Thursday, March 31

TX Rep Kolkhorst Moves HB5 Out of Public Health Committee

by Pondering Penguin, this column originally appeared here.

Texas State Rep Lois Kolkhorst is chairwoman of the Public Health Committee. As the Chair of the House Committee on Public Health, she helps manage the state's multi-billion dollar health care system and works to set priorities for the Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees thousands of state employees at five state agencies.

Rep Kolkhorst sponsored HB5 - Relating to the Interstate Health Care Compact and it has been voted out of committee on a vote of 5-0. By coming together with other states, Texas can manage the state's Medicaid mandates as the costs rise in the coming years.

According to Texas Public Policy Foundation, the coming budget obligations for Medicaid in Texas will be staggering.

As legislators are well aware, Article II has consumed an increasingly larger percentage of the state's budget, with Medicaid demanding the lion's share. It is also the least flexible due to the restraints placed on Medicaid by the federal government. Recent changes in federal law with the passage of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA) removed most of the remaining options.

Texas general revenue Medicaid spending, after adjustments for inflation and population, will increase 866 percent between 2009 and 2040. Meaningful opportunities to stem the growth of health care spending are hard to come by because the Legislature has been hamstrung by certain provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and by the acceptance of ARRA funds that restrict lawmakers from making significant changes to Article II, particularly with regard to Medicaid.

Rep Kolkhorst believes that joining in with other states with the Interstate Compact option, it may be the only constitutional shield to be found to fight Obamacare. States can manage their needs better than the federal government. Currently there are 18 states coming together, with the potential for 12 more. After passing in the State Legislature, then the bill would be sent to Congress where it would be voted on. Every state has to work within the same perimeters. Block grants would be distributed.

With the current budget shortfalls facing every state, Interstate Compacts make sense.

I'd like to thank Pondering Penguin for writing this post and allowing me to post it here.  I encourage you to visit Pondering Penguin and engage in the conversation there as well.

Wednesday, March 30

Government vs. Philanthropy

In thinking about my recent posts about the need for Transformational Change in America, or an American renaissance. This call came in to Rush Limbaugh on 3-15-11 that really had me saying out loud "that's a great example of what I'm talking about!" Listen to the call here, and be sure to read the notes on the screen:


This call and it's content needs to be considered. Philanthropy needs to be looked at again in this country, and frankly I think philanthropic endeavors need to be reinvigorated. Philanthropy will always, no matter what, do better than anything government does. So, add this to the list of things we need to discuss.

Wednesday, March 23

Happy Birthday???

My second niece arrived this morning. She is healthy and already talking about supply-side economics and she has already asked for her uncle to send her some books about Ronald Reagan, she realizes there is no time to waste.

I always see these numbers for what part of the nation's debt a child "born today" is responsible for. A little research reveals that this new beauty just inherited her share of the national debt, which equals $29,178. That number will be $49,694 for a child born in 2020, and it could obviously increase.

Both of these monetary figures are ridiculous. And when you think that in just 9 years, not only will the population increase, but that each person share of the debt will increase 59%, I hope you agree with me that this system is unsustainable.

It's time for real change. It's time for transformational change. As each niece has been born, I look at these little ones, and I realize this is no longer about me. It's about them and one day it's about their children when they become mothers.

So, with that, the ideas I've been working on in recent weeks are still in development and there will be more soon.

In the meantime, I welcome my niece to the world, I hope her 18 month old sister will embrace a lifetime of being a big sister and I hope we get serious about reforming this ridiculous, out of control situation for the future generations.

Happy Birthday little one.

Thursday, March 10

A Trivial Question About Presidential Candidates

I was talking with a friend a few days ago about the upcoming 2012 Presidential election. As we talked about candidates, my friends list of potential candidates was interesting to me, and one thing stuck out to me: none of the names on the list were people currently serving in Washington DC. As I pointed that out to my friend, the response was, "Exactly".

We discussed this for a while. It was pointed out to me that those in Washington just serve as members of the "peanut gallery". I realized that Obama came from the Senate, and while he was able to criticize President Bush from his then (and current) role as national Commentator-In-Chief, he was never a leader before and that has hindered him from being effective as Marxist-In-Chief.

So, does it help someone like Newt Gingrich who served in Congress, then left Congress to run for President later? What about Herman Cain, a man who has actually run businesses, created jobs, achieved profits and balanced a real budget? What about Governors like Time Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie?

