THE hurricane that hit Miami did more than $180 billion in damage to the Florida city. That’s nearly twice the tab of Hurricane Katrina. Climate change?
If so, it was the climate change happening in 1926, when the referenced storm did $76 million in damage. The $180 billion figure is an educated guess based on the worth of a 1926 dollar today and the changes in Miami’s property development and value between then and now.
The estimate comes from Roger Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado. Pielke, writing in USA Today this week, says “there is little evidence to suggest that U.S. hurricanes have become more common or stronger.”
But don’t tell Barack Obama. He’s counting on public sentiment about climate change to shift toward his own views, based in part on the “settled science” that major weather events prove man’s effect on the environment.
In a New York Times interview last Sunday, Obama said climate change shows up in weather disasters like hurricanes and droughts. “Those start multiplying,” the forecaster-in-chief said, “then people start thinking, ‘You know what? We’re going to reward politicians who talk to us honestly and seriously about this problem.’”
Here’s some honesty, Mr. President: Florida has gone more than 3,000 days without a hurricane. The current U.S. major hurricane “drought” is the longest since at least 1900.
Never mind. A single big storm this summer will result in Obama and others thundering about how mankind is “polluting the weather.”
Wolves at the door
Politicians often rely on tales of past financial challenges to connect with economically struggling voters. One wonders if that’s what Hillary Clinton was attempting to do this week when she told “ABC World News,” “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education — it was not easy.” This tale of woe might be compelling except for one thing: As president of the United States, Bill Clinton and his family enjoyed a six-figure income and had their housing, transportation and food supplied by the taxpayers. Yet somehow they still found a way to emerge from the White House “dead broke.” We doubt that most citizens will sympathize, with many people more than willing to endure such “challenges” in their own lives.
If you’re facing east in Oklahoma, you might feel a tug on your right side. Call it the magnet factor of Texas. Recent U.S. Census Bureau figures show that five of 10 fastest-growing big cities in the U.S. are south of the Red River. Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth and Dallas continue to attract people from other states in search of better job opportunities, a low cost of living and no personal income tax. Texas isn’t just a magnet. It’s also glue stick, says University of North Carolina demographics expert Rebecca Tippett. “North Carolina and Texas are very similar in that they’re both what we call ‘sticky states’ — the percentage of adults born here who are still living here is very high,” Tippett told stateline.org, “plus we are both really large migrant destinations.” Charlotte, N.C., is No. 4 on the big-city magnet list, behind Austin, San Antonio and Houston and ahead of New York and Denver. A winning combination for growth: Attract “outsiders” and keep the natives so content that they’ll stick around.
Score one for students
Public school students in California have reason to celebrate. A superior court judge sided with plaintiffs — nine students — who sued over the state’s teacher tenure system. Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu struck down tenure protection, the state’s “last-in-first-out” retention policy and existing disciplinary policy. The students argued that the rules leave so many bad teachers in the system that some students — particularly low-income and minority students — don’t get the education guaranteed in the state’s constitution. “Evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly inefficient teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience,” Treu wrote. “There is also no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.” Teachers’ unions, naturally, decried the decision. An appeal is certain. The issue is far from settled, but this is an encouraging start.
Bit of a stretch?
Good thing Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid has a medical degree rather than a law degree. Otherwise we’d question the intelligence of Shadid’s statement that an economic development incentive is the equivalent of felony extortion. Actually, we are questioning his intelligence for saying that a proposal to incentivize location of a sporting goods chain store within the city limits is tantamount to criminal extortion. Fortunately, Shadid was alone among council members in holding this view. A lot of money is at stake here (potentially $3.5 million), so the councilman had every right to say the money could be better spent on city services. But criminal extortion? That’s like saying a successful Oklahoman who threatens to relocate to Texas, to avoid paying a state personal income tax, is extorting the Legislature for taxing incomes here. People and retailers make choices based on incentives all the time. The city is under no obligation to extend incentives. It’s a choice — one that’s made more important because Oklahoma cities are so dependent on sales tax receipts that store siting decisions can make a huge difference in revenues over the long term.
Money matters (or not)
There were many reasons why U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary election Tuesday. Money was not one of them. Cantor, R-Va., spent more than $5 million trying to get past the primary to the general election. His opponent, college professor and political novice Dave Brat, spent less than $125,000. Yet Brat won by 12 percentage points, a landslide by any measure and particularly stunning given Cantor’s experience and his standing in the House. “The reason we won this campaign is because dollars don’t vote, you do,” Brat told supporters Tuesday night. Does big money help win elections? Sure. But as this result showed, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything.
Credit where it’s due
They say success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. That’s certainly the case with Dave Brat’s upset of incumbent U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. Several national tea party groups cited Brat’s victory as proof of their continuing influence. There’s just one problem: Those groups didn’t support Brat. FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth, Heritage Action, and the Madison Project all issued statements tying Brat to their cause. But as T. Becket Adams noted in the Washington Examiner, those groups had nothing to do with Brat’s win. “… although Brat’s shocking victory can certainly be attributed to the tireless work of grassroots activists in his district, it’s important to remember that the aforementioned outside Tea Party groups offered him zero support,” Adams wrote. “Not one penny.” As we’ve noted before, GOP voters are hardly walking in lockstep with their self-proclaimed national tea party “leaders.”