UVa Doubles Down on Its Obsession with Race

Flaming assholes. Torch-wielding white supremacists marching at UVa last year — a useful distraction from what really ails American society.

This news is almost a month old, but I hadn’t seen anyone else pick it up, so here goes… The University of Virginia will create 20 new research professorships in “Democracy and Equity” to examine “underlying causes” of the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville last year.

Each of the 20 professorships will be funded by $1 million in donor commitments matched one-for-one by UVA’s Strategic Investment Fund. The Board of Visitors approved the group’s recommendation to set aside $20 million in matching funds to support faculty research and teaching around “related social, cultural and political issues.” Continue reading

Virginia’s Most Effective Legislator: Emmett Hanger

Virginia’s most effective legislator: It helps to belong to the party in power.

Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, was the nation’s 10th most productive legislator serving in a state senate in 2018, according to FiscalNote, a consulting firm that uses real-time policy data to provide issues-management solutions.

A long-time veteran of the General Assembly, Hanger sponsored 444 bills during the multi-year time frame covered in FiscalNote’s analysis, 57% of which were passed. His top policy issues were agriculture, technology, and government administration. FiscalNote described the senior Republican lawmaker as an ideological “moderate.” 

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Autism and the Twitter Outrage Mob

My tenure as an editorial and op-ed writer at the Richmond Times-Dispatch may have been brief but I learned a lot. My first unsigned editorial ignited the wrath of protective mama bears who have children with autism. I got my first up-close look at the awesome power of a Twitter Outrage Mob. It was quite a spectacle.

As I’ve had a chance to reflect upon what I wrote, I feel partially penitent. Living with a child with autism isn’t easy. Parents often rearrange their lives, moving to locales with better school resources, dropping out of the workforce to provide at-home care, living with the fear that their children might never become independent, functioning adults. Autism can become an all-consuming issue. Had I known, I would have expressed more sympathy. But I wouldn’t have changed the thrust of the editorial.

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IRP Rejection Part of a Pattern of Trouble

The State Corporation Commission’s decision Friday to reject the Dominion Energy Virginia integrated resource plan is just the latest sign the energy package sold by the utility to a compliant General Assembly in early 2018 still has an uncertain future.

Two headline elements of the legislation – the promised massive renewable projects and a rebuild of the grid — are in limbo as the 2019 General Assembly looms.  Another headline element, the ability of the utility to use excess profits it is holding to pay for both and thus eliminate risk of rate cuts or refunds, won’t even be tested in front of the SCC until at the earliest 2021, when the utility might (might) undergo its next rate review. Continue reading

Social Promotions: As High as 40% in Some School Districts?

Virginia school systems keep track of many numbers: enrollment, demographics, graduation rates, student-to-teacher ratios, SOL scores, all manner of fiscal expenditures… The list is endless. Just check out the Virginia Department of Education website’s “Statistics and Reports” page. But you can’t find any numbers on the rate of social promotions. Needless to say, the practice of promoting children from one grade to the next even when they have failed to master the subject matter is not one that educators want to highlight. Continue reading

(Fiscal) Winter Is Coming

Congressional Budget Office projections of federal government annual budget deficits.

Let me set the scene by reviewing a few numbers. The federal deficit is on course to hit $1 trillion annually by Fiscal Year 2020. With retiring Baby Boomers swelling Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security expenditures, deficits will increase inexorably for decades. The U.S. national debt stands at $21.7 trillion. As deficits pile up and interest rates rise, the national debt expressed as a percentage of the GDP, 78% today, will reach 96% by 2028. CBO projects that interest payments on that debt will increase from $263 billion in 2017 to $915 billion by 2028, putting increasing deficits on autopilot that no amount of budget cutting can offset.

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Bacon Bits: Higher-Ed Edition

Modest UVa tuition increase. The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors has approved a 2.9% increase in-state tuition increase for undergraduate College of Arts & Sciences students next academic year, although other schools in the university may differ. The university’s financial aid program, Access UVa, will keep pace with tuition increases, reports the Daily Progress.

The board’s Finance Committee said it had exhausted other options before considering slight increases to undergraduate tuition but believed 2.9- to 3.5-percent increases in most schools are necessary. The increases represent only a modest premium over the 2.3% increase in the Consumer Price Index between September 2017 and September 2018. The modest price hikes (modest by comparison to past years) coincides with a $2.2 million increase in state support in Fiscal 2020.

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I’m Baaaack!

