the U.S. government should require constructive behavior from able-bodied recipients in exchange for benefits. Specifically, able-bodied adult food stamp recipients without dependents should be required to take a job, prepare for work, perform community service, or at a minimum search for employment in exchange for aid and assistance at the taxpayers’ expense. This reform would save taxpayers $9.7 billion per year."

The authors identified three key points in their paper:

  1. "Food stamps is one of the government’s largest means-tested welfare programs, with roughly 46 million participants and costing $80 billion a year. Since 2009, the fastest growth in participation has occurred among able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs)."
  2. "In 2014, Maine implemented a work requirement for ABAWDs. As a result, their ABAWD caseload dropped by 80 percent within a few months, declining from 13,332 recipients in December 2014 to 2,678 in March 2015."
  3. "Federal food stamp policy should be reformed to include a work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents. If the U.S. saw the same results as Maine, the result would be a savings of as much as $9.7 billion annually. A food stamp work requirement for ABAWDs promotes self-sufficiency and establishes fairness between the individual receiving the benefit and the taxpayer."

The Robert Rector et al paper provides a comprehensive review of the food stamp program, including the decision in 2009 to issue a blanket waiver of work requirements "as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), allowing all states to automatically waive the work requirement."

According to an Associated Press report appearing in the Washington Times on January 30, 2016, Patrick Whittle reports, "Maine has used work requirements to remove thousands of residents from its food stamp rolls in a scenario that could soon play out across the country." His report went on:

"The drop in Maine preceded changes at the federal level, as more than 1 million residents in 21 states will face losing food stamps if they don’t meet work requirements that began this month. Those who don’t meet the requirements will lose benefits in three months."

Unfortunately, Maine's success story in reducing its food stamp caseload by implementing a work requirement received little press coverage in the mainstream media. Thankfully, however, the paper garnered a great deal of publicity in the alternative, or generally more conservative press. e.g., American Thinker, CNS News, Pajamas Media, and the Independent Women's Forum.

The primary newspaper available at your local newsstand, which picked up on the Heritage Foundation paper, is Investor's Business Daily. Their February 12, 2016 editorial not only reported on the Heritage paper, but also took on criticisms from the political left:

"The political left, of course, has tried to characterize the Maine policy as cruel. A Washington Post headline obliquely attacks LePage for having the audacity to suggest that Mainers should work for their food. A year ago, Think Progress was troubled that Maine had “kicked 6,500 people off of food stamps so far this winter.”

"But the work requirement is modest, and Rector and Sheffield assure us that “job openings for lower-skill workers are abundant in Maine.” And there is nothing extreme about asking the able-bodied to demonstrate some responsibility and take care of themselves. In fact, putting the able-bodied in position to be self-sufficient is a service to them, helping them shake their soul-strangling dependency on the state.

"It is a service to their descendants, as well, since welfare dependency is often passed down through the family, trapping generations in poverty. Welfare programs truly create a moral hazard, as recipients have no reason to stop making the poor decisions that first initiated, and then exacerbated, their situations. Knowing the state will backstop their missteps gives them reason to keep making them, setting up a pattern that will be followed by their progeny."

On the other hand, the Portland, Maine Press-Herald gave USDA Secretary the opportunity to attack Maine's governor, Paul LePage (R) politically. Here's the lede from Matt Byrne's March 3, 2016 story:

"U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack criticized Gov. Paul LePage’s administration this week, saying it has disqualified childless, unemployed adults from food stamp benefits without doing enough to help them find jobs or learn skills.

"More than 12,000 jobless, childless Mainers were removed from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, from November 2014 to November 2015 after the LePage administration chose to enforce federal work requirements that had been waived since the recession." (emphasis added)

See LePage's Wikipedia entry for more biographical information.

