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Medallions up another 4% last month

April 30, 2009

Chicago Dispatcher reports the median sales price of Chicago taxi medallions was $165,000 during the month ending March 23, up from $158,000 the previous month (and $77,000 in February 2007).

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Assessor ignores assessment policy

April 23, 2009

Last week, the Tribune published Cook County Assessor James Houlihan’s fiscal reform proposal.  He wants to restructure the state sales tax and the state income tax, claiming that this would not only balance the state budget but also provide more funds to localities, theoretically allowing them to reduce real estate taxes.

But Mr. Assessor, how about the assessment and extension of real estate taxes.  You know, the stuff you do?  Can’t you improve that?  Maybe you could start by assessing vacant land properly?  And making sure that land value is fully included in all assessments?  That’s not going to discourage any economic activity.

Then maybe we could ask the solons of the Cook County Board to change the property classification system, assessing improvements at only 40% of the ratio applied to land value? They could do this under existing law. Maybe they could even exempt improvements entirely?  And, while we’re asking the Illinois General Assembly to reform things, why not eliminate the sales and income taxes, by resurrecting the state sales tax?

Regular readers of this blog, and Henry George School students, know why this is a good idea.  Evidently Assessor Houlihan doesn’t want us to even think about it.

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Earmarks

April 18, 2009

Wikipedia (right now) defines “earmark” as

a congressional provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects or that directs specific exemptions from taxes or mandated fees.

On the face of it, I don’t see that as such a bad thing.  If my Congressbeing has determined that the national interest requires a particular expenditure, it seems reasonable that she might want to make sure that a budget or appropriation item really will be used for that purpose.

The problem, of course, has been that earmarks are obscure, and invariably are for local projects in which the Federal government has no legitimate role.  Now, the earmarks are being disclosed, at least by House members, and our friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense have compiled a list. Not of earmarks, but of URL’s where earmarks can be found.

I figured they might be bad, and they are.  “My” Congressbeing, for instance, has a list of mainly municipal and nonprofit projects, at least some of which are economically justified and therefore should be funded out of the savings or other benefits which they produce. There  are also a few government contractors being taken care of, and a couple of CTA projects.  Because the latter is something I know a little bit about, I can say that the descriptions are quite deceptive, greatly exaggerating the result (e.g. “extension of the Yellow Line”) which will be obtained by a relatively modest ($1 million) expenditure.

And that list is hardly the worst.

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Does CPI show land price declines?

April 15, 2009

Of course the consumer price index, out this morning, doesn’t show land prices or land rents.  That is, cost of getting access to land is buried in all the other figures.

Much is being made of the year-to-year decline, which is largely due to the drop in petroleum (and gasoline) prices.  Of course this is reflected in housing costs, which include an energy component.  But the main piece of housing costs is “shelter cost.”  Under this, “rent” and “owner equivalent rent” increased 3.2% and 2.1%, respectively.  Because most Americans are “homeowners,”  the latter figure has a large impact on the total CPI.  The actual cost of purchasing a house and lot may have declined, but the CPI’s housing cost is based on what you might have to pay to rent a unit like the one you are buying.

The price of used cars also dropped, probably because fewer people are interested in buying one.  But the cost of what BLS calls “education” increased 5.6%.

For some reason BLS seems not to have yet posted the sub-national data.

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What Crash? Cab Medallions STILL rising

March 16, 2009

Not as fast as previously, but the latest report on Chicago taxi medallions, from Chicago Dispatcher’s March issue, calculates a median price of $158,000.  This compares to $155,000 two months earlier.  Given the declines in the price of most other privileges over the last several months, this is a surprise, but perhaps the medallion market is slow to react.  Or perhaps there are other factors which improve medallion owners’ incomes in an economic recession?

This issue features the headline “Medallions in Jeopardy,” which had me hoping that perhaps this major obstacle to self-employment would be abolished.  But no, the article is about a particular case, where City administrators decided to punish the heirs of a deceased medallion owner, for whatever reason, by revoking the medallion on a technicality.  Chicago Dispatcher’s publisher, George Lutfallah, who wrote the article, evidently sees the medallions as assets for (some) existing cab drivers and others, rather than a barrier to non-owners struggling for a job.

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How much fraud is there?

March 11, 2009

We have an estimate!

Fraud typically gobbles up around 7% of all big contracts.

This is from Watchdog Over Stimulus Spending Toes a Delicate Line, by Neil King, Jr., WSJ 3/9/09. Altho no source is cited, the implication is that this came from Earl Devaney, who according to the article heads the federal Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board.

I guess that’s just fraud.  Waste and inefficiency are things entirely different.

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Yes, this is the taxpayer blog

March 1, 2009

New theme, “neat,” allows me to put up a custom image. But until I do, I’ve discovered, it doesn’t post the name of the blog. Yeah, this is still the taxpayer blog (tho the name will change too), and when I get around to it I’ll straighten this out.