Charlie Arlinghaus

December 18, 2013

As originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader

This week, New Hampshire achieved the dubious distinction of being put of the “Judicial Hellholes” watch list. New Hampshire’s economic competitiveness depends on more than taxes and on being something slightly more compelling than “better than New Jersey.”

The phrase New Hampshire Advantage is bandied about so often that it has become a foggy description for politicians to use as a generic aspiration. In reality, the phrase is meant to acknowledge that economic development is a contest for jobs in which states seek a competitive advantage over other states.

New Hampshire’s has long enjoyed a tax advantage over other states. But our advantages go beyond that. There is a general perception – and perceptions matter a great deal in the competition for jobs – that New Hampshire is not overregulated and puts up fewer obstacles to business operation than other states.

In recent years, business look more and more to some other measures as a sign of whether a state is a good location. Worrisome trends don’t threaten all at once. Instead they slowly eat away at your advantage and you gain fewer jobs than you might have. The difference between slow growth and strong  growth is never dramatic. Rather it’s cumulative over time.

The American Tort Reform Association this week released its annual list of judicial hellholes. Fortunately, New Hampshire doesn’t join the likes of West Virginia in this avoid-at-all-costs group. However, depressingly, we’ve been added the watch list as a sign that things aren’t going well and people who care about this things may want to tread cautiously with regard to New Hampshire.

The concern for policymakers is that the phrase people-who-care-about-these-things describes a demographic that includes not a few random cranks but instead most business leaders and economic development professionals. When your reputation gets out of your control, you become, well, New Jersey.

Consider that New Hampshire, despite being on the ATRA watch list still manages a slightly better than mediocre rating from the most important legal climate report – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Legal Climate Rankings. New Hampshire is 21st in the country. Unfortunately, over the last five years we’ve slipped gradually from 6th in the country.

Trends mater and ours isn’t good. We’ve fallen behind Delaware and Maine and Vermont and Massachusetts and New York. The good news for us: we still get to claim “better than New Jersey” and hold that basket case out as a cautionary tale.

New Jersey is 32nd in the nation and an example for us of what might happen if we aren’t careful. While we hit the watch list this year, New Jersey and Atlantic City in particular regularly shows up of the Judicial Hellhole poster list. More important, their status hurts jobs.

In New Hampshire, according to the National Center for State Courts we have about 4000 civil cases per 100,000 people. New Jersey almost triples that at 11,000. The impact of that litigation frenzy is predictable.

At one time, New Jersey was a very competitive state. Their tax and business climate attracted jobs from their neighbors like New Hampshire has done in recent decades. Today, the last vestige of that is low gas prices.

At one time, the pharmaceutical was centered in New Jersey making it the envy of states in the region and around the country. But litigation is at the core of that industry fleeing. Although 20% of all Pharma jobs used to be in New Jersey, that number has been declining for years.

There is a clear market signal that indicates why. Over 90% of all tort plaintiffs in pharmaceutical cases are from out of state. Plaintiffs who are venue shopping and then decide to choose your state is a message to companies to get out and getting out they’ve been doing. New Jersey isn’t doing much about it except losing jobs that have to go somewhere.

Historically, New Hampshire looks for just this sort of opportunity. Something that makes business flee a state that can’t get its act together should be food for our development. Unfortunately, we’re moving in the wrong direction. Sliding from 6th to 21st sends almost as bad a market signal as New Jersey and encourages companies to seek other pastures.

Any economic development plan can look to New Jersey as a wonderful example – of what not to do. But we should do more. It’s all well and good to be “better than New Jersey” but sometimes better than a pathetic basket case isn’t quite enough.

Josh Elliott-Traficante

December 19, 2013

The aerospace giant Boeing is shopping around for a new location to produce one of its new wide body jets, the 777X. Rather than a design a new plane from scratch, Boeing has opted to reinvent and update its popular 777 model; hence the ‘X’. The company is running into trouble with its unions at its major plant in Everett, Washington, over a host of issues but largely over a switch from a traditional pension to a 401(k) style plan for retirement.

