The Locker Room

December 15, 2010

Graphing colossal economic folly

Posted by Jon Sanders at 5:25 PM

The following graph updates the by-now eminently risible Obama administration graph touting the need for the president's stimulus boondoggle. The graph now stands as a sterling rebuttal to the stimulus, as its unemployment worst-case scenario looks far preferable to the quagmire we've dearly bought for ourselves.

As others have done, I've updated the old chart with the actual unemployment numbers, but I've gone a step further. I've also added the recent economic "rescue bills" by both presidents Bush and Obama, plus the lame-duck Democrat Congress' proposed last feeding frenzy at the national trough; i.e., this $1.1 Trillion omnibus spending bill.

The graph should speak for itself (click it for a larger version):

Once again, it seems to me Congress and the president are closely following the 1930's Idiot's Guide for Driving the National Economy into a Tree.

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National Journal: We're OK with average

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 11:59 AM

The National Journal has no problem with mediocrity.

The OECD results are in, and teenagers in the United States are (drum roll, please) absolutely average.

Survey results released last week from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, found that 15-year-old students in the U.S. rank 14th in reading and 17th in science compared to other OECD countries. They fall far behind in math, where they rank 25th.

[Snip]

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, what's so awful about being average? In every graduating class, there can be only one valedictorian.
Checker Finn's head explodes,
Yikes. Why shouldn’t National Journal settle for being average, too, maybe like People, Road & Track, or Teen Star Hairstyles? Why shouldn’t American athletes settle for the middle of the pack in the summer and winter Olympics? Who really cares about gold medals? Oscars? Nobel Prizes? Three Michelin stars?

Yet you want us seriously to ponder the possibility that average is fine for the United States when it comes to education?
I would add that average is unacceptable for a nation that spends more on elementary and secondary education than any other (with the exception of Luxembourg).

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Jeffersonian Redux?

Posted by Dr. Troy Kickler at 11:55 AM

I was reading this article about history and the Tea Party movement.  Whether one agrees with the Tea Party, writes the author, he or she must be aware that it's "a century-long brewing Jeffersonian reaction to the triumph and overreach of Hamiltonian nationalism."

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Perdue addresses the Revenue and Budget Outlook for 2011

Posted by Becki Gray at 10:43 AM

The Honeymoon is over.  As the North Carolina General Assembly reconvenes on January 26, 2011, they will be looking at a $3.5B budget deficit. The General Assembly as well as Governor Perdue has an opportunity to transform state government.  Their decisions will either move us forward or take us backward.

Gov. Perdue highlighted steps to address the budget deficit that involves:
•    Consolidating and privatizing state government departments; including a restructuring of 14 departments to 8.
•    Eliminating duplication
•    Review of Boards and Commissions

Gov. Perdue will be sending her budget over to the GA and it will save millions and millions of dollars. The focus will be on core services, jobs and stable economy. Gov. Perdue will focus on reorganizing and getting rid of regulations.

Purdue also outlined three major steps to reform how the GA does business and to transform politics:
1. Limit session to 90 days for long and 45 days for short session.
2. Voter empowerment act with an independent redistricting commission
3. Transparency and accountability, review all statutes that apply to other agencies and branches of state government and apply them to the General Assembly.

Perdue promises that better days are ahead and asks for help in transforming state government.
 

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Identify the missing word in the N&O's voter ID editorial

Posted by Rick Henderson at 10:32 AM

It could have been worse — just read some of the sophomoric yowling on left-wing blogs, if you dare — but the News & Observer's editorial board did not shriek hysterically when taking on Republican lawmakers' pledge to pass legislation requiring voters to present ID at the polls.

While calling the proposal "cramped" and "unjustified," the editors leave out a word that would make their case against the plan more credible. Those who cannot present current, state-issued or authorized identifying documents will, the editors say,

either have to get a photo ID or stay away from the polls. The latter course is 180 degrees from the promise - and premise - of American democracy, which is that governments gain legitimacy with every additional vote.


What word did the editors exclude? "Valid." Governments gain legitimacy with every additional valid vote.

If the integrity of elections did not matter, then anyone of any age could cast a ballot -- infants, foreign tourists, death row inmates, non-citizen residents (those here legally and those not), dogs, cats, you name it. Why not let the dead vote? Early and often. It's the Chicago way ...

The proposal is designed to ensure that only those people who are eligible to vote exercise the franchise. That is all.

The editors state that some estimates show a "significant" number of adults lack ID, and then asserting "it's reasonable to guess that poor people and minorities are more likely to fall into that category." Is that based on any evidence? Or is it a sloppy (and paternalistic) assumption that poor people and minorities are too incompetent to keep up with those documents?

