Bill Nye, the Leaks Guy

The debate over climate change between Tucker Carlson and Bill Nye the “Science Guy” honestly didn’t get very far. But oooh—Nye really showed Carlson when he strayed from his area of expertise and showed he apparently knows something about leaks coming out of the Trump administration—at about the 8:40 mark.

How cheating can raise high school graduation rates

Want a quick and easy way to raise graduation rates?  Credit recovery courses are the method of choice for many school districts.  Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews writes,

High school science teacher Jeremy Noonan will never forget his training as an online credit recovery teacher in Douglas County, Ga. He was told to always give answer checks. When a student finished an online quiz or test, he was to pull up the results on his own screen, tell the student which questions were answered incorrectly and instruct them to try again.

That was only one of the dubious shortcuts Noonan witnessed while teaching credit recovery, an approach to raising graduation rates that is spreading everywhere. Many educators think corrupt credit recovery courses are a reason graduation rates have been going up. Noonan said the graduation rate in his district went up 13 percentage points in 2015, “despite no meaningful gains in student achievement.”

As I wrote earlier this month,

Today, there are unanswered questions about other shortcuts, namely the utilization and quality of credit recovery courses, which are pass/fail courses that have no effect on a student’s grade point average, athletic eligibility, or student’s postsecondary institution admission eligibility.

Perhaps it is time for the State Board of Education to take a closer look at credit recovery courses and whether they are being used to grant “fast pass”  diplomas.

Paying attention to Democratic outrage

Jonathan Tobin uses a National Review Online column to issue Republican leaders a warning.

So it turns out that Karl Marx was right about history’s repeating itself as farce. That axiom was validated last week when White House spokesman Sean Spicer sought to dismiss the crowds showing up to protest at town-hall meetings for Republican members of Congress this past week. He characterized them as a “professional protestor manufactured base,” distinctly echoing the contempt that the Obama administration showed in 2009 and 2010 when tea-party activists showed up at town halls to hound Democrats over stimulus spending and Obamacare.

It’s true that eight years ago many of the current GOP House and Senate members weren’t yet in Washington, and no one outside of Trump Tower could imagine a Trump presidency. But most Republicans must surely remember the way liberals derided the Tea Party as a fraud, insisting that the grassroots movement was bought and paid for by the Koch Brothers. Worse than that, Democrats believed their talking points and continued to insist that the mass movement of conservative opponents was a figment of GOP public relations. That’s why they were caught by surprise in the 2010 midterm elections. So when the Trump White House as well as some congressional Republicans (including those who have decided to stay away from town halls for the moment, discretion apparently being the better part of valor) treat the turnout of hostile liberal protestors as merely a PR event staged by Democratic paymasters, they’re making a huge mistake.

The point isn’t that there is no organized aspect of the Democratic protests. Of course the demonstrations are orchestrated to some extent, and some Democratic money is helping the left-wing organizers. The same was true of the Tea Party. The point is that the ability to manufacture an effective protest is itself a sign of political life. Democrats learned too late that the tea-party movement was the engine of a GOP comeback in 2010.

Is there really a grassroots movement arising to save Obamacare? Hard as it may be for Republicans who have spent the last several years pointing to the law’s unpopularity, the answer is “maybe.” …

… Moreover, the ability of liberal activists to turn out their base to hound Republicans is also a function of a potentially bigger problem for the GOP — a problem named Donald Trump. The GOP knows that its fate in 2018 and beyond will be linked to whether public disapproval for Trump’s behavior and statements becomes so great that it overwhelms the advantages that ought to preserve their power in the next midterm. If Ryan fails on Obamacare and Trump’s antics become too great a liability, we might look back at the protests in the first month of the administration as the turning point that led to eventual Democratic victories.

Trump and the conservative split

Upcoming JLF speaker Tevi Troy explains in a Politico column how President Trump has influenced a split among American conservatives.

Recent events have revealed that the conservative divide over Trump is far from over. As the promise of transition has shifted into the reality of governing, conservative thinkers now appear to have split into three groups.

Some Never Trumpers have reverted to their original camp. Arguing that Trump’s worldview is just too far from traditional conservatism for them to accept, and that Trump’s tumultuous first month vindicates their opposition during the campaign, many Never Trumpers see the need to continue highlighting Trump’s deficiencies, both to criticize him but also to maintain their own credibility. At the same time, the pro-Trumpers appear to have grown in number, as some conservatives who opposed Trump during the primaries and did not explicitly back him during the campaign appear to be gaining comfort with the largely but not wholly conservative agenda Trump seems to be pursuing. Many others fall into a new third group: they applaud conservative moves such as Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, while also bemoaning Trump’s deviation from traditional conservative tenets in areas like free trade and immigration.

As conservatives try to sort out these conflicting tendencies, it’s quite possible that we are seeing the emergence of a new divide in American political philosophy take shape in real time. This new split, potentially the first tectonic one since the so-called liberal anticommunist consensus collapsed in the tumult of the 1960s, could shape American politics for decades to come.

A federal rule that hurts millennials

Amity Shlaes explains in a Forbes column why a move to scrap the Obama administration’s expansion of overtime benefits to workers with lower salaries makes sense for millennials.

