Shocking—shocking I tell you–headline of the day

Today’s Greensboro News & Record print edition:

Roadwork now off pace, over budget

Read the article here.

“They are doing this to Reidsville, I guess, because they think Reidsville is a Podunk town and they can get by with it,” said local attorney Daniel Bailey, whose law office is in the 1700 block of Freeway Drive.

The delay and continual disruption have been tough on businesses along the route, said Bailey, who added that because of the disruption he lost at least one tenant in his building that he owns.

“It’s killing them,” Bailey said of restaurants and other businesses along the route. “We’ve had absolutely beautiful weather for paving and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than two paving crews out there at any one time, when there could be eight.”

Reidsville Mayor Jay Donecker counters that Bailey goes overboard in his criticism, that there are understandable explanations for the delay and that Reidsville will have a wonderfully upgraded transportation asset when the project is complete, hopefully, late this year.

“Is it the best job or the most perfect job?” Donecker asked rhetorically in a recent interview. “No.”

Obamacare’s woes a boon for Burr?

He’s not mentioned in the piece, but U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina could be one of the incumbents who stands to benefit this fall from the phenomenon described in a Politico article from Rachana Pradhan and Paul Demko.

As insurers push large premium increases for 2017 Obamacare plans, some of the steepest hikes have been requested by insurers in crucial swing states that could determine control of the Senate.

In nine of 11 states with competitive Senate races, at least one insurer seeks to hike rates for Obamacare customers by at least 30 percent next year: Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in Pennsylvania wants to jack up average premiums by more than 40 percent. In Wisconsin, three insurers have asked for rate hikes of more than 30 percent. In New Hampshire, two of the five carriers want to sell plans with rate increase above 30 percent.

The potential sticker shock — coupled with the likelihood many consumers will have fewer choices next year after major insurers scale back their exchange participation — creates a potential political opening for Republican candidates, especially since the next Obamacare enrollment season starts one week before Election Day.

“People who are feeling it in their pocketbooks are going to be very unhappy about [rate hikes],” said Brian Walsh, a former communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “You would expect to see this will be part of the campaign messaging for House and Senate Republicans. … If it hasn’t started, it will be coming.”

While Donald Trump often cites eye-popping rate hikes as proof the health care law is a “disaster,” rate hikes haven’t yet emerged as a major campaign issue in most Senate races — although several Republicans said they plan to spotlight the issue in the fall. …

… The reality is that most Obamacare customers won’t have to pay headline-grabbing rate hikes since the vast majority are eligible for federal subsidies that reduce their monthly insurance costs. And proposed rates, which HHS posted publicly earlier this month, are likely to come down under regulatory scrutiny.

However, millions of people who buy their own coverage and who don’t receive federal help will be exposed to the full rate hikes unless they can switch into a cheaper plan. …

… GOP strategists said some Republicans are missing an opportunity to run on Obamacare’s missteps. Massive rate hikes and fewer insurance options this year could be attractive fodder for 30-second attack ads.

Clinton’s toothless media interlocutors

John Merline of Investor’s Business Daily explores the mainstream media’s meek reaction to Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

If the public ever wanted to get a taste of just how hopelessly partisan and unreliable the mainstream press has become, all they need to do is pay attention to how they act around politicians.

When reporters are covering a Republican, they are always in a bad mood. The questions are hostile and argumentative. Reporters never let a Republican politician stick to talking points. They interrupt. They scoff. They exchange eye rolls. They always ask tough follow-up questions.

But when it’s a Democrat, the atmosphere is always calm and friendly. Reporters always laugh at a Democrat’s jokes, particularly if the jokes are at the expense of a Republican. They act apologetic if they are posing a “difficult” question. They rarely press an issue that the Democratic politician doesn’t want to talk about. They let Democrats filibuster and set the agenda.

This phenomenon was glaringly in evidence on Thursday, after Clinton gave a blistering speech in Reno, Nev., in which she called Donald Trump a racist. …

… [R]eporters should be ravenous to get Clinton to answer questions. Particularly after recent troubling revelations from previously hidden emails about the Clinton Foundation that she has yet to answer for.

And, according to the reporters themselves, they did try, as Clinton stood around tasting chocolates offered to her by Dorinda’s Chocolates, a local upscale chocolatier.

NPR’s Tamara Keith tweeted that: “Press corps tried to ask [email protected] questions re foundation etc. She encouraged us to try the chocolates.”

Tried to ask? Not really.

Based on a video taken after the Reno speech, and posted in a tweet by Seth Richardson at the Reno Gazette-Journal, while Clinton was praising the confectionaries, reporters stood patiently, and quietly by. There were no shouted questions. No sense of urgency. Nothing.

The best one media “bloodhound” could muster was to meekly say to Clinton: “Now’s a good time for questions, right?”

To which, Clinton responded: “I want you to offer it (the tray of chocolates) to all the press here. So wonderful, so cooperative.”

There wasn’t a peep of protest from any reporter present at this blatant affront to their objectivity and professionalism. Hillary just moved on.

For those who believe ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ still holds true

Steve Moore writes at about the latest evidence of the American economy’s ongoing struggles.

No wonder Hillary doesn’t want to talk about the economy. ?

We got revised GDP numbers from the Commerce Department on Friday and the economy actually did slightly WORSE than originally estimated. Growth was 1.1 percent in the second quarter of this year and less than 1 percent for the first six months of 2016. The business sector of the economy has sunk recession territory. Profits are srinking (down 2.4 percent last quarter) so how long can the stock market rise?

The consumer is keeping the economy out of negative territory, but that’s only because we are spending more than we are earning.

How long can that go on? About as long as the housing bubble could inflate without bursting.

