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Sunday, 21 August 2011

The time has come to repeal the president's signature legislative accomplishment.  The monstrous bureaucracy that was created by this thousand page beast is unproductive, mismanaged, and an onerous and cumbersome weight on the innovative designs of creative professionals. 

 

Incidentally, for those who might be mistaken, I'm not referring to President Obama's unconstitutional healthcare takeover, though I'm all for repeal there as well.  No, the marshy swamp of big government micromanagement to which I refer is the previous President Bush's signature law, the No Child Left Behind Act. 

 

For starters, though enacted and championed by a Republican president, this piece of legislation is about as far from conservative policy as you can get.  It is a massive intrusion of the federal government into an area (education) that the Constitution gives the feds absolutely no authority over whatsoever.  As a general rule of thumb when evaluating a law: if it was authored by the Senate's "liberal lion," Ted Kennedy, and received more votes from House Democrats than Republicans, it's safe to assume that it's not overly bathed in conservative ideology.

 

But more pressing than properly identifying the ideology that spawned it, No Child Left Behind is not working.  To those who have studied the 1,100 page law, that comes as no surprise.  The policy hinges around a measurement gimmick known as "Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)."  In order to meet AYP, a school must show that a larger percentage of its students are "proficient" at reading and math than were "proficient" the year before.  But after establishing harsh penalties for failure to meet AYP, and tying federal education dollars to success, the law allows states to establish their own definitions of what "proficient" means.

 

It's not tough to figure out how to beat the system, is it?  The lower you set your proficiency bar, the better you look when the results come in.  This is exactly what the New York Times described as happening in South Carolina:

 

"In South Carolina, about 81 percent of elementary and middle schools missed targets in 2008," they reported.  "The state Legislature responded by reducing the level of achievement defined as proficient, and the next year the proportion of South Carolina schools missing targets dropped to 41 percent."  In other words, kids are scoring just as bad or worse on tests, but states are demonstrating impressive gains in proficiency.

 

And if that temptation to lower expectations in order to receive more money hasn't dawned on state lawmakers yet, it soon will.  Barack Obama's education secretary Arne Duncan is predicting that over 80% of the country's schools will fail to meet their AYP this year.

 

It has become clear that this law accomplishes nothing more than challenging state lawmakers and government bureaucrats to come up with innovative ways to manipulate numbers so that it appears we're making progress.  All while more and more children are left behind.

 

Believe it or not, Arne Duncan seems to have a grasp on this problem, complaining that the No Child Left Behind law is, "forcing districts into one-size-fits-all solutions that just don't work."  Though no one could accuse Duncan of being on the political right, his observation is exactly why conservatives have long believed in abolishing the Department of Education and returning pedagogical decisions to where the Founders intended them: the states and local communities.

 

Some on the right, like commentator and columnist George Will, are worried that moving in that direction will hand too much control to teachers' unions.  "Most school boards are elected, often in stand-alone elections in which turnout is low and the unions' organization prevails," he writes.  If that is the result of returning sovereignty over educational issues to where it belongs, I say so be it.

 

The truth is that local teachers' associations should not be feared or resisted like the national unions since they aren't governed by rigid dogma or an aggressive political agenda, but by a collection of concerned teachers who have a vested interest in the well-being of their school and the children who are entrusted to their care. 

 

Teachers are professionals who don't need nationally elected lawyers and businessmen from California telling them the best way to get the most from their students in Connecticut.  It's time to start treating them that way...something NCLB with its federal mandates, confusing guidelines, intimidation tactics, creativity-stifling measures and inflexible directives certainly doesn't do. 

 

Schools are different entities than businesses and corporations, and pretending otherwise in our legislation only ensures more failure.  If we truly desire to leave no child behind, it's past time to get the federal government out of the education business and empower those who care most about that child's success: parents and local communities.

 

This column was first published at The American Thinker.

Posted by: Peter Heck AT 03:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, 14 August 2011

It's a well known political axiom that presidents will often be credited with accomplishments they did not earn and be criticized for failures that were out of their control.  But just as often, particularly in our modern era where we have - against the wise counsel of our Founders - consolidated more and more power in the hands of our federal executive, presidents own the failures that happen on their watch.  The disastrous and nationally humiliating downgrade of our country's credit rating was not an inevitable consequence of uncontrollable misfortune.  It wasn't the result of gridlock or political wrangling between two parties that have bickered over our national debt and credit since the days of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.  It was a remarkable failure of leadership by the man chosen to be the country's economic caretaker.

 

For a full three days following the unprecedented embarrassment, the leader of the free world remained silent.  Perhaps he was recovering from an exhausting, multi-day birthday bash and political fundraiser that he threw for himself in two separate cities, or maybe his delay was to give his senior staff time to come up with more meaningless platitudes that he could dispassionately read from the TelePrompter, ostensibly to reassure a panicked nation.  But as the president nonchalantly waltzed out to his podium 53 minutes (and 3 days) late, the disquieting sensation had already begun to settle in on even his most ardent supporters: Obama is simply not up to this job.

 

The substance of his press conference did little to change that increasingly obvious conclusion.  Once again, the man who once campaigned as a visionary of the future retreated behind his now comedic refrain: it's all Bush's fault.  Don't misunderstand, no one would disagree with Obama that the need to reduce our deficit, "was true the day [he] took office."  But why this argument falls flat is because far from reducing the Bush deficits, when it comes to spending more money than we're taking in, President Obama has outpaced Bush by a jaw-dropping trillion dollars a year.  Or consider this staggering reality: "In just four days last week, President Barack Obama's administration increased the national debt by more in inflation-adjusted dollars than the administrations of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower increased the national debt over the entire decade of the 1950s."  This kind of runaway spending makes George Bush look like a penny-pincher.

