John Hood's Syndicated Weekly Column | 2015 Archive


Nov. 25th — Election Experiment to Begin
After the 2016 elections, the winners will crow and losers will eat crow. Then we can look back and try to determine whether the change of calendar made a difference.

Nov. 18th — State Should Lighten Burden
North Carolina is headed in the right direction. To keep the momentum going, let’s do more to reduce the indirect but costly taxes that are embedded in overregulation.

Nov. 16th — Government Gets Poor Data
If we want to combat the remaining problems of chronic poverty successfully, we have to recognize what has already occurred, thanks both to economic growth and to past reforms.

Nov. 11th — Restraint Cuts Borrowing Costs
We can finance the necessary infrastructure to deliver public services and foster economic growth in our state while also keeping taxes low.

Nov. 9th — Population Shifts Shape Elections
It may be hard to believe given the results of this fall’s municipal elections, but not so long ago Republicans competed effectively with Democrats for political offices in North Carolina’s largest cities.

Nov. 4th — Scores Follow National Trend
For North Carolina, the real news from the 2015 NAEP was that we essentially followed the national trend — unfortunately so, in the case of 8th-grade reading and math.

Nov. 2nd — Interest Can Drive Progress
If you base your political views on the assumption that people don’t tend to act in their self-interest, you doom yourself to chronic disappointment.

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Oct. 28th — Health Plans Post Big Losses
Why is there such a yawning gap between theory and reality here? The experience of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina is a good place to start to answer this question.

Oct. 26th — Not a Matter of Degrees
For three years now, I’ve defended the decision of the North Carolina General Assembly to end the longstanding practice of giving schoolteachers automatic pay boosts if they possess or obtain graduate degrees.

Oct. 21th — Six Trends to Shape 2016
Of six major trends in NC, it would be fair to say that three of them — presidential job approval, employment, and personal income — augur well for the Republican incumbent at the moment. The other three — gubernatorial job approval, unemployment rate, and GDP — point the other way.

Oct. 19th — NC Sees Income Gains
Just six states currently make the top-10 lists for both job growth and per-capita income growth. North Carolina is one of them — the only Southern state to do so.

Oct. 14th — NC Teacher Exits Misstated
No, 15 percent of North Carolina teachers did not exit the profession last year. And no, North Carolina is not a net exporter of teachers to other states.

Oct. 12th — Fund Transfer Finally Ends
More than $200 million a year in revenue collected from motorists will now be used to maintain, refurbish, and expand the roads and bridges they traverse rather than being used for other state programs.

Oct. 7th — NC Is A Conservative Leader
Among conservatives around the country, North Carolina has become a superstar — a place where innovative ideas, sustained investment, diligence, and political acumen have combined to produce an impressive string of hard-won victories.

Oct. 5th — Labor Market Woes Are National
While North Carolina’s unemployment rate currently stands at just under 6 percent, some argue that problems in the state’s labor market are worse than that one statistic would indicate.

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Sep. 30th — Party Disunity Can Be Fatal
Sen. Jesse Helms believed a bitter Republican primary for governor in 1984 would hurt his party’s prospects up and down the ballot, very much including his own.

Sep. 28th — Bad Forecast on Early Voting
Predicting political events is hard enough. It is impossible if you allow your assumptions to supplant the evidence.

Sep. 23rd — State Initiates Building Boom
Lawmakers ended a transfer out of the Highway Fund and hikes fees to fund one of the largest increases in transportation funding in modern North Carolina history.

Sep. 21th — Nothing New About Attacks
I’m all for setting higher standards in political discourse. My only objection is that I don’t think nastiness is a recent invention, either in national politics or right here in North Carolina.

Sep. 16th — Budget Builds Up Savings
The new budget will likely place $450 million into the rainy day fund this year, while also transferring $150 million to the reserve for repairs and renovations and maintaining a separate, healthy reserve to take care of any unexpected costs as the state reforms Medicaid.

Sep. 14th — Fewer Split the Difference
Even in the early 2000s, there were many members of Congress whose party affiliations differed from how their districts voted in presidential or other statewide elections. Now there are few.

Sep. 9th — Bill Has Carolina Pedigree
I don’t expect today’s critics of the Taxpayer Protection Act to know its history. Most of them lived elsewhere back then. I promise not to hold that against them.

