Opioid Overdose Deaths and Diseases of Despair

Data source: Virginia Department of Health. (Click for larger image.)

Everyone seems to agree that Virginia, like the rest of the nation, is in the grips of an epidemic of opioid overdoses. Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data show that the number of overdose deaths attributable to Fentanyl and/or heroin and to prescription opioids has increased from 637 in 2011 to 1,426 last year. The dominant trope in reporting and commentary on this surge is to refer to it as a “disease of despair” connected to deteriorating social and economic conditions. To add insight, VDH breaks down not only the number of overdoses by locality on its data portal, but so-called “social determinants of health” such as the percentage of children in poverty.

“On the surface, it appears to be the opioid epidemic, but where you look at the opioid epidemic or addiction in general, it’s really a disease of despair,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver at a Virginia Board of Health meeting last month. “What drives it is the lack of jobs, the lack of affordable housing, the lack of transportation …” Continue reading

Are You In…The Hugo Zone?

Are You In The Hugo Zone?

Delegate Tim Hugo (R-Centreville) is the point person for a state income tax proposal centered on less-than-full conformity with the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  It only helps a narrow subset of Virginia taxpayers, those in The Hugo Zone.  We will now try to take you there.  (If you want to imagine Rod Serling’s voice in your head, feel free.)

Under straight conformity, as proposed by Governor Ralph Northam, a taxpayer taking the federal standard deduction would be stuck with the state standard, as well.  Under straight conformity, deductions for local taxes on either return would be capped at $10,000.  Hugo, standing Friday with several key House Republicans, announced a bill to put Virginia out of conformity on those two points.

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Republicans Retreat From Trump Tax Successes

Virginia’s House Republicans on Friday rolled out proposed changes in the state income tax which backpedal from the signature accomplishment of President Donald Trump’s first year, his tax reform package which supercharged the economy.  They would conform Virginia’s taxes to the new federal law only in part (more details here).

One of the best policy provisions of that 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is a $10,000 cap on the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT).  No longer will the federal government subsidize out-of-control local and state taxes, and the state of Virginia should do likewise and cap the deduction for local taxes.

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Re-Examining the Role of Elite Higher Ed in American Society

Princeton. Ivied walls or moss-backed walls?

by Reed Fawell III

“Going to Yale Could Make You Rich, or Lonely,” by Lyman Stone, published in The Federalist on Dec. 19, 2018, exposed some surprising findings regarding the costs and benefits of college attendance. Stone is worth quoting at length:

There’s a long-standing economic consensus that, for high schoolers smart enough to get admitted into the University of Kentucky (average SAT score of about 1000-1100) and Yale (average SAT score of about 1400-1600), it really doesn’t matter which college they attend … [Researchers have identified] how much money students earn 10 or 20 years later. It turns out going to Yale doesn’t add one penny to how much money a Yale admit earns.”

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More People Still Moving Out of Virginia than Moving In

Virginia is still leaking population through out-migration, according to the most recent United Van Lines national movers study, which tracks customers’ state-to-state migration patterns in 2018. The gap between those moving into the state and moving out was small — 48.4% inbound compared to 51.6% outbound, but it continues a discouraging trend of the past several years and seemingly cements the robust in-migration of previous decades.

Dig into the numbers, however, and there were some consolations.

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Coal Ash: How Much Risk Mitigation Does $5.7 Billion Buy?

Coal ash at the Chesterfield Power Station. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

Governor Ralph Northam has indicated his support for digging up 27 million cubic yards of coal ash, recycling some of it, and disposing of the rest in lined landfills far from Virginia’s rivers and streams. The cost has been estimated at $5.7 billion, adding an average $3.30 per month to the average household’s electric bill over 20 years.

“If not disposed of properly, coal ash can ruin water quality and create environmental disasters,” Northam said at a news conference yesterday, citing a 2014 coal ash spill in North Carolina. “We cannot have a repeat of that here in Virginia.” So reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

If Northam really said that, I shudder for the future of the commonwealth. There is so much misunderstanding packed into such a brief statement. Continue reading

Who Runs Virginia — Antiquarian Edition

Virginia history lovers rejoice! The House Clerk’s Office has unveiled the Database of House Members (DOME), which offers biographical and legislative service information on every House member since the House of Burgesses first convened in July 1619. A random selection of the tidbits contained in this historical treasure trove:

The first speaker of the House of Burgesses, meeting only 12 years after the founding of Jamestown, was John Pory. States the biographical summary:

Pory’s familiarity with parliamentary practice is evident in the assembly’s reliance upon committees, its decisions on the credentials of its members, its procedure in voting on legislation after three readings, and its determination of a judicial case after hearing testimony at “The Barre.” After it had levied a tax that included provision to pay Pory for his “great paines and labour,” the assembly was prorogued on 4 August 1619, and Pory prepared copies of the legislation for the localities that had sent representatives to Jamestown.

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Virginia Should Take Regional Approach to Building Offshore Wind Supply Chain

Where the action is in East Coast offshore wind. Source: BVG Associates. (Click for more legible image.)

To build an offshore wind supply chain with thousands of construction, manufacturing and maintenance jobs, Virginia should collaborate with Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina, concludes a report issued last week by BVG Associates for the state’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

Offshore wind development is advancing rapidly in the Northeastern states, and if Virginia wants to maximize the benefits of the emerging offshore wind industry, it needs to move quickly. “Virginia has great potential and many unique advantages to attract this investment, but it must act now if it is to be a leader in OSW,” states the study, The Virginia Advantage: The Roadmap for the Offshore Wind Supply Chain in Virginia. Continue reading

Virginia’s economy continues to sputter

Blue state blues.  The Associated Press is summarizing Virginia’s latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report regarding the economic health of The Old Dominion.  The news is bleak.

