The Locker Room

January 5, 2011

New Carolina Journal Online exclusive

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:49 PM

David Bass' new Carolina Journal Online exclusive focuses on the Wake County school board's half-price deal on some land in Apex.

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The pension grab: You read it first in CJ

Posted by Rick Henderson at 12:53 AM

Over at The Corner, George Mason University economics professor Veronique de Rugy links to a Christian Science Monitor story reporting that European governments (so far Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Ireland, and France) have begun seizing private pension investments to cover insolvent public pensions.

De Rugy notes that the U.S. Social Security Trust Funds are due to run out of cash within four years. What will our government do, she asks: "increase taxes to pay for benefits, borrow money, print money, or seize private savings?"

Carolina Journal contributor Karen McMahan has reported on two occasions that Beltway Democrats have contemplated the final option — creating a form of Guaranteed Retirement Account managed by the government that could replace private retirement savings.

We imagine the 112th Congress might take a dismissive view of such plans, but with public pension debt in our own country exploding, you never know ...

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Gotta love Detroit!

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 12:52 AM

One of the worst urban school districts in the United States is making headlines with a head-scratching purchase...and taxpayers are footing the bill.

Detroit Public Schools students will have access to 35,000 laptop computers in school starting next month in what the officials are calling an unmatched infusion of technology in the district.

DPS teachers already have received 5,000 new ASUS Netbook laptops and training as a result of the $49 million technology program funded by the federal stimulus money, Robert Bobb, the DPS Emergency Financial Manager said today.
You can't blame this one on former Detroit mayor (and prisoner #44678-039 at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, MI) Kwame Kilpatrick.

And did anyone else notice that the DPS Emergency Financial Manager's name is Bob Bobb?

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Another myth goes down

Posted by George Leef at 11:36 AM

Indefatigable myth buster Don Boudreaux nails another one in the following letter, namely the myth that something is wrong unless workers are paid enough to "buy back the product" -- a silly but superficially appealing notion that unions capitalized on to obtain public support.

Editor, Washington Post
1150 15th St., NW
Washington, DC 20071

Dear Editor:

Harold Meyerson asserts that 20th-century America was blessed by an "equilibrium among production, wages and purchasing power - the equilibrium that Henry Ford famously recognized when he upped his workers' pay to an unheard-of $5 a day in 1913 so they could afford to buy the cars they made ("Corporate America, paving a downward economic slide," Jan. 5).

This popular account of Ford's pay raise is a myth. Ford raised wages in order to attract and keep good workers; he was obliged to do so because of competition for labor.

As for the alleged "equilibrium" that Mr. Meyerson mentions, to understand that it is fanciful requires only that one ask the following question: would Boeing remain solvent if it raised its workers' wages so that they could afford to buy the commercial airliners they make?

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University

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Publisher finds way to make Mark Twain politically correct without changing a word

Posted by Jon Sanders at 11:15 AM

Recognizing that the "N-word" is actually very popular and acceptable in society, with one big qualification, the publisher realized that the obvious and money-saving solution was just to change the image of Mark Twain into one of the multitude of American hip-hop celebrities who can say the "n-word" with impunity.

Like Dr. Dre, for example, whose sextuple-platinum magnum opus "2001" was released to great popular and critical acclaim and included three Grammy nominated singles (one winner) and such sterling cultural contributions as:

  • "Some L.A. [N-words]" (featuring fellow artists Time Bomb, King T, Hittman, Xzibit, Defari, MC Ren, Knoc-turn'al, and Kokane)
  • "[B-word] [N-word]" (featuring Snoop Dogg, Hittman, and Six-Two)
  • "[F-word] You" (featuring Dr. Dre, Devin the Dude, and Snoop Dogg)

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Progressive thinking on insurance and taxes

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 11:14 AM

Charles Schumer wants Republicans who oppose ObamaCare to drop their existing health insurance (which he continues to mislabel "health care"), Politico reports. Eric Cantor's appropriate response through a spokesman:

This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of health care in America, which isn’t shocking from people like Senator Schumer who are responsible for the ObamaCare disaster. But if Senator Schumer wants to operate in the world of the illogical, we assume that he, Leader Reid, and Rep. Pelosi will be giving up their own health care since it doesn’t include the public option.

