George Will on “Conservatism”

After spending much of last year going off the deep-end over Bush, George Will has finally come back to doing what he does best – articulating the big thoughts.

The Case for Conservatism

Today, conservatives tend to favor freedom, and consequently are inclined to be somewhat sanguine about inequalities of outcomes. Liberals are more concerned with equality, understood, they insist, primarily as equality of opportunity, not of outcome.

Liberals tend, however, to infer unequal opportunities from the fact of unequal outcomes. Hence liberalism’s goal of achieving greater equality of condition leads to a larger scope for interventionist government to circumscribe the market’s role in allocating wealth and opportunity. Liberalism increasingly seeks to deliver equality in the form of equal dependence of more and more people for more and more things on government.

Today’s proper debate is about the modalities by which entitlements are delivered. Modalities matter, because some encourage and others discourage attributes and attitudes — a future orientation, self-reliance, individual responsibility for healthy living — that are essential for dignified living in an economically vibrant society that a welfare state, ravenous for revenues in an aging society, requires.

This reasoning is congruent with conservatism’s argument that excessively benevolent government is not a benefactor, and that capitalism does not merely make people better off, it makes them better. Liberalism once argued that large corporate entities of industrial capitalism degraded individuals by breeding dependence, passivity and servility. Conservatism challenges liberalism’s blindness about the comparable dangers from the biggest social entity, government.

Comment: Anyone who thinks “Big Education” isn’t as corrupt as “Big Tobacco” isn’t paying attention.

Conservatism argues, as did the Founders, that self-interestedness is universal among individuals, but the dignity of individuals is bound up with the exercise of self-reliance and personal responsibility in pursuing one’s interests. Liberalism argues that equal dependence on government minimizes social conflicts. Conservatism’s rejoinder is that the entitlement culture subverts social peace by the proliferation of rival dependencies.

Comment: This is what is so foul about the left’s embrace of “Identity Politics.” They don’t care about the betterment of the people in any one group. To the ideological left, indentity politics is a Divide and Conquer strategy. Anything that would acutally help a black person succeed (access to better charter schools, a personal account for Social Security, a Health Savings Account that can be used to get to a local clinic) dismpowers the “race-baiting poverty pimps” (J.C. Watt’s phrase, not mine) who flog the victimhood-oriented, identity politics mule.

The entitlement mentality encouraged by the welfare state exacerbates social conflicts — between generations (the welfare state transfers wealth to the elderly), between racial and ethnic groups (through group preferences) and between all organized interests (from farmers to labor unions to recipients of corporate welfare) as government, not impersonal market forces, distributes scarce resources. This, conservatism insists, explains why as government has grown so has cynicism about it.

Go Fred Go!!

FredT

There are a few passable candidates in the Republican Race, but Fred Thompson simply offers more than they do.

The Politico says he’s running. I hope so.

I posted a comment on Rich Karlgaard’s blog on the same topic.
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Some analysis…

* Anyone who thinks Guiliani is more electable than Thompson doesn’t really understand politics or people.

Folks who post to poltical/business blogs never seem to understand that – right or wrong – they are about 2% of the population. When Fred Thompson wins, 20% of the people electing him will think they just elected Arthur Branch. That is the average person’s attachment to politics – and this may be a good thing.

* It will be Rudy who is out after the first cut, not McCain, and good thing too. Anyone who thinks Rudy has a conservative cell in his body isn’t paying attention to Rudy.

* I don’t want a president who works hard. I want a president who has (and will defend) the correct ideology. [another reason why Rudy is poison, BTW] Hard workers are busy-bodies, and tend to do the most damage.

* Sad as it may be, the South will not elect a Mormon. Romney could be a senator now if any of these Alpha-males could tame their egos. (Same goes for Huckabee, who was a lock for Senator in AR)

* All this talk of Republicans being out for 2008 is just plain strange. America is a center-right nation. It will not elect a Hillary, Edwards or an Obama.

