Saturday, December 24, 2011

Compromise, or snooker it my way?

Whenever there is an issue in Washington, or any state legislature or city council for that matter, the hew and cry for "compromise" springs up.  Usually asking one side to sacrifice their view, principles, or goals to come along side their more vocal opponents and vote their way.  That was not the traditional understanding of compromise.

Some definitions of compromise:
  • An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.
  • A middle state between conflicting opinions or actions reached by mutual concession or modification.
  • The acceptance of standards that are lower than is desirable.
The latest example of the compromise argument came with the efforts to extend the payroll (your future social security fund) tax holiday.  The essential argument was about how long to extend it.  For a two month period, which requires yet another repeat of the discussion and bashing starting up in a month, or for a full year, which gives businesses and people a stable environment to plan for.  There are some, National Payroll Reporting Consortium, who stated the two month plan cannot even be implemented properly in time.

However Rep Betty McCollum declares this could have been have been a failure to compromise, had Boehner not capitulated a day later.
December 19, 2011 -- Congresswoman McCollum's Remarks on the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Ac bet of 2011 (H.R. 3630)
This bill is likely to be a missed opportunity for true compromise. It does important things, such as extending the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans and preventing a 27.4 percent cut to Minnesota physician reimbursements with a two-year fix.
Either plan would accomplish the main goals she states, but yet only one way, capitulation, constitutes a "compromise" for Betty McCollum, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and President Obama.  So is "compromise" still the case of mutual concessions, or has it become more about how it appears in the media?  An appearance that quite possibly accepts the lesser standard.

Saul Alinsky in “Rules for Radicals” gives light to the new use of "compromise" as a tool for victory
But to the organizer, compromise is a key and beautiful word. It is always present in the pragmatics of operation. It is making the deal, getting that vital breather, usually the victory. If you start with nothing, demand 100 per cent, then compromise for 30 per cent, you’re 30 per cent ahead. — P.59
A writer on the Daily Kos gives his view of compromise as a barrier to continuous progressive change.
There are many, many progressive conservatives in the Democratic party, of course, and even a few (well, one or two) progressive liberals in Congress. But if the Republican party is overwhelmingly regressive, and the Democratic party is largely progressive, what can be said of compromise between the two? What, exactly, is the middle ground between forward and backward?
The answer, I believe, explains a great deal about the current state of our government, our economy, and our nation. Furthermore, I believe it illustrates the ultimate futility of our President's slavish devotion to compromise between the regressive ideas of Washington Republicans and the progressive (if conservative) Democrats.
His creative, though flawed, use of a description of “regressive” vs “progressive” is interesting as a straw man, redefining the participants, to jump to  his conclusion.  The straw man fails in the light of the reality of the steady persistent change toward the progressive world view.  While it is not a strictly straight line trend, the reality is that with each compromise the "center point" shifts.  So the next compromise is based on the cumulative results of the previous compromises as the basis.  Thus creating an ultimately consistent march toward the progressive world view.  That is the meaning of Alinsky’s rule that each “compromise” is a victory and a tool for the radical to advance their agenda.

A story from  “Tom Brown's Schooldays” by Thomas Hughes evokes a clear vision of the new form of  “compromise”, and provides an excellent conclusion. [Note: Tom, et. al. are talking about a second Tom]
"Yes, he's a whole-hog man, is Tom. Must have the whole animal hair and teeth, claws and tail," laughed East. "Sooner have no bread any day than half the loaf."

"I don't know;" said Arthur - "it's rather puzzling; but ain't most right things got by proper compromises - I mean where the principle isn't given up?"

"That's just the point," said Tom; "I don't object to a compromise, where you don't give up your principle."

"Not you," said East laughingly. - "I know him of old, Arthur, and you'll find him out some day. There isn't such a reasonable fellow in the world, to hear him talk. He never wants anything but what's right and fair; only when you come to settle what's right and fair, it's everything that he wants, and nothing that you want. And that's his idea of a compromise. Give me the Brown compromise when I'm on his side."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tolerance, or how to marginalize those you don't agree with

Our traditional view of tolerance has always been understood to mean that we recognized and respected a person’s belief without actually sharing them. That meant we could have honest debate about issues, where opposing sides could argue their case with respect, and while not agreeing with the opposition, recognize their constitutional and natural right to hold their beliefs and opinions. The protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness [not necessarily achieving, that's up to you] was guaranteed for all.

However a new form and definition of "tolerance" began to morph our concepts and was exemplified in 1965 with the publication of the ideas of Herbert Marcuse in his essay “Repressive Tolerance”. Marcuse soon became known as "the father of the New Left in the United States", and this became one of its prime tenants.
Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left. As to the scope of this tolerance and intolerance: ... it would extend to the stage of action as well as of discussion and propaganda, of deed as well as of word.
Consequently, true pacification requires the withdrawal of tolerance before the deed, at the stage of communication in word, print, and picture. Such extreme suspension of the right of free speech and free assembly is indeed justified only if the whole of society is in extreme danger. I maintain that our society is in such an emergency situation, and that it has become the normal state of affairs. Different opinions and 'philosophies' can no longer compete peacefully for adherence and persuasion on rational grounds: the 'marketplace of ideas' is organized and delimited by those who determine the national and the individual interest.
This means that previously neutral, value-free, formal aspects of learning and teaching now become, on their own grounds and in their own right, political: learning to know the facts, the whole truth, and to comprehend it is radical criticism throughout, intellectual subversion.
This was changing the face of academia during the education of Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodam, and perhaps lead to the interpretation that seemed dominant during Clinton's Presidency, that tolerance meant you had to fully agree, or you were simply deemed intolerant.

This quote was attributed to Daniel Henninger, in a Wall Street Journal, editorial, Oct. 11, 2007 and puts the new concept in clear perspective for us
Prof. Fish has an alternative to traditions of tolerance, and to anyone awash in American politics today it will sound familiar: "That is to say, and Marcuse says it, anything the right does is bad and should not be tolerated; anything the left does is good and should be welcomed." This would explain the emotional intensity and animosity in politics now: The other side no longer deserves minimal respect.

It's not enough to disagree with conservative viewpoints; one has to undermine and delegitimize them. Mock them. Put them beyond the pale.
The extent to which the persistent drumbeat of this thuggish perverted view of tolerance has taken over in our institutions of  higher learning has been brought home to us in the story of Tom Emmer and Hamline University.
According to the policy, Hamline is "committed to ... developing and maintaining academic/co-curricular programs and university climate that promises a responsible, civil and open exchange of ideas.''

Hamline's apparent bungling of employment negotiations with Emmer suggests that commitment only goes so far, that conservatives such as Emmer are not welcome on campus.
One of the professors Emmer accused of blocking his hire disputed his characterization. Law professor David Schultz, a frequent political commentator, said he "wouldn't have cared one way or the other" if Emmer came on staff. Schultz acknowledged seeing a faculty member's email questioning whether the proposed hire was compatible with guidelines in the school's faculty handbook.
It still is unclear how much involvement the out-spoken political commentator/liberal advocate David Shultz may have been involved.  However its clear from other statements that he opposes the pro-marriage view of Tom Emmer and many Americans, which appears to be one of the main faculty objections given.

In an apparent contradiction of their policy statement:
"Hamline’s mission is “to create a diverse and collaborative community of learners dedicated to the development of students' knowledge, values, and skills for successful lives of leadership, scholarship, and service.” The Strategic Plan identifies as one of its goals that of becoming “an exemplar in the integration of diversity to achieve and sustain an inclusive community.”" 
Hamline appears to submit to the Marcuse camp of intolerance to views not agreeing with the liberal faculty, whether majority or "very vocal few".  Inclusive and diverse apparently means only those of a rather narrow world of progressive views, never conservative. It leaves one wondering what life might be like for conservative students.  Is it like the Japanese proverb "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down"? 

