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Wake County Commission Races: Differing Views On Fiscal Issues & Transit

The News & Observer has published a look at the four races for seats on the Wake County Board of Commissioners. 

You will find differing perspectives on spending and fiscal issues, rail transit, and more.

The candidates are:

District 1: Republican incumbent Joe Bryan versus Democrat Sig Hutchinson

District 2: Republican incumbent Phil Matthews versus Democrat Matt Calabria

District 3: Republican incumbent Rich Gianni versus Democrat Jessica Holmes

District 7: Republican incumbent Paul Coble versus Democrat John Burns

If you’d like to know more about the role of local government and the policies that protect freedom and foster prosperity, take a look at JLF’s City and County Issue Guide 2014. 

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Americans Say No: Majority Of Likely Voters Disapprove Of Obamacare

Those who say Obamacare is a dead issue are wrong. From Rasmussen:

Views of Obamacare hold steady again this week, with over half of voters continuing to express an unfavorable opinion of the national health care law and overwhelming majorities still calling for choices in health insurance that the law doesn’t allow.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 42% of Likely U.S. Voters share a favorable view of the health care law, while 52% view it unfavorably. This includes 19% with a Very Favorable opinion and twice as many (37%) with a Very Unfavorable one.

It’s  no mystery why the majority disapproves of Obamacare. JLF’s Katherine Restrepo regularly chronicles the Obamacare fiasco. Follow her analysis — and recommendations for what is required to chart a new course — here. 

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Progressives Say They Want Fairness, So When Will They Call For End To This Bias?

North Carolina progressives pride themselves on being supporters of equal and fair treatment for all.

When will they join JLF in calling for an end to the blatant tax bias against savings, investment, and entrepreneurship that exists in our state’s tax code? JLF’s Roy  Cordato explains how a change to the capital gains tax structure would help address that bias. 

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Another “D’oh” Moment For Anti-Energy Exploration Environmentalists

As North Carolina prepares to move ahead with energy exploration using hydraulic fracturing, there is more research showing that a claim by anti-fracking environmentalists is not supported by data. JLF’s Jon Sanders, director of regulatory policy, gives us a look at the latest piece of evidence.

A team of researchers from Duke University, The Ohio State University, Stanford University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Rochester analyzed 133 drinking water wells over the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania and 20 wells over the Barnett Shale formation in Texas, both places where there have been reports of methane in the water, which has caused some to suspect the culprit was hydraulic fracturing in local shale-gas extraction. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team “identified eight discrete clusters of fugitive gas contamination, seven in Pennsylvania and one in Texas.” They tested seven different hypotheses for the contamination, the sixth of which was “direct migration of gases upward through the overlying strata following horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing.”

In all eight clusters, they concluded that well failures were the cause, not fracking:

You can read what the researchers had to say by continuing with Jon’s blog. 

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What Does It Mean To Pay “Fair” Wages?

Progressives, led by President Obama, continue to push for an increase in the government-mandated minimum wage. They want employers to be forced to pay a “living wage.” Dr. Roy Cordato, John Locke Foundation vice president for research and resident scholar, finds flaws in their thinking. I talked with Roy about the flawed economics behind progressives’ thinking in a recent Carolina Journal Radio. In the interview, I also asked Roy about critics’ claims that workers need to be paid “fairly.”

Martinez: Roy, what seems to underpin a lot of the progressive argument for this kind of thing — the transfer — is the word “fairness.”

Cordato: Right.

Martinez: Market economies are criticized routinely because they are not “fair.”

Cordato: Right.

Martinez: Talk about the issue of market economics and fairness. Do the two go together, or are they just simply not — is it not possible to have fairness in a market economy?

Cordato: Of course, it depends on what you mean by “fairness.” And I would argue, coming from someone who believes that what is fair is that people have a right to keep what they earn, that they should be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. … That is actually in the North Carolina Constitution, that phrase — Article 1, Section 1 of the North Carolina Constitution. So if what you believe is that it’s fair for people to keep as much of their income as possible, then we shift the entire conversation about fairness.

