Archive for June, 2009

Rein in tax giveaways to developers

A Florida-based developer with a major project underway in DeKalb County wants $52 million in tax breaks — complete freedom from having to pay property taxes for the next 20 years on most of the Sembler Co. Town Brookhaven project  on Peachtree Road near Oglethorpe University.

This should be the wake-up call Georgians need to sharply curtail tax giveways to developers.  We should in this instance heed the advice of David Sjoquist, the director of the fiscal research center at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies (it’s hard to quote this guy in print because his title and affiliation go on forever; but that’s neither here nor there. His research is sound and here his advice is too.)

Sjoquist says that in the absence of a growing economy new retail space merely cannibalizes existing businesses. Those property owners, ironically, must pay the taxes the new guys avoid.  “The common argument is that you shold not subsidize retailing,” he told the …

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Oh, goodness. Politicians are about to ‘fix’ health care.

When  this President says he can find $300 billion in Medicare and Medicaid savings to partially fund a proposed new government health care entitlement, the skeptic is inclined to ask:    If $300 billion in savings are possible when politicians are looking for money to spend, why wasn’t $300 billion in unnecessary spending eliminated?

We all know the answer.  When politicians talk about future costs of proposed entitlements, they lie. And what they profess to find in “savings” from existing programs and what they actually deliver are miles apart.  On spending and “savings” they have no credibility.  None.

The Congressional Budget Office projects the cost of a new health care entitlement at up to $1.6 trillion, though of course some politicians, including Sen. Max Baucus (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, dismissed that projection as outdated.   The final cost, he predicted, will be presented at less than $1 trillion.  Those “savings” would come …

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Professor, 30, student, 50. Is consensual sex OK?

We can appreciate the restraint of the Georgia Supreme Court in deferring to the General Assembly on the matter of a teacher-coach having sex with a 16-year-old she’d previously taught. It’s now up to the Legislature to make it perfectly clear in the law that it is sexual assault.

The case comes from Richmond County. The Supreme Court decided 5-2 that the Harlem High School teacher-coach was wrongly convicted of sexual assault because the girl, at 16, was old enough to give consent. The majority concluded that consent was a legitimate defense — and the teacher should have been able to argue it at trial.

The majority opinion, written by retiring Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, gave real deference to the Legislature, deference that should be a bedrock for the judiciary. In this instance, the majority noted that in three instances the Legislature defines illegal sexual contact in a school, hospital or involving a person under care by a counselor.

The teacher was charged under …

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Mississippi conservatives need not apply

Can a white male conservative from Mississippi be elected President of the United States?

That’s the question for Republicans, and ultimately the nation, as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, incoming chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, headlines fund-raisers in Iowa and New Hampshire, the states that will launch the 2012 presidential campaign.

By all rights Barbour should be a front-runner for the nomination.  He’s conservative, a smart strategist, well-connected in Republican circles and he’s been a first-rate governor.  During Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, he was a star performer, in contrast to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco who never quite got it together.

Former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie describes him to the Associated Press as “a happy warrior who stands up for conservative principles.”  He was one of those few conservative governors who rejected some federal stimulus money because of the strings attached.  Mark …

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Cynical? 2 reasons why not

One joy of life in the newspaper business is that it’s an open invitation to drop by — sometimes for a whuppin’, sometimes for a treat.

The first visit with Brunswick banker Ron Adams was for a whuppin’ — though I’d debate still whether it should have been his or mine. Some decades-long friendships, like this one, start in strong disagreement.

Others, like a more-recent friendship with Joe Moss, a former Delta pilot and Atlantan now living in New York and Texas, started as conversations about public policy.
Through both, I have been introduced to others, living and not, who have brought a richness to life that, but for the newspaper, I’d never have known.

