Remember that it’s not whether the ‘rich’ should pay more taxes, but how much more

Paired with one of the more odious members of Raleigh’s left-wing establishment for a presentation to college students a year or two ago, your correspondent had to stifle a grimace when his interlocutor spouted the following: “The wealthy get tax breaks while the poor and middle class are left to pay the bills.”

There is ample room for debate about the proper level of taxation, and the proper distribution of that taxation among those with varying degrees of income or wealth. But it’s hard to engage in that debate when one side perpetuates drivel like the statement quoted above. The rich/wealthy/high earners pay more taxes than the poor and middle class. Even under a flat tax like the one that takes effect in 2014 for North Carolina, those at the upper end of the income scale pay more taxes.

The Heritage Foundation’s “Insider Online” blog offers a good tool for those who want to visualize the federal tax burden.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Dan Way reports for Carolina Journal Online that a nationally recognized energy and environmental policy expert says North Carolina’s renewable energy mandate has cost consumers billions of dollars.

John Hood’s Daily Journal explains why the real public policy debate involves just the Center and the Right.

Haven’t heard Mike Adams speak?

If this morning‘s “Locker Room” entries sparked your interest in UNC-Wilmington Professor Mike Adams, you might enjoy revisiting his December 2009 speech at N.C. State University, courtesy of CarolinaJournal.tv.

Latest N.C. employment data bolster the state’s fiscally conservative approach

North Carolina’s official unemployment rate dropped again in March to 6.3 percent. John Hood looks beyond that headline number and assesses the implications for North Carolina public policy.

The latest federal employment data for North Carolina support the case that a fiscally conservative approach to state fiscal policy is helping improve the economy’s long-term outlook. That’s the assessment from John Locke Foundation President John Hood.

North Carolina’s official unemployment rate for March was 6.3 percent, according to data released this morning from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That rate is down 0.1 percentage points from February and down 2.2 percentage points from an 8.5 percent unemployment rate in March 2013.

The N.C. Division of Employment Security will wait until Monday morning to release the data, but it is publicly available now from BLS.

That official rate is based on preliminary data from the BLS’ household survey. North Carolina’s 6.3 percent rate compares to a national average that remained steady from February to March at 6.7 percent.

“Over the past 12 months, North Carolina’s 2.2-percentage-point decline in the unemployment rate was second-largest in the nation,” Hood said. “South Carolina’s rate dropped 2.5 percentage points, while Indiana came in third with a drop of 2 percentage points.”

Preliminary payroll figures show that North Carolina gained 19,400 jobs in March. “That’s the second-largest gain in the nation,” Hood said. “On a percentage basis, North Carolina and four other states tied for the largest monthly jobs gain at 0.5 percent.”

North Carolina’s 19,400 jobs gained in March substantially offset the state’s surprising 23,300 jobs lost during January and February, Hood added. “Although additional months of data will be needed before drawing any firm conclusions, the early-2014 dip in jobs appears to be weather-related,” he said. “The same pattern occurred in several other states with higher-than-average winter storm activity.”

“One reason why this explanation might be valid is that the leisure and hospitality sector, which typically accounts for about one-tenth of North Carolina’s employment, was responsible for half of the state’s employment drop for January and February,” Hood added.

The latest numbers have implications for North Carolina’s ongoing public policy debates, Hood said. “Many critics of North Carolina’s 2013 unemployment-insurance reforms have claimed that subsequent declines in state unemployment are attributable primarily to people dropping out of the labor force, not to people finding employment,” he said. “The recent data show this claim is false.”

Since North Carolina exited the UI extended-benefits program in July 2013, household employment has increased by more than 61,000, a 1.4 percent growth rate that exceeds the national average. During the same period, unemployment dropped by about 94,000.

“In other words, nearly two-thirds of North Carolina’s decline in unemployment after the end of extended benefits is attributable to more people finding jobs, not people dropping out of the labor force,” Hood explained. “The same trend is in evidence in the payroll survey, which shows that North Carolina has added about 56,000 jobs since the end of extended benefits, a job-creation rate faster than the national average.”

Hood also addresses critics who say state tax burdens have no long-term effects on economic growth. These critics have argued that the 2011 General Assembly shouldn’t have overridden then-Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto to enact a state budget plan that trimmed spending and allowed sales, income, and business tax rates to drop.

“Since the implementation of that fiscally conservative budget in mid-2011, North Carolina’s economy has exceeded the national average in payroll job creation — it’s up 183,000, or 4.7 percent,” he said. “North Carolina also has exceeded the national average in household employment growth (up 201,000, or 4.8 percent), decline in unemployed workers (down 188,000, or 39 percent), and decline in unemployment rate (down 4.1 percentage points, compared to the national average decline of 2.4 points).”

Hood cautioned against reading too much into short-term data. “As we’ve seen in the recent past, preliminary numbers can be revised in ways that can turn sweeping judgments into significant errors,” he said. “But the trend lines appear to be moving in the right direction for North Carolina’s long-term economic health. And the latest numbers are consistent with support for North Carolina’s fiscally conservative policies.”

Drawing the Wrong Conclusion XII — the I’m anti-corporate-welfare but… edition

The News & Record reports today on Rep. Pricey Harrison’s primary race against former Greensboro City Councilman Mike Kee.

In it, Harrison makes the following boast about her opposition to corporate welfare:

Harrison opposes incentives to businesses, which she sees as a form of “corporate welfare.”

Riker-hopeful

To which the N&R hastily adds “But” — yep, here it comes — and then writes this:

she argues that her efforts have helped grow the North Carolina economy.

