The Locker Room

July 20, 2009

Cash your check so you can buy your lottery tickets

Posted by Becki Gray at 7:41 PM

The Senate does take up House Bill 1289, "No Lottery at Check Cashing Sites." See notes on committee discussion here

After some questions and concerns about what businesses wll be affected by this prohibition of lottery ticket sales, the Senate defeats this bill 20-23.

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Energy Grab bill delayed again

Posted by Becki Gray at 7:37 PM

The Senate takes up House Bill 1481, "Energy to Commerce, Office of Economic Opportunity to Energy," which expands a statewide energy policy council.  For details on the bill, see a detailed description here

This afternoon there were amendments prepared that would add an economist and a consumer/taxpayer advocate to the council and to add a cost-benefit analysis to the duties of the energy council.

Senate Rules Chair Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, removes the bill from tonight's calendar and moves it to tomorrow's.

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Greenbacks and Ham, by Dr. Sluice

Posted by Jon Sanders at 6:50 PM

My latest on looks at today's revelation of all that (indeed!) pork spending in the name of "stimulus." A sample:

I would buy ham
Here and there.
Stimulus dough goes
I see no problem,
I sure would spend
Greenbacks on ham. ...

Would you? Could you?
Buy those cars?
GM! Chrysler!
They need czars. ...

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Waste not, want not

Posted by Becki Gray at 4:33 PM

Legislative leaders continue their closed door discussions on an anticipated $900 million tax increase.  They claim spending must increase and they need more to keep teachers in the classroom.  Fair enough if they are responsible stewards of our money or are even able to set reasonable priorities.  Do we really want these folks to have more money?  Here’s $703.5 million they’ve wasted recently.

Mental Health Money:  Wasted $635.3 million.

A couple of years ago, bungled paving job on I-40 costs up to $30 million to fix. And now, the state did not listen to an outside expert and now has to spend $13 million to repair damage on I-795.
Wasted: $43 million

Lavish fishing pier in Dare County:
Wasted: $25 million

Department of Commerce executives’ two week trip to travel about Europe and attend a Paris air show.
Wasted: $137,500

1100 crab pots: wasted $38,018

And then there was that matter of shorting crime victims (who are also tax payers, by the way) of restitution they were owed.   In 80,148 cases restitution was not paid in full, while the courts collected
$8.5 million.

If your brother in law or teenager exhibited this kind of money management with your money, would you give them more?

*Thanks to Ben for help with this!


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A nasty end to the honeymoon

Posted by David N. Bass at 4:26 PM

The president's approval ratings have steadily declined during the last few weeks, and his disapproval ratings have risen commensurately. Even so, this poll from Rasmussen has some startling results, given the electoral trout slap that Republicans took just a few months back:

If the 2012 presidential election were held today, President Obama and possible Republican nominee Mitt Romney would be all tied up at 45% each, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

The president, seeking a second four-year term, beats another potential GOP rival, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, by six points – 48% to 42%.

In both match-ups, seven percent (7%) like some other candidate, with three percent (3%) undecided.

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Hybrid drives drive more, have more accidents, get more tickets

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 4:10 PM

Hybrid drivers tend to be more accident and ticket prone than the rest of us, probably because they drive more. This is the result of a study by a San Francisco group called Quality Planning. Of course this bears out one of the most basic principles of economics, you lower the cost of doing something the more of it you will do. The better gas mileage lowers the per mile cost of driving a hybrid, hence hybrid owners drive more miles. In fact the study found that hybrid owners drive 25% more miles than regular car owners do, "largely offsetting any petroleum savings.” In other words hybrid owners do not use less gas than non-hybrid owners. And, as the study points out, the extra driving means more accidents, more tickets, and consequently higher insurance costs.

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"The only 911 call I need is chambering a round"

Posted by David N. Bass at 3:31 PM

Another CNN reporter, in classic Susan Roesgen style, condescendingly lectures her television audience on God and guns.

HT: AmSpec Blog

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The health “reform” threat in a nutshell

Posted by John Hood at 2:40 PM

The incomparable Mark Steyn puts it well in a recent National Review piece:

[T]he acceptance of the principle that individual health is so complex its management can only be outsourced to the state is a concession no conservative should make. More than any other factor, it dramatically advances the statist logic for remorseless encroachments on self-determination. It’s incompatible with a republic of self-governing citizens. The state cannot guarantee against every adversity and, if it attempts to, it can do so only at an enormous cost to liberty. A society in which you’re free to choose your cable package, your iTunes downloads, and who ululates the best on American Idol but in which the government takes care of peripheral stuff like your body is a society no longer truly free. 

