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Reason Foundation

Reason Alert: Budget Deficits, Buckley

February 29, 2008

California's Latest Budget Mess
In an Orange County Register op-ed, Reason Foundation Vice President Adrian Moore says California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's $16 billion budget deficit is "eerily reminiscent of the red ink that led to the recall Gov. Gray Davis. Under both men, the state has failed adhere to kitchen table economics, to prioritize the way families do. When California's families face tough financial times, we don't cut our food or health care spending by the same amount that we cut our movie outings. We prioritize, making big reductions in areas like entertainment, while continuing to pay the mortgage and electricity...California desperately needs a tax and expenditure limit to protect taxpayers from tax increases and to serve as a method of imposing some restrictions upon Sacramento's spending. A revenue limit would cap the amount of money that the state could collect in taxes to, say, a percentage of population growth and inflation. If the state collected too much money in a year, taxpayers would get refund checks instead of allowing politicians to spend the 'excess' money, as happens today. Consider that during fiscal 1997-2002, California's state revenue increased by 27 percent. Yet, the state still ended up with a $30 billion-plus deficit because spending increased 36 percent during that time. During Gov. Schwarzenegger's tenure spending has gone up another 36 percent. Until there are some real, binding limits on state spending and revenue, California will keep finding itself in a budget mess every few years."

Foolish Fear of Foreign Companies
Pennsylvania is considering partnering with the private sector to improve the management and maintenance of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but some lawmakers are trying to ban many of the leading toll road operators from the project because they aren't based in the United States. In a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Reason Foundation's Leonard Gilroy and the Commonwealth Foundation's Matthew J. Brouillette write, "We drive foreign cars and strap our kids into foreign-made car seats every day. Most people watch the news on foreign-made televisions and surf the Internet on computers filled with foreign-made parts. We routinely fly on foreign-made Airbus planes. But somehow we don't want to drive on asphalt poured by a foreign company? Pennsylvania is in desperate need of funding to repair, maintain and expand its roads and bridges. Leasing the turnpike offers a great opportunity to catch up on repairs and finally start tackling future road needs. But preventing many of the world's top road operators from working in Pennsylvania just because they aren't based exclusively here in the States does a huge disservice to taxpayers. That also all but guarantees the state won't get the best possible deal. That is bad business in any country."

Improving Missouri's Transportation System
Reason Foundation's Leonard Gilroy and Sam Staley partner with the Show-Me Institute to examine Missouri's transportation needs and conclude, "The choice for Missourians now is clear: higher taxes and fees, or partnerships with the private sector." Their full assessment of Missouri's transportation system is here.

William F. Buckley, Jr., RIP
Reason Foundation Founder Robert Poole reflects on the life and influence of William F. Buckley, writing, "...since for most of us libertarianism as an intellectual and political movement has been an offshoot of conservatism, Buckley in truth was a great enabler. By creating National Review in 1955 as a serious, intellectually respectable conservative voice (challenging the New Deal consensus among thinking people), Buckley created space for the development of our movement."

Reason magazine's Jacob Sullum, who worked for Buckley and National Review in the '90s, says Buckley "did more than any other intellectual to create a conservative alliance between traditionalists and libertarians (an achievement that seems more impressive with each passing day)...He especially endeared himself to libertarians with his courageous and persistent criticism of the war on drugs, a stance that continues to distinguish National Review from other conservative organs. Although Buckley's support for repealing drug prohibition grew more out of pragmatic concerns than a principled commitment to individual freedom, his prolific writings usually reflected skepticism of government intervention. In recent years this skepticism drove him to question another war popular with conservatives, one that could prove to be as long-lived as the war on drugs, if John McCain has anything to say about it. Buckley, in short, admirably combined an ability to fuse the disparate elements of the conservative coalition with a willingness to break them apart when he thought the stakes were high enough."

Why are People Having Fewer Kids?
Reason magazine Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey reports total fertility rates are plummeting around the world. Bailey examines the trend and finds "according to happiness researchers, people don't really enjoy rearing children. 'Economists have modeled the impact of many variables on people's overall happiness and have consistently found that children have only a small impact. A small negative impact,' reports Harvard psychologist and happiness researcher Daniel Gilbert. In addition, the more children a person has the less happy they are. According to Gilbert, researchers have found that people derive more satisfaction from eating, exercising, shopping, napping, or watching television than taking care of their kids. 'Indeed, looking after the kids appears to be only slightly more pleasant than doing housework,' asserts Gilbert in his bestselling, Stumbling on Happiness. Of course, that's not what most parents say when asked. For instance, in a 2007 Pew Research Center survey people insisted that their relationships with their little darlings are of the greatest importance to their personal happiness and fulfillment. However, the same survey also found 'by a margin of nearly three-to-one, Americans say that the main purpose of marriage is the mutual happiness and fulfillment of adults rather than the bearing and raising of children.'"



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