New York Post takes note of JLF’s new First in Freedom Index

NYS-without.jpgTerry Stoops helps New York Post readers make sense of the new First in Freedom Index, which ranks New York 50th among the states in freedom.

The United States might be the “land of the free,” but some states are clearly freer than others. Based on a new national ranking, New Yorkers have the worst claim to the benefits of a free society.

This week, the North Carolina-based John Locke Foundation published its inaugural First in Freedom Index. Using more than 60 data points, we calculated fiscal, educational, regulatory and health-care freedom in the 50 states.

New York ranked last.

Yes, this means that the state has the dubious distinction of having less freedom than California and even New Jersey.

Between high taxes and onerous regulations, New Yorkers are squeezed more than residents of other states, on top of the high cost of living.

This endeavor was no mere academic exercise. A sizable body of empirical research suggests that fiscal freedom drives economic growth, educational freedom raises student achievement, regulatory freedom promotes entrepreneurship, and health-care freedom improves quality of life.

BCBS NC Suffers First Financial Loss Since 1999

This isn’t surprising, since the state’s largest insurer must accept all policyholders, regardless of chronic health conditions. Additionally, the company extended noncompliant Obamacare plans for customers until 2017 at the request of President Obama. As a result, many low-risk individuals have held onto these plans while the federal health law’s risk pools skew higher-risk.

From the News and Observer:

The ACA losses were exacerbated when President Obama in 2013 allowed people to keep their old insurance plans, which were cheaper than ACA plans. Thousands of Blue Cross customers opted for the cheaper plans, causing a shortfall of expected revenue, Petkau said.

The ACA plans became more concentrated with sicker people, so that the most expensive 5 percent of ACA enrollees brought in $75 million in revenue but cost Blue Cross $830 million in medical claims.

Read the article in full here.

Spock is dead

In memory of Leonard Nimoy, we turn the clock back to 2002, when John Hood contrasted “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” politics.

In the future world of Star Trek, money and capitalism are treated in a negative light. At several points in both the television series and the films, an addled Gene Roddenberry tried to insert in the story that money itself had been disinvented, but this ludicrous premise didn’t even work in fiction and was discarded. Instead, those engaged in free enterprise are portrayed as evil, ruthless, and physically revolting — the stooping, big-eared, and sniveling Ferengi race of The Next Generation being a kind of psychological projection of how Roddenberry and other Star Trek creators see the world of business.

In Star Wars, on the other hand, two of the main heroes — Han Solo and Lando Calrissian — are present or former smugglers and businessmen. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” Lando is employed as the administrator of a mining colony that thrives by being outside the taxing and regulatory authority of the evil Empire. Later, in “The Phantom Menace,” an attempt by the Trade Federation to tax and monopolize interplanetary commerce turns out to be part of a nefarious conspiracy to overthrow the Galactic Republic.

Interestingly, despite their intentions, the Star Trek creative team couldn’t keep up the anti-capitalist bias on a consistent basis. Several of the most entertaining and interesting scripts involved the hated Ferengi. Later stories in The Next Generation involve commercial bidding for wormhole rights and technological advances. And in the movie “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” some of the best jokes come at the expense of the Enterprise crew as they plop down, cluelessly, in the middle of late-20th century California and try to interact with average folks in daily commerce.

Governments and companies both make mistakes, but…

Companies competing in the market make plenty of mistakes. Managers are prone to overestimating profits from products and overlooking troubles that the firm might encounter. Politicians are no different. They too make mistakes because they’re apt to overestimate the benefits of some law or program and minimize if not completely ignore the costs and unintended results.

The difference is that firms in markets quickly realize and correct their mistakes, while government officials, lacking any feedback loop, hardly ever correct their mistakes. Cato’s David Boaz makes that point sharply in this post, where he compares the time it took Coke to reverse course in New Coke in 1985 with the duration of some political blunders.

Also, firm managers usually learn from their errors, while politicians repeat the same ones again and again, such as raising the minimum wage and turning medical care over to political control.

You might be a progressive if…

…you view this as France laying down the gauntlet to the US.

Thanks to France doubling its surface tax on corporate income, the United States no longer has the world’s highest corporate income tax. Today, France imposes a 36 percent marginal effective tax rate on capital investments, while the United States holds at 35.3 percent. The marginal effective tax rate on capital accounts for the corporate income tax including deductions and credits, sales taxes on capital purchases, and other capital-related taxes including financial transaction taxes…

AAUP opposition to UNC poverty center closing is hypocritical

Both locally and nationally, there has been plenty of reaction, mostly from the left, to the UNC Board of Governors’ recommendation to close three academic centers. In particular, the American Association of University Professors has condemned the move to close Chapel Hill’s Center on Poverty, Work, and Community.

