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The Ugly Reality of How it Works… And Why

San Diego — The sequester — so-called although it is a semantic oxymoron… but then again, it is elected officials we are talking about — is about a week old.  Thus far the apocalypse we were told was inevitably descending on us like a financial tsunami has failed to materialize.  But an odd dance is now playing out that ought to tell everyone willing to watch and (dare I say it?) THINK, just what kind of stuff our leadership is made of… and how badly it smells.

After the administration started making a career of complaining loudly and with a degree of pathos that makes a dog begging at the table seem disinterested, that due to this Draconian and unthinkable axe, critical governmental activities would be curtailed, the House offered a Bill to allow the president to be more flexible in picking and choosing what would get cut so long as the final tally was undisturbed.  Sounds reasonable.

But he reacted as if they has offered him the hot end of a branding iron… which of course is what they did by calling his bluff.  If accepted, he would now have to publicly be seen not only as the author if the idea in the first place, which he was, but now would be seen as the person picking and choosing.  That is a task guaranteed to make no one happy even though it offers the best opportunity to date to selectively get rid of the financial weeds while hoeing around and sparing the good stuff.  Worse it means he would have to make a public decision and stand by it, unable to vacillate and worm out of it with his prodigious rhetorical abilities.

At first blush though his response makes absolutely no sense.  Despite the PR danger attached, if he wishes to fundamentally transform America as he says clearly, this is probably the best chance to do it. If he is truly an enlightened leader then he would jump at the chance to demonstrate his nearly superhuman wisdom in a way to make the ghost of Solomon writhe in envy.  Even his economic God, Keanes wrote that the way to bring down a government was economics and the debauchery of the currency and Obama is doing both.  So why not go all-in and make it clear what you want to kill and what you want to protect?  After all, he claimed the almost 2% majority that voted for him was a “mandate” of biblical proportions for his policies.

But Thomas Sowell — a real economist — wrote the disturbing answer in his own blog.  And it is as frightening as it is ugly, mostly because it has that inescapable ring of truth to it that can only be associated with politics.  With apologies to Dr. Sowell since I do not have it in front of me, I’ll paraphrase it but the gist is the same.

He wrote of an exercise he used to give his students in which they were to imagine a government bureaucracy that was created and, over time, evolved into having two activities under its charge (neither of which was the original intent but then, hey, it is the government and it is a bureaucracy).  The first was to feed hungry and homeless children.  The second was to build statues in parks across the land to Benedict Arnold trying to change his image and pointing out that before his little indiscretion, explainable easily to an self-entitled populace, that he was a hero, a brilliant strategist, and that despite that, he was passed over unfairly and so therefore justified in changing sides in mid stream and treasonous stabbing his country and his benefactor in the back.  And both activities of this agency were working just fine, getting lots of government money to keep them running, and a cadre of desk-bound bureaucrats fed and coddled.

But then the budgets were slashed by the evil opposition and they would have to curtail one of the activities.  But which one?  The children or the statues?  The students, after a careful examination of other governmental decisions, came to the only politically savvy conclusion: stop feeding the children.

What?  What kind of cold-hearted wretches could come to such a stance?  Politicians and bureaucrats sadly find it a no-brainer. You cut the kids because that does two things in the agency’s benefit.  First it makes an emotional case against the cuts per se, and second, that humanitarian cause is valid and needed so sooner or later the money will be returned.

But if they cut the statue activity, too many people will look at that, wonder why we were EVER spending money on such a hare-brained scheme, and kill that activity forever.  THat is death to a bureaucrat.

Now if you have been paying attention to the news and the government’s responses to the budget cuts, this ought to start making a sort of malevolent and highly Machiavellian sense.  Good ol’ Nicollo wrote in “The Prince”  that now and then the Prince needs to turn the dogs loose on the people so they will be so grateful when he calls them off.

Meantime, the lack of national collapse is not escaping attention and is instead calling attention to all of the cries about impending doom and disaster as being, perhaps, a bit hyperbolic and, worse, political gaming.  That, of course, cannot go unpunished.  So I would expect to see, using the story example above as a metaphor, more starving kids’ programs being very publicly cut and the other side more roundly blamed for it so the current Prince can make everyone so happy when he “convinces” the spineless opposition to capitulate and give him the money he wants.

And then, just as Maciavelli predicted for Lorenzo de Medici, the people will feel gratitude and once again line up behind his banner no matter where it is actually leading them.

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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Are Voters Mathematically Challenged?

San Diego — Tomorrow the world as we know it ends.

At least that is what the whiner in chief and his sycophantic minions are telling us.  When the sequester — that was his idea in the first place, which, in an interview in October with the Des Moines Register, he said was part of the grand bargain that included the cancelling of the Bush tax cuts and would set on a balanced road to stability – kicks in he is now trotting out his department heads to prophesy everything from closing school to closing airports to cutting back on military capabilities to having to set free illegal aliens held in jails for other infractions.

But in order for that to happen, or even come close to happening, one of two things would have to occur.  Either the laws of mathematics would have to change significantly or the administration would have to make specific choices and decisions designed to bring about the greatest harm to the country while ignoring solutions that really should have an effect only on those wasting money or defrauding the system.

Since I am skeptical of the first option occurring, I am left with the second.  And why would I say that?  Simple… I own a calculator.

We have a current debt of about $16.6 Trillion dollars (which is currently much higher than it was when Obama first proposed the sequester idea as a means of forcing action which was, to his enormous surprise, accepted by the opposition.  But that increase and the increases currently planned are extra-budgetary meaning they are planned by the administration but are not contained in any budget initiated or approved by congress which is what the Constitution requires for a budget to be valid.

We have not had a budget for over 4 years; the lack of which allows the President and his departments to sneak in spending increases under the radar and such is the case with the increases currently being proposed.   They have never been approved by congress.  Nevertheless the President proposed and congress accepted a plan to decrease the RATE OF INCREEASED SPENDING over the then $15 Trillion debt by 2% across the board, exempting those areas that, by law, cannot be cut without specific congressional approval.

What is critically important for you to remember is that was not 2% of the total budget; it was 2% of the rate of increased spending being planned over the current expenditures.  Now the debt is up another $1.6 Trillion from the data of that plan’s acceptance.  Money being committed for which there is no budget and no revenue to cover it.

