Archive for May, 2012

The truth about how long T-SPLOST will tax us

The T-SPLOST faces a challenging road to passage as it is. Imagine if supporters had to drum up votes for it either without the two segments of the Beltline; or without a bus/light rail line into Cobb County; or without any of the interchange improvements at I-285 and Ga. 400, I-285 and I-20 west, and I-285 and I-85 north. All while no other projects were added to the list.

Or, instead, imagine if they were asking voters to approve the same project list, with the same 1 percent sales tax for the same 10 years — while, at the same time, they were asking for another tax increase of $600 million to $850 million during the same decade.

Say hello to the T-SPLOST renewal campaign, circa 2022.

One of the hottest — and most disingenuous — aspects of the T-SPLOST debate has been the back and forth about whether the tax being put to a regional referendum in July would last only 10 years.

On the anti-tax side, some people suggest politicians will double-cross the voters and keep the tax …

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Woe, woe to America’s (financially illiterate) college students

Considering how much our society promotes college attendance, it sure does seem as if there’s never been a worse time to be a college student. From being smart enough to gain admittance to a college that charges $50,000 a year but needing someone to tell them it will be expensive to pay back all those loans, to being subjected to the fees a bank said it would charge them, our best and brightest are just so put-upon these days.

Here’s the outrage du jour, as explained in an AP story:

As many as 900 colleges are pushing students into using payment cards that carry hefty costs, sometimes even to get to their financial aid money, according to a report released Wednesday by a public interest group.

Colleges and banks rake in millions from the fees, often through secretive deals and sometimes in apparent violation of federal law, according to the report, an early copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

More than two out of five U.S. higher-education students — more than …

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Share of working-age Americans with a job is the lowest in decades

In the debate about whether the headline unemployment rate tells the whole story about the labor market, here’s another data point indicating there’s more than meets the eye. From the Washington Post:

The proportion of Americans in their prime working years who have jobs is smaller than it has been at any time in the 23 years before the recession, according to federal statistics, reflecting the profound and lasting effects that the downturn has had on the nation’s economic prospects.

By this measure, the jobs situation has improved little in recent years. The percentage of workers between the ages of 25 and 54 who have jobs now stands at 75.7 percent, just a percentage point over what it was at the downturn’s worst, according to federal statistics.

Before the recession the proportion hovered at 80 percent.

The story explains once more why the headline unemployment rate, which has held steady or fallen for 11 straight months, doesn’t paint the whole picture. Short answer: …

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T-SPLOST backers identify future transit users

I was reading through the Untie Atlanta pro-T-SPLOST website yesterday for the umpteenth time, when I noticed this in the “Myths and Facts” section of the “Crisis” page:

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Untie Atlanta screen shot

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Read that again, with an added emphasis on certain words: “Building transit has the potential of taking the cars in front of you off the road.”

Hmmm.

I could’ve sworn I’d read something like this before…

Oh, yes. This was it:

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Onion Transit headline

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And in which publication did that headline appear?

Onion logo

– By Kyle Wingfield

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2012 Tuesday: Obama officially ditches Hope for Fear

New York Magazine has a revealing and worthwhile look at the Obama campaign’s approach to this year’s election and GOP opponent Mitt Romney. Here is the crux of it:

Though the Obamans certainly hit John McCain hard four years ago — running more negative ads than any campaign in history — what they intend to do to Romney is more savage. They will pummel him for being a vulture-vampire capitalist at Bain Capital. They will pound him for being a miserable failure as the governor of Massachusetts. They will mash him for being a water-carrier for Paul Ryan’s Social Darwinist fiscal program. They will maul him for being a combination of Jerry Falwell, Joe Arpaio, and John Galt on a range of issues that strike deep chords with the Obama coalition. “We’re gonna say, ‘Let’s be clear what he would do as president,’ ” [senior White House adviser David] Plouffe explains. “Potentially abortion will be criminalized. Women will be denied contraceptive services. He’s far right on …

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From Flanders fields, warnings about Europe’s crisis

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

These closing lines of John McCrae’s poem have haunted many a student of literature. History, too: Voices from the graves in Flanders fields, where “poppies blow/Between the crosses, row by row,” seem to admonish us about the human cost of war McCrae saw 97 years ago, in the tragically misnamed “war to end all wars.”

