Richmond and DC Among Cities People Are Most Eager to Ditch

by Don Rippert

Anywhere but here. Moneywise Publishing is citing a “study” detailing the most and least desirable American cities based on real estate inquiries. Real estate brokerage firm Redfin tracks Americans using their web site to find new places to live.  According to the company, 25% of people browsing home listings online are “looking to get outta town.” Tracking the places people want to leave isn’t very encouraging for Virginia. Both the Richmond metropolitan area and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area are on the list of 19 top places to leave. Redfin also tracks the 10 places people most want to go. No Virginia city makes that list. Continue reading

An Alternative College Ranking

Coinciding with our discussions here on Bacon’s Rebellion about higher education, I just received the annual Washington Monthly issue with its college rankings.

The Monthly takes a significantly different approach to ranking colleges and universities than does the U.S. News and World Report. It identifies the aspects it feels are important in making a college or university “good.” After establishing those qualities, it uses quantitative measures to rank each school.

The three basic qualities, or functions, if you will, are: Social Mobility, Research, and Service. In its methodology, these qualities are weighted equally. To come up with its overall rankings, the magazine uses the following quantitative measures: Continue reading

Catholic Bashing No Disqualification for Northam?

Gail Gordon Donegan and Unidentified Friend

by Steve Haner

Try this thought experiment. Imagine a headline in the state capitol newspaper reading: “Appointee’s posts disparage Republicans and others on the web.” Or swap Democrats for Republicans.  Would anybody bat an eye?

Instead, of course, the story in the Richmond Times Dispatch is about Governor Ralph Northam’s recent appointment of a vicious Catholic-hating Democratic activist from Alexandria to the Virginia Council on Women. If her appointment is not withdrawn and her rhetoric not repudiated by first Mass on Sunday morning, shame on Governor Northam.

Whoever vetted the appointment should go with her. If reporter Patrick Wilson found all his examples, or they were fed to him within a short time, there no excuse for the Secretary of the Commonwealth missing them. One must assume the office did not. This should blow up into as large a blot on Northam’s record as the yearbook photo and his dithering responses, some of which must have been lies. Continue reading

Important Updates in the World of Bacon

Introducing a new feature on Bacon’s Rebellion — our healthy eating recommendations. As all good Baconauts know, it is our personal responsibility to embrace good nutrition to maintain our health and control health care costs. It’s important to eat lots of salad.

Hat tip: John Butcher

Of, course, no survivalist’s pantry would be complete without Yoder’s canned bacon — with an astounding 10-year shelf life! Only $189.99 on Amazon.com for a case of 12 cans!! Without bacon, there’s not much point in outliving the collapse of civilization.

Finally, an update on the growing list of animal enemies… First they came for the pigs. Then they came for the cats. Now they’re coming for the dogs. From today’s Washington Post: “The dog is one of the world’s most destructive mammals. Brazil proves it.”

— JAB

The Death of David Koch

by Peter Galuszka

Imagine the coincidence. On Friday I was reading business writer Christopher Leonard’s excellent “Kochland” book on the hard-right, billionaire industrialists, Charles and David Koch. I put my Nook down for a moment to check the news. David Koch had died at age 79.

He, his brother, the rest of the family and their sprawling, secretive business empire based on oil trading and petrochemicals are fascinating topics. And, the Kochs, especially Charles, have had a huge influence in Virginia as they spread their gospel of free market libertarianism.

David Koch, who lived in New York City rather than Wichita, the headquarters of Koch Industries, had been known as a man-about-town.He was a bachelor until later in life and gave freely to medical research and the arts.

Gifts include $100 million for cancer research art his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he still held the record for the most points ever scored in a school basketball game. He also gave $100 million to underwrite a ballet theater at the Lincoln Center in New York.

When he died, David and his brother were each worth about $50 billion. They got their money by running the family business, which buys and sells oil and distributes it through pipelines. They also have petrochemical plants where they make plastics used in windows, clothing and a lot more.

With Charles taking the lead, they developed a tough corporate control system that involved loyalty, secrecy and tough discipline. According to Leonard’s even-handed book, they Kochs were accused of making millions by cheating oil producers by under-reporting the amount of crude oil they received. The company settled the case. That and smart business led to success. Continue reading

Does the Left Have an Understandable Position on Immigration and How Much Does It Matter?

by Don Rippert

Debate: The debate on immigration in America continues to rage. People who hold right-of-center political beliefs seem to think that the U.S. immigration laws should be vigorously enforced. There may be some “wiggle room” on the right. For example, some conservatives believe there should be exceptions to deportation for those illegally in the United States so long as they have been here a fairly long time, paid taxes, stayed out of legal trouble, etc. Without commenting on the reasonableness of the conservative position, it is understandable.