When one factors in that by the time this happens what was calculated to be a total decrease in increased spending of $85 Billion is actually only about $44 Billion, and not a penny of that cuts into the budgetary base line, it still works out to a reduction of the national indebtedness figure of about 2 cents per dollar.

Additionally we are told that all cuts must be made equally “across the board.”  But that is not precisely true.  The bill itself the cuts to be equally made across the non-exempt DEPARTMENTS’ budgets but makes no mention of any restrictions on how, WITHIN a department the cuts are allocated.  Those decisions can be made sensibly with a sort of economic triage or they can be made based on politically desired outcome.

The Defense Department spokesmouth said, for example that Coast Guard rescue missions would be cut.  But later the commandant of the Coast Guard said he could find the money from other non-essential areas.

FAA talks about cutting air controllers but does not even look at such things as a subsidy they pay for snacks on flights (you thought the airlines paid for that, huh?).  The FDA talks about health issues but does not talk about cutting subsidies for tobacco growers while the Health Department then also pays huge amounts for anti-tobacco campaigns.   Or how interior pays some farmers to NOT grow a crop it pays others TO grow.

And if ANY part of the government is able to be called “non-essential” why are we paying for it anyway?

Bottom line even if all of the apocalyptic cuts are made as prophesied, we will still be spending more in 2013 than we did in 2012 because we have only cut the rate of increase not the actual existing budget items.

So get a grip people!  And hold your elected folks’ feet to the fire to allocate the cuts wisely, as you would expect.  As it is now, it is as if an individual had a cable contract but when their bonus check was cut, they decided to deal with it by cutting back on food for their kids and leave the TV offerings alone.  But when the government does an exactly analogous thing it is OK with you and you just accept it because you think the enlightened folks leading it have an imprimatur from God to act wisely in all things?

In the end it is all in YOUR hands.  You can tell the representatives that how they allocate money and how the President’s minions allocate money in their departments is going to have an effect on your voting.  And if you do that I can nearly guarantee things will get better.

If you don’t, if you remain minimally informed about the details of these things that can, if used poorly – or maliciously – have a very bad effect on you, then you have only yourselves to blame for whatever the outcome will be.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Sheeple Have Spoken

San Diego – Well, the good news is that it is over.  The lies and misinformation that dripped moment by moment from the politicians as they sought to outdue each other in the amount of venom and vitriol they could spew at the other side has been spent and they will have another few years to recharge their reservoirs of political bile.

The end came, unfortunately, too late for me to retain respect for some of my acquaintances who did not just fall into but rather flung themselves full bore into the hateful, distasteful, and often idiotic fray of yet more bumper-sticker intelligence and cartoon level thinking about issues that were incredibly important on a scale broader, obviously now, than their self serving, simplistic, often one-issue intellects could grasp.

And make no mistake, that preamble is aimed in ALL political directions.  The real issues that face us now and will face us in the near future as a nation were all but ignored by both sides as they sought simply to smear each other with the offal they could only be obtaining by scraping it of off themselves.  Both winning and losing sides studiously avoided a confrontation on truly critical issues of national importance.  The winning side did so because they had no standing to claim a shred of integrity or sincerety had they attempted to enter that arena and the losing side did so for reasons totally obscure to me but which could not be all that flattering.

And in the end, we, as a nation, got not what we needed (and probably could not have extracted from either side) but what we most likely deserve and what most likely will be the first major move down the path toward those “step” or “stage” changes prophesied by historians and political philosophers from Polybius to Marx I spelled out in a previous post.

Some of you old timers may recall that years ago, in the late 1990s and early 2000s I predicted that by the time of this election, we would set our nation on a path to reclaiming the shining example to the world our founders gave us or down the road to ruin retracing the same path and for the same reasons previous great civilizations took to their ultimate demise as virtual centers of the world in terms of geo-political importance and economies.  I hoped it would not happen in my lifetime but now, I am sad to say, I think I have lived to see it.

I have now seen the parasitical class out-vote the productive class.  It was bound to happen sooner or later but I truly had hoped it would be a lot later.  I have now seen those who believe they are entitled to the fruits of the labors of others out-vote those remaining few who think they are entitled only to what they can produce and accomplish themselves.  I have seen now those who believe that if there must be some consequence for their actions and behaviors, it is OTHERS who should bear it and not themselves out-vote those who believe  we should all bear the consequences for our own actions and behaviors.

Unfortunately, those feelings of entitlement and social justice have an economic impact.  Of course it does not — or in their minds, should not impact them because it is the others that are expected to pay “their fair share” when some pay nothing at all.  But as the Iron Lady said, pretty soon that approach runs out of “other people’s” money.   Certainly we have run out of our own as a country.

If that were not so we would not have a $16 Trillion dollar debt and be in immediate need of asking to borrow more.  You cannot claim to be solvent and yet require – REQUIRE – additional borrowing just to meet your liabilities.  And the result is each child now alive will be saddled with over ¼ million dollars in personal debt to the country if it is EVER to be settled.

Of course under the new order set in motion at the polls last night it cannot ever be repaid.  Why not?  Here’s a heretical idea, look at the logic.  It is simple Aristotelian logic and not complex at all.  Here are the premises…

  1. The only way to create sustainable revenue to the government is via increases in national productivity.
  2. National productivity is a function of jobs, solid jobs that create the majority of the goods and services needed so that the balance of trade can remain favorable.  And it is those employees who, if the winners of last night are to be believed, carry the major tax burdens and whose taxes keep the ship of state afloat.  So from all standpoints an increase in the productive workforce is mandatory for any sort of national recovery.

    However…

  3. The world that could easily employ lots of unskilled labor is dying at a rapid pace.  Today’s solid jobs depend on skill-sets and knowledge not dreamed of when I was just entering the work force.
  4. The only institution that can properly prepare future workers with those needed skill-sets is education.
  5. The only institutions that can hire and retain those workers, assuming the existence of requisite skill sets are businesses and corporations.

But…

  1. What institution is designated as the first to receive cuts due to those same budget problems that are claimed do not exist?  Education.
  2. What institutions are designated as the whipping boys for all the unfair ills around and so throttled with tax and regulation burdens to limit or stifle their productivity?  Businesses and corporations.

Is not the disconnect apparent to you?  Are you following any of this or am I going too fast and using words that are too big?  The answer has to be that no, you are not following this or the election results would have been different.

