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Archive for May, 2010

Not everyone celebrates on Memorial Day

The Duke lacrosse team plays for the national championship today against Notre Dame in Baltimore. In a startling coincidence, blogger Ed Morrissey of HotAir.com ran a photo of a woman lying on the grave of a soldier at Arlington.

Someone read the name on the headstone and emailed Morrissey that the fallen soldier was James Regan, a former Duke lacrosse player who joined the military in 2004, eschewing a job on Wall Street. He was killed in 2007 in action in northern Iraq.

The woman in the touching photo is Mary McHugh, his fiancee. They were to have been married when he returned. As Ed says about the photograph:

It reminds us that not everyone “celebrates” Memorial Day.

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LOL Funny Headline of the Day

It comes from Carolina Journal Managing Editor Rick Henderson in his post about the Sestak-White House saga. You’ll find it at our sister blog, The Locker Room.

Can you guess who’s evidently knee-deep in this developing Sestak-White House story? Henderson’s headline is a keeper:

‘I did not have … formal discussions … with that congressman …’

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Public Hearing on Orange County’s Proposed Sales Tax Hike

Next Tuesday, June 1, the Orange County commissioners will hold a public hearing about a proposed referendum for the November ballot which, if passed, would hike the sales tax rate by 1/4 cent.

Tuesday, June 1
7 p.m.
Department of Social Services Office
113 Mayo Street

Several counties have had success at selling a sales tax hike as an alternative to hiking the property tax rate. But buyer beware. As the taxpayers in New Hanover County have learned, be very, very, very careful before you cast your vote believing it is an either-or-proposition.

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So How’s All That Government Intervention Working For You?

Gallup offers a reality check for those who believe the economic policies of the current White House and Congress are just what we need.

Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index worsened by five points during the week ending May 23, suggesting that Tuesday’s Conference Board report indicating that consumer confidence increased in May is already out of date. While economic confidence improved in late April and early May — most likely in response to the recent better job numbers — Gallup’s daily monitoring of economic confidence documents deterioration last week. This likely reflects fallout from the European financial crisis manifested in the declining U.S. stock market, and not included in Tuesday’s consumer confidence report.

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Important Life Lessons for These Students

Give Orange High School students a pat on the back. Through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, they’ve built a home in Hillsborough for two cousins and learned key life lessons in the process: the importance of long-term commitment, the value of a hard day’s work, and the good feeling in the soul that comes with helping someone.

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UVA’s Sabato on NC Senate Race: “Leans Republican Hold”

Here’s how the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato assesses North Carolina’s race for Senate. It is courtesy of Rasmussen Reports.

North Carolina: Sen. Richard Burr (R) holds the least secure seat in America, having turned over to the opposite party just like clockwork every six years since 1980. Despite low name recognition, Burr is in a good position to break the jinx. Top-flight Democratic candidates took a pass, and with the unpopularity of President Obama and Gov. Beverly Perdue (D) in the Tar Heel State, one can sense a GOP year on the march. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham finished one-two in the early May primary, and are fighting each other in a resources-draining runoff. Burr is sitting on millions. LEANS REPUBLICAN HOLD.

Sabato assesses all the races and concludes with this. By the way, he assesses the Barbara Boxer race in California as a toss-up. Now we know why President Obama has made multiple trips to California.

Overall, this updated Senate assessment suggests a Republican net gain in the neighborhood of not less than 4 or 5 seats, and quite conceivably, up to 7 or 8 seats. It takes a net gain of ten for the GOP to win the Senate outright, and that appears very unlikely at the moment. Still, Republicans would count the year a big success if they narrowed the 59-seat Democratic majority down to a range of 51-55 seats.

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“Is it any wonder that the 40 percent is getting nervous?”

Like many folks, I’ve felt sick watching the stock market tumble in the wake of more government intervention disguised as financial “reform.” In this piece, American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Kevin Hassett explains the folly of Sen. Dodd’s “reform.” Bottom line: if you think things are bad now, just wait. (emphasis is mine)

The result is legislation that increases the likelihood of another housing bubble–only ext time, we won’t be able to say that borrowers were tricked into accepting something too good to be true. The bill leaves Fannie and Freddie standing, without addressing the fact that they are still subsidizing loans to those who can’t repay the principal. The inevitable outcome will be a replay of the entire real estate fiasco.

