Opinion & Commentary

‘Partisan’ Reading Bill Passes Easily

April 7, 2021

by John Hood RALEIGH — On March 31, the North Carolina Senate passed the hugely controversial SB 387, titled the Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021, by margin of 48 senators in favor, none opposed. The following day, the North Carolina House of Representatives took up the same SB 387, that same slapdash and extremely partisan attempt to enhance reading instruction, and voted 113-5 to approve the measure. It’s now up to Gov. Roy Cooper whether he will veto, sign, or allow this highly divisive bill to become a law without his signature. I know it sounds exceedingly odd to…

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OPINION: Political Fantasies Can Be Costly

April 5, 2021

by John Hood RALEIGH — It’s hard not to play along when children come up with cute untruths. For example, for a time one of my boys used to tell me confidently and matter-of-factly that if he didn’t go to bed, the moon would not rise. It was a reasonable conclusion based on his personal experience at the time (he was around three years old). Later, of course, his bedtime changed, he began to notice the moon in the sky even during the daytime, and concluded differently. Unfortunately, many politicians have yet to grow out of the toddler phase when…

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OPINION: Broadband Needed for Small Business to Succeed Statewide

April 1, 2021

by Gregg Thompson Running a small business isn’t easy in the best of times, and these aren’t the best of times. Social distancing and concerns over spreading COVID-19 forced many small businesses to try to connect with customers online rather than in person, but here’s the catch:  Some businesses can’t easily do that.  I grew up in North Carolina’s beautiful mountains, an area that brings irreplaceable diversity of culture and vibrancy to our state. But here in the early decades of the 21st century, when the phones in our pockets are smarter than the computers that helped the astronauts land…

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OPINION: State Has Too Much Debt Already

April 1, 2021

by John Hood RALEIGH — Thanks to the fiscally responsible policies of the North Carolina General Assembly, state government has some $5 billion in unspent funds and unanticipated revenues in its General Fund. And thanks to the fiscally irresponsible policies of Congress and the Biden administration, North Carolina will receive another $5.2 billion in “COVID-19 recovery” funds that will be borrowed from Chinese investors and other holders of federal treasuries. Gov. Roy Cooper and his aides have looked up at that towering, tottering mountain of one-time cash and taken its measure. They think it’s too small. So in the 2021-23 budget…

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Opinion: No, Inequality Isn’t Increasing

March 29, 2021

by John Hood Every argument has three parts: definitions, premises, and logical reasoning. When conservatives and progressives disagree about a specific issue, each side often leaps to the conclusion that the other side is being illogical (or dishonest, or stupid). In my experience, however, most disagreements don’t stem from faulty reasoning. We usually disagree because we don’t accept the same sets of facts. Or we define our terms in very different ways. For example, are the incomes of North Carolinians and their counterparts in other states diverging in unfair and dangerous ways? Are the richer getting richer and the poor…

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OPINION: Let’s Head Off Labor Shortages

March 25, 2021

by John Hood RALEIGH — It may sound preposterous at the moment, with North Carolina’s unemployment rate still significantly above its pre-COVID rate, but I think our leaders should be talking about the state’s coming labor shortage. No, I don’t necessarily mean that businesses will have a hard time finding young, low-skilled workers to do entry-level jobs. Assuming we don’t make such jobs artificially pricey through big minimum-wage hikes, firms will probably be able to fill them. But when it comes to jobs requiring more specialized skills and experience — ranging from construction trades and manufacturing to finance and technology…

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OPINION: Suburban Voters Form Largest Bloc

March 23, 2021

by John Hood RALEIGH — If you think about regional differences in North Carolina politics, economics, or culture in terms of urban blue and rural red, you are missing a thick slice of the story: the suburbs. And, no, you can’t just paint the suburbs purple. That’s an oversimplification. Precisely distinguishing between the three categories — urban, suburban, and rural — isn’t easy. Classifications by county can be valuable, of course, but they suffer from severe analytical limitations. For example, lumping all residents of Mecklenburg County together as “urban” is problematic. While it’s true that living in a suburban neighborhood…

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OPINION: COVID Stimulus Bill Is Reckless

March 16, 2021

RALEIGH — The $1.9 trillion “COVID relief” bill just enacted by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden gives out $1,400 checks to most Americans. It boosts the child-tax credit, keeps weekly unemployment-insurance checks $300 higher than normal, and throws lots of other (borrowed) money around. I realize that, given the effects of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, most voters seem to like Biden’s bill. But I think they are mistaken. It is a reckless and irresponsible bill — one that, I’m pleased to report, most of North Carolina’s congressional delegation voted against. Over the past year, the federal government…

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OPINION: Parents, school leaders describe consequences of remote-only learning

March 10, 2021

by David Bass, Carolina Journal News Service RALEIGH — Parents in 14 North Carolina public school districts would have the option of sending their children to full-time, in-person instruction under a local bill approved by the N.C. House K-12 Education Committee on Tuesday, March 9. The measure, House Bill 90, is designed as an end run around Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 37, which would have given all school districts in the state the option of fully reopening under “Plan A.” Many school districts continue to operate under “Plan B,” a hybrid approach combining part-time remote with part-time in-person. Republican…

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Opinion: Yellow button would give lawmakers chance to show their true colors

March 9, 2021

by Mitch Kokai, Carolina Journal Perhaps the N.C. General Assembly should consider adding a third button to lawmakers’ voting devices. Along with green for “yes” and red for “no,” the new option — yellow, anyone? — could signify “maybe.” It might also stand for “yes, if the governor tells me it’s OK.” The additional voting option could make life easier for lawmakers. It certainly would boost government transparency for political observers, especially voters in the legislators’ home districts. Democratic state senators demonstrated the desirability of the third voting option during the recent debate over Senate Bill 37. That measure aimed to…

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