“A GOLDEN recommendation” for their second job is what most college grads dream of as they enter the workforce. Their first job, they are certain, will be an 18-month compromise, a pass-through position they take on to build résumés. The second job, the one that matches their plans, is the job they actually seek. But to get to that second post, they need a strong recommendation from an authority in the real world, not a professor. In other words, that golden recommendation from the boss at the initial compromise position. …

… [T]he Labor Department of the Obama Administration sought to raise the ceiling below which time-and-a-half overtime pay is required by Washington. The new level was set at $47,476, from the old $23,660, an expansion affecting millions. Many of those millions are not recent college grads, but many are. …

… [I]t is the younger workers who will truly struggle. Back in the old days, first employers got to know their employees, and, yes, it is fair to say, love them. Older adults are hardwired to make outsize gifts to youth. Employers used to move heaven and earth for “their” 23-year-old staffers, even staffers whose politics grossed them out.

These days management still derives major benefit from young hires: fresh brains and faces, a low price and stunning (to oldsters) understanding of iPhones, high tech, computer science and tech markets.

The trouble is that stock picking or coding often are not part of the description of that first job. And nowadays significant burdens offset youth’s advantages. College grads, especially–and perversely–humanities grads, haven’t logged the hours reading that even Miss Northwestern did. The antibusiness culture of college developed their appreciation of social-justice regulation to a counterproductive extent. The same culture failed to convey the seriousness of what happens at the office, whatever the product. Tech-vain and diploma-proud, these youths don’t always “get” workplace discipline or hierarchy. …

… The way up for anyone earning less than $47,476 is education. The only difference is that older workers benefit from going back to school, while younger workers need to unlearn school. Yet young workers regard overtime pay as their due.

The result is the same negative dynamic that occurs with the minimum wage. To avoid the extra cost, employers commit a worse social injustice by taking workers off salary–and perhaps health benefits–spreading the work among anonymous, unmentored part-timers. Another management response to marginal cost increases is to skip hiring young people altogether. Only trained workers may actually warrant the higher costs. …

… It’s therefore good news that the free-marketers joining the Administration give every sign of their willingness to abandon initiatives like the [Obama overtime] rule.

Forbes ponders ‘Calexit’

Steve Forbes uses his latest Forbes column to probe the prospects for a California secession.

THE MOVEMENT AFOOT in California to have the state secede from the Union–advocates call it Calexit–is gaining publicity if not support. One poll shows 32% of Democrats ready to vote yes on a pullout referendum. Petition signatures are being collected to get the question of ditching the good ol’ U.S.A. put on the ballot. One secession-advocate group has received financial support from–you guessed it–Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The whole idea is preposterous. …

… Even though outright secession isn’t in the cards, the Golden State today is ripe for demagogic mischief. California has always felt it was different from the rest of the country, priding itself on being in the vanguard of social, economic and cultural trends. Millions of Americans saw it as the land of opportunity and moved there because of its beauty, benign climate, rapid growth and lifestyle diversity. It had everything: Hollywood, high tech, manufacturing, mobility, aerospace, oil, bountiful agriculture, and abundant and affordable housing.

But in recent times the state has become a tax and regulatory backwater, imitating the worst practices of stagnant Europe and such global powerhouses as Argentina. Bureaucrats in Sacramento have worked hard to crush small businesses with silly and costly rules, such as mandating mandatory time off for employees after four hours of labor. Minimum-wage laws unrelated to reality proliferate. No environmental rule or law is too inane, no matter how unrelated to science or conditions in the real world. Such decrees are ruining agriculture. With a straight face, regulators are issuing edicts to reduce effluents from cows, in the name of saving the planet from overheating.

The state’s water shortages are self-inflicted: Billions of gallons are flushed into the ocean, because that supposedly helps preserve a tiny, endangered smelt; new reservoirs aren’t built, and existing ones are attacked as unnatural. While Israel rapidly built state-of-the-art desalination plants, California dawdled for 15 years before a far smaller and more expensive one came online. It’s no surprise that places like San Francisco have banned plastic bags and are taxing paper ones, and are contemplating prohibiting free soda refills at restaurants. (The quality of life in San Francisco has deteriorated, with residents being constantly accosted by ever more aggressive panhandlers.)

Regulations have turned California from a housing mecca for working people into a high-cost hell. Its school system, once one of the nation’s best, is now a national laughingstock.

Good news, bad news for N.C. taxes

The good news Forbes delivers in its latest issue to N.C. tax reformers? This state does not appear on the list of the 10 worst states for taxation of high-income earners.

The bad news? We’re not among the 10 best, either. Neighboring Tennessee makes that list.

The great tax divide has been widening as Republicans have hacked away at progressive income taxes while Democrats have raised rates on high-income folks. The GOP now has sole control (the governor’s mansion and both legislative houses) of half the states, and not coincidentally, only one of those states (Iowa, which just came under full GOP control) ranked among our ten worst tax states for the rich.

The November elections reinforced the trend. California voted overwhelmingly to extend its 13.3% rate (the highest in the nation) until 2030, while voters in Democratic-leaning (if quirky) Maine voted to raise the top rate from 7.15% to 10.15% for 2017. Meanwhile, in Iowa, Republicans are promising to use their expanded power to push through rate cuts.

This map shows the ten best and worst states for the wealthy based on high-income tax rates, as well as the income level at which the most punishing rate kicks in (calculated for a married couple in 2016). Seven of the ten best states have no income taxes at all, and the other three exempt large swaths of income. Keep in mind, however, that some states without income taxes wallop retirees with high real estate or sales taxes, while some high-income tax locales (Hawaii, for example) have generous exemptions for retirement income.

New Carolina Journal Online features

Carolina Journal Online reports on State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s concern that the State Health Plan for government workers is on “life support” because of massive unfunded obligations.

The Daily Journal focuses on the link between regulatory freedom and economic growth in North Carolina.