Schumer's is a fundamental misunderstanding on the left. By this thinking, you should not have children if you oppose a bill that requires every married couple to have children.

On the other hand, progressives have have no problem with spending more to opt out of a government system that doesn't work(e.g., education) or accepting tax cuts they oppose.

Even Warren Buffett and GiveItBackForJobs.org suggest giving money to charities instead of government -- Buffett specifically saying he thought the Gates Foundation could deliver better services more effectively than the feds, according to a report at the time.

At the state level, how many people who want higher taxes voluntarily paid more to a government? The last time I looked, it wasn't many. Do proponents of quarter-cent sales tax hikes in counties across the state give write checks to their county governments?

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Senate education leaders named

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 11:14 AM

From Sen. Phil Berger's office:

Preston, Tillman, and Soucek to be Chairs for Education

Raleigh, N.C. – Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) announced today that upon convening the 2011-2012 session of the General Assembly he will name Sen. Jean Preston (R-Carteret), Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), and Sen. Dan Soucek (R-Watauga) as Co-Chairs of the Senate Committee on Education/Higher Education. Sen. Preston is a retired educator and Sen. Tillman is a retired school administrator. Preston and Tillman will also serve with Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) as Co-Chairs of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education/Higher Education.

Sen. Berger said, “These leaders know what it is like to structure an educational system from the inside. Their knowledge and expertise will be crucial to building a firm foundation for our schools.”

“Strong schools make for strong communities and a strong state. Working to improve our educational system will be a top priority in the next session of the General Assembly.” said Sen. Preston.

Sen. Tillman said, “Education is a vital component to the long-term health of our state. Strengthening our schools is a long-term project and a worthy cause.”

Sen. Soucek said, “Providing a pathway toward higher education is not only key to the future of our students but is also the way to support and sustain the economic future of our state.”

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Congressional Oath of Office

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 10:26 AM

Today's Heritage Foundation blog post notes that shortly after noon today all 435 members of the House of Representatives will take a constitutionally mandated oath to "...support and defend the Constitution..."

 Heritage notes:

To help Members better fulfill their oath, the House will not only read the Constitution aloud on Thursday but also adopt a rule requiring that every bill cite what specific provisions of the Constitution empower Congress to enact it. 

I can't wait to see the creative ways that Progressives will twist and bend the Constitution to meet the requirement that bills cite constitutional authority.

Of course, The New Times is not amused.  The Heritage blog post concludes with:

But not everyone sees it this way. The New York Times editorializes this morning: “There is a similar air of vacuous fundamentalism in requiring that every bill cite the Constitutional power given to Congress to enact it.” We’ll let President Abraham Lincoln respond:

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap—let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;—let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

 

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$200K in debt for a B.A. in sociology

Posted by George Leef at 09:46 AM

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call Kelli Space, who has achieved some unwanted fame for having amassed $200,000 in student loan debt while pursuing her undergraduate degree at Northeastern University, writes about what she has learned from the experience.

Kelli is a poster child for the damage done by our college degree mania, fueled by easy federal money that lures many young people into making bad decisions that will affect them for decades.

BTW, nothing in Article I, Section 8 authorizes Congress to loan money to students, businesses, or anyone else.

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Walter Williams on the conventional wisdom

Posted by George Leef at 09:13 AM

Walter Williams has a terrific column today in which he questions some notions that are largely accepted as true, but aren't. Catastrophic global warming? The hype is merely "a gambit for more government control over our lives." The "fact" that the US is losing all its manufacturing and we'll soon be a nation of burger flippers? Also false. Employment in manufacturing has been declining, but that's due to increasing efficiency -- just as we experienced with agriculture a century ago. This is another bogey man story designed to get people to support increasing government interference in the economy.

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Obamacare and the Constitution

Posted by George Leef at 08:42 AM

Today's Wall Street Journal contains a letter from a reader who understands the Constitution and the reason why the massive health care bill is outside the authorized powers of Congress:

In an 1817 letter to Albert Gallatin, Thomas Jefferson said "that Congress had not unlimited powers . . . to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated; and that, as it was never meant they should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the enumerated powers."

