The finances of the U.S. Postal Service are deeply in the red. The agency faces a permanently reduced demand for its services and its labor accounts for almost 80 percent of its costs. Thus it is not a good time for postal employees to get an increase in wages and benefits, right?
The administration underestimated the magnitude of the economic imbalances that spawned the recession, and overestimated the government’s ability to quickly right the ship. Despite the Obama administration’s massive economic interventions, unemployment remains high and the economy is still sluggish. The administration has been defending itself by claiming that its actions prevented a worse recession or even a depression.
The National Flood Insurance Program was created in 1968 to allow flood-prone communities to purchase insurance protection from the government. Overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the program was supposed to alleviate the need for emergency federal aid. Instead, communities still receive emergency aid in addition to insurance payments.
Alaska’s Juneau Empire recently examined the state’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership and found that its claims of success aren’t backed by reality. MEPs are a nationwide network of centers that provide technical and managerial assistance to small and medium-sized firms. Federal funds from the Department of Commerce pay for one-third of the costs of MEP centers, with the balance of costs being paid by state and local governments and the private sector.
Regulatory “capture” occurs when a government entity tasked with protecting the public’s interest instead protects the industry is it supposed to regulate. The latest example is the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service. The MMS was created in 1982 to regulate the oil and gas industry and collect royalties on the resources extracted from federally leased land and waters.
A couple of weeks ago, David Boaz discussed the Old Testament story in which the people of Israel ask Samuel for a king to rule over them. God’s instructions to Samuel can be summed up as “tell them to be careful of what you wish for.” David brought up the passage in the context of civil liberties, but the story’s lesson also applies to economic liberties.
The White House’s misbegotten “Summer of Recovery” continued today with the release of another administration “analysis” that purportedly demonstrates the stimulus’s success in “transforming” the economy.
The president’s stimulus package contained an $8 billion downpayment on a national system of high-speed rail. The money came with no state matching requirements, which generated state applications totaling $102 billion. When Congress added a 20 percent state matching requirement to an additional $2.3 billion for high-speed rails grants in this year’s budget, state applications only totaled $8.5 billion.
The Treasury Department and Department of Housing and Urban Development held a high-profile conference this week on the “Future of Mortgage Finance.” The federal government is currently backing more than 90 percent of new mortgages through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration.