The Locker Room

July 14, 2010

Government Alacrity

Posted by Jane S. Shaw at 3:04 PM

On July 10, 2009, Governor Beverly Purdue signed a law (Senate Bill 1019) creating the North Carolina Financial Literacy Council. The law was passed nearly unanimously.

The law’s preamble laid out the pressing need for better financial literacy. It noted that seventh graders failed when tested on basic financial concepts, high schoolers’ financial knowledge is on the decline, and nearly 3 million households don’t have savings accounts. The law authorized the council to “work to expand access to financial education resources and programs.”

A year later, citizens of North Carolina might want to know what the council has accomplished. The answer is . . . nothing. The council has yet to hold a meeting. In fact, a chairperson hasn’t been appointed yet.

Financial literacy must be a really pressing issue in the state bureaucracy.

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RE: No end

Posted by Rick Henderson at 3:03 PM

C'mon, Becki, we all know how well government support has worked out for UNC-TV. Oh, wait ...

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New Carolina Journal Online exclusive

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:31 PM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Sara Burrows' account of the final version of nanny-state legislation designed to fight childhood obesity.

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No end to taxpayer funding

Posted by Becki Gray at 2:30 PM

In an effort to clean up crooked campaigns, the NC General Assembly thought the answer was to make taxpayers pay for campaigns.   

In an effort to clean up corruption in liquor stores, the NC General Assembly passed more government regulation when all the problems of excessive salaries, nepotism and profitability of stores would disappear if the system were taken out of government hands and privatized.   

And now a Wall Street Journal op-ed argues that the answer to the demise of mainstream media is….tax payer funding for newspapers.

Where will it end?


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Test scores increase in Wake County

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 2:26 PM

From the News & Observer:

Preliminary results released today showed that 84.9 percent of students passed state end-of-course exams, typically given in high school, this past school year when you include retests. Without the retests, 80.6 percent of students passed. That compares to 80.1 percent in the 2008-09 school year.

Wake also reported that 85.5 percent of elementary and middle school students passed state end-of-grade math exams this past school year. That compares to 84.5 percent the previous year.

For elementary and middle school students on state end-of-grade reading exams, the passing rate was 76.5 percent. That's up from 74.7 percent in 2008-09.
The truth is that we have no idea why there was an increase in test scores. Despite the lack of evidence, opponents of the school board majority will still claim that busing or wacky Wednesdays did the trick. That's what they do.

If Wake County is not merely following a statewide trend, then credit goes to classroom teachers for their success.

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Another Blow for Taxpayer Financing

Posted by Daren Bakst at 2:11 PM

The end of taxpayer financing of campaigns, at least NC's system of "clean elections" is fast approaching (hopefully).  It is clear taxpayer financing is unconstitutional, although the State Board of Elections is pretending otherwise.

The latest blow to taxpayer financing is this 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals opinion from yesterday that struck down matching funds.  Matching funds are the critical component of "clean elections."  If a candidate that doesn't take taxpayer dollars (unsubsidized candidate) spends beyond a threshold amount of money, such as $5,000, then $5,000 in matching funds goes to the subsidized candidate.

As you might imagine this is quite a penalty for candidates that don't take taxpayer dollars.  If they spend money to exercise their free speech rights, they are helping their opponents.  To make matters worse, if independent groups spend money to help the unsubsidized candidate, then that money is considered in calculating the amount of matching funds.  Learn more here and here.

This Second Circuit opinion comes after the United States Supreme Court took the unusual step of blocking matching funds from being issued in Arizona in the upcoming elections.  These are the same types of matching funds we issue in NC.

Then there's Davis v. FEC (2008).  This is the United States Supreme Court case that I have long argued spells the end to matching funds.  While not dealing with matching funds directly, the Court held that it was unconstitutional to punish a self-financed candidate for spending beyond a threshold amount of money.  Sound familiar?

Like everyone else that objectively looks at the issue, Davis clearly would shoot down matching funds.  The Second Circuit applied Davis to strike down matching funds.  Here's what the Court said:

The penalty imposed by the excess expenditure provision is, to be sure, slightly different from the penalty imposed by the Millionaire's Amendment in Davis.  We agree with the District Court, however, insofar as the two penalties are different, the penalty at issue in this case is "more constitutionally objectionable." [Emphasis added]

As I argued, matching funds are worse than the penalty in Davis because matching funds are guaranteed money for the opponent whereas in Davis, the penalty was fundraising advantages--the opposing candidate still has to raise the money.

