The Locker Room

May 14, 2010

Kinsley takes on Tea Party people

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:05 PM

Michael Kinsley deserves credit for avoiding in his latest Atlantic column the insulting labels and cheap shots many of his brethren in the left-of-center media typically hurl at Tea Party activists.

Still, Kinsley offers a few head-scratching assessments:

The press, both alarmed and delighted by this political force that sprang from nowhere, is eager to prove its lack of elitism and left-wing bias by treating the Tea Party activists with respect.

Really? I'll bet that's news to Jon Ham:

If that's not enough, Kinsley adds this whopper later in the piece:

“I like what they’re saying. It’s common sense,” a random man-in-the-crowd told a Los Angeles Times reporter at a big Tea Party rally. Then he added, “They’ve got to focus on issues like keeping jobs here and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.” These, of course, are projects that can be conducted only by Big Government.

Really? It's government that creates jobs and lowers prices? It seems Mr. Kinsley has forgotten the lesson learned upon the completion of his successful brain surgery.

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Crony Capiltalism/the oil industry/and BP

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 2:51 PM

This article by my long time friend Sheldon Richman, editor of the Foundation for Economic Education's magazine, The Freeman, explains why the BP affair is far from a failure of the free market but is rather a failure of progressivist crony capitalism.

This is not the story of a well-meaning or negligent firm operating in the free market... BP is a player in a corporatist system that for generations has featured a close relationship between government and major business firms...Prominent companies have always been influential at all levels of government — and no industry more so than oil, which has long been a top concern of the national policy elite, most particularly the foreign-policy establishment. When state governments failed in the 1920s to put a lid on unruly competition and low prices, the oil companies turned to Franklin Roosevelt and the federal government, winning the cartelizing Petroleum Code, significant parts of which were revived after the National Recovery Administration was declared unconstitutional. In the 1950s, when cheap imports depressed prices, the national government imposed quotas on Middle Eastern oil. (In 1960 OPEC, a “cartel to confront a cartel,” was founded.) Republican or Democratic, energy policy is not made without oil industry input...The coziness between government and the oil industry is also apparent in the cap on liability for damages – a paltry $75 million — from offshore oil spills (not including cleanup costs). The interesting question is whether BP’s dubious conduct would have been different without the cap.

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Looking backward

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:41 PM

In his latest "editor's note," James Bennet of The Atlantic finds a curious trend when he examines a series of articles collected under the title "The Future Of The City."

[T]he astute, independent-minded reader—which is to say, of course, you—may grow suspicious. Are we really out to embrace the future, or to re-create some idealized past? After all, Christopher Leinberger, in “Here Comes the Neighborhood,” proposes innovative policies so that, in some ways, our cities of the future can look … like our communities of the early 20th century, when streetcars laced together every town of more than 5,000 people. John Freeman Gill, in "Ghosts of New York," yearns for renewed imagination for art in our public spaces … like we had back in 19th-century New York. Are we committing a mistake similar to the one that Benjamin Schwarz, in "Gentrification and Its Discontents," attributes to acolytes of the urban preservationist Jane Jacobs—trying to seal in amber everything we happen to like, and pretend that the rest can just go away? 

Carolina Journal Radio listeners might remember Michael Sanera discussing this same topic when he unveiled his glossary of government planning jargon:

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Blame shifting on ObamaCare abortion

Posted by David N. Bass at 2:30 PM

Given my view that the term "pro-life Democrat" has become an oxymoron in the aftermath of ObamaCare, I wasn't surprised at this story on discussing tension in the bi-partisan House Pro-Life Caucus.

Some "pro-life" Democrats who voted for the final health care package are none too pleased at being targeted by legit pro-life groups in an election year:

Some members say they're not sure whether the [caucus] will continue to function.

"Whether or not ... we'll continue working together, I don't know," said Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio). "I would hope so."

Driehaus, who voted for the bill, said he thinks the group's fate may rest in the hands of antiabortion groups such as National Right to Life and the Susan B. Anthony List, which have taken a strong line against the bill.

Already, the caucus is being shaken up by the retirement of co-chairman Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who announced in April that he would not seek re-election after 17 years in office.

That was compounded last week, when Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) lost a Democratic primary after being hit with negative radio and TV ads by antiabortion groups for his vote for health care.

