July 24, 2014

July Porker of the Month Announced

"Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers."

For the record, we growled about the headquarters building of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPR) on July 7, 2014, suggesting it was a case of "bureaucrats gone wild."

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) announced today that they have "named Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray its July Porker of the Month because of his gross mismanagement of the CFPB’s headquarters renovation budget, which has ballooned by almost 300 percent from a projected initial cost of $55 million to $215.8 million, and for the agency’s inability to produce a single shred of documentation related to the renovation."

Here is how CAGW justified its selection of Richard Cordray as its July 2014 Porker of the Month:

"The CFPB was created in 2011 as part of the Dodd-Frank Act.  One of the agency’s objectives is to “promote financial education,” which is ironic given its failure to control costs.  The CFPB has been called “unaccountable and unrestrained,” which is also an apt description of its handling of the building renovation.  The first revised estimate went from $55 million in the CFPB’s fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget justification to $95 million in April 2013.  It was revised a month later to $111.4 million, and then to $145.1 million in July 2013.  According to a June 30, 2014 Federal Reserve Board of Governors’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) letter, “Based on the CFPB’s assessed requirements as of June 5, 2014, we currently estimate all-in costs to total approximately $215.8 million” and “a sound business case is not available to support the funding of the renovation.”  Furthermore, in what has become a disturbing pattern of either gross incompetence or systematic agency-wide obfuscation, the OIG wrote that CFPB officials were “unable to locate any documentation” related to the renovation.  Director Cordray has attempted to justify the costs by calling the building as “a classic white elephant,” and claiming it will “cost a fair amount of money to bring it back up to standard.”

"He singled out window replacement, plumbing and electrical upgrades, and a new roof as cost centers for the renovations, yet plans for the building also include such luxurious amenities as an indoor waterfall, a four-story glass staircase, a sunken garden, a custom “green” roof, and stools commissioned from world-renowned sculptor Maya Lin.  The building, which is being rented, was accepted in “as is” condition by CFPB officials, and will not even house all of the CFPB’s staff.  The renovation will cost approximately $590 per square foot, which is more than double the average cost for renovating some of Washington’s most high-end office buildings.  According to the House Financial Services Committee, “…the CFPB is spending much more per square foot than it cost to build the Trump World Tower ($334/square foot), the Bellagio Hotel and Casino ($330/square foot) and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai ($450/square foot).”  The latest estimated cost of $215.8 million is 37 percent greater than the value of the building, which was appraised at $157.3 million in 2011.  House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has demanded that Director Cordray produce “full, unredacted” records related to the escalating costs for the building renovation by July 31, 2014." (emphasis added)

Readers of Growls who are upset about the out-of-control cost of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) headquarters are urged to call or write their Congressional representatives (available at Thomas; use left-hand column). Readers living in Virginia's Arlington County, should contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

More information about Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is available here.

July 23, 2014

Will 'Streetcar Battle' Produce Better County Board Policy?

The Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey has another report this morning from last Thursday's Arlington County Board Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) work session (for a fuller discussion, see our July 18, 2014 Growls here). The title of McCaffrey's report asks, "Latest streetcar battle: why didn't management contract go to County Board?" Here's the lede in McCaffrey's report:

"Arlington County Board members need to formally approve government grants as low as several thousand dollars, but did not get a chance to vet a management contract worth perhaps $7 million for services related to the Columbia Pike streetcar.

"How come? County staff have an explanation, but not everyone on the County Board is buying it. And as a result, there might eventually be a policy change to give elected officials more oversight."

Here's how McCaffrey describes the problem:

"Garvey and Vihstadt were critical of the staff’s bypassing elected officials, and demanded to know why.

"In a response both to Vihstadt and the Sun Gazette, county officials pointed to intricacies contained within the Arlington County Purchasing Resolution.

"Under the resolution, county spokesman Diana Sun stated definitively: “The program-management services for the streetcar project do not require County Board approval. The authority has been delegated to the purchasing agent.”

"Well, maybe. As with many sections of every municipal code, there is some room for interpretation. Vihstadt, the lone attorney on the County Board, pointed to one section that indicated board approval was required; it says that County Board approval is required for capital-improvement projects exceeding $250,000 and “contracts for professional services that exceed $50,000, which are performed as part of a capital-improvement project.”