The position held by Americans with left-of-center political beliefs is hard to fathom. While few liberals will openly say they are in favor of “open borders” the sum total of their beliefs seems to indicate that “open borders” is exactly what they seek.

This issue is important for Virginia because some areas of Virginia have very low numbers of foreign born residents, while other areas have very high numbers of foreign-born residents. For example, the 2010 Census found that 12.9% of people living in America were foreign born. Virginia had 11.4% of its residents recorded as being foreign born. However, Arlington County (Virginia’s 6th most populous county) had a foreign born percentage of 28% in 2000. Social services are affected by immigration. The cost of teaching English as a second language in public schools is directly impacted by the percentage of residents born in foreign (non English speaking) countries.

Author’s apology in advance – this is a long post. By far the longest I have ever published. However, this is a complex topic with both liberals and conservatives more than willing to misrepresent the data. I saw no way to properly handle the topic with brevity.

Continue reading

Community Colleges and the Opportunity Society

Increase in undergraduate, in-state tuition & fees between 2015-16 academic year and 2019-20 academic year. Data source: SCHEV

by James A. Bacon

What does it take to create an Opportunity Society? One critical element is providing Virginians with the skills they need to be employable in the occupations of the future. Nearly three out of five jobs created between now and 2026 will be “middle skill” jobs requiring community- or career-college training, not a four-year college degree. A majority of Virginians, therefore, will look to the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) for their ticket to the middle class.

Virginia’s community college system doesn’t get its due. The VCCS board is acutely aware of the affordability issue, and it has made it a priority to limit increases in tuition and fees. I thought it would be interesting to contrast the VCCS’s success in that regard to the runaway tuition-and-fees increases at Virginia’s public four-year residential colleges. I took the latest data from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Tuition and Fees database to compare increases between the 2015-16 academic year and the current 2019-20 academic year.

You can see from the chart above that the community colleges have done a far superior job of keeping charges under control. Community colleges on average increased T&F only 8.1% over the four-year period compared to a range for the four-years of 10.1% for Virginia State University to 22% for the College of William & Mary. (Richard Bland, a two-year residential college is an extreme outlier.)

What accounts for the difference? Continue reading

The New African Migration

Image source: Pew Research Center

by James A. Bacon

While the United States indulges in an orgy of introspection over the 400th anniversary of enslaved Africans arriving on the shores of Virginia, it might be worthwhile reminding ourselves that that was then, and this is now. It may have escaped the notice of the New York Times, but the country has changed.

Africans are coming voluntarily to the United States by the tens of thousands every year. And, in an irony of ironies according to a 2017 Pew Research Center report, African immigrants are most likely to live in the South — 39% reside in the former center of slavery compared to 25% in the Northeast, and much smaller percentages in the Midwest and West. Virginia, by the way is one of seven states with African-born populations of more than 100,000.

Historians estimate that 400,000 enslaved Africans came to North America during the 200-year period in which the trans-Atlantic slave trade was practiced in the English colonies and the newly independent United States. Pew estimates that 2 million Africans (the vast majority of whom are from sub-Saharan countries) have emigrated to the U.S. since 1990. Americans need to be honest about the nation’s past of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and discrimination. But we also need to be honest about the nation that we have become. America is a land of opportunity for all people of all races and ethnicities.

Do “White People” Suppress Black History?

Christy Coleman

by James A. Bacon

Christy Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond and an African-American, professes to know how white people think. Here’s what she said yesterday at a Richmond forum that, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, was organized “to dispel racism against African Americans.”

White people want to feel good about their history, and that means everyone else has to forget about theirs. Well, I’m not in that business.

Wow.

First point: I’m such a dinosaur I can remember what it was like growing up in the 1960s when I was taught that it was wrong to make sweeping generalities about the people of other races and cultures. That was called “stereotyping.” When applied to blacks and minorities, stereotyping was considered a form of racism. Now, apparently, it is deemed acceptable to make sweeping derogatory generalities about “white people.” Continue reading

Dominion Must Move Customers To Competitors

by Steve Haner

The State Corporation Commission Wednesday granted motions by two competitive service providers and ordered Dominion Energy Virginia to hand over various customers.  The two companies, Direct Energy Business LLC and Calpine Energy Solutions LLC, offer a 100 percent renewable energy option in the monopoly utility’s territory.