Rep. Driehaus is wrong. The fate of pro-life cooperation between the parties on ObamaCare always rested in Democrats' hands. After compromising their principles for a flimsy executive order, now they want to avoid paying the price of opposition from real pro-life advocates.

If Democrats truly had cared about cohesion in the caucus, they would have stuck to their guns and voted against legislation that lacked language banning taxpayer-subsidized abortion.

Stupak himself casts aspirations on the pro-life movement in an article appearing in the latest issue of Newsweek:

Ultimately, what stings the most isn't the hatred ... It's that people tried to use abortion as a tool to stop health-care reform, even after protections were added.

It's a good thing Stupak is leaving office, because such ridiculous assertions would be gasoline on the fire in his re-election bid. To suggest that millions of pro-life activists with genuine convictions about unborn human life used abortion only as a catalyst to deep-six a government takeover of health care is absurd on its face.

Again, if pro-life cooperation between Democrats and Republicans is eroding, the ruling party should look to itself for blame.

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Senate budget

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 2:02 PM

Senate budget documents from the HHS, Transportation, Natural and Economic Resources (including Agriculture and Commerce), and Justice and Public Safety subcommittees are online thanks to the hard working NC Capitol press corps. Big ups to Mark Binker at the News & Record and Josh Ellis at State Government Radio for doing what the legislature did not.

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The Independent Weekly hates this bill, thus we love it

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 12:45 AM

The bill, sponsored by Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, would require cities to have a vote before assuming massive debt to install broadband cable TV, phone and internet services.  This should not be anything new. All city debt should be put to a vote. Instead cities have been using Certificates of Participation to run up the debt for pet projects without a vote of the people.

Should cities be in the broadband business?  Ask the citizens of Davidson who are stuck with a broadband lemon and owe $2 million this year on their system that will likely mean a tax increase.  Jeff Taylor reports the details in this Carolina Journal article

 We warned Wilson here and Salisbury here about the dangers when they were building their broadband systems last year.

The Independent's reporters claim to be defenders of democracy, except when voters might use common sense and vote down their pet projects.

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Tax gimmicks in the House

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:52 AM

Just learned some details on one proposal (House Bill 1721, the H.E.L.P. Small Business Act - never trust a bill with a cute acronym)* to turn the governor's gimmick of tax credits for small business that hire people. These make it clear that any business that hires somebody based on the tax credit shouldn't be in business.

Your business would have to show your average number of full-time employees the year before you hire someone, then show the average number of full-time employees the year you do the hiring to qualify for a $1,000 tax credit per new job.

You then have to keep that job for three years. So the tax credit works out to $333 per year based on your faith in the economy to keep a person on staff for three full years. If you downsize at any point in the next three years, you have to repay the tax credit (just like Dell). You might be able to fire other people, just not the person you hired for to qualify for the tax credit.

It's also not clear how long a person has to be on staff and whether the average number of employees has to rise by at least 0.5 to qualify for the tax credit. On the other side, if you hired someone on January 1 and you plan to get the tax credit, then another employee moves, you still might not qualify for the credit.

Your small company will have to do all of this reporting, then lose all of your privacy as a firm because the Commerce Department will publish a report detailing credits claimed "itemized by taxpayer." Other statutory tax credits are aggregated so we don't see who gets them. This may make sense from a transparency side, but is another cost for the small business.

One more time now. If you want businesses to grow and hire people, really reduce government spending to a sustainable level and provide a better tax climate. Micromanaging small businesses from the legislature is not the way.

* Added bill information and link.

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The importance of 2010 legislative elections nationwide

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:04 AM

The latest print version of U.S. News also reminds us why we ought to pay attention to more than just the congressional races during the 2010 election campaign.

Contributing editor Peter Roff, a senior fellow at the small-government advocacy group Institute for Liberty and at the conservative grass-roots group Let Freedom Ring, explains.

The real battle to determine the nation's political alignment for at least the next decade is happening down ballot and below the radar.


