North Carolina Unemployment Debt

Unemployment

When the crisis hit in 2008 a ton of people lost their jobs and went on unemployment benefits.  During that time, the Feds loaned money to states to extend unemployment eligibility and to increase the amount of benefit.

Well, until that money is paid off, North Carolina businesses have been forced to pay higher unemployment taxes in order to service that debt.  Of course, this makes it tougher on folks providing jobs.  In response to this, North Carolina refused to continue extended benefits and instead work to pay off that debt.

And now we have:

— North Carolina no longer owes $2.75 billion it borrowed from the federal government pay first-time unemployment claims during the recent recession, action that will translate into lower taxes for employers.

“This is not just about repaying debt we owe to the federal government. This is about creating jobs,” Gov. Pat McCrory told a gathering of lawmakers, business leaders and cabinet officials Tuesday in the old House chambers at the historic State Capitol.

Businesses pay two basic types of unemployment taxes – federal and state. The federal, or FUTA, taxes state employers will pay on Jan. 1, 2016, will be about $280 million less than they were this year. State unemployment taxes, or SUTA, are going to remain steady for roughly another year until the state’s unemployment reserve fund tops $1 billion, then they will drop as well.

All told, North Carolina employers can figure to pay $700 million less a year in unemployment taxes starting in 2017 than they paid in 2014.

Bernie Sanders And Economics

Bernie Sanders

There is no doubt that Bernie Sanders is not alone when it comes to inconsistencies in his world view.  But he’s such an interesting character, at least he honestly identifies as socialist, that it’s impossible not to find humor in his policies.

Bernie feels that certain economic laws apply to conditions while believing, seemingly randomly, that others don’t.

For example, Sanders feels that open trade agreements move work over seas; the idea being that corporations will flow where the less expensive labor exists.  A concept that I whole heatedly agree with – YEAH Bernie!  On the other hand Mr. Sanders does NOT feel that raising the minimum wage will have much the same impact on marginally skilled workers – BOO Bernie!

All this came to mind when I discovered Mr. Sanders’ objection to open borders:

“What they are talking about is completely opening up the border,” Sanders responded. “That was the question. Should we have a completely open border so that anyone can come in the United States of America? If that were to happen, which I strongly disagree with, there is no question in my mind that that would substantially lower wages in this country.”

Good for Bernie.  He’s right, of course, that allowing unskilled workers in from our neighbors to the south to bid on and compete for jobs will reduce the rate at which employers will need to pay.  Further, it will erode the most marginal, the less educated and least skilled, workers.  So yeah, he’s right – and I’m surprised.

Further, Mr. Sanders continues and is able to point out exactly who those folks might be:

“When you have 36-percent of Hispanic kids in this country who can’t find jobs and you bring a lot of unskilled workers in the country what do you think happens to that 36-percent of kids of today who are unemployed? 51% of African-American kids [are unemployed],” Sanders said.

“I frankly do not believe we should be bringing in significant numbers of unskilled workers to compete with those kids,” Sanders made clear.

In addition to pointing out that Bernie is right, I would also like to point out two other facts.  One – Bernie is supporting an unpopular position because he cares about the folks most in need.  He gets the fact that it won’t be high tech jobs impacted.  Two – Bernie is supporting a position because he CARES about the people most likely to be impacted.  This is a very similar situation that conservatives find themselves in when we offer support for lower taxes, reduced government dependency programs and oppose the minimum wage.

In Defense of Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Certainly no defense from me.  But this is hilarious:

Cecil

cecil

Much MUCH talk about Cecil the Lion on my feeds the last day or two:

(CNN)Cecil the lion is dead, killed illegally in Zimbabwe, authorities allege, by a foreign hunter or hunters who paid about $55,000 for the privilege.

Cecil was part of an Oxford University research project and wore a GPS collar.

He was lured out of a national park with food, shot with a crossbow, tracked for 40 more hours, then finished off with a gun, said Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.

If the cat was lured out of the park, the hunt is illegal and those responsible should be held accountable.  But let’s be clear, hunting big game may be big game’s only shot at survival:

Fewer than 5,000 black rhinos are thought to exist in the wild, and in an effort to preserve the species, the Dallas Safari Club is offering a chance to kill one.

The Texas-based hunting organization is auctioning off a permit to hunt a rhinoceros in Nambia. It’s a fundraiser intended to help save the larger population.

The idea may sound counter-intuitive, but Dallas Safari Club executive Ben Carter tells NPR’s Jennifer Ludden that raising the funds to support the species is what many scientists and biologists believe is the best way to grow the population of black rhinos.

“It takes money for these animals to exist. A lot of people don’t recognize that,” Carter says. An endangered species like the black rhino needs a lot of support — land, protection, management, studies. “This is one way to raise a lot of money at one time,” he says. “That can make a huge impact on the future of the species.”

But certainly killing is not the best way?!?

