The Locker Room

January 24, 2011

When student achievement takes a back seat

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 3:58 PM

Ross Global Academy had "small class sizes, yoga, Mandarin lessons, an extended day and organic food prepared by a chef." The school looked like "an Ikea showroom, with working gas fireplaces, lounges and daybeds in the hallways." The school is set to close because RGA students weren't learning much... with the exception of the Bird of Paradise Pose.

Perhaps investing in competent teachers and administrators would have been a better approach.

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A Matter of Principle

Posted by Duke Cheston at 3:57 PM

Something strange is happening over in Chapel Hill. Yes, even stranger than normal.

The UNC-Chapel Hill College Republicans, led by "secession czar" Marc Seelinger, have recently been working to have their university secede from the Association of Student Governments. The Association (ASG for short) is a group of representatives from student governments across the 17-campus UNC system dedicated to lobbying the state government on the students' behalf.

However, according to Seelinger, ASG does a very poor job of lobbying, its officers get paid way too much, and it is generally about as transparent as goat cheese.  Seelinger notes that, despite stipends in the thousands of dollars and conferences at upscale hotels, tuition still went up by the maximum allowable rate last year. He says this is clear evidence that ASG is not doing a very good job as student advocate.

The organization is funded by a $1 fee collected from every student in the UNC system (roughly 220,000 students) and was originally established by the UNC Board of Governors.

The UNC-CH College Republicans are collecting signatures to put UNC-CH's participation in ASG on the ballot in next month's student elections. However, if enough signatures are collected and enough students vote against participation, it is unclear what will happen. As of this posting, Board of Governors representatives have yet to return phone calls about the development.

Still, even if UNC-CH ends its participation in ASG, students will only see their fees diminish by one dollar.  For Seelinger, when asked why he was putting in so much effort into such a small amount, he didn't hesitate to reply that it's not about the money, it's about right and wrong. "It's a matter of principle," he said. And, no matter which way the Board of Governors reacts, it will certainly be interesting to watch.

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Re: adding safeguards to incentive programs

Posted by George Leef at 3:26 PM

Incentives to lure businesses, movie productions, and so on are at best a zero sum game. If a tire manufacturer is going to build a new tire factory, competition within a state or between states to induce it to locate there doesn't add to the output of tires. We're expected to think that it's a great "win" for "the state" (or county, or whatever the political unit) if the government manages to get it to locate within the borders, but that's the old political trick of dazzling people with the seen, while obscuring the unseen. If the tire company locates somewhere in NC, that will strongly benefit a very few North Carolinians, but do nothing for the vast majority of them, who could have purchased the tires no matter where they were made. But because tax revenues are diverted to benefit the company, the rest of the people are worse off. If you could add up all the plusses and put them against all the minuses (including such costs as moving, as in the case where a company moved 12 miles to get Durham County money), I think we'd find that this is mostly a negative sum game.

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Adding safeguards to North Carolina government's incentives programs

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:13 PM

There's a strong case to be made that North Carolina should scrap its programs for offering targeted tax breaks and grants to selected companies.

But if the state is going to continue to use those types of incentives to luring new companies to the state or convince existing companies to stay in North Carolina, the government should adopt some additional safeguards.

Jeanette Doran, senior staff attorney at the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, made that argument during a presentation today to the John Locke Foundation's Shaftesbury Society. In the video clip below, Doran explains the importance of a "but for" requirement.

3:50 p.m. update: Click play below to watch the full 55:32 presentation.

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

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Hold Yourself Accountable

Posted by Amanda Vuke at 2:49 PM

...that's the message The Brothers Winn give when they decide to talk a little about liberals and conservatives.

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New Carolina Journal Online exclusive

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:47 AM

David Bass' latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive documents U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler's decision to co-sponsor a bill that would prevent federal health care reform from funding abortions.

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Unions and corruption

Posted by George Leef at 10:33 AM

Unions are unlike any other private organization in that the government has given them extraordinary powers. Once voted in, unions represent all workers in the bargaining unit, even those who oppose it and would rather negotiate on their own. Moreover, it is difficult to get accurate information on what unions do with their funds, so members have to take the word of union officials that they're using money for their benefit. Often, much of the dues money is spent on political empire building and lavish offices and expense accounts for the union officials. And what if some individuals decide that they union costs more than it's worth and want to get rid of it? They have to initiate a decertification process, which means going out on a limb to oppose the union, knowing that to do so often leads to retaliation.

With a captive market, it is no surprise that unions are often rife with corruption, as Robert Verbruggen details in this NRO piece.

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UNC Association of Student-fee Gobblers

Posted by Jon Sanders at 09:33 AM

Over at Right Angles, Donna Martinez highlights the dictatorial tendencies of the student leader of the UNC Association of Student Governments, a very silly organization that UNC allows to rip off students in the name of "representing" them.

If you're not familiar with them and their budgetary nonsense, their junkets to cavort in D.C., their struggles even to reach a quorum in their meetings, and their peers requesting refunds over all of the above, check out the links in my comment.

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Walter Williams on how the government has "helped" blacks

Posted by George Leef at 09:09 AM

Economics professor Walter Williams was interviewed by Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal on his views about the impact of government programs to help black Americans. It has helped to destroy the black family, helped to leave many undereducated and helped to keep many unemployable.

