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Archive for January, 2011

“Hope” is NOT a plan…

January 9, 2011 4 comments

As the good folks of Georgia are finding out.

Let me start off by making a couple of things clear, or at least trying to.

  • Every dollar spent by the federal government on “education” in any form is a dollar wasted. The return on investment is ZERO. That includes money for “studies”; money spent on (not invested in) bricks and mortar at the federal, state or local level; money targeted to “improve” specific schools; federal block grants to the states; every crying dime of money spent propping up student loans and every nickle of Pell Grants.
  • Most of the money poured into state colleges and universities is perfectly good cash that could be used for something that is useful.

OK, so now you should know where I’m coming from on the subject of education in general.  If you’re not clear, reread the above points until you are.  If you’re still having a problem understanding, Google “higher education bubble” by clicking the link and read at least five of the articles.  That brings us to the subject for today, the State of Georgia.  The Legislature passed and some Governor or another signed a bill a while back – 1993 to be exact – creating the Georgia Hope Scholarship Program. The point of this program, according to the politicians who wrote it and passed it, was to help good high school students in Georgia attend college and to attend “for free”. [Insert screed here re: ain’t no fricking free lunch!]  The bottom line with the program is that if you graduate from high school with a “B” average you get as much as $6,000 per year toward your college costs.  According to the article in the New York Times

A majority of freshmen in Georgia have grades good enough to qualify for Hope, which covers tuition, some books and fees — but not housing costs — at any Georgia university or technical school.

My first instinct with that line is “Huh?”  [scratch, scratch, scratch] “A MAJORITY?”  Now since I’m old and have managed to acquire a reasonable – cynical, but reasonable – understanding of human nature, let me point something out that you may also have already figured out.

  • Politicians promise parents “free” school for their kids.
  • Politicians “pay” for the program with proceeds from state sanctioned gambling (lottery), typically played by those who can least afford it.
  • Parents then exert tremendous pressure to achieve specified grades to qualify for “$$$Free Money$$$” (thank you JD Hayworth) on their kids.  Oops, make that their kids TEACHERS.  Teachers, reacting to a point of pain that they perceive can be easily remedied, practice “Grade Inflation” (note, link requires strong stomach or alcohol).
  • More kiddos that the politicians “thought” (any references to “politicians” and “thinking” at 908 Straight St! are very strained and generally used for comedic effect) magically qualify for the program.
  • Costs of the program spiral upwards. Is there any other direction?
  • A “crisis” eventually ensues.
  • The New York Times and whatever the local paper of the same ilk get hysterical. Cut to appropriate response for such hysterical behavior.

So, is this program a waste of money?  Yeah, it is.  Some anecdotal evidence from the same NYT article…

ATHENS, Ga. — Students here at the University of Georgia have a name for some of the fancy cars parked in the lots around campus. They call them Hopemobiles. But there may soon be fewer of them.

The cars are gifts from parents who find themselves with extra cash because their children decided to take advantage of a cherished state perk — the Hope scholarship.
[…]
And even though as many as two-thirds of Hope students let their college grades slip so much that they no longer qualify — “I’ve lost Hope,” they joke when it happens — Georgia still gives away more financial aid per student than any other state.

If The Times would like to do some research, they might also check to see how many Hope recipients are also taking out Federally Subsidized Title IV Student Loans, and just where that money is going.

“Free Money” from the government, doled out in large parcels, may buy some votes for a time.  Oh heck, it WILL buy votes for a time, but that time may well be coming to an end.  In addition, the idea that everybody “needs” a college education or that a college education will provide certain benefits may also be coming to an end.  We, as a nation, need to step back and take a deep breath and understand that we’ve been sold a bill of goods by the education establishment and in the process of thinking that college for all is either good or worthy, the establishment has dumbed-down the process so that those who aren’t prepared for or simply aren’t able to do “the work” of real academics won’t get their feelings hurt.  The result is a second rate education, on it”s way to becoming a third rate education, is available to all at a staggering cost.  And that cost is not just the student loan balances that people leave school with, nor is it the tremendously high cost of state and federal subsidies for educational institutions that graduate students who can’t communicate in standard English, can’t write in a form that’s doesn’t look like a text message and who have “degrees” that don’t qualify them to do much more than find out if a customer wants fries with his lunch.  The cost of college-for-all is the proliferation of degree programs that have the words “studies” or “science” in them that prepare their graduates for nothing more challenging than going to grad school to get an “advanced degree” in the same crap which will qualify said “student” to do nothing more challenging than teach college level courses to other simple minded fools.