Luckily I am an old guy.  My “future” is well behind me and the truth is I had a very good run at it.  In my opinion we took the first big step over the edge last night but we have so much inertia going that even a dedicated transformer like our president cannot undo us overnight.  It will take a little while.  So I may never live to see it all utterly fall apart.

But my students will and I am sorry for them.  They will never see the America I saw as a youth; a beacon to the world as a place of opportunity and hope for all willing to buy into the culture and work for it.  A major nail was driven in the coffin of that old place last night. Maybe it will be the last nail needed.

But my students were and are among those cheering it all on, pleased at the outcome to savor the flow of entitlements and goodies they expect to come flowing down the government food trough.  So maybe I should not feel sorry for them after all.  They will get the results of the actions they have set in motion; actions and results I do not think can be reversed by the time this term will be over.  And it will be what is deserved.  I do not think they deserve the America that was, the America of dreams and fantastic potential.

(As an aside, yes, I do still think that there is the possibility the technology of efficiently extracting oil from shale noted in my last post will still happen… somewhere.  But having vast oil-based revenues, despite the major growth it has twice allowed in this country, is no guarantee of having things move in the best directions.  Riches do not guarantee a benign government.  Think Saudi Arabia if you do not believe it.  It can also provide the power for a tyrant-in-training to solidify their position by now passing out the goodies even more extensively.  We talk about the best politicians money can buy but the real worry is about the most dependent voters money can buy.)

Anyway…  If I were a national politician this morning, my attitude would be, “OK, you voters made your choice… so be it.  If this is what you want, even though you have no idea what you are asking for, then let it happen and happen quickly.”  Since my own pension and salary are secure as a member of congress, I would give the President everything he wanted with no problems whatsoever.  And make sure who is getting the credit (him) and who will, down the road, deserve the blame.

After all, if we are doomed to pass on through to the next stage, then lets get it over quickly so we can then start setting the ground work to move the cycles rapidly ahead and perhaps the next time we reach the point of wonder and power, we will be able to look back to when we through it all away and see what that cost us.  Perhaps next time we will learn from history rather than ignoring it.

Nah…

 

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The State of the State’s Educational System

San Diego — Tomorrow the Spring Semester starts, and with it comes the onslaught of the issues and problems created for teachers and especially for students by the State’s budget crisis.  So this is perhaps a reasonable time to offer a somewhat jaundiced view of it all.

The underlying official California educational philosophy holds that education up to and including college/university ought to be free to all state citizens.  The concept is based on a truly benign and well intentioned perspective that holds, true enough, that it is through education and perhaps education alone that a society’s real future can be found and therefore, it is in that society’s interest to provide their citizens with a good education.

Most states agree that should include K-12 but California believes it really ought to include secondary education through undergraduate levels at least.   Unfortunately, within that desire lies a lot of places to go very much off the rails, not the least of which is in the definition de jour as to what constitutes a good education.  Whenever the propriety of a course of action – or course of study – can be determined by a political entity then the conclusion rapidly retreats from one based on practicality and even reality and becomes one based on political whims of the day.

Consequently I must openly disclaim that I oppose that idea on at least three grounds:

  1. People, including students understand that in this mercantile society you get what you pay for and when something is offered for free the price honestly tells you what it is likely worth.
  2. Education is not cheap to provide when done well and when the state is running low on money and education suffers, then the really good teachers are likely to go to the better paying schools resulting, sooner or later in the state schools being the poorer ones in terms of educational delivery by anyone’s definition of good.
  3. Since the goals are politically defined then the requirements tend to favor courses that help perpetuate the sponsoring political philosophies over any real world needs and the results are incredibly well educated people who have not a single real world skill and have no chance at employment except to re-enter the education system to perpetuate that which thy have been taught.

I cannot change those goals, they are what they are.  I can only try to reveal them and their results and do the best I can to prepare my own students for success in a real world even if it is not the world my academic colleagues wished existed.  You however, must understand that much of the current budget impasse flows directly from attempts to reach that goal and in the process, bankrupting the system.  This same sort of scenario where one group decides another group needs to carry them based on some idea of social good or justice is part and parcel of the problem.  But for now I want to concentrate on education since it is not only typical but it is the one I have to deal with daily.

A common mantra when viewing and trying to understand political theses and their results is to “follow the money.”  So let’s do that here and see where it goes.  At my school, part of one of the largest community college districts in the state, the actual average cost to the school to provide its educational services is a little north of $150.00 per credit.  But for years, the actual student fees were limited to $20.00 per credit with the rest subsidized by the state in a manner we will address in a moment.  The budget crisis has resulted in a couple of fee increases that, in Fall of 2012 will rise to $46.00 per credit.  You residents of other states can stop laughing or swearing any moment when you compare your own fees averaging nearly $100.00 per credit and often well over that amount.  Remember the state and most academics here really want it to be free.

The immediate problem is that even this new fee hike leaves a shortfall of about $100.00 per credit.  We have about 20,000 students for whom a full load is 12 credits.  To be conservative lets say that the average student load is only 8 credits.  That means the district and state is face with a real deficit of  $16,000,000 each semester.  That is not chump change and all of it must be made up from the state coffers.  So where does it come from?  States do not do anything to earn money, they get it by taking it from someone else… you.

Well most education money comes from property taxes.  The state also promised the taxpayers that if they allowed a lottery the money would be devoted to education to supplement property taxes… unless there was an emergency.  So, dutifully, every year at the opening of the state assembly, one of the very first orders of business by the state legislature is to declare an emergency that allows them to convert the lottery revenues into the general fund.  So with that account now raped, that just leaves the property taxes.

And who pays property taxes?  Well there is a portion that comes from business properties owned by large corporations.  But business regulation has become so restrictive, since Californians see corporations as per se evil, that they are, when possible, leaving the state.  Last year roughly 700 businesses left California for states like Texas and Florida or even Idaho to avoid the onerous restrictions and escalating taxes.  So the property taxes for them went away but with them went something perhaps even more important.

