Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Over Regulated

There is plenty of talk going around these days about political polarization, but occasionally the liberals and conservatives do come together and agree.

It was only a small NC legislative subcommittee hearing, but there they were, representatives from the conservative John Locke Foundation and the liberal N.C. Justice Center, agreeing there was too much regulation.

In this case, the regulations they were agreeing on involved 55 state commissions and state agencies that grant licenses to some 700,000 NC workers – such as doctors, attorneys or pastoral counselors.

Now, practically speaking, giving a Commission the power to determine who can be, say, an undertaker, gives that Commission a lot of control over the free market. They can literally determine how many funeral homes there are in a county.

NC, and other states, have long required licenses for professions like doctors and attorneys. And no one is arguing doctors shouldn’t be licensed.

But around 1973, the number of licensed occupations in NC started increasing like mushrooms after a summer rain.

Here’s where the two ends of the political spectrum agreed:

  1. Licensing creates a barrier to entry for workers in general, and particularly the poor, as they try to climb the economic ladder.
  2. Licensing raises the costs of services, which takes money out of everyone’s pockets, but hits the poor hardest.
  3. And, as a group, licensed professions experience slower growth rates than their unlicensed peers.

In other words, unnecessary licensing hurts workers, consumers and our economy.

Granted there are some obvious winners. If you already hold a license to be an undertaker, you find yourself in a protected environment that limits bothersome competition. That’s why people with licensees are quick to argue that uneducated consumers need the protection licensing offers. Without that extra bureaucratic protection, they say, people will be exposed to unnecessary risk from bad actors.

That may have been true 50 years ago. But in the age of smart phones and Yelp, there may be a better way to protect consumers than more bureaucracy.

Four Actual NC Congressional District 12 Maps

Click here for a larger view.

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Freedom Fighters

It’s an old story that repeats itself throughout history – a flamboyant leader exhorts a suffering people to join his crusade to overthrow a ruthless dictator and win their freedom. But then, as soon as the revolution is over, it turns out the new leader is not what he seemed. He wanted power for himself, not freedom for the people.

For years conservatives, standing for two fundamental principles, have battled tax incentives that favor one business over others. We have argued those incentives are examples of government interfering with the free market and ‘picking winners and losers.’

Along the way, additional political leaders (and their allied political groups) joined in, using almost precisely the same arguments while specifically criticizing the state incentives for solar energy.

For a while, it sounded like we were all allies in the conservative cause.

But then, everything changed. After the solar incentives were eliminated, the second group dropped the cloak of standing up for free markets and, contrary to conservative principles, set out to use government to tilt the market to suit its purposes.

How? By proposing to pass a law that said no farmer could rent his land to a solar farm without the government’s permission. In other words, they want to use government to accomplish their goal of stopping solar energy.

That is not my idea of freedom. Or of protecting the free market. The government has no business getting into the business of telling a farmer how he can or cannot use his land.

Golden Leaf Grants

Click each for a closer look.

Grants by County as of May 2015

Grants by County

 

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Receiving the League’s Community Champion Award for 2014

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Senator McLaurin, Representative Wells and Legislative Assistant Mary Marchman Receive League Awards

NCLM Greensboro, NC 2014

Senator Gene McLaurin of Rockingham and Representative Andy Wells of Hickory were recognized earlier this week as recipients of the League’s Community Champion Award for 2014. The League presents the award to legislators who make strong efforts to work with municipal officials and ensure that municipal interests are represented during the legislative process. The awards were presented during CityVision 2014, the League’s annual conference held in Greensboro.

The League also presented its inaugural General Assembly Ambassador award to Legislative Assistant Mary Marchman. The award recognizes a legislative staff member for professionalism and selflessness while carrying out his or her duties at the Legislature. Ms. Marchman has been a legislative assistant for the last 11 years, working both the House and Senate. She currently serves as legislative assistant to Senator Kathy Harrington of Gastonia.

“Each of these award recipients is a true champion and true professional. Their service at the Legislature has been invaluable to the state, its cities and towns, and the residents of North Carolina,” said League Executive Director Paul Meyer. League President Ronnie Wall presented the awards to Senator McLaurin, Representative Wells and Ms. Marchman.

