Government Owned Land: How much do we need?

Conservation or Control?

Both the United States and the State of Florida were founded on the recognition, and consistent defense of, the concept of private property rights. It was no theoretical warning given by Founding Father Arthur Lee of Virginia when he said,

The right of property is the guardian of every other right, and to deprive a people of this, is in fact to deprive them of their liberty.

The ideas of self-determination, individualism, and self-reliance fostered and demanded by this principle have shaped the settlement and prosperity of our country and state.  From such beginnings until today, these values remain an integral part of our culture and way of life.

However, across the country, government continues to pursue policies that erode this fundamental right. Among the most serious of these encroachments is the aggressive and continued acquisition and regulatory control of land.

A Policy of Failure in the West

Government land acquisition is most noticeable in states west of the Mississippi River, where approximately 50 percent of all land is owned by the federal government.  In states such as Utah, Idaho, Arkansas and, Nevada, federal ownership exceeds 70 percent.[1] For decades, western states have seen firsthand how this disproportionate amount of federal land ownership deprives them and their citizens of economic opportunities. This challenge is only growing worse as environmental interests and centralized government work to lock up the land and its resources.

A consequence of such a federal policy is many local governments in Western states have significantly less private property available to tax than their eastern counterparts.  Every acre taken over by the federal government is an acre off the tax rolls. Less tax revenue means budget constraints on vital services like police protection, construction and maintenance of roads and bridges, firefighting, search and rescue operations and public education. Rather than return property to local ownership and control, the federal government has chosen to offset the loss of property taxes by establishing the payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) program.[2] States in the West must increasingly rely on those states in the East to fund land management and government services through subsidies.

In the West, excessive federal ownership and control of land prevents state and private interests from best-use and management of property. As a result, trillions of dollars of potential revenue that could go towards strengthening economies, funding land management, and meeting needs of citizens is left untapped.

A Lesson for Florida   

In Florida, policymakers should be vigilant to avoid the plight of states west of the Mississippi.  While federal ownership is not as acutely felt in Florida as in the West (although Florida helps pay for subsidies to the west), state government ownership and control is growing and potentially could have a significant impact.

According to a February 2017 summary published by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Florida contains 34.7 million non-submerged acres.  Of that total, more than 10.2 million acres (nearly 30 percent) are held in conservation.  Breaking down further, state government owns and manages 14.1 percent; the federal government owns and manages 11.6 percent; and, local governments account for 1.4 percent. This does not begin to consider the acreage used for state and local government office buildings, agency operations, maintenance, etc.  It also does not include acreage used to house state educational facilities.

The most aggressive government acquisition of property has come in the area of conservation.  The Florida Legislature passed several laws to expand conservation in the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, it was during the years 1999 to 2015 when the acquisition of conservation land intensified.  During this period, two programs were passed by the Florida Legislature that increased the amount of state-owned conservation lands by 30 percent[4].

Acquisition is Costly

From 1999 to 2005, the Preservation 2000 program acquired land for conservation. Since 2001, the Florida Forever program has acquired conservation lands and continues in effect today. As of June 30, 2015, via these two programs, the state has purchased approximately 2.5 million acres at a direct cost of $6.2 million to Florida’s taxpayers.[5] This direct cost does not account for the revenues lost from the property being removed from the tax rolls.

During the years of the Great Recession, conservation land purchases by the state were diminished due to decreased state revenues. However, as the economy has stabilized and rising revenue projections have returned, calls for land purchases and conservation easements (privately-owned lands dedicated in perpetuity for conservation in exchange for tax breaks) are increasing in volume.

In 2014, Florida voters passed the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment. This state constitutional amendment designates one-third of real estate documentary stamp revenues toward conservation land acquisition, maintenance of government owned property, renovation of historical sites, and restoration of the environment, especially the Everglades, etc. To some, this presented an opportunity to balance the aggressive acquisition of land with funding enabling the state to better steward its government-owned land and water. But to others, it was seen and promoted as an open checkbook for aggressive (and unnecessary) land acquisition.

Maintenance is Costly (and Recurring)

Easily overlooked by those advocating for more land purchases is the cost of property maintenance. Maintenance is critical to clear brush for preventing wildfires, fighting off invasive species and plants, and protecting the overall land aesthetic.  Unlike the one-time cost of property purchases, maintenance is an on-going, recurring expenditure. It requires employees (salaries, insurance and pensions), facilities, equipment, fuel, and other expenses.

The 2016 Annual Report of the Land Management Uniform Accounting Council [6] states that in FY 2015-2016, state agencies in Florida spent more than $173 million to manage 3.4 million acres of conservation lands.  Accounting for tourist revenues of approximately $79 million, the net cost to taxpayers for maintenance of conservation lands was $94.6 million or $28.23 per acre [7]. Such maintenance expenditures are sure to increase and, again, will be incurred every year.

Based on the 2016 Annual Report and assuming an acquisition cost of $2,500 per acre (the average price per acre in both the Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 programs [8]), the acquisition of 20,000 acres for conservation would incur a one-time cost of $50 million.  In addition to this, an annual maintenance cost of approximately $565,000 would need to be added to an already stretched state budget.

Debt Service is Costly (and Recurring)

Another often overlooked stress on the state budget is the cost of debt service.  A 2017 report from the Office of Economic and Demographic Research reveals, “To date, the state has issued approximately $2.0 billion of Florida Forever bonds. The most recent year that new bonds were authorized was Fiscal Year 2008-09. As of September 2016, the aggregate principal amount of outstanding bonds is $1.0 billion, with debt service of approximately $145.2 million due in Fiscal Year 2016-2017. If no new bonds are sold, the estimated debt service is expected to decline each year through Fiscal Year 2028-29, at which time the Florida Forever bonds would be retired.”

Local Loss is Costly

In addition to the state budget, financial stress is also felt at the local level.  County and municipal budgets are funded primarily from property taxes. Property owners’ taxes fund local education, road maintenance, law enforcement, social workers, growth management, environmental protection, and flood control, just to name a few spending categories.

As government purchases take property off the tax rolls, less revenue is available to provide necessary services. This puts local governments in the difficult position to either reduce services or raise taxes on the remaining taxable private properties.  Increasing government land ownership inevitably creates a negative ripple effect impacting all levels of the public sector.

The inherent tension is a result of an economic concept called “opportunity cost.” State revenues are fixed by tax structure. Every dollar we spend on one service is a dollar not being used to support another service. We elect policymakers to make informed decisions on our behalf. Often, around election cycles, special interest groups will assert themselves for greater levels of taxpayer support. Government’s property acquisitions, maintenance, and debt service also compete for these funds.

Today, the impact of government land ownership is felt most acutely in the western states massive federal land ownership and its financial strains like states and their citizens in the west. Florida policymakers should take heed and work to curb the never-satisfied desire to control more and more land. Floridians already help pay for the subsidies western states receive due to massive government ownership and the costs incurred.

Florida’s policymakers should consider how much government owned conservation land we truly need and how we plan to afford to keep it.

Author

Dan Peterson Headshot - The James Madison Institute
DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR PROPERTY RIGHTS

  1. http://propertyrightsresearch.org/2004/articles6/state_by_state_government_land_o.htm
  2. https://www.doi.gov/pilt/
  3. http://fnai.org/PDF/Maacres_201702_FCL_plus_LTF.pdf
  4. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Statistical Abstract, Land Conservation
  5. Ibid
  6. http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/ARC/2016_LMUAC_Annual.pdf
  7. Ibid
  8. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Statistical Abstract, Land Conservation
  9. http://edr.state.fl.us/Content/special-research-projects/natural%20resources/LandandWaterAnnual%20Assessment_2017Edition.pdf

Will Highways Become Obsolete?

Technology’s rapidly changing landscape will transform the way we travel in the next decade, much less the next half century. Sure as the sun rises, private innovators like Elon Musk will ensure outmoded travel will be obsolete in the near term. So, toll roads and the long arm of government attempting to manage our morning commute through toll ‘managed’ lanes won’t be necessary.

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By Terri Hall

New modes of transport could replace the need for cars, sooner rather than later.

You’d think it’s counterproductive for Elon Musk to support something that could eliminate the need for his own Tesla self-driving cars, but innovators tend to be on the cutting edge of new technologies and Hyperloop One is certainly worth watching.