ObamaCare is not unconstitutional due to the misapplication of the descriptive yet nonempowering phrase "general welfare." It is unconstitutional because none of the 18 enumerated powers grants Congress the power to be involved in health care. It's that simple.

J. Michael Hanselman
Frederick, MD

Hanselman is right, and I would add that there are many, many other pieces of legislation enshrined in our statutory law that are similarly unconstitutional. The enumerated powers say nothing at all about education, for example.

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Sowell: The progressive embrace of Third World culture

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 07:55 AM

Take a moment this morning to read Thomas Sowell's powerful op-ed.

The black ghettos of America, and especially their housing projects, are other enclaves of people largely abandoned to their own lawless and violent lives, their children warehoused in schools where they are allowed to run wild, with education being more or less optional.

What is going on? These and other groups, here and abroad, are treated as mascots of the self-congratulatory elites.

These elites are able to indulge themselves in non-judgmental permissiveness toward those selected as mascots, while cracking down with heavy-handed, nanny-state control on others.

The effect of all this on the mascots themselves is not a big concern of the elites. Mascots symbolize something for others. The actual fate of the mascots themselves seldom matters much to their supposed benefactors.

So long as the elites have control of the public purse, they can subsidize self-destructive behavior on the part of the mascots. And so long as the elites can send their own children to private schools, they needn't worry about what happens to the children of the mascots in the public schools.

Other people who cannot afford to send their children to private schools can simply be called "racists" for objecting to what the indulgence of the mascots is doing to the public schools or what the violence of the mascots is doing to other children trapped in the same schools with them.

A hundred years ago, groups who are now indulged as mascots were targets and scapegoats of Progressive era elites, treated like dirt and targeted for eradication in the name of "eugenics."

There are no permanent mascots. As fashions change, the mascots of today can become the scapegoats and targets of tomorrow. But who thinks ahead any more?

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Two letters by Boudreaux

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 07:45 AM

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

Arguing that the U.S. Constitution is simply a “collection of shrewd political compromises,” E.J. Dionne ridicules persons who demand strict adherence to its text (“What a GOP Congress might bring,” Jan. 3).

If being a collection of shrewd political compromises justifies a document’s text being interpreted loosely, why stop with the Constitution?  Extend this principle to all legislation.  And let’s begin with history’s greatest collection of shrewd political compromises, the U.S. tax code.

Interpreting that code as a living document, it strikes me that the word “income” is best read as “bunny rabbits.”  I will remit to Uncle Sam approximately 25 percent of all bunny rabbits that I acquire this year.  And I will cite Mr. Dionne to defend my interpretation against persons who are so dull-witted as to insist on a wooden, literal interpretation of “income.”

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

Here’s a letter to the programming director at MSNBC:

You feature a Reuters’s story reporting that “Most Americans think the United States should raise taxes for the rich to balance the budget, according to a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll released on Monday….  Sixty-one percent of Americans polled would rather see taxes for the wealthy increased as a first step to tackling the deficit, the poll showed.  The next most popular way – chosen by 20 percent – was to cut defense spending (“Poll: Tax the rich to balance the budge,” Jan. 3)

In other words, most Americans want lots of government if other Americans pay for it.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

Another possibility, of course, is that this poll was conducted in a biased way.
 

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Poll: Charter school cap needs to go

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 07:32 AM

New Civitas poll finds that North Carolinians want to ditch the cap on charter schools:

Strongly Favor – 44 percent
Somewhat Favor – 30 percent
Somewhat Oppose – 9 percent
Strongly Oppose – 14 percent
Don’t Know – 4 percent

Total Favor - 73 percent
Total Oppose – 22 percent

Republican (77 percent support-20 percent oppose) and Democratic voters (71 percent support-24 percent oppose) both support allowing more charter schools to operate. Unaffiliated voters favor removing the cap by a 74 percent-21 percent margin.

According to the poll, a higher percentage of white Democrats opposed de-capping charter schools than any other group listed in the crosstabs.

