The Locker Room

July 27, 2009

Costs? Benefits? Who cares?

Posted by Becki Gray at 8:59 PM

House Bill 1481 was on the House calendar tonight.  See details here.  In short, it  sets up a new Energy Council made up of appointees. No member is required to have experience in cost analysis. That means the state would set up an energy policy-setting entity that would not ask the question: Is the cost justified?

With no debate, the bill passes 100-2 and goes to the governor for her to sign it into law. Since she gets to pick 12 of the 16 members and to appoint the council chair, rest assured she'll sign it quickly. The council gets underway on August 15, 2009.

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Taxpayers support seafood

Posted by Becki Gray at 8:11 PM

In discussion of H.B. 1500, which would allow a more advantageous tier designation for a seafood industrial park, government subsidies for this industry are explained.   

Wanchese Seafood Park is full. It was set up in 1979 in Dare County. They are looking to expand and set up additional parks.  There is a facility near completion in Perquimans County: 72 acres. 

The county has already provided water, sewer, and natural gas lines. The property will be transferred to the county (not sure why). 

Seafood industrial parks are set up to offer government subsidies to the seafood and marine industries.

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10 years out is "the short run"

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 5:00 PM

A Congressional Budget Office report looking at a 10 year time horizon concludes that Obama-care will likely increase not decrease health care costs but beyond 10 years there might be "modest savings." You've gotta love White House Budget Director Peter Orszag's response:

"The point of the proposal...was never to generate savings over the next decade. ... Instead, the goal is to provide a mechanism for improving quality of care for beneficiaries and reducing costs over the long term..."

So apparently for the Obama administration 10 years out is the short run. What does that say for the stimulus package?


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Check out that big pile in Winston-Salem

Posted by John Hood at 3:51 PM

I know that Sam Hieb has been covering the Winston-Salem baseball mess for months over at Piedmont Publius, but I think this particular pile of fiscal refuse deserves to be admired by North Carolinians everywhere. From the Winston-Salem Journal “Revealing the Deal” package that ran on Sunday: 

A public-private partnership. It sounded simple two years ago when the city of Winston-Salem approved spending $12 million to help build a baseball stadium downtown.

Taxpayers and businesses would join together to add a critical element to the core of the city. Nearby neighborhoods and restaurants would thrive. Fireworks would explode, mascots would race children around bases, and hot dogs, Cracker Jack and Thirsty Thursdays would bring a party­like atmosphere to the city.

But the execution has been anything but simple, and the party is a long way from starting.

The cost and scope of the ballpark has ballooned from $22.6 million to $40.7 million. One of the owners is out. One of the banks is pulling back. New loans have been taken out, new investors have stepped forward. And the public part of the public-private partnership has become central to the deal.

Trust me — this deal is even worse for local taxpayers than you’d guess from the opening paragraphs. The business model, for example, assumes that the new stadium will fill 90 percent of its seats during Single A baseball season. Uh-huh. Read the whole thing, if you have the stomach for it.  

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Get thee to Copenhagen—or ante up

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 2:59 PM

Today's Wall Street Journal article on Greenville, Michigan's unexpected woes over it's town statue of "The Little Mermaid" raise some interesting points. Hans Christian Andersen's story (read the original—it's a tragic tale of a tail, with no singing crustaceans or happy ending) inspired the original work of art. That sorrowful Mermaid overlooks Copenhagen Harbor. There are unchallenged copies of the Mermaid statue all over the place, as the inside story reveals. But...on behalf of dead (d.1959) artist Edvard Eriksen, and his uncompensated descendants, the Artists Rights Society is trying to exact licensing fees, or get the Michigan Mermaid tossed back into the sea. Anywhere except in public view, where the repute of the story or the original artist could be enhanced or stimulate public imagination—at least until the 70-year copyright expires.

