The Pulse: Citizens League Issues Scan

"The Pulse", the Citizens League issue scan looks at topics of interest to members of the Citizens League (www.citizensleague.net)

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Saturday, March 01, 2003
 
Public Services: Libraries -- Online Library Next Stage. Robert F. Worth wrote: "Online Library Wants It All, Every Book" for the March 1, 2003 New York Times about the world library in Alexandria, Egypt that was the home to the most extensive library in ancient times. The library has a plan to make a vast number of books available online. This would be a boon to developing countries lacking library infrastructure. The whole article may be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/01/arts/01ALEX.html?th. (339)

Friday, February 28, 2003
 
Taxation: A Simple Plan to Tax Consumption. Peter Coy wrote a commentary on Economics for the March 10, 2003 issue of Business Week (p.76) on the work of David F. Bradford. Bradford, a 64 year old Princeton professor who is a 30-year advocate of taxing consumption and not savings. The core elements of what Bradford refers to as the "X Plan" include: 1) tax-free treatment of dividends, interest and capital gains, 2) elimination of nearly all deductions in a streamlined tax code, and 3) the tax rate on individuals rises as compensation goes up. Brad ford’s Princeton webpage is at: http://www.wws.princeton.edu/~bradford/ (338)

Thursday, February 27, 2003
 
Energy and Environment. A Strong Tailwind for Wind Power. Adam Aston wrote for the March 3, 2003 issue of Business Week (pp. 116a-117) on the rapid progress being made by the wind power industry. According to data cited from the National Renewable Energy Labs, the price of solar photovoltaic electricity since 1990 has fallen from just about 45 cents per kilowatt hour to about 18 cents. Wind power has fallen from about nine cents to three. California calls for a 20% renewable source for electricity by 2017 and Texas is ahead of schedule to produce 9% by 2009. New York has set a 25% target within ten years. Currently only 0.25% of electric power is produced by wind. In Denmark and Spain the number is close to 20%. (337)

 
Public Services: Massachusetts Governor to Bundle State Government Reforms for Up or Down Vote. Between inauguration and May 1, 2003 Governor Romney will be developing a government reform proposal with state agency consolidations and abolitions to deal with the state's $3 billion deficit. If the measure fails the Legislature would be forced on short order to come up with a list of painful cuts. If passed, major reforms could be achieved without the usual picking apart process. The full story may be found at: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/047/metro/Romney_maneuver_may_force_reforms+.shtml. (336)

Wednesday, February 26, 2003
 
Health Care: States Crack Down on Medicaid Asset Spend Down. Michele Hoggins wrote for the February 25, 2003 Wall Street Journal (p. D1) an article entitled: "Getting poor on purpose." Many Americans legally dispose of assets to become eligible for the federal, state and locally funded Medicaid program. A number of states are proposing to change this practice with Medicaid spending making up a good part of state budgets -- about 20% of Connecticut's budget for example. In 2001 Medicaid paid $47 billion for nursing home care. As much as 22% is estimated to go to families that could afford to pay for their own nursing home care. An "assets sheltering" industry has sprung up to assist individuals and families to carry out this asset spend down. The main tactics are to give away all of your money, give away half of your money, put your money in an annuity, refuse to pay for your spouse, or put money into a home or car. Minnesota last week applied to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services agency to a federal waiver to limit such asset transfers. (335)

 
Energy and Environment: Minnesota Ranks 25th in Renewable Energy Sourcing. An editorial published in the February 26, 2003 Star Tribune entitled: “Green power / Other states outpace Minnesota" reports on Minnesota's fourth rank for installed wind generated electricity but overall ranking of 25th on electric generation from all renewable sources -- geothermal, hydroelectric, landfill gas, biomass, solar, waste wood according to a U.S. Department of Energy report. The editorial closes with: "Minnesota could indeed be moving more aggressively to develop renewable power at reasonable costs -- investing simultaneously in environmental quality and rural economic development. Sadly, the experience in this state suggests that new legislative mandates will be necessary to make that happen." The full editorial may be found at:
http://www.startribune.com/stories/561/3718623.html. (334)


Tuesday, February 25, 2003
 
Technology: 50th Anniversary of Double Helix Discovery. On Saturday, February 28, 1953, two young scientists announced that they had discovered the secret of life. By discovering the chemical structure of DNA, the archive of life, James D. Watson and Francis Crick had seen how the molecule could encode information in the high volumes quantities necessary to program a living cell. Fifty years later the DNA revolution remains largely behind laboratory doors, in the form of ever intensifying understanding of the mechanisms of life in the scientific community. The first of what is expected to be a flood of new inventions — forensic DNA, a new wave of DNA-based drugs -- is now beginning to change the way we live. The full story from the New York Times on February 25, 2003 may be accessed at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/25/science/25HELI.html. (333)

Monday, February 24, 2003
 
Public Services and Technology. E-Government: Iowa Has One Statewide Website for Property Tax Payment. As in Minnesota, property taxes in Iowa are administered at the county level. But collaboration between the Iowa State County Treasurers Association and the State of Iowa has produced a single statewide website where anyone in the state can go to file property taxes. Citizens simply select their county and then follow the standardized instructions to pay their bill. The site accepts credit card and checking account payment. The homepage may be found at: http://www.iowatreasurers.org/citizen.cfm?ID=1&ParentPage=100. (332)