January 29, 2009

Strickland’s State of the State: Quick Comments

Filed under: Economy,Education,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:47 pm

UPDATE, Jan. 30: For those who want to compare Strickland’s SOS riff on education to his promises, you can look here at the education element of his “Turnaround Ohio” plan in the 2006 campaign. Note, as I did in February 2007, that Team Strickland didn’t tell us during the 2006 campaign that he wouldn’t get around to dealing with education “reform” until two years after he took office.

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I may see the need to supplement this tonight, but at the moment I don’t think so.

The full speech is here; my unevaluated excerpts from last night are here.

I see a number of things that jump out:

  • SCHIP, with its 300% of the poverty line threshold, now gets to about 80% of the median income in the state for families of 2, 3, and 4. That means, as an educated guess, that maybe 45% of all families at that size are eligible. Hmm. If you were an employer whose workforce was entirely relatively low earners, why would you bother having a health plan? Ding-ding: That ‘s the goal — State-run health care. It’s getting closer.
  • Health care coverage for “dependents” up to age 29. Believe me, Ted doesn’t mean “dependents” in the way the IRS does. He wants anyone still living with Mom and Dad to be able to latch on to Mom and Dad’s coverage. This is horribly expensive, will drive costs up, and will in some cases cause extended families to live together — not that it’s a bad thing in and of itself, but it sure runs contrary to the way most homes are built and the expectations of most people these days.
  • Three C passenger rail — This has been studied time and time again. It’s a massive, massive waste of money on a service almost no one will use. We have a mass-transit system known as the interstate highway system and supporting roads, and (amazing) it goes door-to-door! If you want something like this without the horrible capital investment, buy Greyhound’s routes in Ohio.
  • Ted seems almost joyful that the state funds the majority of school costs. This is not good. This means the state controls the schools, and localities really don’t. Other proposals the Governor has made only go to prove that. No school district can dare to go against the grain.
  • Longer school year — I’m not sure it’s necessary, and I somehow doubt we’ll get 10% more school year without incurring 10% more in salaries.
  • All-day kindergarten — For a guy whose party is supposedly “for the children,” this is a really tone-deaf proposal. Part of why kindergarten is a time-tested half-day is that many children have a hard time leaving home. This is legitimately traumatic, especially where the emotional bonds are close (i.e., where the parenting has been pretty good). Being gone 3 hours a day is a manageable trauma. For many, going from zero to six or seven isn’t. The solution? (Here it comes) universal pre-school. I fail to see the need for taking kids away from their parents so much, and so much earlier.
  • The move away from standardized tests to the ACT looks like a move away from accountability. I may be wrong, but I don’t think Ted sees a low ACT score as keeping a kid from graduating high school. If a kid isn’t functionally literate, something should.
  • The plan to let property taxes go up with inflation sounds nice, but frankly, the voters need to be able to vent their frustrations if the schools aren’t performing, and making the district ask for every increase is the only way I see to do that.

Demeaned DeMint: Politico’s Piece, 70 Days After Events Involved, Is Oddly Timed

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:44 am

DeMint0109.jpgWhat motivated Politico to take a two month-old story  about South Carolina GOP Senator Jim DeMint (picture at right is from that story) out of mothballs and put it out there right now?

That question inevitably occurs to a careful reader of Manu Raju’s “Republicans Chew on DeMint” story that appeared at the site Tuesday. It primarily covers the goings-on at a November 18 Republican Conference meeting in Washington. There is another reference to summer votes on global AIDS and housing bills.

So why is that news now? Well, it’s not hard to believe that it’s because DeMint’s mindset is making headway with fellow Republicans in Washington. Beat reporters, as well as turf-protecting and mostly unnamed senators and senate aides, are likely not at all happy about that.

I realize it’s the other chamber of Congress, but yesterday’s unanimous GOP “no” to the stimulus/”Porkulus” bill by House Republicans is a sign that the Party of Lincoln may be on the road back to its roots. By holding the line, Minority Leader John Boehner and his colleagues, at least for one day, made it clear that core beliefs mean something. Jim DeMint surely welcomed that result.

The same can’t be said for Senate GOPers sniping about DeMint, as Raju reports (bolds are mine):

….. some Senate Republicans say privately that DeMint has done plenty to humiliate himself.

