The good news: The Charlotte Observer reports that fewer Charlotte-area homeowners were “underwater” in the first quarter of this year — 13 percent, as compared 18.8 of households with an outstanding loan a year earlier.
The bad news: This still leaves more than one in eight of households with a loan — an estimated 50,292 — owing more on their home than it is currently worth.
1. The NSA data collection efforts. The Washington Examiner offers up an interesting view on where this is headed:
The problem here is not national security versus individual privacy. It’s much more akin to why the founders adopted the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against illegal search and seizure: During the Revolutionary War, the British Army used general warrants to search and ransack private homes and confiscate private property at will. General warrants were purposely vague in order to give the Redcoats maximum leverage. That’s why two centuries hence, search warrants must be approved by a judge for specific objects thought to be in a particular location and related to an actual crime.
Note that just as such parameters limit a search warrant’s utility, the utility of a database for metadata purposes is its constant expansion. Thus, a government — or political candidate — that relies on metadata-driven analyses will inevitably develop an insatiable appetite for knowing more about all Americans, not just those linked to terrorism. In other words, sooner or later, “metadata” becomes the digital way of saying “general warrant.”
2. Then comes word that the NFL has adopted a new policy of what people will be allowed to bring into — or even near — stadiums on game days. You’re allowed:
• Either a “clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12″ x 6″ x 12″” or a “One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar)”
Plus a small purse, as in a “small clutch bag, approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap can be taken into the stadium with one of the clear plastic bags.”
Not allowed: “Prohibited items include, but are not limited to: purses larger than a clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, seat cushions, luggage of any kind, computer bags and camera bags or any bag larger than the permissible size” but you “also will continue to be able to carry items allowed into the stadium, such as binoculars, cameras, and smart phones.”
I don’t like slippery slope arguments, but in this case one applies: We are moving towards a ban on carrying just about anything to any sort of public gathering. And when such regulations seem normal, the carrying of non-pubic gathering approved items in public in any other context will seem out of place and thus suspect and worthy of police intervention.
One of the great danger in politics (and a lot of other things) is falling in love with your own ideas. The latest person to do so in a very public way would seem to be Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, who resigned today as as co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Seems that the tax reform plan Rucho authored didn’t go over so well with the public, and thus ultimately, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who introduced his own tax reform plan a few days ago.
In his resignation letter, Rucho said that “It’s a huge disappointment that the Governor and the Speaker of the House did not provide the leadership or have the political backbone to fight the special-interest groups … ”
What Rucho seems to be in denial about are some significant issues with his plan. As JLF head John Hood wrote of Rucho’s proposal, which then was the Senate Republican plan, soon after it was released:
Because the [Rucho] plan seeks to replace income-tax revenue with a broadened sales tax, it picks unnecessary fights with dozens of industry groups who dislike the idea of becoming unpaid tax collectors for government. The plan also increases the state tax burden on households of low to moderate incomes. What makes more sense to me is to retain the income-tax structure, which avoids new regulatory burdens on business, while using generous personal exemptions to ensure that the overall system doesn’t become more regressive.
I understand what [Rucho is] trying to accomplish, but conservatives shouldn’t be in the business of raising taxes on families making $35,000 a year. Instead, they should unite behind a reform package that moves incrementally towards a consumption tax without imperiling their credibility on taxes or their electoral coalition for accomplishing other important conservative goals.
Gotta love Greg Hardy. From ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas, who’s in town to cover the Panthers’ minicamp:
This is going to sound outrageous, but that shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider it’s coming from Greg Hardy.
The defensive end for the Carolina Panthers was asked Tuesday if he had a goal for the number of sacks he’ll register this season.
“Fifty,” Hardy said during a break between minicamp practices. “Why shoot low, right? If I’m going to shoot at it, I’m going to shoot at it with a 50 caliber. I’m going to shoot at a little bird with a 50-caliber bullet. That’s the goal for this year, 50 sacks, that’s where I’m at. That’s the goal, 50. You heard it first.”
So reports the Census Bureau. From CNN Money:
During the past three years, the average size of new homes has grown significantly, according to a Census Bureau report released Monday. In 2012, the median home in the U.S. hit an all-time record of 2,306 square feet, up 8% from 2009.
