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Hood: Justice Department filed a "political lawsuit''

John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation, weighs in on the US Justice Department's decision to challenge to North Carolina's recent voter laws. In his column he calls it a "political lawsuit" that seems more designed to help Democratic turnout in the 2014 midterm elections.

"What’s the Obama administration trying to do?'' Hood writes.

"No, I’m not speculating about the president’s strategies for implementing his health care law or besting Congressional Republicans in budget battles. Today’s topic is closer to home: the decision by Attorney General Eric Holder to file a lawsuit alleging that North Carolina’s new election law violates the federal constitution and Voting Rights Act.

Morning Memo: Amid controversy, political hire further fans DHHS flames

ANOTHER POLITICAL HIRE IN AGENCY UNDER FIRE: Former McCrory campaign filmmaker will work on DHHS 'brand' A lobbyist and filmmaker who made an election-night video for Gov. Pat McCrory is the new brand and marketing manager at the state Department of Health and Human Services. Aaron Mullins, 38, started the job Sept. 4. He makes $68,000 a year.

Mullins is one of several new staff members at state agencies with political connections. Ricky Diaz, who worked on McCrory’s campaign, is a spokesman at DHHS making $85,000. Heather Jeffreys, finance director for McCrory’s campaign, has a communications job at the N.C. Department of Transportation making $58,879. Read more here.

***Get a statewide political news roundup below in the Dome Morning Memo -- and look for more polling numbers on the govenror later today.***

John Hood: The argument for the state cutting public assistance

"In the spirit of keeping things simple, the case for reforming North Carolina’s medical-assistance programs can be expressed in four numbers: 12, 15, 17, and 48,'' writes John Hood in his weekly column/blog for the John Locke Foundation.

"These are all national rankings. North Carolina ranks 12th in the nation in state mental health spending per capita. North Carolina ranks 15th in Medicaid payments per child or working-aged adult enrolled in the program. North Carolina ranks 17th in state and local taxes as a percentage of personal income. And North Carolina ranks 48th in per-pupil spending on elementary and secondary schools."

John Hood: The conservative case for more road spending

John Hood, the president of the John Locke Foundation, argues that more money needs to be found for road building on his blog/column that can be found at johnlocke.org.

"Fiscal conservatism comes naturally to me. After all, my middle name is McDonald.

"But I am also persuaded by empirical evidence that fiscal conservatism is the best policy for promoting economic growth. North Carolina governments can improve our state’s competitiveness by limiting spending, finding ways to deliver core services more efficiently, and using the resulting fiscal capacity to reduce the state’s marginal tax rates on work, savings, and investment."

John Hood: Democrats should argue GOP policies, not question motives

“People generally quarrel,” G.K. Chesterton once wryly observed, “because they cannot argue,” writes John Hood, writing on his blog at johnlocke.org.

To the extent North Carolina politics looks increasingly quarrelsome at the moment, it is because of a breakdown of argument — of constructive debate among people of good faith who happen to disagree on public policy. Instead, traditional and online media alike are filled with venom, personal attacks, conspiracy theories, and overall boorishness.

The Republicans now in power in Raleigh campaigned for and won their offices on the basis of specific policy promises. They promised to reform North Carolina’s decrepit, anti-competitive tax code and regulatory process. They promised to reduce government spending on bloated transfer programs and pork-barrel schemes in order to free up resources for core public services and tax relief. They promised not to hasten the implementation of what they perceive as the disastrously counterproductive Affordable Care Act. And they promised to enact a voter-identification bill.

John Hood: McCrory is Mr. Fix It

"Now that Pat McCrory has passed the oh-so-important mark of 100 days in office, the political class in Raleigh feels obligated to offer a critique of his administration," writes John Hood in his column that can be found at johnlocke.org. "The most common one is that Gov. McCrory is playing “small ball.”

That is, the critics say that because the governor didn’t propose a major spending program in his 2013-15 budget plan, he’s not really doing anything of consequence. Even the reform initiatives McCrory has announced for Medicaid and transportation lack the rhyming names or other mnemonic devices of past gubernatorial projects.

John Hood: Liberal critics of McCrory programs are avoiding hard thinking

"For a group of people who claim to believe in empirical study and higher learning, liberal politicians and other critics of North Carolina’s new conservative leaders seem remarkably uninformed or contemptuous of the research basis for the policy initiatives now being debated in Raleigh,'' writes John Hood of the John Locke Foundation in his column at johnlocke.org.

"For example, Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget proposes to convert teacher-assistant positions in second and third grade into funding for teaching positions. While generating some apocalyptic rhetoric from critics, this proposal is not only imminently sensible but also consistent with decades of research suggesting that adding aides to classrooms other than kindergarten and first grade does not produce measurable academic benefits. In higher grades, tax dollars are best spent on high-quality teachers and educational materials. Outside of a few interest groups and partisans, this fact is widely accepted by education researchers."

Hood: McCrory privitization is a great idea

"There are many unknowns regarding the proposal Gov. Pat McCrory announced last week to use competitive contracting to reform North Carolina’s Medicaid program," writes John Hood of the John Locke Foundation. "But what I do know about it suggests the governor is heading in the right direction.''

His idea is to award contracts to three or four provider networks that would coordinate and deliver services to poor, disabled, and elderly Medicaid recipients. The state currently uses a single nonprofit, Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC), to perform this task, but it does not bear any financial responsibility if costs come in higher than budgeted. In other states, and in managed-care programs more generally, such at-risk contracts are commonplace.

Rep. Dollar: "Failures and traps" of commercial managed care

State Rep. Nelson Dollar responded carefully last week when asked about Gov. Pat McCrory's plan to open the state's Medicaid business to management by private companies. ("We need more details"- that kind of thing.)

The Cary Republican was less guarded in an email responding to a column by John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation. Hood praised McCrory's move.

Dollar has been big supporter of Community Care North Carolina, a home-grown Medicaid managed care network run by doctors. CCNC would not continue in its current form if McCrory's plan is approved.

"Read John's piece and there continues to be misconceptions as to the role of CCNC as well as the nature of the problems we've addressed the last two years," Dollar wrote.

"More important other states with co-called "competitive contracts" are having just as many challenges as everyone else. We have the foundation to do something truly innovative I hope we don't opt for the failures and traps of commercial managed care."

Dollar is a chairman of the House budget committee, a job he held last year.

Hood: Economists agree that if you cut benefits, unemployment will decline

John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation, writes in his blog Daily Journal, that there is strong evidence that reducing unemployment benefits results in a drop in unemployment. The column can be read at www.carolinajournal.com.

"Noting that the unemployment rate continues to drop, albeit at a painfully slow rate, one think tanker told The Wall Street Journal that recent reductions in the generosity of the unemployment insurance system could be playing a role in boosting employment."

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