Hyperloop is a new form of transportation that propels a pod (whether people or cargo) through a tube across an elevated track using magnetic levitation technology. The company claims it could take a passenger from Houston to Dallas in under 30 minutes — at airline speeds of 620 MPH without turbulence or drag — at a fraction of the cost. At least that’s how it’s being promoted.

That beats high speed rail systems, including the one being planned by Japan-based Texas Central Railway, whose speeds top out at 205 MPH. The advantage of a Hyperloop type of system over the traditional high speed rail is it would not require the massive taking of rural land, eliminating the ‘eminent domain for private gain’ problem, since it’s elevated and could potentially be built within existing highway real estate. Nor would a Hyperloop create the noise problems of high speed trains because it’s inside a tube without air drag.

Hyperloop One has announced the ten teams for its Global Challenge representing the U.S., UK, Mexico, India, and Canada along with winning routes it chose from a field of hundreds of applicants to move forward with prototypes and feasibility studies, with one route set for Dallas-Laredo-Houston.

The company conducted its first successful test in July 2017, and it will continue to test the technology for longer distances and at greater and greater speeds. It plans to have a system fully operational by 2020. The company has already raised $160 million for the task.

While Hyperloop technology could transform the future of transportation, it still has many of the challenges of traditional highspeed rail. How do you get passengers from the outskirts of urban centers to their final destinations inside city centers? So far, Uber and rideshare companies have solved the door-to-door problem just fine without the fancy-dancy, hi-tech Hyperloop track. But to some extent, ridesharing contributes to the road congestion. Hyperloop would bypass it.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has already entered into an agreement with AECOM to explore Hyperloop’s feasibility to help address the state’s mobility issues. The open question remains, who’s going to pay for such a system? Will it be entirely private funding? Aren’t the Colorado taxpayers footing at least part of the bill by entering into a public-private partnership (P3), a controversial contracting method often considered corporate welfare?

Ready for the Jetsons?

Uber announced its plans to use Dallas as its test market for a new flying car.

Your read that right. It’s called Uber Elevate and it would create a fleet of cars that can do vertical takeoff and landing or VTOLs. One of the reasons the company chose Dallas as its testing ground is its high concentration of aviators, with Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and Bell Helicopter based there.

Jeff Holden, Uber’s Chief Product Officer says it expects to begin testing as early as 2020. While many skeptics quickly emerged with the obvious concerns about commuters encountering the same potential for congestion while in the air along with safety concerns for those who have no experience in flying, the meteoric rise of drone users demonstrates the capacity for such new flying technologies to find a niche, if not a mass market in the future.

Out with the Old, In with the New

With the White House and state highway departments scurrying to enter into long-term P3 contracts for toll roads, it’s seems so yesterday when taking the vast possibilities of new technology and travel innovations into consideration. Just a few years ago, driverless cars were all the rage and many thought that would take driving into the 21st century — and it will, with the potential to use platooning vehicles and driver-to-driver communications to eliminate much of today’s urban congestion. While new technologies like the Hyperloop and flying cars seemed like outlandish futuristic pipe dreams even a decade ago, real companies and real investors are putting up serious cash to make the unthinkable a reality to help solve the endless scourge of road congestion.

So, note to policy makers. Before you rush into 50-99-year sweetheart deals with private, mostly foreign toll operators using today’s limited old school data and thinking, buyer beware.

Technology’s rapidly changing landscape will transform the way we travel in the next decade, much less the next half century. Sure as the sun rises, private innovators like Elon Musk will ensure outmoded travel will be obsolete in the near term. So, toll roads and the long arm of government attempting to manage our morning commute through toll ‘managed’ lanes won’t be necessary.

Bureaucrats need not apply.


TERRI HALL

Terri Hall is the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), which defends against eminent domain abuse and promotes non-toll transportation solutions. She’s a home school mother of ten turned citizen activist. Ms. Hall is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the Conservative-Online-Journalism Center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.

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Military at Ease after Trans Ban Survives

When Congress sets records, they aren’t always good ones! But yesterday, the Senate kept a good streak alive, passing the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 56th consecutive year. In a Capitol where regular order is rarer than a solar eclipse, the military’s spending bill is one of the few things Congress manages to approve on time. It hasn’t missed since West Side Story was in the theaters, and gas cost 27 cents a gallon.But if there was ever a year when the streak might have snapped, it was this one. Apart from the hike in spending, liberal senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) threatened to make a stink about the president’s transgender policy.

Despite being three of the most favorite tweets Donald Trump has ever posted, this pair was desperate to keep Obama’s dangerous social experiment alive. In comments to the press, they defended the gender confusion that’s been panned by the service chiefstroops, and American people.

Gillibrand argued that “Our military is strongest when it represents the nation it serves.”

In the end, that’s exactly who the president represented — a country who elected him to ignore the distractions of the last eight years and focus on the job at hand. And, as dozens of military leaders pointed out, that job was nearly impossible with Obama’s social engineering dogging their every move. Taxpayers didn’t escape the weight of it either, staring down a $3.7 billion tab for the next 10 years of transgender surgeries, treatments, and lost deployment time. In a force devastated by two terms of budget cuts, cultural shifts, suicide, sexual assaults, and recruitment woes, no one wanted to fling open the doors to more politically-correct chaos — least of all the men and women in uniform.

Asked point-blank, almost 60 percent of active-duty military held a negative opinion of the decision to allow transgender troops to serve openly. More telling, more than half of that group said the policy change was having a terrible effect on military morale. In other words, it was unpopular, unproductive, and unreasonably expensive. Is it any wonder that one year after Barack Obama changed the policy, Trump changed it back? Like most Americans, he understands that the military’s job is to fight and win wars – not pander to a political agenda that weakens national security.

Fortunately, the majority of GOP leaders arrived at the same conclusion, refusing to give the Gillibrand-Collins amendment a second glance. That’s in large part to the thousands of you who heeded our call and urged your senators to support the president’s guidance. As a result, the NDAA sailed through the Senate 89-8 — without even debating a return to the demoralizing policy of the last year. Instead they focused on the military’s real priorities: increased pay, missile defense, better equipment, and more troops. And while the bill isn’t entirely out of the woods — the House and Senate still have to agree on the final package in conference — this is a huge step in the right direction.

Our deepest thanks to the White House and all of you, who refused to stop fighting for the people fighting for us.

EDITORS NOTE: Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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Why I and Other Lawmakers Should Live Under Obamacare by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL)

For seven years, Republican candidates running for every office from president to dogcatcher campaigned on the need to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The spectacular collapse of the repeal effort in the Senate revealed that these promises were, at least for some senators, hollow.

As disappointing as the effort in the Senate was to witness, Congress cannot simply walk away from the promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. One surefire way to restart the repeal effort is simple: Make Congress live under Obamacare.

The actual text of Obamacare cancels the congressional health plans utilized by members of Congress and refers members to the Obamacare exchanges for their insurance needs.

The idea was that members should eat their own cooking. No special subsidies were provided. Indeed, traditional employer contributions are prohibited for anyone enrolled in an exchange.

However, in 2013, after consultation with congressional leaders, the Obama administration issued a legally dubious administrative rule that put Congress onto the D.C. small business exchange (which is meant for businesses with less than 50 employees) and conferred upon members a generous taxpayer subsidy.

This is contrary to the text of Obamacare and reeks of insider favoritism. The arrangement has protected Congress from the high cost of Obamacare while millions of Americans continue to struggle under the financial burdens of the law.

Currently, there are two sets of health care laws in the United States: one for the taxpayers, and one for the insider class.

Under current practice, the American people alone are expected to shoulder the costs of health care. Members of Congress are shielded from the costs of their own law by placing—contrary to law—the burden of subsidizing congressional insurance plans on the backs of taxpayers.

Requiring Congress to experience the burden of Obamacare as the rest of America has would provide the greatest incentive to quickly return to the effort to repeal this failed law.

Obamacare continues to crumble. Just last month, it was reported that over 800,000 Americans will lose their current coverage in 2018 due to health care companies pulling out of the exchanges.

Some counties only have one insurance provider in their exchange, wholly eliminating the potential for competition in the market to reduce prices. And, in some areas, there is no insurance provider participating in the exchanges at all.

Health care premiums are rising, and soaring deductibles have put affordable health insurance out of reach for many middle-class Americans.

