The Locker Room

January 14, 2011

The Comeback Kid?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:24 PM

Writing in the latest National Review, James Lileks questions the notion that the recent lame-duck congressional session marked a resurgence of Barack Obama's political prowess. In other words, Lileks questions the "Miracle of the Reinvested Mojo," a miracle that appeared to be confirmed by several unexpected victories:

Stunning Victory No. 1: He'd gotten the tax deal he never wanted and had long complained about with the prickly tone of a food critic forced to admit that the foie gras-stuffed veal is delicious though sodden with cruelty. He even admitted that raising taxes in a recession would be unwise, which was nice. It's a bit like a medieval blood-letter admitting that the patient should occasionally take a break from being covered with leeches, if only to produce a fresh supply of humours and phlogiston, but any sort of recognition of something called "economics" is welcome, regardless of the necessity that produced it.

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Why ObamaCare needs to be repealed

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:14 PM

It's a topic this forum has featured before, including Deroy Murdock's detailed 30-minute presentation on government-run health care as "bad medicine." The latest print version of National Review offers a succinct case for repealing — not tweaking or amending — the 2010 federal health care reform legislation:

The law weakens our economy by adding to the cost of employment. It threatens our already-parlous fiscal condition by creating a new entitlement and only pretending to pay for it. It staves off real Medicare reform by relying on price controls. It impedes upward mobility by raising effective marginal tax rates on low- and middle-income workers. It promises to retard medical innovation. And it is flatly inconsistent with the constitutional design.

The health-care legislation is also an integrated plan that cannot be fixed piecemeal or more than modestly improved. Republicans should not be intimidated by polls that appear to show this or that aspect of the law is popular. Those features of the bill are inseparable from its least popular provisions, the package as a whole remains unpopular, and there is no reason to expect that to change any time soon. The ban on insurers' taking account of sickness when offering policies and setting rates is popular in isolation, for example, but in order to work, it requires making the purchase of government-approved insurance compulsory.

During this weekend's 400th edition of Carolina Journal Radio, you'll hear Joe Coletti describe problems associated with a key plank of ObamaCare: the federal high-risk health insurance pool.

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One item for Ross' streamlining agenda

Posted by Rick Henderson at 2:45 PM

New UNC System President Thomas Ross is looking for ways to eliminate "unneccessary duplication" among UNC programs, reports the News & Observer.

Good. And it's about time.

Here's a no-brainer for the president's list: The forthcoming dental school at East Carolina University. As the Pope Center's Duke Cheston notes in this Carolina Journal column, "The school will cost nearly $100 million to build, with an additional $11.5 million in recurring funds every year from state taxpayers."

It's not at all clear the school could meet its stated purpose: producing dentists who will see more patients in the state's remote rural areas. A big reason some areas are "underserved," Cheston notes, is that more and more dentists have stopped seeing Medicaid patients due to cuts in Medicaid payments to practitioners. A new dental school in Greenville would do nothing to change that arithmetic.

Moreover, Cheston writes, in 2005 the American Dental Association "calculated that dental schools tend to increase their economic efficiency as enrollment rises to around 1,300 students. But ECU’s new dental school is expected to enroll 50 students per class (200 students total when at capacity) and UNC-Chapel Hill’s dental school is planning to increase enrollment to 100 students per class (400 total). If the ADA is correct, we are wasting millions by building a new low-capacity school when it would be prudent to increase the capacity of the existing one."

It's easiest to get rid of an unnecessary government program before it becomes established and entrenched. Yes, there's a hole in the ground in Greenville where the dental school is supposed to eventually reside. But it's quicker and cheaper to fill in that hole, reassign the students accepted at ECU to Chapel Hill, and shut down a needless and redundant drain on the state treasury before it gets started.

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I was premature in praising Shuler

Posted by David N. Bass at 1:38 PM

I was premature in praising Heath Shuler for saying he would begin carrying a concealed handgun in the wake of the Tucson shootings for self-defense. Because, you see, doing so would likely cause Shuler to run afoul of North Carolina law.

If Shuler is speaking at a political rally on state property in N.C. and carries a concealed weapon — even if he has a permit — that would violate state law:

It shall be unlawful for any person participating in, affiliated with, or present as a spectator at any parade, funeral procession, picket line, or demonstration upon any private health care facility or upon any public place owned or under the control of the State or any of its political subdivisions to willfully or intentionally possess or have immediate access to any dangerous weapon.