It’s time to take a hard look at our colleges and universities and, as with most things, get back to basics.  Degree programs should offer the student the opportunity to be exposed to real knowledge not pap or pop culture.  The emphasis of universities should be to graduate students who have mastered difficult academic material, not to hand out worthless diplomas so students and parents will feel good about a supposed “accomplishment” that will show itself to be near worthless in a very short time.

Yes Virginia, some good things might happen in Washington…


The key being “might”, but at least the noise indicates that we’re leaning in the right direction.

A whole group of “feeling better” thingys from enemy held territory known as Washington DC.

The first is from Fred Upton (R-MI) who has taken a whole bunch of heat from Conservatives as being a squish because, among other things, he voted to do away with incandescent light bulbs.  According to Politico, it looks like he’s getting ready to man-up on ObamaCare though.

Incoming House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said the new Republican-controlled House will look to repeal Democratic health care overhaul legislation before President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address later this month.
[…]
Upton, whose committee will key in the GOP’s effort to roll back the law, said that he believes the House may be near the two-thirds majority required to override a presidential veto. Short of repeal, Upton said the House will “go after this bill piece by piece.”

I like that.  Go after the whole thing and then go after it piece by piece.  That keeps it in front of the common folk for the next two years.  And as Curella Pelosi found out, the more the American People read the bill the less we like it.  And the less we like the arrogant jerks who passed it.  If nothing else, the strategy will do two things, first of all it will drive public opinion even further into the tank on ObamaCare making it much easier to defund the portions of it that are supposed to be “live” over the next two years.  Second, I would guess it could be worth another 20 House seats currently occupied by Democrats.  Oh and let’s not forget the guy for whom ObamaCare is named is also up for election in ’12.

It’s a win-win-win.

The second good thing would be a demonstration that people on the Left are not and should not be considered to be “friends” by those of us on the right.  I choke every time I remember Senator Orrin Hatch’s completely asinine comment about Senator Teddy “Waterboy” Kennedy.  “…and my good friend Senator Kennedy – and he IS my good friend…”, not only do I choke but I long for the day when the good people of Utah have the opportunity to ram that comment [down Hatch’s throat] and throw him out of the Senate.  Interestingly enough, Hatch is up in ’12 and the good folks in Utah have already proved they won’t take crap from their sitting Senators AND they have a deep bench of very conservative Republicans ready to replace them.  Sunday, on Face the Nation, incoming Rep. Mike Kelly of PA got into a shouting match with a NY Dem.  And as reported by Politico, really zapped him in parting.

Incoming Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) got into a shouting match with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”Most of the substance was drowned out by incessant shouting, but Kelly did throw some fire Weiner’s way.

“You are very amusing,” Kelly said. “You have never, in your life, you have never done anything on your own with your own skin in the game.”

I absolutely love that one.  It really drives home the point that CongressCritters – and especially Democratic Critters – have never held a real job in their lives.  They’ve never had to make a payroll.  They’ve never created a real, productive job.  And yet they are arrogant enough to think they’re “important”.  Mr. Weiner, you – and your fellow travelers – are pathetic.  And Rep. Kelly, glad you’re there.

Third is Fred Upton again.

Unconstitutional power grab. Regulatory assault. Job-killing scheme.

