America’s blood sport

December 4, 2012

Five years ago, NFL superstar Michael Vick admitted to running a dogfighting operation. Media accounts detailed the hanging, drowning, electrocution and shooting of dogs. Vick served less than two years in prison and has spent time since his prison release working with the Humane Society to speak out against dogfighting. Two months ago, Vick even got a dog for his family. Vick’s high profile case influenced how dogfighting is treated by the law, according to Rebecca Huss, the Guardian/Special Master in the Vick/Bad Newz Kennels Case:

Obama goes long renewable energy

December 1, 2012

President Obama is putting some wind in the sails of the transformation of solar energy to an industrial scale. Lost in the pre-election frenzy in July was this announcement:

Is it time to rightsize Detroit?

November 30, 2012

There are two sides to the story of Detroit.

One is the political and civic story of how the mayor and city council will manage the multi-year process of shrinking the city government to fit a population of 700,000. At its peak in 1950, Detroit had about 1.8 million citizens. The Motor City has undergone a 60 year contraction in population, and now the city’s geographic and infrastructure footprints need to shrink to survive.

Sallie Krawcheck should not run the SEC

November 29, 2012

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Sallie Krawcheck, formerly of Citi and Bank of America, is the leading contender to be named chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Let’s hope that President Obama comes to his senses and names someone more fit to the post. From the Times:

The other “fiscal cliff”

November 28, 2012

While everyone is focused on Washington, D.C., there is another “fiscal cliff” that is rarely discussed — the massive unfunded liabilities of state and local governments. In Puerto Rico, the worst-case of these situations was highlighted in the New York Times this week. But the story is much bigger.

A truth bomb for Walmart supporters

November 28, 2012

After workers and labor unions protested Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, last Friday, The New York Times quoted a union organizer describing the effort as “open-source striking.” An alleged 1,000 protests took place across the country. But the real battle was happening on the ideological field between conservative and liberal pundits. Many claims were made to defend the company’s business practices. The least sound of these claims was made by the Reason Foundation’s Peter Suderman:

What Harrisburg learned while waiting to file for bankruptcy

November 21, 2012

Last year, muniland watched as the mayor, city council members and state legislature went through a tortuous period of fighting over filing municipal bankruptcy for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The city council filed a bankruptcy petition, but the mayor objected. Then the legislature passed a law that denied Harrisburg the right to file until November 30, 2012. The bankruptcy judge threw out the bankruptcy petition and the governor appointed a receiver to take control of the city’s finances.

New York schools face multiple funding challenges

November 21, 2012

Spending for public education in New York is the highest in the nation, at $20,645 per student every year. But recent reductions in state aid and a cap on the amount that a community may increase its property taxes is putting the brakes on school budgets. At the same time, increases in employee pension and health care costs are requiring a greater share of school revenue. Now school superintendents are faced with letting employees go and increasing class sizes. The fiscal vise is causing districts to do more with less.

Do doctor shortages affect a state’s decision to opt out of Obamacare?

November 20, 2012

The media have focused on the recent Affordable Care Act (ACA) deadline for states to decide whether they will create health insurance exchanges. It’s an important issue, but if a state does not agree to build an exchange, the federal government will step in and create one. So either way, all 50 states will end up having health insurance exchanges.

California’s budget clean-up

November 16, 2012

California narrowly averted its own fiscal cliff last week when voters approved a state ballot issue – Proposition 30 – that raised income and sales taxes. Income taxes will increase 3% for seven years on those earning over $250,000, and a supplemental 0.25% sales tax increase will take effect four years. Prop 30 is hoped to generate $8.5 billion in annual revenue and cover about half of the state’s deficit. The other half will be made up through budget cuts.