The Locker Room

September 15, 2010

New CJTV exclusive

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:08 PM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Anthony Greco's report on the factors contributing to Barack Obama's win in North Carolina's 2008 presidential contest.

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Think public schools need more money?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:10 PM

Then skip the latest column from John Stossel:

Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, writes that out of 14,000 school districts in the United States, just seven have cut their budgets seven years in a row. How about five years in a row? Just 87. That's a fraction of 1 percent in each case.

[U.S. Education Secretary Arne] Duncan may be pandering to his constituency, or he may actually be fooled by how school districts (and other government agencies) talk about budget cuts. When normal people hear about a budget cut, we assume the amount of money to be spent is less than the previous year's allocation. But that's not what bureaucrats mean.

"They are not comparing current year spending to the previous year's spending," Coulson writes. "What they're doing is comparing the approved current year budget to the budget that they initially dreamed about having."

So if a district got more money than last year but less than it asked for, the administrators consider it a cut. "Back in the real world, a K-12 public education costs four times as much as it did in 1970, adjusting for inflation: $150,000 versus the $38,000 it cost four decades ago (in constant 2009 dollars)," Coulson says.

Taxpayers need to understand this sort thing just to protect themselves from greedy government officials and teachers unions.

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Higher education's obesity problem: administrative bloat

Posted by George Leef at 10:07 AM

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I write about a recent study by the Goldwater Institute on the severe problem of administrative bloat in our colleges and universities.

Just one day after the study was released, UNC-Greensboro announced that it had created a new office for a Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. What splendid support for the study's thesis!

The paper is based on data from 198 leading universities and apparently the worst case of bloat among them was at Wake Forest, where spending on administrators increased 600 percent between 1993 and 2007.

Root of the problem: the leaders of non-profit institutions would rather spend their time figuring out how to squeeze more funds out of taxpayers, students, and donors than doing the unpleasant work of cutting out expenses that don't really do anything to improve education.

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Gingrich addresses the response to ObamaCare

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 09:48 AM

The latest Human Events column from former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich focuses on the appropriate response to ObamaCare:

Politically the American people have decisively repudiated this centralized government bureaucratic approach to healthcare. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, nearly two-out-of-three Americans want the law repealed.

This is an unprecedented situation; we have never had a major reform with this much opposition after it was passed.

In a free society, the people ultimately have control over their elected leaders through the process of elections. Therefore, it is very likely that the Washington-centered, bureaucratically dominated and politician-defined healthcare law will be repealed or so decisively changed as to have the effect of repeal.

The intensity of anger between those who support the Obama plan and those who oppose it cannot be ignored. Last week, we saw just how bitter the clash of values has become when the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius threatened to take action against private health plan companies if they continued to speak out against the new healthcare law. This only heightened Americans’ views that the Washington healthcare bureaucracy has indeed become too powerful and is using that power to silence anyone who opposes them.

The new Congress will face a big challenge in both governing and politics. If the Republicans take control, they will take steps to repeal or dramatically change Obama’s healthcare legislation. On the other hand, President Obama will use the veto to block any repeal.

The new Congress will face the challenge of moving beyond the deadlock to create positive change.

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Barone and the balance of enthusiasm

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:12 AM

Michael Barone finds some interesting patterns as he crunches numbers for his latest Washington Examiner article:

Only 13 million Americans have voted in Democratic primaries held before Sept. 1, according to Curtis Gans of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. During the same period, 17 million voted in Republican primaries.

As Gans points out, that's historic. Democratic primary turnout has been higher than Republican primary turnout in every off-year election since 1930.

That Republican margin may narrow a little as the returns from this week's primaries come in from states like New York, Massachusetts and Maryland, which have a lot more registered Democrats than registered Republicans. Yet in California, where Democrats have a similar registration edge, almost as many Republicans showed up as Democrats.

