TarGator's blog

The Final Push: One Week Left in Session

The legislative session of the General Assembly is set to end on Friday, but there are still many items that need to be taken care of. First on the list is the minimum wage increase, which needs to pass the Senate as a stand alone bill, the ethics reforms, which need to work their way through the Senate, the landfill moratorium, which needs to pass both as a stand alone bill, and a number of bills that passed each chamber in slightly different forms. So as you wake up this fine Monday morning (at least here in Raleigh) remember that the legislative session does not end with the budget. We will need your help as the week wears on to let the representatives know that the people are watching as the lobbyists will be trying to influence these last few bills.

Why are Articles Promoting Gas Guzzlers Now?

I have seen a plethora of articles like this one on MSN proclaiming that now is the best time ever to jump into an SUV. The articles invariably point out the low price point and their prediction that gas prices will go down to "normal" levels in the future, which in turn makes SUVs less costly. Of course, these articles completely ignore the why the price of SUVs are so low and how exactly gas prices are going to go back down.

The simple economics explanation for the low SUV prices is that demand has dropped. And an economist would assume that people were acting rationally and decided that the costs of an SUV were not worth the benefits. Of course, markets can be wrong, but a basic presumption of all economics is that markets work efficiently. The price is set by what the collective society values a product as. It is true that emotion (something economics struggle to grasp) can disrupt markets and many of the articles point out negativity towards SUVs now, but there is no evidence that this emotion is what is dragging down prices. In fact, it is pretty clear to me that emotion was artificially boosting SUV in the past; people were feeling patriotic about driving Hummers, and SUVs were the new it product. Regardless there is no credible evidence that SUV prices are going to rebound in the future; the entire argument rests on the assumption that current prices will trend back to past prices over time, but this assumption is fundamentally flawed, just ask anyone still looking for tech stocks to hit 2000 highs.

State of Marriage in the State

I had a disturbing day of bar prep today learning all about NC family law. It is amazing the people who we let marry in this state: 14 year olds (with judicial approval and pregnancy) and first cousins being the most egregious cases. There are even rules regarding double first cousins, who are first cousins on both sides--in other words, a brother and sister marry cousins who are also brothers and sisters the children of those nuptials cannot marry. I just wonder who was the test case that made this rule necessary.

And of course, despite allowing 14 year olds (and those who are not mature enough to not get pregnant at 14 at that) and first cousins to marry, the General Assembly caved to the Religious Right a few years ago and passed a Defense of Marriage Act to protect marriage from homosexual couples.

My Letter to N&O Regarding I-40 Congestion

Below is a letter to the editor that I sent to the N&O following their story on I-40 congestion that failed to address any alternative transportation options. They responded that they would consider publishing it if I cut down the length in half. Three reasons that I do not want to do this: 1) I did not spend much time at all on it and do not want to put it in print if I horribly missed something; 2) I do not think that I could that many cuts and still have a good piece; and 3) I can put it up here and probably have the same number of people actually read it (and I like you guys better). But go ahead and try to edit it down if you want, or even use the ideas to write your own LTE.

The New State Budget: Good Beginning But Work Left

The General Assembly came to terms with this year's budget at the close of the week, and the best summary of the action was from the Wilmington Star News:

House and Senate leaders agreed Friday on a budget for the coming year that cuts both sales and income taxes and gives state employees large raises but leaves out a minimum wage increase and a landfill moratorium.

Essentially no major changes in funding other than the increase in teacher's pay (a good thing) and the cutting of the tax rates (also a good thing). But the two measures that could be seen as progressive victories, the minimum wage and the landfill moratorium were pushed out by "House Leadership" A.K.A. Jim Black on a claim that policy provisions should not be included in the budget. So said the man that held up last year's budget over a provision to help his optometrist buddies and required mandatory eye exams. It would be easy to say that Black learned from his ways, but it would probably be more accurate to say that Black is all for policy proposals when they aid special interests and against them when they benifit the people.

The General Assembly and November

Yankee Fan brought up the question of the General Assembly and the fall elections in the last post (although she misstated the candidates running against each other). The General Assembly elections always pose a difficult question for progressive activists: on the one hand, the Democrats control both houses and we feel more comfortable with that than the situation on the national level, but the Democrats in the Assembly certainly do not produce the progressive victories that other states achieve. Whether that is on the issues of growth control, environmental protection, civil rights, etc. To be sure these issues have all been treated moderately well by the General Assembly, but no one of the main issues that the progressive movement values is the state a leader on; instead the state party tends to achieve less dramatic progressive change such as some great consumer protection statutes, a model land buying program (the state receives $12 worth of land for every $1 that they spend on conservation research), and couple of other achievements.

The Republicans Punish NC College Students

Today the rates on student loans are set to increase by over 2 percentage points. The huge jump will cost the average North Carolina college attendee an extra $2247 to $2705. The prime reason for this increase is neglect by the current administration and Congress. This is contrasted strongly with Clinton and Gore's strong committment to decreasing the burden of loans on students. (one of many examples can be found here). In contrast, the current administration has done absolutely nothing to help with college expenses as tuition and now loan rates have skyrocketed; in fact the Republican Congress and Administration cut $12 billion from the loan program.

Keep the Landfill Moratorium in the Budget

North Carolina Senate President, Marc Basnight has issued a call to local activists to contact members of the General Assembly in support of a moratorium on new mega-landfills in North Carolina that has passed the Senate and is being held up in the House (this would prevent NC from becoming home to huge landfills that get filled up to 275 feet high with trash imported from other states). Let us respond to this call to action and show the House that we do not N.C. to become the dump of the eastern seaboard. [To write your representative use the Take Action Page]

How to Be Great? Think Big, Think Bold

The most frustrating aspect of fighting for progressive change in North Carolina is the constant reactionary pressure to not change anything, or "if you do, make sure it is not too radical". These forces have reared their head in the fight against the Regional Rail in the Triangle and even the nixing of artistic lightposts in Raleigh. Whether the argument thrown out is that public transportation would not work here or these lights are too ornate for Raleigh, the end result is that we have a bland city with tons of sprawl and traffic problems. If we want to have a great state, Triangle, or city, we need to take chances; whether the lights in Raleigh would have been considered great urban art or just odd urban art does not matter, since the important aspect would be a unique, bold

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