Blindsiding the public on Social Security

There is more confusion about Social Security today than ever before. We hear contradictory claims from individuals, organizations and government, and nobody knows who to believe.

There is no reason for people to be so confused. Top government officials could explain the current condition of Social Security and tell the public what happened to the surplus Social Security revenue that was generated by the 1983 payroll tax hike.

Instead, the government adds to the confusion with false statements. Politicians from both sides of the aisle are deliberately trying to mislead the public.

The debate has turned into a political war – not about how to fix Social Security – but whether the current system is worth saving.

The debate seems to center on the status of the Social Security trust fund. If there is a trust fund, what is in it? Is it full of marketable Treasury bonds, as some claim, or full of government IOUs?

This is a crucial question the public needs to have answered.

Actually, that question was answered on Jan. 21, 2005. David Walker, the comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office at that time, said, “There are no stocks or bonds or real estate in the trust fund. It has nothing of real value to draw down.”

That was 11 years ago. The public was entitled to know this important information, but it never reached the masses. Almost none of the mainstream media covered the story.

The comptroller general of the GAO is the government’s top accountant. He is responsible for auditing financial statements from the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget, among other things. If anybody knows what is in the trust fund, the comptroller general certainly knows.

There are no bonds in the trust fund because all of the surplus revenue was spent. None of it was saved or invested. This may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it is the unadulterated truth.

Apache Junction – Looking ahead to 2016

With the New Year upon us, it gives us an opportunity to look at our achievements in the year past and the opportunities coming in 2016.

For the city of Apache Junction, 2015 turned out to be a banner year with the city hitting major milestones, including the paving of Apache Trail, the groundbreaking of our first-ever water treatment plant and the foundation set for the first downtown park.

The year included policy changes that will allow popular food trucks to take part in events and discounting fees at the Paws and Claws Care Center. The latter move led to the center nearly adopting out all of its cats and dogs right before the holiday.

The city has made a number of critical moves to improve the quality of life in our city at minimal expense to the taxpayer.

But 2016 might be even more exciting.

In the next few months, ground is scheduled to be broken on a new Fry’s Marketplace store, moving down the street from its current location in downtown and doubling in size in the process to more than 120,000 square feet.

The project also includes adjacent business spaces totaling another 14,000 square feet and future development on the site. This will result in the demotion of a long-time eyesore at the junction of Idaho Road and Old West Highway. By early 2017, shoppers will be visiting a sparkling new center at the crossroads, which is an important development for the city.

Just a short walk away will be the city’s newest open space. Grass will be set in 2016 for the new downtown park. The sky is the limit for that venue, with plans for a water feature, a place for concerts and as the focal point of the city’s events, including the annual Apache Junction Holiday Event and Parade. The downtown park is part of a larger campaign to boost downtown business and bring visitors to our wonderful city and its amenities.

Over on the south side of the city, the state completed eastbound on- and off-ramps at Meridian Drive, giving drivers a path into the city from all five of its major thoroughfares. Improvements to Ironwood Drive – a major connector for the region – continue from Apache Trail to south of the freeway and should be completed early in 2016.

This is Arizona’s season for tourism, chamber official says

When Clemson and Alabama met at the Jan. 11 College Football Championship, the two teams and their fans contributed to Arizona’s national reputation as America’s best sports tourism market.

We have teams from four big-time professional sports that call Arizona home, one of which is playoff-bound and has the whole state buzzing. (I’ve told Cardinals President Michael Bidwill that this is the year I get myself a pair of red corduroy pants.)

After a 2015 that featured a Super Bowl that was a smashing success, consider what 2016 has to offer:

• The Fiesta Bowl. The bowl game that put the Valley of the Sun on the sports map back in 1971 is considered one of the bowl season’s best, offering great weather, outstanding facilities, and a level of hospitality that can’t be matched.

The Fiesta Bowl’s reputation as a top-notch production earned it a spot in the new College Football Playoff rotation, ensuring Arizona’s place as a magnet for out-of-town fans.

•The College Football Championship. Monday marks the second ever college football playoff championship game. All eyes will be on Arizona, with a television broadcast that will reach millions, many of whom are snowed in and will be treated to shots of Arizona’s beautiful landscape.

The championship game brings with it four days of festivities and a big economic impact. The W. P. Carey School at ASU estimates the combined impact of previous college championship games in Arizona at nearly $650 million. An event of this magnitude doesn’t happen without a team of outstanding professionals committed to putting on a good show. Major kudos are due to Brad Wright and Win Holden, the co-chairs of the Arizona Organizing Committee, who have done a tremendous job galvanizing the community around the big game.

•Waste Management Phoenix Open. The Greatest Show on Grass. The People’s Open. This is a golf tournament that draws over a half-million spectators and is known throughout the PGA Tour for its raucous crowds, national acts every night at the Birds Nest and a 16th hole unlike any other in golf. It also has a big economic impact.

Studies have estimated that nearly 30 percent of ticket sales go to attendees from out of town, guests who spend around $300 a day in the local economy.

•Spring Training. The jewel in Arizona’s sports tourism crown — the Cactus League — brings to Arizona visitors from all over the country who come to town to see half of Major League Baseball’s teams, including the World Series champs Kansas City Royals.

Last year we set the all-time attendance record. Spring training happens at a time of year when folks around the country are ready to thaw out, and fans come by the millions to watch today’s stars and tomorrow’s prospects in first-class facilities that are all within an easy drive of one another.

In 2017, spring brings even more offerings, with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four coming to Phoenix, a weeklong celebration of basketball that will be the first Final Four west of Texas since 1995.

These events have all helped to solidify Arizona’s place as a sports tourism mecca and they contribute to the nearly 200,000 jobs that depend on tourism.

We are fortunate to have tourism leaders in Arizona that are the envy of the country. We’re in the midst of Arizona’s time to shine. It’s our season.

Editor’s note: Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The true cost of price controls: No more cures

2015 is shaping up to be another banner year for medical progress. Regulators have already approved 29 new medicines, roughly on last year’s pace of 41 new drug approvals — the most since the Clinton administration.

But in future years, the list of medical breakthroughs could prove much shorter. In response to the high cost of certain medications, most notably Turing Pharmaceuticals’ admittedly outrageous 5,000 percent price hike on a generic AIDS drug — political leaders are proposing caps on drug prices.

Transparency bills in state capitals seek to force pharmaceutical companies to reveal their costs of production.

Congress is considering de facto caps in Medicare Part D, the federal prescription insurance program for seniors and the disabled.

And presidential candidates are floating a variety of price capping schemes, including Hillary Clinton’s proposal to cap out-of-pocket expenditures for individuals with chronic health problems.

Advocates of price controls hope that by artificially capping prices they will widen the availability of medications.

Unfortunately, they end up doing just the opposite.

Any discussion of drug prices must begin with the economics of research and development in the pharmaceutical industry. More than any other industry, getting a new pharmaceutical product to market is incredibly expensive.