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November 2012

"5 myths about U.S. defense spending"

James Pethokoukis:

3. We spend more on defense than many other nations combined. Isn’t that excessive? Not if you look at what we ask our military to do and the value it generates. Our preeminence yields enormous strategic returns: (1) It protects the security and prosperity of the United States and its allies; (2) It amplifies America’s diplomatic and economic leadership; (3) It prevents the outbreak of great-power wars so common in previous centuries; and (4) It preserves the international order in the face of aggressive, illiberal threats. These benefits are a bargain at 4 cents on the dollar.

Compare and contrast

Emily Badger, "The Real Reason Cities Lean Democratic," The Atlantic:

The real urban challenge for conservatives going forward will be to pull back from an ideology that leaves little room for the concept of "public good," and that treats all public spending as if it were equally wasteful. Cities do demand, by definition, a greater role for government than a small rural town on the prairie. But the return on investment can also be much higher (in jobs created through transportation spending, in the number of citizens touched by public expenditures, in patents per capita, in the sheer share of economic growth driven by our metropolises).

Mark Hendrickson, "What Explains The Partisan Divide Between Urban And Non-Urban Areas," Forbes:

Sociologists could have a field day with this question, but the explanation could be something as simple as the fact that people who live in cities are relatively insulated from how difficult and challenging it can be to produce the foodenergy, equipment, devices, etc., that comprise the affluence that urbanites enjoy. In their urban cocoons, city-dwellers take for granted the abundance and availability of the economic goods that they consume. For instance, many well-to-do, educated urbanites see no downside to supporting stricter regulations and higher taxes on energy producers, because to them, energy is something that is always there at the flip of a switch (except during the occasional hurricane, as some New Yorkers recently discovered). Life in the city for affluent Americans creates the illusion that all they have to do is demand something and—presto!—it will be there when they want it.

I score it Hendrickson by first round TKO.

Cali: come for the fiscal mess, stay for the housing agency mismanagement

Good luck, California. You'll need it.

"How a vicious circle of self-interest sank a California city".

Yet on close examination, the city's decades-long journey from prosperous, middle-class community to bankrupt, crime-ridden, foreclosure-blighted basket case is straightforward — and alarmingly similar to the path traveled by many municipalities around America's largest state. San Bernardino succumbed to a vicious circle of self-interests among city workers, local politicians and state pension overseers.

"L.A. housing authority rife with fiscal mismanagement, audit finds".

Los Angeles' housing authority, which runs on about $1 billion a year in taxpayer funds, is plagued by bad financial management that causes "questionable practices and poor decisions," according to an audit released Thursday by City Controller Wendy Greuel. . . .

A previous audit found instances of questionable spending by some agency officials, including double and triple billing for some travel and meal expenses. This audit, which looked at the agency's fiscal operations, did not uncover wrongdoing. But it did find that despite the authority's hefty budget and history of scandal going back decades, agency officials have done little to make sure money is properly managed.

"The coming California supermajority?"

Well, this will certainly be quite the example of no-holds-barred liberal governance — if I lived in California, I would be seriously reconsidering my residence right about now.

"The Worst Is Yet To Come For California".

After 18 years of spending, taxing and regulating, the most resource-rich state in the Country is facing underemployment in excess of 20%, huge perennial deficits and failing schools. Sadly, the worst is yet to come.

"None Dare Call It Default"

Concise and very discouraging.

Bookmark it to show the Liberals when they say "Who knew?" in the hard days to come. 

But Michael Ledeen suggests good cheer:

There’s plenty of revolutionary zeal in America, and we are probably well into a period of great unpleasantness, domestically and internationally.  Americans love a good challenge.  That’s our history. . . . 

So we have to keep fighting, hoping things will get better.  If we fight well, and fortune favors us, we’ll win.  And then go on to the next fight.

"Hurricane Sandy Exposes Infrastructure Neglect"

Steven Malanga explains why we don't have enough "infrastructure". Can you guess?

This is precisely the kind of spending we neglect these days because its political payoff is rarely as attractive as a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new municipal natatorium (that's a fancy name for an indoor swimming pool, I learned after reading the mayors' 2008 wish-list). The mayor's projects list was a reminder of how we have redefined and trivialized what infrastructure investment means, while shortchanging important spending. Consider what states have been doing with so-called 911-tax funds. Federal legislation gives states the right to levy a tax on cell phones so localities can upgrade their emergency response systems. Those systems are essential in a disaster, as first responders who descended on New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where the communications system proved inadequate, can attest.

Wondering what states were doing with 911 money, Congress asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate. In budget year 2009 alone, the FCC found that states had swiped $135 million of the money to close budget gaps, often moving the money directly into their general funds where they pay for things like employee benefits, Medicaid programs and education aid. New York State, one of the places hardest hit by Sandy, has been the biggest diverter of funds. In 20 years it has collected more than $700 million in cell phone surcharges and distributed less than one-sixth of that money for emergency system upgrades. Instead money has gone to state agencies, including the National Guard, which used some of it to pay for hotel rooms, dry cleaning and meals at Denny's, an audit found. Meanwhile, the state's 911 system is so imprecise that one emergency call from a cell phone received in Niagara County about a baby in distress was actually placed in North Carolina, according to the Buffalo News.