Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:
● Forbes magazine identifies Cleveland as America’s city of greatest misery. The conclusion is based on unemployment, taxes, violent crime, commute times and other factors in cities with a population greater than 245,000. Pray tell why Georgia would spend public money to poach jobs from desperate fellow citizens? A story noting that in the past eight months three Ohio firms, two of them from Cleveland and one from Dayton, moved two headquarters and one production line to metro Atlanta was headlined “Ohio’s pain is Georgia’s gain.” As Americans, we have nothing to gain from the joblessness of our fellow citizens. And besides, with drinking water and traffic congestion problems here, why are we giving tax breaks to entice domestic-employer relocations?
● Georgia must prepare its finances for the coming tsunami of federal debt, which of course will be offloaded to the states. A possible outcome of the D.C. health care debacle, for example, will be that Medicaid and PeachCare eligibility will be expanded; initially, the feds will foot the bulk of the bill. When the debt crisis hits, though, they’ll offload burdens to the states. Georgia, therefore, should strip down uncontrollable entitlements, an example of which is the 6-year-old indigent legal defense system.
● The most visionary fiscal conservative addressing the potentially runaway costs of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council is state Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome), who chairs the oversight panel. He’s proposing legislation to give financial responsibility for some cases back to counties, where costs can be better managed. Better do something. This is an entitlement that will eventually be extended to civil as well as criminal cases. Get cost-containment firmly in place now.
● To Georgia Republicans considering a tax hike in this economy: George Herbert Walker Bush.
● How government grows: Legislators are debating whether to issue $10 million in general obligation debt to help fund the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta. Proposed cost of the facility has grown from about $50 million to $80 million or more. If the state does this, it has a moral obligation to subsidize every other hall of fame across Georgia. All struggle financially.
● Standing in a room that lacked only a presidential or state seal, facing a “news conference” audience with the look and demeanor of pallbearers, golfer Tiger Woods apologized. It was a surreal moment in American cultural life. We had a golfer reassuring America that he’d misbehave no more — and to large segments of the viewing public, it mattered.
● Option 4 to Atlanta’s crushing public pension obligations would be to insist that the state pay up. Why? That’s just the Atlanta way. Actually, the only long-term solution is to close all city pension plans to new hires and start over with entirely new. Meanwhile, the best interim option is to choose option 3: Require city workers to pay more to support overly generous plans.
● The effort hasn’t drawn much attention, but Gov. Sonny Perdue deserves and is getting credit for an unheralded initiative. Georgia is the only state in the nation concentrating on improving customer service, an effort that’s now being recognized nationally. Guru of the effort is Joe Doyle, a private-sector guy who sold the After Hours Formal Wear chain and volunteered for public service. Good catch for Perdue.
● Gasoline’s approaching $3 per gallon. Consumer confidence is at its lowest point since April of last year. Twenty thousand jobs vanished last month; 150,000 in December. The deficit is $1.56 trillion. Georgia is projected to lose another 35,600 jobs this year. And Democrats in Congress are determined to cram down a health care bill the majority of the country doesn’t want. How utterly out of touch Washington — and specifically this administration — is.