Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Dearest Representative . . .

My answer to your survey question, “Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?” is No.  In truth, for me it is not that simple.   I know from our conversations and abundant experiences, the query is not meant to close doors; nor will you draw erroneous conclusions from the “data” collected.  I understand that you wish to hear from your constituency.  Therefore, I write.  I will present support for my opinion.  The Economic Policy Institute, CaRDI, a Multidisciplinary Social Sciences Institute of Cornell University, and Michael Winerip, Education Journalist for the New York Times will serve as my surrogates. I understand that the immediate opinion polls show broad support for the President’s speech.  However, I suspect a more nuanced look may reveal that more feel as I do.  Perhaps, my words will also speak for the people who merely marked “Yes,” “No,” or “I do not have an opinion” on your and other surveys.  I can only hope that you might take a moment to ponder.

The President proposed many ideas that I believe relate to our economic health.    He spoke of taxes, the energy policy that has taxed our nation.  As a father, he addressed what I know concerns you too, education.  Indeed, I thank you once again Congressman for your active support of public education.   Enrolling your children in our local community schools speak volumes.  I believe to be one with the people is to live amongst us.  Sadly, few in Congress chose the life of the common man.  

In regards to health care, which Mister Obama also touched on in the State of the Union speech, last evening, the Congress’s separation from society-at-large is evident in policies passed and again in the President’s speech.  Possibly, he too has forgotten how the real people live.  

The President did propose one plan I endorse I think The Buffet Rule enacted would be beautiful.  I believe this might help to more fully embody an actual Democratic Progressive tax structure.

Indeed, I actually think an increased tax rate for all is the ultimate in wisdom.  Even Conservatives such as Commentator-Columnist Ben Stein and former Reagan Economic Advisor, David Stockman are in favor of this more realistic plan. President Eisenhower too would applaud this way of doing taxes.  You likely recall under Ike, the tax rate for wealthiest Americans was ninety-one percent.  Republicans are not alone in their support of a Buffet Rule.  Progressive policy wonks, such as Robert Reich, advocate for higher taxes over all.  Right, Left, and Middle, we might have a consensus.  I sincerely endorse such mutual sagacity.  

Many Economists regardless of political affiliation see the correlation…Services require salaries, supplies, and a tax structure that supports all that are needed to sustain the health of a nation.

However, this aspect of the State of the Union speech was, for the most part, the only point I applauded.  The Buffet Rule aside, overall the ways in which the President proposes we build a nation, for me, only furthers the folly.

I have long been troubled by the belief that we can eat cake endlessly; yet never buy the ingredients to make it let alone bake it.  Some may ask, “Where is the beef?” I yearn to learn where are the eggs needed to bring the cake into being.  For that matter, do we have any butter, flour, or milk?  As the President does, I ponder what is spilled.   It seems all our society thinks it takes to make batter, is sugar.

We want gas to power our cars.  However, we want the price to be low.  I loathe the idea that we might invest in more fossil fuels!  The process is quick for it is familiar.  Nevertheless, it is extremely dirty.  Quick and dirty is not as I desire.  Mother Nature tells us daily that she believes as I do.  Climate change costs us dearly; still, the President’s energy related positions push for more oil and gas.  Please allow me to offer a portion of a comprehensive Cornell University study.

The Economic Consequences of Shale Gas Extraction

The Boom-Bust Cycle of Shale Gas Extraction Economies. The extraction of non-renewable natural resources such as natural gas is characterized by a “boom-bust” cycle, in which a rapid increase in economic activity is followed by a rapid decrease. The rapid increase occurs when drilling crews and other gas-related businesses move into a region to extract the resource. During this period, the local population grows and jobs in construction, retail and services increase, though because the natural gas extraction industry is capital rather than labor intensive, drilling activity itself will produce relatively few jobs for locals. Costs to communities also rise significantly, for everything from road maintenance and public safety to schools. When drilling ceases because the commercially recoverable resource is depleted, there is an economic “bust” — population and jobs depart the region, and fewer people are left to support the boomtown infrastructure.

Congressman, as I listened to and read the State of the Union text, I cringed.  George W. Bush was all I saw and heard.  Mister Obama spoke of our energy policy and how investments in “clean power” would improve our economy.  I believe our continued investment in fossil fuels, foreign and/or domestic hurts us.  Be it income distribution, equal access to goods and services, or more importantly to me, the harm done to the planet, our continued commitments to natural gas, petroleum, “Clean coal,” and nuclear energy are anathema, as is the President’s education agenda.  

