Hudson vs. 60 Minutes

Hudson on 60 Minutes

It was just a matter of time before last December’s passage of H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, by the U.S. House of Representatives sparked left-wing media outrage. Leave it to none other than CBS’ 60 Minutes Sunday prime time program to unleash correspondent Steve Kroft on the topic, which 2nd Amendment antagonists distill as follows: far right, gun packing rural hicks versus reasoned, intellectual elites who desire a permanent ban on firearm possession by our citizens and confiscation of previously registered guns.

Enter our Congressman, Richard Hudson (NC-8), who authored and championed the bill all the way to the finish line. It passed in the House 231-198 last Dec. 6 and is in the U.S. Senate pipeline. During a tense moment in their taped interview, Kroft barely contained himself while scolding Hudson’s comparison of a reciprocal concealed carry permit to a driver’s license, which is valid in every state.

“It’s not like a driver’s license!” Kroft shouted, insisting that licensed drivers must demonstrate minimum proficiencies. Kroft is unaware, apparently, or deliberately ignores that H.R. 38 would grant concealed carry reciprocity exclusively to legally registered firearm owners who “would have to follow the laws of the state, county and municipality in which they are carrying concealed.”

Remarkably, Hudson’s retort was not edited out of the segment. He did not blink. “But, driving is a privilege,” he said. “Owning a firearm is a Constitutionally protected right. So there is a difference.”

Make no mistake, this was a hit piece from beginning to end, but not merely an attack on Rep. Hudson’s bill, or Tim Schmidt, founder in 2003 of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association (also interviewed by Kroft). The objective of 60 Minutes producers and Kroft was obvious: to demean and belittle the “folks” in the red(neck) states who, unlike their educated blue state fellow citizens, are trapped in a time warp in which guns, as Kroft put it dismissively, “are woven into the culture.” They are, in other words, dangerous, exceeded only by the Constitution itself as a threat to society.

Kroft’s segment was not so much a “report” on an issue of the day as it was a televised op-ed. Two examples. In the first, he characterizes a Constitutional right as an idea:

The central tenant of Concealed Carry Reciprocity is that the 2nd Amendment gives people the right to carry guns anywhere they want. But that idea is more aspirational than factual.

In the second, Kroft despairs that he and his New York-based arbiters of 21st Century America can not disenfranchise an enormous swath of our population (the inference being that the people who elected Donald Trump are alive and well):

Whether people like it or not, that world (where guns are carried and concealed) already exists in many parts of the country, where people are quite happy with it. And so are their representatives in Congress.

Kroft’s parting shot at Rep. Hudson was to dismiss the core assertion behind the necessity of concealed carry as having been “refuted by numerous studies”, but without detailing these so-called “studies”, or who conducted them. Hudson stood his ground, which is not easy to do amid the glare of the famously intimidating 60 Minutes entrapment sessions.

I can tell you that in the last 20 years you’ve seen a huge uptick of gun ownership, you’ve seen a huge uptick in concealed carry, and, at the same time, you’ve seen violent crime drop. If you look at states with concealed carry, you’ve seen violent crime drop.

 

 

 

NC: A pension fund model

The North Carolina Retirement Systems, the nation’s tenth largest public pension fund, experienced a 13.5 percent gain in assets in 2017. Those assets were valued at $98.3 billion, reports State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell. The performance of the fund’s investments exceeded projected annual growth of 12.8 percent.

On its face, this is great news. But the real strength of the state’s pension system is the extent to which these burgeoning assets cover pension liabilities. Literally dozens of states find themselves drowning in pension liability, and continue to spiral in the wrong direction despite years of dire warnings.

The fact that North Carolina is largely excluded from studies exposing the looming pension crisis across the country is a point Republican candidates for state legislative and U.S. House seats should hammer home on the trail in 2018. It is a tribute to sound fiscal policy, spending restraint and the absence of money starved unions.

Consider the alternative, outlined in this nearly incomprehensible report by The Rand Corporation’s Dan Grunfeld:

California leads the nation in pension underfunding. The numbers are staggering. Currently, the state government has approximately $464.4 billion in unfunded liabilities — the difference between resources that will be available in the state’s pension fund and what will be owed to retiring employees. … Nationally, state and local governments are carrying $4 trillion to $6 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities. That exceeds the combined military expenditures for every war, save World War II, fought by the U.S. since 1775.

Another way to gauge the financial health of a state’s pension fund is by examining funding ratios, the gap between funds on hand and projected pension payments. The higher the ratio, the lower the gap. North Carolina ended 2017 with a 45% funding ratio, fifth best in the nation, according to data gathered by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The national average is a woeful 33.7%. Wisconsin is the runaway leader with a 61.5% ratio; New Jersey (25.7), Mississippi (24.2), Illinois (23.3), Kentucky (20.9) and Connecticut (19.7) bring up the rear. New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut have been governed by Democrat majority rule for decades, while Kentucky and Mississippi have had divided legislatures with a gradual shift toward Republicans since 2000.

