Posts Tagged Political

Educating to Opportunity


Democrats, legislatively decimated but flush with executive power, have decided to make increased spending on public education the centerpiece of their domestic agenda for 2015.  The issue feeds a key political base – the entrenched education establishment, primarily public sector labor unions – and has a mom and apple pie appeal to voters, especially independent voters.

President Barack Obama recently unveiled a plan to provide every American who wants one a “free” two-year community college degree.  Free, in this instance, comes with a $60 billion price tag for taxpayers.  At the state level, incoming Governor Tom Wolf has pledged to restore non-existent public education spending cuts to sate the financial appetites of the state teachers’ union which backed him in the last election.

The problem is this policy push is focusing on the wrong aspect of public education.  Rather than debating spending increases, we should be asking: what are we getting for the money we already spend?

The answer: not enough.

Despite the fact spending on K-12 public education has increased at more than double the rate of inflation for decades, test scores uniformly reveal no corresponding improvement in student performance.  Here in Penn’s Woods, a failure to address what everybody but the labor unions understand is a public pension crisis has resulted in any new revenue being sucked up to fulfill pension obligations leaving virtually no new money available to actually benefit students.

Taxpayers, still struggling to shake off the effects of the Great Recession, are understandably demanding more accountability for the substantial chunk of their income already forcibly taken from them so they can continue to own their own homes.  There is reluctance, if not an inability, for many working families and senior citizen households to pay more, especially when outcomes are not improving.

Worse, public education today has become so disconnected from the real world it is failing to educate students for the openings that await them in the job market.  This “skills gap” is striking.  According to a 2014 report by Byron Pitts on the CBS program 60 Minutes, more than three million jobs in this nation are unfilled because employers cannot find employees with the needed skills.  Over 500,000 of those jobs are family sustaining, well-paid manufacturing jobs with benefits.  The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found one in three manufacturers in its region faced a labor shortage because of what it termed a “mismatch of skills.”

Who is to blame for this “mismatch of skills” and public education’s collective failure to educate to opportunity?  The short answer is everyone.  That is because the focus has been almost exclusively on funding rather than on the core reason why we have public education in the first place, which is to equip students to successfully earn a living.

Among those who are focused on the problem is Dr. Vince Bertram. A former teacher, principal and school superintendent he today heads a nonprofit organization called Project Lead the Way.  During a recent interview on American Radio Journal Dr. Bertram advocated for a renewed emphasis in our public schools on the so-called STEM subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  These are the skills students lack coming out of both high school – and all too often the nation’s colleges and universities – with the core skills needed to be hired and trained for today’s more highly technical jobs.

Unfortunately, both President Obama and Governor-elect Wolf remain mired in the politics of the past.  Simply advocating more spending will not solve the problem.  Instead of fighting to feed entrenched political interests effective leadership would engage all the stake-holders in the education process, from taxpayers to labor unions to educators, in reinventing public education to meet the needs of both students and employers.

Nothing less than the future health of our nation’s economy and the well-being of the next generation of Americans are at stake.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitutue.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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A Common Thread


With 24-hour cable news and an ever-present stream of information over the Internet it is sometimes difficult to discern trends or common threads due to the overwhelming amount of information that bombards us. But sometimes seemingly unrelated events or actions actually come together, much like a jigsaw puzzle, to form a bigger picture.

So what then do the “cattle battle” in Nevada, IRS persecution of conservative groups, NSA collection of so-called “meta-data,” and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act all have in common? They are all examples of growing, pervasive, out-of-control government over-reach. And there is sub-text: in each case the over-reach has been perpetrated by non-elected bureaucrats all operating under the purview of the executive branch.

The case of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy threatens to become the most explosive of these issues. The root of the problem extends back generations as the federal government has taken control of over 84% of the land mass of the state of Nevada. Similar land grabs have occurred in most other non-Pacific western states. As bureaucracies tend to do, the Bureau of Land Management has steadily expanded its control and placed more and more rules and regulations on federal lands.

Bundy claims the land grab is unconstitutional and that the territory belongs to the state. His refusal to pay grazing fees to the federal government stem from this state’s rights issue. He claims he will pay the back fees to the state of Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management nearly triggered armed confrontation by attempting to forcibly take Mr. Bundy’s cattle. This resulted in armed militia types rushing to defend Mr. Bundy. Wisely, the feds stood down.