In remarks to those attending Monday night’s dinner at the Koury Convention Center, Senator McLaurin noted the relative inexperience of the current legislature and how many legislators do not come to the job with a municipal perspective. He challenged city and town officials to take that perspective to their legislators. Representative Wells discussed his upbringing as the son of a city manager, and noted how issues that are allowed to fester locally can end up before legislators. Ms. Marchman gave a witty speech on how to tactfully approach and discuss issues with lawmakers. The League extends it congratulations and thanks to Senator McLaurin, Representative Wells and Ms. Marchman, and looks forward to working with each in the years to come.

 To view the full LINC’ed in Update,  visit it here.

IMG_3796   NCLM Greensboro, NC 2014   NCLM Greensboro, NC 2014   IMG_3794

Earned Income Tax Credit

The howls started immediately when, last year, to reform the tax code and create jobs the General Assembly dropped the state’s version of the so-called earned income tax credit.

 

It became, pretty quickly, a media circus.

 

Rev. William Barber waded in, suggesting he – by virtuously standing up for the E.I.T.C. – was the epitome of rectitude while those who didn’t agree with him had no empathy for the poor.

 

It was politics run amuck.

 

So what exactly is the E.I.T.C.?

 

Well, first it’s not a tax credit at all. Instead, it works like this: Let’s say, hypothetically, a low income person pays $500 in Social Security and other taxes. At the end of the year, they can file for an E.I.T.C. tax credit and receive a ‘refund’ of, say, $2,000. In effect, they receive a ‘refund’ $1,500 greater than the taxes they paid.

 

And that’s what the General Assembly ended last year: North Carolina’s local version of Washington’s E.I.T.C.

 

Now, last week, one of the publications that showcased Rev. Barber’s attacks on conservatives – like me – reported the federal E.I.T.C. is a poster program not just for welfare boondoggles but outright fraud. According to the Government Accountability Office, 24% of all E.I.T.C. refunds ($14.5 billion) were ‘overpayments’ that should never have been made.

 

How, you might ask, could that happen? The Commissioner of the IRS explained the “improper payments” were caused by parents lying about their number of children or their incomes – and the IRS mailing the checks before bothering to check the claims.

 

To put that into perspective, $14.5 billion would pay for North Carolina’s entire General Fund budget for eight months.

 

It never made sense to disguise a welfare payment as a tax credit. It was pure political hoo-doo. North Carolina took a step in the right direction when it ended the E.I.T.C. And Washington could save $14.5 bi8llion in waste by doing the same thing.

Coal Ash Management

My wife and I raised three sons who still live in the Carolinas, so, naturally, how to dispose of 100 million tons of coal ash got our attention.

 

I also guess, by now, we all know the biggest coal ash deposit in the state is right here in Catawba County. While that pond is downstream from our local water intakes, a spill – like the spill on the Dan River – could cause harm along the Catawba-Wateree basin from Charlotte to Charleston.

 

When it comes to cleaning up coal ash, one problem is folks can’t agree on what to do. One group says – with absolute conviction – we ought to drain every pond, haul away the ash, burn it and then close the ponds.

 

Since that may cost $10 billion, other folks argue it’s better to close the major threats immediately, then determine if there’s an effective but less costly way to clean up the others.

 

There’s another question hardly anyone’s asked: Coal ash ponds have been regulated by state experts for decades. So how did we land in this mess? What went wrong?

 

There’s no way to put this but bluntly: But when it comes to cleaning up the coal ash ponds having the same old team of regulators in the room isn’t enough – we need some new faces.

 

And that’s starting to happen. The legislature has put new people – who have no historical ownership of the problem that may blind them to a better solution – to work. It also helps the new team includes a number of people who have the engineering backgrounds, as well as a former national President of the Sierra Club with a 30 year history of environmental leadership.

 

Of course, we can’t expect to correct 80 years of mistakes in six months.

 

When our sons took their first steps across the room, we didn’t critique the wobble in their stride or measure the length of their steps and point out how they could cover more ground with a few tweaks. The bill dealing with coal ash is like that – it’s the first few steps.

 

Two States Chart

I have been talking about NC consisting of two states. The chart below demonstrates a sharp divide among our urban areas with some booming and some flat lining.

Click the image below to view a larger version.

 

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How the War on Poverty Was Lost

Here’s an article written by Robert Rector of Heritage Foundation. Of course, folks will naturally, argue over whether his conclusions are correct. But he presents the facts clearly. And makes a sensible case that simply transferring money from one group of people to another failed, because it didn’t attach to root causes of poverty.

Andy Wells on Catawba Communities

Building Demolition Cost Reduction on “Catawba Communities”