One of Williams' most memorable lines is that he's glad that he got his education before it became fashionable for white people to like black people. The teachers and professors he had did not treat him easily because he was a member of an "underrepresented minority," but called him on mistakes just like other students -- that is, before the "progressive" educational mentality set in.

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The future of federal debt

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:07 AM

While John Hood has educated us in recent weeks about the sizeable debt obligations most states face, the federal debt continues to generate more headlines.

Among the most recent points of discussion: Can budget hawks tie the upcoming increasing of the federal government’s $14.3 trillion debt limit to “deep” spending cuts? The latest TIME probes this issue:

Democrats are encouraged by the memory of the 1995 budget fight between House Republicans (then led by Gingrich) and Bill Clinton, which led to a government shutdown. Clinton, who came off looking more responsible than Gingrich, used the showdown to turn around his presidency. Encouraged by this history, Obama may look to frame the debate to his advantage in the Jan. 25 State of the Union address. "It will be brinksmanship," says a senior House Democratic aide. "I'm trying to think this through myself."

But Republicans argue that they hold far more cards today, thanks to a debt far larger — and far more alarming to the public — than it was 16 years ago. They will seek to attach perhaps as much as tens of billions of dollars in spending cuts — an amount they'd be unlikely to slip through the regular budget process — to any bill boosting Uncle Sam's IOU account. "If they want us to help pay their bills, we're going to cut up their credit card," says Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. And if Obama balks at the cuts? "We'll see."

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Unseating Obama

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:06 AM

No one should underestimate the tough road ahead for Republicans who would like to recapture the White House in 2012. But as pundits start offering their projections and advice, Mark Halperin of TIME — no Obama basher — reminds us of some key facts:

Even with his surging poll numbers, powerful Tucson moment and chance at a $1 billion war chest, Obama is vulnerable. Focus on two numbers: eight and 105. Sharpies in both parties believe a jobless rate over 8% would be a barrier to the President’s re-election; 105 is the number of electoral votes Obama won in 2008 in Colorado, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin — all of which could shift to the GOP column unless he improves his standing with women and independents. Losing those states could leave him short of the 270 electoral votes he will need for four more years.

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A strong voice against Obamanomics

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:05 AM

Roy Cordato warned us that President Obama’s decision to reappoint Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman represented a case of “George W. Bush on steroids.”

Another economist who’s no fan of Bernanke’s work as Fed chairman is Stanford Professor John B. Taylor, dubbed “The GOP’s Shadow Fed Chairman” in a new Bloomberg Businessweek profile.

It's not just the Fed's easy-money policy that gets Taylor typing furiously. He's also critical of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul and former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's monetary calls. Taylor claims that had Greenspan followed his monetary policy formula, called (what else?) the Taylor Rule, interest rates from 2002 to 2005 would have been higher, preventing the housing bubble and bust and the unemployment that followed. Greenspan counters that Taylor has made "a number of inaccurate connections" about his record.

Taylor also decries Obama's $814 billion economic stimulus package, saying it neither boosted the economy nor lowered unemployment. States mostly used the funds to reduce their level of borrowing, he says, rather than to increase spending.

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More regulation, please

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:04 AM

The latest Bloomberg Businessweek delivers this “shocking” news:
The food industry's embrace of government oversight illustrates an unacknowledged truth about the wary interaction between the public and private sectors. Executives complain about unelected bureaucrats complicating their lives and siphoning profits. Yet most large corporations long ago learned to live with regulation. Sometimes they even demand it. "Everyone thinks the business community hates regulations. Not only is that not true, it couldn't be further from the truth," says R. Bruce Josten, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's top lobbyist.

The key word in the preceding paragraph is “large.” Large corporations learned long ago that they can handle increased regulation much more easily than can their small competitors. In other words, increased regulation helps protect the corporate status quo.

That’s why many businesses are happy to go along with ideas that clearly thwart competition and hurt consumers.

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Lower prices not such a good thing?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:03 AM

The latest Bloomberg Businessweek features in interesting commentary from Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who helped push for airline deregulation while serving as an aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1978.

Did deregulation meet its stated goal of lowering fares? Clearly, yes. Still, Breyer seems ambivalent about the results:

No one foresaw the industry's spectacular growth, with the number of air passengers increasing from 207.5 million in 1974 to 721.1 million last year. As a result, no one foresaw the extent to which new bottlenecks would develop: a flight-choked Northeast corridor, overcrowded airports, delays, and terrorist risks consequently making air travel increasingly difficult. Nor did anyone foresee the extent to which change might unfairly harm workers in the industry. Still, fares have come down. Airline revenue per passenger mile has declined from an inflation-adjusted 33.3 cents in 1974, to 13 cents in the first half of 2010. In 1974 the cheapest round-trip New York-Los Angeles flight (in inflation-adjusted dollars) that regulators would allow: $1,442. Today one can fly that same route for $268. That is why the number of travelers has gone way up.

To his credit, Breyer signals in the next paragraph that he’s not pushing for a return to the “good old days” of much higher, regulated prices. But one does get the sense that he’s lukewarm about a valuable reform that has enabled millions to use airlines more regularly now than in the 1970s.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:54 AM

Karen Welsh's latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive examines Buncombe County's new, more restrictive steep slope ordinance. 

John Hood's Daily Journal offers the theory that Gov. Beverly Perdue's rejection of ABC privatization is tied to a pending announcement of support for legalizing video poker.

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