This occurred against a backdrop of cooler heads, many state officials, meeting in nearby Utah to discuss ways to address the issue of federal land control. Clearly this is a problem that extends well beyond Mr. Bundy. While officials attempt to deal with the issue, a militia 50,000 strong in Oklahoma is vowing to take up arms, if necessary, to assist Mr. Bundy. Rational voices from media mogul Glenn Beck to Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe have spoken up against violent action. But it is clear that the age old issue of property rights remains a raw nerve for many mid-western Americans.

While the Bureau of Land Management oppresses ranchers, the watchdog group Judicial Watch this past week obtained e-mails showing the Internal Revenue Service’s jihad against conservative groups was more widespread than initially reported. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told the media “These new e-mails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner (then head of the IRS) was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations the IRS had already improperly targeted.” In other words, Lerner was set to move from persecution to prosecution.

Less explosive, but more wide-ranging is the continued implementation of the flawed and deeply unpopular Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. While the president touted contested numbers purporting to have reached enrollment goals, his Secretary of Health was being dispatched back to the private sector transparently for the disastrous roll-out of the program.

Perhaps no example of government over-reach has been more glaring than Obamacare. From the passage of the act along strictly partisan lines, to the Obama Administration’s continual rewriting of the rules, granting of exemptions, and extending of deadlines, the program has been mismanaged by bureaucrats who apparently weren’t able to understand what was in the law even after congress passed the law.

Finally, the issue of the National Security Administration (NSA) snooping into the private lives of Americans continues to gain traction as whistle-blower Edward Snowden joined Russian President Vladimir Putin on a talk show to discuss how oppressive U.S. intelligence agencies have become. You know it’s bad when a former KGB agent claims the moral high ground. Again, as with the other agencies, the NSA operates with little effective oversight from elected officials.

Out-of-control federal bureaucracies are nothing new, and in fact have vexed both congress and presidents since the founding of the Republic. But the pendulum has now swung way too far. The president, who views himself as more of a dictator than a chief executive, fosters this swing to bureaucratic control. Democrats in congress follow their leader like sheep, and congressional Republican leaders are inept and ineffective.

As America enters a crucial two-year period where control of both the congress and the White House are up for grabs, reigning in the size and scope of the federal government is an issue that should be at the top of most voters’ list of concerns.

 

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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IRS’ Next Target: Health Insurance


By Jennifer Stefano

The mainstream media is rightly shocked and outraged to find the IRS has admitted to harassing and targeting the political opposition of President Obama just because they had “tea party” or “patriot” in their name, or an even graver sin, put on the IRS applications that they were a group dedicated to liberty, the Constitution or, as one report said, “seeking to make America a better place to live.”

I truly appreciate the mainstream media’s coverage and outrage – it is well placed but not quite well timed. Those of us who got our start in the Tea Party have only been saying it for about 4 years.

I’ve been out in the mainstream media quite a bit this past week talking about how I shut down my little Tea Party group because I was fearful the IRS was going to come after me the way they were going after so many groups.

That’s right, for a time, I shut down my political voice because I was fearful and quite frankly, I was intimidated by what the IRS would do to me because I was opposing President Obama’s policies.

As much as I like to think I am one tough cookie – the fact is when all this was unfolding I was a pregnant stay at home mom – living on one income and I was extremely worried the IRS could come after me and my family and ruin our lives.   It wouldn’t be the first time in American history the IRS has done that.

Rather than risk that exposure – I shut down my group and I’m just glad bigger organizations dedicated to liberty – like Americans for Prosperity – were there when I wanted to have a platform to exercise my political voice.

But you know – it’s not THIS IRS abuse that keeps me up at night with worry. It’s something else to do with the IRS – far more dangerous and far more insidious and in just one more year, the IRS is going to have more power and more ability to gather personal information on Americans and use it to punitively punish us more than they ever had had before.