Harrison co-sponsored legislation in 2007 that requires power companies to get a portion of their electricity from renewable sources. That has spurred clean-energy job growth, she said. Harrison fought to keep those rules in place in the last session.

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In a way, it’s impressive how she was able to make the turn that quickly, that is, to say those two things without cracking up. But then I’ve already remarked on how the solar dance is amazing.

Previous entries in “Drawing the Wrong Conclusion”: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, and XI.

National Review cites the Mike Adams case

mikeadamsThose of you who have followed with interest Professor Mike Adamsbattle with his employers at UNC-Wilmington might appreciate this blurb from the latest National Review:

Mike Adams sued the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, where he is an associate professor of sociology and criminology, for discriminating against his political (conservative) and religious (Christian) beliefs when it denied him promotion in 2006. A federal judge in 2010 held that Adams was not entitled to freedom of speech in his capacity as a public employee. Late last month, a federal appeals court overturned that decision, arguing that “many forms of public speech or service a professor engaged in during his employment” were protected under the First Amendment. The court found that Adams’s political commentary at Townhall.com and elsewhere was a “substantial or motivating factor” in the vote against his application for a full professorship. UNCW has said it will appeal. Advocates of academic freedom have cause for celebration but not complacency.

Another take on the ‘college is oversold’ theme

Charles C.W. Cooke of National Review reacts in an interesting way to a recent headline: “College Dropout Scott Walker Claims Ronald Reagan Ended the Cold War by Busting Unions.” As Cooke notes, it’s clear the description “college dropout” is designed to serve as a substitute for “‘stupid,’ ‘uncultured,’ ‘unvetted’ — or, at the very least, for ‘lacking in credentials.’”

Credential-focused snobbery has always been unseemly, the grim consequence of conflating individual ability and institutional imprimatur. But it is especially perplexing to see it rearing its head now, when higher education is yielding such questionable returns. All across the world, universities are churning out parades of people who are processed through their halls less for didactic betterment and more because attending college for four years has become a rite of passage — “what one does” between high school and the real world.

In a significant number of cases, would-be students have not yet noticed that their enthusiasm for a college placement is predicated upon a fatal misconception: that a degree will inexorably lead to a better life. Often, it will not. As Occupy Wall Street demonstrated rather cruelly, the hardest-hit victims of the Great Recession have been the students — the millions of young people who believed that their educations would insulate them from the undulations and vagaries of the market. “I have a degree!” many were prone to whine down in Zuccotti Park, when asked what ailed them. “Okay,” one might have responded. “So bloody what?”

Cooke’s commentary will come as no surprise to those who have read recurring “Locker Room” entries on the theme that college is oversold. This observer also recalled a column sparked by a statement during a legislative hearing in 2012: ““I’m highly educated, very qualified. I don’t need training. I need a job.”

The UNC prof leading the fight for free speech

Jane S. Shaw profiles him in The News & Observer, and no, it’s not the celebrity poverty center director laboring under the “chilling effect” of being asked to place a disclaimer on his op-eds and give a heads-up to university officials before the next one comes out.

It’s the professor who “suffered actual harm for expressing his views,” who in 2006 “was denied a promotion to full professor,” who “lost income as a result and experienced harassment and duplicitous treatment from his university.”

And who has been fighting a court battle ever since, with the support of the American Association of University Professors, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. His victory last month struck a blow for protecting speech rights on campuses that will resonate for years to come.

His name? Mike Adams of UNC-Wilmington. As Shaw writes,

Now, here’s the academic freedom story you probably haven’t heard about. …

Certain that the university denied his promotion because he had expressed unpopular views, Adams sued UNCW in 2007. His lawsuit, supported by the Alliance Defending Freedom, argued that when he was an atheist and a liberal, his department praised and promoted him, but when his views changed, he lost favor and was denied promotion in retaliation for his columns. He has been conducting this lawsuit for seven years.

Adams lost a district court case in 2010 but appealed the decision to the Fourth Circuit. In this round, the American Association of University Professors, a progressive organization that undoubtedly would oppose many of his opinions, supported his appeal.

The AAUP contended that the district court had misinterpreted a Supreme Court decision (Garcetti v. Ceballos) restricting the free-speech rights of public employees. Along with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, AAUP argued that the Garcetti case should not be applied to university faculty.

Adams won the appeal and obtained a jury trial. This was a coup for a popular teacher – “witty, hilarious, knows what he’s talking about” is typical of his RateMyProfessors evaluations. The jury, meeting in Greenville agreed March 20 that Adams had been denied promotion to full professor in retaliation for expressing his Christian and conservative beliefs.

A couple of weeks later, the judge in the case did something even more surprising, perhaps historic – he ordered UNCW to make Adams a full professor with an additional $50,000 in back pay. This is a highly unusual directive to a university.

I wrote about Adams’ case yesterday in my newsletter in the context of the N&O’s vigilance against the potential chilling of Gene Nichol’s expression. A snippet:

To the ramparts over a disclaimer and a heads-up? Let us welcome such vigilance in the press in support of academic freedom and freedom of speech!

If adding a disclaimer puts university speech scolds on the warning track of chilling controversial speech, then they certainly wouldn’t dare risk running full-bore into the wall by denying promotion, changing standards, and launching secret investigations over controversial speech.

That would require consistency of vigilance, of course. Adams’ case — as important as it is — has gotten very little coverage, an unfortunate oversight.

Publishing Shaw’s piece addresses that oversight a little bit.