Which brings us to "Bad Students, Not Bad Schools," a new book in which Dr. Robert Weissberg contends that U.S. educational experts deliberately "refuse to confront the obvious truth." "America's educational woes reflect our demographic mix of students. Today's schools are filled with millions of youngsters, many of whom are Hispanic immigrants struggling with English plus millions of others of mediocre intellectual ability disdaining academic achievement." In the public and parochial schools of the 1940s and 1950s, kids were pushed to the limits of their ability, then pushed harder. And when they stopped learning, they were pushed out the door. Writes Weissberg: "To be grossly politically incorrect, most of America's educational woes vanish if these indifferent, troublesome students left when they had absorbed as much as they were going to learn and were replaced by learning-hungry students from Korea, Japan, India, Russia, Africa and the Caribbean." Weissberg contends that 80 percent of a school's success depends on two factors: the cognitive ability of the child and the disposition he brings to class -- not on texts, teachers or classroom size.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
It’s true that the real price of oil is slightly higher now than it was in 2005, and it’s always possible that oil prices will spike again in the future. But the overall energy situation today looks a lot like a Cornucopian feast, as my colleagues Matt Wald and Cliff Krauss have recently reported. Giant new oil fields have been discovered off the coasts of Africa and Brazil. The new oil sands projects in Canada now supply more oil to the United States than Saudi Arabia does. Oil production in the United States increased last year, and the Department of Energy projects further increases over the next two decades.
The really good news is the discovery of vast quantities of natural gas. It’s now selling for less than half of what it was five years ago. There’s so much available that the Energy Department is predicting low prices for gas and electricity for the next quarter-century. Lobbyists for wind farms, once again, have been telling Washington that the “sustainable energy” industry can’t sustain itself without further subsidies.
Maybe something unexpected will change these happy trends, but for now I’d say that Julian Simon’s advice remains as good as ever. You can always make news with doomsday predictions, but you can usually make money betting against them.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Less candor, realism and pre-funding are required of state and municipal governments regarding their pension plans. Nunes's bill would require them to disclose the size of their pension liabilities - and the often-dreamy assumptions behind the calculations. Noncompliant governments would be ineligible for issuing bonds exempt from federal taxation. Furthermore, the bill would stipulate that state and local governments are entirely responsible for their pension obligations and the federal government will provide no bailouts.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
It got me thinking about what would happen if California went bankrupt.
In the absence of a statute, presumably the federal government would conduct some sort of bailout combined with a restructuring. If so, however, who would run the state during the proceeding?
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Virginia's lawsuit challenging the act rests on two basic arguments. One: The government's attempt to stretch the Commerce Clause to force individuals to buy a private product - private health insurance - fails, as the Constitution does not grant Congress such a power. Two: The penalty the government charges if one does not comply with the mandate cannot be redefined after the fact as a tax, justified by the government's taxing power. Congress and the president insisted the penalty was not a tax, they passed it as a penalty, and it operates as a penalty as a matter of law. They cannot simply change the meaning of words now that they realize their first legal argument is on shaky ground.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
In the wake of Judge Hudson’s decision striking down the individual mandate in the health-care law as unconstitutional, Attorney General Eric Holder and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have an op-ed in today’s Washington Post making the case for the law.Holder and Sebelius’s case rests on an assertion and two implicit assumptions. The assertion is that the law does things we should want to do, and the assumptions are, first, that there are not other ways to achieve these ends and, second, that the means the law employs should therefore be constitutional. If you don’t think that sounds like much of an argument, you’re right.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
President Barack Obama reached agreement Monday with Republican leaders in Congress on a broad tax package that would extend the Bush-era income tax cuts for two years, reduce worker payroll taxes for one year and give more favorable treatment to business investments.
There really is no other way to say it: the Republicans won, the liberal Democrats lost, and the president sided with the Republicans. The subject, of course, is an agreement to extend all the Bush tax cuts. The president tonight announced a "bipartisan framework" for agreement on, among other things, to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years. A Republican House aide tells me tonight it is "a damn good deal." And so it is, from the perspective of conservatives.
Friday, December 03, 2010
Haley says she told Obama that South Carolina could not afford the health care mandate, and that it would cripple small businesses.
"I respectfully asked him to consider repealing the bill," she said, to which he clearly stated he would not. "I pushed him further and said if that's the case, because of states' rights, would you at least consider South Carolina opting out of the program?"
Obama told her he would consider letting South Carolina opt out, she said, if the state could find its own solution that included a state exchange, preventing companies from bumping people for preexisting conditions and allowing insurance pooling.
I doubt anyone believes that Obama would actually let a state opt-out, but it's worth a try. I give Haley credit for standing up to the president and putting him on notice that he's got a fight on his hands.
Haley said she also asked the president if he would honor the federal government's commitment on developing a nuclear waste repository. When he said he would not revisit opening Nevada's Yucca Mountain, "I said, 'Then give us our money back.' "
The site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas was proposed to house more than 4,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste from South Carolina's Savannah River Site. The state and Washington have sued over Obama's attempt to kill plans for the storage site after decades of study.
"SRS has done a good job, but that was a temporary solution. It was never meant to be a permanent solution," Haley said she told him. "The federal government has reneged on its promise, and the people of South Carolina want their money back."
South Carolina's power plants and its customers have contributed more than $1 billion over nearly 30 years to a permanent repository.
She says Obama pledged that he would have Energy secretary Steven Chu call her promptly.
House Democrats proved it by openly applauding the concept of a ruling class completely above the law, able to break both House rules and federal tax law with impunity. Their applause was a frank declaration of war by the Democrat Party against the law-abiding American citizen. The only penalty Rangel ever faced was a tiny measure of humiliation. The standing ovation was an attempt to erase even that.
The 111th Congress was far from “the most honest, most open, and most ethical” in history.
Rangel and some of his defenders characterized his tax cheating as a “mistake,” thus assuming their listeners are complete imbeciles. Rangel chaired the panel that writes tax laws. He under-reported his income by hundreds of thousands of dollars for a decade. He was eventually compelled to pay federal and state treasuries $16,000 in back taxes, with absolutely no penalty or interest. Republican John Carter of Texas introduced a bill called the “Rangel Rule” to extend this penalty-free privilege to all taxpayers in 2009, but of course it went nowhere.