These difficulties have led the company to start looking at other states and locations to either build major components or the entire plane. It has already sent out requests for proposals to between 12 and 15 states. Included is a list of what Boeing is looking for in a location, such as an airport with a 9,000 foot runway, as well as easy road, highway, rail, and port access. These are requirements that one would expect most large manufacturing companies to look for when looking to relocate.

Where it gets interesting is what Boeing expects each state to offer as sweeteners (read bribes) to get the 777X plant. Among other ‘desired incentives’ (again, read bribes) is a “(s)ite and facilities at no or very low cost and infrastructure improvements provided by the location.” The company anticipates that the cost of upgrading existing facilities and machinery alone to run about $10 billion. Basically Boeing wants a state to pay all, or most of the costs for building and equipping a new production line.

As if that were not enough, once built, the company also wants preferential tax treatment with all relevant tax liabilities being “significantly reduced.”

Over the top as these requests are, states are actually submitting proposals. Washington State recently passed a package consisting of $8.7 billion in tax breaks for Boeing over 16 years; Missouri is offering $1.7 billion. Due to the confidential nature, most of the dollar figures for proposals from the other states responding is largely unknown.

While it is understandable that many states would be eager to entice a major manufacturer to relocate, these onetime perks not only often become permanent, but it encourages companies to come back asking for more.

Take Washington State for example, Boeing already has a massive facility there and the state is offering nearly $9 billion just for the company to stay put. Illinois in particular is littered with examples. After an income tax hike in 2011, Caterpillar, Sears, and John Deere all announced they were considering moving their headquarters to states with a more favorable tax environment. In response, Illinois passed nearly $300 million in incentives for the companies to remain in the state.

These types of policies not only encourages other companies to do the same but emboldens those that did get breaks to ask for more the next time around. If you give a mouse a cookie….

Beyond the sticker shock and poor policy behind these tax payer financed incentives is an issue of fairness. By offering incentives, the state picks winners and losers in the market, with the large and well-connected companies getting the reward. The result: a tax and regulatory system that favors a select group of companies, chosen by the government. Smaller companies on the other hand, are not only left without support but have to pay higher taxes and abide by stricter regulations as well. One of the key tenants of a free market is that there is one set of rules that all players abide by.

Thankfully, New Hampshire has, for the most part, resisted the temptation of offering these bribes to relocate here, instead relying on the New Hampshire Advantage to encourage companies to set up shop.

Are there changes that states can make to improve the state’s business climate to not only keep existing businesses but draw new ones as well? Absolutely. Low taxes, educated workforces, low energy prices, and common sense regulatory burdens are just a few of the qualities that companies look for when choosing where to open a new facility.

These types of reforms help all of the businesses in the state, not just the chosen few. Just say no to crony capitalism.

Grant D. Bosse

As Originally Published in the Concord Monitor

I don’t think I would have done well in 1621. I haven’t been hiking or camping in years. My shooting skills are limited to paper silhouettes. And the only fires I’ve lit recently have been in a barbecue grill or a wood pellet stove. I don’t even want to think about going through the day without hot and cold running water.

The Pilgrims of Plymouth who survived two months at sea and a brutal New England winter celebrated their first harvest in the autumn of 1621, inviting the nearby Wampanoag tribe for a feast of thanksgiving. The Pilgrims likely went out “fowling” for local ducks, while the Wampanoag brought several deer. The meals would have likely included squash, onions, cabbage, shellfish and a mashed corn porridge known as samp. Following the feast, the Detroit Lions began an annual tradition by losing by three touchdowns.

In a letter back to England, future colonial governor Edward Winslow described the abundance of the New World:

“For fish and fowl, we have great abundance. Fresh cod in the summer is but coarse meat with us. Our bay is full of lobsters all the summer, and affords a variety of other fish. In September we can take a hogshead of eels in a night, with small labor, and can dig them out of their beds all the winter. We have mussels and others at our doors. Oysters we have none near, but we can have them brought by the Indians when we will. All the springtime the earth sends forth naturally very good salad herbs. Here are grapes, white and red, and very sweet and strong also; strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, etc.; plums of three sorts, white, black, and red, being almost as good as a damson; abundance of roses, white, red and damask; single, but very sweet indeed.”

