February 10, 2009
Posted by Daren Bakst at 6:10 PM
Some legislators have introduced a bill to extend the terms for both
state senators and representatives, from two-year terms to four-year
terms (See HB 71 and SB 120--these links also show the sponsors that want this change). These bills would amend the state constitution.
This is just another incumbency protection measure. First, there
is the drawing of legislative districts to ensure victories by
incumbents. Many legislators are pushing taxpayer financing of
campaigns that equalize funding between candidates. This
"equalization" helps the incumbents because challengers have a
difficult time overcoming the built-in advantages for incumbents (such
as name recognition).
Taxpayer financing and campaign finance restrictions (such as bans on
political speech before elections) help to limit the communications
coming from anyone other than the candidates. Dissent and
criticism must be contained. The legislators have yet to ban all
but the North Carolina legislature certainly is trying.
Now we have this four-year term bill. Currently, the legislators have
to actually raise money and get support every two years (assuming they
even have a competitive race, which most don't). When the public
contributes to campaigns, the contributions themselves are a critical
measure of support (or lack thereof) for the legislator.
State legislators should be held accountable every two years and
turnover, or at least the chance of turnover, is desirable, especially
with what is supposed to be a "citizen-legislature."
According to this article:
The measure raises an issue in perennial
discussion over the past
decade, with backers sayin less-frequent elections would mean less time
spent raising money
to run for office.
"It would take half the money out of it," said Rep.
Hugh Holliman, a Lexington Democrat and the House majority leader. "We start the session, spend our first year
here, and then we spend the whole second year campaigning."
Where's the evidence that less money actually would be involved in
campaigns? If an election were every four years, the importance
of that race (because the seat is open less frequently) would likely
drive far more money into each campaign. Legislators also would
simply raise money for a longer period of time before they were up for
re-election, thereby making it even more difficult for challengers.
If these legislators were really concerned about the influence of
special interests (as opposed to trying to make it easier for
themselves by protecting their power), they would pass these other
reforms. Most of the changes don't even need to be done through a
I actually would support this bill, if: there were term limits on
all legislators (two terms), chamber leaders, committee chairs, and a
requirement that bills sponsored by 50% or more of a chamber's members
must be voted on by the full chamber.
Early candidate for Word of the Year
Posted by Jon Sanders at 2:52 PM
TRILLION — as in today's "Geithner Says Bank-Rescue Plans May Reach $2 Trillion" and yesterday's "U.S. Taxpayers Risk $9.7 Trillion on Bailout Programs."
From The Man Who Runs America
To The Knower Of Important Things
Posted by Hal Young at 2:35 PM
Rush Limbaugh gives a shout out to Mike Munger and the Pope Center during the second hour of his program today.
Are you experiencing a Rushalanche over there, Jane?
UPDATE 16:30: Rush included the link to George Leef's interview with Dr. Munger in today's "Rush In A Hurry" email.
Re: ABC News ... price system
Posted by Jon Sanders at 1:45 PMSomewhat clarified: 11:15 a.m. 2/11/09
Michael, I disagree that counting "each second you spend on the interstate" is such a great idea, although that may be overstatement in the article. I have no opposition to toll roads, but I do harbor concerns against such things as VMT taxes and using GPS or, to attempt to state a general approach, getting too cute with taxation such that a consumer cannot have a fair general expectation of the cost of an activity.
The rest of the original post refers more to the impression I had gotten from the article that the price system under discussion was one that would tax, in real time, drivers by congestion levels of the roads traversed, by every road traversed, and by the actual time spent on the roads whether in motion or otherwise — and to the extent that the impression was mistaken, the response is moot.
Primarily, time is a cost. If you get stuck idling in traffic congestion, and you come to expect that, then that is a cost you pay. So is gasoline consumption, vehicular wear-and-tear, and traffic annoyance. We already "pay more" by driving during rush hour.
Besides, we also "pay" by having a backwards system of transportation funding and by playing political games with existing highway funding. See the study by David Hartgen, Professor of Transportation Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; the following is from the press release:
Some regions are devoting too little money to the congestion problem, [study author David] Hartgen, [Professor of Transportation Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte,] said. The state’s largest regions are spending significant chunks of transportation funding on transit instead.
"In the Charlotte region, 43 percent of available dollars are proposed for highway projects, and the road improvements proposed would alleviate only one-third of the predicted increase in congestion," he said. "Raleigh and Durham are allocating 73 percent and 49 percent, respectively, of their dollars to effective projects." ...
