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A Teachable Moment About The Value Of Competition

Content is king in the TV and movie world these days. As this piece details, more and more people expect to be able to access content quickly and cheaply. And that has more and people and businesses getting into the business of content. It’s a wonderful thing to see: competition and choice leads to more and more options and pressure on providers to follow through on promises.

Veteran industry analyst Gary Arlen says viewers are embracing the “any program, any platform, anytime” promise that media companies have been espousing for several years. Now comes the reality that audiences expect to find any show they want to see and the “frustration that it may not be so easy to find that promised array of content.”

Arlen’s perspective here is right on. He is reminded of the 1980s, when cable networks started to blossom and young audiences at the time did not recognize the difference between the free over-the-air broadcast channels and cable-only networks. “Today, the variety of streaming over-the-top programs that can be seen on the same flat panel, big-screen TV display that delivers traditional TV channels has blurred the distinction,” he says.

What consumers want and expect is for their needs to be met, and when it comes to TV/movie content, those needs are only partially being fulfilled. That’s an opportunity for providers.

Those of us who embrace freedom and free markets must find a way to help people understand that the same dynamics —  competition leading to more choices and better services — exists in OTHER areas of life as well, including the marketplace for health insurance and health care. Let’s hope that members of Congress jettison Obamacare and embrace competition and choice so that every person who wants insurance can find a plan tailored to his/her needs and cost considerations. Let’s jump in, just as we’ve jumped in to the TV/movie content marketplace.

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Time To Grab Some More ‘Free’ Stuff From The President

It’s amazing how much “free” stuff costs these days — so much so that President Obama declined to put a price tag on the “free” community college prize package he offered up this week to “anyone who’s willing to work for it.” Let’s see now. If someone is “willing to work for it,” how about saving the money earned while “working for it” and paying the tab for tuition? Evidently taking responsibility for one’s future doesn’t qualify as “working for it” when it comes to a leftists such as President Obama. 


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WSJ: IRS Considered Tax on Donations to Political Groups

Still question whether the IRS has been used to crack down on free speech rights of conservatives? From the Wall Street Journal:

Internal Revenue Service officials considered imposing a tax on large donations to many tax-exempt political organizations in 2011, recently released emails show, a move that could have disproportionately hurt conservative activists.

The discovery comes as part of Republican lawmakers’ broader investigation into the IRS’s treatment of conservative groups. It is further fueling GOP suspicions that some agency officials sought to suppress conservatives’ use of tax-exempt organizations for political speech.

The internal emails “demonstrate that the IRS sought to use the gift tax as one part of a larger effort to crack down on the political speech” of conservative tax-exempt groups, said Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The entire story is worth your time.

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Competition Would Put An End To This Issue

JLF’s Terry Stoops provides a thoughtful look at the debate over the new Advanced Placement U.S. History course, why there are concerns about what it doesn’t include and therefore what it teaches students, and why competition would put an end to this issue.

The problem is that high school students often do not appreciate the nuances of historical interpretation. Except in those rare instances when the instructor highlights those differences explicitly, students are likely to mistake historical interpretation for historical consensus. As a result, those who ask different questions about the past are considered outside of the “mainstream” and, in the eyes of students, should not be taken seriously. At this point, the process of inculcating our nation’s highest-performing students with a liberal worldview is well underway.

In the end, legitimate concerns with the ideological slant of the revised AP U.S. History course are a problem only because there is no apparent alternative to the College Board’s Advanced Placement monopoly. Simply put, no other company or organization offers AP-type courses. Even if they did, it would be difficult to convince colleges and universities to accept successful completion of them for credit.

If the College Board had to compete for students, it would feel compelled to create AP curricula and exams that were balanced in a way that appealed to key segments of their audience. In a competitive environment, high school students who objected to the content or ideology of an AP course would be able to enroll in a course (of equal rigor and for college credit) with an alternative provider. Until that competition exists, the College Board, like any other monopoly, will do whatever it chooses.

Without competition, the debate over the course is moot, unfortunately. Time for choice.

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Reformers Set The Pace For Job Growth

We are blessed to live in a state where courageous reformers have answered voters’ repeated calls for change. The reform agenda in North Carolina since 2011 has led to a historic transformation of our state, reversing decades of ill-conceived progressive policies. Government programs are being evaluated, spending and borrowing are being reined in, and taxpayers are being shown more respect.No longer is government growth accepted as natural and unavoidable. This change of course has ushered in an era of economic growth highlighted by job creation, lower unemployment, and expanding opportunity.