I'm interested in hearing what you think about this. Should our nominee be from outside of the Congress? What about names like Jim DeMint or Paul Ryan? I used the word "trivial" in the title of this post, I did that because I want a serious national discussion and dialogue about the real questions of our time. If the 2012 election turns into a non-sensical popularity contest, that gets us nowhere.

Wednesday, March 9

Remove Leftist Jesse Jackson Jr. From Congress Yesterday

Leftist Jesse Jackson Jr. has clearly presented himself as a clear and present danger to America. This uneducated moron is understandably overmatched in the US Congress. This Leftist here clearly puts a voice to the problems facing those of us looking for Transformational Change, as he sees the Constitution of the United States as an open ended opportunity to have government do everything imaginable.



One specific critical point to demonstrate Jackson's mental weakness, he asks "how many schools would such a right build from Maine to California". There is no shortage of schools in this country Jackson. There is also no shortage of money for schools. What there is is a surplus of teachers unions protecting failed teachers and a flawed system. Students in this country are benefiting in places where government is not in charge. Read my recent posts about Transformational Change in Education to understand this better.

The Examples Just Keep Coming

In my efforts to look at Transformational Change in government, this is an amazing time to be a news junkie and writer. This video below of a speech that Leftist Harry Reid actually delivered in the US Senate chamber, is an opportunity to see the largesse that needs to be cut from the things that the federal government spends money on.



Here is the text of that video so that you can actually see this stupidity:
"The mean-spirited bill, H.R. 1,, eliminates National Public Broadcasting...It eliminates the National Endowment of the Humanities, National Endowment of the Arts. These programs create jobs. The National Endowment of the Humanities is the reason we have in northern Nevada every January a cowboy poetry festival. Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist."
I don't think you can watch this video, and then read the words, and still believe that government spending is not out of control and that Transformational Change is not needed.

And before you attempt to tell me that we need PBS, NEA, NEH and NPR and all this other nonsense, realize that I don't want the federal government funding this sort of leftist propaganda in any case. The Constitution does not call for this sort of heavy-handed intervention. If PBS and NPR are so great, let the market place decide that and fund it. Pacifica Radio is also full of leftists who hate America, but unlike NPR and PBS, Pacifica finds fellow travelers to pay the bills. The same should apply to NPR and PBS. It's time to stop paying for these things. Let's minimize the functions of government, keep more money in our communities and keep more of our own earnings.

Tuesday, March 8

ObamaCare vs. the Post Office - Should Government Handle Either?

There was a great, short post over at The Weekly Standard today that is certainly worth looking at.  So much was said in so little space.
"The problem is, America’s Founders wrote the following words (penned at Independence Hall) into our Constitution: “The Congress shall have Power…To establish Post Offices and post Roads.” Meanwhile, Obamacare may contradict the Founders’ vision of limited government and liberty more completely than any legislation ever passed in our nation’s history. The only good thing about Obamacare is the backlash against it, which has reignited national debate over the proper scope of government and has generated renewed interest in fiscal responsibility, limited government, and our founding principles. But it doesn’t help to advance those principles to suggest that Obamacare is like the Post Office.

It didn’t take 2,700 pages to found the Post Office. The Post Office doesn’t try to run what will soon be one-fifth of our economy. It doesn’t cost more than $2 trillion over ten years. It doesn’t compel Americans to buy health insurance.  It doesn’t consolidate heretofore unthinkable levels of power in the hands of the Secretary of Health and Human Services and other unelected officials."
As my readers know, I think the Post Office has become an unmanageable system for the federal government to handle.  The Post Office has not turned a profit in many years.  But, the larger points here are fantastic and it's good to see validation for what I've been talking about here in previous weeks.

Monday, March 7

How Many More Ways Could We Possibly Stifle Small Business?

I came across an interesting column today over at OpenMarket.org, discussing how to help small businesses across America. I recommend the entire column, but the three highlighted sections below merit particular attention.
"Paychex, Inc., a payroll service provider that works with many small businesses, recently commissioned a survey. They asked small business owners their thoughts on the economy, and what the biggest obstacles are to growing their businesses. The most common gripe? Regulation. 47 percent of small business owners say that regulations have “slowed or prevented” their business from growing."
This is where bureaucracy gets in the way of real economic growth. Damn, just get out of the way and let those with initiative and drive and capital investment put people to work.
"If Congress is genuinely interested in helping small businesses while speeding up economic recovery, it’s time for a different approach."
Can you join me in saying "Transformational Change"?
"Federal regulation alone costs $1.75 trillion to comply with. Congress should lighten the load. 47 percent of small business owners say that regulation has made their business grow more slowly. Letting that 47 percent grow more quickly would go a long way toward getting the economy growing again."
Almost $2,000,000,000,000 (yes, that's 12 0's) just to comply with regulations!

