Friday, January 04, 2013

Tea Party – Forming PAC’s and Growing Membership – so much for the Death Knell of the Tea Party. Op-Ed mixed with Activism

Photo from a Cincinnati, Ohio Tea Party Rally in 2012 - image

As of late there’s a lot of vitriol aimed at the “Tea Party” – (That’s a loosely framed moniker for the multitude of groups within groups that are prevalent in every single state in the Union.) There are articles such as Rob Quinn of Newser’s “Weakened Tea Party Changes Focus”, which discusses the national Republican’s blame of the Tea Party for losses in 2012. There is an interesting article from an “international watchdog group” ”What to Expect from the Tea Parties in 2013 - And How to Stop it”which said article starts with the “fact” that John Boehner is a Tea Party Republican.

Which, from the outside looking in, one might more believe the Tea Party, which has never claimed to be a political organization, rather, more of a “movement”. That movement, which began with a few national groups, and morphed into individual “Tea Party” groups around the country, was more “educational” in nature, then something changed. The more they learned, the more members of individual groups became aware, the more they wanted to effect change. What occurred next was a push on a huge grassroots level in 2010 to get members elected to Federal Office. They ran on the Republican Ticket, trounced incumbents that were more Democrat than Republican, and became neatly affiliated with the Republican Party. That Political Party was thrilled, as it saw a chance to expand its power base, however, when push came to shove, the differences between strict Constructionists and any Washington Republican, got in the way of the perfect Washington DC order. What’s a major party to do? Blame those insurgent Tea Party members.

Herein lays the problem. There are a lot of Tea Party Members. More than one can shake a stick at, and if one believes they have no clout, think again. As in fledgling organizations there is always a risk that power plays would get in the way of progress (See Dick Army and his Republican Get Out the Vote efforts while working with the Tea Party.) The fact that Army was paid off by those members to get the heck out of Dodge (contracts), speaks volumes about the integrity of those who are running one of the groups – Freedom Works. There is a second group, The Tea Party Patriots, who are about to start their own P.A.C. (TheHill Blog) What we have, therefore, are two organizations that both are “Tea Party”, a “movement’, which are looking more like a political party by the minute. In forming a Political Action Committee, they are a political organization. If they can break from the Republican Party and take the time and energy to form their own party, what a boon that would be for the American People. If that appears to difficult and they have the P.A.C. to garner funds to elect Tea Party Members, then they may be able to fund those members who run as “Tea Party” Independents.

They are the only Independent options in the foreseeable future as regards candidates; it’s a question, therefore, of whether or not they will unit to become one political party. In the meantime, if one is looking for an alternative. The following are the two major organizations with links to local and regional Tea Party Groups.

Tea Party Patriots


Freedom Works

Ironically most of the local groups are affiliated with both organizations.

This gives them a huge voting bloc. One might not think of the “Tea Party” as anything but extreme. They are the people standing on street corners, and holding signs, when there isn’t even an election! What this does, however, is plant the seed. There are the activists, and they are the only political organization (call it what it really is) that would make our framers proud.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Dysfunctional Government – Paychecks Shrink in Recession – Abandons New York and New Jersey – Gives Tax Breaks to Green Energy, Hollywood and the Big Banks – Tea Anyone?

One can no longer tell the difference - image from:

The “Establishment” Government, including the Congress, the Senate and the Administration have clearly forgotten that they were “hired” by the people do to the bidding of the people, and yet, for some reason unknown to the majority of hard-working American’s, they appear to have done the bidding of Bigger Business than the bidding of those that truly need relief – the public who supports the Government in the first place. It has stunned those who have some wits about them into a temporary silence, however, watching the entire crew in Washington turn more towards elections and fund-raising for the past year, while operating the nation without a budget, and pushing off any real cuts in government spending, while increasing entitlements, and fawning for the MSM and its camera’s who will portray a version of the events as they please (or as the preferred political party pleases), in an “all is well, nothing to see here, move along Greek comedy.