Sep. 7th — Growth Combats Income Inequality
America’s system of free enterprise used to be one of the world’s best providers of upward mobility. And real, inflation-adjusted incomes grew briskly in North Carolina and most of the country for most of the 20th century. Neither description fits our current economic situation.

Sep. 2nd — Voters Seek Safety in the Past
As voters begin to think seriously about the 2016 presidential election, I believe many will be looking for someone to lead them not to some scarcely imagined future but to a cherished past

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Aug. 31st — For Higher Growth, Think Small
Over the past couple of decades, entrepreneurship rates have stagnated or dropped in most of the country, including North Carolina. The situation worsened after the onset of the Great Recession in 2007.

Aug. 26th — Research Shows Promise of Choice
As a very public advocate of parental choice in education for most of my adult life, I am used to having my intentions questioned.

Aug. 24th — NC Ranks 9th in Job Creation
Some government spending represents valuable public investment, yes, but cultivating private investment is the most important goal.

Aug. 19th — Dems Prioritize Governor's Race
Richard Burr has benefitted from good timing throughout his political career. His streak appears to be intact going into 2016.

Aug. 17th — Yes, Protect the Taxpayers
by moving its Taxpayer Protection Act, the Senate has done a masterful job of provoking liberal politicians and commentators into making some truly silly, uninformed, and panicky claims.

Aug. 12th — Defining Terms Shapes Debate
Repeat errors or lies often enough and they become “true” to future generations. That is why it is so important to confront them, repeatedly, from the very beginning.

Aug. 10th — Count Campaign Costs Per Voter
Tillis-Hagan was not the most expensive race in North Carolina history or in the nation last year. Not even close.

Aug. 5th — NC City Earns Dubious Distinction
Would it surprise you to learn that North Carolina’s largest city, Charlotte, had the 9th-highest tax burden on travelers among major cities in the United States?

Aug. 3rd — Why I"ll Never Run
Every now and then, I make a mental list of how many different ways I am manifestly unsuited to run for public office.

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Jul. 29th — NC Economy Compares Well
Now that North Carolina’s “headline” unemployment statistic, the U-3 rate, has ticked up for several months, the same Democratic politicians and liberal activists who once treated the statistic as misleading are now citing it authoritatively.

Jul. 27th — Court Makes the Right Choice
The plaintiffs in the Opportunity Scholarship lawsuit had to engage in bizarre legal contortions to try to distinguish their case. Martin and the majority refused to play Constitutional Twister with them.

Jul. 22nd — Primary Could Be Pivotal
By initially trying to put the primary in February, North Carolina Republicans played a game of chicken with the national party. The RNC didn’t blink.

Jul. 20th — NC Sets Higher Bar
Texas, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New York, and North Carolina are in an exclusive club. Can you guess its membership policy?

Jul. 15th — Don't Overreach on Rules
Freeing our lives from risk is impossible. Our goals should be to identify, manage, and minimize risk.

Jul. 13th — Growth Rests on Four Walls
The core question in North Carolina politics is a simple one: how can state government build a foundation for sustained, broad-based economic growth?

Jul. 8th — Build on Constitution Avenue
I like the image of written constitutions as legal Athenas, helmed and grasping stout spears. But to prevail in the battle against government encroachment, they need ongoing help: new arms, new armor, and constant battle training.

Jul. 6th — Three Teams Debate Tax Reform
Although the Fair Tax and Flat Tax groups disagree on how best to levy taxes — indirectly through business collectors or directly to households — they actually agree on the preferred tax base, which is consumption rather than total income.

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Jun. 29th — Polls Mixed On McCrory
We should actively seek out alternative sources of information and expose ourselves to alternative points of view, at least for the benefits we can derive from exercising our brains and avoiding obvious errors.

Jun. 24th — Moral Claims Don't Persuade
Online commentators and email correspondents have proven more likely to explode in anger or hurl personal insults. They are less likely to offer reasoned criticism.

Jun. 22nd — Family Debates Merit Pay
A recent study found that the District of Columbia’s IMPACT system seems both to have motivated good teachers to excel and nudged low-performing ones to find more suitable careers.

