Monday, December 9, 2013
Ryan, GOP May Give Up Actual Cuts for 'Future' Cuts, Higher Fees
on Mon, 9 Dec 2013
As Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray finalize negotiations over a 2-year budget deal, the two sides seem to have agreed to eliminate around $30 billion in planned spending cuts for next year. The cuts are part of sequestration, which triggers automatic, across-the-board spending cuts in all discretionary spending. Rather than replacing these with targeted cuts elsewhere in the budget, however, the GOP seems ready to agree to "long-term" budget savings instead. Unfortunately, these long-term savings rarely materialize.
Under the Budget Control Act, which triggers sequestration, discretionary spending is set to fall from $986 billion this year to $967 billion next year. That may look like a cut of $19 billion, but in Washington budget-speak its a cut of $109 billion. In DC, a cut isn't measured against how much the government actually spent, but what it would have spent had certain growth assumptions been included in the budget.
According to reports, Ryan and Murray have agreed to set discretionary spending at just over $1 trillion next year. The difference between sequester levels and their agreement would be covered by "future" savings in entitlements, principally tweaks in benefits calculations. A portion of the increased spending would also be covered by increases in government "user fees." In other words, spending would increase next year, covered by increased government revenue and "future" savings.
The sequester cuts are a terrible way to cut government spending. The cuts fall disproportionally on the military. Also, because they are "across-the-board" the cuts hit vital and inefficient programs equally. The Pentagon and other federal agencies have very little flexibility in applying the required cuts.
They did have the advantage of being actual cuts to spending. They forced the government to cut spending each year, rather than promise future savings far out in the future.
Rather than simply eliminate the spending cuts, Ryan and the GOP could have given agencies the flexibility to apply the cuts to wasteful or inefficient programs. They could have let them experiment with innovations to deliver services more efficiently. Instead, they seem to have resorted to the traditional Washington budgetary bag of tricks.
For the past several decades, most budgets have increased spending and promised future savings that would not only pay for the spending, but reduce future deficits. This habit has delivered a $17 trillion national debt.
Teachers Complain Common Core Makes Them 'Robots,' 'Machines'
on Mon, 9 Dec 2013
Though the bulk of criticism about the content of the Common Core academic standards has come from parents, many teachers are growing increasingly vocal about how the new standards are affecting their daily jobs in the classroom. These teachers complain that Common Core is not allowing them to use their own individual skills in teaching their students.
“Now teachers aren’t as unique,” said Michael Warren, a public school history teacher. “It means anyone can do it. It’s like taking something done by humans and having it done by a machine.”
Glyn Wright, executive director of The Eagle Forum, a watchdog organization that is opposed to Common Core, told FoxNews.com, “The standards were created by private organizations in Washington, D.C., without input from teachers or parents and absent any kind of study or pilot test to prove its effectiveness.”
“In fact, the only mathematician and the only ELA [English Language Arts] expert on the validation committee refused to sign off on the standards because they are inadequate,” Wrightadded. “Yet the standards have been copyrighted and cannot be changed, and this is resulting in a loss of local and state control.”
As Breitbart News reported Friday, the origins of Common Core go back even further to the early associations between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers when they worked together on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), an education foundation that was founded by Ayers and of which Obama was chairman.
Criticism about Common Core by teachers is fairly recent and some believe it is associated with new teacher evaluations that are based on student test scores on the Common Core-aligned assessments. In exchange for federal funding to avoid teacher layoffs, states – many of which signed onto the Common Core - agreed to greater accountability with students’ progress linked to teacher performance. Since states that have already conducted the Common Core assessments have shown significant decline in student scores, teachers are concerned about how the new standards will affect their tenure.
Some teachers, however, feel the pressure associated with the new standards simply takes the joy out of teaching.
“I was given a curriculum and told by my administration to teach it ‘word-for-word,’”FoxNews.com reported that one teacher wrote on a Washington Post blog. “In a meeting with my administration, I was reprimanded with ‘Don’t forget, standards drive our instruction.’”