Hamline is a private university, and as such can hire, or not, whomever they wish (unless they had a contract).  Regardless of that proposition, the faculty appears to demonstrate dominance of the "new tolerance" bigotry in action and the bullying of all with conservative views. And shows how deeply and wide-spread the Marcuse philosophy of false tolerance has become in creating a climate of politically correct intimidation.  We are a far less free and tolerant society because of it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Truth in Taxation Public Hearings

On Tuesday Dec 13, 2011 Oakdale Finance Director Suzanne Warren gave the annual Truth in Taxation presentation at the Oakdale City Council public hearing.  The entire presentation can be seen in the video.

Some key highlights from her presentation were:

Key Objectives
“For 2012 one of our most significant objectives was to try to minimize property tax adjustments for our residents.  This proved pretty challenging for 2012, because there were some very significant changes in the state law that impacted how property taxes are allocated.  So that proved to be really significant challenge for Oakdale.”
This challenge was addressed by reducing the levy by $99,114 from the 2011 levy, following on reductions in prior years.
"Unfortunately no matter what we do, no matter how we do levies, it impacts each property differently.  Some properties are going to see an increase, some are going to see a decrease, and some are going to stay about the same.  The system is really a reallocation of property taxes depending on changing values and changing state law, so its pretty difficult to target a reduction for everybody."
Another key objective was to hold down the cost of government.  This was the fourth year that Oakdale’s budget has been frozen.  City departments have been required to absorb inflationary increases from fuel, labor, etc in their budgets.

Oakdale was one of only three cities in Washington County that actually reduced their levy.  Others had increases by as much as $719,858.  Washington county also decreased their levy.
“For citizens of Oakdale, I hope they appreciate what the City Council is doing to keep those property taxes down for residents”
I would also add plaudits for the City Staff who have worked very hard, as evidenced not only by the results, but demonstrated at the budget open working sessions held with staff and the City Council.

Ms. Warren continued with remarks discussing the details of how the City of Oakdale receives about 32.7% of the property tax revenue (School Dist 622 takes 36.2% Washington Cty 26.7%, and 4.3% others), and where those tax dollars will go.  I encourage you to listen to the complete presentation, and the following council discussion.  It is about 14 minutes for the initial presentation, 22 minutes for the entire discussion, and is an excellent summary of where your city finances stand. 

Mayor Carmen Sarrack concluded the taxation portion of the City Council meeting describing that the Council really gets into the budgeting process beginning in July and August.  He encouraged citizens to come and participate early to get their input into the budget.  Tonight’s meeting, “truth in taxation” is really more of an informational meeting about the results of the budgeting process.

Ramsey County also recently held their Truth in Taxation session at Roseville High School.  Video of that session is available online at my youtube channel, with citizen comments.
There is a dramatic difference between the paths that Ramsey County has taken and that of the City of Oakdale and Washington County.  Ramsey County had significant increases.  Residents testimony (beginning around 49 minutes into the event) showed some taxes increased by as much as 53% this year alone.  Testimony of 20+% increases were common. One woman testified that her taxes (on a modestly valued home) have increased over 10% each year for the last three years.  Though she has been a life long resident of Ramsey County, she plans to move out of the area, as she can no longer afford the taxes for her home.  The attested pattern of persistent double digit increases in Ramsey County show that the changes this year from the legislature may have an impact on the allocation of property tax (higher valued homes receive less or no credit), but is not the cause of multi-year substantial increases.  The cause in Ramsey County is more likely poor budget planning, and profligate governmental spending.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bullying, Do as I Say, Not as I Do

Bullying is something that practically everyone has experienced at some point in their lifetime.  It might have been the elementary school blustering bully who was more sound and fury, but like the character in The Christmas Story ran from the first kid who stood up to him.  It might have the been the High School bully who had created an image for his underlings which he tried desperately to maintain by striking out at anyone he believed was weaker.  Or it might have been a workplace bully, who manipulated through intimidation and fear for your job.  It is a flaw in human nature that civil society demands and must control for the safety and liberty of every citizen, young or old.

Recently articles have been written showing how schools are now starting up programs to fight Schoolyard Bullying, as in an article on the Patch
Talk of bullying often conjures up an image of a big kid—with lackeys in tow—pushing over a smaller kid on the playground while yelling something mean, but the word encompasses a much broader group of hurtful actions, said Cheryl Greene, a bullying prevention specialist working with School District 622.
The article also references actions taken by Governor Mark Dayton in forming a task force to address School Bullying
“Bullying causes severe suffering and harm to the children, who are its victims; and we must do more to stop it.  Children and parents in Minnesota should have confidence that their schools are safe places for learning and are free of harm or intimidation.  The work of this Task Force is critical to ensuring that a healthy and nurturing school environment exists for every child in our state,” said Governor Dayton.
Bullying and its prevention is completely about character.  The bully is an example of undeniably poor character, an example that can only be changed by development of moral character.  Moral development cannot be instilled in children if we do not practise it ourselves.  This was one of the few things in the public discussion a few years ago about “It Takes A Village” that was universally agreed to.

"Do as I Say, Not as I Do" or Raising Kids with Moral Intelligence
In his book, The Moral Lives of Children, Dr. Robert Coles defines our conscience as our "moral intelligence." More simply, he defines moral intelligence as how we behave—"moral behavior tested by life, lived out in the course of our everyday existence."
PBS NewsHour's David Gergen interviewed Coles several years ago and asked him how to encourage morality in our students, our children, and ourselves. Coles told Gergen that adults can only teach values by living them. "I'm trying insist upon for myself as a parent and a teacher and for all of us, that any lesson offered a child in an abstract manner that isn't backed up by deed is not going to work very well," Coles said. "We live out what we presumably want taught to our children. And our children are taking constant notice, and they're measuring us not by what we say but what we do."
With the recognition and urgency of how we want to protect children in our school system and our society, why does it seem so foreign in our political discourse?  If we practice bullying of those who we do not agree with ideologically, are we not setting an example of acceptance for bullying?  It can be as simple as continual ridicule of others, as purported by Alinsky’s Rule Number 5 in his Rules for Radicals 
Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.
or in his Rule 11, on personal destruction
Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.
However the inescapable result of following such recommendations is what we see in the the plight of a teacher in Wisconsin.  She voiced her conscience and courageously acted on it, but has received a avalanche of bullying in return.

Union Radicals Harass Teacher Who Dared to Support Wisconsin Governor Walker
We suppose that’s not terribly surprising for a group that has to force its members to join.

Still, it’s troubling to hear that Kristi LaCroix, the courageous public school teacher who had the guts to film a television ad supporting Gov. Scott Walker’s reforms, is being harassed by union zealots to the point where she wants to change careers.
LaCroix, who teaches at Lakeview Technology Academy in the Kenosha school district, recently posted the following on her Facebook page, according a news story from WISN 1130:
“Going through and deleting my daily amount of hate mail that is sent to my work email. I have now been assured, by one of the emails (all of which I forward to my Principal) that there is an online movement called ‘Fire Kristi‘ where they are going to email, post and talk to everyone (telling) millions of stories to ruin my reputation, career and life.