Even without this recent scandal, it’s pretty safe to say most Americans fear the IRS because they are unelected and unaccountable – yet the have the ability, at any time, to swoop in and take our hard-earned money – in the form of taxes – as they see fit. If we pay late, they fine us. If we fail to pay, it gets much worse than a fine. If we pay too little, we owe them big time on April 15th. If we pay too much during the year, they return our money to us in the form of a refund and act like they are bestowing a gift upon us rather than admitting they screwed up and took too much of our money. Our money. Our families. It’s all very personal.

And while we sit here and shudder at what has happened, it’s important to know that the IRS – the organization that just spent four years targeting the political opposition of the sitting President has been empowered by the President, through the healthcare law, to police every, single American’s healthcare choices.

Do you want to know how bad this is going to get?   Starting in 2014, all Americans are being forced to pay for health insurance. But under Obamacare – the IRS and not you will determine whether the insurance you have chosen “qualifies.” You’ll be forced now to send that information via your tax return. And if the government doesn’t like it? The IRS can hit you with a tax penalty.

That’s right, the IRS can raise money for itself simply by deciding that you don’t have “qualifying” health insurance.   Now, supporters of Obamacare will argue that there are rules and laws to mandate the IRS don’t arbitrarily do that. Right….just like there are rules and laws mandating that the IRS can’t go after people because they have “patriot” or “tea party” in their name or happen to oppose the sitting President’s policies. Didn’t seem to stop the IRS from doing just that for the last four years, did it?
And here’s what’s worse: under Obamacare, the IRS was already given a billion dollars and hired 700 agents just to police our healthcare.   It is estimated the IRS will need another 13 billion dollars and 15,000 new agents just to police Americans’ healthcare over the next decade and keep up with their tax collection duties.

There are so many reasons to repeal the President’s healthcare law – but the recent admission by the IRS that they intentionally targeted the President’s political opposition has to jump to number one. After all, do you want the people who can’t be trusted with our tax laws to be involved in your health care?

I’m Jennifer Stefano. You can find out more at Americans for Prosperity.org/Pennsylvania or

follow me on Twitter at @stefanospeaks!

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The Circle Game


By Lowman S. Henry

After the longest and most expensive election cycle in American history we are

. . . right back where we started. President Barack Obama has been re-elected by a narrow margin – even more narrow than his 2008 victory over John McCain, Democrats will continue to control the U.S. Senate – although holding less than the magic 60 votes needed to move legislation; and the GOP has maintained, even increased its hold on the House of Representatives.

Voters have opted to gridlock the federal government. Given President Obama’s razor thin 2.5 million vote win in the popular count, and the GOP’s failure to capture control of the Senate, Congress will continue to be polarized and paralyzed. Thus in the coming weeks as the nation faces a series of critical fiscal tests including raising the debt ceiling, dealing with the expiration of Bush era tax rates and the need to enact a 2012-2013 budget, the national government will be deeply divided.

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s defeat, pressure will be on Republicans to cave and compromise. They should not. This election was not a repudiation of conservative economics. If anything it was a continuation of the deep, even division among the American electorate that was ushered in at the beginning of this century when the 2000 Presidential race ended up essentially tied.   The re-election of President George W. Bush hinged on a few thousand votes in Ohio; the movement of less than a half million votes in a few key states powered Barack Obama’s victory in 2008; and, less than 100,000 votes in three or four key states decided Tuesday’s election.

Thus voters have been remarkably consistent over the past four presidential elections. The big swings have come in the composition of Congress, with Democrats affecting wave elections in 2006 and 2008, and the GOP staging a historic resurgence in 2010. This year, voters appeared to have sated their appetite for legislative change and embraced the status quo.

The 2012 election was not an electoral repudiation of either party, rather it served as validation of each.   In short, there is no consensus among the electorate on a way forward. Under those circumstances we should not expect our elected officials in Washington to arrive at one. Republicans were put in office by their voters to rein in government spending and reduce the federal deficit. Democrats embraced a tax and spend approach and have been rewarded by their constituents. It is unlikely either side is going to back down because to do so would be to alienate the very voters who sent them to Washington in the first place.

In the days and weeks ahead the failure of the GOP to capture the White House amidst dire and deteriorating economic circumstances will be the subject of much discussion, debate and finger pointing. But, Republicans should resist the urge to be swayed by denizens of the Left who will claim the party’s historic conservative economic principles caused that failure. It did not. Mitt Romney was never a disciple of the Right and his rejection at the polls was not a rejection of conservative principles.