But, as Jay Schalin points out in a new piece in the Durham Herald-Sun, the closure of this center in particular is right in line with the AAUP’s 1915 Declaration of Principles of Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure. In fact, the AAUP should be enthusiastically cheering its closure. Schalin highlights the following passage:

If this profession should prove itself unwilling to purge its ranks of the incompetent and the unworthy, or to prevent the freedom which it claims in the name of science from being used as a shelter for inefficiency, for superficiality, or for uncritical and intemperate partisanship, it is certain that the task will be performed by others. [emphasis mine]

Schalin writes, “For too long, the UNC system has allowed ‘intemperate partisanship’ to creep into various sectors of its operation.” He adds that some centers are “advocacy agencies with political agendas rather than centers of objective scholarship.” So rather than being hyper-partisan, as alleged by the left, the BoG is finally doing its job, Schalin says.

Read the rest here.

Crime, suspensions, and dropout rate decrease

The N.C. State Board of Education posted the draft 2013-14 Consolidated Data Report on the their meeting website today.  The report, which will be discussed and approved next week, provides state and district-level data on incidents of school crime and violence, short-term suspensions, long-term suspensions, use of corporal punishment, dropout rates, and other measures.

Let’s look at some of the most talked-about data points.

School crime and violence: The number of acts of crime and violence by students in grades K-13 (per 1000 students) decreased from 7.20% in 2012-13 to 6.79% in 2013-14.

Short-term suspensions: There were 84,295 grade 9-13 short-term suspensions reported statewide in 2013-14, a decrease of 24.1% from the 2012-13 total of 111,122.

Long-term suspensions: The number of long-term suspensions (11 or more days) for all students declined from 1,423 to 1,088.

Expulsions: The number of expulsions remained at 37, the same as in 2012-13.

Use of corporal punishment: There were 122 uses of corporal punishment statewide in 2013-14. Corporal punishment was used at least once by only five school districts in the state.

Dropout rates: High schools in North Carolina reported 10,404 dropouts in 2013-14. The grade 9-13 dropout rate in 2013-14 was 2.28%, down from the 2.45% reported for 2012-13.

The Consolidated Data Report does not identify the cause(s) of these changes.  Republicans and their allies will likely credit reforms passed since 2010.  Democrats and their allies will claim that the changes are the result of “investments” in preschool programs.  My advice is to ignore both.  THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF ANY CAUSE-AND-EFFECT RELATIONSHIP.

If you want to assign credit for these positive trends, give a shout-out to the state’s teachers and school-based administrators.

Churchill as the ‘crowbar of destiny’

boris_cover_3082969aHistory told through tales of impersonal forces, broad-based social and technological change, hits an occasional obstacle — that great man or woman who seems indispensable to the story.

Winston Churchill is one such obstacle. And London Mayor Boris Johnson demonstrates Churchill’s indispensability to the story of the 20th century in the book The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History. Fifty years after the great man’s death, Johnson sets out to remind his countrymen why they can thank Churchill for much of the liberty and progress they enjoy today.

This is not a standard-issue biography. Johnson’s style is chatty and full of slang. He leaps back and forth in time, focusing on periods of Churchill’s life as they relate to broader themes: his reckless heroism, love of publicity, and steadfast belief in the British Empire, among others.

The author also devotes a not insignificant amount of space to describing his own interaction with the Churchill story. He visits Churchill’s home and office settings, cemeteries and battlefields, even modern-day businesses named for Churchill. Political observers have noted that Johnson, an eccentric character with some degree of Churchillian charisma, has produced this book just as the author enjoys buzz as a potential candidate for the prime minister’s job that Churchill held on two separate occasions in the 1940s and 1950s.

Regardless of Johnson’s political intentions, his book paints a flattering portrait of Churchill’s significant accomplishments. Consider the impact of Churchill’s decision in 1940, against almost all advice, to reject any prospect of a settlement with Hitler to avoid an attack on the British Isles.

If Britain had done a deal in 1940 — and this is the final and most important point — then there would have been no liberation of the continent. The country would not have been a haven of resistance, but a gloomy client state of an infernal Nazi EU.

There would have been no Polish soldiers training with the British army, there would have been no Czech airmen with the RAF, there would have been no Free French waiting and hoping for an end to their national shame.

Above all there would have been no Lend-Lease, no liberty ships, no Churchillian effort to woo America away from isolationism; and of course there would have been no prospect of D-Day; no heroism and sacrifice at Omaha Beach, no hope that the new world would come with all its power and might to rescue and liberate the old.

The Americans would never have entered that European conflict, if Britain had been so mad and wrong as to do a deal in 1940. It is incredible to look back and see how close we came, and how well supported the idea was.

I don’t know whether it is right to think of history as running on train tracks, but let us think of Hitler’s story as one of those huge and unstoppable double-decker expresses that he had commissioned, howling through the night with its cargo of German settlers.

Think of that locomotive, whizzing towards final victory. Then think of some kid climbing the parapet of the railway bridge and dropping the crowbar that jams the points and sends the whole enterprise for a gigantic burton — a mangled, hissing heap of metal. Winston Churchill was the crowbar of destiny. If he hadn’t been where he was, and put up resistance, that Nazi train would have carried right on.

Plus Churchill proved both prescient and inspirational.