So when the kids see this example played out before them, does it teach them that bullying is wrong and not to be tolerated?  Or does it guarantee defeat for the goals of creating an effective anti-bullying culture in schools. We have a broader mission than what a task force will address to correct the “do as I say not as I do” method of moral lessons.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dayton Daycare Diorama Part 2

Childcare Freedom Rally
When:     Saturday, December 3, Noon – 1:00PM
Where:     Minnesota State Capitol Routunda
Some highlight from the video of the Saint Paul Capital Rotunda Rally 12/03/2011
Daycare Providers
Holly Sable
This is not an anti-union rally, this is a child care freedom rally!
Do we need a Union to change our rates? No
Do we need a union to have a voice at the table? No
Do we need a Union to tells us which kids we can a cannot take? No
We are independent self employed small business owners.
While Union membership may be voluntary, union representation most certainly is not.  Any changes that the union makes with the department of Health and Human Services will affect all providers.
Only a majority of the ballots cast will count int he vote So not voting is essentially a vote for Unionization.  We need every provider that can vote to vote.
If you are eligible to vote you should be receiving a ballot around Dec 7, and they will be due Dec 21.  We are asking providers to send it in by Dec 16th, and send it via the post office via registered mail, so it doesn’t get “lost” in the mail, and so its there on time.

Becky Swanson
I am here today because I am living my American dream!  I am a small business owner, and I run a childcare.
We have no idea what is in that contract!

Rep. Keith Downy
You folks are the absolute core of private enterprise in this state and in this Country.
In Michigan under this very same apparatus,  $3.7 million dollars every year gets routed from Childcare subsidies away from parents, away from providers directly to the Unions.
Here is my commitment to you, that I will personally challenge Governor Dayton to hold a special session this fall so that all these unanswered questions about whether he has the authority or the bureau of mediation services has the authority to even conduct this election....If he’s willing to call for a special session to ask you folks to pay for a new stadium for another of his one percenter friends, he should be willing to have a special session to deal with your issues.  And if he refuses that,  I will publicly ask his to hold an American election,an American vote, not a North Korean vote on unionization!

Rep Mary Franson, also a former Child Care provider (at 22:48 in the video)
Providers are being silenced, their [union organizers] freedom of speech is what they think freedom of speech is - censorship!  And I don’t think the Unions are practising very much kindness out there.
One union person at the Senate hearing had the audacity to say we were having hearings on this issue because we were discriminating against women.  Let me tell you, this is nothing about discrimination.  As women, we do not need a Union telling us how to run our business because we are smart enough, we are empowered enough and we can do this without “one voice”.

They [the Unions] have been going door to door and if you are a no vote they are harassing and they are showing up at your door a couple of times a week wanting you to vote yes. One person told me that the Union said, well if you vote no and if the union vote fails you will no longer be eligible to take CCAP children any more.

If you are eligible to vote, because its “a democratic election you know”, some of you are eligible. Make sure you mark that box NO and mail it in.  Because like you heard before if you do not vote and you do not mail anything in, it is a yes vote.

[excluding a list of several other legislators who are or who have spouses who are day care providers] There are people down here who know your business inside and out.  So don’t let the Union tell you there is nobody down here working for you.  Because, indeed we are!

Rep Kurt Bills
Kim Crockett
Rep Kelby Woodard

Mary Franson’s speech was a very compelling personal testimony of her 4 years as a child care provider, and how in 2005 she experienced the first wave of attempted Unionization.  One I would strongly suggest listening to  She describes how AFSCME Council 5 organizers came at a time of the day when she and her neighbor who was also a provider were very busy, surrounded by children, and stayed until they signed the cards.  Day care providers by law cannot let any child out of their sight.  So you really cannot divide your attention to spend reading the literature and the cards when they come. 
[Sorry the rotunda has very low light, so the video quality is poor]

Freedom Foundation of Minnesota
11/22/11 Childcare providers who oppose unionization expressed concern over the fairness of the process and the potential for undue union influence in carrying out the election.

While the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) will oversee the election, Dayton’s executive order allows the state to in effect outsource the job to an outside group paid for by the unions. The Minneapolis regional office of a company that has conducted several childcare union elections in other states will administer the election.

Look True North has a short video of some Childcare providers putting forth their case against unionizing their small businesses.

A hearing was held at the Minnesota Senate
In this video the providers arguing against the forced unionization of their private business describe the many devious actions that agents of the “Kids First” Unions took in trying to get them to sign the union cards.  They have been trying to protect their business from continuing Unionization efforts since 2005.

The Unions talked about how “legal standing” differentiates them from the existing Childcare Associations that currently represent the providers.  But who is the “employer” that is part of the collective bargaining that this legal standing affects?  The Union rep dissembles and uses rigid repetition of the same phrases, never answering the questions, just repeating “providers have the right to form a Union”.  Apparently, even if they don’t want one, or know any of the particulars of the implementation.

On September 20th, 2011, two Senate committees held a joint hearing on Union efforts to compel independent in-home childcare providers to unionize. Union organizers couldn't answer basic questions about their objectives and childcare providers described deceptive and intimidating tactics employed by some union organizers. The hearing shed a lot of light on the situation. Here are some of the more revealing moments.

The question of whether Gov Mark Dayton has the authority to actually force this vote is the subject of a lawsuit announced last week.  A hearing for a temporary restraining order in the case is scheduled for Monday morning in Ramsey County District Court.

It was also reported that
The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration voted today to file a "friend of the court" brief in support of a lawsuit seeking to stop an upcoming unionization election for in-home child-care providers.
So the battle to keep private enterprise private is now in the hands of the court and possibly the 4230 of 11,000 daycare providers that may ultimately vote on the issue.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dayton Daycare Diorama Part 1

Recent moves by Governor Dayton, and the Unions to whom he owes many campaign debts, to force a vote on independent daycare unionization have been met with many complaints from the people they claim to want to help. Including a recent lawsuit contesting his authority to force such a vote by executive order.
But what problem is this trying to address?  Is there a problem with regulations or licensing?  Are there unfair practices from the management?  That imply a duality of worker/owner being unfair to themselves, which seems an unlikely case. 

Despite the objections raised, Governor Mark Dayton has forged ahead with plans that seem designed to help Unions get their Yes vote, while (or by) simultaneously disenfranchising as many individuals as possible.

Governor Dayton moving toward the direction of a vote for only providers serving CCAP families
11/11/2011 Licensed Family Child Care Providers met with Governor Dayton Thursday night, November 10, to express their opposition to the unionization of their businesses.

Governor Dayton informed providers that he is moving in the direction of signing an Executive Order establishing a vote including only Licensed Family Child Care Providers who are currently providing services to families on the child care assistance program (CCAP). This would make the overwhelming majority of licensed providers ineligible to vote. His intention is that union membership would be voluntary and the unions would only involve those licensed providers serving families who receive subsidies from the child care assistance program. It was indicated that this would be a small starting point and could be expanded in the future.

In a leaked email memo, distributed to DFL members of the Minnesota House, obtained by the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, and featured in a 5 Eyewitness News investigation, it was revealed that the “voluntary” would not be that voluntary.  It acknowledges the possibility/probabilty of forcing non-union members to pay fair-share fees, most of the “dues” with none of the voting privileges. Further  significant issues that Governor Dayton and the Unions have decided to either ignore or violate on the path to forcing this election, have been raised in studies at the Capital.

Legal Questions Could Jeopardize Minnesota Daycare Union Push
11/02/2011 A new Capitol study raises serious legal questions.
The House research study questions whether it is legal to unionize 11,000 daycare workers across Minnesota. Home daycare providers are considered independent contractors. The study says federal law specifically excludes independent contractors from forming a union.