As Republicans seek a way forward after two disastrous elections, social and fiscal conservative activists off Capitol Hill are rallying behind DeMint because of his unrelenting style to force his party to return to its small-government, free market roots.

….. But DeMint is less willing to compromise with Democrats than many in his party, and some Senate Republicans doubt his fiery tactics can lead their party out of the political wilderness when the public is seeking an end to legislative gridlock.

DeMint’s critics, including senior Republican senators and top aides in the Senate, say his refusal to work within the norms of the body — by showing deference to party leaders and chairmen and building support behind closed doors without airing concerns first to the news media — undermines his ability to draw support for his cause.

In interviews, some aides and senators say privately that while they believe he is fighting for a worthy cause, the drama he creates between GOP leaders and himself is designed to project his image as an unyielding reformer — even though he agrees with his leaders on most issues.

….. DeMint, up for reelection in 2010, is genial by nature and says he tried to work within the Capitol’s seniority system during his three terms in the House and his first two years in the Senate.

But he has learned, he said, that lawmakers in both parties “only respond to pain.”

“They don’t respond to good policy, persuasion, being nice. I’ve tried it all,” he said. “There’s nobody nicer than I am.”

In a chamber where relationship building is seen as paramount to legislative successes, DeMint said that “club friendships [have become] more important than the party and where we’re going as a country.”

Taking the bolds one at a time:

  • Who says “the public is seeking an end to legislative gridlock,” and what does that have to do with the current Dem-owned White House, Senate, and Congress? Barring long-shot filibusters, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can pass anything they want, any time they want to. Thus, what Raju alleges can’t be. What Democrats want is legislative cover for whatever disastrous bills they might pass. DeMint won’t cooperate. Too bad, so sad.
  • Yes, too many lawmakers only respond if it appears that there re-election chances will be hurt. Witness the immigration/amnesty drama in Summer 2007.
  • The Left has always capitalized on “club friendships” to wear down principled conservatives. It’s almost never gone the other way.

Back on point: There appears to be no journalistic reason why Politic held this mid-November story until now. Thus, there had to be some other motivation to sit on it. Excuse me for believing that it involves trying to divide the GOP just as it appears to be coalescing as a coherently principled group. Are there any credible alternative reasons?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Couldn’t Help But Comment (012909, Morning)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 9:26 am

Yeah, this is about the scariest chart ever, and I don’t know how you avoid serious inflation down the road when the government is printing money so furiously. Sadly, it looks like they’re just warming up.

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Election stuff and other matters have kept me from commenting on Uncle Sam’s spending binge and declining receipts. Well, here, using number from December 2008′s Monthly Treasury Statement, are the first three months of the current fiscal year compared to last year (all figures are in millions):

FY2009thru3months

There’s not much to say to this, except what I said a couple of weeks ago about the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy we are enduring: Tanks a lot.

Beyond that, for reasons yours truly documented all the way back in 2005, the real results are even worse than they appear. And I really hate being right about the fourth reason noted at that post — “…. we as a country, thanks to the poor example the GOP has set during the past four-plus years, are philosophically defenseless to argue that getting spending under control and at least reducing the REAL annual deficit to zero are good ideas.”

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Having said that, some progress was made getting back to basics yesterday. Kudos to Republican Leader Boehner and his party for unanimously rejecting the aptly named “Porkulus” package that is at best about 12% stimulus, and is better described as the big spenders’ 40-year wish list (“just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years”).

The other party owns the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy. So it’s only appropriate that they own what they are trying to push off as the solution to the mess they created. It isn’t anything resembling a solution. It’s so utterly lacking in items relevant to economy recovery that it leaves you wondering whether they really want a recovery at all.

If a GOP president had promised to eliminate pork/earmarks and had almost simultaneously proposed a bill such as this, he or she would be laughed out of the Beltway in minutes — and justifiably so. But that’s exactly what Barack Obama has done. Ten days in, there is little sign that a serious person is in charge.

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Reason’s Hit and Run blog needlessly apologized in a blog post that criticized former New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston’s “Fiscal Therapy” in Mother Jones. The ever so (not) fair and balanced Johnston was last seen at BizzyBlog in August 2008, when I observed that he has become a bit of a fave as a speaker at fever-swamp events.

