The Locker Room

February 23, 2011

Restraining government spending: Good for more than just Americans

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:36 PM

The latest video from Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute examines the benefits of government spending restraint in Canada, Ireland, Slovakia, and New Zealand.

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Obama Administration Won't Defend the Defense of Marriage Act

Posted by Daren Bakst at 4:09 PM

As reported, the Obama Administration has decided it will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  This is unusual because the Justice Department usually defends federal statutes.

While the major focus has been on the fact that the law defines marriage as between one man and one woman, there's also another major aspect of DOMA: States don't have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.  In fact, this state sovereignty issue is what drove the passage of DOMA.

In the cited article, the Obama Administration seems to be focused on this marriage definition:

Attorney General Eric Holder said President Barack Obama has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.

As I mentioned, their job is to defend federal statutes, but even assuming they have a valid reason not to defend the statute as it relates to the marriage definition, why does this preclude the Administration from defending the state sovereignty provision?

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The Decline of Islam?

Posted by Duke Cheston at 4:06 PM

Last night in Chapel Hill, Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a founder of Hamas turned Israeli spy, gave a speech about his experiences and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His story shed some significant light on the conflict, but the most shocking part of his speech concerned not geopolitics but religion.

"Islam is the problem," Yousef repeated several times during a speech sponsored by Christians United for Israel, a UNC-CH student group. He came to this conclusion several years after nearly becoming a terrorist himself.

At the age of seventeen, seeing the suffering his family had endured at the hands of the Israelis, he had sought to retaliate against the infidels. Thankfully, he says now, the Israelis arrested him before he had a chance.

After torturing Yousef for three months, the Israelis asked him if he wanted to become a spy for the Jewish state. Thinking that he could be a double agent and learn more about his enemies, Yousef agreed.

However, the more he found out about Israel, the more respect he gained for his enemies and the more he saw to be wrong with the Palestinians (and Islam generally). He eventually converted to Christianity, citing Christ's admonition to "love thy neighbor as thyself" as a key part in his conversion, since it closely reflected his own internal moral compass.

That same moral compass--and his new-found Christianity--encouraged him to help the Israelis, not because he had chosen sides in the conflict, but because he saw himself as working to prevent violence--violence that, as Yousef sees it, stems from the nature of Islam. Although he said he would try to avoid ruffling feathers, he did say that he felt Islam to be inherently violent, comparing the life of Mohammad, Islam's founder, to Jesus, the founder of Christianity.

He said that the key to a lasting peace is not a two-state solution, one-state solution, or any other sort of negotiated settlement. The key, he thinks, is to end Islam, and win converts to Christianity.

Shockingly, Yousef said that he could foresee this--the large scale abandonment of one of the world's largest religions--happening within ten years. New technology is making information easier and easier to spread (as an example of its power, he cited the recent wave of dictator-toppling protests across the Middle East), and, he thinks, once people see what's wrong with Islam, they will convert as he did.

Although not going quite that far in terms of predictions, other observers have also noticed a rise in Middle Eastern Christians. Writing at National Review Online, Joel C. Rosenberg said, "Their numbers [i.e. the number of Muslims turned Christians] have swelled into the millions since 1979, despite widespread (and recently intensifying) persecution."

A number of Muslims in attendence felt offended by Yousef's speech. A couple of head-scarf-clad young women sitting in front of me repeatedly shook their heads in disagreement and left before Yousef finished talking.

A student-led discussion following the speech consisted mainly of hand-wringing about what questions were in-bounds and out-of-bounds when discussing religion. However, the discussion revealed that Yousef had deeply challenged some students, causing some to be upset and others to be reflective.

Overall, it was one of the best speeches I've seen at UNC-CH, and Mosab Yousef is certainly someone to keep an eye on.

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Corporate tax rates around the world

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:51 PM

As North Carolina debates a potential decrease in its corporate tax rate (Gov. Beverly Perdue wants to drop the rate from 6.9 percent to 4.9 percent, while Joseph Coletti advocates an even greater corporate tax rate reduction), the Cato Institute has released new information about effective corporate tax rates in 83 countries around the world. (You'll find the information at this PDF link.)

From Cato's Chris Edwards:

In 2010, the U.S. effective corporate rate of 34.6% was almost twice the 17.7% average rate in 83 countries. The U.S. effective tax rate was also the highest in the OECD.

