Say Yes hiccups

Surprise—-the Say Yes Guilford program is experiencing a few hiccups— much to the angst of parents sending their kids off to college:

Haven’t seen your Say Yes money yet? The program’s local director has three words for you:

Please be patient.

That’s because Say Yes Guilford — the new scholarship program for graduates of Guilford County’s public schools — won’t be sending money to colleges until after the schools’ payment deadlines.

Normally, students who miss the deadline for paying their college bills find themselves no longer enrolled in the classes they picked. But Say Yes has worked out a payment arrangement with the four-year universities and the community colleges that local students will attend this fall.

“We have done our best to make sure students aren’t dropped from classes because of nonpayment of tuition,” Mary Vigue, the executive director of Say Yes Guilford, said in a telephone interview Monday.

Interesting that Say Yes was hailed as the greatest thing to happen to Guilford County in a long time but now suddenly is in hurry and wait mode.

Why the concerted fight against voter ID? Here’s one possibility

Joe Schoffstall reports for the Washington Free Beacon on one factor that appears to be driving the nationwide fight against sensible voter ID requirements.

A top priority of liberal billionaire George Soros is to enlarge the U.S. electorate by 10 million voters by 2018, according to leaked documents.

The plan to grow the electorate by millions of voters was discussed during a May 2014 board meeting of the Open Society Foundations, a liberal grant-making group founded by Soros. A 220-page guide detailing the plan was among more than 2,500 hacked Soros documents released by DC Leaks, which publishes documents from influential officials around the world.

The guide covers strategies and tactics the group will employ in the United States from 2015 to 2018. The top goals listed by the guide are to “advance electoral reform” and “combat suppression.”

“The following four goals form the scaffolding of U.S. Programs’ work,” the guide states. “1. An American democracy strengthened through increased meaningful participation, inclusive practice, and accountability.” The third strategic goal expands upon this, calling for “Full political, economic, and civic participation of immigrants and communities of color by dismantling the barriers and strengthening the conduits to opportunity.”

Later, the guide discusses expanding the electorate by “at least 10 million voters” in the United States. This would be accomplished “by lowering barriers to voter registration through the various forms of modernization and increased ballot access while sustaining and expanding the franchise by establishing strong protections against vote suppression, denial and dilution.”

An Open Society Foundations spokesperson affirmed the group’s interest in voter turnout.

“The Open Society Foundations supports efforts to encourage wider participation in U.S. elections, and opposes measures used to try to suppress voter participation,” the spokesperson said via email.

The leaked documents help explain why Soros has quietly funded efforts to battle voter identification laws and target Democratic-trending voters for registration.

Soros began supporting challenges to voter ID laws in 2014.

Walter Williams challenges attacks on free trade

Walter Williams explores in a Human Events column the real impact of free trade on American jobs.

It is true that the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States has been in steep decline for almost a half-century, but manufacturing employment disguises the true story of American manufacturing. U.S. manufacturing output has increased by almost 40 percent. Annual value added by U.S. factories has reached a record $2.4 trillion. To put that in perspective, if our manufacturing sector were a separate nation, it would be the seventh richest nation on the globe.

Daniel Griswold’s Los Angeles Times article tells the story: “Globalization isn’t killing factory jobs. Trade is actually why manufacturing is up 40 percent.” Griswold is senior research fellow and co-director of the Program on the American Economy and Globalization at George Mason University-based Mercatus Center. He says what has changed in recent decades is that our factories produce fewer shirts, shoes, toys and tables. Instead, America’s 21st-century manufacturing sector is dominated by petroleum refining, pharmaceuticals, plastics, fabricated metals, machinery, computers and other electronics, motor vehicles and other transportation equipment, and aircraft and aerospace equipment.

Griswold suggests that political anger about lost manufacturing jobs should be aimed at technology, not trade. According to a recent study by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, productivity growth caused 85 percent of the job losses in manufacturing from 2000 to 2010, a period that saw 5.6 million factory jobs disappear. In that same period, international trade accounted for a mere 13 percent of job losses.

Manufacturing job loss is a worldwide phenomenon. Charles Kenny, writing in Bloomberg, “Why Factory Jobs Are Shrinking Everywhere,” points out manufacturing employment has fallen in Europe and Korea and “one of the largest losers of manufacturing jobs has been China.”

While job loss can be traumatic for the individual who loses his job, for the nation job loss often indicates economic progress. In 1790, farmers were 90 percent of the U.S. labor force. By 1900, about 41 percent of our labor force was employed in agriculture. Today, less than 3 percent of Americans are employed in agriculture. What would Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton have done in the face of this precipitous loss of agricultural jobs? They might have outlawed all of the technological advances in science and machinery that have made our farmers the world’s most productive and capable of producing the world’s cheapest food.

Shocker! Federal department failing to get its house (pun intended) in order

Kathryn Watson of the Daily Caller details the latest evidence of problems at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials have ignored 63 financial management recommendations from Congress’ investigative arm since 2012 and only half-heartedly followed many more, resulting in the $43 billion agency’s books to be all but useless.

Things have gotten so bad at HUD so rapidly, that auditors who found only one “material weakness” in the department’s accounting in 2012 found nine in 2015, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published Monday.