That [progressive] notion of fairness is really, I would argue, a Marxian notion of fairness, an egalitarian notion of fairness. What is fair is that no one should have more than somebody else. Of course in a market economy, what people have is constantly being changed because it’s an economy based on exchange, on trade. And it’s also based on people getting for themselves to the extent that they satisfy the needs of others.

It’s a very outward-looking system because no one can get rich unless they’ve made someone else better off. And all the great people, all the really rich people, the Bill Gates of the world, how have they gotten all of their wealth? Well, they’ve gotten it by making other people better off. To me, that is a very sound notion of fairness, and I would put that notion of fairness up against the notion that the economy has to be — or that everyone in the economy has to have equal incomes, which is really the notion that drives that. 

Martinez: If we want to make sure that everyone has as much opportunity as possible, to pursue whatever they want to pursue, to do whatever they want to do, in terms of economics, what types of policies do we need to implement? What principles do we need to govern by?

Cordato: We need to make sure that property rights are secure, that people can indeed keep as much of their income as possible. … What a minimum wage does, for example, is it forces an exchange ratio, a price, in the marketplace that wouldn’t occur otherwise.

What you would have to do is allow people to freely make contracts based on their skills. That will, I think, bring about fairness to the extent possible. What we have seen is a situation where many policies that have been put forth actually exacerbate [un]fairness, actually no matter how you look at it.

Bottom line: free markets will lead more people out of poverty than a government mandate ever will.

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Kids Get First Lesson In Government Overreach: Feds Target Chicken Fingers

Another school district is looking at opting out of Mrs. Obama’s signature program: so-called “healthy” school lunches. It’s not just a lesson for the school administrators. Kids are now getting a real-world look at what happens when the government decides it knows better than mom and dad about what a child should eat for lunch.

We’re considering opting out because of the program rules and a decline in participation,” Salem finance director Deborah Payne says. “There’s not a lot of choice for students.”

Meanwhile, others aren’t quite to that point yet, despite growing alarm over the shrinking portion sizes.

The Bangor, Pennsylvania district has cut its chicken finger serving size from six to three.

“Going from six chicken fingers down to three of them is not what we should be doing,” school board member Kenneth Brewer tells 69 News.

This is nonsense. The government’s one-size-fits-all Food Police approach completely ignores what and how much children are eating at home — not to mention that it’s none of the school’s business what a child eats. That’s for mom and dad to decide and monitor — or not monitor.

Enough already.

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Tonight In Raleigh: How Rock n’ Roll Influenced The Liberation Of Millions

The John Locke Foundation Cordially invites you to a Viewing of the Award Winning Film

Rockin the Wall

with our special guest

Dr. Larry Schweikart

- Professor of History, University of Dayton and Award Winning Filmmaker

7:00 p.m.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC

Price: Free and open to the public

Dr. Larry Schweikart, the prize-winning historian and former drummer for the opening band for Steppenwolf, visits Raleigh with his award winning film, Rockin’ the Wall

Rockin’ the Wall is both an engaging history lesson about the Berlin Wall and life behind the Iron Curtain, and an entertaining exploration of the power of rock music as a force for social change and liberation.

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Wrong

I often wonder what it is about human nature that allows people to convince themselves certain things are true when, in fact, they are not. That’s what is happening in North Carolina as liberals and Democrats continue to push the message that Republicans, under the leadership of House Speaker Thom Tillis, cut education spending by $500 million.

There are plenty of important and consequential issues to be debated in this race: health insurance/health care, transportation, ISIS and terrorism, $17 trillion in debt, the growing entitlement burden as the Baby Boomers retire in droves. All of these would make for a legitimate, instructive debate between the three candidates: Kay Hagan, Thom Tillis, and Sean Haugh.

But no, the airwaves are now filled with nonsense, as JLF’s Sarah Curry details here.