Growls readers who are tired of their federal tax dollars being wasted on poorly designed welfare programs are encouraged to write to their Congressional representatives to ask them what they have done to implement work requirements in other welfare programs. You can find contact information at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Here are Arlington County's members of Congress:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

And kudos to the Heritage Foundation for their work in helping citizens understand the complexity of the federal budget For more information about Heritage, click here.

March 07, 2016

Your Federal Tax Dollars Hard at Work? NOT!

At the Washington Free Beacon today, Elizabeth Harrington reports the federal National Science Foundation "spent $412,930 studying 'relationship between gender and glaciers.'"

Harrington continued her report, writing:

"The paper “Glaciers, gender, and science,” published in January 2016, concluded that “ice is not just ice,” urging scientists to take a “feminist political ecology and feminist postcolonial” approach when they study melting ice caps and climate change.

"“Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change,” the paper by Mark Carey, a professor at the University of Oregon, explained. “However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers–particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied.”

"Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions,” the paper said.

"The 10,417-word article published in Sage Journals’ “Progress in Human Geography,” was first highlighted by Reason’s Robby Soave and Tablet Magazine’s Yair Rosenberg.

"The paper argues that glaciers can shape “religious beliefs and cultural values,” and that climate change can lead to the “breakdown of stereotypical gender roles and even ‘gender renegotiation.’”

"While the paper argues that glacier research needs more feminine perspectives, gender is not defined as male and female for the researchers, but “as a range of personal and social possibilities.”

Harrington includes a lot more such feminist gibberish in her report. Where should it be filed? She said, "Sage Journals filed the paper under “feminist glaciology,” “feminist political ecology,” and “feminist postcolonial science studies.”

Growls readers who are tired of their federal tax dollars being wasted for the most non-sensical reasons are encouraged to write to their Congressional representatives to ask them what they have done to root out waste, fraud and abuse by the U.S. government. You can find contact information at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Here are Arlington County's members of Congress:

  • 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 Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

Kudos to the Washington Free Beacon for continuing to publish articles that point out our federal tax dollars are being wasted.

March 06, 2016

A Thought about Taxation

"Taxation of earnings from labor is on a par with forced labor."

~ Robert Nozick

Source: page 37, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com.

March 05, 2016

A Thought About Progressive Taxation

"Unlike proportionality, progression provides no principle which tells us what the relative burden of different persons ought to be . . . the argument based on the presumed justice of progression provides no limitation, as has often been admitted by its supporters, before all incomes above a certain figure are confiscated, and those below left untaxed."

~ Friedrich A. Hayek

Source: Page 130, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com.

March 04, 2016

Another Thought on Paying Your "Fair Share of Taxes"

"Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, along with President Obama, say they want high-income earners, otherwise known as the rich, to pay their fair share of income taxes. None of these people, as well as the uninformed in the media and our campus intellectual elites, will say precisely what is the "fair share" of taxes.

"That is because they would look ignorant and silly, so they stick with simply saying that the rich should pay more. Let's you and I take a peek at who pays what in federal income taxes.

"The following represents 2012 income tax data recently released by the Internal Revenue Service, compiled by the Tax Foundation (http://tinyurl.com/j5yr8cd). The top 1 percent, 1.37 million taxpayers earning $434,682 and more, paid 38 percent of all federal income taxes. The top 5 percent, those earning $175,817 and more, paid 59 percent. The top 10 percent of income earners, those earning $125,195 and up, paid 70 percent of all federal income taxes.

"The top 25 percent, those earning $73,354 and up, paid 86 percent. The bottom 50 percent, people earning $36,055 and less, paid a little less than 3 percent of federal income taxes. According to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, slightly over 45 percent of American households have no federal income tax liability.

"With this information in hand, you might ask the next person who says the rich do not pay their fair share of taxes: Exactly what percentage of total federal income taxes should the 1-percenters pay . . . ."

~ Walter E. Williams

Source: his March 1, 2016 column at CNSNews.com.