There is a better path to choose in health care reform, if only American medicine is not taken over by a loony Congress in the meantime. 

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'A political revolution within education'

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:16 PM

That's how Leigh Bortins describes changes she's seeing in the world of home-centered education.

Bortins, founder and CEO of Classical Conservations Inc., delivered the featured remarks during today's John Locke Foundation Shaftesbury Society meeting.

Click play below to hear Bortins describe her response to parents who fear they can't teach their children as well as public school educators can.

3 p.m. update: Watch the full 43:07 recording by clicking the play button below.

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

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Kentucky expressed interest in N.C.'s tax review of large families

Posted by David N. Bass at 2:03 PM

The N.C. Department of Revenue’s policy of reviewing tax returns from large families to weed out cheating has gained the notice of tax officials in Kentucky, public records show.

According to e-mail correspondence obtained by Carolina Journal, a supervisor with the Kentucky Department of Revenue expressed interest in learning more about the review method, potentially for use in her own state.

“I am particularly interested in knowing what documentation was used to prove the dependents claimed were in fact legitimate dependents,” wrote the official in an e-mail dated June 25, 2009. “This is a problem that has concerned many at the [Kentucky Department of Revenue] for several years. Your help would be greatly appreciated.”

North Carolina’s review of families with eight or more dependents has drawn criticism in recent weeks.

Revenue Department Secretary Kenneth Lay says the verification is meant to cut down on cheating, but some taxpayers feel the review unfairly targets them because of their family size.

“To us this represents a subtle but major shift from our founding American philosophy,” said one parent.

This is the first time the Revenue Department has taken such an action. Another e-mail obtained by CJ gives some background on why the Department chose to take this course:

The Department has identified erroneous filing status and inflated exemptions as a compliance problem. However, in prior years, the Department did not have the resources to conduct an audit on each individual that potentially could have filed a tax return using the wrong filing status or included dependents in the tax return not entitled to them.

As part of our effort to become more efficient in addressing this non-compliance issue, we implemented a plan to verify filing status and dependents prior to issuing a refund in lieu of subjecting the taxpayer to an audit.[Emphasis in original.]

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The polls don’t really differ much

Posted by John Hood at 12:22 AM

If you take a quick look at Real Clear Politics’ continuous round-up of job-approval ratings, you may get the impression that pollsters are providing substantially different numbers on President Obama:

President Obama Job Approval

Poll Date Sample Approve Disapprove Spread
RCP Average7/9 - 7/18      --56.737.8 +18.9
ABC News/Wash Post7/15-7/181001 A5937 +22
Gallup7/16-7/181547 A6033 +27
Rasmussen Reports7/16-7/181500 LV5149 +2
Diageo/Hotline7/9-7/13800 RV5638 +18
Ipsos/McClatchy7/9-7/131007 A5738 +19
CBS News7/9-7/12944 A5732 +2

But if you take a closer look, you’ll understand that the pollsters are not far apart at all. The issue is the definition of the sample. Scott Rasmussen (disclosure: a former chairman of the John Locke Foundation) uses a likely-voter model, just as if we were approaching an election. Others expand their samples to include all registered voters, regardless of their likelihood of voting in the next election, or even all adults, including many nonvoters. Generally speaking, tightening the screen for who gets put into the sample will tend to increase the share of GOP-leaning voters in the sample.

So my guess is that if Rasmussen loosened his screen, he'd be finding job approval for Obama in the mid- to high-50s. If the other pollsters tightened their screens, they’d find approval rates in the low- to mid-50s.

UPDATE: The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling just released its monthly national job approval number, and it’s similar to Rasmussen’s at 50 percent approve/43 percent disapprove. PPP uses a voter screen.

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Wal-Mart and Energy Efficiency

Posted by Daren Bakst at 11:59 AM

According to this Triangle Business Journal article, Wal-Mart wants be exempted from having to pay the costs for energy efficiency measures that are being imposed by Progress Energy:

"The nation’s largest retailer says the charge violates a provision in state law that specifically allows commercial and industrial customers to opt out of paying for such programs if the companies undertake their own energy-efficiency efforts."

The law that Wal-Mart is pointing to is SB 3 (see 62-133.8(f)).  You can read their motion before the Utilities Commission here.  In simple terms, industrial and some commercial customers (those with high electricity usage) can be exempted if they have or will develop their own energy efficiency measures.