In addition, if Shuler wants to campaign at an event that charges admission (such as the State Fair), he won’t be able to pack.

I’m not conveying these facts to discourage Shuler from carrying concealed. Instead, I’m arguing it’s time for these absurd restrictions to end. Because we all know this man wouldn’t have paid a lick of attention to these laws had the tragic shootings occurred in North Carolina.

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Fannie Flono: students aren't widgets...

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 1:29 PM

Fannie Flono's column, "In children, investment returns take time," is typical Charlotte Observer fare.

School officials say the ROI [Return on Investment] is only an attempt to give parents more information. The information about per pupil expenditures and academic growth is valuable. But a number value isn't needed unless it will be used to provide less funding to "ineffective" schools based on those scores.

Officials said that's not the intent. Yet some school board members were latching on to ROI as a lever to tout underfunding of some schools, and overfunding of others - and to plug for a redistribution of resources.

That's wrongheaded, given the other factors that can affect those numbers. That's not to say that the school board, and the rest of us as taxpayers, should not want and urge efficient and effective use of our resources. We should. But children are not widgets. The return on investment in them can't be extracted easily or quickly.
Funny how lefties use the term "investment" so easily and quickly, but complain about those who earnestly attempt to measure (or better understand) it.

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New Jersey's Christie sets out second-year agenda

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:11 PM

Given the praise that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has attracted in this forum, you might be interested to read an account posted at Human Events recounting his plans for his administration's second year:

Christie said his administration would focus on three key areas in 2011: state spending, pension and benefit reform for public employees, and education reform.

Christie said his fiscal 2011 budget, enacted with only minor changes by the Democratic legislature last June, had reduced spending by 9 percent from the prior year, closing a projected $11 billion deficit without raising taxes. The budget accomplished this by making cuts – some as much as 39 percent – in every department in state government. It also contained cuts of more than $445 million in aid to municipalities and $800 million in state aid to schools on top of $475 million in education spending that was withheld from the prior year.

The governor said his budget for the next fiscal year will not restore those cuts, but will continue to reduce spending in an effort to undo New Jersey’s structural budget deficit.

“We can’t continue to spend money we don’t have. We can’t print money, and we can’t run deficits. So we have to continue to make some very tough decisions about what we can afford and what we can’t,” Christie said. “Next month, I will present to you my budget for fiscal year 2012. I will guarantee you this: It will be balanced, and it will not raise taxes.”

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Response to the Charlotte Observer's response to today's op-ed

Posted by Daren Bakst at 11:53 AM

The Charlotte Observer mischaracterizes almost everything about my op-ed.

Let’s clarify a lot of things:

1) Never have I stated the EPA doesn’t have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases (GHG). Nor have I said the EMC doesn’t have the authority to regulate GHG. This is the same mistake made in the original article regarding our objections. My concern is with the EPA’s Tailoring Rule. These are distinct issues that the Observer continues to muddle.

2) The Tailoring Rule wasn’t designed to minimize the harm to small businesses. It is an EPA rule that is designed to allow the agency to regulate GHG and to do so without getting slammed for creating “absurd results.”

When it was clear that the Clean Air Act would have created “absurd results” by mandating permitting of GHG, the proper legal action was not to regulate GHG. Instead, the EPA decided to ignore the law so they could find a way to regulate GHG.

North Carolina even expressed concern to the EPA about its legal analysis regarding the Tailoring Rule (as I discuss in my op-ed).

3) The EPA has issued rules (12/23/2010) clarifying that small emitting sources won’t be required to get permits at this time. See:

I also have spoken to the EPA about this issue.

However, even if these rules never were published, the EPA was well aware that many states had to go through the political process to implement these rules. Usually, states are given years to make such changes, and in this situation they have only been given months by the EPA.

North Carolina sent the EPA a letter, like other states did, that state rules may not go into effect until after January 2, 2011 because of our political process. As a practical matter, there was no risk in objecting to the state rules. The objections allow the legislature to decide how to address the Tailoring Rule. This can be done promptly.

Further, if there was such a serious concern from the Perdue Administration, Governor Perdue always could have issued an executive order as allowed by the state Administrative Procedure Act that would have made the EMC rules effective immediately. This was something I explained to the Observer for its original article.

4) The purpose of our objections was to allow the legislature to decide whether and/or how to comply with the regulations. This is a good government issue. Those who are elected and accountable to the people should make such a critical decision regarding whether North Carolina will regulate GHG for the first time ever. Unelected state bureaucrats shouldn’t make that decision.

