Key achievements from the 2016 N.C. legislative session

The latest session of the N.C. General Assembly was short but full of substantive public policy achievements. The John Locke Foundation’s Becki Gray highlighted many of them during a speech to the John Locke Foundation’s Shaftesbury Society.

In the video clip below, Gray discusses a positive shift in the approach to public school teacher pay.

4:35 p.m. update: Click play below to watch the full presentation.

Dems: most want local control, Common Core unpopular

The following is a marvelous email from the WikiLeaks release of U.S. Democratic National Committee emails:

(Click below for larger image.)

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 1.29.20 PM

The Democrats are right! Common Core is so unpopular that it is a political liability and “most people” want local control of education.


H/T: Missouri Education Watchdog and the Pioneer Institute

No bias there…….

N&R’s Inside Scoop on Greensboro City Council member Sharon Hightower’s emotional speech the council’s discussion and debate over HB 972—-the police video camera bill:

Hightower said that over the weekend, her stepson, who also is black, was pulled over by the police. Her stepson, Hightower said, posted the encounter in real-time on Facebook so there would a record.

Hightower had to wipe away tears from her cheek.

Scoop may have had a few of her own.

No bias there from the N&R’s city government beat reporter.

Downtown Gboro co-op’s financial woes

I covered Deep Roots Market’s efforts to expand 15 or so years ago, when the co-op planned to move to West Market Street here in Greensboro. That effort did not end well due to a shaky financial situation, especially for the developer who upfitted the space specifically for a small grocery store.

Deep Roots finally settled on a downtown site—-right on the edge of tony Fisher Park—and finally was able to relocate with the help of a $100,000 forgivable loan (there’s that term again) from the city. The location is also along Gboro’s $26 million downtown greenway—-imagine the utopia of everyone riding their bikes to purchase their organic groceries!

Unfortunately that utopian vision isn’t quite panning out—Deep Roots—heaven forbid—is looking to add more ‘mainstream items’—- the N&R specifically names Frosted Flakes and Velveeta cheese —-perish the thought—- as perhaps one answer to the co-op’s financial woes.

Emphasis on one answer:

Dave Reed, president of Deep Roots’ board, said some people said they appreciated the changes in the store, but others said they believe “pretty strongly” that Deep Roots should only sell organic and natural products.

….Reed said Deep Roots’ sales have been flat, and that wasn’t what board members expected three years ago when they moved the store from its tiny location on Spring Garden Street to its 11,000-square-foot spot on North Eugene Street. The board had hoped the surrounding neighborhoods would take advantage of it and shop there, making Deep Roots more of a neighborhood market.

That block of North Eugene Street close to New Bridge Bank Park indeed has finally taken shape after many years—yet another craft brewpub just opened across the street. And there’s the all-important downtown greenway. An empty building certainly doesn’t fit into those plans—it will be interesting to see how far the city will go to prop up Deep roots if sales of Frosted Flakes and Velveeta cheese don’t solve its financial woes.

Hamilton, Jefferson, and today’s government overreach

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson differed greatly in the 1790s in their approach to the newly established U.S. federal government. Their philosophical clash did as much as anything to help create America’s first competing political parties.

Yet it’s unwise to try to designate either Founder as the font of one of today’s two main competing political philosophies (liberal versus conservative, statist versus individualist, Democrat versus Republican). Carson Holloway’s book Hamilton versus Jefferson in the Washington Administration reminds us why.

Reviewing the book for National Review, Matthew Spalding highlights one of Holloway’s key points: Sharp ideological differences between Hamilton and Jefferson nonetheless recognized basic principles that no longer seem to unite today’s political partisans.

Their central disputes were on fundamental matters: the meaning of Republican government, the extent of national powers, the nature of the Union. Yet even when they disagreed on a substantive point, and when personal animosity made their divide wider than it had to be, their argument was usually less about the principle of a matter than about its practical meaning. …

… This is because beneath their disagreements was a profound agreement on the principles. They both understood Republican government to be based on the natural rights with which each is equally endowed, a point evident in Hamilton’s 1775 pamphlet Farmer Refuted as much as in Jefferson’s 1776 Declaration. … Both men saw the dangers of centralized power and defended federalism and the separation of powers as the key constitutional structures. Although they accused each other of going outside of the Constitution, neither rejected the principles or the framework of American constitutionalism. …

… Properly understood, their disagreements, as wide as they were, are narrow in comparison to the schism between the Founders and the later progressive political science that rejects outright the principles and forms of American constitutionalism. The bureaucratic despotism that threatens to overwhelm us today would be equally alien and equally abhorrent to Hamilton and Jefferson.

Trump’s appeal to Thiel

Why might a Donald Trump presidency appeal to a gay Christian libertarian billionaire? Bloomberg Businessweek‘s Max Chafkin and Lizette Chapman try to answer that question in a profile of Peter Thiel, who spoke at last week’s Republican National Convention.