“Effective” rates show the tax burden on new corporate investment, taking into account both statutory rates and aspects of the tax base.

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DPI helped to raise the graduation rate?

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 2:43 PM

Democratic State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson addressed the Joint Education Appropriations Subcommittees this morning. She claimed,

Another fair question is how can DPI, show we have made a positive impact on public education. In 5 years, our graduation rate has gone from about 68 percent to 74.2, the highest it has ever been. DPI contributed to that growth.
If you are a public school teacher or administrator in North Carolina, tell me what you think about Dr. Atkinson's "common sense" claim. How did DPI contribute to your district's graduate rate increase/decrease?

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Dems willing to eat their own young--and yours

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 2:08 PM

This from The Hill today, on remarks offered by Rep. Michael Capuano (D. Mass.), commenting on the Wisconsin unions situation:

"I’m proud to be here with people who understand that it’s more than just sending an email to get you going," Capuano said, according to the Statehouse News. "Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary."

Never mind that what appears to be the express endorsement of violence (re: 'get bloody') is issued, the Dems do-anything-to-win side in this struggle has resorted to the most inflammatory hyperbole (immediate comparisons to Stalin, Hitler, and other popular mass murderers), they are clearly willing and ready to sacrifice the future well-being of their own young, and ours, in the cause of immediate infantile self-gratification and power.

Well, when a bunch of elected state legislators decides to throw a tantrum by leaving the state of Wisconsin to avoid a vote—the toddler equivalent of hiding their eyes behind their hands in a corner—what else can you expect? Anyone else who avoided responsibilities at their work with that tactic would surely get the well-deserved axe.

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JLF education expert urges lawmakers to 'repeal and replace' disputed tests

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:01 PM

The current flap over four North Carolina high school end-of-course tests targeted for elimination demonstrates the need for lawmakers to amend their plans.

That's the conclusion Terry Stoops has reached after reviewing the situation. Regardless of the merits of Judge Howard Manning's decision to insert himself in the legislative debate over the tests, Stoops says the judge points out correctly that a constitutionally guaranteed sound basic education requires some form of test.

Stoops agrees with the majority of N.C. House members that the disputed tests — for U.S. History, Civics and Economics, Algebra II, and Physical Science — aren't working. He argues for a "repeal and replace" strategy.

Learn more here and by clicking play below.

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Budget chief propounds the great myth about Social Security

Posted by George Leef at 12:22 AM

Consistent with the Obama regime's strategy of trying to convince people that things are well under control and therefore they should re-elect the Dear Leader, Budget Director Jacob Lew is saying that Social Security is sound because it has a "trust fund" full of government bonds.

Don Boudreaux responds sharply in this letter:


Editor, USA Today

Dear Editor:

Budget director Jacob Lew assures us that Social Security is solvent
because the Social Security "trust fund" contains lots of U.S. Treasury
bonds "backed with the full faith and credit of the U.S. government -
and are held in reserve for when revenue collected is not enough to pay
the benefits due" ("Social Security isn't the problem," Feb. 22).

Yes, the Social Security "trust fund" is indeed filled with ample
quantities of interest-bearing U.S. treasuries. But the same
organization (Uncle Sam) that is the creditor on these treasuries is
also the debtor on them. Ask: when Uncle Sam cashes in these
treasuries to get funds to pay promised Social Security benefits, who
pays Uncle Sam the principal and interest on these treasuries? Answer:
Uncle Sam - who must, of course, raise taxes on flesh-and-blood people
to get the dollars that he pays to himself so that he can then pay out
promised Social Security benefits.

I.O.U.s written to one's self are not assets. They are, instead,
pathetic reminders of one's gross financial irresponsibility.

Bernie Madoff is in jail - rightly so - for duping people with the same
sort of financial flim-flammery that the White House budget director
today peddles in your pages.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University

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Reason's 19 Percent Solution

Posted by George Leef at 12:12 AM

Writing in Reason Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy argue in favor of the "19 Percent Solution" to our fiscal mess. That is, they advocate limiting federal spending to 19 percent of GDP. That figure happens to coincide with the fairly steady federal tax haul of about 19 percent, which has held for decades no matter what the pols in office did regarding tax rates.

