Dec 162009
 

This is so stupid it’s infuriating.

Subsidized science

“Baltimore-based company Champions Biotechnology has a business tale to tell, one reminiscent of Robin Hood. But there’s no robbing of the rich in this story. Rather, Champions uses revenue from premium services offered to wealthy clients to subsidize risky—and hard-to-fund—research.”

[…]

“Champions spent $1.7 million on R&D in fiscal year 2009, and it gathers those funds through a unique business approach: Research is funded with revenue from premium oncology services, offered to a select clientele. The company creates ‘personalized tumorgrafts’ for cancer-stricken individuals, each to the tune of $100,000…”

[…]

“By R&D, Sidransky is referring to Champions’ separate bank of anonymous tumorgrafts, or mice carrying tumors—grafted from spare tissue acquired through collaborations with academic institutions.”

[…]

“Peter Houghton, director of the Children’s Cancer Center in Columbus, Ohio, considers tumorgraft models ‘very good for identifying active drugs.’ Houghton is openly skeptical, however, about applying this technology to individuals…”

[…]

“In the meantime, the company is getting kudos for its unique business model. ‘I don’t think [using premium services to fund R&D] is done in practice today, though I like the idea,’ says Stuart Barich, Oppenheimer’s managing director.”

Are we living on Bizarro World?! Where do I begin to show how completely ass-backwards the author’s understanding of economics is? Continue reading »

Jun 242009
 

Brian O’Neill offers an alternative to a PA income tax increase:

Tax hikes? How about paring the Legislature?

“Senate Republicans will prevail in blocking this tax increase (which would run about $5 a week for a person earning $50,000 a year). But before they impose the only alternative, massive cuts in education and elsewhere, legislators need to share more of the pain they’re about to dish out.

“The Republican-dominated state Senate passed a bill last month that would cut legislative appropriations by more than 10 percent from current levels (from $332.2 million to $293 million), but that isn’t nearly enough. With 253 legislators, that still works out to $1.16 millionper legislator.That’s an unfathomable expense just to keep the chambers running.”

It cracks me up that Mr. O’Neill seems to think Republicans are primarily to blame, as if Democrats never waste money. That’s a topic for another post, though. 😉

I’m not sure shrinking the country’s second largest and second most expensive state legislature would be enough to balance the budget, but it’d be a good start. How do we make it happen, though?

“The Pennsylvania Constitution allows no voters’ initiative to get a referendum on the ballot, and reducing the Legislature’s size requires a constitutional change. But all downsizing proposals have sputtered in Harrisburg largely because the lawmakers have no reason to believe they’ll be voted out if they don’t reform now.

“This ‘temporary’ tax increase, which Gov. Rendell says would last three years, provides the opening for the tedious process of changing the constitution. Call your state senator and representative and offer this simple advice: ‘Tax me? Cut you.'”

The electorate’s revolt against the 2005 pay raise ousted a lot of incumbants. Let’s hope similar gumption can not only unseat legislators but remove their seats as well!

Jun 242009
 

Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell wants to raise the state’s personal income tax by .5%. He calls the increase temporary.

“Citing the national recession and a growing state budget deficit, the governor called for the increase for the next three years, after which it would drop back to 3.07 percent.”

Riiiiiight. Is there any reason why I should believe Fast Eddie? Will the income tax increase be temporary and will it only be used to counter the deficit?

The Johnstown Flood Tax was supposed to be a temporary tax to help that town recover from a flood. It’s still in effect after 73 years and benefits discretionary spending via the general fund instead of flood victims. The Allegheny County drink tax is supposed to be a temporary funding fix for Port Authority Transit. Due to PAT’s notorious mismanagement, though, the collected funds have not been disbursed. Worse yet, there’s no reason to believe PAT won’t perpetually need to be bailed out, so there’s no reason to believe it won’t be subsidized by the drink tax or some other nonsense. (BTW, the architect of the brain fart that is the drink tax, Dan “The Tax Man” Onorato is running for governor. Look for Mayor Luke “Opie” Ravenstahl to grab onto Danny Boy’s coattails and follow him to higher political office. Heaven help us.)

Thus, given Pennsylvania’s bad history with “temporary” taxes, the governor will have to forgive me if I take his promises with a saltlick block.

Jun 242009
 

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl seems to have a poor grasp of what “voluntary” means. From an article with the  headline, “Mayor Ravenstahl to nonprofits: pay up or else“:

“‘As we see the reductions [in voluntary contributions from nonprofit organizations] continue, and not meet what we need, this is our alternative,’ [Ravenstahl] said of surcharges on hospital admissions, undergraduate students, all-day parkers and nonprofit water users. A move toward fees ‘potentially would be the best way to compel the nonprofits to come to the table.’ The mayor discussed the issue during a session with the Post-Gazette editorial board.”

What’s the problem? Well, the city is badly in debt and the mayor’s looking for ways to bring in more money. Since the city is replete with non-profits that are to varying degrees tax-exempt, the mayor is hoping to extort money from them in some other way.

Continue reading »

Jun 222009
 

Entries from this blog are cross-posted to my Facebook account. My recent post on funding public education generated an interesting discussion there. I promised those involved that I would share their comments with others so that they might be answered by folks with different and/or better arguments than I. The following is a slightly edited version of the conversation, presented for your perusal and response. Continue reading »

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