Will the SBOE still ignore what is obvious and engage in violating the First Amendment rights of North Carolinians?  If so, what credibility does the SBOE have in enforcing any laws when it will likely be issuing illegal matching funds in the upcoming election?

HT: Rick H.

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A global menace

Posted by George Leef at 1:30 PM

Warming? Capitalism? Free trade?

No, famed civil libertarian and First Amendment advocate Nat Hentoff here calls Obama a global menace.

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Union spokesperson wants new union jobs

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 12:50 AM

Not surprising, I know, but Doris Weaver didn't want readers of her letter in support of government broadband to know her role as Director of Political Affairs for the North Carolina Communication Workers of America Political Council.

Contrast that with Daren Bakst's clear self-identification as the Director of Legal and Regulatory Studies in his letter on the cost of solar energy.

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"Like" the NC State Fair to Save $$$

Posted by Jenna Ashley Robinson at 11:30 AM

The NC State Fair's Facebook fan page is running a promotion. If the page reaches 10,000 fans by 5pm on Thursday, all those fans will receive an adult admission ticket for $5!

(Disclaimer: Yes, the Fair would be much better if it were run by a private entity with all-private funding on private land. But that's not going to stop me from enjoying it!)

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UK May Abolish Food Standards Agency

Posted by Jenna Ashley Robinson at 10:59 AM

Maybe good things do come from one's country being flat broke. According to food blog Serious Eats,

On Monday night, word began to spread that UK health secretary Andrew Lansley intends to abolish the Food Standards Agency, the UK's equivalent of our Food and Drug Administration.
Of course many of FSA's regulatory duties will be taken over by other agencies, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that some of them will get lost in the move.

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Planning the anti-Tea Party

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:24 AM

You can't make this up.

Politico (with appropriate snark) points to a Washington Post (surprisingly snarkless) story about a new effort on the Left to counter the Tea Party. But as Politico explains, "[T]his represents a significant difference with the original tea party movement. That was — and still is — a movement in search of a leader. The Democrats have a bunch of leaders in search of a movement."

From the Post:

In an effort to replicate the tea party's success, 170 liberal and civil rights groups are forming a coalition that they hope will match the movement's political energy and influence.
The groups involved represent the core of the first-time voters who backed President Obama -- including the National Council of La Raza, NAACP, AFL-CIO, SEIU and the United States Student Association. (The effort is separate from the Democratic Party's plan to spend $50 million trying to reach those same voters.) [my emphasis]

They were inspired by their effectiveness in getting the health care law passed when more than half the country hated it.

"The coalition's first goal is to plan a march..." according to the Post. "The demonstration, to be held Oct. 2, will center on pressing for more government spending on job creation."

Just don't call it Astroturf.

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Perdue gets no bump from short session

Posted by Rick Henderson at 10:23 AM

A new WRAL poll from Survey USA (PDF download) gives Gov. Bev Perdue a favorable rating of 23 percent, with 40 percent giving the governor unfavorable marks.

The poll offers no great news for the state's U.S. senators, either. Republican Richard Burr, who's running for re-election, is on the plus side when it comes to favorability, but by only a hair: 28 percent favorable vs. 27 percent unfavorable.

Meantime, Democrat Kay Hagan is even less popular than Perdue, with a 22 percent favorable rating (though she's also disliked less than the governor; her unfavorable rating is 28 percent).

If you do the math, few North Carolinians (or at least few of those surveyed) think much -- literally -- about any of them. Half the respondents had either a neutral opinion or no opinion at all of Hagan; 47 percent said the same of Perdue; 45 percent of Burr.

As for the fall Senate race between Burr, Democrat Elaine Marshall, and Libertarian Michael Beitler, Burr came out ahead, 46-36-6 respectively, suggesting that voters may not be crazy about Burr, but a near-majority is willing to vote for him.

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A left-leaning columnist doesn't like Obama's economic numbers

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 09:18 AM

Ezra Klein's latest Newsweek column focuses on the substantial impact of the economy on election results. Riffing on the classic James Carville line, Klein titles his column "It's Always the Economy, Stupid."

After spelling out the close links between income growth and vote totals, Klein offers this assessment:

In some ways that’s comforting: politicians are judged more on the condition of the country than on the elegance of their campaign.

But for the Obama administration, it’s likely chilling: the economy is still weak, and there aren’t 60 votes in the Senate for further stimulus. And even if those votes materialized tomorrow, it is too late for them to make a major difference in the economy before November.

