The Locker Room

December 29, 2010

Evening up the playing field of campaigns and politics

Posted by Becki Gray at 4:02 PM

During the recent elections, there was a lot of discussion about evening up the playing field in politics.  We’ve heard strong arguments for an independent redistricting commission.  We’ve heard pleas for requiring voters to show identification.  There have been debates about the policy and legality of taxpayer funded campaigns.  Many have suggested that re-placing party designation for judicial candidates provides important information to voters.    

Another issue is the funding of campaigns. Right now, everyone’s contributions to political campaigns are limited to $4,000.  EXCEPT, that is, for contributions from political parties.  The effect of allowing political parties to make unlimited contributions is to make the political parties far too powerful and is probably the biggest reason why there's such a concentration of power problem in North Carolina.

Whoever controls the purse of the party controls who’s in and what happens in the legislature. Ideally, all limits would be lifted and disclosure would be complete but until that becomes possible, it would be a good idea to limit political parties to $4,000 contributions – just like everyone else. 

In short, all contributions should be limited or none should.  It’s called a fair playing field when everyone plays by the same rules.   

No doubt, these debates will continue when the new General Assembly convenes next month.  Here’s hoping fairness wins out.


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The South has risen

Posted by Rick Henderson at 4:00 PM

Examining recently published census data, American Enterprise Institute scholar John Fortier notes that, for the first time, the American South can claim more residents (115 million) than the Northeast and Midwest combined (55 million and 67 million, respectively).

Moreover, Fortier calls North Carolina a "powerhouse for growth," as the Tar Heel State's population expanded by 18.5 percent over the decade, second only to Texas' 20.6 percent during that period.

With 72 million people, the West is now the nation's second most populated region. It moved past the Midwest since the 1990 census. Moreover,

No state in either the Midwest or Northeast grew faster than the national growth rate. No state in the West grew slower than the national growth rate. Montana grew at exactly the national growth rate of 9.7 percent. California was the second-slowest growing Western state at 10 percent, a growth rate which would be remarkable for a Midwestern or Northeastern state.

In a year-end press event last week, Gov. Bev Perdue said that, if current migration patterns continue, North Carolina is on pace to become America's seventh most populous state.

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People like their 'fair and balanced' news

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:49 AM

At Commentary magazine's "Contentions" blog, Peter Wehner discusses the latest cable television news ratings:

FOX News has the top dozen rated shows on cable news. Thirteen FOX News programs draw more than 1 million viewers; three draw more than 2 million; and one program, The O’Reilly Factor, draws more than 3 million. In fact, the 11:00 p.m. repeat of The O’Reilly Factor, which ranks eighth (1.41 million viewers), easily outdistanced the top-rated program on MSNBC, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, which ranked 13th (1.035 million viewers).

CNN’s top-rated show, Larry King Live, finished at number 18 (672,000 viewers). Things were so bad for CNN in 2010 that Nancy Grace of Headline News ranked ahead of King, who has now retired from his nightly hosting duties.

While some might crow that these results demonstrate just how conservative the American people are, it's probably more accurate to say that the results demonstrate instead that American television viewers are quick to reject a clearly hard-left news spin when they have an alternative.

It's a topic this forum has discussed before.

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Stossel asks government to stop 'helping' us

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:16 AM

Those who think government should adopt a new motto — "Don't just do something! Stand there!" — might appreciate John Stossel's latest column posted at Human Events:

Last year, Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act. It was supposed to really end the alleged abuses perpetrated by the credit card companies. The law forbids some penalties and interest-rate increases on existing balances.


Finally! Protection! A new bureaucracy will stop greedy credit card companies from unfairly penalizing you. And it won't threaten the credit business. Yippie!

How has it worked out?

Not so well. George Mason University Law Professor Todd Zywicki points out that the new restrictions hurt more consumers than they help.

Since the Card Act passed, mortgage and Treasury bill rates have dropped a little, but credit card interest went up -- from 13 percent to nearly 15 percent. Some banks also stopped offering credit to some people. JPMorgan Chase cut off 15 percent of its customers.

So the real result of this "consumer" regulation? "Hundreds of thousands of people can't get cards who used to be able to have cards, and all the rest of us now have to pay more," Zywicki said.

But maybe the people who can't get credit cards are better off because they couldn't handle credit wisely?

"Just to say they don't have a credit card doesn't mean that they don't have credit," Zywicki retorts. "They'll just go to more expensive places -- the local payday lender or the local pawn shop."

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Subsidizing state debt

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:07 AM

Some of the new bosses in Washington really are the same as the old bosses. The tax deal killed Build America [bailout] Bonds that give more federal money to bond investors and investment banks while encouraging states, universities, and local governments to go deeper in debt. But John Mica, who will be taking over the House transportation committee guarantees they'll be back.

What confidence can we have that Republicans in Raleigh and Washington will be able to make the hard calls on spending if they can't even make the easy ones like this?

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Don Boudreaux on the "right" to health care

Posted by George Leef at 09:45 AM

One of the most ruinous of all ideas is the notion that people have a right to things that can only be obtained by taking the property or restricting the liberty of others. In the letter below, Don Boudreaux comments on the claim that we have a right to health care.

26 December 2010

Editor, Boston Globe

Dear Editor:

Ronald Pies, MD, asserts that every individual has a "right" to "basic health
care" - meaning, a right to receive such care without paying for it (Letters,
Dec. 26).

The rights that Americans wisely cherish as being essential for a free society
require only the refraining from action. Your right to speak freely requires me simply not to stop you from speaking; it does not require me to supply your megaphone.

