Collective Nonsense

There is a very sly op ed in the Commercial Appeal today. The  headline reads “Collective bargaining an American birthright.” The author, James Frost, teaches American history at Arlington High School. He begins his propaganda by saying “the United States of America would not exist today if it were not for collective bargaining.” Eye catching, huh?

He details how the colonies all came together – a sort of collective bargaining – to challenge their rights taken away by Great Britain. Locke inspired them with his talk of man’s natural rights and how we enter into a social contract with the state. “You protect my rights, and I will protect yours.” Out of this came “Locke’s right of revolution, which Jefferson asserted in the Declaration of Independence in 1776,” Frost writes.

It all sounds clever and believable. “The colonists bargained with Parliament over who would ultimately rule America… Americans won that war. Therefore, the right of collective bargaining is an American birthright just as much as voting, free speech or freedom of religion,” Mr. Frost declares.

From this premise he jumps to the Tennessee General Assembly.  “They want to usurp that right by passing legislation that would prohibit or restrict collective bargaining by teachers with local school districts. When did I, or any other teacher in this state, abdicate his sovereignty?” he asks.

Where to begin with so much flawed logic?

First, the U.S. would not exist today had it not been for brave individuals. There was no union for the colonists. No bosses sat down with members of Parliament. Leaders like George Washington and John Adams were willing to give their lives for their country. They didn’t bargain their way to freedom; they took up arms. They didn’t even have a majority of the populace behind them. It is estimated that only about a third of colonists wanted to pursue revolution. The visionaries persevered, not the mob.

In the Enlightenment, philosophers like Locke and Rousseau talked about the individual and his rights in his contract with the state. They didn’t need a third party to intervene. It was Marx and Lenin who talked about the masses. And when they meant the masses they meant the people who would give them power, not whom they would represent.

As to Mr. Frost’s individual rights, he forgets that we are a republic, not a pure democracy. We held an election in November. Americans selected representatives to vote for us on issues. Budgets, union rights and other issues were on the ballot indirectly. Republicans won the election in Tennessee and many other states. Sorry, you lost. You will have to wait until the next election to change the legislatures.

By the way, did you not know that the federal government does not allow collective bargaining? Even FDR realized that it would be disastrous for the nation. There’s a big difference between union bargaining in private and public institutions. When union bosses sit down with employers, the bosses take the workers’ future into consideration and gutting the business, they realize, will gut  jobs, too. When unions sit down with public representatives, they are making deals with politicians. The politicians are not making concessions that will hurt them; the taxpayer is the chump who will ultimately pay. The politician just wants to be re-elected. He can be long gone when trouble comes in and funds run out.

Frost lambastes Senator Kelsey for wondering why teachers should be “forced to engage in collective bargaining.” Wouldn’t a good teacher like to be responsible for himself and his own classroom to his school and students? When did we need a third party to enter into it? This has led to tenure for teachers who no longer care about eduction who keep their spot while younger teachers recently hired and are doing a good job jettisoned for the status quo. Collective bargaining has brought  rubber rooms and poor scores. This is the system we’ve had for years and look where we are. Citizens pay about $10,000 per pupil to get kids who can’t do basic math or write basic paragraphs.

I happen to agree with Kelsey that unions contribute to an adversarial relationship between teachers and school boards and teachers and parents. The students in Wisconsin who were dragged to union protests didn’t advance their educational skills.

How Frost goes from the Republican party to St. Thomas More’s failure to stop Henry VIII is comical and desperate. Is any Republican threatening to cut off heads? No, but the unions are giving death threats to legislators.

What’s scariest about his ideas are not that he believes them. What’s scary is a teacher who tries to take his ideas and promote it as history to untrained minds.

 

 

 

This Takes the Cake – Literally

Today’s economic news was shocking. Wholesale prices were up 1.6% on a steep rise in food cost. It was the steepest rise in food prices in 36 years. High energy costs  were blamed for it and the AP noted: “Excluding those volatile categories, inflation was tame.”

Exclude those categories? Are they kidding? What’s left?

