The Locker Room

March 16, 2009

Budgets

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 11:07 PM

Gov. Bev Perdue will unveil her state government budget plan tomorrow morning at 11:30. Feel free to compare it to this one. Join the conversation about both on Twitter #ncbudget.

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Judge Mangum, crusader for the status quo

Posted by David N. Bass at 4:04 PM

I've heard varying opinions on Wake County District Judge Ned Mangum's order that three home-schooled kids be put in public school (latest from the N&O here). Granted, it's a messy divorce and joint custody battle. The judge has to decide the best arrangement for the kids between the parents. But the main issue is Judge Mangum's hubris in declaring that public school would benefit the kids more so than home school:

I think they’ve thrived in home school. I think they’ll do better in public school ... I think you've done a good job of exposing them to parts of the world. But another part of this world is to prepare these kids for the real world, college and work life when they're not going to be at home with you. While they're not old children, the next thing you know they're going to be going off to college and high school and they need to be able to also have the social interactions with people who aren't just of the same status as they are."

I'm not sure what research Judge Mangum relied on for his opinion, but it doesn't match the many studies showing that home-schooled students are well adjusted in adult life. In fact, they are more than well adjusted. They are, by and large, more active in their communities and in politics than their public school counterparts.

(A side note on that, free of charge: one of the top reasons liberalism as a movement opposes home education, beyond being beholden to the teachers' unions, is that many home school students end up engaged in conservative activism. Liberals are all about the youth vote as long as it goes for liberal candidates).

So, the crux of the matter is Judge Mangum's value judgment on public versus home schools. It had no place at the hearing.

Also, if we must discuss the "social interactions" argument as it relates to home education, it's best to first define what's meant by socialization. If it means poor academic performance, dropping out, violence, drugs and alcohol, or getting your 14-year-old girlfriend pregnant, then yes, home-schoolers are very unsocialized.

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Tackling health care myths

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:11 PM

Myths cloud our judgment about the true strengths and weaknesses of American health care. That's a key point Sally Pipes made with the publication of her new book The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care.

Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, addressed some of those myths during her presentation today to the John Locke Foundation's Shaftesbury Society.

Pipes also described some of the problems she sees with President Obama's health care proposals, including an emphasis on something called "comparative effectiveness research." Click play below to hear her comments about that topic.

5:40 p.m. update: Watch the entire 54:21 recording by clicking the play button below.

You'll find other John Locke Foundation video presentations here.

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Obama sees the light on earmarks

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 2:25 PM

Interesting video chronicling the Messiah epiphany on earmarks. Obama’s critics might suggest that he was lying during the campaign. But those of us who truly understand the complex nature of his thought processes realize that his position has simply evolved in light of new information.

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Great Op-Ed on Taxpayer Financing

Posted by Daren Bakst at 1:43 PM

Brian Balfour of the Civitas Institute had a great op-ed in the Durham Herald-Sun.  There are many critical points that he makes, including the identification of what the academic research shows on taxpayer financing of elections, as opposed to the "gut-feelings" of the program's proponents.  He also makes this great point:

_____________

"Making this corrupt system even more difficult to defend is that it may very well increase the influence of special interests. Certain organizations, such as unions, could simply mine their membership rolls for the numerous small donations required to qualify their chosen candidate for the taxpayer-provided campaign funds."

"Therefore, a limited amount of special interest money could leverage hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars toward their chosen candidate's campaign. In the end, the candidate is still beholden to the union, and the union has more dollars to funnel to 527 groups to advocate for their chosen candidate. The result is that even more money is entered into the campaign process, special interest influence is magnified, and taxpayers suffer more erosion of their liberty."

_____________

Also, by the way, taxpayer financing of elections is unconstitutional.

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Shooting for the Moon in Denver

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 1:25 PM

Let's see if I have this straight. Thirty former Rocky Mountain News refugees are offering their services for a minimum of $3m. per year in subscription revenue. There would also be -- one presumes -- some fairly decent ad revenue available, what with access the 50K subs the venture would have in play. Again that is minimum.

In fact, site hosting and associated costs might be wholly covered by ad revenue if they really know what they are doing and run a lean, guerrilla back-office.