"Seems pretty cut-and-dried, until county staff take into account another portion of the resolution, which defines professional services as being accounting, architecture, land surveying, landscape architecture, law, dentistry, medicine, optometry, pharmacy, actuarial services or professional engineering."

And how might Arlington County Board policy be changed? Let's turn again to Scott McCaffrey:

"Vihstadt used a recent work session on the county government’s capital-improvement plan to introduce a resolution calling for County Board oversight over every capital-improvement contract valued at $1 million or more. In order to get majority support, he agreed – “reluctantly” – to refine the proposal and give County Manager Barbara Donnellan until November to come back and address the potential impacts of such a change.

"Vihstadt said he hopes his board colleagues will see his point of view.

“In my view, appropriate oversight is part of our job,” Vihstadt said, “and if it takes additional staff or County Board work to bring million-dollar contracts to the board for airing and approval, so be it.”

The day following April's special election, we growled whether the election of John Vihstadt by the voters of Arlington County would see a "new era of fiscal sanity." To date, it seems our question has been answered. First on internal auditing, and now on greater contract oversight by the Arlington County Board.

July 22, 2014

A Thought on Government

"The government is not your salvation. The government is not your road to prosperity. Hard work, education will take you far beyond what any government program can ever promise."

~ Mia Love, former mayor, Saratoga Springs, Utah

HT "25 Great Quotes from Black Conservatives," by John Hawkins, January 29, 2014, posted at Townhall.com.

July 21, 2014

Sue and Settle: Green Harrasment?

According to Stephen Moore, an economist at the Heritage Foundation, writing in an op-ed, posted earlier this evening at Investor's Business Daily:

"If you've never heard of the litigation technique "sue and settle," it's the hottest new strategy for extreme environmentalists to make millions of acres of prime land for ranching, farming, oil and gas drilling, and mining of natural resources off limits for development.

"Sue and settle involves a stealth partnership between anti-development Obama administration regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency or the Interior Department and litigious green groups — including Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife, WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club — who want to halt fossil fuel development and other projects on federal and even private lands.

"The racket is working all too well. Green groups sue the administration to act — to add a species to the endangered list, for example. The Obama administration bypasses normal science reviews and open hearings and caves in to the demands of the green agitators."

Moore says there have been "some 40 sue and settle cases in the last two years." He also provides the chart below showing cases by presidential term:

Moore also reports that "(s)tates are fighting back:"

" . . . Last week, Oklahoma's Scott Pruitt and 11 other state attorneys general sued EPA over its secretive process that Pruitt calls "regulation through litigation."

"Pruitt tells me that "sue and settle has become one of the major impediments to economic growth and development in Oklahoma. The process is rigged against us and disregards our own actions to protect the environment without paralyzing development."

In January 2014, William Yeatman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, wrote at The Hill's Congress Blog that:

"Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has scheduled floor action this week on H.R. 2279, the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations (REDO) Act. ‘Redo’ is an apt acronym for this worthy bill, which would afford Congress an opportunity to revise a decades-old mistake, and thereby strike at the heart of an insidious legal strategy known as “sue and settle.”

"To be precise, H.R. 2279 would allow Congress to mitigate the ills caused by an overabundance of deadlines in environmental laws enacted during the 1970s. At the time, statutory deadlines, by which time federal agencies must execute their duties, were perceived as an innovation in Congressional oversight. In practice, however, they’ve wreaked havoc on the regulatory process."

Part 1 of House report 113-179 (available at the bill status and summary after searching for H.R. 2279 at the Library of Congress' Thomas) contains 21 pages of background in legislative language. The House passed the bill 225-188, which included a No vote by Arlington County's representative, Jim Moran (D). In the Senate, it has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works.
 
