You are browsing the archive for 2014 October 20.

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More Bad News for Airbnb

October 20, 2014 in Economics

By Matthew Feeney

Matthew Feeney

The online rental marketplace Airbnb received more bad news from New York last week. According to a report released by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, almost three quarters of short-term Airbnb rentals in New York City from 2010-2014 were illegal.

This is not the first time Airbnb has faced harsh criticism. Instead of harassing Airbnb and other “sharing economy” companies, regulators ought to find ways to allow for these popular innovators to compete and contribute to local economies.

Airbnb agreed to hand over company data to Schneiderman in May 2014 after receiving a subpoena. The data related to listings which involved “A private stay, i.e. where the host listed an ‘entire home/apartment’ or a ‘private room’ for rent,” and either “A rental transaction for a stay in New York City of less than 30 days” or “A rental transaction for a stay in a unit in New York City of between 30 and 180 days that did not qualify for the de minimis exception for hotel room occupancy taxes.”

Instead of harassing Airbnb and other “sharing economy” companies, regulators ought to find ways to allow for these popular innovators to compete and contribute to local economies.”

Airbnb did not release information on rentals that did not meet these criteria, and the report released by Schneiderman states that it is “unclear how many transactions are excluded from the Data.”

According to the report, 72 percent of the unique units that were used as private short-term rentals violate the Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL) or New York City regulations that forbid using non-residential buildings for housing purposes.

The MDL prohibits rentals of less than 30 days in “Class A” multiple dwellings. A “Class A” multiple dwelling is one that is “generally occupied for permanent residence purposes,” such an apartment building.

An Airbnb spokesman told The New York Times that, given the host of regulations related to housing in New York, it is impossible to make the 72 percent claim:

“Every single home, apartment, co-op and living space in New York is subject to a myriad of rules, so it’s impossible to make this kind of blanket statement,” the spokesman said. “That kind of uncertainty and lack of clarity is exactly why we’re advocating for clear, fair rules for home sharing.”

The report highlights that 6 percent of the hosts revealed in the data took home 37 percent of the revenue ($168.3 million).

It is worth remembering …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Dr. Rand Paul Addresses American Academy of Ophthalmology Conference

October 20, 2014 in Politics & Elections

Dr. Rand Paul today presented a featured ‘Views on Healthcare’ lecture during a symposium titled The Affordable Care Act: Present and Future Prospects for Ophthalmology at American Academy of Ophthalmology conference in Chicago, IL. Dr. Paul has championed ophthalmology priorities such as repeal of the sustainable growth rate, preserving office-use access to compounded drugs, and derailing problematic quality measures for ambulatory surgical centers. Dr. Paul also serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The transcript of his remarks as prepared for delivery can be found below. TRANSCRIPT:Good morning. It really is a pleasure to be here with you all today. It’s great to be with normal people for a change. I work in a city where logic is the exception and dysfunction the norm. DC is so dysfunctional we can’t even pass things we agree on. I have a bill that I co-sponsor with Harry Reid and I can’t even get a vote on that. When I think of how screwed up DC is, I think of what Groucho Marx said about politics: ‘The art of politics is looking for problems everywhere, finding them, misdiagnosing them, and applying the wrong remedies.’Being here in Chicago with fellow physicians is a big improvement over DC any day of the week.I would like to thank the American Academy of Ophthalmology for inviting me here today. It is an honor to address you.People often ask if being a physician affects my view of our nation’s problems. Absolutely. I think physicians tend to be problem solvers. Physicians typically analyze a problem and apply the remedy based on the facts, not preconceptions.Today I want to examine our healthcare system and look at ideas for making healthcare less expensive and more accessible.Many years ago when my father first entered politics, he wrote an essay on Kwashiorkor. As you may remember Kwashiorkor is a stage in chronic starvation when protein deficiency becomes so severe that there is not enough intravascular colloid to maintain osmotic balance and fluid leaks into the abdomen creating ascites, the swollen bellies of starvation.As a medical student, my father dreamed of a cure for Kwashiorkor, but the more he read, the more he discovered that the answer was economic, not medical.I traveled to Guatemala this summer with the John Moran Eye Center and had a wonderful experience. Likely, nothing in my career has been more satisfying than seeing the …read more


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Obama Care Update

October 20, 2014 in Economics

By Mark Thornton

I have previously reported about a friend of mine and her experience with Obama Care. Earlier this year her catastrophic health insurance was canceled as insufficient under Obama Care regulations. Her monthly premiums would have increased by several hundred percent to get the cheapest available qualifying coverage. Instead she was given a “better” plan that cut her premiums by more than 90% of what she was paying for her catastrophic coverage.

Update: My friend has not been able to use her “better” health insurance coverage over the last 6 months. All the health related providers have turned her insurance down and she has had to pay cash for everything. She inquired about a BCBS plan that she had been previously offered and was told that it had increased by over 100%. She was told that they were no longer able to qualify people by risk factors and that several new coverages were made mandatory under Obama Care. The silver lining for her is that she will probably qualify for a 50% subsidy under Obama Care, leaving tax payers to pick up the other half.