Here's why: The new census data will be used to reallocate the seats in the House to match population changes over the last decade, a process called reapportionment. Each state's congressional district lines will also be redrawn, called redistricting. In most cases, the ability to control that process in a particular state is the privilege of the majority. That's why party committees, allied organizations, and interest groups sink millions of dollars into these fights to win key governorships and control of state legislative chambers. If one party can gain control of all the pens in a big state like Pennsylvania or Ohio, it gets to draw the lines. And it ca be ruthless. After the 1980 census, California Democrats — led by the late Rep. Phil Burton — redrew the Golden State's House districts, plunging the GOP into permanent minority status there. And that was before the computer revolution allowed political strategists a far greater degree of gerrymandering precision. They can now select voters down to a neighborhood level when fine tuning a new district's partisan bent, adding to their ability to maximize their side's advantage. In 2003, the Texas Republicans' remap of congressional districts — drawn after the party won control of the legislature in 2002 — took the Lone Star State's House delegation from 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans to a 21 to 11 advantage for the GOP.

Roff does not mention the state-level impact. Redistricting also determines whether the two parties will have a level playing field or stacked deck for the elections that determine who crafts the state budget and who gets to fast-track or kill legislation in the General Assembly.

For more on redistricting, check out the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law's "Constitutional Conversation" on the topic from May 2009. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

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Latest dispatches from the campaign trail

Posted by David N. Bass at 09:30 AM

  • Politico reports that Republican losers in the 7th Congressional District are weighing options to undermine the winner.

  • The 11th Congressional District race is going to be “really close” and “really ugly," argues a columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times.

  • State Sen. Tony Foriest's Republican opponent, Rick Gunn, touts his fiscal conservatism.

  • The man who once held the seat, former Congressman Robin Hayes endorses Harold Johnson in the 8th Congressional District GOP runoff.

  • Richard Burr disputes the findings of a Public Policy Polling survey that put his two potential Democratic challengers close to him in support.

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Interesting comment from U.S. News editor

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 09:25 AM

In his "editor's note" for the latest print version of U.S. News & World Report, Brian Kelly explains that he'd rather "referee" than participate in the debate about government involvement in the economy.

But the following comment attracted my attention:

Tea Parties, talk radio, cable partisanship, and Internet money bombs are only part of the hyperactive climate that's been created by a president with an agenda that at least half of the electorate is not buying. [Emphasis added.]

Kelly might be overly generous to President Obama. Even so, it's telling that a major figure in the mainstream media admits that "at least" a majority of American voters reject the president's ideas.

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Byron York explores the Supreme Court nominee's record

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:42 AM

Byron York's latest piece for the Washington Examiner disputes the notion that President Obama's latest Supreme Court nominee has a sparse "paper trail": 

"We're talking about tens of thousands of pages," says Susan Cooper, spokeswoman for the National Archives and Records Administration. "It's a massive job."

Cooper is discussing the work of processing papers from Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's two years, 1995 and 1996, in the Clinton White House Counsel's Office. During that time, Kagan, like any overworked staff lawyer, handled a wide variety of issues and wrote or contributed to thousands of memos, e-mails and other documents. Those papers, boxes and boxes of them, are at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, under the supervision of the archives.

You've probably heard a lot of talk about Kagan not having a paper trail. It's not true. In fact, she has a long paper trail. The only question is whether the senators who vote on her confirmation will be allowed to see it.

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This weekend on Carolina Journal Radio

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:00 AM

What lessons can we learn from the primary elections as we look forward to the June 22 runoff and the general election campaign this fall? Rick Henderson offers some ideas during the next edition of Carolina Journal Radio.

We’ll also learn details about months of study that have yet to yield any concrete ideas for consolidating North Carolina’s Smart Start and More at Four early-childhood programs.

Two guests will puncture some popular myths. Economic geographer Pierre Desrochers will tackle the purported environmental benefits of the 100-mile diet, while Robert Murphy, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal, will address the notion that the Federal Reserve’s actions over the past couple of years have helped the United States avoid a second Great Depression.

Plus Donna Martinez and I will conduct another session of Locker Room Talk, an examination of the best recent entries from this forum.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:36 AM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Jeff A. Taylor's report about taxpayers being stuck with a $6.4 million bill to bail out the municipal broadband service for Davidson and Mooresville. 

This week's Friday interview features Donna Martinez's conversation with Roy Cordato about problems associated with the state's certificate-of-need law.

Melissa Mitchell's guest Daily Journal explains why President Obama is wrong when he attempts to identify the source of her anger.

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