North Carolina does not need new funding to address the congestion problem, Hartgen said. "The report recommends using existing planned funds for congestion relief," he said. "In some cities, 'balance' in transportation funding needs to be redefined. Instead of saying that transit programs should get 20-50 percent of funds, modes of transportation should get funds in proportion to their demand."
Hartgen’s report offers nearly 20 recommendations for the state and numerous individual recommendations for each region. The statewide proposals include: changing the highway distribution formulas to account for congestion; appointing “congestion tsars” and establishing congestion reduction programs for each region; using innovative highway and intersection designs; increasing the weight placed on congestion in selecting projects; implementing flex-time, ridesharing, and work-at-home programs; removing bottlenecks; improving intersection turns and signal systems; expanding incident management programs; using tolls and public-private partnerships; and planning land use and transportation capacity jointly.
ABC News discovers the price system
Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 1:14 PM
In a Good Morning America report here, ABC reporter Bill Weir noted that congestion pricing is an important way to reduce traffic congestion.
But the solution to less congested highways and byways may come at a price.
"Highways will become toll roads. Your credit card will be constantly
refilling the little box on your windshield that will be charged by the
mile," said Chris Leinberge, an urban planning expert at the Brookings
Every errand, every outing literally would count, as the meter ticked away for each second you spend on the interstate.
"Imagine a kind of system where there's monitoring of traffic
congestion in real time on a block-by-block basis and then prices are
adjusted in real time on a block-by-block basis," said MIT Media lab
professor William J. Mitchell. "So if you decide to run errands at rush
hour, you'll pay more. And if you want to use the fast lane, you'll pay
And this important statistic:
"Ninety percent of the roads and not congested 90 percent of the time," Vanderbilt said. [Author of Traffic]
Many of us have been imagining for years a world where private roads provide better service at a lower price than government roads. Perhaps the time has finally come.
GOP leaders tackle criminal justice, probation issues
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 12:13 AM
Republican legislative leaders unveiled this morning two bills and a request to Gov. Beverly Perdue that are designed to address problems with the state's criminal justice system.
One bill would expand the potential use of warantless searches of probationers and parolees. The other would provide a "good-faith exception" to the exclusionary rule that keeps some evidence out of criminal cases. If Perdue acts on the request, she would have staff post on a state Web site the names, photographs, and "last known whereabouts" of thousands of missing probationers.
Click play below to learn details and to view the entire 28:49 news conference.
Compromising on the "stimulus" bill
Posted by George Leef at 12:09 AM
Sheldon Richman argues here that the idea of compromising with the Democrats over the "stimulus" bill is like negotiating with a robber on how much of your silverware he steals.
He also observes, for the umpteenth time, that there is nothing stimulative in political allocation of scarce resources. What the Obamaites are doing is expanding the state at the expense of the private sector. But it's in the private sector that we find efficiency and progress. The more the state grows, the less scope there is for entrepreneurship.
Leftists hold on to the notion that they have a "third way" that combines the productive efficiency of capitalism with the "human face" of socialism. We know that's pure fantasy. The "third way" slides faster and faster into socialism's authoritarian drabness.
Land Transfer Tax Still No Winner In NC
Posted by Chad Adams at 12:01 AM
Pro-tax folks were once again defeated in an attempt to hide the growth of local government revenues. Avery County residents, whose leaders held the 200% increase in the land transfer tax referendum on the 3rd of February hoping only supporters would turn out, originally thought they had won. But the facts are that one of the precincts transposed the numbers while reporting in.
Final numbers 1414 FOR the tax and 1449 AGAINST
Those are the official posted results. Word is that the county will seek once again to put the measure on the ballot. People saying "NO" to new taxes isn't enough. . .
More government means less freedom
Posted by George Leef at 11:54 AM
The authors of this NRO piece remind us that the bigger government gets, the less freedom people have.
The eager social planners all around us like their own freedom well enough, but don't hesitate to use governmental coercion to take it away from people who don't share their values goals.
Shuler criticizes Pelosi, Reid
Posted by David N. Bass at 10:34 AM
U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, a Democrat representing North Carolina's 11th congressional district, recently had some choice words for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid:
The conservative Democrat ... was one of a handful in his party to oppose the stimulus package when the House voted on it two weeks ago. He said Democratic leaders in Congress haven't made any effort to hear his concerns or assuage his fears about the spending bill since the vote.