These are just a few of the phrases Rep. Fred Upton has used to described the Obama administration’s bid to unilaterally regulate emissions through the EPA, in the absence of a comprehensive “cap-and-trade” energy bill. Upton’s rhetoric, and his enthusiasm for defeating a host of new pollution rules, will get a powerful platform next session when he assumes the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“We will fight the administration’s relentless assault on jobs — and stop them from doing through regulation what they have been unable to accomplish through legislation,” Upton told FoxNews.com…

And, despite the very best efforts of jerks on our side like Lindsey Graham, there will be no Cap&Tax in this Congress.  Fred, I’ll admit I didn’t want you heading up any committees, but you’ve earned a pass from me so far.  Keep up the good work and I certainly hope your actions match your words.

So, on this second day of the new year I’m feeling pretty good about 2011.

Here Come the War! Here Come the War!



Image via Wikipedia

Order on the battlefield in the Congress!
Here Come the WAR!

And we’ll lead off with my vote for the most fatuous comment of a still infant 2011…

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama is willing to make difficult choices on spending cuts when he unveils his budget next month, a senior aide said on Sunday.


OK, that Reuters lede.  Let’s keep in mind the real world.  Democrats held pretty much bulletproof majorities in both houses of Congress – especially in the House of Representatives where spending bill must start – for the last two years.  And what don’t we have, nearly four months into the new fiscal year?  Well thanks for asking!  And the answer would be “a budget”.  So, House Republicans will now get to have the most fun you can have fully dressed, they get to assemble a budget for the remainder of this fiscal year.  And guess what?  It’s THEY who will actually make the “difficult choices on spending cuts” not BozoThePresident.  And if there is any question in your mind about that, let the second paragraph of the Reuters article put your mind to rest.

But White House economist Austan Goolsbee said it was important not to “skimp” on important investments like education.

In other words, gentle reader, BtP and his ilk are going to continue to fund the leeches at the US Department of Education, propping up the NEA, one of the Democrats biggest funding sources and a mainstay in their Marxist base.  Keep in mind that we have 64 new Republican House Members, most of whom ran on a “cut spending NOW” platform.  Reuters lays out the sides in the war, BtP and the Marxists on one side, Republicans on the other.

A fight is looming as Obama prepares to unveil his annual budget proposal in mid-February. Republicans who won control of the House of Representatives in November elections have vowed to roll back federal spending to 2008 levels, with exceptions for the elderly, U.S. troops and veterans.

So, we may be looking as having sacred cow for dinner.  Department of Education, EPA look out.  Here comes the mob.  Republicans in the leadership are starting to lay out rubber mats so the carpets don’t get too bloody, although I’d suggest that blood stains on the carpets are a good reminder for the future.  From the Washington Times Darryl Issa lays down a challenge and a Republican adviser drops the bomb.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The GOP’s top House investigator in the new Congress is putting the White House on notice that he’s going to be aggressive in going after what he considers wasteful spending by the Obama administration.

Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, is set to lead the House Oversight and Government Reform — and gain the chairman’s subpoena power.

Mr. Issa suggested on “Fox News Sunday” that the White House should hire more accountants — not lawyers — to deal with requests for information from the Republican-led House. He said it’s “more of an accounting function than a legal function.”

And the bomb…

“Where the rubber will hit the road will be on the debt limit,” said John Feehery, a Republican adviser and former top House aide. “What kind of budget concessions will Obama agree to in exchange for keeping the government functioning?”

Unfortunately, Republicans have long enough memories to recall President Clinton neutering Newt over the government shutdown.  So do Democrats.  There’s also the history that says that every time it comes to a nose-to-nose with Democrats, it tends to be the Republicans who blink.  We’ll see.  Boehner etal did manage to get the most of Bush tax cuts extended in the Lame Duck.

