Archive for April, 2011

Legislators pull last tooth from ethics watchdog

The excellent Jim Walls, at Atlanta Unfiltered, reports the latest pettiness of our legislators directed at the state Ethics Commission:

“Georgia legislators last week took back an extra $30,000 budgeted to enforce ethics laws in 2012, leaving the State Campaign Finance Commission yet again to do more paper-shuffling and less investigating.

Lawmakers’ parting gift before adjournment could cripple the commission’s capacity to look into allegations against elected officials, candidates and lobbyists. The agency also may not be able to collect even the most rudimentary fines, including late filing fees that accrue automatically.”

But that’s not even the worst of it. Legislators also passed a requirement that the commission use certified letters, rather than a certified e-mail service, to notify politicians of a potential problem with their disclosure reports.

As Walls reports, each certified letter costs the commission $5.54 for each notice, for a total cost of $130,000. The …

Continue reading Legislators pull last tooth from ethics watchdog »

Even in NJ, Christie no threat to Obama

Winner, duh!

Winner, duh!

“I have people calling me and saying to me ‘Let me explain to you how you could win.’ And I’m like, ‘You’re barking up the wrong tree. I already know I could win.’ That’s not the issue….”

– N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, discussing and rejecting a possible run against President Obama.

However, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll, the people who know him best disagree:

“New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he isn’t running for president, but New Jersey voters do not believe Gov. Christopher Christie’s claim that he would beat President Barack Obama in a 2012 White House run and back the president over the governor 52 – 39 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. President Obama also tops Gov. Christie in job approval and likeability….

Bully,” “arrogant,” “good,” “aggressive” are among words offered when voters are asked, with no suggestions given, to describe Gov. Christie in one word. Answers include:

* Bully – offered …

Continue reading Even in NJ, Christie no threat to Obama »

Why ‘death panels’ are a necessary evil

Source: http://www.visualeconomics.com

Source: http://www.visualeconomics.com

Controlling health-care costs, not just in government programs but throughout the American economy, is essential to a prosperous future. As the chart above illustrates, we already spend considerably more on health care as a percentage of our GDP than any other industrialized nation, and with the Baby Boom generation about to retire, those numbers are almost certain to climb.

The health-care debate, then, is not merely a debate over who will pay for it and how. It is also a debate over who will control costs and how.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and his GOP colleagues prefer to use economic scarcity as their rationing agent. And the truth is, a purely capitalistic system, driven solely by profit considerations, perhaps could control costs to a degree. But it would do so only by ignoring issues of humanity, morality, justice and fairness — considerations that pure capitalism is not equipped to handle, but that are inherent in matters that are …

Continue reading Why ‘death panels’ are a necessary evil »

Who enters budget battle with advantage?

President Obama and congressional Republicans are clearly headed for a confrontation over the debt ceiling and the budget. So who is likely to enter the fray holding the upper hand?

A new Marist-McClatchy poll asks two of the more pertinent questions:

cutmed

Only 18 percent of registered voters, and only 25 percent of Republicans, want to take the approach championed by House Republicans in the Ryan budget. The rejection was overwhelming across every demographic.

So how about Obama’s preferred approach?

raisetax

Almost two out of three registered voters — and a substantial minority of Republicans — would support raising taxes on those making more than $250,000. The poll was taken around the time of President Obama’s speech on the deficit, and those queried after the speech were significantly more likely to support Obama’s position than those queried beforehand.

As the old poem phrases it, “‘Will you walk into my parlor?’ said the spider to the fly….”

– Jay …

Continue reading Who enters budget battle with advantage? »

Ga. may forfeit health-insurance authority

“You can fix ignorant, but you can’t fix stupid,” state Sen. Steve Thompson of Marietta warned his colleagues last week. “And this bill is just stupid.”

Thompson was right, but 37 of his fellow senators went ahead and voted for House Bill 47 anyway. As a result, the health-insurance bill now sits in the hands of Gov. Nathan Deal, needing only his signature for final passage.

According to its champions, including state Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, state Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, and others, the bill merely allows the sale of individual health-insurance policies across state lines, which is a longtime conservative goal.