March 03, 2016

Arlington County Board Chair: Odds Favor Cut in Tax Rate

Reporting on Tuesday's meeting of the Arlington County Civic Federation, the Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey wrote the following lede this morning:

"Arlington County Board Chairman Libby Garvey says she’s confident the board will be able to lower the real-estate tax rate when it concludes its fiscal 2017 budget process in the spring."

He continued his reporting, writing:

"Cutting the rate is something “this board very much wants to do,” Garvey said at the County Board’s annual meeting with the Arlington County Civic Federation, held March 1.

"County Manager Mark Schwartz’s draft $1.19 billion fiscal 2017 budget provides the option of cutting the tax rate from 99.6 cents per $100 assessed value to 99.1 cents, which would reduce the tax on a $600,000 home from $5,976 to $5,946.

"Board members advertised a tax rate of 99.6 cents, but retain the option of lowering it before a final budget is adopted. “I think we will get there,” Garvey said.

"At least one delegate to the Civic Federation wants the board to go further.

"Tim Wise, president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, introduced a resolution calling on the County Board to cut the rate a full penny, to 98.6 cents per $100, or lower if possible."

For our most recent Growls about the County Manager's proposed FY 2017 budget, see our February 24, 2016 Growls. For the latest on the Superintendent's proposed FY 2017 budget, see our February 29, 2016 Growls.

The Arlington County Board held a two-hour budget work session today at 4:00 PM that included an overview of revenues and the information technology and economic development departments. Documents related to this work session are here as well as the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) report on the economic development department. This additional information is especially helpful in gaining a deeper understanding of the Arlington County budget.

The FAAC report on the economic development department's budget provides an especially interesting discussion, including the 7-5 vote on whether to provide the department with $1.5 million of one-time funds "for the proposed Economic Development Incentive Fund." The accompanying comment read:

"The nays fell into two broad groups: (1) those who did not believe an incentive fund to be within the proper role of government, and (2) those who were concerned about the sufficiency of the ROI in comparison to other investments that would directly benefit the broader public and make Arlington a more attractive business location."

Another budget work session will be held tomorrow, March 4 at 9:00 AM, and include the Sheriff's Office, the Electoral Board, the Treasurer, and the Commissioner of Revenue. Additional information about the County Manager's proposed FY 2017 budget is available here.

Growls readers wishing to comment on the Arlington County Manager's proposed FY 2017 budget and/or to thank the Board chair, and her colleagues, for their efforts to cut the real estate tax rate are encouraged to voice your concerns to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

UPDATE (3/7/16): In a short piece today, the Arlington Sun Gazette reported on FAAc's "budget split on economic-development incentives."

March 02, 2016

A Thought about Taking Positions

"Cowardice asks the question - is it safe?
Expediency asks the question - is it politic?
Vanity asks the question - is it popular?
But conscience asks the question - is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right."

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Source The Quotations Page.

HT Pajamas Media article by Bridget Johnson, 2/29/16.

March 01, 2016

A Thought about the Sustainability of Social Security

"Social Security is simultaneously growing and losing money. And these losses will become increasingly severe.  In 2010, more money went into subsidized benefits than were received from taxes. According to the trustees of the Social Security "trust funds," there will be a cash deficit averaging about $77 billion annually through 2018, which will then rise steeply as the number of beneficiaries continues to grow at a substantially faster rate than the number of covered workers. The ratio of beneficiaries to workers that I described earlier gets much worse. The combined DI and OASI "trust funds” will be completely depleted by 2033. In fact, the trustees forecast that expenditures will exceed tax revenues throughout the next seventy-five years. When they calculate the present value of the unfunded obligation for the next seventy-five years, it comes to $10.6 trillion, or $1 trillion more than last year’s prediction. Indeed the $10.6 trillion will be necessary to fund obligations on top of the income the federal government receives from Social Security taxes.” (italics in the original)

~ Mark R. Levin

Source: page 41, “Plunder and Deceit: Big Government’s Exploitation of Young People and the Future." Available at Barnes & Noble.