Our constituents deserve meaningful reform that lowers premiums and expands care options. Yet, Congress has failed to deliver on these promises, all while continuing to reap unlawful taxpayer subsidies.

Everyday Americans do not have the same luxury of simply not complying with the law.

President Donald Trump can singlehandedly put an end to these illegal subsidies. Earlier this year, I sent a letter to the president explaining that blowing the whistle on this special deal will make members of Congress better understand the burdens of Obamacare and incentivize them to get to work on a good repeal and replace plan.

While I am encouraged that the president has indicated that revoking the 2013 rule is a negotiating option that remains on the table, I believe that these illegal subsidies should be eliminated immediately.

This is why I have submitted an amendment to the House’s upcoming spending bills that would defund the Obama administration’s special rule for Congress.

The American people should demand that members of Congress honor their promises to repeal Obamacare and insist that they live under the same laws as the rest of the people.

Portrait of Rep. Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis, a Republican, represents Florida’s 6th District. Twitter: 

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Health care has dominated the news cycle for the last several years. With the introduction of socialized health care, the American health care industry faced grave danger. Unfortunately, fake news and dishonest reporting plagues the health care industry.

That is why it is our mission to ensure you receive accurate, timely, and reliable facts surrounding this politically charged battle on and off the Hill. The future of health care is important. Lives are at stake and patients deserve to know the facts and their rights.

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EDITORS NOTE: Under a legally dubious administrative rule from 2013, members of Congress and their staff are currently shielded from Obamacare by a taxpayer subsidy. The featured image is courtesy of iStock Photos. Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. But this can’t be done alone. Find out more >>

Trump Says Tax Reform Could Create ‘Millions and Millions of New Jobs’ by Fred Lucas

President Donald Trump hit his campaign themes of bringing back American jobs and raising wages in launching his quest for tax reform, while blasting special interest loopholes.

“Let’s put, or at least try to put, the partisan posturing behind us and come together as Americans to create the 21st century tax code that our people deserve,” Trump told the audience Wednesday at the Loren Cook Company in Springfield, Missouri.

“If we unite, in the name of common sense and the name of common good, then we will add millions and millions of new jobs, bring back trillions of dollars, and we will give America the competitive advantage it so desperately needs and has been looking for so long,” Trump continued.

“Instead of exporting our jobs, we will export our goods.”

Democrats have framed past Republican efforts at tax reform as a gift to the rich, but Trump put his own populist stamp on the issue by talking about how the current complex tax code harms average Americans, leading to fewer jobs, and how a new system would be fairer, expand economic growth to more than 3 percent, and make America more competitive.

“If we achieve sustained 3 percent growth, that means 12 million new jobs and $10 trillion dollars of new economic activity over the next decade,” Trump said.

Trump noted that Springfield, Missouri, was the birthplace of Route 66.

“This is the place where the main street of America got its start, and this is where America’s Main Street will begin its big, beautiful comeback that you are seeing right now,” Trump said.

“This is a comeback of historic proportions. You’re seeing it happen right now. We’re here today to launch our plans to bring back Main Street by reducing the crushing tax burden on our companies and on our workers.”

Referencing the slow pace of Congress on other issues, Trump said, “I don’t want to be disappointed by Congress. I think Congress is going to make a comeback.”

In the speech, Trump laid out his four principles for tax reform.

The first is to greatly simplify the tax code. Currently, as studies show, more than 90 percent of individuals and businesses use either paid tax preparers or special software to file their taxes. According to the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service, taxpayers spend 6 billion hours per year complying with the tax code.

Trump wants Americans to be able to file taxes on a single page.

The second is to slash corporate taxes, which he said would bring back jobs to the United States, which would mean more companies competing for U.S. workers, and “a pay raise Americans have been looking for, for many, many years.”

Trump later said that under tax reform, Americans would get a “big, fat, beautiful paycheck.”

The United States corporate tax rate is 16.4 percentage points higher than the worldwide average, according to the Tax Foundation. The United States has the highest corporate tax rate among the 35 advanced economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and according to OECD data, the combined corporate tax rate is 39 percent compared to the average of 24 percent among member countries.

“The strategy of our economic rivals has worked. They’ve made their taxes lower and far lower in many cases than ours, and jobs left our country,” Trump said.

He added, “We have totally surrendered our competitive edge to other countries. We’re not surrendering anymore.”

Trump’s third principle was middle class tax relief.

“They’ve been the forgotten people, but they’re not forgotten anymore, I’ll tell you that,” Trump said.

He added that one of his goals was helping parents afford child care, an issue that is “so important to my daughter [Ivanka Trump], it’s one of her very big beliefs.”

The fourth principle is to bring back trillions of dollars from companies that do business overseas and park their profits offshore. Fortune 500 corporations are holding more than $2.6 trillion in profits offshore to avoid $767 billion in U.S. federal taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attacked Trump’s proposal as “flawed logic.”

Others were more supportive, such as Alfredo Ortiz, CEO of the Job Creators Network.

“The president is determined to energize the American economy, especially with the necessary tax cuts for job creators – small businesses all across the country who create 70 percent of all new jobs,” Ortiz said in statement.

Trump and Congress should go all in to fix the tax code, said Brent Gardner, chief government affairs officer for Americans for Prosperity.

“We deserve a tax code built for growth. For too long, the tax system has been rigged to favor the powerful and well-connected, but tax reform will level the playing field and allow for the growth of family paychecks, the growth of jobs, and the growth of the American economy.”

About Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Fred. Twitter: @FredLucasWH

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The Hill is full of debates over the future of economy. Everything from spending cuts to tax reform to free trade agreements to tax competition are hotly debated.

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RELATED VIDEO: Full speech of President Trump in Springfield, Missouri on August 30th, 2017.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image of President Donald J. Trump talking about his principles for tax reform during a rally Wednesday in Springfield, Missouri. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/Newscom)

Everything You Need to Know about Government, in One Story by Daniel J. Mitchell

Every so often, I run across a chart, cartoon, or story that captures the essence of an issue. And when that happens, I make it part of my “everything you need to know” series.

I don’t actually think those columns tell us everything we need to know, of course, but they do show something very important. At least I hope.

And now, from our (normally) semi-rational northern neighbor, I have a new example.

This story from Toronto truly is a powerful example of the difference between government action and private action.

A Toronto man who spent $550 building a set of stairs in his community park says he has no regrets, despite the city’s insistence that he should have waited for a $65,000 city project to handle the problem. 
Retired mechanic Adi Astl says he took it upon himself to build the stairs after several neighbours fell down the steep path to a community garden in Tom Riley Park, in Etobicoke, Ont. Astl says his neighbours chipped in on the project, which only ended up costing $550 – a far cry from the $65,000-$150,000 price tag the city had estimated for the job. …Astl says he hired a homeless person to help him and built the eight steps in a matter of hours. …Astl says members of his gardening group have been thanking him for taking care of the project, especially after one of them broke her wrist falling down the slope last year.

There are actually two profound lessons to learn from this story.

Since I’m a fiscal wonk, the part that grabbed my attention was the $550 cost of private action compared to $65,000 for government. Or maybe $150,000. Heck, probably more considering government cost overruns.

Though we’re not actually talking about government action. God only knows how long it would have taken the bureaucracy to complete this task. So this is a story of inexpensive private action vs. costly government inaction.

But there’s another part of this story that also caught my eye. The bureaucracy is responding with spite.

The city is now threatening to tear down the stairs because they were not built to regulation standards…City bylaw officers have taped off the stairs while officials make a decision on what to do with it. …Mayor John Tory…says that still doesn’t justify allowing private citizens to bypass city bylaws to build public structures themselves. …“We just can’t have people decide to go out to Home Depot and build a staircase in a park because that’s what they would like to have.”

But there is a silver lining. With infinite mercy, the government isn’t going to throw Mr. Astl in jail or make him pay a fine. At least not yet.

Astl has not been charged with any sort of violation.

Gee, how nice and thoughtful.

One woman has drawn the appropriate conclusion from this episode.

Area resident Dana Beamon told CTV Toronto she’s happy to have the stairs there, whether or not they are up to city standards. “We have far too much bureaucracy,” she said. “We don’t have enough self-initiative in our city, so I’m impressed.”

Which is the lesson I think everybody should take away. Private initiative works much faster and much cheaper than government.