This caught my attention because I happen to be reading Boldrin & Levine's Against Intellectual Monopoly at the moment, and discussing with a few interested friends. So far, I'm pretty convinced that the standard arguments for protection of intellectual property (innovation and profit) don't stand up, and might be extended pretty directly to items like statuary. 'Course if there had been these kinds of protections when Hans penned the original story, there might be no statues to copy, given the probability of never having heard of it.

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Pregnancy counseling

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:32 PM

An unplanned pregnancy doesn't have to end in abortion.

Attendees of today's John Locke Foundation Shaftesbury Society luncheon heard from Tonya Baker Nelson, executive director of A Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center in Wake County. The center counsels women about all of the options they face when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

Click play below for Nelson's assessment of why her center exists.

2 p.m. update: Watch the full 43:03 recording by clicking the play button below.

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

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Is it time to feel sorry for Obama and the Democratic Congress?

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 1:23 PM

John Goodman’s latest blog post is well worth reading here.

I actually feel a bit sorry for them. President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress got some very, very bad advice from health policy experts they relied on during the past election. It was the same bad advice they have been getting year after year, election after election, for as far back as memory serves.

But now that it is time to legislate, these politicians must face real economists who look at evidence over at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Although the CBO Director and staff are appointed by Congressional Democrats, they are professionals and they have been willing to stand up to the pressure and essentially say that last year's campaign rhetoric was hogwash.

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You might be a progressive if...

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 11:15 AM

…you believe that the disabled have an absolute right to an elevator in a multi-story building but not the right to life when the medical costs of prolonging that life are "too high."

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What's Your Hurry?

Posted by Melissa Mitchell at 11:02 AM

With President Obama due into town this week to tout his massive health care reform plan, I have to ask, "What's your Hurry?" It might just be that the proponents of this bill do not want the public to get wind of what is really in this bill.

Here is what Fortune Magazine is reporting about the freedoms you will lose if this bill passes. 

The Democrats are like the proverbial kid left alone in the candy shop who can't wait to eat his fill, ignoring the bellyache that will follow. Drunk with power and control of the U. S. Congress, liberal politicians can't decide what nutty thing they can add to this bill first, while ignoring the long-term results should this health care plan pass. Americans will not get reform, but a sick health care system and an ailing economy.

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Strong attack on Obamacare

Posted by George Leef at 10:54 AM

Professor William Anderson delivers a strong attack on Obamacare in this piece which is principally aimed at Teddy Kennedy's blather about how this socialized health care mania is "the cause of my life."

Anderson's personal stories in the piece are devastating to the notion that centrally planned health care would be a good development.

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You might be a progressive if.....

Posted by George Leef at 10:39 AM

You believe that it's possible for a nation to become or remain prosperous by having the government print lots of money.

Doug French of the Ludwig von Mises Institute shows why that's nonsense here.

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Drugs are cost-effective?

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:31 AM

This might be a shock to some, but new pharmaceutical drugs can be worth the higher price. The latest example is from drugs for colorectal cancer. From the abstract:

The average price of treating a colorectal cancer patient with chemotherapy increased from about $100 in 1993 to $36,000 in 2005, due largely to the approval and widespread use of five new drugs between 1996 and 2004....a hedonic price index and two quality-adjusted price indices show that prices have actually remained fairly constant over this 13-year period, with slight increases or decreases depending on a model’s assumptions.

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AFPNC to provide counterprogramming Wednesday morning

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:21 AM

From Americans for Prosperity North Carolina:

Patients’ Rights Group To Rally For Free Market Health Care Solutions 10:00 AM Wednesday

Group Will Announce Statewide Patients First Bus Tour to urge grassroots action against a government takeover of health care

Raleigh – Americans for Prosperity’s Patients First effort will hold a “Hands Off My Health Care” rally in support of free market health care solutions just hours before President Obama will speak in Raleigh in favor of a government takeover of healthcare.

The Rally will be held at 10:00 AM Wednesday July 29th at The North Raleigh Hilton, 3415 Wake Forest Road in Raleigh. The event is free and open to the public and media.

