Redistricting: Making the proper comparisons

The John Locke Foundation is a longtime advocate of redistricting reform. Voters ought to choose their representatives — not the other way around.

That said, one element of popular media coverage of Monday’s unveiling of an alternate set of N.C. congressional election district maps deserves a clarification. (Actually, two elements deserve clarification: First, the former state Supreme Court chief justice’s name is Rhoda, not Rhonda.)

The maps highlighted just below the headline of the News & Observer‘s online story imply that Republican lawmakers drew bizarre 1st and 12th Congressional Districts as part of their scheme to gerrymander an electoral advantage in 2011. (Note: The original headline says “Experiment shows ‘better way’ for voting districts.” I cropped out “voting” to avoid posting an ad from the original site.)

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 1.56.28 PM

The problem with that implication — that Republicans originated the cringe-inducing 1st and 12th Districts — is that variations of these same crazy-looking districts date back to the early 1990s. Democrats originally drew those two districts to comply with a federal order to create two majority-minority districts. The same two districts survived in slightly altered form during the early 2000s. Republicans simply tweaked them in 2011.

Here’s the map drawn by Democrats for the 1992 election.


Here’s the map drawn by Democrats for the 2002 election.


Here’s the map drawn by Republicans for the 2012 election.


Note that in each map, the 1st District extends through multiple tentacles from its base in northeastern North Carolina, while the 12th District looks like a ribbon stretching from Durham to Gastonia in the 1990s and from Greensboro to Charlotte in the 2000s and 2010s.

If the N&O‘s goal was to show that the judge-drawn alternative plan is aesthetically superior to the GOP’s handiwork, the proper point of comparison is the map drawn earlier this year to comply with a court order throwing out the 2011 districts.

Here is that comparison. First, the newly enacted maps designed to elect 10 Republicans and three Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives.


Second, the maps created by a panel of former N.C. judges.


Does the second map look better than the first? That’s certainly a judgment call. But at least readers ought to have the opportunity to compare apples to apples.

Leef laments SEC silliness

George Leef’s latest Forbes column probes political correctness at the agency that oversees stock exchanges.

Would corporations operate better if their board members were chosen so as to ensure that women and major racial/ethnic groups were all appropriately represented? Many social activists believe so and their thinking has penetrated into the federal regulatory agency that oversees our stock exchanges – the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Back in 2009, the SEC instituted a requirement that publicly traded companies disclose plans they might have regarding the diversity of their boards of directors. That is to say, the racial, ethnic and gender characteristics of board members – as if those attributes were the essential, defining attributes of a person.

But now SEC Chairman Mary Jo White has concluded that the earlier rule was too soft, leading only o vague disclosures about board diversity. As we learn in this Wall Street Journal editorial, she wants a new rule mandating that firms “include in their proxy statements more meaningful board diversity disclosures on their members and nominees.”

Chairman White’s idea dovetails with the thinking of Canadian law professor Aaron Dhir, who has been crusading for rules to compel companies to consider “the socio-demographic composition of their boards” and of Representative Carolyn Mahoney of New York, who wants the SEC to force companies to identify each member of their boards according to gender, race, and ethnicity.

Advocating more diversity just for the sake of creating boards that “look like America” (as Bill Clinton famously described his cabinet) makes many people feel good. But Law professors, bureaucrats, and politicians don’t have much if any idea what business management entails, and they won’t suffer any of the costs if boards stocked with people chosen mainly to meet a quota push the company into poor decisions.

More Corporate Welfare

Of course.  Because we certainly couldn’t expect a company to ever just, you know, use its own money for investments.

Mars Inc. to invest $20M into old P&G site in eastern N.C.

Vance County Manager Jordan McMillan says county personnel have been going back and forth with Mars for some time on the investment.

“We’re still a little early on in this project,” he cautions, adding that discussions about possible incentives have begun, but nothing is final. And those incentives are purely for the investments Mars plans to make, not for any job additions at the site.

An Additional 500 Counties Nationwide Will Have One Obamacare Insurance Option In 2017

Vox reports the full story here.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 9.10.39 AM

Soft skills are hard to find, say employers

Wall Street Journal today:

In a Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives last year, 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. But 89% said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes. Many say it’s a problem spanning age groups and experience levels.

A LinkedIn analysis of its member profiles found soft skills are most prevalent among workers in the service sector, including restaurant, consumer-services, professional-training and retail industries.

To determine the most sought-after soft skills, LinkedIn analyzed those listed on the profiles of members who applied for two or more jobs and changed jobs between June 2014 and June 2015. The ability to communicate trumped all else, followed by organization, capacity for teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social savvy, creativity and adaptability.

Workers with these traits aren’t easy to come by, said Cindy Herold, who runs the Old Europe restaurant in Washington. In a moment of frustration, Mrs. Herold recently put a sign outside seeking workers with “common sense.”

“I can teach somebody how to slice and dice onions. I can teach somebody how to cook a soup. But it’s hard to teach someone normal manners, or what you consider work ethic,” she said.

Training new workers in technical skills takes time and resources employers say they are less willing to invest in workers who don’t have the soft skills to succeed in the long run.

Pay attention to the last two paragraphs, especially that last sentence. Mull their significance.

