Monday, October 25, 2010

The Teacher's Unions are more dangerous to America than Al Qaeda

I’ve just returned from watching the movie Waiting for Superman. (The title refers to waiting for the Man of Steel to come to the rescue…) My first reaction was to think back on my post from last month about the voters of DC throwing out Adrian Fenty, and with him Michelle Rhee, his Schools Chancellor.

My second reaction was remembering something that I’ve heard Neal Boortz say on numerous occasions: “Teacher’s unions are a bigger threat to the United States than Al Qaeda.” Throw in the public sector unions and he’s right. Al Qaeda has the potential to kill thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people at a time. The teacher’s unions destroy the lives of millions of students every year, and they’ve been doing it for decades. Not only do they destroy the lives of millions of young people, they bring chaos, tragedy and despair to the millions of families of those young people, their communities and the country as a whole. From young men in prison to teenage pregnancies, the data’s not hard to find.

This should not be taken as a screed against teachers. Just the opposite. Many teachers are saints. They have passion for teaching. They spend long hours wrestling with a variety of challenges, many of which have little to do with their classrooms. They seek to inspire kids to become successful adults and attempt to equip them to do so. Unfortunately however the good teachers are locked into an inflexible quagmire of a system where good teachers are beaten into submission and simply become cogs in a machine that passes kids along from grade to grade to grade, regardless of their abilities or success, until they choose to simply to take their talents elsewhere. This same system confers its job for life protection on all teachers, both good and bad and provides students and parents with little control or say over their education. Across the country, from LA to New York it is almost impossible to fire teachers for almost anything, from being incompetent to inappropriate behavior. Indeed, New York City alone spends in excess of $100 Million a year paying teachers their full salaries to spend seven hours to not teach, often spending that time playing poker in the so called “"rubber rooms”.

One of the most staggering statistics in the movie was about firings of teachers relative to those in other professions. 1 in 57 doctors lose their ability to inflict themselves on patients. 1 in 97 lawyers are disbarred or otherwise bared from menacing society with their law degrees. The comparable number for teachers? 1 in 2,500! As the movie was done by Davis Guggenheim, the guy behind “An Inconvenient Truth” I want to be a little skeptical of his numbers so lets assume he’s off a little. Even if he were off by 80% that would still mean that 1 in 500 teachers is stopped from ruining the education (and often the life prospects) of a child. I’ll admit that many teachers are good, but even at the 1 in 500 number, that means that only .2% (That’s point two percent, not two percent!) of teachers lose their jobs. Using the movie’s numbers it’s .0004%. What other kind of job has that kind of security, regardless of the employee’s competence, work ethic or success? To paraphrase Joe Pesci from My Cousin Vinnie, “Do the laws of random distribution about the skill or the lack thereof for human beings stop at the schoolhouse door, where somehow only .2% of teachers turn out to be bad?” Somehow I don’t think so.

Add to the teacher’s unions two other elements of the education system: an incompetent federal bureaucracy that uses its purse strings to manipulate the entire system and bloated state and local bureaucracies staffed by public sector union employees and you have a recipe for the disaster that we find ourselves with.

Education in America is quickly becoming our Achilles heel. By not producing graduates who are able to read and write, who have the skills to earn jobs at companies Google or Microsoft, who are prepared to deal with the 21st century world, we are creating a true underclass that is far more problematic than the one Ken Auletta wrote about 30 years ago. The fact that the 21st century is developing far more rapidly than the last should be of no surprise to anyone. All one needs to do is look at the numbers: It took Radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. It took Television 13 years. It took the Internet 4 years. It took Facebook less than a year. It’s into that dynamic universe we are walking with a population of students and young adults who are simply not equipped to compete, thrive or survive. That’s not a mistake the Chinese the Indians are making.

If the United States is going to remain a viable Republic with a free citizenry and an economy that provides more than the basics of food and water, it will require more than platitudes about “supporting education” and “the children are our future”. It will require a real revolution in how schools are run and funded. That revolution begins by:

    1. Throwing the Democrats out of office – they are recipients of over 90% of union money in federal and local elections and frequently the party in charge of the local bureaucracies who signed those malignant union contracts in the first place.