“The Commission has found that: (a) absent the instant order, Direct Energy and Calpine will suffer irreparable harm; (b) Direct Energy and Calpine have no adequate remedy at law; and (c) the Commission is satisfied of Direct Energy’s and Calpine’s equity,” reads a footnote in the order (here). Continue reading

Surplus? How About $455 Million Windfall Tax Hike

Income breakdown and average “windfall” tax in 2018 on the taxpayers who paid more. All averaged more than $220. Source: Secretary of Finance and Ernst & Young. Click to expand.

by Steve Haner

Virginia ended the last fiscal year with about $797 million more in revenue than projected, and the Northam Administration credits $455 million of that to higher taxes on about 30% of taxpayers caused by conforming to the new federal tax law. More than 700,000 tax returns stopped claiming state itemized deductions, accounting for much of that.

The tax conformity windfall amount was calculated by outside consultant Ernst and Young, Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne told a meeting of the combined legislative money committees Tuesday. That is not the same firm hired last year to project the state tax impact of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Layne said he wanted a different team looking at the results.

The E&Y report is the final 23 pages of Layne’s slide presentation to the committees, here. Continue reading

Crash and Burn: How Misguided Policies Ruin Lives

by James A. Bacon

Give Richmond educators credit for brutal honesty. A presentation of the school system’s five-year plan surfaced some devastating data: Only one in ten Richmond high school students is ready for college and a career, according to College Board criteria. If it’s any comfort, that number is up from 9% in the 2017-18 school year.

“Finally we can demonstrate with empirical evidence that RPS has failed our students and our families and our city,” said Board member Jonathan Young, as quoted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. That sentiment was echoed by Superintendent Jason Kamras. “It’s devastating. We, the adults, have failed our kids for years.”

Indeed, the educational system has not only failed Richmond’s predominantly African-American students, it has shepherded many young people into college programs from which they subsequently dropped out. Left unsaid in the analysis is that college drop-outs are typically saddled with thousands of dollars in student debt, which many cannot repay. In other words, the coupling of high expectations (every student has a right to attend college) with abysmal performance is ruining thousands of lives. Continue reading

Slow and Steady Wins the Budget Race

by James A. Bacon

Thanks in part to a $797 million surplus in last year’s budget, Virginia will build up its budget reserves to $1.6 billion by the end of the 2020 fiscal year, and Governor Ralph Northam is promising to take a “cautious and strategic” approach to the next biennial budget.

“During the next budget cycle we will continue laying a strong foundation for Virginia — preparing for a rainy day while investing responsibility in our long-term growth,” the governor said in an address to General Assembly budget committees.

Northam highlighted the $20 billion in economic development announcements made since he has taken office, more than any previous administration in a full four-year term. But looking ahead, he took note of increasing economic uncertainty heightened by the trade war with China. Speaking personally, he described how retaliatory tariffs could keep the soy beans grown on his family farm in the Eastern Shore “in the fields if we can’t sell them.” Continue reading

Best Gun Violence Idea Not Proposed in VA?

Grandstanding with guns on the House of Delegates floor. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bob Brown)

by Steve Haner

The most effective gun violence prevention idea presented to the Virginia State Crime Commission Monday was one seldom discussed in the state:  Add violent misdemeanors to the list of convictions that prevent gun purchases from a licensed dealer.

Four states, including Maryland, have that provision and a Boston University study found it has lowered the firearms homicide rate better than 25 percent in those states. Right now, extending the ban from felons to violent misdemeanants is not among the scores of bills pending at Virginia’s special session on gun violence.

One of the least effective proposals, but one always at the top of many lists?  Prohibiting the sale of so-called assault or assault-style rifles.  The research on that is clear, Boston University research fellow Claire Boine said in one of the most useful evidence-based presentations from the long day. You can see her slides here and the full study hereContinue reading

Educators Focus on Critical 3rd-Grade English Pass Rates

Virginia educators are honing in on a key metric, the Standards of Learning pass rate for 3rd-grade English, that needs focused attention. One in four Virginia 3rd graders aren’t reading at grade level by the 3rd grade, and SOL test scores fell for the third straight year, from a 76% pass rate to a 71% pass rate in the 2018-19 school year, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Third-grade English reading skills are deemed especially critical in childhood educational development. Third grade represents the transition point between learning to read and reading to learn. Studies suggest that half of what students are taught later in school will be incomprehensible if they are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

There seems to be no consensus among experts quoted in the article about what to do. Ideas range from hiring more reading specialists to adopting phonics-oriented curricula, to confronting food insecurity. Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said Virginia Department of Education staff will take a close look at schools that did not see drops in SOL scores to see what they might be doing right and whether their practices can be replicated.

That’s a dandy idea. I have some suggestions… Continue reading