“While we welcome President Obama to our great state we believe people in North Carolina will not be persuaded to support a government run healthcare system that will require billions in new taxes and does not offer free market health care solutions,” said Americans for Prosperity & Patients First State Director Dallas Woodhouse. “We will rally for free market solutions to our health care challenges and against proposals from Washington that give government all the decision-making power. It is time for citizens to tell their legislators to stop, turn around, and pursue real reforms that put patients first.”

Those in attendance will be urged to call their senators, visit their district offices, and sign the Patients First petition. The petition asks all members of Congress to oppose any legislation that imposes greater government control over health care and results in fewer choices for patients and their families.

The petition is located at

People unable to attend the event are encouraged to visit

Americans for Prosperity will also announce details of a 6-day statewide bus tour that will take the “Hands Off My Health Care” message to all areas of the state.

“These proposals would change everything about health care as we know it. Instead of patients and doctors making decisions, it would be government bureaucrats,” said Woodhouse. “We’ve got to let lawmakers know that the American people simply don’t want a government takeover of their health care.”

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A day in the life of Mary Easley

Posted by David N. Bass at 09:40 AM

Thanks to reporting in the N&O, we now have an idea of how Mary Easley spent much of her time at N.C. State:

The [Highway Patrol travel] logs indicate that Easley was on campus an average of about three days per week during the months she was working full time for NCSU. Much of her time away coincided with extended weekends to Southport, where the Easleys own a home, according to the time logs as well as trooper expense forms and state flight logs.

But they also show her doing other things during workdays, including running errands, getting a haircut or visiting the N.C. Museum of Art, where she was active in money-raising efforts.

On days she was on campus, it was often for less than six hours, according to the logs.

Easley's lawyer and an Easley family spokesman say focusing on her time spent on campus is irrelevant because she got her job done and was a high-performer who received glowing reviews. They also say she worked on her job duties while away from campus, including on weekends.


Nonetheless, the logs for 2008 indicate that Easley was on campus about half the workdays during the first four months of the year. On days she did appear, she often spent less than six hours on campus.


In all, according to the logs, Easley was on campus about 143 workdays last year. About 60 percent of the time -- 85 days -- she was there for less than six hours.

If Mrs. Easley was a high performer on three six-hour days per week, just think what she could have accomplished working a traditional 40-hour week.

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NC Medicaid: a billion dollars in mistakes and counting

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:11 AM

First it was $635 million in excess costs, now it's $300 million in excess receipts.

It took months for North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) personnel to realize what a fiscal vortex the legislature created with mental health community support services, which eventually wasted $635 million. This weekend the Raleigh News & Observer reported that the state owes $300 million to the federal Medicaid program because of a mistake in how hospitals get paid. I suggested yesterday the $300 million mistake was convenient for cash flow regardless how inadvertent; it was both, but even more it was another reminder that bureaucracy (in government and in private organizations) is the handmaiden of waste, fraud, and abuse.

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Reagan’s role in ending the Cold War

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:41 AM

Regular readers in this forum know that this correspondent tends to read a lot of books about Ronald Reagan. Some heap a great deal of praise on our 40th president; others blast him.

The latest is a book that praises Reagan, but not for the reasons one might expect. In The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War, James Mann dispenses with the myth that the president was an amiable dunce who just happened to hold this nation’s highest elected office as the Soviet Union started to crumble.

On the other hand, Mann rejects the notion that Reagan’s first-term military buildup and bellicose language (“evil empire,” “ash heap of history,” and the like) paved the way for American victory over the Soviets.

Instead Mann credits Reagan’s ability during his second term to gauge just how different Mikhail Gorbachev was from previous Kremlin commanders. Mann contends that Reagan’s support of Gorbachev enabled the latter man to put domestic policies in place that hastened the Soviet Union’s collapse.