In interviews, four of Thiel’s friends and colleagues—all of whom would speak only on the condition of anonymity—characterized his decision to back Trump as in keeping with his entrepreneurial instincts. He loves disruption, in the Silicon Valley sense of “creative destruction,” as opposed to the usual connotation of “making things worse,” and has weighed the candidate’s demagoguery against a hope that a Trump administration would clear the way for further disruption. It is, these friends and colleagues say, a perfectly sensible chess move—the political equivalent of the king’s pawn.

“I don’t think it’s completely out of character,” says Garrett Johnson, co-founder of SendHub, a Bay Area messaging startup, and Lincoln Initiative, a right-leaning nonprofit. Johnson, who supports the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson (no relation), notes that many of Thiel’s portfolio companies might benefit from a Trump presidency. “Donald Trump is saying the system is rigged,” he says, adding that SpaceX, which counts NASA as its biggest customer and which Founders Fund has been backing since 2008, “is being blocked by Boeing and the aerospace cartels.” Many of Thiel’s smaller investments, such as the health-care startup Oscar and the education company AltSchool, also do business in highly regulated industries.

Perhaps the biggest Thiel-backed beneficiary of a Trump administration would be Palantir. The company, recently valued at $20 billion, still isn’t profitable and has struggled to retain employees over the past year. Today about half of Palantir’s sales—it booked deals totaling $1.7 billion in 2015—comes from companies such as BP; the other half comes from the National Security Agency, the FBI, branches of the U.S. Department of Defense, and other government entities. The U.S. Army isn’t a customer—yet—but it’s currently bidding out a software contract that could be worth up to $25 billion. Palantir, which had hoped to win some of the business, is suing the Army on the grounds that the process is biased toward longtime contractors.

In this light, it’s easy to see why Thiel’s ambitions extend beyond those of your average public intellectual. He doesn’t just want to be respected by readers of the Daily Caller and the National Review; he wants, or at least seems to want, actual power, which a Trump presidency would undoubtedly deliver. It’s not clear what Thiel gives Trump in this trade, beyond a sheen of Silicon Valley respectability. (According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Thiel hasn’t donated any money this election cycle to Trump. Last year he gave $2 million to a PAC that supported Carly Fiorina and more than $8,000 to the campaign of Mike Lee, a Utah senator who’s part of the #NeverTrump movement.)

Message to governments that want to improve the housing picture: Stop!

Edward Pinto of the American Enterprise Institute examines the impact of government policies on the price and availability of housing.

Recently there has been a flurry of legislative proposals to add yet more housing subsidies to the housing sector, already one of the most heavily subsidized. For example, S.2962 by Senator Cantwell would increase the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program to about $15 billion annually (a 50% increase) and S. 3175 by Senator Wyden would provide a refundable tax credit of up to $10,000 to first-time buyers with annual incomes of up to $80,000 (individuals) and $160,000 (married). As a frame of reference US median annual household income is $53,700.

These are the most recent in a long history of ill-conceived policies that increase housing demand but do nothing about supply. The result: higher home prices and rents, particularly for low-income and minority households, the very ones these initiatives profess to help.

Today’s subsidy laden, government-centric housing finance and land-use control systems are “economics free zones”, indifferent to supply and demand. The housing finance system’s alphabet soup of agencies has promoted a massive liberalization of mortgage credit backed by countless trillions of dollars in lending. At the same time, layers of subsidies combined with federal, state, and local regulations act to drive up costs while simultaneously constraining supply. …

… For example, Los Angeles has a median home price that is 8.8 times median income, up from 4.2 times in 1979. And median rent in LA is 49% of the median income, up from 32% in 1979. These results are largely driven by (i) easy access to credit which drive demand and prices ever higher, (ii) local land use restrictions and regulations that constrain new supply and drive building costs higher, and (iii) housing subsidies that make it even more difficult for market rate housing to compete.

The ongoing negative impact of Dodd-Frank

Sam Batkins and Dan Goldbeck of the American Action Forum investigate the six-year impact of Dodd-Frank financial regulations.

Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act six years ago in an attempt to address the causes of the financial crisis. The law has imposed billions of dollars in costs with unclear benefits. Regulators have least 61 regulations remaining to finish implementing the law. According to American Action Forum (AAF) research, Dodd-Frank has imposed more than $36 billion in final rule costs and 73 million paperwork hours, up from $24 billion in final rule costs and 61 million paperwork burden hours from last year’s report. To put those figures in perspective, the costs are approximately $112 per person or $310 per household; for paperwork, it would take 36,950 employees working full-time (2,000 hours annually) to complete a single year of the law’s paperwork, and those are based on agency calculations.

In recent research, AAF even found the law had resulted in a 14.5 percent decline in revolving consumer credit. From a housing market still experiencing mediocre growth, to an uneven labor picture, to significant consumer impacts, it’s clear the law has fundamentally altered capital markets and added layers of complexity for individuals and financial institutions.

The law has imposed tremendous costs, but the height of those impositions might not be in the past. The following chart examines rulemaking costs by year, from July 21, 2010, when Dodd-Frank was passed, to each year since.


At one point, Year 3 was clearly the high-water mark, but in the last twelve months a quartet of billion-dollar Dodd-Frank measures easily placed Year 6 as the most expensive in the law’s history.