John Hood's Syndicated Weekly Column | 2005 Archive


December

Dec. 30th — On Gift Exchanges & Bad Economics
Some seemingly clever critics of the free market argue that Christmas gift-giving reduces economic efficiency. They have a warped view of the market process.

Dec. 23rd — Take the Next Step on Nonprofit Funding
A state panel wants to tighten disclosure of legislative candidates’ ties to nonprofits. Let’s take that idea to the next logical step.

Dec. 16th — There’s No Wishing Fiscal Woes Away
Fantasy is a good thing in its season, but is unwelcome when it comes to fashioning state budgets, as evidence by the case of retiree health care.

Dec. 9th — No “Miller Time” For Democratic Activist
Democratic activist Joe Sinsheimer says that it would be in the best interest of his party for House Speaker Jim Black to step down. NC Republicans hope their rivals don’t listen to Sinsheimer.

Dec. 2nd — One (Government) Thing Leads to Another
A new report on certificate-of-need regulation demonstrates that the right solution to a past government intervention is rarely to be found in another government intervention.

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November

Nov. 25th — Taxes Will Be the Death of Me
A legislative change in the state taxation of funeral services sheds light on the larger problem of how best to promote tax reform in North Carolina.

Nov. 18th — Bill Won’t Stop War on Ads
The U.S. House voted overwhelmingly for a bill to protect food processors and retailers from liability as activists filed lawsuits alleging their responsibility for obesity. Advertisers aren’t yet off the hook.

Nov. 11th — Turns Out a Black Cloud Can Darken
Speaker Jim Black’s political and legal woes are getting worse. The case of economist John Connaughton and political payback is a troubling one.

Nov. 4th — Best News for Speaker Black is Still Bad
Already faced with political and legal problems, House Speaker Jim Black stepped on a land mine named Kevin Geddings. There is no way to spin this story as anything but major bad news for Black.

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October

Oct. 28th — Governor Stumbles on Teacher Pay
Gov. Mike Easley’s plan to raise teacher salaries at least recognizes the significance of cost of living differences in computing national rankings, but overlooks other factors that show NC pay to be already well above average.

Oct. 21th — Lottery Law Isn’t the Real Scandal
Allegations surrounding House Speaker Jim Black and political aide Meredith Norris are not really about the ethics of state lotteries, as some suggest. They are part of a broader issue of political pull.

Oct. 14th — A Tax The State Shouldn’t Cut
Republicans are calling for tax cuts, where are good, but specifically for cuts in selective taxes on fuels, which is not good. Keep the current gas tax where it is — but truly dedicate it to highway uses.

Oct. 7th — Some No-No's from Kelo & Cuno
Kelo and Cuno aren’t just two-syllable names that sound vaguely familiar. They are also the names of pivotal court cases that are having a big impact on politics in North Carolina and the nation.

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September

Sep. 30th — Congrats, New Rail Investor
Taxpayers across North Carolina are investors in new transit systems in Charlotte and the Triangle, whether they know it or not. Fortunately, these wasteful projects have not yet reached the point of no return.

Sep. 23rd — New Ideas Needed on School Construction
Voters in Mecklenburg and Iredell counties will vote this fall on big school-construction bonds that will push property taxes up. Statewide, the potential for lottery funds to pay for schools has been grossly exaggerated.

Sep. 16th — Attorney General's Missed Opportunity
Attorney General Roy Cooper had an excellent chance to do the right thing and separate himself from the gubernatorial pack by issuing a strong legal opinion on the pork-barrel scandal. He muffed it.

Sep. 9th — State Policy Debate Has Improved
Some complain that North Carolina politics has become excessively polarized. But the proliferation of new technologies, news sources, and policy organizations has improved the quality of debate.

Sep. 2nd — Good News From Lottery's Passage
Legislation creating a state-run lottery in North Carolina has finally passed the General Assembly and been signed into law. So what happens next?

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August

Aug. 28th — Change Incentives for Lawmakers
When legislators take payment form the state even though they aren’t in Raleigh, some folks complain. It would actually be in the taxpayers’ interest to expand this practice.

Aug. 19th — More Good News on Air Pollution
The news media in North Carolina continues to provide a skewed picture of the air-pollution trends in the state — which are promising, not alarming.

Aug. 12th — Good, Bad News on Budget Process
Lawmakers have passed a $17.2 billion budget that raises taxes, squanders money on a host of projects, and stiffs state employees again. The good news is that the pork was clearly laid out for all to see.

Aug. 5th — Revenue Rise Isn’t Necessarily a Tax Hike
Taxpayers sometimes argue that if a local government doesn’t enact a “revenue-neutral tax rate” after a property revaluation, the government has enacted a tax increase. Here’s why that’s not correct.

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July

Jul. 29th — Democrats Gunning for House Seats
The Democratic Party is trying to make progress in 2006 on its goal of recapturing the U.S. House of Representatives. Two NC races will play a role.

Jul. 22nd — Wrong Goal on Election Reform
Some activists are pressing lawmakers to authorize same-day voter registration in North Carolina — at least during the early-voting and absentee periods. But that’s the wrong answer for the wrong problem.

Jul. 15th — Act Now on Lobbying Reform
The North Carolina House and Senate are in a holding pattern, some believing that conflicting proposals to require full disclosure of lobbying expenditures will not be reconciled this year. That would be a mistake.

Jul. 8th — The Slippery Problem of Fishing Rights
Property rights don’t just obstruct collective action (when such obstruction is justified): they also help to facilitate collective action in solving problems.

