Tuesday, February 22

WSJ Blurb - Brief Post for Now

Tuesday's Wall Street Journal had an interesting little blurb in one of it's two editorials that I'm going to come back to in an upcoming post, but I figured the blurb was worth posting now.
Medicaid isn't in trouble because it is badly run, though of course it is. The problem is that it has become so vast and is meant to fill so many political demands that no one can truly control it. Given the Obama Administration's rigidity, this is not the best reform moment, but unlike his predecessors, Mr. Cuomo seems to recognize that these liabilities can't be repaired at the margins. The real test will be if he starts to do the politically difficult work of scaling Medicaid down.
My readers will note that their reference to "repaired at the margins" sounds a lot like the "tinkering around the edges" phrase I often use. It all means the same thing. Again, I'll come back to this editorial in a day or so, but I felt this was worth posting now. The final point of focus, is that Medicaid has simply gotten out of control. As the editorial suggests, this is no time to make marginal changes, to "tinker around the edges", it's time for an overhaul. More later.

Saturday, February 19

Transformational Change in Education Might be the Place to Start

A great column appeared in the Houston Chronicle today.

As we are watching Professional Leftists in their true form carry out their childish acts in Wisconsin, we see some good examples of what happens when adults are in charge.
Houston has attracted entrepreneurial educators from across the globe, many, like Tarim, drawn by the University of Houston, Rice and nearby Texas A&M. Other educational entrepreneurs were not new to the country, but were new to Houston. Feinberg, Levin and Barbic were among an army of young, idealistic TFA corps members from out of state drawn to Houston to save urban schooling. Houston has the nation's largest TFA chapter. Unlike many cities, Houston welcomed TFA rather than seeing corps members as taking jobs from locals.

So what makes Houston different? First, the Houston Federation of Teachers never had the power to keep out TFA or hamstring KIPP and other charters. But that still left a bureaucracy, which, as Jay Mathews writes, resented KIPP's notoriety and success. Before KIPP became a charter, the Houston Independent School District central office investigated KIPP, and at one point reassigned its classrooms. Political leadership saved the day. HISD Superintendent Rod Paige publicly praised KIPP and intervened when bureaucrats attacked. Paige also had HISD serve as an incubator for YES Prep. As Barbic recalls, "A lot of superintendents would have seen that innovation and tried to kill it, but Paige did the exact opposite." Paige's successors have followed his lead, fashioning a public school system that can compete with the charters.
In a couple of my recent posts where I have discussed some ideas suggesting we need Transformational Change, this article highlights two sections where I think this absolutely applies.

Highlighted in yellow, entrepreneurial and entrepreneurs suggest the type of thinking and the type of people we need to transform the nations education disaster. This is the new thinking we need. This is where the new solutions that work will come from. Highlighted in orange, is the old thinking, the continual path to ruin and inefficiency. The orange highlights are the way to stop progress.

Newt Gingrich has discussed a newer model, called Entrepreneurial Public Management to replace bureaucratic public administration. A more scholarly paper on Entrepreneurial Public Management can be found at AEI. As I have been thinking about how we reform, and therefore transform the current system(s) in America, this seems like a very logical place to start. Obviously the teachers unions will be the biggest problem. Anyone who has seen the documentary Waiting For Superman knows what I'm talking about. Think about that "rubber room" in New York. And think about the all-out assault the Professional Left launched against Michelle Rhee, for the crime of, hold your breath, WANTING CHILDREN TO LEARN, gasp. Fortunately, Michelle Rhee is able to do her own thing now.

So, I see a clearer path now than I did a few days ago. I'm still working and thinking about how we get to a point of Transformational Change and what that looks like. I hope you're working on it or thinking about it as well and I welcome your ideas and collaboration.

Wednesday, February 16

Do we really need 5,100 more IRS agents?

A brief editorial in the Wall Street Journal should make you ask a few questions, after your skin stops crawling:
President Obama's fiscal 2012 budget doesn't cut much of anything (see above), and certainly not the Internal Revenue Service. The White House is requesting that the most beloved of all government agencies get an additional 5,100 agents next year, no doubt to wring further tax revenue from Americans. The White House wants to give the IRS a 9.4% raise in fiscal 2012, to $13.28 billion. Reuters reports this would allow for a roughly 5% increase in agency manpower to 100,537, including $460 million more for tax enforcement than in 2010.
I'm not for more government, but I will advocate for a big government idea to make a larger point.