The major source of property taxes comes from homeowners.  And who are homeowners?  Well most of them are employees of corporations or businesses that are stable enough and have the income to get a mortgage.  Or they used to be…

Of course when the companies leave employees either go with them or remain and try to find some new employment somewhere, which today, is nearly always a lost cause because the State is true to its values, and make this a most business-hostile environment.  Those less productive individuals the state sees as vulnerable and to be supported and deserving of help on some level are certain to tug at the heart strings of most.  But by and large they contribute little or nothing to society and certainly do not create a demographic likely to hire people that can buy homes and pay taxes based on their employment.

Of course the CRA (Community Redevelopment Act) passed under Carter mandated that home ownership was a right and so forced lending institutions into accepting mortgage applications whether or not the lender believed them capable of repaying.  So in order to get out from under those toxic loans that were sure to fail they bundled and sold many of them to those fictional private lending entities that are really an arm of the government, Fannie and Freddie.  And now a huge proportion of those unqualified loans have done as predicted even in a stable economy, and failed, leaving the government holding the bag as house after house sits empty (meaning NO tax revenue) or under water and re-assessed for lower values meaning less tax revenue.

And into that revenue void comes a world where inflation, due to the increasing fiat money supply, is making every dollar worth less, able to buy less, and along with it, creating a perfect storm for education: dwindling tax revenues and increasing costs.

Our re-treaded governor is now floating a plan to increase tax revenues by increasing marginal rates… on whom?  Businesses and people making as pre-tax income over a magic number that changes with the telling but lies somewhere between $200,000 and $1 million.  And who does that hit the hardest?  The answer is small and medium companies that are sole proprietorships and LLCs.  I had years as a photographer/industrial training videographer where my pre-tax income approached that amount but my business costs brought my actual take home down, often, to well under $100,000.00

To make matters worse the governor wants to increase the marginal tax rate.  Even though my gross tax rate might have been, let’s say, somewhere near 25-30 percent, once I had taken my deductions, my actual tax rate figured on adjusted income as compared to my gross made my tax rate closer to 12-13 percent of my gross.  The governor wants to increase those rates 2-3% according to his State of the Union address.  But going from 12% to 14% is, in actuality, over a 20% increase in my taxes.  That adds up to a big hit.

I don’t want to get off topic and into issues of what is fair or not here, although I am quite willing to debate the issue in another post.  All I am saying here is that the reality of what the governor is proposing is quite likely going to create a replay of what happened already in Maryland.  There, the state did a study that suggested if they do the same as is being proposed here, the tax revenues would increase by a rather huge amount.  But the year after the new law went into effect and the smoke cleared after tax time, it was revealed that the tax base itself dropped significantly and the actual revenues were down more from the previous base than the projections had shown an increase.

Why?  Because the targeted taxpayers simply left for less hostile territory and took their businesses and often their employees with them.

If that same result were to happen here the results for education would be catastrophic.  At my school we are already operating at a vastly reduced level after cutting classes every semester over a two-year period.  We have eliminated summer sessions and so many classes the few remaining are cutting seriously into our ability to offer our program towards either a degree or certificate.

Yes, tax revenues need to increase but they need to increase through growth in productivity not in growth of tax rates.  Yes schools need to get real with their student fees at least to the extent other states do.  And academia needs to do some housekeeping of its own.

If the avowed reason for education, that is to prepare students to enter the workforce and increase the tax base, is true then state schools need to re-appraise what classes are designed to do that and concentrate their efforts (and money) there and not in feel good “soft” topics that lead nowhere in terms of employment or in developing entrepreneurship.

And they need to get realistic about their faculty vis-à-vis who is providing quality education meeting those goals and who is not.

The rejoinder is that education should be about more than getting a job and therefore many of those feel good classes are important.  I would say that many soft subjects do indeed help prepare students for the real world but many do not and some that could are not taught from that perspective.  Learning to think critically, a very important skill, is not taught by historical revisionism or teaching students how to sing with the existing choir of the instructor and demeaning other perspectives.  I have no trouble with soft classes as electives, but when they become requirements then I think they need to be re-evaluated.

The solution to the budget crisis vis-à-vis the educational success in California schools has now gone way past the point of where it could be done easily and with minimal pain.  If – and I think it is obviously a HUGE IF – the politicians and the people truly believe that education is important even if only to help improve the tax base, then we are all going to have to deal with some pain.

The government needs to get serious about trimming waste and prioritizing its allocation of funds.  Surely education ought to be at the top or very near the top instead of being a poor stepchild to such things as prison guards and Delta Smelt. The governor promised to cut back on the size of government to demonstrate his commitment to dealing with that side of the problem.  The result, according to the State’s own figures, State Employees earning over $100,000 have been cut by 8-tenths of one percent.  Wow…

In addition to the government, the people need to understand that in the short term they too are going to have to give a little.  Perhaps the taxes may need a mild increase but the government needs to make sure that any taxes thus raised are absolutely and irrevocably dedicated to education, the law contains a sunset clause, and, while they are at it, give the lottery money back to education as well and pass laws to draw major companies that hire lots of people back into the state.  The political parties are worse than useless here, the people will have to do something I am normally opposed to and go around them to force the issues against both sides of the aisle.

And the schools have a part to play as well.  When sharpening the axe for cuts they need to look at priorities, a sort of ‘triage’ based on results, rather than trying to spread cuts evenly in the interests of “fairness.”  They need to prioritize costs toward classes and programs designed to prepare students to go out and earn a living and become productive in society and, until things turn around, be willing to axe some of the soft, feel good, politically correct programs that do not well serve those goals.  And they need to look seriously at quantitatively evaluating faculty along the same rules that courses are evaluated.

None of that is easy or painless.  But no less than a continuation of the terminal slide of the California education system is what is at stake.  It is, in my opinion, for each party to the problem and solution, the government, the citizenry, and academia itself to get real about solutions.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Snail Darters 100… Education 0

San Diego – There is no joy in being able to say, “I told you so” when the results leading to that really hurt yourself and your passions.  THat is certainly the case for us in the Photo Program at City College.

I have been writing, for several years now, that the liberal screeds on the importance of education were BS and utterly disingenuous unless that education was to indoctrinate the non-liberals in the wonders of socialist thinking and Keynesian economics.  California, the poster child for liberal policies and a main testing ground for progressive experiments, is the perfect case in point.  When the new liberal governor took over, realized to his horror that rhetoric aside, the state finally had spent all of other people’s money it could get and had to actually cut back on spending, what got cut?  Did anything negative happen to programs to protect snail darters, spotted owls, and delta smelts?  No.  Did anything positive happen in terms of allowing the state to start producing energy from its own reserves? No.