The editorial gives the impression that I believe that non-compliance is the only course of action. My op-ed clearly states that risks do exist with non-compliance.

By objecting to the rule, JLF has made it possible for the legislature to address another possible absurd result where, by complying, North Carolina businesses would be forced to deal with GHG rules even if the federal mandate no longer exists. If other states didn’t have such a burden, North Carolina would be at a major competitive disadvantage.

5) I am happy to see the Charlotte Observer is so concerned about businesses. If an environmental group delayed the permitting of businesses, which is commonplace, I doubt they would express such concern. Yet, because permitting is being (allegedly) delayed because of a desire for good government, the rule of law, and state sovereignty, there is a cause for concern.

Bottom Line: JLF objected to the state rule out of principles that are fundamental to our country and the state of North Carolina. The legislature is the lawmaking body of this state, not the EMC. There should be a respect for the rule of law so when a federal agency is imposing illegal rules, the state should consider its role in being complicit in implementing those rules.

Finally, North Carolina should be concerned when a federal agency is trying to impose its will on our state—these are serious issues of federalism, and the proper role of a federal agency, that should at least be considered. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask for us to take a few weeks to allow the legislature to consider these issues.

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RE: Duncan's WaPo letter

Posted by Rick Henderson at 11:50 AM


Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity also responded to Arne Duncan's letter, this time on The Corner.

In addition to citing a point you raised — Wake County's program was designed to satisfy economic rather than racial diversity — Clegg notes that

social scientists disagree on whether greater racial diversity in public schools has any positive effects at all, and even if there are some marginal positive effects, school boards can legitimately conclude that the social and monetary costs of race-based student assignments outweigh them. ...

More fundamentally, if the now-rescinded policy was used with an eye toward achieving particular racial results, that would raise serious problems under the federal civil-rights laws that Secretary Duncan is supposed to be enforcing. Such race-based student assignments would also be inconsistent with the American “core values” and “racial equality” that he cites.

Not a good job by the secretary.

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York explores the future of NPR funding

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:57 AM

Byron York's latest Washington Examiner article discusses congressional Republicans' attitude toward the future of NPR funding:

For years, Republicans have wanted to cut off federal funding for National Public Radio. They tried and failed in the 1990s, but now, with a new GOP majority in the House, they're ready to try again. It's still a long shot, but they have a fighting chance.

There are two reasons House Republicans are more optimistic than before: concern over federal spending and the lingering fallout from NPR's decision to fire commentator Juan Williams.

"We're running annual deficits of over a trillion dollars," says Rep. Doug Lamborn, the Colorado Republican who has written a new bill to defund NPR. "With 500 cable TV channels, Internet on people's cell phones, satellite radio, we have so many sources of media that we don't need a government-subsidized source of media."

Lamborn introduced an NPR-defunding bill last year but couldn't get much support. That changed in October when NPR fired Williams for confessing that he sometimes gets nervous when people in Muslim garb board airplanes. "Before the Juan Williams issue came up, it really wasn't on a lot of people's radar screens," says Lamborn. "People said, 'Oh, you can't go against Big Bird.' "

The "Big Bird" argument -- that defunding public broadcasting would kill beloved programming like "Sesame Street" -- is the oldest plea in the book for defenders of government-funded media. But Lamborn's narrowly focused bill is aimed specifically at NPR, and not at all of public broadcasting.

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Check out the PS to this letter by Boudreaux

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 09:38 AM

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Jack Roney, lead economist for the U.S. Sugar Alliance, insists that “Sugar policy operates at no cost to the government” (Letters, Jan. 14).

A quibble: American taxpayers pay for the customs agents and other resources used to prevent these same taxpayers from buying sugar on open global markets.  These expenses are, in common parlance, costs to the government.
More than a quibble: even if Uncle Sam’s sugar policy “operates at no cost to the government,” it operates at significant costs to Americans.  In 2009, this policy forced Americans to pay 16 cents more per pound of sugar than the world price of 22.1 cents – or, 72 percent more for sugar than we would have paid were there no sugar ‘policy.‘  Given the amount of sugar Americans consume, this fact means that, in 2009, the supposedly ‘cost-free’ U.S. sugar program picked Americans’ pockets to the tune of $2.5 billion.

Supporters of this sour policy deserve to be caned.

