Friday, September 23, 2011

If I Could Rewrite NCLB

This is my one hot-button issue. Nothing gets me on my soapbox faster than education. (And why shouldn't it, I'm a Mom!) So, now The One has decided to single-handedly (by executive order) revamp NCLB. I must agree with His quote in the article on though. "Our kids only get one shot at a decent education."

You can read the full article here.

Now, the intent of the law is a good one. Kids should be able to read, write, and do math on grade level. The execution has been horrible. All the schools are doing is teaching the test. I have enough teachers among my friends and family to know that their hands are tied.

What they haven't figured out (at least in Texas) is that not all kids are college material. If you look at the current requirements, it screams COLLEGE. High school is not just about preparing kids for college. For those who can handle college, then yes, use high school to prepare for it. Take the hard classes. However, for those who are not college material or have no interest in going to college, then by God give them something they can do something with. We don't need kids graduating from high school to be looking at themselves in the mirror the day after graduation and saying "Now what do I do?"

So, here's how I would fix it.

Every school district (or region) should have 2 things. 1. JROTC. For college bound students who want to be officers, this is a launch pad to college ROTC or an academy appointment. For students who are not college bound, it gives them something to do that provides a career opportunity. Enlist. Get that instant raise! 2. Every kid should have access to a vocational program. Graduation plans should revolve around these 3 things.

Now I'm going to be politically incorrect. My dad and I were talking about this earlier, and he quoted a Tennessee governor from the 1950's, when integration was a big issue. This governor apparently did not believe that African-Americans were capable of much. He said "someone has to pick the cotton." Well, now someone does have to pick the cotton,fight for our country, do the welding, be the plumbers and electricians, cut and color our hair, fix our cars, etc. (And for the record, I don't care if that person is black, white, or pink with purple polka dots.) The point is that these careers are needed, even though there is no college education necessary for them.

To further prove my point, how do you think all of the things you buy at the big box store get there? The driver of that truck may not even have finished high school. However, he is also not a burden on society, nor is he stupid.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Social Security and Medicare Reform

Ok, so we have all figured out that social security is and will continue to be a big budget buster, and will probably be bankrupt long before yours truly is ever eligible for it. So obviously something has to change.

Back when social security was first passed and enacted, it was probably a good thing. Let's make sure Granny can eat, pay the basic bills, etc. I'd be willing to bet that retirement was something that probably wasn't considered (unless you were very wealthy and could afford to not work) and people surely didn't save for it and invest.

Well, now a good number of people have at least a 401k and probably multiple other investments. Retirement and the necessary savings are carefully thought out. A good number are millionaires at retirement (and need to be unless they plan on dying soon after retirement). Now, please explain to me why these "rich" people need a free check from the government. Yes, social security was designed to be retirement savings and your money was earmarked for you. Ha. What a bunch of crap that has turned out to be.

Here's an example. An acquaintance of ours, who will remain nameless, sold a lot of the prime real estate in town to developers, who built things like Walmart, Target (with huge shopping center), a high school, a big church, several restaurants, etc. He turned around and invested his MILLIONS of dollars and lives off the interest. He just built a mansion in a new subdivision. The kicker in all of this? He collects his social security check every month. Now please explain why he needs this free check?

So, if the government wants to fix social security, people like our nameless acquaintance need to be cut off. It needs to be turned into a need-based program. After that, get rid of the Social Security Administration bureaucracy. Let the state HHS people handle getting people signed up and verified eligible. Then you get free (to the feds) labor, or at least share the cost with the states. Just these 2 steps should save the federal government billions if not more each year.

Now this rant has nothing to do with the disability side of social security. Leave it leave it.

Since Medicare "taxes" are taken out with Social Security, I'll include my fixes for that here as well.

Medicare should be the provider of last resort. Here is who should qualify to receive Medicare coverage (assumes that the recipient would be old enough):
1. Can't afford to pay for any private coverage.
2. Has health concerns or issues that make that person uninsurable to the private insurance companies.

Now, if both conditions are met (or just the first one), then the person applying would receive Medicare coverage as it is now (as crappy as that is). If only the second one is met, and the applicant has the money to pay for it, then he or she should pay the premiums for their coverage. If the person has private coverage through their employer when they retire, then that should be kept (with the retiree paying the cost).