Saturday, March 5

What To Do About Rising Gas Prices

You have no doubt seen gas prices on the rise in recent weeks and months. What solutions do you have for bringing down gas prices?

You do realize that rising gas prices make consumer goods rise in price too, right? While gas is getting closer to $4 per gallon, will you like it when it gets to $8 per gallon? All the transportation costs of consumer products will increase.

Thursday, March 3

Book Review - A Chance To Make History

A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn't in Providing an Excellent Education for Allby Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp is a current look at a positive force for education improvement in America. Education books about various educational programs are released each year, but as numbers change, the books become outdated and less accurate, or less applicable. So, A Chance to Make History, released in 2011, and with stats reported from the latter part of 2010, is a very good current snapshot of the education system in America.

Right at the outset, I wish I had the book in electronic format so I could easily count the number of times the words “transformation” or “transformational” were used. I think this word was the right choice for the needed reforms in American education. I do think those word uses were incorrectly applied in some instances, where the words were another way or saying “better”, “different” or “changing”. What American education truly needs is Transformational Change.

Calling for such change is another way of saying that the current system is beyond being fixed by piecemeal measures, or tinkering around the edges. As was pointed out in this book, more money and more funding is not always the answer. In many cases we are simply spending more for the same, mediocre results.

What A Change to Make History clearly demonstrates is that private enterprise can achieve better results than can any level of government, such as local or federal. There are several instances where not having to deal with any government bureaucracies allowed innovators and investors the chance to get in and do the work of educating children. One great quote to illustrate this:
"Post-storm, there was no bureaucracy left, and it really was an open opportunity for people to come down and get schools open quickly, schools that could be designed to close the achievement gap right from the start." (p. 96, in reference to post-Katrina New Orleans)
I understand that Teach for America does get some federal funding, but that most of its funding is philanthropic and received from donors. I object to the federal government being involved in education at all. If government has to be involved, I would prefer to see them solely fund organizations such as Teach For America. Get the bureaucrats who look at numbers and studies and decide the fate of students across the country that they have never seen and will never see, out of the way of state and local education authorities.

The federal government has proven it can not manage large, complex systems well. Look at the post office, which recently had to be bailed out to the tune of $11 billion. If the federal government had to go to a rational bank and apply for a loan to fund the Department of Education, and if they presented the current model for education as their business plan, they would be laughed out of the building, denied the loan, and shut down for good.

Specifically, A Chance to Make History is an enjoyable read, it is a narrative, with stories that the author comes back to time and again. It is a hopeful book, and a positive book when you see the positive results. I felt the book, at 218 pages, was a quick read, and frankly I could have kept reading. Fortunately, the book is loaded with some great footnotes for further research. Finally, this book might be seen very much as a sort of brag sheet for Teach For America. I’d advise readers to get over that fact and focus on the results oriented focus of the book instead. Whether it’s through Teach For America or similar efforts, let’s start transforming education in this country by unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit that can be found in our 310 million citizens. Let’s start at the local, community level and build up from there.

I'll close with this quote from page 113:
"I believe part of the reason that the achievement gap has not narrowed in an aggregate sense over the past two decades, despite all the energy and resources invested in education reform, is that our policy makers and influencers have been so obsessed with finding a quick fix that we have gone lurching from one silver-bullet solution to another rather than embracing the big idea of transformative education and engaging in the very hard work of implementing it. Equally distracting, we have also spent inordinate amounts of energy blaming one group or another-"silver scapegoats," we could call them - when there are clearly larger systemic issues at play. The fact is that our system was not initially designed with an understanding of what it would take to change the path predicted by students' socioeconomic background."
The time for Transformational Change in American education, is now.

Tuesday, March 1

National Start-A-Business Month

I can't speak to anything specific about LegalZoom.com, I have never used their services and frankly I don't know anyone else who ever has. But March is National Start-A-Business Month over at LegalZoom. Find out more about it here. Even if it's just a set of reduced prices for their services, the idea of someone encouraging entrepreneurs to try something new is a good idea to me.