Food and energy are the most basic elements of life. When those are inflated, people suffer. You wonder how a reporter can write this with a straight face.

Of course, there’s housing, another life necessity. But that’s not faring too well either. Housing starts posted their biggest decline in 27 years in February – 22.5% – it was announced today. Also, building permits dropped to their lowest level on record. The AP astutely observes here, too, that this is a hint of future construction activity. Genius! Who’d have thought that?

Then I read in the Weekly Standard that “we have now gotten to the point where if national defense, interstate highways, national parks, homeland security and all other discretionary programs somehow became absolutely free, we’d still have a budget deficit,” writes Jeffrey Anderson. “The White House Office of Management and Budget projects that in the current fiscal year (2011), mandatory spending alone will exceed all federal receipts. So even if we didn’t spend a single cent on discretionary programs, we still wouldn’t be able to balance our budget this year – let alone pay off any of the $14 trillion in debt that we have already accumulated.”

He goes on to show that in 2007, federal revenues exceeded mandatory spending by more than $1 trillion. Still, the Bush administration released a report warning that “if left unchanged, mandatory spending alone is projected to exceed total projected government receipts in approximately 50 years.”

Well, that 50 years went by in a hurry. It’s here.

If I were a young person I would be seriously concerned that all these facts put my future in a dire light.

None of this even takes into account the current crisis in Japan and the ripple effect it will have across the globe.

And what if the unthinkable happens here? What if an earthquake/tsunami hits the West Coast? Lots of  scientists predict it very likely. We have no rainy day funds and the world is tapped out.

People complaining about the minor cuts  governors like Walker is trying to make in Wisconsin or Kasich in Ohio; House Republicans like Bachmann and Ron Paul; and Jim DeMint and Mike Lee in the Senate  have lost the macro picture.

They want their cake. We can’t afford bread.

 

 

All He Lacks Is a Fiddle

Obama = NeroWhile Japan continues its descent into nightmare, while civil war is near in Libya, while the stock market plunges and oil goes up, while Wisconsin union strife heats up and while the U.S. still doesn’t have a budget for last year voted on, President Obama has his thoughts elsewhere.

He was  AWOL on major issues last week, too, when he took time to concentrate on preventing bullying at schools. Kids, don’t you know it’s not nice to bully others! was his message Thursday. Don’t do it kids, although at the White House it is common to call up reporters and warn them to squash a story or chew them out over the phone for something the administration doesn’t  like.

Friday he sloughed off that hysteria on earthquakes and tsunamis to welcome the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks to the White House. By the way, isn’t Blackhawks racist and a pejorative to native Americans? Saturday morning Obama gave his weekly address on that pressing matter of Women’s  History Month – it struck many as an odd, out of touch topic.  Later the commander in chief managed to get in some golf before sprucing up for the annual Gridiron dinner. He didn’t go the last two years, but perhaps there was something more important than nuclear meltdowns going on then.

You’d think he could have squeezed in a trip to the Japanese Embassy to sign the condolence book and offer sympathy as President Bush did whenever an international disaster happened, but I guess he had something else pressing.

I don’t believe he spent time in church Sunday; those visits have been rare. Rare enough that when they do happen, the press takes notes and we haven’t heard a peep.

Today Obama is videotaping his NCAA tournament picks to be aired on ESPN tomorrow. This afternoon he met with student finalists of Intel Science Talent Search after lunch with Biden. Then he’s free til 4:30 for an hour meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates before he and the First Lady sit down to a White House dinner with combatant commanders.

Wednesday seems to be party night at the White House; we’ll see which Hollywood celebrities or sports stars join him tomorrow. Thursday being St. Patrick’s Day means an Irish representative will be feted and Friday it’s Hello, Rio! as he jets down to Brazil for the weekend.

Glad he’s got his priorities straight. Sarcasm off.

Thank You, Don

Don Johnson
Don Johnson

After Friday’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Shelby County Republican executive director Don Johnson will be stepping down from his post. He will be working for Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn – an important and exciting new job.