Not so with a "right" to "basic health care." Elevating free access to a scarce
good into a "right" imposes on strangers all manner of ill-defined positive
obligations - obligations that necessarily violate other, proper rights. For
example, perhaps my "right" to basic health care means that I can force Dr. Pies away from his worship service in order that he attend (free of charge!) to my ruptured spleen. Or perhaps it means that I have the "right" to pay for my
health care by confiscating part of his income. If so, how much of his income
does my "right" entitle me to confiscate? Who knows?

And if Dr. Pies is planning to retire, do I have the "right" to force him to
continue to work so that the supply of basic health care doesn't shrink? If Dr.
Pies should die, am I entitled - again, to keep the supply of basic health care
from shrinking - to force his children to study and practice medicine?

Does my right to basic health care imply that I can force my neighbor to pay for my cross-country skiing vacation on grounds that keeping fit is part of basic health care?

Talking about "rights" to scarce goods and services sounds right only to persons who are economically illiterate, politically naive, and suffering the delusion that reality is optional.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University

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Top ten higher education events in the last decade

Posted by George Leef at 09:18 AM

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call the Pope Center staff writes about what we think were the top ten higher education events of the last decade.

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Ponnuru pushes payroll tax revisions

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:46 AM

Ramesh Ponnuru and Reihan Salam believe Republicans need to focus more attention on policies that will attract support from working-class voters.

In an article for the latest National Review, they discuss the impact of that approach on the tax debate:

The tax that falls most heavily on lower-middle-class voters is the payroll tax. Cutting any tax is a tough proposition in today's fiscal circumstances. But a tax reform that reduces the burden of payroll taxes on young working-class voters who are trying to start families is well within reach: It would merely require increasing the child tax credit and applying it against both income and payroll taxes, replacing the lost revenue by reducing tax breaks. Among the most appealing targets are the state-and-local-tax deduction and the mortgage-interest deduction, both of which mainly benefit affluent households in high-cost, high-tax states.

Ponnuru made a similar points during a 2009 interview with Carolina Journal Radio, as documented below on

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Goldberg discusses the conservative and liberal labels

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:28 AM

In the latest dead-tree version of National Review, Jonah Goldberg uses an article about the "No Labels" movement to discuss the inadequacy of the labels "conservative" and "liberal."

Conservatives champion the decidedly un-conserving forces of the free market and individualism. Liberals champion, well, if you're reading this magazine you know what they champion.

I don't worry overmuch about what the consultants call "branding" in politics. But it would be awfully nice if conservatives did a better job explaining to voters, particularly younger voters, that the party of change and freedom is in many respects the GOP (though perhaps not in the realm of "lifestyle"). Liberalism remains enthralled by the New Deal model that seeks to impose stability, security, and predictability on economic life at the expense of growth and innovation. That is a fundamentally small-"c"-conservative worldview. Liberals rationalize it by saying that necessitous men are not free men. What they miss is that men do not become free by becoming dependent on government for all of life's necessities.

Goldberg's reference to younger voters reminds me of comments Michael Barone made to a John Locke Foundation Headliner audience in 2009. Barone offered the GOP some marketing suggestions:

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Barone assesses the state of the culture wars

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:13 AM

Michael Barone's latest article for the Washington Examiner posits that "culture war" issues are not likely to play a decisive role in upcoming political battles:

The fact is that there is an ongoing truce on the social issues, because for most Americans they have been overshadowed by concerns raised by the weak economy and the Obama Democrats' vast increase in the size and scope of government.

Those with strong positions on both sides of the abortion and gay rights issues don't like to hear that. They -- on both sides -- base their views on strongly held moral beliefs that are intellectually defensible and not vicious in character.

And for more than a decade they had gotten used to a politics in which the demographic variable most highly correlated with voting behavior was religion, or degree of religiosity, and in which positions on abortion were very highly correlated with partisan preference.

Our politics in the years from 1995 to 2005 or so was like a culture war between two approximately equal-sized armies fighting it out over small bits of terrain that made the difference between victory and defeat. In that context, abortion and other cultural issues were litmus tests in the contests for both parties' presidential nominations.

I don't think that's likely to be the case in the future. You don't hear potential contenders for the 2012 Republican nomination talking about cultural issues very much. And the intramural arguments among Democrats are over things like tax cuts for the rich and the public option in the health care bill.

Even as economics is overshadowing all else, we seem to have reached a truce in the culture wars because important issues have been settled as a practical matter.

Abortion remains controversial. But we are not going to see abortion criminalized, not in a country where the Supreme Court has been ruling for 37 years that it's a right.

At the same time, we are seeing abortion disfavored and restricted by state laws that are widely popular and have at least in some cases been upheld by the courts. Polls show that young voters, liberal on most cultural issues, have slightly more negative views on abortion than their elders.

On gay rights we also see something in the nature of a truce. Polls suggest majority support for Congress's repeal of the ban on open gays in the military, and the Marine Corps commandant, who opposed the change, promised to work hard to implement it.

Same-sex marriage is accepted in Massachusetts and nearly gained majority support in referenda in Maine and California. But many states have passed constitutional amendments banning it. It is unlikely to pass muster with voters or legislators in most of the South anytime soon, if only because most black voters are opposed (blacks voted 70 percent against it in California).

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:00 AM

Amanda Vuke's new Carolina Journal Online exclusive focuses on the state community college system's response to tight budget times. 

John Hood's Daily Journal examines North Carolina's historical record of economic progress and finds little to celebrate in recent decades.

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