    2. Offering school vouchers – those vouchers are the equivalent of Kryptonite to dysfunctional schools. By giving parents the ability to vote with their feet they become the Supermen of our story and can finally stop waiting for a costumed hero to come along and save the day.

The revolution starts next Tuesday... Hang on!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Obama's failure will make black voters relevant again

Barack Obama is doing something that no politician has done in 50 years. He is making black voters politically relevant again. Blacks have been largely
irrelevant to the political discussion for much of the last 50 years. Not that they haven't been important on Election Day. On the contrary, the black vote has been very important on Election Day for decades. It's the black voters who have been invisible.

The black vote has been relevant to the success of Democrats for years - without the black vote Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all would have lost, not to mention countless down ticket Democrats. Black voters... not so much. Why? Because they are taken for granted. Across the country, across economic lines, in almost any election, blacks vote for Democrats 85% of the time… or more! Black voters (as in the people themselves) are of little importance to Democrats because they understand that regardless of the policies the party puts forth, 85% of black votes will come down in the Democrat column.

For years Democrats simply had to ensure blacks voted, they didn’t actually have to compete for their votes. Democrats knew that if they just got out the black vote, it was theirs. The beauty of this for Democrats is that they didn’t have to worry about discussing policies that might actually help black voters, might improve their lives, might address issues important to them. No, all they had to do was paint their GOP opponents as racists who would somehow repeal various Civil Rights Acts and then the black vote would be delivered. Sound familiar?

And it’s easy to see why blacks have been so loyal to the Democrats over the last five decades. The education gap has disappeared. Black unemployment is equal to the general population. Crime is no longer a concern in Democrat strongholds like Detroit, Gary, and Baltimore. The poverty rate and out of wedlock rate for blacks are the lowest in a generation… Oh, wait, none of those things are true.

The $64,000 question is, what have black voters gotten in exchange for their loyalty to the Democrats. I’d argue, not much.

That is where Barack Obama comes in. By demonstrating with unparalleled clarity the absolute inability of the Democrat / progressive / liberal agenda to make the lives of citizens better, and indeed its penchant for making them worse, I believe he has finally done what the GOP could not: Break the Democrat’s monopoly on black voters.

This might sound oxymoronic, but I believe that Barack Obama may be the Moses who (accidentally) leads black voters to the Promised Land. In this case the Promised Land is not beyond some body of water, but rather it is the garden of success that can be built in their own communities.

And how is he doing that? By focusing the country’s attention on the feckless and, frankly, the pernicious nature of the liberal agenda he will have loosened the grip Democrats have on black voters. They, like so many others in the country will be asking themselves, is there something else, is there an alternative to these failed policies. Not that I imagine black voters will be jumping to the GOP in droves starting tomorrow. No, it will take time, but thanks to Barack Obama, conversations will begin.

The beauty of this is that unlike the Democrats, the GOP doesn’t need to pander to black voters with a platform built on racial grievances and a race based agenda. No, the GOP can focus on blacks as Americans as opposed to the the Democrat policy of focusing on blacks as blacks.

How can the GOP take advantage of the opportunity that Barack Obama has placed at their feet? By reaching out to black voters in places where they have rarely done so. They should buy advertising and pursue interviews on urban radio stations. They should advertise in magazines and various other media that target a black demographic. They should seek to bring their message to groups like the NAACP and the National Bar Association. Importantly, what I didn’t say was that they should change their message.

With the rise of the Tea Party influence, the GOP may finally be able to make inroads with black voters. Conservatives understand that government is the problem and not the solution to problems in America in general and in the black community (to the degree that such a thing exists) in particular.

By focusing on the notion of free market solutions to American problems, the GOP can make itself a viable alternative for black voters. School choice, vouchers and
other kinds of education reform have the potential to help black families far more than virtually anything else in the country. Low taxes and reduced regulation are fundamental elements to inducing entrepreneurs and investors to take risks by starting new companies or by expanding existing ones, both of which entail the creation of jobs. With black unemployment 60% higher than the national average, such investments and jobs are particularly important to black voters.