What we're seeing here is a change -- a sea change -- in the balance of enthusiasm. That's been critical in a decade in which turnout in presidential years increased from 105 million to 122 million to 131 million. Republicans had a narrow advantage in the balance of enthusiasm in 2002 and 2004. Democrats had a wider advantage in 2006 and 2008. Now Republicans clearly have a wide advantage and have a good chance to sweep the elections six weeks and six days from now.

Barone will help the John Locke Foundation analyze the 2010 elections during a Headliner luncheon panel Sept. 29 in Raleigh.

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Latest dispatches from the campaign trail

Posted by David N. Bass at 08:00 AM

  • The Charlotte Observer's editorial page says a potential mess is looming in the 13-candidate N.C. Court of Appeals race.

  • State Democrats stress party unity and early voting at an event in Rockingham.

  • Dome: Elaine Marshall has criticized U.S. Sen. Richard Burr for taking Wall Street money, but she’ll be at a fundraiser with top lobbyists in a couple of weeks.

  • National group Americans for Job Security is attacking U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-2nd.

  • U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-7th, comes out in opposition to the mosque near Ground Zero.

  • Politico reports on GOP efforts to find sleeper districts, and it lists one long-shot as McIntyre’s seat.

  • The NYT’s FiveThirtyEight blog puts the Kissell-Johnson race at a 50 percent chance of switching, the Shuler-Miller race at 38 percent, and Price-Lawson at 25 percent.

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Keeping the mentally ill out of jail

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 07:36 AM

Roughly 17 percent of all inmates in jails and prisons nationwide have a mental illness. They have longer stays in jails and can cost much more than others to house. The Asheville Citizen-Times praises Buncombe County's crisis intervention team as a way to avoid some of the confrontations with police that lead to jail time instead of needed treatment. Statewide, these teams do not get enough recognition, so it is good to see an editorial supporting them.

The Citizen-Times is also right that crisis teams are just a step in the mental health reforms the state needs. Fortunately, the legislature took another step when it gave the go-ahead for local mental health agencies across the state to adopt a model that has been successful in the Piedmont.

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Brooks gets taken to the woodshed

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 07:34 AM

Russ Roberts over at Cafe Hayek--were orders emerge--takes David Brooks to the woodshed for his support of big government solutions.  

 This small sample does not do it justice. It gets better and better.   Read the entire post here.

David Brooks writes (HT: Arnold Kling):

The social fabric is fraying. Human capital is being squandered. Society is segmenting. The labor markets are ill. Wages are lagging. Inequality is increasing. The nation is overconsuming and underinnovating. China and India are surging. Not all of these challenges can be addressed by the spontaneous healing powers of the market.

Brooks wants a GOP that is open to activist government. There’s only one problem. Which of those challenges Brooks lists can be addressed by the top-down healing powers of the Washington establishment? Washington’s specialty is fraying the social fabric and mucking up labor markets. He left out the fact that the housing market is a mess (thanks Washington!) and that capital markets don’t allocate capital to their highest valued use because Washington has taken the loss out of the profit and loss calculus. The messed up capital markets and broken housing market are a huge part of the reason that human capital is being squandered and wages are lagging. Government schools also contribute to both of those problems.

Brooks wants the GOP to have a vision of what the role of government will be after we step off the road to serfdom. Here’s one. In a world of smaller government, we’ll be more free to cooperate with each other to make goods and services for each other and to take care of each other in creative ways that are currently stifled by government either directly through regulation or indirectly though crowding out. Make government smaller and we’ll have more private and voluntary interactions that we choose using our knowledge of what is needed for ourselves and for others.

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At least he’s figured out the unions

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:57 AM

The best thing about Jonathan Alter’s latest Newsweek article on education reform (which does not yet appear online)? He still understands the negative role teachers’ unions and the rest of the education establishment play in the effort to improve public schools:
The push for reform, which began with the 1983 government report “A Nation At Risk,” had been stymied for years by what’s sometimes known as “The Blob” — the collection of bureaucracies, school boards, and teachers’ unions committed to protecting the failed status quo.