Housing Secretary Julian Castro, who has been at HUD’s helm during much of its slide into financial disrepair, was prominently mentioned prior to the Democratic National Convention as a potential running-mate for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has struggled to resolve persistent management challenges, in part because it has not consistently incorporated requirements and key practices identified by GAO to help ensure effective management into its operations,” GAO said. “In addition, HUD’s past remedial actions were not always effective because they were not sustained.” …

… The report — drawing from 15 years of GAO and HUD Office of Inspector General (IG) audits — particularly faulted HUD officials for failing to fix seven of eight financial accountability recommendations, and neglecting to dedicate staff members or policies to preventing waste, fraud and abuse.

GAO’s concern for HUD’s financial state surrounded poor audits. Auditors found more “material weaknesses” with each passing year; the number jumped from one in fiscal year 2012 to nine in fiscal year 2015. HUD’s books, which auditors gave a “clean” opinion for 13 consecutive years until 2013, were in such bad shape in 2014 and 2015 that auditors couldn’t issue an opinion on them.

GAO also criticized HUD for neglecting its oversight duties. The department “has not formalized key practices for program oversight and evaluation,” or “formally designated entities to manage fraud risk,” GAO said. HUD’s complicated structure, consisting of thousands of local housing authorities and contractors and dozens of programs, makes it ripe for waste and fraud, GAO said.

More money for useful research, less for junk science

Henry Miller and Jeff Stier explain at National Review Online why Congress should exercise greater scrutiny of federal funding for scientific research.

When Congress meddles in how federal agencies set research priorities and disburse grants, the scientific community is, understandably, distraught. But Congress is responsible for rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse at federal agencies, which sets up a fundamental conflict.

The administration’s spending should come under special scrutiny when bureaucrats claim they don’t have enough money to protect public health; while complaining of lack of funds, bureaucrats are squandering already allocated funds on research that is the subject of inter-agency squabbles.

In a concerted campaign, administration officials have bashed Congress for failing to provide funds needed to respond to the Zika-virus outbreak. …

… With NIH and several of its HHS siblings crying poverty, Congress should exercise its oversight function and ask how NIH is spending the rest of its budget and what guides those priorities.

To be sure, politicians should not make decisions about individual grant proposals, but they are responsible for oversight of federal agencies: setting overall priorities; combating waste, fraud and abuse; and putting a stop to inappropriate intransigence.

Especially when research appears to be flawed and to have a policy agenda, the Congress should certainly be involved. But some federal bureaucrats seem to disagree.

Clinton’s efforts to shift blame

Rich Lowry‘s latest column at National Review Online focuses on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s employment of the “Colin Powell defense.”

The influence that Colin Powell has over Hillary Clinton is something to behold. His word is her command. When he tells her to break the law and endanger the nation’s secrets, she doesn’t hesitate. She salutes smartly and does as she is told.

Clinton has been desperate for the moral cover of Colin Powell for her e-mail arrangement since the scandal first broke last year. Now we’ve learned that Clinton told the FBI that Powell advised her to use private e-mail as secretary of state at a dinner in 2009. This escalates Clinton’s e-mail defense from “Hey, Colin Powell did it, too,” all the way to “Colin Powell made me do it.”

The Powell defense has given Clinton shills something to say on TV, but it doesn’t make much sense. While the former general used a private e-mail as secretary of state, it was at a time when the department didn’t have a robust email system of its own. And he obviously didn’t set up his own private server. After Powell left State, the department’s rules steadily got stricter about using official e-mail for State Department business and preserving e-mail records — and Clinton blew through them all.

On the advice, we are supposed to believe, of none other than Colin Powell, the Professor Moriarty of Clinton’s illicit e-mail practices. The New York Times reported last week that at a dinner party hosted by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright that included other former secretaries of state, Albright asked Clinton’s predecessors what counsel they would give her. Allegedly, Powell didn’t advise Clinton (channeling Winston Churchill) that “diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions,” or (channeling Will Durant) that “to say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy,” or even to avoid a land war in Asia. He told her to use private e-mail.

New Carolina Journal Online features

Dan Way reports for Carolina Journal Online on a federal court case challenging alleged abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws.

John Hood’s Daily Journal examines the facts surrounding poverty in America.

The Donald and Boeing

McClatch has a story out examining Donald Trump’s claim that Boeing will move aircraft production to China. Sample quote:

For over a year, Donald Trump has had a message for voters whose livelihood depends on the aircraft industry, specifically aviation giant Boeing – elect me, or your jobs are moving to China.

Aircraft industry analysts say that claim is unfounded – “side-splittingly hilarious,” in the words of Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Teal Group, which studies a wide range of aviation-related industries.

“They’re an embarrassing misunderstanding of the aircraft industry,” he said of Trump’s claims.

Yet Trump continues to raise the idea of Boeing leaving the United States. “Oh, don’t worry; if I’m president it won’t happen,” the Republican presidential nominee said last month at a rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “If I’m president, Boeing will be very happy – believe me.”

Trump’s favorite example of what might be lost has been Boeing’s “big, big […] beautiful” facility in North Charleston, S.C. The company’s new plant employs more than 7,500 South Carolinians.

As an economist who follows the aviation industry closely, Trump’s claim is laughable and demonstrates zero industry understanding. Boeing has a ton of problems at the moment — the 787 program may never turn a profit, production of one of its cash cows, the 777-300ER, will soon come to an end, Boeing isn’t selling many widebody jets this year, its next generation 737 is limited as compared to the latest Airbus product, and its KC-46 tanker program is late and over budget — and none of them have anything to do with production line labor costs. The threat to Boeing employee jobs in South Carolina is from poor sales forcing a production slowdown, and not shifting jobs to China. The North Charleston plant builds 787, and Boeing has net orders for 19 thus far in 2016. Boeing has delivered 87 787s so far this year.