Donald J. Boudreaux

I hasten to add that the final sentence of the above letter is not meant to be a literal call for violence against those who don’t hesitate to threaten violence against peaceful people who wish to pay lower, world prices for sugar.


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Response to an anti-Tea Party rant

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 09:21 AM

I participate on a listserv of veterans of the Army Security Agency Field Station in Berlin. One of my

former associates posted a rant against the "Tea Party blow hards who scream,'if it ain't in the Constitution, then we don't need it'". 


My response follows:


Great rant.  I do it often. If we are to have the rule of law and not the rule men we must follow the proper procedures.  So if the citizens of this great nation want the FAA, etc. then the proper procedure is to amend the Constitution giving the federal government increased powers.  I think we should respect those guys 200 years ago. They lived under oppression that is hard for us to understand.  They knew history in more detail than most of us.  They operated colonial governments and wrote new constitutions for 13 new states.  They witnessed the weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation. They knew first hand how interest groups (called "stakeholders" today) operated to destroy the will of the general population. (Federalist #10)


It is important to recognize that where we are today is the product of a concerted effort by Progressives starting in the 1880s.  They looked not to John Locke and other English and Scottish philosophers, but to the German philosopher Hegel.  They saw the fundamental structures established in the Constitution (checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers) impediments that should be abolished. And to a large extent they have been successful in abolishing those structures that protect our liberty. For example, the EPA is in the process of imposing regulations that were specifically rejected by Congress.  Is that the rule of law or the rule of unelected, unaccountable men?


Thus the "blow hards" you speak of are recognizing the fundamental subversion of the Constitution and asking the public to decide: does the nation recognize and uphold the Constitution that the Founders wrote or should we continue our journey as a nation based on the political theory of the German philosopher Hegel and the Progressives who despised the Constitution?


The question before the nation today is just that simple.


BTW, I would love to have you attend my presentation at our Citizens' Constitutional Workshop tomorrow in Morehead City, NC where we discuss these issues in detail. See the specifics at


Michael Sanera

FSB 71-73








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Duke Gang of 88 member to the NEH

Posted by George Leef at 08:59 AM

President Obama has appointed Duke professor Cathy Davidson, a member of the "Gang of 88" who were champing at the bit to have the false-accused lacrosse players punished for a crime that did not occur, to the National Endowment for the Humanities. Jay Schalin comments on this in today's Pope Center piece.

This brings to mind what the libertarian writer Frank Chodorov said at the height of the McCarthy frenzy: "If you're worried about communists in government jobs, just get rid of the government jobs." That sentiment is just as applicable here. The humanities would be no worse off if we stopped spending money on the NEH.

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Arne Duncan's WaPo letter re Wake County

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 08:21 AM

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, weighs in,

America's strength has always been a function of its diversity, so it is troubling to see North Carolina's Wake County School Board taking steps to reverse a long-standing policy to promote racial diversity in its schools ["In N.C., a new battle on school integration," front page, Jan. 12]. The board's action has led to a complaint that has prompted an investigation by our Office for Civil Rights, but it should also prompt a conversation among educators, parents and students across America about our core values. ...
Wake County did not have a "long-standing policy to promote racial diversity." It was a policy implemented for 10 years aimed at promoting "socioeconomic" diversity. Race-based busing is a no-no according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And for all of that "diversity," Wake County achieved a 56.3 percent graduation rate for black males and a 50.3 percent graduation rate for Hispanic males. Arne claims to care about student achievement, but, in this case, Arne really took his eye off the ball.

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This weekend on Carolina Journal Radio

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:17 AM

Carolina Journal Radio marks its 400th edition this weekend by highlighting some of the most interesting people who’ve shared their insights and analysis with the program over the past 7 ½ years. You’ll hear comments from Steve Forbes, P.J. O’Rourke, Walter Williams, Peggy Noonan, Bill Kristol, and other leading libertarian and conservative thinkers.

John Hood joins us to discuss the crisis of structural budget deficits for state governments across the country, while Joseph Coletti will dissect some of the latest negative unintended consequences associated with federal health care reform — focusing especially on the new federal “high-risk pool.”

You’ll hear highlights from Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner’s 2011 economic forecast, and Fayetteville State University professor Edward Stringham will outline the benefits of an increased reliance on private law enforcement.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:09 AM

This week's Carolina Journal Online Friday interview features a conversation with Fayetteville State University professor Edward Stringham about the importance of economic freedom. 

Becki Gray's guest Daily Journal urges the new Republican legislative leadership not to be like "them."

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