So where does the $500 million figure come from? Until a change enacted with this year’s state budget plan, each year’s budget process has produced a so-called “continuation budget.” This is not a real spending figure. Rather, it is simply a calculated amount based upon prior year actual spending, requested increases from state agencies, adjustments for inflation, mandatory rate increases, and expected operation costs of new facilities.

The $500 million figure represents the continuation budget minus the enacted budget voted on in the legislature.

The problem with this calculation is that these two budget figures do not measure the same thing. The state’s budget law mandates a transfer of funds to occur after the budget is signed into law, and this transferred money pays for salary increases, retirement benefits, and health care benefits for state employees. The enacted budget at the agency level does not include the whole amount spent, because it doesn’t include those elements.

Since the continuation budget includes the previous year’s actual spending amount, it does include all of those pieces. This causes the continuation budget figure to be inflated by the reserve transfer amount when compared to the enacted budget. A historical evaluation shows that the continuation budget has been higher than actual spending for all three areas of education (K-12, UNC system, and community colleges) during the last four years.

The simple explanation is that the $500 million figure is essentially an apples-to-oranges comparison. I have collected the enacted budget figures from the last seven years. I chose this timeframe to include data from the last recession. The state budget had to be cut during this time to reflect a decrease in tax revenue to the state, so I thought this would give a truer picture of what has happened with education spending in North Carolina.

Sarah’s explanation continues here.

JLF’s John Hood debunks the education claim here.

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Numerous studies have found no link between fracking and groundwater contamination

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing claim the process is unsafe and contaminates groundwater.

Not according to data, says John Locke Foundation Director of Regulatory Studies Jon Sanders, who analyzed fracking in this report.

Fracking has been around much longer than some might expect. “It isn’t new. The first well in which hydraulic fracturing was used was drilled back in 1947,” Sanders said. “Since then hydraulic fracturing has been used in over a million wells, and the industry has maintained an excellent safety record.”

Despite that record, critics have raised safety concerns. “Public debate over fracking has become unusually, well, fractious,” Sanders said. “That makes it hard to separate the facts from the noise. Several notorious examples of ‘fracking disasters,’ however, fall short of the mark upon closer examination.”

That includes the high-profile example of lighting tap water on fire, a feature of the anti-fracking “Gasland” movies from 2010 and 2013. Sanders details the deception and omissions used to mislead viewers of those films.

More credible sources offer a different story, Sanders said. “A 2004 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of hydraulic fracturing of coal-bed methane wells found no incident of contamination of drinking water wells from hydraulic fracturing fluid injection,” he said. “In 2009 state regulators tied to the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission said they had found no cases where hydraulic fracturing had caused drinking water to be contaminated. The Institute of Energy Research reports that hydraulic fracturing is a safe process well-regulated by the states and that the industry has an excellent safety record.”

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The Go-To Answer For Liberals: Raise Taxes

The Wall Street Journal reports today on a voluntary commitment made by the giant soda manufacturers to produce lower-calories drinks, smaller size cans, etc. The goal is to try and address the fact that about one-third of American adults and one in five kids refuse to control their calorie intake and, thus, are obese. It will clearly be very costly.

Under the voluntary agreement announced Tuesday, the companies said they would market and distribute their drinks in a way that should help steer consumers to smaller portions and zero- or low-calorie drinks. They also have committed to providing calorie counts on more than 3 million vending machines, self-serve fountain dispensers and retail coolers in stores, restaurants and other points of sale.

But in predictable fashion, that isn’t enough for a well known group of liberals.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a longtime soda industry critic, called the move “welcome news” but said the goal could be achieved much faster with taxes on soda and warning labels. “We need much bigger and faster reductions to adequately protect the public’s health,” the group said.

Two lessons can be learned here. First, liberals prefer using the government stick rather than looking to private players to respond voluntarily. Second, liberals understand quite well that when you raise the tax on something, you will get less of it.

What’s more, as is typically the case with stories about the obesity problem, there’s no mention of the fact that all of this can be addressed if people would (1) stop gorging and (2) take a walk around the neighborhood.

 

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