Yeatman also points out, " EPA’s inability to meet its duties in a timely fashion is largely a consequence of Congressional mismanagement, rather than agency indolence. Simply put, Congress added too many deadlines, and not enough appropriations to meet them." He then concludes:
"The REDO act is a welcome start. Other environmental statutes are in dire need of a similar correction course."
For an extended legal explanation of the "sue and settle" technique, Andrew Grossman, visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation a detailed 13-page legal memorandum, "Regulation Through Sham Litigation: The Sue and Settle Phenomenon" (Legal Memorandum #110, February 25, 2014). The abstract:
"Typically, the federal government defends itself vigorously against lawsuits challenging its actions. But not always: Sometimes regulators are only too happy to face collusive lawsuits by friendly “foes” that are aimed at compelling government action that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to achieve. Rather than defend these cases, regulators settle them in a phenomenon known as “sue and settle.” This tactic has exploded under the Obama Administration, costing the economy tens of billions of dollars while eroding political accountability and public participation in government. There are solutions: The executive branch should return to the principles adopted during the Reagan Administration by Attorney General Edwin Meese III, and Congress should require transparency and accountability in settlements that commit agencies to action."
Moore concludes his op-ed by pointing out, "The lawsuit (filed by the several states Attorneys General) cites one instance where sue and settle was used by the EPA to enact new regional haze rules that will increase electric power costs in the Southwest," followed by:

"If sue and settle is not reined in, says Hamm, it could cost "tens of billions of dollars in lost output. This is a big deal to states like Oklahoma and our ability to use our state resources efficiently and in an environmentally sound way."

"President Obama always says 'follow the science,'" he adds. "But this isn't rule-making based on sound science. It's a way for environmentalists to get around sound science."

Another extended discussion can be found in a 54-page report, "Sue and Settle: Regulating Behind closed Doors" (May 2013). The Center for Regulatory Solutions also published a report, saying that sue and settle amounts to "regulation without representation." The Center reports the Sierra Club is the most frequent plaintiff among environmental groups.

Meanwhile, at Forbes magazine, on February 17, 2013, contributor Larry Bell writes:

“Sue and Settle “ practices, sometimes referred to as “friendly lawsuits”, are cozy deals through which far-left radical environmental groups file lawsuits against federal agencies wherein  court-ordered “consent decrees” are issued based upon a prearranged settlement agreement they collaboratively craft together in advance behind closed doors. Then, rather than allowing the entire process to play out, the agency being sued settles the lawsuit by agreeing to move forward with the requested action they and the litigants both want.

< . . . >

"On top of all that, we taxpayers, including those impacted regulatory victims, are put on the hook for legal fees of both colluding parties. According to a 2011 GAO report, this amounted to millions of dollars awarded to environmental organizations for EPA litigations between 1995 and 2010. Three “Big Green” groups received 41% of this payback: Earthjustice, $4,655,425 (30%); the Sierra Club, $966,687; and the Natural Resources Defense Council, $252,004. Most of this was paid to environmental attorneys in connection to lawsuits filed under the Clean Air Act, followed next by the Clean Water Act.

"In addition, the Department of Justice forked over at least $43 million of our money defending EPA in court between 1998 and 2010. This didn’t include money spent by EPA for their legal costs in connection with those rip-offs, since EPA doesn’t keep track of their attorney’s time on a case-by-case basis."

Finally, at EPA Connect, "the official blog of EPA's leadership," Avi Garbow, EPA General Counsel, "sets the record straight" on February 12, 2014. Before addressing four specific points, including settling lawsuits saves money, he argues:

"There has been a lot of misinformation about the Agency’s approach to lawsuits against it.  Notably, these criticisms tend to be directed solely to citizen suits filed principally by individuals and organizations who purport to seek only to hold the Agency accountable. Escaping the criticism are challenges brought by industry and others, who typically account for half or more of the lawsuits filed against EPA annually.

"To be clear, courts ultimately determine the legitimacy of suits brought under the laws allowing for such challenges. And it is not the motivation of the underlying challenge that shapes the Agency’s response to it, but rather it is how we, working with the Department of Justice, evaluate the claims based on the law. Our focus is not on who is the plaintiff, but on any allegation that EPA has not complied with its statutory duties, and how to best ensure that we are able to move forward, adhering to the law and the science.

"The “sue and settle” rhetoric, strategically mislabeled by its proponents, is an often-repeated but a wholly invented accusation that gets no more true with frequent retelling.  So it is time to set the record straight."

Growls readers concerned about the abuse of "sue and settle" legislation by radical environmentalist are urged to call or write their Congressional representatives (available at Thomas; find in left-hand column). Readers living in Virginia's Arlington County should contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

July 20, 2014

Arlington County Board Sets $219 Million Bond Referenda

Arlington County residents will be asked to vote on four bond referenda on Tuesday, November 4, as the Arlington County Board voted at their regular meeting yesterday (agenda item 43.C., plus two supplemental reports) to ask the Circuit Court "to place the referenda on the ballot," according to an online news report today by Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun Gazette.

