Opinion & Commentary

OPINON: Labor Force Shouldn’t Be Shrinking

September 23, 2021

By JOHN HOOD North Carolina’s economy has enjoyed a substantial recovery from the depths of the Great Suppression — that is, from the COVID-19 downturn of 2020. Most businesses are back up and operating. So are schools and universities. More employees than ever before are working from home. That’s had positive consequences for worker satisfaction and traffic congestion (although the consequences for productivity are admittedly unclear). State government is flush with revenue. North Carolina’s headline unemployment rate was just 4.3% in August. Lurking beneath these positive trends are some trouble signs, however. Perhaps the most obvious is what the headline…

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OPINION: Income and Poverty Facts Matter

September 20, 2021

By JOHN HOOD RALEIGH, NC — The income of the median American household fell by nearly 3% last year as the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent regulations shuttered many businesses for months, closed others for good, and forced still other employers to cut back on hours and wages for the people they still employed. Or so the official federal income statistic tells us. It includes wages and salaries, of course, as well as investment gains and unemployment-insurance benefits. However, it doesn’t include tax refunds, stimulus checks, or noncash assistance in the form of food or housing. If those forms of income were included,…

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OPINION: Biden’s Mandate Goes Too Far

September 15, 2021

By JOHN HOOD RALEIGH, NC — I got the COVID-19 vaccine shortly after it became publicly available. I did so because I was persuaded that the benefits of vaccination far outweighed the risk. Over the subsequent months, the case for vaccination has only gotten stronger. While the delta variant is easier to spread than prior strains, the best-available evidence is that about one in 5,000 vaccinated people are testing positive for the virus. Unvaccinated Americans are nearly five times more likely to get infected. More importantly, the death rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated people are wildly disproportionate. The unvaccinated are…

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OPINION: Trade Lifts North Carolina Economy

September 8, 2021

By JOHN HOOD RALEIGH, N.C. — When North Carolinians are free to trade with whomever they choose, be it South Carolinians or South Koreans, some local businesses may lose sales. The case for markets isn’t based on promises of cost-free benefits or perfect outcomes. No such promises could ever be honored in the real world. Yes, the broader the market for goods or services, the most likely it becomes that some local producers won’t be able to compete with faraway ones. The true case for free trade is that these adverse consequences for individuals or companies represent just one side…

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OPINION: Make Licensing Reform a Priority

September 7, 2021

by John Hood RALEIGH — According to the most-recent ranking I can find, North Carolina requires state-approved licenses in more occupations (nearly 200) than most other states do. North Carolina licenses twice as many occupations as Virginia does, and three times as many as South Carolina. You cannot be an auctioneer in our state unless you spend dozens of hours and hundreds of dollars to obtain a state permission slip. For some occupations, such as barbers and cosmetologists, the number of hours required runs into the thousands. “What’s the big deal?” you may ask. Perhaps you think the promised health…

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OPINION: CON Laws Are Too Risky

August 25, 2021

by John Hood RALEIGH — I’ve long thought the North Carolina General Assembly should reform our state’s archaic and anti-competitive requirement for certificates-of-need. In the post-COVID world we are entering, however, CON reform is no longer just a good idea. It’s an imperative. Created during the 1970s in response to a federal mandate, our certificate-of-need system requires hospitals, physicians, and other health providers to get what amounts to a permission slip from state regulators to purchase new equipment, add a service, or open a new location. The original idea, believe it or not, was to reduce the cost of health…

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OPINION: Lawmakers Embrace Capital Idea

August 13, 2021

by John Hood North Carolina’s state government has a multi-billion-dollar surplus. Its enormity has multiple causes: past spending discipline, revenue growth from a resurgent economy, and gobs of borrowed federal money. Its enormity also presents North Carolina’s conservative-run legislature with a challenge. How can a surplus be challenging? Ask anyone who’s ever been a lawmaker. When times are tough, the decisions are tough — but at least those lobbying you for budgetary goodies have realistically low expectations. With billions of seemingly “free” money on the table, those expectations soar into the stratosphere. Gov. Roy Cooper and his Democratic allies argue…

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OPINION: Lay Welcome Mat for New Houses

August 6, 2021

by John Hood RALEIGH — When demand exceeds supply, prices rise. While the problem of housing affordability has many facets and effects, that inescapable fact explains a lot about why so many North Carolinians struggle to afford the homes they’d like to buy or rent. It’s not as if there are many idle homebuilders in our state. In fact, by one measure North Carolina is doing better than average. When the Manhattan Institute compared job growth to new housing permits in 20 fastest-growing metropolitan areas, the three North Carolina metros on the list fared very well: Durham-Chapel Hill (#1), Raleigh-Cary…

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OPINION: To Do Good or Do Better

July 30, 2021

by John Hood RALEIGH — There are at least as many different ways to explain the origins of political disagreement as there are political commentators. I, for one, think such factors as cultural traditions, religious views, family background, educational experiences, and interpersonal relationships all help to shape how we choose our preferred political candidates or “sides” – and how we choose to act on those preferences. Whatever the origins of political disagreement, one way to think about it is that it reflects different assumptions about the purpose of political action. For some, politics is about doing good. For others, politics…

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OPINION: What to Do When They’re Wrong

July 2, 2021

by John Hood RALEIGH — Here are three true statements, as best I can determine. First, Americans of all backgrounds have experienced gigantic declines in poverty over the past two generations. Second, most diversity training is worse than a waste of time. Third, police officers are no more likely to kill minorities than they are to kill whites during traffic stops or arrests. Surprised? I don’t blame you. These statements are difficult to square with establishment opinion. That doesn’t make my statements false, however. It simply makes them inconvenient. I’ll back up each statement in a moment. But to cut…

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