While we are all happy for Don, it’s a big loss for Shelby GOP. His knowledge of Memphis politics is encyclopedic, or perhaps Wikipedic in today’s lingo. He knows voting patterns in just about every ward in the 200-odd precincts in the city. You could probably name a street and Don would be able to tell you all about it.

It’s quite an achievement for someone who is just 29. Most of us are just familiar with the politics of our lifespan, but even with only 29 years, Don knows about past Memphis and national politics as well. During the recent Irish elections (you remember them, don’t you? and who was running?), Don even followed that and interpreted for us what it all meant. His  knowledge is certainly world wide.

But aside from all that, Don is one of the nicest persons I have ever met. It’s not a forced niceness either. In politics you have to grit your teeth often to be nice to people who are annoying, but Don’s is a natural niceness. Several times on facebook he has expressed a little frustration, but others have asked what he was doing at headquarters at 10 p.m. anyhow, answering the phones with questions from the public that would make the rest of us tear our hair out.

He is always cordial. No matter what silly question I’ve had, he answers politely and respectfully. At training sessions full of older people like myself who have trouble understanding the world of laptops and i phones, Don has been patient with us beyond the call of duty. A sense of humor helps him and puts us all at ease.

We’re all familiar with his sympathetic “well, bless your heart” and it is always appreciated. He keeps up with all of us. When a member departs this life, Don lets everyone know in Trunkline, sharing an anecdote that

His optimism – in a county whose task for a Republican is often akin to Sisyphus – is catching. Many in his position would have winced at the possibility of victory in the August 5 elections, but Don helped us sally through to a sweep.

Don will come to a meeting to help you even though he’d probably rather go home at the end of the day. Some might treat it as a 9-5 job, except for election time; Don ignores those boundaries and gives his all year round.

He has come to our Midtown Republican Club meetings several times just to cheer us on. The last one Don walked in to spontaneous applause. He looked surprised and baffled. He shouldn’t have. Don has won the hearts of the whole county.

Lucky Marsha.

May the Force Be With Us

Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign spot blog at National Review online. He calls his mentor, who has given him sage political insights in the past few elections, Obi Wan Kenobi, after the Star Wars character.

Geraghty decided to ask Obi to weigh in on Wisconsin and its political impact.

“Polls look pretty ominous for Scott Walker and other reform minded governors,” Geraghty said. He was surprised by the response.

“Remember Margaret Thatcher… she used to say ‘controversy is good!’ That’s how we advance our agenda, how the public finds out what is going on … how the good guys win… Walker’s numbers are irrelevant… Think Thatcher and Reagan – people cut through the noise, figure it out and the political dividends are huge. I’m almost sorry Walker had this quick a victory.

“Another priority here is (Rep.) Devin Nune’s bill to force disclosure of public employee pension funds’  liabilities. Some people say it’s a rillion. Some people say it’s 3. Talk about educating the public? Wait til that becomes an issue in 2012.”

Geraghty comments, “You seem very optimistic about 2012.”

Obi replies, “Optimistic isn’t the word… The public is seeing what the Democrats are about on fiscal, national security, and social issues. And the leader of their paarty is unrelentingly far left. Obama has become a GOP attack ad.”

There’s more good stuff. Take a look at the campaign spot blog at www.nationalreview.com.

Confidence Down

Today’s retail sales increased to the expected 1% today. Without car sales it was .07%.

Consumer confidence dived, however. It was 77.5 in February but today registered 68.2. It’s the worst reading since October and surprised analysts.

Charles Payne at Fox Business commented, “the component that I watch is expectations; where people believe things will be in six months. The reading is 58.3 from a month ago when it was 71.6. That is a gigantic drop

Walker Explains It All

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker wrote an oped in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. “Why I’m Fighting in Wisconsin” lays out his argument beautifully. If you haven’t read it, go do so because it gives our side of the issue. Find it at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704132204576190260787805984.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop.

Economic Numbers

Jobless claims this morning came out at 397,000, up from last week’s 371,000. Our trade balance gap widened too, up by six billion in January. That puts it at $46.34 billion.