In fact, perhaps the time has finally come for the national GOP to realize that nominating moderates for President simply does not work. Despite the fact he performed admirably throughout the campaign, Mitt Romney was never an effective spokesman for the conservative wing of the party. Aside from a pivot to the Right in the early primaries he did not try to be. He was nominated in an effort to appeal to independents and to moderate voters. In the process, the GOP did not develop the bold sharp contrast needed to convince the broad electorate to fire a failed president.

This is the fourth time in recent decades this strategy has failed. George H.W. Bush in 1992, Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain in 2008, and now Mitt Romney in 2012 all fit the moderate mold. All lost. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush flew the conservative flag, and won. With Barack Obama the Democrats were not afraid to embrace their party’s left-wing ideology. They won because they stood for something, just like Reagan and George W. Bush did in achieving their victories. The GOP sacrificed its core message and lost.

And so, here we are back where we began. Hopefully – finally – some lessons will be learned. As we move forward, Republicans in Congress must embrace the GOP’s core ideology, start drawing those bright lines of distinction and put together a strategy for effectively communicating it to the American people.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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This Week on American Radio Journal: John Gizzi’s Election Predictions


Radio Program Schedule for the week of November 3, 2012 – November 9, 2012

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Adam Tragone has an Off the Cuff wrap-up of the Presidential, U.S. Senate and U.S. House races with Human Events Political Editor and White House correspondent John Gizzi
  • Lowman Henry gets the Real Story about what issues will top the agenda when congress returns to work from Andy Roth of the Club for Growth
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on White House stonewalling over Bengazi

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm and Melissa Daniels have news headlines from paindependent.com
  • Lowman Henry has a Newsmaker interview with Dr. John Goodman from the Center for Policy Analysis about reforming health care
  • Joe Geiger has a Community Benefit Spotlight on the role of nonprofits in dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy
  • Col. Frank Ryan, USMC (Ret.) has a Lincoln Radio Journal commentary on the economic impact of deflation

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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2012 PA Leadership Conference Panel Topics Announced


Four interactive panel discussions to be presented at conference

Harrisburg, PA – The 2012 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, to be held March 23rd and 24th at the Radisson Penn Harris Convention Center in Camp Hill (Harrisburg), will feature four interactive panel presentations including Right-Sizing State Government; Marcellus: How Shale We Proceed?; Obama’s Regulatory Overkill; and Reaganizing the PA GOP. The panels will be interactive, with conference participants having the opportunity to submit questions to panelists.

Selected as moderators of the panels are:

Right-Sizing State Government

Matthew Brouillette, President of the Commonwealth Foundation

Marcellus: How Shale We Proceed?

Gregory Wrightstone, PA Coalition for Responsible Government

Obama’s Regulator Overkill

Hon. Colleen Sheehan, Villanova University

Reaganizing the PA GOP

Colin Hanna, President of Let Freedom Ring, USA

Also added to the 2012 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference schedule is a debate among the Republican candidates for United State Senator which will take place at the conference’s concluding luncheon on Saturday, March 24th.

Featured speakers at the 2012 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference include Fox News Senior Political Analyst Brit Hume; U.S. Senator Pat Toomey; Grover Norquist from Americans for Tax Reform and John Gizzi, Political Editor of Human Events.

Additional featured speakers, panelists, and seminar topics will be announced in the near future.

Complete information and registration for the 2012 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference is available at www.paleadershipconference.org.

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Scott Paterno Commentary: The Uncomfortable Truth


A few weeks before he announced his own run for the White House, Gov. Perry made the following statement: “Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me. That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”
 
It is a simple view of the 10th Amendment and one that certainly has merit: individual states should be left to their own devices on matters that are not, to paraphrase the Amendment, expressly delegated to the Federal Government. As Gov. Perry correctly notes, that includes the definition of marriage, among other things; absent a Constitutional amendment, the States have jurisdiction.
 
The wording of the amendment is important. It reads: “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.” It is often referred to as “the reserved powers clause” because of its distinct wording; it limited federal constitutional powers to those powers specifically delegated while the remainders – everything else – were “reserved to the States.”
 
