We've all been there. Usually after purchasing the newest electronic gizmo, we eventually file through the endless receipts, instructions, and warranty cards to find the rebate offers. Only, you now realize that perhaps your purchase doesn't qualify or you missed the eligible time frame. Such an experience may prompt you to curse the manufacturer and retailer, but you resolve to be more aware of such offers in the future.
But a group of state lawmakers decided to go one step further and install new regulations on companies that offer rebates. The Arizona House Commerce Committee fortunately rejected the proposed legislation "that would have required specific timelines and disclosure information," as the Phoenix Business Journal reports.
However well-intentioned or seemingly minor this regulation may appear, it is an additional cost on manufacturing and retail businesses (big and small) that would manifest itself in any number of unintended ways: the legislative committee was wise to reject this bill supported by "consumer advocates." Businesses may have first reacted by not offering rebates at all, or by increasing prices to compensate for the increased compliance costs. In the end, this would have done more to hurt consumers than help them. As ABC investigative reporter John Stossel puts it, "these [kinds of] regulations make things worse, not better, for ordinary people."
It is nearly impossible to pinpoint the actual costs of any given regulation, because either a business will spend money to avoid complying, lobby to have rules written that favor them over others, or they will pass on compliance costs to a number of groups. In Burdensome Barriers: How Excessive Regulations Impede Entrepreneurship in Arizona, Tim Keller, executive director of the Arizona Institute for Justice, illustrates how just a sampling of ostensibly well-meaning regulations do significant harm to potential entrepreneurs, ultimately discouraging them to enter the marketplace, and dragging down the state's economy.
Has Americans' earning power remained stagnant, or even declined, over the last thirty years?
That's what some would have you believe. For example, last July, in a "snapshot" of the state's economy, the Arizona Republic reported that "in constant, 1982 dollars, [average wages in the private sector] amounted to $8.21 per hour, compared with $8.25 per hour in May 2003," lamenting that real wage growth had not kept pace with the impressive job creation in Arizona.
In Myths of Rich & Poor: Why We're Better Off Than We Think, Dallas Federal Reserve VP, Michael Cox, and co-author Richard Alm marshal a wealth of data to take aim at this common misperception.
As Cox and Alm show, a straight comparison of real wages doesn't adequately capture the productivity gains that have made us, even the least well-off among us, better off than we were a generation or two ago.
Consider the following example. In 1950, it took the average worker an hour and 44 minutes to earn enough money to pay for a three-minute call from New York to Los Angeles. By the late 1990s, the same three-minute call could be purchased with just two minutes of work.
Cox argues that America's and, by extension, Arizona's, impressive economic performance is the result of a relatively benign regulatory regime that permits the free flow of capital, goods, and people. Continued prosperity in Arizona requires a commitment to policies that have brought success in the past.
High taxes reduce the incentives people have to invest in businesses opportunities. Heavy regulation can constrain entrepreneurs' ability to grow businesses and create jobs. And attempts at curbing "urban sprawl" often have the unintended consequence of making housing prohibitively expensive, as evidenced by California.
Cox is particularly excited about the potential for a new wave of growth, one that he dubs the "Imagination Age." On Thursday, February 3, he'll keynote the Goldwater Institute's fiscal policy conference in Phoenix to speak about his vision of a new economy in which entrepreneurs continue to create innovations that improve our lives in an environment largely free of government intrusion.
Governor Napolitano has said that "Extensive research shows that full-day kindergarten improves students' reading, writing and math skills, and it contributes to lower dropout rates." However in this morning's Arizona Republic, reporter Karina Bland finds failure rates for young kindergartners are "alarmingly high." In Mesa, 62 percent of 4-year-old kindergartners were held back.
In a report to be released February 8, 2005, I discuss the myths and realities of early education programs, including kindergarten. As this morning's news reveals, kindergarten is not unequivocally beneficial for all children. See Enable Families to Make Own Choices, and email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy of the forthcoming report, Assessing Proposals for Preschool and Kindergarten: Essential Information for Parents, Taxpayers and Policymakers.
I just wanted to take a moment to respond to Mr. Kiser's Arizona Daily Star article regarding the recently released Friedman Foundation and Goldwater Institute report on Arizona public education finance. Mr. Kiser and I had a lengthy conversation about the report and about a critique of the report written by Mr. Charles Essigs of the Arizona Association of School Business Officials. A couple very important issues that we discussed, however, were not mentioned in Mr. Kiser's article and I believe that, as a result, readers may have been mislead as to the central issue of the study.
There is a general consensus that K-12 public education finance is based on complex funding formulas that very few in any given state truly understand. I believe, and the Goldwater Institute agreed, that this is not the ideal situation for the crafting of high quality public policy. In fact, many legislators lament the fact that they must make public education policy in the dark and hope for the best. Therefore, the Goldwater Institute and the Friedman Foundation undertook a six-month effort to deconstruct Arizona's funding formulas and translate them into something that every Arizonan could access, without requiring them to decode the formulas themselves. The result is a large, comprehensive database, available at goldwaterinstitute.org, which allows users to select any of Arizona's 218 public school districts and any student's grade level to find out immediately the amount of formula funding associated with that student. For example, a second grade student in the Tucson Unified School District receives an allocation of $4,656 in formula funding. Creating this tool, and providing access to this data, was the primary purpose of our report.
In order to place the student formula funding in context, however, it was decided that the information would also be linked to detail about a district's overall finances, including funding districts receive that is not based on formulas. The most appropriate source of this information, it would seem, are the District Detailed Reports that are published in the Superintendent's Annual Financial Report (SAFR). These reports list budget, revenue, and expenses across a dozen or more categories. Mr. Kiser and Mr. Essigs are correct in that I accepted that the superintendent's data were accurate. In addition, I accepted that what the superintendent reported as revenue was, in fact, revenue. If Mr. Essigs disagrees with either of these, it would be more responsible to critique the source, rather than the messenger. We worked with the best available information as reported by the superintendent's office and Arizona Department of Education itself.
Mr. Essigs contends that the state Department of Education at least has the knowledge and insight not to report those figures, due to the difficulty that the public would have in understanding them correctly. I disagree. Public information about publicly collected and spent money should be made available to the public in the most accurate and understandable way. The Goldwater Institute has taken the initiative to do this on the formula funding side. Perhaps Mr. Essigs should work with the superintendent to make sure that it gets done on the non-formula funding side.
It seems then, that Mr. Kiser's and Mr. Essig's primary concern is that the Goldwater-Friedman report, like the superintendent's report, included all monies flowing into districts, without regard to whether those monies directly benefit students. The goal of the report was not to cast judgment on which district revenues may actually benefit students, but to make it easier for policymakers, parents, and taxpayers to see how much money is spent on education so that they have ready information upon which to make such determinations.
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