What went up? Regulations.  Resulting, last year in California being a leading state considered hostile to business and in over 650 major businesses leaving the State mostly to go to Texas and a few to Florida. Now that is brilliance beyond the call of the most progressive sense of duty.  Where does state revenue come from mostly? Income Tax.  Who pays income tax? People with jobs making an income.  And who provides the jobs?  Businesses.  So what would be the logical and anticipated result of driving away businesses? Less revenue.

Duh…

To be fair there were some spending cuts.  And just what spending did get cut?  Well first to go to the block was education.

Remember that education has been taking hits since at least 2007 when City College had to start cutting class sections.  Every semester since 2008 we have had to cut approximately 10% of our class offerings.  The district had wisely set aside a large reserve fund but even that well had, as i predicted, a bottom, and now we are reaching it.  Consequently, for Fall 2011, we received the cruelest cuts so far.  Our Academic Budget (from which we get supplies, maintenance, etc.) was cut in half.  50% across the board cuts were instituted without regard to the varying needs of the vastly different departments and programs.

You want to know what social justice really means?  What leveling the playing field really results in?  Well here, boys and girls, it is.  Typically for liberals the solution is to bring everything down rather than trying to bring the bottom up.  Some programs with little more than dry erase markers to buy are treated the same as programs, such as ours, where we live and die by our labs.  Perhaps the new math is not capable of any analysis more complex thinking…???

But then we got the really bad news.   Our hourly lab techs were cut from 72 total hours per week down to … wait for it… wait for it… 3.  That is correct, you did not misread it nor did i misrepresent it.  We are cut from 72 hours to 3.

That means we cannot staff the labs we were approved to run or are necessitated by the course curricula. That bombshell was just verified as accurate today so we have not had time, as faculty, to meet and come up with some plans.  But whatever those plans are to be, they cannot include another penny of funding from the state or district.

Nor will they allow us, as of this point, to charge lab fees.  Why not?  It’s not fair (for God knows what reason) nor is it within the guidelines because, according to some attorney completely ignorant of photographic logistics, do the students “get to keep what they paid for.”  Only in an environment inundated by liberal thinking is it better and more fair to force us to close the labs entirely than to allow students the opportunity to help defray the costs and at least keep them open a little.

To be fair, education was not the only thing our retreaded Governor Moonbeam cut.  Infrastructure was cut, state parks and rec was cut.  But how about state employees (other than teachers) such as prison guards who make up the largest group?  Well, no, their union is too strong.  How about pension reform in a state scandalized by pension abuses?  Well, no, again, the unions involved are too strong.  And no liberal can, by definition, see the unions as anything other than the saviors of mankind.

So here we are watching helplessly as liberal chickens come home to roost on the heads of education generally and students specifically.  So tell me, all you progressive teachers out there, is this what you really wanted?  I hope so; because it is the logical, predictable, and historically inevitable result of the policies you backed; so if it is not seeming like a step toward the ideals and social utopia you desire then, to be frank, you are too stupid to continue being a teacher.

And if it IS what you wanted, then don’t you dare complain in my presence about the low educational standings of California students and schools.

 
 

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Union Blinders, Border Blunders, and a Failed Educational System Whining for Handouts

San Diego – it was so nice to get back into photography topics for a moment, especially about such beautiful places as Yosemite.  But once again. against my better judgement, I read the weekly, sometimes daily political male bovine excrement from our AFT guy even though I keep promising myself to just delete it from the mailbox to keep my blood pressure in some sort of survivable range.  This time they want us to march on the local state senator to “send him a message” to extend tax increases and to add tax hikes on the wealthy.  At least here they are targeting those making over $500K and only asking for 1% increase which I could probably support.  Then they go on to talk about other taxes that need to be installled in the system.

The problem is simple math… I mean REALLY simple math.  The measures proposed would decrease (using the Union’s own figures) the state deficit by about $10 billion.  This is, of course, assuming there were no unintended consequences… like driving more businesses out of the state.  Last year wee lost over 600 good sized businesses to Texas, Florida and other states where they do not see business success as something somehow evil.  And with those businesses went the corporate jobs, the corporate taxes, the home ownership and property taxes, the sales taxes, the gas taxes, the othere state “fees,” etc.  We are already considered to tie New York as being the most hostile to business states.

But let’s assume for a moment that the additional taxes would not drive away any more businesses and end up losing any more state tribute…uh… revenue.  The math problem remains: we have a $25+ Billion deficit so these measures do not even address half of it.  And, there was not a single proposal coming from this bastion of Marxist economics to cut ANYthing, nor even to prioritize the spending.  And if suddenly we were only $15 Billion in the hole, how does that help education?  How typical.

In a previous post on “Scorn for Teachers” (you can use the search field in the right hand column to find it) I said we needed to clean our own house if the educational system were to be even WORTH saving, much less saved.  We have a top heavy system in which, at this college, over 99% of the budget (Yes, that is right, OVER 99%!) is for personnel.  The remaining less than 1% is for EVERYTHING else that goes into providing an educational experience for the students.  Meantime, new blood with new ideas and enthusiasm (which would be lower on the pay scale) is blocked from entree by a tenure system designed to protect the tired old dead wood from moving on or even having to perform well.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think good teachers should be protected and utilized until they are ready to retire or drop dead behind the podium.  It is not about the age, it is about the teaching skills.  Meantime, those that are not good teachers should be fired the next day whether they have been teaching ten days or ten years or a lifetime. Education is simply too important.  As a teacher, if I am not doing my job well then I need to be seeking another line of work rather than to continue to inflict my sorry rear on one more student.

So where does the educational community get the gall to ask for more money when we have so disastrously allocated what we have?  Without systemic changes, more money simply goes to perpetuate and facilitate the broken system.  And who suffers? Not the deadwood, but many of the adjuncts who, in direct contradiction to state rules, make up nearly 3/4 of the teaching force.  Many of these adjunct professors are enthusiastic, young exciting new teachers who are savaged by the cuts while those entrenched in their positions are secure and could not be dynamited out.  Until evaluations are based on objective measurements of merit and ability and not the good-old-boy network that will never be solved.