In today’s Daily Journal, JLF’s John Hood delves into economic data about job growth and compares our state to others.

From June 2011 to November 2014, North Carolina added about 286,000 net new jobs, a rate of employment growth of 7.3 percent. For comparison purposes, I assembled four potential regional groupings: the Census Bureau’s nine-state “South Atlantic” region stretching from Maryland to Florida; the Commerce Department’s 12-state “Southeast” region stretching from Virginia to Louisiana; the 11 states that made up the old Confederacy; and North Carolina plus our four immediate neighbors.

In each case, I produced a job-growth rate from mid-2011 to the present. In each case, it was lower than North Carolina’s. Employment rose by 5.7 percent in the South Atlantic region, 5.2 percent in the Southeast, 6 percent in the former Confederacy, and 6.1 percent in our immediate neighborhood.

Here’s what striking to me: these are all lower rates of job growth than the 6.2 percent rate experienced by the nation as a whole during the same period. Although many people continued to assume that the South has a relatively strong, fast-growing economy, that assumption is many years out of date. Plenty of states in the Midwest, Great Plains, Mountain West, and even the Northeast are now consistently outperforming the South.

Which Southern states are beating the regional spread? As I mentioned, North Carolina (+7.3 percent) is one of them. The labor market continues to sizzle in Texas (+11.2 percent) and Florida (+9.2 percent). Other good performers are South Carolina (+7.5 percent) and Georgia (+6.7 percent).

Hood concludes that as we enter 2015, our state’s reformers would be wise to branch out beyond our close neighbors for examples of economic policies that have led to enviable job growth and economic performance.

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Mark Steyn: “Free speech is in retreat around the world”

I love Mark Steyn’s writing. He is, of course, known for his biting wit, which is terrific and entertaining. But I also appreciate his intellect and writing style. In this piece, Steyn takes on the “Beverly Hills big shots” over their quick cave to threats over “The Interview.”

Free speech is in retreat around the world. Twenty-five years ago, through all the violent demonstrations and murders of associated figures, The Satanic Verses remained in print and in almost every bookstore. Were it a new book being pitched today, no publisher would take it. I see that, following the disappearance of The Interview, a Texan movie theater replaced it with a screening of Team America. That film wouldn’t get made today, either.

Hollywood has spent the 21st century retreating from storytelling into a glossy, expensive CGI playground in which nothing real is at stake. That’s all we’ll be getting from now on. Oh, and occasional Oscar bait about embattled screenwriters who stood up to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee six decades ago, even as their successors cave to, of all things, Kim’s UnKorean Activities Committee. American pop culture – supposedly the most powerful and influential force on the planet – has just surrendered to a one-man psycho-state economic basket-case that starves its own population.

Kim Jong-won.

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There Is Hope For Kids Who Need Our Help

Carolina Journal’s Dan Way reports on a development in education policy that offers hope for a better future for kids in areas of the state that, for now, have few education options.

Some state education officials are hoping that a plan approved by the State Board of Education and sent to a legislative committee for action will speed the process of letting high-performing charter schools replicate their success in underserved regions.

“This is literally an instance of let the market dictate the supply. My personal hope is that we will actually see replication in places where you don’t see an adequate supply of charter schools,” said Martez Hill, executive director of the State Board of Education.

“I have a hope and a desire to see this happen in eastern North Carolina, among other regions, Hill said.

“I would think we’ll probably see a variety of replication models that may just focus on a certain region, or may focus on certain types of students. We’re interested in all types of innovative possibilities,” Hill said.

The State Board of Education approved a report to the General Assembly at its Dec. 4 meeting advocating a fast-track charter school replication process for charter schools that can demonstrate three years of proven academic and financial success.

Let’s urge legislators to take a tangible step forward in bringing hope and opportunity to more North Carolina children.

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Rejoice For The Children

Those of us who believe every child, no matter his/her circumstances, deserves an opportunity to learn in an environment that best suits his/her individual needs and interests can rejoice in the latest news about North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship program.

The N.C. Supreme Court says the state can commence administrative preparations for the Opportunity Scholarship Program while it considers an appeal from a lower court’s order that ruled the program unconstitutional.

“The State Education Assistance Authority may proceed with all preliminary administrative steps necessary to prepare for the 2015-16 academic year,” the Supreme Court’s order says. However, the court stopped short of allowing it to actually distribute funds for next year’s scholarships. Distribution had been scheduled to start Aug. 15, 2015.