That said, the editorial did point out a provision the General Assembly should add to its plan to require picture ID at the polls: The government should provide ID cards free to those who can't afford them. That should do away with the final reasonable objection to an ID mandate.

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Correlation vs. causation: Education staffing levels

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 10:30 AM

Recently, our friends on the left pulled a passage from a consultant report that found a statistical relationship between staffing levels and student performance. The consultants wrote,

We found that it was always true that high performing districts have more staff than low or moderate performing districts and that it is generally true that moderate performing districts have more staff than low performing districts. This pattern is true for teachers, school level administrative support staff and guidance counselors.
Does this mean that high performing districts are "high performing" because they have more staff? To put it another way, would low performing districts become high performing districts if the state simply added personnel? Of course not - correlation is not causation.

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Perdue calls for session limits, redistricting commission, and application of public records law to General Assembly

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:29 AM

In a presentation this morning to the General Assembly, Gov. Beverly Perdue has called for:

  • legislative session limits (90 days in odd-numbered years and 45 days in even-numbered years),
  • an independent redistricting commission that would prepare the next set of election maps, and
  • application of state public-records laws to the work of the legislature.

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Berger names chief of staff, general counsel

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 09:53 AM

From Sen. Phil Berger's office:

Raleigh, N.C. – Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) announced today that he has appointed two additional members to fill out his transition team.

Jim Blaine will serve as Chief of Staff. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Blaine had served as executive director of the N.C. Republican Senate Caucus since 2005.

Tracy Kimbrell will serve as General Counsel. Kimbrell previously worked as an associate in the Raleigh office of Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein, LLP. Prior to joining Parker Poe, she worked in the office of Senate Minority Leader Patrick Ballantine. She is a graduate of N.C. State University and UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law.

Senator Berger said, “Jim and Tracy are both talented, experienced individuals and I value their counsel greatly as we move forward in this transition. As leaders they are second to none, but more than that, they are public servants ready to help put this state back on the right track.”

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Mandating our way to Nirvana

Posted by George Leef at 09:51 AM

The writer of this post at Pileus suggests, tongue-in-cheek, that maybe we should embrace the Obamacare notion that compelling people to buy certain things and use it to the fullest.

What would you like to have the government mandate?

I suggest classical music. I'm sure that there's a strong correlation between prosperity and enjoyment of classical music. If the feds mandated that everyone purchase sets of, oh, Bach's organ works, Mozart's concertos, and Beethoven's symphonies, there would be a beneficial impact on interstate commerce. And then the government could hire a lot of new employees to go around and check on people to see that they're listening to the music (federally approved music, that is -- we can't let people choose inferior stuff not OK'd by the Department of Health and Human Services) for a minimum amount of time each day. Doing that would create thousands of good jobs with high pay and benefits, thus lowering unemployment and increasing consumer purchasing power! Anyone found not to be in compliance would be subject to a fine. All the fines would go into the federal treasury, lowering the deficit. Good all around.

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Facebook founder named TIME's Person of the Year

Posted by David N. Bass at 09:45 AM

TIME has named Mark Zuckerberg, the youthful founder of Facebook, as its Person of the Year for 2010. Runners-up for the honor include the Tea Party, Hamid Karzai, Julian Assange, and the Chilean miners. Somehow, Lady Gaga made the short list, too.

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One way to ensure lawmakers know what's in the bill

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:30 AM

What should one do about a 2,000-page spending bill that no one in Congress has had a chance to read?

South Carolina's Jim DeMint has an idea, as David Freddoso explains for the Washington Examiner:

Democrats, having passed none of this fiscal year's appropriations, want to ram through the lame duck Senate a 2,000-page spending bill that no one had a chance to read. DeMint released the following statement yesterday. I've put the most important part in bold at the end:

“President Obama and Democrats have apparently learned nothing from this November’s election. This nearly 2,000-page omnibus filled with thousands of earmarks shows they are still determined to ram through as much big-government spending as they can in this lame duck session. Americans loudly demanded an end to the runaway spending, but Democrats are intent on raiding every taxpayer dollar that they can grab from the Treasury on their way out of power. This bill also funds the unconstitutional Obamacare law that Americans oppose and have asked Congress to fully repeal. Democrats haven’t given Republicans or the American people time to read the bill, but I’ll join with other Republican colleagues to force them to read it on the Senate floor.”

The reading could take 40 hours, some news outlets estimate. Last year, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., forced the reading of an 800-page amendment on the Senate floor. The reading ended when [Vermont Sen. Bernie] Sanders, who had proposed the amendment, came to the floor to withdraw it.