 

Perhaps realizing that pointing his finger at his predecessor wasn't going to cut it, President Obama also dispatched his underlings to start spreading the deranged talking point that this is a "tea party downgrade."  Let's see if I understand...the only group of people in the country who have, for the last two years, been warning of the need to make drastic spending cuts to avoid a catastrophe like this are responsible for the fact that our political leaders didn't make drastic spending cuts to avoid a catastrophe like this?  That the left is attempting such a delusional accusation is a clear indication of the level of desperation they feel.

 

And why wouldn't they?  The man who once promised to turn back the rise of the oceans and heal the planet was there on national television actually saying, "No matter what some agency might say, we've always been and always will be a AAA country."   The irresponsibility of that statement is difficult to fully grasp.  Obama is two and a half years into the job and is yet to realize that the full faith and credit of the United States is not something that can be maintained with juvenile taunts towards "some agency," or that our AAA rating can be regained just by a presidential pronouncement.

 

His mindless press conference in which he offered no ideas or plans on how to regain our superior credit rating, and in which he exhibited a bizarre lack of urgency reflective on someone fundamentally unserious about the gravity of the moment, left even sycophantic supporters like Chris Matthews questioning whether he was up to the task.

 

Matthews isn't alone.  Obama supporter Drew Westen wrote in the New York Times, "Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago...and that...he had voted ?present' (instead of "yea" or "nay") 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues."

 

It's sadly apparent he's still dodging difficult issues.  Which is why after bond rating agencies warned us in July that we must come up with a plan to get our borrowing and spending under control or risk a credit downgrade, Obama offered no such plan, instead asking Congress to allow him to borrow and spend another 2.5 trillion dollars.

 

The conclusion is incontrovertible: Obama owns this downgrade, and the country is undeniably worse off due to his failed stewardship of our nation's finances.  At a time begging for leadership, America has found itself a leaderless nation.

 

This column was first published at The American Thinker.

Posted by: Peter Heck AT 11:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, 07 August 2011

During their breaking news coverage in the shocking and confusing moments immediately following the tragic Arizona shooting that took the lives of six innocent people and seriously wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, CNN interviewed Arizona Daily Star columnist and cartoonist David Fitzsimmons, who seemed to have it all figured out.  Fitzsimmons concluded the horrific scene was inevitable because the "rabid right" that had been "stoking the fires of a heated anger and rage" had come to dominate Arizona politics.

 

Thus began an unfolding mainstream media template that violent rhetoric fulminating solely from conservatives was producing a toxic and dangerous political atmosphere.  President Obama sought to capitalize politically from that media narrative during the campaign speech he tactlessly delivered at the Arizona memorial service, posturing as the great arbiter of civil dialogue.  "But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized," he lectured, "it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."

 

Initially skeptical of the President's interest in and devotion to holding his own political allies accountable to this newly minted barometer of civility, I must say that after watching the recent debt ceiling debate, it is clear that the liberal left has become the gold standard for virtuous dialogue.

 

How else can you characterize the eloquent description Bloomberg's left-wing writer Margaret Carlson gave of conservative Republicans, whom she growled had, "strapped explosives to the Capitol?"  Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer challenged her by asking, "I thought that post-Tucson we weren't supposed to accuse our political opponents of being terrorists?"  Carlson seemed bewildered by his query.  After all, she had merely used the imagery of terrorism to describe her opponents...not actually called them terrorists.

 

Not that there would be anything wrong with that, of course.  Just ask MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who publicly declared his belief that, "The GOP has become the Wahhabis of American government."  And moments after that astoundingly civil indictment of his political opposition, Matthews listened as his equally well-mannered liberal guest, Joan Walsh of Salon, accused Tea Partiers of "hostage-taking" in the debt talks. 

 

Now, you might think that Matthews, a man who once trashed conservatives for "ugly sounding talk" that demeans their opponents as "not just disagreeable, but evil," would chastise his guest for committing the same offense.  Not quite.  Instead he responded by affirming, "I agree. It's terrorism."  And let's not forget, this would be the same Chris Matthews who soured the universally triumphant and unifying return of Congresswoman Giffords to the floor of the House just days ago with a partisan condemnation of the "violent level of the right-wing."  Physician, heal thyself!

 

But it's not just Matthews, Walsh and Carlson who have seemingly mastered the left-wing art of tolerantly tempestuous talk.  Newsweek editor-in-chief Tina Brown publicly stated her belief that Congressional conservatives are, "the suicide bombers in all of this."  And the liberal pen of distinguished New York Times columnist Tom Friedman referred to conservative Republicans as the, "Hezbollah faction" of the party, hell bent on a "suicide mission."

 

But perhaps the most telling examples of just how seriously committed the Democrat left is to sweetening the state of our political discourse come from their elected leaders.  While Democrat Senator Bob Menendez deserves congratulation for his delicate and respectful denunciation of the "tea party tyrants," the real prize for diplomatic dialogue goes to Democrat Representative Mike Doyle.  According to Politico, this liberal healer complained in a two hour meeting with Vice President Joe Biden that, "We have negotiated with terrorists.  This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money."

 

And to his eternal credit, obviously remembering his boss's admonition that "we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do," the Vice President reportedly concurred of Republicans, "they have acted like terrorists."

 

And what do we do with terrorists, you ask?  The answer brings us full circle back to Mr. Fitzsimmons of the Arizona Daily Star, whose most recent political cartoon depicts President Obama giving the order to a team of Navy SEALs to storm the Capitol and assassinate Tea Party Republicans.

 

Ah, the civility of the left.

 

This column was first published at The American Thinker.

Posted by: Peter Heck AT 03:32 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
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