The worst thing about the article? Alter believes President Obama’s reform efforts amount to something:

Obama’s engine of reform, Race to the Top, has been phenomenally successful in using a relatively small pot of money, $4.4 billion from the 2009 stimulus package, to leverage a huge amount of change in education.

Perhaps Mr. Alter needs to interview Terry Stoops or Darrell Allison (see below) about the impact of Race to the Top on real education reform:

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Daniels attracts more attention

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:55 AM

A co-worker proudly displays a bumper sticker with the slogan “My Man Mitch.” While your humble narrator was disappointed to learn that he had not inspired the bumper sticker, that disappointment disappeared when he learned that the honored Mitch turned out to be Indiana’s governor.

Newsweek is the latest publication to profile Daniels, explaining that his appeal rests firmly on his record:

After five years in the statehouse, admirers point out, Daniels has managed to lower property taxes by an average of 30 percent; transform a $200 million budget deficit into a $1.3 billion surplus; and insure 45,000 low-income Hoosiers through a budget-neutral combination of health savings accounts and catastrophic coverage. His approval ratings routinely top 65 percent.

Want to learn more about Daniels? Try this, this, and this.

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Will explains 'the earth doesn’t care'

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:53 AM

Think your hybrid and goofy-looking light bulb are helping to save the planet? Think again.

George Will’s latest Newsweek column explains how such steps — even if adopted universally — would have negligible impact upon a planet that’s much more resilient that most of us can comprehend:

Laughlin acknowledges that “a lot of responsible people” are worried about atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. This has, he says, “the potential” to modify the weather by raising average temperatures several degrees centigrade and that governments have taken “significant, although ineffective,” steps to slow the warming. “On the scales of time relevant to itself, the earth doesn’t care about any of these governments or their legislation.”

Buy a hybrid, turn off your air conditioner, unplug your refrigerator, yank your phone charger from the wall socket—such actions will “leave the end result exactly the same.” Someday, all the fossil fuels that used to be in the ground will be burned. After that, in about a millennium, the earth will dissolve most of the resulting carbon dioxide into the oceans. (The oceans have dissolved in them “40 times more carbon than the atmosphere contains, a total of 30 trillion tons, or 30 times the world’s coal reserves.”) The dissolving will leave the concentration in the atmosphere only slightly higher than today’s. Then “over tens of millennia, or perhaps hundreds” the earth will transfer the excess carbon dioxide into its rocks, “eventually returning levels in the sea and air to what they were before humans arrived on the scene.” This will take an eternity as humans reckon, but a blink in geologic time.

This information leads one to wonder why North Carolina ever thought it could take steps that would help limit or reverse global warming.

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Yes, marginal tax rates matter

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:51 AM

The latest Money magazine lists Durham among five “college towns” designated among the best places to retire.

While it’s good news that the Bull City made the list, it’s bad news that Durham performed worst among the five in the category of “top state income tax.”

The 7.75 percent rate listed for Durham was far higher than the 6 percent rate for No. 2 Lexington, Kentucky. (After reading the report in the magazine’s dead-tree version, I noticed that an online commenter asked about Durham, “Who in their right mind would retire in a state that taxes your retirement income?”)

I note these statistics primarily to focus on the importance of the top marginal tax rate. Try as they might, government officials who contend that the highest rates affect only the highest earners ignore the fact that everyone pays attention to the highest rates. Uncompetitive top marginal rates deflect people (and business) away from North Carolina.

Click here, here, and here for more discussion of the importance of the marginal tax rate.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:42 AM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Sara Burrows' report on Raleigh government's efforts to limit mobile food vendors.

John Hood's Daily Journal explains why no one should cheer the news that "federal dollars" are helping to prop up North Carolina government's unsustainable spending levels.

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