Because Klein's politics lean left, he ends the paragraph by arguing "Democrats needed to pass a bigger stimulus back in 2009, not in late 2010." He could learn a lesson from Roy Cordato:

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Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:56 AM

The latest Newsweek offers a guess about how a presidential administration led by Ronald Reagan would respond to today's current fiscal challenges, foreign threats, and social controversies.

While designed as a not-so-subtle dig at those politicians and pundits who believe that calling themselves "Reagan Republicans" should suffice as setting forward policy prescriptions, Andrew Romano's article offers a valuable corrective to those who ignore the details of the 40th president's record.

Romano's guesswork about a "Reaganesque" response to today's issues is open to dispute, but he does offer some interesting suggestions. One of them involves the federal deficit:

[A] 21st-century Reagan would free himself up to finish a bit of business that his predecessor never got around to: reducing the federal deficit. In the 1980 campaign, Reagan pledged to do three things if elected: lower taxes, win the Cold War, and curb government spending. But in his haste to achieve the first two goals, he abandoned the third. On his watch, federal employment grew by more than 60,000 (in contrast, government payrolls shrank by 373,000 during Clinton’s presidency). The gap between the amount of money the federal government took in and the amount it spent nearly tripled. The national debt soared from $700 billion to $3 trillion. And the United States was transformed from the world’s largest international creditor to its largest debtor.

Back then, Reagan avoided the tough decisions required to reduce the deficit; he was more concerned with confronting the Soviets and cutting taxes. But now that the Cold War is over and the top marginal tax rate is half of what it was in 1980, a real Reaganite no longer has any excuse to duck the country’s fiscal dilemma. In 2009, the Obama administration borrowed nearly 10 percent of GDP; this year the number will inch even higher. Even after the deficits decline in 2012, according to the Congressional Budget Office, they will still be higher than all but two of the shortfalls tallied under Reagan. As the bills for Social Security and Medicare come due—and voters, especially those on the right, demand action—Republicans have the opportunity to fulfill Reagan’s last, unkept promise by pushing for the kind of cuts (entitlement reform and defense rather than inconsequential “waste and fraud”) that he was never able to make.

To get a better sense of what Reagan actually did, and thus more insight about what he would do in office today, you might enjoy Steven Hayward's The Age of Reagan. Hayward's October 2009 presentation to the John Locke Foundation's Shaftesbury Society included some comments about Reagan's unfinished work on cutting government spending.

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Another example of Max Borders' false socioeconomic metaphors

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:30 AM

A subheadline in the latest Newsweek tells us "The government seems to have run out of ideas for rebuilding the economy."

I suspect that line might make Max Borders wince, given his aversion to the "economy as machine" metaphor.

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History is repeating itself

Posted by George Leef at 08:05 AM

The Great Depression was as severe and long-lasting as it was because Hoover and even more FDR pursued anti-market, wealth-destroying policies. Obama is doing exactly the same thing.

Professor Walter Williams explains in this column.

One point I wish he had added was that each of our recessions and depressions was triggered by governmental manipulation of money and credit, going back to the machinations of the Bank of the United States, which was responsible for the Panic of 1819.

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Real jobs versus fake jobs

Posted by George Leef at 07:48 AM

As Lew Rockwell explains in this column the government creates the latter sort.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:02 AM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features David Bass' report on the General Assembly's refusal to lift North Carolina's charter school cap. 

John Hood's Daily Journal explains that North Carolina businesses will be penalized no longer for failing to comply with tax rules the state doesn't publish.

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Latest dispatches from the campaign trail

Posted by David N. Bass at 06:30 AM

  • U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-7th, backs off support for offshore drilling.

  • The National Right to Life Political Action Committee backs McIntyre over his Republican opponent Ilario Pantano. McIntyre has a 100 percent pro-life voting record, according to the group.

  • N.C. pols have to watch their step as new media outlets emerge.

  • Obama sagging, Republicans surging in new poll.

  • Public Policy Polling: “Early signs this year … are that ticket splitting may be out the door, and animosity toward Barack Obama could hand Republicans control of the General Assembly.” Those who don’t like Obama are planning to vote for state-level Republicans 80-6 percent.

  • National Review Online interviews U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge's opponent Renee Ellmers.

  • The Institute for Southern Studies takes a look at redistricting in 2011, an issue covered at the state level by CJ here.

  • Pro-life Susan B. Anthony List backs Renee Ellmers in the 2nd Congressional District race.

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