Another Write-wing Conspirator

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  • Welcome to The Curmudgeon’s lair

    Welcome to my curmudgeondom. As you’ll soon learn, your reactions to my missives here are likely to range from fear to loathing to tears to outright rage—and I just might even evoke from you an occasional sober nod or two.

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    The purpose of this blog is simple: to provide me a vehicle for sounding-off on whatever topic suits me at the moment. While there’s sure to be no shortage of politically-oriented palaver here, it is by no means all (nor necessarily even most) of what will be proffered to your discerning mind. You’ll also find that my personal politics, ethics, morals, and standards are pretty much “all over the map” (according to my mother-in-law)—so, don’t be surprised to see rants regarding, say, the interference of churches in politics, politically-correct anything, “nanny” laws, taxes, the United Nations, Congress, the Commissioner of Baseball, the State of Ohio’s speed limits, steroids, Jesse Jackson, the “mainstream” media, ultra-liberals, ultra-conservatives, the price of cigarettes, Obamarxism, regulating sales of alcohol, gasoline price manipulation, Muslim foot baths, illegal immigration, laws banning the sale of adult sex toys, cell phones, heavy-handed cops, meddlesome politicians, Hillary, Billary, our all-but-self-proclaimed uncrowned Queen Nancy, “W”, eminent domain, freedom of speech, and the designated hitter all in succession. It is, as I said, my curmudgeondom — and I have the credentials and bona fides to lay claim to the title of The Curmudgeon. So, there.

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    Armchair philosopher, politically-incorrect political commentator, raconteur, retired air traffic controller, dilettante truck driver, US Army veteran, recluse, sometime-writer, redneck convert neè Buckeye, ne'er-do-well, bon vivant, unrepentant libertine, unapologetic libertarian, and (of course) curmudgeon…

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Archive for the ‘education’ Category

The Money Pit: An Old Law Holds True

Posted by The Curmudgeon on August 11, 2010

Parkinson’s Law meets Obama…and Pelosi…and Reid…

In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson first advanced a concept which eventually became known as “Parkinson’s Law.” Though it’s undergone some revisions and refinements (and led to a number of corollaries), its basic premise remains: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

For example, imagine a worker performing a routine task normally requiring sixteen man-hours (nominally, two business days) to complete. Now, imagine that some genius efficiency expert determines that forty hours (one work week) should actually be alloted for this task. According to Parkinson’s maxim, over a period of time our worker will adjust his routine to expend all forty hours alloted for the task—though he’d previously accomplished the same task on numerous occasions within the constraints of the old standard of sixteen hours. (It could also be argued that for a unionized operation there would be an additional demand for overtime—but, that’s fodder for a different rant.)

One popular corollary of this basic premise will sound familiar to most readers: Data expands to fill the space available for storage (i.e., go ahead and buy that humongous hard drive that makes your current drive look puny by comparison—but, you’re still gonna fill it up).

Another corollary is attributed to Parkinson, himself, and is sometimes referred to as “Parkinson’s Second Law”: Expenditures rise to meet income.

Based upon that assertion, one might reasonably deduce that the esteemed Mr. Parkinson must have at some point studied the spending habits of Democrats.

One might also be inclined to pose a hybrid corollary: Congress increases spending to consume whatever money is available—and even spends money that ain’t there.

Most budgets (whether business, military, or household) are intended to establish limits—not goals to attain. Employees are — from the top down — generally encouraged to find ways to reduce spending. Bringing in a project “under budget” is regarded favorably, as doing so makes available previously committed funds to be applied to other projects; should an overly-generous authorization be encountered, it’s not considered acceptable to spend more lavishly in an effort to insure that all alloted funds are exhausted. Exceeding the budget isn’t allowed; when one runs out of alloted funds, there simply isn’t any more money to spend. Work stops. The household has to wait until next month to buy that new television. The Army parks its tanks, trucks, and helicopters because there’s no money to purchase fuel. Plants close. Employees are furloughed.

Conversely, consider recent comments made by Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) to a gathering of his constituents:

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned up here, and I didn’t really need to come up here to learn it, is the only way to get Congress to balance the budget is to give them no choice. The only way to keep them out of the cookie jar is to give them no choice. Which is why, whether its balanced budget acts or pay as you go legislation or any of that—it’s the only thing.” (And now for the best part—with emphasis added…) “If you don’t tie our hands, we’ll keep stealing.”

One scarcely knows whether to be aghast at Perriello’s unexpectedly frank admission or curiously relieved by the refreshing honesty of it; at any rate, it at least confirmed what many already believed. (We’ve been known to sing the praises of an honest crook from time to time.)