Jun. 17th — Senate Plots Right Course
According to the Tax Foundation, the Senate’s tax changes would improve North Carolina’s business-tax climate to 14th in the nation, up from 16th. And its savings deposits would dramatically improve state government’s balance sheet.

Jun. 10th — Medicaid Debate Will Continue
In terms of Medicaid spending per enrollee, North Carolina is slightly higher than the regional average. Much of this reflects the fact that the cost of treating North Carolina’s disabled population is significantly higher than in other comparable states.

Jun. 8th — GOP in the Deep End
The current stresses and strains within the GOP augur something far less catastrophic than the earthquake Democrats and liberals are desperately hoping for in 2016.

Jun. 3rd — Up Against the Wall
Both sides will raise and spend lots of money, generating all the usual fretting from all the usual suspects, and yet the election will ultimately be decided on the basis of how swing voters feel about the trajectory of the economy and the security of the nation.

Jun. 1st — It's Nothing But Net
If all we think about are the net figures, we will vastly underestimate the amount of change in the labor market. It is constantly churning. New businesses pop up. Old businesses expand, contract, or disappear. Employment opportunities follow suit.

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May. 27th — Invitation to the Dance
The primary effect of rainy-day funds in situations of fiscal stress is to head off “temporary” tax increases that can persist and fuel higher spending in the future.

May. 25th — Always Take Ideas Seriously
Ideas are powerful. They change minds and motivate behavior. They are also potentially dangerous.

May. 20th — House Spends Too Much
Lawmakers were right in 2013 to prioritize general needs above business subsidies. Consistency should be the rule for 2015 and beyond.

May. 18th — Ask the Right Questions
The available evidence argues for a reform strategy based on higher standards, rigorous and independent assessment, differentiated pay for principals and teachers based on responsibilities and performance, and greater parental choice and competition.

May. 13th — How McCrory Gets Judged
Today’s polls tell us nothing other than the McCrory-Cooper contest will be highly competitive. Over the next several months, watch North Carolina’s economic performance. It is actually the leading gubernatorial indicator.

May. 11th — Stick With Fiscal Discipline
The state budget should be used to fund basic services and otherwise leave money in the hands of the North Carolinians who originally earned it, to spend as they wish.

May. 6th — Taxes About to Drop Again
Because of tough decisions made by the General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory, North Carolina’s payroll tax is expected to drop by about $280 million in 2016 and as much as $550 million by 2017.

May. 4th — Starting Point on Road Funds
When it comes to the backbone of North Carolina’s system, taxing fuel, technology has subverted its ability to serve as a stable approximation of a user fee.

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Apr. 29th — Fallacies Impede Sound Policy
Those who advocate rational public policy, based on a thorough understanding of the principles of human action and the benefits of voluntary exchange, are bound to be disappointed much of the time.

Apr. 27th — Bond Bite Is Too Big
If the referendum were held today, I’d probably vote yes on the highway bonds and no on the infrastructure bonds. State lawmakers should boil the latter down to essentials before placing them on the ballot.

Apr. 22nd — Please Raise This Tax
The main justification for exempting state and local bonds from taxation is that it helps governments afford important capital projects such as schools and roads.

Apr. 20th — Budget Crisis Didn't Occur
North Carolina’s recent history shows that whenever state lawmakers enact major changes in tax policy, there is a potential for error in revenue forecasting.

Apr. 15th — Freedom Is A Weighty Issue
Individual freedom will be imperiled over time in rough proportion to the degree of individual dependency on the state.

Apr. 8th — Mind Your Own Business
I think that we might have a better chance of getting governmental busybodies to mind their own business if we really and truly minded our own business.

Apr. 6th — A Capital Idea for Growth
Obviously infrastructure and education are important. This is an argument for spending more wisely on them, rather than just jacking up their cost. I think it’s a capital idea.

Apr. 1st — Look Before You Tweet
Every false report spread virally as fact serves to insult true victims and render them less likely to be believed.

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Mar. 30th — Georgia On My Mind
I’m happy to say that there is, indeed, a Carolina Comeback. But I’d be even happier if we were keeping up with the Peach State Surge.

Mar. 25th — Beware of Fiscal Storms
Whether for short-run or long-run needs, having more money in the state's bank account sure would come in handy.