Here are the four items scheduled to be on the November ballot, and the dollar amounts:

• $105.78 million for education, funding the entire package requested by the School Board.
• $60.24 million for Metro and transportation.
• $39.9 million for community infrastructure, including the Neighborhood Conservation program.
• $13 million for local parks and recreation, including $2 million for land acquisition.

McCaffrey describes several changes made to the four bond packages in the original report to the Board, dated July 11, 2014 (see the Board's Saturday agenda here). He also writes, "The bond referendums are the most tangible result of Saturday’s adoption by the County Board of a 10-year, $2.7 billion capital-improvement program, or CIP," which is in the report to the Board numbered 43.A. Report to the Board numbered 43.B. contains the revised financial and debt management policies.

We will provide further analyses of the bond referenda at a later date.

For some of the "give and take" from yesterday's Arlington County Board meeting, see Patricia Sullivan's report that appeared in today's Washington Post. We linked to it in an "update" to our July 18, 2014 Growls.

July 19, 2014

Poverty, Economic Freedom , Free Markets, and the Left

"Leftists might argue that the free market doesn't help the poor. That argument can't even pass the smell test. Imagine that you are an unborn spirit and God condemned you to a life of poverty but gave you a choice of the country in which to be poor. Which country would you choose? To help with your choice, here are facts provided by Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield in their report "Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About America's Poor." Eighty percent of American poor households have air conditioning. Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more. Almost two-thirds have cable or satellite TV. Half have one or more computers. Forty-two percent own their homes. The average poor American has more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France and the U.K. Ninety-six percent of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry because they could not afford food. The bottom line is that there is little or no material poverty in the U.S."

~ Walter E. Williams

Source: His July 2, 2014 Column, "Economic Freedom," posted at Townhall.com.

July 18, 2014

Not Your Parents' Arlington County Board

Yesterday afternoon, the Arlington County Board held s final work session on the FY 2015 - FY 2024 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), originally scheduled for one and on-half hours, but one that extended to three hours.

The Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan begins her outstanding coverage of the work session in today's Post, writing:

"The Arlington County Board, once known for its 5-0 votes and near-unanamity of opinion on how to build the perfect progressive suburb, can no longer agree on whether the promise of an extra $65 million from the commonwealth is a good thing.

"In a contentious three-hour session Thursday, the board members traded verbal barbs over the Columbia Pike streetcar project, and whether last week’s announcement that the state of Virginia is willing to pay for half the cost of the line can really be trusted.

“Is this absolutely sure? Do we need to apply for it?” asked Libby Garvey (D), one of two board members who oppose building the $333 million streetcar line, favoring a modern bus system. “Sometimes you get a letter in the mail saying you’ve won up to... It sounds more likely than a sweepstakes, but it’s not a sure thing.”

"She and John Vihstadt (I), who also opposes the streetcar, tried to use a normally routine workshop meeting on the county’s capital improvements projects to stop the long-planned transit project in south Arlington. They proposed a series of motions to stop all spending on the streetcar plans, but they lost almost all on 3-2 votes."

Of the others, Sullivan wrote, "the board agreed to ask the county manager to study whether capital projects of more than $1 million should be subject to the board’s approval. The board also unanimously voted not to use residential taxpayer money on the streetcar, a policy they’ve expressed before."

The best part of Sullivan's reporting, however, may be the following three paragraphs (emphasis added):

"County Manager Barbara Donnellan tried to swat down the question of how reliable the state transportation money is, calling it “the most sure transportation funding [I’ve seen], as someone who’s been here 30 years.” She noted that Metrorail was built without funding guarantees.

"Vihstadt described the county’s publicity about the streetcar, which includes a series of online videos, to be “a costly and well-scripted Madison Avenue-like public relations campaign to sway public opinion, especially at a time when the funding scheme is in doubt... is an inappropriate expenditure of public funds.”

"County Board chairman Jay Fisette (D) called the description “offensive,” and Donnellan said: “If there wasn’t so much misinformation out there, maybe we could do fewer.

Accurate, too, as my notes from the meeting also show!