Attention Republican Leadership, we’re out of time.  It’s time for you to man-up and do the hard work.  And cutting the rate of increase in spending pretty much won’t make it anymore, it’s time for real cuts.  Actually, it’s time to start eliminating Cabinet Level departments like the Department of Education that doesn’t “educate” anybody and just feeds NEA dues into the Democratic Party from unsuspecting taxpayers but I understand that is an impossibility with BtP in the Oval Office.  But you can take an axe to departments like the EPA and in the process put a stop to their efforts to regulate the economy into a full blown depression and let BtP know in no uncertain terms that he’s not going to be able to press his Marxist agenda with regulators, by-passing the Congress.

So suck it up and get with it.

Categories: Fiscal Conservatism

“Public” Employees meet “The Piper”…

January 2, 2011 1 comment

The Taxpayers are Coming!!

Because, it’s time to pay him.

Schadenfreude is just such a wonderful thing.  As a private sector kinda guy who believes in the profit motive, I’ve pretty much always had a huge problem with gummit employees.  And I feel somewhat remiss in not putting employees in scare quotes because next to lawyer jokes, stories about lazy, arrogant, unproductive gummit employees are in everyone’s quiver of stuff to say when the room gets quiet.  The difference is that lawyer jokes are funny and gummit employee stories aren’t.

Well, things they are a changin’ on that there front, thanks in part to the economic expertise of Mr.Hope&Change and his crack economic team.  The commoners, the little people, are figuring out that the lazy leeches who are paid from their tax dollars by all levels of gummit are bleeding us dry and we’re getting fundamentally nothing from it.   The real fun part to all of this is that politicians, at least at the local level for now, seem to be getting the message that the natives are restless and are laying in a stock of torches, pitchforks, tar & feathers and rope.  Even the New York Times is catching the drift.

FLEMINGTON, N.J. — Ever since Marie Corfield’s confrontation with Gov. Chris Christie this fall over the state’s education cuts became a YouTube classic, she has received a stream of vituperative e-mails and Facebook postings.

“People I don’t even know are calling me horrible names,” said Ms. Corfield, an art teacher who had pleaded the case of struggling teachers. “The mantra is that the problem is the unions, the unions, the unions.”

Across the nation, a rising irritation with public employee unions is palpable, as a wounded economy has blown gaping holes in state, city and town budgets, and revealed that some public pension funds dangle perilously close to bankruptcy.

You might remember when Ms. Corfield got snotty with Governor Christie last year at a public forum and got her [self] ripped up one side and down the other to the applause of the crowd.  And she seems incapable of understanding how or why people would go after her.  Well dear, the answer might have something to do the perception that you’re an arrogant public employee who costs the taxpayers of New Jersey about $90,000 for a part time job.  Go figure.  And take note that it’s not likely to get better for you either.

In California, New York, Michigan and New Jersey, states where public unions wield much power and the culture historically tends to be pro-labor, even longtime liberal political leaders have demanded concessions — wage freezes, benefit cuts and tougher work rules.

It is an angry conversation. Union chiefs, who sometimes persuaded members to take pension sweeteners in lieu of raises, are loath to surrender ground. Taxpayers are split between those who want cuts and those who hope that rising tax receipts might bring easier choices.

And a growing cadre of political leaders and municipal finance experts argue that much of the edifice of municipal and state finance is jury-rigged and, without new revenue, perhaps unsustainable. Too many political leaders, they argue, acted too irresponsibly, failing to either raise taxes or cut spending.

A brutal reckoning awaits, they say.

Well, it IS the New York Times and at least they are directionally right.  But I think they missed a couple of things.  Foremost among ’em, methinks that taxpayers are NOT split.  They’re fed up.  And as far as political leaders acting irresponsibly, yep they did, and it was both parties.  But the irresponsible part wasn’t “failing to raise taxes” is was not controlling and then not cutting spending.  But The Times does get it right in the end, the day of reckoning is neigh and it will be brutal.  The really brutal part will be when these “public employees” get their panties in a wad and go looking for real work in the private sector.  As an employer, I can guarantee you that a gummit job on a resume is only slightly less damaging to your prospects for employment than a stretch in the pen as a child molester.  Slightly.