For years the polls have shown that Americans are hyper-concerned about the economy and job security. That was when the economy was growing at a meek 2 percent. Now at 1 percent, we aren’t just treading water, more families are being plunged underwater.

This is some recovery. Under Reagan we had growth rates quarterly of 5, 6 and even 7 percent. Economists in the ’80s worried about overheating. Too much growth. Now growth is nowhere to be seen – except for those at the very top of the income ladder.

The Democrats who keep saying how well the economy is doing seem to be living in an alternative universe. And that’s probably because so many of the leftwing pundits and economists live and work in Washington DC, which really is doing just fine – thank you. DC is booming thanks to the tribute taxpayers from real America send each month to the capital. Three of the five wealthiest counties are around DC. That tells you everything about who is getting rich off liberal government expansion policies.

A defense of free trade from one of its earliest proponents

Gene Epstein of Barron’s turns to 18th-century economist Adam Smith to help counter modern-day critics of free trade.

“In every country,” wrote Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, “it always is and must be the interest of the great body of the people to buy whatever they want of those who sell it cheapest. The proposition is so very manifest, that it seems ridiculous to take any pains to prove it.” Smith went on to observe that this self-evident proposition could not “have been called in question, had not the interested sophistry of merchants and manufacturers confounded the common sense of mankind.” …

… Free trade refers to the right to buy and sell in any market, foreign or domestic, without tariffs, duties, or other forms of interference. While Smith observed that the vast majority of us prefer to pay less rather than more for what we buy, not everyone does. For example, some get psychic benefit by paying more for goods made solely in the U.S. That is not only their right; they are also free to try to persuade others to do the same. But when they urge government-imposed tariffs and duties that make it more costly to buy from abroad, they are trampling on the rights of others.

A constitutional amendment was once proposed by free-market economist Milton Friedman that would simply declare, “The Congress shall not impose any taxes on imports or give any subsidies to exports.” In one stroke, then, the U.S. would abolish the need for trade agreements with other countries. Just as New Yorkers are free to buy and sell with Californians without a government-negotiated agreement, Americans could freely buy and sell with Chinese, Japanese, and Mexicans, among many others.

Notice I did not say that these others would necessarily be free in the same way. One critic called me “delusional” because I was urging free trade for the U.S. while ignoring the fact that other countries’ governments do not reciprocate. They often subsidize their exports and tax their imports, while also trying to keep the value of their currency cheap in relation to the U.S dollar, in order to cheapen the cost of their goods and make ours more expensive.

What my critic was really saying, however, is that our government must coerce us into rejecting low-cost imports that result from foreign subsidies. If U.S. consumers and businesses purchase heavily subsidized goods and services from a particular country, economists would call that improved terms of trade; we would be acquiring more imports in return for exports to that country. While such a relatively free lunch might be hard to sustain, it would be foolish to raise objections. And if cheap is bad, it must be bad from any source. With equal logic, my critic should want to roll back other factors that have made imports cheaper, including container shipping, modern telecommunications, and the improvement of harbors and airports.

Barron’s editorial page editor cautions incoming freshmen, families

Thomas Donlan of Barron’s devotes his latest editorial commentary to the students entering college for the first time this fall.

College freshmen are leaving home for new schools and new lives, preparing to make the mistakes that freshmen have made for many years.

Parents, don’t think of this as losing a child; think of it as taking on a fresh set of risks and worries. Especially this: Too many college students are signing up for student loans without understanding the full cost of college or the academic standards they will have to meet to graduate.

Total student debt has doubled in a decade. Nearly 70% of last June’s graduates were in debt. Average debt of the grads was almost $30,000. The delinquency rate is 11.6%. Counting loans in payment deferral, forbearance, grace periods, and default together, the federal direct student-loan program’s rate of payment-free loans is about 40% in money terms and 43% in terms of borrowers. College is becoming a dangerous investment.

Dropping out is a bigger pitfall than many students realize. They may have been told that a college degree is the key that opens the door to the middle class and beyond, but more than 30% of students at four-year institutions do not graduate in six years.

Academic need is closely linked to financial turmoil. More than half a million members of the 2011 freshman class—that’s one in four— had to take remedial classes. Students who have to take remedial classes are 74% more likely to drop out, according to Education Reform Now, a lobbying group in Washington.

Although 36% were from the lowest income quintile, 45% were from middle- to high-income families. “Inadequate academic preparation does not end with students and schools from low-income communities,” says co-author Mary Nguyen Barry. “Inadequate high school preparation, as reflected by postsecondary remedial-course enrollment, is also a middle class and upper class problem and has real financial consequences for all.”

New Carolina Journal Online features

Don Carrington reports for Carolina Journal Online that an incentives package for a new CSX transit hub in Edgecombe County amounts to $700,000 per new job promised.

John Hood’s Daily Journal examines left-leaning academics’ reaction to the planned N.C. Policy Collaboratory at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Another state-owned airline in deep trouble

South African Airways, Africa’s second-largest airline, is on the verge of collapse. The state-owned carrier lost 2.3 billion rand ($161 million) in fiscal 2014 and a still undisclosed amount in fiscal 2015. What’s the problem here? Exactly that the airline is state-owned. As Airways explains:

The challenges that face South African Airways are the same that face almost any state owned airline in poorer countries with a more populist economic bent. Whenever governments own airlines, the temptation to step in and overrule potentially unpopular but necessary business decisions is simply too great.

The revolving door between the Zuma administration and SAA’s senior leadership continues to hold back a restructuring process, including maintaining loss making routes, and perhaps more damaging, holding back a decision on the Airbus A350 or the Boeing 787 for the future of the widebody fleet.