Mar. 23rd — Careful About Rule Changes
Change an electoral rule if it makes sense on the merits, but don’t do it assuming that your party will benefit. Back in the day, Democrats checked their swing. Now they’re glad they did.

Mar. 18th — Job Growth Sizzled Last Year
We now have much harder numbers on recent employment trends in North Carolina, and can say with confidence that 2014 was the second-best year for job growth since the turn of the 21st century.

Mar. 16th — Operatives Recycle Hagan Claim
Those now peddling Kay Hagan’s discredited claim about North Carolina’s new tax code are not serious participants in the tax-reform discussion. They are liberal propagandists and partisan operatives whose efforts will, I suspect, meet a similar fate.

Mar. 11th — Of Course Taxes Matter
If North Carolina’s tax burden has no effect on business decisions and the performance of the economy, as left-of-center politicians and editorialists have repeatedly insisted, then why are they so enamored with targeted tax breaks?

Mar. 9th — Fiscal Issues Divide GOP
Now that Gov. Pat McCrory has released his budget proposal for the 2015-17 biennium, there are at least two fiscal issues dividing North Carolina Republicans this year.

Mar. 4th — For A Balanced Diet
Broadcasting should make up only part of an active citizen’s news consumption — and, frankly, not the largest share of it.

Mar. 2nd — Making a Federal Case of It
Federalism is not a tool for protecting “states’ rights.” It’s a tool for protecting your rights, and mine.

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Feb. 25th — Pivot Back to Markets
I’ve always appreciated this section of Article One of the North Carolina Constitution: “Perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free state and shall not be allowed.” Let’s pivot back to that fundamental principle.

Feb. 23rd — A Martyr to Applause
If the recent review of campus-based centers by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors was all an elaborate ruse to silence a critic of Republicans, it would probably qualify as the most improbable, elaborate, and ineffective conspiracy in North Carolina history.

Feb. 18th — The Song Remains the Same
Ever since North Carolina governors gained the option of succeeding themselves, each reelection campaign has essentially followed the same script.

Feb. 16th — Polls Show McCrory Gains
The narrative of a state full of voters chomping at the bit to overturn GOP control of state government is patently false.

Feb. 11th — Freedom Is Our Goal
What do today’s conservatives want? For North Carolina truly to become First in Freedom.

Feb. 9th — School Grades Teach Lessons
Those who care about education reform learned a lot on February 5 when North Carolina released its first letter grades for public schools.

Feb. 4th — Fair Is Not Foul
Redistricting reformers would welcome any alternative as long as it is based on the principle that neutral rules should be our means and competitive elections our end.

Feb. 2nd — What If NC Matters?
After Mitt Romney’s announcement that he won’t enter the race, I’m starting to think that the North Carolina primary may prove to be not just early but potentially decisive.

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Jan. 28th — State Sill Outpaces Region
Ever since conservatives won majorities in the North Carolina General Assembly and began reducing taxes, spending, and state regulation, liberals have predicted doom.

Jan. 26th — Free Speech Faces Threats
In a free society, the proper answer to speech you don’t like is to speak yourself, individually or as part of your own voluntary associations.

Jan. 21th — Burr in Obama's Saddle
During his two terms in the Senate, Richard Burr has been a workhorse, not a showhorse. So quite a few North Carolinians have formed no strong opinions about him.

Jan. 19th — Read Tax Claims Skeptically
When you include all taxes together, the wealthiest 20 percent have tax burdens more than twice as large as a share of income as those of the poorest 20 percent.

Jan. 14th — UNC Policy Draws Lawsuit
Another wave of bad publicity and legal questions isn’t what the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill needs. But that’s exactly what the school is getting.

Jan. 12th — In Defense of Political Mavericks
Political parties are and have always been coalitions of politicians, activists, and voters with a variety of views and interests. Partisan actors just have to have enough in common to justify working together.

Jan. 7th — School Woes Aren't Werewolves
Policymakers out to improve education shouldn’t discard the silver bullet of small schools in search of a new silver bullet.

Jan. 5th — Burr Favored in Duel
Key Democratic politicians will be loathe to pass up what are good reelection prospects in order to take on an incumbent senator.

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