Tag Archives: Obama

On ‘Free’ Community Colleges

Over on Facebook, my friends and I have had an interesting discussion on the elusive details of the President’s budget/SOTU proposal for ‘free’ community college education.

Because of a New Year’s resolution a few years ago, I rarely delve into long, drawn-out debates on Facebook. It’s usually not worth your time. But I made an exception here, in part because of the thoughtful insights from my friends (and a friend/former teacher!) and partly because I wanted to weigh in further.

Here’s my (lightly edited) rant:

Edward and Shawn, I agree with points you both make. The cost of ignorance is high and not everyone has the opportunity to attend a Jesuit school with great science teachers like Mr. Nolan. (Though the Jesuits are trying as hard as they can with the Cristo Rey model, which is phenomenal.)
I love community colleges. My grandfather was a professor at one, and my mother attended there before going to tOSU. I’m just opposed because I don’t think this level of involvement by the government is appropriate. It’s my libertarian side coming out.
Realistically, this has ~0% chance of passing Congress. The “Pay Go” rules don’t help because anyone who proposes it on the Democratic side will “pay for it” with a tax increase and not a cut, which is how the game is played in Congress these days.
If Obama / Congressional Democrats wanted to be clever, here’s how they’d structure it:
1.) You apply for this program and by doing so, you agree to forfeit your Pell Grants entirely.
2.) Under Pell Grants, you get up to 12 semesters (six years) worth of grants, which, under maximum level at max time before exhaustion represents a little under $35,000. Of course, not everyone qualifies for Pell Grants, or gets the full amount. But you could argue savings by doing this.
3.) Cynically, if you wanted to obtain a 4-year degree, then you’d likely go to the student loan market (effectively nationalized since 2010!) where the government could make the money back. (Though, they’ve already used the “profits” from that to defray the cost of Obamacare and it would be hard to count that twice.)
A friend of mine, an analyst type, observed that this would be among the cheaper proposals Obama has proposed, even though the costs would be in the tens of billions, according to some estimates.
Two states (and others I am sure) have tried “free college programs.” Their examples are instructive. (I still am weary about government involvement in this, but at the state level it is at least appropriate from a federalism perspective.)
Arizona, when I worked for Senator Kyl, had something called an AIMS scholarship. If you met certain requirements under their AIMS program — you got a full tuition waiver at in-state schools, provided you were accepted. Of course, the test was not terribly hard and lots of people qualified. Now, it covers 25%, and is renewable — subject to college-specific requirements — over the remaining three years.
It was poorly planned. And it was done by Republicans!
Tennessee has the “Tennessee Promise” program, a brainchild of their Republican governor, gives free community and technical college tuition (for 2 years) to high school graduates in the state. The program is funded by the lottery. The program, which I also think was poorly implemented as such measures often are, has seen 58k applicants. Double what they expected. They’re learning Freidman’s adage of “no such thing as a free lunch” despite being well-intentioned.
Details on Obama’s plan are still forthcoming, but right now we know you have to have a C+ average, these CC’s have to agree to certain stipulations about their programs and credit transferability, and some vague notions of “student outcomes.” The feds expect states to pick up 25% of the cost.
While I agree with Mr. Nolan about college/knowledge having an effect on real-world life outcomes, Shawn’s point about high school and those outcomes is also worth delving into. To paint with my partisan broad brush, Democrats only seem to be interested in spending more money, not reforming public education in meaningful ways. (Thanks, teachers’ unions!)
So, rather than improve the K-12 system, I think there is room to criticize this proposal as keeping the bad and just inflating the bar.
White House director Cecilia Muñoz told Politico that “Obama aims to make college ‘the norm in the same way high school is the norm now.'”
Depending on your partisan lens, this statement will be interpreted differently. I see this as what I alluded to earlier — education inflation rather than education reform.
Granted, we’re all wasting our time in a thought exercise because this has about the same chance of happening as anything in President Obama’s budgets. Budgets these days are a thought exercise in “how I’d like things to be, but obviously won’t be.”
This started the last two years of the Bush presidency, when Congress was controlled by Democrats. They became “Hope Documents” or “Wish Lists.” Even after Obama was elected, his budgets were never taken seriously by Congress because Congress was not serious about budgeting.
They quickly abandoned regular order and the normal appropriations process in favor of continuing resolutions and omnibus packages. A power grab by the leadership, disenfranchising moderate and oddball Democrats and castrating Republicans in the minority.
Presidential budgets have always been blueprints. Congress is under no obligation to consider them, but Presidents are still obligated by the law to churn them out. It used to make sense, but now it’s sort of a pointless partisan exercise.
Boehner tried to restore regular order when I went from the Senate to the House as a staffer. In that, he failed. McConnell has signaled he wants to try his hand at that, too.
I wish them luck and hope it succeeds, but I’m not optimistic.
Prospects for reforming K-12 education are equally dire, but then again, while I agree with conservatives on their reforms, I’m of the view that the federal government shouldn’t be involved in the first place on education, a position many conservatives share. Hard to argue that when you’re voting to essentially maintain some semblance of federal control over it, even if it is diminished.