According to ALEC’s December 2017 report:

The funding ratio is the most important measure of a pension fund’s health. Applying the estimated risk-free rate of return to the actuarial assets and actuarial liabilities reported by pension plans generates a more realistic estimate of each state’s funding ratio.

Another instructive way to understand a state’s fiscal health relative to its public pension liabilities is as a measure of per-capita liability. North Carolina also ranks highly in this category. An individual taxpayer in North Carolina technically is “on the hook” for $10,944. That’s the amount each taxpayer would owe if and when the state’s pension funds come up short. NC ranks fifth behind Wisconsin, Nebraska, Indiana and Tennessee, according to ALEC’s analysis. The dubious distinction club on the opposite end is made up of Illinois ($30,336 per taxpayer), Ohio ($30,538), Connecticut ($35,731) and Alaska ($45,689).

Population size skews these numbers, which is why California, despite owning the largest collection of unfunded liabilities, has its citizens on the hook for less than the cellar dwellers at $25,166, but still the 39th highest per-capita liability.

It is hardly a coincidence that states where pension funding negligence is most acute are the same states from which folks are fleeing and finding refuge in North Carolina.

 

A $5.7m windfall

Christmas is arriving early in 2018. About 11 months early, to be precise. On Thursday, January 25, North Carolina retirees began receiving their monthly state retirement benefit payments.

According to the office of North Carolina State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, payments to retirees have increased by a total of $5.7 million this month. The windfall was triggered by two developments. One is the very well publicized federal tax reform signed by President Donald Trump after Congressional Republicans came through with a bill late last year.

The other development flew under the radar. An obscure state entity, the Retirement Systems Division (RSD), simply did its job beating the clock on an IRS deadline that was set after Trump signed sweeping tax cuts into law.

Among those cuts are federal taxes deducted from 2018 benefit payments to North Carolina retirees and benefit recipients. The RSD Operations Team within the N.C. Department of State Treasurer was able to update the tables ahead of the IRS’s deadline.

“I’m very proud of our team for taking the initiative so quickly after the new tax law was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. While we are in the check delivery business, it involves more than just buying ink and stamps,” said Treasurer Folwell. “This is a testament to the outstanding job that our career public servants do to serve government workers.”

More than $500 million is paid out each month to more than 312,000 retirees and benefit recipients.

“Our team, led by Tom Causey and Susan Fordham, decided not to wait until February to enact this increase in our members’ benefit payments,” explained Steve Toole, Executive Director of RSD. “By updating these tax schedules sooner, our members will see larger January benefit payments.”

Supreme timing

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday (January 18) suspended a lower court ruling that should eliminate drama and confusion leading to this November’s U.S. House of Representatives races across North Carolina.

Reports North State Journal, the SCOTUS’s decision “reduces the chance that the current district lines will be altered ahead of the November mid-term Congressional elections.”

The action voids a ruling earlier this month by a three-judge federal panel that imposed a January 24 deadline on North Carolina. This was the date by which legislators would have had to submit re-drawn maps for U.S. House districts. The lower court’s panel alleged that the state’s existing maps were unfair to “non-Republican” voters.

Re-districting committee chairmen Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) and Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) thanked the SCOTUS for giving potential candidates clarity as to filing and campaigning in the months ahead.

“We are grateful that a bipartisan U.S. Supreme Court has overwhelmingly halted the lower court’s 11th-hour attempt to intervene in election outcomes, restored certainty to voters, and ensured that, in the coming days, candidates for office can file in the least gerrymandered and most compact Congressional districts in modern state history.”

Beyond politics

Does everything have to be political? Does it always have to be about waging the battle to protect and, perhaps, save American values and Constitutional principles? Conservative Republicans can never give up the fight, not in an age that finds the Democrat party lurching toward unabashed socialism.

But, to answer the original question: No, party affiliation is not exclusively about political identity. We elect fellow citizens to serve the greater good, to help those in need and to keep our homeland safe. These are bipartisan objectives, or at least they should be. The most vicious lie perpetrated by the Left is that those of us across the aisle are heartless (thus, tax cuts “are for the rich” and real healthcare reform “takes your healthcare away” because “they want Granny to die, fast”).

Thus, we never can become indifferent toward whom we elect to make and uphold our laws — the fabric of our republic. But we also must support the unsung heroes in our communities, who serve the greater good by helping the many in need. Here in the Moore County Sandhills, citizens seeking no accolades wake up every morning committed to making a difference in these lives.

Aiming to broaden awareness of these people and the organizations they support, the Moore County Republican Party is proud to sponsor local radio vignettes produced by Connie Lovell for Community in Action. One recent segment describes how Southern Pines-based Bethany House provided a clean, sober living environment for a young woman named Jessica after she struggled for years with drug addiction. Today, Jessica is a nursing student at Sandhills Community College after residing in Bethany House for 11 months and liberating herself from the shackles of addiction.

This is Jessica’s story.

