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What’s the Holdup for Zika Funding?

                                                                                                                           

With 42 Floridians catching Zika, there is concern there and in neighboring states that the virus could spread. In Congress, both Democrats and Republicans say they want to provide federal funds to combat the virus. And yet, no funds have been approved.

The culprit, as is so often the case, can be blamed on partisan gridlock.

Funding for combatting Zika is contained in one of the thirteen appropriations, or spending, bills that Congress must pass every year to fund the government. This bill contains funding not only for Zika efforts, but also for other government functions.

The House of Representatives passed this legislation with a vote of 239-17 on June 23. Senate Democrats, however, are refusing to allow the bill come to a vote in that chamber. Although a majority of Senators voted to proceed with a final vote in late June by a vote of 52-48, that vote was not enough to reach the 60-vote threshold to overcome the Democrats’ filibuster.

Why are they blocking the bill?

It’s not because of the Zika funding, but because of the other items in the bill. Among their issues of concern:
• Defunding the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare – the legislation would remove $500 million in funding for this program
• Defunding Planned Parenthood
• Allowing wider use of pesticides to destroy mosquitoes
• Continuing to allow Confederate flags to fly in military cemeteries

Republicans contend that Democrats are so fixated on these unrelated issues that they will allow Zika to spread in order to protect Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. Democrats, on the other hand, say that Republicans are holding Zika funding hostage to get their way on these contentious social issues.

This situation is why Congress recessed for its summer break without coming to agreement on an issue that both Republicans and Democrats, in essence, agree on.

Should the Senate pass this legislation, even with these controversial provisions? Or should Senate Democrats insist that Republicans remove the contentious sections of the spending bill before Zika funding is approved?

 

Political Gamesmanship, Partisan Differences, Stall Enhanced Funding to Counter Zika Threat

The government response to the Zika virus is one of those situations that reminds so many people of why they hate politics. Florida has been hit by the mosquito-borne virus, which can produce significant birth defects in humans.

The Centers for Disease Control counts more than 400 cases in the state, and according to USA Today, the disease has recently been found in a new section of Miami. Most cases in the state have been introduced by people returning from Brazil and other infected areas. But some cases have been locally transmitted, meaning that people become infected without leaving the state.

Political commentators across the ideological spectrum blame their partisan opponents for stalling a government health response. The conservative publication National Review, for example, criticized Democratic members of the U.S. Senate. It contends that the Democrats made federal funding for Zika dependent on a block grant for Planned Parenthood. The progressive publication Mother Jones, meanwhile, says that Florida state governments “war on abortion is hurting its fight against the virus.”

Republicans in Congress blame Democrats for asking for too much money and not using money that can be redirected from unspent funds. Democrats blame Republicans for not spending enough. The result is an impasse.

Politico reports that Florida’s Republican representatives in Washington are pressuring their party leaders to deliver funds to Florida, one way or another.

Meanwhile, fearful Floridians may be right to ask, “We don’t care who started the fight; why can’t you people get your act together and do something to help us?”

 

 

 

No Gold in Hosting the Olympics

Have you been enjoying Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and the other American athletes as they compete in the summer Olympics? As you cheer on these Olympians, you may also want to cheer the fact that these games are being held in Brazil and not in the United States. While there may be prestige in hosting the Olympics, cities that do so generally pay a hefty price.

It may sound strange to be glad that such an important international event is not being held in the U.S. But the history of how host cities have fared financially in the wake of the Olympics shows that, indeed, one of the best things that can happen to a city is not to host these games.

In 2009, Chicago was doing all it could to attract this year’s Olympics to the city. As Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh recently concluded, the day the International Olympic Committee removed Chicago from the competition, “It was the day the IOC saved Chicago from itself.”

Why?

"Finding a way to pay for the Olympics would have been hard to accept in a city that barely can pay its teachers. Chicago's bid came in at $4.8 billion, an unrealistically low number. Rio already has gone at least $100 million above its $14.4 billion estimate. London, host of the 2012 Games, budgeted $4 billion but spent $14 billion. According to tax returns, Chicago's unsuccessful bid cost $70.6 million and we can feel fortunate the sea of debt went no deeper."

Whole nations may even suffer from hosting the games. In Greece, the massive expense of the 2004 Olympics played a role in pushing that nation towards fiscal crisis: “Hosting the event cost almost €9 billion ($11 billion at today’s exchange rate), making the 2004 Games the most expensive ever at that point. Greek taxpayers were on the hook for €7 billion, which did not include the cost of extra projects such as a new airport and metro system.”

As Eric Boehm of Reason magazine notes, “Of the 17 Summer Olympics held since the end of the Second World War, only the 1984 event in Los Angeles turned a profit.”

Of course, cities host the Olympics for many reasons. They may want to see a financial boost, but they also like the prestige that comes with the eyes of the world focused on them. However, the facts are pretty clear: for all the things that the Olympics may offer a host city, they generally turn out to bring financial problems in their wake. Do you think the trade-off is worth it?

What’s in Trump's Economic Plan?

The economy is one of the major issues in this presidential race, with both candidates touting plans to create jobs. On August 8, GOP presidential candidate gave a speech outlining his “America First economic plan.”

What did Trump pledge to do in this speech?

  • Eliminate the carried interest deduction for income taxes
  • Reduce the 7 income tax brackets to 3. These would be rates at 12%, 25%, and 33%. In contrast, the current income tax brackets are 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6%
  • Cut the corporate income tax to 15% from 35%
  • Allow families to take a full deduction for childcare expenses
  • Permit American companies to repatriate income back into the U.S. with a 10% tax
  • Eliminate the “death tax,” also known as the estate tax
  • Issue a temporary moratorium on new federal regulations
  • Cancel all “illegal and overreaching” executive orders
  • Ask agencies to compile a list of unnecessary rules or rules that do not improve public safety, and then eliminate them
  • Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • Impose tariffs on countries that “unfairly subsidiz[e] their goods”
  • Renegotiate NAFTA
  • Enforce American trade agreements with China
  • Lift federal restrictions on American energy development
  • Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare
  • Force military allies to pay “their fair share” for protection
  • Reform the Veterans Health Administration

What do you think about Donald Trump’s economic plan?

Would a Redskins Stadium be Worth It?

The Washington Redskins may be coming to Virginia. Would the state benefit if taxpayers shelled out for a new stadium?

Virginia Governor Terry McCauliffe is having what he calls “very serious negotiations” to persuade the Washington Redskins to move to Northern Virginia. While the Redskins’ current lease in Maryland is not up for another decade, the team is already looking at its options for future stadiums.

Governor McCauliffe would like the state to use its resources to persuade the team to move across the Potomac River. However, he also says, “It’s got to make sense for the taxpayers of Virginia.”

Will such a deal make sense for taxpayers? It may be possible, but it will be difficult. The academic literature on the economic impact of stadiums and the return to taxpayers is summed up by researchers from the Brookings Institution:

A new sports facility has an extremely small (perhaps even negative) effect on overall economic activity and employment. No recent facility appears to have earned anything approaching a reasonable return on investment. No recent facility has been self-financing in terms of its impact on net tax revenues. Regardless of whether the unit of analysis is a local neighborhood, a city, or an entire metropolitan area, the economic benefits of sports facilities are de minimus.

Virginians may gain some pride from having the Washington Redskins located within their commonwealth. However, as Governor McCauliffe works to lure the team, he should be aware of the ways that stadium subsidies can go wrong.

Do you support using taxpayer dollars to subsidize sports stadiums?