Monday, May 26, 2014

Big Government, Cronyism, Toll Roads

The Privatization Backlash - Molly Ball - The Atlantic: ""Privatization has potential rewards, but a lot of it is really just about shifting money around for political reasons," said Phineas Baxandall, a senior analyst at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and author of a report on toll roads called Private Roads, Public Costs. "There are a lot of dangers in terms of loss of control over public policy, not getting enough revenue for these assets, as well as a lack of transparency." Many of the ideological proponents of privatization are libertarian conservatives who believe tasks like operating roads and schools are better performed by the private sector. But in Texas, one of the most prominent activists against private toll roads is a San Antonio Tea Party activist named Terri Hall. She has started a petition to change the city charter to require that any toll project be put to a vote, and she blogs relentlessly on toll-related issues. "If there's anything Texans hate, it's big government and cronyism, and toll roads deliver both," she wrote recently."


Monday, May 19, 2014

Fund War Like College Tuition

It is all about priorities --

If War Was Funded Like College Tuition Washington's Blog: "....Mr. Beaverton would have a point.  Some other nations that don’t invest in wars and war preparations the way the United States does also make college education free or affordable — and still have plenty of money to spare for frivolous luxuries like healthcare or energy systems that don’t render the planet unlivable. What would our lives be like if college were as free and unquestionable as military spending is now, but military spending arrived as an optional bill? Those who didn’t want it could choose not to pay.  Those who wanted a coast guard, a national guard, and some anti-aircraft weapons could chip in a few bucks.  Those who wanted a bit more than that could pay a bit more...."


Monday, May 12, 2014

Illinois Tax Increases, Exploitation of Faith Communities

Heather Wilhelm: In Illinois, Tax Increases Become an Article of Faith - "...Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, noted that "some faith communities are being propelled into this debate to provide moral cover in order to raise more revenue for state programs. The thing is, we've seen this movie before. We're in a state where fiscal responsibility has not been paramount." Mr. Gilligan asked: "Where is this additional money going to go? How can we be sure it will go to help the poor and vulnerable?" The argument that the Fair Tax will help the poor is, at best, murky. Illinois's last income-tax hike, in 2011, was touted as a temporary fix to raise $31 billion for the state's astronomical debts and struggling schools. In reality, the bulk of the money—$25 billion—went to state-employee pension coffers and interest payments. The state budget is still $3 billion in the hole. Not coincidentally, high-profile members of public-employee unions like the Illinois SEIU are actively engaged—some as "faith leaders"—in the fight for a progressive tax...."


Monday, May 5, 2014

Chicago Parking Ripoff, Privatization Backlash

Hogs, Parking Meters, Chicago --

The Privatization Backlash - Molly Ball - The Atlantic: "If the meter situation seemed like a bad deal for Chicago's parkers, it would soon become clear that it was an even worse one for the city's taxpayers.
An inspector general's report found that the deal was worth at least $974 million more than the city had gotten for it. Not only would the city never have a chance to recoup that money or reap new meter revenue for three-quarters of a century, clauses buried in the contract required it to reimburse the company for lost meter revenue. The city was billed for allowing construction of new parking garages, for handing out disabled parking placards, for closing the streets for festivals. The current bill stands at $61 million, though Mayor Rahm Emanuel has refused to pay and taken the case to arbitration instead. How did this happen? The meter deal passed the city council just four days after then-Mayor Richard Daley—desperate to fill a recession-caused budget hole—presented it. There were no public hearings, and the aldermen never saw the bid documents. Afterward, some aldermen who voted for it said they wished they'd known more of the details, but it was too late. "We're stuck with it for the next 71 years," Alderman Roderick Sawyer told me recently."