In fact, the model for the bill was provided by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a business-funded group based in Washington that markets conservative ideology to state legislators. That ideology holds that selling individual policies across state lines would increase competition and thus lower the price of health insurance.

But if you …

Continue reading Ga. may forfeit health-insurance authority »

What tax rate did YOU pay?

Just a little fodder for Tax Day conversations:

Source: IRS

Average income of Top 400 tax filers, 1992: $46.8 million
Average income of Top 400, 2007: $344.76 million

Average tax rate for Top 400, 1992: 26.38 percent
Average tax rate for Top 400, 2007: 16.62 percent

Percent of total income that Top 400 earned through salaries and wages, 1992: 26.22
Percent of income that Top 400 earned through salaries and wages, 2007: 6.53

Cutoff to make Top 400, 1992: $22.76 million (1990 dollars)
Cutoff to make Top 400, 2007 $87.52 million (1990 dollars)

Continue reading What tax rate did YOU pay? »

In Libya, a glimpse of a new world order

For the first time since World War II, the American people seem prepared to reconsider both the size of its military and the role it plays globally. We’re beginning to realize that it’s no longer realistic for the United States to spend as much on its military as the rest of the planet combined, because the overwhelming economic dominance that once sustained that arrangement has disappeared and will not return.

Such a change will have important implications for our allies, many of whom have very prosperous, Western, high-tech economies much like our own. But for the last 60 years, they’ve been able to hide in our shadow, spending very little in relative terms on their own defense because the good ol’ Americans were always so eager to step in and handle that responsibility for them.

The consequences of that arrangement have become apparent in Libya, where U.S. planes led the initial assault on Moammar Ghadafy’s air defense systems and then largely withdrew, clearing the way …

Continue reading In Libya, a glimpse of a new world order »

This week, some time-Travelin’ Music

Although Keith Richards’ autobiography, “Life,” inspired last week’s Travelin’ Music selection, I missed my opportunity to post a Rolling Stones number as the kickoff song. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever used a Stones song to start the weekend merriment, which is an oversight that I’m honor-bound to correct.

So here’s a great if politically incorrect cut from the early days of the Stones, 1966 to be exact, with Mick in all of his preening, prancing splendor. Fitzgerald once wrote that “Everybody’s youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness,” and that’s more true of these guys than of most of us.

Of course, from time to time, they also compounded the chemical madness of youth with many other less natural compounds.

– Jay Bookman

Continue reading This week, some time-Travelin’ Music »

Georgia immigration law extreme, far-reaching

To tell you the truth, I didn’t believe they’d pull the trigger. And I’m not sure they believed it either.

For all their rhetoric and immigrant-bashing, I didn’t believe that Georgia legislators would go as far as they have in trying to criminalize substantial sectors of the state economy.

Essentially, that’s what they’ve done. If signed into law as expected by Gov. Nathan Deal, upheld in court and then fully implemented, House Bill 87 makes it illegal for a wide range of economic sectors — from Atlanta’s hotels and restaurants to the onion fields of Vidalia to the chicken and carpet industries — to function without substantial changes in how they operate. For some businesses and perhaps even entire industries, those changes may make it difficult to stay profitable, at least in Georgia.

Legislators were told all that. The state’s business and agriculture communities made sure they had their say, but in the end their warnings were ignored. None of it mattered. They could not …

Continue reading Georgia immigration law extreme, far-reaching »

Collapse of ‘tax-reform’ effort is good news

Legislative leaders, including House Speaker David Ralston, are acting pretty embarrassed by their high-profile failure to pass a tax-reform package.

They ought to be. And they have only made things worse by trying to blame others for a task they themselves mishandled.

Let’s review the history, shall we?

Legislators appoint a blue-ribbon commission of business leaders and economists to craft a tax-reform package. After months of work, the commission issues a final report and makes two important points:

– Its recommendations should be seen as a balanced package and should not be cherry-picked for its most appealing provisions.

– While tax reform is needed, it cannot be justified as an economic development program because Georgia is already one of the lowest-tax, business-friendly states in the country.

Republican leaders — excluding the public, Democrats and members of their own party from the process — then proceed to do exactly what the experts advised against, cherry-picking …

Continue reading Collapse of ‘tax-reform’ effort is good news »