This November, if history is any gauge, 85% of black votes will go to Democrats. Nonetheless, the GOP should not look at that as a lost constituency, but rather as an opportunity that represents 12% of the American population. Black Americans are more American than they are black – a black teenager in St. Louis or LA has much more in common with a white kid from Chicago or Seattle than he does with someone growing up in Liberia or South Africa. As such, the GOP should proactively reach out and make the argument that small government, low taxes and private enterprise are the foundation of success in America for everyone, including blacks stuck in the fog of Democrat / progressive failure. Straightforward discourse on policies that offer everyone the opportunity to succeed in the pursuit of the American dream. Now that's real relevance.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blumenthal & Pelosi showcase Democrat's incompetence

There is an old adage that goes something like this: It’s better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re stupid than to open your mouth and prove them right.

Thankfully for America not all Democrats are paying that adage much heed, and just in time for the election. Last week Linda McMahon, the GOP candidate for US Senate from Connecticut did the voters of her state a great service. She asked Richard Blumenthal, her Democrat opponent, a simple question: “How do you create a job?His answer, if you can call it that, was a minute and a half of television gold, which would have been suitable for Laugh In were it still on the air:
    “A job is created, and it can be in a variety of ways by a variety of people. But principally by people and businesses in response to demand for products and services. And the main point about jobs in Connecticut is, we can and we should create more of them by creative policies. And that's the kind of approach that I want to bring to Washington… I know about how government can help preserve jobs. And I want programs that provide more capital for small business, that are tax policies that will promote creation of jobs, stronger intervention by government to make sure we use the Made in America policies and Buy America policies to keep jobs here rather than buying products that are manufactured overseas.”
At the beginning you think he might almost be stumbling into the right answer only to watch him find his bearings and focus so that by the end it's crystal clear that he has no idea how to create jobs. The key phrase in his answer is “stronger intervention of government”. Dick Blumenthal in one moment of clarity demonstrates the typical Democratic approach to solving every problem in the country: Government intervention.

Despite decades of failed examples of government intervention in virtually every aspect of the American economy, Democrats still seem unmoved by actual evidence of failure and cling to their progressive notions that nirvana is to be found at the end of a bureaucrat’s pen.

If Blumenthal were the only one then you could make the argument that he was an outlier and that most Democrats aren’t of that cloth. Luckily he’s not the only one who opened his mouth this week to demonstrate Democratic ineptitude. He was joined by Nancy Pelosi as she responded to Newt Gingrich. In a note to GOP candidates Gingrich suggested they make the campaign about the “Democratic Party of food stamps and the Republican Party of paychecks.” He points out that when Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats took over Congress: ‘Unemployment was 4.6% and food stamp usage was around 26.5 million Americans. Today, the unemployment rate is 9.6% and over forty million Americans are on food stamps.

Pelosi responded and in very short order demonstrated exactly how Democrats put us in this position in the first place: "It is the biggest bang for the buck when you do food stamps and unemployment insurance. The biggest bang for the buck." The solution to all problems is government.

The Democratic belief that prosperity can be legislated or redistributed into existance makes no sense, particularly in a universe where there is simply no empirical evidence that such policies work and legions of examples that it doesn’t work. It almost makes one think of the Soviet Union’s Five Year Plans where the planning committee would set out rosy economic plans for the country that had little connection with the actual conditions in the economy. Invariably, in Orwellian fashion, the plans were invariably officially “successful” regardless of their abysmal failure on the ground. That practice didn’t work out that well for the Soviets and I’m not sure it’s a plan for success here either.

Finally, while Congress has much blame for our current economic mess, they are only part of the legislative partnership. Luckily for them, in President Obama they have found soul mate. A week before his inauguration he told an audience: "Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy -- where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit." Once in office he boldly set forth implementing the Democrats solution for the country. We had the Stimulus, the nationalization of the auto industry and student loans, the government takeover of healthcare and massive increases in regulation. And, if all that inept legislation were not bad enough in itself, his cabinet appointees, the people who actually implement that legislation intended to revive the economy and spur job creation, have less business experience than any cabinet in 100 years.

America faces a stark choice in November, one between a newly energized, free market solution oriented GOP (albeit having been dragged in that direction by the Tea Party movement – sometimes kicking and screaming) and a party of Democrats, who have pulled back the curtain to reveal what most of us assumed all along: They are economic illiterates. Their solution for creating jobs, reinvigorating the economy and putting America back on the road to prosperity is only to be found through government intervention. As the voters sit back and evaluate their choices, they need simply examine the success those Democratic policies have engendered everywhere from Detroit to California to the Soviet Union. Do they want to sign on for another American version of a Five Year Plan or is it time to give the free market a chance for a change?