The history of the Republic is marked by the battles over the reserved and delegated powers, on issues ranging from slavery to abortion, from apple grading to building codes. The Founders meant it that way, and intentionally left the larger swath of political unknowns to the states. They did this so that new policies could to be tested on a smaller scale while respecting local mores and customs.
 
The system is genius. As Franklin noted, it set up each state as an incubator of policy ideas, allowing failures to be limited in scope while the very best policies could be replicated by other states.
 
That is why Governor Perry’s position on the 10th Amendment is correct – but it is also why his attack on Romneycare rings so hollow.
 
This is not a specific defense of Romneycare; on the contrary, I dislike the law and there are many aspects that were failures. But, bluntly, that is exactly what is supposed to happen – states are supposed to try and fail in the hopes that they will occasionally succeed. This allows our society to benefit from the testing of any number of new policy ideas while significantly limiting national risk in the event an attempt does fail.
 
Think about it in these terms: does anyone think that uninsured people aren’t an issue we, as a society, should try and address? The cost of mandatory treatment for uninsured people at hospitals makes the economics alone a sufficient basis for the attempt. In 2006 most of us – myself included – wanted to see states try new options to mitigate this obvious problem.
 
When then Gov. Romney took a swing at the problem he did so with the right intentions – he built a plan that fit his constituency in the hopes of solving a problem all but the most cynical see. It was not a plan for Pennsylvania, Hawaii or Texas – it was a plan for Massachusetts. 
 
The legislation’s results were mixed; fewer children are uninsured but the plan was unwieldy and expensive. The country learned from the experience, even if the Obama administration did not; state governments did not adopt the Massachusetts plan. And it is hardly the fault of the former Governor of Massachusetts if a subsequent President tried to force a state plan on the entire nation while dramatically expanding the original plan’s scope.
 
No one – not even Perry – is arguing that the people of Massachusetts didn’t get what they wanted when the legislature adopted a version of universal care. And, at the same time Massachusetts was setting its policy, the people from “the State of Texas” were able to keep their system – a result 10th amendment purists should applaud. The system worked exactly as the Founders intended.
 
Governor Perry, as his remarks on gay marriage demonstrate, knows this. His attacks on Governor Romney over a valid state issue are therefore politically crass and disingenuous.
 
But even more than that, the attempt to score cheap points shows the lack of perspective many sense in the current governor of Texas. After all, we want states to experiment with new ideas and ways to try and solve problems we all know exist. If we make the price of such failure the end of later ambition aren’t we dooming ourselves to repeating the same problems again and again? Put another way, if we place such a huge disincentive on trying new things, aren’t we simply limiting ourselves to the failed ideas of the past?
 
The 10th Amendment encourages the opposite. Governor Romney understood this and was willing to take a chance and see if there wasn’t something better than the status quo.
 
Did it work? Not the way he’d hoped. But the attempt was and remains important, as does the critical lesson – that the states are the place to try these new solutions. Let the states try and fail (until we succeed) as the constitution intended. One size does not fit all.
 
That is why Governor Perry is in such a bind – he needs to attack Gov. Romney for passing universal healthcare when in reality he knows that this is exactly what the 10th Amendment he champions contemplates. He understands the fundamental difference between Romneycare and Obamacare has always been this simple: Romneycare is a state level solution envisioned by the 10th Amendment and welcomed by the constituents it serves; Obamacare is a federal mess imposed through questionably democratic means on a populace who doesn’t want it.
 
The next 4-8 years will present any number of new and nearly intractable problems, ranging from emerging threats to economic upheaval. Solutions will be proposed at all levels of government – exactly as our federal system envisioned. Some of these ideas will succeed while even more will likely fail. But the attempts are desperately needed, and the solution to our big problems will remain elusive as long as we don’t have encourage and foster those attempts.
 
That is what the 10th Amendment envisioned. Do we really want a leader so hidebound by rhetoric that he cannot see the larger principle? Can we afford a leader who will only “stick to his guns” when circumstances ultimately (and inevitably) change? And can we truly call such a person a “leader?”
 
After all, isn’t that what we have now, and isn’t that what we are seeking to replace?
 
I’m Scott Paterno, and that is the uncomfortable truth.

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