“We are encouraged by the Supreme Court’s order granting our petition and allowing the Opportunity Scholarship Program to move forward,” said Renee Flaherty, an Institute for Justice attorney representing parents of Opportunity Scholarship recipients. “This means that the program can continue without disruption so that families can apply for scholarships and will receive them for the 2015-16 academic rear, if we prevail on appeal.”

“This is excellent news for the thousands of families who missed the opportunity to participate in the program’s first year and are eager for an educational option that best fits their needs,” said Karen Duquette, vice president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, which supports the voucher program. “Not only will this allow new families to apply for the Opportunity Scholarship Program, but the Supreme Court has already showed a strong sign by allowing existing scholarship recipients to continue on the scholarship this year, which is hopefully a good indicator about the future of the program for next year and beyond.”

While this is good news, we also recognize that the entrenched Big Education monopoly that wants to take away this opportunity from low-income kids is engaged in a fierce legal battle to protect the status quo system. We must continue our fight against the progressives and their Democratic allies to ensure that these children are not trapped in schools that fail to meet their needs.

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Wake Schools To Keep Taxpayer Money For Kids They Aren’t Teaching

Unbelievable. That’s the only apt description of what the News & Observer reports is occurring in Wake County schools. Wake has enrolled 1,023 fewer students than the funding that was appropriated to the system by the state. It’s not unusual for projected enrollment to differ from actual enrollment. Projections are educated guesses.

Wake gets $4,639 per student from the state. While the final decision hasn’t been made, Wake’s funding could be reduced by the cost of 511.5 students – half of the 1,023-student shortfall, according to Andrew Cox, section chief of DPI’s school reporting section.

Here’s what’s different about the current scenario, however.

When Republicans led the Wake County Board of Commissioners, demands were often made that the school system should return money whenever enrollment fell short of projections. Wake’s enrollment came 750 students below the district’s projections, a figure involving more than $1.5 million in local dollars.

But James West, new chairman of the board of commissioners, said he has no intention of asking the school system to give back money. The new all-Democratic commission that took office after sweeping last month’s elections accused the former Republican majority of underfunding the school system.

“We don’t want to do anything that would destroy our working together and coming forward with the kind of cooperation we need to work in a positive way,” West said.

And what about the “cooperation” with the taxpayers who expect that the money they work hard for is spent efficiently? Bottom line: Wake schools will be keeping money intended for students that haven’t actually enrolled in the system. What is appropriate about that?

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Light Rail About Freedom? No, It’s About Tax Hike To Fund Train Very Few Will Ride

Carolina Journal’s Dan Way reports today on the relentless push by Wake County Democrats/progressives, who now control the county commission, to push ahead with a costly light rail plan that is highly unlikely to deliver on the utopian promises its supporters espouse. Just last year, consultants recommended expanding bus service to meet transit needs. But here’s what’s brewing now that progressives have taken control of the commission.

Jarrett Walker, president of a Portland, Ore.-based transit consulting firm bearing his name, has been engaged by Wake County and other local government and nonprofit groups — along with the Kimley-Horn consulting firm of Cary — to implement the new transit study.

Walker presented an outline and answered questions at a Dec. 8 public meeting of some 600 people at the Raleigh Convention Center.

Walker’s presentation of the recent history and benefits of mass transit systems used maps and grids to show how somewhat comparable capital cities of Columbus, Ohio, and Salem, Ore., have capitalized on expanded transit with higher frequency. But he downplayed discussion of how the transit upgrades would be paid for and whether they would include rail.

“We’re talking about paying some more taxes in return for a better transit system,” Walker said, “and people are going to decide for themselves ultimately whether it is worth that for them.”

He said the economic cost of an expanded transit system “is extremely tangible. We are talking an increment of some sort of revenue source that’s going to come out of somebody’s pocket.”

He cautioned against limiting judgments to just economic benefits because the pluses are “so diverse.” Transit “has social inclusion, social benefits. It has environmental benefits. It has benefits to people’s sensation of liberty,” and enhances income mobility for those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

Several times Walker linked transit with freedom, saying it provides commuters another option for travel; allows people to forego the financial burden of owning, operating, and parking a car; and eliminates the stress of driving for people traumatized by accidents.

Get ready: the consultant is telegraphing the messaging the commission may use to convince Wake County voters to agree to a half-cent sales tax required to move this wrong-headed plan along.

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