W-S mayor lowest paid among top 60….

I was listening to my right-wing nut-job talk radio yesterday when a familiar name popped up at the top-of-the-hour national news broadcast—none other than Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, who—with a salary of $13,000— is the lowest-paid mayor among mayors in the top 60 U.S. cities in population.

For what it’s worth, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan ranks 55th with a salary of $29,000.

A look at global temperature change 1998-2016

The data is through December 2016. While 2016 is statistically tied with 1998 the 18 year trend is still flat. See here.

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Trump and the ‘Obama Gap’

Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard examines a key challenge facing the new president.

DONALD TRUMP SAYS he’s a winner. To be a winning president, Trump needs to fix what investor Scott Grannis calls the Obama Gap. The gap is American growth that fell into the ditch. From 1966 to 2008 U.S. GDP averaged 3.1% a year in real growth. Since 2009 it’s been barely 2%.

Grannis notes how the U.S. has bounced back after every recession except the last one: “Never before has the U.S. economy posted such a weak recovery and such a long period of subpar growth.”

What went wrong? Grannis ticks off the reasons: weak business investment, low job growth, microscopic productivity gains and, despite record-setting profits, a strange, depressive risk aversion.

What’s been at fault? Writes Grannis: “Beginning in 2009, the economy has been burdened by (1) an unprecedented remaking of the entire health care industry (ObamaCare), which in turn has impacted the lives and health care costs of nearly everyone; (2) sweeping new regulatory burdens on the financial industry (e.g., Dodd-Frank); (3) a massive increase in government spending and transfer payments (the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act); (4) higher marginal tax rates on income, dividends and capital gains; and (5) a huge increase in the federal debt burden. You don’t have to have a political bias to believe that these changes could go a long way to explaining why the economy has been so weak during the Obama years.”

So weak, in fact, that about $3 trillion in economic activity that ought to have occurred during Obama’s eight years didn’t happen at all–as if it were stillborn. Three trillion dollars would have meant a lot of new jobs, bigger raises and higher hopes. But they never happened. Grannis says it would take eight years of 5% growth to get the U.S. back to its 3.1% trend line.

What Trump and the Republicans can–and must!–do is fix items 1-5. No, we won’t get 5% growth, but we can get a lot more than we have now.

Shlaes ponders Trump’s pick for labor secretary

Amity Shlaes dissects for Forbes readers President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for the next U.S. labor secretary.

A THUMB in the eye to the minimum-wage lobby is how most of the press depict the nomination by President-elect Donald Trump of Andrew Puzder to the post of Labor Secretary.

But offering up a fast-food entrepreneur for the Labor post does more than offend a particular interest group. The Puzder nomination represents a structural blow to the whole edifice that we have called “Labor Relations” since the Department of Labor was created more than 100 years ago.

First, consider Andrew Puzder. As the head of a restaurant company that by itself or through franchises employs 75,000 workers, Puzder has more to do every day with labor regulations than many executives do in a lifetime. Thousands, probably tens of thousands of workers in CKE Restaurants earn somewhere around the minimum wage. And because CKE Restaurants owns and operates so many restaurants—Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains—Puzder has monitored many a natural experiment in wage hikes and regulation. Whatever the press says, Puzder’s main point isn’t that all regulation must be ended, but that it must be crafted so that it doesn’t kill jobs. This is a reasonable enough argument, coming straight out of multiple practical experiences. …

… It takes chutzpah, however, to select for a cabinet post someone from the fast-food industry, a sector that in Washington enjoys nowhere near the status of public-sector unions or hi tech. Left-leaning periodicals vilify fast-food executive for sport.

But maybe chutzpah is necessary. The fact is that Democrats have long counted on Republican presidential winners being too timid to appoint a Labor Secretary who might challenge Big Labor. …

… If confirmed, Puzder is likely to do something that demonstrates the economy expands better without government, powered by those shadowy figures who don’t usually win places at the top table. He’s likely, too, to remind us that a union-tilted Labor Department doesn’t necessarily serve the country best.

Forbes calls for new approach to the national debt

Steve Forbes‘ latest contribution to Forbes magazine features a scathing attack on U.S. Treasury officials.

IN AN ERA of epic economic malpractice, one operation that has received scant attention is the U.S. Treasury Department’s mismanagement of the national debt. With interest rates abnormally low–thanks to their suppression by the Federal Reserve–you’d think Uncle Sam would go heavy on the issuance of long-term bonds to lock in ultralow costs. It wasn’t so long ago that a 30-year Treasury bond would routinely yield more than 7% instead of what it has paid recently: less than 3%.