P.S. Let’s also call this an example of super-federalism, or super-decentralization. Imagine how expensive it would have been for the national government in Ottawa to build the stairs? Or how long it would have taken? Probably millions of dollars and a couple of years.

Now imagine how costly and time-consuming it would have been if the Ontario provincial government was in charge? Perhaps not as bad, but still very expensive and time-consuming.

And we already know the cost (and inaction) of the city government. Reminds me of the $1 million bus stop in Arlington, VA.

But when actual users of the park take responsibility (both in terms of action and money), the stairs were built quickly and efficiently.

In other words, let’s have decentralization. But the most radical federalism is when private action replaces government.

Reprinted from International Liberty

Editors Note: Since this article was originally published, the local government tore down Astl’s $500 stairs, citing “safety standards,” and plans to replace it with a $10,000 set.

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

This is How You Make Health Care Affordable by Jay Bowen

As the debate continues to rage in Washington, D.C., and around the country regarding the fate of Obamacare, one elegantly simple concept that would have a dramatic impact on healthcare costs is being drowned out by inflammatory rhetoric.

The One Area of Health Care That’s Defying Massive Inflation

Out-of-pocket payment (OPP) by consumers for routine medical care would transform the system from one dominated by third party payers toward a model that would put consumers in charge of their healthcare dollars, and for the first time unleash market disciplines into the equation.

After all, we can all only imagine what our grocery carts would look like, not to mention our restaurant tabs, if a third party was paying for our food. Unfortunately, out-of-pocket payments have steadily trended down over the last 60 years and now account for only 10.5% of healthcare expenditures.

It is both stunning and disconcerting that the myriad of benefits that flow from a competitive, market driven system have never, in any substantial way, penetrated the healthcare and medical services arena. However, one striking exception to this competitive wet blanket is the $15 billion cosmetic surgery industry, the poster child for out of pocket payments, where innovation and price disinflation have been hallmarks for decades. Examples abound.

As Mark Perry has pointed out on his brilliant economic blog, Carpe Diem, over the past 19 years, the 20 most popular cosmetic procedures have increased at a rate 32% below the consumer price index (CPI) and 68% below the rate of medical services inflation.

Thus, the backbone of a productive reform plan must include a move away from third parties and employers controlling health care dollars toward individuals holding sway over their medical purse strings.

Removing Constraints

This would mean that the “employer contribution” that currently is used to fund corporate group policies would transition to an increase in an employee’s compensation, which would be funneled tax-free into a robust health savings account (HSA) that the employee would control for routine medical expenses.

As Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute has pointed out, “The employer contribution for health care is part of a worker’s earnings and averages $13,000 per family. Yet the tax code gives control over that money to employers rather than the workers who earned it.”

Importantly, this HSA would be paired with a high-deductible catastrophic policy and also be valid in the individual marketplace. Additionally, this would go a long way in helping to solve the portability issue that some employees face when changing jobs or careers.Essential to making these individual plans more attractive and affordable would be the abolition of both the “community rating” and “essential health benefits” mandates currently embedded in Obamacare policies. These concepts make a mockery of a legitimate, actuarially sound insurance market by shifting costs from older and sicker people to younger and healthier people, thus promoting adverse selection.

Without these constraints, families could focus on basic and affordable policies that would better match their needs and also begin building a “rainy day health fund” via their HSA accounts.

Regarding both Medicaid and pre-existing conditions, a strong dose of old fashioned, Tenth Amendment-oriented federalism is long overdue in dealing with these issues.

In fact, both from a philosophical and practical standpoint, they should never have come under the purview of the federal government and are best left to the individual states where diverse, vibrant, and innovative solutions could be implemented. This could include the establishment of reinsurance programs and high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions, and the phasing out of the open-ended federal entitlement status of Medicaid through a multi-year block grant program.

A Patient-Centered System

The current third party payment/community rating model for delivering healthcare is unsustainable and rapidly headed for the dreaded “death spiral,” which occurs when an escalation of sick people flock to the exchanges for insurance, while an increasing number of healthy people choose to leave the market. In fact, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini has recently acknowledged as much.

Make no mistake, Obamacare was designed to invariably lead to a government-run, single-payer model, with its global budgeting, rationing of care, and long wait times for vital procedures in tow.

Without swift and decisive intervention with a system based on patient-centered choice and market mechanisms, the end result will be a Veterans Affairs (VA)-like model that would combine the worst aspects of government inefficiencies and substandard care.

A quick glance at the dismal state of Great Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), Canada’s single payer scheme, or our own insolvent Medicare and Medicaid plans provides Americans with an acutely unpleasant hint of what is in store if a single-payer model does indeed transpire.

Jay Bowen

Jay Bowen

Mr. Bowen joined Bowen, Hanes & Company, Inc. in 1986. As the firm’s Chief Investment Officer and economic strategist, Mr. Bowen is responsible for the formulation and implementation of the firm’s economic and investment strategies.

VIDEO: We Only Resent Inequality When It’s Rigged by Daniel J. Mitchell

In addition to his exemplary work as a Senior Fellow for the Cato Institute, Johan Norberg narrates some great videos for Free to Choose Media. Here are some that caught my eye.

But my favorite video, which I shared back in January, is his concise explanation of why policy makers should focus on fighting poverty rather than reducing inequality. I’m posting it again to set the stage for a discussion on inequality and fairness.

Now let’s dig into the main topic for today.

We Want What’s Fair

study by three academics from Yale’s Department of Psychology concludes that people want fairness rather than equality.

…there is no evidence that people are bothered by economic inequality itself. Rather, they are bothered by something that is often confounded with inequality: economic unfairness. Drawing upon laboratory studies, cross-cultural research, and experiments with babies and young children, we argue that humans naturally favour fair distributions, not equal ones, and that when fairness and equality clash, people prefer fair inequality over unfair equality.

My former grad school classmate Steve Horwitz wrote about the aforementioned study

…what we really care about is something other than inequality per se. We care about upward mobility, or average income overall, or how well the least well off do. …A recent study in Nature argued, with evidence, that what bothers people more than inequality per se is “unfairness.” People will accept inequality if they feel the process that produced it is fair. …when I give talks about inequality. I point out the number of Apple products visible in the room and ask them if they think the wealth Steve Jobs and other Apple founders accumulated over their lifetimes was objectionable. Is that the kind of inequality they object to? Students are usually hard-pressed to articulate why Jobs’ wealth is wrong… I also remind them that economic studies show that only about 4% of the total benefits of innovation accrue to the innovator. The rest goes to consumers.

Steve cites Nozick and Hayek to bolster his argument before then making the key point that markets produce material abundance based on genuine fairness.

As Robert Nozick argued in Anarchy, State, and Utopia: if each step in the evolution of the market is fair by itself, how can the pattern of income that emerges be unfair? …Hayek…observed in The Constitution of Liberty that if we want equality of outcomes, we will have to treat people unequally. If, however, we treat people equally, we will get unequal outcomes. Hayek’s argument was premised on the fact that human beings are not equal in our native intelligence, strength, skills, and abilities. …If people really care about fairness, then supporters of the market should be insisting on the importance of equality before the law. …Equality of outcomes requires that we treat people differently, and this will likely be perceived as unfair by many. Equality before the law corresponds better with notions of fairness even if the outcomes it produces are unequal. …If what appear to be concerns about inequality are, in fact, concerns about unfairness, we have ways of addressing them that demonstrate the power of exchange and competitive markets. Markets are more fair because they require that governments treat us all equally and that none of us have the ability to use political power to protect ourselves from the competition of the marketplace and the choices of consumers. In addition, market-based societies have been the best cure for poverty humans have ever known.

How Much Equality Do We Want?

Writing for CapX, Oliver Wiseman analyzes other scholarly research on equality and fairness.

A 2012 study by behavioural economists Dan Ariely and Mike Norton generated some attention for demonstrating that Americans wanted to live in a more equal country. But more equal is not the same thing as fully equal. …if you let people choose between equal and unequal societies – and then tell them that they themselves will be assigned a level of wealth within it completely at random – most people choose inequality. And that preference is observable across the political spectrum, in different countries and at a range of ages.

But people don’t want undeserved inequality since that is the result of unfair interventions (i.e., cronyism).