Of course, Mr. Perriello overlooks recent history. Obama himself (after racking-up trillions in debt) exhorted Congress to adopt “paygo” to ensure that future expenditures would be deficit-neutral. Congressional Democrats enthusiastically(?) accepted the challenge and shepherded the legislation to passage.

…then began side-stepping their own brand spanking-new rule less than a week later.

More recently, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) cut short Congress’ summer recess, summoning members back to Washington to pass new bail-out legislation, tweeting that “I will be calling the House back into session early next week to save teachers’ jobs and help seniors & children.” (more on that in a moment) The price tag? More than $26 billion added to the staggering deficit (forget actually paying for the measure; all this spending merely adds to the mounting debt—for which there are no funds). Actually, the measure as written assigns the tax debt to U.S. firms operating in overseas markets; however, if these firms respond by simply not shifting funds back home to be taxed, the burden for the resulting shortfall (added to the potential loss of $120 billion in profits that might also be kept overseas) would be transferred to…us.

The latest? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (you know; the federally-financed lenders on which Congress just spent billions upon billions of bail-out dollars it doesn’t have) just crawled back out of the woodwork, hats in hand, to beg for another $3 billion in federal alms. (Don’t breathe a sigh of relief, just yet; this latest request is merely intended to cover the shortfall for the current fiscal quarter. Stay tuned.)

Oh, and (in case it escaped anyone’s attention) there was yet another report released a few days ago showing that the massive “stimulus” package last year had been squandered in large measure on such boondoggles as:

  • $762,000 to create interactive choreography programs at the University of North Carolina
  • $296,000 for a study of dog domestication at Cornell University
  • $2,000,000 to send researchers from the California Academy of Sciences to islands in the Indian Ocean to study exotic ants
  • $500,000 for new windows at the Mt. St. Helens visitors center in Amboy, Washington. (The building has been closed since 2007 and there are no immediate plans to reopen it.)
  • $89,000 to replace sidewalks in Boynton, Oklahoma (The “old” sidewalks had been built only five years before. Moreover, one of them goes nowhere near any houses or businesses and leads directly into a ditch.)
  • $1,200,000 to create a museum in an abandoned train station in Glasboro, NJ

It should be noted that it’s unclear whether this “stimulus” package — intended to create jobs — actually created more than a relative handful.

How does this happen?

No great mystery. Remember the health care reform package? Remember how scandalized we all were to learn that virtually no one in Congress had read it prior to voting on it? It was 1,017 pages long.

This year’s federal budget is 2,450 pages long; how many people do you think have read all of that one? Or last year’s? Or the year before?

Pork-barrel projects are generally concealed very carefully within such spending measures; it’s sometimes nearly impossible to figure out who inserted specific expenditures (if anyone even notices them). In many cases, it’s a matter of “you vote for mine, and I’ll vote for yours.”

And we give these clowns the key to the treasury. Which probably explains why it’s currently empty.

As to Pelosi’s latest effort? Forget saving teachers’ jobs; that’s not what it’s about.

This bail-out is superficially intended to help debt-ridden states (those that refused to rein-in spending…California and New York, for example—blue states, it should be noted) to balance their budgets. The fix will be temporary, as these states have yet to make the necessary cuts in expenditures to ensure long-term viability (last year’s $862 billion “stimulus” package included $145 billion to balance state budgets—and it obviously didn’t last very long). So, Congress will now be voting to decide whether the states that practiced fiscal responsibility are ultimately going to be taxed to bail-out those that refused to.

But, wait; there’s more (R.I.P., Billy Mays). Consider these figures compiled by Americans for Limited Government in a recent newsletter:

Out of the estimated 3.3 million public school teachers nationwide, teachers’ unions were expecting about 160,000 layoffs this year—roughly 4.8 percent of all teachers. Slightly more than 38 percent of those expected layoffs are centered in just three states: 9,000 in New Jersey, 16,000 in New York and 36,000 in California.

About 57 percent of those 160,000 teachers are unionized, with contributions to state and local unions averaging $300 per teacher. Add another $162 per teacher to the National Education Association and $190 per teacher to the American Federation of Teachers (as reported by Education Next), and Congress will in effect be voting to pump no less than $40 million (emphasis mine) into the political coffers of teachers’ unions.*

Quickly, now; which party do you think will be the beneficiary of union contributions?

In other words: If you’re a Republican in a state that has a balanced budget, you can expect to be taxed not only to pay for wasteful spending in California and New York, but also to contribute indirectly to Democrats’ campaign funds.

Not that Queen Nancy (from California—just in case you’ve forgotten) has such thoughts in her mind. She just wants to help teachers and old folks and children. Oh, and cops and firefighters (again, widely unionized). Just ask her.

Just don’t ask her exactly what’s in the measure, nor what it’s actually intended to achieve. (Remember that she once said that Congress “has to pass the legislation in order for you to find out what’s in it.”)