What if instead of hiring 5,100 new IRS agents, the government instead gave 5,100 people $500,000 under the watchful eye of the Small Business Administration, and let them go out and create real jobs, and real wealth in America? We could play with the numbers one way or the other, at the high end this is $2.5 Billion. $250,000 instead would be $1.25 Billion. Something like that would be a real stimulus, not creating more government workers.

Tuesday, February 15

The Time Is Now

Friends, the time is now, to figure out where this country is headed. I figured I would say this at some point during the Obama Regime's Reign, but I figured it would be closer to the Marxist-In-Chief's re-election run, and not now, in February 2011. Shoot, it's not even April 15th, Tax day. It's just a Tuesday night in America.

I don't yet know the format this will take; meaning I don't know what the blog posts will look like, what the graphics will look like or what the overall approach will be. It might vary and not flow well at all, but the theme will be the same.

The bottom line is, we can no longer continue down our current path as a nation. We cannot keep spending on everything that our government views as necessary for one reason or another. But, saying "stop spending" is not enough. What does that really get us? Cut a few billion dollars here or a few billions dollars there; drops in the ocean. This is what I refer to as using a teaspoon to clear water off the deck of the Titanic.

What we need is transformational change. That means tough decisions. No, it won't be easy, certainly not as easy as continuing the spending that got us to this point of disaster in the first place. If you want more tax increases, we'll you've gotten them. Have you paid attention to the prices rising all around you? Everything you buy has increased in price since January 20, 2009. So your cost of living has increased, you want to pay more taxes on top of that? What are you getting in return for your taxes each year? Where does is stop? When does it stop? The time is now.

I think the first question needs to be; What do you view as the fundamental role of the federal government? I think we'd all agree that a military is necessary. But, I'm not even willing to make that assumption definite. In my mind, we have to get back to finding out what the basic functions of the federal government need to be, then we build up from there. So, you tell me, let's start with that.

The time is now.

Sunday, February 6

Memories of Ronald Reagan at 100

So many people are documenting their thoughts about Ronald Reagan on this, his 100th birthday, so I will give in to the temptation and offer some of my memories as well.

My earliest memories of President Reagan go back to my third grade year. One of my best friends at the time (Mike M., he knows who he is) and I stood up in front of our class and each recited the 40 Presidents at the time, in order. And of course, at that time Reagan was the 40th and last President. Mike M. and I both got extra credit for doing this, and we were the only two in the entire 20-25 student class to do this.

Our third grade class wrote letters to the White House when we were studying the Presidency. Each student who mailed a letter, received a package in the mail which contained an 8x10 of President Reagan (the now infamous bust shot of Reagan with the American flag in the background), a book/magazine about the White House (a book/magazine that I still have to this day) and a letter from the President thanking us for writing and encouraging us to study further. Yes, I realize this was not a personal letter, but the 8x10 got thumb-tacked to my bedroom wall, how many third graders can say that? What can I say, I always thought President Reagan looked cool. He was the same age as my grandfather, and I thought that was cool too. My grandfather would have been 100 later this year, I'll write about that in due time.

In 1984, my classroom did a secret ballot vote for Reagan vs. Mondale. The 22-1 defeat I suffered that day was made better when I read about the landslide victory the next morning on the front page of the San Antonio Express-News. I'll take 49-1 across the country every time.

Finally, I remember President Reagan speaking to the country the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded. My class at the time was watching tv live when the shuttle took off, as we were studying astronomy and all the teachers in America were especially intrigued with Astronaut (and teacher) Christa McAuliffe being on that space flight. I remember President Reagan speaking to the country, and especially singling out the students of America, practically talking directly to us. Again, it was like grandpa was speaking right to me.

I was an adult when President Reagan revealed he was suffering from Alzheimers. I was living in Georgia, working on a congressional campaign, when the President died in 2004. I have been to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, three times, the first time being in 1999. I have even visited the Library there as a researcher, where I was able to look at papers from the archives. I have twice been able to stand where the President is buried, where he will forever face the sunsets in the west, when the sun drops below the mountains of Simi Valley at the end of each day.

Anyway, those are my recollections for this momentous day celebrating a momentous man.

Wednesday, February 2

An Interesting Night In America

Tuesday evening was rather interesting if you cared enough to pay attention. Two events took place that I wish took place way more often.

In Washington DC, Former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean took part in a 90 minute debate hosted by the George Washington University College Republicans and College Democrats. If you watched the debate on C-SPAN, you'll probably agree with me that the issues and the substance covered was quite impressive. Obviously, your humble author here never agrees with Howard Dean, but he gave responses and opinions that allowed for substantive debate. Speaker Gingrich was, well, Speaker Gingrich. One of the top thinkers in our party, along with Paul Ryan who I will mention next, Newt offered a very sane argument for American Exceptionalism along with conservatism throughout many of his answers.

