Grapevine: US no longer a bastion of economic freedom

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Dropping Down

The United States is no longer a bastion of economic freedom. In fact it's not even in the top 10. The U.S. is ranked 12th, two spots lower than last year, in the Index of Economic Freedom put together by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation.

The score is down for the seventh year in a row even as the global average is on the rise. The reason: growth in government, new burdensome regulations and a diminished sense of the rule of law.

Hong Kong remains the most free economically as it has for all 20 years of the index. North Korea came in dead last in the 178 countries lasted.

Missing the Mark

The difference between budget projections and reality is sometimes stark, especially in government. The latest example is the Department of Homeland Security headquarters currently under construction here in Washington.

A congressional report says the building was projected to be done in 2015 at a cost of about $3.5 billion. Those guesses appear to be more a little more than off. Current estimates from DHS say the building will cost an extra billion taxpayer dollars and it won't be done until 2026 -- $1 billion extra and more than 10 years behind schedule.

DHS blames low funding because of the recession.

Hey Boo Boo

There was a welcome committee of one for new Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe the first time he entered the office bathroom: a giant stuffed bear. The black bear was left there as a prank by outgoing governor Bob McDonnell. Local reports say the bear caused a good laugh among the staff.

Pranks appear to be a tradition when passing down that office. The Washington Post reports in 2006, Mark Warner left a cardboard cut-out of himself in the shower waiting to greet newly elected governor Tim Kaine. Both are now senators for the commonwealth.