One might wonder what happened to the “Mr. Smith’s” who went to Washington to change the tone of the debate, speaking on end for days if necessary, surely something most of those who sit in the hallowed halls of both Chambers are capable of doing. That man, or woman, apparently does not exist once they get into the bubble that is Washington.

For starters, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is in a snit – the Congress failed to vote on the 60 plus billion dollar aid package requested by those who were hit by Hurricane Sandy in late 2012. Suffice it to say, the Republicans are being called out for not voting on a spending bill for aid to the states of New York and New Jersey. Suffice it today that an Executive Order from the White House could have moved things along, or for that matter, or at the least, those Democrats who are crying “foul” from New York, could have used their mouthpiece (the media) to get their message out and force a vote – they did not. The top dogs in the hunt, from Speaker Boehner, to President Obama, to Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, to Vice President Joe Biden, were all busy for days on end trying to avoid the “fiscal cliff” that has existed since the President took office and the Senate refused to take up the issue of a budget. We, the people, have seen the nation run, sans budget, for four years, and there will be no change going forward. Therefore, Christie is outraged – in the midst of a major crisis, Christie did what most normal shell-shocked leaders might do – scream for help and attach themselves to the first person of authority to put his boots on the ground – that was the President. The President assured the good citizens of New Jersey and New York, and Govenor Christie that he would do everything possible to get them the aid they needed – in October. There are areas of New York that are still without basic essentials, and it does not appear to be a big enough story for those at the major news networks to be that worked up about – instead – the Fiscal Cliff has been the focus.

What did the good taxpayers get out of the Fiscal Cliff? The middle households got to keep the Bush Era Tax cuts, as long as they don’t make more than $400,000 (which is a fortune to those who are making less, yet, some of those in that bracket are small business owners – they will not, as a result be hiring), that said, the Holiday tax cut (which came from Social Security) has lapsed, expect to see less in your paycheck this week. (This does not include taxes due on Obamacare – get ready to cut back no matter the income level.)

This is what, in a nutshell, happened at the last breath of the 112th Congress: Republican’s sent bills to the Senate, the Senate (Harry Reid, D-NV) refused to even bring the bills to the floor for a vote, the President went to Hawaii to surf, the President “cut-short his vacation in order to deal with the “fiscal cliff”, the House Speaker, John Boehner ( R) got locked in a room with Vice President Joe Biden (D), until they hammered out a “deal” on the cliff. This deal went to the Senate, where it was voted upon, and passed, the House then was in a corner, either pass the bill or let the Government shut down – they passed it, with much hand-wringing. To be fair, there were those that voted no to this “Deal”, but too many elected officials went along for the ride. The Deal: The government gets revenue in the form of tax “hikes” on the “wealthy” – or those making $400,000 or above. The Government also gave tax breaks to those making some serious cash: - in fact,
”$76 billion in special-interest tax credits for the likes of General Electric, Hollywood and even Captain Morgan. But these subsidies weren't the fruit of eleventh-hour lobbying conducted on the cliff's edge -- they were crafted back in August in a Senate committee, and they sat dormant until the White House reportedly insisted on them this week.

The Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act of 2012, which passed through the Senate Finance Committee in August, was copied and pasted into the fiscal cliff legislation, yielding a victory for biotech companies, wind-turbine-makers, biodiesel producers, film studios -- and their lobbyists. So, if you're wondering how algae subsidies became part of a must-pass package to avert the dreaded fiscal cliff, credit the Biotechnology Industry Organization's lobbying last summer. (Read the balance, it’s nauseating. – Washington Times)

Therefore, while the entire group of those we hired, were busy trying to get elected or reelected, the Lobbyists, who have some influence in DC with both major political parties, understood what was coming, that the Democrat and Republican Leadership would pull a last minute kick the can down the road deal out of thin-air (more on that) and they would be able to sneak in a few breaks for their clients, the corporations that hire them.