Winslow lost his wife over the first winter. He soon married Susannah White, who had just been widowed as well. Yet his letter proclaims the bounty and opportunity of his new home, and gives advice for the “industrious men” who would join them.

We laud the resilience of this small band of religious refugees, seeking freedom of worship across the ocean from civilization.

Yet we should not glorify the harsh conditions that they survived. Self-sufficiency is a path to abject poverty. I’m thankful I can rely on strangers for my daily needs, and don’t have to worry about where I’m getting my food, water and firewood as the days become shorter and the nights colder.

I have no idea who installed the plumbing in my house, or who designed the two-in-one showerhead that helps clear the cobwebs out of my brain each morning. No one at Crest or Oral B went to work out of altruistic concern for my dental hygiene. I didn’t promise anyone I’d go get a coffee and a bagel this morning, but both were conveniently available on command.

We owe our current prosperity, literally unthinkable in 1621, not to self-sufficiency or charity, but through the self-interested actions of people we’ll never meet. The tremendous efficiencies unleashed through trade and specialization are the true American cornucopia.

Living standards are higher for everyone, and so are our standards for what is acceptable.

Fortunately, the wealth created through the free market affords us the opportunity to help those less fortunate. Capitalism is not incompatible with charity, or with safety-net programs funded through government taxation. But it is voluntary private action that creates the resources we would like to redirect to the poor.

The lesson I take from that first Thanksgiving was the cooperation between two very different tribes. The Pilgrims and the Wampanoag helped each other survive, enriching both groups. We have fallen tragically short of that standard so often in the past 400 years, and not only with our treatment of Native American tribes. Our mercantile shortsightedness has led to wars, and slowed the growth in our prosperity.

Civilizations advanced before the spread of economic and political freedom, and we’ll keep moving forward even with an oversized government stifling innovation. But the pace of progress quickens only through trade. Free exchange of goods, services, and most importantly ideas, drives economic expansion. The self-organizing economy vastly outperforms the command economy, as it relies of the diffuse talent and drive of millions, rather than the limited knowledge of a few well-meaning elites. And that’s before we account for the inevitable corruption of central planning.

The Pilgrims would have starved without trade. When I rail against government interference in markets, whether it’s through excessive regulation, protectionism or favoritism toward unions and incumbents firms, it’s not really because I object to the short-term costs of these bad policies. And it’s not because of the corporate conspiracy theories that obsess the modern left. It’s because I don’t want to sacrifice the invisible possibilities of free market progress.

Where we’ll be in 100, or 400 years, is as incomprehensible to me as it would be for Edward Winslow walking into Market Basket. I’m thankful to be living in his unimaginable future, and for what’s next.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to plant some rye seeds if I want to have any bread next spring. Happy Thanksgiving.

– See more at:

Charlie Arlinghaus

October 30, 2013

As originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader

Ray Burton’s political legacy is unusual and unique. Burton made his mark over almost forty years as a public figure like no other in an institution that doesn’t exist anywhere else. While there is much other politicians would do well to copy, it is unlikely he will ever be replaced or duplicated and the state will be poorer because of it.

As America celebrated its bicentennial, Ray Burton was elected for the first of a record 18 times to an office that predates the United States and has now vanished in every other state. Ray’s attention to the details of politics mirrors the detail oriented focus of the institution he serves.

New Hampshire’s Executive Council is a vestige of the old royal councils that existed in England and all of her colonies. One by one the state’s around us eliminated their councils. Maine’s was eliminated in 1975. There is still a council in Massachusetts but it is largely ceremonial.

In New Hampshire, an executive council with five members elected in districts of about 265,000 people must confirm gubernatorial appointments not just for department heads but for hundreds of deputies, division directors, bureau chiefs and oversight board members. In addition, and uniquely, they must approve transfers of funds, contracts, and expenditures greater than $10,000 for the entire five billion dollar state budget.

That level of detail can be tedium for some but puts New Hampshire’s state government under the microscope at a more detailed level than most states.

Ray Burton has become legendary for embracing the detail to the benefit of his North Country district and for making that the defining aspect of his political life and reputation.

