Gas Taxes: Where Does the Money Go?

Gas prices appear headed below a nationwide average of $2 a gallon in coming days, one of the swiftest declines on record. Average pump prices—$2.04 a gallon last Thursday—are now down more than 40% since last June, when they stood near $3.68 a gallon, according to the auto club AAA. Gas prices are below $2 a gallon in 27 states, including Michigan. Is this the perfect time to raise the Federal gas tax? Is there a concern that prices are too low, causing consumers to buy bigger vehicles with lower gas mileage per gallon? Will this hurt sales of hybrid and electric vehicles? Will higher Federal gas taxes help to correct this problem? What is the “Right Thing to do?”

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There is a Chance for Cooperation

We have already heard a lot about the potential conflicts between the new Republican controlled Congress and President Obama. But is there at least one issue that may get both sides on the same page? President Obamawas trying last year to get a number of trade agreements approved in Congress. However, Harry Reid basically said any trade authorizations were dead on arrival in the Senate. Can the Republican controlled House and Senate work with President Obama to pass new trade deals? Will the Democrats try to derail the deals? Would new trade agreements help the US economy? Should these agreements be a top priority in 2015? What is the “Right Thing to do?”

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Should We Provide Support for the Housing Market…Again?

The bursting of the housing bubble had a huge impact on the recession. As housing prices fell, millions of people found themselves underwater on their mortgages and millions more defaulted and lost their homes. Many analysts faulted the ease of credit and loose mortgage standards as a cause of the problem. There is now a new move to once again ease credit standards and possibly provide incentives to spur the lackluster housing market. Should mortgage standards be eased? Should new government incentives be passed to promote home ownership? What is the “Right Thing to do?”

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U.S. Manufacturing is Coming Back…maybe.

US manufacturing is poised to make a comeback. We certainly have seen that occurring in Michigan with the revival of the auto and furniture industries. But according to a recent report the US is continuing to lose ground to global manufacturing rivals. Four years ago, President Obama aimed to double exports over 5 years. Can we meet that goal? Congress is fighting about the bill to extend the life of the Export/Import Bank which helps finance exports. Should Congress and the President move aggressively to support US manufacturing? What is the “Right Thing to do?”

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To Spend More or Not Spend More (on Education), that is the Question

I expect most people have seen the political ad criticizing Governor Snyder for cutting $1 billion from public education. And with that criticism comes Mark Schauer’s promise to spend more on public education. This is a common campaign issue, one that has surfaced in Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kansas and elsewhere. Is there a problem with funding for public education? Is a call for spending more a no-brainer—we should do it. Or is this a case of lack of information to make a decision? There certainly is concern that that US has fallen far behind in basic education relative to the rest of the world. What is the “Right Thing to do?”

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Climate Change Revisited..again

Tens of thousands of environmental protesters paraded through New York a week ago Sunday, in a people’s climate march designed to lobby world leaders arriving for the latest United Nations climate summit. President Obama spoke at the summit stating that “There is one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other. That is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.” Is there an urgent and growing threat of climate change? Is the problem so dire that we must impose huge new costs on carbon and energy production? Is this the number one priority for the United Nations? Should the US agree to new reductions in carbon emissions? What is the “Right Thing to do?”

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Are Your TIF Dollars Being Spent Wisely?

Downtown Development Authorities (DDAs) are common entities across the state of Michigan. They use Tax Incremental Financing Authorities (TIFs) to capture property taxes for various projects to promote economic development. How effective are DDAs? Are basic municipal services suffering because of TIFs? Should changes be made to provide more accountability and to limit the use of TIFs? What is the “Right Thing to do?” Let’s look at some issues…

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Threatening Medical Innovation

A new drug, Sovaldi, for the liver disease hepatitis C is scaring people. Not because the drug is dangerous, but because it costs $1,000 per pill and $84,000 for a complete treatment. Advocacy groups have already sprung up objecting to the cost, some states are trying to limit its availability for people covered by Medicaid and a group of Senators has written to the manufacturer Gilead Sciences to suggest the price is too high. Should companies be free to set their prices for medical breakthroughs without government oversight? Are states attempting to ration health care by limiting the use of the drug? Is the price too high and how do we determine the “right” price? What is the Right Thing to do?”

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Do You Like Cherry Pie?

The much debated farm bill was passed earlier this year. Although direct price supports were basically eliminated and replaced with crop insurance, there are still regulations that impact Michigan farmers. Michigan is known for its tart cherry production which is heavily regulated, including limitations on how many cherries can be processed. Should the government be supporting farm markets? Should there be limitations on production and restrictions to market competition? What is the “Right Thing to do?”

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Big Mac Attack

The National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel just ruled that McDonalds Corp, could be treated, in labor complaints, as a joint employer of its franchisees’ workers. You may remember that the general counsel is a recent appointment to the Board by President Obama. Is this a threat to not only McDonalds, but also to all franchises? Does a franchiser control the employee relations of it franchisees? Should the NLRB move to rule on this issue? What is the “Right Thing to do?”

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