Also, the fraud that is rampant in the Medicare system needs to be cleaned up. That should be a no brainer.

When determining eligibility for either Social Security or Medicare, cost of living needs to be factored in. See previous post. $40,000 per year might be a comfortable living wage in some places, but require food stamps and other assistance in others.

Friday, July 29, 2011

If I Were Having to Balance the Federal Budget

Too much fun to be had here. So many places to cut. Really. So, here's where I'd start.

1. Aid to foreign countries. If we can't take care of ourselves, then how in the world can we afford to take care of others?
2. Obamacare. Just repeal it and make it go away.
3. NCLB. See Obamacare. All this has done is take the Texas law national for the most part. What have we learned in Texas? Schools are teaching the test. That is verified by a family friend of ours whose daughters are in the local public schools.
4. Anything found to be redundant.
5. Pork projects. Very eye-opening.
6. Salary of the President. Name something he has to pay out of pocket other than wardrobe and flowers for the Mrs. Cut it in half and he'd still do just fine.
7. Social Security reform. Another post for another day.

Notice that I didn't touch the salaries of Congress or Senators. The rank and file members of the House are currently making $174,000. I'm not sure what they have to pay out of pocket. That said, airfare home to their districts can put a dent in that real fast. Assuming one round trip commercial flight per week at a cost of $400 round trip, then that's nearly $21,000 per year. Yes, I did make up those numbers. It probably costs more than that. Get the idea though? Cost of living is a big factor here though. Just look at housing. Where I live, you can get a nice house for $125-150K. In New York, a comparable house (or less) will run you $600k. According to a friend I grew up with who is now a Realtor in Oregon, the same house would run you $225-275K. It doesn't take a math genius to figure out that the monthly payment is going to be a lot more.

They Think We're Stupid

After today's vote in the Senate on the Boehner plan, I'm now convinced that Harry Reid thinks that we are the biggest idiots to walk the planet. Supposedly his people were pulling the bill from the internet so that the vote was already scheduled the minute it got to them officially. Since his party has the biggest bully pulpit, he'll use it (through BO). So, here's where things stand:

House passes Cut, Cap, and Balance, Reid kills it.
House passes the Boehner Plan, Reid kills it.

I think I see a trend here. Next week, the Republicans are going to be the bad guys because there are too many people who have forgotten their basic high school government course. We didn't bow down and give in to what Harry Reid and Barack Obama wanted. Instead, we are more than happy to let them hang themselves in 6 months. Problem is that the Democrats know this. They know that if there has to be another debt ceiling vote before the November 2012 elections, then they are up a creek without a paddle.

I can just see the ads now. Dems: "Oh those bad Republicans. They kept Granny from getting her social security check and her doctor from getting that Medicare payment." Republicans: "Those Democrats wouldn't pass a budget, much less vote to require a balanced one. Everyday Americans have to live on what they take in, as do most states and local governments. Why should Washington be any different?)

Now, I can see where the Balanced Budget Amendment can make people nervous. If it's not done right, it can really screw us. It would need to include language to allow for borrowing to cover something unforeseen, like a terrorist attack or a hurricane season like 2005 was with multiple really bad storms.

That's my opinion.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Budget Talks?

Ok, what budget talks. What this boils down to is a certain person, no names mentioned, trying to get his way. How stupid is he, really? Yeah, let's grow the economy and put people back to work by raising taxes on the people and corporations who are creating the jobs. Let's see. If I were an employer, and my taxes just went up, the LAST thing I'd be doing is hiring since that just costs me more money! Wait...could it be that he just wants the unemployment rate to stay high so that all of these people on unemployment will vote for him so they can keep those checks coming in? Now we just might be on to something... So now that the other side isn't playing his silly little game anymore, he just needs to find a whining corner. That's where children who want to whine have to go in my house (regardless of how old they are).

Now, if something like Cut, Cap, and Balance were passed by the Senate (since the House did its job), this would be a good thing. Cut back the spending, Cap it so that it can't get outrageous again, and require that the federal budget be balanced each year. What's bad here? The rest of us (including most states) have to live within our means. Why should the federal government be any different?