Carter says many of those who object are not educated in the role that hunting plays in conservation. A habitat can only sustain a certain population, he says, and any excess can be harvested and used to raise money through selling things like hunting licenses and permits.

The winner of the Dallas Safari Club’s auction will hunt a specially selected rhino. Namibia’s Department of Wildlife looks for a rhino that’s too old to breed — and too aggressive to stay in the herd. When black rhinos get older, Carter says, they remain territorial and sometimes kill younger rhino bulls and calves. He says the department often removes these rhinos for the protection of the population anyway.

Not to mention that when the animals belong to ‘everyone’ they belong to ‘no one’.

Tragedy of the Commons.

Is Walmart Evil

Walmart

There is always talk about the evils of Walmart.  Low wages being one.  The other is that they put mom and pops out of business.

I worked at a number of those mom-n-pops – pizza joint, gas station and local newspaper.

None could have afforded me this:

President Obama – His Legacy

Obama Rushmore

Lots of talk about Obama and his place in history.  We recently passed the day marking less than 18 months to go before he moves back to Chicago.  So it’s natural to look back and try to identify where he is going to rate.

Not surprisingly, such placements are pretty heavy on the ‘partisan’ influence – for example, Democrats are gonna remember Carter more fondly.  And the same holds for Republicans and Bush the Elder.

Given this, I was very surprised to see the liberal leaning news channel CNN report on the legacy of President Reagan and the as of yet incomplete legacy of President Obama:

(CNN)This may be President Obama’s time, but it’s still Ronald Reagan’s era.

Obama has helped negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, normalized relations with Cuba, and watched his approval ratings recently hit a two-year high after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare. But has he become a “transformational” president like Ronald Reagan?

“He’s simply plowing the ground Reagan cleared 30 years ago,” says Tom Nichols, a political blogger and author of a column “Fantasyland: Obama Is No Ronald Reagan,” referring to Obama’s policies on nuclear weapons and his agreement with Iran.

Shocking.  But there’s more:

But we took the comparison a step further. We asked a group of historians and political scientists from the left and right to describe the qualities that make a president transformational. We also asked whether Obama lines up more favorably against Reagan now that he’s reached a deal with Iran.

The consensus was quick. Even those historians who personally disliked Reagan say Obama still hasn’t matched the Gipper — at least not yet.

Here are four reasons why:

  • Transformational Presidents change the conversation

  • Transformational Presidents deliver great lines

  • Transformational Presidents poach followers from the enemy’s camp

  • Transformational Presidents become beloved figures

President Obama will be remembered as historic; he will be the first black man elected President.  But he won’t be remembered for his accomplishments.

Further, Obama’s accomplishments aren’t that heady.

Obamacare remains a massively controversial program passed in the dead of the night with a congress consisting of 60 democrats.  To date, not one single republican has voted for the program.  Further, it was only finally passed through budget reconciliation.

And we don’t know if the program will do what it says it will.  But we DO know that government is incapable of managing large projects.

Cuba, while great policy, is largely insignificant.

And Iran will be remembered not so much a victory of negotiation and statesmanship as a situation in which we were led to water.  The coalition behind the sanctions was crumbling and nothing we had control of would or will prevent Iran from obtaining a bomb.

America is more divided now than before Obama and the ‘gaps’ the left hates have grown, not shrunk.

We don’t know that Obama is better than Jimmy much less ranking as one of the greatest.

Minimum Wage – Minnesota Style

Minimum Wage Another post from one of my favorite blogs, Coyote Blog, has a great illustration on the impact to businesses that an increase in the minimum wage results in.

First, his experience in camping fees in Minnesota:

Labor and labor-related costs (costs that are calculated as a percentage of wages, like employment taxes) make up nearly 50% of our costs.  The Minnesota minimum wage is set to rise from $7.20 to $9.50 in the next two years, an increase of 31%.  Since wages and wage-related costs are half our expenses, the minimum wage increase raises our total costs by 15.5%. This means that all by itself, without any other inflation in any other category of expenses, the minimum wage increases will drive a $3.10 increase in our camping fees (.155 x $20).  Note that this is straight math.  The moment the state of Minnesota passed their minimum wage increase, this fee increase was going to be required.

This in response to angry customers who saw their costs rise for their favorite camping sites in the parks managed by Mr. Coyote.

Now, fortunately for his sake, he is able to raise the prices for camping in his market, but how about businesses that can’t?

In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018.  Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in [principle] and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco – Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage.  Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st.  The cafe will continue to operate until at least the end of this year.

While I absolutely hate the destruction of capital due to the political process when it otherwise could have been avoided, I must admit to a degree of schadenfreude with respect to the bookstore owner.

NOTE:

Since the Coyote story is a bit old I went to check and see what happened to Borderland Books:

Last month it announced its impending closure – until the idea of crowdfunded “sponsorships” was floated. On the bookshop’s website, its owners announced:

Starting immediately we will be offering paid sponsorships of the store. Each sponsorship will cost $100 for the year and will need to be renewed every year. If we get 300 sponsors before March 31st, we will stay open for the remainder of 2015.