They are more haunting still for a visitor to the cemeteries in Flanders fields, in the Ardennes, at Normandy. And these are just the American memorials, just a few of them.

“Never again” is the feeling that overcomes a visitor to these gravesites. It is also the mantra that for 55 years has led the peoples of Belgium, France, Germany and beyond to band together and extricate themselves from millennia of war. World War I did not “end all wars” in Western Europe, but economic cooperation, beginning with the free trade of coal and steel in 1957, has. So …

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Poll Position: Casino gambling for education?

Last week, the executive committee of the Georgia GOP approved five questions to be placed on the party’s July 31 primary ballot. Ballot questions from the Democratic Party of Georgia are forthcoming. So, if you vote in this summer’s primaries, the T-SPLOST won’t be the only policy question you get to tackle.

The most surprising question to come out of the GOP concerns casino gambling. The question will read:

Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?

It will be the first time in 20 years — since the referendum that paved the way for the lottery and, in turn, the HOPE scholarship — that the issue of gambling has been on Georgia ballots. This one won’t be binding but the result, and how it comes to be used by policy makers, will be very intriguing. All the more so because it’s unclear who wanted the question put on the ballot: casino friends or casino foes.

Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?

  • Yes (103 Votes)
  • No (25 …

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About the idea that Obama’s spending has been tame

You’ve heard of lies, damned lies, and statistics? Well, here’s Exhibit A: a column at MarketWatch by Rex Nutting.

Nutting’s column, titled “Obama spending binge never happened,” has caused a lot of excitement among people who would like to believe it’s true. And the bottom-line numbers — which are as far as Nutting goes in his column — do show that total spending has risen more slowly between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2013 than you might have otherwise believed. Annual federal spending growth during President Obama’s first term, Nutting’s numbers show, has been 1.4 percent. That would be slower than in any of the seven previous terms, dating to the beginning of the Reagan years. Going out of his way to be even-handed, Nutting even graciously attributes Obama’s “stimulus” spending in FY09 to Obama rather than to George W. Bush, under whom that fiscal year began.

What a guy!

But what Nutting’s surface-level “analysis” fails to acknowledge — aside from the fact that he’s giving …

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T-SPLOST: Is traffic really a problem in Atlanta?

The problem the proposed transportation sales tax, or T-SPLOST, purports to solve would seem obvious. Here’s how the first advertisement by a group pushing the tax framed the issue:

“Metro Atlanta, we have a problem: one of the longest average commutes in America, over an hour a day. Five hours a week you don’t spend with your family; 260 hours a year.”

But what if the length of our commutes isn’t a problem we can solve? At least, that is, not by building new infrastructure to relieve congestion.

That’s the implication of new data from INRIX, a private company that tracks traffic information.

The latest INRIX Traffic Scorecard, updated this week with data through April, shows traffic congestion increases the average commute in metro Atlanta by only about 10 percent — less than six minutes a day.

Let me repeat that: Congestion adds less than six minutes to the average metro Atlanta commute. And to reduce — not eliminate — that six-minute problem, we are asked to tax …

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2012 Tuesday: Obama wants the election to be about a topic he doesn’t understand

In Chicago yesterday, President Obama described the essence of his campaign against Mitt Romney. Asked during a press conference about his campaign ads criticizing Romney’s record at Bain Capital in the 1980s and ’90s, Obama disagreed with fellow Democrats’ advice to focus on other issues:

[T]his is not a distraction. This is what this campaign is going to be about — is what is a strategy for us to move this country forward in a way where everybody can succeed?

Well, now. That’s just completely different from every other presidential campaign in history…

Some commentary has focused on what Obama said just before that: his description of the job of president vs. the job of a private equity CEO. And with good reason. There is plenty to address: from his assertion that the president should be involved in helping individual communities plan their economic development, to the obvious conclusion that the job, as he’s described it, is not one he’s done particularly well given the …

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