The study also indicates taxes might have to be raised to cover any increases in state subsidies to daycare providers if there is a union, which then could bargain with the state for more taxpayer subsidies.

A position statement of the National Association for Family Child Care
Adopted July 2006
Best Practices for Family Child Care Union Organizing
The Issue: Family child care providers are being organized in an increasing number of states by several national unions that want to represent providers in collective bargaining with the state agencies regulating child care and funding child care subsidy programs. Because family child care providers do not fit any existing union workforce models, a new model must be established.

So this represents a radical change in workforce unions (as the leaked memo also states).  The people who operate daycare centers are private independent contractors.  They do not work for the state, nor for a corporation.  There is no “employer” for the union operatives to “negotiate” with for arbitration, and no particular need for such negotiation.  The private contractor discusses the work with a potential client, and has the right and authority to make the decision to accept or reject the work.  Will that even be the same under a Union?  Would they have the option to not take a client?  Daycare providers have said that Union workers, trying to get cards signed by the daycare workers, have employed devious methods to get signatures to use to support unionization. 

Detroit Lakes Online
November 25, 2011 On Monday night, about a dozen day care providers in Becker County met to discuss what the vote could mean for them.
“What it comes down to, he had no right to do this and he did,” Jane Young, of Frazee, said of Dayton.
Providers say that those trying to organize the union have been “underhanded” in showing up at lunchtime at their daycares and not identifying who they are. Instead, they ask providers to sign a card, asking for more information. But, they believe it was actually a way to get signatures saying they supported joining a union.
One new twist being added to this year’s vote — the issue also went to a vote and failed in 2006 — is that only those day cares receiving state subsidies can vote on becoming unionized.
That means only about 4,000 of the 11,000 daycare providers will receive the mail-in ballots.
Provider Terrie Boyd, of Detroit Lakes, said that whether or not a daycare has families that are subsidized is “always fluid though” because a family might use assistance, but then they leave and there are no assisted families at that provider.
And, the providers pointed out, it’s the families being subsidized, not the daycare providers.
Regardless, next month, those 4,287 providers with a vote will vote yes or no on a union.  Membership will be voluntary if providers approve the unionization.
Some Becker County providers are saying the vote is highly unfair and that the state and unions are limiting the number of voters in order to pass the vote in favor of unionization.
Dayton Won't Revise Child Care Union Vote Order
Monday, 21 Nov 2011 "I am one of more than half the child care providers in Minnesota who do not get a vote, but the union seat at the table with DHS to discuss things like license regulations, rating system training, payment rates, et cetetera, will -- in turn -- affect the same rules that govern my private business," said Dina Spurgin.
Cyndi Cunningham, another home day care provider, said the political banter around the issue is angering her.
"With all due respect, this is our business. This is our livelihood," she said.

So what are the motivations for trying to unionize a group of businesses and people so dissimilar from the normal union membership?  CBS offered one partial suggestion.

Reality Check: Unionizing Day Care
Nov 16, 2011 Only 5300 of Minnesota’s 11,000 private in-home providers get public subsidies, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Subsidies which are widely different based on a parent’s income and county.
Privately funded day care providers and parents are not affected.
The families of nearly 34,000 children get low-income subsidies in Minnesota, averaging about $900 a month. One purpose of a union is to pressure the state from cutting that money.

The leaked memo offers others and admits it might be more about Union plans to expand membership, rather than any real labor workplace concerns.

The memo is available on Scribd and at Freedom Foundation of Minnesota
There is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding regarding this issue.  Much of this stems from the fact that what AFSCME and SEIU are pushing for is very different from the traditional employee union-collective bargaining scenario.  Child care providers do not fit in to the traditional union model, which, by definition includes employees, employers, and a collective bargaining agreement.
… Further the contract that  AFSCME and SEIU would like to forge would not address wages and benefits like a traditional bargaining agreement.
A concern over declining union membership and the need to target a new segment of the private sector workforce—independent contractors—also surfaces as a concern. “Representatives from AFSCME and SEIU emphasize that organizing independent contractors for collective bargaining may become commonplace in the future. With the decline of the traditional union workplace, a union of independent contractors might become a new kind of organizing for a new economy.”
It also states:
Proponents of the unionization effort have not identified any specific regulations that they find unduly burdensome an would like to change.
Proponents of a child care provider union have repeatedly said that a union would not attempt to influence the rates child care providers charge their parent-customers.

The memo further raises the possibility of compensating labor unions directly with state funding intended to subsidize low-income childcare

Which really leaves unanswered the question of what benefit any unionization would provide. Child care independent contractors already have an advocacy association that they can freely join, Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association.  There are no "benefits" listed that are not already present.  It would seem the major benefits are to the dwindling rolls of the unions and boosting their flagging influence.  A benefit that does not translate well to the independent contractor day care providers or their parent clients.  As the only goal they provide in the letter, the taxpayers will be certain of being required to increase taxes for more subsidy payments to the low income clients.  With a significant potential revenue for the Unions, and significant increases in parents costs.   As in other states, that have unionized child care, have experienced an average 35% increased cost.  So if you are one of the few childcare workers who are able to vote, make sure you know what you are entering into.  And know that abstaining is a Yes vote.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Maplewood Trash Talk

My wife and I had a small exchange, as I was trying to thaw the turkey this Thanksgiving morning. I had emphatically asked ( well, told, but that never works as everyone knows) my wife to get a small turkey, as I weary of leftovers over the next few weeks. So of course that meant she got the largest turkey we have ever had. Its part of human nature to rebel against what you are being “told” to do. It struck me as a possible explanation for the Maplewood City Council resistance to citizen outcry over the garbage hauling issue.

If the recent election is to be considered a referendum on that, as the primary issue, it was a very clear statement that more than a few people are upset and do not want the single hauler plan.

Candidate Votes Pct

Bob Cardinal
3071 30%

Marvin C. Koppen (I)
2704 26%

Rebecca Cave
2469 24%

John Nephew (I)
1981 19%

That Mr Nephew, widely regarded as one of, if not the primary, architect of the plan, fell so far out of the lead should send a clarion call for reconsideration. A call made even more emphatic when you consider that the other incumbent Marv Koppen has voiced opposition to the plan as well. Thus 81% of the vote went to candidates that were considered votes against the issue.

However the voters reaction may be against more than just the garbage issue, as the interchange between Rebecca Cave and John Nephew brought out.

At 33:20 in the full video at
Rebecca Cave: I am kind of appalled at the sitting City Council and the Mayor, that they don’t even listen to the citizens. There are 1500 cards that came through, that were asking not to do this. They didn’t look at one of them. I was there and I watched on TV from all the people, the trash haulers and the [home] owners that got up to speak. They were shutdown by our Mayor. And its really sad to see that our city’s turned out like this.

John Nephew: I think its worth reminding that there are about 38000 residents for the city of Maplewood, and 1500 don’t decide what’s best for it.

The strongly perceived implication was that John Nephew and the other City Council members do decide, and they know better than the 1500 citizens. That retort, reveals a hubris that may also have played a role in the election results. One might also want to consider that 1500 represents more than 10% of the 12,000 households of Maplewood taking the time to respond, when they have clear indication that the Maplewood City Council is not listening. If a company received even 2% product complaints, they would know they have a very serious problem.

Later in the forum a member of a Union got up and asked again:
"We have roughly 12,000 households in the city, we received 1,500 cards back on the garbage issue, that's a substantial number of people that responded ... do you believe that's a large enough number of people who deserve to have their voices heard?"