Johnston has this suggestion relating to tightening up the tax system in his MJ piece:

Invade the Caymans
In 1983 just 10 percent of America’s corporate profits were funneled through places that charge little or no corporate income tax; today more than 25 percent of profits go through tax havens. The Obama administration could tell the Caymans—now fifth in the world in bank deposits—to repeal its bank secrecy laws or be invaded; since the island nation’s total armed forces consists of about 300 police officers, it shouldn’t be hard for technicians and auditors, accompanied by a few Marines, to fly in and seize all the records. Bermuda, which relies on the Royal Navy for its military, could be next, and so on. Long before we get to Switzerland and Luxembourg, their governments should have gotten the message.

Now I have a bone-dry sense of humor at times, but I’m not seeing a hint that Johnston doesn’t mean it in the just-excerpted paragraph. True, in the next paragraph he pulls back — a little:

Barring gunboat diplomacy (tempting as it is), there is no reason we cannot pass laws to block financial transactions with tax havens or even, Cuba-style, make it a crime for Americans to visit or do business with them without special permission. Congress could declare the hiding of funds a threat to national security and require that anyone with offshore assets disclose them to the IRS within 30 days and pay taxes, interest, and penalties within 180 days. For the holdouts, temporary special teams in the IRS and Justice Department could speedily pursue civil or criminal charges.

But what if the tax havens don’t let IRS auditors look at their records? It looks to me like David would want our government to give in to “temptation.”

What caused the Hit & Run apology was a missive from Johnston, who used lines of argument BizzyBlog readers are all too familiar with:

Wow, what reactions—many of them full of venom and personal attack, but without any substance on the issues in my article. BTW, for those who make wild guesses and get it wrong, I am a registered Republican and chairman of a corporation I founded with one of my sons. ….. And of course in my Mother Jones piece I am jesting about actually invading the Caymans, as Radley sort of notes, but I am joking not about the need to enforce the law and stop helping calculated cheats get away with their felonies.

The “registered Republican” line is a classic. C’mon David, who did you really vote for in the last six presidential elections?

Until Johnston fesses up on that, Reason’s apology is needless.

Inaugural Leftovers

Links for those who didn’t catch ‘em last week, and for posterity:

  • From Ken Shepherd at NewsBusters, “Veterans’ Ball Organizer Takes Money, Runs; Where’s the Outrage, Media Attention?” The story is that “The promoter who failed to hold a promised Veterans Inaugural Ball on Tuesday has left behind a trail of angry corporate sponsors and charities who contributed to the event, disappointed performers who were booked for entertainment, and 17 to 25 beauty queens who were told they would be ambassadors for their states at the ball and help raise up to $10 million for veterans’ causes.” Ken’s point is that “Had such a scam that victimized veterans gone down in January 2005, when President Bush was criticized by many in the media for spending $40 million on inaugural festivities, there’s little doubt this story would receive major play on the networks.” Ken is correct.
  • From Say Anything, “Soldiers Walk Out Of Inaugural Ball After Music Performer Holds Up “F**K GEORGE” Sign.”
  • From the Washington Post, “Are We Having A Ball Yet?: The Inaugural Party Bubble Bursts.” It notes that “some of the other high-profile parties …. (were) canceled or are still scrambling to cut costs and sell last-minute tickets, leaving ballgoers disappointed or out in the cold.”
  • From Bernard Chapin at Pajamas, “White Guilt, Media Bias Soiled the Inaugural.” Did it ever: “Once again, Obama was celebrated for the color of his skin as opposed to the character he may or may not possess.”
  • Anchoress had a great roundup of speech reactions. Best — “….. this is the realization that our nation has finally, officially embraced the post-modern world; that, in addition to media elitists and collegiate intellectuals spreading nihilism, we finally have a U.S. president who embodies such a culture.”
  • Update, 11:00 a.m.: Really didn’t mean to miss this from Edward Cline at Family Security Matters — “January 20th, 2009. Another ‘date which will live in infamy.’ Watching news media coverage of Barack Obama’s journey to the White House was much like watching the broadcast propaganda of a dystopian fantasy in films like V, or the Richard Burton’s 1984, or Fahrenheit 451 – except that the news media is not a vast government department spewing out lies and disinformation, haranguing and brow-beating the public, but a nominally independent entity reporting Obama’s triumph with deliriously mindless happy talk.”