There are a couple of other stories in the media from around the country on this subject, I’ll highlight a couple and they deserve a full read so you can really understand that public employees are in trouble.  And in places you might not guess.  Like Wisconsin.  And Pennsylvania.

MADISON, Wis. — In preparation for Monday’s inauguration of the new governor, Scott Walker, red, white and blue bunting has been draped around the Capitol’s echoing rotunda. Lawmakers are unpacking files in their newly assigned offices. And state workers are fretting.

“What does this bring? What does it mean? Where are we going here?” Marty Beil, the leader of a union that represents 22,000 of Wisconsin’s corrections officers, maintenance workers, game wardens and others, said the other day. “State employees feel like they are the target of all the slings and the arrows and the bullets that the new administration is already throwing.”

You feel like you’re a target?  Good.

FOREST CITY, Pa. — Ralph Miranda was looking for eggnog here the other day at the state liquor store, a dated and somewhat forlorn little shop with no name, just the Soviet-style designation #5801. When the store manager told him they were out, Mr. Miranda muttered, “That’s why you privatize.”

“The Soviet-style designation”.  Perfect.  What business do states have in running what should be real businesses anyway.  Although I will admit the when we lived in New Hampshire decades ago, the state did a good job of running state liquor stores.  Mostly because neighboring states had high sales taxes and specific taxes on liquor.  And New Hampshire built huge state liquor stores right on the interstate highways about fifty feet from the border.  The parking lots were always full of out-of-state plates.

And finally, in my home state of Arizona

The average cost of an employee in Phoenix has gone down this year by more than $640.

Phoenix has saved more than $108.3 million in employee costs for the 2010-11 fiscal year by reducing positions, cutting salaries and requiring furloughs.

[…]

“When you eliminate more than 2,000 positions, you’re going to cut costs,” Zuercher said.

While there have been some layoffs, most of the workforce reductions have come from keeping positions vacant when someone retires or leaves a city job. Phoenix employees also took 3.2 to 4.3 percent wage cuts, saving the city an estimated $50.3 million for the next two years.

The bottom line to all of this is that it appears that things in the area of government hiring and pay scales are beginning to trend in the right direction.  It’s up us common folk to keep the pressure on the politicians and ignore the inevitable whining of “our” employees.

2012 Winning Issue #1: Illegal Immigration.

January 1, 2011 2 comments

Homeland Security at Work

This subject is near and dear to my heart for several reasons.  First of all, I am a proponent of LEGAL immigration.  We are a nation of immigrants who came to America to be Americans, to experience freedom and liberty.  Nothing should ever change that.  We are also a nation of laws and we should expect and demand that immigrants obey the law, especially when it comes to how they come into the country.  For most of the Bush Administration and for most of the last couple of years, it looked like amnesty and the rule of lawlessness would rule the day on this issue, but I honestly think we’ve turned the corner and that the conservative view on this issue will win the day.  Over the past year we’ve seen some very encouraging things happen in regard to immigration.

  1. Even as Obama’s ICE has worked t find obscure regulatory methods to stop processing illegals, their other hand has been hard at work enforcing federal law with regard to employment of illegals and, in fact, we will deport a record number of illegals in 2010, around 400,000.  That’s a huge jump from the previous administration and it’s certainly a good thing.
  2. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB1070 into law, making it against state law to be in Arizona illegally and empowering Arizona police agencies to detain suspected illegal aliens.
  3. The Obama Administration file suit in federal court to block enforcement of SB1070, the case is currently making it’s way to SCOTUS.
  4. The attendant publicity around SB1070 brought an interesting result.  People favor it by a huge margin, 55-60% favor it and polls show many states where people want a similar law passed by their state legislatures.
  5. As we noted here earlier in the week, Rep Lamar Smith is going to hold hearing with the intent to bring new immigration laws based on requiring eVerify for hiring in the US.  This is a great first step and may actually end up being a solidly bipartisan piece of legislation because Obama’s Immigration folks are looking forward to testifying and support the legislation in concept at this point and it’s an issue that can be rightly painted as a “jobs” issue.  Illegal aliens are taking jobs from unemployed American citizens.  Come on Nancy & Harry, oppose this one.  Please.
  6. The DREAM Act, legislation aimed at nibbling away toward blanket amnesty, was killed in the Lame Duck Session.  With Republicans in control of the House, it’s dead as my white cat for at least two years.
  7. As we noted in the above linked piece, AZ State Sen Russell Pearce and his allies will be holding a press conference on January 5 to outline new legislation that will be introduced in at least Arizona that will go after “birthright citizenship”, effectively nullifying it for children of illegal aliens.  See the earlier piece for our commentary on that, but suffice it to say that we feel Pearce is doing the right thing and the state level is the place to start the fight.
  8. In Kansas, Kris Kobach was elected Secretary of State.  This is important because Kobach worked with Russell Pearce to write SB1070 and he is coming into office in Kansas with legislation ready for committee review with respect to illegal aliens and voter fraud.