Mr. Nephew’s response  (at 89:50 in the full video) was:
An answer to the basic question, which suggests if enough people come forward and yell about something we should give them what they want?  The answer is absolutely not!
You can click here watch a 1:41 highlight video of these comments made above.

Mr Nephew also stated that he did look at the cards and sent emails to all that had added an email address. He also claimed, or implied, that many non-Maplewood residents had responded, and that many had responded positively. An argument that Bob Cardinal refutes in earlier comments. A citizen who reviewed all the cards reported that he believes there were only 25 positive (wanted single hauler), indifferent, or non-resident cards out of the 1500.

This issue comes to a vote at the November 28th 7pm City Council meeting. Mr Nephew will participate in that vote. Maplewood residents may want to attempt to still have their voice heard.  However as the Pioneer Press article reports, it may not be listened to:
11/15/2011 A motion by council member Marvin Koppen at Monday's meeting asked the panel to delay its final vote on adopting an organized hauling system until the new council is seated. But his colleagues didn't bite. That means single-provider trash service may be the wave of the future in the community.
"It's frustrating," Koppen said. "It's clear from the (Nov. 8) election what the people want, but it seemed pretty obvious last night (the other council members) aren't going to change their minds on this."

There may be some who ask, why is this issue important? You can also buy a $5 Rolex from the back of a pickup, but its not the right thing to do.  Not everything comes down to a simple matter of price. Preserving your rights and liberty to choose cannot have a price. Taking away and chipping at liberty becomes a habit that a government will find hard to break, and a citizenry hard to stop.

If the Maplewood City Council acted with wisdom, they would consider that they are members of a representative government. As such they have a responsibility to listen to the will of the people and to respect it and to vote accordingly. So when they vote through the mandate for single hauler trash collection, remember that, the next time you have an opportunity to vote on their continued service to you!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Betty McCollum and the “Do Nothing Congress” Gambit

From her prepared remarks at a recent townhall, Betty started with
“These are common-sense initiatives that have received bi-partisan support in the past. Congress should pass this bill right away.”

I believe that she added to her prepared remarks a comment here about a “do nothing congress”,  a theme to be repeated later in the question and answer portion of the townhall with
“the white house announced three initiatives that do not need to slug through congress, in other words the president can just,  he doesn’t have to wait for congress to do its job, cause, we’re not seeing a lot of action right now up on the hill, I wish were seeing a lot more, I’m ready to do a lot more , but, the three initiatives..”

This is a theme that President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have been pushing as the new political election strategy, a refrain from the days of Harry Truman.
Obama seems to have given up on working with them [Congress] and pivoted to Harry Truman’s tried-and-true strategy of blaming Congress for not doing anything at all.
Rhetorically, at least, the strategy is working. The president’s poll numbers have stabilized from their free fall and rebounded to the mid-40s, while Congress clocked in this month with an awful-even-for-these-guys 9 percent approval rating.

Truman’s situation was very similar to today's, with the addition that both houses had slim Republican majorities elected, for the only time in 1928 to 1953. Despite the attempt to label it as "do nothing" that Congress tried to get things done, but could only do it over the President's veto.

From the New Jersey Bio page
“In November 1946, the Democrats suffered a severe defeat in the congressional elections. The result was the 80th Congress, the first Republican-controlled Congress in 16 years. Bent on dismantling the New Deal, the 80th Congress moved to limit the power of labor, lower taxes, and ride their successes on to victory in the 1948 presidential election. Not surprisingly, Truman clashed with the 80th Congress over a number of issues, but the most important was Congress’s attempt to regulate and restrict organized labor. Truman vetoed the controversial 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which banned the closed shop and restricted the power of organized labor in a number of other ways. The bill was passed over Truman’s veto, but his actions increased his standing with organized labor. Twice in 1947, the 80th Congress passed tax cuts only to watch Truman veto them with the claim that they favored the wealthy. In 1948 a third tax cut bill was passed over Truman’s veto.”

Staggering similarity. So how accurate is the “do nothing label” now?  Well in the case of the for the 112th Congress, Betty McCollum can only be referring to Harry Reid’s blocking of bills being presented and voted on in the Senate, starting with the Presidents Jobs Bill.
“What I am trying to do here today by requesting this vote on the president’s jobs bill ... is to honor the request of the president of the United States that we vote on it now,” McConnell said. “He has been asking us repeatedly over the last few weeks that we vote on it now.”
“I think the president of the United States, whose polices I generally do not support ... is entitled to know where the Senate stands on his proposal that he has been out talking about ... and suggesting that we are unwilling to vote on it," he said.
From the Weekly Standard
The Obama campaign sent out an email today asking supporters to urge Congress to at least vote on the president’s jobs bill almost immediately after Democratic majority leader Harry Reid blocked a vote on the bill in the Senate.
President Obama and Harry Reid seem to have crossed wires on that one, but it doesn’t seem to stop them from persistently blaming the Republicans for that and everything else as well.

At NewsBusters
As NewsBusters observed last month, the media, possibly with marching papers from the White House, have regularly been blaming all that ails the nation on "The Republican Congress" despite the fact Democrats control the Senate.

On ABC's This Week Sunday, George Will marvelously noted, "While [Barack Obama] was lecturing in Constitutional law, he missed that part of the Article I that says there’s a Senate also"

With polls showing the country's view of Congress at dismally low levels, Democrats and the White House believe they have to convince the public the GOP is responsible, and are therefore employing this tremendously disgraceful strategy.

But as Dick Durbin stated, they cannot even get their Democrat majority to vote for the Jobs Bill.
Durbin said. “There are some senators who are up for election who say ‘I’m never gonna vote for a tax increase while I’m up for election, even on the wealthiest people.’ So, we’re not gonna have 100 percent of Democratic senators.

However that is only the tip of the iceberg of Senate Democrat majority blocked legislation.
Senate sitting on 290 bills already passed by House; tension mounts
By J. Taylor Rushing - 02/23/10 06:00 AM ET Exasperated House Democratic leaders have compiled a list showing that they have passed 290 bills that have stalled in the Senate.
The list is the latest sign that Democrats in the lower chamber are frustrated with their Senate counterparts.
American Job Creators Suffer from Senate Failure to Act on “Forgotten 15” Jobs Bills
Nov 3, 2011 Washington- Today, Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) and Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-OH) released the following joint-column discussing the bipartisan “Forgotten 15” jobs bills passed by the House that are stuck in the Democratic-controlled Senate.  The "Forgotten 15" includes the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act (H.R. 872), a jobs bill authored by Rep. Gibbs that would stop the federal government from needlessly imposing costly and duplicative permitting requirements for pesticide use near waterways:

Here is a list of 15 jobs growth bills languishing at the doorstep of the Senate
President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have continuously blamed Republicans for blocking jobs bills. But this is simply not the case. The Republican-led House has passed more than 15 bills that will spur job growth while the Democratic-led Senate has failed to act.
132 American Economists Say GOP Jobs Strategy Better Than “Stimulus” for Job Creation in Both Short- & Long-Term Nov 8, 2011 Washington-
Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) today released a list of 132 American economists who believe the job creation strategy used in the House GOP Plan for America’s Job Creators will do more to boost private-sector job growth in America in both the near-term and long-term than the “stimulus” spending approach favored by President Obama.