At this point, Rudy & Romney are the only Republicans who could lose. Rudy because no conservative will vote for him once they know his record, and Romney because of the above.

Thus endeth this punditry. Go Fred Thompson!

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If it was $8701 in 2005…

…Then it’s over $9000 today, and that is an obscenity!

When the richest nation in the world squanders its wealth on an education bureacracy instead of actually educating its children, it probably isn’t going to be wealthy much longer.

U.S. spends average of $8,701 per pupil on education

New York was the biggest spender on education, at $14,119 per student, with New Jersey second at $13,800 and Washington, D.C., third at $12,979, the Census Bureau said. Seven of the top 10 education spenders were Northeastern states.

The states with the lowest spending were Utah, at $5,257 per pupil, Arizona $6,261, Idaho $6,283, Mississippi $6,575 and Oklahoma $6,613. The 10 states with the lowest education spending were in the West or South.

Funding is largely a state and local responsibility under the U.S. system, with 47 percent coming from state governments, 43.9 percent from local sources and only 9.1 percent from the federal government.

“It’s not necessarily so that states with higher spending have higher test scores,” said Tom Loveless, an education policy expert at the Brookings Institution think tank.

He said Washington, D.C., has among the highest spending in the country but its students have among the lowest scores on standardized tests, while some states like Montana with relatively low spending have fairly high performance on tests.

Loveless said two areas where education spending might make a difference were in teacher salaries and small class sizes for first graders. But overall, the relationship between spending on education and test performance was not strong, he said.

Loveless is just plain wrong about class size for 1st graders. They’ve driven class size down (it was always a staffing scheme, folks) to new lows, with barely a blip on scores. A 1st grader is wired to learn.

Give me a class of 30 in a tough neighborhood. You take 2 classes of 15 in a spend-thrift suburb. I’ll out perform you as long as I get to pick the curricullum and enforce classroom discipline.

As for teacher salaries, no one has ever pointed out that salaries should be used to attract talent. This hasn’t happened in education as much as it should. Why? The “salary” increases went to fund inducements for the best and most experienced teachers to leave. Another question no one asks is “why do we need a permanent protected preisthood to teach first graders anyway. The jobs that should attract the high salaries are the ones that convey and connect the most content as the kids get older. But then, in a contentless institution geared more toward indoctrination than education, true learning distracts them from the real goal.

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Two Unreported Stories on the Economy

When you start a war in a nation where the Media Elite cut their teeth on Vietnam, you’d better be done in 4 years, no matter what else is happening in the economy.

First, we have some numbers shatter another Lou Dobbs, Democrat/Populist myth.

The Rise of the Botom 5th

If you read the papers, you probably would assume that the bottom fifth did the worst. After all, income inequality in America is increasing, right?

Wrong. According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study released this month, the bottom fifth of families with children, whose average income in 2005 was $16,800, enjoyed a larger percentage increase in income from 1991 to 2005 than all other groups except the top fifth. Despite the recession of 2001, the bottom fifth had a 35 percent increase in income (adjusted for inflation), compared with around 20 percent for the second, third and fourth fifths. (The top fifth had about a 50 percent increase.)

Even more impressive, the CBO found that households in the bottom fifth increased their incomes so much because they worked longer and earned more money in 2005 than in 1991 — not because they received higher welfare payments. In fact, their earnings increased more in percentage terms than incomes of any of the other groups: The bottom fifth increased its earnings by 80 percent, compared with around 50 percent for the highest-income group and around 20 percent for each of the other three groups.

My rendition of the CBO findings to this point should make Republicans happy: Low-income families with children increased their work effort, many of them in response to the 1996 welfare reform law that was designed to produce exactly this effect. These families not only increased their earnings but also slashed their dependency on cash welfare. In 1991, more than 30 percent of their income was from cash welfare payments; by 2005, it was 4 percent. Earnings up, welfare down — that’s the definition of reducing welfare dependency in America.