Jul. 1st — Politicians, Not Voters, Are Main Problem
A new poll shows that many North Carolinians are ignorant about their state government. But what’s worse is that so many politicians think they are informed.

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June

Jun. 24th — Right Way to Test Writing
The latest writing scores are out, and once again many North Carolina officials and educators are claiming that the scores are too low. They are entirely missing the real point.

Jun. 17th — Political Wheel Keeps Turning
There’s not much of a pause in state politics anymore, which is why candidates and party activists are already talking up the electoral prospects for 2006 and 2008.

Jun. 10th — Losing Ground on Immigration Debate
Advocates of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants didn’t prevail this year but say they’ll be back to fight another day. Here’s why they won’t likely win then, either.

Jun. 3rd — School Choice, No Radical Idea
Opponents of greater parental choice in North Carolina education claim that the idea is “radical,” but history and cases in other states and countries suggest otherwise.

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May

May. 27th — Steep Price for Tax Conformity
Among its other unlovely provisions, the NC Senate’s version of the state budget would raise estate taxes $122 million over the baseline. That’s tricky and wrongheaded.

May. 20th — Diversity Counts — Except When It Doesn’t
In the search for a new UNC president, faculty and public officials say that a major qualification should be a commitment to diversity — but not necessarily of ideas.

May. 13th — Annexation the Wrong Tool for the Job
Opposing groups convened in Raleigh recently to debate the issue of involuntary annexation. While there are legitimate public-finance questions about who pays for services, annexation isn’t the right answer.

May. 6th — Good Things About Senate’s NC Budget
There are some good things to say about the FY 2005-07 budget plan approved by the NC Senate. Now, where did that list go . . .

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April

Apr. 29th — Common Confusion on Freedom
When folks seriously argue that a pharmacist exercising his freedom of choice in dispensing products constitutes a violation of their freedom to choose his pharmacy for service, there’s something seriously wrong with the definition.

Apr. 22nd — Good Budget Principles are Practical
North Carolina lawmakers say that in order to meet enrollment growth and carry out basic state functions, they have to raise taxes or set up a government lottery. A new alternative budget shows that is not true.

Apr. 15th — Will UNC Teach Lessons on Poverty?
UNC-Chapel Hill has just hired former Sen. John Edwards to direct a new center on poverty and opportunity. Here are some lessons he should impart.

Apr. 8th — An Embarrassing Day for North Carolina
The passage of a state lottery bill on the floor of the NC House has led some to be jubilant and others angry. Another appropriate emotion is embarrassment.

Apr. 1st — The Predictive Power of Partisanship
Whether it is pork-barrel spending, lobbying reform, or trade policy, you can get entirely the wrong impression if you view everything in partisan terms.

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March

Mar. 25th — Leaders Defiantly Defend the Indefensible
Leaders of the state legislature have responded to exposes of their discretionary slush-fund accounts — by defending their discretionary slush-fund accounts as proper. Not the right choice.

Mar. 18th — Draw Bright Red Lines on Lobbying
There’s nothing wrong with lobbying. But there’s something very wrong with the way North Carolina law fails to require disclosure and to distinguish lobbying from unsavory behavior.

Mar. 11th — Lottery Isn’t an Alternative to Higher Taxes
Some lawmakers and lottery supporters say that it would serve as an alternative to raising taxes for needed state programs. No, history doesn’t tell us that — and lottery proceeds are taxes.

Mar. 4th — Time for Action on Malpractice Reform
RALEIGH – There’s a lot wrong with our health care system. By all means America is better off in this area than are many other countries – we should never fall into the trap of emulating the flawed, backward, and often-cruel government insurance programs in places such as Canada and Britain – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t major issues to address.

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February

Feb. 25th — Does It Get Any Better Than This?
Gov. Mike Easley made a couple of speeches to describe his budget priorities for 2005-07. But many of his assertions bear little resemblence to North Carolina‘s fiscal realities.

Feb. 18th — Makings of a Constitutional Crisis
North Carolina needs a process, based in the legislature, for resolving truly contested elections. But a Senate bill now awaiting approval in the House goes way too far in definition and authority.

Feb. 11th — Which Way on Transportation?
Early February 2005 brought much news about North Carolina transportation, from federal decisions about transit and Amtrak to state ideas for highway equity and taxes. Time for some decisions.

Feb. 4th — First Tax Skirmish Goes Well
An early proposal to levy another half-cent sales tax to fund hurricane relief in Western NC appears to have faltered. This is a bit of good news despite continued talk of tax hikes in Raleigh.

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January

Jan. 28th — A Sumerian Solution to Election Reform
Here's an idea for fixing North Carolina’s voting system in the wake of well-publicized ballot-counting problems. It is definitely not half-baked, would really set election results in stone.

Jan. 21th — Butt Out of Cigarette-Tax Business
Advocates of a half-billion-dollar increase in cigarette taxes say it would solve budget problems and deter smoking. But if it deters smoking, that would reduce the revenue generated. . .

Jan. 14th — Extrapolation, Exaggeration, Exasperation
Government officials make bad predictions because they wrongly project current trends far into the future. Here's one way to think about the fallacy involved.

Jan. 7th — A Futile, Costly War Against Suburbia
North Carolina politicians, planners, and bureaucrats are fighting a war against the suburbs across numerous fronts: transportation, land-use, local subsidies. It’s long past time to surrender.

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