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Out of Control Policy Blog Archives: 9.16.12–9.22.12

Obama Leads Romney 52-45 In New Reason-Rupe Poll; In Three-Way Race Obama Leads Romney 49-42, Johnson Gets 6 Percent

A new national Reason-Rupe poll of likely voters finds President Barack Obama leading Republican Mitt Romney 48 percent to 43 percent in the presidential race. When undecided voters are asked which way they are leaning Obama’s lead over Romney grows to 52-45.  

President Obama holds large advantages among women (53-37), African-Americans (92-2) and Hispanics (71-18). Fifty-two percent of likely voters view Obama favorably, while 45 view him unfavorably. In contrast, 49 percent of likely voters have an unfavorable view of Mitt Romney and 41 percent have a favorable view of him. 

In a three-way presidential race, Obama drops to 49 percent among likely voters and Romney falls to 42 percent as the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson gets six percent of support. Johnson is already on the presidential ballot in 47 states.

The Reason-Rupe poll conducted live interviews with 1,006 adults, including 787 likely voters, via landlines  (602) and cell phones (404) from September 13-17, 2012. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percent, 4.3 percent for the likely voters sample. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the Reason-Rupe poll.

Government’s Role and Influence 

As the presidential candidates debate the role of government, the Reason-Rupe poll finds 55 percent of Americans believe the federal government has too much influence over their lives, 36 percent say the amount of influence is about right and just 7 percent say the government does not have enough influence.

Over two-thirds, 67 percent, of likely voters say it is not the government’s responsibility to reduce income differences between Americans, while 29 percent say it is the government’s responsibility.  Similarly, 61 percent of likely voters tell Reason-Rupe that today’s levels of income inequality are an acceptable part of America’s economic system, 35 percent say income inequalities need to be fixed. 

Today, 59 percent of voters believe all Americans have equal opportunities to succeed, whereas 39 percent do not believe everyone has equal opportunities.

When asked if they are better off than they were four years ago, 44 percent of likely voters feel they are better off, 41 percent say worse off. 

Taxes

A majority of Americans, 57 percent, support raising income tax rates on incomes over $250,000.  However, the very same number—57 percent—says the top 5 percent of earners shouldn’t have to contribute more than 40 percent of the total federal income taxes paid to government. In 2009, the top 5 percent of earners contributed 59 percent of total federal income taxes paid.

Medicare

When it comes to future Medicare benefits, 68 percent of voters say they’d be willing to accept some cuts to their own Medicare benefits as long as they’re guaranteed to receive benefits equal to what they and their employers pay into the system.  When presented with the basic details of Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, 61 percent of voters think out-of-pocket health care costs would go up for seniors as a result of the plan. Yet, despite assuming out-of-pocket costs would rise, voters prefer Medicare reforms built around giving seniors a credit to purchase health insurance over reforms like President Obama’s, which include a payment board to help determine which medical treatments are effective and covered. By a margin of 47 percent to 38 percent, voters favor a Medicare credit system over a payment board system.  

Audit the Fed

Just 16 percent of voters approve, and 77 percent disapprove, of the job Congress is doing. And though many pundits say this has been a “do-nothing” Congress, Americans think that’s a feature not a bug. In fact, 45 percent of Americans wish Congress would pass even fewer laws than it does now, while 27 percent would like Congress to pass more laws. There is, however, one law Americans would overwhelmingly like to see: 70 percent tell Reason-Rupe they are in favor of auditing the Federal Reserve. Twenty-one percent are opposed to a congressional-led audit of the Fed.

Full Poll 

The complete Reason-Rupe survey is online here and here.

 This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues.  This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.

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21st Century Schools Require 21st Century Finance

Today my colleague Leonard Gilroy and I had a piece on Real Clear Markets entitled, "21st Century Schools Require 21st Century Finance." The piece begins:

Recent teacher protests in Chicago show that students and parents suffer when public employee unions and elected officials fight over how to run schools. But there is one issue that should unite both sides: Tapping private sector capital to build schools - whether traditional or alternative - and other education-related infrastructure, leaving more public dollars for the instructional needs of children. Yonkers, a school district in New York State, is doing just that by deploying a solution that has worked well for transportation and other types of public infrastructure: Public-private partnerships (PPPs).

We go on to explain that school districts are out of money, so they can't simply finance, build and operate the new capacity they need on their own. Meanwhile taxpayers are unwilling to approve tax increases. PPPs are an emerging third strategy that addresses these issues. The piece continues:

PPPs usher in private sector capital upfront, which is repaid in exchange for maintenance of the facilities over the course of the contract. Maintenance costs over the long-term are lumped in and included as a payment for a set period. Schools use the resources they would have used to repay municipal bonds and maintain the facility to repay a private partner instead, and more cost effectively. Rigorous procurement allows competing private firms to drive down costs within a framework that protects taxpayers.

This is in contrast to the traditional approach, which requires school districts to fulfill many duties that are beyond the scope of their mission and core competencies, specifically:

Under the traditional model, school districts are responsible not only for overseeing education, but also for finance, building/property maintenance and asset management. In contrast, well-structured PPPs can drive down construction costs and lower life-cycle maintenance costs, freeing up resources that can be deployed in the classroom. These benefits should unify school administrators and unions, not to mention parents and children. Superintendent of Yonkers Public Schools Bernard P. Pierorazio recently explained, "(The PPP allows us to) concentrate on what we do best - preparing students to achieve."

We go on to detail success stories in Yonkers and Puerto Rico. For example in Yonkers, the district hired PPP advisors to determine the feasibility of a $1.7 billion procurement to rebuild 38 schools. The district's buildings are in dire disrepair, with over 95 percent labelled "unsatisfactory" by the State. In Puerto Rico, Governor Luis Fortuño's PPP Authority is overseeing a partnership for approximately 100 schools in 78 municipalities across the island. It's easy to understand why this tool is so appealing to policymakers:

Yonkers, Puerto Rico and others are using PPPs because they tap the strength of the private sector to deliver and maintain facilities (which is not a strength of school districts, whose core mission is academic), based on the public sector's need for good learning environments. Their approach is based on rigorous, well-structured PPP contracts that often span hundreds of pages that transfer key financial, project delivery and operational risks from the public sector (read: taxpayers) to the private sector. Exemplary PPP contracts incorporate enforceable provisions that make the private vendor responsible for everything from future repairs and maintenance, to the scope and timing of projects. Policymakers also sometimes include language to incentivize private partners to finish on (or even ahead of) schedule or hedge against both predictable and unpredictable changes in circumstances like inclement weather or fluctuating commodity prices.

The piece later explains other benefits of PPPs and concludes by saying that PPPs represent an opportunity to improve - if not reinvent -the American education system. Read the full piece, available here on Real Clear Markets.

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