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The writer is from the Brookings Institution, and the numbers are from the CBO. These aren’t conservative spinners. Capitalism works, even if tweaked by the EITC. Socialist/Collectivist models (Welfare, Slums) don’t work. This isn’t rocket science.

Next up, yet another story on the big bad “Savings Rate.”

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A Simple Rule – If they ask for more money, it isn’t “Reform.”

Comparing fake and real Reform

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With Illinois Budget Negotiations down to the wire, the pols & press are luring us into a false sense of security on the tax increase issue. The Education Front groups like A+ Illinois and CTBA are still pushing hard for their fake tax swap, and my bet is that they figure out a way to get it. One trick they have pulled out of their hat is promising “reform” – which, of course, requires more money. Don’t buy it.

The tax and spend lobby is calling their basket of ideas “The Burnham Plan” Here is the link.

Their plan advocates a few decent reforms, the most notable being the creation of an “Independent Charter Authorization Board” and charter expansion. But even here, they expose themselves as liars by placing all “reforms” in the future. The massive tax increase of course, will be immediate.

Despite one or two good ideas, (which will never be implemented) A+Illinois’ “Burnham Plan” is really a warmed-over hodge-podge of sops to even more unnecessary bureaucracy. They argue they need more money. But true reform shouldn’t cost a dime. That is why my plan is better for Illinois. It is better for the state’s children, parents, and business climate.

Compare theirs with a REAL reform plan!

I’ve finished & tweaked the Executive Summary of what I now call “The Fundamental Reform of Illinois Tax and Education Systems. When I first posted this, I received many good (and challenging) questions. These were addressed in the re-write. Read it, debate it with me, leave a comment, or not. Enjoy.

Executive Summary – A Fundamental Reform of Illinois’ Tax and Education Systems (PDF)

A brief synopsis…

It talks about Tax reform.

1. Zero out the local property tax for schools
2. Pass HB750 increases at the state level

These result in a $2-3 billion dollar tax cut for Illinois. It constitutes a REAL, not FAKE, tax swap for Illinois.

It talks about Education Reform.

1. Phase out the School District – it is an essentially useless entity designed to spend money
2. Convert EVERY Illinois public school to an independent charter school
3. Provide Every Child in Illinois with a $7,000 scholarship (indexed to inflation) to be used a ANY participating school
4. Replaces ALL state mandates with an annual, uniform testing regime that covers a broad and sequenced set of rich content standards.

These result in REAL local control (by the parent) of every education dollar. It creates a dynamic for creation of 100s of different education institutions by creating a “Child Based” education over today’s “Bureaucracy-Based” system. For more details, click the audio link on the upper left of this page.

Fat Retirees = Bankrupt Nation

Also from today’s Wall Street Journal….

Accounting, Texas-Style

Three years ago, the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) promulgated a new requirement for state and local governments to begin calculating and reporting the net present value of their retiree benefit promises. GASB 45 is based on the sensible premise that future retiree benefits, like pensions, are essentially a form of deferred compensation that should be recognized as their costs accrue. The rule becomes effective in fiscal 2007-08 financial reports for the largest government employers.

Why is this a big deal? Because the total unfunded liability for state and local retiree benefits (other than pensions) has been estimated at $2 trillion ($50 billion for Texas governments alone). The numbers are so daunting that opponents of funding the liabilities — especially public employee unions — have predicted governments would face a stark choice between starving basic services and entirely eliminating retiree benefits.

That’s baloney. While unfunded liabilities will be reported in notes to financial statements, the number of immediate concern to legislators and taxpayers will be the “annual required contribution,” which amortizes the amount over 30 years. For example, a city with a total unfunded liability of $1 billion might initially have an annual required contribution of $35 million. If it pays the whole amount, there is no impact on the balance sheet. If it chooses to pay only $20 million, the result is a net liability of $15 million. The required contribution will grow rapidly if it is ignored or under-funded — so governments that choose to ignore the number will risk seeing their credit ratings suffer. Getting the jump on the GASB timetable, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already made what amounts to a $2 billion down-payment on his city’s required contribution.