There is more to health care insurance than affordability.

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ABQ Doesn’t Need Bus-Rapid Transit System

October 20, 2014 in Economics

By Randal O’Toole

Randal O’Toole

Mayor Richard Berry wants to introduce bus-rapid transit to Albuquerque with a line along Central Avenue. While the idea of bus-rapid transit has merit, the city’s plan to dedicate lanes to buses and give buses priority over other traffic at signals will significantly increase the daily congestion faced by Albuquerque commuters.

With the help of Rapid Ride buses, commuter buses and other innovations, ABQ Ride has more than doubled Albuquerque transit ridership since 2000. Few other transit systems have such an impressive record of growth.

However, this growth didn’t come without a cost. The money the city spent operating ABQ Ride also more than doubled since 2000, and transit fares cover only about 12 percent of bus operations. Counting capital costs, each transit ride costs taxpayers more than $3.

Roads are subsidized too (subsidies I would like to end) but, because roads are so heavily used, those subsidies are relatively small when measured per user. Highway subsidies average two or three pennies per passenger mile, while subsidies to ABQ Riders average nearly 90 cents per passenger mile.

Hopes that bus-rapid transit will generate billions of dollars worth of economic development are doomed to disappointment.”

Even after doubling ridership, transit remains irrelevant to most Albuquerque residents. Transit carries less than half a percent of the area’s travel, while less than 1.75 percent of the city’s commuters regularly took transit to work in 2013.

More Albuquerque residents walk to work and more work at home than take transit to work. Even people who have no cars don’t rely heavily on ABQ Ride. Census data reveal that, of the 4,338 Albuquerque workers who lived in households with no cars in 2013, just 27 percent took transit to work, while another 27 percent either carpooled, or drove shared or employer-supplied cars.

Transit will never be important in Albuquerque because Albuquerque jobs and residences are too spread out. Cities with high transit usage, such as New York and Chicago, have hundreds of thousands of downtown jobs. But only about 44,000 jobs are located in Downtown Albuquerque and the rest are so finely distributed that transit is not a viable option for most people.

Still, bus-rapid transit can make transit more attractive to some people by increasing frequencies and speeds. But this can be accomplished without dedicating scarce traffic lanes to buses or giving buses priority at traffic signals.

Even during rush hour, a lane dedicated to bus-rapid transit …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Will The Real Government Crony Please Stand Up?

October 20, 2014 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

Under a 1943 Supreme Court decision called Parker v. Brown, state governments and private parties who act on state orders are typically immune from prosecution under federal antitrust laws. While private parties who create cartels face severe penalties, state governments can authorize the same anti-competitive behavior with impunity.

Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) attorney Timothy Sandefur, also a Cato Institute adjunct scholar, explained in a recent Regulation article that exempting cartels protected by state law from federal law was “an extreme innovation in both antitrust law and federalism jurisprudence.” “In virtually no other context can states exempt their citizens from the operation of federal statutes.”

Still, the Supreme Court has held that this kind of immunity only applies if the private parties who engage in cartel behavior are “actively supervised” by state officials. A case in which the Court heard argument last week, N.C. Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC, presents an opportunity to expand on that directive.

Don’t Whiten Teeth Unless You Pay Us

A North Carolina court case involving pushy dentists showcases how bad laws let some people employ government power to block entrepreneurs.”

Beginning in 2003, the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners issued cease-and-desist orders to beauticians and others who were offering teeth-whitening services (in which a plastic strip treated with peroxide is applied to the teeth to brighten them). Although teeth-whitening is perfectly safe—and people can even do it at home with an over-the-counter kit—the state’s licensed dentists want to limit competition in this lucrative area. The Board is made up entirely of practicing dentists and hygienists, with no input from the general public, so it’s not surprising that evidence later showed the Board’s orders on this subject responded to complaints from dentists, not consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission charged the Board with engaging in anticompetitive conduct. Although the Board argued it should enjoy Parker immunity, the FTC, and later the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, rejected that argument, holding that the Board was not “actively supervised” by the state, but was instead a group of private business owners exploiting government power.

Whatever one’s opinion of antitrust law—mine isn’t too favorable because the law is typically too slow-acting to befit a dynamic marketplace—existing immunity doctrines are dangerous because they allow private entities cloaked in government authority to raise prices and restrict choice. Worse, state-established cartels frequently harm constitutional rights, such as the right to earn …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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War on Poverty Turns 50: Are We Winning Yet?

October 20, 2014 in Economics

The War on Poverty is 50 years old. Over that time, federal and state governments have spent more than $19 trillion fighting poverty. But what have we really accomplished? In a new paper, Cato scholars Michael D. Tanner and Charles Hughes argue that while the War on Poverty achieved some initial success, the programs it spawned have long since reached a point of diminishing returns. “Good intentions are not enough,” say Tanner and Hughes. “We should not continue to throw money at failed programs in the name of compassion.”

…read more