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Wednesday
Jan232013

Media Watch--Monitor And UL Both Right

Who would have believed it?

Within two short days, I strongly agree with editorials in both the Union Leader and the Concord Monitor.  The Monitor expresses many of the same ideas I did last week about how straight ticket voting is a terrible idea.  There's very little chance that the bill in question will ever get to Governor Hassan's desk; in fact, I'm hearing it might not even get a majority of Republicans in the House.

I seem to be agreeing with the Monitor more and more these days, but then, it's the Union Leader with which I agree today.  Raising the minimum wage is not a good idea; it'll only hurt those it's meant to help.  As a Libertarian, I tend to think something totally anathema to my Democratic friends; we should probably get rid of the minimum wage altogether and let the free market decide.  The minimum wage increase will most likely...sadly...pass the House and be killed...hopefully...in the Senate.

I seem to be agreeing more and more with the Union Leader these days as well...hmm...must be I'm developing more of a split personality than ever.  Now if only some people could tell the New Hampshire Chiefs of police how raffling off guns is not a very good idea, that it sends a pretty bad idea at the time hardly a week goes by without another story of gun violence. Maybe the Monitor and Leader could agree with each other on the raffle idea (take it from Hanover Represenative Sharon Nordgren).

Lip Synch This!--On the silly front, consider this.  While I was waiting for my oil to be changed last evening, I first heard of Beyonce's reputed lip synching of the national anthem at President Obama's inaugural (it was Wolf Blitzer reporting on CNN which I don't get at home).  The woman in the waiting room next to me expressed my thoughts perfectly, "Who cares?"  Actually I would have said, "Who the Hell cares?"  Between then and this morning, I must have heard the same story a half dozen times on various media outlets (and I'm not watching all that much...I'm trying to get through Don Quixote these days...talk about a LONG classic).  Who the hell cares if she was lip synching?  It was a great rendition of a song not all that easy to sing; it's not like she was pulling a Milli Vanilli and not singing at all!

Here are both editorials.

Editorial: Straight-ticket voting is still a bad idea

Published in print: Tuesday, January 22, 2013

You know what was a terrible idea? Straight-ticket voting.

You know what was a great idea? The successful effort in 2007 to repeal straight-ticket voting.

You know what’s a terrible idea? The 2013 effort to bring back straight-ticket voting.

Every session of the New Hampshire Legislature brings some oldies but goodies. Some fights are worth fighting over and over again. This one surely isn’t.

Straight-ticket voting is the provision, eliminated in New Hampshire six years back, that allows residents to breeze into the voting booth, put a check next to the “Republican” or “Democratic” box and breeze back out – never studying the ballot, never considering the relative merits of the candidates.

In the old days, when the Republican Party ruled these parts, straight-ticket voting was largely a boon to the GOP. Legislation to bring it back is sponsored by three Republican lawmakers, though it’s not particularly clear that Republicans would still be the beneficiaries. In communities like Concord, after all, there might be more Democratic straight-ticket voters that Republicans, judging by the recent election results. We’ll leave that sort of partisan analysis aside, though, and ask legislators to consider a half-dozen reasons to quickly stop this bad bill:

∎ Straight-ticket voting benefits political parties – sometimes at the expense of the state. There’s no good reason for the government to encourage that.

∎ Straight-ticket voting encourages convenience, even ignorance, over thoughtfulness. Indeed, the sponsors describe their bill as a way to speed up voting and reduce long lines at the polls. Some things, though, are worth waiting for. Giving our neighbors a few minutes to actually think about their vote is one of them.

∎ Straight-ticket voting benefits candidates who aren’t quite ready for prime-time. Should candidates unwilling to work hard to get elected benefit simply from the “R” or “D” after their name? What about those who use the party label out of convenience, regardless of how well their views line up with their adopted party? What about those who simply aren’t up to the task?

∎ Straight-ticket voting hurts candidates who might be just what their community needs. If it’s a big year for the Democrats, sensible Republican candidates might have a hard time overcoming a straight-ticket tide. Ditto for smart Democrats in big GOP years.

∎ Before it was eliminated, straight-ticket voting caused real confusion among the vote-counters. What were they to make of voters who checked the “straight-ticket” option and then also marked their ballots for some specific candidates – including, perhaps, candidates of a different party? Could they be confident that they understood such voters’ intentions?

∎ There’s nothing stopping voters from casting a vote for every Democrat or every Republican on the ballot these days. And the act of putting a mark next to the name of a candidate in each race is hardly onerous.

Is it hopelessly idealistic to imagine an election system in which voters are encouraged to learn all they can about the candidates, weigh their merits, put party aside and vote for those who will do the most good for their community, state and country? No.

New laws should solve real problems. This proposal seeks to fix something that’s not broken. If the Legislature doesn’t kill it, Gov. Maggie Hassan should.

Want to hurt workers? Raise the minimum wage

Why raise New Hampshire's minimum wage? The cosponsor of a new bill to do that has a novel theory.

In the last session, legislators repealed New Hampshire's minimum wage law, defaulting to the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. As expected, Democratic members of the House are pushing to reestablish the state minimum at $8 an hour and raise it every two years.

Rep. Timothy Horrigan, D-Durham, a sponsor of that bill (House Bill 127), said, "I think wages in general are too low for working people. We seem to have accepted in the private sector that people doing the actual work, people at the bottom of the ladder, people out in the field, haven't had a pay raise for years. We sort of accept that as a fact of life, and now it's being used against public workers who have been attacked for having the audacity to ask for a pay raise."

This is an extraordinary comment. Horrigan admits that the goal of his bill really is to raise pay for public employees.

What about the private sector? HB 127 would hurt low-wage workers, not help them. Economists David Neumark and William Wascher found in their 2006 National Bureau of Economic Research review of more than 100 minimum wage studies that "the oft-stated assertion that recent research fails to support the traditional view that the minimum wage reduces the employment of low-wage workers is clearly incorrect.... In addition, among the papers we view as providing the most credible evidence, almost all point to negative employment effects, both for the United States as well as for many other countries."

They also found that "the studies that focus on the least-skilled groups provide relatively overwhelming evidence of stronger disemployment effects for these groups." That is, raising the minimum wage causes even more of the lowest-skilled people not to be hired.

If New Hampshire legislators want to hurt low-skilled workers, they will hardly find a quicker and more effective method than raising the minimum wage.

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