Veterans Bills are also waiting for consideration
Veterans Legislation Passes House of Representatives – VOW Act Heads to the Senate
Oct 12, 2011: In a 418-6 vote, the House stands behinds veterans.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives passed six pieces of veteran legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support this week (H.R. 2433, as amended; H.R. 2074, as amended; H.R. 2302, as amended; H.R. 2349, as amended; H.R. 1263, as amended; and H.R. 1025).
“The House of Representatives sent a clear message that not only is support for our veterans strong, but that we stand together to end veteran unemployment,” stated Rep. Jeff Miller (FL-01), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “The VOW Act is the most comprehensive, thoughtful legislation that has been introduced to get our veterans out of unemployment lines and into meaningful jobs. We must also get government out of the way and ensure we have the right environment for the job market to flourish once again for all Americans.”
On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest unemployment figures, and while the national unemployment rate held steady, there was an alarming rise in the veteran unemployment rate – from 7.7% to 8.1% nationwide.

Thankfully it appears that some Veterans legislation may be making its way through Congress at this point
Nov 16, 2011 Congressional Democrats and Republicans rallied on a rare patch of common ground Wednesday, moving to pass a bill helping unemployed veterans and government contractors.
The liberal punditry loves to bash the Republicans for, well, just about anything, including the odious tactic of saying they want hurt the economy to hurt Obama.  In particular they claim:
In the deliberations of the "Super Committee," Republicans have been completely unwilling to give on the fundamental question of whether millionaires should be asked to pay to put America's economic house in order.

Well this belies the fact that as Rand Paul has stated, the Democrats basically abandoned the “Super Committee” after Republicans had made a substantive offer yielding on that exact point.
Sean Hannity Interviews Rand Paul On Democrats Walking Away From Super Committee

George Will: Obama Needs Supercommittee To Fail If He Wants To Run Against Do-Nothing Congress
November 6th, 2011 George Will claimed that if President Obama should be hoping that the Congressional supercommittee convened to come up with a bipartisan plan to balance the budget and deal with high unemployment will fail, because he can’t run against a do-nothing Congress in 2012 if the public sees Congress is actually doing something.

Republicans offer tax deal to break debt impasse; Democrats dismiss it
Congressional Republicans have for the first time retreated from their hard-line stance against new taxes, offering to raise federal tax collections by nearly $300 billion over the next decade as part of a plan to tame the national debt.
But Democrats rejected the offer Tuesday — along with the notion that Republicans had made a significant concession that could end the long-standing political impasse — leaving a special debt-reduction committee far from compromise with less than two weeks until its Thanksgiving deadline.
later in the article the author says:
Other Democrats challenged the notion that Republicans had made any major concessions. Lowering the top rate from 35 percent to 28 percent would eat up most of the extra revenue generated by limiting itemized deductions, they said, leaving very little savings to reduce future borrowing.

Which basically leads to the main conservative point, stop the spending, stop the borrowing.  So while Betty McCollum’s charge that the Congress, in the sense of the Senate, isn’t doing much is not wholly inaccurate, the implication that its Republicans is.  It would be interesting to see Betty McCollum not follow ardently in the path laid out by Obama and Pelosi, and state that the blockage is due to her fellow Democrats.  She claims she want to do more, but her statements (in video) of solidarity with Obama to bypass the Constitutional path, imply that it is more political attack than creation of accomplishments.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Maplewood City Council Candidates Forum

A Forum for the Maplewood City Council Candidates was held Thurday Nov 3 at the Maplewood library. As a non-partisan event, it was attended by approximately 20 people at the event, and 12 to 18 viewing the Ustream online during the forum, making it one of the best attended forums for local Maplewood elections.

The evening was moderated by Eric Ekstrand, chair of BPOU 55A, who took on the very difficult task of maintaining the structure of the debate, and eliciting questions from the citizens in a form that could be answered equally by all candidates.  The audience questions came directly from the citizens attending, including current Mayor Will Rossbach and former Mayor Diane Longrie, a local fireman and union members.

Following a format from one of the recent Presidential Primary Debates, that leads to more interaction, the candidates were given 1 minute to speak to the question, and 30 seconds to rebut if they felt they were directly addressed in the statements.  An option that the candidates, John Nephew, Rebecca Cave, and Bob Cardinal took full advantage of in the lively 99 minute forum.  Candidate Marv Koppen did not attend.

The most intense questioning of the night predictably was related to the current, and sensitive, topic of single hauler garbage collection.  A sampling of other questions asked were: "what will be your two main objectives you want to accomplish", "each of you have been on the city council...could you each speak to the levy increases that occurred during your term on the council and your thought process why they were necessary", and related to the fire station closings "are you as city council members willing to think outside the box".

One of the best questions, related to the single hauler garbage issue, came from a citizen who is also a member of a union, as the last question of the night.   "We have roughly 12,000 households in the city, we received 1,500 cards back on the garbage issue, that's a substantial number of people that responded ... do you believe that's a large enough number of people who deserve to have their voices heard"?  I considered it one of the best because it was reflective of the many studies that have shown that in product complaint systems the number of people who directly complain about a product is very small, typically less than 2-10% of those who do experience/have a product problem, but is a very important indicator.  Much like the tip of an iceberg, the mass below the surface is many times larger that what is above the water.

The elections are Tuesday Nov 8.  For those readers in the Maplewood area, this forum is one of the best/only ways to see your candidates discussing the issues. To see the candidates answers to these questions and many others, watch the forum and form your own conclusions as you exercise your right to vote on Tuesday.

Go to the HD55A website to watch at

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Betty McCollum’s Tricky Chart on Jobs

Betty McCollum’s Tricky Chart on Jobs

At a recent town hall on Jobs, Betty McCollum made a presentation showing yet another “tricky” chart.  This was a creation from the office of Nancy Pelosi that has become a favorite for attempting to portray the Obama administration as having successfully handled jobs and the economy.  But does it reflect where we really are for jobs?

First lets look at reproducing the chart from public data at the Bureau of Labor Statistics( The information, and the charts included below (titles added, when obtained from the BLS site it is comes across as a table of data with a crude chart), come from the BLS website, and go back a little further to look at some more historical context in the Clinton and Bush years.  This will look at the dot com bubble, the 9/11 strike, and the home mortgage bubble bursts,  and the recovery aftermath.

Table 1 includes the spike for the census temporary work hiring in early 2010.

The trickiness involved is that this represents a differential change (first derivative, for those who remember calculus) chart. In addition Betty McCollum’s (Pelosi/Obama) chart is also somewhat smoothed to try to try to make the impact stronger. So to get the correct understanding of what the unemployment situation is we need to do an accumulated sum (integration) of the data.  Or we can simply request the real unemployment data from BLS. The chosen statistic was the monthly change in the number of employed persons, so the corresponding chart will be the number of unemployed persons.

This chart 2, above, is unadjusted for population growth and thus has an intrinsic increase built in. Though for relatively short periods you can make reasonable comparisons.  So we will switch to looking at the unemployment percentage/rate to normalize for population.  The major two peaks that stand out are the Carter and the Obama years.

Looking at the more recent times, we can see that the unemployment rate has leveled off, isn’t getting any worse, as Betty McCollum’s tricky chart shows.  But, we still are at historically high levels of unemployment, which her tricky chart belies. 

So what does this all mean for trying to assess the current state of recovery?
The analysis at this site shows that we need to have a job growth rate per month, under different scenarios, of between 224000 to 391,000 to lower the unemployment rate to a still objectionable 8.2% in a year.  Unfortunately a far cry from our current levels shown in Betty McCollum’s chart.  It is further complicated by the participation rate, those who are still trying to find work or are employed, vs those who have given up looking for now.  The methods for reporting unemployment numbers were changed during the Carter administration, and probably tweaked a little in every administration since.  So the “real” unemployment is much higher when we include these other “categories” of people who want to be employed, but are discouraged.