This paper’s conclusions help explain much of the outcry over economic inequality in recent years. Occupy Wall Street and the very idea of the “one per cent” emerged just after the financial crisis plunged much of the world into recession, and US and British banks were handed billion-dollar bailouts to steady the ship. The anger didn’t come from the fact that bankers were so well paid. It came from the perception that they’d made that money by piling up risk rather than being particularly clever or hard-working – risk that was now being underwritten by the taxpayer. The wealth wasn’t just distributed unequally, but unfairly. The market mechanisms that most people accepted as the rules of the economic game suddenly seemed rigged. …Voters, in other words, don’t want equality – they want fairness. …As the Soviets found, true economic equality cannot be accommodated within a system that allows people tolerable levels of economic and political freedom. But fairness, by contrast, is something capitalism can – and should – deliver.

Professor Tyler Cowen of George Mason University cites some additional academic research buttressing the conclusion people don’t object to fair types of inequality.

…most Americans don’t mind inequality nearly as much as pundits and academics suggest. A recent research paper, by Graham Wright of Brandeis University, found that polled attitudes about economic inequality don’t correlate very well with the desire for government to address it. There is even partial evidence, once controls are introduced into the statistics, that talk of inequality reduces the support for doing something about it. …It’s not obvious why such counterintuitive results might be the case. One possibility is that…talk about economic inequality increases political polarization, which lowers the chance of effective action. Or that criticizing American society may cause us to feel less virtuous, which in turn may cause us to act with less virtue. …A variety of other research papers have been showing that inequality is not a major concern per se. One recent study by Matthew Weinzierl of Harvard Business School shows that most Americans are quite willing to accept economic inequality that stems from brute luck, and that they are inclined to assume that inequality is justified unless proved otherwise.

Living in an Unequal Society

Last but not least, Anne Bradley of the Institute for Humane Studies augments this analysis by explaining the difference between ethical market-driven inequality versus unfair cronyist-caused inequality.

The question of whether income inequality is bad hinges on the institutions within that society and whether they support entrepreneurship and creativity or thuggery and exploitation. Income inequality is good when people earn their money by discovering new and better ways of doing things and, through the profit mechanism, are encouraged to bring those discoveries to ordinary people. …Rising incomes across all income groups (even if at different rates) is most often the sign of a vibrant economy where strangers are encouraged to serve each other and solve problems. Stagnant incomes suggest something else: either a rigged economy where only insiders can play, or an economy where the government controls a large portion of social resources, stalling incomes, wealth, and wellbeing.

She includes a very powerful example of why it can be much better to live in a society with high levels of (fair) inequality.

Consider the following thought experiment: knowing nothing other than the Gini index scores, would you rather live in a world with a Gini of .296 (closer to equality) or .537 (farther from equality)? Many people when asked this question choose the world of .296. These are the real Gini scores of Pakistan (.296) and Hong Kong (.537). If given the choice, I would live in Hong Kong without thinking twice. Hong Kong has a thriving economy and high incomes, and it is the world leader in economic freedom. The difference between these two countries could not be more striking. In Pakistan, there might be more income equality, but everyone is poorer. It is difficult to emerge out of poverty in Pakistan. Hong Kong provides a much richer environment where people are encouraged to start businesses, and this is the best hope for rising incomes, or income mobility.

Her example of Hong Kong and Pakistan is probably the most important takeaway from today’s column.

Simply stated, it’s better to be poor in a jurisdiction such as Hong Kong where there is strong growth and high levels of upward mobility. Indeed, I often use a similar example when giving speeches, asking audiences whether poor people are better off in Hong Kong, which has only a tiny welfare state, or better off in nations such as France and Greece, which have bloated welfare states but very little economic dynamism.

The answer is obvious. Or should be obvious, at least to everyone who wants to help the poor more than they want to punish the rich.

(and there are plenty in the latter camp, as Margaret Thatcher explained).

And I’m now going to add my China example to my speeches since inequality dramatically increased at the same time that there was a stupendous reduction in poverty.

Once again, the moral of the story should be obvious. Focus on growth. Yes, some rich people will get richer, but the really great news is that the poor will get richer as well. And so long as everyone is earning money through voluntary exchange rather than government coercion, that also happens to be how a fair economy operates.

Reprinted from International Liberty.

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

Healthcare Debate Gets it All Wrong by Jim Ley

In my former career, I administered the acquisition of healthcare coverage for more than 5,000 employees at a cost of more than $30 million annually. It was one of the fastest growing components of our budget and competed directly with our ability to provide raises to our employees. So I dug into the associated dynamics, looking for strategic leverage to keep some downward pressure on cost growth.

I have some educated sense for this issue. And the problem is not what political leaders have been talking about.

Obamacare or Trumpcare? I don’t care what you call it; only the naïve or those afflicted with partisan bias believe that either has anything to do with better healthcare. Whether it is the Democratic approach or the putative Republican attempt, there is one thing that is so clear that it is hard for me to understand why it is not talked about more.

Insurance is not healthcare

This 10-year conversation is about the movement of money to the benefit of one interest group or another – it is definitively not about my healthcare.

Both “solutions” are nothing more than attempts to increase the amount of federal influence over the movement of money within one sixth of the U.S. economy, the maintenance of the status quo as to how that money flows (at best) and efforts on behalf of a variety of interests to advance the status quo — that is, the flow of money — on their behalf.

If this were about actual healthcare, the patient and the service provider would be the chief interest being served and talked about. That is the system that would be targeted for reforming to the best results. But they are rarely discussed except in some rhetorical fashion that suits the politics of the blabbering head that spews the rhetoric.

Special interests drive the healthcare laws

The real interests that gain from the healthcare laws, in their rough order of influence, are as follows:

  • The health insurance industry
  • The pharmaceutical industry
  • Trial lawyers
  • Congress
  • The hospital industry
  • Medical equipment manufacturers
  • The federal health system (Medicare and Medicaid)
  • (With Obamacare) the State Medicare oligarchy
  • Health experts
  • Those elevated to the status of poor by Obamacare’s Medicare expansion

The interests that are hurt by the healthcare laws, from least to most:

  • Doctors
  • Safety net Medicare patients
  • The employed but uninsured public dependent on the private market
  • Workers insured through their employer

Limited space keeps me from commenting on each of these interests so I’ll just pick a few as examples.

At the top of the heap sits the insurance industry, hiding behind their self-produced rhetoric of risk associated with instability in the system. Not only did they benefit from Obamacare’s requirement that everyone must buy insurance, but in 2009 their industry lobbying arm created enough fear in the political realm that they leveraged a $165 billion subsidy from the Obama administration. No appropriation was ever made by Congress, and to date, this administrative act of appropriation has been declared illegal by the courts.

Note that all you hear on TV is “instability” in the system and the need to maintain an insurance industry subsidy — working hard to include in law what is currently judged illegal. Their talking points, emanating from the mouths of Congressmen and Senators, once again lead the debate and harken for the need for the feds to further mine the taxpayer wallet and remove risk from insurance companies; making them the big winners.

After all it is easier to “sell” you a product with less concern as to a buyer’s normal demand for quality for his/her dollar spent, when someone else, in this case the federal government, creates a product and demands its use without ever having to pay for it. The only worse situation would be if the feds actually paid for a product — with other people’s money in the form of taxes — that they would never use themselves as a consumer. In economic  transactional terms, that is called a third party system, but we would know it as the single-payer proposal.

The most value laden economic transaction is when you buy something for yourself with your own dollar. In that way you consciously make the decision between the quality of the purchase and the dollar spent. These third-party purchasing transactions, read as “single payer,” always produce the least value for the highest cost in any economic transaction. But they do produce some degree of certainty for those interests capable of positioning themselves correctly within the flow of cash.

Broken Medicaid is the example of single payer

Another lunacy created by Obamacare, and now wanting to be protected jealously by state governors who hungrily ate the poison apple, is the expansion of Medicaid.

Here you have what is supposed to be a safety net system, which is indeed structured as a safety net system, trying to become a system of normal healthcare access for an expanded group of consumers who have now been declared “in need.”

The craziness is that — aside from the taxpayer who is paying for this system out of general revenues, unlike Medicare which is supported by a specific tax — the person getting hurt the most is the truly indigent patient who has no other recourse than to use Medicaid.

Medicaid is such a broken system that over half of the doctors in the country will not take Medicaid patients. Adding more patients to an already broken system only ensures that those most in need will be those most hurt. All that the Medicaid bureaucrats can be glad for is that there is another broken federal healthcare system, the Veterans Administration, which sucks up all of the outrage oxygen when it comes to poor patient treatment.