And the State has to get off of the equally Marxian ideal that higher education should be free.  Our State students pay the lowest tuition fees in the country by a huge margin.  That would be fine if the State had it or would prioritize education financially to match the rhetoric, but neither of those is true.  We protect the prison guards but not the educators; we protect the Snail Darters and Delta Smelt but not the students, we prohibit drilling or any resource gathering and by protecting the dead wood also inhibit education gathering by our population.  if the state prefers to spend its money on other things it should at least let the schools raise enough money to come closer to pulling their own weight or making up the difference between what the state has left over after protecting aliens and what it costs to run the schools.  That way they could at least stay open.  of course now with ridiculously low tuition and ridiculously low standings as schools go, one could argue that the students are getting what they are paying for.  And when you give something away for free, you have told everyone what its worth.

But in the liberal mind, “leveling the playing field” is done by bringing down the top rather than raising the bottom, so they would rather see schools cut classes or even close down, than to for all them to raise tuition so that at least the enthusiastic and interested had a shot.  My folks could not afford my tuition though my mom helped when she could.  So I worked as a mechanic and truck driver, and it was damned hard to juggle all of that but i knew first hand the value of that education and worked hard there too.  I earned my education and did not have it given to me and to be honest I think that is how it should be.  if you want it bad enough then you will find a way; if not, if you are not willing to sacrifice to get it then, in my opinion, you do not deserve it because you probably also will not be willing to put in the effort it takes to succeed at whatever it was you were studying.  I do not want class seats that should go to the serious dedicated students being warmed by the fannies of those using school as a financial aid revenue source or a baby sitter to keep them from the horrors of the real world.

Then, ss if the idiocy from the union were not enough for one day, we also just got a memo from the legal department reminding admin and faculty that we are mandated by “new federal regulations” to provide our services to any and all regardless of citizenship status.  Most also need financial aid so they not only go for free they pay virtually nothing back into the system or the economy in the form of buying educational needs or paying even the taxes on them.

One of the things i do know a bit about is the Constitution.  I studied it in Law School, chaired a  group who for some time studied and delved deeply into it, Have copies of it at home, in my office and on my PDA.  I can tell you categorically there is not one word or mention of a “Right” to education and there is sure as Hell no mention of a Right of foreign nationals to our educational system especially at the expense of citizens when competing for seats.  That is just wrong.  Here, you can sneak across the border and if you are here long enough to establish “residency” then you can go to our schools for in-state tuition.  What?

So where does the anointed one get the cojones to stand up in Texas and sarcastically mouth the words that he is protecting the border and American jobs as never before (you need to listen to the speech not just read it).  The words are right out of a conservative playbook but to hear it, to hear the inflections, tells you a very, very different story.  Plus it was mostly an outright lie… but we should expect little else at this point…

Meantime local Border Patrol officers are so disgruntled they are increasingly going public with their orders to not detain aliens but to “TBS” (Turn (them) Back South) or let them go in order to change the statistics to look like the administrations “efforts” are succeeding. It is astonishing that anyone is fooled by this but the disciples of the Messiah seem to be completely entranced and are buying it all.  And anyone who does not think that the immigration problem does not feed the economic problem is simply spending too much time at one of the new clinics smoking some newly legalized substance.

We have an incredibly huge problem, but we have let it go so far out of kilter that any workable remedy will have to be painful for many.  But it can never be solved in the environment that lets us continue to overspend.  Ask any addict what the odds are of slowly weaning yourself from the drug of choice and in the state and this country the drug of choice is money.  Rather the “treatment” ought to be prioritized so that it is more painful for those feeding off the public trough that do not contribute to the betterment of the society than for those who are critical to it.  When the government “shut down” was nearing there was talk of letting go all “non-essential” personnel.  I want to know why we, the taxpayers, should EVER pay for a single non-essential government employee!

Now, of course, it is the other way around.  It is as if those legislators were the incapable-of-thinking products of the very educational system they are now working hard to destroy. Who else would think you can spend your way out of a debt crisis or solve it by borrowing more money?  Maybe that’s the answer… they are not TRYING to solve it.  Maybe they are so angry at the failed system they are willing to tear it down completely and they are learning from their Lord, King Barrack I, that before you can transform a system in your own image you must first tear it down pretty completely.  What other rationales make logical sense?

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Government Wouldn’t Lie to Us… Would They?

San Diego – This might be a long one so get a cup of coffee and setle in a bit…

I’ve been asked,  since I claim only to be an image maker, where I come up with the ideas and conclusions I espouse in this blog and in personal discussions.  How is it that nearly all of my colleagues in the arts and in education, are almost diametrically opposed to me.  It’s a fair question.  I cannot speak for my colleagues and how they arrive at their own conclusions, but in my case I have experience in the real world that most of them lack and I try to follow the advice of my old philosophy instructors in college now summed up nicely by John Mauldin, a major financial figure in this regard when he explained his willingness to quote from those with whom he disagreed by saying,

“… if we only read what we already think, then how can we learn? It is only when your ideas are challenged and you seek (honestly) to determine why the other guy is wrong and you are right, that you can either become more firm in your beliefs or change [as the facts dictate].”

So I try to keep abreast of as many perspectives as possible, assuming hyperbole from each according to their obvious biases, and seek first to find any common ground, which is nearly always correct, or to find the dots that need to be connected whether the piece i am examining has done so or not.  In addition to online versions of the NY Times and Wall Street Journal, I check out the online English versions of La Monde (French), Der Spiegel (German), Daily Mail (England), and even Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.  I read the political drivel from all sides ranging from NewsMax to Huffington to Politico.  I also devour intelligence reports, especially from Stratfor, financial ideas from John Mauldin’s “Outside the Box” newsletter which as noted above presents ideas all across the spectrum, and, when I am home to do it, try to scan the blather from MSNBC, CNN, and Fox.

Unlike mainstream channels those sources do not seek to hide their biases so you can hear ideas “from the horse’s mouth” so to speak and not hear just an edited version of it.  And finally, my personal library contains many of the foundational documents of the various political philosophies and also the texts driving theocracies such as the Koran/Qur’an or however one choses to Anglicize the spelling.  I have read all of them, sometimes several times.

Of course I cannot read everything out there so I search quickly for articles in the areas that interest me: geopolitics, oil, security and terrorism, and sovereign finances for the most part.  Obviously I cannot do it every day since I have a real job that is, itself, taking more than normal times.  But I can spend a few minutes here and there, cut and paste parts i think are salient into a file and then at my leisure on weekends, such as now, try to make sense of it.