Her mission is, at best, to spend more and more money that we don’t have.

Once again, Parkinson is proven a sage.

So is Congressman Perriello.

Somebody tie Washington’s hands—quickly.

 

 

UPDATE: The $26 billion in spending has been approved by Congress and awaits Obama’s signature.

The watchword now is “BOHICA.” (Bend Over, Here It Comes Again)

* ALG drew heavily from the following sources:

NetRight Daily How 39 Dems and Snowe and Collins Gave $40 Billion to Teachers Unions
EducationNext The Long Reach of Teachers Unions
The Heritage Foundation Teachers Unions Stifle Education Reform

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Posted in budget, corruption, debt, deficit, economy, education, election, federal bail-out, labor, obama, Parkinson's Law, Pelosi, politics, Reid, stimulus, tax, waste | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Paying the piper

Posted by The Curmudgeon on March 26, 2010

Will Democrats pay the price come election time? Will we?

By hook or by crook (and mostly the latter—from what we can glean, anyway), Obama got his way; his health care/health care insurance/student loan/Gawd-only-knows-what “reform” scheme has been brought to fruition. Congressional Democrats—many no doubt weary of being by turns bribed and bludgeoned into submission—finally gave him what he wanted.

The question now is: At what cost?

Not just in real dollars; we already have an idea how brutal that will be. The real question is whether the political price some believe will be borne by Democrats seeking re-election a little over seven months from now will prove worth it.

Obama, of course, believes so; on the other hand, he’s not a Senator maneuvered into voting for providing erectile-dysfunction drugs to convicted child molesters or taxing wounded veterans for access to proper medical care.

In an excellent piece written by Kimberley A. Strassel for The Wall Street Journal (The Senate Reckoning: Senate Democrats get beat up by their own reconciliation rules), we learn that Senate Republican leaders proved a bit more shrewd than previously thought—and Harry Reid outsmarted himself (no major feat, granted—but noteworthy, nonetheless).

By opting for the “reconciliation” process (necessitated by the loss of their 60-vote “supermajority” with the election of Scott Brown), Reid unwittingly painted himself into a corner—along with his fellow Democrats. Trapped by their own rules, Democrats had to approve the reconciliation measure without amendment; any changes would have triggered another vote (which they likely wouldn’t have won—and risked killing the legislation altogether). Republicans no doubt privately chortled with glee, as any amendment offered would have to be rejected by the Democrats—even if it was something Democrats sincerely wanted—whether the Republicans actually wanted to see it adopted or not. They could’ve offered amendments for everything from providing womb-to-grave free medical care for everyone to taxing the snot out of insurance companies to pay for Obama’s travel bills—and the Democrats would’ve been obliged to oppose them. All of them. And there was no limit on the number of amendments that could be offered. Democrats were forced into the position of voting against each amendment—no matter what it was—and having their votes recorded. It had the potential for being the most fateful moment since George H.W. Bush foolishly uttered: “Read my lips.”

Predictably (as so astutely observed by Ms Strassel), this coming November, Republican candidates can look forward to correctly asserting that the Democrat running for re-election supported supplying Viagra to sexual predators, tried to tax Jerry’s Kids for their wheelchairs and braces, and might even have had a hand in killing Cock Robin—and the voting record proves it.

Obama praised Democrats’ “courage” for casting tough votes; inwardly, they had to be thinking: Thanks, you idiot, for forcing me to support putting Chester the Molester’s perversion into overdrive. Arlen Specter (D-PA) already faced an uphill battle for re-election; now, he’ll have to go home and explain to his constituents how he voted away their chance to opt-out of the whole mess. Oh, and Democrats specifically voted to exempt themselves from this landmark “reform” (a choice the rest of us don’t have—and most of us resent).

From the outset, an arrogant Obama counted on three things: an overwhelming majority in Congress to do his bidding, quick passage of his legislation (designed, of course, to lengthen the interval between passage and the midterm election—hoping we’d have time both to forget it all and to become accustomed to whatever entitlements we might receive), and the sheer immensity of a scheme that kept potentially troublesome provisions deeply hidden.

Instead, the process dragged-on for several months, his own majority proved stubborn, and we already know many of the dirty little secrets he’d have preferred to have kept hidden a bit longer. As the election draws near, passions may not have time to subside to a level to be of value to him; conversely, November is still far enough in the future to permit careful examination of his “masterpiece.” (Burying the devil in the details is a two-edged sword; it lessens the initial impact—but it repeatedly brings the legislation back to the voters’ attention as all those surprises are brought into the daylight a little at a time, thereby preventing its fading from memory prior to the election.)

Appearing in Iowa City shortly after signing the legislation, Obama invited Republicans intent on repealing the measure to “Go for it. Be my guest.” He, too, realizes that people quickly become content with entitlements—and resist having them taken away.