Adams and I first met about two decades ago when I was writing extensively about “shadow governments,” those that spend public money but lack public accountability. He served on the board of one I had written about, one that hired a blue-chip Atlanta law firm to resist state inspection of its books. Our …

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Job snaking, kooks, bogus discrimination

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

  • Having NCR’s headquarters and a new ATM factory in Georgia are good. For us. But there is considerable irony in asking for federal stimulus money to renovate a factory in Columbus to make ATM terminals now being made in South Carolina for a company that worsens Ohio’s job base to improve Georgia’s. Georgia should eliminate the corporate income tax — and incentives to relocate from one part of America to another. This is one area where I’ve never agreed with Democrats or the Republican governor. Snaking jobs from my fellow countrymen is not my thing.
  • Just curious. Does anybody believe the hundreds of millions in federal “stimulus” money coming into Georgia will either stimulate the economy or leave legacy accomplishments? I don’t. And, by the way, what exactly did the $250 million that the feds poured into Atlanta, starting in 1994, as “empowerment zone” grants and tax credits accomplish? Federal money just disappears. …

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What’s my pay, Mr. Czar?

The Obama Administration has appointed a compensation czar to determine pay for top executives at Government Motors, Chrysler, Bank of America, American International Group, Citigroup, Chrysler Financial and GMAC.  The czar, Washington attorney Kenneth R. Feinberg, will also have authority to set compensation levels for executives at scores of other companies that have received taxpayer money.

Without question, many of the salaries and bonuses being collected by top executives are outrageous.  As we’ve seen in the financial sector, especially, the out-sized bonuses tempted creative minds to take greater and greater risks to generate short-term “profits.” They got and kept bonuses even when the longer-term consequence was that high-risk subprime mortgages poisoned the sounder ones when they were packaged together and sold.  But for those involved, there was little penalty.  They kept the cash.

The financial acommunity clearly needed to revise compensation systems to shift …

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The text-message, no-yesterday President

Barack Obama is the New Age President.  In the New Age, majorities of Americans  live on text-messages, are turned off by politics and are oblivious to the workings of government.  The result is that this President can say anything, confident that he’ll not get trapped in the facts contained in the fine print or elsewhere.

An example is his assertion Tuesday that Congress should “pay” for new spending with new taxes or program cuts rather than by cranking up the printing presses to add more debt.  Under the new, improved “pay-as-you-go” proposal, a failure to tax or cut for new spending would prompt automatic cuts in entitlements, excluding Social Security.

As the Associated Press pointed out, you can’t listen to this President without fine-print or historical context. Writes the AP:  “Not noted by the president:  Tuesday’s plan is a watered-down version of the so-called ‘PAYGO’ rules proposed just last month in his own budget plan.”

Last month’s version would …

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Only the (eligible) living should vote.

A Wisconsin man, eager to do his family’s part to elect Barack Obama, voted himself.  And voted is wife.  Only problem was that she was dead, having died of lung cancer more than two months before November’s election.

The living voter, Stephen Wrobleski of Milwaukee, knew of course how his wife would have voted had she been living. She was a veteran Democratic activist and would indeed have voted for Obama.  Her absentee ballot ultimately wasn’t counted — but the reason it wasn’t helps to explain why voter fraud is so difficult to detect in the absence of a Photo ID.

The dead woman, in addition to being a party activist, was a poll worker who lived across the street from the polling place.  She was, therefore, well-known to others who manned the poll.  The fraud was detected when another poll worker, in a random check, happened to pull her ballot.

Generally unless a potential voter is well-known to a poll worker, it’s highly unlikely that that a fraudulent ballot will be …

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Tax consumption, not earnings

California, with soaring deficits and the usual assortment of big spenders in public office is a state in the tank looking to Washington for handout.  Since California’s in the tank for Democrats, short-term relief undoubtedly will come.
Longer term, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’d welcome a proposal from a state commission studying tax revision for a flat tax along the lines of “a 15 percent straight tax.”  He told the Sacramento Bee editorial board that the existing system “doesn’t work” because income tax revenues rise and fall with the economy.
I’ve never had any objections to a flat tax along the lines of the FairTax proposed by U.S. Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) and others.  Former presidential candidate Steve Forbes is also a fan of a flat tax.  The only reason for not jumping on that bandwagon was the unlikelihood that Americans would embrace a flat tax as an alternative to the national income tax in my lifetime.
Now I’m not so sure.  The massive …

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