VIDEO: Happy Hour While Ukraine Burns

Confusing Argument to Support Minimum Wage Increase

One of my least favorite new proposals from last night’s State of the Union was the proposed increase in the federal minimum wage. Now, I don’t support minimum wages because I don’t think the government should be able to tell individuals what they can ask in recompense for their labor. That’s my underlying reason for opposing them.

But, today, the pundits and advocates are out duking out whether raising the federal minimum wage to $9 is a good thing. I don’t think it is, but regardless that it’s bad policy, people will be out arguing nice-sounding supposed benefits from such a change and others its harrowing unintended consequences.

However, one of the arguments I read was a tad confusing to me. In The Week, Harold Maass writes:

A 2011 Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago study found that minimum-wage workers increase spending by $2,800 a year for every $1 increase in the minimum wage.

The National Employment Law Project’s Christine Owens says this is a good thing. But the math is confusing.

If you work 40 hours a week, every week of the year, a minimum wage increase of $1 an hour will net you an additional $2,080 before taxes.

After taxes, you’d net about an additional $1,913. Yet, increasing the minimum wage by $1 increases people’s spending by $2,800? Huh?

This does not appear to a very beneficial reason to increase the minimum wage.bsig

New Podcast: Obama Helped Kill ’07 Immigration Reform

Today, I joined Michael Graham over at THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast to discuss the President’s new immigration outline and the framework being proposed by a bi-partisan group of Senators.

Will we get a deal?


It’s increasingly unlikely that Congress will work out a deal to solve the so-called “fiscal cliff” before the December 31 deadline.

This time two years ago, the ink was drying on the President’s signature of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.

The clock is ticking and by most public accounts, we are nowhere close to a deal. Especially now that the House couldn’t get the votes together for a deal.

Earlier this month, press secretary Jay Carney said that Speaker Boehner’s oddly named “Plan B” isn’t acceptable to President Obama because “it can’t pass the Senate.”

One wonders whether or not the President’s proposal can meet his own Senate passage test. What’s more, it’s worth asking whether Boehner’s Plan B can even pass the House — since it already failed once.

With less than a week left until the end of the year, this is pretty much where we are: the sides are talking, but no plan seems to exist that is guaranteed passage in either chamber.

Details are scarce. We’re only offered broad descriptions about rates and income thresholds. Specific line items are being kept out of the public eye to avoid a thousand side debates over the necessity of a certain program, or whether or not current funding levels are justified.

In 2010, a similar deadline loomed. A select group of lawmakers huddled in secret to work out a deal on expiring tax rates and other provisions. The details of the negotiations weren’t public, but the names of the negotiators were.

This time around, it appears no such secretive group exists.

Which means that either the only people doing the negotiating are the President and Congressional leadership or a super-secret group of lawmakers negotiating exists. The latter is doubtful, since secrets like this are too big to keep in a gossipy place like Congress.