Congressional leaders have no idea what caused the financial crisis, but that has not stopped them from crafting a massive new set of intrusive rules. The only sure thing is that the cost of doing business in the U.S. just increased enormously, as did the odds of a double-dip recession.

America has become the land of high taxes, big government, complex regulations and indignant politicians. The future of such a place is not bright. The markets understand that.

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“If they can do this, they can do about everything”

That quote comes from Ellis Hankins of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, who commented for my recent Carolina Journal story about S3194, Sen. Harry Reid’s bill that would force states and local governments to collectively bargain with public-sector public safety workers. Hankins and his organization have multiple concerns, including unchecked congressional power.

When the story was published online last week, there had been no movement on Reid’s bill. However, today’s News & Observer indicates there may well be action soon.

I urge you to read the entire Carolina Journal story. If the bill becomes law, every North Carolinian will be impacted. Here’s a piece:

S. 3194 would override North Carolina General Statute 95-98, which for 51 years has prohibited public sector collective bargaining. S. 3194 would let public safety employees choose to be represented by a union and have their hours, wages, and terms and conditions of employment determined by collective bargaining. Supervisors and managers would be exempt.

The North Carolina League of Municipalities estimates 28,000 municipal and county law enforcement workers and paid firefighters would fall under the bill. The State Office of Personnel puts the number of public safety positions in state government at nearly 3,800, including members of Highway Patrol, employees of the State Bureau of Investigation, and others.

“From my experience, it would be costly to local governments,” said Wayne Bowers, city manager of Greenville and former city manager of Gainesville, Fla., where collective bargaining is law. “We had one full-time labor relations person, we had a staff assistant to that labor relations director, we had one city attorney who spent just about full time on labor relations issues, and we occasionally had to hire outside attorneys.” Cost to Gainesville: roughly $250,000.

Mint Hill Police Chief Tim Ledford, president of the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police, believes collective bargaining would bring tax increases and layoffs. NCACP opposes the bill. Ledford, once a union official in a different industry, says he understands rank-and-file officers see collective bargaining as a path to higher compensation. However, his experience showed him union contracts hurt good workers by protecting slackers: “With unions, everybody gets the same across the board.”

Compensation costs will rise with a unionized public sector work force, according to Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies for the Cato Institute. In the Cato report Public-Sector Unions (PDF), Edwards writes that after adjusting for state-to-state differences in the labor market, “public-sector unions increase average pay levels by roughly 10 percent.”

I also urge you to read this Legislative Alert issued by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. It explains county concerns about S3194 and collective bargaining.

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More Who-You-Know-Is-All-That-Matters Shenanigans

No, I am not surprised. Yes, I am disgusted. From sister blog Squall Lines comes the latest installment from the who-you-know-is-all-that-matters shenanigans in coastal Carolina.

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Competition Works Again For You and Me

Time reports that the U.S. specialty coffee market is a $13.7 billion-dollar business. So what happened when McDonald’s decided to give Starbucks a run for its money via the new McCafe products? More products and a range of pricing options. In other words, competition works again for the consumer.

Last week the Starbucks announced that it would sell one of the premium brands it owns — Seattle’s Best Coffee — in Burger King restaurants, as well as Subway restaurants, AMC movie theaters, and other supermarkets and coffee houses around the country, 30,000 locations in all. The company won’t admit that McCafe played a part in its decision to expand Seattle’s Best, a former rival that Starbucks purchased in 2003, and which has sat quietly in 500 Borders book store locations over the last few years.

Starbucks doesn’t have to “admit” anything. It’s obvious.

Meanwhile, in the health care/health insurance market, the president and Congress have done the opposite, rejecting competition and market economics. Don’t be surprised when their action achieves the opposite of their grandiose claims.

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