If so, this seems like an awfully high bar to set. Were these folks really that highly compensated -- or did their former employer (like government) significantly overpay for a cyber-presence?

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Truth About NC's Renewable Energy Resources

Posted by Daren Bakst at 12:13 AM


The Raleigh News & Observer (N & O) recently wrote, regarding the renewable energy requirement from SB 3:

"An independent study commissioned by the General Assembly concluded that the state could get at least 10 percent of its electricity from renewables. The study did not consider two of the biggest sources of clear power: solar energy and offshore wind power."

This is inaccurate and misleading.

The study explained that 10% could only be achieved if offshore wind was used--as the study itself stated this would be "problematic" and "impractical."

As you can see from what I just wrote, offshore wind power was considered--it also should be noted that solar energy also was considered (I have no idea why they said both weren't considered in the study).

This is what La Capra Associates (BTW: an environmental extremist firm), the same consultant that did the study, told the legislature:

“Though not discussed in the REPS report, we believe a 10% REPS with up to 50% from energy efficiency and the remainder from renewable energy is a more practical goal in light of such barriers. In this way, neither the maximum potential for renewable generation nor energy efficiency is exhausted.”

In plain English: Don't go above a 5% renewable energy requirement.

What did the legislature do?  It ignored them and went with a 7.5% requirement.

Other quick points:

- The legislature didn't commission the study, the North Carolina Utilities Commission did.
- I have no idea what "clear" power is supposed to mean.

The N & O got almost everything wrong in that one paragraph.  NC has poor renewable energy resources, and even an extremist firm warned the legislature about this fact.

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Business Week on teacher pay

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 10:01 AM

Read the pro (spend $$$$) and con (spend $$) on raising teacher salaries in the Business Week "Debate Room" and then read my annual teacher pay report. You'll be glad you did.

H/T: DM

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Don't Answer the Door: It Could be the League!

Posted by Daren Bakst at 10:00 AM





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N.C. ranks third in access to public records

Posted by David N. Bass at 08:25 AM

North Carolina ranks near the top in access to public records, according to the Sunshine Week 2009 Survey of State Government Information:

The survey examined how all 50 states provide online access to 20 different kinds of records, ranging from consumer complaints to teacher certifications. The report ties North Carolina for third with Kentucky in its accessibility to public records. Only Texas and New Jersey ranked higher in the Sunshine Week 2009 Survey of State Government Information, which was compiled by newspaper and broadcast journalists over a two-month period.

The report found that North Carolina provides information on 17 out of 20 categories surveyed such as death certificates, bridge inspection reports and disciplinary actions against medical physicians and attorneys. A visitor to the state's government Web site (http://www.nc.gov) can easily find links to state agencies on health, public education and transportation, but other links listed under "Online Services" and "State Agencies" can be confusing for a first-time user, the survey found.

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A humorous take on media decline

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:58 AM

Joel Stein of TIME has an interesting idea for reviving the declining fortunes of the traditional news media: product placement.

Stein plants his tongue firmly in cheek as he offers this suggestion, which produces gems like the following:

If I'm pulling in high-end cars and watchmakers and Joe Klein has nothing but socialist beard trimmers, I think we know who's going to survive the next round of layoffs.

For a more serious take on this issue, see John Hood’s Shaftesbury Society presentation from fall 2008.

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Smoking ban update

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:56 AM

Regular Locker Room readers might recall a recent entry in which I expressed concern about a business owner who appeared willing to sacrifice her right to set her own smoking policy.

Rather than take me to task as a jerk who was picking on her, she responded over the weekend with the following e-mail:

My name is Tina Bolick, the owner of Skylines Café that recently went smoke free. I cringe each time I read that line and you are the one to pick up on it.

I was actually for the ban. However my view has drastically altered since I reached out to my guests to find out what their opinions are regarding patronizing a restaurant that allows smoking. I have had one upset guest who asked to be removed from my e-mail list and proceeded to bring up having to be in the same area as children who are not well behaved and two of my regulars walked out because they couldn’t smoke. What I got from this whole experience is that I am absolutely opposed to the state banning smoking to business owners.

If they don’t pass the laws, I know that in these economic times, owners will do whatever their community demands.