In 2010, a deal was struck with time to spare. But not after weeks of deliberations behind closed doors. Once it was struck, it was swiftly passed by the Senate by a large margin, and eventually passed in the House by a vote of 277 – 148 (with mostly Democrats and a few conservative Republicans voting Nay).

The sentiment in 2010 was that most people wanted a deal. For a deal to happen, consensus had to be reached, and consensus is hard to build when you go through the normal process, since Congress has a tendency to pick things to death.

Thus, why the details were hashed out in private. Prying eyes will try to kill a deal. They tried. And failed.

Hundreds of lobbyists and activists converged on the hill to see if their sacred cows would be spared or slaughtered. Multiple calls, emails, impromptu office visits to this secretive cadre of elected officials took place on a daily basis. Usually in vain.

Most of those inquiries were ignored by those officials and their staff. Even confirming to a party that their provision was in the clear would make it more clear to others that their interests were at stake. Washington is a small town, and word travels fast.

Revealing much of anything would cue a flood of further lobbying — not that it wasn’t happening already in the form of spam emails from CapWiz . So the way the 2010 tax compromise happened was because people kept a tight ship, and a take it or leave it deal was presented to the rest of Congress.

Neither side seemed very happy with the 2010 deal, but compromises often yield ugly results. They took the deal.

In 2012, neither side seems to want a deal, or at least a deal like the one struck in 2010. Back then, the House was about to change hands and Democrats had to worry about whether or not a new Republican majority would be more insistent on getting their way. The incentive was there to compromise.

Like in December of 2010, an election has recently taken place and the voters have spoken. A “status quo” election as Fred Barnes described in THE WEEKLY STANDARD, since no chamber lost its majority and the President retained his job.

The President and his supports think this means voters sided with them. House Republicans think since they kept the House, the voters sided with them. Not a very propitious climate for a compromise.

Which leaves us with a few possibilities:

Boehner and Obama are closer than we think and a deal is close to being reached. This would probably require bi-partisan passage in both bodies, since the more polarizing members in each chamber are likely to eschew compromise.

We are going off of the cliff and a deal comes in January. If either side holds out in an attempt to cash in on an imaginary mandate come January, markets will crash and voter discontent will soar. It’s a risky gamble for either side, but it has the potential to pay dividends and can’t be ruled out.

No deal is in the works in the short-term. If enough members hold out, and the newly-elected 113th Congress can’t muster a deal, we could go over the fiscal cliff and stay there for months. Some conservatives want voters to see the real cost of a big government is – despite the fact deficits would still likely exist even under this scenario. Others don’t believe a compromise will truly cut spending and put the country on a path to fiscal sanity. Some liberals want to hold out for imposing even higher tax rates on high income earners and on capital gains, while others want to see deep cuts to defense spending.

A super-secret group of elected officials is working on a ‘Hail Mary’ like 2010. It is unlikely such a group could exist without some spurned member blowing its cover, but it’s always possible. There are retiring members like Senators Kyl, Conrad,  Lieberman and Hutchison who are known deal makers and would avoid the pains of re-election. But retiring members don’t hold as much sway as Party leadership does with people who still have to be re-elected.

Will we get a deal? It’s always possible, but the incentives have changed for the worse since 2010.

And from the little we do know,  there’s not much promise. PageLines- bsig.png





The New Economic Patriotism?

“And as for the television’s, so-called, plan….why don’t you gimme a call when you wanna start taking things a little more seriously.” – The Joker, Batman (2008)

I just read President Obama’s job plans booklet, called “The New Economic Patriotism: A Plan for Jobs & Middle-Class Security.

I suggest you should too. Even if you know who you’re voting for, nothing bad comes from reading the actual proposals of the candidates. Read Mitt Romney’s, Gary Johnson’s, that Green Party lady’s. Maybe even Virgil Goode’s — wait, nevermind — don’t read his. He’s not a serious candidate.