Congressman Paul Ryan, someone whose praises I sing (or blog) about regularly, hosted a nationwide conference call for his new Political Action Committee named the Prosperity Project. I joined the call and I heard Congressman Ryan hold court with callers across the nation. I was actually very impressed with the questions and I was even more impressed with Ryan's interaction as he would actually converse with the callers and he would offer real life stories to help relate the point he was trying to make.

The Congressman addressed issues from across the board, typically from the fiscal angle. There was a focus on retirement savings, real health care reform, national debt and taxes. In his usual fashion, Congressman Ryan gave answers that while complex, they made sense and they could be understood. Paul Ryan is very much the future of the conservative movement.

As I stated at the outset, this was an interesting night. In 1858, Lincoln and Douglas debated seven times for 3 hours each time. Can you imagine if we had anything similar to that today? Our Presidential debates have been dumbed down to "tell us in 90 seconds how you would handle Iran". That's not serious dialogue. We often see forums, and there is nothing wrong with forums, but typically there are 2 to 5 experts who already agree on the same thing, they just come about it different ways. The forums are often formal ways to compare notes.

We rarely see non-candidate debates between two people, just to talk out loud about ideas. Interestingly, the last debate like this that I can recall was about environmental issues in 2007, it also featured Speaker Gingrich, and he debated Senator John Kerry. I'd like to see more of this. We should demand it of our elected officials and of our political leaders who may not be elected officials. Notice that neither Gingrich or Dean is an elected official. Bravo to both of them.

Tuesday, February 1

Nine Words That Could Change The Debate In America

This past week I heard possible Presidential candidate Herman Cain say something a couple of times. I wanted to elaborate on it, and describe what I think it means. Mr. Cain is not shy about taking questions when he is speaking with a group of people, or even while hosting his radio show. People frequently ask things such as "how will you get Congress to pass this bill" or "how do you expect to get this done when other Presidents have failed". Cain is very quick to say nine simple words, "when the people understand it, they will demand it". I think there is great power in those nine words.

I hear the nine words and immediately think back to Ronald Reagan. One could argue that Citizen Reagan made his first big foray into national politics in 1964 when he gave his speech on behalf of Senator Barry Goldwater, a speech dubbed "A choice, not an echo". If one goes from 1964, then counts Governor Reagan's years leading California, his campaign in 1976, his speeches in 1977 and 1978, and then his Presidential run that started in 1979 and ended when he left the Oval Office in 1989, that is 24 years that Ronald Reagan, Governor Reagan and President Reagan was telling the tale of America. I call it a narrative, and I'm not alone.

Many times, Reagan did not just give speeches, he told a story that captured attention, he got people to believe in what he had to say, and he had the citizens of America on his side in many of the policies he pursued. Reagan never really stopped telling the story, as a public figure, he told the story until he left office. Though he may have never actually said the nine words "when the people understand it, they will demand it", Reagan obviously lived by the idea.

In modern day politics there is not much time to explain issues and policies. There is no such thing as a candidate educating the public. Not for lack of trying, but there never seems to be enough interest in it. Political campaigns too often turn into popularity contests and big media wars with tv ads and radio commercials than tell us who they are, but little else. Then, at some point in the campaigns, it becomes time for the ads to turn negative, and at that point, civil discourse turns bad, and we are more likely to hear why a candidate is bad, not why the candidate is worth voting for, and we certainly aren't getting educated about issues and policies.

Enter Herman Cain. A man not willing to let a question go unanswered. If he doesn't have an answer, he'll be forthright enough about that to tell you, and then tell you he will find an answer. He's not about to blow smoke or improvise. Take issues like the Fair Tax, immigration reform or health care. Issues with no easy, simple answers. But they are issues where Mr. Cain is able to really elaborate on specific points, tell us why we should want it, and then rally us to want it for America. If America is understanding and then demanding, a President is doing his job. It will take another great communicator to right the ship as it currently sails.

Voters will eventually go the polls to determine the Republican nominee for President. I hope the voters will get beyond some of the trivial questions we often ask ourselves, and instead will ask themselves which candidate will do the best job of challenging America to be better, which candidate will do the best job of communicating our message to America and which candidate will do the best job of putting "us" back into the process.

For me, these questions trump the questions about which candidate can raise the most money, which candidate can invest the most personal wealth or which candidate looks the best with a rifle in their hands. I want to win. Let's choose the candidate with the best chance to reach, inspire and convince the most Americans. In my opinion, that man is Herman Cain. With nine words in his arsenal, the rest of us can now get to work.