As energy does, education relates to the economy.  You may recall this an issue near and dear to me.  For as long as he has been in office, in respect to schools and learning Barack Obama baffles me.  He speaks of the need for creativity and curiosity in the classroom, and then quashes the possibility!  Often, Mister Obama refers to how teaching to the test is counterproductive to learning.  Yet, all that he and the DOE put in place are Race to the Top and Waivers. Programs.  Each encourages more and more examinations and commercialization!  

While the public is led to belief that the President understands why programs established under President Bush failed, it seems, in deed, this Head of State has only furthered the stress felt in schools.

In truth, I never understood why President Obama appointed Arne Duncan, a man whose work the business community and the Grand Old Party admired.  Again I think of George W. Bush and Jeb!  Economically we move further away from a Democratic Progressive system and closer to the regressive realities of privatization.  Public Schools are closed in favor of “Choice” Learning Centers.  Charters, while labeled public, more often drain dollars from the more egalitarian school system.  These institutions rarely provide the performance statistics promised.  Many, in reality, are privately run management firms.   Education is not their mission; earnings are!

We need only look at who is invited to the White House Education Round Tables.  Pedagogues are not welcome.  Their voices are intentionally absent from the conversation.  Influential “investors” sit with the President and his Secretary of Education.  These same persons now occupy our public schools.  Thus, economically speaking, education is now a growth industry!  

The President said in his speech, “For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning, the first time that’s happened in a generation.”  I inquire Congressman, how do we evaluate the minimal cost to the federal government and the so-called rise?   Hmm?

In Obama’s Race to the Top, Work and Expense Lie With States:

By adding just one-third of one percent to state coffers, the feds get to implement their version of education reform.

That includes rating teachers and principals by their students’ scores on state tests; using those ratings to dismiss teachers with low scores and to pay bonuses to high scorers; and reducing local control of education.

Second, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and his education scientists do not have to do the dirty work. For teachers in subject areas and grades that do not have state tests (music, art, technology, kindergarten through third grade) or do not have enough state tests to measure growth (every high school subject), it is the state’s responsibility to create a system of alternative ratings.

In New York, that will have to cover 79 percent of all teachers, a total of 175,000 people. The only state tests for assessing teachers are for English and math, from fourth grade to eighth.

Yet, the President and Arne Duncan have persuaded the public and policymakers that the invisibles, learning and the effect a mentor has on our offspring, can be measured in a day, an hour, or on one single assessment.   I know not of you; however, in my life, even when I scored well on a test, the results did not reflect my learning.  Guesstimates, short-term memory, the fluke that is a coincidence, these are not calculated in our high-stakes assessments.  However if it were possible to accurately evaluate these, then perhaps the reliance on test scores might make some sense, although still very little.

I am reminded of a statement President Obama made in his speech last evening that I do agree with. “Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives.” I think every individual outside the Hall can also point to a Professor or Academic who transformed what would be. Yet, we punish our mentors when their students do not perform on command.

I cry for the young and the old.  In truth, tears flow for every American.  The reason, in a society such as ours, there is no reverence for humanity, nay-human health.  Congressman, please indulge me as I reflect on health care coverage.  President Obama stated, “That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.”

Oh, my.  Once more regression is our nation’s reality.  May I present a bit to ponder…This quote is taken from an Economic Policy Institute Report.

Medicare Privatization: A Cautionary Tale

The private plans are only competitive because they play on a tilted playing field. When that is not enough, they resort to hard-sell tactics that take advantage of vulnerable seniors-practices that prompted an ongoing congressional investigation. They also create road blocks and traps that prevent seniors from being fully reimbursed for care.

Medicare privatizers spend a lot of taxpayer money lobbying Congress, and their story keeps changing. The original rationale for private plans was that competition would lower costs, so payments were capped at 95% of the average Medicare cost for each county. The plans still prospered by cherry-picking healthy seniors, a problem that was only partly abated through risk adjusting. Since it is now established that these plans are actually less efficient than the public one, the current claim is that they help minorities and other underserved groups, an argument that also has little merit, according to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”

Oh Representative, I lived in California when Proposition 13 and the “No New Taxes” hymn were born.  Today, I realize through President Obama’s speech, this tune grows louder.  The nation, and our democracy die.  Free Enterprise thrives.

Having read to the end, I hope you will understand.  All the information I offer in my missive to you and so much more influenced my answer to your survey question Congressman.  “Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?” No, I did not.  I wonder; did you?

I look forward to future conversations.  May we discuss what for me is the greatest dilemma; The State of the Union divides us as do the plans the President proposed.

Sincerely . . .