Announced in the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial page this morning:

Earlier this month [James A.] Bacon briefly joined the Editorial staff of The Times-Dispatch, hired by Bob Rayner, who is editor of the Editorial Pages. When Rayner announced earlier this week that he is retiring from the newspaper business, Bacon decided to leave the paper as well and devote his energies to maintaining Bacon’s Rebellion as one of Virginia’s sharpest websites devoted to assessing public policy. We’re glad he’s still part of the civic conversation. We hope to be able to publish columns by Bacon on a fairly regular basis in the opinion pages of the The Times-Dispatch.

I had been looking forward to working with Bob, who was an excellent editor and an articulate voice for civil and principled conservatism. With his unexpected retirement, my calculus changed, and I have resolved to redouble my efforts to build Bacon’s Rebellion into a credible conservative/libertarian voice in Virginia journalism.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

So… My wife was out of town Friday night, and I was doing my wonky thing, poking through the Virginia State Police 2017 Crime Report, when I came across a breakdown of criminal offenses by gender. I’ll ignore the VSP’s retrograde oversight in classifying offenders by only two genders — male and female, as if the criminal population were devoid of transgenders — and I’ll focus on the implications of my findings for a recent ACLU of Virginia study, which found that, although 85% of prisoners are male, Virginia prisons still inflict “widespread and discriminatory suffering” upon women. Continue reading

“Incomplete!” SCC Sends Back Dominion IRP

SCC Offices on Richmond’s Main Street

The State Corporation Commission today rejected the 2018 integrated resource plan (IRP) filed by Dominion Energy Virginia, stamping it “incomplete” and asking the utility for additional information in a supplemental submission.

The IRP is only a planning document, and the one for 2017 was just approved by the Commission a few months ago.  But in response to the 2017 plan and the massive revision to utility laws by the 2018 General Assembly, several specific directives were imposed for this next plan, which is supposed to have a longer shelf life.  The SCC asserts Dominion failed to comply with some of those directives.

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Amazon, Incentives and Alternate Opportunity Cost

Source: Mercatus Center

George Mason University’s Mercatus Center does not like the deals struck by Virginia and New York to split Amazon, Inc.’s $5 billion HQ2 project. In a new commentary, the market-oriented research center raises a valid consideration rarely mentioned by politicians touting favored government expenditures of any type: alternate opportunity cost. Money spent on “A” is money not spent on “B.” Continue reading

Fralin Donates $50 Million for Roanoke Research Center

Heywood Fralin

Heywood Fralin, his wife Cynthia, and the Horace Fralin Charitable Trust have announced a $50 million gift to Virginia Tech to attract top-ranked scientists to the university’s Roanoke medical research center. The gift is twice the size of the university’s previous single largest donation.

“I came up with the size based on what I felt I could do. I wanted to make a maximum gift that was a challenge to me and to the trust because I thought it was important to the community. And I thought it could benefit everyone, and it would have a lasting impact that would help to change the future of the Roanoke Valley and the surrounding area,” Fralin said in a Wednesday interview with the Roanoke Times. Continue reading

Dissent Must Be Crushed

Peter Vlaming. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

Social mores in the United States are changing so fast, it’s hard to keep up. If you fail to conform to the latest turn in politically correct thinking, you’re toast. You could lose your job. Not just in California, but here in Virginia.

Peter Vlaming, a high school teacher in West Point, was fired yesterday by the West Point School Board for resisting administrative orders to use male pronouns to refer to a ninth-grade student who had undergone a gender transition, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Here are the details: Continue reading

Amazon Deal Could Create 59,000 Virginia Jobs

Amazon, Inc.’s $2.5 billion investment in major new East Coast headquarters in Arlington/Alexandria will generate $14.2 billion in economic activity over the next 12 years, projects a new study by Richmond-based Chmura Economics & Analytics. While Amazon has committed to hiring 25,000 employees, indirect effects of the investment will create more than 59,000 jobs.

“The entire state of Virginia will benefit from Amazon’s decision to locate part of its second headquarters in Northern Virginia,” said Christine Chmura, the firm’s CEO and chief economist. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has the story here. Continue reading

EITC, TANF and the Benefits Cliff

The “Benefit Cliff” for a mother with two children in Albemarle County. As income rises, SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, housing assistance and other benefits disappear.  This example does not include the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Source: VA DSS

For low income families receiving assistance in Virginia, their cash benefit from the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is larger – often substantially larger – than the cash provided by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

A single mother with two small children who has a full-time minimum wage job ($7.25 per hour) qualified for EITC benefits of $436.33, in an example provided by the Virginia Department of Social Services based on 2015 data.  The EITC is paid out as a lump sum but the example broke it into monthly increments.  Doing that underlines its origin as a form of guaranteed minimum income, with the grant adding the equivalent of an additional $2.50 per hour to income.

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