ParticipationRate Drops to a Fresh 25 Year Low
1/7/2011 Assuming a reversion to the mean in the long-term average participation rate back to 66%, means that the civilian labor force, which in December came at 153,690, a drop of 260,000 from November, is in reality 157.6 million, a delta of 3.91 million currently unaccounted for.
Why The Decline In The Headline Unemployment Rate Is Actually Terrible News
Business Insider Jan 7, 2011,The participation rate has fallen sharply from 66% at the start of the recession to 64.3% in December [2010]. That is almost 4 million workers who are no longer in the labor force and not counted as unemployed in U-3, although most are included as "discouraged workers" or "Marginally Attached to Labor Force" in U-6.
A decline in the unemployment rate mostly due to a decline in the participation rate is not good employment news.

So how does unemployment in this recession compare to others in the modern era (last 64 years)?  The following chart tracks unemployment from the last date of the maximum employment, typically cited as the “start” of the recession.

There are many factors that affect the depth of the unemployment and the length of time to restore employment levels. The one major category that is within our national control are the governmental policies put in place.  Are they beneficial to the economy or are they a drag ending up prolonging the period before “full” recovery can occur.

Perhaps Betty McCollum, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama might want to consider this rendition (see footnote) of the data before answering that question.

I found the Political Math Blog in the final stage of writing this article.  He emphasizes the techniques to create a misleading chart and how he created the somewhat equally misleading chart above as part of his critique of the McCollum/Pelosi/Obama chart.  I included it as a “tongue in cheek” addition to emphasize the point that misleading the American people, from either ideological point, does not help to resolve the very real problems that we face. And is a disservice to us all.  Both charts are accurate values, just misleading in conclusions.
Both charts use jobs data taken from the same place, displayed the same way, stripped of context and used to push an ideological point using an implicit "correlation mean causation" line of argumentation.
He is well worth the read.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bi-Partisan Rejection of the Jobs Bill

The President has been flying around the country trying to lift support for his latest stimulus (although I understand that word has been banned from the lexicon political speech by Nancy Pelosi) bill titled “The American Jobs Act”.  He has been saying “pass this bill, pass it right now” before he had even submitted it.  Using manipulative lines like: "If you love me, you've got to help me pass this bill!" 

LA Times Blog: Obama's urgent jobs plan:
So, as of right now, "right now" uttered on Sept. 8 really means sometime at least one month later.
Good thing the president's own Democratic party controls the Senate. Because, otherwise, there might be some kind of silly, unnecessary delays in deliberating Obama's urgent jobs bill that he says will surely help the nation's unemployed millions if only those Republicans don't connive to slow things down.

Pass this bill (later)! Reid blocks Obama jobs bill vote
“Twelve times the president has asked us over the last few weeks to vote on what he calls his jobs bill now,” McConnell said. “I don’t think the president is saying here he wants an extensive debate on it. I think he’s saying he wants a vote on it. And I want to disabuse him of the notion that we’re not willing to vote on it.”
But as shown in the video, it is Harry Reid who denies the vote and delays until later.

So why has it been so delayed if it would be as productive as Rep Betty McCollum said in her recent townhall
Zandi went on to say that if the plan was fully implemented, "It would increase real GDP growth in 2012 by 2 percentage points, add 1.9 million jobs, and reduce the unemployment rate by a full percentage point, compared with current fiscal policy...". 

The Republicans are stalling on the American Jobs Act because they think it will work, the economy will improve, and President Obama's support will increase.

The delay hasn’t tamped down the demagogic rhetoric any, but the reality of why the delay has been stated by Dick Durbin in a recent interview on WLS Radio, and its not the Republicans.
The oil-producing state senators don’t like reducing  or eliminating the subsidy for oil companies, you know that’s that’s an example.  There are some senators who are up for election who say I’m never gonna vote for a tax increase while I’m up for elections, even on the wealthiest people.  So we’re not gonna have 100% Democratic Senators.  That’s why it needs to be bi-partisan, and I hope we can find some Republicans who will join us to make it happen.

This quote also reveals the fraudulent view that its only considered bi-partisan when Republicans ignore principles, and vote with the Democrat majority plan.

Dick Durbin states, and an article in the New York Times concurs , that there are not enough Democrat Senators in the Senate that will support the bill.
President Obama anticipated Republican resistance to his jobs program, but he is now meeting increasing pushback from his own party. Many Congressional Democrats, smarting from the fallout over the 2009 stimulus bill, say there is little chance they will be able to support the bill as a single entity, citing an array of elements they cannot abide. 
Another interpretation is that these Senators know its not the right bill/plan to help improve the climate for job creation. 

So when they scream invectives and say that the Republicans will not compromise, they really are really saying “its our way or the highway”, its only bi-partisan when its our way.  However here we have a case of real and honest bi-partisan rejection of this badly conceived bill.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Penalty of Regulations

At a recent Oakdale City Council meeting a wonderfully informative story about the issue of Federal Regulations was related.  The City was facing the mandated requirement to change street signs to conform to federal regulations about-retro reflective signage.

In a report from the Oakdale City Engineer Staff:
Federal Regulations have established national standards for the use of traffic control and guide signs in the Manual of Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
As part of our annual reconstruction program we, in effect, replace three (3) percent of our signs. In addition, we typically replace another two (2) percent due to fading or knock downs. Therefore, we average $20,000 per year in sign replacement expenditures. The FHWA didn’t provide funding for the sign replacement program; however they allowed for the multiyear phase-in period.
This program will require us to replace 25% of our signs each year over the next four (4) years so that we have 100% compliance by January 1, 2015. Which results in an anticipated expenditure of $200,000/year over the next four (4) years.
Street Name Signs:
1) Specifications for nine inch Street Name Signs:
a) Sign should be nine inches in height.
b) Signs should be a minimum of 18” in length and a maximum of 60” in length.
This regulatory instance shows several of the issues with Federal Regulations versus local control.  Ultimately cities bear the burden of many regulations. Costs increase, in this case from $20,000/yr to $200,000/yr, budget plans go awry, inescapable increased taxes are created. The impact of this regulation would have more than erased the hard work done by the council and city staff in reducing the budget, to keep the city portion of taxes from increasing next year, as seen in this article from the Oakdale Patch.  This is the outcome that we the people do not want, and the City Council and City Staff have been working hard to prevent.

If timetable and planning are left to the City Council and City Staff to implement, then significant cost savings can be achieved.  This is greatly to the benefit of the people.  Balancing the City Budget can be made much more difficult or impossible by mandates from State and Federal Regulations that remove flexibility needed to adapt and make the best decisions.  The arbitrary deadlines and one size fits all rules increase costs, wasting city resources and ultimately citizen pocket books, and frustrates the best efforts of the City Council and City Staff.

Senate GOP looks to ease federal mandate on reflective road signs
06/20/11 “Tennessee Republican Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander last week introduced legislation that would waive the requirement that all states install more reflective road signs by 2018....”Obviously, everyone wants our roads to be as safe as possible, but the arbitrary deadlines assigned by Washington amount to an unfunded mandate on local governments at a time when they can least afford it," Corker said. "Instead of asking local governments to shell out $50 million, it seems like a much more reasonable approach to replace road signs when they need to be replaced instead of an arbitrary deadline assigned by some Washington bureaucrat."
In January President Obama had called for a government-wide review of regulations already on the books. The purpose was to identify rules that needed to be changed or removed because they were unnecessary, out-of-date, excessively burdensome or overly costly.  Fortunately this was one of the regulations that the Obama administration has recently rescinded

U. S. Department of Transportation Proposes to Eliminate Deadlines for Replacing Traffic Signs
August 30, 2011 U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that the Obama Administration is eliminating dozens of burdensome regulations on traffic signs which cash-strapped state and local governments expect will save them millions of dollars.
So when the federal government follows through and gets it right, they deserve to get plaudits.  Now, can we consider a few more...please?