Despite this track record, the Medicaid budget for the U.S has risen from 2% of the federal budget in the early 90s to almost 10% today — a 400% rise. It is often suggested that Medicare works well, and is a good example of a single payer system. Proponents of single payer don’t want to admit that the real model would be Medicaid.

How to know when it is about healthcare

You will know when there is a serious healthcare discussion when patent protection and generic drug time-to-market is seriously discussed. When tort reform is seriously advanced as a necessary component of healthcare reform.

When Medicaid decision making is granted to the states — where healthcare is most efficient and most constitutionally accomplished. When efforts like Health Savings and Health Savings Retirement Accounts are supported by tax credits. When healthcare benefits provided by employers are taxed if tax credits are not given for the Health Savings Accounts. When the days of the $300 aspirin disappear because more first-party purchase transactions keep the system transparent.

Why do you think that it costs dramatically less in inflation adjusted dollars for cosmetic services or veterinary services than it did 30 years ago? Simple, because they cannot hide behind the market-killing fog of second- and third-party transactions as means of obfuscating the corruption in the healthcare pricing system.

When those with preexisting conditions are supported by all of us, through risk pools managed by the states, possibly funded by taxes on employer provided healthcare benefits, you’ll know we’re really talking about healthcare for Americans.

The more that we move toward a direct relationship between the doctor and patient, the better the system will be.

The rhetoric and fear mongering that you hear screaming at you from your TV, radio and newspaper are nothing more than talking points from special interests seeking to prop up their position in this complex system. They are fighting tooth and nail to maintain themselves — not you — as a winner in the movement of almost $3 trillion.

ABOUT JIM LEY

Jim Ley has more than 35 years in public service, the last 25 of which were in top level administrative positions in two of the more dynamic counties in the U.S. Jim served two terms as President of the National Association of County administrators and was a leading “small government” voice in the profession. His administrative focus has been on financial sustainability and accountability to the taxpayer.

Related Healthcare Articles in The Revolutionary Act

Both Parties Want Federal Government Control of Healthcare

A True American Healthcare System

EXPLAINED: Government Healthcare is not Christian

HEALTHCARE REFORM: Freedom Is Its Own Indispensable Goal

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Revolutionary Act.

President Trump cuts number of bureaucrats attending UN annual event saving taxpayer dollars

The United Nations holds its fall general assembly in September.  This is when ‘diplomats’ from all over the world come to New York for really what amounts to one big party on the town.

Here we learn that to save money, the Trump Administration will be limiting the number of State Department and other DC bureaucrats who will be attending the confab on the taxpayers’ dime.It is also a time when the UN has an opportunity to bash America (except for when Obama was prezsident).

Not mentioned here, but just a reminder to readers, September will be the time of  Trump’s big test on the UN/US Refugee Admissions Program because according to the Kennedy/Carter Refugee Act of 1980, the President submits his annual ‘determination’ for the upcoming fiscal year to Congress.

Just about the time Trump speaks to the UN, he will have determined how many refugees will be admitted in the year beginning October 1 for FY18, and from what regions of the world they will come.

From AP at the Democrat Gazette:

The State Department plans to scale back its diplomatic presence at this year’s annual United Nations gathering of world leaders in September as a cost-saving initiative, according to four well-placed diplomatic sources. [Those leakers again?—ed]

For more than seven decades, American presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama have attended the fall U.N. General Assembly general debate in New York to project their vision of American foreign policy to the world. They have been accompanied by a growing entourage of American diplomats, lawyers and technical experts who negotiate a wide range of issues, from nuclear arms treaties to climate change pacts and conflicts.

But the ranks of professional diplomats, aides and officials who attend the event to promote American policy priorities on a range of issues will be thinned out. For now, it remains unclear precisely how large of a cut in U.S. staff is envisioned, but two officials said the State Department is seeking to keep a ceiling down to about 300 people, including everyone from the president to support staff who schedule meetings and copy speeches.President Donald Trump does plan to address other world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, and he will be accompanied by other top advisers, including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his daughter Ivanka Trump, who stopped by U.N. headquarters Friday for a private lunch with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

[….]

The diplomatic culling is being enforced by Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil chief who has shown little interest in U.N. diplomacy during his first six months on the job. It comes at a time when the White House is seeking as much as a 30 percent cut in U.S. funding to the State Department and even deeper cuts in U.N. operations.

More here.

Will Donald Trump seek to cut the State Department budget by 30%? Will he cut even deeper in to the pile of money we give the UN? And, will he cut refugee numbers and seek to abolish or reform the UN/US Refugee Admissions Program? 

Answers will come in September!

Your job is to let the President know what you think on a daily basis!  Click here.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

Australia welcoming Syrian Christian refugees….

Canada’s Trudeau-Backed $10.5 Million Payment to Jihadist Facing Court Challenge

Atlanta’s Democrat Mayor Kasim Reed led by stupidity? $198,000 for a gay crosswalk!

Let me see if I understand this.

$196K, to do ONE, standard, 4-lane intersection? At least, that’s what the picture above shows and the article below describes.

If we assume 15 ft wide lanes, that’s 60 linear feet/crosswalk.  If we assume a 10 ft wide walkway, that’s 600 sq ft/crosswalk. Times 4 crosswalks/intersection = 2400 sq ft of paint. Divided by 7 colors (including the 1/2 width white borders) = a bit under 350 sq ft of each color.

According to AsphaltSealCoatingDirect.com:

  • Their BEST road surface paint, in 5 gal containers, costs a bit under $200/5 gal bucket and,
  • each 5 gals covers 550 sq ft to 15 mils thick and, dries in 15 minutes
  • That’s seven, 5 gal containers using approx 3.25 gals out of each container.

The paint is going to cost a whopping 1400 clams and will have approx 1/3 left over out of each bucket for touch-up/re-do…

Are you telling me that:

  1. Prepping the 2400 sq ft for paint ( burn off old markings, pressure wash, blow dry).
  2. Running 6, 18″ wide sprayers for one pass (colors with some over lap) and,
  3. Running 1, 9″ wide sprayer for two passes (white border),
  4. Across 4, 60′ long areas (8 for the white only)…

Is going to cost a freaking one hundred and ninety five THOUSAND DOLLARS? After the paint in already bought? How the hell do I get in on THAT contract?

I mean, my math may not be perfect but, even if you add a 20-person crew, with burners, washers, dryers, sprayers, traffic cones, slow/stop signs-on-a-pole, hard hats and orange vests, at $300/ hr for people and equip and they ‘work’ for 12 hrs straight, that’s still ‘only’ $72K for labor and equipment.

Whew! This kind of stuff will turn you into a Christian, real fast (JHC!).

Thanks and a tip o’the hat to fellow Patriot, Woody.

City of Atlanta releases price tag for publicly funded rainbow crosswalks

Patrick Saunders

July 9, 2017 9:25 pm

Mayor Kasim Reed

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office on late Friday released the cost to install the rainbow crosswalks at the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue as misperceptions continued to spread about how the project is funded.“The initial cost to install the crosswalk is approximately $196,000,” Mayor Reed’s Deputy Press Secretary Jewanna Gaither told Georgia Voice via email. “The life expectancy of the crosswalk is 10 years. Our contractor will make any necessary repairs, including normal wear and tear updates, as part of the warranty for the first year at no charge. The Department of Public Works will be responsible for pressure washing the crosswalk as needed.”

The project is publicly funded, unlike the temporary rainbow crosswalks installed during Atlanta Pride in October 2015. That project was spearheaded by gay Atlanta man (and, later, reality TV figure) Robert Sepulveda, Jr. and garnered over $44,000 in donations, which raised the ire of many in the community who felt people should have donated their money to other local LGBT causes. At the time, city officials said safety concerns kept them from making the project permanent.

The installation of this year’s permanent rainbow sidewalks began at
5 a.m. July 1
 and finished ahead of schedule the next day, in time for runners in the annual Peachtree Road Race to dash across the intersection in the historically LGBT part of town.

The project was met with its own bit of criticism coming from two distinctly different sides. A Facebook Live video taken by Georgia Voice as the crosswalks were being installed drew a flood of anti-LGBT reactions from around the country, ultimately generating over 2,300 shares, 4,200 comments and 275,000 views.