In a year end piece in the New York Times, they note that the battle on illegal immigration – and they even call it that – has shifted from Washington DC to the States.  This is critical to getting the problem addressed for a couple of reasons.  First of all, any major piece of legislation coming out of DC will likely be an amnesty bill – see the DREAM Act.  By moving the battle to the states, the focus of the legislation changes 180 degrees to incremental enforcement.

Legislative leaders in at least half a dozen states say they will propose bills similar to a controversial law to fight illegal immigration that was adopted by Arizona last spring, even though a federal court has suspended central provisions of that statute.

The efforts, led by Republicans, are part of a wave of state measures coming this year aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

Legislators have also announced measures to limit access to public colleges and other benefits for illegal immigrants and to punish employers who hire them.

Next week, at least five states plan to begin an unusual coordinated effort to cancel automatic United States citizenship for children born in this country to illegal immigrant parents.

Opponents say that effort would be unconstitutional, arguing that the power to grant citizenship resides with the federal government, not with the states. Still, the chances of passing many of these measures appear better than at any time since 2006, when many states, frustrated with inaction in Washington, began proposing initiatives to curb illegal immigration.

The battle lines are already drawn for this fight.  Conservatives, people who believe in the rule of law and advocates for legal immigration are on one side.  The Left, which includes the entire Democratic Party machine and some liberal Republicans, along with an interesting alliance of Mexican nationalist groups (LaRaza, etc) and the US Chamber of Commerce who oppose businesses having to deal with immigration status not to mention their love of cheap labor.  This was will be fought in the courts, the key is to get the right legislation before SCOTUS, because that’s where it will end up.  The SB1070 ruling from the federal judge in Phoenix was expected.  I expect the Ninth Circus to affirm her ruling and from there it will go to Justice Roberts Court.

For a quick roundup of who’s on our side, The Times article has a good outline.

“The federal government’s failure to enforce our border has functionally turned every state into a border state,” said Randy Terrill, a Republican representative in Oklahoma who has led the drive for anti-illegal immigration laws there.

[…]

Among the states expected to introduce bills similar to Arizona’s [SB1070] are Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
[…]
In Kansas, Republicans won big majorities in both legislative houses and Sam Brownback, who just retired as a United States senator, was elected governor. Mr. Kobach, the law professor, was elected secretary of state after a campaign in which he vowed to pass a law requiring proof of citizenship for voters.

The Times article has the standard level of moaning about how Republicans will lose the “Latino” voting block, blah blah blah.  Arizona has a large Hispanic voting block and a very aggressive “immigrant” lobby.  The media are their lackeys.  Republicans swept every statewide office and took three House seats away from the Democrats.  Two more House seats in southern Arizona were within a couple of thousand votes each of flipping to Republicans and our candidates were first timers.  One of those districts, the incumbent had never run a TV commercial in any of his campaigns and won by about 3,000 votes.

Bottom line, this issue will be a clear winner for Conservatives and Republicans.  We’ve got the right people doing the right things at both the state and federal level and we’ve got momentum on our side.