I don’t find Mann’s overall thesis convincing; he does too little to counter the argument that Reagan’s history of anti-communism and first-term defense priorities pushed the Soviet Union to elevate a change agent like Gorbachev instead of an aging Cold Warrior in the vein of Brezhnev, Andropov, or Chernenko. Mann seems to stretch the facts a little too far in suggesting that diplomacy alone — without the threat of military might — ended the conflict between East and West.

Nonetheless, Mann treats his subject fairly and offers interesting insights. Among them is this assessment of the famous 1987 Berlin Wall speech (a transcript of which takes up nearly eight pages in the heart of the book):

The new element in the substance of Reagan’s Berlin speech was not that the wall should come down, but that Gorbachev himself should take it down. This served a number of purposes. Reagan’s words called attention to the fact that the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe still depended on the Soviet Union; [East German dictator Erich] Honecker, who had personally overseen the construction of the wall, would never have had his job without Moscow. Even more significant, the speech set out a standard by which Gorbachev should be judged: Would his reforms be limited in scope, or would they change the existing order in Europe? The speech reaffirmed Reagan’s long-standing view that the ideological differences between the United States and the Soviet Union remained of fundamental importance. Finally, the speech buttressed Reagan’s public and congressional support inside the United States as he was preparing for further diplomacy with Gorbachev. He was protecting his political flanks, particularly on the right.

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A Blue-Dog Democrat’s sensible assessment

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:40 AM

The following passage from the latest TIME describes Kansas congressman Dennis Moore’s response to the Obama administration’s health care proposals. The passage also could apply equally well to North Carolina’s budget debate:
The problem is runaway spending. "Voters want us to get some kind of a lid on costs," he continues. "They aren't looking for a huge tax increase. Small businesses are struggling to make ends meet as it is."

For ideas designed to tackle “runaway spending,” check out Joe Coletti’s Can-Do Budget.

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Speaking of ignoring key facts …

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:38 AM

An interesting TIME cover story on the debate about a presidential pardon for Scooter Libby includes this passage:
Cheney's former top aide on domestic and foreign policy stood accused of obstructing a federal investigation into the source of an egregious media leak: the identity of an undercover CIA officer named Valerie Plame. Her husband Joseph Wilson, a former diplomat, had written an Op-Ed for the New York Times in July 2003 claiming to have evidence that the Administration had lied to bolster the case for war in Iraq. Within days, in an effort to discredit Wilson's story, a conservative columnist had revealed the identify of Wilson's wife. Plame's "outing" was seen by her husband and his fellow Democrats as an act of revenge orchestrated by Cheney himself — and the most extreme example of how far an Administration would go to cover its tracks in a war gone bad.

Missing from that history are some important facts. For one, Plame was not undercover. Second, the “conservative columnist,” Robert Novak, revealed to federal prosecutors that his secret source was a man totally unconnected to Cheney and Libby.

You might remember the John Locke Foundation’s role in this case.

Click play below to hear Novak recount that role during his July 2007 JLF Headliner appearance.

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It's too bad the ‘Curious Capitalist’ fails to note a key fact of capitalism

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:37 AM

TIME’s self-proclaimed “Curious Capitalist,” Justin Fox, asks in his latest column whether Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase are earning “Too Much Profit?

In exploring the answer to that question, Fox does not mention at all the role of profit in a capitalist system. To quote the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics:

When profits are above the normal level, they attract additional investment, either by new firms or by existing firms. New investment enters until profits are competed down to the same level the investment could earn elsewhere. In this way, high profits attract firms to invest in areas where consumers are signaling that they want the investment to occur.

So high profits for Goldman and JPMorgan are not — in and of themselves — a problem. What Fox chose not to discuss are the government rules, regulations, and roadblocks that prevent new or existing firms from competing with those two giants. Without government interference, competition inevitably would drive those profits down.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:33 AM

The week's first Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Colleen Calvani's report about the push for incusionary zoning in Charlotte. 

John Hood's Daily Journal analyzes Gov. Beverly Perdue's objections to a proposed compromise state budget.

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