Is it possible I have missed something important?  Of course. But I would argue that whatever else I may be or may not be, I am not completely uninformed as to the events transpiring around us in this most dangerous (in my opinion) of times.

I would dearly love to posit that I think the greatest danger to our country, society, and culture is, as it used to be, an external threat and those certainly do exist in abundance.  But I have come regretfully to the opinion that our greatest threat is internal and that we are, as one financial pundit phrased it, “…trending toward unwitting self-destruction.” Those external dangers, while all very real, poised, and waiting their opportunity, would never have that opportunity if somehow we did not, through internal idiocy or malice, open the gates for them and haul in the modern versions of the Trojan Horse.

You really should re-read (I’m making a possibly invalid assumption about the quality of your education here) the section of the Iliad describing what the Greeks did to entice the Trojans to accept and embrace the vehicle of their own destruction, and then look for the parallels to our current situations.  The only difference is the “Greeks” in this case are not outside the walls, they are already in the walls and in the palace.

Sometimes I feel like Cassandra in this regard.  (Oh, all right, for God’s sake, I’ll just tell you. She was the Trojan oracle who spurned Apollo and was cursed to always tell the truth and never be believed.  She warned Priam and Hector about the Greek trick but was not believed.  No wonder we are such “fair game.”)

So here is my “Cassandra Report.”  Our economic situation is dire and getting worse and if we do not turn this ship around, quit dealing with symptoms and short-term political feel good “solutions” while carefully avoiding addressing the cause of it because the solution is viewed as political suicide and painful in the extreme, we will see our great culture self destruct and open the gates for all of the dangers out there who seek to destroy us and see us join them as just another third world country that is just a bit bigger and see the Orient once again take its place as the major world power.

Whatever horrid pain we will have to face to solve the current problems because we waited too long, are nothing compared to the pain we will all suffer if we do nothing.  And the solution begins by admitting the problem.  You cannot — CANNOT — solve a problem that you will not acknowledge exists.  Period.  And we have a huge problem that in the last few years has been exacerbated to an extreme degree and is now being covered up with a combination of lies, band-aids, and panaceas in the form of misdirections.  We hear each side blaming the other for setting this in motion when the truth is both had their hands in it and there are no innocent parties here.  Good Lord, get over it.  The point, in the end, at least at this desperate point, is NOT who started it… history can sort that out later.  The point is what are we going to do about it and it appears to me our deadly partisanship will prevent this group of so-called law makers from really doing anything.

The problem that the problem is causing is that it is generating such angst that we are losing our ability to keep an eye on the powder kegs in the middle east where the fuse is already lit and inching toward disaster.

(As a teaser, when the current king of Saudi Arabia dies or is killed and if Khamenie is still the high Ayatollah in Iran, keep your heads down because all Hell is likely to break out led by Iran.  Ah but that is a story for another day because it really will not make any difference to us if we are, by then, at a place we are sure to be if we do not reverse course and quickly.)

So what is about to — or at least likely to happen on the economic front?  Well, here is a quote from David Gallard of the Casey Report, a widely read financial newsletter whose conclusions have rarely been wrong:

“The Fed has been extremely supportive of the U.S. government’s insane spending, polluting its own balance sheet by buying up toxic loans by the hundreds of billions and by pumping enormous quantities of cash into the money supply.

” …(you) don’t have to look very hard to understand why we have seen some small recovery in the economy, much of which has been driven by the financial sector that has been the recipient of so much largess – it was bought and paid for by the government, working hand in glove with the Fed.”

Why is this a problem?  Because to support a flawed economic policy, it has resulted in what even Keynes himself feared, a “debauchery” of the currency.  The monetization of the debt by printing money and loaning it to one’s self via purchasing your own bonds, called, euphemistically,  “Quantitative Easing” or QE, is (a) inflationary on the face of it because it debauches (debases) the value of the currency and (b) should it stop after it is depended upon and fundamental problems are not solved, will generate, in, at most (if history remains true) a couple of years, a secondary market collapse because the whole scheme was not used to address the real problems but to prop up the parties complicit with government policy in fomenting the collapse in the first place.

And it appears highly likely that as they approach the end of QE2, the Fed, ever terrified of inflation even through their own filters, will not immediately go to QE3 but will stop to assess the success of the plan.  Success or failure, it will be labeled as a success because it is what King Barrack and Count Bernanke wanted to happen. Given a little time though, the incredible problems impacting our economy will resurface so that the economy will be back in the tank in a way impossible to cover up.

At that time the Fed will be forced to do some further monetization, though they will likely try to pretend it is something else other than more quantitative easing when they describe and label it.  It is all they know to do and have little choice since the politicians at ALL levels are refusing to address the core issues are looking to them to somehow, magically fix it so they (the politicians) can claim innocence of the pain and thereby keep their jobs.  And it appears that the public, on both sides of the aisle, is dumb enough to buy into it so long as they keep being promised protection from their own pain.

I believe however that QE1, 2 or 3 or 4 or 28, by any name or label, are all stop-gap measures that in the end will backfire badly and the inflation feared will come at us like an onrushing freight train and make Japan’s experience look like a Sunday School picnic… unless we change course.  They are treating the symptoms not the cause.  It is like putting a bandaid on a festering wound… it hides the reality for a while until the gangrene sets in to force some really ugly decisions that could have been avoided early on.

So why do I believe that?  I believe it because i believe we are being lied to on so many levels that it is nearly pathological in occurrence.  And that if you look beneath the curtain of this well-woven fabrication all of the signs of disaster are there to be seen clearly.  Here again is David Gallard,

“…the problems that made the economy stumble in 2008 have not been solved. As I said before, most have gotten worse. Have the impossible levels of sovereign debt and trillions in unresolved bad mortgages embedded in the balance sheets of Fannie, Freddie, the Zombie Banks and even the Fed been resolved? Hardly.

“Is there any real sign coming out of Washington that the deficits will be substantively tackled? You don’t have to be as active a skeptic as I to understand that the deepest spending cuts being discussed don’t even scratch the surface of the $1.5 to $2 trillion deficit. As for the $60 trillion or so in debt and unfunded obligations, forget about it.

