A Long Overdue Remedy for NCAA Madness

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas, is not known as an athletic powerhouse, but in 2016 the school won the Division III football championship. Three years later, the National Collegiate Athletic Association took the title away, as Fox News reports, “because the head coach let a player use his car for more than 18 months.” The NCAA ruling means that 29 of the school’s victories between 2016 and 2017 will be vacated. The losses will stand, even though, like the wins, they had nothing to do with a player’s use of a coach’s car. The NCAA also placed the program on probation for two years and imposed enhanced compliance training, along with a $2,500 fine. This absurd action is hardly the only problem with the NCAA.

NCAA bureaucrats, whom nobody will pay to watch, have been raking in hundreds of millions for media deals and aftermarket products. The college athletes, whom people will pay to watch, are paid in kind through scholarships. Unlike everybody else in America, the NCAA forbids the athletes from marketing themselves, but now that is going to change, at least in California. 

According to Senate Bill 206, by Berkeley Democrat Nancy Skinner and recently signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, college athletes may gain compensation for their “name, image and likeness.” The measure would also “prohibit an athletic association” from preventing a school from “participating in intercollegiate athletics as a result of the compensation of a student-athlete for the use of the student’s name, image, or likeness.” 

The NCAA tried to block the bill, urging the California “to reconsider this harmful and, we believe, unconstitutional bill.” The college athletes, who play at great risk of injury, will find it hard to see any harm in the exercise of their rights. Yes, some athletes will gain more endorsement deals than others, but that only reflects the reality of sports, and life in general. Congress should follow Gavin Newsom’s lead and restore the rights of college athletes on a national scale. 

Fed Confirms That Federal Borrowing a Cause of Liquidity Crisis

Robert Kaplan, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, has confirmed that the surge in U.S. government borrowing in September 2019 was a primary cause of the liquidity crisis affecting the nation’s money markets. Reuters reports that revelation from Kaplan’s speech on Friday, October 11, to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco:

Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Robert Kaplan on Friday blamed U.S. borrowing to fund a growing deficit for the liquidity crunch in overnight funding markets that the central bank earlier on Friday addressed with a new program to buy Treasury bills.

“The dramatic increase in Treasury issuance takes liquidity out of the system,” Kaplan said at the Commonwealth Club. “That I think is at the top of the list for reasons we need more liquidity.” The other reason, he said, is post-financial-crisis regulation that forces banks to hold more reserves.

Kaplan said the liquidity issue the Fed is addressing is not a sign of a bigger problem and the action the Fed is taking to address it is technical and separate from monetary policy.

Joker Earns Its Accolades, but Offers Much More

Joker is billed as a psychological thriller, and indeed it is... to the core. An origin story for the Batman villain, this dark drama is the blockbuster its creators had hoped, already earning nearly $300 million worldwide. Joker deserves the accolades and the revenue. Perhaps more importantly (long term), the movie has the potential to change the public discussion on an important dimension to a pressing social issue: violence, particularly mass violence perpetrated by so-called “lone wolves”.

Unlike the camped-up version in the TV series or the serious but comic DC Comics versions in the various earlier Batman movies, this Joker is disturbingly real. Combined with a masterful performance by Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, Walk the Line, The Master) in the title role and an unusually artful and complete plot written by writer-director Todd Phillips (Borat, The Hangover Trilogy), Joker will probably compete for all the major awards this year. Certainly, Joker is one of the most, if not the most, inventive, irreverent, and sophisticated movies yet to appear in wide release in U.S. theaters.

How Well-Funded Are Government Employee Pension Plans in Your State?

Oakland, California. New Jersey. Illinois.

These are just three places in the United States that we’ve talked about in The Beacon because their recent history has been defined by the fiscal problems each faces. Fiscal problems that arise only because they don’t have the money to fund the generous retirement benefits their politicians have promised to their government employees.

It’s scary to think that there might be more than three, but there are. Is your state one of them? Or might your state avoid the risk of diverting your tax dollars to its retired bureaucrats?