Our goal is to gather enough paid sponsors to cover the projected shortfall in income that will be the result of the minimum wage increase in San Francisco. At the beginning of next year we will again solicit sponsors. If next year we again reach our goal by March 31, we will remain open through 2016. This process will continue each year until we close, either because of a lack of sponsorship or for other reasons.

Just two days after launching the initiative, Borderlands’ Jude Feldman announced that they had hit their target – 300 people had offered up sponsorships of $100 apiece, enabling the store to stay open for a further year.

Good on them.

Minimum Wage in Europe

European Minimum Wage

I’ve been meaning to write a larger post with the data above that I found at Carpe Diem, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.  Instead I’ll pass it along with some comments.

  1. I am VERY surprised that the Nordic countries have no minimum wage.
  2. I would never have guessed the youth unemployment rates would be so high in Finland and Sweden – darlings of the big-nanny state fan boys.
  3. The average youth unemployment for the nations with a minimum wage is higher than the highest value for those nations without such a wage.

 

A Leary Eye Towards Government

Honey Bee Hive

It would be an understatement to say that I oppose the reach of government, but – BUT – when I do support such intervention I support more local solutions than federal ones.  So, if I have to live with the ‘tyranical beast’ at least it can benefit me once in awhile:

Because of housing developments or agriculture as well – clearing out – you don’t have the small fields anymore where you would have buffers of plants,” said Jen Keller, a research specialist in North Carolina State University’s Department of Entomology.

Sen. Andrew Brock R-Davie, said studies show more beehives means better crops, so he has signed on to the so-called Birds and Bees Act, which is scheduled to get its first hearing next Wednesday before the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

“With agriculture being our No. 1 business, we’ve got to make sure we continue to grow, grow, grow and grow a lot more food for people, not just here in this state but across the world,” Brock said.

His bill would address some of the loss of habitat Keller noted by requiring state agencies to look for ways to increase and promote highway rights-of-way, utility easements and other areas as places for the flowers and trees that bees need for food.

“One thing that we’re trying to promote is to have buffer zones. Let some of those wild flowers and weeds continue to grow,” Keller said.

THAT is an awesome idea.  One  of the reasons that I don’t use my own money to seed county roads where I live is that the county mows the ‘effin roads!

And more:

Senate Bill 225 also would prevent cities and counties from enacting ordinances preventing people from having as many as five backyard beehives.

Keller said she thinks allowing more people to have hives could boost bee populations.

Again – if  I have to live with tyranny, it should benefit me ONCE in awhile :-)

However, there is one area where I would correct the story:

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bee colonies have dropped 25 to 30 percent per year in recent years. A mix of parasites, pathogens, pesticides and a lack of diversity in pollen or nectar is blamed for much of the losses.

While us keepers suffer colony  losses to that degree, we’ve gotten good at adapting:

But here’s something you probably haven’t heard: There are more honeybee colonies in the United States today than there were when colony collapse disorder began in 2006. In fact, according to data released in March by the Department of Agriculture, U.S. honeybee-colony numbers are now at a 20-year high. And those colonies are producing plenty of honey. U.S. honey production is also at a 10-year high.

What Other System Would Pope Francis Recommend?

Capitalism.2

I get it – I do.  I get the disdain for that human condition that causes otherwise good people to act in dishonorable ways in order too accumulate wealth.  In fact, as part and parcel to that dishonor is the fact that people and their feelings are ‘hurt’.  It is most often described as ‘greed’ – though I would propose that the word ‘greed’ is often misused.

THAT is different.  That type of behavior IS not desired and can be considered immoral.  But just as that is true is the fact that capitalism is a powerful force for the general improvement of the lot of the average man.

Consider this chart, courtesy of Mark Perry over at Carpe Diem:

Decline of World Poverty

In the words of of Arthur Brooks:

It turns out that between 1970 and 2010 the worst poverty in the world – people who live on one dollar a day or less – that has decreased by 80 percent (see chart above). You never hear about that.

It’s the greatest achievement in human history, and you never hear about it.

80 percent of the world’s worst poverty has been eradicated in less than 40 years. That has never, ever happened before.

So what did that? What accounts for that? United Nations? US foreign aid? The International Monetary Fund? Central planning? No.

It was globalization, free trade, the boom in international entrepreneurship. In short, it was the free enterprise system, American style, which is our gift to the world.

I will state, assert and defend the statement that if you love the poor, if you are a good Samaritan, you must stand for the free enterprise system, and you must defend it, not just for ourselves but for people around the world. It is the best anti-poverty measure ever invented.

Think of that – how much money would the ‘do good nanny state liberal leftist’ have been willing to spend in order to accomplish this feat?  There is no end to that amount.

So, I ask the good Pontiff – ‘If not capitalism, what then?”

His answer can only be – “The continuation of the abject poverty experienced by billions of Christians previously in the care of the Catholic Church for 2,000 years.”