The owners that want it out of their hands are just not willing to assume responsibility for their decisions. I am not one of those owners. I do not want the state telling business owners what to do especially if one has never taken on owning a business.

My guests are great because they love the publicity that it brings to a small but growing town and they are the ones that asked for it. If you know of anyway that I can speak out against this ban, I would love to know what I can do to fight for business owner’s rights.

The point is not that Ms. Bolick should permit smoking or ban smoking. The point is that she should make the decision. There’s no reason that a free society should assign that decision to the political sphere.

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The role of ‘egonomics’

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:55 AM

Virginia Postrel of The Atlantic attributes part of our current economic woes to the wrongheaded belief among leading intellectuals that centralized economic policy had helped conquer the boom-and-bust business cycle:

Postrel cites a 2007 speech from Christina Romer, who is now head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors:

“We have seen the triumph of sensible ideas and have reaped the rewards in terms of macroeconomic performance,” Romer concluded. “The costly wrong turn in ideas and macropolicy of the 1960s and 1970s has been righted and the future of stabilization looks bright.”

She was, as we now know, wrong about the happy ending. In retrospect, what is striking about Romer’s lecture is not the chastened tone of its opening but the celebratory nature of its conclusions. “Better policy, particularly on the part of the Federal Reserve, is directly responsible for the low inflation and the virtual disappearance of the business cycle in the last 25 years,” she said (emphasis added). “In this area, the policy mistakes of the 1960s were a painful, but not permanent, detour on the road to excellent economic performance.”

I don’t mean to pick on Romer, who is a fine and careful scholar. Until recently, this triumphalist view was the conventional wisdom. And it isn’t 100 percent wrong. Fed policy really did break inflation and keep it low. The relative stability from the mid-’80s to last year really was much better than the economic chaos of the 1970s.

But containing inflation and eliminating, or noticeably dampening, economic downturns are two entirely different things. Congratulating policy makers for “the virtual disappearance of the business cycle” oversteps the evidence and encourages the hubris that fostered the current crisis and could make recovery more difficult. The conventional explanation for the Great Moderation gives too much credit to easily identifiable economic policy makers—“I feel the contribution of good policy cannot be overstated,” said Romer—and too little to all those anonymous managers and workers whose everyday actions get summarized in the aggregate statistics that Fed economists watch so closely.

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What caused our economic meltdown?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:53 AM

You'll not be surprised to learn that free-market thinker Thomas Woods rejects the arguments emanating from the Left that suggest unfettered markets created our current economic woes.

But you might be surprised to learn that Woods assigns the blame to more than just bad government initiatives such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Community Reinvestment Act.

Woods' new book, Meltdown, assigns the most blame to the monetary system itself, especially the actions of the Federal Reserve. He says the Fed's cheap-credit policies were bound to pave the way for problems:

The economy … can support only so many investment projects at once. The interest rate acts as the market's restraint on how many such projects are begun, in order to prevent the initiation of more projects than the pool of savings can support in the long run. When the interest rate is artificially lowered, more loans can be extended and more projects started, but artificially low interest rates do not magically supply the additional real resources necessary to complete all the projects.

Moreover, the kind of projects that are started differ from those that would have been started on the free market. Mises draws an analogy between an economy under the influence of artificially low interest rates and a home builder who falsely believes he has more resources — more bricks, say — than he really does. He will build a house whose size and proportions are different from the ones he would have chosen if he had known his true supply of bricks. He will not be able to complete this larger house with the number of bricks he has. The sooner he discovers his true brick supply the better, for then he can adjust his production plans before too much of the finished house is produced and too many of his labor and material resources are squandered. If he finds out only toward the very final stages of the project, he will have to destroy almost the entire house, and both he and society at large will be so much the poorer for his malinvestment of all those resources.

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The keys to annexation reform

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:52 AM

Daren Bakst recently prepared a detailed description of the key pieces necessary for real annexation reform in North Carolina.

He offered an abbreviated version of that description to reporter Loretta Boniti for a recent story on News 14 Carolina. Click play below for Daren's take on this issue.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:45 AM

The week's first Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Joe Coletti's response to the latest state unemployment figures.

Speaking of figures, John Hood's Daily Journal examines the data associated with the state's current budget woes.

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