The real question is why should industrial and some commercial customers be exempted but not small businesses and residential customers?  BTW: The answer is easy--because there was nobody representing the interests of residential and small business owners during the formulation of SB 3.

It also didn't help that the Public Staff, which is supposed to represent electricity customers, was (and still is) fighting to increase the cost of electricity through these energy efficiency programs.

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Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 07:38 AM

I was in Hotlanta when I heard the news that June Atkinson prevailed in her lawsuit (for now) against the other half of the education establishment.

The only sensible way to resolve the constitutional question, once and for all, would be a best of three rock-paper-scissors contest between June Atkinson and William Harrison.

Regardless of who wins, little is going to change. On the other hand, Atkinson's victory will make for a very interesting State Board of Education meeting next month.

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The future of news

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:35 AM

James Poniewozik of TIME is the latest pundit to pontificate on likely changes in the future of the news media:

It's possible, though, that nothing will save the journalism business — at least as we know it and pay for it today. That doesn't mean journalism will go away. Reporting won't go away, though foreign bureaus might. Information won't go away. Opinion certainly won't.

But somebody will have to pay — even, or especially, for the free stuff. Some journalism could become a kind of volunteer work, performed by eyewitnesses, passionate amateurs or professionals in other fields who use journalism as a loss leader to sell their books or build their brands. (That's the model of the legion of unpaid writers at the Huffington Post.) Even if you filter your own news from Twitter, you're paying in time and effort.

Those seeking to pay the bills through full-time journalism could find different paymasters. The Associated Press recently started taking investigative reports from four nonprofit journalism groups. And if newspapers can't afford investigations, advocacy groups and think tanks — which already hire research pros — could do their own: a kind of piecemeal return to the old partisan press.

A piecemeal return to the old partisan press sounds like the rise of the “subsidized, ideological news media.”

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Results? We don’t need no stinking results

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:33 AM

Like the last entry, this one is based on an all-too-common theme among those who push for government intervention: They support ideas that sound good, whether those ideas are likely to produce any positive results (and regardless of the likelihood of negative unintended consequences).

The latest example I’ve seen comes from TIME’s “Curious Capitalist,” Justin Fox, who supports the Obama administration’s proposal for a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency:

My own opinion, after several days spent perusing the legislation — there's a 152-page Administration draft and a 229-page bill introduced in the House by Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank — is that the logic behind it is quite compelling. That doesn't mean it will actually work as advertised, especially after Congress is through with it. But it's an idea that deserves a chance.

Why? Unless we’re pretty sure a new government intervention will produce more benefits than costs, why should we give the idea a chance?

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School daze

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:32 AM

The new TIME features a report on the purported benefits of adding time to the school day and days to the school year.

That means we have another opportunity to remind you about Terry Stoops’ report debunking these ideas.

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Speaking of government action …

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:31 AM

The latest Business Week includes this passage in a Jane Sasseen article about the Obama administration’s priorities:
[I]n their quest to overhaul U.S. domestic policy, the White House is starting to unnerve many in the business community. The fear: In their haste to fulfill campaign promises and claim political victory, the Administration and their allies on Capitol Hill are throwing together complex bills in a haphazard way that could lead to costly unintended consequences for the economy.

Ignore for a moment the improper use of possessive pronouns in that passage. What’s more striking is the failure to recognize that “costly unintended consequences” are guaranteed to follow the administration’s actions, no matter how “haphazard” the process used to finalize the details.

From the stimulus package, to bailouts, to health-care reform, to cap and trade, even the most well-crafted legislation is bound to be bad.

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If you think government can do a better job than private actors …

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:30 AM

… in preventing problems in the financial sector, you might want to read the following passage from a new Money magazine interview with the Cato Institute’s Brink Lindsey:

What’s your take on the new financial regulations President Obama has proposed? Generally, the Obama approach is based on the predictable — but mistaken — premise that the crisis occurred because of insufficient regulation, so we need to give regulators new powers. But regulators, using existing authority, could have done something about the steady deterioration in mortgage underwriting standards, and they chose not to. They could have done something about the use of securitization to get around capital requirements, but they chose not to. The idea that the government ca predict these bubbles in their infancy is a fantasy. When bubble psychology takes over, it affects everyone — and that includes the regulators.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:24 AM

The week's first Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Roy Cordato's assessment of North Carolina's latest unemployment data.

John Hood's Daily Journal explores the latest developments in the Jim Black saga, especially Judge Donald Stephens' angry outburst during a hearing last week.

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