He might be well-advised to be careful what he wishes for; while some provisions took effect immediately, many of them will take years. There’s considerable doubt as to who will benefit from what, and how soon—and what percentage of the vote they will constitute in seven months’ time.

Giving the devil his due, Obama managed to eke-out a political victory when he needed it; again, however, the cost is still undetermined. Flush with his (Pyrrhic?) win, he’s been quick to claim broad acceptance of his plan; he sees it as a shot in the arm to advance his agenda (whatever that is). However, his reliance on strong-arm tactics and blatant bribery belie his campaign promise of “changing the way Washington does business”—or any other kind of change, either. His is the classic machine politics, Chicago-style thuggery on a larger scale. His promised openness and transparency long ago went by the wayside; by now, the criticism of his secret back-room deals has spilled-over from the much-maligned right-wing (and the much-reviled Fox News) into the mainstream. As far back as early January, even CNN had to take note. (See video of Jack Cafferty’s commentary of January 6, 2010.)


The political cost to Democrats? That remains to be seen. As Obama himself said last month during the Blair House tête-à-tête: “That’s what elections are for.”

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Posted in corruption, economy, education, election, health care costs, health care insurance, health care reform, insurance, obama, ObamaCare, politics, Reid, vote | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Making college athletes actually study? And graduate? Oh, the humanity!

Posted by The Curmudgeon on March 20, 2010

Time to re-align priorities?

For those accustomed to my doing a fair amount of bashing of all things Obama—…well, you might want to direct your attention to a different blog for a moment.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (appointed by his old pal Barry Obama) recently caused a bit of a stir in the world of college basketball by proposing that schools failing to graduate at least forty per cent of their athletes be barred from post-season competition; as might be expected, the announcement hasn’t been greeted with open arms by coaches at many powerhouse universities.

Tough.

If anything, the proposal doesn’t go far enough. Duncan should be praised—and encouraged to go farther. (Anyone who’s suffered through some of those post-game interviews with players barely able to string-together a coherent sentence should agree.)

No one will outdo me in extolling the virtues of scholastic sports—all the way from middle school to college. They teach discipline, develop leaders, and foster teamwork. Beginning decades ago, colleges began offering athletic scholarships that offered educational opportunities to some who would otherwise be unable to afford higher education—providing yet another impetus for pursuing athletic excellence. I participated in sports through high school, and encourage others to do so.

One thing I clearly remember, though: from the first time I suited-up in the seventh grade through my senior year of high school, we all understood that if we didn’t maintain our grades we wouldn’t be eligible to play.

Somewhere along the line, however, priorities became skewed; what was once considered a strictly extracurricular activity became the primary (and — for some — sole) reason for attending college. Grades became almost an afterthought (as did class attendance). Athletic programs demanded more and more of the student-athlete’s time. Athletic programs themselves became cash-cows for the universities. Academic performance by many athletes became downright embarrassing; some claimed to have never attended classes for which they received full credit, and at least one prominent professional sports figure revealed after his playing days were over that he’d remained functionally illiterate through the four years he’d attended one of the most prestigious universities in the nation.

Finally, the NCAA stepped-in several years ago and established minimum academic standards and oversight for collegiate athletics; unfortunately, they didn’t set the bar very high—but, at least it was something.

Despite such reforms, academic performance by college athletes isn’t what it should be. Meanwhile, universities reap huge returns on their investments in athletic programs—proceeds which are not shared with the athletes, owing to their amateur standing. (It has been suggested that this constitutes a form of modern “gladiator”-style slavery, of sorts.) After capitalizing (practically for free) on sole access to students’ athletic prowess, universities can essentially discard them once they’ve exhausted their eligibility—whether they’ve graduated or not (most haven’t).

Not graduating wouldn’t be such an issue if every scholarship athlete stepped into professional sports and became an instant zillionaire; the simple truth, though, is that only a small percentage do so. Do the math: there are hundreds of colleges—and only a relative handful of professional franchises. For example, the NBA comprises thirty teams; the NCAA’s “March Madness” tournament alone features only the top sixty-four college teams. Pretty long odds, there—and this ignores the very real possibility of a career-ending injury being sustained during an athlete’s collegiate career.

Bear in mind, also, that many college athletes aren’t challenged all that much, academically speaking. Take a look at their majors; some appear to be less intellectually-charged than Basket Weaving 101. Degree or not, how employable are they going to be?

So…after four years of labor and wear-and-tear, those who don’t carve-out a niche at the professional level may well come up woefully short on marketability.

…and now universities are biting fingernails over a requirement to graduate a paltry forty per cent ?

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Posted in competition, education, March Madness, NCAA, sports | 3 Comments »