Scott McCaffrey covered the work session in several separate articles, including a post in his Editor's Notebook blog, where he explained his early exit from the work session.

In one article, he points out the new streetcar funding plan will rely more on the commercial real estate surtax., e.g.:

"The Arlington business community will be on the hook for $10 million more than previously announced under the new funding plan for the Columbia Pike streeetcar, unveiled by County Manager Barbara Donnellan at a July 17 work session.

"Funding from a 12.5-percent surcharge on taxes levied on commercial property would account for $69.8 million of Arlington’s share of the cost of the controversial streetcar project, or 26 percent of the local cost, under the new plan. That compares to a previous estimate of $59.8 million, or 21 percent of the project cost, in a scenario that included the prospect of federal funding.

"In a he-probably-regretted-it-the-moment-it-came-out-of-his-mouth moment, county transportation chief Dennis Leach referred to the $10 million change as simply a “slight increase.” Taking more funds from the commercial-surcharge pot of gold gives opponents of the streetcar project another line of attack against supporters, who say the funds could be better spent elsewhere.

< . . . >

"But allocating $69.8 million of those funds, rather than $59.8 million, to the streetcar project means there will be $10 million that won’t go to other projects."

McCaffrey goes and raises questions that are at the heart of the commercial surtax:

"At first blush, the 12.5-percent surcharge on commercial property, which was authorized and then mandated by the General Assembly, appears to fly in the face of the state constitution, which requires that commercial and residential property be assessed at similar rates.

"But when the issue went to the Virginia Supreme Court, the justices ruled that as long as the funding generated was dedicated to a specific purpose and within a specific location, in this case transportation and Northern Virginia, then the surcharge was allowable.

"Both state and local business organizations generally have been supportive of the surcharge, so long as the funding goes toward a range of transportation improvements that includes both roads and transit."

In a second article, McCaffey reports that "Arlington officials have newfound praise for VDOT.," pointing out that its "a situation that a few years ago would have seemed as unlikely as cats and mice signing a truce to live in peace and harmony."

McCaffrey had two more articles, which reported on separate items that are unrelated to transportation issues. First, he reported the County Board "tiptoed away from fast-tracking the move of Fire Station No. 8 and the Office of Emergency Management to new homes at 26th Street North and Old Dominion Drive." In the fourth article that resulted from the County Board's CIP work session yesterday, McCaffrey reported that "Arlington officials have agreed to spend $300,000 more over the coming year to bring additional bus stops into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act."

ARLnow.com filed a report on the CIP work session late yesterday afternoon. Eathan Rothstein's report included this:

"Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt, the County Board’s two streetcar opponents, grilled county Transportation Director Dennis Leach and other county staff about the reliability of state funds and the county’s projections. Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne announced last week that the state would contribute up to $65 million to the project.

“I was just trying to figure out how sure this money is,” Garvey is, noting words like “anticipate” and “up to” in Layne’s letter. “It seems like you’re very sure about it but it doesn’t sound like you can take it to the bank.”

"County Board Chair Jay Fisette issued a strong rebuttal to the concerns, claiming that in his nearly two decades on the County Board, “the state funding in this plan is the most reliable state transportation funding we’ve ever had.”

Although I could not find coverage of the County Board's CIP work session by the Arlington Patch, they did provide earlier coverage of the state providing up to $65 million for the Columbia Pike streetcar. They also reported that county poobahs will "beat the drum for controversial streetcar plan."

At their revamped CIP program webpages, county staff have a great deal of content about the streetcar and the funding for it. Included are meeting agendas, presentations, and answers to Board members questions. Arlington County taxpayers are urged to browse through this material. If the material raises a question, you are urged to:

  • Call the Board office at (703) 228-3130
If they ask, them ACTA sent you!
 
UPDATE (7/20/14):The Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan follows-up on her outstanding reporting on the Arlington County Board's Thursday CIP work session (see above) with her coverage of the Board's regular monthly meeting on Saturday, July 19, 2014. Here's a portion of her reporting, which appears to include the primary talking points of the pro-streetcar forces:
"If we don’t do this, . . . we become a bottleneck for the region and we become a far less wonderful place to live,” warned Hynes.
 