Longtime readers of our work at John Locke know about the crucial importance of overlooked soft skills. They have read about private job training charities like StepUp MinistryJobs for Life, STRIVE, etc. that emphasize teaching the soft skills that make people employable. Unlike local demagogues and dilettantes, they know having and being able to hold on to work is more important than being unemployable at “compassionate” wages.


90 NC counties may have only one Obamacare insurer

This is not necessarily breaking news—-insurers are pulling out of North Carolina’s 2017 Obamacare health insurance exchange, possibly leaving 90 counties—-that’s 90 percent—with only one exchange insurer:

Most North Carolinians — including those in the Triad — are projected to have just one insurer’s plans to choose from in the 2017 federal individual health exchange, according to a report by Kaiser Family Foundation.

Only Alamance is projected to have Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. and Cigna Healthcare of N.C. among the 14 counties in the Triad and Northwest N.C.

The nonprofit’s analysis, released Sunday, projected about 613,000 exchange enrollees statewide, about 1,000 fewer than for 2016.
Enrollees typically receive a federal tax credit to subsidize their monthly premium cost.

Perhaps the starkest 2017 change for North Carolina comes from projections of no enrollees having at least three insurer options in their counties, compared with 409,000 enrollees in 2016.

Instead, 80 percent of projected enrollees, or 490,000, likely will have only Blue Cross. That includes a projected 21,700 in Forsyth County and 101,800 in the Triad and Northwest N.C.

North Carolina is mentioned in the Fox news piece below reporting —-imagine this–that Obamacare exchange enrollments are falling way short of projections for 2017.

Funniest part of the Fox news report is the breaking news that President Obama will meet with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to discuss changes to Obamacare for 2018. That’s a nice sentiment, I reckon—our president is full of wonderful sentiments—but we all know it could be a radically different world in 2018 for a wide variety of reasons.

Kids as consumer products

Anna Mussmann documents in a Federalist column a disturbing trend in the public approach toward parents and parenting.

… [W]e are witnessing a drastic erosion of public support for the idea that ordinary parents are the people most likely to know what is best for their children. We no longer trust the dad and mom next door. This leads to a culture that not only undervalues what parents do, but is also increasingly willing to take away their ability to do it.

Sadly, the belief that children must be protected from their families is difficult to combat. Why? It makes perfect sense in a cultural framework like ours that routinely encourages parents to objectify their own children.

Attempts to limit parental control of their children’s lives and upbringing are visible in many spheres. We’ve all heard about folks who call the authorities because a neighbor has allowed children to play in their own fenced-in back yard without adult supervision. More examples abound. For instance, if your child is older than 12, it is illegal for your child’s doctor to tell you if your child is receiving mental health care, being treated for drug or alcohol abuse, or being given contraception or an abortion, unless your child agrees to share this information with you. It is startling to realize that we assume children are more likely to be harmed by fear of parental interference than by making important decisions about mind and body-altering drugs without parental guidance.

In the realm of education, parents who want to control or at least influence the values taught to their children—especially in health and literature classes—often meet accusations of censorship and bigotry. Discussions of young adult literature regularly affirm the idea that parents must stop trying to protect their children from violent and sexually explicit material. The tension can even reach heights of comic proportion, as when the Idaho School Board Association issued a resolution plaintively calling on the state legislature to stop increasing “parental rights in regard to education,” lest parental demands interfere with schools’ attempts to comply with state and federal mandates.

Opponents of traditional parental rights claim the old ideas treat children as parental property instead of free human beings. The practical implication is that the state is a more trustworthy guardian than parents—or, at least, that state intervention can place parent and child on equal footing with each other. This is in stark contrast to a 1925 Supreme Court declaration that parents have the right to direct the education and upbringing of their offspring because children are not “the mere creature[s] of the state.”

Up, up, and away with your beautiful ballooning Obamacare rates

Paige Winfield Cunningham of the Washington Examiner focuses on the latest round of rate hikes associated with the Affordable Care Act.

Many states that have released Obamacare price information for next year are showing double-digit price hikes that are steeper than in years past.

More Obamacare rate increases will trickle out over the next few weeks, with the healthcare law’s fourth enrollment season set to begin Nov. 1. The Obama administration is expected to release the biggest rate increases sometime next month, after reviewing plan information insurers had to submit by Aug. 23.

Some of the heftiest price hikes so far are from smaller insurers who cover just a tiny fraction of people without employer-sponsored coverage who buy individual market plans. But in some states, the biggest insurers are massively increasing their prices, creating a much broader impact on consumers, especially those eligible for small federal subsidies or none at all.

Cunningham spotlights a handful of states.

1. Tennessee

Insurance regulators are allowing the state’s Blue Cross Blue Shield plans to raise prices by 62 percent on average. The plans cover the vast majority of Tennessee’s Obamacare enrollees, with 83 percent individual market share.

2. Illinois

Health Care Services Corp., also a Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee, has a massive share of individual market enrollees, nearly 82 percent. The company is raising rates an average of 51 percent during the upcoming enrollment season.

3. Kentucky

A third Blues plan, this one called Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, will charge Kentucky customers 23 percent more on average. The company covers 78 percent of the state’s individual market enrollees.

4. Georgia

Twenty-seven percent of individual market shoppers in Georgia are covered by Humana plans. The company has been approved to hike rates an average of 67 percent next year.