Betsy L. Angert

January 25, 2012

Citizens Vote; Democracy In Question

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

In this a Presidential election year, citizens of this country are intensely aware, every vote counts.  The world witnessed, in State after State people scrambled to the polls.  Voters of every age have turned out in large numbers.  The sprint to the White House is on.  Most every electorate wants to join in.  the people wish to return to power.  Much is at stake.  The people want to participate in the process.

In America, in a democracy, government is defined as organization that operates of, by, and for the people.  The people choose who will represent them in the Executive and Legislatives Branches.  Executives appoint persons to occupy Judicial seats.  Supreme Court Jurists may serve the public for a lifetime.  Legislators also have infinite influence.  Members of Congress make laws and approve nominees.  Thus, those who speak and stand in for the common folk have much power.

Hence, it is essential, before the average Joe or Joanne casts a ballot they must be very well informed.  When the American people vote they place their lives in the hands of a few.  Access to the candidates is vital if people are to make an informed decision.  During a Presidential election year, it is imperative that the people, one and all, be given an opportunity to meet and greet the hopefuls.  A President of the United States is the single most important being on the globe.  He or she is superior to all other officials who reside in this region.  Since the United States is considered the world’s only true Super Power, the President of this nation is virtually omnipotent, or at least some often act as though they are.

It is for this reason the electorate must choose wisely.  Each adult needs to ponder, who is the person who will best represent my interest?  Which Presidential hopeful will serve persons in every community equally?  Who will work for the common good of the people and not for personal fame and fortune?  There is much to research.  Reflection needs to be deep and thoughtful.  The public must ensure that a Presidential aspirant knows of and wishes to honor the desires of his or her constituents.  However, this determination is difficult to make.

Most of the citizens in this country only see the hopefuls in well-crafted, scripted moments.  Television and the Internet dominate the delivery of news about the candidates.  Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported.

The internet is living up to its potential as a major source for news about the presidential campaign.  Nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) say they regularly learn something about the campaign from the internet, almost double the percentage from a comparable point in the 2004 campaign (13%). ?

Moreover, the internet has now become a leading source of campaign news for young people and the role of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook is a notable part of the story.  Fully 42% of those ages 18 to 29 say they regularly learn about the campaign from the internet, the highest percentage for any news source.  In January 2004, just 20% of young people said they routinely got campaign news from the internet.

[T]he proportion of Americans who rely on traditional news sources for information about the campaign has remained static or declined slightly since the last presidential campaign.  . . .

By contrast, the proportion of Americans who say they regularly learn about the campaign from the internet has more than doubled since 2000 – from 9% to 24%.

While it may seem that mainstream media has less of an influence of the electorate; indeed, the reverse may be true.  When we assess the sources of information accessed on the Internet we realize, corporate control still speaks volumes.

People who rely on the internet for campaign news turn to a wide array of websites.  The most frequently mentioned online news outlets are MSNBC (at 26%), CNN (23%) and Yahoo News (22%).

Few constituents know more than the media allows.  What the press makes available is extremely limited.  Independent-minded persons believe they know more.  Yet, these persons are also influenced.  Chant as the indies might, the media is hostile to anti-establishment candidates, John Edwards, Ron Paul, and Mike Huckabee, the three barely-acceptable do appear on stage.  Corporate controlled columnists recognize it is important to appear unbiased.

Americans must wonder of those whose exposure is eliminated.  Perchance, constituents might consider the plight of Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich.  Presidential aspirant Kucinich was excluded from the American Association for Retired Persons [AARP] debate in the Hawkeye State.  In Granite country, ABC News declared Dennis Kucinich would be barred from the dialogue.  Silver State voters were not able to see the profound Presidential hopeful on stage.  He was relegated to the streets allowed to speak only to the neon lights.  The Palmetto State decreed, “Dennis, this is not your kingdom.”  Indeed, you are locked out in this land of liberty.  Texas told its tall tale.  Dennis Kucinich would not be the hero in the Lone Star State.  Ultimately, the only Presidential hopeful who is a member of a Union, endorsed an authentic Universal Health Care program, a Single Payer, Not For Profit plan was forced to withdraw his name from the ballot.  Perhaps the lack of press coverage played a role.

While Congressman and Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich was ahead in many Progressive surveys, among the general public the candidate remained an unknown.  In August 2007, the aspirant was heard to say “Polls are a function of name recognition, not a function of whether people support your ideas.  As people become aware of my candidacy, the evidence of that support is going to rise.”  Yet, sheltered from view few voters ever knew who Dennis Kucinich was or is.  Fewer still know when or where they could cast a ballot.