Well, this is all right as a starting point. It's like a terribly obese person setting as an initial goal fitting into last year's outgrown pants. It should not be the long-run goal, however, because federal spending of 19 percent (the politicians will regard that as their entitlement) still means enormous waste of resources -- subsidies for all manner of things politicians like, government programs that ought to be left to voluntary action, employees who, as the Declaration of Independence said of British colonial officials, "harass the people and eat out their substance."

Our long-run goal should not be to limit federal spending to 19 percent of GDP, but to limit it to just those few functions the government should perform under the Constitution.

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New CJO exclusive: Education tax credit bill leads to war of words

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 11:59 AM

David Bass' latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive focuses on the debate surrounding proposed education tax credits for North Carolina.

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Who Needs Corporate Welfare?

Posted by Paul Chesser at 11:31 AM

Perhaps Florida's new Republican Gov. Rick Scott is envious of all the attention his colleagues in other states are getting based upon their conservative leadership, as he explains his own actions today in the Washington Times. One noteworthy proposal is his desire to slash business taxes in order to lure companies to the Sunshine State, rather than emphasize the corporate welfare (targeted economic incentives) warfare that states wage against one another:

My goal is to make Florida the No. 1 business state in the nation. We will be the state for job creation. And the first step in that direction is to begin phasing out the business tax by reducing it from 5.5 percent down to 3 percent this year. Over the next seven years, we'll phase it out completely. Already our state has seen job growth just from the potential of that tax cut being enacted into law. Last week, Bing Energy, a fuel-cell company based in California, announced it was moving its corporate headquarters to Florida, based in part on the promise of lower taxes. Florida was in direct competition with Illinois and Massachusetts, each of which offered millions more dollars in incentives upfront than Florida. But the company decided the potential business income-tax cut and business environment on the horizon for Florida far outweighed what other states could offer.

The result? Two-hundred-and-fifty new jobs are coming to Florida.

Imagine that: A company that defers on the instant gratification of a big government handout in favor of a friendlier overall business climate. Maybe it will start a trend. Bev?

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Cutting our oversize state university budget down to size

Posted by George Leef at 10:48 AM

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call Jay Schalin writes about the need to pare down North Carolina's spending on higher education in the face of our large budget deficit. He suggests six criteria for the legislators to keep in mind. They would be just as applicable in other states.

It's too bad that state university spending only comes in for serious examination when the budget is awash in red ink. There is no reason to tolerate the considerable waste of resources in state university systems just because it appears that we can afford it. But until now, higher ed has pretty much had sacred cow status.

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DeMint praises Tea Party activists in speech to Charlotte-area crowd

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:10 AM

A packed room at the Charlotte Motor Speedway's Speedway Club heard U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., praise Tea Party activists last night for their role in pushing his fellow Republicans toward more conservative public policy positions.

Click play below to watch DeMint's 17:00 presentation.

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Gingrich weighs in on Wisconsin

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 09:54 AM

Newt Gingrich's latest column at Human Events urges voters to help Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:

It is vital that every one of us help Governor Scott Walker today.

In Madison, Wisconsin, we are witnessing a profound struggle between the right of the people to govern themselves and the power of entrenched, selfish interests to stop reforms and defy the will of the people.

In 2010, Wisconsin Republicans ran on a clear agenda of reforming government to gain control of spending. This agenda included many reforms to state government employee pay.

These reforms were desperately opposed by the Democrats and union bosses during the campaign and a full and vigorous debate on the merits of these reforms took place in the months before the election.

Then came the moment for the people of Wisconsin to make their choice – Election Day. And thanks in part to this bold agenda, the people of Wisconsin chose to switch control of the governorship, assembly and senate to Republicans.

The people of Wisconsin sent a clear message. They elected leaders that promised to change the way government operated in Madison. The will of the people was expressed through the ballot box, exactly how it is supposed to work in a representative democracy.

However, through a campaign of intimidation and cowardice, the government employee union bosses and the Democratic Party that is beholden to them, are trying to thwart the will of the people.

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The Heretic

Posted by Jon Sanders at 08:16 AM

Here is an excellent post from the Heartland Institute about 'The Heretic': A Play About Global Warming Skepticism and (in essence) Johnny Ball.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:47 AM

Karen Welsh's latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive focuses on a bill to block a controversial stream reclassification in Transylvania County. 

John Hood's Daily Journal examines a bipartisan effort to reform North Carolina's criminal justice and corrections programs.

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