Local transgender activist Monica Helms expressed her frustration that one of the crosswalks wasn’t done in the colors of the Transgender Pride flag, which she created in 1999.

“I don’t see anything saying that one of the crosswalks will be trans colors,” Helms wrote on Facebook on July 1. “I am angry, even though I contacted the City Council (Alex Wan) and the mayor’s office. Others, like Sarah Rose, have also contacted people involved with this. I think the trans community, whether you live here or not, express your outrage at our omission. The mayor’s office is 404-330-6100 and his e-mail is mayorreed@atlantaga.gov. Remember that Georgia has the fourth largest percentage of trans people in the country and the fifth largest by numbers. Let him know that. One of the rainbow crosswalks can be painted over after the fact.”

Mayor Kasim Reed announced the plan to install the crosswalks on June 12, the one-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting.

“I believe that symbols of unity matter; in recognition of the outstanding and ongoing contributions of Atlanta’s LGBTQ community to our city, I am pleased to announce today that the City will install the rainbow crosswalks at the intersection of Piedmont Avenue and 10th Street year-round,” Reed said in a news release. “This intersection in Midtown is recognized for its history as a hub for Atlanta’s LGBTQ community, and it is fitting that such an important and recognizable place should feature the rainbow flag.”

The local push for permanent crosswalks came when local LGBT musician Sarah Rose, lead singer of Sarah and the Safe Word, started a Care2 petition campaigning for it. The petition garnered more than 20,000 signatures, including those of several Atlanta mayoral hopefuls, before Reed’s announcement in June.

Atlanta’s rainbow crosswalks follow similar projects done in Seattle, Key West, Philadelphia and the Castro in San Francisco.

RELATED ARTICLE: Oakland: Muslim wanted to bomb San Francisco gay club; set fires, goal to kill 10,000

STUDY: Term Limited States Ranked Best Fiscally as Career Politicos Flop

Surprise, surprise. A brand new report says states with term-limited legislatures are outperforming their career politician counterparts.

According to George Mason University’s “Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition 2017” report, 8 of the 15 fiscally strongest states have legislative term limits. When one considers that only 15 out of 50 states have legislative term limits, this means citizen lawmakers are providing a quality of leadership disproportionately better than their peers.

The report’s criteria included five separate measures of solvency, which is a state’s ability to pay its short-term and long-term bills.

Florida, which has more term limits than any other state, was ranked as number one fiscally healthy state in America. For any state, the presence of term limits more than doubled the odds of receiving an elite ranking. None of the five worst-ranked states have legislative term limits.

So, what can we take away from this? First, this report dismantles the clichés that self-seeking politicians have always used to oppose term limits. For years they’ve warned that term limits would lead to inexperience which would produce fiscal ruin. This report proves the opposite is true – that term limits states do better than those run by prehistoric politicians.

As U.S. Term Limits has noted for years, real life experience – like running a business or being a teacher – gives lawmakers a better perspective than the political experience of cutting deals with lobbyists and raising cash for re-election. Career politicians are at best ineffective and at their worst, corrupt.

For evidence of this, look no further than the state ranked 49 on this list, Illinois. Illinois, which has no term limits, just made Representative Michael Madigan the longest serving legislative leader in American history. Madigan has been House Speaker for 32 of the last 34 years.

But Madigan’s vast experience has only plunged his state into fiscal calamity. Just last month, ratings agencies Moody’s and S&P dropped the state’s bonds to BBB-, the lowest rating ever for a state. The raters said if Illinois doesn’t do something about its $200 billion in long-term debt, the bonds will be downgraded to junk.

Madigan has been able to get himself and other careerist politicians re-elected in perpetuity, but he hasn’t lifted a finger to solve the state’s fiscal woes. And therein lies the problem with having no term limits.

Individuals elected under a term limits system know their job is not to build political empires. It’s to get in, solve problems, then return to private life.

If these rankings are any indication, term limits are doing a great job.

Costly Dentist Visit: Some Ways to Save

At some point, everyone needs dental care. Millions of Americans are delaying their dental care for fear of having an appointment with the dentist or simply because it’s expensive. Avoiding dental chairs to save some penny will just cost you even more in the future.

If untreated, it can lead to bigger problems. Will you sacrifice your tooth over a small cavity? Will you just turn a blind-eye on your abscess and just let it become a major infection?

According to the 2013 US Survey of Dental Care Affordability and Accessibility, findings show that 56% of Americans without dental insurance get no preventive care at all. Additionally, 18% have been to the dentist only once or not at all in the past ten years.

Because of the lack of preventive care and dental visits, oral health is starkly poorer among those without dental insurance – 67% have at least one major unmet dental care need (e.g., missing teeth, bleeding gums, toothache). Even among the insured, a majority (57%) currently has at least one unmet dental need. The expensive costs of care and cost transparency are the top two factors that lead patients to withhold from a dental visit.

Nevertheless, if you are one of the millions of Americans keeping his or her dental care on hold out of fear of the cost tied to proper dental treatment, there are some solutions. Follow these tips for a cheaper dental trip.

Brush Your Teeth Regularly

Maintaining a proper routine in taking care of your oral health is essential to being healthy and at the same time money-wise. It may sound cliché, but it’s undeniably efficient in preventing tooth decay and other dental problems. Brushing your teeth is simply sweeping off the food debris left between the teeth. But by forcefully doing this, it will cause cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease.

Even though the enamel, toughest tissue of the human body, covers teeth, it can still be weakened and damaged by brushing staunchly. And once the damage happens, the body can’t fix it.

The recommended way of brushing your teeth is to position your toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle to the surface of the teeth and brush gently in small circles.

Also, be cautious when cleaning your gum line since tartar, plaque, and bacteria tend to accumulate in the area. Rinsing with a mouthwash and finishing with floss can be of great help too.

Compare

The cost for a particular dental treatment can vary by several hundred dollars or more. Try checking the average prices in your area, like dental billing in Houston or other states, for similar treatment by calling local dentists and see how much they charge for the treatment you want or you need. You can use websites like Fair Health to check online the average prices of dental procedures in your area.

Get Insured

Finding a way to balance your costs versus savings is possible as there are now more dental insurance options available than ever before. While dental insurance coverage does typically require a monthly or annual premium, and some upfront costs or co-payments, in most cases dental insurance lowers a person’s overall dental costs.

Average dental insurance policies usually operate on a basic 100-80-50 plan: 100 percent coverage for annual routine care; 80 percent of costs for initial procedures including fillings and extractions; and 50 percent cost reduction for major services like crowns, bridges, and others.

However, insurance plans normally have a spending cap. It means that you are only covered for a certain maximum dollar amount each year. A cap of $1,500, for instance, means that any charges incurred after the insurance carrier cover $1,500 in dental costs that year would be your responsibility entirely.

Try a Discount Plan

Another popular option is dental discount schemes. Designed for individuals, families, and groups, It is best when saving some penny on the dental care needs. Members of such plan can save 10% to 60% on the standard cost of dental care and treatments at a network of more than 100,000 dentists nationwide.

Some of the benefits of a dental discount plan include no deductibles, no co-pays, no waiting periods, no paperwork hassles, no restrictions on getting immediate treatment for pre-existing or expensive procedures, and no annual limit on how often you can use your plan to save at the dentist. Exclusions may vary per program.

Schedule Regular Cleanings and Exams

Just because you brush your teeth regularly and thoroughly, it doesn’t mean that you have fully cleaned your mouth. You might have missed tartar between your teeth, in tiny chips and cracks or just below the gum line. The plaque that has formed can result in oral infections if it remains untreated.

Removing plaque shouldn’t be forcefully done. Professional assistance and care are necessary to avoid undesirable consequences later on.

Recently, research shows that annual cleanings for an average dental patient are just as effective as visiting the oral doctor every six months. Moreover, this single appointment is essential as it aids to identify problems before they get serious and pricey. High-risk patients, like those with periodontal disease, may need additional frequent visits.

Ask Your Dentist for A Cash Discount and Negotiate

Image result for dentist

Discount plans aren’t insurance plans, but they are an affordable alternative to the uninsured. Many dentists out there are willing in giving discounts for cash customers. Some pay visits automatically discount up to 5% depending on the clinic. It can be pulled down further for an agreed specific plan.