“The U.S. government and the governments of most large nation-states are fundamentally bankrupt. In time, they will have to default on their obligations. While there will be some overt defaults, I expect most of them to follow the path of least resistance, which is to try to inflate the problem away.”

The truly worrisome deficit is the deficit of government accountability.  Here’s another dot for you to connect.  On February 10th CNNMoney reported the IMF issued a report encouraging replacing the US Dollar as the world’s reserve currency.   China has said, “we don’t want to make any more foreign exchange reserve of any paper currency, because all the paper currencies are government debt currencies.” In southern China, the “BRICS” group, Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, recently met in a sort of mini-summit and agreed “to transact all of their mutual trade and investment in their own currencies” effectively minimizing the need, at least in the short-term, for a global reserve currency and because of, in their view, the volatility of the US Dollar under current fiscal policies.  They didn’t replace the dollar as reserve, they sidestepped it.  But the result is the same.

In a wonderful bit of political misdirection the Administration’s pet sycophantic “economists” have rushed to assure us that the dollar is not in danger of collapsing.  I think they are probably right.  But that is not the issue: it does not have to collapse per se to have a catastrophic effect on our economy.  All it has to do is devalue significantly due to inflation and the spiral is on.  But we are also assured by the anointed one that the economy is back on track and inflation is not a problem.  And if you just slightly cook the books, that is more or less true.  But to do it you have to change the rules of how such things are measured and that is precisely what has just happened.  And Bernanke assured us recently that deflation was not likely.  Duh.  But deflation is not the problem yet everyone read into that, “Hey the Fed said there was no problem so relax; it’s all under control.”  That is the equivalent of the lookout on the Titanic telling everyone, “No problem, we’re made of steel and that is just frozen water so there will be no problem.”

First of all, a “jobless recovery” is NOT a recovery at all.  Unemployment remains very high.  Of course if you are a blind partisan and buy into the government’s figures, it is moving steadily in the right direction. But the government has never entertained any reservations about juggling actual figures to suit itself. One telling statistic they avoid like the plague is, unfortunately, the only real way to look at it: unemployment as a percentage of the employable population, which screens out many of the government’s self-serving adjustments to its official figures. Looked at that way, you can see that unemployment is continuing to rise alarmingly, even though the government is reporting that it’s falling markedly.  What is the basis of their declaration: the number of people applying for unemployment.  Period.

Plans to help solve problems (especially as in California) by raising productivity, which means raising the tax base, are simply pie in the sky when, in fact, the tax base of employees is going down because business — you know, those nasty entities that actually hire people –are being driven to places like Texas.  Anyone willing to do the research to find the real numbers can see that both unemployment and inflation is going up. With the web at hand it is incredibly simple to do the research.  For example, just pull up a chart of the CRB (Commodities Research Bureau) Index for Commodities which tracks the prices for the real stuff required for life – and one can see it has been on a steep upwards trajectory. Inflation is very much here and alive.  As I noted a few posts before, oil is rising rapidly and with it the costs of food production so food cost is also going up.  And so is most everything else.

John Williams’s (another high level financial consultant/analyst) “Shadow Stats” chart (www.shadowstats.com) reveals that inflation is at nearly 10%, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting 2.1%.  But, and here is a really interesting kink in all of this,  even Williams’ statistics don’t report actual percentages but rather what it would be if the government reported inflation the way it used to, before it started “improving” its reporting in the 1980s. It’s still an incomplete view, because the government’s original reporting was flawed to begin with and skewed to minimizing the numbers even back then.

How can the government skew these figures? Easy, they added in Housing to the CPI (Consumer Price Index). In 2008 housing was dealt a huge blow and it will be there for a very long time, because government had (and continues to) encourage and facilitate bad decisions on the part of both lenders and borrowers. This has left trillions of dollars of bad debt hanging out there, much of it now in the government’s ledger.  So the inclusion of housing prices, which plummeted as that bubble burst, as a component of official CPI, pulls the official inflation figures down, even though those figures don’t sync up with the actual cost of living.  And et viola, a magical and instant drop in inflation numbers.

i once did work for a Fortune 100 company whose CEO made the balance sheets look wonderful by selling off core business departments of the company until there was nothing left to sell.  That company then went under, no longer exists, and to the end the stockholders, told only of the incredible “revenues” while costs dropped, kept voting for HUGE annual bonuses for him.  Hmmmmm, sounds like the government to me…

This is precisely the same approach used to indicate global warming by eliminating, from the list of gathering stations, those that are in colder areas.  And if you leave that little important bit of data out as  you are calculating the figures, they do seem quite plausible.  Ah but now we are bumping into another topic for another time. But is it possible there is a trend here?  Surely not.  Say it isn’t so… and then back that up with some hard data.  Please, go for it.

Many economists from different perspectives are predicting oil prices to continue rising.  Some blame speculators not fully understanding the difference between spot markets and normal market speculation, some blame foreign issues, and others note that in addition to those influences on oil prices, our government seems to actually be facilitating it by refusing to allow us to get at our own reserves or refine what we have in order to push its green agenda onto the backs of people who are trapped in their positions.  With inflation gobbling up large chunks of one’s paycheck, King Barrack’s laughing while telling a worker he needed to trade in his SUV for a hybrid van, is like Marie Antoinette telling the starving French who could not afford bread to “let them eat cake.”

I do hope some of you remember the French Revolution and not only what led up to it but the Reign of Terror that followed.  The next time you ‘neocons’ want to set in motion some protective law please re-read Robespierre’s letter that allowed him to set up the security apparatus that led to job security for Madame Guillotine and see if you recognize any of it.  And you far left people wake up and see the revolution that is possible when you get the people mad enough because they are feeling helpless because that is where you want them to be to justify your creation of the government village to take care of them.

People underwater with their homes and vehicles could not trade up to a hybrid vehicle even if they wanted to.   What a stupid, irresponsible response that was but it is totally revealing of the agenda and of the connection King Barrack has with real people. Telling the people here in southern California to use public transportation where a 20 minute commute by car would then take 2-3 hours — assuming it was even an option — is ridiculous and out of touch. But then so are the proponents of such ideas.

Before you can demand that change you have to build a workable system and that takes… oh wait, I’m beginning to see it now… that takes higher taxes to pay for it.

Why no, they wouldn’t lie to us… much…
.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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