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Archive for April 5th, 2010

Another very good video from the folks at Reason. Watch it and weep.

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Unemployment in the heartland may be high and incomes may be stagnating in most of the nation, but Washington, DC, continues to be an oasis of prosperity as more of the nation’s resources get consumed by government. The lastest evidence comes from the Washington Post, which reports on the federal government’s insatiable demand for more real estate.

Evidence of the federal government’s growing influence on Washington area commercial real estate is illustrated in big deals it is working on both sides of the table: auctioning a 127,000-square-foot Bethesda building previously occupied by the National Institutes of Health and moving to snatch up vast spaces in buildings on the private market that have been vacant for months. The General Services Administration is seeking to unload the 10-story building that the NIH vacated in 2002 when it consolidated offices into other buildings in Bethesda. The recommended opening bid for the online auction, which runs from April 30 to July 2, is $14 million. At the same time, federal leasing activity is expanding, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, the real estate firm representing the government. The government signed deals for 750,000 square feet of space in the District in the first quarter of 2010, compared with 670,000 square feet in the city for all of 2009.

It’s hard to pick out the most depressing part of the article. Signing leases for more space in the first quarter of 2010 than in all of 2009 might be at the top of the list. That is presumably a good (and discouraging) measure of the growth of government. But for those who enjoy reading about incompetence and inefficiency, the government’s eight-year (and counting) project to sell one office building may be at the top of the pile.

The GSA decided to sell the 46-year-old former NIH building at 7550 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda eight years ago. “We have a process we have to go through before we sell a building. We have to offer it to homeless housing, to local government,” said Bob Peck, commissioner for the GSA’s Public Buildings Service.

More discouraging factoids include a six-figure increase in the number of bureaucrats (just in the DC area), and the fact that the government is going to squander huge amounts of money on green rennovations, which will require taxpayers to cough up lots of money for the contractors doing the work and for five-year leases (which probably means ten, knowing the sloth-like pace of government work) so the bureaucrats can be housed elsewhere during the work.

Expansion of the government’s role in the nation’s financial markets, increased defense spending and the new health-care law are driving its demand for more space. The government is expected to increase its Washington area payroll by as many as 100,000, according to Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that helps the federal government find workers. “The government spent 2009 planning for the growth. We’re going to see the growth materialize in 2010,” said Scott Homa, research manager for Jones Lang LaSalle. The government also is overhauling many of its buildings, making them energy efficient. As a result, several agencies will need to lease space in the commercial market for five years or so during renovations.

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Congressman Henry Waxman is one of the most odious statists in a town dominated by people who love big government. From his perch as Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, this career politician played a big role in concocting Obamacare – including the costly provisions that will burden the business community and undermine job creation. So it is the height of chutpah that Waxman is now holding who hearings to browbeat companies that have acknowledged – as required by law – some of the burdens in the legislation that will affect their bottom line. Investor’s Business Daily savages Waxman for this unseemly thuggery:

In legally mandated filings, AT&T reported that ObamaCare will cost it $1 billion. Deere & Co. reported $150 million in new costs. Caterpillar must cough up $100 million. 3M must pay another $90 million. AK Steel gets to fork over $31 million. Valero Energy will pay $30 million. There’ll be more as other companies report anticipated costs to fulfill their requirements to inform shareholders. What it shows is a huge wave of costs rolling over the private sector to pay for this bill. It’s the real cost of ObamaCare, a bill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had touted daily as “paid for” in her pitch for Congressional votes. …As a result of ObamaCare’s changes, companies now can either pay for those costs — and lay off workers, hold off expansion or move abroad — or scrap their prescription drug programs altogether, dumping their retirees onto the federal government. Either way, the costs are “paid for” — but they’ve also just skyrocketed, thanks to ObamaCare. Instead of admitting the economic reality voters and companies have been warning Congress about, and maybe offering to read the bill next time, Waxman seeks to blame the very businesses the Democrats have just victimized. …Now it’s time to pay the piper, and Waxman doesn’t want to pay. He has decided to haul the executives into yet another round of star chamber hearings to explain just why two and two make four. This is an implied threat to companies either to cook their books or face legal or political sanctions for embarrassing Congress by revealing the true impact of its health care bill on the private sector. It has its place with what Stalin did in Soviet Russia, denouncing farmers as hoarders after setting artificially low prices for crops, and what Hugo Chavez is doing today in Venezuela, dictating prices on raw goods and limiting access to money while penalizing companies for passing on those costs to customers.

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