Americans and One-Party Government

I think many Americans feel conflicted. On one hand, they don’t trust either party enough to hand them control over government. On the other hand, they’re getting really sick of deadlock.

It looks to me that disgust over gridlock is trumping doubts about the parties. As a recent Gallup survey showed, Americans’ are shifting toward one-party government. For the first time Americans are saying that the country is better off with a president and Congress of the same party. Elected officials could take note of the public’s disdain. Or, they could focus on trying to score partisan points and blindly adhering to the party platforms drafting by special interests and extremists.



Homeowners Associations

We’ve complained about homeowners associations as the new form of local government in Texas. We might as well laugh a little about it.

Frank & Ernest Comic Strip, September 30, 2012 on

Declining Support for Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting (“NSF Raises Alarm Over Falling State Support for Research Universities“) that support for higher education is declining nationally. The National Science Board looked at data on 101 major public research universities and found that states are putting fewer dollars into higher education.

While the drop in funding was smaller in Texas than many other state, the state saw a 4% decline in support for its schools. The figure grows when you account for the rising number of students in the state. Texas has seen a 12% decrease in support per student since 2002.

Getting what we pay for

Here’s another excellent strip from Darrin Bell’s Candorville strip:

Candorville 9-13-2012

Why do we get so much unnecessary drama in elections? The same reason we get so much drama in reality television. Drama pays.

A taxing shell game

The tax shell game in Texas is illustrated in the demand Samsung is making for tax breaks (“Samsung could double Austin investment, depending on incentives, official says“) on their school property taxes.

Politicians often act as if the avoidance of an income tax is the solution to a problem. In reality, our rejection of an income tax shifted the burden to property taxes and lead to high taxes on industrial properties in Texas. That leads companies like Samsung asking for a tax breaks and local authorities wanting to grant those breaks in order to keep jobs. Eventually, those tax breaks shift the burden to other property owners who see their taxes go up.

In the end, we have created a shell game and it’s hard to tell who is winning and losing. The state lures workers to the state with the promise of no income tax. Then we grant their employer a property tax break and local officials then shift the tax burden to the homes and businesses of other residents.

shell game

How fair the system is depends on where you live, who you work for, and many other factors. Of course, to judge the fairness of the system you need to know who is paying what. That’s pretty hard to sort out.

The Cost of Traffic

The Texas Department of Transportation has released a report (“100 Most Congested Roadway Segments in Texas“) that looks at the most congested stretches of road in Texas. It was especially interest to see their analysis of how many hours of delays each stretch created. For example, the worst roadway (I-35 W north of downtown Fort Worth) eats up about 1.1 million hours of Texans’ lives every year.

We often treat traffic congestions as an irritant. However, it’s much more and it costs people hours they could be spending doing something more productive (and pretty much anything is more productive than sitting in traffic). Economists talk about “opportunity costs.” These the benefits you give up in order to do something. In the case of traffic, opportunity costs are the money you could be making or the fun you could be having if you weren’t sitting in traffic.

So, it’s not just gas you’re burning if you’re sitting in traffic.