Now there is going to be a call to raise the debt ceiling to cover the costs of this “deal” – which gave the U.S taxpayer $1.00 in cuts (not yet named) in government spending for entitles in the neighborhood of $41 for everyone of those dollars. This is the form of entitlements for both individuals and corporations. Go figure.

Maybe Boehner lost his mind in the back room making a deal with Joe Biden.

Understanding that those in Washington all want to “get along”, is one thing, but, the cliff is still there, its gotten steeper! There’s more debt even with the Millionaires and Billionaires paying more than their fair share, and now those who brung this crew to DC, the lower to middle income families, will be paying the price. We’re not even adjusting for the 3 to 4% (one might hesitate to trust the official party line) on inflation for little things like meat, dairy products and wheat products! (WWLP, NBC Affiliate).

So, the lower and middle income families, who are not on total Government Assistance (or more accurately –on the people who work for a living’s assistance.)are going to be eating less meat, drinking less milk, and forgoing that morning bowl of cereal, as they struggle compensate for the barrage of taxes from Obamacare that are coming down the pike, and the loss of income, no matter how small, from the Social Security payroll tax. One might suggest that we live in Greece, but that’s not accurate. In those nations that offer actual socialism (and are finically unstable at best), every single individual who breaths, pays taxes, unlike those in the U.S. who may not even work and receive a tax refund from the Government (The people that work)!

It’s so incredibly easy to fix this entire mess and yet – those who are in DC cannot see the forest through the trees. Sooner than later, there will be cuts on all levels, from the states to the federal programs that allow individuals how do not work, or cannot find work .(due to the taxes on businesses, and excessive regulations (which are too numerous to rant about at this point) not hiring in the foreseeable future.) What happens when there is no money left to buy a cell phone, fund an EBT card, or public housing, or welfare, or extended unemployment? What happens when the taxpayers, are so heavily indebted, that they end up on the dole as well? Then what?

Some simple steps that have been available since – forever and an easy fix: draw up a reasonable budget, put time limits on welfare and put those in any government program on workfare. Get rid of the EBT card and replace that with food stamps for food only, and household essentials (cleaning aids, etc.) period. Get rid of any government agency that has a duplicate agency, bring the government sector’s payroll in line with the private sectors payroll. Revise Obamacare – by eliminating the exchanges, and instead, allowing insurance carriers to operate across any state border. The aforementioned would increase availability of policies to individuals and families, and drive the costs down. Keep certain provision that is necessary – including the pre-existing clause. Make every government agency accountable for the money they are given in a budget - by insisting that they not only stay within the budget but try to get under the budget. If someone wants to study blueberries in Maine, perhaps they should find private funding. Industries should not be funded by the government – period. Green, blue, purple – if one has a product that is of interest to the public, that business will succeed or not – case closed.

It is time, past time, for those in the trenches, to have options in Washington that are not Democrat or Republican but Independent voices, be they Tea Party, Libertarian, Communist, Green Party, it does not matter – what American needs to survive this nightmare are candidates that will run and be elected but a disgusted public, who are from neither major political party. It would be more chaotic, to be true, but it would be a real blend of voices, looking out for all the people, not just the party or the press.

To those “Tea Party” members of the dysfunctional body – stop running as Republican’s – run as Independents – if you’ve done your job, the people will vote for you. If your one of those Real Progressives, who’s running as a Democrats, run as who you are, a Socialists, people will really vote for you. If you’re a real Democrat or real Republican, run as who you are – with little difference between the parties – that might be a tad risky but more honest.

What happens next? The fiscal cliff will turn into a rise of the Debt Ceiling – again – with no hope to ever paying this back, and what will those members elected to both houses do when the President insists they do not cut anything but defense? Shut down the government until there are real reforms on the table. What could possibly happen if the Government were to shut down? Would anyone actually notice? It has happened before, on several occasions, and it was a real bargaining chip – that turned the Republican Led Congress under Newt Gingrich, and one President Bill Clinton who brought new meaning to the art of negotiations, to the table to hammer out a deal that was ok – but there had to be a shut down first. We survived as a nation – and Clinton will go down in History as one of the best Democrat Presidents to grace the White House. While the Republican Party, under Speaker Gingrich, actually accomplished a thing or two and took the heat for it to boot!