"In order for us to get the confidence of America, it has to be done in a bipartisan way," Shuler said in Raleigh following an economic forum. "We have to have everyone - Democrats and Republicans standing on the stage with the administration - saying 'We got something done that was efficient, stimulative and timely.'"
Mom to Woodhouse boys: be quiet
Posted by David N. Bass at 10:14 AM
As Mitch pointed out yesterday, the Woodhouse brothers are locked in a titanic battle over the economic stimulus/spending bill in Congress. But mom doesn't want that kind of talk around the kitchen table.
From the News & Observer of Raleigh:
Their mother, Joyce Woodhouse, works for the N.C. Corn Growers Association in Raleigh. She said they always end up arguing about politics at Christmas and Thanksgiving.
"I tell them they're not going to talk about politics, but that's just foolish because they always get into it," she said. "They both get very loud."
Nursing economics lessons
Posted by Joseph Coletti at 08:31 AM
Regular readers of this blog won't be assurprised as California policymakers were to learn that artificially increasing demand for something, say nurses, will make it more expensive.
A new study in Health Affairs examined the effects of California's 2004 legislation to institute minimum-nurse-staffing ratios in acute care hospitals finds that wages for nurses in California increased as much as 12 percentage points more than in other states.
So the legislation cost a lot more than projected. In addition, "there are as yet unanswered questions about whether the minimum-nurse-staffing legislation met the policy goal of improving quality of care."
Higher cost but no better care - isn't that the problem with health care in America?
Learning the wrong lessons from Honest Abe
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:55 AMThe subheadline of TIME’s latest article on Abraham Lincoln proclaims: “Born in poverty 200 years ago, the 16th president was a self-starter who believed the government had to step in when markets failed.”
Hmm. Let’s examine this a little more closely:
"The penniless beginner in the world," he once explained, "labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him." This steady, gradual advance, Lincoln insisted, is "the prosperous system, which opens the way for all — gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all." We know it as the American Dream, and it certainly worked for him. Beginning with nothing, Lincoln managed to educate himself, raise a family in comfort and subsidize his history-shaping political campaigns — all thanks to that useful instrument, money.
How might this penniless beginner fare in a different system, say a welfare state? Given cradle-to-grave benefits, he would have little incentive to labor. Or worse, he would find that labor beyond a certain point would actually cost him money. He also might find himself unable to get a job because of a mandatory minimum wage that prevents an employer from hiring him and helping him to develop the productivity that could help him advance in the same manner as Mr. Lincoln advanced in the “prosperous system.”
Lincoln had his faults — including a love for a big, powerful national government — but it doesn’t appear that he failed to see the superiority of an economic system based on personal initiative.
Turning back to Hood
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:54 AM
As Richard Stengel and the TIME cover story both focus on the media’s struggles to remain financially viable, I’m reminded again of John Hood’s recent discussion of the same topic.
Insight is valuable, if it’s actually insight
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:53 AMRichard Stengel, TIME’s managing editor, tells us this week:
Information may want to be free, but knowledge and reporting and insight are expensive — and valuable.
Stengel uses that nugget in an essay designed to bolster the case for reviving the flagging fortunes of mainstream media outlets. I don’t necessarily disagree with his sentiment. But it’s hard to take Stengel seriously when one of his reporters offers the following lede paragraph:
It's hard to take Republican leaders too seriously when they criticize the recovery plans for the economy; it's sort of like those geese criticizing the evacuation plans for US Airways Flight 1549. Their critiques seem even more comical when you see their alternatives. They warn that President Obama's stimulus package will explode the debt--so they want to make George W. Bush's debt-exploding tax cuts permanent. They say Democratic spending plans are full of pork--then they propose an extra $24 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal equivalent of Oscar Mayer. Let's just say their idea bank could use a bailout.
If that’s the best “knowledge and reporting and insight” a media outlet has to offer, no wonder much of the audience assigns it the value it deserves: none.
Today's Carolina Journal Online features
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:45 AM
Today's Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Terry Stoops' latest report confirming that North Carolina teachers' average compensation continues to top the national average.
John Hood's Daily Journal describes the state's "fiscal time bomb," a budget problem that extends far beyond the state's current economic woes.
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