Today, most politicians carve out a name in one area and then jockey to parlay that into something else or try to climb the political greasy pole. In forty years, Ray Burton never had a shadow campaign for governor, a manufactured congressional boomlet, or seemed to be jockeying for some lucrative appointment. Instead he became known more and more as the voice and presence of the North Country.

Elected to represent the North of the state, he moved the field of play for the council from the old chamber inside the State House to the mountains and valleys of the state at large.

While the districts are equal in population, Burton’s district is geographically more than half the state. Nonetheless, it is not possible to attend an event of any sort with more than a handful of people anywhere in his district without bumping into Ray Burton. His presence at so many events should be surprising but has come to be expected.

Although Ray always campaigns “as if he’s five votes behind,” he hasn’t had a close election in decades and his frenetic pace is not electoral in nature. His election is assured but just as the council immerses itself in the details of the state so Ray immerses himself in the details of his district. He’s not running for re-election when he goes everywhere instead he’s like the mayor of a giant swath of territory making sure that every pothole gets filled and every bridge is on the list.

When most politicians enter a room people ask “what’s he running for?” and smile politely until that guy leaves and we get on with our business. But Ray’s presence was different. His speeches were never about him but about making sure people knew what was happening and that he could be counted on if they needed help. Tellingly, his retirement announcement this week makes sure people know they can contact his office for anything they need even as he’s battling cancer.

Burton’s humility and dedication to service is unusual in politicians today. It is easy to describe him as old fashioned as if he’s an anachronism and a bit of a switchboard operator in an iPhone world. But that misses what Ray Burton is entirely.

Attention to detail is what modern politics lacks. Ray Burton wanted to know every issue in every town he represented. When the state develops its highway plan, he makes sure small town bridges aren’t overshadowed by large superhighways.

Too often, the biggest and most dramatic projects crowd out little ones that can make more of a difference at lower cost. Too often, powerful people from the biggest cities move to the top of appointment lists over good people from tiny towns far from the media centers.


The Ray Burton approach to detail isn’t archaic, it’s detail oriented. It is the opposite of modern blow dry politics in every good way. Ray’s retirement leaves a hole that must be filled and a personality we’re all going to miss.

Charlie Arlinghaus

October 23, 2013

As originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader

The federal government doesn’t work because it doesn’t have to. Politicians are not capable of compromise in a natural state. They only compromise – or at least seek some vague common ground – when they are required to and have no other choice. Right now, competing politicians can’t even talk to each because they aren’t working on the same problem. State politicians aren’t nobler than the federals. They just have a common goal imposed on them externally.

Washington has long been a dysfunctional circus. Sometimes a new personality enters the mix but the broad insanity continues along more or less the same lines. In recent years, the same insanity seems to occur but slightly more frequently.

Every few months, we are treated to cable news channels blaring very serious with dramatic concern about the latest fiscal cliff or impending government doom. Tax cuts may be about to expire, some automatic spending cut may be about to take place, or perhaps 18% of the federal government might shutdown.

People should be forgiven for thinking each one of these scenarios is partly real but mostly exaggerated for the sake of ratings wars among the half of a percent of the population who bothers paying attention to cable news stations.

I want to believe these are real crises but we seem to have one every few months and they all sound about the same. One party or the other thinks we’ll have Armageddon if we don’t raise something or cut back something. And no one is quite sure the exact day of the supposed deadline. As the deadline approaches, someone clarifies that the actual deadline is a few weeks later than we first thought.

Ultimately, every crisis is averted. The solution is always about the same. As a temporary measure we do some slight variation of what we’ve been doing all along and it buys us another five or six months until we have the debate again. The cable channels will have new music and a new logo. The crisis will have a slightly different name but the big picture is about the same: nothing much changes.

Congress has some trouble changing because this is what they do. They all walk around a really nice old building surrounded by sycophantic staff holding their bags, an array of servants rarely seen outside Downton Abbey, and a very serious press corps talking to them in hushed tones about how statesmanlike they are compared to the other people who are causing the problem. It’s all very intoxicating and theatrical.