As a former Hill staffer for about half of a decade, I’m used to reading proposals. Over the years, I read President Obama’s budget, despite the fact that it never attracted more than a few votes over these past four years.

Mitt Romney has been talking about his plans for what seems like eight years now, and yes, within a standard deviation or two, these plans have changed.

But, until recently, most of us didn’t know what President Obama’s plan for a second term was. He had a little trouble finding it himself (it fell off of the podium). Alas, here it is. 11 pages in all its glory. Compare that to Mitt’s earlier 87 page plan, which is now distilled into 5-point plans.

In fairness, we’re at that point in the campaign where we’re speaking almost exclusively in distilled soundbytes rather than detailed policy.

However, this is the first real big “plan” President Obama — to summon my inner Joe Biden — is literally waving around.

Many of these proposals come from previous budgets and his dead-on-arrival “jobs” bill. Of those 11 pages, most of the page is taken up by catchy photos, four charts in all, and lots of dead space.

There aren’t many words.

Even fewer are plans for possible second term.

In small font over those 11 pages, roughly 4200 words are printed. Of those, 1076 or so — roughly 25.6% — are actual plans for a second term.

A few of the plans of them are double counted (just like Obamacare accounting!), and some of them are basically regurgitating talking points about why keeping the current policies in place is, according to Obama, the best plan.

There are 28 references to the middle class, which seems kind of low. There are some surprises, like that President Obama supports “clean coal.” Tell that to southeast Ohioans! I guess President Obama isn’t lying, since coal becomes much cleaner if your goal is to use less and less of it. Which seems to be an obvious goal if you look at UtilityMACT and the CSAPR regulations.

Also surprising was his doubling down on “positioning America to be the world’s leading manufacturer in high-tech batteries” since many millions of stimulus dollars have funded battery makers that have very little work to do, other than play cards. And those batteries? Not very green.

What’s surprising to me is that previous incumbents have re-tooled their plans to recognize when their current policies aren’t cutting it. Like Bill Clinton did.

Republicans have an uphill climb in re-taking the Senate (thanks, Todd Akin!), but they’re not very likely to lose the House. The White House is a different story.

Since House and Senate Republicans have not been keen to jump behind President Obama’s proposals, and he hasn’t re-tooled his proposals in such a way that stand a reasonable chance of success, what does this tell us about an Obama second term — where he won’t control both chambers of Congress?

Answer: That he’s out of new ideas, and unwilling to compromise.

I guess that’s “the new economic patriotism.” In ten days, we will see if that is enough.

I Met a Swing Voter

Holy cow. What are the odds? Tonight after the debate, I ventured to my local 7/11 — which was robbed at gunpoint a few weeks back — to acquire a six pack of beer.

After which, I met a swing voter.

Tonight was debate night, and my conclusion was that the debate was boring. A detente. Obama and Romney interrupted Candy Alt Crowley, and it was unbecoming and awkward. Nobody moved the needle. Of course, both sides claimed victory in some way on social media.

That said, Obama’s failure to move the needle is advantageous for Romney.

A few asides:

  • Obama claimed that gas prices were low because the economy was on the verge of collapse. This won’t resonate with anyone really.
  • A woman who claimed to be undecided asked Romney how he differed with GWB. I posited “This woman is an undecided voter? Is it between Obama and Roseanne Barr?”
  • If the Lily Ledbetter Bill solved all the problems why is this still an issue?
  • 1,000 jobs for more expensive tires? Do the math. (And tire tariffs, as Kerpen notes, have cost us net jobs.)
  •  I would love to see Obama’s answers to these questions — http://www.tsowell.com/Questions.pdf
  •  Romney’s incorrect: Presidents don’t file legislation.
  • Romney is now taking the 2009 Romney tact, not the China bashing Romney. Please can we keep this one?
  • Wait, nevermind, he’s gone after currency now. SOLUTION: PUNISH CONSUMERS

A friend commented:

  • Label China a currency manipulator of Bernanke-esque proportions!!!!!!
  • You can’t debase your currency and get away with it!!!!! That’s our prerogative!
  • “The currency manipulation has gone up 11% during my administration.”