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Barone finds one reason why congressional Democrats pursue old, outdated ideas

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:12 AM

As Michael Barone explains in a new Washington Examiner article, congressional Democrats are older than their Republican counterparts:

The average age of Republican House members in the new Congress convening today is 54.9, younger than the Republicans' average age in the previous Congress, 56.5. But the average age of House Democrats has risen, from 58 to 60.2. That can be explained partly by the high turnover in the 2010 election. Many younger Democrats, first elected in 2006 or 2008, fell by the wayside. The old bulls from 65 percent-plus Democratic districts survived. Meanwhile, many young Republican challengers won.

But the results are historically anomalous. Going back to the Congress elected in 1950, there has never been more than a 2.8-year difference in the average age of House Republicans and House Democrats. The difference in this Congress is 5.3 years, almost double that.

The picture is similar on the Senate side of the Capitol, where the average age of Republicans is 61.4 and the average age of Democrats is 63.1. That's as wide a margin as in any Senate since the one produced by the election of 1982.

Democrats like to think of themselves as the young party, the party of new ideas. And in 2010 they remained the choice of the youngest voters, though by only half the margin in 2008.

But when you look at the top Democrats in the House, you don't see young faces. The ages of the ranking Democrats on the Appropriations, Ways and Means, Education, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, and Judiciary committees are 70, 79, 65, 71, 70, 69 and 81. The three party leaders are 70, 71 and 70.

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More ‘Bush on steroids’?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:58 AM

When Roy Cordato discussed the concept of Barack Obama’s administration representing “George W. Bush on steroids,” he was referring to failed economic stimulus measures.

Read the latest Newsweek, and you might get the impression that the same principle applies to military policy as well.

Stephen L. Carter’s article “Man of War” features the following subheadline: “How does Barack Obama differ as a commander in chief from his swaggering predecessor? A lot less than you might think.” Plus the article opens this way:

The election of Barack Obama, according to critics and admirers alike, ushered in a new era in American foreign policy. Perhaps. But it did not usher in a new era in American warfare. Under Obama, we fight in much the same way that we did under his predecessor—for similar reasons, with similar justifications. Strip away the soaring rhetoric and you begin to discover what probably we should have known from the start: when it comes to war, presidents do what they think they must.

Obama might have run in 2008 as the peace candidate, but next time around he will be running as a war president. This simple truth cannot be avoided.

Paging Cindy Sheehan.

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George Will didn’t get Joe Klein’s memo

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:57 AM

You know the one — the one about nothing of note happening in 2010.

Will recounts for Newsweek the good, bad, and ugly highlights of the past year:

2010 was more stimulating than the Obama administration’s stimulus has been. Although fueled by a $535 million stimulus loan, and blessed by a presidential visit in May, California’s Solyndra, Inc., which manufactures solar panels, announced in November that it was closing a factory and laying off workers. In another harbinger of our “green jobs” future, GE announced that it would shed 200 jobs by closing the last U.S. lightbulb factory: It makes old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, which become illegal in 2014, when Americans will buy the corkscrew fluorescent replacements from abroad. In another adventure in state capitalism, Washington, although chin-deep in red ink, has $7,500 for anyone willing to be bribed into buying a $41,000 Chevy Volt. The president branded Republicans “the party of ‘no,’?” for which the party thanked him because voters thanked it for echoing their pithy response to his agenda: “No!”

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A dubious distinction

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:55 AM

A chart in the latest Newsweek lists the 10 states with the largest tax increases — by percentage — from 2008 to 2010.

We’re No. 9! We’re No. 9! Let’s hope lawmakers keep that dubious distinction in mind as they hear the pleas for tax hikes to help the state deal with the nearly impossible task of closing a multibillion-dollar budget hole.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:48 AM

David Bass' new Carolina Journal Online exclusive covers GOP plans to take up repeal of the federal health care reform law early in the new congressional session. 

John Hood's Daily Journal shares highlights from his stack of post-holiday reading, including new information bolstering the case for cuts in addressing North Carolina's multibillion-dollar budget hole.

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