But the geniuses at Treasury shortened the average duration of government debt to five years. This was a short-term expedient, artificially cutting the cost of financing the debt and thereby freeing up more money for wasteful domestic programs. The move was all too typical of the Obama regime in all facets of its governance. …

… Interest rates are moving up. If the bulk of Donald Trump’s tax, health and regulatory proposals come to pass, the U.S. economy will genuinely expand again; demand for credit will grow, as will the cost of gaining access to it. Washington’s interest outlays will mushroom in the years ahead.

Thankfully, there’s still time to issue significant amounts of long-term bonds with historically low costs. In fact, we should follow the examples of other countries that have issued debt with really long maturities. Economic guru Larry Kudlow suggests that Uncle Sam auction off bonds with 100-year maturities. If Mexico, Ireland and Belgium can pull this off–and they have–so can we. Austria issued one for 70 years, and Britain floated a number of issues with maturities of 40 to 50 years.

When Donald Trump takes office, the Treasury should announce that within the next 15 months or so Uncle Sam will be selling upwards of a trillion dollars in century bonds. Would such a long-maturity bond sell? There’d be a stampede for them.

Obamacare’s hidden costs

Costs linked to the Affordable Care Act extend beyond the actual dollars spent administering the legislation. Elizabeth Harrington of the Washington Free Beacon details one way in which the law known as Obamacare has hurt the American economy.

Obamacare has cost roughly 300,000 small business jobs due to higher health care costs, according to a new report.

The American Action Forum, a center-right policy institute, released findings Wednesday that rising premiums and regulations under the Affordable Care Act have had “dire” consequences for the labor market.

The report found the law has cost $19 billion in lost wages per year and forced 10,000 small businesses establishments to close their doors. The study covered employers with 20 to 99 employees.

“Research from the American Action Forum (AAF) finds regulations from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are driving up health care premiums and are costing small business employees at least $19 billion in lost wages annually,” the report said. “These figures varied by state, but in 2015 the ACA cost year-round workers $2,095, $2,134, and $2,260 in Ohio, New York, and North Dakota, respectively.”

“Premium increases, a prospect regulators predicted when issuing the first ACA regulations, also significantly diminished the number of business establishments and jobs nationwide,” the report said. “Across the country, small businesses (20-99 workers) lost 295,030 jobs, 10,130 business establishments, and $4.7 billion in total wage earnings. Florida lost 17,950 jobs; Ohio lost 19,000; Pennsylvania lost 15,680; and Texas lost 28,010 jobs due to higher sensitivity to rising health care premiums and the ACA.”

A guide to the GOP health care debate

Yuval Levin offers a primer at National Review Online.

Where do things stand among Republicans in Washington regarding the repeal and replacement of Obamacare? Every day seems to bring fresh twists in the story, and the basic thread can be hard to follow. Is this the beginning of an arduous but ultimately fruitful legislative process? Is it the painful end of an illusion? Will it yield in a quagmire or a vindication for the party that has made the fight against Obamacare its foremost mission for more than half a decade?

One lesson I’ve learned from working on public policy in and out of government is that in a complex legislative debate, success and failure often feel exactly the same while they are happening. They both feel pretty much like pandemonium. During the lengthy period when some basic questions of strategy and substance are still open, everything seems up for grabs and the entire edifice always looks on the edge of collapsing. So it is not easy to judge the prospects for success by orderliness or discipline along the way. A better yardstick is whether there is a plausible strategy being championed by a critical mass of people on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.

By that measure, the effort to replace Obamacare is in some trouble. On its face, the legislative strategy lawmakers are now pursuing is not a good fit for the substantive policy objectives it is expected to achieve, and Republicans have yet to come to terms with the mismatch. But we are very early in the process, there is a growing awareness at all levels of the inadequacies of the approach, the incoming administration has yet to truly have its say, and ample opportunity remains for Republicans in Congress to correct their course as they go. That course will inevitably change several times before the story ends.

New Carolina Journal Online features

Barry Smith reports for Carolina Journal Online that North Carolina’s new chief deputy attorney general once wrote an opinion defending legislative slush funds.

Julie Tisdale’s Daily Journal explains that Raleigh’s Convention Center survives because of taxpayer subsidies, not because of its revenue.