To my mythical swing voter. It was like I somehow caught a gummi bear, a care bear, or a unicorn. And I didn’t even need to use trickery.

As I walked back into my condo building, I saw an asian man in his late twenties watching the debate recap in the coffee lounge.

I asked “How did the debate go?”

He indicated it was so-so, and Romney did as well as he did the last time and Obama did better than he did last time. But nobody, he thought, won.

Obama, he said, did better on the gun control question. He thought Obama dodged Romney’s direct line of questioning on Benghazi. He also added that Romney, he thinks, will win the last debate. This, because, he thinks Romney didn’t go for the kill tonight to keep his gunpowder dry.

He also commented that Romney, in his view, did poorly on the “women issues” — equal pay, contraception, etc.

After a few back and forths, he remarked “I’m a swing voter.”

I was floored. I have never really met one of these creatures.

Apparently, they do exist. And in the Washington, D.C. region no less.

Debates Do Matter

In the wake of President Obama’s poor performance at the first Presidential debate last night, I’ve heard a bunch of my liberal friends say a bunch of irrational things. And, yes, had Romney performed as poorly as President Obama, I am sure many of my conservative friends — maybe even me — would say silly things too.

Facebook contained a multitude of schadenfreude, denial, disbelief and a bunch of other official-sounding psychological terms. It was a good night to be in the social media business.

Some liberal sites featured a tweet from Rob Delaney, a liberal comedian:

“I was gonna vote for [insert candidate] but after watching the debate I’m going to vote for [that exact same candidate.] – Everyone

Along with this tweet, many people suggested “debates don’t matter.”

Wrong. They do matter, or we wouldn’t have them.

First, you mean to tell me that Sarah Palin and her debate performance didn’t do anything to deter undecideds? Because I do recall a few of you telling me “Well, I liked McCain, but after seeing Palin I couldn’t vote for them.” Wait, were these people lying? (Some of them are the same people now on the “debates don’t matter” bandwagon.)

There are still undecideds in this election, and yes, debates matter to some of them. Maybe not all of them, or “Everyone” as Delaney put it, but I can assure you that debates still matter.

Part of the problem is that most of my facebook friend base is hyper-partisan. These people knew who they were voting for even before Romney won the nomination. These are not credible folks when it comes to determining whether debates still matter because they and all of their friends fit their mold of how they think people think.

They are wrong.

For those of you reading this who ever worked in government, ever, please think back to the days when you were taking calls and answering letters and emails. For those of you who’ve never had the privilege of such government servitude, allow me to explain:

Elected officials — like Congressman and Senators — have a staff of 10-50 people in their Washington and local office who answer your letters. Whether they’re form letters, hand written thought felt letters, or the dumbest scrawlings on paper in the history of our country — If you write often — we get to know you. Your letters are logged in a database, so we know your opinions.

For a fair amount of those writers, their opinions change. Sometimes radically and quite frequently.

One day, you’re getting a letter from a nice older lady who has always supported your boss and is happy he voted against the “bad bill.” Two months later, her message is in ALL CAPS WITH NO PUNCTUATION TELLING YOU THAT YOUR BOSS IS LOWER THAN DIRT AND WILL NEVER GET HER VOTE AGAIN BECAUSE THE BOSS VOTED AGAINST SOMETHING SHE DOESN’T FULLY UNDERSTAND.

There are a lot of these people. Debates matter to them because they’re prone to switch their opinion, and frequently.

Debates matter in primaries, too. Ask Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Michele Bachmann, Bill Richardson, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman.

They also matter in general elections.

It’s easy to suggest that debates don’t matter when you’ve already made up your mind and have no intention of changing it.  Which is, well, most of the National Capital Region.

But not everyone is like you.