“I’m unable to do projects anymore because we have so much other stuff to do that is based on the Common Core,” an anonymous teacher toldFoxNews.com. “All the teachers at my school, all we talk about is how we don’t teach anymore and we feel like robots just doing what we are told to teach and can’t have any creativity for the students to enjoy themselves.”
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten, who is a supporter of Common Core, said the rollout of the new standards, complete with plummeting test scores, lack of time for schools to develop curricula associated with the standards, and extreme focus on the Common Core test areas to the detriment of other subjects – has been disastrous.
Once a Commie always a Commie!
By Judd Gregg - 12-09-13 06:00 AM EST
One of the great disconnects occurring today revolves around the concept and purposes of “risk.”
On one side of the divide are those who govern, especially those who populate President Obama’s party.
On the other are those who are governed and still participate in the private sector.
The present Democratic Party is now dominated by those who have a natural inclination to not have much confidence in their fellow Americans’ ability to choose for themselves.
It is a party that has as one of its primary tenets that a government led by well-intentioned and better-educated people should decide how average folks should live their lives.
Whether it is through having the government set the parameters regarding healthcare needs and insurance coverage for everyone, or through restricting the private sector activity at all levels, the goal is to allow a few (that is, those who govern) to choose for the many (that is, those who are governed) as to how things should be.
One of the core beliefs of this approach is that taking risks is not acceptable if the endeavor being undertaken affects others.
This concept leads logically to a belief that most major efforts that impact the society’s daily activity, such as healthcare, energy, banking and education, are really not arenas that should be left to any great degree to the private sector but rather should be treated as public utilities.
Taking risks in these areas that lead to profits or, equally disturbing from the viewpoint of the governing class, failure, simply should not be allowed.
Rather, it is the responsibility of those who govern to step in and protect the society from the effects of profit or implications of failure.
This would be great thinking if the economic activity necessary to create a vibrant energy sector or healthcare system or banking community or education establishment fell from trees. But it does not. Nor does it fall from the government or those who govern.
Strong energy, healthcare, banking and education activity results from investment. It results from people who are willing to take a risk and use their own resources, their savings either individually or collectively through vehicles like pension funds, to support others who are growing these sectors through their initiatives.
As much as the people in this administration — and those who populate the Senate committees of jurisdiction — may try to deny it, the vitality of these sectors is not a function of their brilliant ideas, regulations or laws. It is a function of individual risk-takers.
The attempts by the governing elite to circumscribe the downside of this risk-taking through massive regulation or to mute the upside of this risk-taking through an excessive tax burden does not accomplish the goal of making the system strong, safer and fairer. It has the exact opposite effect.
If, in a market economy, you suffocate the ability to take risk, you do not produce a better atmosphere for jobs and expansion. Rather, you create an atmosphere for mindless muddling and water treading.
Risk is the essence of what drives a market economy forward. The government role is to mitigate it in cases where it could threaten the entire system. But it is not the government’s proper role to oppose and crush it as a force for economic growth because it is seen as violating rules of social concern.
It is ironic that these social tests are laid out by folks who have chosen for themselves the insular path of government participation rather then being willing to subject themselves to the risk of failure and need for effort inherent in participating in the private sector.
Put bluntly, market economies and the risk-takers they require are anathema to this administration and its followers in Congress.
The governing class would much prefer to control the activities of the many, while purporting to be protecting them from themselves. This is a large part of the answer to a question that many ask: Why are we still in an economic “malaise,” to use the language of the left from the late 1970s.
Economic activity and growth do not arrive deus ex machina or from well-intentioned government excess.
If you have an atmosphere where people are not encouraged to invest their capital, where there is rampant uncertainty as to how far the government will go in stifling enterprise through regulations or reducing returns through taxation, then you do not get the risk-takers stepping up.
You do not get robust economic growth.
You do not get jobs.
In the end, the things these well-intentioned people who govern say they want for those they see as their charges will not be realized.
Governments do not create prosperity. People who believe in themselves and their dreams, and who are willing to take risks to realize them, do.
Judd Gregg is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. He is the CEO of SIFMA, a financial industry lobbying group.