What they lack is an agreement on what exactly their job is. These fiscal cliffs all have a nominal deadline but it’s not clear what must be accomplished before the deadline. You would be excused for thinking they had to produce a budget, a balanced and binding document detailing spending and the revenues to pay for that spending. This is what states produce and it makes them functional even when they hate each other every bit as much as the federal patricians do.

But at the federal level we move from one stopgap to another, one temporary fix to another. There are no requirements or real deadlines.

This is their ultimate failure. They don’t act because they don’t have to act. For a politician, nothing is as painful as having to balance a budget. It involves saying no. Not everything can be done. Decisions have to be made, priorities balanced, and someone will be unhappy. No politician in his natural state wants to balance a budget. They do it at the state level because they are forced to. By a date certain, a balanced budget must be passed. No ifs, ands, or buts. If they fail, generally speaking the lower, pre-inflation level of spending for each agency and program continues. Saying yes to a couple of things always trumps saying no to everything so they act.

At the federal level, the consequence of not acting is happy. No decisions, fewer angry people, and all the hard stuff left for future generations. It is conventional wisdom among the establishment of both parties now that actually balancing the budget is both impossible and unnecessary.

Ultimately, federal politicians are children and they need to be treated like children. They need rules imposed on them from the outside. A balanced budget amendment shouldn’t be needed but it is. They need to have a goal imposed on them because they can’t be trusted to do anything responsible.

The sooner we start treating them like adolescents, the sooner they might clean their room.


Charlie Arlinghaus

October 2, 2013

As originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader

We are treated this week to the news that federal politicians of both parties are quite often unable to discuss issues like adults. The quasi-shutdown of the government is the inevitable result of two groups trying very hard to disagree.

On Tuesday, the latest federal deadline came and went the Democratic Senate and Republican House unable to agree on a temporary budget extension. While some news stations treated this as if it were some sort of apocalyptic end of civilization, the truth is slightly less scary. Programs deemed essential, necessary for security, the protection of property, and most major entitlement programs operate unabated. More than 80% of federal employees will still be on the job.

Nonetheless, the country will operate for a brief period without a budget for the first time in 17 years. Although it’s worth noting that in the twenty years prior to that there were 17 shutdowns.

The fight between the House and Senate stems around whether the next temporary budget (Congress has trouble actually budgeting so we needs lots of temporary budgets) should be a clean bill or not. Bills in Congress are generally laden with all sorts of unrelated items, partly as a sort of compromise. To get you to support my idea, we add it into a bill with something else you may care about.

There is no obvious general rule about whether legislatures, federal or state, should govern this way. In divided governments of the sort we have in both Washington and Concord today, some sort of negotiation is necessary and the final product will rarely be ideal for both sides.

Politicians tend to want as narrow a bill as possible if they believe their opposite number can be forced by circumstance to accept something he doesn’t really want. I am fond of quoting Margaret Thatcher’s compelling lament about consensus: “To me consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects.”

The difficulty in finding so-called consensus is just as Thatcher described. Generally, I expect you to abandon what you believe in so that we can do some subset of what I want. I don’t want compromise, I want to get a lot and give up nothing.

The debate over how narrowly constructed a bill should be is that sort of consensus-seeking. Quite often a politician insisting on a clean bill is just as intransigent as one trying to add his pet project to the bill. There is one thing I want to do and I won’t entertain a discussion of anything else.

Sometimes, a political or policy debate occurs in a cleaner environment. At the state level gambling is one of the issues. Gambling doesn’t have to happen and not doing it today doesn’t forestall the option of doing it in the future. There isn’t a window of opportunity we miss. So that debate tends to be self-contained.

Things like budgets and debt ceilings are different. At the federal level, there is a fixed deadline that causes a rush. It can be used by both sides. One side can insist on other issues of importance to them being dealt with in exchange for avoiding the latest fiscal cliff. The other side, because there is another deadline, can refuse the other discussion and insist that no other issues be allowed in.

If there is to be a deal, the deal probably can’t be clean. But it also can’t be a hostage negotiation where one side is asked to accept things they can’t possibly agree to or to which they are fundamentally opposed.

