Category Archives: Government

Detroit Builds Light-Rail For Empty City

It has been called illogical, confusing, and a government boondoggle, but the light-rail track due to start construction in Detroit should be called far worse names. The $137 million, 3.3 mile long track will serve only a fraction of Detroit’s 139 square mile metropolitan area. It will operate in an area flush with parking and vacant stores, and will operate at a loss to taxpayers. None of this stopped the federal government from throwing $41 million in subsidies at the project because if there’s a project this misguided the federal government must be involved.

“Buses are also orders of magnitude cheaper to operate and maintain, which is why Detroit shut down its last street rail line in 1956, when the city’s population was almost three times its current size.”

$10 Million Incinerators Sat Unused As Trash Was Burned In Open-Air Pit

According to the Project on Government Oversight, a forward operating base in Afghanistan has again been found burning trash in open-air pits instead of incinerators. This marks the fourth time in 15 months that practices like this have been uncovered on U.S. military bases. Apart from the dangerous health risks to soldiers and staff on these bases, more than $10 million was  spent on the unused incinerators.

“The continued use of open-air burn pits pose[s] potential health risks for base personnel. Some possible health hazards associated with smoke emitted by burning waste include breathing particulate matter, lead, mercury, dioxins, and irritant gases. These substances can negatively affect organs and body systems, such as the adrenal glands, lungs, liver, and stomach.”

Last Week In Regulation

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, last week 100 new regulations were added to the Federal Register which places the current tally at 1,912 regulations on 42,130 pages. So far this year, 355 new rules will affect small businesses.

“The total estimated compliance costs of 2014’s economically significant regulations currently ranges from $7.34 billion to $10.57 billion. They also affect several billion dollars of government spending.”

TSA Fee Increases Go into Effect

Given its disreputable track record of humiliating the elderly and bringing children to tears, few government agencies have a worse case for charging the public for its services than the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). But it does, only now travelers will be expected to pay more. The supposed purpose of the fee hike is to reduce the deficit, providing a poignant example of how government, when denied the exorbitant budget it desires, ensures that the process of deficit reduction is as painful as possible. From the Los Angeles Times:

“The cost of a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Orlando, Fla., with no layovers would increase from $5 in TSA fees to $11.20 … If the flight has long layovers, travelers will pay more … [A] round trip from Los Angeles to Orlando, with stops of four hours or more in each direction, would incur fees of $5.60 for each leg, for a total of $22.40.”

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wasted $1.5 Billion On Flammable Buildings

According to the Washington Times, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent $1.57 billion on roughly 2,000 buildings in Afghanistan for Afghani military forces to use. However it appears that as many as 1,600 of the buildings aren’t built to code and the foam insulation used could be a significant fire hazard. The cost to fix all the buildings could be another $60 million.

“USACE Maj. Gen. Michael Eyre sent a memo in January saying it was ‘an acceptable risk level’ to turn the buildings over to the Afghan military because ‘the typical occupant populations for these facilities are young, fit Afghan soldiers and recruits who have the physical ability to make a hasty retreat during a developing situation.’”

NSA Employees View and Share Sexually Explicit Photos

It seems as if revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) will never stop. NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden stated in a new interview that agents at the NSA routinely view and share sexually explicit images that are captured in the agency’s warrantless search of American information. How exactly is this “keeping us safe”?

“It’s never reported. Nobody every knows about it because the auditing of these systems is incredibly weak. The fact that your private images, records of your private lives, records of your intimate moments have been taken from your private communication stream, from the intended recipient and given to the government without any specific authorization or need is a violation of your rights.“

When Did Your State Adopt Its Gasoline Tax?

When did your state adopt its tax on gasoline? The Tax Foundation has released a map detailing when each state first implemented their tax. Oregon was the first in 1919 and was followed closely by North Dakota, Colorado, and New Mexico. By 1929 every state (besides Alaska and Hawaii which weren’t states yet) had adopted the tax, with New York and Massachusetts being the last to do so.

“The Road Act of 1916 required that every state have a highway department managed by engineering experts, and allocated federal funds based on postal service needs and population. But states could access those allotted funds only if they submitted plans for rural road development and matched Federal funds dollar for dollar. Moreover, roads were required to be public access, meaning that tolling was prohibited.“

TSA to Ban Uncharged Smartphones from Some Flights

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to begin implementing “enhanced security measures,” which is a euphemism for inconveniencing you further and wrecking your flight plans. Certain overseas flights to the U.S. will prevent smartphones with dead batteries from being allowed onto planes. Travelers can be expected to turn on their cellphones to prove there aren’t explosives inside. Individuals that can’t power-up their mobile devices may be forced to leave them behind or lose their seats. From The Washington Post:

“It is unclear how TSA plans to deal with passengers without chargers whose devices are dead. The announcement doesn’t say what will happen to a phone that can’t be turned on, or how the owner will retrieve it if confiscated by airport security.”

Last Week In Regulation

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, last week 63 new regulations were added to the Federal Register which places the current tally at 1,812 regulations on 40,571 pages. So far this year, 336 new rules will affect small businesses.

“The total estimated compliance costs of 2014’s economically significant regulations currently ranges from $7.34 billion to $10.57 billion. They also affect several billion dollars of government spending.”

The Real Untouchables: State and Local Pensions

San Bernardino, a bankrupt city in California, will raise taxes and cut services, but never would it dare to reign in public employees’ pensions. Bullied by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the city will pay $13.5 million in back payments and fees. Not only must San Bernardino fulfill unreasonable commitments to current employees, CalPERS and unions insist it must pay extraordinarily inflated pensions to all future employees, despite having no money to do so. Cities do not exist to provide public sector jobs, but services to their citizens. Looking at the budget choices of San Bernardino and other strapped California cities such as Vallejo and Stockton, who would have guessed?

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