It cannot be expressed enough, there is now a real need to end the two party systems, and to do it as quickly as possible – which would be a return to the original intent of the framers of the Constitution and those who built this nation.

On the government and the mainstream media – down to the local level: Watch this clip from a local NBC affiliate on the incandescent light bulb phase-out – here In the introduction to the clip – the anchor begins with – (paraphrasing) “The Government will not allow the use of 75 Watt bulbs, you now must use”… It’s mind-boggling to watch any newscast, local or national, where a newscaster smiles while they talk about the government as if it is the supreme body that is “taking care” of the little people. There are two problems here, anyone watching the nightly news (and this includes all cable networks, they are all eerily similar) will buy this hook, line and sinker, as they are not aware of one salient fact. Without the taxpayer, without each individual sending money to Washington, there would be no government. Period. We hire the people to run “the government”, we fund the “government”, without the people, the “government is useless. Until the people get that concept, the government will continue to “rule” with impunity.

Once they get hit continually with inflation, new taxes, and fines and regulations, they may get the point. That’s why those who are running now, should consider not running as a major party player, rather as an alternative. Those who are disgusted will vote and one can bet it won’t be for the 22 term member of Congress, or anyone with a current affiliation. Call it naive, call it utopian – it may be, but giving the general public the right circumstance, they will vote not for those who are status qua, but for the regular guy or gal who is standing up for them and has no experience. Just remember 2010, only this time, hopefully those Tea Party Members will run on their own merits (and the Progressives, the Green Party, the Libertarian, etc.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The $10,000 College Degree – Texas and Florida Push Colleges to Lower Tuition for 4 Year Degrees – Limits Student Debt – The Pro’s Outweigh the Con’s

The high cost of college loans and the aftermath of debt, not in Texas or Florida - image

The first State in the Union to push for lower cost college degrees was Texas – Governor Rick Perry called on the State University Systems to come up with a $10,000 total cost Bachelor Degree program to take effect in 2013. This program has started to take hold. The Texas Tribune reports that the “Texas State University System is the state's third major university system to announce the development of a bachelor's degree that only costs $10,000 - a response to Gov. Rick Perry's 2011 call for more affordable higher education offerings.”. The program in Texas is geared towards limiting a student’s debt, while offering courses that have realistic job prospects, especially in today’s economy. As of Dec. 1, 2012, ten Texas State Universities have come up with models that work within the Governor’s plan according to the Desert News. There has been criticism from Democrats, who feel that the programs continue to cost the same, regardless of the lower tuition, and the State will have to pay the difference and also complained that under Governor Rick Perry - the cost of tuition increased over a 10 year period by $12,000, which allegedly puts college out of reach for low to middle income students. However, despite the naysayers the Universities are implementing these degree programs. Additionally, Perry also called for heightened transparency from Universities as to the value of the education – An article by The National Association of Scholars is well worth the read. On transparency:

Transparency in two areas will bolster the cause of reform. First, the public has a right and a duty to learn what and how much students learn while enrolled in our public colleges and universities. Second, the public likewise deserves to know what the employment prospects are for the plethora of degrees universities offer today. The paramount need to measure and publicize student-learning outcomes became painfully clear last year with the publication of Academically Adrift (University of Chicago Press). Adrift reports that 45 percent of the students in its national survey demonstrate little to no increase in general collegiate skills -- critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills -- after two years of college. After four full years in college, 36 percent continue to demonstrate no significant increase in learning, as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA).

The question is why aren’t more state’s following Rick Perry’s plan and challenge to their colleges?