What does this mean? It could indicate a lower GDP number when it is next revised. Interestingly, China’s deficit grew as well.

Tomorrow’s reports on inventories and retail sales will give a sharper picture of the economy.

More Video on NPR

James O’Keefe, who released the stunning video about NPR, was on the Sean Hannity radio program and announced a new video has just been released and can be viewed on exposenpr.com.

In it, O’Keefe says, Betsy Liley, the official in the first video goes on to say she could shield the donation (by the Muslim Brotherhood!) and keep it anonymous. The two actors in the video had promised NPR a donation of $5 million.

He said more videos will follow and hinted that PBS might expect a similar sting video.

Fishing Polls

Somehow, I am one who gets a Zogby poll in my email from time to time. Yesterday I got one dubbed Zogby International and was interested in what questions it would have vs. the usual plain old Zogby.

Every time it asks standard  background info such as age, state, political party, income and education level. It also wants to know how often I shop at Walmart,   how often I attend church and whether  I consider myself a fan of Nascar. Do I consider myself a social networker is a new one. Has anyone in my family gone without food , lost a job or suffered a decrease in pay. I wonder if elements of these answers mean they throw your answers away. After all, as we know from NPR, there are a lot of dangerous gun toting churchgoers – perhaps brain starved from lack of food in the Obama economy – who need to have their opinions thrown out.

Zogby presents statements to which I am to reply whether I agree, disagree, strongly agree, strongly disagree or no hold no opinion on various  statements. Here were the current ones:

“Most politicians who want to pass laws preventing public employees from negotiating their benefits are union busters.”

“Most public employees are greedy and unwilling to make concessions in their union contracts.”

“Republicans in states where they want to prevent public employee unions from negotiationg benefits want to weaken unions and their ability to campaign for Democrats.”
“Democrat politicians now defending public employees know that these workers are too highly compensated and are just trying to protect the campaign cash and support they get from unions.”

“Many public employees do not have the skills and ambition to find similiar jobs in the private sector.”

“If compensation, including benefits, for public employees such as teachers, police and firefighters is decreased, fewer qualified people will want those jobs and the services they provide will suffer.”

Rather slanted, don’t you think? Some answers put you in the Simon Legree category. Some are too broad brushed. For instance, most public employees do have skills to get a job in the private sector; but undoubtedly, some don’t.

How about the poll phrase it like this: “States that find themselves in a critical economic situation need to cut back on minor negotiations so as to save as many jobs as possible.”

“Politicians  who find the coffers empty do not have enough money to pay bus drivers a salary of $157,000 a year (as they do in Wisconsin) so they need to make cutbacks so that the state functions at all.”

“Do you think that the winning party in a state that took control of the governorship, house and senate can consider their voters’ wishes a mandate?”

“Credit ratings for bankrupt states mean states will no longer be able to fund themselves and belt tightening is one solution.”

Zogby’s questions are framed as to look for certain answers. But wait; there’s more.

Usually there is a political match up or several that it wants to know about. For instance, the list of contenders includes Chris Christie, who has said he will not run for president, along with Huckabee, Romney, Palin, et al. I’m asked whether I would vote for him, does he represent my views and could he defeat Obama. At one point, you wonder if this is opposition research.

Zogby likes to throw in a few outside-politics questions in a bid, I suppose, to put the poll taker at ease or maybe to distract us from the “hard” issues we’ve had to handle. The poll this time veered to whether I purchase anything from Amazon or am a Netflix subscriber. Curiously, this is followed by a commentary on Amazon’s streaming of TV and movies without any question to answer. Previously he’s thrown in such oddball questions as whether I believe in horoscopes and whether I ever urinated in a neighbor’s pool. 

Finally, Zogby throws in the Tea Party. Do endorsements by the Tea Party organization make you much more likely to vote for a candidate, somewhat likely, somewhat less, much less, no difference, not sure or I refuse. Perhaps they could ask whether the network news shows  have the same effect.

I never did find any question that had any international bent. Nothing about the Middle East, world economy or China.

Maybe that one is for the next time.