When both sides are relishing a fight, sometimes the honest deal gets lost. Republicans are eager to fight the next election on the very unpopular ObamaCare law and so continually inject it. Democrats refuse to consider anything because they think the partial shutdown will be blamed on Republicans and distract from the unpopular ObamaCare. Each side thinks it is served by its current course of action.

Ideally, every bill would be narrow and discretely focused with no gamesmanship. But that’s impossible in a world of divided government. A good compromise would include something we each want that doesn’t violate fundamental principles. Sadly, the usual path is the one Margaret Thatcher feared and we only agree on the futility of the final product.


Charlie Arlinghaus

September 26, 2013

As originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader

The government-sponsored insurance plan offered through the Obamacare exchange has come under fire this week for leaving behind some of the hospitals in the state to provide a competitive advantage to the others. People naturally bristle at the government picking winners and losers through its plan, but the situation is more complicated than it first appeared.

Under the new federal health care law, every state must have an “exchange” to offer subsidized health insurance. The latest public relations spin would change the name of these exchanges to “marketplaces” but recent events have revealed they aren’t marketplaces and aren’t subject to market forces.

In New Hampshire, only one company signed up to offer the policies to be subsidized through the exchange. That company, Anthem, is the dominant player in the regular market, issuing 56 percent of policies.

Some had hoped for competition in the new federal exchange, but there would be none. To make matters worse, the new plan, with its additional mandates and required coverages, would manage to find affordability only by limiting access to certain providers. If your doctor or hospital is in, you’re happy. But nearly half of the hospitals (and the doctors they own — most doctor’s practices are owned by hospitals) are left behind.

Let’s start by saying that limited networks are a perfectly reasonable way to save some money. Providers are limited as a way to get them to accept below-market prices. Even so, rates will increase for most consumers. Anecdotally, one consumer I know will see his rates double even with none of his doctors in the plan any longer. On the other hand, he’ll get new coverage he doesn’t want, but still has to pay for.

We’re told by Anthem that despite the increased costs over your old plan, the new, limited plan has costs that are 25 percent lower — not lower than what they were but than what they would have otherwise been.

So Anthem chose to offer a plan with limited providers who have all agreed to accept a much lower payment than they would currently receive for private insurance. Currently, Medicaid pays roughly 1/3 of the price charged to regular consumers. The new plan would be closer to Medicaid than regular insurance.

Why would a hospital accept lower payments? First of all, because if the new health care law is unchanged, the exchange will occupy a greater and greater share of the insurance market each year. It’s easier to be in from the beginning than to be left behind and try to claw your way in from the outside. Second, by leaving so many providers behind, those favored by the government-sponsored plan will get a greater share. A hospital can make less money on each patient if it has more of them and its regional competitors start to wither away.

There would be much less consternation about this plan if there were an alternative in the exchange. If one competitor chose to offer a limited network, consumers with such an interest could instead move to a perhaps more expensive but less-limited network. But consumers have no such choice. There is one company offering plans that vary slightly by deductible size. There are no alternatives, no choices, no competition.

At first, public reports seemed to indicate that the hospital left behind had opted out themselves because they chose not to accept lower rates. Instead, we learn that the opposite is true. Hospitals perfectly willing to accept lower rates were nonetheless not allowed in.

Last weekend on Josh McElveen’s public affairs show on WMUR-TV, we saw the head of the hospital in Rochester (New Hampshire’s sixth-largest community) tell Anthem’s CEO he was willing to accept her rates and ask to be allowed onto the list. She pointedly ducked the question, but the answer is clearly no.

The hospitals cut out of the plan are left with two choices: hope the new system fails miserably and is repealed, or quietly go out of business. Consumers like you and me can look forward to higher insurance rates and only hope that our providers make it onto the government approved list.

By Grant Bosse

September 22, 2013

As orginally published in the Concord Monitor

In my grouchier moments, I often complain about how the New Hampshire Legislature wastes so much time and energy debating do-nothing resolutions, like designating the Official State Vegetable or Official State Color. These bills often stem from requests from Cub Scouts or elementary school classes, and I bemoan the fact that fourth-graders are in charge at the State House.

I’m beginning to think fourth-graders would be an improvement.