“Personal income grew 4.1 percent in Virginia compared to 4.5 percent in the U.S. Housing prices in Virginia rose 5 percent compared to 6.8 percent nationally. Virginia also lagged behind the national average in employment growth and the number of new building permits for privately owned housing.”

It sees that as Virginia continues to turn from red to blue politically it is also turning from red hot to icy blue economically.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.  However, to the victors go both the spoils and accountability for results.  Democrats have won every state wide race in Virginia since 2009.  Perhaps it’s time to start asking the Democratic politicians some hard economic questions. Continue reading

Following the Dark Money: Bloomberg to NYU to Virginia’s OAG?

Mark Herring (far right) at 2016 launch of AGs United for Clean Power Plan.

Here is a counter-factual mental exercise for you. Imagine that former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a conservative skeptic of climate change, had applied for a grant from the conservative-libertarian Koch Foundation to cover the cost of hiring an AG staff member dedicated to litigating environmental groups. Then imagine that Cuccinelli’s office had to compete nationally with other AG offices around the country for the grant, that the Koch Foundation would fund only those projects that best advanced its anti-climate change agenda, and, if approved, that the Koch Foundation would help select the attorney.

Would that have been a news story? Would the Washington Post and every other Virginia newspaper have given it front-page scandal coverage? Would Democrats and environmental groups decry the use of private dollars to hire lawyers to wield the legal powers of the AG’s office to harass and intimidate Koch brothers enemies?

Now flip the scenario. In the real world, Attorney General Mark Herring’s office submitted an application on Sept. 15, 2017, to the New York University School of Law’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center for funding to hire a NYU School of Law fellow “as a Special Assistant Attorney General” devoted to climate-change issues. The Virginia AG’s office, stated the application, “would work with the State Impact Center to identify, recruit and extend offers to appropriate candidates.” The Center is backed by billionaire, former New York Mayor, and anti-global warming champion Michael Bloomberg. Continue reading

Bacon’s Rebellion 2018 — Year of the Pothead

Other blogs publish a list of their most heavily trafficked posts of the previous year, so I guess Bacon’s Rebellion will succumb to peer pressure and do the same. If there’s any conclusion to be drawn from the 2018 list of the Bacon’s Rebellion Top Twelve stories, it’s that our readers — or perhaps random web surfers who stumble across the blog — have pot on the brain.

Will Virginia Legalize Recreational Marijuana Use? — by far the top story of the year, by a factor of four. Ranked extremely high in Google search engine results for “Virginia” and “marijuana.”

UVa’s $30 Million Raid on Tech’s Biocomplexity Initiative Continue reading

State Database Missing 55,000 Felons

Missing

The Virginia State Crime Commission is asking why 750,000 conviction records — including those for 300 murder and 1,300 rape convictions — are missing from the state database used to run background checks for gun purchases, court sentencing and employment, reports the Washington Post. It turns out that conviction records are entered into the database only when they are accompanied by fingerprints. But the Virginia law-enforcement and judicial systems have a spotty record of taking and preserving fingerprints, especially for misdemeanors and other minor crimes. Continue reading

Map of the Day: Virginia’s Disabled Populations

In Lee County, Virginia’s westernmost jurisdiction, more than one quarter of the population (25.7%) has a disability, according to American Community Survey data. The rate of disabilities — physical or mental impairments that limit a person’s ability to work — is almost as high in neighboring counties, as shown in this map produced by the Virginia Public Access Project. Virginia’s most economically depressed jurisdictions tend to have the highest disability rates. Economy and disability… which is the chicken and which is the egg?

Virginia Public Schools: Better than You Think

Virginia: High educational achievement for moderate expenditures. Source: Cato Institute. (Click for more legible image.)

Which states have the best public education systems in the country? By most rankings, Virginia scores fairly well. U.S. News & World-Report puts Virginia in the No. 12 spot. Education Week grades Virginia B-, considerably better than the national score of C. Forbes ranks Virginia 6th in the nation (7th in quality and 2nd in safety). Given all the scandals and problems we have identified here on Bacon’s Rebellion, it’s frightful to contemplate that Virginia has one of the better public school systems in the country. I shudder to think what’s happening in other states’ schools systems. But the state rankings make it clear that things could be worse… a lot worse.

Now comes a report by the libertarian Cato Institute, which places Virginia at the top of the heap. While Cato’s results undercut the Bacon’s Rebellion narrative that Virginia public schools are badly in need of reform, Cato’s methodology strikes me as valid. Continue reading

Hey, Lowell, Check Out This New Global Warming Post!

Source: Dominion Energy 2018 Integrated Resource Plan

One of my goals in life is to drive Lowell Feld insane. From what I call tell, my insidious plan is working.

Lowell, the hyperbolic publisher of the left-wing Blue Virginia blog, deems me a “climate denier” and an all-around right-wing whack job. A few days ago, he included several of my Bacon’s Rebellion posts in his list of “18 of the Craziest Right-Wing Political Posts of 2018.” His main form of argumentation is taking quotes stripped of context and supporting fact, and dialing up the invective. One piece, he described as “completely baseless” and “crap,” another as “conspiracy theory lunacy,” and another as “a litany … of nonsensical right-wing tropes.” You get the idea.

Given his proclivity for substituting insults for facts and reason, Lowell seems to be losing it. I’m hoping that one more push — this post — will reduce him to gibbering madness. Continue reading