During the recession, Americans downsized and the average new home shrunk in size by 6% over two years to 2,135 square feet. At the time, many industry experts said the days of the McMansion were over.
The shrinkage was supposed to indicate that a new era had begun, with young buyers seeking to live closer to urban cores and settling for smaller places and baby boomers downsizing after their kids had flown the nest.
But it wasn’t that consumers wanted less space, many just couldn’t afford more, said Jeffry Roos, a regional president for home builder Lennar. And now that the economy is improving, they’re demanding bigger homes again, he said.
Yeah, pretty obvious isn’t it? Well, unless you’re a government official that is…
The regulation in question are the city’s stormwater control ordinance, tree ordinance and urban-street design guidelines. A new analysis by two Johnson C. Smith University professors and a lawyer conclude that these regulations drive up home prices by an average of $17,000, which in turn limits housing affordability.
From the Charlotte Observer’s coverage:
The study, commissioned by the Piedmont Public Policy Institute, concluded that housing in Charlotte is unaffordable for families earning 90 percent or less of the city’s median income, or around $52,000 a year from 2010 to 2012. That’s about 140,000 households, according to Census Bureau data from 2010.
The federal government defines housing as affordable if the occupant pays 30 percent or less of his or her income.
Thomas Brasse, managing director of the development firm Faison Enterprises Inc., said that land-use regulations are well-intentioned but often increase the cost of housing beyond what the developer anticipates. Every $1 of money toward land-use regulation adds between $4 and $5 to the final cost of a home, Padilla said.
JLF head John Hood’s column on Friday touched on the importance of of a key piece of data in the public policy debate in North Carolina:
In order to have a meaningful conversation about how to address the state’s economic woes, there must be a shared set of facts. If you think that North Carolina’s problems only began with the onset of the Great Recession in 2007, then you probably don’t favor major changes to the state’s long-established fiscal, regulatory, education, and transportation policies. Much of what the General Assembly is doing this year, then, will strike you as puzzling, unwise, or counterproductive.
On the other hand, if you know that North Carolina’s economic underperformance began in the mid-1990s, has persisted through both national booms and busts, and compares particularly unfavorably to pacesetting Sunbelt economies such as Texas and Virginia, then you probably do favor major changes to the state’s long-established fiscal, regulatory, education, and transportation policies – because you have come to see North Carolina’s policies as unwise and counterproductive.
Real per-capita GDP is an economic measurement. But it is also a tool for understanding North Carolina politics.
This time the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro. As the Greensboro News & Record reports:
The museum seeks the city money for its “Building a Better America through Core Democratic Values” initiative, which aims to boost civil rights knowledge among North Carolina school kids and boost the museum’s bottom line.
The plan involves a partnership with state education officials that could bring thousands of elementary, middle and high school students to the museum as part of the curriculum.
The city’s requested contribution of $500,000 a year for the next three years would help outlying school districts with such costs as hiring buses for field trips to Greensboro.
Museum officials acknowledged recently that the center is operating about $400,000 a year in the red. They attribute that mainly to inflexible operating rules tied to federal tax credits, which raised millions of dollars to restore the building that reopened in its present form three years ago.
But paying visitors also came in lower numbers than projected — about 57,000 last year, significantly fewer than the 200,000 hoped for in the project’s planning stage.
Where have we heard this before?
North Carolina’s alcohol laws continue to slowly become more rational. The latest steps: bills are now before Gov. Pat McCrory that would allow “growlers” to be sold and refilled by outlets besides breweries and allow beer sales to fans in the stands at professional sports venues seating 3,000 or more.
Yes, it’s being discussed. There’s no funding for it at this point and it will cost billion.
One of the most amazingly ignorant arguments for such high speed rail lines – and it’s included in the TV news story linked to above — is to claim that they must be a great idea as there are a lot of flights between say Charlotte and Atlanta. But CLT and ATL are major airline hubs and most of the people flying between the two cities are connecting at one end or the other. Last June, Delta, AirTran Tran and US Airways combined to offer 23 flights a day with some 3,000 seats between Charlotte and Atlanta. Federal data shows that only 220 passengers a day each way fly between the two cities proper — everyone else on those flights was connecting to go someplace else.
Federal data is available here — select Table 6 for the quarter of interest.