The immaturity and irresponsibility that passes for politics today is staggering. I’ve got nothing against snarky comments and the occasional stunt to draw attention to an issue. But it’s gotten to the point that we just can’t take politicians seriously.

Take for instance the false outrage when health care expert Avik Roy proposed a low-cost, high-deductible plan as an alternative to expanding current Medicaid benefits to higher-income people. Roy presented the broad outlines of such a plan before the Commission to Study the Expansion of Medicaid Eligibility, which you would think would be interested in studying the costs and benefits of various way to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Apparently not. Roy’s testimony hadn’t stop echoing through the halls of the Legislative Office Building before the high-pitched shrieks of Democrats drowned it out.

I’m not saying they have to agree with Roy’s ideas. They clearly prefer massive increases in federal entitlements to any consumer-based approach to lowering health care costs, and that’s okay. But people purporting to study such a complex subject should avoid instantaneous demonization of new ideas, unless they don’t care about their own credibility.

Perhaps the most juvenile political spat of the last week broke out following the announcement that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley would headline the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in November. The Republican State Committee sniped that Democrats were bringing in a liberal income-tax supporter and “third-tier presidential candidate.” Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley responded by mocking a GOP fundraiser with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. I wish they would both go to their rooms so the grown-ups could finish talking.

First of all, New Hampshire loves third-tier presidential candidates. They keep our hotels and political hacks in business. Second, O’Malley served as inspiration for The Wire’s Tommy Carcetti, one of the best television characters ever created. The smart, ambitious and casually corrupt Carcetti illustrated the failure of political institutions on a show dedicated to the failure of institutions. And finally, I don’t care enough about party heads bickering about ticket sales to have a third point.

Of course, the grandstanding isn’t confined to New Hampshire. In Washington, Sen. Ted Cruz is attempting to set the international indoor record. The Texas Republican has jumped out in front of the defund ObamaCare effort and promises to block any bill that keeps government running unless it also strips funding for the health care law.

Cruz has spent the past month building himself up as a champion of conservative principles beset by a herd of RINOs. But now he admits that he doesn’t have the votes to prevent Harry Reid and his Democratic colleagues from restoring ObamaCare funding to the continuing resolution passed by the House this week.

Lots of people have been trying to tell this to Cruz, but he wasn’t listening. Faced with certain defeat on the Senate floor, Cruz now insists that his doomed plan can work. If the House and Senate end up shutting down the government, Cruz thinks the public will blame President Obama for refusing a sign a bill that never made it to his desk.

Cruz is making it harder to get rid of a law that’s reached Michael Bay levels of disaster. ObamaCare should be defunded, delayed and eventually repealed. I don’t disagree with his goal. But his “hold my breath until I turn blue” parliamentary tactics discredit that position.

But even Cruz hasn’t been acting as childishly as our own Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. As former state senator Jim Rubens announced his campaign to challenge Shaheen next year, the Democrat’s camp was shamelessly peddling a groundless smear that Rubens blamed working women for a rise in mass shootings.

Rubens, a hardcore policy wonk known for his expertise on electric rates, school choice and gambling, wrote a book a few years ago called OverSuccess. It includes a chapter arguing that men face greater social pressure to succeed, and increased failure has contributed to increased male violence, among other social ills. I’m not persuaded by Rubens’s conclusions, but it’s a thoroughly researched, thoughtfully presented attempt to tackle real problems.

Shaheen’s camp responded by calling Rubens a sexist pig. Clearly, she’d prefer to be running against Todd Akin. She should be ashamed. But this is the same candidate who once – in a flap about legislation to ban “crush” videos – accused Sen. John E. Sununu of supporting kitten killing. Maybe she just doesn’t expect anyone to take her seriously.

– See more at:

Charlie Arlinghaus

September 18, 2013

As originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader

Political reporters, like the rest of us, tend to be schizophrenic and our actions often belie our words. We pretend to hate the perpetual campaign cycle, profess a longing for the days of shorter campaigns, but we don’t really mean it. What we actually want is a never ending campaign and endless stories about political horse races to ensure that no one ever discusses public policy in any meaningful way again.

