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Apparently, Democrats learned nothing from their recent election debacle. They are still promoting the idea of allowing large multinationals to avoid paying their taxes. Former Michigan Senator Carl Levin has joined Republicans in calling for a “tax holiday” on offshore corporate profits, and using the windfall to fund infrastructure projects:

As divided as our country may be, one issue where there appears to be strong bipartisan agreement is the need to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. Democrats have supported this for years, and President Trump has made it one of the centerpieces of his domestic program. The question is how we’re going to pay for it. Many are eyeing the huge pot of money — $2 trillion to $3 trillion — sitting offshore courtesy of U.S. corporations who have stashed it there, because they don’t want to pay taxes on it.

With the infrastructure proposal looming large, that pot of money has become an attractive answer. But the big questions are what tax rate reduction would be a sufficient incentive for corporations to finally pay the tax owed on their offshore profits.

Hilary Clinton made a similar proposal during the campaign, as have other Democrats in Congress. This policy would be a mistake for many obvious reasons. First, it rewards bad behavior on the part of large multinationals. The law is clear on the amount of tax owed, and corporations should pay it just like everyone else has to. The second problem is that these infrastructure projects would be almost entirely for roads and highways; i.e. don’t expect it to pay for subways or high-speed rail. And finally, this tax windfall would be just a one-time event. It does nothing to address the long-term decline in gas-tax revenues, which is the root cause of the infrastructure deficit.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook testifying before Congress on his company’s tax avoidance

Our insane zoning policies cost the economy $1.5 trillion in lost productivity annually:

According to a recent paper by the economists Chang-Tai Hsieh, from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and Enrico Moretti, from the University of California, Berkeley, local land-use regulations reduce the United States’ economic output by as much as $1.5 trillion a year, or about 10 percent lower than it could be.

The problem is especially severe in coastal cities, where zoning policies limit the supply of housing. Based on the cost of materials and local wages, a house in San Francisco should cost less than $300k. But due to artificial land-use restrictions, prices are actually around $1 million. And there is little incentive for local government to lower the price of housing.

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So much for that BART transit-oriented development policy:

The BART board is expected to consider on Thursday an additional $37.1 million, 655-space parking garage to the Dublin station.

The proposed six-story garage would replace a current surface parking lot of 118 spots. A net 540 spaces would be added, according to a BART report. The estimated $37.1 million would include $8.6 million in design and $28.5 million in construction costs. Operating costs are expected to be $240,000 annually.

Some quick calculations show the annualized capital cost (at 5% interest rate) is $1.855 million. Including the maintenance cost ($240k) and daily parking fee ($2.50) that comes out to a daily $8 subsidy per commuter!

There are currently 3,100 people on the reserved parking waiting list. So even after spending all that money, it won’t do anything to improve parking availability.

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A Colorado Senate Committee voted down an “Idaho Stop” bill. Under the proposed law, cyclists would have been permitted to treat stop signs as yield, legalizing a common behavior:

About a dozen cyclists spoke at the hearing, most of them in favor of Senate Bill 93, saying it’s simply safer — and less of a hassle for motorists — for them to roll through an intersection rather than stopping if they can do so safely.

“The longer it takes us to merge into traffic or cross an intersection, the greater the risk of a collision,” said Richard Handler, a cyclist with Team Evergreen Cycling.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, is commonly known as the “Idaho stop,” and backers credit it with reducing cycling-related injuries by 14.5 percent in that state the year after it was implemented, according to a 2010 study by Jason Meggs, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health.

 

France has taken a u-turn in its efforts to promote safe and convenient cycling. Thanks to a new law, kids aged 12 and under will be required to wear bike helmet. Failure to do so risks a whopping 135 euro fine. The rule applies even to kids riding in a bike trailer.

The new law was announced at the end of 2016 and is part of a raft of measures contained in a report published last October by a government committee for road safety, following a recent rise in road fatalities. The other measures include fines for drivers caught using their mobile phones while driving and stiffer penalties for speeding.

Youth helmet bills are largely based off a law passed by California back in 1994. The California law has been quite ineffective, and yet it is still being used as a model.

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Mexican standoff

The Press Democrat has an interview with SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian. Here is Mansourian defending the agency’s screw-ups:

Mansourian, who has earned praise and criticism for his full-steam ahead managerial approach, did not appear chastened as he reflected back on the events of 2016 that prompted the service delay.

He made the case that SMART could not have foreseen having to replace the engines on each of the 14 rail cars because of a design flaw, nor the challenges getting warning signals at crossings to work properly or the difficulty attracting staff to the high-cost North Bay.

“If there was anything that was in our control and we could have worked harder, and we had a crystal ball, then we would probably feel awful,” he said. “But there were three things that led to this — not a single one of them was in our control.”

In fact, no crystal ball was required. All of these mistakes were entirely predictable and preventable. SMART could have ordered a reliable, off-the-shelf trainset. Instead, they spec’ed out a custom model, which would inevitably have bugs. SMART also designed a signal system around track circuits instead of axle counters. Axle counters are the industry-standard approach because they are 5 times more reliable.

SMART blames its staffing problems on the high-cost of living. In fact, there is an absurd amount of featherbedding. Trains will have both an engineer and conductor, when only an engineer is needed. And there will be eight vehicle technicians, for a fleet of just 14 railcars.