Economists love taxes. At least, we love the right kind of taxes, those that discourage bad actions and encourage good ones. Tobacco taxes, for example, make smoking a habit that hurts your pocketbook as well as your lungs. Evidence suggests that teens smoke less just because it has become so darned expensive. Hear, hear!
A “carbon tax” is one of the good taxes. If you accept any one of the following propositions – a)human activity has precipitated global warming, b)human activity hasn’t done so in the past, but it might in the future and this would be a bad thing, OR c) fossil fuel imports put money in the pockets of unstable nations and the world would be a safer place if we used less – then you should support a carbon tax. (If you don’t accept any of the above conditions, it is time to turn the page.)
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We policy wonks like to believe that good ideas win in the end. That right makes might. That if we only got a chance to convince-oh, Barack Obama or John Boehner or Tom Richards or Maggie Brooks-then the right idea would win the day.
Think again. Truth to tell, ideas are powerful only when wielded effectively. It’s effective political action that shapes government, thus society. Read more »
Is college worth the money? This is a seasonal debate, prompted by parades of caps & gowns and the agonizing, “So what do I do now?” from grads burdened with big loans but tiny incomes.
Some facts about college cost are hard to nail down: One source (The College Board) reports that inflation-adjusted “net tuition”—the posted price less grants (called “discounts” in retail)—rose 47% for private four-year institutions from 95-96 to 07-08; for public institutions, the price increase was 34%. Yet another source (The College Board) reports that net tuition & fees actually fell 14% for public institutions and rose a relatively modest 17% for private four-year colleges and universities—over the same period. Read more »
On April 12 the Dyson Foundation/Marist Poll released the first statewide survey of NYS residents’ opinions on local government consolidation (see www.nylocalgov.org). While restructuring is central to Governor Cuomo’s strategy to cut the tax burden, the results suggest that change will be slow without further state action.
- Support for restructuring is hardly universal, despite the bewildering complexity of NYS local government.
- Support varies by function: Highway services are more readily shared than public safety or education—why?
- Experience shows that the status quo is hard to dislodge, even where support is strong. How might state action spur cost-effective re-invention?
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I’ve had “one person, one vote” (OK, “one MAN, one vote”) drummed into my head since the 4th grade. Yet this didn’t apply to many legislative elections until the mid 1960s. Congressional seats, while allocated to states according to population, were distributed within the states many different ways. Only in a series of decisions handed down between 1962 and 1964 did the Supreme Court declare that Congressional and state legislative districts had to contain roughly the same number of residents, basing its decision on the “Equal Protection Clause” of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
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Last week I wrote about our encounter with a timeshare sales pitch from Diamond Resorts International (DRI) in beautiful Lake Tahoe (see below). Here’s the bottom line: The offer price for the timeshare was, effectively, between $420 to $642 per night. I rented the unit for $85 per night from a broker. Fairness Doctrine Caveat: Clearly there are ways to cut this price. First, I suspect that if I had managed to avoid gasping audibly at the price and been able instead to say something like, “Gee, I’d love to buy, but I’m thinking about Marriott instead,” the price would have come down. I’m not that good an actor. Second, there are angles to be played with timeshares. If you book closer to your planned visit (thus with less certainty of getting your first choice), our salesman said that the point requirement is cut in half (Oooh! Only 2 ½ times what I actually paid!). And they were going to throw in a couple of weeks someplace-or-other for free. And probably a microwave oven or a set of grill tools.
I can imagine that some timeshares could make sense for some people. A lot depends on what you usually pay and where you like to visit. And owning a timeshare ensures that you’ll keep taking those vacations, if you are looking for an excuse. Read more »
My wife and I spent a week in Lake Tahoe recently. Always looking for affordable accommodations, we rented a lovely 1 bedroom unit for an excellent price—right on the south shore of the Lake.
The complex is owned by Diamond Resorts International (DRI), a company whose principal business is managing timeshare resorts. Our rental was arranged through a broker who books timeshares on behalf of owners who can’t use their “points” and are looking to get cash back.
When we checked in, we were invited to attend an information session on VACATION OWNERSHIP! Eager to learn more, I signed us up.
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Across parts of the country, governments and public labor unions are wrestling with tight fiscal times that may require them to forge a new relationship. In Wisconsin, the governor’s success at stripping public employees of many of their collective bargaining rights has Republicans and fiscal conservatives cheering, and Democrats and unions predicting a backlash in their favor. Here in New York, our budget problems are impossible to solve without an overhaul of the government-union marriage.
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For most of 2009, Rochester ranked in the Top 20 in the Brookings Institution’s regular reports on the impact of the recession. Indeed, for 2009, Rochester had the 15th best job report among the nation’s 100 largest metros. New York’s job creation record was the best of the 15 largest states.
By the end of last year, Rochester had slid to #41 and New York State to #11. What happened? Well, not much. In Rochester, at least. Our job performance over the last decade has been quite consistent from year to year: We lost jobs, but never more than 2% in a year. The Great Recession was triggered when the real estate bubble burst, the construction and real estate sectors suddenly cooled and millions found their jobs gone or at risk. Having missed the boom, Rochester also missed the bust and continued the trend of the early part of the century—slow shrinkage as the economy struggled to absorb cuts at Kodak and other large employers. Read more »
Confronted by a Regents study declaring that only 5 percent of Rochester City School District graduates are college-ready, Jean-Claude Brizard declares the findings “terrifying.”
One of Brizard’s best qualities is his persistent willingness to look the facts in the face. Too often our education leadership—the district administration and the Board of Education—has been unwilling to state the obvious. It is a natural reaction: The task is herculean. The need is desperate. The consequences of failure are tragic. Read more »