It is conceivable that I am guilty of a modicum of exaggeration here. But you’ll forgive me if I take a break from boring you with tirades about policy this week and instead attempt to make a case for trying to delay as long as possible a discussion of who’s running for what.

For decades we’ve heard stories about the perpetual campaign. It is supposed to be bad for democracy that campaigns never seem to end. The day after the last election, we start to speculate who will run in the one that is only 730 days away. Presidential exploratory forays for 2016 begin before the 2012 election results have been validated by the Electoral College.

Wouldn’t it be better, we’re asked, if the United States followed some European model where an election campaign is announced for a precise and very short period? The British election campaign in 2012 lasted precisely 30 days from when the writ was dropped (a wonderful, archaic expression) to election day. Never mind that the speculation and shadow campaign had been going on for years.

In state elections, so many political reporters (and perhaps also some policy wonks) express some degree of hope that electoral politics won’t interfere in the debates over budgets and gambling and other issues of the day.

Yet our actions suggest we don’t really mean it. No one wants to engage in substantive discussion. It’s boring and, if taken out of context, might be misunderstood and used against people in the next election. Instead, even here in New Hampshire where we pompously consider ourselves among the most noble of civic beasts, we speculate endlessly about elections and who’s running for what.

The next election is more than a year away but already one of the political parties is whispered about as being pathetic and disoriented because it doesn’t seem to possess announced challengers to major office incumbents, at least not ones who are household names.

We say we want the campaign to last a few months instead of more than a year yet we are already antsy when well known and well funded candidates aren’t running around and giving speeches 14 months before election day.

Yet campaigns don’t have to be long and drawn out affairs. In 1996, nothing much was happening until Steve Merrill announced in April that he wouldn’t run for re-election. It took a couple months for other politicians to sort themselves out, talk to staff and organize campaigns. No started hiring, raising money, or setting up shop much before June — a bare five months before the general election.

It was wonderful. We were spared a year of insider speculation, jockeying, and shadow boxing. Yet here we are nine months before that time period and there are many hands being wrung in despair all around the political world. No one has declared for governor. Familiar faces that are apparently considering running for Senate or Congress have yet to decide. None has hired staff or is running an active campaign.

Can you color me happy about this revolting development? I like to gossip as much as the next pathetic political junkie about who might run or not but I’m not proud of it. It is much too early to obsess about polls, elections, and horse races. Elections are not about the race and the winner. They are about what happens next or ought to be.

When I worked in electoral politics, I became enormously frustrated when a very effective and successful colleague said “I don’t care what these people do once they get elected, I just want the win.” It was maddening because I believe the only reason to care about elections is because they affect policy choices. I don’t want you to win unless it matters.

Yet the general public seems to have little potential for showing any interest in what exactly the government is doing. That seems unlikely to change anytime before we make Miley Cyrus commissioner of Health and Human Services.

None of the major election day races has taken shape yet. Huzzah. I hope you’ll join me in rooting for longer delays and shorter races.

Josh Elliott-Traficante

September, 2013

While the unemployment rate in New Hampshire dropped to 5.0% in August, the decline was not caused by an increase in employment, but by a decrease in the size of the workforce. According to the Household Survey, the number of employed residents dropped by 120, the number of unemployed residents dropped by 650, while the labor force as a whole shrank by 770.

The August data continues a trend, seen in the New Hampshire labor market over the last few months, of declining unemployment coupled with a shrinking labor force. This is not unique to the state however; this trend is seen in the national data as well.

This means that discouraged workers are still dropping out of the labor force largely accounting for recent “improvements” in the unemployment rate.

Turning to the Establishment Survey Data, the state had a net loss of 1,000 jobs. The total number of private sector jobs declined by 3,200 and the public sector grew by 2,200.  Areas seeing the biggest losses were Construction (-500), Professional and Business Services (-1,100) and Leisure and Hospitality (-1,100). Sectors seeing the most growth were Local Government (+2,400) and Wholesale Trade (+300).

The Manchester area saw no change in employment in the month of August, while Nashua added 700 jobs, Rochester-Dover: 200 and Portsmouth lost 700.