"Tejada, who was vice chairman two years ago when the board approved a plan that tied new development in the Columbia Pike area with saving 6,200 currently affordable apartments, said “It’s always easy to denigrate, criticize, attack, oppose and create a negative environment. . . . We are creating plans for all the generations to come.”
 
"Fisette noted that most of the money used to build the Columbia Pike streetcar can’t be used for other priorities. The streetcar corridor, he said, will attract more than three times the private development that an enhanced bus system would. He appealed to Arlington residents to “look into the detail beyond the narration and sound bytes, look at the benefits to the county.”

July 17, 2014

Economic Freedom & Property Rights

In our Growls yesterday, we talked about the direction the United States was moving in regards to economic freedom because "the United State’s economic freedom score has declined every year since 2008."

Now comes Michael Boskin, economics professor at Stanford University and chairman of President George H.W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, who in an op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal (but unfortunately behind the WSJ's dreaded paywall) discusses "how Washington whittles away property rights."

Given that property rights is one of the 10 quantitative and qualitative factors used to measure economic freedom in the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, and with freedom from corruption, is grouped into the broader category of rule of law, Mr. Boskin's op-ed could not be more timely. Boskin introduces his op-ed, writing:

"Property rights and the rule of law are essential foundations for a vibrant economy. When they are threatened, or uncertain, the result is inefficiency, rent-seeking, a larger underground economy and capital flight.

"Unfortunately, individual rights to capital, land and the fruits of one's labor are threatened—in many cases redistributed from creditors to debtors, from those out of political power to those in power, and especially from young to old. And a much larger battle is looming."

He then provides several examples of historical losses of property rights. For example, Boskin cites the 2005 Kelo v. City of New London Supreme Court decision, the 2009 trampling of "the legal rights of secured Chrysler bondholders," and the EPA's issuance of "1,500 wetlands compliance orders annually to halt land use."

More importantly, though, Boskin raises the risk of future threats to property rights:

"The biggest future threat will be to the fruits of one's labor. The unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare are now several times the national debt; the unfunded liabilities of state and local governments for pensions and other benefits are in the trillions of dollars and mounting. The panoply of other government programs nonetheless continues to expand. The result, according to Congressional Budget Office projections, is that federal spending will reach 36% of GDP in a generation. This implies that taxes will have to double from the current, near-historic average, 18% of GDP. All federal taxes will increase—on income, capital gains, dividends, corporate earnings, employer and employee payrolls.

"Left unchecked, many middle-income earners eventually will face marginal tax rates of 70% or higher—reducing them to minority partners in their own additional work and sundering the value of the investments in their own education.

"Either the next generation will be saddled with steeply higher taxes on their work and savings, or the growth in entitlement spending will be slowed. The political battles over this fundamental question will be waged between generations, income groups, high- and low-tax states, taxpayers and retirees, public employees and recipients of every other government service."

"The math is unavoidable. The biggest safety-net programs, including Social Security and Medicare, began under far different economic and demographic conditions. But as economic growth has slowed and the population has aged, the ratio of people receiving government benefits to those paying taxes has been rising rapidly. Spending on these two and other entitlement programs will gobble up bigger and bigger chunks of the federal budget. They are already crowding out defense.

He concludes the op-ed with this memorable paragraph:

"Ultimately, behind this and other attacks on property rights is the notion that the government owns all income, leaving to you only what it doesn't demand. But as President Reagan said in July 1987, "working people need to know their jobs, take-home pay, homes, and pensions are not vulnerable to the threat of a grandiose, inefficient, and overbearing government." In particular, taxation "beyond a certain level becomes servitude. And in America, it is the Government that works for the people and not the other way around."

And perhaps more memorable is the op-ed's subtitle on the website version, i.e.:

"When government thinks that it ultimately owns all income, bureaucrats never tire of finding ways to spend it."

The op-ed is worth reading in its entirety. You may be able to use Google to find a copy, or there may be a copy at the Hoover Institution where Boskin is a senior fellow. Or visit your local government library.

Kudos to Michael Boskin for an outstanding, informative, and helpful op-ed!

Growls readers concerned about our loss of economic freedom are urged to call or write their Congressional representatives (available at Thomas; find in left-hand column). Readers living in Virginia's Arlington County should contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376
July 2014
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Items in Growls are written by individual ACTA members and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, Inc. Please send comments about Growls to The Growl Meister