These incentive deals keep getting more ridiculous

So they merge, move to a larger building in a city where one of them is already located, and have all their children in leadership roles in the new company, but they still need $93,267 of taxpayers’ money to make the deal happen?  Is anyone actually buying this?

Free-trade advocates need response to political attacks in both parties

Free trade has taken a beating on the campaign trail this year. Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton all have taken shots at the impact of trade on the American economy.

That disturbs Scott Lincicome, an international trade attorney who serves as a visiting lecturer at Duke University and adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute. Lincicome touted the benefits of trade during a speech at the John Locke Foundation marking Friedman Legacy Day. That’s the day each year reminding people about the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist and free-trade advocate Milton Friedman.

In the video clip below, Lincicome urges fellow free traders to emulate Friedman’s example.

6 p.m. update: Click play below to watch the full presentation.

How would a libertarian approach zoning?

Charlotte is working on a total rewrite of its zoning ordinances.  And it sounds like it’s going to be a long process – another 2-3 years.  It’s a process I’ll be watching with interest.

But it’s also gotten me thinking about what should be the right approach to zoning.  I’m a big fan of both liberty and property rights, so my gut tells me that people should be able to build pretty much whatever they want for whatever use on their own property.  And yet, virtually every city has some sort of zoning.  Are there practical solutions?

Well, a good place to start might be at least getting our understanding of the origins of modern zoning sorted out.  And this piece from Randal O’Toole in 2010 is helpful.  It’s worth a read in its entirety, but here’s a taste.

Contrary to Carson’s claim, zoning was not invented by developers trying to impose their lifestyle preferences on unsuspecting Americans. The idea that realtors and developers could somehow force people to buy houses they didn’t want is refuted by hundreds or thousands of real-estate developments that failed financially because they did not offer what people wanted. Unlike planners who write prescriptive zoning codes, developers who risk their own money are going to make every effort to build things that people want because if they don’t, the developers themselves will be the losers.

Instead, zoning was invented by homeowners in existing developments who wanted to insure that their neighborhoods would maintain some degree of stability. When zoning was first applied, it was used almost exclusively in areas that were already developed. Those original zones merely reaffirmed the development that was already there. Single-family neighborhoods were zoned for single-family homes; apartments for multi-family; industrial for industry; and so forth.

Now, if Charlotte planners will just think about these things…

Some Quick Takes On North Carolina Medicaid Reform

North Carolina legislators are waiting for the feds to approve its 1115 waiver to reform Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program that covers low-income parents, children, the elderly, blind, and disabled.

What’s the $14 billion program supposed to look like in the coming years?

Legislation to reform the program was signed into law at the close of the 2015 long session. One of its primary goals is to keep up with the trend in which payers are increasingly reimbursing doctors, hospitals, and health care providers based on value and less on volume (fee-for-service). For example, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has reached its milestone of linking 30 percent of Medicare payments to quality or value-based outcomes. Plans to tie 60 percent of Medicare payments to quality metrics is set for 2018.

Another goal is to better manage care and further improve health outcomes for patients. This is why statewide commercial managed care organizations and provider-led plans are going to be held accountable to take on the risk for the patients they care for. Taking on risk is certainly no easy task, which is why reform isn’t going to happen over night. Passing legislation to change the administration of Medicaid has been a heavy lift over the last three years, and full reform won’t take effect until 2019 if all goes according to plan. See the timeline below taken from the 1115 waiver application that was shipped off to Washington on June 1:

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some highlights:

  • The Request for Proposal (RFP) process is when Medicaid officials will determine which types of providers and what types of services will need to be covered in plans that will be formulated by hospital systems and commercial insurers. It’s important to note that North Carolina’s Medicaid waiver does not include an “any willing provider” clause – a key distinction from other states’ Medicaid managed care programs. In other words, health plans are not required to include any provider that agrees to the going rate for services set forth by the entities managing these plans. This is arguably a good thing, since reform merely doesn’t focus on cost containment. Those accepted into health plans will have to meet outlined quality standards as well.
  • Overall, reform calls for 3 statewide managed care plans and up to 12 regional plans developed by provider-led organizations located in 6 different regions across the state.