Monday, October 3, 2011

A New Malaise Speech?

At about the same time in his Presidency as Barack Obama is now, Jimmy Carter gave his Malaise Speech.  Interestingly enough it was a young Bill Clinton, though uncredited, who had told then President Carter: “Mr. President, you are not leading this Nation— you're just managing the Government”. Though he never used the word malaise, he spoke of the crisis in confidence and essentially told the American people they were at fault.  Entire text here

Carter's Crisis Speech
On the evening of July 15, 1979, millions of Americans tuned in to hear Jimmy Carter give the most important speech of his presidency. After sharing some of the criticism he had heard at Camp David -- including an unattributed quote from the young governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton -- Carter put his own spin on Caddell's argument. "The solution of our energy crisis can also help us to conquer the crisis of the spirit in our country," the president said, asking Americans to join him in adapting to a new age of limits.
But he also admonished them, "In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does but by what one owns." Hendrik Hertzberg, who worked on the speech, admits that it "was more like a sermon than a political speech. It had the themes of confession, redemption, and sacrifice. He was bringing the American people into this spiritual process that he had been through, and presenting them with an opportunity for redemption as well as redeeming himself." Though he never used the word -- Caddell had in his memo -- it became known as Carter's "malaise" speech.

And now President Obama may have given his own version of the malaise speech in a recent interview with Jim Payne at WESH-TV in Orlando.  His diminutive view of the United States continues to be the source for his “strive for mediocrity” approach to the US economy and our future place in the World. (see here   here  and here  )

“The way I think about it is, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and we didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades,” he said. “We need to get back on track.”

You can watch the entire interview and hear how President Obama dances around the shutdown at NASA, trying to say "we are in a period of transition". We are going to spend a decade not doing any space flights, as we plan for "improvements". And, we aren’t going to lose our edge.

Krauthammer on Obama's America's "getting soft" comment:
"[Obama is] compounding condescension, incompetence and narcissism all in one sentence".

Newt Gingrich recalls the Carter malaise speech and compares to Obama’s “Americans soft” moment. 
"We don't have a problem with the American people being too soft, we have a problem with Barack Obama just being plain wrong!".

PBS describes the results for Carter as
The op-ed pieces started spinning out, 'Why don't you fix something? There's nothing wrong with the American people. We're a great people. Maybe the problem's in the White House, maybe we need new leadership to guide us.'" Historian Roger Wilkins concurs: "When your leadership is demonstrably weaker than it should be, you don't then point at the people and say, 'It's your problem.' If you want the people to move, you move them the way Roosevelt moved them, or you exhort them the way Kennedy or Johnson exhorted them. You don't say, 'It's your fault.'"

I doubt that the media that is so strongly supportive of President Obama will act as the independent fourth estate and follow through as they did when Jimmy Carter was President.  They are too invested in his Presidency and his agenda. So this will probably never be seen on the front page of the New York Times, or the Strib.

The parallels between the presentations are remarkable and stark.  The theme that its America's fault rides in both.  Can we depend on the leadership and move forward with a misguided President who has such a low opinion of the American people? 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Obama’s Jobs Bill - Payroll Tax Plan Double Down

Last year Congress moved to reduce the 6.2% FICA taxes for employees to 4%.  It was limited for one year, and would expire in December, but is now proposed to be extended through 2012.  Obama is also proposing to increase the cut to 3.1%, and additionally do the same for the employers.  This is the largest cost component of his plan.  So is it effective?

Obama's Payroll Tax Plan
Sept 8, 2011For employers, the proposal would halve the employer’s share of the payroll tax temporarily – to 3.1% from the current 6.2% – on the first $5 million of a firm’s payroll in 2012. About 98% of firms have payrolls of $5 million or less, the White House said in materials distributed before the speech.
In addition, its plan would completely eliminate payroll taxes for firms that increased their payrolls by adding new workers or increasing wages of current workers. That new break would be limited to the first $50 million of a firm’s payroll increases, measured against the prior year.

The basic problem with the belief that this will have an impact on jobs is that it is temporary.  No company can depend on factoring this into any long term hiring.  And we certainly hope jobs would last more than a few months.  Private sector jobs require long term sustained increases in business revenue to be self-sustaining, reducing or eliminating taxes on a job does very little to accomplish that.  The short term nature of the tax reduction does not help overcome the uncertainty, or as the markets drop this week might make you think certainty, of not having that long term increased revenue.  We need long term sustainable private sector jobs, not temporary.

It appears the belief is that this plan worked so well that we are going to double down on it. 

Plan’s Effect on Jobs Under Debate
Sept. 13, 2011 “There has been zero evidence that it moved the needle last year, and nothing suggests doing it again, albeit in a larger way, would increase hiring,” said a GOP aide.
At the same time, Republicans may find it hard to vote against a big tax cut, and in the current political climate, lawmakers are wary of doing nothing to address the lack of jobs. That is why some top Republicans are signaling support for renewing the payroll tax cut.

Will Obama’s Plan Create Jobs?
Sep 8, 2011 But with Obama’s re-election prospects hinging on the state of the economy, just how effective could a payroll tax break be in stimulating job growth?
“It won’t be,” said Curtis Dubay, senior tax policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “Let’s not forget it’s in place right now and the unemployment rate is 9.1 percent.”
Dubay said a better option would be, for example, permanently reducing the corporate tax rate, which is currently the highest in the world.
“Temporary tax measures never spur economic activity because families and businesses don’t make economic decisions based on short term tax breaks,” Dubay said. “When trying to achieve a specific purpose, it has to be done correctly and the payroll holiday is the wrong way.”

The main goal of this is the premise that “putting more money in peoples pockets” for them to spend will spur increased demand for products. More often the use of a single short term infusion of cash is to pay credit card debt or just pocket the savings.  Neither is a bad option, its just not the spur they are looking for. Since we have already pulled the income tax trigger, to the point that close to half the people in the US pay no federal income tax, the FICA tax is about the only game left in town.  The effect this will have on the already stressed social security system is hard to ignore, even with the protestations from Obama that this will be paid for.

Megan McArdle is a senior editor for The Atlantic
And there's rather a big poison pill for Congress in here: Obama has proposed no pay-for.  Or rather, he proposed that Congress figure out how to pay for it:
Basically Obama has said:
Obama: "Here's the deal: I take credit for the new spending now; you take credit for making politically unpopular cuts later."
 Select committees are turning into the Laffer Curve of the left: every time you want more money to pay for something, assign a committee to make unspecified cuts years in the future.

Republican complaints that the spending will happen and the pay-fors won't aren't unreasonable, and I suspect they'll get some traction with independents.

The unemployment numbers remain at 9.1% (much higher if you consider those who have given up looking), indicating the first shot using the payroll tax wasn’t and thus the double down will probably not be the silver bullet.  And since the method for financing this still seems hinged on debt, it does not help on that front either.  But then there is the ever popular class warfare approach of "tax the wealthy".  Yeah, they'll buy that one!