What isn’t baloney — and what opponents of the GASB 45 do understand — is that financial transparency about costs may help apply some braking mechanism to the otherwise natural tendency of governments to engage in runaway promise-making to their employees.

Public Employees, combined with collectivized health and retirement schemes, are bankrupting this nation.

The Coming Property Tax Revolt

Florida made front page of the Wall Street Journal today.

Florida Hones Plan to Overhaul Property Taxes (subscription req’d)

Across the nation, the rise in home values in recent years has boosted property-tax bills sharply. The average annual property-tax burden in the U.S. stood at $1,132 per person in 2005, up 13% from 2000 in inflation-adjusted terms, according to data from the Commerce Department. Residents of Wyoming and Washington, D.C., saw the largest rises: Their tax bills went up by 49% and 42%, respectively. New Jersey had the nation’s biggest property-tax bills, at $2,206 per capita, up 13% from 2000.

In many areas, housing prices in recent years rose too quickly for local tax assessors to keep pace with them. Now, tax assessments are catching up just as market prices are slumping.

Responding to an outcry from taxpayers, politicians in some states have come up with plans to ease the pain. This year alone, New Jersey, New York, Indiana and Montana have cut property taxes in one way or another, says David Brunori, professor of public policy at George Washington University and vice president of Tax Analysts, a nonprofit tax-information company in Falls Church, Va. Pennsylvania did the same last year. None of those measures, however, compares in size and scope to Florida’s

Overall, though, the property-tax revenue of Florida’s city and county governments has been rising at a rate much faster than the state’s population, a trend that critics see as a sign of a bloated bureaucracy. In 2006, the state collected $30.5 billion in property taxes, almost double the level of 2000. Over the same period, the state’s population grew by about 13%.

“It’s as much a spending problem as it is a property-tax problem,” said Dominic Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch, a nonpartisan watchdog group in Tallahassee. “The idea is to put local governments on a healthy diet, so they can grow, but grow along with the economy.”

The article makes no mention of schools, which might indicate that Florida funds children more from state coffers. Here in Illinois, property taxes are driven by monumental education waste and featherbedding. If you want a property tax cut in Illinois, you’d better fight for reductions in spending on the education bureaucracy.

These Guys Aren’t Making any Gains in 2008

This gets filed in the “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss” section.

Do-Nothing Democrats – Quelle Surprise!

After 140 days, however, congressional Democrats left town with no significant accomplishments, one long-delayed bill finally enacted into law, and lots to make fun of. There was no increase in morality, no magically bipartisan era, no sweeping enactment of a coherent agenda for change, akin to what Republicans promised in their Contract With America in 1994. Instead, the 110th Congress has been a combination of “now I’ll get mine” and “now you’ll get yours!”

It hasn’t been pretty. And it isn’t likely to get better. Only those who were paying very careful attention last fall saw this coming.

From the very start, things got off on the wrong foot. Nancy Pelosi’s first act as Speaker was to push anti-war activist and vocal critic of all things Republican, John Murtha, as her choice for House majority leader, despite serious issues respecting Murtha’s ethics. The Democratic Caucus helped Ms. Pelosi out by rejecting her choice, but Pelosi has made Murtha her caucus’ number one voice on war policy.

Another ethics problem for Democrats is William Jefferson of Louisiana, whose “frozen assets” consisted of $90,000 wrapped in foil in his freezer, marked bribe money demanded by Jefferson in exchange for helping a business secure government contracts. Jefferson was filmed taking the bribe, but his colleagues have not censured him, and the work of the House Ethics Committee on this matter stopped when Democrats took over last January.