Confused Florida voters try to cast ballots in Super Tuesday primaries

The problem?  Florida had its presidential primary Last week.

Robert Perez

Orlando Sentinel

February 5, 2008

Millions of Americans in 24 states are turning out vote to in Super Tuesday presidential primaries from Georgia to Alaska today.  Meanwhile, some dedicated if confused Florida voters are trying to, as well.??

Elections offices across the state are reporting hundreds of calls from voters wanting to know where they can vote today.  The answer is that Florida already had its presidential primary — last week.??

“We’ve had over 100 calls at least over the last two days,” said Kathy Adams, a spokesperson for the Palm Beach County Election Supervisor.??

Closer to home, Orange County elections officials say they are dealing with a combination of confused voters from Florida and California.??

“One of my staffers has figured it out,” said Orange County Election Supervisor Bill Cowles.  “They are California voters going online and looking for the Orange County [California] election office and calling us instead.”

Of course that doesn’t explain the man who showed up at a polling site this morning in Orlando wanting to vote, Cowles conceded.?

Nor does this story enlighten the electorate as to why, in this the Information Age, so little is known, or shared with expectant voters.  If people do not know to ask, instructions are not given.  Votes, as important as they are, in 2008, are not counted.  In this the Twenty-First Century, not only is Florida a foible, California has come to encapsulate election fraud, folly, or failures.

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble.

By Steven Mikulan

LA Weekly

February 5, 2008 3:22 PM

Election cross-over dreams become a nightmare

Last Friday members of the nonpartisan election group, CourageCampaign.org, were surfing the Web when they discovered a blog posting noting that Los Angeles County voters faced what organization spokesman Rick Jacobs calls “bubble trouble.”  In order for any of the county’s 776,000 voters who have registered Nonpartisan to vote in the open primaries for the Democratic or American Independent parties, they would have to mark an extra bubble on the ballot naming the party for which they wished to cast a cross-over ballot.  After a weekend of research, Jacobs says, CC.org contacted the office of L.A.’s Registrar of Voters on Sunday and were told it was true — an extra bubble had to be inked, and, yes, it could prove to be a big headache on election day.  The bottom line: If the “declaration” bubble is not inked on a Nonpartisan ballot, the voter’s presidential preference would be voided, though not the part pertaining to propositions.

By noon election day, CC.org’s worst fears were realized as voters began complaining that poll workers hadn’t pointed out the extra bubble.  The registrar’s office has tried to get word out to its workers about the issue but at this point, it’s impossible to know how many votes have been lost.  One thing is certain, however: It will be impossible to conduct a recount of the cross-over ballots because voters were handed both Nonpartisan and Democratic ballots and there are cases where the bubble numbers for candidates from different parties overlap.

Common characteristics, the overlap, be it in bubbles, ballots, or the barrage of disinformation is unavoidable.  The public peruses multiple sources, seeks infinite references; nonetheless, little of what the people know is untainted or from an independent and genuinely reliable source.  In this global village, we are all connected, interconnected, on the Internet, near the television, or scanning the periodicals.  Each is owned by one of the six, General Electric, Time Warner, Walt Disney, News Corp, CBS, or Viacom, all of whom are friendly with the others.  Internet users say this matters not to them.  However, in truth it does.

Well, you might comfort yourself by thinking about cyberspace.  Think again.  The dominant Internet service provider, America Online, is combining with already-number-one Time Warner- and the new firm AOL Time Warner would have more to lose than any other corporation if a movement grew to demand antitrust action against media conglomerates.

Amid rampant overall commercialization of the most heavily trafficked websites, AOL steers its 22 million subscribers in many directions-and, in the future, Time Warner’s offerings will be most frequently highlighted.  While seeming to be gateways to a vast cybergalaxy, AOL’s favorite links will remain overwhelmingly corporate friendly within a virtual cul-de-sac.

Hype about the new media seems boundless, while insatiable old hungers for maximum profits fill countless screens.  Centralization is the order of the media day.  As Bagdikian points out: “The power and influence of the dominant companies are understated by counting them as ‘six.’  They are intertwined: they own stock in each other, they cooperate in joint media ventures, and among themselves they divide profits from some of the most widely viewed programs on television, cable and movies.”

So, Americans please take no comfort.  Do not think you made an informed, independent choice. All that you read, all that you heard, what you viewed was influenced. The decision was made before you knew you could have had a choice.  This, the United States, is not a democratic system.

Cast A Vote, Give Voice To Your Needs.  Pray for a Democracy . . .