Florida did. Governor Rick Scott has called for the same $10,000 4 year degree program (this includes books, fees, etc.) The New York Times weighted in on December 9th :
Rick Scott, businessman turned politician, campaigned for governor in 2010 with promises to run Florida like a successful business — more efficiency, lower costs, less hand-wringing and measurable results.

He meant higher education, too, but until recently that meant mostly shrinking budgets.

Now, looking for more value on the remaining dollars, Governor Scott and Republican lawmakers are prodding Florida’s 12 state universities to find ways to steer students toward majors that are in demand in the job market.

The message from Tallahassee could not be blunter: Give us engineers, scientists, health care specialists and technology experts. Do not worry so much about historians, philosophers, anthropologists and English majors.

To nudge students toward job-friendly degrees, the governor’s task force on higher education suggested recently that university tuition rates be frozen for three years for majors in “strategic areas,” which would vary depending on supply and demand. An undergraduate student would pay less for a degree in engineering or biotechnology — whose classes are among the most expensive for universities — than for a degree in history or psychology. State financing, which has dropped drastically in the past five years, would be expected to make up the tuition gap.

The Florida plan, based on the Texas plan, is getting heat due to the costs remaining the same for programs such as specialized humanities degrees: “The professors said the move would inevitably reduce the number of students who take humanities classes, which would further diminish financing for those departments. In the end, Florida universities with nationally prominent programs, like the one for Latin American history at the University of Florida, will lose coveted professors and their overall luster.”(New York Times)

Humanities programs, specifically History, are important, however, the costs associated with these types of degrees, which, to be fair offered a student the skills of critical thinking, but a prospect of perhaps a job as a teacher or college professor with even more costly advanced degree programs was necessary as the job market shrank and even the prospect of affording (realistically) a Master’s degree without incurring huge debt, did not guarantee a position in education.

How is it that Florida and Texas have come up with programs and the balance of the State’s have not? Why is the cost of a college education at State Universities (which are funded by taxpayer’s) sometimes more expensive than a private four year college? Take the Massachusetts System.

At the University of Massachusetts the tuition and fees per year for in-state residents, as of the 2012-2013 academic year: $23,167 – not including other fees or textbooks. That puts a four year degree program at a cost of $96,000. Graduate fees are higher, a 3 credit course for instate students is at a cost of $2,131.00 which includes: the Tuition, the Curriculum Fee, a Service Fee, a Graduate Senate Tax, and at 5 credits or more, a Mandatory Health Fee. This does not include books, room and board, dining fees, and other fees found on the schedule. (University of Massachusetts). A 30 credit Masters degree in History (Humanities), therefore, may include a debt for tuition only of $22,000, again, with no prospect of employment. *( University of Massachusetts).

The costs of salaries and pensions may have a bit to do with higher education in the Bay State and elsewhere according to an article in the Springfield Republican (published in 2011). In 2008, the faculty at UMass was upset over salaries that ranged to $72,000 for Assistant Professors. The problem, Assistant Professors at Rutgers were making more per annual. This does not include the unionized professor’s pensions, and other compensation. As one can imagine these salaries have increased since 2008, along with the costs of in-state tuition and other tuition categories.

Texas is right to work state, which may have something to do with their ability to offer a lower cost degree program.

There are “deals” to be had in the Bay State, specifically the programs offered a 2 year community colleges, with an ability to transfer to a 4 year college, lowering the overall costs to students (and the sum total of their loans.) However, keep in mind, a $20,000 loan over the cost of repayment can often double. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the $10,000 Bachelors Degree program under both Governor’s Perry and Scott evolve. If they could add in humanities (History Major who is a big believer in these programs.), at some point, it would be a perfect system – if, and this is a big if, there were sufficient jobs to cover the costs to the students. For all the bluff and bluster about lowering tuition costs from some Democrat politicians (most noticeably in Massachusetts Senator Elect Warren), it is the Republican Governors of the States of Texas and Florida who actually accomplished this task.

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