Ask Questions

Communication is the key. Dentists are highly trained and are well-rounded in their field of expertise, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your dentist will get to decide solely for you.

Ask questions about the purpose of any procedure that isn’t quite clear to you. Don’t hesitate to ask if the suggested action needs execution. For example:

  •    Is that operation medically compulsory or purely cosmetic?
  •    Is there a cheaper option that would work just as well?

Consider Going to a Local Dental School for Treatment

Dental students need exposure and hands-on practice especially those who are nearing their graduation. Under the supervision of the instructors, they perform cleanings and other procedures for the public at a steeply discounted price compared to those of dental clinics. You can check on the American Dental Association’s list of all the accredited dental schools across the country. Many of them offer services at an affordable price.

Be Part of Clinical Trials

Gray Metal Framed Red Dental Treatment Chair

Some institutes like universities and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research here and then need volunteers for their research. These study participants are often given free or low-cost dental services in trade for their voluntary involvement.

Takeaway

Taking into consideration all the major purchases and health care expenses; it will surely cost you several green bills. But by doing some research, comparing local clinics, getting insured, asking for discounts, etc. can make a huge difference in saving money. Well, you might be provoked to skip an appointment whenever you have a minor toothache, but this isn’t entirely a valid choice.

Dental care isn’t cheap, but the ways above will somehow help you in keeping your mouth healthy along with saving money. Remember, prevention is better than cure. Spending a few bucks is more worthwhile than waiting on dental problems over the long run.

Catholic Bishops & Lutherans lament not enough U.S. taxpayer funded refugees coming in to pay their bills

No of course they didn’t say it that way, but that is what they mean.  Instead, once again, it is about the poor refugees left in the lurch in some third world hell hole because of that meany Donald J. Trump.

This is a broken record alert, but I plan to continue to pound the issue of payment to contractors being tied to the number of refugees admitted, so there is never a reasonable discussion about any slowdown or reform of the UN/US Refugee Admissions Program.

If they were paying for their Christian ‘charity’ out of the pockets of good and kind-hearted parishioners, I would have nothing to say. But, until the USCCB admits to the media that they receive 97% of their annual migration fund budget (about $83 million in 2014) from taxpayers, I will be a broken record on the issue.

It was only six days ago I did a new accounting report for the nine federal refugee contractors*** quasi-government agencies that monopolize all resettlement in the US.

Both the Bishops and the Lutheran contractor are 96-97% funded by US taxpayers!

You will never know that by reading this news.  Indeed, Charity Navigator, a service that rates charities to help you decide if you want to give, said this about LIRS (they would have said the same about the USCCB except that outfit doesn’t file a Form 990, that we can find).

This organization is not eligible to be rated by Charity Navigator because, as a service for individual givers, we only rate organizations that depend on support from individual contributors and foundations. Organizations such as this, that get most of their revenue from the government or from program services, are therefore not eligible to be rated.

In this story from Crux (a Catholic publication) we learn that Catholics and Lutherans are #1 and #2 in the number of refugees they drop off in American towns and cities.

Here is Crux (lamentations):

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amid a federal judge ordering the government to broaden the exemptions to the immigration travel ban partially upheld by the Supreme Court, Catholic and Lutheran leaders lamented that the immigration cap had been reached for refugees without such exemptions for the 2017 fiscal year.

The federal government suspended travel July 12 for refugee immigrants without close family connections after confirming that 50,000 refugees – the limit imposed by President Donald Trump in a March 6 executive order – had arrived on U.S. soil.

“We remain deeply troubled by the human consequences of the revised executive order on refugee admissions and the travel ban,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, in a July 13 statement.

“Resettling only 50,000 refugees a year, down from 110,000, does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation,” Vasquez added. “We have the ability to continue to assist the most vulnerable among us without sacrificing our values as Americans or the safety and security of our nation.” [Be sure to see my post on the ceilings going back 30 years, here.  Note that Obama got no where near 110,000 until he was virtually walking out the door, now that has become the standard measure!—ed]

William Canny, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

“The pause on resettlement and restrictions on the number of persons who can enter our country as refugees will have an immediate effect on our ability to conduct the lifesaving work of providing safety and protection,” said a July 12 statement by Kay Bellor, vice president for programs of Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Service, which is second only to the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services in the number of refugees it helps resettle in the United States.  [Yes, it will have an immediate effect because your organization raised virtually NO PRIVATE MONEY!—ed]

[….]

“As Bishop Vasquez said, it’s very sad, deeply troubling,” MRS executive director William Canny told Catholic News Service July 14.

Pushing for 75,000 refugees in FY18!

At least they have tempered the demand for 200,000 they made of Obama for his last year. If Trump admits 75,000 he will be about 10,000 above the average admissions for the last ten years (which included their dear leader’s years).

Crux continues….

“What we’re advocating for is 75,000” refugees to come into the United States during fiscal 2018, Canny told CNS. “We understand that the administration has security concerns. The administration made some initiative to reduce the number of refugees coming into the country. We don’t agree with it, so at a minimum, we think we should be bringing in 75,000.”

Bellor agreed with the 75,000 figure, noting the number is “less than the need.” Citing United Nations World Refugee Day figures, “the numbers are definitely not shrinking,” she said. “The number of people on the move is 66 million.”

LOL! 75,000 must be the point where they can keep their budgets plenty full with your money!

There is more at Cruxgo here to read it all.

Come on all of you (not just the Lutherans and the Catholics), admit that your ‘charitable’ work with refugees could not happen without a huge infusion of more than a half a billion $ a year in federal funding.

And, come on mainstream media, it is time you told the truth!

***Federal contractors/middlemen/lobbyists/community organizers paid by you to place refugees in your towns and cities.  Because their income is largely dependent on taxpayer dollars based on the number of refugees admitted to the US, the only way for real reform of how the US admits refugees is to remove the contractors from the process.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

The 20 diseases ‘refugees’ bring into the West

Australia “dumb deal” looks dead for now

Hetfield of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society thinks Hawaiian judge just opened floodgates

New Hampshire: Congolese refugee escapes prosecution in domestic violence case

Hawaiian rogue judge has until Tuesday to respond to Trump SCOTUS motion

VIDEO: Taxes Are Killing Small Businesses

Did you know that the livelihood of 85 million Americans depends on the success of small businesses? So you’d think that the government would encourage the creation and preservation of small businesses. Instead, the federal government taxes small business owners at about 40% — not including additional state or local taxes. Watch this week’s video to find out the effect of that tax rate on small business owners, on job creation, and on the economy as a whole.

Our business and economics series is a collaborative project with Job Creators Network. To learn more about JCN, visit www.jobcreatorsnetwork.com.

TRANSCRIPT

No matter where you come from, what your job is, or where you stand politically, you have to pay taxes. Uncle Sam needs taxpayer dollars to pay for things like schools, fire fighters, and the military.

There are all sorts of different taxes: income taxes, payroll taxes and sales taxes just to name a few. But individuals aren’t the only ones who pay taxes—businesses pay income taxes too.

Businesses that are set up as corporations pay taxes on their income at the US corporate tax rate of around 35 percent—one of the highest in the developed world. Countries like Ireland and Switzerland have corporate tax rates well under 25 percent, which can give companies based there a competitive advantage.

But there’s another taxed group that we’re forgetting…small businesses. There are 29 million of them in the US and they employ nearly 56 million people. That’s a total of 85 million people dependent on the success of small businesses!

Small businesses are most often set up as sole proprietorships, partnerships or another designation called an S-corp. But the money they make isn’t taxed at the corporate rate. The profits earned by these small businesses are “passed through” to the owner and counted as individual income on their personal tax return. That’s why you might hear small businesses referred to as “Pass-throughs.”

These entrepreneurs can pay tax rates as high as 40 percent not including additional state and local taxes, that means many American small businesses are being taxed at a higher rate than businesses anywhere in the world.

Why should you care? Because high taxes hurt small businesses ability to grow and expand, causing them to raise prices or even trim jobs to stay within their budget constraints.

Lowering taxes for small businesses or “pass-throughs” results in the growth of small businesses—allowing them to provide more jobs and boost the economy for everyone. After all two thirds of all new jobs come from small businesses and lowering taxes can have a big effect on the entire economy for all Americans.

So the next time you hear someone supporting an increase in tax rates on businesses, remember that very important group of small business owners and the 85 million people dependent on their success.