More Freedom, Not More Government (or Persistent Blackouts), Needed to Fight Wildfires

Nearly 1 million Californians may find themselves without power this week as a result of pre-emptive blackouts imposed by electric utilities Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison in an attempt to mitigate wildfire risk. But neither denying power to consumers whenever it is dry and windy nor throwing more money at the problem, which appears to be the state legislature’s preferred solution, represent satisfactory long-term solutions. What is really needed is less government interference in the energy and housing markets.

Beginning today, PG&E announced that as many as 800,000 electricity customers in Northern and Central California, including about 250,000 in the Bay Area, could find themselves subject to the pre-emptive blackouts. Edison followed suit announcing that more than 173,000 Southern California residents could be affected by a similar action.

The NBA’s Teaching Moment on Totalitarianism

The government monopoly education system does a poor job teaching about Communism, and the millennial crowd has little knowledge of events such as the Tiananmen Square massacre. Fortunately, the National Basketball Association steps up to provide some enlightenment.

Communist China is cracking down on Hong Kong, an enclave of democracy. “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” read a recent tweet from Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets NBA franchise. As CNBC reported, this message displeased the Chinese Consulate-General spokesperson in Houston, who attacked the tweet and urged the Rockets to “correct the error.” The Chinese Basketball Association expressed “strong opposition to the remarks and will suspend communication and cooperation with the Houston Rockets club.” 

Bureaucrat Benefits Crowd Out Public Services

“We are not investing in education, we are not investing in the areas that we want because all the money is going to pensions and health care.”

That’s how New Jersey Senate president Stephen Sweeney described what his state’s politicians are doing with the tax dollars they collect, in a recent interview with Bloomberg, where he exclaimed “we are in worse shape than Illinois.”

That’s really surprising because Illinois’ public finances are in absolutely awful shape for exactly the same reasons. In the Land of Lincoln, Wirepoints Ted Dabrowski and John Klinger find that several cities in the state are being forced to cut police, fire, and other public services to fund city government employee pension plans and health benefits. It’s gotten so bad that the pension funds are demanding the state comptroller intercept and divert city revenues for their benefit—money that city officials were counting upon to provide public services for their residents.

Ken Burns, “Country Music,” and the PBS Two-Step

Ken Burns’ marathon “Country Music” documentary series did not air on CMT, originally Country Music Television, a pay channel owned by Viacom Media Networks. “Country Music,” from Burns Florentine Films, ran the Public Broadcasting Service. PBS operates the Corporation for Public Broadcastinga private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.” That raises questions about the proceeds for Ken Burns’ series and the aftermarket products.

As critic Steve Ramm notes, besides the 16-hour film seen on PBS there is also a “Concert at the Ryman” on PBS, plus a 450-plus page coffee-table “companion book” to the series. Don’t forget the DVD and Blu-ray offerings, and a five-CD and 68-page book set from Sony/Legacy. How the aftermarket products shake out is not readily apparent, but might be enlightened by Andrew Ferguson’s 1991 examination of Bill Moyers in The New Republic

James M. Buchanan’s Enduring Legacy for Limited Government and Individual Liberty

James M. Buchanan (1919-2013), whose keen intellect helped launch the field of public choice and earned him a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1986, would have turned 100 years old today.

The Independent Institute has published so many articles, book reviews, and blogs about Buchanan’s ideas over the years—including a scholarly article and related op-ed written by the master himself—that diving into the waters blindly runs the risk of one’s becoming overcome by swift currents. (Fortunately, those currents carry the novice safely to still waters.)

Here I highlight a few pieces accessible to lay readers yet also helpful to those well versed in Buchanan and public choice.

Oakland City Employees Make Big Bank

Mary Theroux challenged the city of Oakland, California’s virtue signalling in a recent editorial here The Beacon, arguing that the city’s politicians and bureaucrats are emphasizing what I would describe as selective “revenue-enhancing” law enforcement while ignoring their duties to deliver basic services for city residents, such as cleaning piles of trash accumulating all over the city.

But that may not be the only misallocation of public resources in which Oakland city officials are engaging. Politico‘s Carla Marinucci and Jeremy B. White report on the growth in the city’s payroll from 2014 to 2018:

  • Catalyst
  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org