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Believing in fantasies

Posted by George Leef at 08:18 AM

John Stossel has a terrific column today in which he explores the allure of believing in fantasies. If people choose to believe in astrology and the like, it doesn't do much harm to the believer and none to the rest of us. The problem is that so many people believe in political fantasies: the government can cure poverty, the government can keep us all healthy, the government can stabilize the economy, and so on. Believing in those leads to waste of resources and the loss of freedom.

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Ezra Klein follows the ‘tax cuts for the rich’ theme

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:08 AM

Here’s one of the lessons Newsweek columnist Ezra Klein has learned from the tax deal between President Obama and congressional Republicans:
Republicans really, really, really care about tax cuts for rich people. Many Democrats had been operating under the theory that the GOP would obstruct everything they attempted, as that was the best way to make Obama a one-termer. But at least when it comes to tax cuts for very wealthy Americans, that’s not true. Republicans agreed to far more in unemployment insurance and stimulus proposals than anyone expected, and sources involved in the negotiations concur that the mistake Democrats made going in was underestimating how badly Republicans wanted the tax cuts for the rich extended.

Well, no. As discussed earlier in this forum, the idea that maintaining current top marginal tax rates benefits only “the rich” is a false premise.

Plus it might be too much to expect Mr. Klein to investigate the importance of top marginal tax rates.

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The public-sector union problem and public-choice economics

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:07 AM

The following passage from Iain Murray and F. Vincent Vernuccio’s article in the new National Review offers a good snapshot of why public-sector unionism has run amok in the 50 years since Wisconsin became the first state to allow government workers to unionize:

Such outlandish public-employee compensation is economic folly and bad policy — so why has it gone on for so long on such a massive scale? Quite simply, because government employees have, for years, cared more about their compensation than most taxpayers have. As public-choice theory shows, organized constituencies that stand to gain concentrated benefits have a great incentive to agitate politically for those benefits. Meanwhile, the large, unorganized general population that has to pay the taxes to support those benefits has much less of an incentive to oppose them, because the costs are diffused among a much larger number of individuals, each of whom bears only a small fraction of the total.

This results in a vicious circle. Politicians kowtow to government-employees’ unions, who in turn support their election campaigns. Once those pro-union candidates are elected, they can provide more pay and benefits to the unionized government employees. The union then collects dues from its members, which enables it to give more political support to the politicians, and the cycle goes on.

But politics can only trump economic reality for so long. Ultimately, such an arrangement is not sustainable. And the American people are now waking up to the fact that they’re getting a very bad deal.

Want more wisdom from the public-choice school of economics? A nice place to start is the book Common-Sense Economics.

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Unbundling the welfare state

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:06 AM

Those on the left end of the political spectrum might be shocked to learn that the cover story in the latest National Review — yes, William F. Buckley’s National Review — makes a case for the ongoing existence of a welfare state in the United States.

What author Jim Manzi doesn’t support, though, is the welfare state as it’s constituted today. Manzi’s primary theme involves “unbundling” the five components of the system that leads to taxpayer-supported pensions, health care, education, and welfare payments. The five components: a safety net, risk pooling, a requirement of prudent behavior from beneficiaries, redistribution of wealth beyond what’s required for the safety net and risk pooling, and a mechanism for the government to provide goods directly.

The first two components — provision of a safety net and the exploitation of economies of scale, such as risk pools — are legitimate government functions. But bundling them has an enormous drawback: It hides the transfer of wealth from the prudent to the imprudent. This is especially problematic in the modern environment. The safety net and risk pools should be different programs.

Not everyone on the right side of the political divide will offer such a sanguine approach to an ongoing welfare state — I can see objections from many of the contributors to this forum — but it would be interesting to see whether any folks on the left would be willing to consider Manzi’s ideas.

Put in place, they potentially would lead to a permanent welfare state that nonetheless fails to serve as one political party’s perpetual vote-producing machine.

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Has the incoming U.S. House majority whip been cribbing from JLF researchers?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:04 AM

One might get that impression after reading this quotation from National Review’s new profile of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.:
“From cameras in the Rules Committee to putting bills online at least 72 hours before a vote, we will enable people to know what’s happening, read the bills, and understand the debate. Better ideas will emerge, and the process will keep leadership power in check. It’ll be a healthy change.” [Emphasis added.]

That 72-hour provision — at least for budget bills — is one of the key recommendations the John Locke Foundation has offered North Carolina lawmakers to tackle in the First 100 Days of their new legislative session.

Joe Coletti explains why in the video clip below.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:55 AM

Michael Lowrey's latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive focuses on a recent ruling from the N.C. Court of Appeals that could limit a landowner's ability to challenge the constitutionality of local ordinances.

John Hood's Daily Journal analyzes a federal judge's decision to throw out a key piece of ObamaCare.

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