Get this straight

With all the hand-wringing in Raleigh, the free-market fundamentalists are sharpening their anti-government rhetoric. So remember this: Their hysteria is predicated on a lie about growth in spending here in North Carolina. Thanks to Chris Fitzsimon for clearing things up.

The budget has grown steadily since 2003, but so has the state. And most importantly, as the N.C. Budget and Tax Center reports, state general fund spending per capita is less than now it was nine years ago.

Updated for clarity.

Unemployment up, drop out rates down

A story in today's N&O points to a decline in the drop out rate in North Carolina. Which is good news no matter what.

The public school dropout rate improved in North Carolina last year, and all Triangle school districts were below the statewide average. The rate fell from 5.24 percent in 2006-2007 to 4.97 percent last year, according to statewide figures released Thursday.

State officials attributed the decline to programs that allow students to go online to repeat courses they had failed, high schools that enroll students in college courses, and other programs.

The article goes on to offer various explanations for the decline. I can't help wondering how we'll actually know. For example, I suspect that the breathtaking spike in unemployment that began last year could be a factor in keeping some in school.

Weekend woundup

Just look at the surprised look on this young Marine's face.

"Holy mackerel," he's thinking. "OMG. The president is talking to me! Should I keep on saluting or what?"

Maybe the Bushman bothered to talk to the minions on his way into his royal coach, but I never saw it. What a pleasure to have a generous human being back in the White House.

NC Senate Committees are now available online

The NC state Senate committees are now up on the General Assembly's website here

Some interesting changes are Martin Nesbitt from Buncombe now heading up Judiciary I. Bob Atwater from the Chatham now heads Agriculture. Other changes are there as well.

For me, a secondary note of interest showing how Basnight's circle hasn't changed much is that the new Vice Chair of Rules is David Weinstein. Walter Dalton was Vice Chair last session. Of course, Rand stills runs the place.

Basnight also usually gives some Republicans some co-chairs, and this year is no different.

Which ones caught your eye?

Will the Honorables do the honorable thing?

Adam Searing wonders why members of the General Assembly haven't put their own special access to healthcare on the table as part of all their hand-wringing and belt-tightening. Lead by example, he says. I agree.

There’s been lots of talk this week about the shortfall in the state health plan. State employees (who didn’t get us into this mess) might be required to pay 30% premium increases and have even higher cost sharing and fewer benefits. General Assembly members received a briefing for over an hour yesterday about the plan. There was plenty of discussion about which groups were costing the state plan the most money and so on. Not discussed at the briefing was the following option: Eliminate the special state health plan access members of the General Assembly enjoy.

Brad Miller on fire

John Kenneth Galbraith wrote that embezzlement is "the most interesting of crimes" for an economist. Embezzlement is almost always eventually discovered, but for a time results in "a net increase in psychic wealth," when the embezzler "has his gain" and the victim doesn’t miss it. Galbraith called the undiscovered and therefore unfelt loss "the bezzle."

According to Krugman, the stock in banks that are solvent only by virtue of an "optimistic" valuation of their assets "isn’t totally worthless," but the stock’s value is "entirely based on the hope that shareholders will be rescued by a government bailout." The "huge gift to banks shareholders at taxpayer expense," Krugman said, was likely to be "disguised as ‘fair value’ purchases of toxic assets."

Can you believe a word they say?

In his treatise at the Carolina Journal, John Hood argues against those who promote the value of preventative health care:

They square the circle by arguing that if the new government monopoly expands access to preventive care, it will pay for itself by averting costly diseases in the future. The argument sounds plausible. But it is contradicted by the vast preponderance of the evidence about the net financial benefits of preventive medicine.

Now if you're a conscientious blogger like me, you naturally follow such a bold and promising link. Especially since it carries you one of my favorite magazines, Governing, which is widely respected and credible. But just in case you don't have time to do that, here is some of that "vast preponderance of evidence."

NC Congressional Delegation Activity 1/26 - 1/30/09

This was a very busy week in Washington. Larry Kissell introduced his first amendment on the House floor and had it included with the House stimulus bill that went to the Senate. Kay Hagan spoke against the funding for SCHIP, but voted to provide health insurance for millions of low income children.

Committee and subcommittee meetings are picking up and it looks like the NRCC and the DCCC have already started the 2010 campaigns.

Here's our summary:

U.S. House

H.R.200 : To amend title 11 of the United States Code with respect to modification of certain mortgages on principal residences, and for other purposes

NC Cosponsors
Rep. Mel Watt, NC-12

House Judiciary

Latest Major Action
1/27/2009 Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 21 - 15


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