Community in Action introduces local agencies that offer assistance that builds opportunity. Spots air at 10:20 a.m. Saturdays on 102.5 FM, and at 12:50 p.m. Saturdays on 550 AM.

NC leads on free speech

North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest and fellow state Republicans go into 2018 with considerable momentum, owed to last year’s numerous legislative victories and despite ever looming veto threats and lawsuits courtesy of Democrat Governor Roy Cooper.

In a December 31 op-ed for North State Journal, Forest summarized legislation that originated in his office in 2017. In particular, he heralded adoption of a Campus Free Speech Act by the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina system, which “helps restore and preserve free speech on our public university campuses.”

While this objective might strike some as common sense and overdue, the law places North Carolina and its public universities squarely in a position of national leadership at a time when disrupting campus speech — in classrooms and in public forums, or by forcing speakers to be “disinvited” — has emerged as a core tactic in the left’s so-called “resist” movement. As the Democrat party moves further left and pursues an ever more radically progressive agenda, college campuses are devolving into battlegrounds, thick with tension.

The NC law (HB527), sponsored by Rep. Chris Mills (R-Pender), inevitably will become a substantive pillar on which Forest can campaign in his likely run for the Governor’s mansion in 2020, especially if Forest is forced to contend with a field of other Republicans — Phil Berger, Pat McCrory, or U.S. Senator Thom Tillis — for the nomination. When he hits the campaign trail, Forest would be wise to repeat the words he wrote in his North State Journal op-ed last month.

The job of government and our universities is not to shield individuals from speech they might find offensive, but to commit to the principles of free speech, including spontaneous demonstration and access to campus consistent with the First Amendment.

Forest and fellow Republicans also have a golden opportunity to remind voters — often — that the bill passed into law without Cooper’s signature. His inaction was not unintentional. Cooper didn’t forget to sign it. So what was his underlying message to Democrats in North Carolina and beyond?

In its reporting on the bill’s passage, Generation Opportunity state director Anna Beavon Gravely told Carolina Journal that it appears Cooper supports campus environments “where unelected employees of state government are able to intimidate into silence the views that are not their own.”

If the sitting Governor of North Carolina believes that, it is never too early to begin working to unseat him. Let it begin now.

 

Amazon-mania

Amid frenzied speculation about Amazon’s search for a so-called “second headquarters” (HQ2) beyond its mothership in Seattle — 238 cities and/or regions are bidding — the data point emphasized repeatedly is 50,000. As in 50,000 Amazon jobs materializing to boost the economy of the winning applicant. (Charlotte, Hickory, Raleigh and the Triad are North Carolina’s candidates).

But job creation is only one variable in the high stakes scenario. The quest to win over Amazon requires far more than producing slick chamber-of-commerce video presentations. The corporate welfare phenomenon, nothing new, is about behemoths shamelessly plunging cities and states into a cash incentivizing orgy, which is precisely why organizations like Generation Opportunity cast a skeptical eye on Amazon mania.

GO’s North Carolina state director, Anna Beavon Gravely, in an op-ed published by North State Journal, does the math on the Amazon gambit:

Away from the spotlight you will find the losers of corporate welfare: the small businesses struggling to stay afloat, the young entrepreneurs who can’t compete with established interests, and the taxpayers who are forced to pick up the tab.

Gravely notes that under the first-year administration of Gov. Roy Cooper, North Carolina has handed out $125 million as suitors of insurer AXA and financial giant Credit Suisse, among others. Cooper (and governors nationwide) are quick to give themselves credit for thousands of incoming jobs, 1,200 at Credit Suisse and 550 at AXA. But the financial incentives that brought them here makes the creation of one job a very pricey investment. A single job created at Credit Suisse’s Raleigh campus cost taxpayers $33,500 because it received $40.2 million worth of incentives.

Corporate welfare enthusiasts like Cooper will always try to justify it as “creating jobs.” But as we’ve seen here in North Carolina, lowering and simplifying taxes for everybody does far more to create jobs than special handouts for the few.

Just look at the extraordinary progress our state has made in recent years. Since 2011, the General Assembly has lowered personal and corporate income tax rates, eliminated the estate tax and simplified other business taxes. This year, lawmakers overrode Cooper’s veto to enact even more tax cuts for North Carolinians, which will result in $476.4 million in savings for businesses over the next five years.

Amazon is the standard bearer of no-hassle e-commerce deliveries, but it’s proving to be more than capable of receiving. New Jersey has offered Amazon a mind boggling $7 billion across the next decade. Irvine, Calif., took a straightforward approach. Amazon estimates HQ2 will cost $5 billion, so Irvine suggested its taxpayers underwrite the entire project.

Gravely and her colleagues at Generation Opportunity believe future economic growth will be driven by millennial entrepreneurs, who are launching new businesses at twice the rate of their parents’ generation. If Amazon decides that North Carolina is an ideal place to go forward with HQ2, roll the red carpet but not at the expense of small businesses, the engines of the state’s booming economy.