If the practice of earmarking hasn’t ended, it has changed a bit – for the worse. House Appropriations Chair David Obey, Democrat of Wisconsin, says he has so many requests for earmarks to add to major legislation – over 30,000 in five months – that he has no choice but to tack them on after work on the bill is complete and won’t reveal them until after both Houses vote. The other real change is that not all earmarks are put in writing – now Democrats who don’t want anyone to know what they’re doing can simply phone in the instructions on where to send the money (a practice Washington insiders now call “phone-marking”), as Harry Reid did in a call to the Energy Department.

Far from draining the swamp, Democrats have been wallowing in it.

America can no longer afford the vileness of the elected officials in either party. The quality of people has to change, and if it doesn’t, the nation will slide into abyss of corruption.

Blacks and the Liberal Plantation

A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal used the term “Liberal Plantation” to describe the misuse of blacks by liberal white elites. The term isn’t used any more, but the abuse still goes on.

(hat tip – Bros Judd)

Democrat presidential hopefuls shun Fox News debate

WASHINGTON — Four years ago, the leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus began looking for a television outlet to co-sponsor and broadcast a presidential debate to address the concerns of minority voters.

Only one news channel made a proposal acceptable to the caucus, and an unlikely channel at that: Fox News, in what some Democrats viewed as an effort to associate itself with a group that could help it make good on its claim of presenting “fair and balanced” news coverage.

But now that relationship is being shaken by the decision of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina to shun the debate, a move that has exposed fault lines among two major constituencies of the Democratic Party. While the withdrawals frustrated members of the black caucus, it mollified liberals who had objected to the involvement of Fox News, whose programming includes some of the most conservative and pro-Republican commentary on the air.

Like the post below, which illustrates Illinois State Senator Meeks shilling for elite liberal teacher’s unions instead of promoting good policies for “his people,” the story above illustrates just how shallow the liberal elite truly is.

What better place to have “the unconverted” hear your message than to be able to preach in their venue? Fox viewers might learn a thing or two if this debate took place on their channel. But alas, the shallow and obtuse “liberal elite” want to “send a message” to the Evil Fox Empire. How infantile.

Here again, we see the so-called “black leadership” (Obama, Meeks, Jackson) marching to the tune of the Rich White Liberal Elites (Howard Dean comes to mind) of the Democratic Party. We can’t have blacks watching Fox, afterall.

Meeks & Martire – Standing at the Schoolhouse Door, Denying the Poor a Quality Education

Any one who argues that we need to give the existing School Bureaucracy another dime before radical reforms are in place needs to be taken to task.

The story below (Today’s Trib) is about a charter school. Any one who is against the expansion of charters isn’t interested in children, they are interested in lining Teacher Unions’ and Administration Drones’ pockets. It’s time some one told them so.

Rev. Meeks needs to be called to the carpet. Why isn’t he fighting to create 100s of schools like the one below?

School gives boys the key to becoming real men

As the academy completes the first year of its experiment to reverse the abysmal high school graduation rate among black male students — the lowest of any group in the city — administrators say they are getting some traction in the classroom.

But they know that success hinges on expanding notions of what a black man can be: a scholar, a gentleman, a leader.

“It was very important, when we started Urban Prep, to get the culture right, to create a strong, positive sense of community within the school,” said Tim King, 39, who founded the academy with a group of African-American leaders in education, business and civics.

The Urban Prep culture is embodied in the 18-line creed chanted every morning during an assembly known as Community. The creed begins and ends with two powerful words: We believe.

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As to the argument that these schools ‘take money’ away from the local ‘districts’….Well Duh!!!!

The school choice movement needs to become far more aggressive in its attack on the existing system. Reform plans that capitulate to the “more money” argument will eventually fail, as the costs to maintain both systems rise.

Bad schools should lose money as they lose students, and good schools shouldn’t be prevented from coming into existence. Any one arguing otherwise isn’t using common sense.