College tuition and student debt

Dave Wils, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at the Academy at Lincoln in Guilford County and Vice President of the Piedmont for Young Democrats of North Carolina, addressed the DNC last night.  He supports Hillary Clinton because she promises to reduce the student loan debt he accumulated while attending Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Given their concern about student debt, it is curious that North Carolina Democrats opposed significant tuition reductions at UNC System universities.

Politics aside, I have to give him some credit.  It takes nerves of steel to address an audience of that size.

Smart money on the Gboro civil rights museum

Given its considerable financial problems over the years, the words “smart money” and “civil rights museum” don’t normally belong in the same sentence.

Ok that said–Greensboro’s International Civil Rights Center and Museum is doubling down on its claim that tax credits and and a write-off on a loan counts as donations that can offset a $1.5 million “forgivable loan” from the city.

The museum’s attorney, Doug Harris, says the difference of opinion with the city is a legal issue, not an accounting issue. How this will be resolved “legally” is another question.

The “smart money” on how this will be resolved? Rhino Times* editor John Hammer “is betting that the museum doesn’t repay a penny of the loan, however the details are worked out.”

*Note the Rhino’s transition from a traditional website to an e-edition. Gboro’s other alt-weekly, Triad City Beat, addresses in part that transition while promising big things for its online presence.

What will the campus crazies think about this endorsement of ‘cultural appropriation’?

Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner ponders potential reactions from university campus activists to a key theme from President Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech.

On today’s college campuses, the notion of “cultural appropriation” is strongly condemned. Making food from other countries is cultural appropriation. Wearing your hair in dreadlocks is cultural appropriation. Praising black women on Twitter is cultural appropriation. Singing can be cultural appropriation. Dressing up for Halloween can be cultural appropriation.

Yet President Obama seemed to endorse the practice of cultural appropriation in his speech to the Democratic National Convention.

“What makes us American, what makes us patriots, is what’s in here. That’s what matters,” Obama said. “That’s why we can take the food and music and holidays and styles of other countries and blend it into something uniquely our own.”

Excuse me, what? Obama must not be talking with college students lately.

If making food from other countries is cultural appropriation, if adopting the music of other countries is cultural appropriation, if dressing up for Halloween is cultural appropriation, where is the outrage against Obama?

I won’t hold my breath for outraged social justice warriors to call him out on this. He’s a Democrat, so they probably won’t say a peep.

About that $15 mandatory minimum wage

Bill McMorris wages battle (pun intended) against those pushing for a mandatory $15 per hour minimum wage. His weapon of choice: a Washington Free Beacon article on a new study of the minimum wage proposal.

The $15 minimum wage backed by the Democratic Party will eliminate more than 7 million jobs, according to a new report.

Democratic delegates approved a party platform backing the $15 minimum wage on Monday. The proposed rate hike follows a multi-million dollar campaign by the politically influential Service Employees International Union.

It would more than double the federal minimum of $7.25 and effectively raise labor costs to more than $18 an hour per employee, after payroll taxes and other mandates. The move would force employers to seek offsets, which could hurt the prospects of workers, particularly inexperienced and low-skilled ones.

“Businesses would respond to these higher labor costs by reducing employment of affected workers by over one-sixth, thus eliminating approximately seven million full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs by 2021. Forcing employers to pay starting wages of $15 per hour would make many less skilled workers unemployable,” labor policy expert James Sherk wrote in a new report for the Heritage Foundation.

Shark is not the first person to voice concerns about the effect of the $15 wage on employment levels. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was the only primary candidate to oppose the $15 rate, backing an increase to $12 an hour after consulting with economic advisers and academic economists.

Clinton told a Democratic audience in Iowa that the $15 rate would cause “job loss and dislocation.” She instead backed a $12 minimum wage, which a pair of economists estimated would cut 800,000 jobs. She backtracked on that criticism in March, saying “there is no evidence that the minimum wage being increased costs jobs.”

Shark found that job losses would be unavoidable if the federal government forced businesses across the country to adopt uniform wages at $15 an hour regardless of regional differences in cost of living. He estimated that the wage hike would hit more than 30 percent of all workers. Not only would it make it more costly to hire new and entry level workers, but it would also drive wages up for more highly-skilled workers that earn above the minimum wage, but below the $15 hourly rate.

Shark called the Democrats proposal “unprecedented” in its scope.