Monday, October 4, 2010

AX - Resurrecting the 10th Amendment

Mascots are a great way to inspire a team. My alma mater Florida State has the Seminoles, the hated University of Florida has the Gators and of course Notre Dame has the Fighting Irish. I would like to recommend a mascot to rally conservatives – and the GOP if they wish to come along – for the 2010 elections: AX. No, it’s not an ax nor is it the first two letters of AXE line of personal care products. Rather, as this involves government, it’s an acronym. AX stands for the Tenth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights.

The 10th Amendment of the Constitution may simultaneously be both the most ignored and most important of all of the Amendments.

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Ignored because according to Washington, there is virtually nothing the federal government can’t do. Important because at some point the government will literally control everything and them Americans stop being citizens and simply become drones serving the all powerful state.

If this election stands for any single thing it is that government, particularly the federal government, has simply grown too big and too intrusive. To grasp how true this, imagine just one day out of your life: You wake up in a bed that has one of those “Under Penalty of Law” tags that warns that it must not be taken off by anyone other than the consumer. You head to the bathroom where EPA regulations determine how much water the toilet can use per flush. You head to the kitchen and pour cereal from a box that must be approved by the FTC and whose contents must pass FDA muster. Next you add sugar and milk that cost you twice what they might otherwise if USDA programs did not get in the way of free markets.

Now you get dressed and put your kids in your SUV, whose manufacturer and sales staff had to run the gauntlet of agencies: EPA, FTC, OSHA, NLRB, etc. just so you could have a car. After filling up with $25 of gas ($1.80 of which goes to federal taxes – and likely another $2.00 state taxes) you drop your children off at school where their fate lies in the hands of the Department of Education and a place where the teaching of American History and personal responsibility will likely never rear their ugly heads. Finally you arrive at work where things really get exciting as you get to mix and match with the entire spectrum of government acronyms: IRS, OSHA, ADA, FTC, NLRB, FCC, SEC, HHS… And we haven’t even touched on the things we really like to do from going to a restaurant to watching TV to flying on planes to surfing on the Internet.

At the end of the day Americans consider ourselves free, but the truth of the matter is that the only real freedom left is a sheen of speech and sometimes religion that surround a daily existence where the government’s hand is never far away.

James Madison, the Father of the Constitution was originally against a Bill of Rights in general and later the 10th Amendment in particular, because he felt they were unnecessary. He wrote in Federalist 45:

    The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite… The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security.

He acquiesced to, and eventually became an advocate for both because he understood that others saw a potentially darker side of government run by men and he knew that without such restraints there would be no Constitution.

Unfortunately, the last century has seen the 10th Amendment become nothing more than a fig leaf. While on a very rare occasion courts will strike down something Congress has done based on the limitations of the 10th Amendment, as the various rationales given by the Obama Administration for the Constitutionality of ObamaCare demonstrate, Democrats (and some Republicans as well) largely believe in simply doing what they want and then finding a Constitutional justification for it later.

For this reason I’m suggesting that the 10th Amendment become the mascot of the 2010 election – and then 2012 – with a simple mandate that requires new legislation to specify its specific Constitutional authority, as the GOP has put forward with their Pledge to America. More significantly however, this legislation would require every department and agency in the federal government to demonstrate the Constitutionality of its very existence as well as every single regulation or law it has in place. While I understand that is a massive undertaking, the truth of the matter is that burdensome federal regulations cost the United States millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in GDP annually.

Once the American people see that much that makes up the yoke of federal regulation under which they toil – as well as many of the departments and agencies from which such regulations stem – is based on nonexistent or spurious connections to the actual Constitution, they will demand that Congress expunge the regulations and shutter the departments.

Which brings us back to AX. Mascots provide a rallying cry that allows people from different backgrounds with different life experiences to focus on something they have in common. Resurrecting the 10th Amendment is just such an idea and if conservatives use it as the foundation for their platform of taking the country back from the cancer of progressivism I think they’ll find that most of America will be standing there right beside them cheering them on. GO AX!