Obama Attacks Romney For Something His Debt Commission Proposed

Just by virtue of living in a battleground state, I am inundated with political advertising. I don’t mind it that much. I have always lived in a battleground state as a former resident of Missouri and a native Ohioan. Although, it does piss me off I see political ads for crab cake eating Marylanders.

One Obama ad I’ve recently seen a lot of is called “Tough Luck.” It features a mom pushing her child on a swing. The narrator jumps in:

“To fund his tax cuts for millionaires, Romney could take away middle-class deductions for child care, home mortgages and college tuition.”

The “fact checkers” at Annenberg’s Public Policy Center correctly note:

But that’s not part of Romney’s plan; that’s the Obama administration’s interpretation of it.

Romney’s plan does not say which tax deductions or credits will be reduced or eliminated to offset the tax rate reduction or how they will be phased out and at what level income. Romney has declined numerous opportunities to be more specific and, instead, has spoken generally about wanting to reduce the middle-class tax burden and eliminate or reduce tax breaks for upper-income taxpayers.

Of course, the Obama camp will argue that this is why they used word “could.” Interestingly, Mitt Romney could run pretty much the same ad about President Obama.

Rewind to December 2010. This is when the deficit commission that President Obama created presented its proposals to Congress. It was called The Moment of Truth.

On page 29 is something called the zero plan. It happens to be something that I actually am somewhat supportive of.

The zero plan’s proposal is to eliminate all tax expenditures. Which, if adopted would eliminate tax expenditures, including ones for middle-class people on “child care, home mortgages and college tuition.” And yes, it funds reductions in tax rates for people who earn millions of dollars. (Which is not the same as cutting taxes for millionaires, since taxes are on earned or investment income and not accumulated wealth, something the ad intentionally blurs probably because it polled well with focus groups.)

The Obama team here makes some assumptions that Romney has never actually laid out. Obama, however, has a much more direct tie to such a proposal, since a commission he created suggested, explicitly, the exact same thing he falsely accuses Romney of proposing.

If you live in the Buckeye state, the Show-Me State, or the Old Dominion, watching television is going to suck between now and election day. That’s life.

The ads will always stretch the truth or hinge on specific wording or selective quotations. Most voters know that by now, and they know this comes from both sides of the aisle.

As someone generally receptive towards part of the tax aspect of Simpson-Bowles (the proposal of President Obama’s debt commission) I just found this ad kind of odd, since Romney never proposed eliminating these popular — albeit questionably beneficial — deductions, and President Obama’s debt commission specifically did so.

And yes, Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan — an appointed voting member of the commission by Republicans — voted no, but for stated reasons other than this tax piece (healthcare/spending levels).

This fall you’re going to get a lot of campaign advertising. More information, even if not spun the way you’d like, is a good thing. Take this opportunity to pay attention, learn more about the facts of these issues, and inform your friends — right or wrong.

It may just make this country a better place.

The Fake Peter Hamby Controversy

Here’s the deal fellow conservatives. Some of you need to chill out. It’s Monday.

I log into twitter and see the latest controversy is that CNN’s Peter Hamby is allegedly telling his twitter followers to donate to Barack Obama’s campaign.

I’m going to have to pull out the self-appointed internet coach’s bullshit challenge flag and throw it on the field here.

Depicted on the left are the tweets conservatives, sadly, are throwing out onto the interwebs.

Without, in my view, a proper understanding of what Hamby’s tweet meant.

Hamby is a political reporter for CNN. Let’s see what he said.


You mean Hamby tweeted that, in his view, Wisconsin is now a battleground state because the President is having an event there? He linked to the page that had the details of the event?

Let me break out my web-telestrator and show you why he might have shared the link.

Yes, those would be the details — the proof — of the event. What Hamby is saying makes Wisconsin a battleground. Sounds like something a reporter, you know, would report.

What is more likely? Peter Hamby is overtly tweeting his partisan views on his work twitter account. Or that he was reporting news?

It’s obviously the latter.

Conservatives saying he should be fired and things like “Goebbels would be proud” should be ashamed.